30th July, 2009
How time flies when one is busy and since my last update we have had a few dramas which I shall endeavour to enlighten you all with but first there are a few more activities before we had the dramas.
Following on from the Belawai River, Deja Vue 111 and us moved further upstream the next morning and stopped for lunch until the tide and current turned so we could venture further upstream with the current and tide and anchored off a place called Daru and that night we had sundowners on Catchus and then dinner on board Deja Vue.
Next morning we paid a visit to the local school - 22 pupils and 11 teachers - how is that for a teacher/pupil ratio!! All 11 teachers were not there as some were away on a course but the school seemed to be reasonably well equipped and every kid had a computer, even though they were old. The nearest big town is Sibu which is a three hour boat ride!! Most of the people live in a long house which is a very interesting arrangement. The houses are all joined together (like 40 Houses together) with one continuous verandah which is the meeting place for all the inhabitants. It was a fishing village but is not really now, grow a few vegetables and eke out a subsistence living.
After visiting the village we up anchored and headed out once again to the South China Sea along with a few other rally boats that we had caught up with. Most of them then headed up the Igan River for the night but it was too shallow for us to get in so we anchored a little further north of the river along with three other boats and had a vey roly night so the consensus was that we would carry on and do an overnighter to Miri. Ended up motor sailing most of the way, along with dodging fishing nets, oil rigs and numerous logs - not easy at night though so we occasionally heard the odd bang which was obviously a log. Finally tied up in Miri Marina just before 2pm on 19th July. The entrance to the marina is very shallow and as we came in not that long before low tide there were some heart stopping moments and we just scraped through with 1.7m of water!!
That night I had a ring from Katanne 11 who were still a couple of days away wondering if a planned trip on 21st to the Niah Caves was still on and as nobody seemed to know much about it I decided on the Monday morning I better find out. We could have done an organised tour for 289RM (included lunch, guide & entrance fee (8RM) but that was not an option so I ended up organizing a bus and driver to take us for 36RM each with no frills and we pay for the extras. We ended up having to get a bigger bus and all toll had 41 of us on it. We did this trip on the Wednesday (22nd), left at 7.30am and were back at 4pm. Once at the entrance to the Niah Caves National Park we had a 4.5km walk into and through the caves and they were amazing. Underneath the Park's limestone seal is the Great Cave which is one of the world's largest caves and is strung with a network of bamboo poles enabling Penan workers to collect swiftlet nests, the key ingredient in birds-nest soup! Humans have lived around the caves for 40,000 years. There were very faint outlines of rock art and small canoe like coffins within the greenish walls of what is called the Painted Cave which indicates it was once a burial ground. There was plenty of guano around and we saw several men carrying sacks of it out of the caves, obviously selling it to make a living.
That night after our trip we were hosted by the owner of the marina to a fabulous dinner at what is called the Marina Restaurant - a lovely typical looking Malay house but built on a bigger scale. Once dinner was served we were even treated to free beer!
Miri is a prosperous city with it's proceeds from oil and logging and we did a bit of cycling around the town. Thursday we did our customs and immigration clearance, stocked up on fruit and veges and then the Marina owner hosted us to another fabulous dinner at his hotel which he also owns and he only looks as though he is in his thirties! We thought the previous night's dinner was pretty good but this one was even better, although there was no beer put on for us this time. We had the meal outside and all tables were laid with linen tablecloths and serviettes and all the chairs had covers. It was also Lloyd on Deja Vue's 70th birthday so several of the fleet did a few skits which was highly entertaining and had the crowd in raptures and Lloyd got quite emotional when he came to make his speech. Lloyd is solo sailing but he has had a young Australian girl, Kathy as crew since leaving Terengganu and she has proved to be really good value and has mixed in well with all of us. She has been travelling around the world for years and has been in Malaysia for quite awhile and speaks the language so she does come in very handy at times!
We left Miri Marina at 5.30am on Friday, 24th July and will tell you more about that trip in the next instalment as we are getting low on power and need to turn the computer off.
Tuesday, 14th July, 2009
Last Tuesday we caught the bus into Kuching and then a walk to the DHL office to pay them the customs duty. En route we came across a motor bike hire outfit so promptly hired a motor bike for 6 days and then carried on up to DHL. NZ$10 per day! Got there and the head lady (Yvonne) in the office told us if we were a boat in transit we should not have to pay duty but we needed to show our boat registration certific ate, copies of passports, crew list etc. which were all back in Santubong on the boat. Customs had already started the process but she would see what she could do to stop it. So we then turned around and went back to Santubong (on the bike) to get all our papers etc. We got talking to Yvonne who was a delightful lady and we invited her out to the boat and arranged for a visit on Saturday. She and her husband, Dennis, came out for a visit on Saturday afternoon and they actually own the DHL agency in Kuching. We really enjoyed their visit and they are a delightful couple and at some stage may come sailing with us for a couple of days. We were finally able to go into Kuching and pick up the heat exchanger end caps on Wednesday and Dave had them on that night, all be it with a few other leaks appearing.
Thursday morning Dave went to start the motor to charge the batteries and the starter motor would not turn over fast enough and started to give off a burning smell. Oh dear, with all the leaks water had obviously got into the starter motor. So off it comes and Dave then took off into Kuching to find someone to fix it, which he managed to do so we both went back in on the bike on Friday to pick it up and by late afternoon he had it back on and up and running, but Saturday there were a few more leaks and a few other minor jobs to do on the motor and he had a very frustrating day and I had to put up with varying degrees of expletives and frustrations with working in a small, confined place with very little light. However by the time Yvonne & Dennis arrived late afternoon most of it was back in order.
Friday night we had Barbara & David (Baker Street) and Gloria & Richard (Aquarius 1) for sundowners but had to spend it down below as the heavens opened but when they went to go we hadn't realised just how much rain there had been. They had to bail out their dinghies before they could head back to their boats.
By Saturday and Sunday most of the yachts that were left were going to the Rain Forest Music festival but we had only bought tickets for Sunday. However I went into Kuching with Lorraine (Katanne 11) and her two friends who were staying in the morning as they had a rental car and once back Dave and I went along to the Music Festival, getting there about 4pm. The main music part with bands etc. was at night but during the day they had workshops with various artists so we went to the one on rhythm, which was mainly using drums. Wasn't really Dave's thing at all so just as well we didn't buy a three day ticket. They also had craft stalls etc. and then 5 bands played at night, each with a 45 minute slot and then all of the participants came on for the finale and did just one number. The Zawose Family from Tanzania were the highlight of Sunday night and the women were amazing holding drums between their knees and dancing at the same time. There were thousands there and the crowd behavior was excellent with no incidents that we saw at all. There were dozens of food stalls with a good variety of food. On entering we had our temperatures taken for swine flue and a lot of people were wearing masks!! We were also given a security check, just like at the airport. No food or drink was allowed in so you had to buy there but it was not expensive. We left about 10 minutes before the end to avoid the rush of people and traffic so got away on the bike pretty quickly and were back on board by 12.30am!
Yesterday morning we headed back into Kuching to take the bike back, get a few food items and also had a look at some of the gift shops and for once Dave did not complain. We had lunch at a nice Chinese restaurant we had eaten at before and then by coincidence met up with Graeme on Katanne 11 on our way to the bus depot so got a ride back to Santubong with him.
We were back about an hour or so when we had visitors arrive - a real surprise a couple we had met in Vanuatu in 2007 - Helen & Jim from Gaia. Katanne 11 were coming for sundowners so then we all decided to go out for dinner to the Chinese seafood restaurant that we had been to for dinner when we first arrived. Jim and Helen had rowed over in their dinghy and had no money and bare feet but we told them not to worry about that. We had another beautiful meal there and we took the dinghies right up to where the restaurant was. Jim popped over this morning to reimburse us.
We left Santubong this morning a few minutes before 9am and are spending the night at Pulau Lakai which is 22 miles from Santubong, having dropped anchor at 2.45pm. We had to motor the whole way as there was no wind as well as the current being against us, even though the Malaysian Met Office weather forecast for the next few days forecasts westerly winds of 20-28knots with 3-3.5m seas. Since leaving Sebana Cove we have been trailed by the Malaysian Maritime Police and tonight they are also anchored in the bay with us.
Once securely anchored we were in the water for a swim after having not been able to swim for three weeks but also to give the hull of the boat a clean and scrape off the small barnacles that have grown while in the Sarawak River for the last 2 weeks. I had to hang on to a rope as the current was so strong and without holding on to something I was swept away!
Wednesday, 15th July 2009
Arrived at Pulau Lakai and found I no longer had internet service so will have to wait until we get closer to the mainland to get service and put this on the blog.
Today we did a 57 mile trip to the Belawai River and up anchored at 6am. It is apparently very interesting going into the heart of the jungle up the rivers but we don't think we have much time to do a lot of that as we need to be in Miri by 20-21st July for the next rally event. However we will do some of that in the months ahead as we think we will be around Borneo until about this time next year. We motor sailed for an hour after leaving this morning and then a nice breeze kicked in and we were even able to hoist the spinnaker for just over an hour which certainly picked our speed up but then as usual the wind gradually came around on the nose and we ended up motoring for the remaining 5 ¾ hrs. We were coming into the river at low tide and the entrance is very shallow and ended up hitting the bottom a few times until we sorted out that the channel had moved and we were 300 metres north of the channel. Once we moved 300m south of the leading line on C Map we were right. We finally dropped anchor at 6.20pm at 02 13.75N & 111 13.75E.
