Blazing to Jakarta (at 5 knots)

With an extra millimetre of clearance between our raw water impeller and casing, we left Tua Pejat with renewed confidence.  With our engine overheating problems behind us, it should be smooth sailing all the way to Jakarta. Well, smooth motoring at least.

Before pulling anchor, Ian dropped by the waiting ferry to say goodbye to his father, who was self-destructively determined to reach Jakarta overland. Locals start piling into the ferry hours before departure in order to get a “seat.”  Ian found Mr. McHenry asleep, sticking out of a human pile on a communal bunk. Maybe our three hour sleep shifts next to the hot engine aren’t so bad after all!

Our experience in the Mentawai Islands had been characterized by squalls, torrential downpours, and a waterspout (a 100 knot tornado-like phenomenon that the cruising guide describes as “best avoided”). Our insurance may not cover piracy, but catastrophic storm damage is definitely covered…we think. As long as the storm doesn’t result in damage to the mast, of course; that bit isn’t covered either.

We resolve to be more careful, reef early, etc, but ended up blowing a hole in our slick racing genoa in the first squall out of the gates. Most likely caused by delamination from UV exposure – I guess that’s why cruisers use heavier sails. We decided not to change it out (for our other ripped sail).  Instead, we’d simply ignore the shredded laminate and space age polymers flapping in the (episodic) breeze.

At the tail end of our LPG supply, we were looking at five days of peanut butter sandwiches. With the alternator laying in pieces in a bag under the table, we have to continue to be extremely frugal with our electricity consumption – especially running instruments all night, with all this rain.  We were also entirely out of cash, as Tua Pejat’s ATM didn’t take Visa, or Mastercard. We sailed with eyes glued – engine temperature, cloud formations, remaining LPG, battery voltage – until we reached our first stopover at Bengkulu, on the Sumatran mainland.

We considered entering the harbour, but wanted make this a quick stop. We could put ourselves closer to the center and avoid the Harbourmaster altogether by landing the dinghy on the city beach instead, so we went for it. The plan didn’t look as clever when we had to coax the dinghy through large waves breaking over the fringing reef in order to reach a small beach between two sea walls.

First stop was the ATM. We then blew our cash on a massive Masakan Padang feast that included 7 portions of “daging rendang.” Waddled over to Fort Marlborough (an old British East India Company outpost), drank two of the coldest, best strawberry Fantas ever, and bought 100L of diesel from dodgy dudes on the beach. Being foreign, we’d again been foiled trying to buy fuel directly from Pertamina, Indonesia’s petro monopoly. Taking the dinghy back out through crashing surf was even more exciting than landing it – with all that diesel, we were half sunk by the time we reached the boat.

Soon thereafter, we were nearly t-boned by a tug boat passing Benkulu harbour.  I had determined that it must be at anchor, and went back to my Kindle until someone on the tug shouted at me, from 20m away.  It may have been towing a coal sled the size of a city block, but it still counts – finally, something slower than our boat.

The rest of the passage was squally, but uneventful. Except for when I flipped my shit listening to Radiohead, 75% asleep and 25% paranoid as per usual. When the track flipped to Myxomatosis, which (at the right volume) sounds exactly like a small diesel engine exploding, I jumped up and actually frightened Ian into shutting down the engine before I realized where I was and what was going on.  If you shut the engine down abruptly, without it’s 10 minute cool-down idle, the coolant explodes, so I spent the next hour sopping it up, refilling the radiator, and trying to convince myself that I wasn’t losing it.

Walking the caldera, Krakatoa

We pulled into the islands of Krakatoa around midday. Anak (“Child”) Krakatoa was a marvel. A fuming cone was left over from when Krakatoa blew its lid in 1883, creating a dark sky of ash across the world.  We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get volcanic ash into every nook and cranny on the boat, so we anchored in the SE shadow of the caldera – an amazing 20m anchorage in calm water, a surfboard paddle from shore. Ditched our boards in the weeds near the “No Tresspassing: Visitors Must Be Accompanied By Park Rangers” sign and bushwhacked our way through jungle, then lava, then shifting ash slopes.  The ash grew hotter as we ascended, and Ian even stuck his hand into a steaming hole in the rock to confirm that it was, in fact, extremely warm and uncomfortable. We chose the windward side to avoid most of the sulphur fumes, but coming over the lip of the caldera it was unavoidable. Still not sure if our headaches were due to sulphur, lack of exercise, 3-on 3-off passaging, or overexposure to peanut butter. We slid back down the mountain as it began to rain, again. On to Jakarta.

