Penuba, one of the stops in the 2015 Sail2ndonesia Rally, is a small, sleepy town on Pulau Selayar in Riau Province.
We had been made very welcome there during the rally and had enjoyed staying in its well protected and deep harbour which had been highly prized by the Dutch well over a century earlier.
One of our 2015 rally fleet members (a German born Canadian) had spent longer than he intended there due to engine trouble. In fact he was late in arriving due to engine problems and was forced to return after leaving to catch up with the fleet, as his engine was still playing up.
On this return visit he was helped by a young lady who lived with her family in Penuba and spoke excellent English. She was very happy to help our friend find the mechanics for the job using her father’s excellent connections.
The rest as they say, is history. They are now happily married and live in a very pleasant, cosy, beachside cottage on the adjacent island of Pulau Singkep, just minutes away from the main town Dabo.
We had last seen our friend at Rebak Marina in Langkawi, Malaysia in November 2015 so we were looking forward to catching up with him and also to meeting his wife.
We arrived in the early afternoon and went ashore just as dusk was approaching. Much to our dismay the great little restaurant where we had eaten during the rally was closed – as was every eating place (and there are only about three) in Penuba. Apparently we had arrived on the eve of an important religious holiday!
We walked along the small main street which had been built on land reclaimed by the Dutch. The timber walkways and shops are very rickety and look like there hasn’t been much maintenance work done since the Dutch left!
However, each shop is a magnificent rabbit warren of all kinds of goods from fresh fruit and vegetables, to umbrellas, engine oil, notebooks, rice, hats, dried fish, plastic bowls, rope, snack foods and sweets (candies or lollies), pots and pans and brushes – anything you could think of.
We wandered around the waterfront rather disconsolately (we were looking forward to eating off the boat!) but just after we past the Chinese temple as we heard a disembodied voice coming from the shadows in the half light calling our names. It was our friend and his wife!
Later on we made a scratch meal with the Yantaras and had a great reunion on Bali Hai.
The following morning we were inundated by children from the stick village on the tiny island off Penuba town. Apparently their families were Orang Laut (literally Sea people) who at one time lived on sampans but some years ago were granted permission to build homes on the island.
The children were so beautiful- happy, enthusiastic, eager to learn, polite and full of energy. They loved being shown round the boat, especially having the water maker and the chart plotter explained (through sign language mainly).
You could tell that they were born to be on the water – even some very tiny ones rowed out to our yachts and they all hopped in and out of their quite unstable sampans with dexterity and confidence.
The first to arrive, two girls and two boys, were happily settled when another five arrived. And then another three. After that they kept on coming and we had to ask some to leave to make room for the next three sampans incoming!
At one point there was so many kids and twice as much confusion and one poor little one (he can’t have been older than four) was left behind. Capt’n Birdseye hoisted him into the dinghy and his sister rowed her sampan back to pick him up.
In the end we had to ask them all to leave as we had an important lunch date to get to so they obediently filed off the boat clutching their notebooks and pens we had given them as though they were the Crown Jewels.