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

The problem with paradise

So the storm passed, although we have had a few blows since, nothing like the big gusts we had a week ago. We went for a cycle the next day, there were scores of fallen trees, but as they have all recently been planted, it wasnt that surprising. The gardeners on this massive reclaimed estate are already busy clearing up.

Sticking with storm clouds, or rather silver linings, one of our neighbours, who has a large motor cruiser / trawler was up in the night and saw one of his Kayaks take off into the air during the storm. We  have no idea where it ended up. In the morning he told his wife they would have to buy another, but she pointed out they never use it, I expect the Jetski on their aft deck gets more use, and so he decided to ditch it, so I picked it up off him for $100 with a mounting frame, which is a fifth of the new price, and it’s in great nick. I had a little kayak around the marina, which was a first for me, and great fun.

It’s mostly been a very relaxing week here, I don’t have any serious deadlines, the main one being to depart next March, everything before then is trivial. This is probably the first time in my life where there hasn’t been some kind of important event looming, and I must say, it’s very liberating to just laze around like this. However, I’m not great at lazing around, so I have pushed on with the jobs, and in true boat style, one job always creates another. For example, the footswitch which turns the anchor winch (Windlass) on and off packed in a while ago, thinking this was a special kind of micro-switch, beyond my repair skills, I waited until I got some new ones back home, and as well as a chain up switch, I fitted a chain down switch, this is very handy for when the chain or rope snags in the windlass feed. I usually use the clutch when lowering the chain, much quicker. However on wiring it all up, it turns out the windlass won’t go in reverse. So this means taking the motor assembly apart and having serious words with the solenoid, helped with a small hammer I suspect 😉 .





I don’t know if there is a standard, but I have gone for RED=UP with the arrow pointing at the bow. If there are no objections to this I will create an RFC / BIP (in joke)

The next job I took on was to paint the blue strip down the side of the boat, I did this in penang and it had faded within months, so after a bit of research I learnt that a standard (cheap) Acrylic building paint would be as good as a fancy ‘Yacht’ paint. We shall see, it doesn’t look like a big job, but I don’t ever want to have to do it again, I’m just so fed up of removing paint from the dock, my clothes, me, and parts of the boat that didn’t need to be painted. I wonder if I can sign up for a painter decorator course somewhere?


It’s important to get a good primer on for acrylic paints, as they are water based, and they don’t adhere to oil based paints, so on with the primer. I foolishly thought primer was like paint, but crikey was I surprised, it was more like plaster, and it set almost as soon as I applied it, leaving mountains and valleys the length of the boat. I was now quickly heading into the ‘Father Ted’ just knocking the little dent out of the car with a hammer’ territory, if you havent seen that episode, I highly recommend it. Anyway I eventually got there and the next day, after a lot of sanding the paint went on, only one accident, and I thought I was safe as I only spilled the paint on the pontoon, I soon had that cleaned up and hosed down so it looked like new, sadly I left the hose on the pontoon, and it had a squirt of water spraying the ‘yet to dry’ blue paint, which then ran down the side of the boat. I think Kathy might have been expecting this kind of event as I started shouting for her help to get the hull clean before it set any further. She appeared with a very worried expression.

I have now added another two coats of varnish, getting up at 6:30 AM to work, as that’s the only time of day when it’s cool enough, evenings might work, but the air is getting moist not drier then. Still I can always siesta as needed. I’m very happy with the end result, just a shame I have to turn the boat around and repeat the whole process on the other side.
The canopies / covers on the boat look awful, but we met a local merchant who is going to make new covers for us, I’m just trying to get the design right. They need to be easy to put up, and take down if a storm approaches, they need to be light, waterproof, let the air flow underneath and possibly double as water catchers. The also need to look very smart. That’s a lot to ask. I’m having the covers made with plastic and heat welded seams, normally I would want a nicer fabric, like sunbrella, but thats not an option here, also this is a lot cheaper and I am seeing it as an opportunity to fine tune the design. in a few years time when we return to Phuket, I might have the perfect design for a better fabric.

