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  august 2012


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01/08/12  Over the last few Fridays, Barry and I have been discussing the problems of getting his boat Fourth Dimension to the Philippines for his annual August holiday.  Various ideas have been suggested, but a final plan is now coming together......Roger, myself and Donald (a non-sailor) will crew the boat non-stop from Muara to Puerto Princesa and owner Barry will come with us for the experience of a mid-distance sail, spend his two week holiday in the Philippines and then fly back.  Donald will also be flying back, leaving Roger and I to sail the boat back to Muara.

02/08/12  Happy Anniversary to Barbara and Clive!

03/08/12  With a full moon (right), we now have exceptionally low and high tides - the high being needed for Paul to motor his boat up to the club jetty and be lifted out of the water for anti-fouling and repairs.

04/08/12  Happy Birthday Kate!  We made our usual Friday Labuan trip but caught no fish - I think they must be fasting as it is Ramadan!  We had a good sail back, keeping a steady seven knots under sail alone.  Paul had his boat craned out of the water today which leaves his mooring vacant for me to pick up over the weekend in preparation for leaving my boat while I go to Palawan with Barry.

05/08/12  Early start this morning, lifting my anchor and cleaning all the accumulated barnacles from the anchor chain, which has now been in the water for about five months.  With around 28 metres of chain still out, it became vertical and bar taut!  With only five metres of water under the boat, it was obvious that the chain was stuck around something big and no amount of driving around in circles or pulling in the opposite direction was going to clear the obstacle.  Barry came over a little later with his dive gear and went in to investigate - the chain was wound around and around an unused concrete mooring block and the boat would not have shifted even if a hurricane had blown!  After a half hour or more in the water, Barry finally freed the chain and I was able to lift the anchor clear and motor the 500 metres or so to Paul's mooring and pick that up.  Fourth Dimension is now my new neighbour, shown here on her mooring.

06/08/12  Happy Birthday Leah!  Astrid and Roger had a little birthday party for Leah onboard but I was unable to go because of a rotten cold and cough which has been plaguing me for days, and I spent the biggest part of the day sleeping.

08/08/12  Donald lent me one of his cars to drive to the border at Kuala Lurah as my visa runs out on the 10th......a shame really as we will be checking out again on the 11th to take Barry's boat to Puerto Princesa, so I had to get another 90 day visa for the sake of one day!

10/08/12  Final preparation day.  The plan is to sail tomorrow to Labuan for 'essential' supplies and then onward non-stop to Puerto Princesa.

11/08/12  After waiting for our skipper Barry, we finally slipped the mooring at 1530......only to return because he (Barry) had left his phone in the car!  We were underway again by 1600, crossing to Victoria Harbour Labuan, where we anchored at at 1930.  After stocking up on a few things, we weighed again at 2200 and made our way northward through the night.

12/08/12  With Barry and I on watch, we dodged rain and thunder squalls for a few hours after midnight before finally being caught in heavy downpours around 0330hrs......we got soaked!  An exhausted swallow landed onboard and took shelter between the diesel jerry cans on deck.  Winds were 27 knots but in our favour, so we made good progress and by 2000 we were crossing Balabac Strait, passing to seaward of Clarenden Bay just before midnight.

13/08/12  0600hrs....Rio Tuba 12 miles to port.  Our swallow passenger stretched his/her wings and flew off.  Continued our northerly passage, transferring diesel from jerry cans to tank.  The depth sounder was playing up, it didn't seem to like trying to read depths in excess of a thousand metres and took some while to read accurately when in shallow water again.  We had a strike on the fishing line and hauled a Spanish Mackerel to the stern before it wriggled off the hook and made it's getaway.  We entered Puerto Princesa harbour around 2130 and picked our way through fishing nets before anchoring off Abanico Yacht Club at 2230.

16/08/12  After renewing friendships, both in the yacht club and ashore, we weighed anchor again at 1200 and made our way out to sea, heading for Busuanga.  With only three of us onboard now, (Donald had met his wife Jane in PP and was having a holiday with her), the watches had to be more 'flexible'.  There was quite a breeze out of the harbour and a 2 metre sea running, which by late afternoon had turned into bad weather - we had over 30 knot winds, heavy rain and 3 metre waves.  This continued throughout the evening and into the night, each thunderstorm matching our pace.  If we slowed down, they overtook us and we were able to accelerate again until the next caught up.

17/08/12  By 0400, the weather was abating and the stars were visible.  At 1100, we anchored on the NW side of Nangalao Island - with the idea of having lunch, but after clearing a blocked heads outlet we ran out of time and put to sea again, eating lunch underway.  Whilst at anchor, locals paddled by in small canoes asking for eye ointment to treat infection.  Barry sorted out what we had for them.  Picking our way into the westward entrance of the harbour between Coron Island and Busuanga Island was 'interesting' and we eventually anchored close to the only other sailboat present off Coron town at 1730hrs.  The waters were not the clearest and certainly not what we had been led to believe they would be....but there was a typhoon brewing to the north and that could have affected the seas.  The area around us was very beautiful however and it's a good anchorage.  The town of Coron isn't actually on Coron Island but on Busuanga - the change of location happened a long while ago but the town name of Coron had been retained.  We ate in the SeaDive restaurant, another first for me as I had Blue Marlin steak, and very tasty it was too!

19/08/12  After a day of repairs - me three hours up the mast replacing lazy jacks which had broken in the previous bad weather - and filling water tanks, delivering diving gear to SeaDive on behalf of Paul in Brunei, retrieving our laundry and the inevitable couple of beers ashore, we again weighed anchor for our return trip to Puerto Princesa.  It wasn't going to be so easy going back!  The scores of islands are outstanding in beauty, with white beaches and aquamarine shallow waters and we enjoyed threading our way through them.  However, the weather wasn't in our favour and we pounded into steep waves combined with headwinds which slowed our progress dramatically.  By  1800 we had taken our fill of the slamming and took shelter in a small bay on the NNE side of Linapacan Island.  Barry took the boat close inshore to the 3 metre contour line before dropping the anchor.  Here it was tranquil and almost deserted save one fisherman's house on the shore, from which unbelievably came the sound of Karaoke!

20/08/12  A gorgeous sunrise before getting underway again in late morning.  Once more we ran into short steep waves and our speed dropped off.  Added to this were the hundreds of pearl farms which had to be skirted around and we were escorted at one stage by a local fishing boat who guided us through.  These farms cover huge areas, marked by hundreds of buoys in parallel rows and our first encounter was marked with black buoys - just great for spotting in less than ideal conditions.  A night passage of this area would be impossible and madness to try.

21/08/12  More Pearl farms to avoid.  We had to anchor again in the evening to rest, behind a small island, the name of which I don't know.  Barry took the opportunity to have a long swim and clean the boat hull in the crystal clear waters.

22/08/12  Up early and underway, arriving mid-day (ish) in Puerto Princesa and anchoring close to our original spot off Abanico Yacht Club where we would have a few days of relaxing (after doing all the necessary repairs again!)  I spliced on a new painter for the dinghy, Roger replaced defective seals in the heads pump and Barry kept the beers cold and the fridge topped up with cans!!  We replaced used diesel and replenished our water tanks.

25/08/12  The end of Barry's holiday and he needs to return to Brunei and the 'W' word.  Escorted him to the airport to make sure he went!  Then I waited in the Pergola bar/restaurant for Roger who was in town sorting out bread and a phone problem.  On his arrival, we went to the Immigration Office to check out but it was closed.  A trike ride across town to Customs......and they were closed too!  We then discovered that it was a national holiday weekend (National Heroes Day) and the offices would not be re-opened until Tuesday 28th.  So, we went back across town to the airport to see if there was any chance of checking out there, but it is a domestic airport and there is no Immigration Office, so........we are stuck here until Tuesday.  The only good thing about that is the fact that Monday is predicted to be the strongest winds of the next few days, and they would be on the nose, as would the seas.  Our original crew of four is now reduced by 50% and Rog and myself will take the boat back to Brunei.

28/08/12  Up early and into town ......but not early enough as there was already a queue in the Immigration Office, mostly foreign nationals wanting to extend their visas.  This is usually a time consuming event and we could only wait our turn.  After getting our passport exit stamps, we got a trike across town to the Customs Office and filled in all the necessary forms there before going to the supermarket for bread, toothpaste, cooking oil and other needy bits and pieces, then back to the yacht club.  By this time it was 2pm and I thought it too late to weigh anchor - it would be a 24 hour (or more) run to the Balabac Strait which we need to cross in daylight.  Entry into Clarenden Bay to shelter for the night would also be difficult without a pre-laid track through the reefed entrance, so we decided to wait until first light in the morning before setting sail.

29/08/12  Lifted and stowed the dinghy + engine and weighed anchor at 0630.  We cleared the harbour by 0715 and hoisted sail, making good speed in the calm conditions.  Our ETA at Balabac was 0730 tomorrow morning.

30/08/12  A night of squalls, rain and 20 knot winds.  As Roger came up to relieve me at 0200, I received a hard smack in the mouth and thought he'd thrown something at me, only to discover that it was a flying fish!  Arrived Balabac at 0550 (ahead of schedule) and started across the Strait.  Winds were westerly 14 knots and we had a 2 knot current against us.  Close hauled, we still made reasonable progress until 1800.  Then the wind backed and strengthened!  With Mantanani Island on our starboard side, we dropped all sail and motored directly into 30 knots of wind, the boat banging and slamming into waves 1 - 2 metres in height, making only 1.5 knots headway - we were getting hammered!!  At 2300 hrs we'd had enough and turned 30 degrees to port, hoisted the mainsail with two reefs and made shoreward in the general direction of Kota Kinabalu.

31/08/12  By 0300 our speed was 5 knots and we were 3 miles offshore.  At 0500 we sheltered for a while behind Gaya Island before deciding to put into Sutera Marina for fuel and a rest from the relentless winds and tides.  At 0730, we entered the marina and moored alongside the fuel dock, took on 100 litres of diesel and moved onto a berth for the day/night.  First thing to do was get some sleep as neither of us had more than an hour last night.

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