Bali to Singapore
From Bali, Sea Witch set sail on a four hundred mile passage heading for the Indonesian state of Kalimantan on the island of Borneo. As we sailed along the top of Bali we encountered hundreds of small fishing boats under colorful sails. It was a beautiful sight, one we were grateful to encounter in the daylight rather than at night. We wouldnít have had a chance of avoiding them in the dark. These were native versions of a trimaran with lateen rigs that moved along quite well and reminded us fondly of our Hobie days.
Sailing at night in Indonesia has been a real experience. Between the ships, fishing boats and fish traps we are always on our toes. Often, the fishing boats have no lights and donít show up on our radar. One night we had a frightening surprise when we realized we were about to collide with one of them. We had just finished taking down our spinnaker and noticed a small strobe light that had just come on. We thought it was our friends two miles ahead of us when all of a sudden we realized it was a fishing boat right in front of us. We turned away hard and just missed it. We were fortunate. However, the next night ,our friend's on another boat were not so fortunate and struck the side of a fishing boat causing damage to their bow and tearing their spinnaker. No one was hurt and the damage was minimal considering what it could have been. Needless to say, we are all keeping very careful watches and trying to sail only during the day whenever possible.
Jungles of Borneo
After all this excitement we arrived in the wee hours of the morning at the mouth of the Kumai River on Borneo. As the sun came up the sky was hazy and gray with smoke from the numerous forest fires and field-burning on the island. The sun glowed orange and it looked like a scene out of a sci fi movie. We converged on the river with at least ten other boats - many were traveling with us - and started to make our way up the river. The boat just ahead of us went aground so we changed direction quickly. Once in deeper water, we contacted them and arranged to toss them a line and pull them off. It was a bit tricky as they were in less than six fee of water and we need seven, but Sea Witch quickly pulled them off the bottom and they were floating again. As we were pulling them off, Destiny passed by and went aground a hundred yards further up the river. They were really stuck. It took hours of many boats and dinghies trying many different methods to no avail. At one point, Sea Witch was pulling with full power on the bow while Piquet had a line tied to the top of Destiny's mast and was pulling onto their side. Three dinghies were pushing on the other side and Destiny was also at full power. No luck. Chappie got a line wrapped in her prop trying to help. Blue Dawn - a 75' maxi yacht - was coming to help when their motor died. Nothing was working and we were all ready to give up. We'd been trying for three hours. Sea Witch decided to give it one more try. It was just like the engine that could. We pulled and we pulled and finally with an awful-sounding slurping noise, she came free. Boy they were glad. We all headed up the river the rest of the way, carefully picking our way from range mark to buoy making sure we had enough water to float.
Once safely anchored it was time to make arrangements for a local klotok - a narrow wooden boat with a single cylinder diesel engine - to take 13 of us up the Sungai River to Camp Leakey at Tanjun Puting, the orangutan reserve. Early the next morning the klotok arrived with Harry, our guide, to take us on our next adventure. As we made our way up the narrow river spotting different species of monkeys, orangutans and crocodiles, we felt as though we were in a scene straight out of African Queen. It was unbelievable. There we were, actually in the jungles of Borneo.
During the five hours travel\ling up the river, Harry explained orangutan behavior, what we needed to be careful of, and how to act around the orangutan. They are very curious and extremely strong creatures. He warned that they maybe interested in many things that we would be packing along with us which could include anything from bug spray to cameras or even small children. He told us to try and keep things hidden so they wouldnít see them and above all if they were to get hold of something they wanted to just let them have it. The orangutan will often become very agitated if they donít get what they want.
Harry treated us to some amusing stories of situations other tourists had found themselves in minus their cameras. One orang grabbed the lens on a 35mm camera. The quick thinking tourist hit the release button and twisted, saving the camera but the orang escaped with the lens and climbed a tree. After banging the lens on the tree a few times, it dropped the lens onto a rock. so, we were all being a bit cautious.
When we arrived at the orangutan reserveís landing, we were greeted with one of those mischievous orangutans. She had just confiscated a bottle of bug spray from someone and had bitten into it. Guess she didnít like the taste. Our guides distracted her so we could make our way past her and up the trail to the feeding area. What a way to start.
Along the trail, we encountered some female orangutans and their babies. It was getting more exciting by the minute. At the feeding area we watched and waited as orangutans started swinging from trees and walking in to feast on the bananas and sweet potatoes provided by the researchers. It was fascinating to be so close to them and able to watch them interact with each other. The behavior was so human. Many walked right by us to get to the feeding area and some grabbed their food and sat down right in the middle of our group. We watched in amazement as one mother breast fed her baby and gently reached down to kiss it on the cheek. We watched for hours as they ate, played or even argued with each other.
After a restful night under mosquito net, we awoke anxious to get back to the reserve to see what a new day would bring. Not thinking that we could in any way top the previous days experience we arrived back at the reserveís landing where a young male orangutan was washing one of the guide's shirts with a bar of soap. Walking through the researcher's area, we encountered a group of playful Gibbons. We were able to hand feed one of them while the others entertained us with some wrestling, play and swinging from roofs, antennas and solar panels. On our hike, Harry pointed out the sound of another male orangutan echoing through the forest. Upon hearing the call, Harry felt that this male might come in to feed that day. We arrived at the feeding area and waited with anticipation. The females and babies started coming in when all of a sudden they were jumping up into the trees and acting strangely. We turned around and out of the jungle came one of the big male orangutans. He was so much bigger then the females and a bit intimidating. We all moved back so we wouldnít be between him and the food he was seeking. After a few minutes of munching away on sweet potatoes he started acting funny and jumped up into one of the trees. The king of the orangutans had arrived. An awesome creature! He must have weighed at least four hundred pounds and it was all massive muscle. As he climbed to the top of the platform, he looked over his shoulder and kicked the ladder down as if to say, "I dare you to bother me."
It was wonderful watching all the different behaviors, enjoying their antics, and although we hated to leave it was time to head back down the river to Sea Witch. We had just had the experience of a lifetime and couldnít stop talking about it as we "klotocked" down the river surrounded by thousands of fireflies twinkling in the mangroves which lined the riverbanks.
Well here we are in Singapore after successfully negotiating the Singapore channel and itís massive amount of shipping traffic. We have never experienced so much traffic. This place make Los Angeles Harbor look like a small town. We are safely resting at the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club, which has been our base for many shopping excursions. Singapore must be the shopping capital of the world. There are high rise buildings chock-o-block with TVís, cameras, computers, electronics and just about anything else you can imagine. Sim Lim Tower is 5 floors of stores - maybe 200-300 stores in all - with nothing but computers and electronics. We have visited Chinatown, Little India, the Colonial District, and the symbol of Singapore, the Merlion - half mermaid, half lion. Singapore is a very modern, progressive country where people of all nationalities and religions live together in what seems to be complete harmony. It is high-tech and incredibly clean.
We have enjoyed our stay but once again it is time to move on so off we go in a couple of days to head up the Malacca straights and the west coast of Thailand. Our final destination this year will be Phuket. From there we plan a visit to the states during the month of December and hope to see as many of you as we can.
Jeff & Gail