06/30/2009, Santubong, Sarawak, Borneo
Tuesday, 30th June 2009
It is 5am in the morning and we appear to be the only ones on this wide expanse of what is called the South China Sea and as usual motor sailing and have been doing so for the past 12 hours with the wind, what little of it there is, directly on the nose. I am on watch and Dave hopefully having a few hours sleep as neither of us has had much more than a couple of hours sleep each day for the last four days.
On Saturday 20th June we motored for four hours to the southern end of Perhentian Besar and were joined there by Barbara & David on Baker Street in a beautiful anchorage along with a few other local fishing boats. David & Barbara went over to one of the local boats to see if they could buy some fish and came back rewarded. The fisherman refused to take any money but accepted half a dozen cans of sprite! We then had dinner on board their boat that night and so nice to have a meal of fish.
Next morning we motored the few miles over to the smaller Perhentian Island called Pulau Perhentian Khecil and anchored off the beach where there were a few low key resorts, restaurants etc. and met up with most of the rally boats who had travelled north from the Tiomans. Half of the rally boats for various reasons stayed on down in the Tiomans. We enjoyed swimming in the beautiful clean water and we all congregated on shore at around 6pm for sundowners on the beach to celebrate Lynne on Solan's birthday followed by a group of us going for dinner on shore.
The following morning (Monday) Baker Street and us motored around the top of Khecil and round the other side to do some snorkeling in the hope of swimming with some big fish but no such luck and the coral was nothing spectacular. We then headed back and anchored off the north western side of Perhentian Besar and had another long snorkel viewing some lovely fish and better coral than we have virtually seen since being up here. To our way of thinking the coral isn't that spectacular but then we were spoilt by the coral we saw at Makangai in Fiji and anything we have seen since then just cannot compete. Along with Baker Street we decided to leave that anchorage and head south for the night to Redang Island to give us a head start for the sail back to Terengganu the next day arriving there just before 7pm. I had made paella with chicken and prawns (which I had in the freezer) and David & Barbara came over for dinner.
We were up and away next morning at first light (7am) and motor sailed the whole 28 miles back to Terengganu arriving in the marina at 12.30pm. Had two goes at getting in the berth as the tide was roaring in but had lots of helpers on the pontoon to catch us. The next couple of days were spent doing repairs and a few other odd jobs, like diesel runs etc. and our repaired spinnaker arrived back from Malacca that day as well. We were also delighted to catch up with Linda & Chris on Gitano who were in the berth opposite us. We had dinner with them that night as they left early the next morning to do a 3 week land based trip to Vietnam. They are not going across to Borneo unfortunately and they may be doing the Red Sea crossing in January.
We left the marina early Thursday (25th) afternoon and headed down to Kapas Island (along with 8 others in the fleet) for the night and once there had a swim and we both gave the bottom of the hull a bit of a clean after having been in the marina which is in a river which is rather dirty, to say the least. Hull cleaning is a regular activity up here as in the warmer waters the algae and barnacles appear pretty quick and it is a job we need to do every 10 -14 days if we can to make the antifoul last a bit longer. We are hoping to get 3 years out of ours and think we will last until at least this time next year, maybe longer. Using International Micron 66 has been a good investment as some boats are lucky if their antifoul has lasted 12 months.
We up anchored at 6.50am on Friday, 26th June for our journey across the South China Sea to Santubong, Sarawak. Borneo. Over Friday and Saturday we had some good sailing with the motor basically only having to be turned on to charge the batteries and we did do a straight row of sailing with no motor for 23 hours. We spent Saturday night dodging oil wells, oil tankers and barges and oil platforms, plus dodging about 10 ships en route to Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Korea etc as we were passing over a shipping lane. One oil platform we passed within 100 metres, was on the Maxsea chart but was unlit and could only be seen when we shone a 2,000,000 watt candle power torch on it.
