Tuesday, June 21, 2011


June 22, 2011-06-22
Pontianak, Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo. Tis the day after skate board day, and all is well! Our new young skateboard friends from Pontianak sent us off in fine style with boxes of Bingka, a custard/egg local specialty (it was delicious) and a skater t-shirt for me. Irena said it best, “we couldn’t have been more welcome than we were in Pontianak”.

And so it was in our first stop in Indonesia. I will confess to some trepidation making our way up the river of this most populous nation, past industrial grime, hazy airs, and then, the shanties perched along the river bank on stilts, people washing their clothes in a river so muddy at least, I was reluctant to step in. But as we motored up the river past the town center in search of the dock to check in with officials, we were taken in hand by two friendly chaps from the local coast guard who guided us in, helped us anchor, took us ashore, bought us coffee, told us of their families, showed us where Immigration, Customs and the Harbour Master hung their hats and then waved from the coffee shop each time we passed to and fro all morning long. From the moment we stepped ashore, there was friendliness, generosity, and curiosity. I will leave Rita to tell the tale of Iqbal and his friends, but for my part, let me say thank you for the t-shirt Reddy, and thank you Iqbal for your hospitality, friendship and help shopping for boat bits.
Ah yes, sailing and boat bits. It was a fair bash south from Kuching to Pontianak- 250 miles upwind against a full SE, S, SE Monsoon. But I must say I am over the moon with our capacity to sail upwind. Full genoa to 20 knots apparent, down to staysail after that, we made our way windward, tacking through less than 90 degrees at about 6.5 knots against good sized seas. The rig and new sails working without fault. I was concerned however coming up the river to see our engine losing power, but after four hours sweating in the engine room this proved to be the fault of dirty fuel plugging filters (fuel acquired in Tioman, Malaysia)} . Now outbound, with a box full of new Racor filters found on a dusty shelf in Pontianak, we hope to get through the remaining Malaysian fuel. I have no more replacements for the engine fuel filter, fingers crossed, because the Racor filters are only 30 microns. The last filter we replaced was BLACK. While in Pontianak, Dennis took the Bimini in hand, lowering it to avoid the mainsheet bash. Rita sewed hatch covers for the two forward Lewmar hatches, hoping to keep the saltwater out. Irena cleaned up after 4 days of upwind sailing, got the laundry done (what a hero!) and everyone pitched in with new provisioning.

Last night we had a bit of a scare. We left Pontianak town to motor down the river to a quieter place to anchor for a last night’s sleep before heading seaward to resume the southbound bash, when out of the dark came a very small high speed runabout full of 5 men shouting. They circled at high speed a couple of times, then came directly alongside as if to board (without invitation as you can imagine!). Things peaked with me standing at the rail shouting “No, No, No” and motioning them off, but on they came. Turns out they were the auxiliary coast guard, who were very apologetic when they saw what a fright they had given us. We explained who we were and what we were up to and then they roared off like the key stone cops, climbing on top of one another, hitting something in the water that stopped them, bringing the whole show to an eerie quiet. With a restart, the comedy continued, as they disappeared back into the dark. They were back just after midnight, but came more slowly, circled at a distance, and went off in a more leisurely pace. In the end, I was just as glad to have them out there patrolling, but gosh, I wish they didn’t approach like bandits!

Dennis: After arriving at Kuching, I still was saddened by the lack of care for the ocean and rivers. While in anchorage at the lovely marina that was brand new, the junk in the river was awful. Absolutely everything was in the water floating by. They have to start recycling here. After leaving Kuching and sailing in less than ideal conditions for 3 days we arrived at the mouth of the Kapuas River, dropped anchor and spent a very relaxing quiet evening listening to the birds on the shore. The first thing I noticed was the lack of plastic junk in the river and as we went up to Pontianak, no junk except branches from trees. Even with all the freighter traffic (and there was lots), the river was clean. We later learned from one of our new founds friends (Iqbal) that the country has a recycling program and that one of his friends has become very rich in the recycling program. We noticed little row boats combing the water’s edge for plastic and cans. The river still has some plastic bags that need recycling but I think the main culprits are the crews of the freighter whom I watched throwing stuff overboard like they do at sea. Rivers here are really quite muddy looking but are probably very fertile along the deltas where all the people live.

