To the airport in the morning check in and go back to town as the flight is running about 4 hours late. Back to the Airport in the afternoon, to Darwin and get connection to Singapore. Arrive at Singapore several hours later than planned and stop at the airport for the night which was good. In the morning check in for Koto Kinabula, Jetstart Asia, also a bit late. At KK go to Celcom to get the internet Sim card, as I can't find the old one. Then to the bus bay to find a car to Kudat.
Russ got the job and together with about 5 other pax we head off in his Toyota. He has been doing the track for about ten years and a nice guy. We are away a bit after three but a Police Road block causes a traffic jam that slows us down. We stop to pick up someones gear and Russ bought me some fried bananas, later we stop and have fresh young coconut milk.
It gets dark at about 6:00pm and we arrive at the boatyard a bit after 7. Charmar is safe and sound but as I get onboard I notice a strong painty/fuelly smell. It gets stronger, later I find about 150 litres of diesel has run through the after cabin into a "dry" bilge. There goes this week's plans. Can't do much about it tonight so hit the sack.
Have a wooden fishing boat getting built to port and a gap to starboard then a yacht that was here when we left. The yard is very busy.
Well its overdue but a trip back to Kudat will take place in January to check Charmar over and start a bit of maintenance. Looking forward to it!
The Sail Indonesia Rally and the Sail East Malaysia Rally are vastly different experiences. Sail Indonesia of last year is detailed much earlier in our blogs, the track taken by the yachts this year is different. Sail Malaysia details appear more recently in our blogs. In this review I will comment on the comparisons and contrasts of these two events. Last year over 100 yachts took part in the Indonesian Rally,this year 120+ and next year even more are registered. We did about half the rally and then continued on "sailing in company", in good company too, to Singapore where we 'parked up' at Sebana Cove in Malaysia about an hour by ferry from Changi Airport in Singapore, and a great place to stopover. Many of the boats of course continued on in the Sail WEST Malaysia Rally which continues from Danga Bay through the Malacca Straits to Penang and Langkawi, a haven for passing yachts with Marinas, Workyards, beautiful islands and beaches etc. The Sail WEST Malaysia Rally has been running for a number of years. The Sail EAST Malaysia Rally started last year with ten boats, 46 registered this year and next year over 60 are expected.
With Sail Indonesia (SI) from the time we left Darwin until we arrived at Nongsa Point, the last place in Indonesia before leaving for Singapore, we never saw or stopped over at any marinas. Our stopovers were all on anchor, in open waters, bays, fiords, behind reefs, at islands, in isolation, in populated areas, but 98% of the anchorages were great. We never went to the major cities, initially clearing into Kupang, although we did go to some highly settled areas, we stopped in very remote areas, we visited remote and isolated villages and traditional lifestyle areas. In Indonesia we never had issues with any of the authorities or any of the people. The Indonesians were tremendously warm, welcoming, generous, helpful, interested and giving. Those who had the least, offered the most! an interesting reflection on humanity generally. We were welcomed everywhere, overwhelmingly in many instances. Indonesia for us was about culture, nature, the environment, wonderful people and interesting, challenging and vastly different environments. Traditional boats by the tens of thousands constantly amazed us, as these people live by and from the sea. The only downside in Indonesia was the pollution of the oceans and the lands, particularly the Oceans. It is a tragedy in the making that even if it stopped today would never be able to be cleaned up, but it gets worse, exponentially worse, every day as western companies DUMP what they can no longer sell in our communities into these areas without conscience, care or thought. Plastics, bags, wrappers, crates, foil, rubber, bottles and more bags than could ever be counted are dumped into this area daily and find their way into the oceans. But it was the simplicity of life, the family caring and bonding, the generosity that left the most lasting impressions. And then of course there are Komodo Dragons, volcanoes, rainforests and dry area, monkeys, pristine waters, beautiful bays and wonderful islands that create a montage of experiences.
