Sailing has always been a romantic thing for me.
Since I was a small boy I have wanted to live by a river that flowed
directly to the sea. I remember clearly my very first cruise, crossing the
Channel on a starlit night in the Island Cruising Club's Nicolette,
watching the lights stream past and marvelling that we
were sharing the sea lanes on an equal footing with Cunarders,
Union Castle and Blue Funnel ships heading for destinations all over the
world. Now, over 50 years later we ourselves were on the other
side of the world, in Conrad country, heading up the estuary of the
Seconyer river in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo. Coming
down towards us was a small tanker and I could see from the AIS symbol on the
chart that if we kept to our current course we should pass quite close to her
starboard side. We were motoring with our sails furled and I had to decide
whether to steer to port and give her plenty of room or cross her bow and make
to pass on her port side as convention and the "rule of the road at sea" lays
down. She was seven miles off and I dithered for some time but when we
were still five miles apart I made up my mind, steered 40 degrees to starboard
and crossed over to the tanker's port side. By the time she was two miles
off we were well clear to port and I was altering course to run parallel
again. The VHF squawked: "Sailing vessel Gigi Mon; Pandunusa." Heh,
that's me. Scramble down below for the best hand set. Got
it. "Gigi Mon; Pandunusa". Bother, wrong glasses. Here we
are. Phew! "Pandunusa, this is JJ Moon. Go ahead." "Do
we pass port to port?" He had been watching my manoeuvering.
"Yes, port to port." "OK". All a bit short and to the
point. I hoped I had done the right thing. I watched her
go past and then, as she was sailing away astern the radio squawked
again: "Gigi Mon; Pandunusa". Oh no! What now?
"Pandunusa; JJ Moon". "Thank you for port to port".
"Oh! Fine. Thank you Captain. Have a good trip".
I was touched and surprised yet again at how professional mariners
going about their business will offer the same courtesy to an amateur yacht
skipper as they will to the master of a Very Large Bulk Carrier. And
always in English, which is rarely their own language.
Our sole purpose in going to Kumai was
to visit the Tanjup Puting National Park to see the orang-utans. Which is
not to say we did not quickly make some more local friends among those
who hurried to serve us. Adi was first on the scene to offer trips
into the National Park and we signed up for a day trip in one of his speed
boats. We could have had a one night or two night trip on a
klotok with chef and sleeping accommodation. Tapestry and
Troubadour chose the one night option. Adi also arranged for 300 litres of
diesel to be delivered, took our rubbish, and offered the use of his dinghy
landing. Before leaving Kumai we gave him my "Sail Bunaken 2009" cap which
he was pleased to use for PR purposes when other Rally boats arrived
This is the
way to travel. We arrive alongside two of the slower
The trip into the rain forest
was a highlight of the season, even of our round-the-world trip. We were
picked up at 0730 and whisked at speed deep into the Park to arrive in time for
the 0900 orang-utan feeding at the Pondok Tangui feeding platform.
Attendance was thin with only one sub-adult male, Nana, turning up for his
bananas but he was a fine looking chap who gave us plenty of entertainment
for 20 minutes or so, although one has to say his table manners left a
lot to be desired.
Nana saved the
day and provided us with entertainment and some wonderful photos. Thank
After he had retired back up into the forest canopy we returned
to the boat and were zipped along to Camp Leakey, a primate research centre
founded in 1971 by a Canadian scientist and her American colleague.
Camp Leakey Barry is ready for anything
Sadly, it looked a bit run
down during our visit with little evidence of recent research but it was still
an excellent eco-tourist facility that enabled people like us to take a good
look at some very interesting animals. We were shown a good BBC film made
in the late 1990s, starring Kusasi, the previous alpha male in these parts,
king of the jungle for over ten years, and featuring Julia Roberts in a
supporting role. It was probably made as part of the effort to
preserve the habitat of these wonderful animals, a habitat which is under
constant threat from logging and the palm oil industry. The film was
interesting and entertaining and introduced us, among other things, to Princess
and her young son Percy. Princess is as intelligent an orang-utan as
any and during her three year relationship with an American researcher was
taught 57 sounds or "words". We returned to a shelter near the boat for a
good local lunch box. On the way back to Camp Leakey we came across
an orang-utan on the path who was pleased to accept an orange from Joe, our
guide. The fruit was peeled most skilfully. Joe had once been a
park ranger for four years and knew the animals intimately.
They seemed to recognize him.
Our first near
Back at Camp Leakey rain
was threatening so we took shelter but had the opportunity to see a wild boar
and her eight offspring, a gibbon and a large male orang-utan skulking in the
wild boar at the ranger station. She was no beauty but a good
A gibbon was
also hanging around the ranger station.