Borneo Chapter III

It is always so good to get away from cities…………..we have left one and are heading now up to haul out Nepenthe. The haul out is 100 miles from the surveyor. Go figure.  We had two glorious days of sailing to reach the little town of Kudat to haul out. There is a nice resort and golf course here, and the haul out for fishing boats. We have now met three cruisers who are here, coming down from the Philippines, all loving their time up there.

Silly us, thought we would come out in an organized fashion at 0800 and proceed to start working. As long as we are out the bottom will get another two coats of anti fouling paint. We are now scheduled for 10AM and actually got out by 1130, which is lunch break. The power wash is not til 4PM by which time it will be all dried on. BUT, the good news………….labor is realistic and “Ishmael”, the good painter is going to do our hull with us. This is an absolute first for Jim and me.

The boat they hauled just before us was a huge Asian junk. The travel lift is more than adequate for us. It is four times the size of any we have been hauled on before; we look like a little toy.  There are four slings for the front and four for the back. We had to tie the back ones together for us so as not to bend our prop shaft. . The language factor came to play when we were locating just where to put the aft slings so we did not have a recurrence of a bent prop as we did a couple years ago. That was a drama! Jim was saying NO NO stop   awash (careful in Malaya)……….and finally took his shirt off and plunged into the well with the local man to see for himself under water that the straps were right. I was so proud of him. What a man. We are now parked next to this fishing boat……….Jim is picking away at the hull. You should see this, well, I shall send a picture. They have not used cradles here, or stands…………….just huge concrete blocks (four foot cubes) with wood wedges. Nepenthe was appalled, and needed a bit a reassurance. I was so dreading working in this heat in this sand box yard………and now I have a little head key that is to our toilet/shower room, yes one room for all this that is about 3ftX3ft………..and Ishmael coming in the morning to help us with the hull. This is civilized. We found out that there is an over abundance of rats here, nighttime they love to visit. If you do not want a visit, you lower your ladder at night with a rope, which attached to a nylon fishing line. They cannot climb fishing line, or so we are told. In the morning, you bring in the line attached to the rope and then pull up the heavy ladder.  Of course, bathroom emergencies in the dark are not so easily dealt with.

Aug 8. Survey is done! That was painless. This yard is really well run and we were impressed with the management. Kudat is a little town that we enjoyed while we waited for the survey results and the final communication with the insurance company.  We had to wait out a bit of weather here, gusty squalls and rain. South of us they really got hit, 50 kt winds in the gusts and 30-40 for over an hour. This repeated for three days. We all stayed close to the boats, as there is a lot of trash and plastic bags on this bottom. Not easy sleeping these windy nights. With each squall we jump up and are ready to start the engine if we drag.  We are in this little “pond” and there is NO dragging room.  Our last squall hit at 0230 in the am. We heard the wind coming and it hit us at about 50 kts, just a sudden hit which knocked us over 40 degree, blew the dingy up across the stern, tipping the gas tank over. One sun cover canvas torn and gas floating in the dingy. The next day was
totally taken up repairing the results of that one gust. All this took 9 days and we finally got away…….back to the islands and fresh air and breezes and no mosquitoes!  I slept in the cockpit the first night, just to feel the wind.

It is now August 18. We have met up again with Skedaddle Again, our Aussie friends.  The joint decision, I must say it was consensus and not my first choice………was to skip the Philippine island that is SO close to us and just do a 3 week easy lazy snorkeling circumnavigation cruise around this Banggi Island that lies NE of the tip of Borneo. As you can tell, there are no bad options in this life. That will give us time to enjoy and not be rushed, and make it back in time for a land trip to the big river on the east of Borneo, and perhaps a closer look at Mt Kinnabalu.

What fun this is to have 7-10 mile days and snorkel and relax. We have found the water turbid but coral variety has been excellent.  We even snorkeled the mangroves at high tide. What  an  interesting place that was.  It’s own little eco system.  We saw the seed pods and hanging roots. Actually several types of species right in this little place.   Eagles flying over head and some bats at night and monkeys on the beach! Amazing tranquility.  We found one little town and tried so hard to get a bus to do a few hours of land travel, but “sorry, no bus”. We did buy fish from the local man and had a feast at this café, where they prepared our feast. Great cooking!
We have really now over extended ourselves………………two weeks and 8 anchorages with the longest passage between them of 10 nautical miles. This is cruising slow mode.  We found this little group of 4 islands on the NE corner of Banggi that have  sand beaches  and coral patches surounding them .  Eagles watched us and fishermen passed and waved.  This group faces the infamous Sulu Sea, home of the Phillipine pirates. The nearest Phillipine island is only 16 miles away and we spoke with two fisherman from there. One proudly showed us his catch of fish. In his boat were these bottles that were filled with something ?  and attached to a stick. He agreed, that these were “boom boom” bottles. The dynamite!  Now, we were curious, but did not ask for a demo of course. We wondered, how it all works.  Do you throw it up…….how long is the fuse.   How often are they injured with this system. These are illegal obviously. We hear this “boom”  most every day and do see patrol boats, but the two do not seem to coincide well in their timing. Wonder if they are ever caught?

Most of these  people do not speak English of course.

We also saw several 40 ft boats with little cabins that seem to house what we are calling sea gypsies. We think they live on these little boats and fish and what not. Moms and dads and grandpa and kids. They stop by without the social hello and indicate by using their hand to mime putting food in their mouth that they want food. The one we gave rice, and he seemed perplexed by it, it was brown rice, not white. Another did not really know what to do with pencils and paper for the kids. Interesting. No goodbye or thanks, just off they go. We felt sort of like the soup kitchen, or rice kitchen  I should say. They seem friendly and happy and not at all threatening.  

On one island we found a turtle head!  Then several places where we could see that they came up to lay eggs in the past day or two. Also we found a fresh turtle shell. They must eat the eggs and the turtles that are protected here. This is a marine park!  Oh well……………..nothing we can do except grieve their lack of awareness of their actions long term.  When you live day to day at the basic need for food and shelter, it is hard to think futuristically  and ecologically?

It is amazing how weather runs our life. We went for what we thought was a day stop and ended up there 4 days in a “blow”.  That just meant that we got to explore the bay a bit which is always fun. The sea eagles are so grand to watch, and at the next island we found an abundance of frigate bird. There were 200 one evening soaring at their great heights socializing we think. You can not spot fish from that high, and none came down. These  are the birds that love to go after someone’s else’s food rather than work for their own. They seem to mate for life, and when mating the males have this large bright red pouch that expands in their neck to attract the females.

It is now , as I write this, September 7. Six weeks and we will be back in the States. How eager we are getting to see everyone again and catch up with your lives. Today we were gifted this incredible moonrise………….out of the clouds rising over the mountain. A gift.  This coast is grand, mountainous with ridge after ridge, seeming forever. No wonder there are so many dialects, you could live within a few miles and not be able to get there it seems. The only flat part is the ribbon along the shore, rocks and sandy inlets. The bays are shallow but we have managed to find little anchorages tucked behind rocky outcrops that look on the chart to be islands. This last bay had a family of turtles that came up to briefly to breathe and check us out.

The weather has been mostly good. Days are great, it is the nights when the squalls come, about every other or at least every third night. Thunders and lightning and the winds of 20-25. Just enough to get you up and watch the anchor and find your foul weather jacket in case you need to “man the helm” in a hurry. What a disruption of sleep. That is when we remember the joy of living ashore, when you just go to bed each night and not worry about your house leaving it’s foundation. Jimmy, I must say does most, if not all, of the worrying about this. There is just not enough room on a small boat for two to worry over the same thing, it clouds the energy fields. I find my own little worries that he then does not need to bother with.

Nautical flimsy: the origin of the word Posh, as it, “ that was a posh hotel”. Sort of English phrase.  It started in England, with the passage bookings to India. The staterooms that had the less sun and heat were Port Out Starboard Home.

Origin of the word starboard   The old Norwegin sailing vessels were long and narrow and had a steerboard to steer with that was placed on the right side.

We took jungle cruise by land over to the  east side of Borneo. A combo land and river trip  for 5 days. Marvelous wildlife. These great hornbill birds……………the national bird and so elusive. Now  we finally saw them!!!!!  So many………. we had to stop counting. They have these large casques on top of their bills. Beautiful.  We also got so close to the pygmy elephants, well we saw  where they were about 8 hours ago…………but they evaded us.  We were so lucky to see three orangutans in the wild. The guides spot them and quietly pull the boatover to shore and we sit in awe at this magestic creatures. The guides were so incredible at spotting all this. Three river spotting cruises and a hike around one of the many  oxbow lakes. And…..ate and ate and ate. The food was too good.  After we got back from there we took our last adventure. A train ride through a gorge. We rode first class, on the flat bed car. What fun…………..feeling and smelling and hearing the ride. Bounced our joints around a bit, but worth it.

We had this hotel at the top of a huge hill with a great view and a toilet that worked twice in two days. It was a bit on the edge.

Our visit to the Agriculural Center and Research Station was fun. Learned about orchids…………..native plants…………..gardens of the world. What a neat 3 days.

Now we are back at the marina and checking the weather. Looks like a good window in two days to make our escape and head south to Miri and then……………………..US of A!

We are on the countdown to return home…………………and making lists and one box is packed. A bit early, but excitement rules the day.

Look at the fall colors for us…………………wee you soon.

Loving you all Jim and Carol