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  july 2011


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01/07/11  A little information about Borneo..........it's the third largest island in the World and the only one divided administratively by three countries - Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia.  Indonesian territory in the south accounts for about 73% of the island, the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak in the north cover about 26% and the sovereign state of Brunei occupies 1% on the north-west coast.  Kuching, where I am, has a population of around 660,000 and is the capital of Sarawak, formerly a British Colony and Sabah was originally British North Borneo until the North Borneo Federation was formed.  Borneo's rain forest is 130 million years old, making it the oldest in the world and 70 million years older than the Amazon rain forest.  The lowland rain forest covers most of the island with an area of 428,000 sq. kilometres and the mountain forests are in the central part of the island, over 1000 metres elevation.  Half of the annual global tropical timber comes from Borneo.

02/07/11  Well, not a lot happened during the last days of June - and that holds true for the start of this month too. 

There has been a rally dinner and an excursion, neither of which I attended.  I've had a couple of trips into town, we can't go every day because of distance and taxi costs   The weather is very hot and humid, with rain (of the heavy variety) most days but it's generally short-lived.  Borneo gets about 3000mm of rain per year, so it's not surprising we get wet each day - the photo on the right shows today's black rain clouds approaching.  The lady on the yellow boat provides the daily cabaret with her exercises and  handstands on the pontoon, in a shift dress without underwear........not a appealing sight.......which is maybe what the crocodiles think during her nude swims!!!   


03/07/11  Intiaq (Swiss cat.) and the French cat. left the marina this morning, heading further north.  The marina 'residents' now consist of 1 Coastguard boat, 1 Indonesian power boat, 1 Australian catamaran, 1 'other' catamaran,  2 British monohulls, 1 American monohull and 1 'other' monohull - that's it.....the whole marina!!

08/07/11  According to on-line news reports, the United Kingdom is enjoying some warmer weather than usual.  My brother Clive sent me the photograph on the far right of his garden thermometer showing 33oC - almost as high as my saloon thermometer reads (34oC).  The only difference being that his is in sunlight and mine is inside and benefitting from sun awnings and two fans blowing - also it's taken at 9pm!  However, it's not the temperature but the humidity that is so tiring and energy sapping.

09/07/11  Cruising = boat maintenance in exotic places.   So the definition goes......and it's true!  I've been doing some of the repair/maintenance jobs on the boat over the last few days but the list doesn't seem to get any shorter, just the opposite in fact.   Apart from obtaining 140 litres of fuel in 20 litre cans, I've had the engine fresh water pump overhauled by a machine shop, new bearings and seals fitted so that I once again have a spare onboard.  The outboard engine bracket has been repaired by the same shop.  Investigating a leak on the engine fresh water system revealed a crack in the join between filler cap neck and the heat exchanger body.....which then broke completely!  That needed cleaning up and then 'glued' back on using two-part epoxy steelweld compound, then the fresh water system flushed and refilled with a mixture of corrosion inhibitor.  A blocked anchor locker drain has been rodded and now works again for the time being - the same applies to the galley sink outlet.  Rust stains on deck caused by the second anchor have been removed.  I've stripped and cleaned both the DC and AC fans which were getting clogged with dust etc.........and I still have more jobs to do, not to mention the more mundane tasks of cooking, cleaning, washing and shopping.

10/07/11  Roger and Astrid left this morning to fly to Kuala Lumpur in order to renew Astrid's passport - a personal appearance was required in order to supply biometric info to the passport office - it is not possible to renew in Borneo.  Apart from giving Leah a couple of hours of maths schooling, I had a relaxing day, and because it's Sunday, the marina is totally quiet, no workers at all and hardly any boats with crew onboard.

