Well it had to happen didn't it. After such a smooth and comfortable passage as we approached Borneo we were hit with squall after sqall after squall. The more we plotted them on the radar and tried to avoid them the more they regrouped and formed around us.
Anyway we battled on and arrived in Sumbong Borneo, in the rain, at about 1100 our time today.
King Neptune always likes to remind one that he is "De BOSS". So here we are, bit tired after being up most of the night but anchored and here.
The most "exciting" part last night was being in a total whiteout in one squall, not able to see anything, the radar choked by the rain and even AIS struggling to get VHF messages in to sail out of the squall to LIHGTS, LIGHTS and LIGHTS - there was a tug towing a huge ship bery close by and we had not the faintest idea they were there, and probably nor did they know we were there. In whiteouts of this nature one slows down and then must hope for the best!
Last night our Executive Chef Neil announced after pre dinner nibbles that for this location our choice of meals would be:
SOUP: freshly made tomato, cabbage and spices to suit
MAIN COURSE: Chicken and mushrooms poached in a light white wine sauce with garlic, mushroom cream sauce served over rice noodles.
Of course it was delicious and prepared us well for what was ahead unbeknown at that time. But another cup of the soup went really well in the rain in the wee hours of the morning!!
The cuisine on Board Charmar whilst cruising the South China Sea has been nothing short of spectacular as surprise after surprise appears from the small but apparently well stocked galley. The day starts with tea and a couple of "dunkers", (arrowroot biscuits for the uninitiated). This is then followed by a fresh fruit platter accompanied by sesame seed thins, and oatmeal cakes. Morning tea soon follows with cappaccino's and homemade Christmas Cake (currently on the third one of the four brought on board for this trip). Late lunch is usually served consisting of something in the order of freshly made and dressed coleslaw, pickles, cheeses, crackers, rolls and tinned fish (well you can't catch any here, just dragged two lines 500+ sea miles and nary a fish was caught!), all washed down with iced lemon tea so good in the tropics - it is pretty warm at this time of day. Happy hour nibbles are enjoyed late afternoon as the sun is setting and dinner is served on deck to the standard mentioned earlier depending on the executive chef's opinion of cuisine to suit the location and activities underway.
Lucky there are no scale on board, but we have put a pencil line on the plimsol line to see if we are all putting on weight!
Borneo? Rainforest yes so I guess one has to expect rain. There is a rainforest worldwide music festival here that we have tentatively booked for but let's see what happens after lunch, a sleep and the weather improving a little..........Bye now
28/06/2009, Indonesian Islands on the way to Sarawak
It has been easy travelling if not exciting sailing. Last night the sea turned to an oily mirror that was as flat as it gets, of course, your right that means there was NO wind and of course we motored through the night and indeed that carried on today and as we go into the evening 1800 our time we are still motoring even though we had the Genoa out to try to seek a little breeze now from a very favourable direction but oh so week that the motor is pushing us faster than the wind.
With one motor we are cruising at 6 knots and earlier at 7 with a knot of tidal current boosting our passage. This is easy though as the motor is not working hard and we don't want to arrive until tomorrow morning to enter the river entrance in full delight, currently at this speed we should be at that waypoint at 0930 in the morning, but we still have to face tides and currents that could help or hinder!
Today? Dolphins, waterspouts, passing close by Indonesian Islands, and HOT very hot, so we sit on the scoop steps at the back and lean back holding onto a rope as the saltwater rushing past splashes all over and freshens us up a little. It is also good to have plenty of water for fresh showers and rinsing off............yesterday we made a stack of water. One of the by products of motoring is full batteries and watermaking ability! Plenty of this on this trip.
The Islands are typical Indonesian Islands although they sit between two area of Malaysia and we had fishing boats close by and they actually caught fish, but our trolling lines, two out now in desperation, one with a flying fish we found on deck as "extra bait" but as the miles continue to rack up the fish elude that temptation and the only satisfaction we have is losing a couple of lures, one of a brand new commercial trailing line which I can only guess was not well put together.
