Cruising with Matt and Jade

After 1 month of boat work in Bali, and with a thumbs up from Marco, we were finally ready to cruise again. We were thrilled to hear that our friend Matt and his lovely new wife, Jade, were keen to join us on the boat. They were in Nusa Lembongan (on their honeymoon!), and we decided to sail across the Lombok Strait (again) to meet them (and hopefully confirm that all boat systems were running smoothly again).

After the previous eventful crossing to Nusa Lembongan, we did our homework and got some information about the best tide and route for the crossing. We were advised to head north along the Bali coastline, and cross to the island at the narrowest part of the channel. We hit very strong tumultuous currents as we left Serangan, and by the time we had the main sail up we had been sucked south of Benoa by the current! Here we go again! However, we slowly made progress north and after a couple of miles the current eased, and we maintained a decent 5-6 knots for most of the trip.

We had decided to pick up a mooring at Nusa Lembongan rather than anchor, but were chased off the first 2 moorings we chose. The Cruising Guide says that moorings are for rent on a first-come-first-served basis, but the tourist operators seem to claim certain moorings and it’s not really clear who has the rights to them. In the end we decided to anchor, and Marco swam around with a snorkel looking for the perfect sandy patch amongst the rocks and reef. I had the job of manoeuvring the boat to where he was – although each time I got there we’d all drifted in the current and had to start all over again!

Leaving Matt and Jade to enjoy the last of their “alone time”, we spent the next day making water. As usual, there were some issues to sort out as the watermaker had been packed away and stored during our 3 months in South Africa. Fortunately they weren’t insurmountable (impellers and squashed hoses), and we were able to fill our tanks with lovely clean water again. We cleaned up the boat as best we could, prepared the “honeymoon suite” (Noah’s cabin) and then jumped into the dinghy at sunset to meet the lovebirds for supper.

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Welcome aboard lovebirds!

We were keen to enjoy and explore Nusa Lembongan a bit, since our previous visit had been pretty disastrous. Matt and Jade were the perfect tourguides, having spent a week on the island already, and we decided to hire scooters and go exploring with them. First stop was Devil’s Tear – a dramatic rocky cliff-face where the waves smash and rebound in a frothing spray from the depths below. It was pretty wild – and a number of unsuspecting tourists were almost swept off the rocks. No railing to keep the tourists back – one has to rely on good old common sense here. We had to chuckle at the number of flip-flops that were bobbing in the sea below, and then understood the ingenuity of the lady selling shoes at a stall on the way out.

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It looks calm doesn’t it …
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… until a wave smashes in …
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… and the thundering rebounding spray

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Next we headed off to Nusa Ceningan – a smaller island next to Nusa Lembongan, connected by a long yellow (narrow) bridge. You have to keep your cool and look straight ahead when passing an oncoming motorbike on the bridge! There are lots of beautiful warungs along the beach, but we headed up into the hills to Matt and Jade’s favourite spot, and feasted on delicious burgers. We even tried the black rice pudding with coconut cream and mango.

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Lunch spot on Nusa Ceningan

Feeling satisfied, we headed further upwards, reaching a high point where we could see Nusa Penida and the narrow channel between the 2 islands with a fierce current running in between. Nusa Penida is very undeveloped and pristine, as the Balinese believe it’s where the evil spirits live. It was a good place to relax, enjoy a fresh coconut and swing out over the channel.

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Viewpoint – looking out towards Nusa Penida

We also enjoyed time on the water at Lembongan. Marco and Matt paddled out to Shipwrecks, but I think the most fun was had when everyone surfed together at Playgrounds. Jade was whooping on every wave, Matt was glowing with pride, the boys were styling, Marco was powering through on a SUP, and I paddled nearby on a SUP (away from the waves) – with a beautiful sunset in the background.