12/07/11  Roger and Astrid returned late last night having successfully completed all the paperwork for a new passport, to be forwarded to them at a later stage.   I changed the engine oil......but there is a very worrying knock in the engine!  I first noticed it a couple of weeks ago when berthing here in the marina but several attempts since then to recreate the noise have been without result.  However, today it was very evident and I am more than a little concerned about it.  My first thought was a slack timing chain - quickly dismissed because of course the engine doesn't have one.....the camshaft is driven by a helical gear train.  Next thoughts were a tappet, but the noise is only present on tick-over, not when the engine is revved, there is also no easy way to turn the engine by hand in order to reset the tappets (stupid installation!).  Possibilities are a leaking injector or sticky injector needle causing the opening pressure of the injector to drop and allowing non-atomised fuel into the combustion chamber.....a blocked fuel leak off pipe......or, worse case scenario, damaged crank or camshaft gear.  I don't need this problem just before sailing!!

13/07/11  Last minute shopping in town with Astrid and Roger.  Ran the engine again and for five minutes or so, I revved it through speeds between 700rpm and 4500rpm.......the knocking disappeared, which sort of indicates a sticking injector needle.  Went over to the port authorities and checked out with the harbourmaster and customs offices.

14/07/11  Sailed at 1015, perhaps foolishly, but the engine knock had disappeared and we set course for Miri, which is close to the border with Brunei, and about 300 miles north of Kuching.  We made the entrance of the river about noon and I hoisted the mainsail but the wind was against us so the iron sail continued to run.  As night approached, the barometer was dropping and signs of a squall were building some miles off the starboard bow, so I put two reefs in the mainsail and made sure everything was secure below.

15/07/11  At 0400, we had lightning ahead, to starboard and astern but the sea remained calm and we were able to maintain progress.  By 0645, we were altering course to avoid a squall and I dropped the mainsail in anticipation of the normal accompanying winds.  Shortly after, the rain hit and visibility was reduced to a few metres but the winds didn't exceed 25 knots.  At mid-day, an old and tired looking bird (I think it was a swift, but I can never tell the difference between swifts, swallows and house martins) landed on the boat and stayed with me throughout the day, before settling on the saloon cushions for the night.  During the afternoon, I caught my second Spanish Mackerel, only a 4lb one which measured 26 inches, but a result nonetheless!  At midnight, we were passing through the first oil-field with it's giant platforms brightly lit and visible for miles.

16/07/11  Sadly, my little swift died in the night, so we had a burial at sea this morning.  At least he passed away peacefully in his sleep and didn't drown from exhaustion.  The radar picture I took at 0400 and the scan was set to a range of six miles - each ring is 2 miles..  The dark areas are not land......they are big squalls, and we are trying to outrun each one of them!!  The whole day seemed to be taken up with hoisting, reefing and lowering sails - time and time again.  And of course, the gas bottle ran out and had to be changed - in a beam sea with the boat rolling badly.  I ran the watermaker to top up the tank before getting to Miri which was in sight by 1530hrs.  It was obvious that we would not be there in time to get into the marina before low water and subsequently we anchored off Sungai Miri at 2000 and settled in for the night.

17/07/11  A terrific storm during the night, the rain hammering down in bucketfuls and no time gap between lightning and thunder, but the anchor held firm and I at least got some much needed sleep.  At 1000, we weighed anchor and made our way over the bar at the entrance to the marina, only to find that no berths were available until the rally boats returned from a fun race which had just started.  Captain Fin, the marina manager, told us to anchor where we were.......well, that's a new one on me....dropping anchor in the middle of a marina!  However, he later found me a berth and I moved into it at 1300, helped by Roger who had to remain at anchor because of his deeper draft.  So, that's the end of this particular sail......and the engine is still running sweetly with no knocks.....but I will get the injectors cleaned and calibrated while I am here.

18/07/11  Bad news this morning from Turkey that old friends Bill and Pia onboard Open Return have been run down by a 4000 ton tanker, 12 miles south of Fethiye....in broad daylight.  Fortunately, they are both OK and ashore in Göcek - I wish them well.  Storm Dodger, and most of the other rally boats sailed today, all heading further north.  As I have not  'joined' the rally (and see no benefit in doing so), there is  no value in my busting a gut to get to the next meeting point.  I phoned Simon, the friendly taxi driver, and went into town to find an injector specialist, take a look around the town centre and have something to eat (as well as a beer!).  It's quite a good town, and to my surprise, much better than Kuching.  I spent a few hours browsing the shops and trying to find a watch repair shop capable of repairing my Citizen watch, the strap pin having broken on the way over here, but as it's made of titanium I am told it needs to be sent to Kuala Lumpur.  I'll just have to wear my other one until I can get it repaired elsewhere.

19/07/11  The plan to have my four spare injectors serviced, then replace the in-use ones at leisure has gone out of the window!  The spares I removed from another Mercedes OM636 engine before leaving UK turned out to be TDZ injectors, the ones fitted to my engine are Bosch......and the two are not interchangeable!  Bummer!!  Started to remove my injectors at 8am this morning but it proved to be a longer job than the one hour I had estimated, mainly because of inaccessibility and the need of a deep 27mm socket to fit over the entire injector when removing the holder.  I finished up having to dismantle the injectors in situ and remove the holders separately, a job which lasted until 1pm and involved using an ordinary socket with a two foot bar, wedging myself between cockpit seats and steering pedestal and pushing the bar with both feet!  I called Simon and went to Sturdy Engineering - they cleaned and tested all four injectors, replaced one faulty needle and nozzle (my problem?), in just one hour and charged 70 Ringgit (about £14).....excellent!   I then went to the video store where I had bought two dvd's yesterday (only to find they were the wrong region on my return to the boat), with the intention of getting my money back.  "Have you got your receipt Sir?"....."Yes, of course."   "I'm sorry, company policy is not to return money, you can have other dvd's but they are all region 3."  After a bit of a discussion (and after the morning I had endured), I 'lost it a bit' and told them to phone their head office in Kuala Lumpur and I would speak to someone higher in the pecking order.  This they did, and five minutes later I got my money back!!  Next was a visit to the tool shop and the purchase of the required deep socket needed to refit the injectors, as it would not be possible to reverse the removal process.  A meal, a beer and Simon's cab back to the marina by 6pm to find that my gas  bottle, given to Mr Ho yesterday has been filled and returned.

20/07/11  OK....so not such a productive day as yesterday.  I had to remove the rocker cover in order to refit the injectors, so I hoped I could check the valve clearances at the same time.  But no.....there is still no way to turn the engine manually and spinning it on the starter motor is too inaccurate.  How the hell are you supposed to check and adjust the tappets every 400 hours if you can't turn the engine?  I fitted the injectors but Nos. 3 & 4 were leaking, so I had to remove all the pipe work and rocker cover again and re-torque them.  Restarted the engine and .....oil everywhere!  Damn it, I'd forgotten to tighten the rocker cover again 'cos I'm getting tired, hot and bothered.  Another go, the injector leaks are still there but much less and the engine is now too hot to work on........very hot in fact.   Investigate.....and no water in the heat exchanger...puzzling!  Top up with water, run the engine, look at water pump.....and the water is pouring out.  Why is nothing ever simple?  My theory is that the pump I fitted a few weeks ago got me out of trouble but when I fixed the filler cap leak, the pressure increased and blew the less than perfect seal in the aged pump, causing it to now leak.  Well at least I have a recently re-conditioned unit to fit again. But not now, it will have to wait until tomorrow, because I've had enough for one day and like I said, the engine is now too hot to work on.

21/07/11  Work, work, work - that's all I seem to do when in port.  Wouldn't it be nice if I had nothing to do except see the surrounding countryside?  Anyway, back to my mechanics job......took off the offending water pump and replaced it with the reconditioned one, re-connected all the pipes, re-fitted the alternator belt, topped up the coolant again, tightened up the banjo fittings on each injector, changed the fuel filter and bled the fuel system of air.  Restarted the engine and let it run for an hour, occasionally revving it up to max speed.  All seems to be OK (famous last words).  Shower, taxi into town, lunch, renew phone and internet credit, buy more engine oil and try to find a workshop capable of re-conning the now u/s water pump.  Eventually found an engineering shop out in the industrial area who may be able to do it by tomorrow afternoon, so I'll have to wait and see.  I hope to sail the day after tomorrow and head up to Brunei, but that depends on the pump, checking out and the ever important weather - it's been fine and settled, with no strong winds or rain since I got in the marina.  The photo on the right (which is totally un-related to this blog), shows the space shuttle 'Atlantis' on it's final lift off from pad 39a at Kennedy Space Centre a week or so ago.  She and her crew, successfully landed back in Florida today, marking the end of 30 years of space shuttle voyages.  In the past, I and my then wife, made three trips to Florida to see (apart from Disney) a shuttle launch.  We timed our visits there to match a launch date, and each time the launch was cancelled due to adverse weather conditions.  Just my flaming luck!!

22/07/11  I must be going to sea, 'cos this morning the wind blew and the rain lashed down!  Downloading the grib files showed that the weather was going to be somewhat windy to the north of my position for the next day or so......mmmm, what to do?  Intiaq left the marina when the rain and wind died, they obviously are not concerned with what lies in store, but I think it better that I remain here for another day......so, I did my washing and hung that out, then went into town to the customs and immigration to check out, giving a sailing date of the 24th.  Then I went along to the engineering shop and collected my water pump - which they have stripped and re-assembled without replacing the seal or bearings and which will no doubt leak when I next need it, but what can I do?  In the late afternoon I went along to see Mike and Barbara onboard Lev and picked their brains about Brunei and anchorages  in between here and there.  During the evening we all (18 of us) had a bit of a get together on the end of the pontoon, swapping stories and info, putting the world to rights and other un-important things whilst disposing of a few beer cans....it's surprising how fast a dustbin can be filled with aluminium waste!!

23/07/11  Strong winds during the afternoon (as forecast) and I was forced to take down my sun awning which was acting as a sail, also add extra bow lines to safeguard the boat.  All died down by 10pm and I should be OK to sail tomorrow, the intention being to make a short trip to Belait and anchor for the night.  However, there is news of two typhoons forming to the north of Borneo which may affect this area with adverse weather.  I suppose that can only be expected at the start of the typhoon season!!

24/07/11  Slipped at 1000hrs and made out to sea and into a heavy swell which made the boat roll badly for the first two hours until I rounded the point and set a course for Kuala Belait, the first port of call in Brunei.  With the sea now more settled, I cut the engine and sailed at 4 knots, arriving off the river entrance at 4.30pm as planned, to catch the first of the flood tide up river.  Called BSP-3 on the radio and they asked that I wait at the entrance until an outbound passenger vessel cleared the channel......followed by three more vessels......and an hour later I was still circling outside.  I was on the point of giving up and continuing to the next anchorage when they gave me clearance to enter.  It was a little daunting to navigate a river with no charts and a blank chart plotter (and no depth sounder) but information given by Mike on Lev was invaluable and I was soon anchored opposite the small yacht club.  I was the only yacht there!  The entire river operation is about servicing the oil platforms offshore and there were many associated service boats to-ing and fro-ing as I lay to anchor, but there was no wash from any of them.

