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At Anchor in Benoa Harbour, Bali

By Kate “Bob” Addison

Monday October 6th, 2014

Monday morning finds Picton Castle at anchor in Benoa Harbour, Bali. After the four week passage from Vanuatu, we have finally reached land and find ourselves in another world. It’s a bit of a shock to the system to look around from the quarterdeck and see land so close. It’s quite a change from the unbroken horizon of blue on blue that has been our familiar back drop for so long as we sailed more than 3,200nm from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean.

It’s the end of the first leg of this voyage. Half way round the world and we’re already a quarter of the way through this voyage, though with so many new crew joining here in Bali, it feels much like the end of a short but wonderful voyage and the start of the next. We have four crew members schedluled to leave us here, and as always it’s hard to say goodbye after after they’ve been part of our unusual floating family for so long. Arriving as strangers and leaving as shipmates, Rob, Laffi, Luke and Murray – it’s been great to sail with you, we hope to see you again soon!

Benoa Harbour is off a peninsula at the south of the island of Bali and we have plenty of company here at anchor. The surrounding waters are stuffed full of beautiful Indonesian fishing boats, moored fore-and-aft and rafted up three or four abreast. Made of wood, steel and even fibreglass they are painted bright turquoise, red and shades of white and grey. They have distinctive boxy, over hanging transoms, some built up very high, and wide flat bows rather like soup plates. Many have deeply curved rubbing strakes painted contrasting colours which have a jaunty, Medieval look. Or maybe it’s just how things are in the Far East. Funny that we’ve spent so many months sailing west to find ourselves in the Far East.

So here we are in Bali, and it is really an amazing place. The only Hindu island in Muslim Indonesia, Bali is bustling, colourful, welcoming and delightfully hectic. No more South Pacific island time for us for a while – the tranquility of barely inhabited motus with their white sand and coconut palms has been replaced by the bright lights and buzz of big cities linked together by four-lane roads: mopeds with two, three or even four passengers aboard weaving in and out through the cars and trucks, and policemen with batik patterned uniforms blowing whistles and holding up red neon sticks to direct the flow. It’s all very polite and gracious, no beeping of horns or obvious signs of impatience, and miraculously all the vehicles seem to stream past each other without actually colliding. But it feels very fast and a bit scary, used as we are to travelling at five miles per hour, with at least a mile or two between us and the next nearest vessel.

The sides of the roads are lined with a hundred small shops, making and selling everything, apparently. As well as the usual convenience stores and small fresh fruit stands there are stretches of highway dedicated to a particular type of craft: this part of the road sells wood carvings, furniture and carved wooden doors while the next sells sections sells nothing but carved stone statues of Buddha and Ganesh (I thought Bali was Hindu, why all the Buddhas?). They are perfect for your temple, garden, café or sophisticated yoga studio. There are giant and wonderful kites in the shape of dragons and birds, coloured glass lanterns, bamboo bird cages and thousands of sarongs and other apparel of every colour, pattern and quality you can possibly imagine.

Here at anchor everything is a bit more peaceful than inland. The water is beautiful in the early morning light, and all is quiet save for our neighbours’ generators until the distinctive smell of clove cigarettes wafting across the water from the fishing boats indicates that the day is starting. Soon the work boats start moving about: the tug Maiden Kitty moving huge sand barges and cargo carriers around, and fishing boats heading out to sea or coming home with their catch. The Indonesian Naval ship Surabaya is alongside a dock a couple of ship lengths away. Her crew all line up in uniform for their morning exercise, marching at the double round the deck at the stern of the ship – which seems to double as helipad and exercise yard. Later the tourist boats join the melee: speedboats zipping about, many towing imaginatively shaped inflatable tourist-carriers, plenty of jet skis too. There are paragliders off Kuta Beach and their colourful canopies dot the morning sky far in the distance. Big boats too: there are ferries to Lombok blasting terrible music at full volume, and a rather pretty ketch with sails made of netting and party lights that comes out every night to anchor near Picton Castle on her evening ‘dinner and a show’ cruises. I would prefer it if they didn’t play the same soundtrack at the same time every night, and if “YMCA” wasn’t immediately followed by “Gangnam Style”. But at least they are soon gone and then by about 9pm all is quiet aboard.

Fishing boats in Benoa Harbour

Fishing boats at anchor in Benoa Harbour

Our neighbours

Our neighbours at anchor in Benoa Harbour, Bali

Tourist ship

The tourist ship with twinkle lights and netting for sails

Vai and an Indonesian fishing boat

Vai and one of the Indonesian fishing boats

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