Have a brief phone service today as we passed the Indonesian Islands but lost quickly as we picked up a good little tidal run that pushed us through and back onto our passage east to Sarawak and Kuchin.
At Sarawak we should be able to get back onto broadband.
As we have all said in the group we are in "not great sailing, but still pleasant and sure beats getting flogged by strong winds" so all in all so far a good passage and we should arrive tomorrow.
26/06/2009, Half Way Across the South China Sea
A good nights sailing last night, the breeze dropped a little, but in these waters it is is actually good not to be travelling too fast at night as there are logs, pallets, fish traps, posts etc in the water and how they anchor posts in 80 metres of water is beyond me but you see them sticking up out of the water.
An uneventful night, which is also always a good sign so we just steadily and very comfortably clicked away more miles after a fine dinner by our executive chef Neil.
Today the winds eased off a little more so since the morning we have had first one motor, which also produces 220volt to run the fridges also and then the other to make water which is still running now at 1730.
Just behind us about 5 miles is another cat from the Rally who came across the horizon early morning and has been off at a distance all day paralleling our course but alternating from time to time as we each chase a little breeze both having full sails up all day but the wind just off the bow and quite fine so we can only just hold course.
Looks like another two days from here to Kuchin or at least tonight and tomorrow night before we pass Indonesia to find Malaysian Sarawak and the river down to Kuchin.
Tracking along very comfortably though, rather have the engine off but at least it is very comfortable and numerous books will be read on board before we hit land.
A couple of vessels in front had a close encounter with a waterspout a couple of hours ago.
26/06/2009, South China Sea Gas and Oil Fields - Kapas to Kuchin
Well a bit of blog catching up needed!! We had a few days back in Terenggenu catching up with things, restocking, refuelling, banking and enjoying the marina showers where they provide you with a towel, gym, spa, sauna, pool etc......Some marina's really are world class.
Anyway the day before yesterday we headed off to Kapas Island or Palau Kapas which we had visited before. It was only ten miles from the mainland and pretty much on our track so it was a chance for an easy night before departing and to wash the sludge off the waterline!
We zoomed down the harbour on the way out on an outgoing fast tide and then slogged into the tide, current and wind to go to Kapas - short trip but it took three hours at times down to 2.5 knots.
A good night there, we ran the fleet radio sched the following morning, cleaned the hulls and left at about 1000 for the South China Sea. Left in a nice favourable westerly which soon became a south easterly although we were on a flat sea. A good run for a few hours BUT then we had the wind EXACTLY on the nose, and a tide and current against us running at about 2 - 2.5 knots. Now this is one interesting tide that started going out at midday and went out all day until 4.00am the next morning - and when it was going out it was against us.
Well yesterday we sailed for a short time and then motored, and motored and motored all the rest of the day and ALL night sometimes down to to speeds of 2 knots with just one engine running and tide, current and wide against us. At other times we did 5 knots as we escaped the run.
Through the night we entered the South China Sea Gas and Oil Fields with shipping traffic, fishing vessels and other barges, tugs and dumb barges travelling through. At one stage a fishing vessel "pursued us" and we had to ultimately turn 180 degrees to avoid it.
We passed through a shipping channel, presumably vessels for the oil fields - thanks heavens for the TRANSAS AIS transponder as we could identify the ships and they could see us. We spoke to a number of the ships.
At 0600 this morning at last a favourable breeze came in so it was up with the main, unfurl the genoa, off with the motor and GO. Today we have travelled at 6 - 8.5+ knots with a breeze forward of the beam, smooth seas and about 10 - 14 knots of true breeze. At last we are making miles!!!
We have about four other vessels known to us in VHF range but the rest of the fleet only left Terenggenu and Kapas today and some left from Tioman and other places.
We talk to the closer by boats on VHF but cannot see them. Each day we have a HF sched at 0900 and a chance to link in at 1500/2100 and 0300.
Today it has been quiet on the water as we follow the rhumb line to Kuchin. There are gas and oil platforms that we sail past. More tugs and huge barges loaded with who knows what. Not so much action on the water during the day however as we get further away from land.
Let's see how it is tonight. Would be great if this breezed stayed in.
