The Solar Panels arrive

At last the solar panels turned up at the marina and they are now onboard.

The day started well, I tidied up the install of the cabin heater, then looked at some old pics of the wiring and saw that the heater had a switch assigned to it on the switch panel, which I was now using for the new VHF Radio. Opening up the panel revealed the old wire, which I had disconnected and marked with a label “Heater”. I think it’s quite rare that my future planning has worked out so well before. Anyway, the heater now shares the cutout with the VHF and once connected, the fans on the heat exchanger fired up and blew hot air around, this was before I turned the heater on (it’s hot here you see 😉 ), So then I fired up the heater propper and within 5 minutes hot water was rushing around the system and hot air was streaming out of the heaters. It’s a lot hotter than the ambient air, but hot enough for Canada in September? We will have to wait and see.

Next I ordered the Sat Phone from PredictWind. It’s the Iridium GO system, and for the bargain price of $USD 120 / Month, we get 14k Internet access, eat all you can. Loads of free minutes and free SMS, This will be our prime method for getting weather forecasts when offshore now. I’m hoping this will be delivered to me when I arrive in Labuan in about 3 weeks time.

Finally after an awful lot of messing around, I got an email to say the Solar Panels had been delivered to the Marina. However I couldn’t collect them until security had cleared them, which was odd. After a bit of flapping, I carried them down from the Office to the boat, one at a time with the help of one of the marina staff, he was a great laugh, but gave me a really hard time about having been in Malaysia for two years and only knowing a couple of words in Malay, so while we carried the panels along, he taught me a few more. A lovely guy, looked about 35 years old, but was in fact 45, with 8 kids!

I had hoped to keep the panels below until I fitted them in Kudat next week, however, they were two big to fit through the cockpit hatch, so another location bove deck was needed. After a bit of head scratching, I decided to put them on top of the existing panels and lash them down. However this meant the existing panels wouldn’t work on the trip to Kudat, and I need the power, so I decided to put the top panel facing up and wire it in temporarily. It was now getting late and I was keen to finish the wiring while the sun shone so I could see if they generated any power. At this point a neighbour arrived for a chat, this delayed me, but I was now thinking, they are designed to outperform other panels in low light, so this would test them, the neighbour left and I continued the job, rushing below, only to find 0V from the panel. I knew the connections were good, but on inspection I had wired it up to the wrong cable, so more work, the sun is now just above the horizon.  rushing below I managed to see the panel generate 1W, which is a start, thats about 0.3% of it’s output. Oh well, tomorrow’s another day…

I have turned off the mains battery charger to let the fridge and the fans run the battery down overnight. Then tomorrow I can watch the single panel perform.  However this may just be a way of ensuring it is rainy and overcast all day tomorrow 🙁

Tomorrow I will check out, stock up and prepare to leave.

 

Paul Collister

Stuck in KK, doing boat jobs, “Kathy goes home”

Yss, Kathy is back in the UK visiting family, and I’m doing messy boat jobs, but more of that later. Before Kathy left we had a few meals out, I particularly liked the big covered Chinese food court / Hawker market we stumbled on. It’s a huge area, with stalls all around the perimeter.

In the middle of all the tables there is a stage. Now often on the stage they have bands and karaoke sessions, but I was delighted to see some traditional dance and yelping being performed.

Later there was some flame throwing / fire eating stuff.

We were invited up on stage, but I didn’t fancy it, you can imagine I had to grab Kathy to stop her jumping up to join in the traditional dance routines they were teaching.
But enough frivolity, let’s get down to the main business of the day, the heater. It seems odd to be working on the heater here, but we will need it later in the year when we close in on Vancouver / Washington, in September or later. We hate being cold, and when your clothes are damp and you have to do a watch in the rain, it’s just plain miserable. also this is my last chance to work on the heating system, where I am able to import replacement parts easily. I can have stuff shipped here Duty Free on export and Duty Free on import, which helps the coffers a bit. I understand this is costly and difficult to do in the Philippines, and I don’t fancy trying it in Japan either.
The heater we have is a diesel Eberspacher from Germany, it heats water which it pumps around radiators. It’s a neat efficient little system, but ours is very old and probably hasn’t worked for many years, possibly ten. So I stripped it down to try and find out why it wouldn’t start. As you can see from the pic’s it was quite a mess, closer inspection, with the assistance of many youtube videos, revealed that the internal air intake fan was seized, also the cabling for one of the temperature sensors has shed it’s insulation and was shorted. Also the exhaust was blocked with decomposing exhaust outlet pipe. The gaskets on the main heater chamber had perished, I was able to replace these with ones I cut out from some gasket material I brought out. 

As it turned out, I was able to clean it up quite well, and re-assembled it and fired it up. It took awhile for the fuel to get there from the tank, but once the pipe was full and fuel flowed, she fired up and ran very nicely. Hot water was soon reaching the two radiators in the main cabin. These have computer fans behind them which push the air out, this doesn’t seem like a lot to me, but I can’t tell, as they don’t work. There’s no power reaching the fans, but this will be trivial, probably just a case of me reconnecting the wires I pulled out 2 years ago as I had no idea what they did or where they went!.

 

This one’s for Kathy, expect it’s much the same in Swindon 😉

We had a last visit to the Imago mall a few days ago, and another dance troupe, almost identical to the one in the food court were performing. It was odd seeing this in a shopping mall, but I did enjoy it.

Today I went hardware shopping and was delighted to find all the various oddball bits I was looking for.
It will be fun playing with these honkers, I’m expecting lots of fog when we leave Japan, so they might come in useful, only £6, and they only have to last 6 months.

 

This is another filter, all part of making the water onboard nice and safe to drink.

Finally when I left Kathy at the airport in KK, I had a wander, and they had a display of lots of pictures of the town and surrounding country, laid out in a before and after style, usually pictures before the concrete, and then after. Without exception, every ‘before’ picture was lovely, old wooden houses, river boats, long houses etc, and all the afters were concrete blocks. I think it was meant to show how much the town has moved on in just a few decades, interesting how this ‘progress’ appears so different to a tourist.
However one picture really caught my attention, it was the town a few years ago, where the reefs are very clear. You can’t see these from the shore, but I often see waves breaking and know something is there, we also saw a fishing vessel aground on one of these the other day. I was thinking of taking the boat through here, but won’t bother now.

Kota Kinabalu Downtown Waterfront

Paul Collister

The route north (Beware of Mischief)

Just a quick update, The windlass is back on the bowsprit, working fine, I can lower the anchor with the motor now as well as by hand, also I wired in a cheap wireless remote which works well. I ended up moving the windlass Solenoid into the chain locker.

Kathy has taken over the watermaker maintenance, and is keeping records of the state of affairs, we were able to run it up here in the marina as the water is so clear here. We are getting about 300 ppm (Parts per million) pure water, which is quite acceptable I’m told. We can also make about 10 litres per hour, which isn’t too bad.