25/07/11  Very strange - when I anchored last night, the boat was lying with bow upstream, the current seemed to flow outward all night and this morning I am still the same way with no swinging to anchor during the night. Very odd!  Weighed anchor at 0715 and proceeded back downriver to the open sea, setting a course for Jerudong.  A couple of hours into the voyage, I received texts from Storm Dodger that made it obvious they were not going to meet in Muara for onward passage as previously arranged.  That was a real downer for me and has made this trip northward completely pointless.  As despondency set in, I considered turning around and heading back to Miri - there is no enjoyment in sailing alone without either crew or an accompanying yacht.  However, I do need fuel, and my port clearance papers are for Brunei, so I reluctantly carried on to the north.  At 1600, I was at the entrance of  Jerudong Harbour, a huge place built by the Sultan of Brunei's brother, the breakwater arms stretching 1.5 miles out to sea.  I snuck in and dropped the hook behind the man-made island, hidden from the residence even though notes on the area do say that yachts are tolerated for overnights stops.  Again, I was the only yacht in the harbour.  The swell does creep in through the entrance though and there was quite a bit of rolling until the wind changed direction during the night.

26/07/11  On my way again by 0745 but with no interest in sailing knowing that there would be no-one to see on arrival and no-one to talk to.  The coastline is very strange in that it has dozens of man-made breakwaters along the shoreline, apparently built again by the Sultan's brother, which have created lots of artificial bays.  By noon I was at the entrance to Muara and took great care to approach wide of the submerged wall which runs along the channel into the harbour.  Once inside, (first impressions....what a dump!) I made my way to anchor off the Royal Brunei Yacht Club and was pleased to see a dozen yachts there.....but they turned out to be deserted on permanent moorings with not one liveaboard amongst them.  So, now I needed to inflate the dinghy (un-tested since it's repair in Langkawi) and hope that it wouldn't sink!  The leak repair seemed OK but the port tube valve is faulty and it took 10 to 12 frustrated attempts to get the thing to seal and the tube to remain inflated.  Launched the dinghy and fitted the outboard motor, which then wouldn't start until I had emptied the old petrol from it and filled with new.  It's a long, long, long way to the port authority building and I set off hoping that the dinghy and engine were up to it, but it wasn't to be.  About three quarters of the way there, the engine started to slow and I knew immediately that it was beginning to seize up.  A quick check on the cooling water outlet confirmed this, so I stopped the engine and fitted the oars.  It was useless to continue so I turned around for the long row back to the boat.......now the seat broke in half and dumped me on the floor of the dinghy.   Argggh!!  Why has fate turned against me, whatever have I done to deserve all this shit??  It took me two hours to row back in a kneeling position and the sweat was pouring off when I climbed back onboard.  To take off the outboard engine leg and find the problem would be too difficult onboard, I really need to have the engine on a pontoon with space to work but I tried clearing the cooling water channels before putting the engine back on the dinghy and trying it again.  No good, still no water discharge when revved, so hauled the engine back onto it's stowage again.  What now?

27/07/11  Thought process:  I first need fuel and to check in with immigration, then I can go to Labuan for duty frees before either returning to Miri or doing a few long overnight passages to either catch, or pass the other rally boats.  I couldn't envisage doing any long passages north on my own in the state of mind I was in, so I discounted that idea -  it would have to be Labuan and return to Miri.   How to get fuel?.....I know, phone the guy in the yacht club and tell him of my problems to see if he can help.  A call to the given number resulted in a voice message, "Your outgoing call is barred.  Please visit a Digi desk or phone 151."  So, I call 151 ......."Your outgoing call is barred, please visit a Digi desk."  Well.......that's a lot of bloody use to me isn't it?  I decide to get showered and dressed for shore, hoping that I can flag down a passing fishing boat or something.  By 11am, nothing....absolutely nothing had passed by me.  I calculated that, if unable to sail, I would have just enough fuel to cover the 106 miles  return to  Miri provided I could maintain 5 knots at 1500 engine rpm...but it would be close!  Basically, I was out of options and feeling lower than my flip-flops, so I weighed anchor and set off, intending to make the passage to Miri in one go as Labuan was now out of the question.  With the tide ebbing and like a cork from a bottle, I shot out of the harbour at 7.8 knots - but I knew it would be very short lived.  As I turned onto a westerly heading, I experienced counter current and 15-20 knot headwinds which slowed the boat dramatically.  The sea, a short steep chop, is the kind of sea that Rhumb Do hates as she doesn't have the waterline length to cut through, so each wave pounded into, slows the boat and occasionally stops her altogether.  Should I turn around again?  That would be no good because I still could not get fuel, so I hoisted the mainsail and turned off the wind a bit, giving me a little more speed although not the direction I wanted to go.  By 6pm and down to 1.5 knots, it was obvious that I wouldn't make it under these conditions so I decided to put into Jerudong Harbour and wait until morning when the weather conditions may have changed for the better.  They could of course get worse!  I anchored closer to the breakwater this time, in an effort to avoid some of the swell which enters the harbour, and that seemed to work well.