East Malaysia Rally (EM), now only in its second year, introduced us to the South China Sea that has just so much to offer. An overview is set out in the blogs below. Up the East Coast of Peninsula Malaysia, across the South China Sea and then up the west coast of Borneo, including Brunei. This rally offers a totally different experience as you move from marina to marina punctuated by beach and island stops. Progressively north up peninsula Malaysia the waters get clearer the Islands better, Tioman, Kapas, Redang and Perhentians with crystal clear waters, reef, fish snorkelling, diving and swimming and it seems to just get better and better as you go. There are marinas with world class facilities, Tioman, Terengganu, that become the base for further exploring, stocking up, great food outlets and interesting shopping experiences and a kaleidoscope of food variety at wonderfully cheap prices in such a relaxed and comfortable environment. The ocean is flat, very flat, the beaches and water beautiful. It is cleaner from plastic, foil and other pollutants than Indonesia but this is still the biggest challenge for these areas in the future. But again we are welcomed everywhere, they don't take your fruit, they GIVE you a local tropical fruit platter, they welcome and assist you and do not throw up barriers to entry. Yes you still have to deal with the bureaucracy, but, heh, remember we showed them what bureacracy is and we are still the masters at unnecessary officialdom and rules and regulations! Crossing the South China Sea we sail through Indonesian Islands again on our way to Borneo. Kuching is the entry to Borneo and this country, part of Malaysia but with areas that are Indonesian, and of course Brunei show signs of considerable and in places great wealth and we experience everything from the traditional Iban villages with similarity to the nature of the people in Indonesia as we traverse massive and extensive river systems with whole enormous trees and their foliage going up with the tides, down with the tide, back up with the tide.......and the next stop may be a modern marina and town with the economy "fuelled" by massive and extensive offshore oil and gas rigs that light up the ocean at night for twenty miles and more until the grand finale in Koto Kinabalu where possibly one of the nicest boutique marinas in the world is with theatre, ten pin bowling, too many pools to pick from and crystal clear water with tropical fish and coral IN the marina and beautiful islands only the shortest of hops away. Malaysia was a diversity of peoples from many backgrounds, rapidly developing areas, massive expenditure and development on marine infrastructure (but not many boats visiting............yet) and one of the most underexploited boating environments around. Thus their emphasis on promoting through rallies and other means including events such as the Monsoon Cup and Miri Brunei Race where THEY pay you to enter and offer other inducements to go and enjoy yourself in this welcoming and friendly environment.
The South China Sea gets my vote.
Both the Indonesian Rally and the East Malaysia Rally are very different but equally great experiences for any cruising yacht that will take you to new destinations and assist you to find and explore places you would otherwise miss with many great advantages from joining the rally as well as opportunities to meet some great people along the way.
Where to next? We have much, much more to see up there, and we want to go back to the top end of East Coast Peninsula Malaysia (back across the South China Sea), we want to explore the tip and the north eastern side of Borneo, we want to..................................the next job is antifouling to get us right for another couple of years of exploration in this vibrant and interesting area.
What is the "East Malaysia Rally"?
For a number of years now sailors from around the world have joined Australian and New Zealanders sailing up the east coast of Australia to join the Sail Indonesia Rally, many have then gone on to join the Sail WEST Malaysia Rally to progress from Singapore up the Malacca Straits to Langkawi and continue their world trips.
What is not known or explored by many is the joys of the South China Sea, East Malaysia and Borneo and the wonderful islands of the very benevolent South China Sea. Australians particularly do have some knowledge of the beauty of the Pacific Islands with images of white, sandy, coconut lined beaches, beautiful fringing reefs and the many splendid coloured fish. Commonly we don't have an appreciation of the similarities in the South China Sea but with a gentle sea and many protected waterways. We also tend to forget that Malaysia consists of not only "Peninsula Malaysia but also the Western side of Borneo, Sarawak and Sabah separated by the South China Sea and many islands in between.
Last year, 2008, a new rally was started being the "East Malaysia Rally" supported by the Malaysian Government to introduce this wonderful area to yachties from around the world. Twelve boats joined this rally in that inaugural year, 46 registered this year and already there are over 60 expressions of interest for next year.
So just what is the "East Malaysia Rally"? Similar to the Sail Indonesia and Sail Malaysia Rally it is a partially organised event with plenty of time for participants to also do "their own thing" with the added value of numerous organised trips, tours and functions that add so much to the pleasure of the area and are a chance to share information, anecdotes and tales tall and thin with other like minded yachties. The Rally covers over a thousand nautical miles and runs from mid May to early August traversing from the Malacca Straits, Penang, down past Singapore, up the east coast of Peninsula Malaysia then crosses the South China Sea to Borneo arriving at Kuchin to sail up the West Coast of Borneo almost from southern tip to northern tip of this large island.
To provide a summarised travel itinerary the key destinations and their advantages follow in very brief descriptions, so much more could be said:-
• Penang - gathering boats from the Langkawi and the Malacca Straits. Penang is a scenic island off the west coast of Malaysia rightfully famous for its diverse and cheap foods and steeped in the rich history of Malaysia - a tourist destination in its own right
• Danga Bay -
• Puteri Marina - a new Marina in Malaysia to the west of Singapore which put on a great function and offered free berthing not only for the Rally but until Christmas to help promote this new area.
• Sebana Cove - this is where we joined the Rally, it is a short ferry ride across from Changi Airport, Singapore into Malaysia with a somewhat dilapidated golfing resort, but a great policy to "park" your boat if you wish to return home as it is super protected up a mangrove lined river, is fairly fresh water (inhibiting marine growth) and "out of town" so not many "lookenpeepers" around, and good rates. Monkeys and giant monitor lizards can be found here and marina tenants have use of the "resort" facilities including towels at the pool etc.
