Sunda Straight and Krakatoa

Sunda Straight

Sunda Straight

We reached the southern tip of Sumatra where a ton of shipping activity flows between Java and Sumatra (the Sunda Straight). Some are ships going through the gap to or from the Indian Ocean to distant destinations. There were many large ferries going back and forth between the two big islands on a continuous basis. The picture to the right shows Java on the left, Sumatra on the right, and the Indian Ocean straight ahead through the Straight.

A ferry terminal on the Sumatra side lies behind several islands that provide shelter for the port. We went close to the coast behind the islands hoping to find a place to take on fuel. At a small fishing village near the port I spotted a dock with two fuel barrels with our binoculars. But, there was a very narrow passage to the locations and we had over 2 knots of current going by. It was too dangerous for us to attempt getting to the location, and we had no idea whether they would sell us the fuel. We went by the ferry docks, but there was no sign of fueling going on. Apparently they get all their fuel on the Java side. This makes sense since there are large fuel refineries in Java. So we dodged the large ferries, as they danced there way in and out, and continued into the Sunda Straight itself.

Hours earlier, we had received an E-mail from a boat who had left Puteri Harbour a few days before us, called s/v Gryphon 2, also headed for Cocos Keeling. They told us they had arrived recently at the volcanic islands of Krakatoa (aka “Krakotau” in Indonesian). Yes, the site of the infamous volcanic eruption in the 19th century that was heard for thousands of miles. One of the islands is called “Son of Krakatoa” and is still quite active. Karen and I decided we would attempt to sail out to Krakatoa, and discuss options for when to leave for Cocos Keeling with Gryphon 2, and also so we could see the beautiful volcanic islands.

Approaching Krakatoas

Approaching Krakatoas

We started sailing with plenty of wind in the Sunda Straight, unfortunately from the direction we wanted to go. We decided we would tack our way there even if it took all day to go the 27 miles. By the time we were attempting our third tack, I was wondering if there was something wrong either with the boats instruments, or my sailing skills. It seemed like the wind was bending us the wrong direction on each tack. Then I slapped my forehead and realized we not only had the wind against us, but also a large current as well. I knew from our tide predicting software the current was going to be against us until late in the day. So, we dropped the sails and decided to motor to Krakatoa spending another 15-20 liters of fuel.

Krakatoa

Krakatoa

Despite the huge explosion that destroyed most of the original volcano, the main island of Krakatoa is still an impressive site even from 25 miles away (especially with a big storm behind it). As we got closer, we could see Krakatoa was covered in lush tropical vegetation since the main island has been inactive for many years. But, the Son of Krakatoa is still actively growing in size, and we could see its barren rocky surface and the caldera spewing smoke and steam.

Son of Krakatoa

Son of Krakatoa

Here is a picture of “Son of Krakatoa from the base of Krakatoa to the west. At first we didn’t find Gryphon 2, and they had not been answering our VHF radio calls. They were not at the base of Krakatoa like we expected. So, we thought they must have left. We also did not find a place to anchor where we expected. The winds were from the southwest, and the options with shelter were limited according to our charts. We decided to go to the far side of the active volcano. As we got closer to the active volcano we suddenly spotted a sailboat at anchor at the northwest side of it. Sure enough, it was Gryphon 2! We hailed them on the radio and they said there might be room to anchor nearby. We got to the location, but we were uncomfortable with the limited anchoring room and the proximity to the sulfuric gasses coming down the side of the mountain.

We attempted going to another nearby island, but the charts (three different sets) were all wrong about the depths. It was far deeper (40 to 50 meters) than the 10 to 15 meters charted. So, we sailed to the last available option and discussed sailing over to Java if it didn’t work (which at this point would have meant a night time passage as sunset was approaching). Fortunately, the charts were much more accurate here and we anchored next to two fishing boats who also were sheltering here. At last, a break after 2.5 days of passage-making!

Unfortunately, we had no view of the volcano so we put the dinghy in the water. After sunset, we took a quick trip around the tip of the island we were hiding behind. But, the volcano had no visible night-time activity. Bummer.

Anchored Near Volcano

Anchored Near Volcano

After dinner Karen and I discussed our options. There were some light winds in the forecast that we could possibly use to attempt to sail to Cocos Keeling starting the next day. But, the winds looked really weak and we would probably have to resort to using fuel. There are more winds forecasted 5 days later. We could either go to the Java coast to wait for better weather, or go ahead and leave for Cocos Keeling. We discussed this plan with Gryphon 2 in the morning as we departed. Karen got this great photo of the volcano with Gryphon 2 at anchor. They plan to stay for now at Krakatoa and wait. We knew we can get 3G about 10 miles east, so we motored out there first thing in the morning. The latest weather data confirmed now is not the time to leave, so we sailed (and motored) to the Java coast. Looks like beginning of next week will be better.

As soon as we anchored at the coastal bay we selected, some local boys motored out in a small boat and asked if we needed any services (all in Indonesia mind you and lots of hand gesturing). I said we needed “Solar” (diesel fuel) and “Berapa?” (how much) for 200 liters. They said they would go ashore and come back and tell us tomorrow. A plus, the Internet 3G service is good here, so this looks like a good waiting spot for now. Map of the volcano site is below:

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