Finally I’m working on our passage north, on the map below you can see our route north from Borneo up past the western side of the Philippines.

Zooming in, you can see our route passes up past the Palawan Islands, we will be checking into  the Philippines, possibly at Puerto Princesa.To the west of the islands you can see lots of lumps in the sea, these are thousands of islands and reefs, many of them, like the Spratly islands have disputed owners, with China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines all laying claim. Early on I thought I could sail across this area as it’s the most direct route to Hong Kong, but I soon realised you would have to be mad to go that way, the charts, where they exist, are often very inaccurate. Also there’s lots of  military activity around the place. Also there’s a load of uncharted reefs and rocks, for hundreds of miles the depth is only a few metres.
However, I was amazed to see a very large yacht had hit a reef known as ‘Mischief Reef’ a few days ago; as Kathy said, “surely the clues in the name”.

More details here
The area to the east of Palawan is where the pirates hang out, and although it’s supposed to be a fantastic place to cruise, we won’t be going there. We got friendly with a cruising couple in Miri who had been sailing the area where the pirates operate, for a few years, and on more than one occasion, they had missed the terrorists by a day or two. Sadly some of their friends they made there didn’t fare too well.

Once we get midway up Palawan, we have left the terrorists homeland and we will be well on our way to Japan.

I have been putting the next big job off for too long now, the heating system. The boat has plumbed in heating, but it probably hasn’t been used for twenty years, so who knows what state it will be in. I have started investigating the system and found out it’s an Eberspacher water heater system, so basically it burns diesel to heat water which it pumps around radiators. I have two radiators, or heat exchanges as they are known, these are small units fitted under the seating, which have fans to blow the hot air out. Much like the fan heaters you get on the local trains (I’m thinking Merseyrail). Fortunately the heater and the heat exchangers aren’t expensive, so if they are faulty, it’s probably easiest to replace them, rather than to think of a new system for the boat. My only worry is what happens when the unit decides not to start, mid ocean, when it’s freezing. I hate being cold. It has a computer inside (ECU), and I expect if it fails to start, there’s sod all I can do about it. On the last boat we had a diesel stove heater, diesel dripped onto a hot metal plate and burnt. It had a chimney, and that was about as complicated as it got, if the diesel dripped, and the chimney wasn’t blocked, it had to work. However, you had to keep everything clean of soot, and that proved to be a major pain, soot and boats don’t mix, especially if your as clumsy as me.

I mentioned I have ordered the solar panels from Panasonic, at a higher price than I can buy them in the UK, which is mad as they are made here in Malaysia, and are being shipped from the factory in Penang. Well just now I got the bill for shipping, £300 !!!!! I have never paid  £300 for shipping anything in my life, I’m still in shock. £300 buys me another fortnight lazing in this resort.

I bought a water filter today to put in line with the hose pipe, so that we are filtering the water before it goes into the tanks. I now feel like I have moved closer to being a real hardened cruiser as we are drinking the local tap water on the boat. We take the tap water through a 100 Micron course filter  on its way to the tanks, then a 20 Micron filter in the galley. While looking around the hardware store I bought the filter in, I wondered why they had so many kettles.

Paul Collister

New Years Eve in Kota Kinabalu

We joined our neighbours for a barbeque on the pontoon here for new years eve, then we dragged some chairs to the end finger and watched the massive fireworks display the resort had organised (gif above). There was a big party going on over the water in one of the hotels gardens, with a live band on a big stage counting the new year in. It was odd thinking of our friends and family back home who were enjoying the afternoon (4pm) possibly thinking of their partying 8 hours later, also knowing we might get a few texts ( or WhatsApps as it turned out) around 8AM our time.

New years day was quite sedate, however one of the royal family turned up to have a little motor over to one of the islands, this was quite an ordeal, red carpet was laid out along the pontoons and a cavalcade of security personnel arrived, along with lots of armed police, and the army. Police motor launches (High speed RIBs) motored in and around the marina, inspecting the pontoons, and the boats used to transport the entourage were thoroughly searched. 

I really like Kota Kinabalu, or KK as most people call it, downtown is quite grimy, but it’s very lively, street markets everywhere, and a massive central market area that runs for a mile along the waterfront. Fresh fruit and Veg, herbs and spices, fish, meat and textiles make up the main sections, however within the fresh food bit there is another smaller, but very lively fish market, with the vendors hacking away at fish and shouting out their offers making a constant barrage of noise.

Tonight I bought a 1/2 Kilo of skipback tuna steak off these guys above, it tasted great. it’s £2.50 / kg here, back home it’s ten times that. I took some more pictures a week ago, hope you like looking at fish!

It’s fish heaven here. However, we learned of a darker side to all of this recently, some traders are alleged to go to some lengths to keep their produce looking fresh, this involves spraying the fish with hand sanitizer, using formaldehyde and other products you don’t want to be digesting. One stall was recently spotted with a dead bear sprawled across the table. I think this is illegal, but ignored in the market. I’m very glad we didn’t see that, there might have been a scene.

I spotted this raft off the main town quay a few days ago, there were a couple of kids sitting there fishing. A few days ago, we took a bike ride past the airport to Tajung Aru, the next cove along the coast, where the local sailing club is located. We took some old back roads I could see on google earth, to avoid the highway, as you can see below, if your not careful, the jungle will try to grab the land back in no time at all.

The beach at Aru had a great display made by the crabs

And later I managed to catch this guy casting his net in the bayNow the serious stuff, boat jobs.

The Anchor windlass is something I have been putting off, the fact is it works to recover the Anchor & chain, and that’s its main job so why mess with it. A good question.
Well the clutch has two clutch cones, they allow me to control the speed the anchor drops at, and they need to be kept clean. I can only access one, because I need to remove a bracket on the windlass to release the gypsy to get to the second cone. I can’t remove the bracket, because the allen screws holding it on are wrecked and need to be drilled out. This is a job I hate, but I also need to remove the motor to check it and maybe clean it, and to replace the solenoid so I can use the motor in reverse.
The bigger reason for doing this is that I know if I ignore it, then it will fail at some point. I don’t know which bit will fail, but I won’t be able to fix it, because when it fails I will most likely be dragging in a big squall, heading for danger, probably at night and I will be cursing myself for not servicing the damn thing when I was lazing around in some luxury resort wondering how to kill time!

Day one had me drilling out the two reluctant Allen screws, which took an hour, followed by a very careful extraction of their stubs. This went remarkably well, but in the heat, I decided to call it a day.
Day two and I was able to remove the other very dirty cone, and extract the main axle that drives the chain gypsy and rope drum. Now of the 8 screws that hold the motor and gears in place, 7 came out, after a short fight, the 8th can’t come out because another bracket is in the way of the screw, so I tried to undo the 4 allen screws holding that bracket in, and they won’t budge. I wrecked one trying, so off to the shops to buy some new HSS bits to drill them out.
The problem here is that the screws are stainless steel and they screw into a cast aluminium alloy case, the two dissimilar metals react over time, I think the salt in the seawater and air provides an electrolyte and the corrosion joins the two parts. This is very difficult to overcome.
If you look on youtube, Lewmar has a video of a tour around their production facility in the UK, I was watching this while trying to find teardown videos for the windlass, and they actually had a shot of the man putting the very same screws into the windlas that I was trying to take out. He added a chemical to the screws, specifically to enable them to come apart, (Duralec or similar, I expect) while I was shouting at the laptop screen, “It doesn’t work”

Tomorrow we start drilling. Then I will hopefully complete the disassembly, followed by the service and re-assembly, all in time for my departure from here on the 18th

Below you can see the starboard water tank, that lives below the settee / sea berth. I had noticed big rust stains all over it, but couldn’t find the cause. However when filling up the tanks a few days ago, we saw water on the cabin sole. Further investigation revealed that the water level sensor (black thing on the far right) was leaking. I think this meant that on a full tank, or if the boat rocked a lot, water squirted out onto the tank top, then down the side. I have fixed the leak, polished the steel, and took this picture so I can remind myself what it looked like, for when I next inspect it in a few months time.

I have ordered 2 * 325w HIT Sanyo/Panasonic solar panels direct from Panasonic. They are huge, and when I get to Kudat, I will arrange to have a frame made to support them above the helm position. 650W of high efficiency (19.7% with a low temp co-ef) panels will give me a lot of power, I can’t wait to see how they work out.

Paul Collister

Christmas 2017

First, a few pictures I meant to put in the Klias section.

This ferry came very close as we left the river, and gave us a loud, friendly hoot on his horn.

One of the problems here is the fishing marks, buoys, lines, nets etc. Below is one of the small markers, made of a small polystyene block. As you can see it’s very hard to spot, yet there were dozens of them, in a line along both sides of the river, every 25 metres or so.

I have zoomed in to show you the detail.

These floating islands seem handy for the fishermen to park in while they do some boaty chores. This guy was working on his motor.

I saw a few trees supported by very exposed roots. I don’t know how this works, is it soil erosion, or something else going on.

We have been in Sutera harbour now for about ten days, and I must say it’s very relaxing. The resort consists of two big 5 star hotels and a marina; there are all the usual facilities, tennis & squash courts, golf courses, 5 pools, Gym, bowling alley etc etc. The staff are very friendly and helpful, and the whole place is very chilled. A great place for Christmas. We had a dinner here on Christmas eve, the locals tend to celebrate Christmas that way. The food was in a buffet format, and there was so much choice, I expect that’s what a cruise ship is like, and I could get fat very quickly. For some reason, it’s just not good enough to have one wonderful main course, you have to try everything. Then after trying the Duck, Chicken, Turkey, Lamb and beef, you need to see what the Salmon tastes like, and then somehow fit in the lovely cakes, pies, sorbets and sweets on offer. Thank goodness we only do that once in a while.
Kathy had a luxury Spa treatment as her Christmas present from me, I’m tempted to have one, but im scared I might get addicted to them. Here’s a picture of the Spa and some more of the resort. Downtown Kota Kinabalu is a very busy, car congested space. It has a very frantic waterfront with several markets, fresh fish, veg, fancy goods etc, along with a row of bars and nightclubs, all looking out over the bay. There’s a stilted village on the island just opposite the town and lots of small boats race between there and the town. There’s also a load of shopping centres/Malls ranging from 80’s dilapidated to the very latest hi-style offerings, plus more are on the way.

Today I decided to tackle a water leak on the engine. A few weeks ago when we were preparing to leave Miri, I gave the engine a full visual inspection, that’s about all my knowledge allows, after I have checked the oil and water levels. I never took to engines, but I’m learning. Anyway, as a result I noticed rust and corrosion starting on a bracket near the starter motor, further inspection revealed a very corroded area above it, around the sea water cooling pump. Basically there was a leak around or inside the pump, dripping salt water down onto the hot engine. This is a recipe for disaster as I have discovered to my cost on Stardust, my last baba. So today I decided to tackle it, This meant taking the pump cover off, cleaning everything up and replacing the impeller and putting back together without the leak. I hate this job, as on stardust, and on this boat, the pump never works after I change the impeller. Anyway, off we went and found a lot of grime around the pump and its cover plate, also I found the impeller had a vane missing, so it was worth doing the job, just for that.

I was able to get everything cleaned up and re-assembled, and as you can see below it looks cleaner, if not a little confused about the best direction for the fins/vanes.

Sure enough, when I ran it up, it didn’t work, just like the last time after the yard launched me, something to do with air being sucked in and it not being able to create a vacuum. I’m not sure if putting the bung in the middle, which I had forgotten, or reversing the cover plate was the cure, but after I did these things, it was back to pumping water just fine, and I couldn’t see any trace of a leak, however I need to watch it closely over time.

Above, a local speciality

And below, a visitor to our pontoon. There are lots of birds here, and they all seem quite tame.

We like it so much here that we have decided to extend our stay until Kathy flys home in a couple of weeks, I have found local suppliers of Solar Panels, so I can get that organised. Once Kathy goes, I’m probably going to sail up to Kudat, a bit further north and haul out in preparation for our trip to the Japan/USA, which starts proper on March 2nd now.

Paul Collister

 

Klias – TIga – Kota Kinabalu (Sabah)

We arrived in Menumbok not long before sunset on Wednesday 13th Dec 2017 , we anchored in about 8 metres of water off the main village there, next to a small island. The route we took meant that we almost went back to Labuan, then continued north East past Labuan before we went east over the top of a large sandbank, then south on the other side of the bank, we were down to about 3 metres of water at one point, but all was well. I was optimistic we could have done a more direct route, but the electronic charts I have said it was too shallow. Later I saw a car ferry taking the direct route, through water the chart says is 0.5 – 1.0 metres deep. I was grateful to a contributor to the sailors web site noonsite.com for leaving detailed waypoints that allowed me to safely get into the river. I am now feeling guilty at how little I have contributed to the shared knowledge base of sailing, especially around here were knowledge is scant online, or even in print.After two days of early starts, we had a lie in on Thursday before making the 5 hour passage up the river, to the furthest point we can reach with a yacht. This is due to high voltage lines crossing the river.  I had got my head around that ok, but had forgotten that overhanging trees are a problem two, I’m so used to motoring along the river banks taking in the shade of the overhead trees when in the dinghy, I had to remind myself that I have a 15mtr mast that would easily hit some of the giant trees leaning into the river.

Fairly early on the passage we saw a couple of monkeys in the trees, these were Proboscis monkeys, very rare, however they seem to be very shy and don’t hang around. A little later we saw a whole gang of them in a giant tree. However as soon as we slowed down, each time we had a sighting, they all buggered off.

For the first 18 or so miles of the trip up river we only saw one other person, a fisherman in a small boat. However as we approached the last few miles, we saw boat after boat crammed with Chinese tourists, there for the ‘monkey safari trips’. It was now getting late and we needed to get anchored, the river had narrowed from being several hundred feet wide at the start to now being about 150ft wide, maybe 3 or 4 boat lengths at best, the river was still quite deep, 10 metres at the last section before the pylon. If I had anchored in the middle of the river, I might be swinging so much I would hit one or both of the river banks, which were mostly overgrown jungle mangrove. I was quite pleased to have this challenge, but not so happy the light was going, no moonlight, so it would be very dark soon. So I anchored about two thirds of the way across in the river, leaving room for boats to pass, and reversed back on the anchor to set it in. Unfortunately it didn’t set quickly, and we had almost reversed into the turning behind us when the chain went tight. I didn’t really have room to dig it in deep,, but it seemed good and there was only a gentle current flowing. Also there was no wind around, we were surrounded by high trees.

Next I took a long line from the stern to a strong trunk in the mangroves, using the dinghy. That was a messy job, creepers falling all around me as I worked my way towards the slimy trunk. Back on the boat I tightened this line and the boat lay snug, parallel to the mangrove river edge. More monkeys and egrets were spotted, then we retired for dinner as the sun set. A little later I was in the cockpit watching the show put on by the fireflies that had come out, very pretty. At the same time the tour boats were still whizzing past, sometimes stopping to shine bright spotlights up into the trees, presumably showing sleeping monkeys, poor things.
It was about 11pm that Kathy asked what all the noise was on the hull, I was fast asleep, I went up to look and it was obvious the boat had moved, the stern was almost in the mangroves, just about 6ft to go. I didn’t want this, who knows, the monkeys might have got onboard and started making tea (UK only joke I think?) I went to the bow and took up a lot of slack on the anchor chain, that pulled us forward, but I stopped before the chain went tight as I was sure the anchor wasn’t set properly. However the boat came back away from the shore and I retired, not before noticing the dinghy was engulfed in an island of weed and growth, the size of our boat. I hoisted the dinghy out of the water and went back to bed to plan my next move.

At midnight I got up to look what was happening, it had been raining for a few hours now and the river was flowing quite strong. Large amounts ( Islands in fact) of bamboo and weed were moving down the river and wrapping themselves around the anchor chain. We had now moved a long way out passed the centre of the river and were straddling it, if I didn’t fix this we would be swept into the mangroves.

I should have lost the stern line, and reset the anchor, but it was pitch black, I didn’t want to row into the mangroves at this late hour, I’d be eaten alive by the bugs, also I didn’t want to just throw the stern line overboard for later retrieval, as I was worried about it getting wrapped on the prop, especially as I wouldn’t be able to see it, or even see where I was. There was no moon, and we were surrounded by forest.  I settled on a new plan of action, take the kedge anchor from the stern, row it out to well upriver, and bring the rope back to the bow, then pull myself back up to the correct position.

This worked well, the kedge seemed to set, and I got the boat back in position and went back to bed, setting the alarm for an hour later. An hour later and we are heading back to the mangroves, and I’m getting just a little fed up. I yank on the kedge line and it’s not holding at all, I keep pulling and eventually it seems to catch, so I pull the boat back into position, aware that the anchor is less likely to hold now it has less scope. Back to bed for another hour of dreams about mangroves and ropes. Up again, and the kedge has slipped again, there’s a huge island of weed wrapped around the bow, chain, and kedge rode, and we are at 45 degrees from where we should be, however we don’t seem to be moving, so I make a note of where we are, and back to bed for an hour, an hour later we haven’t moved, and the sun is coming up soon, so I have a little sleep, then we are up for the day around 7am. We held well then, and had a lovely breakfast while watching the monkeys cavorting in the tree opposite us. All in all, despite a very bothersome night, I’m glad we did that, and I have learnt a lot in the process.

As I write this, we are again at anchor in the river, however this time Kathy and I went to great lengths to make sure we got the anchor set properly, there’s more space here and the rivers wider so we took the exact middle. We are lit up, rather appropriately, like a christmas tree, yet there are no boats on this stretch of the river.
One thing I noticed at 3am and 4am was the sound of chainsaws revving away. This saddened me, as the only reason I can imagine for this would be illegal logging. So much of this wonderful forest and wetlands has been handed over to palm oil plantations, that the monkeys and other wildlife are squeezed into quite a small area. looking on google I can see the bank we are anchored off has a manmade river / culvert joining it near us, and there’s another 200 metres further along. These waterways, about 10m wide lead to plantations just a little back from the river bank. I don’t think the monkeys can cross these man made rivers and that may explain why we haven’t seen any in this stretch.

I can happily report that the insects, flying insect, flying caterpillar like things, flying ants etc are doing just fine, as a few hundred joined us in the cabin for dinner tonight. Well when I say they are doing well, there numbers are down a little after I took my electric tennis racquet to them. 

 

We both loved our trip on the river, we spent 3 days returning back to the mouth, and often the engine was off as we drifted with the current down the river, scanning the trees for monkeys, which we often heard, but saw less frequently. I had a great time kayaking up some creeks and listening to the strange noises from the trees/palm plants as the gusts of wind pushed their way through.

One of the palms had a new leaf forming and reminded me of my rubber plant back home, that would kick off a new leaf every month or so, except this one was about 30ft tall, see below

Leaving the river on Monday morning we headed out into a very wet and windy South China Sea, we left bang on low water and retraced our steps back across the sandbank, except this time big waves were breaking on the bank, in the place my track said we traversed on the way in. I steered clear and hoped it was deeper were we were going. It was close but an hour later we were in deep (well 5mtrs) water. From there we made a beeline for the island of Tiga, or ‘Survivor Island’ as some local entrepreneurs have renamed it. The reason being that the 2000 TV series ‘Survivor’ was filmed here. We anchored on the SW side, however the wind was 15-20 knots from the SW and was bringing in a bit of chop, but the bigger waves and swell were coming in from the offshore storms to the NW/N. All in all it wasn’t great, but I knew the wind would abate later so we stopped, the anchor was well and truly set, and tested, by Kathy taking us full astern at maximum revs for a good while until we were shore we didn’t move. If the anchor had failed, we would end up on the beach.  Kathy baked some fine bread then we retired for the night. It was too miserable to go ashore, and we decided to wait until the morning, but as it turned out the morning was even more overcast and raining harder. We will return soon, as the island, complete with its natural mineral mud baths looks very interesting. Also Kathy wants to add it to her list of film locations she has visited.
We upped anchor and raised all the sails and headed NE to Kota Kinabalu, or KK as everyone calls it. It’s the capital of Malaysia’s most eastern state Sabah, and our home for Christmas. The wind was a steady 10-15 knots on our stern meaning a good run, we sailed for 6 hours making an average of 5-6 knots. I put the spinnaker pole out to steady the yankee sail, I hadn’t done this before, but with the wind directly behind us, the sail needed this as it kept collapsing. The spinnaker pole is massive, and very heavy, and quite a job to manhandle on the foredeck with the boat rolling from side to side. The mast fitting jammed and I had to climb the mast a bit, that was fun. I managed to get it rigged, but it didn’t help. I now know a new system is required, and I need to sort this quick as we might be doing a lot of downwind sailing in the pacific. In the end, after a lot of flapping I decided to do two long broad reaches, port then starboard, and we had a great sail. I should have tried getting the spinnaker up, but I still find the prospect of that quite daunting, and the boat was rolling so much, it didn’t seem like the best time to start learning the ropes (pun intended).

Soon enough we called into the marina on VHF CH71 and were told to proceed to the entrance and they would guide us to our berth, very professional, I went back to the wheel to see a man in a small powerboat waving at us to follow him into our berth, at the pontoon 3 more men waited to take our lines, all very professional. As we tied up, I could see we were in the middle of a luxury resort, three modern hotels built around the centre piece of the marina, each hotel with a few swimming pools, restaurants, bars etc. Plus a big golf course, country club etc etc. http://www.suteraharbour.com/
When I first dreamed of sailing around the world, I didnt have this in mind, I thought it was all going to be remote barely inhabited islands, or industrial docks. Seems we’re doing it one shopping mall/KFC to the next. Oh well, mustn’t grumble.

 

Paul Collister

Labuan and Brunei

It was good to arrive at the marina and tie up. Below you can see there is an inner and outer harbour here, the inner is shallow but better protected, we went into the inner end and found an empty berth that looked deep enough, and tied up. Two days later we wondered what the jerking/bumping was in the boat at 7am, Kathy was alarmed, and I think her memories of other groundings had her alert to the fact we were touching bottom. It’s sand here, so I wasnt too worried, we were on the lowest tide of the month, and so it wouldnt last long and the tides started getting bigger each day until we leave.

The marina is quite run down, I think the pontoons get a hammering from the ferry wake and any storms, as the wall around the marina is made of loosely coupled piles, also I think they are strapped for cash here, as it’s a council marina. Still for £70 / week, one musn’t grumble. 

Still it’s a shame the rubbish accumulates here.

 

Stepping ashore revealed a very modern canary wharf type complex, Labuan is an offshore financial haven, it’s also duty free so at last Kathy could stock up with wine at UK prices. Outside the mall we found a few nice eateries and plenty of shops.  I went to one bicycle shop and asked if he could provide me with two new inner tubes for my bike. He produced a couple with £2 (in myr) written on the side, I was happy and offered him £4, at which point he said, “No it’s £8″, I was confused and thought perhaps he was selling me 4, so I pointed to the £2 on the inner tube and said 2*2 = 4, to which he went ballistic with me, shouting ‘I don’t work for nothing’ don’t expect me to work for nothing, I charge, £8 £8 £8….”, he was very angry, until I explained there was no work required, I was going to fit them when I needed them, they were spares, he then calmed down, he had assumed I wanted them fitting for free. What a palaver.

While walking around one of the malls we stumbled on a performance, much like the school xmas play, but this was all dance based, by some teenagers. They all seemed to be having a great time and it was fun to stop a while and watch.

Once we had checked in with the harbourmaster, Immigration and customs, we did a bit of exploring on our bikes. The botanical gardens, once home to the British governor of the island was very pleasant. It reminded me of Birkenhead park, back home, just without the graffiti and slightly menacing air you get with the kind of places crack addicts hang out in.

Another spot we enjoyed visiting was the Labuan Museum, below is a scene from a chinese wedding, Kathy sort it was a bit ‘Doctor Who Scary’. The museum has quite a few interesting exhibits, and a great section about the 2nd world war with Japan.

Early one morning we headed out to the new market they have built here, it was very impressive, perhaps the most extensive and well stocked market we have seen in Malaysia. Below Kathy is looking pleased as she slipped a turnip into her bag unnoticed. 

I bought a bag of fresh squid next door in the fish market, which tasted great

On another long cycle we saw this lad paddling out from his stilted village on a lump of polystyrene with his net in a box behind him.

Just around the corner is Ramsey point, a beach where the allied forces landed to liberate the island from the Japanese, now it’s a holiday spot with restaurants and the option to jump off a building on a zip wire that dumps you in the sea.

There are a lot of war graves here, immaculately kept by the War graves commission. Many Australians, Indians and others gave their lives liberating the island, and looking at the headstones, many where only in their twenties,  When the Japanese invaded, Britain was in charge of the island and had a few troops here, but were ordered back to defend Singapore, which of course they failed to do. The whole of Borneo and Malaysia eventually fell to the Japanese.

One of the great things about a duty free island is that I can get stuff sent here from home and elsewhere and not to have to worry about getting it stuck in customs or having to pay duty. Amazon sent me a new solar panel inverter, this is a clever bit of hardware that adjusts the power from the solar panels so that it can charge the batteries most efficiently.  best of all I get to talk to it from my laptop or phone, and I can see if it’s sunny without going outside 😉 see below.

I’m very happy with it, the panels work much better with this controller, and when they are replaced with the new ‘state of the art’ panels I should have far fewer problems with power. The repaired wind generator and the new solar panels already seem to providing us with plenty of energy.
Yasmin also sent me bits to repair the windlass.

So after a week here, we checked out and headed to Brunei, we were going to have one night there, checkout the capital city, then head back to Malaysia.
However, it was such a hassle checking in, it took over 2 hours, and required much form filling (in triplicate, without any carbon paper or NCR) that we didn’t go ashore in the end.
The trip there took us past many ships involved in the oil/gas trade.

Brunei has a new bridge, not on the charts, and as usual it didn’t look like we would fit under it, even though we have 11 meters clearance.

Kathy did the honours and got us through safely.

The following morning we headed back towards Labuan, after another hour’s tortuous checkout with immigration, customs, harbour master, harbour manager, health officer and another harbour official who I ended up skipping after I wasn’t able to find him. I was sent through a door that only led upstairs. After walking for ages, up 4 storeys, past dead pigeons and such on the steps, I ended up on the roof. It was a nice view, but a lot of steps and no harbour managers office!
Once we had dinghied back to the boat, I called into the harbour port control to let them know we were leaving, only to be told off, we had anchored in the way of a working barge, and they were not happy they couldnt get me on vhf 16. I had actually anchored in the designated immigration area, but there was so much work going on it was hard to anchor anywhere away from construction boats. Once he was placated we scooted out of the port and headed north, to the river Klias where we will start our inland waterway exploration tomorrow.On our way we had to traverse the Labuan anchorage, you can see from the AIS screen grab above how many ships are there

We are now anchored in the entrance to the river, and tomorrow we will travel 20 miles along the river to a point where pylon cables cross, we have to stop then, otherwise this might well be the last blog 😉

Paul Collister

Arrival in Labuan

Today we arrived at the Island / State of Labuan, it was a very straightforward trip from Miri.

We left Miri Marina on Friday, around 9AM and had a good send off from the other yachts there. We made some great friends, Brian and Glee (Ozzies), Roger and Lucie (Belgique), Ian and Marilyn John and Carol  (both Ozzies. Although John was made in Britain and has a lot of knowledge, and supports the Gunners), Walter and Gesila (Germans) and Dick and Prill (Americans). There’s a great little community there and every Friday night everyone brings food and drink to the communal area on the shore and drink and talk nonsense for a few hours. Also there’s usually something going on on Wednesday nights too. We expect to meet up with some of them again before we leave Borneo, as it’s quite a small cruising area up at the north east end. We left Miri with some extra kit, a Kayak, two fold up bikes,

I made some bags for the bikes, although Kathy thinks they look like they contain bodies!

a new awning, working watermaker, working windgen, shiny hull and varnish, and a lot more things working that were iffy before.

A clean hull, above and below

As we left the marina it was great to feel the boat swaying around in the waves, she seemed to be very fast as well, which I later found to be down to a spotlessly smooth hull, thanks to the divers. They did a great job. It was at the end of July when we pulled into our slip in Miri so the hull had 4 months of growth on it, and in the tropics, that can be quite bad. Nothing but praise for the Jotun Seaforce 90 antifoul I paid a fortune for.

From Miri we headed up and around the headland that separates Malaysia from Brunei, and 5 hours after departing we were motoring up the river Belait in Brunei, into the town of the same name.Right away you could see this was not a poor country. Everything looked very smart, and there were two plush hotels overlooking the river. It’s spring tides now, which means high highs and low lows, and as we arrived at low water we anchored in 2.5 metres of water, which is a bit scary for us.We were well protected in the river, and it would have been lovely except for the speedboats that seemed to use us as a mark for their constant big loops up and down the river. Two of the boats were just very fast racing boats, but the third was a serious motor boat, the type that flips over easily.

Fortunately as the sun set, the engines faded away and the sound of the cicadas took over. Kathy cooked a lovely dinner and I plotted out the next leg of our journey to Jerudong. On doing this I realised it was a good 45 miles, or 9 hours for us, so I wanted an early start. The other news I got was that the Malaysian met office was putting out severe weather warnings and telling boats like me to stay in harbour. This came out of the blue, as the forecast for the next week was calm calm and more calm, when we left. Normally I take note of the professionals, but this time I checked my other weather sources, and they were all still in the calm camp. I upgraded my free subscription to WindPredict a web weather site, to paid, to get more detailed weather forecasts, and still calm conditions was all that was on offer, The Malaysians were still all doom and gloom. So I decided to get up at the break of dawn and check again, if all was good we would leave early, giving us the maximum time to run for cover if needed.

Saturday morning 5:45 and I’m up, downloading the forecasts, the met office hasn’t even bothered to update theirs yet, so I check out the forecasts on predictwind using the European and American models and all looks great, so up with the anchor and away, we start to head out the river just as the sun pops over the horizon. It was a little tricky as lots of Bob the builder boats were coming and going, and stopping and turning, so I had to do a lot of getting out of the way. Once out, all eyes were scanning the water for a big obstacle that had been reported just outside the river, but we didn’t see anything. There was sod all wind, but we had the headsail out and it helped a little. At least the engine was putting some charge into the battery.

We managed to get the mainsail out later when the wind picked up a bit, but really the predicted storms never happened. By 3pm we turned into the breakwaters at Jerudong and dropped anchor behind a small man made island in perfect calm, in 5 metres of water. Now Jerudong Marina is an interesting place, In the late nineties, the Sultan of Brunei found out that his brother, Jefri, who was in charge of the hundreds of billions of pounds this very rich country had, had spent all of the money. It appeared that Brunei was now facing bankruptcy. It’s a bit hard to get your head around how one person can fritter away so much money, but in one of his palaces he had 2,300 cars, mostly Bentleys, rolls Royces and Ferraris. None of them had more than 40 miles on the clock. He also bought lots of property overseas and was very generous to his friends. Anyway, one of his projects was to build a seriously big marina, mainly as a place to keep his various superyachts. So at Jerudong, two huge breakwaters reach out into the South China Sea, creating a massive safe enclosed space. In the middle of it is a manmade island with a beach and coconut palms. Just as Hyundi were about to start building the $83 Million dollar marina, the proverbial hit the fan, and Jefri was removed from his post. For a while he was expelled from the country and lived in Paris and New York,  So the Marina didn’t get built. Perhaps it will in the future, when the coffers are re-filled sufficiently, however I don’t think there’s enough yachting around here to support it. For now it’s just a massive empty space, where I believe members of the royal family sometimes picnic, and a security guard in a boat turns away us yachts looking for a safe anchorage for the night. Fortunately for the prince, he has been allowed back into his home country, but has to make do on a basic income of $300,000 / Month, which is the standard disbursement to members of the Sultans family. I got this all from a google search last night as we safely bobbed around at anchor, thanks to the plans of Prince Jefri, so the facts may vary.

We left Jerudong about 6:30 the next morning, I didn’t want to meet any security arriving to possibly close the area off, but also the forecast was still saying storms, and as it was still flat calm, I thought, let’s get going and have the maximum headroom. As soon as we left the harbour, I was showing Kathy how to transfer a course change from the Chartplotter to the antiquated autopilot, and in effect perform a 90 degree turn to the right, just as the boat swung around, we both realised the manoeuvre would have been better just after we passed this huge pole/pile marking the entrance to the harbour. We were about 5 seconds from ramming it head on, I whizzed the autopilot control around, but it didn’t seem to be responding anything like quick enough so I disengaged it, jumped to the wheel and did a ‘hard to port’ course change and we missed the pile by several meters. I was thinking I need a nautical version of the driving mantra, Mirror, signal, manoeuvre. Perhaps, ‘look where you are going, you idiot’ However I do have a new safety system in place, whenever I put a fishing line out, I put a foam beer can cooler over the gearstick, so I cant go into reverse without being reminded to bring the line in. It seems to be working.

The wind picked up right away and I got all the sails out and we turned the engine off and did a healthy 6 knots for the next 2 hours, before the wind headed us and we motor-sailed the last couple of hours to arrive at a sand spit jutting out of the southern tip of Pulau Kuraman, first we anchored to the North, but the swell was too bad, so we popped around to the south, which was much better, but after a little swim, I checked the charts, and with it being springs, realised we would go aground at 6AM on low water, so we upped anchor again and headed 100m further away from the shore and dropped the anchor again. Finally we have a place away from insect/mossies/sandflies etc. I slept well in the cockpit that night. 

The very large supermoon, lit up the area all night and was directly overhead at one point. I watched a wonderful sunrise around 6AM.

I had a nice swim around the boat and checked the anchor, which was very well set.

I also had a look at the anodes on the bow thruster, this little lump of lead, or aluminium decays away in order to save the important bits of the bow thruster, and must be replaced when it’s almost gone, but I couldn’t work out how bad it was, I’m getting new ones in Feb, so will get them replaced then I expect.

Finally we left and headed for the marina in Labuan, I don’t think I have ever seen so many oil rigs and support vessels in one place.

Kathy had to do a lot of steering to miss all the oil support vessels 😉

We tied up in the marina without any problems, first impressions of the marina aren’t great, it’s very run down, but it has all we need, so we are happy, but it’s very hot. Tomorrow we will get the bikes out and explore the Island.

 

Paul Collister

Fish attack, It’s time to leave Miri

November has flown by and in a weeks time we will have left this marina and the joys of Miri, and be in Brunei on our way to Labuan and then Sabah for Christmas. The main thing I’m looking forward to is being able to sit in the cockpit of an evening without being devoured by sandflies.

So the previous week and next week is all about getting the boat seaworthy again. I have put another coat of varnish on the cap rails, which seemed to be popular with the creatures captured below.

One of the jobs I had to do was service the windlass (Anchor Winch) and find out why it wont go in reverse. I suspected the solenoid, and removed the cover to get access. I gave the leads a wiggle on the solenoid to remove them and clean them up, knowing that wasn’t the problem, however very little wiggling was required for the connection to snap off the solenoid, there was a 50% chance that the one I broke was the down connection, which didnt work anyway, but I had just used up my good 50% chance wiring up the remote for my neighbours windlass for him, so I ended up breaking the UP side of the solenoid, so now I had a useless windlass!

I tried to disassemble the rest of the windlass, but it’s held together with the screws/bolts shown below, they are supposed to be hex slots, but they are all mangled, well the two I need to remove next, so I’m going to have to drill them out, a major pain, I’m putting that to one side for now. I have also ground back the plastic on the solenoid and managed to solder a wire onto the snapped connection so the up is working now. In case you are wondering, when I drop the anchor with 50m of chain, it’s not possible to pull it up by hand, it’s  just too heavy, so I would have to resort to manually winching it up using the sheet winches, which would take all day. Just as I was staring at the windlass pondering my problem, a Banded Archer fish took his opportunity to attack. I was kneeling over the windlass on the bowsprit when a powerful jet of water hit me in the eye, I was quite confused, it was like someone had shot me with a water pistol, but I couldn’t work out how, I wondered if it was a weird kind of rain. I remained confused until Ian from next door explained that the fish spurt a jet of water out to knock ants off overhanging branches at the waters edge, they are first rate aimers, and can move to be under the falling creature in milliseconds, which is impressive. Not so impressive is their inability to distinguish between an ant and an aging 59 year old man. Said fish is depicted below

The new canopy arrived and is not a bad fit, but could be another 6 inches longer. At least it’s waterproof and we dont have to jump up and shut the portlights every time the rain starts

Sitting in the marina for 4-5 months is not good for the boat, I sent the GoPro camera down to look and the prop was quite barnacled up. The local yachties all expressed surprise that I hadn’t bagged up the prop when I arrived, a custom I was completely unaware of, apparently I should have wrapped the prop up in a plastic bag when I arrived.

Anyway, I called up a local diver who was happy for RM400 (£70) to dive with his buddy and scrub the whole hull and clean up the prop. They were in the water for nearly 2 hours. I would normally clean the prop myself with my snorkel mask on, but the big ‘Beware of Crocodiles’ sign, and Kathy’s recent sighting of a big Jaw moving through the water has dampened my enthusiasm for this. The divers deliberately waited until after crocodile breakfast time before entering the water, they also believe the bubbles from their mask will scare off the crocs, but I’m not so sure they have actually tried this yet.

A much cleaner prop, the anode is good, but apparently this isnt the case on the bow thruster, so I need to source anodes for that soon.

Much of this week has been spent trying to fix the galley sinks, I tried to re-engineer it all in local PVC pipes, but I just couldn’t get it to work with the weird angles I had, so with the help from Brian, another old-timer here, we set off to find a stainless steel fabricator who could replicate the old rusty fitting. We had to supply the materials to him, but he was optimistic that he could make the piece, part of which involved cutting and drilling a big stainless steel pipe fitting into a retaining nut. A few days later I cycled the few miles to his workshop, alongside the river and cemeteries to see how he got on.

The workshop was a fascinating place, probably somewhere Charles Dickens might have felt at home in.

Despite the primitive state, he managed to make the part as requested, sadly when I got back, it turned out that the welds were not watertight, which is not great for a sink drain. So back for another pleasant trip down cemetery lane

Each time I made this trip, usually about 8AM when it’s still cool, I would pass fish stalls setup alongside the river, The fish is not as cheap as it once was here, there’s such a huge worlwide demand for fish now, and these waters are so heavily fished,  however I managed to find a massive fish for RM20 (£4) which tasted fantastic last night I also got the repaired fitting back, with apologies about the weld, he tested it this time and didn’t charge for another slight mod I needed. Sadly it still leaked when I fitted it. However it’s such a small leak, I might just fix it with a bit of epoxy. That’s tomorrow’s job.

Nothing quite says Christmas like an upside down chess set

We popped into the Main shopping mall here as Kathy wanted to get ingredients for a Vegan curry, we had been invited to join the other cruisers for the regular Friday night get together in the marina, the requirement being that everyone bring a curry along. The guy on the far left of the pic below, is Phil, who amazingly lives here, but I used to see him in my local sailing club in West Kirby when he lived there a few years ago. Small world.

I’m getting up early tomorrow to fit the two headsails, which have been bagged since we got here. I need to do it early, as there’s usually no wind then, by the afternoon we have a bit of an onshore breeze which would make it difficult, given it comes over the stern of the boat. I’m also hoping to get the outboard motor fired up and replace the broken kill cord stop switch. After that there’s not a lot to do, I need to find a gas supplier as we have emptied one bottle and are half way through the other.

The wind is now starting to turn, as it’s officially the start of the NE Monsoon season, which runs through till March/April, however winds are quite light and variable most of the time. I’m hoping we can get up to Labuan next weekend, before the NE winds really get established, as NE is the direction we have to travel.

Paul Collister

 

If it ain’t broken…. just wiggle it a bit, then it might be.

Not a lot of exciting news, but as the title suggests, I have had to fix stuff again. I enjoy fixing stuff, if something breaks, I love the challenge of fixing it, and throwing it into the bin is a kind of defeat. I usually strip it of useful parts first anyway, to soften the blow. I think I may have taken up this lifestyle of living on a boat so that I had a constant supply of interesting things to fix. This blog will mention just a couple, the sink and the watermaker, however within these tasks, many more problems arose, so I have a full order book of ‘things that need attention’.

A couple of weeks ago, the galley sinks blocked, we have two sinks and what looks like some very old plumbing below. I hate plumbing, especially sink plumbing, and I knew this would need attention at some point as there was some signs of dripping below the sink and some damp wood. The bit under the galley sink is always a bit of a damp no go area on a boat, but I decided to remove all the fittings under the sink, clear out the blockage and clean everything up and reassemble it so it looked like new.

The first problem was taking the fittings off, they are custom made for this sink and boat, steel pipes welded to get the right angle to join the sinks so the water runs away ok. unscrewing the seized on fitting caused it to break off the sink drainer, closer inspection revealed it was beyond repair.

The problem now arose that I doubt I can get anyone to make me this fitting as it needs the special ring that connects to the drain, so I’m faced with replumbing using the local standards. This comprises of PVC pipe, glued together, of a size that won’t connect to my seacock where it all drains out of the boat. A further complication is that I found the seacock/through hull fitting (Tap) that the drain goes through  to exit the boat won’t shut off. This limits me to what I can do and I may have to wait for the next haulout to fix it. In the meantime, I have jury rigged one sink to drain ok, with the other sealed off.

I finally worked out a design for the canopy/awning to cover the main cabin. you really need something to keep the heat off the decks of the boat, otherwise it’s like being in a greenhouse. I have given the design to Steven at Kiwi plastics? who is currently making it up for me, it should be ready any day.

I have been up early most mornings painting the boat, well the blue strip down the side, That’s all done now and the varnish is back up to spec. We had to move the boat to the other side of the pontoon so I could finish the work on the port side, so we had a little motor around the marina, it was fun to have the engine running and the boat manoeuvring again. I also tried some diluted oxalic acid on the hull and was astonished how well she came up. I have a bit of touching up to do, but all in all I’m very pleased with her appearance now. 

We hired a car for two days, and immediately headed off to do a mega big shop, mostly drinks and other bulky items that don’t go in the bikes baskets too well. Kathy was very keen to check out the christmas decorations in the big stores (Not).

I was amazed to find Irish Cheddar on sale, it looks like real stuff too, I can understand guinness making it to these shores but Cheddar! Especially as we invented the stuff, and we can’t even export it to one of our old colonies.  It’s not a good omen for post brexit if you ask me.

I did a bit of shopping on my own for boaty bits, on the way out of town I was pleasantly surprised to find myself driving through a cemetery, it’s quite surreal, the dual carriageway splits with cemeteries on the left, in between the carriageways and on the right. many neglected but looking very interesting all the same. This happened the morning after the ‘day of the dead’ but the ghosts seemed happy enough.

I tried to buy a liferaft from a local specialist, however he didnt have any, and didnt know much about them either. The entry level to being a professional here can sometimes be quite low.
I needed some thin walled stainless tube sections, and found a great little workshop where they copied the one on the left and made me two identical pieces as shown below. This cost me about £7, amazing. These parts might be crucial to our safe passage across the Pacific. The form a linkage in the self steering system. they are made to be quite weak, so that if we hit a log or other submerged object, rather than the self steering rudder breaking, these shafts bend/break. You then pull the rudder out of the water and replace the bent bit with a new one.  So now I can hit three logs and be safe.

As you can see above, they mostly make fancy gates for the rich here.

The next day we took off to the Niah Caves, they are about a 90 minute drive south of Miri. They are situated in a national park and are full of creepy crawlies that Kathy hates. When we arrived we had to pay Charon  a Ringit to ferry us across the Styx and into the park proper. I think the river is really called the Niah and he may not be called Charon 😉 but the river is well populated with crocs, and they can steal your memories away.

Once over the river, there is a 90 minute walk along boardwalks like belowOccasionally there are tourist information signs, but these are often in need of attention

Here Kathy is at the entrance to the first cave, behind her you can see poles hanging from the roof, these are used by a team of men who climb them to gather swiftlets nests for the famous birds’ nest soup.

Above is a picture of such activity I copied from the museum. After the big cave entrance, we had to walk for 20 minutes through a pitch black cave, using our torches the show us the way. This cave was full of bats, often just above our heads, and there were scorpions on the ground, but I think the one below is just a cricket.

I enjoyed the cave, but it was quite an arduous walk getting there and back.

I expect Kathy will write about that experience in a lot more detail shortly.

In the shopping mall tonight I spotted a wedding photographer with a stall and noticed he had a picture taken next to our boat, but we were just out of sight. I wonder if he told the bride there are crocodiles here?

 

Finally, the watermaker saga nears its end.

I promised myself to rebuild the pressure pump and replace all the seals a few weeks ago, but I have been putting it off. Yesterday I finally got down to the job. It took me four hours to dismantle the pump and rebuild it. I dread this type of thing, I’m so used to losing a little spring or some other small but crucial part. Also I love digital stuff, as everything, no matter how complicated it seems, always comes back to something being a ‘one’ or a ‘zero’. with mechanical stuff, things can be in many states, they have curves and things that need to mate up perfectly. High pressure says lots of leaks to me. Anyway I took the pump apart, I had a full set of spare seals / gaskets, poppet valves etc, or so I thought. It went well, but I did damage 2 shaft seals in the process, and guess what, they were the two missing seals from the kit. .

Anyway I rebuilt it and put it back on the motor and connected it to the membrane and a water supply and lo and behold, it worked, but only in the crap way it worked before, i.e. the water evaporated faster than I was making it. However with the knowledge I gained from this adventure, I realised that the piston wasn’t really travelling very far in and out of the pump cylinder. Perhaps the pump was not the problem, but the gearbox driving it. I tried to take this apart, but it wouldn’t let me, but playing with it I realised that it mattered which way the motor ran. In fact if I put the red electricity down the black wire and vica versa, the piston was travelling three times the distance. Now this is a gearbox that takes a rotating shaft as input and generates a pumping action (out/in/out/in…) on a piston rod. It never occurred to me that direction of rotation on the input would matter. However it was clear that it worked much better with the motor polarity reversed. But how could the motor be going backwards, then I remembered I had disassembled it many months ago, when it was seized. Presumably I didnt put it back together properly!. Damm
So I connected it all back up, with the red to ground and the black to 12v  and lo and behold it started making fresh water, loads of it. So it looks like the membrane might be ok after all. Today I re-installed it under the bunk, and started the job of replacing all of the bacteria laden hoses that connect to it. Tomorrow I will be able to run it properly for a while and see what the water actually tastes like, after I have tested it with my fancy TDS meter. Hopefully all will go well and I will have saved myself some £4000 on a new watermaker.

I celebrated tonight with a huge fish steak, that looks well weird, but turned out to be one of the tastiest fish meals I have had in a long time.

Paul Collister