On Sunday we found when we had the motor on that the engine started to get a bit over heated and we discovered that there was water leaking out of the heat exchanger. On further inspection found that part of the rubber end caps on the heat exchanger had split and we don't have any spares. Dave was having little success with repairs using denzo tape (fine when there is no heat involved) and while doing a 14 hour motoring stint we were having to top up the heat exchanger with water every 20-30 minutes, so yesterday morning at 3am we were sitting there doing, we hoped a good mend, with some tape we had on board. Got the caps on and all looked good but as we were getting along nicely we did not need to start the motor. By 5.15am the wind had come around to the NW and we were in the middle of a storm with 30-35 knots of wind and hurtling along at between 7.5 -8.5knots. By 8am it had died and we were back to motoring and once again we had the heat exchanger overheating but we had stopped the leaks. At 9am each morning we have a sched on HF (SSB) radio so we asked if anyone had any suggestions as to what the problem could be. Dave suspected an air lock in the line. Several suggestions were made - faulty thermostat or an air lock in the lines to the water heater. So Dave removed the thermostat - no joy there so then disconnected the lines to the water heater and put another line in that circulated back to the heat exchanger by doing that we hit the jackpot. Baker Street and Te Wai Pounamu are a day behind us so were standing by in case we needed assistance and needed a tow if we could not fix the problem so we were pleased that we did not have to call on their assistance. We went through two more storms yesterday morning before the weather settled down and in between them had no wind at all. We ended up having rain most of the day yesterday from 10am but by evening it had stopped and we have been constantly motor sailing since 5.30pm last night.
We have sailed passed several groups of islands and one would think that they would all belong to Malaysia but in fact they belong to Indonesia. We have all kept a wide berth from the Amambas Islands as apparently if you are within 30 miles of them you are quite likely to be boarded by so called officials who approach in uniform and then change into normal clothes and demand money, alcohol etc. Last night we came between a group of Indonesian Islands which were only 10 miles apart and looked deserted but got a surprise to hear my cell phone alert me of 6 messages - one from Leith and the rest were from either the Indonesian or Malysian cell phone companies advising of roaming charges, what they had to offer etc. Needless to add I didn't bother using my phone. Even the most deserted places seem to have cell phone coverage - both NZ and Australia could learn a thing or two from these countries.
After one of the storms we found we had a small fish on one of the three fishing lines we have running behind us. We thought we may have caught our pet, a small fish that has been living on our keel since before Thailand and had decided to leave us!! The fish we caught is apparently a ramora and one side of his head looks as though it is a foot print - a long, thin black fish with normal gills plus the third set on top. Not a lot of meat but I made a coconut fish curry out of it for dinner last night and was quite tasty.
Several of us take turns at doing the 9am morning sched on SSB and I do it on a Saturday morning, although last week I did it three days in a row as our radio seems to be one of the better ones for boats that are further apart. I do all the radio work on the boat as Dave's hearing is so bad, he cannot hear unless the signal is very clear. Along with our regular morning sched I have been talking to Allan Riches from Brunei Bay Radio at 6.30 each morning since we have been coming across here. Allan runs Brunei Bay Radio and we met him in Darwin and he gave us a lift into the city one day while we were there. He also has a travel business and is organizing the Brunei events for the rally which look really good and are able to do at greatly discounted prices. We have been lucky in Malaysia as all of the tours, dinners etc. are free, being paid for by either the state government or tourist boards. We have also had discounts at all the marinas we have stayed at on the rally. We also need to go into Brunei to update our Malaysian visas as our current one expires in August.
For some reason neither Dave or I have managed to sleep much on this passage and when trying to go to bed and sleep have only managed an hour's sleep a couple of times a day. However last night we finally both managed to get a 3 hour sleep but we will look forward to a good night's sleep tonight.
We will be in Santubong, Kuching for a fortnight as there is a lot to see and do plus from 10-12th July there is the World renowned Rainforest Musical Festival. Not sure how many days we will spend at that though as most of you know that Dave is not really into music!! He thinks one day will be enough for him. Although looking at the web looks like they have some very interesting artists from all over the world - www.rainforestmusic-borneo.com Kuching is a 45 minute bus ride from Santubong which is the nearest anchorage as Kuching is too shallow for yachts to anchor.
