06/17/2013, Pulau Sibu Kukus, Malaysia
We are starting to get use to the heat and the humidity again. We are tolerating it much better now during the day and at night as compared to when we first started out on this passage. Having a slight breeze of about 8 knots all the time helps a lot also. The weather has been a bit cooler than our first couple of days where it hit 100 degrees or there about. It has settled into about 96 degrees for the high. The skies have been very hazy, almost overcast, due to the high humidity but the sun is still able to shine through and be seen, especially after 10 o'clock. We get a written daily weather forecast through our SailMail that we received via our SSB radio. It is predicting fair days for this week so we hope this kind of weather lasts.
We spent today doing two major projects. We continued with scrapping the hulls and we rejuvenated the batteries. We are anxious to go snorkeling but the water here at Sibu Kukus is still not very clear.
While Mary Margaret attacked the slime on the hulls with a scrubbing pad, I got the hookah out and used it to go to the bottom of the boat to attack the barnacles and other crusty critters that were along the bottoms of the rudders and keels. The amount of growth that accumulated in just a few months was amazing. Along all of the leading edges and the bottoms the growth was about two inches thick. Using a stainless steel scrapper, I hacked that stuff off such that it slowly peeled away in strips that fell to the bottom of the sea. We have never seen this much growth on our boat before.
While I really do not enjoy this type of work, Mary Margaret just loves it. She says she is in the water, which is a treat; she is doing good exercise, which she enjoys; and she loves the resulting clean hulls that she produces. For me, I hate it. I wish I had her great attitude when it comes to cleaning the hulls.
The other project we worked on took all day. Yesterday we noticed that our gel batteries were no longer readily accepting a charge when we ran the generator. Two days ago the battery charger was able to put in about 80 amps per hour during the bulk charging mode. This level of charging is about what we would expect. However, yesterday we were only averaging about 55 amps. This was because the batteries voltage quickly went to 13.6 volts which is the voltage at which the "bulk charging" phase stops and the "adsorption" phase begins. During this phase of charging, the voltage on the battery is fixed at 13.6 and the amps going into the batteries drop off over time to protect the battery from over charging.
What this was telling us is that a surface film of lead sulfate was developing over the lead plates of our batteries. This surface film retards the current (as measured by amps) from going into the core of the lead plates. Instead, a high voltage develops on the surface and the battery charger monitors this surface charge and thinks the battery is fully charged. Thus, it lowers the amps that it sends to the battery to keep it from over charging.
With gel batteries, which are what we have, you need to stress the batteries and etch through this sulfate layer. By doing that you create fresh surfaces on the plates so that the current sent to recharge the batteries can penetrate into the core of the lead plates. To break down this sulfate coating you basically draw down the batteries until their voltage is just 10.5 volts. We spent last night and today doing that by turning on everything we possibly could to drain the amps from the batteries. By 1330 we had hit 11.5 volts and when we turned on the toaster over, which draws about 110 amps, the voltage quickly dropped to 10.5 volts. When that happened, we turned the auxiliary stuff off, fired up the generator and watched as the battery chargers pumped 100 amps an hour into the batteries. In 5.75 hours we had recharged the batteries and shut the generator down. We may have to repeat this process once more to maximize the fresh surface areas but we will not know that for a few days.
06/16/2013, Pulau Sibu Kukus, Malaysia
Today is Father's Day so part of my gift to Dave is doing the blog. First off, I would like to send out big hugs to all you dads out there. We hope your day is wonderful and joyous. Time flies, and enjoy each and every day with your children - even if some of those days you want to do something drastic! Those days will pass and you will smile about how you never thought you would get through that trying time! Being a parent is the hardest and most rewarding job in the world. We are so blessed with our children - they are all adults now. They all sent their dad lots of love, hugs and kisses so his day started off very well. On days like this I think a LOT about our children and what we used to do on Father's Day. Besides the gifts that the children made for their dad, the day revolved around what "dad wanted to do". That is what we did today. Dave got to pick the menu for me to cook and we did what Dave wanted to do.
It was an overcast day but still very hot. Late morning Dave wanted to go swimming and to start working on the hulls of Leu Cat. She has "amazing" growth on her since her antifoul is old and we are in very rich waters that just feed the barnacles. So in we jumped with our scrapers and started working. I have very sensitive ears so I stay on the surface and Dave does the deeper (5 feet and below) scraping. We worked for about 1 ½ hours. She was covered in growth - barnacles and spaghetti like growth that had a crust on it that also needed to be scraped. I was embarrassed for poor Leu Cat! However with our work she is starting to look clean and will sail again like a champ. I scraped both hulls and Dave worked on both sail drives, rudders and keels. Tomorrow we will continue with me scrubbing with a sponge all the grass and scum, while Dave continues to work on the keels.
