Farewell Indonesia, Farewell Southeast Asia

Farewell Indonesia, Farewell Southeast Asia

Time to say goodbye

4th to 10th August

A palm oil refinery, stocking up, last goodbyes, and papers

After over two years and a few thousand miles in Southeast Asia, over a year of which has been in Indonesia, it’s time to move on.

For me, and apart from Europe, this is the most wonderful region of our planet. A long and fascinating history, colourful people, sophisticated culture, a multitude of different languages, diverse religions, fine mountains, clear seas and overwhelmingly friendly people.

Little wonder that so many boats stay here for many years. Some come here and never leave. Were it not so far from my home, I’d stay longer. Were it not for the global bug, I’d like more travel on land.  But for now, and before it’s too late, I choose to move on.

The past few days in Belitung have been busy. Fellow boat owners will know the tasks involved in preparing for long offshore passages. The checks: engine, standing rigging, running rigging, shackles, cables, batteries. Cleaning: hull, inside lockers, fridge, windows, laundry. Shopping: spares. Last emails, weather forecasts, route planning, and so on.

…oh yes! Food for a month or more too.


Before leaving there was just time  for a visit to Belitung’s biggest palm oil refinery. William, the manager, has invited me to come and see it. It is a fascinating day out.

Palm oil fruit awaiting processing

I’ve always loved factory visits.  I’ll not swamp you with palm oil technicalities (though my note book is crammed).

From this….
..via this, and …
…this…to …

Suffice to say, 12,000 hectares of palm trees are grown from seed, transplanted till maturity brings the fruit, which is then harvested manually and trucked to the refinery in a constant stream of small lorries, and tractor/trailers – about one every seven minutes all day. The fruit has to be milled within a few hours of picking and goes through a series of heating, milling, cooling, heating processes and lots of computer-controlled pipes and tubes and tanks, to result in a list of end products that includes cooking oil, solid greasy stuff (for soap, margarine, shampoo, cosmetics, ice cream and lots of other things), plus biodiesel. Dry residues are used to fire the boilers to provide the plant’s electricity, and exported for cattle feed. Everything is used.

..and this..(cattle feed)



With the general manager, William, at the refinery’s jetty


We go down to the jetty where the products are stored before shipping overseas.

The ship we see is typical of the global maritime industry:- Bermuda registered, Russian captain, Philippino crew, cargo from Indonesia, heading for Malaysia. They await papers and a pilot and high tide. Every month, I estimate 30-50,000 tonnes of the various products are exported.The EU has given palm oil bad press. Plantations have devoured many thousands of hectares of rainforest in Malaysia and Indonesia (though in Belitung, the native forests, where they existed, have long since been destroyed with tin mining. Soils are not fertile.)

I’ll not enter the debate as to the merits or otherwise of palm oil plantations. This refinery meets European standards. Working conditions for around 3,000 employees are good (play group, clinic, landscaping, housing, football pitch, indoor badminton, a mosque, everywhere clean and careful). William and the staff I meet are understandably proud of Belitung’s biggest export earner.

Next day passes with frantic foray to the market and local shops for enough food for several weeks. Guess there’s going to be quite a lot of onions and lentils with rice to keep me going. And some carrots and garlic and ginger and chillies (yum!) 

And finally there’s paperwork. Three young customs officials want to inspect Henrietta. They hadn’t travelled 500 metres of choppy water on an elderly Avon inflatable before. But with dampened backsides they were safely on board and thoroughly checked my cupboards, photographed lots of odds and ends and so on. I think they had a memorable half day out.

Customs officers after checking Henrietta

So, with more papers to allow my exit from Indonesia, I bid sweet sad farewells to some of those who’ve been so kind and helpful during my prolonged stop in Belitung. It has been one of my happiest, most memorable anchorages anywhere in the world.

There are lots of farewells! There are no fellow boats to say goodbye to, but local friends, and helpers, the shops and warungs I’ve come to know.

Kind, helpful, energetic Erny. Funny, international, generous Muramotosan come to say goodbye

Thank you to everyone who has helped make my days here in Belitung so full, friendly and comfortable (fairly comfortable). Especially, Erfan, Fenny, Eddy, Johnny, Erne, Muramotosan, William, Alex, Rosa, Bambang, Cecilia, Frankie, Yvonne and everyone else (whose names I’ve forgotten.)