Now, the problem with Paradise
Well basically it all stems from the heat, that causes such a lot of activity in the insect/and/little creature world. I’m currently covered in bites, not from mosquitos, at least I haven’t seen many, I expect it’s one of the millions other little creepy crawlies or noseeums around. If you look closely at any surface here, it’s teeming with life, from microscopic ants all the way up to little lizards/geckos. They just love the heat. Weevils appear in all the dry goods very quickly, I won’t go into the details, but below is a little video of one such chappie inside a bag of breadcrumbs kathy bought. The flour is rife with them. We now know that the flour has to be kept in the freezer for a few days after purchase to stop these little guys from hatching. Still a little extra protein never hurt anyone, especially vegans 😉

We often pass through the main park here when cycling around town, I will try to get a video sometime, but this dancing thing, Zumba, I think it is called, seems very big here, often stages are setup in the malls and maybe a hundred people join in. Weird.

Eating in Miri is great for Kathy, there are plenty of good veggy options around, although Kathy seems more pleased with her iPhone than anything else here.

Fried eggs with everything here

Last night we cycled 5 miles to the other end of town to check out the weekend market, a more subdued affair to those we saw in Phuket, but lovely all the same.

Playing tennis with the flies

It’s very common for couples to parade along the pontoons here for their wedding photos, several times a week we see them, and often have to wheel our bikes around the flowing bridal dress, Kathy wondering if she should have left her knickers and other bits of hand washing drying so visibly on the guard rails of the boat.

Anyone for a bit of Durian

Maybe some fresh corn

A prototype lunar lander?


Sunset as seen from our cockpit.

Paul Collister

A real post and a real storm here

Sorry about the email notifications, I can’t work out where the problem is, some people aren’t getting notifications of our posts, but it’s a bit random. The problem may well be with the hosting system at bluehost. Anyway, if you notice you are not getting notifications, let me know so I can decide if another change of software is in order.

Now onto the more important business of what happens when you are squeezed between a high pressure weather system and a low pressure system, which is what is happening here right now. Basically, you get big winds. Last night being a prime example, I was kept up for many hours keeping an eye on the boat, at one point a gust, that must have exceeded 60 knots hit us. even though we are protected here in the marina the boat still heeled right over, Kethy thought we might capsize, so strong was the blow. I have never known anything like it. I waited for the gust to subside, and in the screaming wind and pounding rain I went ashore, just in my shorts and recovered our bicycles which were heading along the pontoon, then back to the boat to pull the dinghy back into the centre of the foredeck. Lots of bits of the boat were trying to escape with the wind, but were thankfully secured. We are doubled up on all our mooring lines, which is just as well, as they were very taut. the strong winds blew for over an hour, and today we still have 30+ knot winds. On talking to the others here I was surprised to hear that a finger pontoon broke loose last night downwind from us and headed off to the far side, with a motor boat still attached. There is debris strewn everywhere, trees have fallen, but the worst I heard was the security man, who sits in a little cabin, not much bigger than a portaloo, was lifted up and blown 100ft across the car park, inside his cabin, he suffered cuts and bruises, but hopefully nothing too serious.
One of the other yachties took me around the marina to show me the mooring lines on a big old clunk of a boat moored directly upwind of me. The lines are chafing and if they break we could have 20-30 tons of boat piling into us. We contacted the marina owner and he sent a lad onboard to add some extra lines, but they are cheap and will chafe quickly as well. I’m putting this picture here so you can see, and also so I have some proof in the cloud should the worst happen and we need to make an insurance claim 🙁

The boat to starboard of the hulk is a police boat that came in this morning, I feel sorry for them if they were out in last night’s weather.

