Ron & Joanne left Pensacola, FL more than 3 years ago on their Antares Miss Jody to circumnavigate the world – currently they are sailing in Southeast Asia…
Indonesia, our introduction to SE Asia. Another beautiful part of the world with names so strange we can hardly pronounce them. The worlds largest archipelago with 17,504 islands. The east end of Indonesia is called the “East Indies” and is viewed as the Caribbean of Asia. Indonesia stretches across the Arafur Sea, the Banda Sea, the Flores Sea, the Bali Sea, and the Java Sea, a distance of 2200 miles east to west.
We departed Darwin, Australia on July 18, 2009 with 145 other cruising boats for passage through Indonesia. The passage called “Sail Indonesia” was organized by a group of Australian entrepreneurs in corporation with the Indonesian Government. The purpose was to provide an “easy” way for cruisers to navigate the confusing Indonesian bureaucracy and to create an agenda of visits to various locations throughout Indonesia. The agenda took you 1000 miles north to the NE corner of Indonesia then south to Flores, then west to Belitung, near Singapore. A route of 3000 miles to cover in 3 months.
We, and many other cruisers chose not to follow the “Rally” route. We followed a route which allowed more time to visit selected islands.
Our first stop for check in was Samulakki, 290 miles north of Darwin. We arrived with 50 other boats and 95 on the way. Lots of patience and two days later we were checked into the country. The local officials were overwhelmed by the mass of boats, but they did a good job with only a few upset costumers. We toured the island as a part of three buses loaded with cruisers. The villagers did a great job dancing and giving us local food to demonstrate their culture. Joanne made friends with an 18 year old local girl, Dessy. She came to Miss Jody, rode the tour bus with us, took Joanne to visit her family who gave her large clusters of Orchids.
Following Saumlakki, we departed the Rally group. We sailed 185 miles north into the Banda Sea, to the island of Banda, one of the original spice islands. Banda had lots of history, nice people, and good diving. We saw our first mandrin fish – quite a treat!!
Then we sailed west 400 miles across the Banda sea to the island of Wakatobi, just off the coast of Sulawesi. Joanne celebrated her birthday in the village of Wangi Wangi. The locals at a shore side restaurant threw a party for her when they learned it was her birthday. She was the princess. The village was a great place to rest and interact with the locals, many of whom spoke English.
We sailed 30 miles down the coast of Sulawesi to Hoga Island. The island is located in the middle of the “World Coral Triangle” and has multiple dive sites. Hoga has a research center sponsored by one of the universities in the UK. We rafted with four other boats on a commercial mooring and dove several times. No anchoring allowed. We visited a near by village built on stilts. The villagers believed it was a sin to live on dry land and they would be dammed if the did, so they didn’t. Most of this portion of the trip was in the company of SY Sail Dance, with Peter, Virginia, Chris and Maggie on board.
We sailed across the Flores sea to Flores, then west along the southern island chain to Bali. We stopped at several islands for 2-6 days each.
Our first stop on Flores was at the town of Maumere, we anchored in front of the “Sea World Resort”. We visited villages that specialized in beautiful weaving, wood carvings and basket making. We found lots of crafts and local talent including more baskets.
Next, on to the west end of Flores to Labuham Bajo the gateway to the Komodo and Rinca Islands. These two island groups make up the Komodo National Park. The sea and land life was fantastic. Komodo Dragons, small deer, turtles, pigs, monkeys, mantas, and under water creatures we had never seen. We dove several times, snorkeled every day, walked the beaches looking for forbidden treasures. The southern islands are on the edge of the Indian Ocean and the water temp was 10° cooler with lots of sea life. We stayed here for two weeks departing 9-5.
Our next stop was the west end of Lombock Island. We anchored in a small harbor called Medana Bay. We toured the island and had fun interacting with the locals. We purchased a small coral tree that was planted with Miss Jody’s name attached in a coral regrowth program. The locals have harvested coral for years to make concrete and they are attempting to rehabilitate the reefs. We sailed two miles to Gili Air island, one of three back packer resort islands. We dove three times while there, saw some strange creatures, including the tiny pygmy seahorse but not much coral.
Next stop Bali. We spent our Bali time on the south end of the island where all the tourist go. We anchored in Serangan Bay, a filthy commercial anchorage just north of Benoa harbor. Two days later we moved to the Bali Marina and some more filthy water. There was a wait list of 30 boats for the marina but we had been told that the dock master sold Amway and loved new customers. Joanne ordered a few products and we coincidently got a slip. It was the safest place to leave the boat to tour the island. We toured Ubud, the cultural and shopping center of the island, watched Balinese dancing, toured temples and rice terraces, toured volcanoes, and did a bike ride among several villages. Kristin, Joanne’s daughter came and they shopped, toured and took advantage of the 2 hour massages for $10.00 ( ending with a milk bath with flowers floating on top). They decided to pace themselves and only have a massage every other day. What a life. They also spent a day taking a Balinese cooking class from a well know school in Bali.
We departed Bali on Oct 1 and headed 430 miles North to Borneo. The island is half Indonesian and half Malaysian. We stopped at Kalimantan in Indonesia and went up a river to Kumai. We then boarded a small but very comfortable boat and went further up the river to the camp Leaky Orangutan Preserve inside the Tanjung Puting National Park. There are approx 4000 orangutan’s living here and Camp Leaky and two other parks, take in injured or orphaned animals. We stayed at Rimba Eco Lodge for 3 days and visited all 3 camps as well as a reforestation park where we planted a tree. The orangutan’s were amazing to observe- so human like- they were intelligent, affectionate, and entertaining. We got to actually sit and talk to some of the more tame animals. They were curious and would take your hand. They would also take your water bottle away from you if you drank in front of them.
We got to watch Tom, the alpha male, dominate everyone- including the people. When he walked into an area- everyone moved away. He was an amazing sight!!! As a male ages his face becomes larger due to increased testosterone- eventually the size of a dinner plate, his cheeks look like huge ears on each side of his head. He was obviously in charge. As smaller orangutan’s came to the feeding station, they would hang back until he moved away and then carefully come and cram bananas in their mouths until Tom began to move back closer- then they would head back up a tree- a safe distance away. At one feeding station the rangers had put out buckets of milk- Tom had a bucket and as a ranger attempted to pour more milk from a large jerry can, Tom took that container too. Watching them move through the trees with such strength and grace was amazing as well. Almost every female had a baby and those that didn’t were pregnant- Tom is a busy guy!!
Miss Jody sailed from Kalimantan to Singapore, 525 miles, for another phase of our adventure.
Last night the wind was 15k from the WNW after we cleared the south coast of Kalimantan [Borneo]. Our course is 283°, Miss Jody was on a close reach making good time for about 7 hours. We had intended to stop at a small island, 35 miles down the road from here, for an overnight break. The sea is rolling in from the NW so there is no protection. Naturally the forecast was 10k from the ESE.
Joanne furled the screecher and later set the jib, BY HERSELF. Now she says, we don’t need to stop! Let’s go to Singapore. We are now sailing in the South China Sea. Wow! A long way from Pensacola Bay.