Category Archives: 7. Indonesia

And Then There Were Four

It was challenging getting to our final stop at Nongsa Point Marina, across the strait from Singapore. After two days of no wind, we had wind exactly in our face. But everyone made it on schedule, in time for our meetings with Jimmy Cornell to discuss what’s next for the Blue Planet Odyssey. We are now north of the equator again (barely); nice that Jesse got to sail “across the line.” I would have liked to jump into the ocean with him to celebrate, but it was at night in uncomfortable seas, and no one was of a mind for celebration. So instead it was a toast at the marina bar after arrival.

Our meetings with Jimmy went smoothly. Chapter Two announced, as we had expected, that they would not be continuing across the Indian Ocean. I don’t know if I ever mentioned that Joyful withdrew for health-related reasons in Mackay. So now we are four: Blue Wind, Tahawus, Maggie and No Regrets. The other three boats have all considered alternatives to continuing, but after our meetings it appears that they will continue.

Jimmy explained that the old plan to sail to Sri Lanka in the spring would not work unless we left earlier, because we would likely encounter headwinds going from Sri Lanka to Chagos. Maybe it was good that we had headwinds getting here, so everyone was crystal clear that they would like to avoid that! For most of the boats, including us, it wouldn’t work to go earlier, because people had already made plans for the intervening time (like me being home until March 1).

So the alternative is a different route, south along the west coast of Sumatra, which we will do in leisurely cruising fashion for the month of April. This coast is rarely visited by yachts (even Jimmy has never been there). It should be interesting. Then we will strike west to Chagos (assuming we can get permission from the Brits to stop there, but that shouldn’t be a problem unless war happens…Chagos is a military base…and unfortunately the idea of a war is not as remote these days as one would hope). After Chagos we will sail to Mauritius and then Reunion. There we will wait a couple months for the weather to change before sailing on to South Africa.

We met with a group of local reporters, asking us about our experience in Indonesia, and about the BPO. Jimmy stressed the climate change focus. This led to a little discussion about the trash we saw everywhere in Indonesia, including seeing kids toss plastic bottles/containers into the ocean. Maybe the government could promote awareness of this being an issue…? Then Tim turns the tables on the reporters and brings up the amount of petrochemicals used and supplied by Indonesia; tough issue, but is there a way to reduce these big contributors to climate change…? I think most of the people in the room were uncomfortable with Tim bringing this up. After all, this was supposed to be a chance for reporters to ask us questions. So they shifted the conversation to cleaning up litter, and recycling, and there was a sweet anecdote about a student at a school picking up the one bit of litter that was visible. Jesse told me later how much this angered him — that when Tim brings up the tough questions, others deflect back to more “polite” conversation… Tim does raise the tough issues, and he doesn’t care much about sugar coating them with politeness. Doesn’t win him a lot of friends, but I agree with Jesse that his making people uncomfortable is not necessarily a bad thing.

This marina is of the resort variety. Expensive restaurant (at least by Indonesian standards), lots of security, no town nearby. What is attractive about it is showers and laundry service and having all the boats together at the dock so we can visit with each other. It isn’t really Indonesia anymore; it is a suburb of Singapore. That’s okay; Jesse and I are just finishing up boat chores, cleaning and packing, and we will be on a ferry to Singapore tomorrow morning. We will spend three days doing nothing in particular in Singapore before we fly home.

We had a farewell potluck party on Chapter Two. I will miss them. I will miss all the BPOers for the next three months. And I realize I am going to miss No Regrets a lot. I like this boat, and it has been a good home for the past year. When a nice breeze came up this afternoon I wished we could set sail and go…onward. Oh well, I’ll remember that feeling for when the time approaches to return.

image

Nongsa Point Marina/resort
Nongsa Point Marina/resort
Tahawus, Blue Wind, Maggie, someone else, and Chapter Two towering over our little No Regrets
Tahawus, Blue Wind, Maggie, someone else, and Chapter Two towering over our little No Regrets
Jimmy explains the pros and cons of Indian Ocean routes and schedules
Jimmy explains the pros and cons of Indian Ocean routes and schedules
I pose with Jimmy and Luc
I pose with Jimmy and Luc

image

East Belitung

The two day passage from Kumai to Belitung was once again outrageously HOT! Lots of motoring, although we did have a few hours of nearly ideal sailing conditions. For me there was a little thrill en route when we passed longitude 110 East, as this is 180 degrees from my home in Maine — truly half way around the world.