Traffic Entering Jakarta Harbour

Watches were luck of the draw.  Adam generally drew calm weather and empty horizons, retiring just in time for Ian to navigate the busy shipping lanes, dodging gigantic tankers (which, at ~15 kts, go a lot faster than we do) spurning the international Rules of the Road. Somehow, Jakarta is the only place in Indonesia where the American buoyage system (you know, “IALA B“, Red Right Returning) applies.  Luck of the draw.  Normally, our visibility is about 15 miles, but even 5 miles off the coast we could make out only a smoggy haze where Jakarta should have been.

Arriving in Jakarta, tired

We also arrived very tired, apparently

We arrived with very sketchy information about our marina options, but had high hopes that one of them would be able to serve us hamburgers.  No such luck.  A police speedboat met us at the entrance to Pantai Mutiara Marina and the officers began shouting and gesturing – very confusing. The marina was a pretty sorry sight. Fixed docks (as opposed to floating), a large and unavoidable mud pit, and a very long walk through ridiculous mansions to reach the nearest Indomaret.  Mutiara’s VHF radio was not functioning, and the marina staff proactively warned us to avoid their own restaurant, but at least the Harbourmaster didn’t ask for baksheesh. We sat in stunned silence after he said, “it looks like your documents are in order – thank you.” Had we missed a veiled threat or a murmured administrative fee? Nope!

All checked in, we made a bee line for Jakarta’s other marina: Marina Batavia, in the old port (Pelabuhan Sunda Kelapa).  Wow. Brand new, expensively furnished, and easy to berth – even in strong currents. More importantly, they make a damn fine burger. They have a cigar lounge. And Wi-Fi.  We moved the boat there first thing the next morning.

Marina Batavia

Marina Batavia

Next stop was the capital’s DIY Mecca – Glodok LTC.  Mmmm, assorted electrical connectors, brass taps, stainless steel bolts…but no alternators. We finally found replacement oars for our dinghy (the originals had broken in two places). We even inquired, and yet again baulked at the asking price to service our long-expired liferaft. At least we finally Google’d how to launch the the thing. Apparently, you throw it in the water and then give the rope a tug.  Nice to know 6 months into our boat ownership.

Handed a laundry list of “small” problems (rapidly increasing oil leakage, broken alternator, overflowing cooling system) to the local Yanmar mechanics (PT Pioneer).  We’d reached the limit of our skill (and patience) and were ready to have someone else take a crack. It took them 5 days to find the parts, and 3 more to fix everything, but they got it done.

After vigorously trying to sell us a new $900 Nippon Denso automotive alternator, PT Pioneer agreed to put new brushes in our our old, “irreparably burned” Balmar.  It now smells suspiciously of glue and produces a deafening squeal when magnetized, but after 2.5 months scraping by on inadequate solar output, it’s pumping 50 amps into the batteries.  We can charge laptops again!  In the process, we decided to extract the engine-driven FrigoBoat refrigerator compressor, massively simplifying our engine compartment.  This involved hacksawing lots of copper piping and removing about 50 kg of inexplicable components from the boat.  Unfortunately, we had to use a bunch of nuts and washers to bring the alternator into plane with the V-belt.  It’s bush league and vibrates a lot, but at least we longer have to dismantle 5 bolts on 3 brackets to tighten the alternator belt.

We even managed to rig up an Indonesian LPG cylinder for the first time since entering the country.  The 3KG cylinder is unheard of in Sumatra (12KG minimum, which doesn’t fit), but ubiquitous in Jakarta.  Preparing to leave, we headed to Pertamina, where we were naturally told to visit the police station to obtain permission to fill our cans.  Like our harbour check-in, this took 5 minutes and required no bribe.  The Jakarta authorities certainly seem to be straight up. Maybe they’ve got bigger fish to fry.

We sailed out of Jakarta harbour as the sun was setting behind the silhouettes of a hundred queued tankers. Looking back, we saw the beautiful mountains ringing the city for the first time.

GPS Tracks: Tua Pejat > Benkulu | Benkulu > Krakatoa | Krakatoa > Jakarta

See Java Photos

About Adam Wible

Adam Wible graduated from Princeton University in 2005. After graduating, Mr. Wible moved to New York to join the Boston Consulting Group, where he worked as a management consultant to clients in the Financial Services, Pharmaceuticals, Entertainment, and Non Profit. Adam Wible left BCG in 2007 to join Francisco Partners (FP), a technology-focused private equity firm based in San Francisco. In 2009, Mr. Wible moved to London with FP to focus on deals outside the United States. In his personal time, Adam enjoys international travel, having visited over 60 countries. Most recently, Adam Wible spent one year as captain of a sailing yacht, completing a 5,000 nautical mile tour of Southeast Asia.
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