Our Route

To be able to comprehend the expedition, it is time to look at a couple of maps. The first one, sets the context. The area we are sea kayaking is defined by the rectangle.

The second provides the details. We paddle northward from Bunaken National Park (just north of Manado), to the tip of Pulau Sangihe (the large island at the top of the map).

As the crow flies, the distance is approximately 130 nautical miles. However, the actual paddling distance will be more like 200 nautical miles (320 kilometres) as we weave in and around points, headlands, bays and estuaries.

After the island groups of the Bunaken National Park and Selat Bangka, which are west and north of the tip of the Sulawesi mainland, the the Kepulauan Sangihe ridge consists of 5 main island groups, each of which we will visit along the way: Pulau Biaro, Tahulandang, Pulau Siau, the Karikatang Islands and the Pulau Sangihe group itself.

Approximate crossing distances between the island groups:  Pulau Biaro is 18NM north of Selat Bangka; then 9.6NM to Tahulandang; 15NM to Pulau Siau; the Karikatang Islands are 15NM further north, with Pulau Sangeluhang as a half-way point; and the Sangihe group itself is approximately 8NM further north again.  Again, these distances do not include coastal paddling and short-hops within island groups.

Given the mixed abilities of the group, boat support may be necessary for the unbroken 18NM crossing between Selat Bangka and Pulau Biaro, and the 15NM crossing between Tahulandang and Pulau Siau.  These crossings intersect the Ocean Passages mentioned above.

The only means of transport between the islands is by sea, so the north-south maritime traffic will consist of passenger ferries, fishing and tourism vessels.  It is not necessarily the case, however, that our choice of crossing points between island groups will intersect these routes, since we can move in much shallower waters.  That said, we will always have to look out for small fishing vessels.  There will also be regional cargo ships:  we do not have to cross any of the major Archipelagic Sea Lanes, but the recommended Ocean Passages between the Philippines and Celebes Seas cross our path in three locations, moving from West to East.

The coasts are a mix of mangroves, marshes, sandy or rocky beaches, or, when very steep sided, the slopes simply plunge into the sea.  Some, but not all of the islands, are bounded by reefs.  The Pilot guides list safe entry points, though strong currents and tidal streams are often mentioned.  This is why we’ll be extensively practicing loaded launches and landings in the training week, and timing will be important.

With the islands along our route forming a volcanic chain, we are currently monitoring volcanic activity in the region:  the Siau, Tahulandang, Sangihe island groups all have volcanoes that erupted in the last 10 years.   The volcanoes will dominate the land-seascape, providing spectacular navigational aids.

According to the Pilot Guides,[1] currents in the region are generally East set, with particular mention of rates of 1.5 to 2.25 knots between Sangihe and Tahulandang (hence the strategy of using sails – generously donated by WindPaddle).

Detailed information about tides and localized currents is not available outside of Indonesia.  There is a dearth of detailed information available to us here in the UK, so we will be talking to local inhabitants to get specifics on tides, currents, conditions and landings in particular locations.  The prevailing wind at that time of year (late July / August/ early September) is generally S/SW, which is advantageous, though recent years have experienced variations in the timing of the East/Australasian Monsoon pattern.  Needless to say, we’re already monitoring this.



[1] Admiralty Charts and Publications, Admiralty Sailing Directions, Indonesia Pilot Volume III, NP35 Fourth Edition 2008; National Geo-Spatial Intelligence Agency of the US Government, Sailing Directections (En Route), Publication 16: BORNEO, JAWA, SULAWESI, AND NUSA TENGGARA; National Geo-Spatial Intelligence Agency of the US Government, Sailing Directions (En Route), Publications 164: New Guinea.



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