Voyage of Traveler / Blog

December 27, 2008

“Indo” the New Year

Filed under: Year 2: July08-June09 French Polynesia to Greece, Indian Ocean — mrlawlerjr @ 3:45 pm
Hi, Everyone,
All is well aboard Traveler, once again, and we are on passage this week between
Christmas and New Years in Indonesian waters between Bali and Singapore.  We picked
up a Bali Boat Boy named Yansen (just one name, like Sting) who works for $5 per
day--and is very good, and I'll pay his airfare from Singapore back to Bali.
He is trying to get his captain's license and needs what we call "days
at sea" signed off by a captain. His English is good enough, and we are glad
to have him onboard with us as crew for this leg.
We're having some rough weather and having to beat into it.  Because of all
the delays, we missed the "weather window" of favorable southeasterly
monsoons (what the trade winds are called in this part of the world) and now have
northwesterly monsoons.  We have about 20 to 25 knots of wind on the bow with near
constant waves breaking over the bow so the decks are awash.
the occasional squall brings winds of up to 40 knots with lots of rain and thunder,
which keeps things exciting.  At least it is warm, about 85. And thanks to the dodger
and our new side curtains, the cockpit mostly dry.
We are headed for Singapore, but we'll have a stop along the way tomorrow at
the Indonesian island of Kalimantan to trek in the Tanjung Puting National Park.
This is one of the last, and best, places on the planet to see the awesome orang-utan
apes in their natural environment. Also in the National Park are tons of crocodiles,
monkeys, and, if we are lucky, we might see a leopard. For photos, Google "Orang-utans
in Tanjung Puting National Park."
The leaky fuel tank is fixed, but what a huge, distracting, upsetting and expensive
repair that was.  Imagine taking a power saw to your beautiful built-in furniture
just to get to the tank to remove it, which took four people using our boom as a
crane to lift it out, then having your boat all torn up for the ten days it took
to fix it. I guess it wasn't all that expensive.  The repair bill came to only
$600, mostly because labor is so cheap here.  What hurt was (1) spending so much
of our time in Bali dealing with the problem, and (2) filling the tank in Dili with
$800 worth of diesel only to have it all leak into the bilge and then pumped overboard--thanks
to the automatic bilge pump--while we were ashore and Traveler was at anchor.  The
workers in Bali did a good job and the boat is all put back together and the tank
works well!  We kept one of the two 250 liter temporary fuel tanks we had on the
aft deck as a reserve, strapped down with motorcycle tie-downs, so now our range
under power is about 1,500 nautical miles.
My son, Brian, is taking some time off from Orange Coast College to join us in Singapore,
arriving January 3, for the two months or so it will take to cross the Indian Ocean,
Red Sea and Suez Canal. Also, my mom and step-dad will be joining us in Phuket,
Thailand for five days beginning January 15, and we are really looking forward to
those visits.
Many have asked about pirates, especially since our route takes us through both
the Malacca Strait and the Gulf of Aden between Yemen and Somalia.  We, too, are
concerned.  The Indonesian, Singapore and Malaysian navies and local police have
done a great job patrolling the Malacca Strait over the past few years, after decades
of blatant pirate attacks, and there are now hardly any attacks in the waters around
Singapore.  If there is, it is usually a large ship and the pirates are after big
ransom money. I have heard of only one yacht being boarded by pirates in the past
year around Singapore, out of thousands who cruise through this passage annually.
The Gulf of Aden is now by far the worse spot in the world for piracy.  But finally,
due in large part to all the publicity, a coalition of 14 nations now have 150 "assets"
(ships, patrol boats, planes and helicopters) patrolling the Horn of Africa.  They
have established a new shipping lane that is heavily patrolled and since then the
reports of piracy have dropped significantly in that patrolled area. I have the
latitude and longitude coordinates for this safe corridor, as this shipping lane
is so new it is not yet on any printed charts.  Also, cruising boats of like size
and speed group up before entering the Gulf and stay together, which works well
as a deterrent.
We're still livin' the dream, and unfortunately the risk of pirates is a
part of cruising, just about anywhere in the world.
Send us an email and let us know what you did for the Christmas and New Years holidays.
We are now 15 hours later (nine time zones away from California), so when it is
noon on a Sunday in Newport Beach it is Monday at 3:00 am on board Traveler.
Michael and Barbara
06 25 S, 115 03 E

December 27, 2008 at 1200 utc

December 15, 2008

Sarangan Island near Benoa Harbor Bali, Indonesia

Filed under: Year 2: July08-June09 French Polynesia to Greece, Indian Ocean — mrlawlerjr @ 8:35 pm

Subject: Bali Hi, from Traveler
Date: Dec 15, 2008 7:12 PM

View Barbara’s Photo Album of this area on

Sarangan Island near Benoa Harbor
Bali, Indonesia
08 43 S, 115 14 E

Hi Everyone,

Barbara and I have been, for the most part, enjoying Bali for the past ten days. It is one of the jewels of Southeast Asia. Bali is eight time zones away from California, which means we are now one-third of the way around the world, with 16 time zones still to go.  As with most of the trip so far, we have both good parts and bad.  First, the good parts:

1.  We visited the art colony of Ubud, about an hour’s drive north and inland from the harbor, and stayed at one of the seven guest rooms available to the public as a hotel within the Royal Palace, which is very old and charming, and a bit rustic.  Each room has an outdoor sitting area with exotically carved wood and stone art pieces and furniture, where we were brought tea twice a day and a nice breakfast in the morning. The well-landscaped grounds were a collage of small temples, courtyards, sitting areas and koi ponds.

2.  Ubud was a fun place to walk around, especially a park called the Sacred Monkey Forest, with about 300 monkeys scampering around and aggressively begging for bananas (you can buy a bunch for $1 at the gate.) There are three amazing temples with gorgeous stone carvings partly covered in vines, huge banyan trees, and a bridge over a stream in a steep canyon–like out of an Indiana Jones movie.

3.  We saw a traditional Balinese dance troupe perform in elaborate costumes, with an 18 piece orchestra of mostly drums and Balinese-style xylophones. The setting was outdoors in a courtyard in front of a temple within the Royal Palace, just a few steps from our room.

4.  The dollar goes a long way here.  For instance, the 30-mile taxi ride from our boat to Ubud, plus several sight-seeing stops along the way and waiting in the cab while we had lunch, all of which took three to four hours, was only $30.  Entrees for dinner at nice restaurants are $5 to $8. And even more important to us, semi-skilled boat laborers for $5 per day! At the end of the day, we treat ourselves to $5 massages at a nearby resort with the massage tables out on the beach.  And a very good quality massage, too!

5.  The Balinese people are very friendly, although their English is not too good.  A few Balinese speak broken English, enough to get by.  All are blown away when we tell them we sailed here from California.

6.  All Indonesians are very pleased that Obama was elected, especially since he lived in Jakarta, Indonesia as a child.  (Once an Indonesian, always an Indonesian, so that means an Indonesian is president of the US!–is the way they see it.)  Because of Obama, there is a noticeable amount of fresh goodwill toward Americans, and we think we will find this to be the case throughout our travels around the world.

7.  We got invited to the Royal Bali Yacht Club’s Christmas Dinner Party, held at a nice restaurant, with about 40 other yachties.  Most of the guests have been here for many years and a few, like us, just passing through.  The commodore wore a Santa suit.  It put us in the spirit for Christmas, but also made us homesick. Bali is something like 90% Hindu and maybe only 1% Christian, so Christmas is not a big thing here.

The bad parts:

1.  We have been sick for most of the past two weeks. It comes and goes, with frequent trips to the head. (Love the electric toilet we have on board!) We picked up something in Dili, East Timor causing us to have “Big-D” and a low energy level.  We saw a doctor who took a variety of tests, and we are feeling much better now having taken the antibiotics.

