Boat Repairs: Life in Serangan and Sanur

Due to a combination of unfortunate events, we now found ourself back in Bali and anchored in Serangan. We had lost our starboard propeller, and needed to decide on a plan of action. Marco wanted to inspect the propeller and check what was missing – and also check that the shaft and other bits and pieces it attaches to were still working. We really had 2 options – either haul the boat out at the haul-out facility in Benoa, or beach it in Serangan. Going to Benoa would involve being towed (again), and higher costs. We weren’t sure if the total costs of the whole operation would exceed our insurance excess, so didn’t want to clock up a fortune if we could help it. We thought we’d explore the Serangan option, seeing as it was close by and was an option used by many western boats.

So off we went to Warung Sunrice (not “sunrise”) to meet Made, one of the “agents” who organises beaching. Overly a leisurely lunch (giving new meaning to the term “slow food”), we got to examine crocheted turtles, woven anklets, shells and numerous other trinkets collected by “Mary make nice” – one of the most insistent ladies we’ve come across in Bali. Incidentally, she earned her nickname by giving Marco an unexpected neck massage during lunch, and repeating “Mary make nice … Mary make nice …”. Unfortunately her massaging fees were double that of proper studios in Sanur – so although Mary might make nice, Mary don’t make nice price!

Mary making nice (photo by Josh)

Anyway, back to Made. He seemed likeable enough and said he could organise a team of guys to help us get onto the beach, secure the boat and sandbag the keels if necessary. They would also antifoul the boat whilst Marco worked on the engines. After some discussion it was agreed – for a price about a fifth of the cost in Benoa.

Coincidentally we also met a yachtsman (Mick) from Australia in Warung Sunrice. He had just lost a propeller and had recently ordered the exact propeller we needed! Unfortunately, he had decided on our brand (Kiwiprop) as he’d heard they don’t fall off – and so he wasn’t thrilled to hear about our experience!

Just before the next spring tide we made our way through the bay towards the sandbars. The moorings and boats seem to get closer and closer together the further in you go – and Marco wasn’t keen to try and weave a 7m wide catamaran between them all with only 1 engine. We followed a course just on the outside of the moorings (which we’d been told was possible) – and had a couple of heart-stopping episodes when the depth dropped from 7m to 1m without warning (our draft is around 1.1m). We actually thought we were stuck at one stage, but Made’s team of guys were wading around the boat and managed to dislodge us and guide us onto the sandbar where the boat was to sit. Unfortunately the tides weren’t quite high enough to get our keels out of the water, so over the next couple of days they edged us forward with each rising tide, until we were sitting high and pretty at new moon.

Slowly edging onto the sandbar

Serangan is a pretty gross place. It’s a big estuary that could be quite beautiful, but in reality is polluted and full of rubbish. A lot of boat work happens in here, and all the waste, chemicals and pollutants just flow into the lagoon. Add plastic and general litter into the mix, and you get a bit of a dump. Not a place that we wanted to live in – so we headed off to nearby Sanur to find a nicer place to stay whilst the boat work happened.

As usual, the Lonely Planet was on the mark. I had honed in on “Yulia Homestay” – which was supposed to be a lush little oasis in the heart of Sanur, and great value for money. Although their website said they had no availability, we took a chance and paid them a visit. They were so welcoming, had an airconditioned room available, and were more than happy to bring in an extra bed so we could all fit in one room. Wonderful!

I love the rooftops of Bali – view from our room
Comfy airconditioned room

And so began our life for the next 4 weeks – the boys and I spending our days at Yulia, whilst Marco travelled to Serangan every morning to work on the boat. The day would start with a delicious breakfast tray brought to our balcony – piled high with colourful fresh fruit (including buah naga – dragonfruit, my favourite) and toast, butter and jam. Marco would then trudge off to his hired scooter for a day in the saltmines, and generally meet us back in Sanur for supper.

Good morning!


Off to Serangan

The boys and I were pretty busy though. Yulia had fast Wifi, which made it possible for me to work. This was really great, as I was able to recoup the boat costs and pay for the extra expenses that we were now incurring – all in a beautiful environment. We were surrounded by a lush garden and constant birdsong, as the owner of Yulia keeps numerous birds and enters them in bird singing competitions (which are apparently big in Bali).

