Friday 12th October / 13th October
We complete another sailing leg and arrive in Muara.
We anchor in the bay and Philip heads off to complete the Marina paperwork and immigration. Two hours later he’s back and he’s failed the Immigration test because they need to see us all personally. Whilst Phil’s away it’s been a mammoth task to organise movement of the crew from the trimaran to the yacht club. It’s about 300m away and it’s really quite choppy and we only have the kayaks. There’s also now the additional element that we need to maintain an ‘’anchor’ watch. This isn’t a mindless task of just staring at the anchor because of course it’s actually on the bottom of the harbour but listening to the anchor alarm to ensure we don’t drift from our original position. This is a particular problem because the sea bed here is just silt and in the past Phil has failed to gain sufficient purchase with his anchor and it’s been dragged along when a squall hits. In order to perform ‘anchor’ watch one needs to be able to switch on the engine and take corrective action and out of 8 crew only 3 (me, Daz and Lars) have been taken through the engine start procedure by Phil!
We leave Lars on watch and ferry everyone to the yacht club. This is always a really unpleasant experience – we end up sitting in a wet kayak with waves lapping over the edge and those carrying laptops etc live in fear of capsize and wrecking their expensive equipment. There’s also the added fun of getting 72 year old Ed off the boat and onto a kayak, nimble he ain’t! When Phil returns from Immigration there’s only Noli and Lars aboard the trimaran and the yacht club kindly arrange one car to take 4 of us and the Marina service dinghy to take the remainder to Immigration. Book in complete and it’s time to plan our stay. We’re here for 2 nights and we’re anchored in a harbour 300m from shore which is 35km from the capital city of Brunei – Bandar Seri Begawan. Brian and Susan are planning to head into town to book into the Royal Brunei Hotel and we decide to join them. We manage to get a bus for B$1 into town and fortunately the Royal Brunei has vacancies so we book in.
It’s already 7pm so we grab a quick shower and head out for food. After dinner we walk to Omer Ali Saifoddlen Mosque which looks really impressive illuminated under the night sky whilst sitting in its own moated lake.
Saturday morning we have a sightseeing itinerary planned and first stop is the waterfall park. Unfortunately on the walk there it becomes apparent that Brian isn’t well.
We see the waterfall but then head back to the hotel and actually we don’t see Brian again until it’s time to leave. We think he has food poisoning. Susan, Daz and I visit the wet market and Kampong Ayer floating village in the river, well actually it’s a village on stilts and this was the first settlement in Brunei.
The water village is a beautiful sight to see hundreds of houses seemingly floating on the river. To get there we take a sedate water taxi over the river then climb up onto the raised wooden walkways (rickety, rotten and unstable in places). We walk around and see lots of fast speed boats scooting around down below us and through the stils of the many bridges ala James Bond. We decide to get in on the action so walk to the far side of the village and flag one of these bad boys down. We are soon hurtling along, inches from other boats and stilts wondering why we thought this would be fun!
Sightseeing done and since Brunei is ‘dry’, no alcohol for sale here, and one of our main hobbies is impossible we fall back on watching some TV and Homeland at the hotel.
Sunday 14th October
Passage from Brunei to Miri
Another Phil cluster plan. Where do we need to be and when? Originally it was 3pm on the trimaran but that was before Immigration denied entry without personal attendance. Finally we receive notice that everyone else has booked out but Philip is waiting for us at Immigration. Fortunately, well not for Brian, he’s so poorly that Susan doesn’t want to take an hour’s bus ride and instead has booked a taxi. Check out complete and back at the yacht club I manage to beg a lift from a motor boat so we avoid the kayaking phase.
