Thailand 3

Sunday January 1

After saying goodbye to Ken and Jess we stopped to admire a lovely looking big catamaran. Turns out it was a Gunboat 66. Chatted to the delivery crew who had just picked it up off the boat from Italy. Nice guys but lucked out on an invite to have a look inside.

As we walked back down the jetty, Liz, off a Seawind 1260 called K'Gari introduced herself. We stopped and had a chat to her and her crew Steve. Liz had picked the boat up new from Vietnam and was slowly making her way back to Australia.

Monday January 2

Big day of cleaning and laundry. The bad weather finally arrived with strong winds and torrential rain. Fortunately it didn't last long but I was very glad we had said no to the first berth the marina allocated us as the waves got quite high and we would have been pounded onto the jetty. As it was we were nice and snug in the lee of a big motor yacht.

Caught up with Parlay and K' Gari for dinner at the “Living Room” restaurant. We were hoping to see the otters again but they didn't show.


Quiet day after a run/walk. Dinner at “Coconuts” Restaurant with Parlay and K'Gari.


Joined Liz and Steve on K'Gari to haul out at Premier Boat Yard. Very slick, professional operation. Very pleasant walk back through the forest and rubber plantations.


Hired a car for the day and went into Matro to re provision. This took all morning then we set of to do some sightseeing.

We navigated our way to the back of Old Phuket and drove up the steep hill. A few tourists and lots of monkeys.

Views were good across the old town and Ao Chalong but obstructed by trees so no good photos. We then drove down into the old township of Phuket. Some nice old buildings but nothing special compared to Malaka and Penang.

The main streets were full of souvenir vendors and thousands of tourists. Found one small park dominated by this dragon statue.

Next we headed for the ” Big Buddha”. He sits on top of a high peak that overlooks the whole of the soutern peninsula of Phuket. The beautifull white stone finish of quartz tiles reminded us of the Sydney Opera House. Chanting was being broadcast over the crappy quality loud speakers. Lots of information boards giving historical information of the Bhuddist Religion. The Statue is still a work in progress and lots of finishing off to be done but very impressive.

We stopped halfway down the mountain for a beer and a snack. Nearby was a company offering elephant rides.

We were caught in peak hour traffic madness and took forever to get back north to the marina. Claire and Stephen arrived at about 2030 and once they were ensconced aboard we cracked a bottle of Champagne. Finally got my sister to visit us on the boat.


Ken And Jess

Monday December 26

Up the hill to a village warung for banana and egg roti then cast off heading back to Koh Phanak to show Ken and Jess the Hongs.

Timed our arrival to get the tide right for the first Hong on Koh Phanak with a paddle through the 200m cave.
Then around the corner to visit 2 more caves and Hongs.
Headed over to Koh Hong in the afternoon and sent Ken and Jess off on the SUP's to explore while we prepared dinner.

Ken earned his keep by scraping off some of the small barnacles that were accumlating again. After 4500Nm and 9 months the anitfoul paint is just about useless.

Roast Lamb dinner and champagne.

Tuesday December 27

Headed south down to Phi Phi Don. Stopped at Koh Phanak to give Jess and Ken a chance to get through another cave but the tide was still too high for them to get through to the Hong within.

Another short stop at Koh Khai Nai. The place was packed with day boats and Chinese tourists. Picked up a mooring but as the moorings are so close together I stayed on board while the others dinghied ashore for an explore and a snorkel. The snorkelling was poor but the smell of BBQ seafood and corn from the food stalls was great.

Continuing south we diverted via Shark Point in the hope of better snorkelling. Hovever, the alleged mooring buoys were not present nor was shallow water around the rocks so we kept on going to the northern anchorage of Phi Phi Don. Lots of bommies around so took a long time to find a place I was happy with in about 16m of water.

Once settled we took the dinghy up to a little inlet and beach to the north. Once again packed with boats and tourists. Had a great snorkel around some sea caves. The tide was a bit high to go in them but good fun anyway.


Wednesday December 28

“Duff Duff” music until 0300 from the waterfront night clubs.

Ken and Jess off for a morning paddleboard.

I finalised arrangements to pick up our engine parts, back at Yacht Haven, after giving up all hope of avoiding the extra tax. Another expensive learning experience.

Then ashore to expore, climb, eat and drink. We also organised a Longtail to take us on a trip around Phi Phi Le tomorrow.