Will add the final bit when we get into Santubong before putting it up on our blog.
4.30pm: We dropped anchor here in Santubong at 2.20pm but unfortunately, although we have internet is not fast enough to skype so will probably take wahile to download this on the blog.
Friday, 19th June, 2009
I had not realized it was so long since I had updated the blog - time flies when you are having fun!
We had two nights up the Kemaman River and had a good look around the town which was called Chukai but by NZ standards would be quite a large city. We got away early (6.20am) on the morning of the 4th June and were heading 38 miles north to Tengoll Island but Barbara & Dave on Baker Street were a bit ahead of us and were not that happy with the anchorage as there was a good 15 knot wind and so on discussion, and as we were both having a wonderful sail we decided to carry on to the next rally stop at Kapas Island where we arrived at 6.45pm and what a beautiful spot. We actually had the best days sailing since we left Darwin in July 2008 and did 74 miles in 12.5 hrs.
We had a lovely five days relaxing at Kapas, with lots of swimming and snorkeling. Baker Street and us were the only two yachts in there the first night but gradually over the next couple of days more of the rally boats arrived and most nights we all got together to have sundowners on the beach.
At 3pm on the 9th June the Terengganu State Government put on a welcoming reception for us along with a nice meal. All in all it was over and done within a couple of hours.
The next morning we went in convoy to Terengganu and most of us had either press or local government officials on board for the 11 mile passage. We had a press photographer on board and he had never been on a yacht before so was a new experience for him. The convoy was quite a sight as most yachts had their spinnakers up but unfortunately we had to motor sail as ours was still in the ripped state. We left Kapas at 10.30am and arrived at the Ri-Yaz Heritage marina at 1.30pm. After checking in, the marina staff gave us all a bowl of fruit which was great as we had run out of fruit for breakfast the next morning so it tided us over until we went shopping again. The marina was built solely for the Monsoon Cup which is an international sailing event. When it looked like not being completed on time they imported 1000 Indonesians to get it finished. They ran out of water to mix the concrete so they used sea water instead so you can imagine what is starting to happen now!!
That night a Rally dinner was put on for us along with entertainment and it was a wonderful night with terrific food and plenty of it. All rally participants (including the men) were presented with beautiful batik sarongs. I would like to make either skirt/top/shorts/ dress out of ours and would certainly get more use out of them. Unfortunately it seems impossible to buy patterns so will have to wait until I go back to NZ.
The next day we were taken on a tour and visited a couple of traditional wooden boatbuilders (one of them was, I think, our friend Arnau, in Langkawi's, family). It was most interesting and most of us were scrambling over a couple of the boats. From there we were taken to Taman Tamadun Islam which was a park displaying miniature replicas of all the first mosques built in the various countries around the world. It was only opened at the beginning of this year and was most interesting. From there we visited the crystal mosque which is built in glass and steel on a platform in the river. We were allowed inside but had to put on long gowns, including the men, and us women had to cover our heads with a veil and was it hot being so togged up, so we did not stay in there any longer than necessary. Terengganu is a city of mosques and I think there are 21 mosques altogether. From the Crystal Mosque we were dropped off in Chinatown where we wandered around for a look and also had lunch there before being met again by the bus driver to take us back to the marina. The marina is across the river from the main town on the island of Duyong and is attached to the Ri-Yaz Heritage & Spa Resort. Kuala Terengganu is the state capital of Terengganu and is Malaysia's oil producing state so is quite a wealthy city.
The next morning we were taken by mini bus (several van loads) by the resort staff to the local Giant supermarket and we all filled in 2 ½ hors there quite easily as there were a few other shops to browse through.
