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They’d all been there

by John Curnow, Editor, Sail-WorldCruising.com 14 Nov 23:30 UTC
Lombok Marina Del Ray © Lombok Marina Del Ray

Now apart from the indigenous populations, all the Europeans had wandered through the place at various times. Some had taken hold of various portions of the grander area, and then ultimately been booted out - like, say, the Japanese - whilst others, including the Chinese and Indians, had come and gone, or traded, and then settled as merchants. Yes, the whole of South East Asia has a rich, colourful, and vibrant past.

The Dutch, English, French, and Portuguese spent loads of time in the area. Our particular patch of interest is today known as Indonesia, and her huge array of islands not only has so many variations of us humans, she is also one of our most populated countries on the planet. Going back, the Spice Islands, and Dutch East Indies were other names given to all or part of the group.

Mercantile interests had far more staunch names like East India Trading Company, but in reality they often had somewhat more sinister ideas about how to go about the exchange of goods. Some slammed into the West Coast of Australia on their way there after rounding the Cape of Good Hope, but made the big left turn a little too late. Others developed some of the earliest charts of what is known today as the Northern Territory, but the ferocious tides, snarls, crags and bricks were not found to be too much to their liking. I dare say the crocs weren't either. However, that was all a long time ago.

A little more recently, 2006 to be precise, our adventurer set sail from Melbourne on a combination of cruising and a surfing safari. His name is Ray La Fontaine, and it was in the area around the Sou'west corner of Lombok, known to be a bit of surfer's heaven, where he cut his back, and so went looking for refuge. His charts, dating back to Dutch colonial times, indicated that the area he was going to was attached to the main island. Alas, it wasn't. It was a separate little island with a beautiful harbour.

It's name was Gili Gede, and today La Fontaine has a magnificent marina on the bottom edge of the island. Now like all of these things, it might sound easy and quick, but the reality is very, very different. After repairing himself he went on to run surf charters aboard his yacht in Phuket and Langkawi. On the way back, he hit a log and it dislodged his rudder. It took three months to effect repairs, but the time afforded him the opportunity to realise that he wanted to make the area a boating haven.

It was close to Bali, but enough away to be in some great cruising grounds. There was no International Airport on Lombok back then, but there is now, and unlike the other Gilis up in the North, these ones down in the South are still unspoiled. It is perfect for people working in the greater area or farther afield to come and enjoy, and the economic impact the facility is having and will continue to have in the community is both welcomed and significant.

So La Fontaine set about getting all of the necessary documentation and funding sorted. They secured a 17ha seabed licence and created 22 deep draft moorings first, and then more recently 15-berth marina style pens (slips) at 15m draft with power and water on the pontoons. "There is still a lot of work, but with around 65 million people in a burgeoning middle class, and a 'make it happen' President keen to see Indonesia enjoy its coastal resources, I do see a lot of opportunity for tourism and marine industries alike," said La Fontaine.

Both political and natural disasters have affected Lombok in the past. "There were earthquakes recently and they did level other areas where the build quality is poor, but we made our facility in steel, so we even sheltered the town folk during the worst of it. Politically it is much more stable now, and Lombok is a predominantly Muslim island like most of Indonesia, but it is all going well. There is lots of fishing going on, and generally everyone is totally relaxed. It was a hard thing getting all the approvals and recommendations, but now that it is done I can say that Lombok is the new Bali!"

"It is all sailing craft in the marina at the moment, and we have been operating as a mooring facility for seven years. We have a fuel barge for bunkering, and we only sell real Diesel. There is a ferry service Bali that takes 90 minutes, and I understand there is a helo service opening soon. These compliment Lombok's International Airport that has daily international flights from Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and China and ten connecting International flights from Jakarta and Bali, and is around 60 minutes away in a taxi."

"Our cold storage is also well under way, and soon we hope that there will be full boat works. These compliment our clearance office, showers and toilets, chandlery, sail repair, dive and surf centre, Wi-Fi, laundry, security, massage, produce and supply outlets."

"We also have the yacht club bar and restaurant, which majestically overlooks our pristine bay, and is projected by the surrounding, breathtaking, mountain range that provides amazing sunsets. At night the sea becomes phosphorescent, illuminated by the Milky Way and the rising moon. We hosted both the Oyster and ARC World Rallies in here, back to back, and started them off again in the Lombok Strait."

In addition to all of that, there are some other significant elements to be aware of. The moorings are all in survey, so there are no issues in relation to unwanted collisions, and combined with being outside of the cyclone band, it is good news for you and your insurer. It is also a full, ten-month season, so the somewhat untouched lands, can be all yours for at least four months longer than other places in the area, such as Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia.

So the world's largest archipelago has the best climate, and is somewhat undiscovered, yet has very few marinas, and even fewer run by people in the know. If you have had your curiosity piqued by it all, then perhaps these last elements will have you daydreaming as badly as I was, for it is over 25 years since I have been to Lombok, and Ray tells me plenty has changed!

Lombok Marina Del Ray is an approved entry and exit port. You used to have to do things like the Darwin to Ambon Race to get an entry permit, as all yachts were effectively classed as ships back then. It has all been streamlined now, and where there used to be no specific legislation surrounding cruising vessels, and things like bonds were required, it has all changed and been simplified.

A foreign yacht can now stay for three years, provided the boat owner makes a declaration at the designated port of entry that there will be no charters, no sale of vessel, and will be for private use only. There used to be a 70% luxury tax that appears to be also on the way out. Should this occur, then it will be easy to change flag, and thus, and the Indonesian charter industry may be born literally overnight!

OK. Today you will find that we have information for you about the Algarve, which rig suits you, Red Roo are also in Portugal, there's a full review and video of Seawind's 1260 Cat, gear from Musto, ARC news, reports from the Ocean Cruising Club, bleaching and reefs, shark awareness and safety, Excess Cats from Groupe Beneteau, ropes and cordage, great tales from members of the Bluewater Cruising Association, just where did my island go?, seals, whales, as well as much more.

So you see, there are stories, lessons, inspirations and history to regale yourself with. Please do savour... We're really enjoying bringing you the best stories from all over the globe. If you want to add to that, then please make contact with us via email.

Remember too, if you want to see what is happening in the other Hemisphere, go to the top of the www.sail-worldcruising.com home page and the drag down menu on the right, select the other half of the globe and, voila, it's all there for you.

In the meantime, do you love being on the ocean? Well remember to love them back too. They need our help. Now more than ever! Until next time...

John Curnow
Editor, Sail-WorldCruising.com

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