Miri, and why we are tied up to a pontoon a mile out to sea

I have just read an article about a poor family who have lost everything they had when their catamaran went aground on a reef in the south Pacific last week. They have said the Navionics chart didn’t show the reef, and the coastguard agreed. I thought it was common knowledge that electronic charts can vary in accuracy a lot, especially in remote areas not used by bigger ships. We cross reference several charts, including paper ones before deciding on a plan. However that hasn’t stopped us hitting things 😉 . I assumed that the reason our marina was 1 mile out to sea on all our electronic charts here was due to a similar charting error, but when we were sitting in a restaurant, maybe a mile inshore the other night, we were told that just a few years ago, we would have been up to our necks in the waters of the south China Sea. A massive area here, including that of the marina is built on reclaimed land, the charts don’t have that yet, so all is explained. What amazes me, is that the land, which now I look at it, is obviously very flat in every direction, has such a mass of vegetation, trees that look decades old, can only have been here for 5 years or less. Stuff grows fast here.

There’s a lovely development right at the entrance to the marina, effectively it’s the end of a substantial breakwater. There’s a sea horse built at the entrance, one of the symbols of the area, and on approach, I remember asking Kathy to keep an eye out for a large sea horse, that was our guide in. I’m not sure she took me seriously, but see if you can pick it out from the pictures below.

This building is a massive structure made of timber, it looks amazing inside, and I think it was built from local timber using traditional local skills. 

Kathy, have you spotted the seahorse yet?

I really like Miri, it’s a mellow town, seems like there’s everything you need here, the people seem very happy and they are very friendly. There’s a good selection of food and drink, a few decent supermarkets, no Waitrose, or even Tesco, but after Tarempa, we have modest needs 😉
The marina folks all seem friendly and helpful, there are quite a few boats whose crew have arrived here and liked it so much they have decided to stay, some have been here many years, others have applied for citizenship in Sarawak, including the couple who took this photograph, for the website, which I have borrowed, I hope they don’t mind.

What’s more bizarre, is that we met an Englishman in town who lives close to the marina, his house backs onto the lake/backwater of the marina, where he keeps his boat, and he informed us of another brit who lives close by, who turns out to be someone we know and have seen down our local sailing club back home many a time, when we used to drink there of a weekend. Small world or what.

I was up at 6:30 this morning to get a coat of varnish on the woodwork, and later I plan to change the coolant in the engine, putting in new antifreeze, not for the freezing bit, but for the protection against rust it gives. Later we will drag the headsails down and stow them away. I figure that the protective layer that saves the sails from the sun, called a UV sacrificial strip, will last 3 months longer out of the sun for 3 months, and this usually fails long before the sails, so if I do this every year for 4 years, I will get another years life out of the sail. but it’s a big pain getting the sails down and up.

Tonight we will head into town in search of some vegan food for Kathy.

Not long until we fly home.

Paul Collister


N Borneo, P.Patok to Miri

We left Pulau Patok, into a heavy tide and swell which slowed us down to a couple of knots. The forecast was hopeless, possibly a little wind but from the wrong direction, also there wasn’t anywhere obvious to take shelter from the swell on the next 220 miles of coast, other than a commercial harbour, which looked a bit grim. so I decided, perhaps rashly, to go direct to Miri, which is 180 NM as the crow flies, and would take about 36 hours if we could average 5 knots. As it turned out we didn’t, and took 44 hours. Just before we arrived, we got a weather forecast over the NavText that the severe thunderstorms to the north of us would continue until yesterday. I have no idea what the point of such a forecast is, in fact I shouldn’t call it a forecast at all, perhaps a hindsightcast would be more appropriate. However that did explain why we had light winds, but huge swells.
We sailed offshore, which gave us a more direct route, but also kept us away from the inshore fishermen in their small unlit boats. We would have two nights at sea, and it was only when I got the correct charts up on my plotter that I realised just how many oil and gas platforms there are here. I was fortunate that we would reach the first major block of them just as dawn arrived, it was the second night that was going to be a problem. We were low on fuel, so I took every opportunity to sail, even in such light winds. In fact I was really pleased at how well the boat sailed in just 5-10 knots of wind, I used the time to play with the sails and the rig to get the best performance. Slowly it’s all coming together.
There were lots of ships around, and a lot of them not lit correctly. The ones I hate the most are the tugs, sometimes they just have a small flashing light on the tow and the tug itself has a single white light.