• Tioman Island - back to the Singapore Straits and the journey starts up the East Coast of Malaysia in very hospitable waters with easy anchorages and some island stopover to Tioman Island, one of a group not far offshore and part of a large national marine park with magnificently clean water (coral growing in the deep blue and clear marina water) with good beaches, reef snorkelling and diving and many islands and bays to visit and explore. This is a great marina with new amenities and one could be tempted to stay on and on.
• Quandong -
• Kapas Island - is the next official stop and is reached by island hopping up the Coast in easy day sails. Kapas is a tourist destination with beautiful sandy beaches and low key resorts and once again clear, clear water. A great spot also for a bit of squid fishing and they will take you out on a squid boat and show you how it is really done. We sail in convoy the short distance to the next destination with Malaysian tourism and sailing officials on board for the experience.
• Terrengenu - the northernmost official port for us on the east coast of Peninsula Malaysia. An historic town in many respects and home of the annual Monsoon Cup a match racing event sailed on the fleet of Foundation 30's acquired from Perth some years ago every December. Visit traditional boat building yard in full operation and enjoy China town and the fantastic facilities of the Marina with spa, pool, sauna, gym and towels provided for your every shower! Time out here to visit islands like Redang and Perhentians a short distance north which provide wonderful anchorages, pristine beaches, coral reefs and reef fishes, turtle breeding areas, and you can swim and snorkel with turtles, fish and sharks in the clearest of waters. Certainly an area we will go back to.
• Kuchin - is the destination almost 500 nautical miles across the South China Sea to Borneo. One can expect flat seas and calm weather, sail around oil rigs, and through Indonesian Islands to arrive at the trading port of Kuchin or "Cat City" in southern west Borneo. A visit to the Orangutan Sanctuary is a must and the size and strength of the alpha male cannot help but leave an impression. Attend the annual Rainforest Music Festival if that way inclined or just enjoy the area. We anchored in the Santabong River, at Santabong, which must be the world's best barnacle breeding ground as we went in spotlessly clean and after only a week left with a blanket of juvenile barnacles attached to everything below the waterline!
• Miri - also has a great Marina but no facilities - yet - they are coming next year. But on the way there are island stopovers and the opportunity to travel deep into the massive Borneo River systems leading up to Sibu where ships travel through the rivers and a myriad of rivers intertwine and join and there is the opportunity to visit water villages, and long houses and meet the Iban, the native inhabitants of Borneo. The rivers are navigable and fascinating with fast running and complex tidal streams. They are not only populated by logs large and small but also massive trees intact come floating down on ebbing tides and return on the flood to make life interesting. Miri once reached is a modern town and the marina, canal development put on two splendid dinners for the Rally group. Miri is also the base for International Paints in this part of the world and many parts and repairs can be sourced from here. Two twelve metre yachts sit on the hard whilst their sails spill out of a container on the Marina obviously an idea for something not happening yet!
• Brunei - and we leave Malaysia for this oil rich Sultanate where we anchor at first at the Royal Brunei Yacht Club and later at the annex to the Club much closer to the City and the Palace. Oil money talks in this country which is affluent and the benefits of their arrangements with Shell Oil are obvious. Sailing up the coast we weave in and out of oil rigs and platforms of which there is no shortage. A trip to the highlands and up the rapids in longboats punctuates this visit as well as the opportunity to see the local Probiscus monkey, and other wildlife including Sea Otters, other monkeys, crocodiles etc
• Labuan - just twenty miles up the track we return to Malaysia at the duty free island of Labuan (stock up on beer and other essential nautical supplies). A very busy port as one might expect and a new marina and amenities building already well under way opening in October this year certainly a boon for next year's Rally. Not an official stopover but a great place to stop nonetheless.
• Koto Kinabulu and Sutera Marina - the last official stop of the Rally. This is THE 5 star marina with crystal clear water harbouring corals and tropical fish IN the marina, dozens of pools to select from for a swim, amenities providing all needs for showering and fresh towels, ten pin bowling, theatre, "chartroom" or readingroom with current papers, journals, wifi internet, restaurants with 40% discount for Marina users and so the list goes on. A prosperous town with all facilities. A group of nearby islands provide for snorkelling, diving, sound anchorages and the perfect place for family or visitors to come to and enjoy. A memorable Rally final dinner is put on here by the Tourism Board with local and traditional experiential entertainment that is a real night to remember.
• From there - well some boats just stay, some go on to the Boonekin Rally around the tip of Borneo and down to Indonesia, some are on their way back to Oz and others just stopping a while and going back to Peninsula Malaysia,
Interestingly the Sail Indonesia Rally is a great cultural experience where doesn't see or even think about a marina from the time you leave Darwin (if in fact you were in a Marina inside the locks at Darwin) until Nongsa Point where you leave Indonesia for Singapore or points further afield. The East Malaysia Rally however takes one from new to good and better and superb marina's, culminating in the five star marina at Sutera, punctuated by beautiful islands, protected anchorages, pristine beaches where one can anchor a short swim from the beach and count the grains of sand on the bottom by looking over the side of the boat.
