Michael Hughes and Ger White
Wed 9 Apr 2014 08:17
After 3 nights anchored off idyllic, deserted islands---sandy beaches, coral reefs, clear water and all to ourselves, we headed yesterday to Labuanbaja on the south west coast of Simeulue for a spot of civilisation and a move towards Sinabong, where we will pick up Michele Moran--joining our crew--and deal with the various authorities.
Labuanbaja is just a hamlet, but we spent much of today ashore, having a look round and seeing what was on offer in way of fresh food etc. But today is also Election Day in Indonesia, and the schools were closed for the day. Everywhere we went, we were followed by crowds of kids, all very happy and friendly, practicing their few words of English---hello mister, Manchester United, Chelsea, what your name, where from etc. I guess we must have had 30 or 40 kids in tow everywhere we went, in and out of (so called) shops, hanging round the (so called) restaurant while we ate our fish, eggs and rice (£2 for the two of us) --playing with each other and seeking some of our attention---don't know how many times I had to tell them my name--so for several hours we were like pied pipers--great fun, but exhausting and good to get back to the boat--except they had dugout canoes so we were then visited at the boat by a constant stream of kids--all well behaved, smiling and enjoying themselves. Being a celebrity for a day is quite enough!
As to the shopping, well 6 eggs, a bunch of bananas and some mineral water was all we could get--hope there is more fresh fruit and veggies in Sinabong!

Wonderful, friendly place. Everyone, old and young, wanted to wave, shake hands, say hello, all smiles, not a grim face anywhere. We were of course the only cruiser in the anchorage and we have the impression they see very few visitors indeed--our arrival clearly a big event.
All is well. Tomorrow, Sinabong.

A navigational observation. Simeulue is very close to the centre of the earthquake that caused the Boxing Day tsunami and the impact can be seen on the sea bed. Charted depths are useless and depths change dramatically and quickly where the earth plates buckled and some rose and some dropped. Coming into the bay from the south we had charted depths over 20 metres, but at one point the depth dropped from 40 metres to 7 metres and back above 20 metres in a matter of 30 seconds. It was caution and eyeball all the way in! Though in the event, sticking to the middle of the bay, the depth never dropped below 7 meters. There are also dead coral reefs near the shore standing metres above the high water line, where the sea bed has been pushed up. Ashore, no real sign of destruction now, though the people must have suffered terribly in 2004.

Sent from my iPad