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Back from a fun surf

After all that fun it was time to leave Nusa Lembongan, and introduce Matt and Jade to sailing. We decided to head for Jimbaran Bay, as this would reduce the distance to Grajagan. We sped down the Lombok Strait (for the last time, hooray!), and rounded the southern point of Bali. We had a fair amount of wind, so could switch off the engines and enjoy the peace and quiet of being out in the sea. The swells were pretty big, and Jade, Josh and I felt a little queasy at times, but it was a pleasant sail overall. It was interesting seeing the cliffs of Uluwatu from the sea, and trying to identify places we’d been to in Bingin and Belangan. The wind picked up as we neared Jimbaran, and we sped into the large anchorage with a couple hours of light to spare.

Jimbaran Bay is filled with colourful fishing boats – different to those we’d seen at any of the previous Indonesian islands. Most of them come from Java (called Slerek), have large tapered points at both ends, lots of flags and sometimes even an ornate “chair” high up on a pole (presumably for spotting fish). We anchored amongst the fishing boats, and then jumped into the dinghy for the renowned “ikan bakar” (fish braai) that is offered all along the Jimbaran beachfront.

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Javanese Slerek
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Some of our neighbours

The dinghy beach landing was not that easy, as the swells push into the bay and dump on the beach. Marco sussed out the least dumpy spot, timed it well and delivered us to the beach in style. We picked the nearest warung, sat at our candlelit table on the sand and relished a cold beer. The food was rather average and overpriced, but the setting was wonderful. There was even entertainment – a Chinese marching band in bright yellow suits, with rather militaristic drumming and strange operatic yodelling. Probably the most bizarre beachfront entertainment we’d ever seen!

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Ikan bakar
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Beachside entertainment?

Our exit from the beach wasn’t quite as stylish as our entrance. Being dark by this time, we couldn’t see the dumpers until they were right on us – and unfortunately Jade and I had already climbed into the dinghy when we were swamped by a breaking wave. The trip back was spent bailing water in sopping clothing and debating who’s idea it was to get into the dinghy in the first place! Luckily all our valuables/electronic devices were in Ziploc bags and drybags, so nothing too serious.

The next morning we caught a water-taxi to the jetty (much safer) and checked out the Jimbarin fish market. It’s pretty impressive – so much fish, including massive mahi-mahi, dorado, tuna, barracuda etc. We spotted a huge marlin the following day – it must have been about 2m long! I was impressed at how hygienic the market was too –  everything on ice and hardly any flies.

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Negotiating the jetty’s stairs
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Jimbaran fish market

Unfortunately we couldn’t buy any as we had to get Marco to the dentist. He had cracked a tooth (or filling) whilst eating popcorn, and had made an appointment at a dentist in Kuta. The dental practice was very professional, run by a German and a team of local dentists. The main dentist examined Marco and then organised one of the local dentists to do the filling. The procedure was efficient and professional, and only cost about $70! Marco was thrilled (albeit numb).

With medical complaints seen to, we could now leave for Grajagan. Grajagan is situated on the south-eastern point of Java, in the Alas Purwo National Park. It is most famous for G-Land, a fantastic left-hander that thunders down the point, rated as one of the top ten waves in the world. Grajagan is 55 nautical miles from Jimbaran, and we expected the crossing to take about 10-12 hours. We had good east-south-easterly winds and were able to sail most of the way. The swells were quite big, hitting us on the port beam, and we spent most of the day lounging around, trying to keep any queasiness at bay.

That is, until we caught a fish – and not just any fish, the first fish we have caught in Indonesia and the biggest fish we have caught to date – a 15-20kg 1.3m mahi-mahi! We put it down to the blessing of having Matt and Jade on board. I was so glad that Matt was there to help land the beast, as it flapped around viciously and was quite a battle to subdue. The rest of the journey was spent cutting up the fish. Everyone had their preferred cutting style – Marco was into thick steaks (cross-sections chopped right through the spine), I asked for fillets (which are quite tricky to cut properly), and Matt tried out a fancy-schmancy butterflied-fillet method that turned out to be brilliant!

