Saumlaki – the door to Indonesia

In the early hours of a Tuesday morning we sailed gently into the port of Saumlaki and thus into Indonesia. By sailing two thirds of the way west around the world we had finally reached a far flung outpost of the Far East.

We anchored in the bay and, despite communication difficulties, found our agent on the bow of an old ferry which we used as a dinghy dock. The procedure for entering Indonesia with a boat is a little complicated so this is the shortened version.

Wait for health officials to arrive and ferry them to the boat with the dinghy. Let them do an inspection of the sleeping quarters, food preparation area, food stocks and medical kit. Answer questions, fill out forms and provide copies of random documents after which you return them to land.

Take a ride on a motorcycle pillion to the immigration office stopping on the way to print some documents. At immigration they need copies of everything including documents I only had electronically. Answer questions and fill out forms while the agent goes off to make more copies.

Return to the ferry and wait for immigration to arrive and then take them to the boat. Another inspection, a few selfies for the immigration guys and then receive a visa barcode in the passports.

Take the immigration officers to land and the motorcycle to the customs office. More questions, printing of papers and filling of forms before returning to the ferry to wait for customs to finish the paperwork and arrive. Vitally important for every official is that we not only sign forms but also affix the vessel’s official stamp to every document. Luckily we had one made in Australia.

One of the customs agents wanted to be the dinghy driver which was amusing as he had no idea what he was doing. After a cursory inspection of the boat and a few more photos, we received our customs clearance. The trip to return the officers to land should have taken five minutes but the new ferry was arriving so they had moved our old ferry and pulled up the ramp. Half an hour later they had maneuvered both vessels into position and lowered the ramp again.

We quit while we were ahead and took the dinghy to land for dinner and local beer as we enjoyed our first sunset in the new country.

The next morning Heidi was ill so I set off on my own in search of the telephone company to buy SIM cards. The cards required a physical identification of the person and a photo of the passport next to the person so Heidi would have to attend herself.

Another motorcycle ride to the health officials to sign more papers and receive a green health book for the boat. This was my fifth bike ride and I still had no idea which side of the road they officially drive on here. At junctions we appeared to decide spontaneously who would go first and which side to pass.

Our last official stop was to let the harbour master create more paperwork and clear us out of the port. He was the eighth official we had dealt with and the first miserable person. He either hates his job or he detests sailors.

Back at the telephone shop my SIM was ready and I was back online. The ladies had decided that I could take a photograph of Heidi and her passport – not exactly legal but good enough. By the evening of day two we were legally cleared in, both online and, unsurprisingly, tired out.

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