21/06/2009, The Ri-Yaz - Home of the Monsoon Cup
Today we reluctantly left the Perhentians, we could have spent weeks in the area around the beautiful bays and islands with pristine clear water and an abundance of marine life, fishes, turtles laying eggs on the beach, corals and beautiful beaches with fine sparkling white sand. We must come back here to spend more time!
We motored off in the early morning watching turtles go under the boat as we motored out of the channel between the islands being able to see down 5, 10 and 15 metres through the water and almost be able to count the sand grains!
We had a days run to do of about 45 miles initially running one engine to give us 6 knots and then the other to allow us to make water. Later in the morning or at about lunch time a breeze started so we set the Genoa for that extra knot of speed and less load on the engine but we ended up running an engine all trip getting in to Terengganu at about 1530 where we returned to the marina.
Caught up with a few of the fleet there, had freshly caught and cooked Moreton Bay Bugs for an entree then a shower and off to the restaurant for fish and chips! An easy day's travelling but would rather be at the islands than in the Marina.
But it is time to stock up, fill the tanks and get ready to cross the China Sea in a few days time.
20/06/2009, Perhentian Islands
The Perhentians, which means a place to stop in local lingo, was a great stopover. It is a place where the local fishermen use to stop before taking their catch back to the Mainland, and indeed they still do as there is a fishing village there. Also numerous "resorts" but much more to the backpacker level than for example Redang Island.=
We enjoyed the bay and company of Katani II on the first night and the next day did a local snorkel trip in a group of 12 to seven sites: A lighthouse point of the west side which had great coral and amazing density and array of fishes, (this is REALLY the home of Nemo!!! and his brothers and sisters and uncles and aunts etc): then to swim with baby sharks, then a marvellous free swim with turtles than just grazed and cruised whilst we eyeballed them from just a foot away and they were not in the least perturbed, lunch at the fishing village, onto more coral, and amazing parrot fish site, then to romantic beach. The tour was scheduled to go to 3.30pm but it was past 5.30 by the time we got back and the guide took us to "his friends" boat to buy moreton bay bugs and crab fresh. He then came on board to look at Charmar and we had a great chat - more on that later. Just got ready to show and a water taxi arrived with two swiss girls, a dutch boy and a KL boy how studies his Masters in Wollongong (photos later also) who we had invited back for drinks . At about 2100 we all headed to the beach for dinn at the restaurant on the sand beach where we had fresh fish and squid, barbecue etc - a great nighb, we declined the offer of the younger ones to go to the bar at 11.30 but could hear the music for hours afterwards!!
Today back on the track direct to Terengganu to stock up, finish a few formalities and prepare for the South China Sea crossing!
19/06/2009, Perhentian Island - Turtle Bay
Redang Island is indeed beautiful with fine white sandy beaches, pristine clear water and fantastic underwater visibility, turtles, fishes, corals, breeding turtles and numerous resorts, indeed it is a fantastic area. After a few days in the north east bay with daily snorkelling, beaching and resorting it was time to drag ourselves away and set sail. Leaving we went into adjacent Turtle Bay and passed mating giant turtles in the water and observed their egg laying beaches. Wonderful bays with rainforest down to the rockwalls and beaches.
Today we left and headed for a small island on the way to the Perhentian a couple of again beautiful islands north. We visited the smaller island and decided not to stop setting sail for the pair of Palau Perhentian - as we entered the channel between the two islands we cruised north. Resorts on both islands, many boats, snorkellers everywhere and we could see the bottom in over 12 metres of water, and the turtles swimming underneath. Again into a wonderful bay with a resort, fantastic soft white beaches, and beautiful clear water. Unlike Indonesia the waters here are clear and beautiful. There is not much litter in this area either.
We must go and explore the island and the area we are in. There are many other bays and beaches that would be great for anchoring and visiting but we will only be here a couple of days.
It would be great to stay in this area for weeks there is so much to see and do and scenery, the water, the beaches, the bays must be some of the best in the world!
17/06/2009, North East Bay Redang
More to come about beautiful Redang Island and its superb bays and beaches. Just as soon as we get off these lounges.
