Cruising Indonesia

I’ve been remiss in discussing the challenges for cruisers in Indonesia. In 14 years of cruising Indonesia has been the most challenging. The list; not yet complete, is: Visas, anchoring / anchorages, charting, currents, provisioning,,.boat supplies.

I know in many of my blog posts I’ve alluded to the visa situation. Every two months we need to check in, in person at an immigration office. Our sponsor sends paperwork, and then we… pay. Indonesia’s new president addressed the corruption issues by changing the payment scheme. No more “bribes”. We get a bill, travel to the nearest bank / deposit kiosk, pay the bill; get a receipt and boom. Finished. Return back to immigration give them the receipt and if our paperworks is good we get a new stamp. The issue for cruisers is that the immigration offices are not in every city. They are 200 -500 nm away. Day hoping equates to about 10 days of moving re anchoring. Some cruisers move that fast. We prefer not to. But two things a cruiser can’t argue with; bureaucracy and Mother Nature. The 2 month turn around means we miss many of the wonderful villages and people. Maybe that is what the country wants; I don’t know their mind.

Anchoring: Bring lots of chain and a good working windlass. We’ve anchored in 100’ of water a few times now. The depth contour often goes from 100’ to 3’ in less than a boat length. Then 3’ to zero in half a boat length. The islands are so often steep and the contour in the water is the same. Bring long lines. In Kawa we would have been wise to work our way into the bight more and tie to each shore. In Pef True Blue V actually did that in one bay. In Banda Neira we stern tied to shore while not far off the bow our anchor was in 75 ‘ of water. It still wasn’t good enough and we moved back to an anchorage that was 30 meters deep.

Charts: I have not disovered any electronic or paper chart in Indonesia that is (are) accurate. All have glaring errors. However the detailed (sonar) charts from iNavionics are a little better. Combining charts with with a satellite image program, that combo is best. Of course, the best navigation tool in restricted or shallower waters is your eyes. In Raja Ampat we almost ran the boat up on a reef traveling 6 kts. The chart indicated 30’ of water. The eyes said less. I climbed up on the mast pulpit and we were able to stop the boat less than one boat length from the reef. At that time I didn’t have any working satellite imagery. It would have shown the shallows where we were. I have it now and when ever near any land use it. But that too can cause issues, cloud cover, bottom color etc can threw off what is there. Use your eyes!

Currents in Indonesia may be non existent or extreme. So extreme they create standing waves. And while you have an ocean going boat those waves can break right over / into you. All the charts indicate is “caution”. Not why, not from shifting sands, or tides, or currents. Only caution. We’ve come across currents up to 6 kts in places I never would have guessed. Give yourself time to make the next anchorage and hope currents are with you not against you.

When we left to cross the Pacific we loaded up on food supplies. Who knew that where ever there are people there is food! Across the Pacific we always had plenty of places to re-provision. We’ve had that too in Indo. The difference is that in Indonesia the vast majority of food is produced in Indonesia. The country has high import duties and food stuff from outside Indonesia is costly. Especially for the Indonesian market. If there is a specialty food you want make sure you have plenty. Vitamins, over the counter medication, Pork and chocolate are a few of the most notable in short supply at least in Eastern Indo.

And finally boat supplies. If it is not a general hardware, motorcycle part it will be very costly to get it here. It is possible, not economical. DHL seems to be the best and only reliable importer. Stupidly, I didn’t buy a spare spray nozzle for the sink. Our old one started leaking. I tried to fix it. That repair lasted a day and then it began to leak again. Need to get another.

While our inventory indicated we had an extra boat fan, the inventory was wrong. Two of our fans bit the dust here. So, I ordered four fans and two spray nozzles. I ordered from the states. I ought to have ordered from Australia. Shipping would have reduced the total cost. The bill to get them here plus the import duty ended up double the price of the goods. We were lucky. We shipped them to one of the marinas we med moored at. Ayn (Wiik’s Marina most valuable assistant) was nice enough to pay the cost of the duty (we reimbursed her). Later she forwarded them again to Ambon where we were. Even if you don’t think you will need a part, get one or two extra anyway. What you save in the end will more than make up for the initial cost of any spares.

With all that, Indonesia is a fascinating country to cruise in. The beauty immense, the people helpful, and the children most adorable. Indoneisa is a huge, and I mean HUGE country to cruise. Plan accordingly.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long