Friday August 5
Sleep in and pancakes for breakfast then 1000 departure downstream to visit the “Oxbow Lake” a dead end section of river created by floods altering the course of the River. We anchored in what looked like a good position but this time Dream Maker 2 anchored a bit too close to us. Relaxed for the early afternoon before heading up the narrow overgrown entrance to the lake. Brief stop where some other tourist boats were stopped. There were 2 wild Orangutans in the trees near the river bank.
Lots of Lillies in the water.
Back at Gemini Lady we found that a few logs had started the formation of a dam around the bows, bridle and anchor chain. Dream Maker 2 looked even closer. So after clearing the log jam with the dinghy we up anchored and moved to the other side. This proved a good move as we were out of the path of the logs coming from upstream and we had a troupe of Proboscis Monkeys in the tree nearby.
Saturday August 6
Along quiet river journey winding our way to Dewherst Bay. The final bar was a concern to some of the deeper draft mono's but the shallowest we had was 2.6m on a 1.4m tide. The fleet is all back together now and ESSCOM has an impressive boat presence along with shore based police and military outposts.
We were back on watch from 2000 to 2200.
Sunday August 26
Another boring motorsail 26nm to our next anchorage at Evans Island. Trying to keep the fleet in a tight bunch is hard work. Nerves are frayed, tempers short and stupiid questions over the radio the norm. The slow boats still don't get away early to be at the front of the fleet, then remain slow refusing to burn more fuel to keep up. We are heading into the hot spot danger zone now where the last kidnapping took place. Some of the early arrivals had not gone far enough into the estuary to ESSCOM's satisfaction so they were asked to move. More grumbles. Our XO, John from Esoterica handled it all well and showed amazing patience with some of the recalcitrant boats.
We joined Songlines 3 and Esoterica for a dinghy trip to the nearby fishing village.
Karen and Sharon handed out some clothes to the mums and pencils to the kids while we had a look around with our armed escorts.
These little boats are called ” Water Pump” boats. They are actually powered by water pumps so are like jet boats. Very small and can travel over shallow reefs at high speed. From January 2017 these craft will be banned in Sabah as they are considered a security risk. Basically ESSCOM can't chase them.
The people were friendly, the kids were cute and plentiful and we purchased some eggs from the village shop.
Monday August 8
We were woken by rain at 0400. Within minutes it was torrential and the wind came in at 35 knots. We soon suspected that we were dragging but it was difficult as boats were swinging wildly and vis was poor. The instruments went on and the motors started. The Chartplotter told the dragging story once it fired up and we motored forward as Lea tried to get the anchor up. Unfotunately, we couldnt get the anchor up and seemed to be dragging Anthem US with us. We had dragged back and picked up their anchor. We couldnt raise Jack and Jan by radio so we sounded the air horn as we struggled to pull both boats away from the other boats. We learned later we had come very close to Anthem hitting Ambrosia. Still swinging wildly across the channel and coming very close to Champagne Charlie, we managed to gain ground towing 27 tonne Anthem into clear water. Jack and Jan eventually surfaced on deck and with their motor running and the wind and rain easing we got the situation under control. We discussed our options over the radio and agreed to let out our chain and manoeuvre down along side them and raft up. As we did this our anchor bit in and held both boats. After succesfully rafting up Jack was able to pull up his anchor with no trouble. This was a huge relief for all of us. All was calm now so we agreed to stay rafted up and enjoy a nice cup of tea.
While we were dealing with our drama others were having a bad time as well. Our Odessy dragged through the whole fleet fortunately not hitting anyone. Esoterica dragged sideways and ended up across the bows of Psycho Puss. Disentangling this mess resulted in a severe laceration to Rod's finger. Dean off Dream Maker got his dinghy in the water and got Marie (a nurse) off Allure over to Psycho Puss once all the wind and rain had passed and everyone was sorted. She cleaned the wound but called on me to come over to stich it up. I got all my gear together as Dean came over to pick me up. We were comfortably rafted up to Anthem at this stage.
Rod's wound was bad. Down to the tendon on the palm to finger joint on the left ring finger. With Marie assisting we cleaned and debrided the ragged cut. The tendon was clearly visible with only a slight nick in it. Rod still had full functiion and only some numbness so nerve damage was minimal. After injecting lots of local anaesthetic to the area I put in about 9 sutures and pulled it all together quite well. Only the third time I have stitched skin and it was hard to control the shake in my hands. Bloody tough stuff skin. I enjoyed a good stiff bourbon while the girls bandaged it all up.
Our planned early start for the big leg around the horn went out the window but we did get away by 0700. Psycho Puss had more problems as there was something wrapped around one of their propellors. Shayne off Champagne Charlie volunteered to dive and remove it once out in clear water. Shayne soon had it sorted and we were off for the longest leg of the trip of 64 Nm.
After such a vengefull storm we now had very little wind, a broadside swell and current against us. It was a long painfull day of motoring. Some decided to tack out once the breeze picked up to 10 knots from the south but we worked out the maths on expected speed and VMG and decided it was a waste of time. Even sailing at 7-8 knots our VMG against the current would be nowhere near the 5.0 knot convoy speed agreed. We needed both motors just to make headway against the wind and current later in the morning. Those that tacked out went well away from the bulk of the fleet and close to Phillipine waters causing much consternation for ESSCOM we found out later. Its was a shame the Malaysians are so polite as these yachts needed a big serve on appropriate respect for those looking after them.
We had agreed on a 3 x 3 Nm box along the coast but some idiots went out to sea over 5 Nm. We picked up a plastic bag on the port saildrive and the temperature alarm went off. Initially we thought it was the bilge alarm and Lea at the helm failed to notice the red temperature warning light as she was busy taking photos of the ESSCOM helicopter that came over. The warning light was also obscured by our boat card with our phone numbers to call in the event of an emergency while we are not aboard. The result was one very overheated port engine and exhaust system plus a shredded impellor. While sorting all this mess out I burned my leg on the red hot exhaust manifold. Ouch!! I had real difficulty getting out the shredded impellor but eventually that was done, a new one fitted and the heat exchanger backflushed of all loose impellor blades. I tried a few ways to clear the raw water blockage. In the end we stopped the boat and reversed with the starboard engine. Whatever was wrapped around the port leg fell off and water flowed freely again. Port motor was back in action hopefully with no serious damage.
As we rounded the cape the wind followed us, staying on the nose. Very frustrating but we did manage to get the sails up 10 NM before the anchorage and enjoy a great close reach for the last 3 Nm, just keeping ahead of Kiwi Coyote who was gaining slowly but surely.
Back to Psycho Puss to check on Rod's hand then flagged over by Phil on Rendezvous who was having trouble with his anchor winch. Soon diagnosed that the internal gears were stripped and arranged with John off Esoterica to come over early in the morning to help manually lift his anchor.
What a day!
Tuesday August 9
4 ESSCOM boats patrolled the open roadstead anchorage al night. We had the 1200 to 0200 watch in nice calm conditions. The communications with the ESSCOM commander and patrols has improved and we are feeling well looked after. John is doing a great job as XO and trying hard to get the message through to the fleet of the importance of staying close together but its a bit like herding cats. All good intentions vanish with a hint of sailable breeze.
John and I had a date on Rendezvous at 0615 to get his anchor up before the rest of the fleet. Lea had the Main rigged and the bridle off ready for my return. We were away on time but the breeze didnt cooperate so it was another motorsail of 30 Nm into a light breeze. At least our watertanks are full. We passed this Navy base located on a jack up platform in the middle of the Bay.
The lagoon off Palau Bohay Dulong was gorgeous with plenty of room for the 29 boats to anchor in 20m of water. The lagoon was eay to navigate with a midday arrival and the sun shining. The reefs stood out a brilliant green against the dark blue of deeper water.
Some misinformation again. We were expecting a resort and restaurant here but no only a research centre, a tourist jetty and a maritime police station. There was a great walk up to the top of the ancient caldera.
I spent the afternoon diving on anchors with Shayne and Lisa off Champagne Charlie and Dean off Dream Maker 2. I did 3 x 20m dives. It was good to dive again to renew my confidence after the mask squeeze episode back at Tioman Island. We have 2 big days of diving planned here at Kapilai and Sipadan both rated as world class dive sites so I wanted to be ready.
Ended up back on Gemini Lady with Adrian and Carman off Aussie Anthem. Lea stretched the spagbol to feed all 7 of us and a good night was had.