Our trip from Belitung to the quiet village of Penuba on the island of Selayar in the Lingga Group was memorable for a number of reasons.
The distance we had to travel was a tricky one – too short to take two full days and nights and too far to set off early one morning and hope to be there late the following evening.
Anchoring in the dark in a strange place is something we try and avoid at all costs!
So we set off for Penuba late in the afternoon in the company of four or five other boats from the fleet and enjoyed a sail for about an hour – and then the wind died! It died and hasn’t really come back since!
Such a shame about the lack of wind as thanks to the Skipper and crew of Champagne Charlie we had finally got our main sail to go up and down easily (and as it should do!) Thanks Shayne, Lisa and Cynthia (who went up the mast to spray the runners).
After a night of motoring we were rewarded with a large pod of pilot whales, quietly swimming around the boat – not carefree and exuberant like dolphins – but thoughtful, shy and just a little curious. It is moments like these that make ocean sailing so worthwhile.
We had some further encounters with the natural world the following night. The sea was like glass – an eerie, unnatural calm.
An hour or two into my watch I saw a large brown bird trying to land on the mast, on the spreaders and even on the canvas Bimini. I later learned that this was a hawk or other bird of prey but at the time I had no idea what it was as it was so dark I just couldn’t make out any more than a vague flapping shape.
Later on, on Jonathan’s watch, the clouds burst and it absolutely poured with rain. Beautiful fire quenching, drought breaking, life-giving rain. At once the smoky polluted atmosphere changed and the air was fresh and clear.
It was such a welcome event for us but I think for the swifts caught out at sea it was an exhausting shock. Struggling against the rain squalls they became weak and frightened and a number of them found shelter on the boat where they quivered under any cover they could find.
Later we found that the other boats had experienced the same thing but on some the hawks had more success at landing and had picked off and killed (and messily eaten) a number of the little swifts.
We were very glad that we had avoided that kind of massacre!
Another little visitor who saught shelter was a very wet bat who rested for a while and then flew off into the dawn light.
Penuba was a delightful little town with a small restaurant near the wharf that sold beer and good food.
We were given a delightful but low key welcome and two boys performed a cross between a martial arts fight and a dance – unique to this part of Indonesia and with a Malay influence.
After the official proceedings we were given a walking tour of the island. In some ways it reminded us of Banda with the smell of cloves and other spices in the air, the narrow concrete streets where the occasional motorbike was the only traffic, and the neat houses with a little garden out the front.
While on Singkep we were taken to an enchanting beach which had the sweetest accommodation built by a local entrepreneur. We would love to stay there one day!
The highlight of the stay for many of the remaining rally participants was the Australia versus New Zealand Rugby Union Grand Final. The restaurant strung up a screen over the water so everyone could get a good view of the game.
Our stay at Penuba was low key but the welcome so warm and everyone agreed that it had been an excellent rally stop.