Sometimes the tugs have AIS and so you know it’s a tug, other times you can just make out some lights and a shape on the radar. If you get in between the tow, you’re in big trouble, I hate to think what a mess it would make of our boat. The other thing is the tow, in this case above, a huge load of logs, is usually trying to go in a different direction to the tug, and the tug might be pointing in quite a different direction to what it is travelling, very confusing. At one point a fishing boat appeared behind me, this was my fault for not looking astern enough, but he would have been within 50ft, I shone a torch at him, and he turned on all his deck lights, killed the engine, then drifted, before quickly going around my stern and away. I’m not sure who was shocked the most!

I had a lot of notes about this area, and I re-read them again, and also found the admiralty guide had a section on this area, which cautioned against travelling here at night, unless you had a good clear full moon. I was expecting the moon to rise about 3AM, half moon, and hidden behind clouds. The main problem is well heads, underwater structures where oil is or had been extracted. There are a lot of disused well heads which apparently can come close to the surface and are not lit. A catamaran on the Sail Malaysia Rally hit one last year, fortunately no serious damage occurred. After a while I decided that most of the well heads would be within the designated fields, and I should be fine away from them. I was also worried that back home I got chased away from the Douglas Gas platform in the Irish sea as you are not allowed within 3nm of the rig, yet here the rigs were often only 4-5 nm apart, making that difficult. I later found out that 500m is the distance you have to keep away. As it turned out it all went quite smoothly, I dropped the mainsail about 6AM knowing sadly I wont be using that again for a few months. A squall came through just before dawn, and as the skies lightened, we approached Miri, where we planned to anchor at 7AM and contact the Marina for guidance in, and to wait for high water at 08:30. however the swell was so bad I decided I would prefer to motor round for an hour rather than anchor and be kicked around by the waves. Kathy and I had been doing 4 hour on /off watches, but not doing it properly and we were both tired now. Looking at the tide tables, I realised that as we only have one tide a day, the twelfths rule doesn’t apply, this rule is a way of working out how fast the tide comes in, and the upshot was we would have enough water to get in now, also big ships were ploughing into and out of the marina. So after a gap in the big ships, we shot in and grabbed a berth.  It felt odd, I tried the bow thruster before we came in, but it was running for a second, then making a weird noise, I had worried that the fouling from Santubong may have affected it, but on closer inspection, i.e. me hanging over the bow while Kathy powered it up, made me realise that the swell was lifting the bow thruster clear of the water, and it was whizzing around in the air, not good for it. Once in the marina we moored up, it went remarkably well, Kathy jumped ashore with a line, I stopped the boat and passed her the other lines and that was the end of a ten week trip from our last Marina in Johor Baru.
Now we have to get used to having an electric kettle, a toaster that doesn’t burn the toast, and all the water we want from the tap.

That’s us above in Miri, now we have ten days to do a lot of cleaning up and putting away before we come home. but for now we are off to explore the area a little before a long deep sleep.