We set off and basically motor directly into a storm. At the times visibility is almost nil and the trimaran’s motion is such that seasickness is taking its toll. Brian and Shaun are already poorly, Noli and Jojo are curled up in the pilot house, both nauseous so we’re left with a reduced functioning crew. The healthy component still take sea sickness tablets as a preventative measure. The seas are pretty rough and every port-hole leaks. Daz takes Brian’s shift with Susan from 10pm to midnight and then I join him for our 12-2am shift. The wind has dropped and the seas are calmer but with the rain the visibility is still poor and as a result we almost motor into an oil rig. We only spot it as we pass it on our starboard side – Jesus it’s only 50m away! Another close call for the Daz and Hels dream machine. If I were the rest of the crew I’d ban us from watch. We tell Phil about our near miss and he then decides he needs to remain on watch and cut back the speed.
Surprisingly we arrive unscathed, but possibly emotionally scarred, at Miri and anchor off the dock. The plan is to remain here until Thursday but the leaving time is soon postponed when Philip checks the weather and realises there’s adverse weather conditions expected over the South China Sea / Sulu Sea. We need to cross this sea to reach Singapore, our next destination. It is at this point we make a monumental discovery. We are actually going to sail this leg. OMG this is a completely shocking discovery and more worrying is that we are physically unable to motor this leg because it’s about 700nm and we can only carry sufficient fuel for 200nm. I know you readers are wondering what the problem is – we all wanted to sail and now we’re going to! Well it’s the old adage ‘be careful what you wish for!’. It’s probably fair to say if a committee meeting were scheduled now we’d probably give a vote of no confidence to our intrepid leader. His adhoc management style, ‘drip feed’ information sharing and his lack of administrative research has left us frustrated at best and downright worried at worst. Even worse he has some remarkable plans to replace the forestay and add a rolling jib to enable us to sail the next leg.
A new crew has been introduced at Miri. Sadly we say farewell to Ed, Lars, Jojo and Shaun and welcome our new crew mates Michel and Tatiana and Dion. Interestingly both Dion and Michel are experienced sailors and as such Philip seems more inclined to share his vision at least with them. There’s a lengthy discussion regarding the postponement of our departure from Miri. Philip wants to leave Saturday but reassures us all that this delay won’t impact on the planned itinerary and the only deadline is to reach Kuala Lumpur by 30th October for Dion’s flight home and that’s easily achievable even with our stop over in Anambas and Singapore.
Monday 15th to Saturday 20th October
In Miri having booked in to the Marina we all head to Immigration. It’s just a shame we don’t actually have the address and end up at the wrong office.
Miri is the second largest city in Sarawak with a population of about 300,000. It’s nickname is ‘’Oil Town’ and is the birthplace of the Malaysian petroleum industry as the city was founded in 1910 when the first oil well was drilled by Royal Dutch Shell. Miri is also the main tourist gateway to several National Parks and on Tuesday the old crew visit Lambir National Park. It’s a 40 minute taxi ride out, using ‘Simon’ the man who can get you anywhere so long as you don’t mind him talking on his phone at 80 decibels in Chinese whilst driving along! (There’s a very large community of Chinese here, they even have their own schools.) At the park there are many jungle trails leading to several waterfalls. We’ve brought a picnic too. At Lumak waterfall we dump all our gear and go for a swim, blithely ignoring the ‘no swimming beyond this point’ sign and swimming under the waterfall. That is until we see a crocodile and all scarper from the water before realising it’s actually only a large monitor lizard!
Not fazed by this near miss some of us decide to check out more jungle trails and head to two more waterfalls. The trails are steep, climbing up and down steep ridgelines and enclosed in humid thick jungle, so after about an hour and a half of slogging we are overjoyed to see a refreshing waterfall and pool we all immediately dive into. Suitably refreshed we head back just in time to meet up with Ed, Noli and Phil to return to Miri.
The remainder of the week is filled with various chores including fixing the generator, replacing the stays, fixing a roller furling jib, refueling, refilling the water tanks etc. In the evenings we visit a couple of local nightspots and chat with other yachties from the marina about our calamitous boat, incapable Captain and the general fun we aren’t having. Those blue seas, white sandy beaches and snorkeling are still eluding us.