By late afternoon we were ready to head back to the boat but the tide was way out. Rather than drag the dinghy half a mile we had another drink at a waterfront bar.

Back on board we moved Gemini Lady around to Monkey Beach to get away from the direct line of the beachfront speakers.


At first light there were monkeys on the beach so we went ashore to check them out. Lea left a waterbottle in the dinghy and in no time it was stolen by one of the cheeky little buggers. Our longtail never showed up even after I had texted him to confirm the booking. Lea and I took the dinghy in and arranged for another boat who promised to pick us up at 1030.

Our boat arrived on time and we had a fabulous 3 hour cruise with a bit of snorkelling as well.

Red heads and sun don't mix. Maya Beach was absolutely chokkers.

So was the grotto on the SW of Phi Phi Le

While the others swam at Maya I checked out the engine. 4 cylinder Nissan diesel with a small turbo. This one didn't have a gearbox but many of the larger Longtails do. Chain drive onto propshaft and surface piercing prop. Strait out exhaust, and block is raw water cooled.

On the East side we had a brief look at Viking Cave.

The lagoon on the east side was again totally full of tourist boats.

Heading back down the west side of Phi Phi Don we went into a narrow cleft which opened into another beautiful little beach. Also full of other Longtail boats and tourists but not as bad as the other places.

Water clarity was superb and many small fish about.
Back at Gemini Lady I spent 3 hours underwater cleaning off barnacles. Lea and Ken helped around the waterline until the stingers got too much for them. I ended up with a lot of bites which I suspect were caused by sea lice.
Friday December 30
Took the morning breeze and headed north. We had a good 18Nm sail and stopped for lunch at Elixer Resort on the Island of Koh Yao Yai
Enjoyed lunch, a pool swim and wifi. The girl's managed to get their hair washed at the pool shower as well.
Moved up the island a few miles to the next bay.
Saturday December 31
Spent the morning ashore checking out the flash 5 star Resort here for New Years Eve. Bit expensive for our taste and we learnt that there would be no fireworks this year as part of the mourning for the dead king. They were having a band though and from the size of the speakers we decided not to be nearby for the night.

After a bit of a walk we settled at a local restaurant for coffee. The girls organised a massage each and Ken and I discussed his new job and business plans. Ended up staying for lunch. Then moved on into a very sheltered bay a bit further north in anticipation of a bit of a blow.

The blow never came but we enjoyed a good night opening a bottle for each time zone as another year rolled in.

We celebrated NZ and then East Coast Australia before we signed off for the year.

Sunday January 1 2017

The expected strong winds never came until we got back to the Marina and had to get Gemini Lady into a tight pen with a 20knot crosswind. I'd declined a berth on the outer side of the easternmost jetty as it was too exposed so we were given this awkward pen instead. The marina had an RIB ready to push if we got into trouble but we got in ok. Said our goodbyes to Ken and Jess. They were great to have aboard and even impressed the water Nazi with their frugal usage. (4 people, 7 days, 400l)

We had live music (well Jazz anyway) most days as we travelled from place to place.


Thailand 2

Saturday December 17

The first fast boat arrived at dawn, then a slow stream soon became a flood by 0830, so we left. Phi Phi Don is just like the postcards with magnificent scenery and a hundreds of boats scurrying around. Restless M was already there at anchor so we arranged to meet for lunch as we dinghied past heading for the shore.

We walked through the busy town and headed up for View Point before it got too hot. Fantasitc vistas of the isthmus.

Back in town we explored the harbour on the southern side and the restaurants, bars and venues on the northern beachfront.

The longtail boats are very pretty and heavily built.

The motors are generally 4 cylinder turbo diesels. I can't quite work put how the long shafts are lubricated. Some but not all seem to have reverse as well.
Apparently the area used to be famous for sailfish. Not so many now but fishing charters are still successful here on a catch and release basis.

There were also a few photos about showing the devastating results of the 2004 tsumami. It has all been rebuilt and is as frenetic as ever.

Sunday December 18

Early start for a great sail to Ao Chalong to formally check into Thailand. Anchored an went to check in. Had given up on the online checkin website earlier but the office girls were great and we soon had it done. Then found I had forgotten my wallet and that there were weekend surcharge fees. We were committed now so went back to the boat for some money. Texted Restless M about the extra charges and advised them to wait until tomorrow to check in. Finally got it sorted and $50.00 AUD poorer we headed off in search of lunch. Should mention here too that every time you withdraw cash from an ATM in Thailand you get hit with heavy fees. It costs about $20.00 AUD to make a cash withdrawl. Better to change money at one of the many exchanges.

