In Sabang, Sumatra Indonesia

8 March 2019 – Sabang Indonesia (Sumatra)

We have safely made landfall in Cochin India – so I can now post about our experience in Sabang. We sailed from Niharn Bay Phuket Thailand to Sabang Indonesia (220nm) primarily to break the trip up to Cochin India (reducing it to 1280nm). What I didn’t count on was the weakening winds and a sinking feeling that we were getting trapped in Sabang. So, after 11 days in Sabang, we finally took the risk and sailed out in low winds.

Our trip from Thailand to Sabang was calm but a total motor-sail as we were rushing to get in before nightfall. It was about 205nm and that can be tough to do in 36 hours, particularly with contrary currents. What we were pleased to see were dolphins, we haven’t seen dolphins in several years! We came across several pods. 

Although our sails were up, there wasn’t much wind. This was the first time we’d used our mainsail since we had it made for us by Au Wei in Pangkor Malaysia last year.

On arrival, we tied up to one of the many heavy duty moorings that have been conveniently placed for us in deep water by the Indonesian government. Normally we’re suspicious of moorings, but the winds were light so we took the chance. The ball looks steel but its encased in plastic so it didn’t scratch the hull. Although at night when the wind was light, it did knock against the hull. Clearances were straightforward but lengthy. Thirty minutes after arrival, I was ferrying out 13 Government officials, 4 or 5 at a time, from Quarantine / Immigration / Customs / Harbour Master. It was worse than Cuba! All paperwork was completed on the boat and then the next morning again on paper and on the computer. Indonesia is a very bureaucratic place. 

Getting diesel was problematic and slightly dramatic. The Captain of the local Coast Guard boat (Andy) told us that selling subsidized diesel to foreigners was illegal. However, he could help us out by tying his boat (about the same size as ours) to ours and pumping directly from his tanks to ours – at a cost of about $1 USD per litre. Excuse me? Doesn’t that sound like corruption? In the end, I dismissed his offer because I thought it was difficult to know how much diesel was moved, impossible to filter due to the high pump speed, might scratch our boat – and was supporting corruption. I found somebody with a tuk-tuk (motorbike with a sidecar) and jerry cans and moved 270 litres, filtering it – at a lower cost, and without involving any corruption. The local rate was about 60 cents per litre, and I paid about $1 CDN per litre. It wasn’t about cost though, it was about not supporting corruption. I didn’t want to make this post until we were in another country in case it was discussed. 

We also took an island tour one day, and saw the inland lake and water reservoir. The island, on the whole, is quite clean compared to most of Indonesia. However, when it rained, there was still a fair bit of garbage that washed off the streets into the water (where we’re moored). Nonetheless, we were able to swim and wash in the refreshing salt water every afternoon. 

We also visited the local volcano, which although not actually ERUPTING, it is pretty hot and smells strongly of sulphur. As we walked over the surface, there were many vent holes discharging the hot foul gas.

Much to my surprise, there was a government funded project underway to install a geothermal electrical plant, just a short distance away. I would have loved to have had a tour here, but connections are required. I hope they are successful. 

There weren’t any monkeys near the volcano, but elsewhere, plenty.

Here is an example of wasted government money. Somebody had the bright idea to built a marina, way out in the boonies about 6 years ago. Nobody ever stayed here. The electrical and water were never connected. The road in is unfinished. The building are being taken back by the jungle, and the locals are stealing whatever they can of value (like the dock cleats). Somebody made a pile of money, in their back pocket, when this was built. IF we brought our boat here, its too shallow, too remote and too close to the mangrove swamps to be of any interest. Its a flop.

We had many nice lookouts as we spent the day driving around the island. Here are Gabriele and Mariona with Diane at one scenic view.

One night we went out for dinner at Casa Nemo, a resort built by a Swiss man and his local Indonesian wife. It was a beautiful setting and we had pleasant conversation with Peter and his wife Donna on SV Kokomo. 

We will think back fondly of this place in years to come. One think we’ll remember is the 0515 prayer chant (which sometimes can go on for more than an hour) and the four competing mosques in the downtown area! The cacophony of “Allah Akbar” was sometimes relentless and always annoyingly LOUD. I am one of the most accepting people on the planet when it comes to freedom of worship and religion, and have lived for many years in Muslim countries. BUT, this place was truly “over the top”. I’ll also remember the shoreside ladder where you had to climb down to get to the dock (at the city centre where you have to access Quarantine, Immigration, Customs and the Harbour Master). The top two rungs of this ladder were apparently missing for two years, nobody gave a shit about fixing it. I paid two local guys to go out and get me two ladder rungs from the wood mill – and I screwed them on with Canadian Robertson screws, and wrote the word CANADA on each rung. Maybe future cruisers will see this and think about how they too can make a difference…..

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