The tasks drag on and on. Phil’s time appreciation is non-existent and hours are pissed away as we try manfully to complete a task, any task, while Phil seems determined to thwart us at every turn, sabotaging our initially open and then sneaky efforts to finish a job. If this wasn’t bad enough the remaining crew is now in open, and in some cases, less open revolt. By Friday morning Dion has decided to leave. He only arrived Tuesday evening but he’s already decided that the trimaran is unsafe and Phil’s ‘fixes’ are akin to Heath Robinson or a Blue Peter model made with sticky-back plastic and empty washing up bottles. So by Friday with still hours of chores left there are only 6 crew: me and Daz; Tatiana and Michel and Brian and Susan. Unfortunately Brian and Susan seem to have decided to opt out of all chores . We’re not exactly sure why but it’s very,very apparent that Susan finds Phil intolerable and thinks it highly unlikely that we’ll make it across the South China Sea without some catastrophic incident. So that leaves only 4 of us prepared to even consider working with Phil and we discuss how to equally share the pain.
Sunday 21st October
By Friday evening we finally discover why Susan and Brian have been more elusive than the fairies at the bottom of my garden, they’re leaving too. Friday night is their last night aboard and Saturday they leave whilst the last men standing head for Immigration. So that leaves only 4 crew, but at this point Michel and Tatiana are still oozing positivity but of course they haven’t endured Philip for more than 4 days; how little they know. Of course we actually find Immigration as we know its address now and it’s even open at the weekend but of course they don’t actually need to see the crew – another fruitless time wasting exercise. There’s still time for last minute grocery shopping and boat chores before we finally hit the road, well high seas, at 1530hrs. That’s another sweepstake win to Daz. We’ve invented a new game to keep us simpletons amused. The game: if Phil predicts an arrival time, departure time, time to complete a specific task etc we offer a time when it will ‘’actually” happen. We also have bets on when crew members will leave, drown and when the first catastrophic incident will occur – just kidding.
We leave Miri and there’s about 700Nm ahead of us to reach Singapore. We’re crossing the South China Sea from East to west but hoping to stop around half way at an Indonesian Island group, Kepulauan Anambas (actually 490NM) . Here there may actually be snorkeling and white sandy beaches!. The intention is to stop at these islands ‘’under the radar” and not carry out the regulatory procedures. Technically each stop requires a visit to the harbour master, customs and then immigration to check in and then a repeat to check out. We have already witnessed how what appears to be a relatively straightforward repetitive process sucks hours and hours from our lives when Philip is in charge! The winds forecast until Sunday afternoon are really light so even with the jib and main sail flying we’re only achieving 2.5 knots. This drops to zero when the winds die completely in the early hours of Sunday morning. The seas are completely flat and we just drift. With 700Nm ahead we’re completely baffled by Phil’s sailing philosophy. With only 4 crew we’re having to divide the night watch between us. We’ve divised a 2.5 hour watch system: 10pm – 12.30am, 12.30 – 3am and 3 – 5.30am. This means watches are shorter but every other night one couple has a double watch. When Daz and I finish our second watch at 0530am, Sunday, after 14 hours at sea we’ve managed a mammoth 35Nm. This is super frustrating but at least we’re all still alive and well, but time will tell! Lol (PS, if anyone finds this message floating in a bottle then we didn’t make it!)
Monday 22nd October
Well what a surprise – we’ve been motoring since 5.30am Sunday morning. The predicted winds are non existent and the sea is like a mill pond. Remember we ‘’had” to sail this leg because we had insufficient fuel to motor? Well not an entirely accurate statement (actually another Phil-ism, in other words, complete bollocks). The 200NM fuel constraint he now reveals was based on motoring in adverse conditions, strong head wind and high seas. The reality is that motoring is our only option if we want to reach Singapore in our own lifetime because there IS NO wind.
We stopped in the early afternoon, in the middle of nowhere, to swim in the beautiful clear azure waters and to cool down. It is relentlessly hot aboard and actually very, very boring. Having enjoyed a short respite we’re soon underway again but see an approaching squall from the north. We close all the hatches and initially watch the squall approach. When it hits the boat and the torrential rain is such that even in the pilot house we’re getting drenched we disappear below and congregate in the galley, sheltering from the rain. Suddenly there’s an almighty crash above. The catastrophic event predicted has occurred. The forestay, with insufficient anchorage, has collapsed and with it the main, boom and sail and associated lines have come crashing down onto the pilot house and deck!!! This forestay has been up 72 hours but there hasn’t been any wind to test it. This was the first, and obviously last, squall and it proved too much but thank God it happened whilst we were sheltering down below otherwise someone would be dead. This is precisely what Brian, Susan and Dion predicted and actually most of the yachties at Miri. Philip seems remarkably sanguine about the entire event, commenting that it was inevitable given the short amount of time he’d spent ‘’fixing” this new forestay. Tatiana, however, is distraught, tearful and basically terrified. Without sails she believes we’re going to be stranded out at sea. Phil’s comment about fuel for only 200nm has made its mark on her too and she’s been nervous since we left Miri asking about safety lines, buoyancy aids, radios and contacting outside agencies in an emergency. There is only one VHF radio and we’re only capable of contacting someone within line of sight. Philip thinks this is more than adequate since the trimaran is ‘’unsinkable’ and we have sufficient water and food to last for weeks. However we have no idea how this scenario fits into a medical emergency situation where immediate assistance / evacuation is an imperative and it’s not unusual not to see another boat for 5-6hours. For example if the mast or forestay had actually hit someone. We assume, as we do so often now, that Philip has excluded this scenario from his ‘rose tinted’ perspective of this sailing idyll. After this epic event there’s a frenzy of activity whilst we endeavour to make the trimaran safe. We need to ensure there are no lines in the water that might foul the propeller and seize the engine; we definitely can’t afford engine problems now. We remove and secure the sail from the main mast and secure various broken bits strewn across our deck. Untieing all the lines and rigging is a nightmare. For me and Daz (I’m beginning to think we’re too stupid to think otherwise) this event breaks the hours of tedium and it’s exciting given the rain and winds from the squall which make moving around the deck quite challenging. At one point Daz dons his snorkeling mask so he can see through the stinging rain. We should probably be wearing life jackets and have safety lines but where’s the fun in that? Once we’ve made everything safe we retire to the galley. Philip now has to reassure Tatiana that everything is fine. She’s been in the galley all this time and Michel has been trying to console her. Without sails we’re totally reliant on the engine and fuel and she’s convinced we don’t have enough to reach Singapore. I had expected Philip to head back to Miri, only 150NM, but no, we’re pushing on to the Kepulauan Anambas islands. Philip tells us we have more than enough fuel to make it if conditions remain the same! If we hit adverse weather conditions we will wait it out – we’re not entirely sure what this means or entails and no-one asks. We no longer openly question such bizarre comments, knowing that none bear scrutiny of anyone with an iota of intelligence or common sense.
Tuesday 23rd October
Philip seems in his element; cleaning chrome and fixing holes in his deck. Total of destruction apart from the obvious no masts, stays or sails: 2 holes in the deck, a davit snapped and lost to sea, sail gaff snapped in two, numerous cut ropes, mangled boom pin and gooseneck. Surprisingly little if you think how bad it could have been. Philip seems content to potter around but unfortunately he’s donned his ‘’working underpants” for the day, baggy, stained and very unattractive but made worse when they no longer seem capable of restraining his right bollock (sorry testicle for the posh readers out there!). Every time I lift my eyes, whatever direction I choose to risk, there’s that bollock! Arghhhhh! Tatiana has noticed his foul undergarments and the ‘freedom seeking bollock’ and she’s in hysterics. Since we’re playing cards in the pilot house and Daz and Michel have their backs to Phil, they’re fortunate and miss the spectacle, or testicle feature show! I, however, feel violated!!! For the crew the monotony has returned but Michel and Tatiana no longer seem that happy with this epic adventure – well certainly not Tatiana who sees imminent disaster everywhere (Any ship on the horizon must be on a collision course and everyone should don life jackets!) Oh well only another 48 hours and we should be in Tarempa Town, Kepulauan Anambas islands. Estimated arrival 6am, Thursday morning – let the betting begin!