I know this doesn’t compare with the weather Ireland has just had, but it does remind you just how strong the forces of nature can be. We also had an earthquake warning for east of Sabah, but only 5.4 and no Tsunami was expected.
If the weather calms, I will fix my puncture and we will go for a bike ride to survey the local damage. Below is yesterdays ride as logged on my phone. Paul Collister

Have Bike, Will Shop

Or so it seems, yesterday we both bought ourselves folding bikes, and today we used them for a little shopping trip downtown. Besides a massive downpour, which made the Borneo Post, it was so severe, and a flat tyre, they are a great success. We didn’t spend too much on the bikes, about £120 each, the good ones started at over £1000 (Brompton, Dahon etc), they are alloy, and might last a year or more, we will see. So far they have been great, and really extend our ‘shopping’ area 🙁 However, soon I will be able to pop off on my own and check out the fixings and fasteners shops, along with the electrical supplies, and even take in some sightseeing down the docks!

Earlier in the week, the weather took a decided turn for the worse, strong winds from the SW monsoon have set in, bringing very wet squally weather. This is the same weather that made it so difficult for us, beating up to Thailand a year ago, and is due to continue for quite a few days now.

One day the kids came into the marina to practice their sailing as the sea was too rough

While replacing the missing blades on our wind turbine, which now works really well, I found an anchor light above the canopy which I must have left out. It’s the white one on the left, but it was the same as the red one next to it two months ago, just shows what two months of UV does to plastic.

We popped over to the spit of land that makes the breakwater for the marina, this is where the seahorse is, it also has a lovely large hall, built by indigenous craftsmen here, possibly from the Iban tribe, using traditional methods, it’s mostly made of bamboo, looking up into the roof reveals a wonderful lattice of bamboo rafters and supports

Inside there was an exhibition of local art, I snapped these pictures, including the lovely representation of the marina, where I nicked the banner above from.

Below is a pic of one of the many rig crew supply ships that calls into the marina, ferrying lots of ‘bob the builders’ between the rigs and land. there are about 10 of these ships and they are in and out every 30 mins or so, so quite busy.

On our trip to get the bike I took a few pics, below shows there is no shortage of plastic flowers here, or just plastic in general.

I think they need to re-instate this meter cupboard at some point. I think it’s gas, which is odd as you don’t normally see much piped gas here, however this is a oil/gas town.

We went shopping in Boulevard, a biggish Malaysian chain today, they had a good display of plastic christmas trees, but it was halloween that caught my eye, I didn’t think it was common here, but the young kids seemed to love it

Another Mannequin display caught my attention in the mall, they don’t look very happy! 

For a long time I was confused when checking out in the big stores by the first question, which back home was usually ‘do you need bags’, but here it sounded more like Havka, or HavMemKa, which I eventually decoded into ‘have Store card? or have Member Card’. I figured it would be difficult to get as an itinerant, however recently we saw great savings on offer for members, so I enquired and for £2 got a store loyalty card, which would have paid for itself if we got it before Kathy bought the £18 bottle of cheap plonk! Not only did I get the card, but a gift was forthcoming of a glass jar with a cat lid, in a cloth outfit. This will be ever so useful 😉 (I wonder how many more they need to move on)

And if I wasn’t excited enough with that, I got a free, tasteful, and subtle ‘bag for life’

The rain has been lovely, keeping the temperatures down, and the breeze very refreshing. Today is also the first day I’m not suffering from bites, it’s hard to avoid here, I think it’s mostly sand flies, in many ways they are worse than mosquitoes as you can’t see them, but they certainly itch all right.
I have managed to get a few jobs done, The wind generator now has all six blades running, and the vibration has stopped now. The watermaker is in bits under the cabin table waiting for me to service the high pressure pump and then re-assemble. The chart table area has been re-organised and the plastic boxes now have lots of items neatly stowed and catalogued out of the way. but by far our favorite achievement has to be getting bikes.

Kathy had to be persuaded to wear her helmet, which eventually she agreed to. (the mess behind Kathy is all hers by the way)

Kathy soon took to the bike, some adjustment to height was later required.

