(¯﹃¯) I. JUST. WANT. TO. SLEEP! That bad, that loud. Just one full uninterrupted night to recover of our 2-month Indonesian marathon which ended with a medal-worthy final sprint.
After another long leg of motoring on Zephyr’s birthday on 30th November, although agreeably spent celebrating twelve years of parenthood flipping through family photo albums with fondness and indulging French crepes for breakfast, colourful veggie wraps for lunch followed by outrageous double-layer chocolate mud cake with dulce de leche icing, and finally veggie lasagna, wine and more cake for dinner with our friends and co-sailors Pascal and Marie-Laure, the next day, which was supposed to see us celebrate in style our crossing the equator, with Pascal dressed up in Poseidon and all, took a different turn entirely.
In the morning, Zephyr complained of not feeling well and refused to eat. When we took his temperature he had fever and, after a sip of water, vomited. We were already underway and consulted via VHF with Pascal, retired GP, who, due to our passing through a malarial area, advised to keep a close eye on Zephyr’s condition and get him tested for malaria as soon as possible. This meant altering our course to reach a medical centre or hospital in one go, the closest being on Batam or Bintan, still a good 80 miles away, skipping the last few short legs planned for this end of trip, the stunning beaches promised along the way, our equator party, and adding an unwelcome night sail, but we were resolute to take this seriously.
However, towards the end of a day battling against current, wind, and choppy seas that hindered our headway, dodging thunderstorms and waterspouts too, exhausted by the shaky ride, we all agreed on a short restorative stopover South of Mesanak, a Γ-shaped island with shallow sandy shores, easy to reach by night. This would also allow for the winds to turn from North to North-West and be less unfavourable to our progress. Pascal came on board shortly after anchoring, around 9 pm, to examine Zephyr who by then was still feverish, complained of a headache but had no other alarming symptoms.
Half reassured, we went to sleep to rest, but were woken up at 3am by a squall shaking the boat once more. So much for a restful stopover. We left at daybreak, around 6am, knackered but determined to reach either the Southern tip of The Riau Islands connected by road to Batam city, Sembulang on the East coast of Batam, or Tanjung Pinang further East on Bintan. Turning the point of Mensanak Island, it became clear that if we wanted to move at a decent pace, our only viable option was Tanjung Pinang, the other two destinations being way too upwind for us. I crashed after my morning watch and only woke up at lunch time, where we were a mere 8 miles away and the sea was calm again. Relief.
For the first time in weeks, two other boats were anchored in the harbour before us, and we thought we’d ask them for advice, but no one could be found onboard, so we ventured equipped with Google Maps and Deepl as our sole guides in this city. Azur was pestering because it was drizzling and he didn’t want to walk in the rain, we gave him a rain jacket to shut him up, a first I might add, in this supposedly wet season which I think should be renamed stormy season (unless thunderstorms are as common all year long, I am not eager to stay any longer to confirm or deny).
After a short 5-minute stroll, passing through buildings built on piles, reclaiming the waterfront and making the city fringes look like an Indonesian Venice, we entered a first pharmacy where we were advised to go to another half-an-hour walk further where they had doctors who could prescribe a test. We carried on walking and on our way passed what looked like a hospital. It was not obvious where the entrance was and the first building we entered was another pharmacy where the man didn’t speak any English. Showing him my Deepl-translated blurb, he dismissed us and pointed to the hospital next door, which entrance we still couldn’t find on our way out. We then asked the nearest passers-by, who happened to be military in synthetic uniforms and camo crocs, one of them who happily took us to the Rumkital* (*Hospital) reception where he was formally greeted on entering. He spoke on our behalf, and a few minutes later, Zephyr was examined by a nice female doctor, veiled and masked, who then explained, using my phone and my dear Deepl, that they only prescribed malaria test for patients who had had fever for 7 consecutive days. And anyway, they couldn’t to the test today, we would have to come back on Monday to be seen by a paediatrician. Apparently they didn’t give a damn about the rarer but fulgurating form of the disease. Insisting we wanted to get Zephyr tested today, she advised yet another hospital, 30-min away. A Gojek*’s ride later (* Uber Indonesian equivalent), we were at the second hospital, advocating our case for the fourth time. Winning this time, Zephyr was laid on a bed to get a blood sample. To his utter distress, they left the catheter on the back of his hand in case they needed more blood, and he didn’t move his hand for the next while, too afraid to hit anything inadvertently with it. He didn’t even want me sit on his bed next to him.
The results came back earlier than expected (I had sent Thomas and Azur to fetch some takeaway food in town and had to call them back). Negative to malaria and dengue fever. Nothing to signal, it must have a been a trivial virus. We were given the all clear and headed back to the waterfront. I invited Pascal and Marie-Laure to join us for a celebratory dinner at a place I had spotted on Google Maps but should have known better. We ended up at an oversized, overpriced, average food, bling-bling restaurant where we were the only patrons, and they manage to screw up half of the order and forgot my dish, so I only munched on the kids’ pizzas (I had a nightmare about it that same night). Api Biru (Fire & blue). Never again.
Relieved (but not quite satisfied, my stomach was yearning for a better dinner and I was angry at Thomas for choosing the most expensive dish on the menu, despite Pascal, decidedly generous, paying for half of it), we retreated to the boat. We had only made mental notes of where we had disembarked with the dinghy but somehow managed to find our way as if we knew what we were doing. There seemed to be some order in the chaos after all.
Or not. At 3 am, the 30-knot winds raged in the canal and worse, our anchor dragged. With three boats queuing behind us, it is a miracle we didn’t hit anything when Thomas realised. I joined him on deck to assess the situation and find a solution. It took us two attempts to finally re-anchor correctly, putting down 60 metres of chain in 5-metre mud and stay put. Unless it was due to the winds dying down, we’ll never know. What is sure though is that thunderstorms and mosque representatives must have an agreement in place in Indonesia, ok, you, squalls, take the 3 am slot, so we keep our 4 am slot unrivaled. Because there was no lack of it, no sooner had we turned off the engine than the call to prayer could be heard in the distance.
Between sleep-disturbing prayer calls, a ripped main sail, malaria threat, uncharted bomies, almost exclusive motoring in virtually no wind or upwind, combined with squalls, thunderstorms, waterspouts, and night sails in minefields of fishing boats, nets, FADS and other buoys requiring a heightened level of vigilance, Indonesia has worn me out and I am ready to graduate from its treacherous waters. AND MOVE ON.
Oh, wait, there is still the Malacca Strait to go through, which promises to be just as bad…
PS: This post was written during yet another sleepless night with a 3 am squall waking me up despite being safely moored at Nongsa Point Marina. Promise there will be more posts about our Indonesia trip with a more positive outlook on our experience at Jepara, Karimun Jawa, Belitung and Bangka.