Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Karimunjawa to Mentok

The forecast for a few days was for light winds from the north, so we wasted no time getting out of Karimunjawa to head north for a checkout point of Indonesia.

Skies were squally with thunder and lightning around the islands, but as we left, our course kept us just upwind of an ominous storm cell. Our first hour was a nice sail to windward through a few islands, then once out in the open, the winds died so it was motoring as expected. We kept our fingers crossed for 2 days of light winds which would get us to the lee of islands to the north - and we were fortunate to get what we wished!

As we got close to the channel between Bangka Island and Sumatra Island on our port but still about 30 nautical miles offshore in open waters, we noticed a larger fishing boat anchored in strong current. The depth was about 15 metres. Jordan was concerned about running short on fuel before our next available fuel stop so we pulled up to the fishing boat to see if they could sell us some diesel.

Our communication was by signing. Jordan held up a jerry jug, hollered "Solar?" and showed them some Indo currency notes, and we got a jolly affirmative.

Even though there was only a moderate wind, the tides created short steep waves, so tying alongside was not an option. They tossed us a line and we tied off on our bow. Another messenger line was floated back using a big clear inflated bag which Jordan then tied around a jug and they hauled it back for filling. We did that twice, to yield us about 37 litres (10 gallons).

Jordan put the cash in the float bag to be sent back to complete the transaction. Judging from all the crew spectating and then waving goodbye with big smiles, this no doubt was a pleasant and rare interlude to their mundane sea life.

The money's in the bag!

We had to battle increasing winds and tides to get up into the channel and relented for a few hours by anchoring (S03°20.082' E106°38.024'). Once the tide changed enough to lay down the seas, we started up again and the tighter the channel got, the more the water flattened and gave us some calm motoring. But we had been experiencing periodic motor rev increase that was worrisome. Could it mean clogged fuel filters or worse, a slipping tranny? We carried on though.

The channel we were heading up through was a busy shipping route. Small freighters and big tugs were ever present. At times, we would pass real close and exchange pleasant waves.

We noticed a funny practice by the local small fishing boats that Jordan dubbed "Indo remoras" (a remora is a fish that suctions itself to larger fish for a free ride). The fishermen would sneak up behind the barges being towed by a tugboat and hook onto the barge for a free ride. Jordan and I looked at each other. "Hmmmmm, should we?" But we chose not to be likened to a parasitic fish! LOL!

Indo remora

The land on either side of the channel was low lying and the waters were shallow for a long way out so we maintained a close watch on the depth sounder especially when we cut the corners.

We got pelted with rain and threatened by lightning as we wound our way north but were happy to be in protected waters. Our next anticipated stop was at the north end of Bangka Island at a town called Mentok (aka Muntok). Just a few hours short of that stop, we were getting an increased smell of diesel that was puzzling and the periodic motor rev increase was increasing. We increased throttle, but that didn't provide any more power. So we decided to anchor and try to find out what it was.

Once the engine compartment was open, Jordan found a leak from a crack in the #1 injector line right at the injector. It was late so we decided to both get a good night's sleep then tackle the problem (S02°14.545' E105°36.876').

The next morning, it took some ingenious jury fabricating using bits and pieces, taping and drilling till Jordan got a leakproof fitting of the high pressure line. Then we were off for a short 6-hour run to Mentok. As we rounded the last point before the town, we got a stiff wind which we at first beat into until we were close enough to the lee of the land to motor the final short distance.

The charts showed rather shallow bottom that diminished up to the shore. That was the last place of protection before one would meet the open seas beyond and the force of a north wind sea. For a couple of kilometres along the shore, other commercial boats were anchored.

Watching our depth sounder, we slowly moved towards the shore for a suitable anchoring depth. But something weird was happening. Our depth sounder indicated an erratic bottom - 8 metres, 90 metres, all over the place. The geography was low and flat and predictable; the charts showed the bottom was a constant but slowly increasing depth further out. We thought the depth sounder was giving up the ghost.

So Jordan got out the fishing rod with a weighted line and sounded, and sure enough, the sandy bottom was extremely irregular and to add evidence to it, in the running tide we could see a swirl in the water with muddy variegation. What we learned later was that this area has been dredged for tin leaving an unnatural irregular bottom. But we felt secure, and once anchored (S02°04.723' E105°09.494') at 18:00 on January 14th, relaxed with a good holding bottom.

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