And this little video is of Kathy bombing along, the house behind looks so big, I thought it was a hotel, or apartments, but it’s actually one house, belonging to a Brit, called Bob, who we made friends with last time we were here.

So while the kids here are throwing themselves onto the tarmac from their scooters at 30mph, we tootle along at 7mph, Helmets, front and rear lights and reflectors, locks, pumps and a repair kit; So first world. No wonder we get stares.

Next up is the Watermaker and a rework of the solar panels. In November we are going to sail up to Labuan, which I believe is pronounced in a french sort of ‘La Bwan’ way. Labuan, is duty free so I want to arrange to get stuff shipped there that we need from the UK or America.

Paul Collister


New mailing software

This is boring, but I just changed my mailing software over, so that it uses an add-on called MailPoet to notify those of you who get notified , of new posts. It seems to work on the notify side, but not on the subscribing new users side. I’m  working on it.

Nothing much else to report, I didn’t get the bikes, they were very pricey for quite low quality. This one below was £120, secondhand but had a bent frame! Will keep looking.

We found a nice market close by and had a great time trying to work out what Courgette is in Malay, It’s Labu Kecil, but that describes two very different members of the same family, neither which look or taste much like courgette, but it was fun learning.

The car has gone back and now we have enough food for weeks and plenty of jobs to be getting on with. I bought a stack of plastic boxes to re-organise my stowage of electrical stuff in.

Because of the frequent very heavy rain here, when we go out, we always have to seal the boat up, today was scorchio hot, and when we returned, the boat was baking inside, Kathy then ran the oven full on for a long time to roast the fresh veg we had, It’s now 2:30 AM and it’s still too hot for me to sleep. Another downside to paradise!

Paul Collister (hoping this notification goes out)


A day out shopping

Not a lot to report, I had a go at fixing the SWR meter movement, but failed, I couldn’t tin the wire, I expect it may not have been solderable and should have been crimped on, anyway it’s in the bin now, but thanks to an inspired suggestion from Bob,  I connected my old multimeter up to the SWR meter, and measured the voltages forward and reverse, Mostly I seem to have about 500 dooberies going forward, and about 20 coming back, so that sounds pretty good to me. Enough for me to push on and try to make contact with somebody over the high frequency wavelengths. I have the Iambic keyer wired up, and have tested I can send morse code, but my old 28 words/minute seem to be more like 2.8wpm now, my reactions on the paddles seem a lot slower.

We hired a car for two days and it was delivered to the marina by William who runs the car hire company here, He explained that I had to bring the car back 12 hours early, which I explained was a pain, given what I had planned. However he was only going to charge me one and a half days rate, so I should be happy that I was getting a two day hire for 1.5 days cost. I struggled with his logic, but decided it would be fine anyway, so off we went. William recommended a great supermarket near the airport for cheap goods, with a range of western foods and a good selection of wine. When we got there we drove to the main car park on the roof and found we were the only car there, on entering the mall and heading down the stairs it was somewhat disconcerting to find 99% of the stores shuttered up, and the only people around were cleaners, who looked at us oddly. I have been in Malaysia long enough now for this not to phase me. when we reached the ground floor, we found a big supermarket, with a great range of food, just as William had predicted. However we were the only customers in the shop. Very odd for 11AM. I whipped out my phone to check it wasn’t ‘Malaysian National Boycott the mall day’, but no. Just an ordinary day. So we filled our boots and headed off to the next mall ( 2 of 4, it turned out).
The next mall was Giant, a Asda/Costco like brand here, and I bought a new fan for the boat, I loved the description on the side so much I felt I had to share it. I don’t think you can even blame google translate for this one, I’m just amazed that a major high street supermarket chain, sells products so badly packaged! For most things electrical you buy here, there is usually a testing station in the supermarket where a man will unpack your fan, fridge, light bulb, tv etc and plug it in and test it. The reason being, there is quite a high failure rate, and they wont accept returns. I forgot to get the fan tested, but it worked anyway. I’m looking forward to a luxurious smooth quiet sleep tonight.
Another great label I snapped was this. I have no idea what the product is, but the handshake under a shrimp, sold it for me!

Finally, I snapped this picture of some showroom dummies, They are so striking to come across in the mall, yet I expect local people here think nothing of them, I wonder if the locals were in Liverpool 1, they would feel the same about our silver, or headless mannequins.

Tomorrow we have half a day in the car to go and find some bicycles.

Paul Collister


A real post

Sort of, apologies if you got a notification of a new post and there wasn’t one, I’m losing my powers with computers, I wanted to put a new page on, but accidently put it on as a post, then deleted it and put it back as a page. It now appears as a link at the top of the page to ‘useful SE Asia links’, it’s there to help me find pages I use a lot quickly, or ones I forget I have, but are useful. That’s mostly the weather pages. The synoptic charts are what I will be using a lot for my passage planning.
There’s not a lot to report since we got here, we have both struggled with the jetlag and the heat more than we expected, but it’s been cooler today with a strong wind cooling us down, we also seem to be getting tired in the evening which bodes well.
I forgot to mention that I wired the new VHF Radio into the switchboard panel here, and 10 minutes after I had closed up the panel there was quite a loud bang, it had a very familiar Phut sound, which I recognised right away as the sound you get when you short out the mains supply. Those of you who have done this will know what I mean, usually theres a strong smell and a little puff of smoke rising from the short. However when I opened the panel, I could smell the burning, but I couldnt see anything wrong. After a lot of looking, and checking I had to give up, everything seemed fine, I popped outside to reset the circuit breaker on the pontoon and everything was working again, except for the little light that comes on to show mains is present. I took this out, assuming it had failed, and on closer inspection it was toast, so now Im even more confused, I don’t believe in coincidences, and I know this will come back to haunt me, however the only time it will be a problem is when we are plugged into the shore, so no big deal really.
Last night we walked over to the Sea Horse bit of the breakwater, they had set up a stage, lots of food and drink were being served and lots of joggers were arriving. It turned out at 19:30, when it was dark, there would be a charity run. I was expecting a rock concert as for the previous two days there had been a PA company setting up a huge rig, doing lots of testing, and playing lots of music to check the sound quality. I must say they did a great job. I did that for a living once, and I know how hard it can be. As it turned out, the run lasted for about 2 hours, then they turned the PA off and took it all down! Still it was nice to see hundreds out running to raise money for local good causes.
Today Kathy baked bread, we have a new supply of flour, and Kathy had a new recipe she used back in Liverpool to great affect.

The bread looked great ging into the oven, but came out looking as white as when it went in. However it tasted great, far better than anything we have been able to buy in Sarawak so far

You can see below Kathy has an umbrella type device for keeping the flies off the dough, it works really well, especially as we have a lot of flies right now. However it does make me wonder if I have slipped back in time to some 60s tea room in the country, or maybe I have gone forward in time and I’m in a nursing home of dubious quality! I hate frilly lace / net curtains

While the bread cooled we went for a walk, I had read there was a bike shop not far away, and although I doubted it, we needed some exercise so off we went. We stopped for a drink in a very british style modern bar, however they let the side down a little by selling various Irish brews 😉 .

One for Tim

On the way back to the boat about 10 motorbikes passed us in the opposite direction, nothing unusual, except that just as they passed us there was an awful sound of metal scraping on tarmac, followed by a crash, I watch one bike with the rider under it screech along the road, into another bike, whose passenger flew off, the guy under the bike parted from it and his bike continued along the road. I ran back to see what I could do to help, fully expecting the worst, however within a few seconds the riders where up, the other bikes had turned around and come back to help. The riders recovered their bikes and got them to the side of the road while their friends collected broken bits of mudguards and things. I saw both the riders walking, and wondered just how they weren’t more injured. I expect they will have had very serious grazing and maybe worse. Road safety is appaling here compared with back home. This isnt the first crash I have seen, but the first to happen right next to me. The local internet gossip/news bulletin board reports a road death every few days, just in this town.