Ever helpful Erfan and Fenny

Eddy helping load some diesel and clean laundry
Alex, Rosa, Bambang and Cecilia

Final enquiries and phone calls to people in specific countries mean I’ll now head for La Réunion – a little French island east of Madagascar and southwest of Mauritius. If Mauritius reopens in September I’ll aim to go there instead.

 I write this at a peaceful little island in the Sunda Strait, Pulau Sebuku, not far from Krakatoa.

Tug with barge full of coal for Java power station
Oil fields off Southeast Sumatra
Busy with ferries and ships at Sunda Strait

The two days and nights sailing from Belitung left me weary. It’s through an area that’s too busy with shipping and fishing, and oil fields to allow much rest!

Local fishermen have just come alongside and given me some fresh fish. I’ll leave tomorrow for the long sail to La Reunion, around four weeks, all being well.


(A bit of internet here may let this post be published, but maybe not)


I’ll be out of contact for a while. Best wishes and safe sailing to many sailor friends who’ve made different plans, and of course I’ll hope to see many of you again.



12 responses to “Farewell Indonesia, Farewell Southeast Asia”

  1. A wonderful read. Lots of love Michael and I’ll follow you closely. Take care and sail safely❤️. I’ll miss the chats on the phone but look forward to catching up and hearing the next phase of your amaaazing journey. First part didn’t sound fun with all the traffic.

    You are a TRUE INSPIRATION🥳✅😎⛵️⛵️⛵️⛵️
    Margie xxxx

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Interesting and informative blog, as ever. Wishing you a safe passage; we’ll be watching out for your AIS ping as you near Réunion. Simon and Jenny, Fenicia.


  3. Mike Thank you again for a fascinating message. I feel as I write that you may be casting off this minute so I shall not write more. If you do go to Mauritius, and I really Hope that you will be able to, I copy Anique’s email address. Anique worked in England for many years and when she first came she visited you with us in your house in Cherry Hinton.

    Bon voyage

    Regards Richard



  4. Safe travels, such an interesting read and I look forward to the next one. Also Happy Birthday when you are on your travels in the next few weeks 🥳 love from cousin Anne


  5. Always a joy to read your blogs! Safe sailing my friend and keep well, I’ll look forward to reading some news of your arrival.
    Big hugs,
    Lisa : )


  6. Best wishes Michael for a safe journey. Finding your posts and experiences truly inspiring so looking forward to the next chapter very much. Best wishes to H too..she must be exhausted…DPW


  7. Such a great read! Hope that the next crossing goes well and very much looking forward to the next posting. Best wishes the PWs


  8. Hi Michael  Many thanks for your very interesting blog   I do enjoy reading them and always wish I was there I have only been able to sail a topper at my sailing club which I do not much like     I much prefer to race in a 2 person dinghy so you can chat and laugh  and discuss tactics but unfortunately the virus will not allowMy dinghy sailing club have been having Zoom sessions and I was asked to give a talk on one of my sailing trip and of course it had to be the best one  sailing from Cairns to Singapore  It brought back happy memoriesBut luckliy  I do have a share in a campervan so we have been touring around the new forest, attended a Civil parternship  in Welyn and visited the Lincolnshire Wolds with other sailing friends who also have a  campervanI  hope you had a great sail not too much wind but enough so you did not have to use that noisy engine Looking forward to hearing all about your passage and where you ended up       but I did wonder why you are returningHappy sailing and fair winds Sent from Mail for Windows 10 From: Sailing HenriettaSent: 10 August 2020 07:16To: joycie.moon80@gmail.comSubject: [New post] Farewell Indonesia, Farewell Southeast Asia michaelsweet50 posted: " Farewell Indonesia, Farewell Southeast Asia 4th to 10th August A palm oil refinery, stocking up, last goodbyes, and papers After over two years and a few thousand miles in Southeast Asia, over a year of which has been in Indonesia, it’s time to mov"


  9. Interesting and enjoyable read as always. Sorry you never made it back to Sydney, but we’ll find a way to catch up elsewhere in future when this virus is under control. Very best wishes for your long trip to Reunion and onwards from there. Look forward to your next post. Mike


  10. My dear Mike- you inspire all us land lubbers with your wonderful tails and experiences. With all those onions and garlic good thing you are on your own!!! I suppose the longer anyone stays in one place you feel a connection with the locals. In life we tend to pass through…. hopefully when you get this you will be holed up somewhere safe . We went to Mauritius a few years ago… unexpectedly and loved it…. very diverse place. We caught up with Margie yesterday which was lovely . So take care safe trip and keep writing….. love Sallie and Guy xx


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: