Kinabatangan River 1

Tuesday August 2

A very early start was planned with some concern about anchors being hooked up on the fouled harbour bottom. Everyone except Beau Soleil got up ok. They were stuck fast to sometning on the bottom in 7 metres of murky water. The promised Navy Divers for this contingency were nowhere to be found. It came down to some Kiwi ingenuity from Phil on Sagata and help from Brian on Persephone.

A 2 metre length of chain was shackled around Beau Soleil's anchor chain and attached to a tow rope from Persephone. This loop of chain was lowered down Beau Soleil's tight anchor chain and hopefully getting down over the anchor shank. Persephone then towed the anchor out from under the obstruction. This all worked brilliantly and Beau Soleil was free. The fleet was split with a few boats some miles behind.

We had hung back at the rear of the main fleet but once everyone was under way we enjoyed a tight reach with full Main and Genoa. The breeze lifted us above and through the fleet and into the mouth of the Kinabatangan River. The stragglers powered up and soon caught up to the fleet. We had a great if short sail loping along at 8 knots again and were dissapointed that Rendezvous and Kiwi Coyote didn't sail it with us.

The River entrance was straight forward with 3.3 metres over the bar on a 1.8 mtre tide. The journey up the river was an interesting exercise in Rally Protocol with Lea driving and disagreeing with and disregarding my “suggestions”

The river was wide with Nipah Palms lining the banks for the first few miles and slowly changing to trees, vines and elephant grass along the edges. Lea kept her eyes glued to the shoreline hoping to spot wildlife but didnt see a thing. Some boats saw Proboscus Momkeys and others saw a crocodile. The radio was full of chatter and warnings to following boats about logs in the water and overtaking. Ocelot stated the obvious that the water was deeper on the outside of the bends. The annoying chatter further added to Lea's grumpiness.

We finally arrived at our designated anchorage just as the opposing current started to build. The fleet had split into 3 groups each at a differnt anchorage. The faster boats (us) were the furthest up river. We rafted up to Sagata with Court Jester on the other side to make more room available in the anchorage. We tucked in nicely behind a number of other boats who should protect us from logs and debris coming from upstream.

Leslie off Sagata made some phone calls and organised a fast boat trip in seach of Pygmy Elephants for tomorrow. We had a quick explore ashore and upriver with Marrilyn and Ian off Songbird 50. Our ESSCOM escort were enjoying the hospitality at the riverside Warung nearby. Stopped at Kittani for a quick drink and Peter ran a rage reduction councilling program for Lea to vent out her frustrations of the day. I stayed quiet.
We were all invited over for sundowners on Songbird 50 a Lagoon 50. A very impressive live aboard vessel with lots of room and deck space to spread out in and on.
After drinks many went ashore for dinner but we were on watch from 2200 to 2400 hours so we went back to Gemini Lady for an early night. The watch system meant 2 boats were on lookout all night as ESSCOM had indicated that the main threat here was from the shore with many displaced people from the Philipines living on the shores. They have no rights here in Malaysia and are suspect aiding and abetting the Terrorist groups for money.
Wednesday August 3
Up early again to explore a tributary for wildlife. The best times are dawn and dusk.

Peter and Cathy off Kattaini were prepared with their morning coffee in thermos cups.

We saw lots of Proboscis Monkeys, wildflowers and enjoyed the morning trip.

Back to Gemini Lady for a Bacon and Eggs breakfast. Thats the end of our Aussie Bacon.
I spent the rest of the morning fitting the new controller to the cockpit fridge. Have lost count now how many times I have stripped this fridge down. Hopefully this is the last time.
Our fastboat trip was all organised but as the elephants were last seen a long way up river the price went up and the pickup time was earlier. We set off in our open boats with 50Hp motors.
We passed many tourist lodges and boats in the first few kilometres, surprised again to see so many western tourists in the area.
55km upstream we had just about given up on finding the elephants when some excited people in another boat waved us a bit further upstream. Another 2 km upstream we found the herd on the riverbank feeding. We counted 10 altogether, some behind the treeline and 6 near the river edge in clear view. A photofest followed with the tiny calf and juveniles the stars of the show.
We were even treated to a showing of the rare Rhinocerous Hornbill.
After about 30 minutes the elephants began to move away so we headed for home. Lea logged the trip back on her GPS watch at 59 km. we got back just on dusk. A magic afternoon.
The second rally group had arrived and anchored in amongst us. Beau Soleil seemed a little close.

Thursday August 4

The weather bomb hit just after midnight and all hell broke loose in the fleet. The strong current was pushing the boats downstream while the strong witnds were pushing upstream, taking boats up over their anchors. Torrential rain reduced visibility to stuff all. Lots of confusion and accusations of anchors dragging on the radio. We (all of us on our 3 boat raft) had our engines running and ready to respond if required to manoeuvre our large raft about.

Sure enough, Beau Soleil was too close and came spearing in bow first at our port quarter as she rode up on her anchor. Terry and Adi were slow to respond and despite trying to fend her off we copped a crunch on the gunwhale from Beau Soleil's bow. Luckily it didn't hit and bend our railings, just took out a chunk of gelcoat. I suggest politely that they move but this was met with grumbles and denials.

Finally the weather settled down and Beau Solei quietly up anchored and moved away. We could now go to bed.

Walked into the village early to check out the market. Enjoyed some Pancakes, Samosa's and deep fried Pisang (bananas). Took the long way back to the boats for some more exercise.

Back on board and with the boat all dry I investigated our wound from last night. It cleaned up ok with minimal damage to the underlying glass. Went to my gelcoat container only to find it had all gone off. Also picked up my bottle of MEKP hardener only to have the bottom fall out of it spilling most of it. I did manage to rescue a little of the MEKP. On the morning radio sked I asked if anyone had gelcoat. Many had repair kits but Rendezvous had lots of gelcoat that looked like a good colour match. Phil had a 4 kg can of gelcoat and a 2 kg can of something else labelled “SP” that he assumed was the hardener. The mix was presumably 2:1. I was a bit sceptical but tried it anyway. The 2 components looked just the same. After half an hour my test mix was showing no sign of gelling so I cleaned it out of the repair site, added a few drops of MEKP to the mix I had left and reapplied. Sure enough it went off perfectly and the colour match was great. I took the opportunity to fill a few other chips and nicks. It took a couple of layers to totally fill the damage but it sanded and polished up well and is virtually undetectable. Figured the “SP” means spray gelcoat. Advised Phil he will need some MEKP as a hardener.

Terry came over to apologise but all was fixed and no problem. Just one of those things that happens when cruising in company.

I went for an afternoon trip to the nearby Gomantong Caves. Lea wasn't interested so she enjoyed some quiet time in the 36 degree heat.

The caves were great but as a tourist destination they needed some development.



The main cave was well set up for viewing but when we set off in search of the other caves we ended up hiking along poorly marked, very strenuous and difficult tracks. Although we didn't actually get lost we were certainly unsure of our position at times. A highlight was spotting a wild Orangutan in the distance. There were a few houses perched amongst the cliffs where the “bird nesters” lived and we asked for directions.

Finished our stay with drinks on Court Jester with our raft crew and a lovely peacefull night.


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