Dave and I biked into town on Saturday (a ¾ hr bike ride) and spent the day looking for a 15 inch 12volt LCD TV/Monitor to put on the wall in the aft cabin and connect to the computer so Dave can see from the cockpit where we are to go when we are in places where we have to be careful. We did have a monitor which we had up under the spray dodger but when not in use we took it down but then several weeks later went to use it and it had died - think moisture killed it. It still goes but the screen has massive blotches on it and you can't see a thing. It became imperative to have one when we got into quite a bit of difficulty going up the Kemaman River when we had great difficulty finding deep water as the river is very shallow in most places. We thought we had it sussed but had the same problem when we went back out as it is difficult with me having to go up and down the steps from the navigation table to tell him where to go. We must have gone to at least 20 TV shops but there is obviously no demand for small TV's and the smallest available was 20 inches and all 230 volt - the same applied to straight computer monitors. We had finally given up when we came across 2 shops next to each other and we could not believe our eyes when we saw one on the top shelf in the first one we went into and was a really good price. It is a Malaysian brand and they took one from stock so we were delighted and have had it up and running today. I think the secret of keeping it dry is to run it all the time while we are sailing.
Monday was another cycle day into town looking for someone to repair our main fresh water pump as it had died. Also tried to buy a new one but no joy in that department but finally found a guy who said he could fix it so while he was doing that we went looking for a window air conditioning unit. Had been quoted one price on Saturday but it was too dear for our liking, especially as we had a rough idea how much they did cost. Visited another outfit who sold the same brand and they quoted us 420RM less for the same unit. Neither outfit had them in stock but when they went to order one from the distributor there were none available. It appears the window ones are no longer going to be made. However they said they could get us a second hand one for 300RM that a hotel was replacing with a newer sort. So the guy bought it over to us on Tuesday morning so we spent the rest of Tuesday and Wednesday installing it, with Dave building a frame to direct the air into the main saloon and me making two covers to protect part of it from rain and the other half from sea water when we are sailing. The cover necessitated another bike ride into town Tuesday afternoon to get some water proof material and also I had to go to a dentist as I broke a tooth when I bit down on a date - didn't know it had a stone in it. While there had him check for any other holes and I had one little one where a piece of enamel had broken off so he did that at the same time and cost about ¼ of what it would have done in NZ. The air conditioner is a great success and it feels so nice and cool coming into the boat after having been outside - even if the inside temperature is 28 degrees. Certainly a lot more comfortable for sleeping at night and this morning it was 23.5C when we got up. However, we can only use it when we are in marinas but the main purpose for it was so that when we go home to NZ in October we can run it on a timer and it will keep the mould away as with the boat being locked up for long periods of time it will get up to 45C.
We also couriered our spinnaker to Malacca to Quantum sails to repair as when we looked at it, it was a much bigger job than we anticipated for me to repair and we did not have the right materials. We expect to get that back next week before we leave for Borneo, at this stage planned for Friday, 26th June.
Yesterday morning we biked the 20 minutes to Giant supermarket to stock up on fruit and vegetables for our trip further north and in the afternoon Dave went looking for a fibre glass place and to get some fuel on the bike which he managed to do but was away for a couple of hours. Needless to say my arthritic knees are pretty sore today with all the biking. I am definitely not good on hills!!
We are now at Redang Island having left Terengganu just after 11am this morning arriving at 6pm. Once tied to a mooring buoy we were in the water for a nice swim in lovely clear blue water after not being able to swim for 10 days. We had a gentle breeze so only motored for the last 2 ½ hrs as the wind gradually moved around to on the nose which is par for the course in these waters, not that there is much of it. We will head off the 17 miles to the Perhentian Islands tomorrow.
Tuesday, 2nd June 2009
Last Wednesday at Tioman we had a leisurely day having a look around the little village of Teluk Tekek, checking in with the Harbour Master etc. and then attending the welcoming function for the Rally participants which consisted of a few speeches and a light meal. After the function several of us found a nice bar for a cool beer and then wondered down the street to find a reasonably priced eating place.