Before we hopped into the water Dave took out the solar cooker and we prepared some baby back ribs to be cooked while we were swimming. The menu was to include ribs, spaghetti Alfredo and salad. A simple meal but one of Dave's favorites! During our "down time" we read, played cards, and listened to music. Dave worked on a few projects but still relaxed and we enjoyed our quite little retreat between these lovely islands. The water was still cloudy with only about 10 feet of visibility so working was a better option to snorkeling. So... this was our day, we hope yours was just as lovely. Until we speak again...
06/15/2013, Pulau Sibu Kukus, Malaysia
Early this morning we woke up feeling that the boat was bouncing a bit. It was not too bad but certainly different than the quiet, calm waters we went to bed in. There was a nice breeze and we felt a good stream of air blow in the hatches above our bed.
By the time I got up around 0600 the wind was blowing 8 knots and the seas had become a nice chop. The problem was at 8 knots, the winds were not strong enough to turn the boat into the wind because of the tidal current. Thus, the chop was hitting us abeam. If we were a monohull, it would have been uncomfortable. However, with two hulls, we just road over them with a slight bouncing motion.
As the day continued the winds picked up and for most the day they blew between 10 and 18 knots. However, with that force, they could overcome the tidal current and we were now facing into the swells. It was very comfortable and the wind kept us cool all day. The wind kept the haze down a bit so we had visibility of about 7 nm. The sun still worked on the boat and the outside and inside temperatures hit 93 degrees but with the nice breeze it was very comfortable.
The down side of the wind and waves was that they stirred the waters up a bit so the visibility of the water dropped to just about 10 feet. Thus, we decided to hold off trying our luck snorkeling. With the chop we were having we also decided not to try to clean the hulls. We would have been beat up with the waves and the boat bouncing so we thought we would just wait for another day.
Instead, we spent the day listening to music, playing cards, reading and lounging on the hammock. We did hop in the water and frolicked a bit. We had so missed being able to fall off the boat and into the water whenever we wanted to. It was wonderful.
Since it was Saturday, as the day progressed, local dive boats came and visited both Sibu Kukus and Sibu Hujung, which is just to the north of us about ½ nm. I had heard that during the weekend local dive boats come to these islands from the mainland since the diving is supposed to be very good. I watched as they scouted around looking for a good place to dive and where the visibility was best. I mentally marked those locations so we can check them out. After awhile they did stop to go diving but I am sure that it just was not very good today since the wind and waves have stirred things up a bit.
As the sun began to set, the winds and the swells started to abate. Thus, we have our fingers crossed that tomorrow we can try our luck snorkeling.
06/14/2013, Pulau Sibu Kukus, Malaysia
At 0715 we weighed anchor and discovered that the bottom was clay, not the sand that I had mentioned in yesterday's blog. It is not a big deal but I wanted to correct the error.
There was no wind so we motored, heading north with about 32 nm ahead of us before we reached Pulau Sibu Kukus. We had planned our departure so we would arrive well before 1500. Any time we go to a place that may have reefs we like to arrive with the sun still overhead so we can see the bottom well and avoid bumping into things.
As we made our way north the very light wind (under 5 knots) blew from the direction of the coast, which was about 3 to 4 nm away. It carried a very fragrant smell that reminded us of the sweet, heavy fragrance of tuber roses. It was delicious. It lasted about 2 hours and we were sorry when we lost it.
With no wind the day became very hot. The heat just builds and builds as the sun gets higher in the sky. With the heat, a heavy haze also developed as the air became laden with the water evaporating from the ocean. Visibility dropped to about 4 to 5 nm. The temperature reached 99 degrees in the salon. It was so hot that whoever was not at the helm retreated to the stern cockpit and sat or laid down under the fans that we have installed there.
There was just a touch of a tidal current and it became weaker the farther away from the entrance to the Straits of Singapore we sailed. Since we were in no hurry, we kept the engine rpms low and cruised at about 5 knots. As we approached Sibu Kukus we noticed that it was a small rocky haystack of an island. The chart shows that on the west and north side the depths drop to between 6 and 18 feet. We eased our way around the east side of the island and dropped anchor on its north side in about 25 feet of water. We had arrived right at peak high tide, which was +8.1 feet.