A diversity of wildlife from tropical fish, coral reefs, swimming with turtles, orang-utans, monkeys of various types, dolphins and a variety of bird life in areas unexpectedly beautiful and in a sea that is for the most part benign, flat although it can also respond with quite spectacular thunderstorms , a vessel only hundreds of metres from us was hit by lightning near Tioman Island. The Rally is quite different from Sail Indonesia, Sail (West) Malaysia and the Pacific Rallies.
Water from crystal clear blue, to muddy rushing rivers, to that of the cities of Kuchin and the inlands of Borneo within a short time frame there is contrast upon contrast of blue and brown, of clear and murky, of old and new, of poverty and affluence, of happiness and striving, of material possessions of spirituality, of religion of all types, of animism or spiritualism this area offers new experience after new experience.
Clearly the numbers will increase dramatically as the word gets out. For any yachts, or power boats, to spend much more time in this still largely undiscovered and certainly unexploited wonderful cruising ground.
Do it if you can!
In the boatyard at Kudat, it is hot, hot and dry. There are so many jobs to do but we are sort of on schedule. Packing things up, lines, sheets and ropes to wash and stow, we have folded and stowed the Genoa off the furler and lines, packing, cleaning, polishing, stitching, repairing, covering, cleaning out engine filters and strainers, vacuuming bilges, polishing stainless and barbecue plates, stowing, it is hot, it is busy. Pulled out the CD/Radio as it stopped last night only to find that as I removed the 45th wire it was a simple hidden fuse in a power array that still lit the radio up but didn't allow it to work, sort of an anti theft device, great, put it all back together again but left the birdsnest as I had already purchased a cable track to dress up the wiring in this area so now it is out and ready to install.
Peter, the equivalent of Simon in Miri, is a taxidriver and wealth of knowledge about where to find things and what to do. He is educating his children as "you need English to make money". He is buying a fishing boat as "there isn't any money in taxis any more". We have helped him! He has helped us!
Yesterday we went to town again with Peter, arranged some fuel, had the usual lunch at our favourite Indian restaurant (11 ringits about $4) and had another wander around town. Set off around the waterfront and stopped at a small shop for coffee and a green coconut to drink, we were give a complimentary plate of fried bananas, we really need to walk home now. So we set off around the sea wall. There has been a great deal of waterfront development, a massive sea wall right around from town to the boatyard. Noted the good places to anchor which were quite protected although the front of town is very exposed. We wandered back to the boatyard a few k walk along the seawall with a bit of a clamber in front of the fish factory as the top of the wall was blocked off.
Kudat is a nice fishing village, a lot of activity, a mass of fishing boats, and quite industrious people. Boats are getting built or rebuilt, often with literally chainsaw carpentry! although they are very skilful with it. I am not sure what fine joinery would look like.
Had a discussion with the boatyard owner about our terms and arranged some caretaking and cleaning.
It is hot as we ready for a joint taxi to go to KK this afternoon.
We left the magnificient Sutera Marina on Wednesday 5th after taking a great lunch in the Clubhouse, eventually letting our lines go at about 4.30pm as we slipped past the adjacent superyacht and the beautiful clear water of the marina out to pass around the southern edge of one of the skirting islands. We motored out into the headwind and as we approached the island set the Genoa, turned north and headed for the tip of Borneo. It was a great night for a sail with good moonlight despite the hazy, smoky sky conditions, and as we headed north we enjoyed following seas and fresh breezes allowing us to sail under the Genoa alone and still clock up 7 knots plus. This is wonderfully easy and comfortable sailing with just one sail, no worries about gybing or banging mains and still a good click of speed. We had 100 nautical miles to do and did not want to arrive until after dawn so all was good.
As we approached the Tip of Borneo the wind was freshening to 22 knots plus and a couple of squalls passed us to seaward in the freshening conditions. I thought we might pass between a small rocky island on which the lighthouse sits and the mainland but the breaking water did not look attractive (and after seeing this area some days ago from the lookout at the tip) we backed off and went around the outside of the island narrowingly missing passing squalls as we did! And then around the tip and head back down the other side towards Kudat. We cruised very comfortably down the eastern coast of the tip enjoying the scenery and passing fishing boats and dories to arrive at Kudat at about 0930. We anchored and headed in to find out about lifting Charming for antifouling and storage to be told "we are full at the moment, maybe five days or a couple of weeks!" What!@!@! We gently explained we were booked to fly out on Tuesday and later in the afternoon they shifted a boat and advised we could come up tomorrow!! Phew!! Late in the afternoon we noticed a large barge full of cars and a tug manouvering it coming towards the Kudat Duckpond, which isn't all that large. The tug brought a bunch of people in and the barge was anchored. As the evening wore on the fishing boats went out with one nearly, very nearly reversing into our bow as he manouvered to leave..........We went to bed with many lights on outside!