I have mixed feelings about East Belitung. On the one hand, the Tourism Board once again provided fabulous guides. Delightful people willing to go out of their way to help us. And they provided both a welcome and a farewell dinner, gifts (including nice shirts and a commemorative plaque), local entertainment and an air conditioned bus. All greatly appreciated. But it is hard for me to envision East Belitung as a tourist destination. The number one tourist attraction seems to be an abandoned open pit tin mine! Our guide described how much she likes going there. The color of the water in the pit is beautiful, and changes with the light and cloud cover, she says. And it is a nice walk through the woods to get there — she almost feels like she is no longer in Belitung. I’m still not sure how to take the last statement. Is it that the place is different and away from the city bustle and thus a pleasant getaway? Or that it provides an escape from a place that she would like to escape from?

The #2 attraction was a visit to a batik factory. This I was looking forward to, but I found it underwhelming. Yes, there were a few awesomely beautiful fabrics available for not-so-cheap. And then there was a display case with a somewhat disappointing selection of run-of-the-mill fabrics. I had intended to buy some fabric, but once there I was not inspired to do so.

Tim and Jesse did, though. They bought fabric and took it to a tailor and had basketball shirts made! That made for an interesting quest, and the results look pretty good. Certainly unusual!

Tiwi, our guide, took us to a local place for lunch. On the street front they display 8 or 10 dishes. You choose what you want, you are served immediately, and you can sit at tables in the back. The food was delicious, and the cost was about $1 each. Way better than American “fast food.” In fact, the food in East Belitung was excellent at every meal.

Tourist attraction #3 was billed as a Buddhist monastery. I believe this was incorrect. It was a Chinese temple, but if it was Buddhist or a monastery it was not apparent to me. We learned almost nothing there, which was a shame. We did get our “fortunes told” or “question answered” by shaking a numbered stick from a container of a hundred or more, having the process validated by dropping two stones and seeing how they turned up (sorta heads or tails like), and if the stones didn’t say that the original question was too vague, then the number on the stick was mapped to a printed fortune/answer.

At the temple they put on a performance for us, of dancing/leaping acrobats in lion/dragon costumes. This was a highlight, though I still don’t know the significance of the costumes and dance.

We got to witness two local “games.” The first was a man wrestling with a “ghost,” made by wrapping a fish trap in a cloth shroud and giving it a coconut head. There was a little ceremony first which invites the ghost to enter the device. Then a battle ensues between the man and the ghost, until the man has torn the device apart and thus wins the battle.

The second game was a battle between individuals with rattan sticks, in which each tries to hit the other on the back. A referee keeps the fight orderly, stops it at some point, then inspects the contestants backs for welts, and the one with fewer is pronounced the winner. After a couple demonstrations they asked if one of us would accept the challenge, and Jesse stepped forward. He battled fiercely and valiantly, and came away with a serious “caning” that he is still recovering from two days later. I guess the Tourist Board didn’t impress upon the locals that they should not beat up on the visitors! But Jesse came away a hero for his bravery and style, if not technique.

So…our three days in Belitung were interesting, but it doesn’t rank high on my list of places to come back to. Our time was colored somewhat by our freezer getting accidentally turned off, and we had to throw out a couple hundred dollars worth of good foods. And there were mosquitoes, which can carry malaria and dengue fever. Amazingly, the total number of biting bugs we’ve seen on this entire trip is less than we’d see on a quick walk across the beach on a summer evening in Maine, but that thought doesn’t help much when the bugs are present.

So now we are en route to our final port in Indonesia. Motoring. Almost no wind, with the little there is being directly against us. I hope we have enough fuel — I really didn’t think we would have to motor non-stop for three days, but now that seems likely.

One thing I have enjoyed of late is talking with Jesse about world events and what role we can play in them. Both of us (but he more than I) have been reading books that trigger these topics. We both read a book about how/why the aboriginal people of Australia are suffering (still, in spite of many well-meaning efforts by the government and others to atone for past wrongs). The book is called “Why Warriors Lie Down and Die.” It shows that most “help” provided by the dominant culture is provided within a context (language, laws, knowledge base, world view) of the dominant culture, and often it has unintended consequences that make conditions worse. We’ve also both been reading Howard Zinn’s “People’s History of the United States.” The latter, while not necessarily new information, is pretty upsetting — to understand how rich capitalists have controlled our own history, at the expense of most people. We have visited some places where I think it is safe to say that, unlike in the USA, money is not King; where people don’t own much, but they are happy and healthy. What to make of this contrast…?

