Wednesday August 10

Not a great weather day with overcast skies and enough wind to make exploring by dinghy uncomfortable. The morning Sked included a report from Ian off Songbird 50 of an unidentified boat loitering close to the fleet near the shallow pass .Songbird was on watch, saw the boat and shone a big spotlight on it and called ESSCOM. The response was immediate and the boat was shooed away. The boat came back an ESSCOM escorted the boat out of the lagoon.

We met Sazli on shore with Jamilah to finalize our dive and snorkelling bookings. 1000 MYR for 2 days. 6 dives for me, snorkelling for Lea, lunch and transport to and from Kapilia and Sipadan. Nearly the whole rally group ascended to the top of the Caldara. Only a 600m long walk but climbing 180m along the way. The tourist boats from the mainland had begun to arrive around 0900 so the track was a bit congested. At the top the sun came out and we got some good photos..

Our fresh food supplies were getting low as we hadnt realised there would be nowhere to resupply fruit and veggies between Sandakan and Tawau. We had expected to visit a few villages with markets. Kerryn and John were getting a bit frustrated with some of the less cooperative fleet members so we paid them a visit for a good debrief and vent. We ended up staying for dinner.

Thursday August 11

We had the 0400 to 0600 watch and were glad we did. The wind came in hard from the WSW putting us all on a lee shore. Some boats found themselves too close to others and had to move. This is a big deal when 80m of chain is out. The WSW side of the lagoon is open so the fetch allowed the sea state to build significantly causing some of the monos to toss and swing about considerably. We were very happy to know we had 85m out and a well set anchor in good sand.

The wind didn't settle until daylight and rattled a few tempers. The 0800 radio Sked was very lively. Some boats wanted to leave immediately. Others wanted a vote on going. John our XO remained a calm voice of reason, giving everyone a chance to be heard but delaying any immediate reaction until a possible move had been discussed with ESSCOM. Any decision was deferred as we still had time to leave that afternoon.

When the waves and wind had settled Lea and I went ashore to run up the mountain. Lea did it in 11.32, I did in 12 minutes flat. After a quick descent Lea did the climb again in 12.32. Once was enough for me. Lea just finished her second descent when the tourists began to arrive.

Not a brilliant day but the 1100 decision was to stay and review the situation tomorrow morning if we had another blow during the night. The main concern was that most of the boats would be left unattended all day for the 2 diving days. If a move was to happen we wanted a day to make sure the boats were well dug in. The good news was that all the micro storms seem to happen at night. The forecast showed moderating southerlies but they don't predict the micro storms. Reality is that we are all dug in well here and none of the other achorages are perfect either.

We took the dinghy to survey the southern entrance with the Dragonfly.


Then north to explore the shallow passage through the reef there but we had left our run too late into the ebb tide so not enough depth to cross. Enjoyed a good snorkel on the reef S of us and found a Moray Eel sticking its head out of its hole and a few pretty bat fish.

It was a perfect afternoon and most people enjoyed it and were glad they had stayed.

Friday August 12

A nice peacefull night had calmed the fleet and on the morning sked John was firm on the decision to stay here stating the advantages clearly. He made it clear that anyone leaving would no longer be supported by the rally or ESSCOM. A vote was taken and 100% agreed to stay, although some needed an awful lot of irrelevant words ramblings and stories to say “yes”. The hot heads from yesturday had cooled down and seen good sense.

The sun was shining and the wind was light so we mounted an expedition over to little Palau Mantabuan through the north passage. About 10 dinghies went to this lovely island. We walked around it checking out the 2 Sea Gypsy villages and the Army Camp complete with sand bagged machine gun emplacements. No Photos allowed.



The snorkelling was average but the crystal clear water very refreshing as the temperature rose. A few turtles were seen in the distance. We went back and snorkelled a nice wall under some steep cliffs

Plenty of protection around

That afternoon we had dive gear serviceing aboard Gemini Lady. Shayne off Champagne Charlie had offered to check and service everyones regs and BCD's. Nearly everyone with dive gear took the opportunity

We had quite a crowd aboard.

Had John, Kerryn and Sazli over for dinner.

Saturday August 13

Only half the fleet were doing the day trip to Kapalai. We organized all our gear and took it over to Songlines 3 then stowed the dinghy. Lindsay came round to pick us up so that no dingihies were left in the water all day. The fast boats arrived and we all piled in from Songlines 3 and Esoterica. The hour long trip to Kapalai was bumpy and smelly due to leaking spare fuel jerries.

The island is hidden behind an impressive waterfront hotel with long, high broadwalks surrounding the reef and linking the rooms. The rooms had fabulous views out over the reef.

It was bedlam for a while as we split into 2 groups of divers and snorkellers but eventually we got it all sorted.
Lea dissappeared off snorkelling while we had our dive briefing.

The visability wasnt great but Lea loved it and had the camera to record swimming with turles. The coral wasnt spectacular but lots of interesting fish life and turtles. Her highlight was a group of 6-7 massive Wrasse, slowly swimming past her looking like something from the dinosaur age.

Our first dive was Mandarin Valley right in front of the resort in 18-20 metres. Wooden structures had been built underwater and had become a fabulous marine habitat. I had trouble with a leaky mask but saw my first nudibranches which amazed me with their brilliant colours.

Our second dive at the Cleaning Station was a reef wall dive but the poor vis created by the storm a couple of days ago made it less spectacular than the first but sighting a few sharks and a big crocodile fish was exciting. Lea' second snorkel was cut short by stingers in the water. I was very glad I had my full wet suit as it was quite cold down 20m.

Back in the boats we went accross to Palau Mabul for a very average lunch at Uncle Cheng's Restaurant. Hoping to find better vis our third dive was at Lobster Wall off Mabul. Lea's snorkelling was great with lots of turtles and her first nudibranch. Lisa off Champagne Charlie lent Lea her spare googles and snorkel. These made a huge difference and in her words “made the day extra super”.

A flatter ride back to Bohay Dulong had John and I nodding off. A great day and tomorrow should be even better.

Sunday August 14

George, one of the young boys on Allure, suggested a dinghy taxi service for the fleet to meet the fast boats at the jetty. The deal was 10 MYR to deliver and return 2 people and their gear. This created its own difficulty as to do all the boats would take nearly 2 hours. We elected to be first pick up so the we could run the mountain again. Others, realizing they would have to wait on the jetty for some time, cancelled. Goerge and Luke with help from Xavier off Windkist plus the loan of a dinghy from Athem Aus did a great job but also learnt that you just can't please some people. It also showed up some people as not prepared to put themselves out to support the boys in this great commercial maths lesson.

A bit slower up the mountain today but Lea still did it twice although she rolled her ankle on the second descent. It was a good social time on the jetty prior to pickup.

All loaded onto 4 boats today as all but 2 of the 29 boats were going to Sipadan Island. It was a nasty, bumpy trip for over 90 minutes, pounding into the 1m southerly swell at 50kph. Needed a few stops to clear plastic bags on the twin 200Hp Outboards.

We went ashore at Sipidan to register. Sazli and the chief of Tourism Sabah, Mr Adlin, had gone to great trouble to get us permits for this visit. Only 120 people are allowed on the island every day and it is booked out well in advance. The island has an Army post here but there is no accomodation on the island. It is a true seamount rising up out beyond the continental shelf making it a unique environment. ESSCOM's presence was comprehensive with lots of boats and armed troups about. Some troups as part of Mr Adlin's security detail went diving with him.

After a welcome speech and briefing we went back to the boats and headed out.
Not wanting to miss out Rod off Psycho Pus had Heather use a condom to keep his finger dry. The stitches were holding well.
Lea had another fabulous day snorkelling and taking lots of pictures underwater. The diving was great too with much better vis than yesturday. First dive was at Coral Garden then back to the isalnd for lunch. Swimming and diving amonst the huge school of jackfish on the second dive/ snorkel at Barracuda Point was amazing.
Huge school of jackfish with a few huge GT's underneath.



Another fabulous day! The trip back was much smoother and we were treated to a whale breaching in the distance and dolphins doing huge leaps and tail dances. We arrived back to find our budding young entrepeneurs had set up a stall on the jetty selling cold beer, popcorn and chocolate fudge. The beer went down really well while waiting for the dinghy service and was a great finish to our stay in the lagoon at Bohar Dulong.