Paul Collister

River Cruising to P.Patok

I decided last night to take the inland river route to our next destination, rather than going by sea. You can see the route below.Now this kind of sailing boat isn’t really meant to be going down rivers, for one, the rivers are usually very shallow in places restricting the boats movement, and makes sailing quite difficult if not impossible. The boat also has a deep keel, as deep as some quite big ships. But as the forecast was for no wind I thought it might be more interesting than following the coast. I checked the chart a lot, I didn’t like the navigation guidance in the admiralty publication, it stated that details wouldn’t be given as it should not be attempted without a pilot on board. However these guidelines are intended for bigger boats than me, I studied several charts and came to the conclusion that the one shallow bit at 1.5 metres would be ok if we hit it near high water which was 4.5 metres at 10:50 AM, Low water was only 1.5 mtrs so even at low water we should be ok. I also realised the currents in the river would be strong and had to factor that in, however as its neap tides right now, the tides would be at their weakest and so there wouldn’t be a better time to try. So off we went an hour late, and where straight into a 2-3 knot flood current racing us along at 7.5 knots, unfortunately, our little paddle wheel under the hull which tells me the boat speed through water, as apposed to the GPS which gives us boat speed relative to land, was all fouled up from Santubong and didn’t work.
I left Kathy on the helm to pop below and clean the paddle wheel. I really needed to be on top of the currents for this trip. The paddle wheel can be pulled back into the boat through its hole in the hull, this leaves a 2″ diameter hole in the hull a few feet below the waterline, so obviously the sea tries to come in and fill the boat up. My fancy paddle wheel fitting has a flap which closes as the wheel is removed, stopping a huge influx of water, sadly it had fouled up as well, so I got quite a soaking as the water gushed in. I have a plug that goes in, but it takes a few seconds to insert and tighten, eventually the wheel was cleaned, lots of barnacles were present, but it’s all working again.
We were going to turn North halfway along the river and exit by our destination, the island Pulau Patok, the timing meant that the tide should have turned and we would also get the ebb tide as we headed north. We met a few little fishing boats, a few bigger boats and a container ship on route. I wondered if the pilot on board was looking at us and tut tutting, I still didn’t know if the northbound passage was navigable at this point as it’s not a main shipping route, and had some seriously shallow bits on the chart.
Just after this ship passed we went around its stern and north, where we saw a few more boats, including a ferry visiting various jetties tucked into the shoreline. There was plenty of debris in the river.We had to keep a good lookout for these logs, this one reminded us f the ‘Statue of Liberty’, possible planet of the apes style. At our anchorage I can see where some of the tress come from, using my impromptu telephoto lens (binoculars) I took this picture You can see the roots completely exposed at low water, soon these trees will topple over, lets hope not tonight.

What I hadn’t bargained on was the wind picking up from the North, the grib files where hinting at 5 knots, maybe going to 10 overnight, but we found ourselves with 15 knots from the north, fighting a 2 knot current going out. This creates a condition sailors know as wind against tide, with the two fighting each other, this causes the waves to rise up quite steep and close together, this slowed our passage through the water down, but the current pushed us along nicely all the same. My main problem was that our destination is protected from every direction except the north, when we arrived there was little shelter to be had, and I envisaged a rocky night, however the wind just died down, and as I write this it’s a light breeze, the tide is turning now so the sea should calm down a lot. One problem we always have is that as the tide turns, we usually have 30 minutes to an hour where we are side on to the swell and that’s usually makes the boat roll a lot.

For anyone interested, I have put some pictures of our anchorage from Monday, on the charts you can see the route we planned. There are several buoys to guide us into the deeper water path, but half of these were missing, in one case literally half the buoy was missing, just the base in the water was left.

This is what the same place looks like from space

And heres a bing image I used in openCPN that really shows the sandbanks at the entrance to the river And this is what it looks like from the anchorage, looking west back to the tip we hid behind to protect us fro the westerlies

Paul Collister

Santubong to P.Lakei & festival

I returned the car to the hire company on Monday, that was typically a Malaysian experience, the young lady who was waiting to take the car off me didn’t really speak much English, even though it’s compulsory at school to learn English, the Malays have no reason to use the language, and rarely do. They have a few stock English phrases that pop up a lot, like ‘No have any’, ‘can do, and it’s counterpart, no can do’. I know I‘m generalising here. But this girl looked at the car, without reference to any paperwork and said ‘had crash’ after pointing to scratches at the front, I pointed out that they were marked on the paperwork when I took the car, the response was, ‘already have’. She then pointed out the tank was empty with the phrase ‘No fuel’, I pointed out the gauge only worked when the ignition switch was turned, which I did and got ‘Fuel ok’ in return. A final ‘Car OK’ allowed me to leave and march on to meet Kathy who was spared the ordeal as I had dropped her off at the shopping bazaar, thereby also sparing me an ordeal of endless racks of handicrafts.

I did manage to get a couple of lovely items from one shop which specialised in timber products, especially with the local hardwood. I’m now worried that I didn’t check the source of the wood, I’m assuming it’s from a renewable source, but who knows, probably customs at the airport do 🙁

I also took a couple pics around town.

Kathy seems to be perfecting her bread making technique, just lately she has had a lot of success. I had wondered how many bad loaves I would need to produce before she took over 😉

Tuesday-Thursday were spent on the boat doing chores, reading, sleeping and generally being lazy. I got a coat of varnish on the starboard cap rail, as this was flaking, so the previous 9 odd coats had lasted me through the year, but really it needs a new coat at least monthly, so theres plenty to do in Miri.
I think it was Thursday I looked out of the window and saw a branch of a tree, which was a little worrying, closer inspection revealed a tree was wrapped around the boat. I poked it with a boat hook, but it wasn’t budging.

It had got caught in our anchor rode, in fact it was the rope snubber I had put out the night before that had snagged it. Which in a way was good, as I could just undo one end and it slipped through the tree roots and the tree took off at quite a pace. It was only when I realised it was making a beeline for the two fast police motor launches just upriver from me that I wondered about my timing. Bother, still it took a turn to the shore just before them and went into our little set of pontoons and then aground.I had heard about this happening to other boats, and wondered why I never saw any trees even get close to us. I think this is what they call getting experience. I expect there to be a bit more touching up to the hull to be done now, what with the ferry imprint and the gouges from when I had the pre-purchase haul-out.

Another yacht, a GibSea arrived on Thursday, skippered by a young lady from Lausanne, Switzerland, coincidently, the home of the company I do the odd bit of work for. Small world. She had arrived to go to the Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF). They anchored just up the river from us and came aboard on Friday morning before they headed off to the festival. It was nice chatting, she had a dream to sail a yacht around the seven seas, and had come to Langkawi a year ago and bought the boat at Rebak, something I would recommend to anyone with a similar dream. Rebak and the area has a lot of great yachts desperately in need of new owners, and there are some great bargains to be had. Off they headed to the festival, her male friend who was visiting, didn’t seem 100% cool about the crocodile news we gave him.

Later we went ashore and started the 1 hour walk to the festival, I didn’t think it would be difficult to get a lift, and if that failed an Uber, or GRAB, which is the Malaysian version was an option. Sure enough a charming young Indian couple stopped almost as soon as we hit the road and offered us, not just a lift to the festival, but cold beers to drink on the way!  Once we go close to the festival site officials sent us off down a side road to park, by the time we got to the park, we were almost as far away as when we started, however it all worked out once we got a spot, and we walked the final 5 minutes to the entrance. There were no queues, in fact despite quite a decent attendance, the place felt spacious and everything was available without a wait. They even had wine for Kathy, but given this is Malayasia, don’t chose this country to become a wino, unless you are very rich.

The festival is held on the site of the cultural village we had visited a few days back, so we knew our way around. It comprises of two main stages, were the bands alternated during the evening, and in the day there were performances by regional/cultural artists in various buildings around the site. A lot of the traditional houses were host to workshops or performances during the day. I particularly loved the various groups that had kept their traditions alive with exciting music and colourful costumes. They seem to have such a rich and until very recently, alive culture. It made me wonder if we don’t have any more to our culture in the UK in the way of dance and costume and rituals, than the somewhat sad Morris dancers I have seen. Kathy reminded me that we had Maypole dancers once, but that is going back a long way. The performers seemed to genuinely enjoy putting on a show and loved working with the audience, getting them onstage and performing the moves.
I have come to realise that the Sarawakans, and I’m sure the rest of the inhabitants of Borneo have a very rich culture and a fascinating history, which I plan to explore as much as I can. I think there is a very distinct difference between the Malaysians from Peninsula Malaysia and Sarawak/Sabah.

There were all the usual stalls you might expect selling t shirts and merchandising, some excellent craft shops, and government sponsored stalls about things like biodiversity and rainforest preservation. There was a stall promoting synthetic oils, of the engine, rather than massage type. This seemed odd to me, but I was temped to visit, as I have a need to buy some oil for the boat and had wondered why people say I shouldn’t use synthetic oils, but decided it would be just too odd to be discussing engine oil viscosities and the like at a rain forest music festival. There were lots of regional and national food stalls, I went for a local tribal food, which the man became exasperated with trying to explain what everything was to me, the fruit that was part of the chicken dish was somewhere between an apple and a pumpkin, there is no translation, so in the end he told me it was all very tasty and to just eat it and stop asking. He was right. The bands from around the world put on a great show,

but we left before the last band came on, they were an Indian British band, from London, I didn’t think Kathy would like them. We were both feeling our age a little, plus we had to be back before low water at about 2AM so we left summoned a grab taxi for the ten minute ride back to the river. I was relieved to see that the dinghy was floating on the pontoon, in another hour we would be high and dry, our options being to wait about 6 hours on the pontoon for the tide to return, or wade through crocodile infested mud in the dark until we were in deeper water. The video below shows how lively the Mud is here, so lively that there is no way Kathy would go in the mud, I could drag the dinghy to water, then carry Kathy across, but I might slip, and the screaming that would then ensue might be too much for the residents of Santubong.

Today (Saturday 5th July) we upped anchor, along with quite a bit of organic/fishing line debris and motored out of the river. The chain had a healthy coating of pre-barnacle growth for it’s 2 weeks in the river, yet the prop seemed to work. As we left the river I revved up to max revs to give the engine a bit of a work out, and found we can only get about 75% of our normal speed, so I think the prop will need a good clean soon. We motored, no wind at all, to Pulau Lakei about 5 hours east of here. We tucked behind the island to get away from quite a big swell coming in from the NW, however as always the swell managed to find a way around the island and we have had a rolly day here. We passed this mark on the way into the anchorage, It’s not on the chart or any notice to mariners I have seen, so I’m not sure what it is, however I now know it doesn’t light up at night, so it’s a hazard in itself. It’s pitch black outside and we have rocks all around us, it’s quite a tight anchorage, and right now all the cliffs around the anchorage are being fished by local boats, Is it Shrimps or Squid they are after? I’m hoping the tide only drops the 4 metres the tide tables say, as that will leave us with about 1.5 metres under the keel at low water at 3:30 AM, I don’t want to be woken then with a thump.

Tomorrow we do a 55NM trip over to Sungai Rajang (Sungai means river) where we will took into the first bend in the river. We have just had a strong storm warning come in for the sea area just north of us, I’m not expecting that to be a problem, but it may well send some big swell our way, which make for an uncomfortable passage/anchorage.

Paul Collister

A week in Santubong

Well we got a hire car on Monday in Kuching town and off we went shopping to properly replenish supplies. There’s lots of good shops here, especially along the waterfront, a street named Main Bazaar. We have been to many cities around Asia now, and in many you see the same handicraft products, which I suspect may be made in a factory in China and shipped around in containers on the ships we pass, but here in Kuching, there are many exquisite items, very obviously handmade, and unique to the region. There is a local wood called Billian, or Bornean ironwood, which is dark and very tough. Many handicraft items are made of this, I bought a walking stick it looked so good, but I don’t expect it to be much use on the boat.

Above is the view from the cockpit of Mount Santubong with a bit of weather moving in.

We zoomed off in the car to visit the cultural village which is just ten minutes down the road, situated in the rain forest at the location of the festival we are off to on Friday. I don’t normally like these recreations of the past, but they had built old ‘long houses’ out of Billian and they were quite amazing.

Up to 60 families might live in these houses, most of which have gone now

The Malay houses were of a high quality compared to the more indigenous groups

And as my mum might have said ‘A  lovely show to round off the trip’ which involved blow pipes and audience participation, which had Kathy worried.

One day we headed off to see the Orangutans at Semenggoh, this is a national park area where the forest is protected and the Orangutans live there in the wild, they have got used to humans, and where they might normally be scared of us and hide, they can be quite forthcoming, even aggressive.

We also visited the Sarawak museum, I loved this place as it should have been in a museum itself, the exhibits were all in cabinets from the 19th Century, I don’t think the museum had anything new, including the staff, for many many decades. Lots of stuffed creatures. I took the picture below, because it had an uncanny resemblance to a typical drug crazed scouser, you might meet when out clubbing at a weekend, or find hanging outside the parole office 😉

On Saturday we headed off to the ‘Fairy cave’ A huge cave set up high in the hillside, it went very deep into the hill, and was very impressive. The pictures don’t do it justice, but look at the steps inside the caves to get an idea of the scale.

The modern entrance to the caves.

Above you can see the start of the original steps to the caves, that cling to the rock face

The fairy himself, no idea what that’s all about, maybe Kathy will know

A hut outside the caves.

After the caves we headed down to the border market, this is on the border with Kalimantan in Indonesia, it’s a mile long either side of the main road, we bought some fabric but mostly we bought fruit and Veg at the street market below, we bought a bag of Archidendron Jiringa seeds which we haven’t got a clue what to do with, they look like horse chestnuts, but flatter, I hope we try them before they go the same way as the Durian.It caused much amusement with the locals when we bought them, and we wondered if perhaps they were a cure for impotence or some other embarrassing ailment

Last night we did a bit more shopping at the street markets, sadly we were too late for both of them, so we popped over to an Indian restaurant we found via google maps/trip advisor and had a lovely curry served on a banana leaf.


Today we returned the car, so we are back to being boat bound for a few days, Rain Forest World Music festival on Friday, then we up anchor and head NE towards Miri, where we leave the boat and fly home.

Paul Collister.

A walk around Santubong

Not a lot to report, I acquired 150 litres of fuel today and lugged it onto the boat in 8 jerry cans, transferred in two trips in the dinghy. The dinghy wouldn’t start yesterday, and I’m now working with the chant, “It’s always a fuel problem” and sure enough the problem was water in the fuel tank and carb, I don’t know how it got there, but I expect the very heavy rain a few nights earlier might be the problem. I now cover it with a bag when it’s not in use.
This afternoon we went ashore for a walk around the village of Santubong, just next to where we are anchored. It had a lovely long prom, and the tide was out so there was a huge expanse of beach, we could see now why we had to be so careful to follow the route in. Again, a lot of properties built on stilts, as the tide comes in a long way here.
Tomorrow we hope to hire a car and do some exploring of the island.

I did have an interesting encounter with our fridge tonight, I had been pondering on how well the batteries had held up today, we hadn’t needed to run the engine at all to charge them, and I wondered if the full charge from motoring here plus lots of sunshine was the cause, but just before sunset tonight I got a not very cold coke out fridge and after a few quick checks showed it to be kaput. This was going to be the third fridge to fail on me, two packed in on Stardust, my last boat. The main problem I had to face was whether to eat the two magnum ice creams I had bought yesterday in their by now melty state, or try to fix it and either end up with misshapen, but frozen ice cream lollies, or not fix it and end up with two bags of sticky milk. The gubbins that drive the fridge are buried deep inside the hull under the lazarette at the rear of the boat, to get to it requires a fair bit of emptying out the lockers, and as it was getting dark I decided to press on and see if power was getting to the unit. As I explained to Kathy, my experience has never been that it’s that easy. As I said , if the power is missing, I can fix it, anything else, means we have to eat all the butter, and frozen goods tonight, as I can’t fix refrigeration stuff, it’s all to do with gases and magic, I still don’t really understand how you make things cold with heat. Anyway, I twisted myself into the boat with a multimeter and some long nose pliers, and went in search of the power connection to the fridge compressor unit (it’s a basic danfoss for those in the know). As I grabbed the positive connection to pull it off to measure the voltage, the compressor started up, waggling the connecter started and stopped the unit. I just could not believe my luck. I re-crimped the connector and that fixed it, and within an hour I had one of the misshapen ice creams, which was quite acceptable. I’m very pleased with this outcome, however I do need to go back sometime and redo both connections, which is yet another job on the todo list.

Here’s some pics from our walk.

Paul Collister



Last night this was our view out at P Satang Besar, 

however just an hour before sunset, a very big thunderstorm/squall blew in, gusting 25-30 Knots, 

We were certainly chucked around a bit, but the anchor held really well, and after an hour or so of torrential rain, it calmed down, and Kathy could get on with her pie baking. She has been very resourceful with the cooking, since we haven’t been to any decent shops for several weeks now and supplies are low.
This morning we woke early to a lovely calm bright day. We were heading into Santubong River today, to finally get ashore and to some supermarkets and to check into Malaysia. The journey to this river means crossing a sand bar, which is only 0.5 meters deep on the chart, but today we have a 4 metre tide, at 10 AM so as we are 2 hours away we needed to get going pronto, and hit the bar not long after High Water. Also there are many unmarked wrecks and a few dangerous rocks on the way in.

Once at the river mouth, the sea was so calm, not much current and a huge array of little fishing boats with nets everywhere we had to weave our way through.