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Our massive mahi-mahi
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Matt teaching Noah his fancy filleting method

With our fridge and freezer full, we rounded the headland and entered Grajagan bay – and the boys all started frothing at the sight of perfect barrels roaring down the point. The anchorage was spectacular – a beautiful virginal forest headland, big sandy beaches and a huge bay with no other boats to be seen. Marco, Matt and Noah paddled out for an epic sunset surf and we then all tucked into a feast of pan-fried mahi-mahi, rice and vegetables, washed down with some rather “interesting” red wine we found in Bali.

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The dream sight

The next day we went to explore the land. It took us a while to figure out where to land the dinghy, as the coastline is dominated by pounding waves, but we spotted a small channel between 2 waves that could be crossed at high tide. First stop was the ranger’s station. He had visited our boat earlier that morning whilst the guys were surfing, and it seemed that we had to pay an anchoring/surfing fee. He agreed to only charge for the 2 main surfers ($30 per day), but we still thought it was pretty steep given the lack of any facilities, and the comparative price of accommodation in Bali. Matt and Jade went to check out some of the surf camps, and we went in the opposite direction – into the jungle. It’s so cool amongst the trees and clumps of bamboo, and the ground was damp and smelt of leaves and earth. Unfortunately we couldn’t spend too long exploring as the tide was receding and we needed to get through the channel before the reef was exposed, but I was keen to go back to explore further.

I had my opportunity the following day, when I walked 2-3km along the jungle track, ending up at Tiger Tracks, an intermediate wave where the boys were surfing. The track followed the coastline, and I passed a number of rudimentary structures set up near the beach with a lone fisherman gazing at the sea. They were always friendly and keen for chat, amazed at how we were actually from Africa (not black!) and lived on a boat. I didn’t spot any animals, apart from the odd cheeky monkey who would gaze longingly at my backpack.

Tiger Tracks is at a stunning part of the bay – out of the wind, with crystal blue water and a beautiful white beach, fringed with low-branching trees. We suggested to Matt and Jade that we spend a day there – and they were keen. They had gone exploring around the point to the southern part of the headland, and were disappointed to find that it was wild, rocky and more barren. We packed a picnic and spent a wonderful day at Tiger Tracks, swimming, surfing, taking photos and relaxing in the shade. Noah and Josh wouldn’t get out the water, and really got the hang of the wave. Jade caught the “wave of her life”– so was super-stoked. I was thrilled to finally have my camera on land so I could capture some of the beauty!

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Paradise

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Tiger Tracks
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Feeling the stoke

On our last day we headed to one of the surf camps (Bobby’s) for lunch. We met up with some people Matt knew from Hawaii and enjoyed substantial burgers. Noah and Josh played pool and table tennis, and enjoyed watching the staff chase the monkeys away with their catties/stuffed leopard.

We spent a total of 4 days in Grajagan, and had such a good time. Finally, this is what we do all the boat-work for! We were particularly blessed to be able to share it with such an awesome couple. They were so enthusiastic, never complained and were game for everything. We filled our tummies with mahi-mahi (Jade and I even tried out a beer-batter recipe and did pretty well at it), spent many evenings laughing over board games, had more serious discussions about marriage, life and God, and joked about the crazy things that pop up in boat-life (like blocked toilets and disgusting towels). Spending time together on a boat creates a bond that takes much longer to develop on land – thank you for sharing part of your honeymoon with us guys!

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So great to finally have some female company!
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The dudes

We were a little apprehensive about the return sail to Jimbarin as it was into wind – the first time that we were planning to sail against the tradewinds. Fortunately the wind was moderate and the swell small, so was not unpleasant at all. The crossing took about 10 hours and we anchored right near our previous spot, just in time to see the Javanese Slerek fishing boats heading off to fish for the night.

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