Wakatobi to Belitung

It is certainly a trap for young sailors.  We have been so busy doing, we (I) have been too slow in writing our blog.  For those on my Facebook I hope you have enjoyed the photos and videos and snippets of information.  This edition catches us up to date from Wakatobi to Belitung.

After leaving Wanci on Wangi Wangi in Wakatobi ( try saying that quickly five times J ) we negotiated the tight entrance to the sheltered anchorage at Hoga Island, still in Wakatobi. After several days of very dark, wet and blowy weather we abandoned our plans to sail NE to Raja Ampat.  As beautiful as it is, the wet season conditions prevalent in that area during the SE Monsoon were too depressing a prospect for us.

Before heading back west we were surprised and delighted to receive an invitation to visit the Bajo Village. This fascinating village on stilts occupied by the so called Sea Gypsies was humbling and very interesting.  We are constantly amazed by the friendliness, happiness and generosity of the people we have met in Indonesia. It was coincident that the Australian Newspaper and Netflix ran special features on these people while we were there. Of Malay origin I recommend spending a few moments on Google to explore the world of the Bajo (or Baujo) people of Wakatobi.

Marbles: the universal game.

From Hoga Island we travelled as follows:

Pasarwajo (Sulawesi)               57 NM
Siumpu Island                          41 NM
Telaga Besar Island                  33 NM
Kabaena                                    27 NM
Talah Bera                                96 NM
Teluk Laikang                          58 NM
‘Unnamed Island’                     30 NM
Makassar                                  23 NM
Saliriang Island                        68 NM
Banjarmasin                           123 NM
Kumai                                     248 NM
Nangka Island                         226 NM
Tanjung Kelayang (Belitung)   45 NM

Pasarwajo was an impromptu stop and we were delighted by the beauty of the location. Siumpu Island was recommended by Nikki and Frank on ‘Stars End 2’ and proved to be one of the most beautiful locations we have visited. Telaga Besar Island was where we spent ANZAC Day which we celebrated with a dawn service on the bow of ‘Donetes’. Kabaena was an overnight anchorage on our way to Talah Bera but we went for a good walk ashore.  It was clear that not too many cruising boats visited there.


Siumpu Island

ANZAC Day Dawn Service

Talah Bera was  a very comfortable anchorage.  It is the home of some amazingly skilled boat makers who do not use any designs or plans and use no metal in their teak and ironwood boats.  We had lunch at a new favourite restaurant on the beach with some tourists from Java who were lots of fun.  Nikki and Frank caught up with us here and we visited the resort beach of Pantai Tanjung Bera including the resort of ‘Hakuna Matata’.

Talah Bera

Crazy Tourists!

Lunch with Nikki and Frank in Talah Bera
We sailed in company with Stars End 2 to Teluk Laikang which proved to be a protected bay but with many fishing nets and the only anchorage being next to the unloading wharf for barges of coal coming from Kalimantan for the massive power station serving south Sulawesi. On arrival we were directed to an anchorspot by the crew of one of the barges.  We anchored and settled into a nice dinner on Stars End2 when we were hailed from the wharf by a dozen agitated security officers.  I understood a couple of terms from their heated conversation when I went over on my dinghy to speak with them. ‘Strict Rules of Discipline’, ‘move 150 metres from wharf’ and ‘NOW!’. After I agreed that we would they lightened up and invited me back for a beer, after we moved.

After a reasonable night we departed and after one overnight stop arrived in Makassar, the capital of Sulawesi. We arrived in time to celebrate my 60th Birthday.  Linda then flew home to Perth for a couple of weeks so I had time to do some maintenance on the boat and explore the city and enjoy some stunning sunsets from the bar at the top of the Swiss Belhotel Makassar.  It was of course Ramadan which did not affect us too much, yet, other than our yacht service agent having his bike confiscated by the police for being out at night delivering our beer (which cost us to compensate for his fine).  The anchor chain was covered in molluscs and mud and growth when we departed so I used the pressure spray on our watermaker to clean it as we drew the anchor up.  I think I may have damaged the galvanising on the chain in the process L but the chain didn’t stink in the anchor well.

Coal Barge and Tug entering Teluk Laikang

Trusty Yacht Agent Ali in Makassar
"I look after all of the Australian Yachts that come in here!"

The views from Swiss Belhotel Bar

Makassar City

Lae Lae Island Anchorage

We departed Makassar and chose to break the long journey to Banjarmasin with a stop at Saliriang Island on the edge of the major shipping route through the region.  The route depths were 1600 metres but the depth from the island to Banjarmasin was seldom more than 20 metres.

At Banjarmasin, the capital of South Kalimantan, our guide told us that in 25 years as guide we were the third yacht that he knew of that travelled the 25 NM up the river to Banjarmasin. The river was very busy with coal barge pulling tugs and other vessels.  There was one ship that dragged its anchor in the port and crashed into a sunken vessel and sank itself just 100 metres or so from the container wharf.  We hired a guide and motorised canoe and visited the famous floating market, at which Linda was again a hit with the locals, and toured the canals of the city, a truly fascinating trip.

Friendly Welcome at Saliriang Island

The school was built with Australian Aid money


Our gracious hosts

Traffic jam entering Banjarmasin

Dawn on way to floating market

Our view on way to Banjarmasin

Passing empty coal barge

Canal tour Banjarmasin

One ship sunk by another sunken ship in Banjarmasin port

From Banjarmasin we travelled to Kumai.  As at Banjarmasin we anchored overnight on our arrival late afternoon at the mouth of the river, made water and travelled the two hours up river the next morning.  On arrival we were met by Majid who sold us a three day fully catered tour up a tributary on a ‘klotok’ to visit the Orangutan sanctuaries including the famous Camp Leakey.  This was truly an ‘African Queen’ adventure and the orangutans, makak monkeys and probosccus monkeys kept us entertained for the three days.  We slept under a mosquito net on a double bed on the open deck which was then converted to a day bed during the day.  We took our own beer but otherwise we were well catered for by our crew of four (guide (Ea), skipper, engineer and cook).

From Kumai we set off on the 271 NM journey to Belitung, stopping overnight at Nangka Island.  The stronger and gusty winds and eratic swell was too much for our auto-pilot so we had to hand steer for much of the way. However the scenery and calm anchorage was worth the journey.

Belitung Granite outcrops

While in Kumai I had been talking to our agent about renewing my visa which expires on 19 June.  On 8 June I discovered that the Imigration Office will be closed from 9 to 20 June and reopen on 21 June.  Luckily our agent put us on to a facilitator in Belitung who will be taking us to the office on 21 June having submitted an online application before the cutoff date and hopefully precluding me having overstayed my visa.  Fingers crossed.

Once formalities are complete we will be heading further north to Riau Archipelago, across the equator, to clear out of Indonesia and head to Malaysia.


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