Not a bad view from the “office”
Green everywhere!
Filled with birdsong – unfortunately many in cages

There was also a wonderful swimming pool, which provided refreshment and breaks in between work and school. The boys did get lots of school done – finished their first Afrikaans workbook, learned about sound energy in Science, studied mollusks in our Sea Creatures topic, finished “The Broken Spear” (a novel set in the times of the Great Trek), did lots of Maths (of course), amongst other things. They have also taken to documenting all the funny little episodes/characters we meet – Noah in 3-frame comics, and Josh in a journal.

My little monkeys
Loving the pool at Yulia
Josh writing his memoirs

Every lunchtime we’d head out in search of food. Luckily for us, Yulia was situated right next to Warung Little Bird, which became our all-time favourite eating spot in Sanur (which is saying something, since we ate out for 4 weeks!). It’s run by a group of young guys who all share the cooking, serving, jamming and joking – and make an awesome range of fast, fresh, healthy dishes whilst they’re at it! Noah discovered the Mie Kuah, a chicken-noodle soup packed with crunchy vegetables (which was particularly nourishing when I picked up a slight cold). Josh alternated between the Nasi Goreng and beef burger, whereas I tried out a range of their dishes and was never disappointed (their Cah Kangkung was amazing and packed with fresh garlic). Best of all, the average meal cost $3-$4! It was also a great supper-spot, often with live music – and we’d often meet Marco there and try and cheer him up after his day of slog.


Some of the fun guys at the warung
Great live music and vibes

Yes, Marco was slogging it out in the heat and grime of Serangan. He spent a lot of time inspecting and testing the starboard prop-shaft. Luckily, it seemed like the shaft was fine and we therefore just needed a new propeller sent from New Zealand. He spent many hours at DHL and Customs trying to get information about how best to import the part into Indonesia – all with varying answers and suggestions. In the meantime, Made’s team were antifouling the boat – but Marco needed to be involved, making sure they first cleaned and prepared the boat properly, applied the correct number of layers, supported the boat adequately etc. He also removed and replaced the rubber diaphragms that fit over the saildrives, and started investigating possible causes as to why the starboard engine had overheated.

Luckily, the team he worked with were really great. They spent a lot of time laughing and joking together, often teasing Marco when he’d “lose his cool” when something went wrong. It’s amazing – in Indonesia, no-one raises their voices or goes “bos” when there’s a problem, they just laugh about it and carry on. Quite an example to us! Marco also made friends with a Russian guy (Alex) who was working on the boat next door. He was really knowledgeable and helpful, and nice for Marco to have someone to bounce ideas off.

The propeller arrived in Denpasar about 4 days after being sent from New Zealand – pretty impressive really. The trick was to get it released by Customs. Apparently they are not supposed to charge anything if the item is going to be installed on a visiting yacht – but the process is a bit of a nightmare. You can either go through a whole hassle of filling in a variety of forms, dropping them off at the relevant parties and getting Customs to inspect your boat (for a fee), or you pay an upfront amount and then claim it back (ja right). After feedback from Mick (our propeller-less fellow yachtie), we went the latter route and just wrote the amount off. He had started the process of trying to claim the money back – and had almost spent more in fees than the amount he was due. So we ended up paying a 25% import duty – we figured it was the cost of sanity.

Marco could now fit the propeller! Seems easy enough – but the thread where the bolts go in was caked with scale and scum. This meant hours of painstaking and careful cleaning – whilst wallowing in the dirty water with his head at an inhuman angle. Anyway, eventually it was done, the propeller was fitted, secured and tested – perfect! Now to sort out the overheating problem.

Marco was able to take the odd weekend day off, which meant a bit of surfing. Sindu Reef at Sanur was the boys’ favourite, although turned onshore if they arrived too late. We hired a car and spent a day in Uluwatu, after spending 1.5 hours in the horrendous traffic to get there. The waves were huge and powerful – too powerful for the boys, and too big for Marco’s 6’6, but still good for him to be out there. I decided that I really didn’t like Uluwatu much after all – too touristy, too many pushy ladies trying to sell you sarongs and massages, no free toilets and not much for non-surfers to do.