The anchorage is quite exposed as the haystack is too small to offer any protection. This anchorage is good only during light weather. We wanted to come here because we heard the snorkeling was good around the haystack and we wanted to check out as many of these little islands as we can. It seems that mostly only the main islands have been written up by past cruisers so we are trying to explore a bit and establish some new insights. Our position is 2 10.526'N: 104 06.751'E, anchored in about 25 feet of water at high tide.
Once the anchor was set, we made a mad scramble to jump into the water. Oh my, did it feel so good. While its temperature was 89 degrees, the day was so hot that it felt wonderful. We donned our masks and discovered that the visibility was about 25 feet. It would have been better but it looked like we were in a blizzard since there were so many micro-sized pieces of detritus and plankton.
While in the water we checked out both hulls and discovered that that the various fittings, saildrives, and in many places the hulls themselves were covered with barnacles. We knew that we were stretching the life of our bottom paint by not repainting until October and it shows. It looks like we will be spending a day or two scrapping the bottom before it gets really bad.
If the weather cooperates, we will try checking out the haystack to see if we can find any good reefs to snorkel on. If not, then about a ½ nm to the north of us is the little island of Hujong, which is known for its good snorkeling. A note on heat relief: Our daughter, Christina gave us a couple of neat heat relief items for Christmas last year that we would like you to know about. They work great and are making our days and nights in without A/C a bit more bearable. One is by Real Gear and it is a soft cloth like material that absorbs water and slowly releases it as it evaporates away. The result is a very nice cooling effect that chills you down. The other is a pad like device that has some sort of chemical in it such that absorbs heat when you sit on it. You have heard of "bun warmers", well this does just the opposite. Last night we used them when we went to bed and they really helped us get to sleep.
06/13/2013, Desaru Beach, Kota Tinggi, Johor, Malaysia
We got up late this morning and did not weigh anchor until 0830. We are adapting to living without air conditioning and the wind stopped last night making it a bit warmer than we are used to. Poor Mary Margaret ended up having a very fitful night of rest. It probably will take a few days to a week to get back to being used to the heat and the humidity. As long there is a nice breeze we are in great shape but when the wind dies, so do we.
Today we fought the current all day. It ran between 1.5 and 3 knots against us. Plus, there was no wind so we ended up running both engines and still only made between 4.5 and 5 knots speed over ground (SOG). As you can guess, it was a slow day. We also had to fight through a couple of fields of fishing nets. One field was so bad that we first got trapped in it. We had stopped dead in our tracks and then backed out and headed north for a ways. We could see the string of nets going all the way to the shore so we reversed our direction and headed south for about a ½ nm before we could turn east and continue our passage.
As we were working our way through an anchor field, we saw another set of nets. The fishermen had set a series of day nets between a number of big cargo boats that were sitting at anchor. This time a cargo boat was running parallel with us so we just tucked in behind him and followed him through the fishing nets. He must have chewed them up good because we had a clear path when it was our turn to go through.
We rounded the SE corner of the Malaysian Peninsula and entered the South China Sea around noon. Around 1430, as we were making our way north up the coast, I spied a hillside that was covered with what looked like a number of temples. We were about 3 nm offshore and I was using the binoculars. The structures intrigued me so I suggested to Mary Margaret we turn to shore and check it out. It was a bit early to anchor but so what. We are not in any hurry.
As we got closer to shore I could see a number of cell towers and few resorts. The "temples" turned out to be a resort with a very unusual design. I will post a picture so you can see what I mean. Since we moved into toward shore, we decided to drop anchor and just relax. I even hopped into the water, which was very nice but still a bit warm at 90 degrees F. It was like a bath. Since the coastal current is ripping along here, the visibility is not great but it was the best we have seen so far in Malaysia being about 20 feet. We still have very high expectations of clear water in the Tioman Island Group. With luck, we will arrive to the southernmost island, Sibu Kukus, in the later part of the afternoon tomorrow. We will have to leave here early to get there in time since we will still be fighting this current as we continue up the coast.
We made 32nm today averaging just 5.3 knots. Our position is 01 33.911'N: 104 15.793'E. We are anchored in about 20 feet of water in sand. We are about 1/2 nm offshore. This area is called Desaru Beach, Kota Tinggi, Johor.