The weather had started to turn on us....frequent electrical storms and winds from the north, pushing short, uncomfortable swell into the anchorage, making it difficult to land the dinghy on the normally calm beach, and just as difficult to climb on or off when docking to "El Gato".
Highlights of the trip were a whale sighting, and lots of fishing boats and "Fish Attracting Devices" which crop up everywhere. But more on them later.
It was a lengthy overnighter, and at a little after 2.00 P.M. we finally dropped anchor in the picturesque northern anchorage on Pulau Bawean.
We upped anchor after a peaceful night's sleep and had a leisurely start in the morning, heading for Karimunjawa.
We had a social dinner with some of our fellow cruisers, not having seen anyone for a few days. Crews from "Kereru", "Serica", "Coomera", "Manatee" and "Incognita" all happily tucked into the welcome luxury of pizza, cold beer and ice cream at the best restaurant in town.
The bright and sunny business didn't last long though and we had a rough old night on the anchor, tracking down Hasim The Local Fixer in the rain, to pick up our laundry in the morning. (Hasim not only organises the laundry, he guided us in through the channel, directed us where to anchor, arranges fuel deliveries, sorts out mechanical repairs and I'm sure could offer fish and souvenirs as well.) The laundry wasn't dry of course, so we didn't leave the anchorage until late in the afternoon, this time looking at a lengthy 260 mile run to the island of Belitung.
During Mary's watch, at 2.00 a.m., things blew up again and we were rolling around quite a bit with a reef in the jib. Not comfortable.
(And for those who are curious...we have a 4-hour watch system for the three of us...I'm normally on from 8.00 p.m. to midnight, Mary's on from Midnight to 4.00 a.m., and lucky Graham gets the sunrise watch from 4.00 a.m. to 8.oo a.m. We're pretty casual during the day though...)
The rain continued all through the next day, and it wasn't until 4.00 in the afternoon that it finally stopped.
Another night, and things were easier as the wind backed. Lots of fishing boats, and we passed "Kereru" some time in the evening.
It was an interesting trip.
I had the first watch and for a couple of hours worked my way through an absolute labrynth of fishing craft, dodging hundreds of lights that flickered on and off when we came too close. I had the spotlight out and spied boats without lights, big boats, small boats, anything that would float. Even things that didn't float, the ubiquitous F.A.D.'s.
Big, bright white "El Gato" was quite visible to all and probably an impressive sight.
On Graham's watch there were cargo ships to avoid, and then, in the late morning we copped a 20 knot rainsquall on the nose and ploughed through it, with the occasional lightning bolt to keep us awake.
Parai Beach was the rendezvous spot for yet another round of Visa renewals, for both rallies, and the first time so far that we'd all come together.
I felt genuinely sorry for those mono-hull sailors who straggled in as the days passed, many of whom had endured a rough few anchor-dragging nights in Borneo. Quite a few booked hotel rooms for a night or two, just to escape the rolling around at anchor.
But finally, after our quite strange formal ceremonies and dinner at Government House, passports were returned with new visas, and we were free to escape once again.
We found what we thought was a sandy spot over a rock shelf that extends out a fair way from the island, and, as is our custom, let out a generous amount of chain when we dropped the anchor, and had a sound, secure sleep.
Which was fine, until the morning.
When we discovered that our chain was wrapped around a bombie or three, and we spent an hour or so doing backwards and forwards manouvres and opposite direction loops around the place until we could finally get the anchor up. Still, no damage, and we then headed for a lovely calm anchorage at South Lingga. Which was an interesting sail, because we picked up a couple of friendly hitchhikers. It had blown up quite a bit and we had the sails up, when a pair of swallows moved aboard......
In the morning, it was off to the wonderful stilt-village island of Kongca Besar, with another couple of storms to keep us amused.
The following day, our next stop was the island of Benan, and the local village had planned festivities in our honour, which we all happily attended.
These were at the end of their pier, and involved all kinds of fun games, races, dancing, music and general jollity. It was a great afternoon. And not a storm in sight.
It was an easy run, we had a brief encounter with an Indonesian Navy patrol boat, and then headed into a luxury, western-style marina at Nongsa. (I think the only one in all of Indonesia.)
And the icing on the cake was being invited to a free celebratory dinner for the mostly-Singaporean yacht race crews who'd just been participating in some local event.
The next day, Graham had to head for the Singapore ferry and the airport, while we fuelled up, did all of our Customs formalities, plotted our Singapore Strait crossing and generally lapped up the facilities.
Happy hour drinks with new friends Mick and Beth from "Site" and old friends Helen and Mark from "Coomera", and we're all ready to head out in the morning....but that'll be in the next blog post. And meanwhile, here's the route through the Java Sea that you've just read about...