I was up early this morning to do the blog but smelt a very strong diesel smell coming from the port aft cabin. Upon investigation there was diesel all under the mattress, fortunately we had a high density foam mat underneath the mattress which had completely protected it from coming in contact with the mattress. What a mess, everything had to be hauled out of this cabin which we use as a storage room, fishing rods, back packs, grab bags, canoe paddles, life jackets, soft drinks, loo paper etc, etc, etc.
All the timber wall panels were saturated in diesel at the bottom, we removed these and I took numerous measurements and drew the shapes before discarding in the rubbish. We suggested that Neil and Pauline take themselves off for the day as we would need the day to sort it all out. Once we had cleaned up all the diesel and washed all the surfaces down with hot soapy water and dried it all we were able to see where the leak was. A tiny pin hole in the welding at the bottom of the tank and diesel was seeping out of this. It wasn't leaking before we filled up so we are not sure if it was caused by overfilling the back tank or a build up of pressure with the tanks being filled.
13/06/2009, Terrenganu Ky-Ryaz
Terengganu Refuelling and Town Markets
The diesel had arrived early evening yesterday but everyone in wind down mode decided to leave the messy job until this morning. The diesel drums are various sizes and leak around the lids making it quite a messy project refuelling. Fortunately I hadn't cleaned the cockpit yesterday as intended as it needed a thorough truck wash and scrub as we did too!
Lorraine & Graham had a water taxi booked for 2.00pm which we decided to catch too. At the markets we decided to go our own ways and meet back up at 4.30pm at the night markets. Chris and I wandered through a modern escallatored shopping complex which seemed to be fabric shop after fabric shop with the odd t-shirt or jewellery `shop here and there. On the roof top there were food stalls and seating under canvas umbrellas where we enjoyed icy pineapple drinks and freshly cooked banana fritters with the sea breeze taking the edge off the searing heat., enjoying the view out over the bay.
Replenished we headed up town looking for an ATM which seemed to be several blocks away and we found ourselves it the main city shops it appeared with many being very similar to our western city small individual shops. Going into one general merchandise two storied shop Chris was stopped by an armed quard and requested he remove his hat and that we leave our backpack at the front security counter where we were given a luggage ticket. Upon entering we then noticed a sign indicating no helmets ,hats or bags.
Terengganu Maintenance Day
Today it was time for a bit of TLC for Charmar and catch up on supplies, emails, blogs and washing. Chris disappeared down his engine hatches while I updated the blog in between being the "goffer" and assistant mechanic. Neil and Pauline went on the supply run to the aptly named "Giant" supermarket returning back 2 hours later which lots of goodies. After a sumptuous lunch prepared by Neil and Pauline us girls got stuck into the washing, Neil back to the galley making up marinades, dressings and chopping veges for salads etc, very handy having a chef on board, and Chris set about organising fuel etc. Thunder and lightning developed all around us, amazingly we got all of the numerous loads of washing dry before the rain came. There was a race on in the afternoon with 3 of the 8 Foundation 3O yachts with local people that have been learning to sail. It provided great entertainment for us especially while hanging out all our washing. The boats came from Royal Perth Yacht Club, with the club here buying them a few years back. Aidan had sailed on these same boats in Perth a few years ago when he went across for the Warren Jones Challenge. David Mills from Perth is here training the locals.
All the work done, time to relax in the cockpit with an ice cold beer or gin and tonic. Graham from Katani II joined us, then Ann & Brian from Hybreasail, then Lorraine and Alice also from Katani. Fully relaxed we all decided to eat again at the Verandah Restaurant the boys having the best Tom Yum soup so far on the trip and Pauline and I enjoying the best ever fish and chips.
11/06/2009, The Ri-Yaz - Home of the Monsoon Cup
On tour today 8.30am start and a tour of the highlights of the city. Our first stop was the wooden boat building yards where we saw many boats in progress both large and small. One large boat we looked at has been in progress for 2 years already, they built one the same for a New Zealander in 1997 and have a list of boats they have built for people world wide over that past few years, a couple of Aussies and Kiwis included.