The next morning the Tioman Development Authority organized local games for the rally participants with the locals. As I wasn't well I had a quiet day on board and Dave caught up with a few little jobs.
The following day we did our Port clearance with the Harbour Master, Customs & Immigration and at 3.30pm we up anchored and had a lovely sail (a rarity) 7miles further north to a lovely bay and anchorage for the night at Tulai Island where a group of us had sundowners ashore on a nice little sandy beach.
Next morning, (30th) we were up and away just after 6am as we had a long haul to the
next rally event so we virtually motored the 54 miles to an anchorage just north of the
Pahang River along with about dozen other rally boats, arriving just after 5pm. At 8am we ran into a storm for an hour or so and had between 25-30 knots on the nose, heavy rain for awhile and thunder but no lightning that we could see. One of the boats in the rally has had to go back to Singapore as they got hit by lightning on the day we arrived at Tioman and lost all their electrical equipment. Fortunately they are insured and there have been quite a few boats we know who have been hit. It is one of my biggest fears so we try and disconnect everything when we see lightning close by.
On Sunday we motor sailed the 17 miles up to the next anchorage off Teluk Chempedek, Kuantan for the next rally event. Twenty of the 40 yachts in the rally have come further north, while the remainder have opted to stay around Tioman and meet up again in Kuching, Borneo. All 20 boats of us were ashore at 5pm for the official welcome by the Pahang Tourism Board and the State Minister of Tourism and we were given a lovely meal, with some entertainment under a marquee just along from the Hyett Hotel. A motor cycle club, called the Marshalls was also at the function and afterwards gave some of us a ride on their bikes to see a little of the town. I was on the back of a great big Honda which was pretty comfortable! Most of the bikes were pretty classy ones, including quite a few Harley Davidson's. Five of us then found a little Irish pub up the street from the beach where we had a nice cold beer.
Kuantan town is 6km from Teluk Chempedak so yesterday morning we went in a taxi with Graeme, Lorraine & Alice from Katani 11 to a shopping mall in Kuantan and we girls had a look around while Graeme & Dave went off and did the man thing trying to find boat and hardware stores. We were back at the boat just after 1.30pm for a sandwich, swim and then had to be ashore again at the Hyett for an hour's bus trip to Sungai Lembing which had the largest, longest, deepest subterranean tin mine in the world. The deepest tunnel was 700 metres below the ground with the overall length of the tunnels being 322 kilometres! The mine was owned by a British company but closed in 1986 when tin prices collapsed. At one time there were 1000 tin mines in Malaysia and now there are only three. We visited the museum which in its heyday was the mine manager's residence which is a lovely building. After spending an hour in the museum we were then given a light meal and sweet tea (the Malaysians sure like the sweet drinks).
We had a great tour guide on the trip and he was certainly a mine of information. Kuantan is the capital of Pahang State which is the biggest state (or province as we would call it in NZ) in Peninsular Malaysia. Kuantan is still only a town but has a population of 420,000 and is reputed to be one of the cleanest cities in Malaysia.
It has lovely trees and gardens and borders the Kuantan River. We arrived down by the jetty on the Kuantan River and were hosted for dinner by the Kuantan Municipal Council with two of the principals of the Council at our table, one of whose son is a 2nd year student at Otago Medical School. He won a scholarship and the Malaysian Government is paying for his university fees there, approximately 1,000,000RM. We had a nice meal (dinner starting at around 8.15pm) and were entertained by a male & female singer who were very good and then a performance for about an hour by a local dance group doing some of their national dances etc. The costumes were amazing, the girls were beautiful and they were very polished and we all enjoyed watching them. Finally beat the surf and the roll to get back to our boat at 11pm.
As we were anchored off the beach and there was a bit of a roll at Chempedak we decided to move on this morning and we have had a mixture of motor sailing and sailing and along with three other boats we are now up the Kemaman River for an anchorage tonight having arrived at 3.45pm. Nice and calm but very muddy so no swimming today but we are all having sundowners on Baker Street (Dave & Barbara) later on.