Dave Pallett (nicknamed H) and Ian Broadhurst joined Meniscus and I for a weeks cruise to Lombok. Ian has flown from London for a short holiday and (H) is taking an RYA Day Skipper course, learning to sail and honing his navigation skills. We set sail from Benoa Harbour in Bali, on a clear day with a pleasant force four, south easterly, trade wind breeze. We made good time crossing the channel to Nusa Penida, sailing well with the wind on the beam through light ocean swells. The full moon and spring tides had created some big uncomfortable swells on the western side of the Islands so we skirted around Lembongon and anchored north of Ceningan in a quiet bay for a pleasant cooling off snorkel. Conditions were good again as we set out on the 30 mile sail for Lombok. Great sailing, fine reaching in force four to five along the craggy coast of Nusa Penida and across the straight towards to hills and volcanoes of Lombok's southern peninsula.
he tide was running with a vengeance as we approached and we encountered some steep swells and foaming waves. Exhilarating surfing for us as Meniscus ploughed through, flinging spray from under her bows. Around the headland we soon found calm and sheltered waters. We coasted along admiring the scenery on the mainland and small islands around before anchoring on the southern tip of Gilirengit just feet from a powder fine coral sand beach. After our mandatory afternoon swim we went ashore to explore and met Ishmail, an old man who lived in a palm thatched hut under the shady trees right on the beach. We admired the lines and simplicity of his tiny dug out sampan with its outriggers and lateen sail and he invited us back to his house. It was simplicity itself, built with six upright poles and a split bamboo floor suspended a metre off the ground. Its walls were made of open weave palm leaves and its roof thatched from a type of grass. A few feet away was an open cooking area. To say he was a minimalist would have been an understatement and he could have packed all his possessions in a suitcase - he certainly had nothing material to worry about.
Another beautiful day with light winds were just what we wanted to explore the creeks bays and islands that now surrounded us. Sailing our anchor out, we meandered through strings of buoys supporting oysters for a huge pearl farm. We weaved our way around reefs and islands until we reached Gilitakong and anchored close to the beach again. Swimming ashore again we met Payata and his wife living in a small homestead surrounded by chickens and goats. They were very hospitable and we sat chatting over tea and biscuits. They offered to bring us some coconuts and we invited them back for a Koppi (coffee) later and returned to Meniscus just in time for the tide to change and swing us much too close to the reef. We decided that we had better make the best of the failing light and find a more suitable anchorage. As we pulled up the anchor we thought of Payata and wondered what he would think of the westerners who invited people and then disappeared as fast as they could go. Using our forward looking sonar we skirted a reef and passed between another two and found a very sheltered spot, almost a lagoon, south of Gilisudak. The next morning Payata arrived after paddling a mile in his outrigger with half a dozen coconuts for us. He said he had been worried about us and nearly came to guide us through the reefs which was really nice of him. Of course he didn't realise that we had cheated and used our secret weapon - the sonar.
A nice fresh breeze gave us a superb sail into Labuhantereng and we tacked through the entrance and well into the steep hill surrounded bay. As this is Lombok's main port we were surprised to find that the water seemed clean and the countryside only marred by one major industrial plant. Back out in the bay we cruised past the lowlands to Senggigi a small sheltered bay mid way up the coast. It was a colourful little resort and its beach was lined with dozens of sailing outriggers all sitting like spiders waiting to pounce. We took a tour ashore in order to ensure that the local hostelries were serving their beer at the correct temperature and we can report that they were all suitably chilled. On our way back we almost stumbled over a group of fishermen cooking small fish on wooden skewers over a small camp fire. They immediately invited us to join them and put more fish on for us to sample - very tasty. They explained, via H, who is fluent in Indonesian, that they were pleased to show us a little of their way of life. They also told us that their knowledge of the sea and tides was passed down from generation to generation. We asked when we should leave to return and what the current would do. Their instructions were to leave at 0900 and sail due west so that the southerly tide would carry us back to Lembongan. During the night I got up a few times as usual just to check everything. At about.
our o'clock I spotted the outriggers ghosting out en masse.
Now on our return leg we were up early to make the 35 mile crossing back to Nusa Penida or Lembongan. The hills around Sengiggi looked very dramatic with the sun streaming down through the mist as it rises slowly off the jungle. We coast out of the bay and around its sheltering southern reef and head out into a very calm ocean and with little wind we spend the day motor sailing along at first towards and then through the fleet of local fishermen. Their multi coloured sails dotting the horizon like confetti. We followed the instructions and sure enough, the tide took us right back to Lembongan. Everything seemed calm as we approached the bay and suddenly some huge swells rolled through the bay putting up a big surf on the reefs and crashing onto the beaches. We contemplated leaving again but it soon settled down. It seemed like an excellent idea to go ashore and explore, so we clambered into the dinghy and set off. Just as we approached the edge of the reef, more huge swells crashed through, turning our path into a boiling cauldron. Being cautious, we turned for another beach, which was still tranquil and motored over. As we approached the shore the swells began to rise here too and we turned about. We were on the point of abandoning the trip when the swells died again and we made for a quiet sandy beach close by. As we sat sampling the coldest beer in Indonesia we watched the seaweed farmers out gathering and replanting their crop and dozens of tilly lamps glided to and fro across the now flat lagoon. It made quite a backdrop with the stars above.
Our final sail back to Bali was a splendid beam reach with a four to five and a current sweeping us south giving us an enjoyable sail and a ground speed of over 8 knots at times. The unanimous vote was: a thoroughly enjoyable 'boys' trip with plenty of action and great sailing. We discovered a superb area, which is easily reached from Bali. There is plenty to do if you want to relax, swim and meet the friendly locals and there is plenty more to do if you want to be more adventurous. A circumnavigation of this spectacular Island would take two weeks but a week will cover the southern end.
Bali, Lombok, Nusa Penida, Lembongan, Gilli Isles, Indonesian