Wednesday June 15
The breeze was in and we were off by 0600. Switched off the port engine to continue on with just the Starboard. Engine didn't sound right so went and checked. Shouted for Lea to turn it off. Back in Kuching I had closed the seacock to clean the water intake of the leg. Bugger! I had forgotton to open it so no raw water. Exhaust lines and plastic water trap were still ok thankfully. removed the impellor which was by now just a stump and fitted a new one. Flushed out impellor bits from the heat exchanger and all was good again. Could have been a clip for the film crew but they were too slow to get organised and I was too quick with the repairs. Same with the sail hoists, all happened too quick for the boys. Hopefully as they see the pattern in our activities they wil anticipate and get the footage they want.
Nice sail under Main and Screecher broad reaching at around 7knots in 9-10 knots of breeze. We had 40Nm of sailing with only a few headsail changes. We quickly passed through the rest of the fleet with only Esoterica keeping up close to our speed. The weather became more unsettled as the day progressed. Many dark clouds and rain squalls about.
The southern entrance to the Rajang River is huge and it took us some time to reach the neck of the river. Lea saw a couple of the native dolphins with their very small dorsal fins and short flat noses. As we ran out of assisting current we pulled into our anchorage and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon. Lea was filmed making dinner which she found a bit uncomfortable.
River has crocs so no swimming. Very hot on board so we had a genset hour with Aircon to have dinner. Awol our tecnician made his first appearance after hibernating in his cabin all day.
We arrived at Sarikei late morning and anchored in front of the police jetty.
The wet market was just accross the road and had beautifully fresh fruit and veges. We bought a few things we couldn't get in Kuching. Enjoyed a lunch with Peter and Cathy off Katani at a local Chinese servery. Peter was wanting Malaysian food but as it was Ramadan nothing was available. We had a wander around this 5th largest town in Sarawak in the heat. It was a bustling place. The food bazar for the evening break fast was busy preparing and we bought a few delicious samples. We dont think Saikei gets many western tourists as the people were all very friendly and keen to have a chat.
Just before we pulled up the anchor a tug was manoeuvring a big empty barge off the jetty and into the now strong ebb flow. We held our breath as it went past Gemini Lady at a scary angle to the contolling tug. Other members of our fleet had up anchored and moved out of the way. We still had the film crew ashore. They came back with Pizza's from the local Pizza Hut Restaurant. Lea was a bit put out that they prefered this to her very special Spag Bol. The tug driver did a great job handling his barge in the confined tributary into the main river.
Back 13Nm down river with the ebb flow. Umbraluna, Esoterica and ourselves stopped opposite Tajung Mani while the others continued on to the river mouth. We anchored and set up the Dragonfly and IPad to survey a possible route through to the north. The boys set up 2 Go Pro cameras on the dinghy and we set of with John and Karen in their dinghy. Initially we had a bumpy ride with wind over tide but then a wonderful 8Nm ride through well defined river channels with good depth and lined with lush Niah Palms. We passed a couple of fishermen camps, logging barges and dredges. There was one shallow spot that would need high tide but the uncharted branch was 20m deep and nice and wide. Lea and I had bets before the final corner about the presence of the bridge.
Yep! There it was! Obviously only recently completed. The sat pictures showed the approach ramps but no bridge. Bugger!
Back at Gemini Lady we headed back to our previous nights anchorage, using the last of the ebb tide and twilight. No option now but to exit the southern rivermouth and try again at the central entrance. The other boats planned to take the outside route to the Palau Patok anchorage which was the stepping off point for the overnight run to Miri. Pizzas were good!
Friday June 17
70Nm of motoring with only occaisional headsail assitance and Lea was bored. We came out of the southern entrance of Sungai Rajang and in the central entrance to Kuala Belawaithen up to Betang Belawai. Dark ominous clouds were following us.
We worked our way north through the channels and came out into the large river running down to the northern entry. Heavy rain and squalls cut down visability.
We turned right further inland heading for the little town of Daro. We finally found a Longhouse but 2 other yachts had just visited so we thought another would be an imposition. It was also getting on into the afternoon and the ebb current was with us. We dodged a vehicle ferry and its matching pair and then found ourselves in a mass of floating logs and debris.
The approaches to Daro looked very shallow and satellite pictures showed it was inland a bit up a narrow chanel. We googled Daro and there was not much to be found there. The film crew were keen to go in as they had got little for a story so far but Lea and I decided against it and continued on up to the anchorage at Patok Island. A number of boats were there ready to head off to Miri with the morning tide.
Relief to turn the engine off and relax with a beer. Not a very succesful trip but we did navigate stretches of the delta that few yachts have done. We had worked the tides well and been on sheltered waters during a couple of big squalls. It was also interesting that the other group that had taken the ouside route to the anchorage had had a horrible day with squalls, adverse currents and no useful wind. They had a 10NM head start on us and we still arrived at the anchorage 3 hours before them.
Minor panic from Lea when a bat found its way into the bathroom and took up residence on her towel.
I gently wrapped it up in the towel and released it outside.
Awol emerged again for food after spending all day in his cabin watching the Batman Trilogy movies.
Saturday June 18
I ordered a 0430 start to make the most of the tide current and ensure our arrival at Miri Marina,187Nm away, near high tide as the marina entrance is very shallow. Lea was not impressed and after agreeing to pull up the anchor she went back to bed. The Main went up at 0700 and we continued on in unsettled conditions. A squall line was moving our way. We watched boats infront of us disappear into the blackness. Radio reports came back of 14 to 24 knots. The Main came down. We got over 35knots with lightning and thunder close by. We shut down all unessential electronics and crossed our fingers as we motored through the storm cell. Visability through the torrential rain was zero so we were on instruments and radar only.
Lea pulled out her swimming goggles to keep the stinging rain out of her eyes.
The film crew secumbed to sea sickness and were immobile. The evening pitch darkness finished off Naz and he could not eat his dinner even after a day of fasting.
He lay comatose in the cockpit getting soaked by the rain before we convinced him to go down to his bunk. A couple of seasick tablets knocked him out and he slept like a baby. I forgot to close the Saloon door and the floor got soaked from the driving rain which didn't impress the boss.
Sunday June 19
At 0230 I heard something hit the starboard hull and scrap along it. I immediately pulled the motor into neutral but felt some resitance so I turned it off as well and called for Lea as we came to a stop. Lea had just got to sleep after the 0200 change over. With torches we went out into the rain and found we had hooked up a fishing float anchored to the bottom. I suspected the line was around the prop. In the pitch black we tried to reach the main line and cut it to free us but it was too far down. At least it was relatively calm and the rain had flattened the seas. We tried to winch the line up but there was too much pressure on it. I ended up tying myself to the Screecher sheet and getting in the water and duck diving to cut us free. I got the main line cut and we drifted free but I knew there was someting still attached to the prop and Lea thought she could make something out underwater with the torchlight. We continued on with the Port Engine but the steering bias and the loss of speed confirmed we were still dragging something.
Again the film crew slept through the drama.
Dawn was calm and once there was enough light we stopped the boat to investigate the starboard propellor. The current was strong so we put out a safety line and I dived down to the prop and found this.
Lea thought the rope might be usefull for a new dinghy painter as it looked brand new.
The breeze filled in during the morning and we ended our long trip with 5-6 hours of exciting downhill surfing in 18-25 knots SW, 1 reef in the Main and half a headsail. The half headsail was only so we could see underneath it and dodge the many trees, logs and other debris in the water. Lea stood on the bow up to her ankles in white water as we surfed up to 12 knots on the waves, pointing out logs for me to avoid. The camera crew did manage to get some footage this time.
We arrived safely in Miri Marina late morning with the tide just on high making the bar crossing easy. A group of local Laser sailors was out racing and one capsized right in the entrance channel in front of us and couldn't get up. We had to circle a few times while he got sorted. Naz kissed the ground on arrival.
Lots of Rally boats to catch up with and cleaning up after the trip was made difficult by the ongoing rain, squalls and a sand storm from the construction site nearby. At least it was cool though.