Thursday 25th October
Daz and I have just done the split shift or ‘’watch” as it’s correctly termed. The watches are tough. The tedious days are enervating but it’s too hot to sleep. Ideally we would sleep in the cool of the night but of course we we have to be on ‘’watch”! We’ve just spent our last watch altering course and cutting corners. Remember we have Open CPN – a mapping tool for sailors, although Philip uses it too, on a laptop on the navigation table. There are waymarkers determined by our intrepid leader which show us our planned route. But boredom requires Daz and I to:
- find the shortest possible route to our destination and
- increase our speed.
We’re having such fun we’re still on ‘’watch” at 6am. Then the killjoy Phil finally rouses from his slumber and without a single word to us reduces speed. We only had 4nm left to our destination but now he’s back in charge it’ll take forever. So we go off ‘’watch” and it’ll be fair to say we’ve gone well beyond our tolerance for Philip. Over the last few days he’s made numerous comments about skipping Singapore from our schedule. Visiting Singapore has been our sole motivation to persevere with this trip and during any discussion we’ve stressed to Philip that this is a ‘’must see”. But as usual he has his own agenda and despite numerous questions asking why he needs to skip Singapore none of us are any the wiser. It’s completely baffling since there was a deadline but that was Dion’s flight out of Kuala Lumpur. Philip repeatedly mentions a new crew member who is joining us in Kuala Lumpur. I can’t believe he intends to take on more passengers given recent events and I certainly don’t understand why a future crew member takes precedence over the wishes of the existing crew.
It takes over an hour to reach our anchor point and once ‘’parked” Philip gives us, the crew, 6 ‘priority’ chores to complete in his absence. Then he and Noli paddle away.
Well point one: obviously there can’t be 6 priorities and he hasn’t bothered to prioritise his priorities. One of the 6 is that the crew get some well needed sleep, so that alone undermines the other five. Ummmmmm conundrum, what should we do???
Point 2: At 6am when Philip took over watch we were literally directly outside Tarempa harbour, Tarempa being the capital of the Anambas Islands. But we bypassed it in favour of a more remote anchor point. Remember we were coming here to snorkel and refuel and we were planning to stay ‘’under the radar”? Well Philip has cobbled together the most intriguing plan ever and for those readers missing my subtle sarcastic overtones, this plan is just unbelievably stupid. He and Noli are going back to Tarempa (now 4km away by land) and he plans to ask the authorities, not sure whether it’s customs or immigration, if it’s OK not to book in. So we all know if we have a plan to do something bad or just downright illegal we employ stealth and secrecy. What we don’t ever do is ask the authority figure involved if this behaviour is acceptable eg if I want to drive a car without a driving licence, MOT, insurance and tax, I don’t pop in to my local police station to ask if that’s OK. So this plan is just unbelievably stupid! Can Philip be this stupid, yes I think he can. He also intends to walk so that’s an hour each way. It would have made far more sense to anchor in Tarempa bay with close proximity to banks, customs, immigration and shops and also close proximity to his crew so it’s relatively easy to come back and keep us informed on progress. He estimates he’ll be gone 4.5 hours but actually he’s gone for 7.