On a lighter note, this is what Kathy presented to me for dinner last night!

It’s the remains of a tin of tuna! to be fair there was salad and stuff out.

One of the big jobs I have to do is sort out all the long range communications, one of which is the HF SSB Radio. I suggest if your name is not Peter or Neil, you might want to switch off now as this bit is beyond geeky.
I thought it time to connect up the SWR meter and see how well the ATU Tuner is working with the backstay antenna. This meter came with the boat and looks like it might have taken a swim at some point, but as long as it works, I dont care about looks. First problem was that the path through the meter was O/C. Not a good start, but easy to debug, after all it’s just a rod of metal from one SO239 to another, and sure enough the connection was broken. Next, it didn’t register anything at all, further investigation found a flaky switch and some dry joints. Still it acted like it was dead. I wondered if the Transmitter on the SSB was actually transmitting, I haven’t had any communication with it so far, so I dug out my old roberts SW radio and set it up on a marine frequency, put the transmitter to AM, and with Kathy on the mike, I went for a walk to the other side of the Marina. Kathy was coming through loud and clear.
Back to the Meter, and a test of the actual meter display movement  showed it to be open circuit. Now that’s something I wouldn’t try to fix as it’s kind of in the Swiss watch maker department. So that was it, a bin job.

However, I thought, nothing to lose, and I will be well chuffed if I fix this one. So tomorrow, should I find myself with a steady hand and clear eyesight, I’m going to try and solder back the hairspring wire that has become detached from the movement. I’d be happy to bin it and buy another if that was an option, but I doubt if they are available anywhere on Borneo, I could be wrong.

Paul Collister


Alien Abductions

Well we are back installed on Sister Midnight in Miri Sarawak, Borneo.
The flight here from the UK was painless enough, although the 90 minute queue for immigration at Kuala Lumpur had me worrying we might miss our connection to Miri, but it all worked out well. The taxi ride from the airport to the boat reminded me of how nice it is to be back, the driver wanted to know everything about our plans. Taxi drivers here, in fact, most people, are very interested in foreigners and love to chat. Also I’m used to being a bit tense when arriving in a country at the thought of being ripped off at the airport for the last leg of the trip, however I’m always very surprised at the low cost of the taxis here.

We arrived back at the boat very late, and so I couldnt see much of the outside of the boat, but it all looked good, the varnish felt good, I had worried it might have flaked in the heat, first we had to find the key. It was hidden in a secret place, which we had forgotten, I had written down the place, as I knew we would forget, but I forgot where I wrote it down. Should I really be crossing an ocean with such strained mental powers!

Having eventually located the key, we made tentative steps into the boat, no sign of water, lights on, battery looks good, no dead creatures, and on closer inspection I couldnt see anything different from when we left, a great relief. If you think I’m making a big deal of this, you might not know I once returned to our last boat, Lady Stardust, in Barcelona to find the inside looking like a bomb had gone off, everything was covered in shredded paper, fabric, other material, and mouse shit everywhere. along with dead mice. After 24 hours of cleaning, I spotted a live mouse behind the fridge and knew it would all happen again if I didnt catch it. On another occasion, as I stepped down the companionway steps into the boat I ended up stepping into 6″ of water that was covering the cabin sole (floor). So to find the boat pristine was a blessing.

