Thursday, September 3, 2009

Crossing the Java Sea

After almost 2 months tied up in Bali, we are finally sailing again. Our time in Bali was just what the doctor ordered: fun, interesting, easy, and a perfect place to gear up for the next adventures. We spent almost 5 weeks messing around on the island and additionally pulled off a 2 week surprise visit to the U.S. to see our families. Both adventures so needed to replenish our energy and take a break from the boat for the first time in a year.

So here we go again...

We left Benoa Harbor, Bali, a few days ago, en route to Kalimantan, Borneo, 450 miles to the north.
Once you exit the reefs you are back in the gamut, fighting against the intense southerly currents of Selat Badung channel, as you attempt to head north. Within the hour we had 5 knots against us as we struggled to make miles and the daylight waned. We realized quickly there was no way we would round the eastern tip of Bali before sunset and this would put us in the midst of the hundreds, possibly a thousand, Balinese "spider" sailing canoes launched from the cliffy beaches at nighttime. We didn't like the reality of that for our first night out, thought it over and decided to change course for the touristy island of Lembongan, just across the channel, in hindsight a great decision.

We fought the current for a couple of more hours and then pulled into Lembongan and grabbed a mooring next to our new Italian friends boat, Falabrach. They stopped by to say hello and tell us stories of the surfing adventures, followed by our friends on Magnum, whom we hadn't seen in over a year and had just come up from Australia. So fun to actually see boats we know again and enjoy a bit of cruiser social life after being on our own for so long. It's definitely going to be a real change this year from last, as we are now back on the very traveled cruiser road again.

The next morning we left at sunrise, cup of Bali coffee in hand of course, and motored across the channel towards Bali. We hugged the coast as the wind started piping up and the current intensified. Hours later at the eastern tip we fought the 3 knots against us with 30 knots of wind on our tails, generating some pretty big standing waves. DK kept plugging away and soon enough we were further north away from land with the current diminishing to only 1 1/2 to 2 knots against us. The sun was out and seas were small again and we said good bye to the volcanoes of Bali blurring in the distance.

For whatever reason that first night we found ourselves in a confused mess of water. Swell was coming at us from two directions and with the wind directly on our butt. We were rolling around in a disgustingly agitated way with everything banging and creating some sour-looking glum faces on the both of us. Sleeping sucked and so did the reality that there were fishing boats everywhere.

But thankfully by afternoon the next day the swell and wind were both consistent from the SE and we had a sweet mellow sail on again. As we passed through the small islands north of Bali and entered the Java Sea, we were in the mix of fishing boats, fishing outrigger canoes, and very large ships. Welcome to the Java Sea. At first it was a bit much and was pretty intimidating to be around so many boats, but we realized as time went on that the fishing boats mostly keep their distance, and its only the big ships we really have to worry about. We've heard about how many boats are out in these waters but now we are actually experiencing it, learning to deal with reality of changing course often and having 5-10 boats on your radar at one time. So far so good and sometimes it's not bad at all as all we are really seeing are the small sailing outrigger canoes that scoot around like little flying fish and don't give us any trouble.

So here we are in the middle of the Java Sea, we are almost truly in the "middle" of it now, and the depth is 200 feet. What a trip that is!! We are in a major body of water, at least 150 miles to the nearest land mass of any size, and it is only 200 feet deep. So strange and interesting this archipelago of Indonesia.

We have had our hand-lines out most of the way baited with some cool new lures I ordered from Hawaii, with zero luck. Not even a bite, not yet anyway....only a few fish caught in Indonesia to date, so sad compared to the reality of fishing in the Pacific.

Tomorrow we should arrive to the Kalimantan, Borneo coastline and begin our journey up towards the town of Kumai, the entrance to Tanjung Puting National Park, one of only a handful of places in the world where the orangutan lives. We plan on dropping our hook in the muddy river at Kumai and taking a local klotok Indonesian motorboat up river for 2 or 3 days to visit the various camps and also to see the rainforest. We've been told by many people its a highlight of their whole Indonesian adventure, and I'm sure we won't be disappointed either. I mean really: jungle cruise on a local boat, orangutans, crocodiles, thousands of mosquitos, what's not to like!

That's it from the DK blog station...We'll do our best to get back into our "blog rhythm" again...

Stay tuned for some upcoming Borneo monkey stories...

Big Love from Team DK


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