As he paddles away Daz and I spend at least one whole nano second pondering his wise words and priorities. Then we get the hell out of dodge. We can’t get in the other kayak fast enough and we’re practically tripping over each other in our eagerness to leave this boat.
We paddle ashore whilst Tatiana and Michel, being the more responsible or more naive couple, remain. They’ve attached some import to Philip’s statement ‘’someone needs to ensure the trimaran doesn’t drift” and remain to fulfill another of Philip’s mindless tasks – the dreaded anchor watch. Once ashore we realise we’re in a small resort and there isn’t much here so we decide to head into Tarempa. I tell Daz I’ll try to hitch a lift and within a minute a guy on a motorbike stops. I ask if he can give us a lift and he obviously decides we’re too fat to ride together and flags down the next moped. So I’m on one moped with a lady driver and Daz is on the other. The roads here are unbelievable, it’s not the road quality but the steepness of the hills, it’s almost as bad as a roller coster, no wonder he wasn’t prepared to carry two fat Europeans on his bike. We’re dropped off about a kilometer outside Tarempa and realise we’re only just behind Philip. We start loitering to avoid discovery and we’re ambushed by a local, Hani. She works for the government and is responsible for promoting the Island’s image for tourism, one of the top revenue streams for this country after oil and gas and fishing. Her English is excellent and she says she can help us enjoy the area. (later we find out the man who gave us a lift was her boss, Mr Yunizar) However, we’re on a mission so we continue into town. We need to know if we can get from Anambas to Singapore by any other means and if it’s affordable. We discover that it’s $1: 15000 Indonesian rupee, that there’s a ferry to Tanjung Pinang (454,000 Rupees per person) and the cheapest hotel room is 220,000 Rupees. We visit a restaurant to discuss a plan of action and then Philip and Noli walk in. He’s come in for breakfast and so far all he’s managed to achieve is getting local currency. There’s no urgency in Philip’s world, a contributing factor no doubt, to the endless hours it takes him to achieve anything.
Since he’s here I want to get our passports back and declare our hand but Daz refuses. So we hitch back to Anambas resort, paddle out to the trimaran and start packing.
We tell Tatiana and Michel that we’ve had enough of Philip’s lies, of his repeated threat to skip Singapore but most of all we’ve had enough of this miserable experience. There is absolutely no pleasure to be found in this ‘sailing’ experience. Tatiana and Michel feel much the same and are wondering how the night watch will be covered with only 2 of them. I think they’re very tempted to leave but they’ve already paid Phil $1200 and they’ve only been on the boat 9 days but you really can’t put a price on this experience. We pack and paddle back to the shore and wait and wait some more. Noli turns up but no Philip. Eventually he turns up. He’s been gone 7 hours! He’s busy explaining the problems he’s encountered and finally when he pauses for breath, I interject with a request for our passports stating we’re leaving. He accuses us of a ‘’ruse” – pretending we wanted to go to Singapore when all along we were planning to abandon ship in the Anambas, miles from anywhere! OMG the nerve of this guy who should be sued under the Trade Descriptions Act for the web of lies that is his website and should pay us to sail on his trimaran not misappropriate hundreds of pounds from his innocent but keen sailing audience. I really want to respond and tell him what we think of him and his boat but I refrain, pause, take a breath and repeat, “ can I have our passports please” and then I scarper. A quick handshake and hug to Noli and then we’re gone. The relief is just incredible.
We manage to get a lift into town and find a hotel. We find a restaurant to eat and then it’s time for bed. Yes it’s still really esrly but remember we had the split watch last night so we’re shattered plus there’s the emotional drain of waiting for and finally dealing with Philip.