What should we do about the Syrian refugees? Jesse reads his “friends” posts on Facebook, and many seem to say we should not help the refugees, because they are Muslim (and therefore potentially terrorists…?) or because we have to look after our own (as though we didn’t have a hand in making the mess…?) or probably lots of other poorly-reasoned reasons. I am amazed at the lack of empathy in that crowd. But then again, while I am more sympathetic, I also tend to be frozen, not knowing what I might do that would make any difference. I have a hard time thinking beyond the issues I see first-hand, as contemplating what we hear about in the news is so overwhelming. Jesse and I talk about this, and also talk about trying to improve world conditions through engineering. Jesse says in the past he always thought of engineering projects in terms of technical contributions, but now he sees the importance of the social/political aspects that are part of any development project, and maybe he would want to apply his efforts there.

People ask how we spend our time on the boat. Trying to make sense of our world is one answer that I’ve probably never mentioned.

A pilot boat leads our little fleet over the bar and into the river, where we anchor off of the town of Manggar.
A pilot boat leads our little fleet over the bar and into the river, where we anchor off of the town of Manggar.
Throughout Indonesia, lots of fishing boats!
Throughout Indonesia, lots of fishing boats!
"Hey Mister -- photo photo!"
“Hey Mister — photo photo!”
At anchor in a busy river
At anchor in a busy river
Jesse connects with the local crew
Jesse connects with the local crew
With Tiwi's help, Tim and Jesse explain to the tailor that they want basketball jerseys made of the batik material they bought.
With Tiwi’s help, Tim and Jesse explain to the tailor that they want basketball jerseys made of the batik material they bought.
The shirts came out looking good!
The shirts came out looking good!
We were treated to dinner, followed by music and dancing
We were treated to dinner, followed by music and dancing
Jesse strikes the fancy of yet another beauty
Jesse strikes the fancy of yet another beauty
Next day we tour the abandoned open pit tin mine
Next day we tour the abandoned open pit tin mine
An odd tourist attraction, but we had fun
An odd tourist attraction, but we had fun
Next stop: the 300 year old Chinese temple
Next stop: the 300 year old Chinese temple
Where your question may be answered; the woman on the right is shaking the container of numbered sticks.
Where your question may be answered; the woman on the right is shaking the container of numbered sticks.
Here is the answer to my question...
Here is the answer to my question…
I didn't know what to make of these guys at first
I didn’t know what to make of these guys at first
Drums started beating, and a show was on
Drums started beating, and a show was on
With impressive acrobatic lifts!
With impressive acrobatic lifts!
And suggestive poses
And suggestive poses

image

image

Tiwi's daughter shows her bravery, putting her hand in the dragon's mouth
Tiwi’s daughter shows her bravery, putting her hand in the dragon’s mouth

image

Back to our cool (literally) bus
Back to our cool (literally) bus
More dancing at lunch
More dancing at lunch

image

Then across the street to the beach, where we meet the shapes that are soon to be inhabited by ghosts
Then across the street to the beach, where we meet the shapes that are soon to be inhabited by ghosts
The ghost now in, the battle is about to begin
The ghost now in, the battle is about to begin

image

The battle is long, but the man will win
The battle is long, but the man will win
We here the familiar sound of the ice cream truck, except here it is the ice cream "moto." Enough for everyone.
We here the familiar sound of the ice cream truck, except here it is the ice cream “moto.” Enough for everyone.
With our guide Tiwi
With our guide Tiwi
At our farewell dinner the local dignitary presents each crew with commemorative goodies.
At our farewell dinner the local dignitary presents each crew with commemorative goodies.
Then more music
Then more music
And the preparation for the fighting with rattan sticks
And the preparation for the fighting with rattan sticks
The fight is on!
The fight is on!
And representing the white tourists...
And representing the white tourists…
You have to admire the lad's spirit, even as he gets pummeled...
You have to admire the lad’s spirit, even as he gets pummeled…
Later... As the joke goes, the flogging will continue until morale improves.
Later… As the joke goes, the flogging will continue until morale improves.
More dancing after the games
More dancing after the games

image

And a little live-on-stage karaoke
And a little live-on-stage karaoke
East Belitung put on quite a show for us
East Belitung put on quite a show for us
In the morning we leave Belitung for our next/last destination in Indonesia
In the morning we leave Belitung for our next/last destination in Indonesia

