Crossing the Java Sea - 02° 50' 08" S 109° 10' 58" E

Yesterday, we sailed along the southern coast of Borneo and then up the Kumai River in central Kalimantan.  Heather and Charlie had met us in Belitung and were doing their FIRST EVER overnight passage.  To be more accurate, it was their (and our) first two-night passage.  After a lovely few days based in Kepayang Beach on the north of Belitung, we pulled up anchor just after lunch and started our journey (eventually) east.  Heading out of our anchorage was no better than entering, with Kate and I on high alert for uncharted reefs and bommies.  A few thunderheads and rain clouds were ominously gathered over land but kept their distance as we scooted a nautical mile or two offshore to keep well clear of the shallow bits. 

Heather visits the bow to see dolphins
We were doing our best to educate our passengers about what would be expected of them and what they could expect over the next 36 – 48 hours.  PFD's were fitted; safety procedures were outlined; emergency directions were given for stopping the engine; fire extinguishers were located - all enough to terrify any sane passengers.  Our guests seemed strangely unaffected.  We outlined how we would transition to staggered 4-hour watches (each of the couples would alternate, but staggered by two hours, so a Collins would always be on with a Pitcher) from 6 pm onwards.  It would mean that we could each get four hours sleep at a time.  We found the currents favorable, as we had been told by the cruisers we had met at Belitung - Tim and Nok.  Instead of the 6 kts (knots) of speed over ground we had planned on, we were doing closer to 8 kts.  This was going to go faster, but still take at least a day and a half.

The first night of watches did knock us all around a bit.  Getting into the groove of reduced sleep, eating when you can rather than on a schedule and being only “at sea” personally clean is not something that you want to do forever.  We did all the standard tricks for keeping awake: rounds of hot tea when change of watch came up; snack food in the cockpit; lots of good conversation … it all worked as it should.   Seeing the sun rise and having daylight around does much to improve your enthusiasm and your alertness, so after 7 am, we were all in much brighter spirits than you might think.  We even had the good fortune of 10 kts of wind from abeam, so up went the sails and off went the engine.  Free propulsion – yahoo!  Heather and Charlie quickly got used to being heeled over and both were doing well with lack of seasickness, so on we pressed, well ahead of schedule.

We discussed stopping for a swim but decided to press on as squalls were moving through the area that we were sailing through and stopping would mean that we would be caught in one.  After a few hours of dodging rain and dark clouds, we did stop for a post-lunch swim.  For Heather, this was a Bucket List item.  Even though we had stopped the boat, the idea of jumping off the boat into the middle of the Java Sea, a hundred miles from the closest shore with no land in sight, was an action that took more than a little bravery.  She showed her courage with a great leap from the swim platform – much faster than the sharks could get to her.

After our swim and a bit of lunch, we continued on towards Kalimantan and sailed/motored through the afternoon and into the evening.  We were all surprised at just how shallow it was between Belitung and Borneo – never getting more than 60 metres deep.  Sometimes we would find ourselves suddenly in 9 metres of water (causing much panic aboard our deep keel vessel) with no land anywhere in sight!

Watches became set once again as twilight fell into darkness.  We were making way across a shipping route, so more vessels were out here with us.  We saw smaller fishing vessels and a few larger tankers and cargo ships off in the distance, but never anything threatening.  We rotated though our watches, tea was made, visiting done, until we found ourselves making our way up the Kumai river.  Navigating the sand bars and shoals was expertly done by Heather and Kate.  Soon, we were travelling down the wide, relatively deep river on our way to the town of Kumai.  We would drop anchor right in the river, east of the town and make our way to shore to arrange a tour of the Tanjung Puting National Park.


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