The Anambas Island group (and pirates)

We left Tioman on Friday afternoon, leaving a bit late so that we would be crossing the main part of the route away from land at night. That way when we arrive at the Anambas islands we would be in daylight, there’s much more chance of running down a poorly lit little fishing boat near the coast than offshore. So I was happy to take on the big ships in the dark. Most of them have AIS and proper lights, we were going to be passing through some major shipping routes, as the ships hang a left from Singapore and head up towards Bangkok, Vietnam, China, hong Kong etc, they will be passing in front of us, and of course those returning on that route. The wind was from the SE and blowing a healthy 15 knots, so with all the sails up, and one reef in the main, we shot along, keeping the diesel for another day.
I put a quick post on the boat’s facebook page as we left to jokingly say that, unless we had pirate trouble, it should be a good journey. Just after we left Tioman, I checked the Navtex messages, this is like SMS for sailors, but sent from national governments, we have a special receiver, and it produces telex/teletype displays of brief messages, things like weather, or navigational warnings. I wasn’t to pleased to see the one that said their had just been a armed pirate attack, on our route, we would be passing over that spot about 2AM, the attack had happened a few nights earlier at 11PM, nice.
So we went into stealth mode, AIS Transmitter was turned off, so nobody could see us on that system, I also turned off the NAV lights when there was no shipping around. I kept in touch with SY Matilda and informed them of my new found knowledge, and they also turned off their AIS. I put the radar on so I could keep a good lookout. Matilda informed me that as they were motoring along, a tug, towing a barge, which was invisible, suddenly turned on their lights and AIS transmitter, they must have been in stealth mode too, as once Matilda had passed them, their AIS and lights went off. It’s just a bit worrying, that in a busy shipping lane, we are all turning off our lights and hiding from each other, this can only end badly. As it turned out, the sun rose, we put the AIS back on and sailed into a lovely cove in the western islands of Anambas, to rest for a night before proceeding to the main town of Tarampa on the central group of islands. I mentioned the pirate thing to Kathy then, as there didnt seem much point in worrying her en-route. It had been a great sail, and even though we were close hauled all the way, the boat had sliced through the waves with a very soothing motion, we were making between 6 and 7 knots over water, most of the time, sometimes more.
The cove we anchored in on the island of Jamandja, was just by a small island on the NE called Ayam, it was an idyllic spot, very well protected and we anchored inbetween reefs in 5m of sand.



I had a snorkel in very clear water and on returning to the boat was slightly startled to meet this chappy feeding on the hull, he’s much bigger close up, maybe 3ft. Later Kathy amused herself feeding him potato peelings, which he (or she) seemed to love.When we left, we headed straight out, and without thinking it through very well, straight into one of the reefs we had carefully manoeuvred around on the way in. Fortunately we were going so slow, we were able to stop and reverse out before we did any damage. From there we had a brisk reach across to the capital, 30 miles, in about 5 hours, again stockpiling the diesel.

Terempa, or Tarampa, is the administrative town of the Anambas island group, a large part of it is built on stilts, it’s very Muslim, and it’s our first time in Indonesia, so we are keen to explore and see how things work here. Arriving in the afternoon on a Sunday, we decided to stay on board and go into town and do the formalities on Monday morning. We raised the Q (Quarantine) flag, which is a yellow flag, to let them know we are clean and waiting clearance. We motored around the harbour, which is very busy, some very large ships here, looking for somewhere to anchor.

Anchoring was fun, The island drops into the sea quickly, but there is a very shallow ledge of coral first, just a meter or two down, next to the shore, coming out some distance, after that it drops to between 10 and fifteen metres quickly, were the sea bed is strewn with rocks, then it goes to 25 mtrs and deeper very quickly. Our first attempt in what looked like sand, was on rocks, and we decided to move, the rocks tried to cling to my anchor, but I was able to motor forward and the anchor came free.

Next attempt was in the corner of the harbour, very close to the quay in 15m, but when we dropped back on the anchor we were close to another boat, so up came the anchor again, I was not to bothered, as that area is though to be ‘Foul’ or strewn with debris the anchor can get stuck in. So now after an hour of pratting around, with the sun keen to push on to the Atlantic area,  we headed back to the deep water. We dropped the hook outside the other anchored yachts in 25 metres of water and by the time the anchor dug in, and with me putting out 60m of chain and 10 m of rope, we had backed down onto a catamaran, just a couple of boat lengths away. Normal boat etiquette would require me to move, but the owner came up, and despite we were almost close enough to shake hands, he assured me that he was happy with the gap, and saw no problems. As long as our anchor stays put overnight, we won’t be joining him for breakfast!.

Monday morning, and we dinghied ashore, we copied the other boats, a bad move as I have found that’s what other boats do, and often there is mass cockups because of the first boats decision. Apparently there is a much better place to tie up to, we will check it out tomorrow, However this one was fun, it was on a wall, with a rickety matrix of sticks tied together to make a climbing frame, to get from the dinghy to a long narrow wall, vertigo inducing or what. At the end was a gangplank arrangement to get ashore. Hat’s off to Kathy for taking that in her stride.

We went straight to Immigration, then the Harbour master, then Customs and finally Quarantine, who weren’t in. Everything done, but we have to wait for customs to come to the boat in the morning and search us for anything dodgy, like Coldplay albums, or anything from the 80’s. 😉

First impressions of Indonesia are very good, the people here are the friendliest we have met so far in SE Asia, everybody wants to say hello, the authorities have gone out of there way to help me check in, despite the fact I was missing mandatory documents. I think I’m going to like it here

Checked in, we had a wander, this town is very water based, a network of canals make up the main area, running between all the stilted buildings.

We found a good range of small shops, some white bread, plenty of fruit and veg, lots of hardware stores, shame I don’t need any, although yesterday, the anchor foot switch got so faulty, I replaced it with two bared wires sticking out through the deck. Does anyone know how wires switching a 12v solenoid can give such a kick, I expect it’s back EMF from the coil of the solenoid, but that was a surprise 🙁 . I don’t expect they have much call for that sort of switch out here. I’m kicking myself for not buying a spare when I saw them on a shelf back in Phuket. I knew then the switch was dicky.
Tonight we will stay on the boat, we had a chunky squall blow through this afternoon, 20-25 knots pushing us towards the Catamaran, but we didn’t budge, my transits are solid, however it feels like we got too close. I have decided to buy 150m of anchor warp to add to my anchoring arsenal, and also investigate anchoring on rock, the locals do it all the time with their fishermen hook style anchors, often flimsy things made out of rebar.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) after getting customs clearance, we will pop ashore, buy up a load of food and head off to explore the islands here. Again wifi may be sparse, we picked up a local SIM that gives us 40gb for 60Days, for about £4, but it’s finding coverage that will be the challenge.  I got out 1.2 Million Rupiah from the ATM today, but with a bag of tomatoes costing 10,000 Rupiah (60p) it wont go far!

Paul Collister






2 thoughts on “The Anambas Island group (and pirates)”

  1. Ayam means ‘chicken. 🙂

    If you get the jolt when breaking the circuit its definitely back EMF. Do some tests when you have a chance:)

    1. Hi Bob, I soaked my hands in sea water, then switched the circuit, that seems to make the Jolt much stronger. Will keep experimenting 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *