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  september 2011


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01/09/11  When Storm Dodger arrived yesterday, little Leah wasn't very well and had already visited a doctor in Kota Kinabalu for some medicines.  At midnight, she was no better and by 2am, Roger and Astrid had to get a taxi and take her up to the hospital.  She was kept in overnight for tests and observation, Astrid staying with her while Rog returned to the boat.  Today, Rog went to the hospital while Astrid stayed on the boat.  Although the marina has now officially closed, management are allowing us to stay for a little while and the pile driver is waiting for a new shipment of piles to arrive, which could take five or six days and means that it is peaceful here now.

02/09/11  The hospital, as a result of Leah's blood tests, now think she has contracted Dengue Fever (I know what that is like!) and are keeping her in until her high temperature subsides.  Roger and Astrid are doing shifts at the hospital, but we do all have an hour in the mornings to have coffee together and another hour late afternoon to have something to eat.

04/09/11  Leah is still in hospital.  The doctor's wanted to discharge her yesterday but Roger and Astrid were having none of it.  She is clearly still not well, hasn't eaten or drunk anything for days and is still on an intravenous drip.  The yacht Alice arrived this afternoon with a few engine problems, nice to see them again and have a chat, I last spoke to them in Port Said, although their were in Hurghada at the same time as me as well.  I guess that for the moment "I'm living next door to Alice!"

06/09/11  With Leah now out of hospital (yesterday) and Roger's autohelm repaired, we are now free to leave Labuan.  The current plan is to make a short trip to the Klias Wetlands - a 20 mile upriver trip before going to Muara for a couple of days and then heading north to Kota Kinabalu and beyond.  However, we will stay here for a couple more days and stock up with a few cases of beer.  I've now caught Roger and Astrid's cold and feel rough!

07/09/11  Finished the scrubbing of all my upholstery this morning and refitted the covers to the seats, stowed away my couple of cases of Tiger Beer and a few bottles of Bacardi and Vodka.  I didn't fall for the temptation of the cheap single malt whiskies!  Alice sailed just before mid-day having fixed their overheating troubles.  During the evening, we all went ashore and walked to the Jolly Roger - a bar we had discovered which did very acceptable western style fish 'n' chips!

08/09/11  Once more I was awoken with rain coming through the open hatch just after 2am to the accompaniment of thunder and vivid lightning flashes.  After breakfast, I cleaned the log impeller and the engine raw water intake strainer before going to the shopping mall and buying last minute bread, eggs etc., paying my marina fees (very cheap), topping up the fresh water tank, doing the last of my washing and having a shower.  It was in the shower that I noticed droppings.......rat droppings!!   Great, just what I need when about to sail, a bloody rat onboard.  Funnily enough, I thought I had heard something rustling the night before and had shone the torch into the area from which the sound came, but had seen nothing.   Along with Storm Dodger, we slipped at 1515 hrs and made out to the NNE, heading for the Klias Wetlands by following waypoints provided by the Skipper of the ferry Wawasan Perdana.  The charts show depths of just 0.3 metres on the approaches to Sungai Klias (River Klias) and my newly functioning depth sounder showed the depth under the keel to be 0.8 metres at the lowest point - so it was a little nerve wracking until we were across the bar and into the river mouth proper.  The depths then showed 10 metres as we passed the village of Menumbok and anchored close inshore for the night.  On anchoring, I set my rat trap in the heads, just behind the toilet bowl and baited it with cheese.  I also baited two of Roger's cages with apple, putting one on the shower floor and the other in the after cabin.  I then got myself a beer and sat in the cockpit to relax.  Before I could even get half way through the can of beer, I heard the sound of a trap springing and bingo...........one rat with a broken neck!!  It was obviously hungry and fancied the bit of cheese, well, it's not hungry now!!   Disposed of the body and sat back to enjoy my beer even more.

09/09/11  After a very peaceful (but hot) night at anchor, we weighed at 0830 and because of the ideal calm, windless conditions, both Roger and I decided to calibrate our autohelms by swinging the compass, checking deviation and making compass alignments.  An hour later, we started our trip up river towards Kota Klias.  I should explain that we have no charts for this and the C-Map charts on the chartplotter only show minimum detail for a part of the river, so it was going to be a case of Mk 1 Eyeball for the entire 25 miles upstream.  The river meanders through a torturous series of bends  with palm lined banks for the first two thirds of the distance, then the landscape changes to trees and mangroves.  We found the deepest water on the outside of each bend but as the tide was ebbing, this was also the strongest current against us (and the longest distance!).  About three quarters of the way to Kota Klias we came across another yacht - the Savanah - anchored mid-stream and we exchanged pleasantries with the skipper as we squeezed by.   It was the only boat we saw for the entire voyage up the river.   At 1630 we reached the limit of our journey, low power lines across the river prevent any yacht travelling further and Rog dropped anchor on a bend just past the visitor centre.   I turned around and rafted up alongside Storm Dodger for the night and we all had dinner and a couple of drinks as we listened to the sound of the jungle around us.  There was no moon, just total darkness and drizzle!

10/09/11  Woken by the sound of monkeys fighting, I made my first coffee and sat in the cockpit from 5am and watched the dawn break and the trees come alive with a variety of birds.  At six o'clock, the first troop of Proboscis monkeys arrived in the trees closest to the boats and sat munching leaves.  By 9 o'clock there were dozens of them on both sides of the river.  Both banks of the river are only a boat length away from us and we sometimes brush into the lowest of the trees as the boats swing around the anchor, so we have a really good view of the monkey antics.  A couple of hours later, we fixed Rog's 'big' engine onto his dinghy and all went further upstream beyond the power cables, to explore the narrowing river there.  Crocodiles up to 5 metres long have been seen in this river, so we were keeping a close look out for them!   During the afternoon we decided to go by road into Beaufort, a small town inland from Klias.  Once only accessible by railway, there is now a fast road into the little town .....but no taxi's or buses!  So we thumbed a car down and cadged a lift into town with the driver of this clapped out heap, paying him ten ringgits for the ride.   There isn't much in Beaufort, just a few of the usual shops and a small supermarket, so we didn't stay long before returning to Klias and the boats.  The people of Beaufort however, are extremely friendly and wanted to chat to us as they clearly do not see many Europeans in this part of the world.

11/09/11  This evening we had a BBQ onboard Storm Dodger - just before the downpour of rain which totally blotted out our view of the International Space Station passing directly overhead.  Trees close to us looked as if strung with Christmas lights as the fireflies tried to attract mates.  Small bats swooped silently between the boats, just quick flashes of wings in the glow of the cockpit lights.  This really is a great spot to spend a few days.

12/09/11  This morning, I again sat in the cockpit and watched the dawn break.  It was so still and quiet, mist rising from the water as small wading birds looked for breakfast at the waters edge and a troop of maybe 30 or 40 small grey monkeys picked leaves close by the boat stern.  But all good things come to an end and following three tranquil and peaceful nights of resting, we started to make our way downriver just before 2pm, using the ebb tide to quicken our passage.  I think all of us were a little sad to leave this spot and we all think it was well worth the trip up the winding river to see the wildlife.  We had decided to break the 25 mile journey downstream into two parts and just a couple of hours later, after passing John and Shiela onboard PFN going the other way,  Rog anchored in an open straight part of the river and I again rafted up alongside for the night.

13/09/11  Despite the openness of the river at this point, and the banks lined with Nipa Palms, we still saw monkeys in the early morning.  Getting underway again around 2pm, we continued our passage downstream to our original anchorage off Menumbok where we again anchored and rafted for the night.  (some photo's of the river)

14/09/11  On our way again by 0845, making our way out to sea.  We were over the shallowest part of the bar by 1015 and into deep water again, setting course for Brunei and the port of Muara.  Our arrival there was on an ebb tide which made entry somewhat slow - keeping my genoa out for extra drive up the channel and into the harbour.  We anchored off the Royal Brunei Yacht Club at 1630 and went ashore for a meal in the club, where I ran into Barry (New World) from Miri.

15/09/11  This morning I weighed anchor and moved closer to Storm Dodger so the dinghy rides would not be so long.  We later went ashore and thumbed a lift into Muara where we met Pat and Tony (Full Flight) who are on their way back south, before all catching a bus back to the yacht club for dinner.  A heavy downpour then trapped us in the club for some hours but fortunately we did have a few drinks in our rucksacks with which to pass the time!

18/09/11  Spent the last few days relaxing and enjoying the pool and the good food in the Yacht Club.  Full Flight left this morning on their way to Miri before heading back to the Langkawi area.

20/09/11  A disturbing event occurred this morning.  Yesterday, Roger and I organised our fuel delivery to the yacht club and because of darkness, we left the jerry cans at the root of the jetty and covered them with tarpaulin for the night.  At around 8am this morning, another yottie helped himself to 80 litres of Roger's fuel and became aggressive when challenged by Roger.  To some extent, we can understand theft by the locals in some of the poorer countries, but to steal from a fellow yachtsman is simply despicable.  We were later told that the same guy attended an earlier buffet dinner in the club, where he and his crewmate not only enjoyed the dinner but then stuffed their bags with food to take back to the boat, and left without paying anything!  Again when challenged, he became abusive and claimed the food was terrible and that he and his crew had been ill all night.  His reputation is also known at the local dive school.  This sort of behaviour from another liveaboard has left a sour taste in our mouths.   Should any other boats in this area encounter the catamaran Sharkbite, be on your guard......you have been warned.

24/09/11  We've visited Bandar Seri Begawan twice during the last few days.  The pariah mentioned above has returned to the anchorage and I've discovered a major problem with my gearbox!  Engagement of forward gear has become intermittent, refusing to engage more often than not.   I changed the gearbox transmission fluid this morning in the vain hope that would cure it, but no such luck.  I suspect a major internal failure, probably the selector springs or forward clutch plates.  Whatever the fault, it is a big set-back for me and one which will entail the difficult removal of the gearbox - I'm not even sure if it can be done without first removing the engine.  The associated problem of course is getting the boat to somewhere safe to do the work.

26/09/11  Roger and I took Storm Dodger to Labuan on a visa run, while Astrid, Jordan and Leah stayed on my boat and at the yacht club.  Our crossing there was very rolly in quite a big swell.  After three hours in Labuan, we started off back at 4pm, only to turn around again a half hour later in 30+ knots of wind, torrential rain and a heavy sea, re-anchoring off the ferry port until things calmed down a little.  We arrived back in Muara anchorage around 10pm.

27/09/11  After much discussion and head scratching, the plan is to order a new gearbox from the UK and have it shipped to Brunei, then change it whilst at anchor (if it can be done!).  The alternatives were to go to Labuan (no marina there now) or returning to Mira against the prevailing currents and winds under sail alone.  Removal of the gearbox for repair would not make economical sense - I can do it, but after ordering spare parts from England (and probably not getting everything needed) the time and cost factors involved in a total strip down and rebuild  are simply not worth the effort.  On a boat...if it's not one thing, it's another!!  At least we haven't had the tornado suffered by yotties in Lefkas, Greece.   Internet remains a problem, it's very slow!

29/09/11  Helped Roger to remove his windlass and take it ashore for overhaul - the motor had been playing up and was on the verge of burn out.  Because of communication problems - slow internet connection and no mobile phone (mine is Malay and too expensive in Brunei), getting the information needed for correct gearbox ordering is proving somewhat difficult.  It's a stressful time too because of being anchored in  what is known as "lightning alley," - so called because of the amount of lightning strikes hereabouts.  Once I start to dismantle the transmission, I will have no way of rescuing the boat in the event of a storm sweeping through the anchorage.  Lack of direct sunlight has also had a marked effect on the state of the batteries and the fridge is constantly shutting itself down through lack of power.

30/09/11  Happy Birthday Angie!   With Roger's help, I think I've managed to identify the damper plate required for my engine and also locate a gearbox in the UK.  It's now just a matter of confirming everything and getting the parts shipped out - another huge blow to the cruising funds!  

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