Saturday, September 12, 2009

Dancing with the Big Boys

It's the morning of Day 3 of our passage north towards Batam Island, our last stop in Indonesia before crossing the crazy shipping straits to enter Singapore. Already over 300 miles traveled since we left the muddy river in Kumai, Kalimantan, Borneo, and around 275 miles still to go.

Our Kumai adventure spending time up in the rainforest with the Orangutans, fireflies, crocs, and Probiscis Monkey's was amazing! It ranks up there as one of the highlights of the DK sailing adventure so far. It will be better told as a story illuminated with photos on our website when we can can update again in a week or two. So for now, just know that our brief, yet powerful experience with some our closest relatives, the very orange, hairy, extremely personable orangutans, has left us feeling mixed emotions of joy, respect, but at the same time sadness, as they are pretty much doomed to live much longer in the wild because of loss of habitat.

We have had to move a bit quicker lately, having set up a haul-out appointment in Singapore to have an insurance survey done, and while we're at it, some new bottom paint and a repack of our liferaft. It was a toss up between doing the work in Singapore or Malaysia (prices almost awash), we have opted to just "get 'er done" sooner, rather then later so we can be finished with that business. This means that we will be holed up in Singapore for a likely 2 weeks or so.

Our passage so far has been pretty easy, considering we have been around boat traffic ever since we left the river. Yesterday and the last two nights have been extra exciting, as we have found ourselves in the main shipping lane for transiting cargo ships heading north/south between Indonesia/Australia and Singapore/SE Asia. Back in the Pacific Ocean days we used to be pretty concentrated on just one ship on the radar in our vicinity, paying close attention to it and making sure we alter course if we need to avoid a confrontation with a gigantic steel beast. But now, in the Java and South China Seas, we have gotten used to 5-10 ships on our radar, plus the smaller Indonesian fishing vessels that dart here and there (or are sometimes just anchored), that often don't even show up on the radar. Not to say we don't sometimes get our blood pressure pumping and the hair standing up on the backs of our necks when we are getting to close for comfort. But, like anything, you just get used to it and it becomes less stressful, like driving a car in Bali. The difference is that I started really liking the thrill of driving in Bali, but dodging container ships is just annoying and tiresome.

Nicole has confirmed with me on this passage that we WILL be getting new chart-plotters with an AIS system sometime in the next few months before heading across the Indian Ocean. AIS is an electronic monitoring system that all "large ships" have and now many smaller ones, that lets you receive, or send/receive, your boat information such as course steered, speed, vessel name, captain's name, etc. It reads the information from all boats in your VHF radio vicinity and allows you to monitor the ship's around you. Many of our cruiser friends have this system hooked up now and none of them regret it. It's just one more modern tool you have available nowadays to feel safer around the big boys. But for now, we deal with what we have: our eyes, ears, and our good friend, the radar.

It's now blowing 20 knots from the SE. And the really cool thing is that its BEEN blowing 10-20 knots from the SE ever since we left Kumai. We have read many old cruiser blogs of their experiences up this stretch of water in almost no wind. Motoring, motoring, motoring for days. We think traveling in the beginning of September has helped us out, still on the cusp of the monsoon changing and the transition period beginning. We have also been lucky with no thunderstorms yet. I won't hold my breath on that one, but we are only 90 miles away from the equator and still dry. For those of you that don't know, the area around Singapore is one of the most notorious for huge lightning/thunderstorms in the world. Not to be taken lightly, and super scary as a sailor. We'll cross our fingers and do our best to not offend the weather Gods...better look into that.

Nic's asleep and I have to keep poking my head outside to check the radar for ships. The sky is a white haze and it's so hard to see any vessel unless it's within a few miles, hence the importance of radar. Onward we head to the northern hemisphere again, DK dancing to the music of the Java Sea.


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