Next we visited the "Edutainment Park" which has 21 miniature replica mosques from around the world such as Taj Mahal, India, Al Haram, Mecca, Xian, China, Kul Sharif, Russia, to name a few. Some of these miniature building we were able to go inside the actual replica mosque, others had the mosque on the first level and one could walk around it , with there being a gallery on the ground level that displayed artefacts and screened documentaries. All so interesting and fascinating, stopping next at the Crystal Mosque which is built with steel and crystal effect glass, resonating light from inside and out. We were allowed inside this mosque, the ladies had to be covered with a head scarf and cloak and the men with a cloak. Inside there was a huge crystal chandelier in the dome, visiting tourists of the Islamic faith were praying and we were allowed to take photos where as inside the miniatures we were not.
Lunch time, we arrived at China Town were we said goodbye to our bus driver and were lead by our tour guide to a Chinese restaurant for lunch. We entered through the kitchen which was at the front of the restaurant to tables out the back to be served with a 4 dish set menu which consisted of a whole fish baked with fresh ginger, omelette, lemon chicken and a vegetable tofu dish, all very delicious.
A leisurely walk through China Town to help our lunch go down with many of the ladies "just looking" and the men spending money on such items as fishing gear, water filters and other boat requirements. Next came the wet and dry markets but we were a little late at the fish market with only a few squid and fish left and a strong fishy smell! Huge lycees from Thailand, rambutans, durian fruits (dreadful pungent smell don't know how anyone can eat these) and mangosteens, our favourite, and mangoes available. Along the water front there are some rides such as an old Ferris Wheel, Carousel etc. as well as souvenirs, clothing, paintings and food stalls. Hot and tired we caught a water taxi back across the bay to the marina where we changed to our swimmers and headed for the pool to cool off. Some of the yachties that have been here earlier said that it was well worth eating at the Verandah Restaurant which we decided to do where we enjoyed a great meal while looking out over the bay at the city lights. There had been a thunder storm earlier which cleared the air and the temperatures were very comfortable for sleeping.
Today, Wednesday, we sailed as a group, 18 of us (the other half of the fleet have stayed in the Tioman area and will cross the South China Sea from there as the crossing is 100nautical miles shorter) to Kuala Terengganu leaving at 10.30am. Many of the boats had officials on board for the sail, Maggie, who is PR for the Monsoon Cup Sailing challenge held in December, accompanied us. We started out with the main and the genoa up but as time went by the gentle breeze square behind us saw many boats dropping sails and breaking out their colourful spinnakers or similar type sails, creating a colourful array of sailboats enroute to Terengganu. It was the best sail we've had so far on this rally enjoying the peace and tranquillity for a couple of hours.
There is a new marina and resort complex, The Ri-yaz Heritage Bay Club Marina where we all berthed, were given VIP attention and fresh fruit plates. Kuala Terengganu is a capital city that sits on the northeast of Malaysia. This city is a heritage town and we are told that "its northern islands are some of the best diving locations in the world". The facilities here are very up market with lovely showers, gym and swimming pool. The Verandah Restaurant and Cindai Ballroom is a magnificent modern palatial building on the water front looking over the bay and across to the city.
At 7.30pm we attended the rally dinner which was held on the lawn of the Cindai Ballroom, the setting looked very formal with white linen table cloths and white linen chair covers with large bows at the back. Numerous buffet tables surrounded us with large stainless serving dishes being kept warm with candles underneath, the flames adding to the ambience of the balmy evening. Mexican sounding group of musicians kept us entertained whilst waiting for the VIP's and officials to arrive. Upon their arrival drums, gongs and xylophone traditional performances were given followed by several traditional dances, all with the most stunning, colourful costumes, finishing off with a couple of short speeches. We were all presented with beautiful batik sarongs and invited to enjoy the magnificent numerous dishes of the buffet, so many to chose from and far too many to try them all. What a welcome!
