This summer I embarked on a unique voyage aboard the 48ft Catamaran "Java". Our mission to sail from the Western Philippine island of Palawan, south through Indonesia, with a final destination of West Timor. Aboard was Captain Evan Del Faro, a long time surf friend of mine Gabe Kelly, a little courageous yellow dog with sharp dew claws named "Micro", and myself. This was the first time Gabe or I had ever sailed, but our captain assured us he'd teach us everything we'd need to know.
With books and watercolors in hand plus a full stock of fresh produce from the local market, we were off. We headed south through the Sulu Sea to Sandakan, Malaysia, where we were welcomed by the yacht club, and treated to beers and pool. Sandakan is home to the elusive Orangutans (people of the jungle). Gabe and I had the awesome opportunity to meet them first hand. Warned of pirates by the few foreign tourists, we headed east around the wolf's jaws (see illustration 1) with our eyes set on Indonesian waters.
A close call here and a close call there, fortunately not taken as hostages, we arrived in Tawau, Sulawesi. We acquired our social visas with little to no trouble and were ready to rock and roll. We headed east across the Celebes Sea to the city of Bitung in the north east of Sulawesi.
We then sailed south through the Molucca Sea that is peppered with tiny islands, each one with their own unique culture. We continued south through the Banda Sea, where we were able to free dive some spectacular coral reefs filled with life and colors. The Banda Sea is also home to the original Spice Islands (home of Clove, Nutmeg, Cinnamon) which lie to the East in Banda Neira. We then crossed the Flores Sea and found our first hint of surf! Here we also experienced some of the most powerful rip currents in the world. I'm talking 2-3 ft. standing wave with 15 knot currents. We spent an entire day battling the currents, sailing hard but losing ground; and we were on our last bottle of whisky...We studied the shore and how the locals would dash across the strait as soon as the tide would switch. We held our ground until the tides had switched and the current ripped us out through the Flores islands like a ping pong ball in rapids. A couple days later we had reached our destination in West Timor.
We crossed seas mirrored with cumulus clouds, dove beautiful coral reefs, chewed betel nut with grandmothers, met chiefs, sailed through massive anvil-shaped cumulo-nimbus squalls, savoring the tropical rain on our tongues, and even found waves...
But what moved me the most was the kindness of the Indonesian people. All the people we met were incredibly kind and helpful. Sure there were language barriers, but those were broken with our eagerness to learn, and their pride in showing us their culture. Indonesia is comprised of over 17,000 islands, 6000 of which are inhabited, each one with its own unique history and culture. I feel very fortunate to have been able to experience a small part of the beauty of Indo.