So to start the blog off in style, let’s have a picture of the head (toilet)

Now you might just spot a tadpole like little fish there. For those of you not familiar with boat toilets, they work by sucking in water from the sea and flushing it back out, or to a holding tank when in harbour. It’s not unusual to get a fish sucked in. Now just to digress a moment, I think this phenomenon might shed some light on alien abductions, stay with me..
So this little fish, lets call him Freddy, is swimming along, when suddenly there’s a swirling vortex, and  he is moved from his familiar world into a shiny white porcelain bowl. Looking up he can see creatures with huge heads staring at him, The heads change as different people come to examine him. After a while, he is returned, via a swirling vortex of rushing water back to his familiar world. When Freddy finds his friends and family, and explains the preceding events, nobody believes him! Ring any bells?
Anyway, the problem here was that little Freddy was a really good swimmer, and found a little spot in the plumbing that the swirling vortex didn’t reach, so after an extended flush, he popped back into the bowl. This went on for 24 hours and many flushes, we started to worry for poor Freddy, he was now hiding whenever we peered into the bowl, later he weakened, we couldn’t rescue him (thinking about it, he could be a she), I thought about feeding it, Kathy was on the verge of giving it a name, however today it was too weak to hide from the flush, and was swept out to the sea, hopefully if will find food and thrive, but I expect it’s not got a great future. It’s a fish eat fish world out there.

So yesterday I unpacked and  started making use of the many spares I had brought out. I connected a new VHF radio up, it’s actually a fancy, but broken one from Stardust, but the only broken bit is the DSC GPS NMEA input feed, this is only a problem if we send out an automatic Distress alert, it won’t have our position, however the existing radio is not great and has no DSC function anyway. The galley light had broken, which I fixed by replacing the on/off switch, can’t imagine why that failed.

We headed off into town, walking along the beach walk, taking in a beautiful sunset, then did a big shop, had dinner at Madli’s which does nice veggie food for Kathy. We got a taxi back, then I stayed up till 4 am unable to sleep, but made up for it today by sleeping till 16:00 followed by breakfast. Hope I can get back to a normal sleep routine tonight.

I noticed that they have put up a big ‘Watch out for Crocodiles’ sign in the Marina, looking into it, there have been some 60 croc attacks here in Sarawak over the last 5 years, and that most beaches here are no longer considered safe. The problem seems to have grown over the decades since the UN put a ban on croc hunting around the world, not helped by the expansion of human habitation into forested areas. However Malaysia has recently been given the right to cull the crocs since their numbers have risen sharply and the incidents of attack have escalated. However, the government have failed to issue hunting licenses yet, so the problem is very real.

We are hoping to get some bicycles next week, I need to get fit over the next few months before we sail the north pacific.

Paul Collister


We are heading back, in two hours time, my brother Simon will take us to Manchester where we start our long flight back to Sister Midnight.

Kathy has seen fit to update the blog with the entries from some distant past, but now she is up to date and can start blogging in earnest.

We have spent the last few hours juggling bags around trying to get the contents down to 23kg, but it’s a struggle, I basically have a full ocean going yacht in my bag, just disassembled 😉 Hopefully the customs at Kuala Lumpur or Miri won’t care too much, they can charge me tax on new items, but shouldn’t as it’s for export via yacht, but this is not something that happens very often at the airport, so they wont be used to that. We have an hour spare at Heathrow, at two hours spare at KL, but we have to transit to a satellite airport there, so all in all it’s tight.

We should arrive at the boat on Wednesday evening, around 8pm, after the sun has set, and that’s when the fun might start. I have never left a boat for this long (2 months) in the tropics, and I am fearful of what awaits us. I expect some mold to have formed on the surfaces, we might have some water damage as it has rained a lot while we have been away, and boats always leak somewhere, I’m hoping it will only be minor, if at all. Also there is the big worry that something with legs has made a home of our boat, anything from cockroaches to rats are possible, but I’m hoping the measures we took back in July should have stopped this. We will see.

Once back I will update you all with our plans, but the gist of it is that we hang around Borneo until March, then head North to Hong Kong, Japan, then onto the USA, arriving by September, we have our 10 year visas now, so hopefully we should be allowed in ok.

Paul Collister

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