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


Shopping and Bicycles

After another walk to Marina Square on Monday evening (9th October) we went for a meal in one of the Chinese restaurants we had seen and liked the look of. It turned out to be less of a restaurant and more of a ‘hawker’ style eatery.  These can be confusing, and this one was no exception. In the street, or in a market development it’s more self-explanatory even to a foreigner. You have to order your drink separately from the drinks vendor (who is often the owner/manager of the centre), and you pay for that as soon as it’s brought to you. When you’ve looked and chosen the meal you want from the stalls, you point or gesture to where your table is and the meal is brought to you, and once again you pay on the spot. So there might be two or more people in your group, all ordering from different places, with servers and money and change all coming and going at the same time, but it works and I like it because the food is freshly cooked and inexpensive. This place looked so much like a restaurant that we sat down and were immediately surrounded by four people all proffering different menus. This was disconcerting enough but when we’d taken them and the table was strewn with an assortment of menus, they all stood watching and waiting expectantly. We ordered drinks so that eliminated one of them and Paul asked the rest if we could have a few minutes to choose. We sifted through the selection of menus, made our choice and then (of course) struggled to get anyone to come back to us to take the order! The food was worth the confusion when it arrived. I enjoyed a substantial tofu, vegetable and rice dish with a tasty sauce. Paul opted for the duck with rice but it was a fairly small portion and he wished he’d ordered the same as me. We’ll definitely go back anyway.

At least 6 menus to choose from!

Tuesday 10th October

It was time for a big shop, and for that we needed a car. Paul had booked one the day before and set off at 10 to collect the keys. It was a funny little thing – that’s the phrase that entered my mind as the day went on. The air conditioning didn’t quite get cold enough, and the alarm had a tendency to go off if we didn’t close the doors properly. I went to drop our laundry off and took the car keys with me while Paul went to the marina office in the same block so that I could let myself back in the car. Waiting inside it, I began to feel very hot, so opened the door to get out and the alarm went off, so I had to shut the door quickly and fiddle with the buttons on the keys to shut it up. I was then trapped in the oven-like temperature until Paul came out. The windows only opened when the engine was on and I didn’t want to set the alarm off again. Luckily I had a battery fan to alleviate the heat a bit but I kept thinking of the poor dogs who get left in such temperatures. We caused some amusement at a petrol station, and outside a shopping mall when Paul had to make a few attempts to stop the alarm stopped blaring out when he walked away. The car, a Perouda, also struggled to get up hills and the rear passenger door didn’t close properly.

Our quirky little hire car!

Still, it got us to all the places we needed to be. Namely, a succession of supermarkets. The bigger ones are situated in indoor malls, and the first one we went to, as Paul has described, was quite an eerie experience. It looked totally closed. No cars were in the car park, which is most unusual here. The stairwell leading to the mall looked disused; it was full of litter and smelled stale. The level we walked in to didn’t look promising. Metal shutters were down on the shop units, some of which looked abandoned or incomplete. I wondered if the day was a public holiday we were unaware of, but in the basement we found the supermarket – empty but open. It was a treat to walk the aisles with no one else around, if a little disconcerting. Slowly, however other shoppers began to appear and all soon felt normal.

A mannequin ‘family’ inside one of the malls

Two, or maybe three, supermarkets later and pretty much all the items had been ticked off the list, including some cough mixture, as it seems to be the only medical product we don’t have on board. The previous evening I couldn’t help wryly noting the array of ‘products’ on the table for our various ailments: Lemsip; plasters for blisters & cuts; throat sweets; paracetamol; cream for bites & stings; tweezers to remove a splinter from Paul’s foot; and tissues and antihistamines for my allergy. All we needed was a bag of Werther’s Originals for it to look like the day room in a care home 😉 Paul wanted to have a look at the Piasau Boat Club before heading back to drop off the shopping. It looked a little like a holiday resort, situated as it is in a Nature Reserve Park, with a nearby beach, children’s playground and a sea view from the clubhouse. I was pleased to discover that its Beachcomber bar sold white wine – one of the few places that does here. We sat on the terrace looking out at the view. Not many other people were around that afternoon, but judging from the signs and posters on display, plenty of activities and events take place there.

View from The Beachcomber Bar
Piasau Boat Club

The car had to be returned by 5pm on Wednesday so we set out at 11 30 on our mission to look at bicycles.  Several of the neighbouring yachts have folding bikes; they are handy for getting to the local shops as well as an ideal way to get physical exercise. It was difficult to know which type to buy though. We debated whether to get cheap ones to use while here and then donate them to some local children when we leave, or splashing out on decent foldable ones to keep. We started our search in the Marina Park complex at a shop called Giant. Their folding bikes were great but more expensive than we’d budgeted for. The next place had a reasonably priced second hand folding bike which made us consider getting that and a cheaper temporary one but Paul discovered the frame looked a bit bent on a closer examination. The salesman, keen for us to buy, offered to buy any bikes we chose back off us if we wanted to take them for a short period. He told us he would even include the shopping panniers we needed and fit them for us.  We looked at a couple more shops that day, and another one since then but finally settled on one we looked at yesterday and will be off to collect them soon.

Paul spotting the bent frame
Nice but pricey
We settled on the red and ordered a blue 🙂
Paul testing it

Miri city centre is worth a mention. When we visited in July, I noted that it looked as if it is mainly made up of Chinese shops and businesses, but that the town lacked something that I couldn’t define. I think this was because I was comparing it rather unfairly with lively, atmospheric Kuching. Returning after a two month break, I viewed it more favourably. Miri is an oil boomtown, although its oil rig ceased production in 1970, and new inland oil fields were found in 2011. The birthplace of the Malaysian petroleum industry, Miri urges people to visit The Petroleum Science Museum, located on the site of the first oil rig, which we intend to look at before we move on. Anyway, the city has its share of shopping malls, restaurants and plush hotels and the handicraft centre we went to before we left for the UK is a great place for Sarawakian arts and crafts and handmade and unusual gifts, all made by local producers (they were so friendly, too – we chatted to them for ages). I think it’s fair to say, however that Miri is a gateway to several other inviting nature-based attractions that surround it, such as The Niah Caves, Mulu National Park and the Bario Highlands, all of which I’m also looking forward to seeing.

Miri Centre

Miri Handicraft Centre
Products in the Handicraft Centre

We had a quick look at one of the recommended fruit and vegetable markets before driving home. We didn’t need much, only an elusive courgette, but the markets are so colourful and interesting to amble around.

Durian plants for sale

I’m used to people staring at us now, and I think traders like it that we take the time to look around and ask questions. We bought some apples, a bunch of fresh rosemary and some pumpkin but our request for a courgette was met with either bemusement or amusement. Paul looked up the word for it in Malay on his phone (sejenis labu kecil) and we were directed to a stall selling a white, round vegetable that we were told was like a courgette as it was part of the marrow family. We bought it after another stallholder took the time to explain to us how to cook it. He did state that it was a bit bland in taste and he was quite correct – it proved to be a poor substitute for the courgette 😉

Life goes on in a lovely leisurely way here in Miri. We try to go out for a walk each evening, either to the Marina Park or the waterfront area so that we’re getting daily exercise until we get the bikes. The rainy season is upon us and we’ve seen some spectacular downpours. I’ve got used to springing up to close all the windows as soon as the drops hit the coach roof. The good news is that there are no leaks on the boat! The rain showers are welcome actually because the temperature drops and it really is delightful listening to it pound and patter outside while we are cosy and dry inside. I tried to capture the image of how heavy the rain is in pictures but couldn’t do it justice. I am pleased to report that my second attempt at baking bread turned out successfully so I think the flour from Bakery Ingredients is a hit (see pic below).  The pictures that follow it are of our excursions to the waterfront and the five-hour walk we took into Miri yesterday to choose our bikes.

The long, hot midday walk into Miri
Outside The Coco Cabana
Art Exhibition at The Coco Cabana




MIRI – Marina and Environs

We’ve been back in Eastern Malaysia for just over a week now and we’re just about getting used to the time difference and the contrast in temperature. It doesn’t feel as hot and humid as it was back in July – I know this because I have felt more inclined to do jobs instead of lazing all day ;-). There have been one or two occasions when the breeze felt cool, as opposed to feeling like the blast from a hair dryer, which combined with a few heavy rain showers, made it feel almost autumnal! Having said that, it is still hot…well, we are in the tropics after all. It feels good to be back on Sister Midnight and the ‘liveaboard’ life.

Home 🙂

During the unpacking and stowing on our first day here, I rediscovered things I’d forgotten I had left on board, and hadn’t needed to bring over from the UK, such as reading glasses and various cruelty-free toiletries. We had arrived at night, relieved to find everything dry and creature-free so we only had time for a brief sort out – enough to get the bed made up, the power and water running and to move some of the large deck equipment out of the cabin. Paul was up early the following morning, on a mission to get bread and bottled water, and when I woke a bit later to join him for coffee and toast, I naively assumed we had effectively dodged any jet lag and would now slip smoothly and effortlessly back into normal sleep patterns. We didn’t! For two or three days after that we were both lying in bed with our phones lit up for much of the night, while feeling lethargic and dozing for parts of the day. Our first full day was spent unpacking, sorting and stowing. I was intrigued by a new sign that had been put up on the wall warning people in the marina about the possibility of crocodiles in the water and wondered if there had been an incident that had prompted it. We found out later from one of our neighbours that it’s merely for ‘insurance purposes’ and it’s highly unlikely that one will venture into the marina. It won’t stop me looking though.

We took a walk into Miri centre early that first evening to get a few more provisions from the supermarket. I couldn’t help remembering the wriggly, reddish brown centipedes or millipedes that tend to traverse the paths at that time of the evening. I’m trying to control my urge to squeal when I see one because it’s going to limit where I can go and what I can do, not just here but in other countries too. However, it’s not that easy to eradicate a phobia by employing mere mind over matter. Ask anyone who’s afraid of spiders!  One of the books I’m reading isn’t providing much comfort on the matter. Redmond O’Hanlon describes his journey upriver into the middle of the jungle in his 1983 book Into The Heart of Borneo and the first paragraph on page one lists certain local creatures and diseases to be avoided, along with helpful hints on how to thwart them:

‘…there is no matching the strength of that irrational desire to find a means of keeping your head upon your shoulders; of retaining your frontal appendage in its accustomed place; of barring 1,700 different species of parasitic worm from your bloodstream and Wagler’s pit viper from just about anywhere; of removing small, black, wild-boar ticks from your crutch with minimum discomfort (you do it with Sellotape); of declining to wear a globulating necklace of leeches all day long; of sidestepping amoebic and bacillary dysentery, yellow and blackwater and dengue fevers, malaria, cholera, typhoid, rabies, hepatitis, tuberculosis and the crocodile (thumbs in its eyes, if you have time, they say).’

Into The Heart of Borneo, (p.1), Redmond O’Hanlon

Admittedly, he was venturing deep into jungle territory, but the mere thought of a necklace of leeches is enough to keep me from being near the perimeter of the jungle. Anyway I will keep trying to conquer my fear. The supermarket in Imperial Mall, I remembered, had an impressive variety of vegetarian food in their freezer department so I spent a happy 15 minutes examining it all and reading the ingredients (I know how to have fun 😉 ). I was particularly fascinated by a bag of frozen prawns that looked exactly like real prawns. I called Paul over to see them and he was less than impressed, remarking that they shouldn’t be allowed to use the word ‘prawn’ in the description.

All vegetarian and vegan

Wine is terribly expensive here. We bought one bottle for the princely sum of £17! We have since found somewhere that sells it a bit cheaper but it’s still pricey. After that pleasant amble around the aisles of the supermarket, we went for dinner at Madli’s, a Muslim eatery we’d visited a couple of times in July. Situated (almost literally) on Miri’s long, lively main street where there are several bars, restaurants and clubs, it’s been there since the 90s and has a good range of food, including traditional Sarawakian, Chinese, Malay and Western (they also cook veggie dishes to order) and the staff are lovely.