28/07/11  Up at 5am, the wind had shifted to the south but I could still hear the waves crashing on the other side of the breakwater and would have to wait until daylight to see exactly what the sea was doing.  Deep down in the bottom of the cockpit locker I had 20 litres of diesel which I had carried from Marmaris in Turkey for use in dire emergency.  I decided this was the emergency and emptied the locker, decanted the fuel and weighed anchor at 6.30am.  The sea was now in a long Atlantic type swell and with all sail up, I was able to keep speeds up to 6+ knots until 10.30am when the wind veered onto the nose and the speed dropped to 3 knots again.  I knew the fuel situation was critical so I left the engine off and started long tacks out to sea and back to shore, gradually reducing the distance to Miri, some 60 miles away.  I wouldn't make it in daylight and tacking through the oil platforms in the dark would be a challenge.  I knew there were some big steel mooring buoys about, and not in the positions shown on the charts, so having a moonless night was a big problem for me.  I'm sure my grey hairs and worry lines increased ten-fold as I finally rounded the headland  with a two metre beam sea running and began the last 20 miles of tacking, straining my eyes for any darker shapes ahead.  I pondered what to do on arrival at Miri, ....anchor offshore or enter the marina in the dark?

29/07/11  Phew!!  Made it!  Arriving off Miri at 0030hrs, the swell was too bad to attempt to enter the marina and I was too tired to be bothered with all the rigmarole of putting out fenders and mooring lines while the boat pitched around in the blackness, so I dropped the anchor close to the marina entrance and wallowed through the night, getting physically thrown off the settee berth at 5am.  I had a coffee and waited for daybreak before weighing anchor at six and motoring into the marina, tying up on my original berth at 0700hrs.  Jill from Alpha Centauri took my lines for me, then kindly let me have a few slices of bread for my breakfast.  She was the first person I'd spoken to in the last five days!  So, that's it, my final voyage for the foreseeable future.  Cruising without crew or company is devoid of any enjoyment, there is no-one to share experiences with, no-one to talk to or laugh with and, unlike in the Mediterranean, I am not sailing to meet anyone.  I am disappointed, disillusioned and demoralised, so I am calling a halt for the time being while I have a rethink and decide what to do next.  I should never have come to Borneo in the first place, I didn't enjoy it in the 1960's and I'm not enjoying it now, this last week being possibly the worst week since leaving the UK.   Called Simon, the taxi driver and went into town for essentials and the bar, then returned to the marina and joined in the 'happy hour' gathering on the pontoon to celebrate Lorraine's (Katana) birthday before turning in at 11pm and falling into a deep sleep.

30/07/11  Alpha Centauri left the marina at 7am this morning, heading northward.  I did nothing!  There are lots of jobs to be done on the boat as always but at the moment I'm not interested.  I will need to regain a little enthusiasm first.  I heard from Storm Dodger who are in Kota Kinabalu with autopilot problems, I've offered to fly up there and help bring the boat back to Miri.

31/07/11  An early morning thunderstorm was short lived, Orono 1 leaving the marina when it cleared at 0730, on their way to Kota Kinabalu.  After another day (Sunday) of doing nothing, I went ashore in the early evening with Dick and Phil, to a little food place they knew of and had some dinner and a beer or two.

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