By the end of August it was hight time for us to check out of Indonesia and move on down the road…er…sea. With 17,000 islands and a span of 3,000 sea miles wide East to West, we learned Indonesia is a sailing destination that takes a bit of time to cover. Our original plan to spend two weeks in Bali seems laughable now. Indonesia has been too wonderful to speed through.
Andrew and Leslie spend a twelve hour day working through the Customs and Immigration checkout procedures interrupted by the span of a long lunch to allow the officers to go to Friday call to prayer. By the end of the day, they return to me with long faces and the news that we cannot leave Indonesia just yet. First, we must sail over to Nungsa Point in order to free ourselves from Harbor Master’s control; the Tanjung Pinang Harbor Master couldn’t give us the clearances we need. So, we raise anchor and sail on.
Nungsa Point is unlike anything else we found in Indonesia. Within stone’s throw of Singapore (in fact, you can see Singapore across the way), it is a marina complete with berths, electricity, water, a beautiful Yacht Club, and rooms that can be rented for an overnight stay. Rest assured, all this comes at Singapore prices. We are welcomed in by helping hands of the marina manager and I settle in for a little rest. Andrew and Leslie decide to walk the docks and take stock of the other sailboats in town - are any of our friends already here? Maybe there are new friends to be found.
It’s isn’t long until I see them pause at the stern of a motor vessel I’ve never seen before, then step aboard. I watch with curiosity to see what happens next. More people arrive, I hear guitar music, a tambourine, and singing - the voice of what I can only imagine to be a surfer with long hair and board shorts. Soon, everyone emerges from the motor boat and in a long string saunter right past me and Grin, turning the docks to head toward the yacht club bar.
“How do you like that, Grin?” Grin huffs, tied up along side me.
As I predicted, the long haired Australian surfer leads the way, flanked by a tall and beautiful woman in a white dress from Mongolia, a cheerful Indian-Singaporean man, and a fellow from Sumatra, Indonesia, followed last by Andrew and Leslie. Grin pipes up, “Wanna hear a joke?” He is so excited by the confluence of events, he doesn’t even wait for me to say yes. “An Australian, a Mongolian and Two Americans walk into a bar…” I roll my eyes, but even I admit it’s kind of funny.
Later that night, Andrew and Leslie return in a rather jolly temperament. “Pull yourselves together! We have to cross the busiest shipping channel in the world, tomorrow!” Andrew and Leslie giggle simultaneously. I shake my head.
Sure enough, at first light the harbor master is tapping on the side of my hull. The papers are complete and we are welcome to depart…now. Andrew and Leslie scuttle around to fold up Grin, tie him up, and cast off my lines. The water is the perfect reflection of a calm sea without wind. “Keep your focus, Yanmar the Magnificent, II. We really need you, today.” I tell him, he knows, this, though, and I can feel certainty in the rumble beneath my cockpit. All systems are go, we will be fine.
I nose out of the marina and we slide along sideways, running along the edge of the shipping lanes for several hours. I marvel at the size and number of cargo ships. I have never, ever seen this many cargo ships moving all in one place. I don’t think I can count this many cargo ships in my whole sailing life! Even the passage through the Torres Strait above Australia didn’t have this many cargo ships around. It’s like the L.A. Freeway of cargo ships, and we have to cross the street? Captain Andrew and Leslie peer out and strategize.
It isn't going to be easy. There are two directions of traffic, and sometimes they travel two or three abreast!
“Ready Sonrisa?” Andrew says. The plan is to shoot the gap between two East traveling Cargo Ships, wait in the middle, then shoot the gap between the West traveling cargo ships. My heart is in my throat. To me, this feels like walking a tightrope across a cliff; if we get in a crash, that’s it for me. There is no minor bumps or bruises to shake off. We either make it safely across or I am to be crushed into oblivion by these giant monsters.
It’s okay, though. I trust Andrew and Leslie. At least Leslie has excellent spacial reasoning, so she will know where we can fit best. We have a good plan, and we have a back up plan if things go awry. We motor closer and closer to the traffic and time our 5 knots of boat speed against the 15 knots of boat speed the cargo ships are carrying. We dip right behind the stern of the INSERT BOAT NAME, and scoot across before the next ship in line reaches us.
As we pull into the middle, we are greeted by the most unlikely sight — a man in a little fishing tinny running lines in the middle of the shipping lanes! Seriously, are there no better places to fish than this? I guess not, no one else is out here fishing, so it must not be over fished.
Timing being quite good, we have a gap on the other side right away and we don’t even really need to pause. I give the crazy fisherman a nod and we scoot along to the other side where the Singaporean Coast Guard hails us to tell us we can’t sail so close to shore. They nudge us back into the shipping lanes to finish out our sailing day with giants sneaking up behind me. It feels like a tight squeeze.
Soon, the time comes to make a right hand turn, skirt the western corner of Singapore and slide into the Southern most port of Malaysia - Putrie Harbor. Now, the cargo ships are gone and instead, we must dodge and weave through off shore oil wells and random islands of newly reclaimed sand, some that are not even marked on our charts! Not to worry, though, these reclaimed islands already have skyscrapers being built atop them, so they are easy to spot. This sure is a different type of scenery than anything I’ve ever seen out sailing before.
Finally, I duck under a bridge and make a calm approach into Putrie Harbor Marina. Our new home for at least a few relaxing days. Also — Happy Anniversary to Andrew and Leslie. We made this trek the day of their 12th wedding anniversary. I wish you to be Captain and Admiral Forever!