Pumping Ulu’s

We then went on a bit of a road-trip to Belangan, which is probably only 10km away from Uluwatu as the crow flies, but 1 hour away through the windy dirt tracks. Belangan is a tucked-away bay with big gnarly waves, backed by a tall cliff covered in brides, grooms and wedding photographers, and a smattering of ramshackled warungs on the beach. It was too late to surf, but we enjoyed a meal at one of the warungs served by a chatty waiter – who as it turned out, was one of the crew from the ill-fated Concordia! He didn’t want to set foot on a boat again – and we couldn’t really blame him!


Belangan beach

One exciting event was that we experienced our first earthquake! Ok, it thankfully wasn’t a major one – measured 5.5, with the epicentre in the sea north of Bali. It was 6pm and I was just finishing off a report for work when everything started vibrating – sort of like when a big engine is idling. I immediately thought “earthquake”. It lasted about 10s and was over – but was documented later on the internet, and confirmed by people all over Bali. Just a reminder that we are in the Ring of Fire!

Sanur was becoming a bit like our “backyard”. It’s touristy, but still fairly laid back. There do seem to be an unusually large number of old overweight western men – generally wearing a “Bintang” vest, and with a young Balinese girlfriend in tow. Many of them seemed to enjoy having an English-speaking white lady to speak to (at the pool / warung), and I seemed to be the sounding board for their many aches and pains (and sometimes vast knowledge of natural health remedies). The main street is full of restaurants – from small warungs to fancy 5-star places, and the beachfront is lined with big hotels and “vendors”. What we enjoyed though, is that there are gems hidden all over the place – you just have to know where to look. Great value warungs with more authentic food, genuine shop owners who see you as more than a dollar-sign, sweet massage-therapists who don’t force themselves on you, awesome wooden carvings and bright clothes and sarongs. The trouble starts when you show interest – we got quite good at quickly checking things out, and then scurrying away before the shop-owner came to “sell” it to us. Noah really hated being hassled by the “looking looking” ladies, and discovered that if he spoke a different language they tended to leave him alone. His favourite line was “die volgende bladsy” – obviously something I say a lot in our Afrikaans lessons!

Exploring the neighbourhood by bike – and ending up at Warung Kecil
I loved this nasi campur at Warung Pengkula

One of my favourite spots was Ganesha Bookshop (which was also right next to Yulia Homestay). It has a great selection of books on Indonesian culture, food, travel memoirs, history etc, as well as general English novels. I had to control myself each time I went in, and could have blown the family fortune there!

Just a couple of the books I bought

Marco had been struggling to get to the bottom of the overheating problem, and had also noticed that the flow of water coming out of the engine cooling system was much reduced on the starboard side. He had checked all the pipes, replaced filters and oil and done what he could, but eventually asked a mechanic to help him get to the bottom of it. The guy was really knowledgeable and found that the pipes inside the heat exchanger were caked with scale. After cleaning these (which is fiddly and requires special instruments), the water intake reverted to normal. They took the boat out for a spin to test and strain the engines – no overheating, no smoking! Verdict: problem solved!

It was a joyous day when Marco phoned to tell me the good news. He was positive and upbeat – which was awesome after 4 weeks of setbacks and slog. What an ordeal it has all been – especially for Marco. I lost count of the number of times he’d wanted to sell (or sink) the boat, or the number of evenings he’d come back filthy and demoralised. My prayers were for perseverance and guidance – and I’m thrilled that it seems like all systems are go (for now anyway). Alex (his Russian friend) had a birthday bash on his boat on that same day – and Marco got to celebrate our success with all those who helped work on the boat … and a bit of Russian vodka too.

So now, we’re looking forward and planning for our next voyage. The boys have been so patient, understanding and flexible through all these changes in plans – so we thought we’d take them out for a day of crazy kitsch fun. Bring on the Bali Waterbom!



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