june 2010: indonesia

Indonesia: Batu Islands to Mentawai Islands


Batu Islands – Indian Ocean – Teluk Bayur – Indian Ocean – Mentawai Islands

Men in uniforms aka masters of extortion. You are at their mercy when you bring your house into their country.

On the way to school

Hijinx in Padang

Five things we have learned

1. The magic words in Indonesia are “Saya hamil” (translation: I am pregnant)
These words magically cause…
*people to stop pushing and shoving you in public places
*officials to give (instead of take) presents from you
*drivers to actually slow down and take care when you ask them to
*touts and schisters who hang around your boat in their canoes to disappear, and
*surfers to keep clear of you in the line up and to stop dropping in on you.
Conveniently you do not need to look pregnant or in fact even be female for the magic words to work. The skipper used the magic words to get out of attending a regional village chief’s meeting to which he was invited.
2. If you are a vegetarian and have a dream about eating a steak burger – one of those big flat buns with a big fatty piece of BBQ steak hanging over the sides, like the ones you used to get at sports club break ups in the 80s – then perhaps you need an iron supplement.
3. To prevent and cure morning sickness, surf/swim/bob around in the water. You will feel fabulous.
4. Cans of butter, olives, tomatoes and peaches in your carry on luggage will confuse the security screening men at Jakarta airport. However, once you explain the items are food, they will be deemed acceptable. Apparently carrying on 16 cans, each containing 400ml + of food juice, is fine. Your 120ml bottle of body wash on the other hand is extremely dangerous. It will be confiscated for being in excess of the 100ml carry on liquid allowance.
5. The amazing Moses will watch and provide security for your boat from his village – 15km from where you are anchored – for a reasonable fee of $12 a month. We surmise Moses aspires to take his extortion to another level and will one day wear a uniform – that is, when he has made enough money to buy a job that lets you wear a uniform.

The amazing Moses – he can watch and protect your boat from 15km away for only $12 a month.

The parasite – 13 weeks.

Bobbing around in the water. Bliss.

Five of the best bits

1. Smoking surf.
*Heaving slabs; down the line steam train barrels; 300m long rides, over half of the distance spent inside perfect barrels.
*Stealth missions – the skipper and pirate number one – to score long perfect tubes at a secret spot.
*A bay alive with hoots and roars from guys on five charter boats as the skipper landed a late (a very late) take off, busted into a barrel and was spat out through a thick curtain into the channel.
2. Happy birthday skipper. Celebrated in style with a special birthday lunch at Pizza Hut in Padang.
3. Jakarta
*Tim’s hospitality and company- the best.
*A bath! A long warm one enjoyed while gazing down on the city lights. Blissful. Though the first mate felt guilty about using 270 liters of water in one go – an amount that on Zinc she must make last three weeks.
*And of course the reason for the trip – our first picture of baby – he / she is a weird looking blob.
4. The playgrounds area
*Calm, protected and secure anchorage.
*Surrounded by seven surf spots.
*Clean, clear water.
*Uninhabited palm fringed island to jog around.
We anchored in the middle of the narrow channel and did not move for 10 days.
5. 10,000 nautical miles!
6. Best item on board in June, in the opinion of:
*The skipper – The front shade cover. Twenty square meters of material. Indispensable. It doubles the space of Zinc’s living area. It provides protection from the sun and rain. It catches water to drink and clean with. It is a great spot from which to watch the surf (and to get away from the wife).
*The first mate – Surfing booties. Black. Size 8. Essential for reef stomping (unintentionally done after almost every wave – terrible but sadly the reefs off Sumatra were damaged long before the first mate got her boots onto them) and for keeping tootsies warm in the chilly water found around the equator.

The skipper

The skipper…

…asking a guy…

…not to drop in on him…

…nicely, of course.

Four of the worst bits

1. Storm of the year in Padang. The skipper made it back to Zinc with ten minutes to spare. The first mate did not. She was stranded on shore for the night. The dock she was waiting on was washed away by waves (not while she was standing on it). The 20 foot two tonne boat that was to give her a lift back to Zinc was smashed up on the beach (not while she was in it). The first mate checked into a hotel. She had no clean clothes, no toiletries, no book, no diary, no pen, no earplugs (to dim the noise from the hotel’s 24 hour karaoke bar), no battery power on her phone.
2. A morning spent at the beauty salon in Padang. The first mate went to get her toe nails painted. Two hours later she came out with boofy hair and no paint on her toes. Do not ask.
3. Cyanide fishing. A practice that is technically illegal but, like most dodgy activities in Indonesia, one that is permitted if the right amount of money is paid to the right people.
4. Injuries
The skipper
*Ciguatera. Diagnosed by Dr first mate. Consumption of large red snapper + peanuts + alcohol – check. Muscle and joint pains + weakness – check. Sweating + tingling and strange sensations in the limbs – check. The skipper whinged and moaned but he survived it.
*Common cold. The skipper whinged and moaned but he survived it.
*Morning sickness. The first mate has not felt ill so the skipper thought he would feel ill on her behalf. The skipper whinged and moaned but he survived it.
The first mate
*Parasite. Three months of the nine month incubation period complete. Relatively benign symptoms so far. The most serious being a heightened sense of smell, which in Asia is not something you should wish on your worst enemy.
*Sore ears. From a month spent listening to the skipper whinge and moan about his ailments.

Pirate number one approaching Zinc.

The skipper & pirate number one whisk chocolate mousse.

Nature report

*A bat / bird (?) ate half of a bunch of bananas that were hanging on deck.

Uninhabited palm fringed island – great for jogging around.

The front shade cloth working hard.

Pirate report

*Pirate number one hijacked Zinc using a dugout canoe. He stayed on board for a week. Initially we thought the aggressor was an Indonesian who had come to annoy us while we were anchoring but it turned out he was our little American buddy JT. Admittedly he was a funny, friendly and helpful pirate.
*Pirate number two was found standing in the dark in our cockpit at 8pm. The first mate screamed and carried on but it turned out he was one of our Indonesian friends who crews on a charter boat. [Note: you may remember our story from last year about this guy – he is the illegal fisherman who learnt to speak English in Darwin jail.] Another funny, friendly and helpful pirate. He came to give us a bag full of fruit, soft drinks and juices (stolen?) from his charter boat.

Anchored in the middle of the channel, surrounded by waves.

Cyanide fishermen.

Surf report

Favourite break this month:
Skipper – 8HP
First mate – 14 Kevins

*Donors – Right. Wedging takeoff. Multiple tube sections. Very shallow.
*Smegle – Left. Point break. Shifty. Swell magnet. Forgiving.
*Speed bumps – Left. Unpredictable. Heavy. Pitching. Barrelling.
*Video Ezy – Left. Long walls. Occasional barrels.
*Big Eye – Right. Wedge takeoff. Perfect barrel. For experienced wave pickers only: the wrong ones close out onto dry reef.
*Greed – Right. Heaving double up peak. Long tubes.
*Microscopes – Left. Long barrels.
*14 Kevins – Right. Fat. Fun. Short.
*Yater – Left. Long. Mal wave. Very shallow.
*8HP – Right. Best wave around.
*Nosey – Right. Short. Fast. Extremely shallow.
*Boffins – Left. Perfect barrel.
*The whining wife – Left. Soft. Pitching. Fun.
*Storms – Right. Shifty. Throaty. Barrels.

Munching mini triple choc muffins.

Mango cuddling up with the spare anchor chain.

Dive report

*Batu Islands. Spearfishing: one location (Very good. Fish soup. One trevally and one snapper.)
*Mentawaii Islands. Spearfishing: two locations (Location one – ok – two big eyes. Location two – pitiful – in 45 minutes we did not see one fish that was even half the size of an edible fish – perhaps something to do with the cyanide fishermen working the neighbourhood?)

Book report

The skipper read:
*The new contented little baby book : Gina Ford (4 stars) –  Detailed instructions for running a baby boot camp.
*Sweet Thursday : John Steinbeck (1 star) – Overly wordy. Boring.
*The invisible man : HG Wells (3.5 stars) – It would be fun to be invisible for a day or two.

The first mate read:
*Paula : Isabel Allende (1 star) – The author could not control her narcissism, even in a letter to her dying daughter. A more apt title would be “All about Isabel”.
*Angels & insects : AS Byatt (1.5 stars) – Two novellas. The first was ok, the second unbearable.
*To kill a mockingbird : Harper Lee (4.5 stars) – Fabulous. I had forgotten how good this book is. It makes you want to be a better person.
*Brief interviews with hideous men : David Foster Wallace (0.5 star) – Short stories. Sad. Twisted. Pathetic.
*Holidays in hell : PJ O’Rourke (3 stars) – Essays. Amusing and entertaining albeit dated.
*Voss : Patrick White (3 stars) – It grows on you. By the end you may be surprised you are enjoying the story.
*Love in a blue time : Hanif Kureishi (3 stars) – Short stories. Entertaining. Some cracker beginnings. Some loose endings.
*Meno : Plato (3 stars) – What is virtue and do you acquire it by teaching or practise or nature or in some other way