Quite hard times
Barry and Margaret Wilmshurst
Mon 27 Aug 2012 13:01
We came down here in four days; 325 miles with two overnight anchorages off the quiet islands of Mesanak and Kentar and a 48 hour passage to Belitung. We motored all the way against headwinds of from 12 to 20 knots and at times it was not very comfortable. Why do we motor against such seemingly moderate headwinds; are we not supposed to be a sailing boat? Well, we have a fairly powerful engine and can average five knots dead to windward in these conditions and the temptation to use the engine is strong. Not much of an excuse. Nearly everyone else with similar cruising boats does the same. Not much of an excuse either. So there you are; confession is good for you, so they say, and now our sailing secrets are known to the world. One disadvantage of this reprehensible behaviour is that it burns fuel at an alarming rate. We consume nearly a litre a mile at cruising revs and we had asked for 300 litres to be available on Belitung. It’s not primarily the cost that hurts, it’s that every litre has to be collected and carried on board.
We arrived at 1115 on Thursday. We were tired, sweaty and scruffy so we brewed up a large pot of coffee and prepared to relax. Before settling down we rang our contact on the island, Harun Cahyadi, who had been highly recommended by every predecessor crew as an efficient agent for dealing with the exit paperwork and as helpful in innumerable ways. He was out and about, ferrying another crew to the supermarket, and could meet us on the beach in half an hour. Oh no! Unship the dinghy and launch it overboard. Unsecure the outboard and lower on to the dinghy transom. Mix the two-stroke oil with the petrol. Will she fire after all this time? Yes! Where is Harun? A phone call. “I am on the beach – look at 210° from your boat and you will see me waving”. It worked. We motored over to him about half a mile away and he sat us down in the shade with the crew of Quantum Leap and a complimentary Bintang beer. He is an absolute gem – a young(ish) member of an Indonesian family, ethnic Chinese in origin, with widespread business interests on the island. We had been permitted to land at his uncle’s part-completed resort development where the part completed includes a wonderful swimming pool. Harun was at university in Germany, speaks at least four languages and is very efficient. He is also one of the nicest and most generous of men. We made a few arrangements, planned the re-fuelling for the following day, had a nap and returned for a late afternoon swim. Our friends Dave and Kathie on Sunflower arrived in the anchorage as dusk was closing in.
After swapping notes with Sunflower the first thing to do on Friday morning was to empty our eight fuel cans into the tanks. We have a cunning little syphon pump so there is little physical effort involved in pouring the diesel out of the cans but each takes several minutes to empty and much of that time is spent bent over confirming a continuing gurgle and watching for signs of contamination. We were due on the beach at 1300 and following a revision of the original plans it was agreed that our 300 litres and Sunflower’s 340 would all be delivered that afternoon. In each case it would mean two trips by dinghy. The beach shelves steeply and the swell was slight so there was no problem in stopping the motor at the optimum moment and swinging the outboard up to clear the sand. However, the sand is very soft and our little wheels ploughed into it rather than rode over and it was a considerable effort to drag the dinghy even one boat’s length up the beach. Then there was a steep little climb through soft sand up to the boundary fence with our cans but there we were met by another engaging young man with his three assistants. They were in charge of some 50 gallon drums and a hand pump with which they filled the 17 cans. The full cans were transported, part of the way by wheelbarrow, down to the dinghies, we pushed off with help and with difficulty, returned to the boats, heaved the cans on board, emptied them all into the tanks, stretched, sighed and observed that all we had to do now was to do it all over again. Which we did, mightily grateful for the cheerful help given by the fuel man and his assistants. We completed by 1630, cleaned some of the diesel from the boat and ourselves and went across to Sunflower to crack open a couple of bottles of bubbly to celebrate the completion of another significant cruising stage. The re-fuelling had been hard but there was considerable satisfaction in having filled both boats the same day. We all slept well.
We are off tomorrow having spent a most enjoyable five days. We have enjoyed more swimming in the pool, joined a family picnic with excellent food in the shade of the trees, been taken shopping and conducted various bits of business from Harun’s office in Tanjungpandan. (Lovely name!) We have been treated as members of the family and honoured guests at one and the same time. We leave Belitung with the warmest memories of Indonesia and her people.
We head south-west now, through the Sunda Strait, for Cocos Keeling, about seven days sailing away, with a possible brief stop at Krakatoa en route.