09/06/2009, Palau Kapas
Pulau Kapas an absolute stunning destination. Yesterday we motor sailed with hardly a breath of wind and seemed to have about 2knots of current against us, once again weaving our way through all the fishing floats. We anchored in the northern basin between Pulau Kapas and Pulau Gemia in 8 metres of crystal clear water where we could see our anchor laying on the sand. A welcome ceremony was due to start at 3.00pm, we just had enough time for a quick dip off the back of the boat to cool us off as it had be extremely hot and we all felt that we were melting. Dressed in our Charmar uniform (royal blue & white polo shirts embroidered with Charmar and our names) we joined the flotilla of ducks (dinghies) all racing to shore to the resort at the southern end of the island.
On arrival we were welcomed with wonderful display of martial arts followed by a scrumptious buffet at the resort on the veranda with a lovely cooling breeze. The resort was an old colonial style open wooden bar, restaurant and pool. Afterwards we walked along the beautiful white sand beaches to the north passing by many small resorts and a camping ground called "Pak Yer Camp". Each headland has steps over the rocks to the next bay and these steps have a white balustrade fence with a gazebo resting, viewing place at the top looks very colonial. Many mainland holiday makers from Singapore and Malaysia were enjoying the area, swimming, canoeing and playing in the sand. Pulau Kapas is only 6.5 km from the mainland and there's a swimming marathon from the mainland to the island every April which allows a maximum of 200 entrants.
This morning 0700 departure from a very picturesque bay headed for Pulua Kapas.
To get here we motored sailed for about 18hrs, dodging numerous fish floats that dotted the seas , to this delightful bay. Yesterday departing just after midnight (8/6/09) having been rudely awakened from a deep sleep by King Neptune. The wind had changed blowing us on shore towards the coral and the tide was going in the opposite direction making it quite uncomfortable with the water nosily slapping the sides of the hulls and rocking us as if on a childs rocking horse, we decided to get out of there. The moon was full illuminating the clear sky and flat sea with a gentle breeze once we were out in the open.
We had enjoyed our short time in that bay, great snorkelling with the best coral (still not brilliant) we have seen so far and once again fabulous colourful fish all shapes and sizes. Pauline just loved it. Back on board we invited "Blue Moon of Oz" John and Sarah over for happy hour drinks.
07/06/2009, Pulau Tulai
Today's plan after a little sleep in under the calm conditions of the deep bay on western side of Tulai and great snorkelling yesterday followed by a beach barbecue with a few others was to sail on the breeze and commence our next passage of about 150 nautical mile to rejoin the fleet.
As the breeze came in we stowed the anchor and set main and genoa sailing along for an hour and a bit in 7 - 8 knots of breeze on a comfortable sea but with a foreboding black bank of cloud on the horizon. At about 1130 the wind started to veer and then came in with a wack, we had managed to furl the headsail and motored just off the breeze with the main for a while hoping it was just a front but it stayed in and increased to 45 knots plus so we had to drop the main, losing a lazy jack in the process where the thin line broke but with main stowed we turned in the now torrential rain to run down wind with it heading back directly in the direction we had come from.
In some ways it was good to be out of the anchorage as the winds would have been blowing right into it and by the time we were motoring past it again about an hour or so later all but two of the boats had gone and the two remaining had moved into the centre of the bay but were pitching extensively.
No good going back there so we motored around the bottom of Tulai and once in the lee with the dropping winds and slowing rain we were quite comfortable and we motored around to the eastern side, with the thought of going back to Tioman to replace the lazy jack or doing it in a sheltered bay. Blue Moon had come around and taken a mooring in 6 metres just off a beautiful little beach very close to shore and there were many other moorings there also so we opted for that.
Dianne shot up the mast with a new lazy jack cord and we had that fixed in short time and sat down to enjoy some great toasted sandwiches and coffee - which was well received after being out in the driving, stinging rain which although quite warm caused body chilling in the strong winds accompanying it.
This definitely was not on the travel brochure, but sailing brings a new surprise every day, some good and some you could well do without!! Nevertheless all part of it.
Maybe we will hang here for a few hours, do some snorkelling, it looks great and the water is crystal clear, off the back of the boat to the beach, and then head off, again, or we may stay the night.........