Semporna to Tawau

Monday August 15

Thankfully it didn't rain last night and the decks were dry for our visitors. We had sent the other cats, Kittani and Esoterica off to Semporna early to set up for the med style anchorage. Semporna had closed the fish market and cleared the seawall in the inner harbour for the day for our use. Peter off Kattani had been shanghaied by John and I to “volunteer” to be docking master.

Gemini Lady had been asked to host the VIP's and come into the harbour in a procession of the other 23 boats. We rigged the Main and had everything squared away and shipshape before our guests arrived. We had Sazli (Sail Malaysia), James Khoo (Pangkor Marina), Dr Adelin (Sabah Tourism Chairman), Boner (Chief of Sabah National Parks), Tourism representatives from KK, Mr Chang and Jamilah (Our dive trip organisers) with Jamailah's infant daughter and cousin Nan. Moque of the film crew also came to film the day.

Dr Adelin' security team had a drone up and hovering nearby for most of the trip. Sazli bought some Roti Cheni to cook up for breakfast.

Our 85 m of chain came up ok and we hovered around until Rendezvous had been helped to raise his anchor and the last 2 boats anchors lifted clear. Lea and I put full sail up for a nice reach across the lagoon. The engine was back on at the turn out of the lagoon and it was a motorsail the rest of the way into Semporna.

While I piloted the boat Lea worked the crowd while they enjoyed the scenery and together with Moque got breakfast prepared.

The leading boats were having a lot of trouble anchoring in the inner basin. There was no swinging room for the cats so they anchored outside and went in in dinghies to help set up Kittani against the wall as the key boat. For a while things didn't sound promising over the radio so I got together with Sazli to work out options “b” and “c” in the event we failed to get the fleet into the inner basin. After much difficulty, due to poor holding, Kittani was anchored and tied back in centre position quickly followed by Esoterica next to her. Sakata was then positioned at the inner end of the wall. The fleet was then stacked in 2 at a time either side of Esoterica and Kattani with Peter directing traffic and maintaining the order he had worked out to stagger the masts and rigging in the event of a blow. Dinghies directed the dropping of anchors and crew on the seawall took the stern lines and made them fast. It soon became a slick operation. There was room for us but we had already anchored in 30 m outside and didnt want to haul it all up again. Our guests had been picked up by the security boat.

Dr Adalin, Chairman of the Sabah Tourism Board, full of energy and enthusiasm.
Moque, the cameraman, part of the family now helping with breakfast.
Mr Cheng of the dive shop, with Tourism lady from KK, James Khoo and Boner ,Head of Sabah Parks.

Lea, Sazli, James, Mr Cheng, Dr Adalin and one other I can't remember.

Peter off Kittani organising the mooring. He did a fabulous job. The locals loved it too and many came out to watch as the boats were progressively moored up.
Once we were settled we dinghied in to the huge floating pontoon and set off to explore the town. The market area and waterfront behind the town was a bit grotty and we were saddened to see this large manta ray being chopped up for meat. We managed to get a some fresh veggies and fruit to restock the diminished larder.

We returned to the boat quickly to drop off the new supplies then back to the pontoon for the official welcome ceremony.

As usual the costumes were stunning, especially that of Peter, the chief of Police, who met briefly out at Sipadan. His head dress with the skull of a Rhinocerous Hornbill was superb.

After the welome ceromony, speeches and traditional dance we wandered around the displays set up in the town square. The Army was there and I got to try on the standard kit. Bloody heavy I can tell you and I stilldidn't have the untility belt with water and spare ammo.

Next we were bussed out to Bukit Tengkorak or Skull Hill. This was originally part of a huge ancient volcano and was the largest pottery making site in SE Asia during the Neolothic Period. We wandered through the museum displaying skeletons found here thousands of years old. Up the 610 steps and enjoyed fabulous views over the channel, inland grasslands and distant mountains.

Back to the boat to freshen up then picked up for party time. Semporna had gone all out to give us a party to remember with unlimited local rice wine in many differnt forms and a great feast. Peter our local Police chief was cheekily encouraging the consumption of copious amounts of rice wine. It wasnt half bad either.

We got front row seats for the entertainment. Front row is always dangerous and I was given a microphone and dragged up to join the band with a version of the song “Sailing”. Fortunately because I had had enough rice wine, the audience had had enough rice wine and the sound man turned down my mike gain, everyone thought I was great.

We had the traditional Cninese dancing dragons.

Peter off Kittani and Lea got to try the blow pipe. the traditional Dyak weapon of the jungle tribes here.

All in all it was a fabulous night and the locals joined in for the feast and entertainment. It was a shame we had to move on the next day for the final leg of the Rally to Tawau.
Tuesday August 16
Thought we might get a little sleep in waiting for the fleet to disentangle itself from the seawall but no. The first boat out went past us at 0600 and John and Peter released the lines and got the boats moving with ruthless efficiency. Just as well the preservative free rice wine left nobody with a bad hangover.
The current was already against us and would only get worse so we started to pull up the anchor. The combination of 32m depth and a strong current made the anchor winch really struggle. We tripped the circuit breaker twice during the lift. We had to motor the chain forward then retrieve a few meters at a time as we drifted back. We have decided 25m is our new maximum anchoring depth.
It was a hard slog out of the channel against the current. Red Herring again tried to sail and went out of the security envelope and fell behind. She then blew an injector and had to be towed. The last 10Nm gave us good breeze so we popped the kite for a final hooray and had a blast at 8-9 knots.
The anchorage was dreadfull and our anchor wouldn't hold. We tried 5 times in 3 different places and finally settled in close where we knew it would be too shallow in 2 days time due to spring tides.
Wednesday August 17
The usual squall came through at 0200 so we had a cup of tea waiting until it subsided. Songbird 50 dragged and had to reanchor which we found amusing as they had assured us last night that they were dug in well and ready for 40 knots.
We reanchored again in slightly deeper water. Ashore we checked out the yacht club and registered for temporary membership.
The club has great facilities, just lacks a dinghy pontoon. Fortunately they have a boat ramp which we used. Hard work for Lea but much better than more dinghy damage like at Sandakan. Just had to make sure the little Optimists could get to the water as these went out every afternoon.

Our farewell dinner was only marred by me being asked to sing “Sailing” again with the band. Despite my warnings that it would be bad they insisted. Without rice wine modifying the acoustics and no turning down of the mike gain it was bad, so bad that Lea was photographed by friends cringing. My singing career is once again banished to the the lonely night watch.

Over the next 2 days we got the laundry done, restocked and refuelled the boat and explored Tawau a bit. Enjoyed a quiet farewell dinner on Aussie Anthem with Adrian and Carman together with Simon and Robyn off Kiwi Coyote. Our last night at the yacht club was full of goodbyes. 3 boats were heading back north then on to the Phillipines, 5 of us were heading back to KK. The other 21 boats are joining up with the Sail Indonesia Rally and continuing on. Its been a terrific group and we have made some great friends. We will miss travelling with them.

Its been a great Rally. A big thank you to Sazli of Sail Malaysia for organising it and all the towns and areas that have welcomed us. A special thank you to the Commanders and personel of ESSCOM who have so diligently watched over us and protected us from harm in these troubled waters neighbouring the Philippine Terrorist Strongholds.


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