October seemed to last forever, sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a bad way. We began the month running errands in the stinking port town of Sibolga, Indonesia. We ended the month playing in the stunning cruising ground of Phang Nga Bay, Thailand. In between, we surfed and we sailed. And we met with officials when we cleared out of Indonesia and in to Thailand. This is always a pleasure, especially in Indonesia.
LIFE. After our little break from each other in September, we reunited in Sibolga. Dale arrived on Zinc from Nias. Willow and I arrived on a rickety plane from Medan. It was nice to be together again, particularly in Sibolga, which is lovely this time of year.
…Many people don’t think of Sibolga as a holiday destination. They’re really missing out on the adventure activities…
…on the fun things to do with kids…
…on the innovative architecture, such as this office building (sans windows)…
…and this fishing hut.
…Apparently, 12 year old boys are sent out to live in these huts and to guard and to work the nets.
INDONESIA: PASSAGE: SIBOLGA TO THE BANYAK ISLANDS: 95 NAUTICAL MILES
SAILING. Our first attempt to sail from Sibolga to the Banyak Islands was the most demoralising trip we have sailed, by far. I still feel like crying when I think about it. It was pretty much as bad as cruising gets, without having an accident, of course. The first 12 hours were lovely. But then we charged into 15-18 knots of wind and 3-5 foot seas for six hours. And then, when we were within four hours of our destination (we could see it…), a massive storm front hit us head on and we were forced to turn around. We spent the next six hours running with the storm — with the 8-10 foot seas, with the torrential rain, with the 30-40 knots of wind. It was beyond awful. We continued on for another four hours, albeit in calmer conditions, all the way back to Sibolga. So, after 28 hours at sea, we were back where we began. We crawled into bed. We woke the next day. We tried again. We had no other choice. Our second attempt was successful.
BOAT KID. Gee kids are resilient. I snapped these shots as we were heading off on our second attempt. It was as if Willow had no recollection whatsoever of our first attempt the previous day.
…This is a grouping activity Willow did on route. It’s not a mistake. She understood exactly into which group she was sticking the puppy. We’re concerned she has lived in Asia too long.
INDONESIA: THE BANYAK ISLANDS
FLAG UPDATE. For those of you who have been wondering how our poor old Australian flag is going…
LIFE. The Banyak Islands are pretty.
…The surf is in the south. It’s in a “national park” (in Indonesia, this term doesn’t mean the same as it does in Australia) and there’s no village within 15 nautical miles, but there is a little community. When we were there it comprised of the following:
-Between two and four charter boats (five crew and ten guests on each)
-Two other cruising boats (two people on each)
-One land surf camp (the owner, but no guests)
-One floating surf camp (five staff and between zero and two guests)
-A local fisherman or two
…We were quite happy to be stuck in the Banyaks for 11 days while we awaited a weather window to continue north.
…However, we started to run out of food. Towards the end of our stay we survived on fish…
…the last of our tins, and scraps from the charter boats, which we yachties shared.
BOAT KID. Training to climb coconut trees.
…Swimming from the anchor chain to the bridle to the anchor chain to the bridle to the anchor chain.
…Playing hide-and-seek. There are only so many places.
INDONESIA: PASSAGE: THE BANYAK ISLANDS TO PULAU WEH: 298 NAUTICAL MILES
SAILING. This passage was annoying more than anything, though, thankfully, it was uneventful. I was so bored that I took a shot of us half way to half way from the Banyak Islands to Phuket.
…Poor old Sumatra burned. The smoke stung our eyes and our throats. The sunsets were spectacular and the sunrises were hazy.
…At the tip of mainland Sumatra, we had to pass through the little slot on the right.
…The current races through this slot. It’s imperative to get the timing right to pass through the slot with the current. We got it wrong. Not for lack of planning, though. A great deal of analysis went in to us getting it wrong. Unfortunately, we worked our timing off a basic premise, passed on to us third-hand via other yachties, which was wrong. We charged through at two knots, against five knots of current, slipping and sliding, going almost slower than Willow can swim. Eek.
INDONESIA: PULAU WEH
LIFE. We were tired, very tired, when we reached Pulau Weh. It’s tough making passages with Willow and without crew. We longed for Dan or Bertie or JT or Bernie to be on board again… We rested at Pulau Weh for two nights and steeled ourselves for the run across the Malacca Strait.
PASSAGE: PULAU WEH, INDONESIA TO PHUKET, THAILAND: 221 NAUTICAL MILES
LIFE. See you later Indonesia.
…Thanks for having us.
SAILING. This was our fifth passage across the Malacca Strait over the past four years. It was a dream. We floated along hanging from the spinnaker at 8-9 knots. Sailing with the spinnaker in perfect conditions is the ultimate cruising. It’s like travelling in a hot air balloon, but without your ears popping. We felt blessed to finish a hard month of sailing on this note.
LIFE. The view from the bed we all share on passage. As a special treat, on passages, Willow gets to sleep with whoever is not on watch.
…Susan Marsk came too close for my liking.
…But, apparently, and contrary to how it appears in this photo, the Skipper had it under control.
LIFE. Hello Thailand. See us? In the middle. Out the back. This is the famous Ao Chalong, where boats and their crew and passengers check in to Thailand. On the pier, under the one roof, are Immigration, Customs, and Harbour Master. The rules are clear. The process is smooth. Indonesia, you really should come and check this out.
…First things first.
BOAT KID. Willow loves visiting temples.
…She also enjoys visiting the poor old elephants, but only if I’m the one getting my hands dirty feeding them.
LIFE. A birthday.
…Marina living. We have a love-hate relationship with marinas. Generally, we hate them, but after six months at anchor in Indonesia, we loved being attached to a dock for a few days. But gee it was hard to get on and off our dock at peak hour. These happy punters are heading out on a day tour of Phang Nga Bay.
…The rainy season in Thailand has not quite finished.
THAILAND: PHANG NGA BAY
LIFE. Phang Nga Bay is a beautiful cruising ground. Hundreds of uninhabited limestone karst islands project out of the sea, creating anchorages that are as good anchorages get.
…Many of the islands have quaint caves, inlets, mangroves, beaches, and bays to explore.
…Dale, in particular, loves to do stuff like this.
…Willow and I humour him and go along for the ride.
…The most famous island in Phang Nga Bay is ‘James Bond Island’, so called because it featured in the James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun. Roger Moore was the Bond and the island was the hideout for the baddie.
…I read somewhere that every day over 3,000 tourists visit James Bond Island. Yep. 3,000 people. Every. Day. By my reckoning, based on three days of counting the number of boats in the area and the number of tourists on each boat, this figure isn’t far off. The first day we visited early, but not early enough.
…The second and third days we visited and were gone by 9.15am. We had the place to ourselves.