2.  In calm water while motoring here, we took a wave (out of nowhere, possibly a wake from a distant ship or something like that) that went over the bow and washed back over our deck all the way to the open hatch on our cabin top, so about a bucket full of salt water poured onto our nav desk.  The biggest loss was Barbara’s laptop computer, and with it our ability to send and receive emails via Sailmail from the boat.  We are now using my backup laptop, but it took a long time to re-program it for Sailmail and we still do not have it working right, plus we lost all the email addresses that we had saved on only Barbara’s laptop, so we have been incommunicado for the past few days.

3.  Sadly, the Balinese carelessly litter, and it is highly evident here in the harbor, which is filthy with pollution.  It looks bad and makes swimming out of the question.

4.  There are lots of flies and mosquitos, but Barbara has sewn effective nets for the hatches using bridal veil material and spare rope to weight down the bottoms, keeping the nets in place.

5.  Our fuel tank sprang a leak while we were in Dili and we decided to do the repairs here.  The tank is large and very difficult to get to.  It took me two full days to get what I could up and out of the way (remove the stool for the nav station and the dining table, remove the floor boards and the supporting frames for those boards, temporarily disconnect or relocate several electrical wires, remove the stairs, etc.)  Then, this past Sunday, we had two wood craftsmen here for eight hours to remove the tank, with much of the time being spent on disassembling the built-in sofa.  We also had to move the (very heavy) batteries.  All this just to get to the tank.  Next, we had to cut the fiberglass away from all four sides of the tank which was holding it in place in case the boat capsized. Finally, we struggled for a full hour to get the heavy tank up and through the main hatch, off the boat by dinghy and onto the shore.  We think the tank can be repaired here at a boat yard that has a welder. It will be another big ordeal to get the tank back in place and everything put back together, we hope before Christmas.

6.  We are in the start of the rainy season, and it is cloudy and rainy almost every day.

7.  Because of the many delays over the past few months, we are now in the season where the prevailing trade winds, called monsoons, are out of the NW, instead of the SE, so instead of downwind sailing we will be beating or motoring into the wind and waves most of the way to Thailand and then across the Indian Ocean, with squally weather bringing heavy rain at times.

8.  With a population on Bali of about 3 million, the streets are very crowded with crazy drivers, including about 1 million motorcycles–no exaggeration, and the motorcycles swarm around the cars through traffic–the worst driving conditions we’ve ever seen. Everyone is free to make left hand and U-turns into oncoming traffic, and it is the responsibility of the opposing driver to yield, usually just by a couple of inches. Our cabbie explained the number one rule of the road here is that each driver is concerned only with his “Range of Responsibility” which is directly in front of him, with very little, if any, care for what is on either side or to the rear.  There is hardly any use of mirrors or turn signals and there is constant tailgating.  The painted lanes are totally ignored, often with three or four cars and five to ten motorcycles jammed together and dangerously moving rapidly forward on just a two lane road.  If a motorcycle zooms in and cuts you off, or weaves and lane straddles, its because he is now in front of you and it is your responsibility to avoid him. If there is a sidewalk, it is very uneven and narrow with frequent obstacles causing you to walk in the road often with the cars and motorcycles buzzing by just inches away, and taxis honking their horns at you to get a fare.  Often you’ll see three or four people somehow riding on a single motorcycle, weaving through traffic.  If you drove like this in LA you’d be shot.  The locals are totally used to the driving conditions here, but as a tourist it is crazy, chaotic and dangerous. We use a driver who knows what he is doing, but we still cringe as he narrowly avoids the constant hazards.

Our current plan, assuming we get the tank fixed and re-installed by Christmas, is to depart Bali for Singapore on the day after Christmas, then cruise up through the Malacca Strait to Western Malaysia and Phuket, Thailand by mid-January.  We have some catching up to do to get back on our schedule, with about 6,000 miles to go to the Suez Canal and we would like to be there by the end of February or early March.  But we’ve found over the past 18 months that schedules and cruising do not always work out.  Like experienced cruisers say about schedules, “Man makes plans and God just laughs” or “I’ve got no plans and I’m sticking to it” or “As far as our itinerary goes, I can give you a place or a date, but not both.”

We wish all of you a very Merry Christmas.

Still Livin’ the Dream,
Michael and Barbara

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