Rita: What an unexpected gem Pontianak turned out to be. We stopped to check in, provision and do laundry. Arriving on Sunday, not much was open. However, while Cress & Irena were in the Kartika Hotel lobby trying to get their internet to work they met a lovely young man named Iqbal. As it happens, Iqbal is a photographer & he showed Cress & Irena some recent photos on his camera. Imagine their surprise when Cress & Irena saw a photo of Conversations (anchored just in front of the hotel); Iqbal was equally delighted to meet the owners of this beautiful boat. He chatted with us at length and gave us all kinds of information and tips, AND he speaks excellent English (rare in this town). We arranged to meet him and several of his friends the next evening. What started out as “We’ll show you a good restaurant to get traditional Indonesian food” ended up being an entire afternoon and evening spent with 4 lovely young men – Iqbal (27 yrs) –‘ guide and translator, To-il (22yrs) skilled and fearless driver, Komang (23 yrs), guitarist and photographer, brother to To-il and business partner to Iqbal, and Reddy (19 yrs) who owns his own business selling and servicing skateboards, and is also a tattoo artist.
After running us around to do errands, they took us to the Equator monument and the Istana Kadriyah –- the ironwood palace constructed in 1771 for Pontianak‘s first sultan. They then took us to a bustling traditional open air market. There was stall after stall of all kinds of produce and some fish. We had so much fun buying our provisions – and Iqbal acted as our middleman. After dinner at a lovely restaurant, we all came back to the boat. We sat around listening to their music and drinking “American Iced tea” (a term Iqbal coined for beer).

The next day (Tuesday) was a big day for them. Every June 21, skateboarders from all over Indonesia come to Pontianak to celebrate boarding. Our 4 new friends were all planning to take part. Even with that big event taking place, they found time to meet us for lunch –- and brought us some wonderful Bingka – a delicious (enak) traditional baked custard that is available only in Pontianak. AlaMA! (Wow!) It was yummy! And can you imagine?? These 4 young men even invited us (4 middle-aged tourists) to their party that evening. Lucky for them we had to leave ! , but not before Iqbal took Cress around on his motorbike to hunt down some special oil filters he needed for the boat.

Iqbal, To-il, Komang, and Reddy – Terima kasih!! You made our visit to your beautiful city so special. YOU are so SPECIAL!! Keep safe and happy, and we hope you can make it to Canada someday! We would love the opportunity to welcome you to our home and show you around. And we would just love to be able to meet again someday in this wondrous world of ours.

Irena: What more can I say? This place was our diamond in the rough, a very special treat after a few days of rough and tumble seas. We can only hope that somewhere in Canada, a few Indonesians are being welcomed in the same way that we were. This is why we love travelling in our unique way on ‘Conversations’. Cruisers are rare here in Pontianak, so we were somewhat treated as celebrities here. On the streets people would shout –‘Hello!!! How are you!!‘ – basically any English they knew!! It got to the point that when someone would shout –‘ whats your name‘ – I would reply –‘Joan Wilder‘ (I am sure some of you will get that).
And so, we are now set to make our way down the coast to Kumai perhaps stopping to snorkel at some islands along the way. Until then……
The Captain, First Mate and Good Crew of Conversations bid you farewell


  1. Wow. Summer solstice right on the equator. Warm enough?! Did you grind a few rails on the skateboards?!

  2. many many thanks!! cress,irena,dannish,rita for sailing on pontianak!! great day with you, and many great moment to share! we all always miss you, and hope someday you can back to pontianak, and we us drink "american ice tea" again!

    bon voyage captain cresswell walker!! we all always miss you!