07/06/2009, Santubong, Sarawak, Borneo
Monday, 6th July, 2009
After four days on passage we were ready for a good night's sleep on Tuesday night but Wednesday was spent on board all day trying to do a temporary fix on the end caps of the heat exchanger but basically to no avail so we rang Trans Diesel in Auckland for them to courier new ones up to us. We manage to run the motor for a short while to charge the batteries, all the while watching the water in the heat exchanger and topping it up. We have been rung today to say the end caps are in Kuching but even though we are a Yacht in Transit we are still having to pay Import duty of nearly 20%. If we had been in Brunei we would have been able to get them in duty free but we really can't move from here until we have them.
Borneo is the third largest island in the world and is spread out over almost 745,000 hectares. To the North are the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak while Brunei is nestled between the two. To the south is Kalimantan, which is part of Indonesia. Borneo has the world's oldest and second largest tropical rainforest. Borneo was once under the control of the Brunei Empire from the 15th to 17th century after which the British controlled the north and the Dutch the south. During WW11 the Japanese took over and then in the post war years Brunei reverted back to being under colonial control.
Now Malaysia, Brunie & Indonesia officially occupy the island.
Santubong is 5 miles up the Sarawak River which continues on to Kuching but because of a bridge there is no way that yachts can go up to Kuching. Kuching is about 30km from Santubong and takes 45 minutes by bus to get there so on Thursday morning we bussed into Kuching to have a look around. Kuching is the capital of Sarawak, a nice city and the cleanest city we have seen in Malaysia with a nice walkway along the waterfront. There are some lovely buildings and the State Legislature building is very impressive. There are certainly a lot of touristy shops along the waterfront but they are all virtually selling the same stuff. I do wonder how they make any money and they certainly were heavily stocked. Sarawak is 80% Chinese so that could explain the cleanliness of Kuching. Muslims are certainly in the minority here, but we still here the regular chanting from the mosque here in Santubong at various times during the day.
We arrived back in time to shower and change and be ashore at 5pm for a very low key welcoming reception with a light noodle & cakes snack. The Marine Department were in attendance so we were able to fill out the Harbour Master's forms which is something we are supposed to do at every port.
After the gathering a number of us went to a Chinese restaurant for dinner and while a little more expensive than we are used to paying was a beautiful meal.
Friday morning we had to be ashore at 7am and the Sarawak Tourism Board took us on a bus tour, which included the Semengoh Wildlife Centre and we were there in time for the orangutans morning feed time which is between 9 -10am. As they are not caged we had to wait awhile before several of them came out of the jungle and we were able to watch their antics etc. especially the big Granddaddy of them all, along with a couple of mothers and their babies.
From there we were taken to a Pottery factory and there was some nice pottery for sale and then on in to Kuching for a couple of hours to look around and have lunch. We were back in Santubong by 3pm.
Saturday morning several of us went into Kuching again to do the customs and immigration thing but it is a fair way out from the centre of the city so we ended up going in two taxis. Immigration appeared to be closed but the customs lady said we did not need to do immigration as we are still in Malaysia but we have a stamp out on our passport from Tioman. The rules seem to be different at every port so hopefully when we get to Miri we will have it all correct before going into Brunei. The main thing is we have the all important little yellow customs form. We did not have one of those from Langkawi to Danga Bay which was a bit of a worry.
Yesterday and today have been spent doing boat jobs, water runs etc. and last night we had Sunday roast (Australian lamb) on Baker Street along with Sherrye & Charles from Forza and it was lovely - we all sure enjoyed the lamb.
We have had some pretty big electrical storms since being here and most days at some stage it has rained. Coming back from Kuching on Saturday we had torrential rain but got back to here and it was dry although we got a bit of rain later but not like in Kuching. One good thing though it cooled the air and yesterday the temperature was very pleasant but it is certainly hotter today. There are crocodiles, sea snakes, lizards etc. in the river but as yet haven't seen any but some of the yachties have seen one or two crocs but they are further upstream than us.
This weekend is the Annual World Rainforest Music festival, with artists from all around the world, which is a few kilometres from here and most of us yachties are either going to all of it or one or two days. As Dave is not really in to music we have only bought tickets for the Sunday but after purchasing them discovered that the one and only NZ group (Moana and Tribe) are playing on Saturday. We plan to hire a motor bike for a few days and see a few more of the sights around here.