Now Friday we awoke to hear the tug heading our way and he asked us to move so he could bring the barge load of cars in, of couse we obliged and by the time we had our anchor half up he was well on the way in. It was very early in the morning but we thought it would be good to get into the fingers for the travellift early before the wind came up so we started our preparations - fenders, ropes etc. Just as started to line up to make an approach the owner of the yard arrived tooted to us to stop and then come in which we did and it was great to glide in, secure our lines, and be safely inside the narrow fingers without marks or damage or stress!
Soon after the travellift driver arrived and we commenced to lift out! The operator was excellent. I did a quick dive to check the positioning of the slings and all was well. We lifted up and they took us to our bay which had been pushed clear of debris (all pushed to the back of it!) and set us down on concrete blocks with timber on top. Well done! Then we had the water blaster and a couple of boys to operate it who did a good job. We washed down the topsides and commenced our pack up preparations, cleaning and storing and a myriad other jobs that had to be done. We went into town this afternoon to get a few things and had a late lunch and back to the clean up. We seem to be making a bigger mess as we stow things inside and sort out some minor issues, clean pack and unpack put up shadecloth and covers, take down sails, wrap booms, knock off a few barnacles, make new power leads and connect to power etc etc etc.
However we are happy with the yard and where we are and now have just two days to finish five days work!! before we go.........
Today we were up early and went to Kudat, where there is a shipyard and travel lift we hope to use. It is about 200k drive from Kota Kinabalu, this time we end up with a fairly new but small car. It zooms along the road well and it takes about 3 hours to do the drive through the top end of Borneo. Interesting all the way and nice scenery. We find the shipyard easily and communicate with the owner with difficulty but it all looks good.
It is blowing 40 pelicans up here though with very strong winds. On the way back we see a sign to "The tip of Borneo" so head off down the track to arrive at the tip, a beautiful area and we see one of our friends on Panthalassa heading towards the Cape with 40 Knots+ wind and very rough conditions. We can hardly stand up in the wind! They look to be struggling........
We arrive back at KK at 1740 just in time to prepare for the Cocktail Reception and grand final dinner.
The grand dinner acknowledging the end of the Rally was put on by the Sabah Tourism Board and it was magnificient. Starting with cocktails on the boardwalk we then followed a band of warriors round to the massive tennis stadium that had been carpeted and decorated for the event. The tennis area has massive circus tent like covers high overhead. The setting was beautiful and the night was punctuated by some great speeches, and then singing, music and dancing from local traditional tribal area which was just spectacular and so well done. We all feel that there is just so much more of Borneo we would like to see and do. The dancers were superb and the music great with fantastic dress and presentations with a cultural context. An absolutely wonderful finale of the highest standard.
This finished at about 11:30pm and we had a quick swim to cool off after the dancing and then went on board our next door neighbour a 106 foot superyacht where we drank port, rum and told tales until the night was seen out.
01/08/2009, Koto Kinabalu
We had a good sail, what a CHANGE to actually sail!!, up from our anchorage to Sutera Marina, arriving mid afternoon we were allocated a stern in berth between two superyachts that make us look like a toy floating in the marina!
Now THIS is a world class marina!! Something for everybody maybe a dozen or so pools including an Olympic Lap Pool, spas, a movie theatre, (golf of course) ten pin bowling, many restaurants......
The water is pristine with tropical fish swimming in it and live corals growing and thriving.
Of course if you want a swim they give you a towel, if you want a shower they give you a different towel and all bathroom needs, there is a "Chart Room" for sitting, reading and using the computer, WI-FII naturally, 50 discount at the restaurants, free shuttle to town..........
We went to the markets to look at dinner and the Filipino market had all sorts of seafood fresh caught and cooked. You could buy a prawn from MR5 through to 30 for the biggest prawns you would ever have seen, to lobster, sting ray, cuttlefish, squid whole cooked fish of all sorts, sizes and shapes etc etc etc..........
Now this IS a marina of THE highest standard!!!!! Absolutely THE best I have EVER visited...........
31/07/2009, North West Borneo
We left Labuan early after our shopping day yesterday and headed out and around in overcast conditions with some rain squalls around. But we set sail hoping to do about 40 miles to the next anchorage.
We had originally hoped to go to Tiiga Island for some swimming and snorkelling but it was a very overcast day and not conducive to that, also with an ocean swell that we thought might make Tiiga uncomfortable, so we tucked well down behind an adjacent headland where a number of boats were scattered around in a huge shallow bay and settled for the night, which was quiet and pleasant and off for an early (well not really early but about 0730 to head for Sutera Marina at Koto Kinabalu. KK proved to be a large and modern city with interesting contrasts betweend the old and the new. Some of the most modern resorts and buildings but still some water villages and humble abodes.
KK is a busy place.
There are more current photos under the "Gallery" - East Malaysia Rally 2009 - 3
Up at 0730 for a look around, it is overcast and rainy with squalls and storms in the distance. Nevertheless we leave at 0830 heading for Tiiga or the nearby headland for a stopover on our way to Kota Kinabalu the final destination for the rally.
Some vessels have left before us, we notice the marina is cleared so four or five vessels must be in front and a couple leave not long after us. It was our day to do the Radio Sched but I was a minute late and another vessel had kindly stepped in and taken it on.
Flat water, rain, some heavy rain, and no wind. We are using both motors today, I am not sure why but we are as we make good time towards our interim destination at time doing near 8 knots and at other pushed back by current to the 6's. Whilst motoring is tedious at least the water is flat although we do have a westerly swell coming in. The forecast was for some strong winds further north but there is nothing here.
Plenty of timber and floating debris in the water, which is now quite clear and has lost the silt of the waters further south. Unfortunately with a grey grey day it is not all that attractive and whilst we were hoping to swim and snorkel/dive at Palau Tiiga the weather is not looking that inviting for it at present.
Delayed our departure today to explore some of Labuan a duty free island and busy community just of the coast but on the track north. An interesting contrast with every sort of booze here cheap compared to no alcohol in Brunei. Stay posted as we will update the last few days with more detail as soon as we can!
Today we clear customs and immigration in Brunei to go back to Malaysia via Labuan a duty free island some 20 odd miles up the coast. We leave in 20 knots plus wind sailing at 8+ knots with Genoa alone, it is great and a straight line to Labuan with the wind behind us. We make good time although the wind drops to about 14 knots closer to Labuan which is ok because we have to dodge many parked up ships and workboats as we head into the harbour area near the township. We clear immigration back into Malaysia and customs and hit the town for dinner - Indian not far from the wharves. Looks like an interesting place - be good to have a good look around tomorrow.
We went past the Shell Service Station on the water for the Water Village boats, and up the channels and waterways. Back at Club 1 we have to clear immigration and customs to head out back to Malaysia where we will enter at Labuan Island, a duty free port just off the mainland surrounded by shipping, laid up vessels and workboats.
With twenty two knots plus of wind as we entered Brunei Channel we just put up the headsail and set a straight course for Palau Labuan. Storm cells were behind us and to the starboard, we enjoyed the winds from the sucking clouds to make good time across the bay until about 2/3rd of the way across the wind came back to about 14 knots so we slowed a bit but sailed in past the laid up ships and local traffic to enter Victoria.
Now Labuan was under English rule until 1942 when the Japanese took up occupation, it was returned to local democracy in 1945 by the 9th Brigade from Australia.
We took up anchor in the now slightly crowded bay between the Police and the water village opposite the main town area and ferry terminal. Right outside a mosque as well which meant we got the 4.00am call whether we needed it or not!
To go to town we could take the local water taxi or dinghy and we went into town for Indian dinner which was great.
A nice little harbour with very busy shipping and commercial traffic and many workboats laid up.
There is a marina under construction and some yachts went and tied up in there. It has a new administrative office nearing completion and they hope to open in September - we visited by foot and spoke to the project manager. It looks like it will be great.
Charmar was mentioned in the Brunei Times on Monday 27.07.2009 "Local youths set aboard yacht rally" as a result of the rally yachts taking local Dubai youth groups for a trip from Dubai entrance, to the second club near Dubai City. Obviously I was not one of the local "youths"!!
The story covered the experiences of the youths and the yachts sailing down into Brunei. The young people were a wealth of information for us and were very interested in what we were doing and our perceptions of their country as well.
We learned that Brunei'ans are happy and well cared for and do in many ways live in "priveleged" area with great opportunity.
Up early for an 0730 departure to Ulu Temburong National Park - an eco activity day tour organized by Allan. We bus to the city, catch a high speed cigarette style ferry with 2 x 200hp outboards that whisks us away down mangrove channels, rivers and open waterways at high speed to the next stop, Bangar. Then by bus again to Batang Duri where we go upstream by Longboats to Ulu Temburong National Park. This is an amazing trip where the experienced long boat skippers take 5 of us in each boat with a poling crew member in the bow and a 15 to 30hp outboard on the stern up the rapids, over rocks and river stones, through the shallows and around logs through the densest of jungle on either side. Quite an amazing ride. We go all the way up to the National Park and then further to a treetop canopy walkway up about 1000 steps all told from the river to the canopy walkway then up the scaffolding steps to the walkway above the trees. Done it, don't need to do it again, don't like heights but it was ok. I guess coming from NQ with Skyrail seeing above the canopy is not something new to us. We go back in the Longboats to a great (and well earned) lunch beside the Temburong River then take lilo type floats to paddle back down the rapids and repeat the trip in reverse. A really great day in the jungle and on the water.