Below is our view from our anchorage. There’s a little group of jetties we can use to go ashore with our dinghy, but we can’t tie up to them. It’s a very tranquil spot with a great view. The only downside is that I expect some wildlife to visit us on the boat tonight, also last year 3 crocodiles were shot after killing some locals here, so I’m hoping they don’t bother us.

Below I have posted some pics I took in Indonesia on our way across

Tied to a coconut, probably not good in a storm.

P. Airarabu

Now we are about to go ashore, this will be fun, it’s been a few weeks since we were in a shop that sold bread or lettuce, I’m looking forward to getting some Diet coke, and Kathy is keen to replenish her well depleted vino blanco supplies.

Paul Collister


Yesterday we arrived in Sarawak, but we had no internet still. Today we set off towards Kuching, where we would get some connectivity, we had planned to travel about 7 hours to arrive at Pulau Satang Besar (Big Satang Island), but a big squall came through, this lasted for a few hours and headed us with strong winds and waves. By the time the squall had passed we didn’t have time to get to Satang in daylight, so we settled on an island quite close to us called Talang, this island is a turtle sanctuary, and in the picture below you can see the big beach, where they visit to lay eggs at night. Just as we arrived, as if they had organised a welcoming party, a massive turtle appeared next to the boat and put on a little show for us. On the way over last night we had a pod of Dolphins visit us as well, so at last we see some decent aquatic life, other than flying fish.

We had a long trip over here, being low on fuel and having no wind was a pain, we had to balance speed and fuel consumption to get here. We spent three days getting here, and I will put some pictures of our trip up on the next post, but here is one of the many squalls we had to endure. Right now we are happy to be anchored and catching up on a weeks worth of emails, facebook posts and tweets etc. Tomorrow we will try to get to P. Talang, then the day after to the mainland where we can get ashore and check in, then get some supplies sorted.

Paul Collister

Temburun Waterfall and Town

On Tuesday morning we were just relaxing a little before we left Tarempa for the last time, when we heard a groaning/growling sound from the bow, I now recognise this as the chain dragging over rock. After all our anchor woes, I really didn’t want to be stuck in rock again, and we shouldn’t be, as we are a distance offshore and anchored in sand.
I ran up on deck, and noticed the wind had swung to the west, pushing us towards the shore, and we were again over the reef, in about 8 metres depth. So I guessed as the wind slacked, the chain fell onto the rock. I winched us in, bringing up about ten metres of chain to get us away from the shore, but then the chain jammed, it was hooked on some rock. “Not my day today”, I muttered to Kathy as I came below to reset the windlass power trip, which had tripped under the strain of the chain trapped under the rock.

Back on deck, I released 10 metres of chain, went to the helm, and could see on the chart plotter track, we had done a big clockwise circle to get to where we were, so hard to starboard, and off we went, there was no resistance that I could tell, and the boat headed off, past where the rock might have been, and into deeper water. Back to the windlass, and I pulled up 20 metres of chain, checked we were back in deep water, and returned to the relaxing mode, feeling smug that I had one over on the rock, Rocks 2: Sister Midnight 1:

An hour later, we headed off to spend a night or two at the waterfall bay in Temburun. This is a small village at the end of a winding cove.

This was worrying Kathy as it’s a complicated journey, not far, just 7 miles or so, but most of the journey is between shallow rocky reefs, which twist and turn. The charts are no use here, because they are out so much you would certainly be on the reef if you followed them. So we overlay google maps images over the charts, these are spot on, and you can actually see the reef clearly on the images.Also we had waypoints from others who had made the journey before, so I wasn’t too worried. As it turned out, besides the software continually crashing, or not picking up the GPS data, it went well. the reef was easy to see.
The village in Temburun is typical of many here, it’s a road built on stilts at the side of a steep hill that is too steep to build on, off the road are houses built on stilts. It runs for maybe a mile along the coast, and has a couple of shops, and a public jetty for the residents. Everything is basic, but they have everything they need, water, electricity and a 3g signal, sometimes. Our reason for visiting was to see the waterfall, which is claimed to be one of the areas main attractions, It’s certainly a big waterfall, and when we visited had plenty of water flowing, but the path up, and the visitor area is terribly dilapidated, and deserted /  overgrown. We only made it halfway up the hill. However it was worth the walk, the view was wonderful, and seeing Sister Midnight sitting at anchor a long way away made me realise how comfortable I had now become about anchoring and getting the boat to hold. On our way back to the dinghy we had a walk through the village and along the way the local people, especially the kids were very keen to say hello, or ‘hello mister, how are you’  and to make us feel welcome.

