A Busy 300 Miles

From Lovina Bay in Bali sailing west to Jepara on Java was a 2.5 day passage and an eventful one!

Our course took us northwest and through a pass (Selat Raas) at between small islands, a route which turned out to be a major shipping lane.  With the usual watch keeping essentials, along with Radar and the added benefit of AIS this was no problem for us at night and we had favourable current to push us along before turning to port and along the north of the island of Madura.

An oilfield with numerous drilling rigs and support vessels darting between them at speed was an unexpected sight during daylight hours.  Until then we were not fully aware how significant oil production and refining is in Indonesia, with the largest stakes we believe being held by the US and Japan.

Oil rig with support vessel

Oil rig with support vessel

Settling into our three hour watches for a second night at sea, we realised it could be busy, but ended up on ‘red alert’ for the total twelve hours of darkness.  It seemed as though the total Javanese fishing fleet was out in force!  Imagine being on a slalom run under sail weaving through a myriad of some brightly (with up to 10 flood lights each!), some dimly lit vessels large and small, even unlit boats all moving around haphazardly and that was the strong cocktail we were served.  Add to that vessels showing 3 vertical white lights (towing vessel with length of tow exceeding 200m)  To be more visible it seemed sensible to run under tricolour and steaming light.

The result was plenty of action, checking AIS (not extremely helpful as tugs towing do not transmit AIS, neither do fishing boats), Radar (more useful), peering through binoculars, using the engine and altering course if necessary.  We went through two fishing fleets that night and at daybreak, another treat was in store for us just off the power station in Jepara.

There, over 70 small fishing craft with nets cast were strewn across our path, with a few fish traps and ships making for Semarang, one of the main Javanese ports thrown in for good measure.

Fishing with coal-fired power station in background

Fishing with coal-fired power station in background

hauling in the catch

hauling in the catch (note engine to starboard!)

Fisherman wearing red coolie hat and matching mask

Fisherman wearing red coolie hat and matching mask

Home port and village in Jepara

Home port and village in Jepara

We were understandably relieved to drop anchor in a quiet bay north of Jepara town, where Saol Eile joined us having done a recce of the town anchorage and decided for various reasons we had made the better choice.  This was due mainly to the fact that we would be leaving our yachts at anchor and travelling overland for a few days through Central Java to Borobudur, and security appeared to be a risk in Jepara harbour.

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