Back to the Boat – Bogged down in Bali

After a good 3-month break it was time to head back to the boat for Part 2 of our Indonesian adventure. Our plan is to sail from Bali, cross (the north/south) Java and get to the Mentawaii, Telos and Banyak Islands off the western coast of Sumatra.

Made, the Marina Manager, had been looking after the boat whilst we were away – starting engines, checking power, sending us pictures etc. We were therefore pretty sure that the boat was still there and in a reasonable condition – and it indeed it was, at first glance. The volcanic ash had left it pretty dirty and the relentless heat had melted a solid cake of lontar (which oozed onto the galley floor), but the engines were working, the batteries were charged and everything was intact inside.

After 3 months of rain, Bali is sweltering in its humidity. The marina is especially hot, as the large super-yachts block the breeze – and we really struggled to adjust to the intense heat. I was basically dripping with sweat all day long. My favourite part of the day was in the evening after supper, when I’d shower and wash off the day’s sweat and grime, put on dry pyjamas and climb into bed – with the fan blowing straight onto me. I think our 12V Caframo fans would top the list as the most essential items required on board in Indonesia!

We slowly started the process of unlocking and re-opening valves, stop-cocks, fitting the engine onto the dinghy, etc. That’s when we found that to our dismay all 3 heads (toilets) were not working – the motors weren’t even making a sound! What are the chances that all 3 wouldn’t work? Marco enthusiastically (not!) took the motor of 1 of them out – which is not an easy job, working at uncomfortable angles in tight places, with your head about 5cm from the toilet bowl, in a cramped steamy space. Once he had it out, he tested it on a spare battery – and hey presto, it worked! He then tested the voltage of the wires at the toilet – and the voltage was sufficient … so it led to the mind-boggling question of why the motor wouldn’t work at the toilet. After checking circuits, isolating the positive and negative wires and doing various other tests, we still couldn’t figure it out – the wiring seemed fine.

Living the dream

Eventually Marco asked 2 Phillipino guys working on the neighbouring super-yacht for their opinion. The one maintains the heads of the super-yacht, so has a fair bit of experience – and he reckoned a worn impeller could reduce the voltage at the end of a long wire to a level that was insufficient to run the pump. They took the impeller out and it was pretty worn – and after replacing it the pump ran!

However, the head was not sucking water into the bowl, only discharging it. We thought the inlet pipe may be blocked, so flushed fresh water through from the outside – to no avail. It turns out that the pump is reversible – and in this case, black had to be wired to red and red to black. That took us a while to figure out – not at all irritating!

Anyway, the head is now working – but pulls water quicker than it discharges it. That’ll have to do for now. Marco repeated the same procedure on the main head, and that now works like a bomb. We have no more impellers, so will have to live with 2 heads until we get a new part. Whew – crappy job over!

Luckily the marina has toilets – but a bucket was required in emergencies!

The next headache came when we took our dinghy out for a spin. There appeared to be a slow leak around the front valve – which could get worse over time. Our dinghy is so essential – it’s like our “car” that gets us from the mothership (or “house”) to land, to surf, to anywhere! We had to get it fixed. It seemed like the PVC was delaminating around the valve, and it was essential that we found the right PVC glue – as using substandard stuff would just make a mess and could make the leak worse. Marco tracked down various useful guys and managed to find the correct glue (pretty expensive, made up of 2 parts). We then got a guy who repairs dinghies for a living to do our repair – he glued the various layers together, and added another patch for safety. So far so good.

Dinghy repair in process

We also got an electrically-minded guy in to look at our spare fridge (that had stopped working back in the Komodo islands). He deduced that there was something wrong with the fan – so we obtained and installed a new one, and voila – another fridge in action!

In the meantime, we were trying to get the boat ready for a sea trial. We stocked up on food at Lotte Mart and Carrefour, 2 enormous supermarkets in the Denpasar area. In Indonesia, they really do things in extremes – most shops are tiny little general dealers, but then you find these gigantic supermarkets that dwarf any supermarket I’ve ever been in! There was an entire area devoted to slip-slops (thongs) – in every shape, colour, pattern and size imaginable. I didn’t need any, but did find it quite hard to resist given the complete abundance! To Noah’s dismay we couldn’t find Weetbix, and the range of cereals appeared limited to Cornflakes and some junky chocolate-bites. We did find oats and muesli though – and even raisins!