Madli’s, Miri

On Saturday evening, after a lazy ‘do-nothing’ couple of days, we thought it would be nice to walk to the waterfront area opposite the marina to watch the sun set. I had been trying to shake off a persistent bad cough and hadn’t done much for two days, so welcomed the idea of some exercise. It’s a 40 minute walk to this area, where the seahorse and the CocoCabana complex is located but it’s a pleasant walk along the wide tree-lined pavements.  People were jogging past us in preparation for the charity run that would take place later that evening. The build-up had been quite a noisy affair, with PA systems being tested by playing an assortment of bass-heavy music all day, which was so loud it had made the cabin floor vibrate. Now, an MC was trying to get everyone in the mood by yelling out corny pantomime-style exhortations to cheer and dance and shout out that they were happy and ‘ready to run’. We bought a beautifully refreshing cold drink from one of the refreshment stalls when we got there. I was expecting the lemon juice drink I ordered to be sour because I asked for no added sugar (they tend to put lots of it in drinks here) but it was gorgeous and even eased my cough for a while. The pictures below show how beautiful the sky is at twilight here.

Stalls on the waterfront
View from the waterfront

Woke up to heavy rain late on Sunday morning, and a much cooler temperature. Paul has referred to the bread I baked on this afternoon in his post. It was disappointing because I had tried it at home and it was a huge success with a golden brown crust and fluffy white texture. My granddaughters loved it. I used Jamie Oliver’s basic bread recipe which unlike the one I had been using previously, doesn’t require cooking oil but has more yeast and less kneading. I had been looking forward to trying it out on the boat. It all looked fine until it went in to the oven where it rose and smelled the part but for some reason it remained white in colour, even though it was clearly ready to come out. The bottom was brown so I can only assume I need to tweak the temperature and the shelf it’s placed on. The flour may also have been a factor. Here, unlike the helpfully labelled ‘bread flour’ on the shelves at home, there are several types on offer but we’ve had to ask which one would be best for bread. We’d been told that the high ratio type was ideal and that was what I used. Since then we have been to one of the shops in the complex here and sought further advice. This shop is aptly called ‘Bakery Ingredients’ and is delightful. Inside, it smells like sweet cakes and has a fascinating array of products – the majority of which are sugar-based but there was plenty of flour to choose from. We came out with two bags of ‘top flour’ which we were assured contained more protein and was perfect for baking loaves. I haven’t tried it yet so watch this space. Anyway the anaemic loaf was edible at least and it came into its own when toasted 😉 .

Which type to choose?

We walked to the area known as Marina Square late in the afternoon. This is the huge shopping and dining complex about thirty minutes’ walk away from the marina. I had made notes about the place during our visits to it in July and I have looked at them to see if my initial impression had altered. I had described it as deserted and soulless and it still seemed like that to me. It’s a fairly new structure, built as part of a plan to turn the whole area into an attractive tourist destination. Signs advertising the completion of this, promise it will be in April 2018. For this reason, quite a lot of the units haven’t been sold or opened yet, while those that were had few customers. The bars and restaurants are mostly the type you’d expect to see in major cities, except that they lacked atmosphere. To be fair, this is probably only a temporary state. A couple of the more popular establishments show how it could become a lively and vibrant stomping ground in time.

Marina Square

One of the units in Marina Square. I took this because it looks intriguing…and painful!

Before we left for the UK we had been to a bar called Chillax to have a drink with some of our neighbours in the marina, and it was here we headed for.  I think that in the two months we’ve been away, more units had opened and it seemed there were more people around. Chillax is one of the more favoured bars, but like all the others, (we asked) it doesn’t sell white wine – only red. We guess this is because it’s not as easy to keep if there is little demand for it.  We ordered some chips to share with our drinks but weren’t expecting the huge bucket of them that arrived, so ‘Tiger’ beer and chips turned out to be my somewhat unhealthy dinner that evening.

Inside Chillax

Oh, and it appears that Christmas has arrived here already so never let it be said that the UK is the only place where decorations start to appear far too early 😉

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