Posted 15th Octiber 2012.
We’re currently heading for the NW corner of Pulua Belitung, an island similar in size to Bali. Just 2.5 degrees south of the equator and bloody hot. Only 4 knots of wind so we’re motoring and keeping a close watch for fishing nets. A friend ran into one just out of Kumai and had to turn back, after eight hours of attempting to free the yacht, to repair damage to his rudder.
We arrived safely at the mouth of the Kumai river at 0100 under just one motor as the other had a plastic bag wrapped around it and anchored for the remainder of the night. It had been an eventful passage, very busy avoiding ships, tugs and barges, fishing boats and floating debris. Kumai township is about 11NM up a muddy and at times shallow river. As you approach the town it looks like waterfront is littered with apartment blocks that the architect has forgot to draw in windows. Later we learn that these are huge bird houses or more accurately swallow nests. The birds are encouraged to take residency, we even heard a rumour that they play music to attract them in. Periodically, brave locals enter the apartment builds armed with buckets and spades to gather up all the bird spit and shit to sell to the Chinese for birds nest soup. It’s a lucrative trade earning US$1200 per kilo. The other big earner, other than tourism in the region, is evident as you watch barges that appear like small islands, loaded with logs from the rain forest. The Greenies with their campaigns to grow palm oil have a lot to answer for.
The main purpose of our visit to Kumai was to visit the orangutans in their natural environment. Other than this you’d avoid Kumai which is continually under a smoke haze from the burning off of the forest undergrowth, so bad at times that it’s hard to see the shore less than 100m away. The boat gets covered in ash which only gets removed during a tropical rain showers. The town itself is dirty but once again the people are so friendly. One highlight was finding a restaurant / café that made awesome Mi Gorang, six of us eat there and with nine drinks the total bill was $10. The rally put on an events day, lunch with a local dance group entertaining and then a bus trip to PangKalan the neighbouring city. Here they organised local river taxis (large motorised canoes) for a trip down river to see the inner city real estate. These are houses built on stilts lined up along both sides of the river. As it was Friday (major prayer day at the local mosque) the occupants are washing themselves in the muddy river, even cleaning their teeth in the water. They all wave and shout to us as we pass. It was then back to base for afternoon tea before heading off again to an island at the river mouth where the excitement built as we were each given the opportunity to plant a couple of seedlings. I may be being a little unfair here as they took this seriously giving us all plaques to put our names on and attached alongside the baby trees. Then for five bucks you could purchase a baby turtle to let free on the beach, all getting a little too thrilling for me. Back at the coach the air con had broken so they had sent out for a replacement, turned out we would have been better sweating as the second coach broke down on the way back.
Now back to the monkeys. Despite my intention to only do a day trip, I got persuaded that an overnight trip on a local boat was an experience not to be missed. I blame Colin’s perpetual bargain hunting, and his desire to have his inner thigh stroked by a local Arthur Daley agent that resulted in not the best start to the adventure. This mate of Colin’s failed to deliver a boat on two consecutive days. So, with tears in Colin’s eyes we dispatched the local spiv and employed a respectable boat owner who turned up on time the next morning and off we went. The trip into the jungle was great; we saw fresh water crocs, proboscis monkeys, macaw monkeys, bright blue kingfisher birds and heaps of other wildlife. By afternoon we’d reach Camp Leakey, one of the camps established to aid the rehabilitation of orangutans back to the wild in the 70’s. Each of these camps requires a short walk into the forest to a feeding station. It is an amazing sight to watch the apes swing through the tree tops. Some tree branches don’t seem strong enough to hold the big apes and some aint. More than once we saw a branch break with the ape holding on to it, luckily they also hang on with their feet and so avoid falling to the forest floor. The actual feeding of a fruit cocktail is a little like feeding time in a zoo but it is cool to be so close to the monkeys and a little frightening when one walks right by you. Back to the boat and a great dinner prepared by our resident local cook. The boat is like a junk with no sail. It has a toilet hut on the stern, the four of us occupy the first floor and the crew, captain, boat boy, guide and cook live down below. At night, lumpy mattresses are laid out on our deck and mosquito nets rigged up. The snoring competition and hard floor together with the flea attack didn’t resulted in not the most comfortable night’s sleep, but we all survived. More monkeys the next day and it’s fair to say we we’re all relieved to sleep back on our own boats that night.
After provisioning the next morning we headed out of smokeville and down to the river entrance where the plan was to spend the night and head off early the next morning on an overnight passage towards Belitang. This plan didn’t materialise as we got involved in attempting to help a German boat that had gone aground on a sand bar at the entrance to the river. Copied below is our account of the incident:
Boat “Y Not” aground outside Kumai River, Kalimantan
Latitude 02 56.88 S Longitude 111 40.92 E
On 10/10/2012 at 1500, yachts Avant Garde (NZ reg 1570) and Scallywag (UK reg SSR133075) received a call on VHF channel 16 from the yacht Y Not requesting help as they had run aground at the above location. The crew on Scallywag, Paul Mann and Gloria Neville took their dinghy to Avant Garde and joined Colin and Marion Cashmore. We then motored Avant Garde and arrive at the grounding location at approximately 1600. Y Knot was aground and rolling on a lee shore. They were beam on to a wind of 15 knots with a short chop of 1m hitting the side of the yacht. We anchored Avant Garde approximately 80m seawards of Y Knot in 8m. A line was then taken to Y Not and secured to their bow. With a combination of Avant Garde pulling, a dinghy pushing on the bow and Y Not using their engine and bow thruster we were able to move their bow to face the wind and waves. We then attempted to deploy a kedge anchor using Scallywags dinghy. Whilst attempting this manoeuvre a wave picked up the dinghy and it landed on Y Not’s anchor ripping a tear in the hull pontoon measuring 1m x 1m. Our next attempt at approximately 1800 to pull Y Not to deeper water involved healing the boat by pulling sideways on a halyard using this time Avant Grade’s dinghy, winching the attached 80m line from Avant Garde and Y Not motoring full ahead. This attempt failed so it was decided to wait for the tide to rise before a further attempt was made. Using the same techniques starting at approximately 2200 we slowly started to move Y Not. At approximately 2300 Y Not floated again and followed Avant Garde to a safe anchorage.
The damages claimed are:
Replacement of Scallywag dinghy
Repair of damage to Avant Garde
Now without a dinghy and one day late we finally set out, we did the right thing though and would do the same again. None of us know when it may be our turn to request help.
Until next post.
Paul & Glor
02 30’03.82 S, 107 54’10.15 E
12-10-15 13:16:43 +0800 +0000