Questions From Lewiston Middle School

[The first time I tried to post this, WordPress managed to lose the entire text. Hoping for better luck this time…]

I received a long list of questions from the students at Lewiston Middle School. More than I can handle all at once. Here are answers to many of them.

What do you like to do when you’re bored on the boat?
I rarely get bored. Tim listens to audiobooks. Jesse reads or works on writing poetry/music. Sometimes I read, and occasionally I like to solve Sudoku puzzles. But there are always tasks to be done to maintain the boat, plus investigating our next port and how to get there.

How long do you stay on the island you go to?
Some of my Blue Planet Odyssey comrades have called our travels through Indonesia a “forced march,” meaning that we are constantly on the move with no time to “hang out” for a while. Most places we go we are there for about three days only. One reason for this is that the BPO is covering a lot of ground in a relatively short time. (A friend who has been sailing the world for years asked how long the BPO was, and I said about two and a half years. She said, “Can’t you make it five?” Most cruisers would go much more slowly and spend a month in places they like. Or maybe a year.) a second reason we are moving fast now is that it is late in the season. The wind will be turning against us any day now. We are hoping to complete our next passage — about 450 miles to a harbor near Singapore — before that happens. Of course we can sail against the wind, but it can be very unpleasant if the waves begin to build.

Did you or others ever fall off your boat?
No. We are extremely careful about this. Especially at night, when there is usually only one person awake. The boat is normally on “autopilot,” so it will keep right on sailing if the person on watch goes overboard, and likely no one would notice until the next person comes on watch, up to four hours later. So if you go overboard you’d be in a heap of trouble. We have harnesses that we sometimes wear, which can clip into “jack lines” that run the length of the boat. So you can clip in if you need to do something outside the safety of the cockpit.

Were the German sailboat and the people on the boat saved?
Apparently the report of a pirate attack was wrong. It was posted on a widely read web site for cruising sailors, but we don’t know who posted it or why they had such poor information. Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet! But the attack that Luc witnessed in the Philippines was real, and as far as I know it remains unresolved. It isn’t possible to know exactly what has been done or what is in the works to help the people, since communications with the kidnappers are most likely done in secret.

How often do you fish?
Usually we troll a lure when we are at sea, and we catch a fish every few days. Recently we stopped, because we are eating so much fish ashore — we don’t really want to have more fish on board. Fish and rice are the main foods here, even though there is also a variety of other things.

Have you liked being on a boat for so long?
Yes, but I’m sure looking forward to coming home in two weeks. I know when I get cold in Maine’s winter I will have thoughts about how nice it would be to be on the boat again. But I still want to see family and friends, and eat all my favorite foods, and watch a Patriots football game, and take a hot shower whenever I want… I will be home for almost three months, after which I think I’ll be happy to get back aboard for the remaining year of the voyage.

Have you ever gotten homesick?
Occasionally. But then I remind myself that I am doing what I’ve dreamt of doing, and I won’t be doing it forever, so I better appreciate being where I am even while I’m missing home.

Did anything ever jump into the boat?
Sometimes at sea we find flying fish on the deck in the morning. And a few times we found tiny squids, which I still don’t fully understand. If you remember my posts from the Galápagos Islands, we had sea lions climbing aboard, which was quite a shock the first time. We had to block off the steps up the back of the boat to try to keep them off, since they would shed and poop on the deck.

What sorts of things did you see on the pink beach? Why is it called a pink beach?
Pink Beach has a slight pink color from bits of coral in it. We could swim right from the beach to spectacular snorkeling — clear shallow water, and a seemingly endless variety of coral shapes and colors, and fish shapes and colors. Did you see the animated movie Finding Nemo, with the crazy-looking fish? I think we saw those fish and others.