I took our sticky boat bedding to a nearby laundry collection point – and it returned 3 days later smelling and feeling wonderful. It’s amazing how salt eventually seems to permeate everything on the boat.

Marco organised for diesel to be delivered to the boat. There are officially 2 prices for diesel in Indo – one for locals, one for foreigners. Getting someone to bring it to you gets you closer to the local price – with a margin for transport, profit etc. Unfortunately our 20L jerry cans returned with only 18L in each one. The diesel-guy told us that measurements in Indo aren’t the same as in Australia – which was quite funny actually, but we then used an Indonesian bottle to show him the shortfall. He swore that the petrol station did the “ripping-off”. Marco wasn’t convinced, and persuaded him to refund us for the litres “lost” (after mentioning the police …). We then decided to fill our own petrol jerry cans – and the petrol attendant filled them meticulously, all measured electronically by the pump, and charged us the local price – 65 Australian cents (R 6.50) per litre! We really get ripped off in the west!

I did a little cooking on the boat, but it was generally too hot to think about working over a hot stove. We ate a lot of lunches at the marina – they make a great nasi goreng (vegetable fried rice) with egg and chicken. Our favourite dinner place was Warung Jawa Moro Seneng, situated in Sanur, about 20 minutes away by taxi. The taxis near the marina are quite ramshackled bemos (vans), but the drivers were always friendly and more than happy to sit and wait for us to eat before driving us back again.

Boys enjoying the night vibes from the taxi

Warung Jawa specialises in HOT Javanese food. There’s a huge selection of pre-made dishes – you just pick and choose what you feel like and they give you a tag with the price. We didn’t hold back – and I think the most expensive plate was $ 2.90 (probably averaged around $2.25).

Warung Jawa Moro Seneng
Josh loved the chicken and baked eggs
My choice of dishes – including beef rendang

The Warung had a shop connected to it, and I found good quality fruit, veges and eggs here too. We stocked up on dragonfruit (buah naga – great for morning smoothies), which are such a luminous pink that they must be a superfood. 

Bucketloads of produce
Shocking pink dragonfruit
Delicious morning smoothies

The boys spent most of their day at the marina restaurant – sitting in front of the huge fan doing school and recording the details of each aeroplane that came in to land nearby. It’s amazing how many planes arrive in Bali – Noah worked out that one arrives approximately every 4 minutes! Tourism is definitely booming here.

Lunch break

We were also constantly entertained by the happenings around us. Every day, massive boats would fill up with Chinese tourists and head off to Nusa Lembongan – with karaoke music blaring, and the DJ/MC revving it up on the microphone. The marina seemed to be a favourite spot for wedding footage – and we enjoyed watching the beautifully ornate brides pose in front of boats, run down the walkways, and even lie down whilst drones captured them from overhead. Eat your heart out Tali Babes!

Scarlet bride

We were also around on Tumpek Landep – the day when the Balinese Hindus give thanks for metal and metal items. A ceremony was held at the marina, and various offerings were placed in front of boats (which I think counted as “metal items”). Buses were decorated with woven-leaf items and flowers, and everyone was dressed in their ceremony-attire.

Tumpek Landep ceremony
Offerings laid out near the boats

Although the frequency of rain was reducing, there were still odd thunderstorms in the afternoon. The one evening we heard thunder rumbling softly in the distance, when suddenly, out of nowhere, a lightening bolt cracked down right next to us. In all my years growing up in stormy Johannesburg, I’ve never experienced such a powerful lightening strike. Thank God our boat and all the electrics appeared unscathed. The next day we heard that it struck a catamaran about 50m away from us – every single electrical item had to be replaced, and they weren’t insured. How things can change so quickly!

So, after about week after arriving in Bali, and after much slog, sweat and stress, we were ready to leave. We planned to go to Nusa Lembongan – an island about 15nm away, to test everything properly before heading across Java. Little did we know the trials that we would still have to face …


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