Being devils for punishment on our return at a bit after 5.00pm we do the Mangrove Tour which goes by boat up past the Sultan's Palace and into the Mangrove Creeks and Rivers. We passed a rock in the river which looks like a boat set in the middle of the stream tipped on its side, the local mythical story is that it belonged to a local guy who left and made good and came back to visit Brunei but did not visit his poor mum, as a result he and his boat were turned to stone, so all Brunei'ns learn this story when young so they always look after their Mum's. A good story.
On the trip we spied the local Probiscus Monkey and the Long Tail monkey, as well as Sea Otters, one of which had just caught a good sized fish and was busy taking it home and one just chomping away on his dinner. This was an enjoyable and easy couple of hours also where we learnt a bit more about local custom and myth. Brunei is indeed a well run and organized country which has many benefits for the locals and obviously good employment levels and income. There are many massive mansions here, all modern cars and a very nice clean city.
Today I go and have a look at the Brunei slipway. It looks ok but it is only 0730 on a Sunday morning. Return to the club where we take on three boys to join the trip down to the Royal Brunei Yacht Club second premises! This is quite close to town and near a 'water village' more on these water villages later.
It was great to have the boys on board and to learn about the local area and culture, and it became the subject of a press release reported in another entry.
The photo is of the boys trying vegemite (as we explained our "culture")! We really enjoyed their company and had a great lunch at the club after arrival.
This is a leisurely day where we sail with company on board to RBYC Kota Batu. This is about ten miles from where we were along the channel and waterways leading to another water village and quite close to the Town Centre and not far from the Sultan's Palace which of course has a long waterfront. I guess they did not want 30 odd yachts anchored right along his verge! So we were back a little from there anchored outside the clubhouse from where a tender service was provided.
The three boys Yaza, Zul, and Dihar were great company as mentioned above. They brought local Brunei treats which were delicious for morning tea and we returned the favour with Vegemite which they very politely tried but the expressions in the photo probably says it all!!! There is a large ex-pat population in Brunei so Vegemite was sold in one of the local supermarkets!
We had the Sunday carvery lunch and spent some of the afternoon refueling with Jerry Jugs to the local service station. We took on over 300 litres which is quite a few jerry jugs to lug up and down but at 31 cents per litre it was a good opportunity to refill the tanks and all the spare jerry jugs after the amount of diesel we had used getting here.
25/07/2009, 05 00.2n;115 04.1e
About to go to shore and we hear that Icicle is out of fuel entering Brunei Bay. So we take a 20 litre Jerry Jug of Diesel out in the dinghy a few miles to help them out. Yes it did the trick and they self motored into Brunei as we raced back in the dinghy. After breakfast then we piled into the dinghy with everything required for the day and night as we had a full day planned. We received a friendly welcome at the yacht club, very pleasant highest clubhouse open air verandah style over looking the bay and swimming pool below. Firstly formalities of clearing immigration and customs needed to be got out of the way, temperatures taken, normal procedure in most countries at present due to the "Swine Flu". Just enough time to down a quick lunch before heading off on tour of Brunei.
A small bus load of yachties guided by Allan Ritches, an expat living in Brunei for over ten years. Our first stop was at the new mosque named after the present Sultan, upon arrival we were welcomed with an almighty clap of thunder and the skies opening up with a deluge of rain. The mosque was a huge, palatial, magnificent marble and gold building. Covered up in black cloaks we were permitted to view inside, but not take photos, the enormous male prayer hall that holds 3,500 males. The chandelier in the middle was solid gold weighing 2.5 tons, the prayer mats were made of New Zealand wool woven in Thailand. The female prayer hall was equally as palatial but on a smaller scale as it is optional for females to go to the mosque. Marble, granite, gold, and to top it off the gold domes with the gold set in clear ceramic tiles. Apparently it does not matter how much it costs to build a mosque.
The rain stopped as we left and we then went to see the building housing the Royal Regalia where the Sultan's inauguration chariots (the last one and the new one for the 25 year anniversary are held. This also once held the greatest collection of Churchill memorabilia now much returned to the UK as some people deemed it a bit out of "spirit" to maintain it here. This building housed some interesting history and also the "life story" of the Sultan.
We then went to the Sultan's Palace, where we stopped to watch whilst the traffic was held up as one of the Royal Family was leaving the palace with the normal cavalcade. The most interesting part of this visitation was to go the original Palace where the Sultan was born. The current Palace is said to have something like 1700 odd rooms, a reception room for 4,500, stables, its own shopping mall etc etc etc. The original Palace where the Sultan was born was a high set suburban house maybe with ten rooms! WHAT a CONTRAST in his lifetime.