What are some other places you’ll be traveling to?
Soon we will complete our time in Indonesia, and go to Malaysia. I will come home, but return to the boat in Malaysia in three months. Then Thailand, Sri Lanka, and some islands in the Indian Ocean on our way to South Africa.

How do you get internet?
Different ways at different times. Sometimes we only get it ashore, often at a restaurant. Here restaurants usually do not offer Internet, but they have very good cell phone service. (Everyone here seems to have a cell phone.) So I have purchased a data plan using the cell system. When we are really lucky there is wifi close enough on shore that we can connect directly from the boat. Almost every place we’ve visited has Internet, one way or another, though it is usually much slower than what we get at home, and in some places it is restricted so that you cannot access some sites.

What caused the eruption of the volcano? I don’t really understand why they erupt, what are other reasons volcanos erupt?
I think you should look this up online yourselves, as I don’t know that much about it.

What’s the best place you’ve visited and why?
Hard to choose, but I’ll go with the Marquesa Islands. Beautiful, rugged, remote, good snorkeling, manta rays, good fruit, and of course friendly people.

Could you touch the Komodo Dragon?
Absolutely not! They are dangerous; sort of like a crocodile on land. And their bite gets very infected. They kill large prey by biting them, and then following them while the infection weakens/kills them.

What’s the most interesting kind of wildlife you’ve ever seen?
Each is different and interesting in its own way. The sea lions for their acrobatics. The crocodiles for their primordial scariness. Whales for their magnificence. The Komodo Dragon for its strangeness. The orangutans for their personalities. If I had to choose, I would go with the orangutan, though that might just be because we saw them so recently.

Is it expensive to sail around the world?
Yes, at least the way we are doing it. Boats cost a lot to buy and maintain. Food and fuel costs add up. Some countries charge a pretty penny to visit. We are paying for all of this from our lifetime savings. But some people manage to do it for far, far less. They start with a smaller boat. They do more of the maintenance themselves. And they have some skill/trade that allows them to earn money along the way. They may stop somewhere for months when they find a job, and earn enough money to keep them going to the next opportunity.

Was your boat damaged during the volcanic eruption?
No. We just collected the ash on everything. Our mainsail still looks like it was smeared with dirt.

Where was the prettiest sunset you’ve seen so far?
Hmm, I can’t say that I remember one in particular. There were some very nice ones when we were at sea, crossing the Pacific.

How often do you eat the food that the people on the island usually eat? What do you eat on the boat?
Great question. When we are in port we frequently eat ashore, especially here in Indonesia where food costs very little. Often what we eat is the same as what the locals eat. Lots of fish and rice, plus fruit and eggs. When we eat on the boat we have more meat, and canned goods when we run out of fresh.

How often do people give you gifts? What’s the best one you’ve received?
Generally the only gifts we receive are people’s smiles and welcoming attitudes. In Indonesia they are trying to promote tourism, and we have been given T-shirts and sarongs by the Tourist Board, plus they have provided guides/translators and welcome/farewell dinners and dance performances. At the Pacific Islands we were sometimes given fruit and coconuts, and once fish. When we went to ceremonies we would be given flowers. Receiving fresh fruit, right from the trees, was my favorite.

How many volcanoes have you seen? Does it ever scare you?
We have seen many, many islands that were formed by volcanoes. But most have been inactive for centuries or more. Only the one on Lombok erupted, and that eruption was not life threatening to anyone, as far as I know. So only Lombok was a little scary; mostly it was just a nuisance.

You said you felt violated when ash covered your boat. What do you mean by that in more depth?
The boat is my only “personal space” (and even this I have to share with two others). I like to be able to retreat to the boat to relax, and maybe to be alone in my cabin. But ash was everywhere — in my personal space. I felt like my privacy was intruded upon, and there was nowhere I could go to fully relax.

While you were on this wild adventure, On a scale from 1-10 how fun/exciting was it?
I tried to answer this in an earlier comment. It seems to me that you only get a few wild adventures in a lifetime, and they are all special. On an extended adventure like this, the fun/excitement ebbs and flows. You can’t be excited all the time!

Have you ever gotten a disease?
Not on this trip. Nor has anyone else on our boat. But some boats have dropped out of the BPO due to health problems.

Have monkeys ever chucked poop at you before?
No. But Jesse got peed on by an orangutan high overhead. Our guide said that will bring him good luck!

Do you have a YouTube channel?
Nope.