Friday 26th October
We’re still basking in the pleasure of being off the boat. Now we have a toilet, a shower with hot water, air conditioning, TV, beer and best of all no Philip, no engine noise and no night watches. We head to a small outside restaurant for breakfast and there’s Hani. She invites us over and we have breakfast with her and her work colleague Firdaus. We chat about our plans, should we rent a moped to explore the island or charter a boat to visit some of the other islands and snorkel. Hani has contacts for everything so she can help us arrange anything. We’re ummming and ahhhing, unable to decide and then Hani says she’ll show us the island today. They ring their boss who agrees that this fits into her job description ‘’promotion of the island” and that’s the decision made. Daz and I have Hani’s moped whilst Hani is pillion on Firdaus’. To be honest Daz and I are a bit taken aback by this generous offer but we’re excited to see what the island has to offer. We visit the Chinese Temple, a nursery school and a local handicraft workshop where they hand weave the songket , the traditional dress. A simple cotton songket takes a month to weave whilst those with an elaborate pattern take even longer. Hani wants us to dress up and takes photo after photo. We feel like we’re on a promotional photoshoot of. The Anambas but it’s really entertaining and Hani is a real social animal and is great fun to be around.
From there we scoot over some more big hills to the east of the island and a lovely waterfall. From the top it descends about 200 meters to the coast over seven granite steps. The views are breathtaking and we sit in the cascading waters for more promotional shots with Hani.
Sufficiently awed we descend to the coast and around to a lovely secluded beach, visiting en route the new government building which is still under construction. Hani and Firdaus leave us here to snorkel along the coast and meet us in a harbour a little further along. So at long last we are on a white sandy beach and we’re going snorkelling, such a shame Philip never achieved this! The snorkelling is lovely, the waters are warm and there’s a huge variety of fish and the coral is beautiful.
There’s a torrential downpour as we end our snorkeling but we sit it out with Hani and Firdaus on the dilapidated pier.
After the rainstorm Hani and Firdaus need to go into the office to write a report on today’s activities but after a few hours rest we meet again and they take us to a beautiful, remote beach on the west of the island. Unfortunately the rainclouds obscure the sunset but it’s still beautiful and along the pier there are boys with their father fishing for squid. They’ve already caught 2, but they’re just tiddlers, but then they get a bite from a monster squid – brillant.
To finish the day we stop in a tiny restaurant on the waterfront and have a coconut each. It’s not the hairy, rock hard affair we see in England. This is still green and the coconut water is almost tasteless but the coconut flesh is soft and can be scooped out easily with a spoon. It has a subtle taste of coconut – it’s surprisingly pleasant.
Saturday 27th October
Yesterday we asked Hani if she could arrange for us to charter a motorboat and she managed to negotiate an excellent rate so today we all gather, me and Daz, Hani, Arras – Hani’s boyfriend’s brother, Firdaus and his son Sultan and our boat driver, Yadi. And off we go. We visit 3 islands during the day Penyali, Salat Ransang and Getak. Apart from an elderly couple living on the second island, we have these islands to ourselves. A tropical paradise indeed, white Sands and turquoise seas. Hani has prepared lunch and a delicious marinade for the fish brought by Yadi. The fish is barbecued and is absolutely delicious. There’s Red Kerapu, Manyuk Bulat, Manyuk Cermin and Kerisi. This is precisely the experience we expected Philip to deliver, not daily of course, but certainly occasionally. Why such a relatively simple task was beyond him I have no idea.
We end the day with a visit to the Airasuk Fisheries where there’s intensive farming of Napoleon fish and Marbled Kerapu both in huge demand from the Chinese. A Napoleon fish fetches $100 per kg. Boats from Hong Kong come monthly to take the mature fish to the markets. The fish farm is actually rather smelly and there isn’t much water movement through the various net enclosures. We later learn that this is the only successful fish farm here. Many others have tried but failed to farm these fish losing them to disease, stress, and poor water conditions. The locals won’t eat this fish saying the flavour is intensely fishy due to the restricted area, stagnant water and repetitive diet.
Our boat takes us passed Anambas resort and we are amused to see the trimaran is still there when we head out but gone by the time we return at 5.30pm.
Sunday 28th October
Today we’re out on another boat ride. Our hotel, Sakura, is owned by a Chinese family. Suefong is the mother and Axel the son. His English is excellent and yesterday he said we could join him in a boat trip to visit the island of Tenggaling, where they’re building a small exclusive holiday resort. We load up the boat with provisions and some building supplies and off we go. We hit a huge rainstorm on our way but at the island the seas are blue and we snorkel and relax whilst Suefong and Axel check how the building project is going. Apparently two more months and it’ll be finished but it looks a long way from finished to me!
Monday 29th October
This morning we get up early to go see a local Parade/Celebration at the small community civic centre. The girl guides, scouts and local cubs are all dressed up as well as some youngsters in traditional dress. We watch as there is a ceremonial raising of the national flag by 3 soldiers in full white tropical rig.
After the ceremony Hani meets up with us, although she is working today she readily offered us her moped so we can explore more of the island. We head over to the west of the island to the beach we visited before at sunset. Unfortunately after only 5 minutes of snorkeling we realise the choppiness is reducing visibility and we quit. It’s a shame as the area looks very nice. We decide to stop for another coconut but whilst were enjoying this a squall comes in and a deluge ensues. With the weather looking so poor we decide to call our sightseeing trip off and return to Tarempa.
Today we also get a message from Tatiana and Michel. They’ve left the trimaran too but they took the Tanjung Pinang ferry on Saturday. Then headed to Sumatra. Remember I said we were supposed to come to the Anambas under the radar? Well it was particularly important to Tatiana and Michel that their presence was not declared because they had already arranged an extended 60 day, single entry Indonesian visa and planned to use this later in their trip. Philip knew this but failed to keep their existence a secret and as a result their single entry visa was stamped so if they had then continued with Philip to Singapore or Malaysia their Indonesian visa would be finished and wasted. Brian and Susan have also arrived in the islands on another sail boat, hopefully we might meet them before we leave tomorrow.
Tuesday 30th October
Well we must have been pooped from the past few days excitement and sightseeing as we didn’t surface for the rest of yesterday apart from a brief break for food in the evening but we do have two Fox movie channels so prising Daz out of our hotel room isn’t so easy. This morning we are up early to catch our 7am ferry. We’ve had a fabulous break in the Anambas Islands and without a doubt this was due wholly to Hani and her generosity. She is a powerhouse of energy and we are awestruck that she took us under her wing and showed us around. Thank you Hani, and good luck with your job and life in the amazing Anambas Islands.
We’re sitting on the ferry waiting to depart and we look up into her smiling face. She’s been looking for us to say goodbye and when we weren’t in our hotel came to the ferry, isn’t that an amazingly sweet gesture. We thank her again and hope one day our paths will cross again and we can repay her kindness. Our ferry sets off on time and after a couple of hours we stop at another island group. A horde of locals come on board walking up the aisles selling Nasi Goreng, drinks and fried vegetables of all shapes and sizes. It’s a cacophony of noise as they all hawk their wares. We buy some Nasi Goreng to feed us for the next leg of the trip, about another 7 hours to Tanjung Pinang,and spend the remainder of the crossing reading and dozing.
We arrive earlier than expected and once out of the domestic terminal we are hounded by taxi drivers for the 300 meter walk from the port to our hotel, ‘’No, really, we can see our hotel from here, we don’t need a lift from you, you or you!’ We dump our bags in our top floor room with uninspiring views over back alleys and the rest of town and go back down to the lobby. At last, good WiFi strength (only in the lobby) and we set about catching up on emails, banking and administrative tasks that have been building up. Daz pops out to the International Ferry terminal to buy our tickets for Singapore tomorrow then we take a walk along a park beside the waterfront and get a bite to eat. All this excitement is exhausting and by 8pm we are in bed, it’s another early start tomorrow to get breakfast, get through Immigration and onto our 7am ferry for our next country, Singapore.