On our way to Belitung from Pulau Genting we stopped to anchor for the night at Karimata where coincidentally, the last vestiges of the Sail Wonderful West Kalimantan fleet – S/V Matilda and S/V Liberte – had also headed, on the same day, from Ketapang.
It was a delightful reunion and we particularly enjoyed the stories they had to tell of the marvellous rally events we missed. At least we got to experience them vicariously!
It had been quite a rough trip from Pulau Genting so it was good to have a rest in the calm and quiet of the large bay in northern Karimata. It felt quite remote as there was no sign of habitation and no Internet (most unusual in Indonesia. You know you’re in the wilds when there is absolutely no connectivity).
Early the next morning we saw some fisherman who entered the anchorage in one of the vessels the Yantaras had dubbed “flying boats” – a fishing boat hull with two enormous outriggers made from bamboo and PVC drainpipes attached, on which the fishing nets are draped (we think to catch anchovies).
What made this one all the more remarkable was the fact it was towing a very small boat behind with man in it who had a bucket on his head. Did he smell bad? Was this a punishment for not washing? Or was it a forfeit for losing at cards and not paying his debt? Perhaps he talked too much or was he using the bucket as a sunshade? We will never know!
As we were on a deadline to be in the Kumai River, Borneo, to meet with friends and take a trip in a traditional boat called a Klotok to see Orangutans in the wild, we were unable to stay longer. The next morning, we set sail for Pulau Seritu, a cigar shaped island which we hoped would provide a comfortable night before the final leg to Belitung.
We had a sail to Pulau Seritu which was very pleasant. The anchorage was rolly and not terribly comfortable – we might have been better off anchored closer to the shore but the best spots had been bagged by fishing boats having some time out.
Early the next morning, before the sun had come up, we wove our way through the anchored fishing boats (some with no lights) and set off for Belitung.
We had 18 knots plus of wind and decided to put a reef in our main and also reef our headsail as it was difficult to hold a course with more sail up. Eventually we settled at a comfortable and controllable speed of between 6.5 and 7.3 knots. It was a great sail!
By late afternoon we had arrived safely at Belitung. Last time we had been there during the 2015 Sail to Wonderful Indonesia Rally, the atmosphere had been smoky from the terrible peat fires burning out of control in Borneo as a result of land clearing for palm oil. At that time we could see that Belitung was beautiful but the persistent grey smoke and mist that shrouded the island gave it a dreary and dour appearance.
We had vowed to come back and here we were – at last seeing the stunning granite boulders that rise up out of the turquoise waters in all their true glory.
That evening we were treated to the most amazing sunset – it felt great to be back in beautiful Belitung.