Anthem Adrift

28 June 2016 | En Route to Sabah
24 June 2016 | Serasa, Brunei
22 June 2016 | En Route Jerudong
15 June 2016 | En Route Miri
14 June 2016 | En Route Miri
08 June 2016 | Pulau Bawah
07 June 2016 | En Route Bawah
05 June 2016 | En Route Djemadja
30 May 2016 | Terampah
29 May 2016 | En Route Terampah
27 May 2016 | Approaching Anambas
25 May 2016 | En Route Kapas
23 May 2016 | Pulau Redang
22 May 2016 | Kuala Terengganu
16 May 2016 | En Route Pulau Kappas
15 May 2016 | En Route Pulau Tenggol
12 May 2016 | Approaching Chukai
03 May 2016 | En Route Pulau Tioman
30 April 2016 | En Route Pulau Aur and Dayang
27 April 2016 | South of Singapore

Easy come, Easy Go

28 June 2016 | En Route to Sabah
Saturday 25 June 2016

Wonderful dinner last night at Royal Brunei Yacht Club which, of course, doesn't serve alcohol, but due it being a private club one may bring his own. Regrettably we brought too much and, as it was available and we were having such fun, drank it. Getting up a head of steam this morning at 0600 for breakfast at the club was a bit of a chore, but omelet with coffee was good and, astonishingly, included real bacon.


Since we've been eating and drinking extravagantly in Brunei our sylph-like figures are in some jeopardy. Nascent padding over normally ripped abs (you believe me don't you?) is causing serious angst. Last night was another extravaganza at the upriver RBYC and tonight's planned farewell dinner at the Mangrove Paradise Resort bodes ill for additional regression. (Huh?)


It did. The word pudgy has re-entered our vocabulary, but absence of breakfast at RBYC Serasa may help. Departure from resort was in drizzle and arrival downstream dodging crazy fishermen working the channel in blinding rain. If it ever stops the day will be spent schlepping maybe 300 liters of diesel back from petrol station in 20 liter jugs. Not only does so much motoring use fuel that must be replaced, but oil and filter changes seem to be necessary every other week.

- Later

Well that was slightly more fun than getting keelhauled, but at least the tanks are nearly full. Top up in KK should get us to Raja Ampat. Dinner tonight at RBYC then out of here manana. For reasons of courtesy, joy will be restrained. Brunei is a country of contrasts, very modern and yet not. Oil has made it unnecessary to cut down old growth rain forest as was done in most of Borneo, but Brunei River is awash in trash and logs. British inspired common law is overlaid with Sharia. Prices in Bandar Seri Begawan are close to Singapore without the cleanliness or beauty. Glad we came, happy to go.


Brekkie and a last swim in excellent lap pool and we're off to Pulau Keraman for a beach barbie and piss-up with several of our degenerate yachty mates before arrival in Labuan. Hello Sabah.


Strictly Liberal

24 June 2016 | Serasa, Brunei
Friday 24 June 2016

Learned at the excruciating hour of 0600 that morning cultural tour from Jerudong Harbor was canceled. Finding ourselves thusly astir decided to sail early to Royal Brunei Yacht Club at Serasa. They have a pool that, by law and like everything at the club, is unusable on Friday between 1200 and 1400. One supposes this to be a wholly useless mandate to discourage pleasure on a holy day. It is, no doubt, an effort to balance competing interests (one of which might be to to sneak a Twinkie during the day) and hypercritical to assume token piety or hypocrisy. Does anybody remember "blue laws" in Dixie?

Full name of this country is Brunei Darussalam. That second word means "Abode of Peace" and it is indeed a stable and harmonious place. This is probably made easier due wealth brought by oil 'out the wazoo' (see previous entries for explanation). Although geologists, as opposed to bean counters, ecobunnies and politicians, understand that for all practical purposes the amount of petroleum is unlimited, there's been no effort to diversify so when prices are down, voila, there ain't no spare change for the Sultan to sprinkle about. Will grumpiness ensue?

Speaking of Venezuela, AB inflatables were made there until climate got too volatile so factory moved next door to Colombia. Front tube on ours became flaccid (in this case, Cal, it's bad, but not unmanly) from rubbing on Hydrovane cover requiring a patch. Meantime to reduce chafing, as weather has been placid, we strap her down just above water level. New plan for more interesting seas languishes in analysis.


Smells and Swell Wells

22 June 2016 | En Route Jerudong
Thursday 23 June 2016

Busy week of exploring and margarita night recovery. Miri is a great town. Hired a driver who knew where to find anything. Had a mounting plate made for new engine control which, if sufficient enthusiasm can be scraped up, will be installed to replace buggered, but yet useable 18 year old lever. After having looked for months found roasted coffee beans that are so good we returned to buy 4 kilo. Replaced dwindling supply of diesel oil with 20 liter barrel and couldn't live without really cool USB rechargeable, personal fans. Excellent food there too.

Humongous nearby Niah Caves, sight of most ancient homo sapiens remains in Asia (40K), was amazing. Hope breathing bat crap all day doesn't cause brain damage. Besides guano the place is also a major source of swiftlet nests. These outrageously expensive soup ingredients are harvested from the roof by insane individuals who climb up end to end, nailed-together boards that hang straight down as much as 100 meters. Hope these guys make a pant-load of money, but it's more likely to be somebody further up the distribution chain. Bird spit soaked twigs must be mighty damn tasty.

After a beautiful sail to Kuala Belait, center of oil production in Brunei, the boat club a mile or so up the river was a nice surprise. Run by a Dutch expat whose husband works for Shell Brunei it was friendly with great food, but, however, no adult beverage (despite being very modern and tolerant, Brunei is seriously Muslim and the Sultan has instituted sharia law). Someone, who shall remain unnamed (not us), was chastised for eating an ice cream bar before sunset in public during Ramadan. Water in anchorage ran about 3 kts. on outgoing tide and looked to be primarily mud.

Speaking of petroleum, a substantial amount of revenue works its way to the citizens even though Shell gets half and the Sultan has more money than Allah. Sarawak and Sabah have scads more oil than Brunei, but the money goes to central government in KL with a bit coming back in dribs and drabs. That's like someone taking your bottle of fine scotch, then giving back a taste after they've run it through their kidneys. Only about a quarter of the population are Malay. Not surprisingly the 2 states are pushing for independence. Everywhere are signs: "Sarawak for Sarawakians". Think I'd call myself something else, but guess it's better than Sarawakees or Sarawakers.


Dash & Dodge

15 June 2016 | En Route Miri
Wednesday 15 June 2016

Due waiting until yesterday afternoon for laundry return, have now to hastily beat feet (many of you may know that doing anything with feet except climb up and down companionway steps or chase boredom by collecting toe jam and playing "this little piggy" is entirely superfluous to sailing fast. The expression is idiomatic. This is in no way a reference to idiots or a painful, fraternity ritual performed with paddles, but merely a flight of whimsy conducted as a less stinky and more socially acceptable way to defeat ennui that, being parenthetical may safely be ignored... Oops, should have warned you sooner) in order to arrive by dark tomorrow.

Alas, forecast of little wind along Borneo coast has so far proved accurate. Fortunately, Brunei is awash in the stuff that, in lieu of sails, makes a boat move. They have so much they nearly give it away.. OK, not to foreigners, but it's still pretty cheap. Now if only we can get there with onboard tankage. Not counting dodging through a maze of offshore drill rigs in the dark it's about 230 NM. At least wells don't try to run you down as do poorly lit fishing boats.


Continuing to run past logs half the size of the boat, discovered that radar picks them up, so took lessons while still able to see. Nevertheless, pleased to have large debris end before edge of oil field just at dark and platforms are well lit. Too bad gas burned off can't be captured. Sea remained glassy all night and air over deck exactly matched movement through it. Frequency of slight swell continues to induce a constant, tedious roll.

Daylight, which comes at an unconscionably early 0530, will now allow observation of hazards until arrival this afternoon at destination, but for the moment, being between oil fields, far from the coast and away from disgorging river mouths, there is nothing to see except a several mile circle of rippled glass under a cumulus sky. Absence of fishing boats insinuates absence even of fish although a snake just slithered out of the way. Huh? He must have gotten lost.


A Twofer

14 June 2016 | En Route Miri
Thursday 9 June 2016

Arrival inspection of moorings in Bawah lagoon found chain for 1 (of 10) attached to 2-ton block with chafed 13mm (1/2") line. A cautionary illustration of why it's often better, when possible, to use your own ground tackle instead of someone else's. Plus it allows others to sanctimoniously point out when it fails that you have only yourself to blame before surreptitiously checking their own anchors.

Coral was good shallow, but sometimes spotty with much dead deeper. Lots of fish. Reefs appear to have been bombed at one time. Good although not great diving except today north side, outside, saw a school of 30 huge bumphead parrotfish. Similar to, but not as large as mature Napoleon wrasse, they were way big and way lots. Cool.

Resort will max out at 70 customers and 130 staff. Cost is around 1000 SGD per day. Guests are expected to fly on a weed-whacker 160 miles into Djemadja from Singapore, then water taxi to the island, another 35. Target market besides Singapore will be Europe. Built by Javanese, the construction is rustic, yet intricately beautiful. Ownership passes to investors in October, opens in March. Will check their website periodically. Hope they make it, but if this thing's still in business in 5 years it'll be a miracle.


An aside before leaving the country. Trying to encourage Indonesian tourism, Jakarta has consolidated arrival documents into one on-line report requiring no cruising permit (CAIT) and no reporting in at every semi-major harbor. Still in transition, but if recalcitrant local officials get on board may ease our travel through the Celebes Sea and across Sulawesi to Raja Ampat starting late August.

After a leisurely morning, departed at 0830. It's about 48 hours to Kuching, Sarawak, averaging 5.5 kts. and we may do much better, getting us in at dawn Sunday. Light wind, but on the beam so throwing out all the rags saves fuel yet moves us right along motor-sailing. Sea is less than half a meter thus, except for afternoon heat and growling dinosaurs, very comfortable.


Long tour day, but fun, having nothing whatever to do with AC on buses. Big town at 800k so lots to do such as clear into Malaysia with bureaucrats. They were all very nice. Next, spent valuable eating time at the Sarawak Museum which was nevertheless very interesting and, significantly, not too large. After belated breakfast/lunch went out in the jungle to entertain some orangutans ("people of the forest" - apparently of Irish or Scandinavian descent). They didn't seem especially impressed and wandered off after awhile. Except for shaggy hair, impossibly long arms and a tendency to hang about in trees they're very human. Young ones are like children and adults resemble sullen teenagers.

One can tell Kuching is a modern city as it's infested with Pizza Hut, McDonalds, KFC and hardly any headhunters outside of boardrooms. Borneo natives once used the heads to bring luck, but now more often rely on oil wells. Also saw a "100% Discount" store. Regrettably didn't have time to find out what free things we could get. Given lack of activity locals may have been waiting for a "110% Discount" place to open so they could be paid for carting stuff away. Perhaps, however, there's more of a religious basis for lack of interest.

It's Ramadan so few people outside of Chinese, sailors and the odd Anglican were milling about. At sunset, however, we visited one of several temporary Ramadan cafes (large tented area with every kind of street food), which was abuzz with really hungry Muslims. They fast for a month during daytime so pack it away every evening. Great food and way cheap.


It's 280 NM to next stop, Miri, and rather than hop along the coast (like most of the others who prefer to watch the fishing boats and their nets while trying to avoid them) we're making another double overnight sail. Although temperatures have been pretty darn comfortable last few days (even without bus AC), 6 nights on a dock with power won't suck. Good chance to recharge batteries (all of them), get gas (not just from food) and chill (except for doing battle with officialdom) before next stop, Brunei, with its balls-to-the-wall scheduling (no Cal, that's actually not naughty).

This should have been 2 messages, but never got around to sending first one. Sorry.


Execution Delusion

08 June 2016 | Pulau Bawah
Wednesday 8 June 2016

Bawah is indeed beautiful. Probably why there's a resort going up. Completion by October.. theoretically. In process of this effort a barge full of containers and lumber is being towed in at 1100. In lieu of playing bumpers in the rather small lagoon with shocking possibility that some of the decorative rust will be scratched off 30 meter steel scow all 11 boats will clear out temporarily. OK, some are leaving permanently, but essentially you have not been lied to. Expect to dive before and after. Project manager Paul offered to give us a tour of the resort as some compensation for the disruption. Today in summary: immersion, diversion, excursion, immersion. Plus interspersion of provision consumption and libation ingestion. Additional notions for exertion this location in motion.

- Later

All went like clockwork.. well, except for the tow being on time. No worries, after drifting north at 2 knots, then fighting upwind and current to come back in the pass just behind the barge we were again on moorings shortly after noon. Tour scheduled for 1400. Wallowing in lassitude until then.

- Even Later

Last brain cell went out for a quart of milk and hasn't returned.


Screwing On

07 June 2016 | En Route Bawah
Monday 6 June 2016

Good diving in Ajam; several boats in a beautiful anchorage NE Djemadja; great beach barbie, then retiring to "Charlie" until late.. rum, wine and quite a bit of Amarullah from Zimbabwe. Ouch. Nevertheless everyone underway by 0730 en route to Bawah, 35 NM. Hopes high for a great spot to spend a couple of days - protected lagoon miles from anywhere, reported great diving and snorkeling.

There has, heretofore, been no mention of outboard playing up due foul fuel fancied to have buggered compressor engine. Yesterday cleaned screen, fuel pump and carbie (which appeared pristine) and she still won't idle. Pshaw or stronger words to that effect. Motor off dink and on rail to properly clean idle jet before arrival this afternoon. Depending upon enthusiasm, may also change out ratty compressor belt with one just obtained from another cruiser who had the correct size.. maybe.

Sea littered with sailboats heading same direction. Somebody blabbed that Bawah was the duck's nuts so we'll have company. These are the same people who are responsible for over-serving us last night. Shame on them. We'll be on alert so they won't sneak up on us so easily tonight.

- Later

Re-cleaned innocent, but obviously deceitful Yamaha carb. Special attention paid to wee holes in slow speed jet. Feeling frisky, then disassembled compressor (replacing belt was probably made as difficult as possible for a darn good reason) to discover, oddly enough, that belt fit perfectly. After some re-engineering of bits connected to other bits holding all the bits together so that protruding bits don't (theoretically) have disadvantageous contact with belt, put the thing back in its box and strapped her down. In a second amazing coincidence no parts, tools or people were dropped into the ocean off bouncing aft deck during foregoing, admirable display of productivity.

Reports of large pieces of timber (that's Aussie-speak for logs) in the water has induced finishing this crap and actually watching where we're going. This sailing thing is just full of stuff one has to do instead of just screwing off. Somebody should have mentioned this before we spent all that money on a boat.


Self-Contained Underwater Bedeviling Apparatus

05 June 2016 | En Route Djemadja
Saturday 4 June 2016

Week got away from us. Fun few days in Tarempa, neat town with hardly any flat ground in front of steep hills. Most of the place is built over water, some on cement piles, but mostly wood. No idea what they do when that rots. Even so, the narrow streets are concrete. It's a bustling community with a million scooters (slight hyperbole) and not totally dry due a few Chinese owned restaurants sporting Tiger beer, sometimes, but not always cold.

While filling scuba tank, compressor's 5.5 Hp Honda engine quit. Figured old fuel, cleaned the carburetor. Then figured dirty oil, changed that. Then figured dirty petrol (that's English for gasoline... they're weird) tank, took that off and cleaned it. Then figured plugged hoses, cleaned them and then boiled the carbie. Good spark. Never got the slightest pop. Finally, firm in the knowledge that nothing could possibly be keeping it from running, checked intake suction which led to discovery that valve rocker arm had jumped off its cam. Now purrs like a kitten and the whole kit and caboodle (all badly in needed of attention, including frame and box it's in) are sparkling clean. This took several hours over 2 days and was more fun than a barrel of boogers. Regrettably, taking a meaningful lesson from this experience would engender regular maintenance, but perhaps it will be helpful to someone else. Remember, if it ain't broke don't use it.

Adding to the fun, hauling anchor to leave Tarempa Harbor required diving on chain wrapped around a derelict Herreshoff then, when finally underway, turning around to rescue another crew whose chain was criss-crossing over, under and through every chunk of coral within 10 meters of their completely superfluous CQR. His windlass, having been overburdened, declined to help at all, possibly because he'd never had a reason or inclination to locate the circuit breaker.

Long 3 days, but managed to get in 4 dives (besides anchor dance and with the kindly offered use of Champagne Charlie's compressor) and 2 beach barbies complete with more than sufficient attitude adjusting beverage to ease any disquietude. Good thing we're in training. Ibuprofen stores are taking a hit.


Currently heading back to Djemadja for a day or so and on to Bawah (the "Pearl of Anambas") for at least a couple. After diving our brains out (what's left of them) we'll sail overnight the 180 NM to Serasan, off NW coast of Sarawak followed, after much anticipated sleep-in, by 90 NM overnight into Santubong anchorage near Kuching. Clearing back into Malaysia is arranged for the 12th, but mostly don't want to miss big party that night. Two of the 3 previous days will have been on the wagon, so Muslim or not we'll find a way to correct that infelicitous deficiency.


What, Me Worry?

30 May 2016 | Terampah
Monday 30 May 2016

Previously hinted that a forced sobriety might occur as word is that the 2 island groups being visited are very traditional and probably Muslim. This was a wee bit of prevarication. After some time in Langkawi and Tioman, duty-free ports where gin for example costs $7.50 a liter and they practically give beer away, sufficient ships stores were accumulated to get over the hump.

Another potential complication is that both Vietnam and Malaysia would prefer ownership and there have been incidents. Don't know how recent. Few cruising boats come, but the place is beautiful and would otherwise likely be quite popular. It's a convenient stop on the way from the East Coast and Singapore to Borneo plus water is clear, coral hasn't been bombed and snorkeling/diving are excellent.

Errata: Committed minor faux pas by assuming an actual memory instead of looking up information. Should know better. Island location is Siantan, not Siapan. Locals might ordinarily take offense, but probably have 3 or 4 different names for it themselves and anyway Indonesians tend to be very easy going. This tolerance doesn't however extend to flaggage as they insist that their courtesy flag be larger than the visiting yacht's country ensign. Since onboard US and Canadian flags are around 3 x 5 feet and courtesy flag is 12 x 18 inches colors have been struck and we go incognito. Although failure to observe international regulation is somewhat delinquent, flying two country ensigns doesn't cause much angst so why should this. Alfred E Neuman is a role model.


East is Least

29 May 2016 | En Route Terampah
Sunday 29 May 2016

After hunting and pecking our way around a bit when arriving yesterday found an excellent anchorage in a large plot of sand at 7 meters with great snorkeling over inshore coral in wonderfully clear water. Best visibility since Tuamotus. Visit in the evening by crew of Aussie "Anthem" (we'd kill him and burn his boat for counterfeiting us if Adrian weren't such a nice guy and the boat weren't made in Canada - he bought it with that name), who were on the other side of Anak Island, was a pleasant surprise, but we were otherwise alone.

This morning snorkeled a wonderful reef around nearby rock island then went to where Adrian and crew Carmen, a lovely girl from Ukraine, had seen several big green turtles making little green turtles. No tracks up the beach from mommies making nests, so don't know what happens now. Anyway, unable to enjoy a bit of perving as we didn't see a single act of fornication (is that a naughty word?) or indeed the first turtle. Otherwise good.

Figuring we might find another boat or two around the big island of Djemadja to the south where anchorages are actually charted, motored down there to again be solo. Expect everyone is in Terampah on the main Anambas island of Siapan, about 30 NM ENE, where will transpire tomorrow clearance into Indonesia, a dinner and possibly even some fun stuff.


Although Anambas and Natuna reside east of peninsular Malaysia, they are one hour earlier at UTC +7. The sun rises and sets waaaay earlier. Borneo takes us back to +8, but by then we're even farther east, so it doesn't help much. This is all very curious and if our body clocks were paying attention, which they aren't, we would be totally discombobulated (that's like confused for you folks in Pinellas Park).

Thought we had dumped everything and would need to find a compliant ATM (a problem during last sojourn in Indonesia) to get spending money, but a nooks and crannies search unearthed 1 million, 2 hundred 59 thousand, 900 hundred rupiah. We're millionaires! Regrettably, however, considering it takes around 14,000 of the things to make a dollar, the emotional impact is somewhat greater than any practical utility. Still, 185 bucks goes a long way here when a full meal at a local eatery is $3 and high cost adult beverage may be difficult to find, so should be able to soberly struggle along for a couple of weeks until Sarawak.

Vessel Name: Anthem
Vessel Make/Model: 1997 Hylas 46 - MMSI xxxxxx750
Hailing Port: Weeki Wachee, FL
Crew: Jack Warren, Janice Holmes
Jack: Formerly productive member of the community as a Northwest Airlines Captain who retired to become a drain on, and embarrassment to, polite society. [...]
While I will be delighted if anyone else enjoys these excursions into semi-intelligible foolishness, the primary purpose is personal amusement. This is not travelogue, cruising guide or philosophical exploration of anything in particular, merely random musing of a slightly twisted mind. Despite [...]
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S/V Anthem

Who: Jack Warren, Janice Holmes
Port: Weeki Wachee, FL
See profile for information on why this mess is being foisted upon an innocent world and, despite what is probably your better judgement, how to make contact.
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