Greetings from Sandakan Harbor. It’s in Sabah, on the northeast coast of Borneo. Even I’m confused how we ended up here, and our friends are scratching their heads. We left Darwin headed for Palau. Anyway, this sounds more exotic. It was a difficult three weeks getting here. Would have been much simpler as an ocean passage, but as we wove our way up through East Indonesia we went from sea to sea–Arafura to Banda to Seram to Mollucca to Celebes to Sulu.
Each sea has its own conditions and land effects. As we had no cruising permit for Indonesia we felt like wandering Dutch people, uneasy about stopping. We did spend two nights in Bitung on Sulawesi’s northeast coast, where we flagged down two fishermen in a canoe who first brought us filthy diesel and then clean diesel. The police passed us all day long and waved, and nobody official paid us any attention. The Indonesians take great pride in their boat designs, and as we were the local curiosity for the common folk, we witnessed an endless parade of variety and colors. At night the ferry lights bore no resemblance to navigation lights, but I imagine asking someone which boat to get to Lempeh Island across the way and being told to take the ferry with the flashing hot pink lights.
Even getting fuel we were still worried about our supply. The Celebes Sea in this transition season is almost windless. For the first couple hundred miles the current was against us, and we were worried we’d run our tanks dry, but then the current changed, and we found we could drift within 15 degrees of our course with no sails up. We went through the Subito Pass in Philippine waters, worried about pirates but more likely to get run down by huge bulk ore carriers coming up from Australia. Our anchor is down but I’ll probably wake tonight when the boats pass worrying that we’re getting too close to fishing boats on the coast.