may 2010: indonesia

Indonesia: Port Blair, Andaman Islands to Batu Islands, Indonesia


Port Blair – Andaman Sea – Bay of Bengal – Malacca Strait – Indian Ocean – Nias – Hinako Islands – Banyak Islands – Nias – Hinako Islands – Batu Islands

Family on deck


With the grandcat

Five things we have learned

1. There has been a change in terminology used for corruption. This year Indonesian officials are asking us for “souvenirs” (rather than “presents” as they did last year). The change appears to be across the board. A directive issued by Jakarta?
2. At the weekly market in a little village on Nias, there is no fruit and very few (old) vegetables for sale. The market does however offer excellent choice if you are on the nut; the beetle nut that is.
3. Four adults cooped up inside Zinc (in a space of 39 square meters i.e., the area of a master bedroom in an average size Australian house) for seven days in predominantly wet stormy weather is cosy, fun and occasionally challenging.
4. Be on alert when a surf charter boat anchors near you. These boats regularly drag anchor. Too few brains combined with too many Bintangs seems to be the cause.
5. When overnight you travel from summer (0 degrees 54 minutes north of the equator at the Hinako Islands) to winter (0 degrees 14 minutes south of the equator at the Batu Islands) the weather becomes noticeably cooler (consistently below 30 degrees); time to put the doona back on the bed.


Seven of the best bits

1. Surrounded by family and friends. After spending April isolated and a little lonely we loved spending a week with the skipper’s parents at Nias and unexpectedly running into old friends at Nias, the Hinako Islands and the Batu Islands.
2. 30+ barrel days.
3. Bossing around the Indonesian officials who visit Zinc.
*There will be no dirty shoes on board.
*There will be no smoking on board.
*There will be no guns, including AK47s, on board. We do not care that your gun is “only semi-automatic” or that you say you “are not a terrorist“.
4. Receiving a present/souvenir (a fish) from a group of Indonesian officials. Astonishing. Admittedly though, the officials most likely stole the fish from a fisherman earlier in the day.
5. Our longest passage so far. 764 nautical miles. 136 hours and 10 minutes. Not bad. Not bad at all.
6. No injuries.
7. Best item on board in May, in the opinion of:
*The skipper – 6’2” x 18 5/8” x 2 ¼” flexfire firewire round pin. It helped the skipper emerge from deep barrels.
*The first mate – 5’11” x 75kg x handsome x fiercely fit x partially bald husband. It solves problems and makes and fixes stuff for the first mate.

Mango with tuna

Four of the worst bits

1. Sailing across the entrance of the Malacca Strait. It was akin to crawling across a freeway. Super tankers screamed past us: ahead, astern, to port, to starboard. Stressful. Thank goodness for our radar.
2. The first land the first mate touched in seven days was four meters under water (after being smashed by a wave while trying to tuck into a barrel).
3. Dodging Indonesian fishing boats when traveling at night. They do not show on our radar. They do not have navigation lights. Usually they do not have any lights at all (except of course for their burning cigarettes which you can see from at least 30m away).
4. Surfing with Brazillians. What is up with their aggressive macho spoilt only child style behaviour?

First mate…


… ok… but…

… not ok enough to make the barrel.

Nature report

*Lightning storms. Three.

Cleaning in the rain

Milk and cookie. A poor substitute for wine and cheese.

Surf report

Favourite break this month:

Skipper – Assault rifle
First mate – Hidden

*Hidden – Right. Reef break. Double-up thick spitting barrels when big. Skate-park-like walls when small.
*Assault rifle – Right. Long. Barreling. Shallow reef.
*The New Yorker – Right. Short. Barreling. Shallow reef.
*The Makmur express – Left. Point break. Multiple barrel sections.
*AP’s – Right. Shallow. Dangerous. One wave is enough.
*Shelter – Left. Long. Wedging. Point break.

Market day

Sunset SUP

Dive report

*Hinako Islands. Spearfishing: three locations (Good. One dogtooth tuna and two snapper.)
*Batu Islands. Snorkelling: one location (Surprisingly good. Dead coral but loads of decent size fish, including coral trout, trevally, sweetlip, parrotfish, surgeonfish, stingrays.)

Good food. Good friends. Bad local vodka.

Successful spear fishing mission

Tidal spa

Book report

The skipper read:

*Small island : Andrea Levy (3.5 stars) – Jamaicans going to live in London after WW2 to have a better life only to be racially vilified and live in poor conditions.
*The spell : Alan Hollinghurst (0.5 star) – A bunch of promiscuous blokes upsetting each other at every opportunity. I could not bear to finish it.
*The time traveller’s wife (1 star) – So boring I only made it through half.

The first mate read:

*Art and lies : Jeanette Winterson (1.5 stars) – Tough. Occasionally gems – ideas, phrases, sentences – sprung from the page but generally I have no idea what the book was about.
*What the dog saw : Malcolm Gladwell (3.5 stars) – Very good. Interesting. Entertaining. Informative. Original.
*Out stealing horses : Per Petterson (4 stars) – Beautiful.
*Purfume : Patrick Susskind (2 stars) – Ordinary.
*Cod : Mark Kurlansky (3.5 stars) – Very interesting. Worth a read. Some lessons to learn and apply to climate change?
*The time traveller’s wife : Audrey Niffenegger (2.5 stars) – Light, fun, easy read.
*The adventures of Augie March : Saul Bellow (2 stars) – A slog.
*Dress your family in corduroy and denim : David Sedaris (3 stars) – Laugh out loud funny.
*Another world : Pat Barker (2 stars) – Too many main characters, too many plots and sub-plots: all underdeveloped and superficial.