Our next visit was a "Water Village" where we went into a traditional water village house for afternoon tea. These entire villages are built on stilts with timber walkways on the water. When you sweep the floor you just flip over a floorboard and sweep the rubbish into the water below for the Catfish (they say don't eat the catfish!)
These fascinating villages have the school, Police, Fire Brigade, mosque etc all built out over the water. Each house is quite large with a shed (every man needs a shed!) mostly for boat repairs, timber storage etc. The old water villages do have fire problems as the houses are so close together and interlinked and of course cooking is on gas or fire. Even the chicken coop is built above the water. The new water villages are more appropriately layed out with formal design rules, water and sewerage connections and services. Of course even the old ones have electricity and water (fresh water) supplied. The houses are often beautifully furnished and the people live a co-operative lifestyle. The kids and young adults fly kites off the walkways. I guess you would have to become a good kite flyer as you would ditch into water if not. Boats and outboard traffic zooms in and out and under the houses and walkways like kids on bikes or scooters.
This was a great day trip and we returned to the Club for a delicious barbecue dinner and back to Charmar for a good sleep!
24/07/2009, Near Brunei
Today we continued on from the overnight sailing to Brunei, the wind picked up as the day continued and we actually got a reasonable sail in and made good speed to Brunei arriving late afternoon to proceed down the well marked channel and to the first of the 2 Royal Brunei Yacht Clubs where we anchored for the evening and stayed on board to have an early night.
At the last night function in Miri a Rally photo competition was held and Charmar won the award for a Landscape photo with this photo of Pauline, a dolphin and Charmar taken by Dianne crossing the South China Sea. We all thought this photo was exceptional and so did the judges.
Well done Dianne a great shot!
We finally left Miri at 2200 (10pm) on 23rd bound for Brunei after attending the final formal function in Miri. It was low tide as we left the Marina under cover of darkness. We worked our way out and around a huge moored barge with a couple of barely visible candlelights each end but fortunately we could see the outline as it was directly in our path. It was then just a matter of dodging oil rigs and tenders as we proceeded through the night. At some stage we hit something hard that actually dented the bow. Probably a floating log which is a real hazard in this area but nothing one can do to avoid them at night! Just one of the hazards of the area and virtues of having a strong boat.
After a relaxing afternoon, conserving our energy for our night departure for Brunei, we joined the Rally Fleet on foot and walked up to the resort for a hosted farewell dinner. Our new bikes came in handy for Neil as he was able to ride the bike the venue which was about a 10 minute walk and his ankle would not have been able to manage the walk.
It was a glorious evening and a delightful setting with the tables scattered on the lawn with the sparkling pool in the background and the sun setting over the water. We had been asked to submit two photos taken on the rally for a photo competition, my "Pauline and Dolphin" shot was entered for the comp and it won the "landscape" category winning a very handy backpack.
It happened to also be Lloyd's (cat Déjà vu II) 70th birthday. Some of the yachts got together and put on a "Gilligan Island" act getting Lloyd up on the stage while they sang a song about him and his yacht. There were a few other skits as well, all very entertaining, finishing with birthday cake and all singing Lloyd "Happy Birthday". It was a great night, lots of fun and wonderful food.
Back to Charmar and on our way on time at 10.00pm, it was a very low tide, just enough water for us to exit the marina. Despite there being no moon the sky was quite bright making visibility relatively good, this was very fortunate as there were a few huge black ships on anchor without lights. We passed many floating high rise cities which were the oil and gas platforms all ablaze with lights.
The wind picked up and we hoisted our sails and kept one motor ticking over to maintain a comfortable 6.5 knots. About 4.00am we were finally clear of the obstacles and were starting to relax and enjoy the sail when there was an almighty thud, and thud again with Charmar shuddering. I rushed up the front with the torch and shone it all around but couldn't see anything to have caused the thuds or shudder, we continued on puzzled but none the wiser.
Day break and the wind was increasing enabling us to stop the motor and enjoy a very comfortable sail making good time as we were still travelling at 6 to 7 knots. There were still many oil and gas fields all around off in the distance and many large ships and fishing vessels passing by. One fishing vessel was coming straight at us on the port side and passed very close to our stern, all crew were on deck taking photos of us, smiling and waving.
2.00pm we entered the leads into Brunei Bay, a very busy well marked channel and an hour later had us dropping anchor amongst other yachts, some locals and others cruising through, in front of the Serasa Royal Brunei Yacht Club. We had enjoyed a great sail for a change as travelling purely by wind power has been few and far between on this rally. Being late afternoon we decided to stay on board and recharge our batteries (people batteries that is) in preparation for the next 3 hectic days planned! Upon anchoring we were able to more closely examine the dent in the bow at the water line where we had hit something hard during the night, probably an end on log many of which inhabit this part of the oceans.
This was put on by the Marina development owner and was a great night and a lot of fun. The entertainment was provided by the rally group.