We are making use of the fact this may be our last internet connection for 10 or more days, as that is how long it will take for us to meander over to Malaysia.

On Friday we hope to be in the lagoon at Pulau Bawah, I nicked this pic from the internet.After that 3-5 days sailing the 250 miles east towards Kuching in Sarawak, there are a couple of islands we can stop at on the way, but we may just slog on through the night(s) to get there quicker.

Paul Collister


Anchoring Woes

What a palaver, we went ashore this morning (Monday), and checked out with Customs, Immigration and the Harbour Master. That all went well, but took a an hour or so of waiting in offices while officers ‘typed’ (on a typewriter) our clearance papers. For my kids, you can google typewriter, it’s like a computer and printer in one, but it doesn’t crash as much.

We did a bit more provisioning as we won’t see any shops now for over a week, maybe two. Then back to the boat to prepare to leave. We are going to a big waterfall that cascades down towards the beach and provides a good display from the anchorage, or so we read. It’s rained heavy here today and yesterday, in fact I got into the water collecting mode yesterday and managed to fill two 30 litre jugs with rain water, so the water fall should be on full form.
So up with the anchor,  and away, well that was the plan, I had 60m of chain and 30m of rope out, as we had anchored in 24m of water, but we had fallen back to a spot over the reef, which is very rocky, and only 8m deep. consequently as we had been swinging around for several days, and going from 30 knt gusts to flat calm nights, the rope had wrapped around the rocks. We couldn’t do anything, the rock was in about 15m of water and I couldn’t see it from the deck, or when I went snorkeling. I tried motoring around the point but we were stuck. Also at this point I was close to a catamaran in front of us. Thankfully their skipper was a diver and after I pleaded for his help, he was happy to oblige, but had to go ashore and would do it tomorrow. That was fine, we were checked out, and tomorrow we would be illegals, but I don’t think anyone will mind under the circumstances. I sat down to chill for the rest of the day, looking at our position on the GPS I understood now why we hadn’t moved very much over the recent squalls, as we are pinned to this rock.
About 4PM our neighbour knocked on our boat and said he would do it now, so we leaped into action, it took 4 or 5 dives before he got the rope clear, but pulling up the chain brought us right up to his boat, he was lying over our chain. His wife motored forward, so we decided to get the whole thing up and re anchor, but by now it was 5pm and the sun would set in an hour.  It was too late to get to the waterfall now, that requires very careful eyeball navigation between reefs to get into the bay. So we motored into a bay next to the town here, we had met some Americans on a large powerboat out of Singapore who had motored in the bay, they said it was great, and we had good charts, so off we went, just 20 mins away.
We found a spot in between the reefs, that should have been good and dropped our anchor, as soon as we tried to back down on it, I felt the crunching of anchor skipping over rock through the chain. Without further ado, Kathy headed to the chain locker to flake chain, while I started to winch up. Imagine my joy after just a few metres of chain coming in, the winch ground to a halt with the chain ever so taut. I had managed to somehow wrap the chain around a rock again. I released the chain a bit and motored around, then  tried again, this time the chain broke free with a loud twang/shudder which Kathy felt below. I had to repeat this 2 more times before we got the anchor free again. By now we were both feeling with the score at rocks 2: Sister Midnight 0: the rocks had the upper hand on us, and we left that bay. Now we only had 20 minutes left before sunset, and anchoring in the dark was not something we wanted to do. We raced back to Tarempa town and started all over again, fortunately, we found a spot well out of town, where we had once anchored before and held well, this seemed to work ok, we have 50 meters of chain out in 16m of water, not much of a scope but it’s holding well. The weather is supposed to be calming down now and tomorrow should be another baking hot day.
Before all of this fun, we took some pictures walking around the back of Tarempa town, which seems a little more upmarket.

Self contained street lighting, that doesent seem to work if it’s cloudy in the day

Paul Collister