Errol and Claire joined us for lunch at a roadside cafe. Very nice then we trekked off to the Yacht Club for a very pleasant Sunday afternoon drinking beer, cocktails and listening to live music. Met a lovely British Couple, Andrew and Irene who holiday here every year.

Stopped at a battery shop on the way but no AGM batteries. Researched on the WEB and found some at Boat Lagoon (BL) at $520.00 About $200.00 AUD more expensive than the same ones in Australia. Beggars can't be choosy so I emailed BL re stock and texted Andrew re driving us to BL tomorrow.


After getting confirmation that the chandlery had batteries in stock Andrew and Irene picked us up for the drive to BL. Traffic was very congested due to lots of new roadworks. It was great to pick up some local knowledge about the area. Got the new battery ok and had a look around the marina. Very nice but with so much concrete and being a bit inland it would get very hot. Also had a quick look at Royal Phuket Marina before heading south again for a late lunch.

Dropped in at the big wholesale supermarket cslled Mattro. Great selection of food so we stocked up. Big thank you to Andrew and Irene for helping us out with transport. Getting to and loading up the dinghy was a bit of a challenge with a 34kg battery but we made it. Back onboard Gemini Lady the new battery was installed in no time.


Started to head north for our rendezvous with Ken and Jess at Yacht Haven Marina on Christmas Day. Our first stop was only 12 Nm away at Koh Rang Yai. It seems to be a favourite with Russian day trippers. Noce lunch and a lazy afternoon. By 1700 everyone had left and it was very peaceful. We reglued the fins back onto Lea's SUP. We are a bit dissappointed with our Red Paddle boards, as all the attached acessories haven't stood up to the UV.


Punched into the fresh northerly wind and headed up to Koh Phanak to explore some more hongs. The tide was a bit high for the west side so we moved around to the NE corner. Very spectacular lagoons and caves but the tide was too high to walk into the best one.

Late in the afternoon we crossed over to Koh Hong and picked up a mooring just outside a cave entrance.


The first longtail arrived at 0630. Low tide at Phuket was at 1100 so we blew up Lea's Sup to explore the deeper Hongs. Still couldnt get into the deepest one as the tide was too low and we had forgotton our shoes. Bought some fresh prawns from a local fisherman and headed back to Koh Phanak to walk though the cave to to the Hong we couldnt get into yesturday.

Enjoyed a bit more exploring then headed up to Yacht Haven with the flood tide. Great facilities at the marina. We ran into Ray and Shaunnaugh off Parlay and they gave us the grand tour of the place.

Spare parts for engine arrived but were sent back as we weren't there to pay duty. Found out thatThailand doesn't honour the usual “Yacht in Transit” exemption for duty on spare parts. We were being asked to pay another 30% or $200.00 AUD. I tried to get out of it by getting the parts redirected to Langkawi but to no avail. Once in the country duty must be paid to get them out one way or another. Thailand seems determined to gouge as much money as it can out of you. Not impressed!

Friday December 23

Big cleanup day and reorganised rear cabin for Ken. Explored the nearby local village and checked out what fresh fruit and vegies are available. Dinner at the “Living Room” with Ray, Shaunnaugh, Mike and Jenny. Entertained by the 2 local otters, inquisitive little creatures that like to gently nibble toes.


Picked up some fresh supplies and dropped our Australian Flag in for repair by the local dressmaker. Measured up for a new sunawning but the only materials available here are sunbrella and shade cloth, both too heavy for our purpose.


Quiet morning before heading up to the marina Deck Restaurant for dinner with Ray, Shaunnaugh, Mike and Jenny.

It was a fantastic spread of western and local dishes with an excellent singer for entertainment. Afternoon siesta followed by a game of Bocce poolside.

Although we were still full we went to the Living Room for a light dinner and more otter fun.

Ken and Jess had no trouble at the airport and arrived by Limo at 2130.


Thailand 1

Monday December 12

With wind against us we motored out of Telaga heading for the Butang Islands 25 Nm to our NW. We chose the south side of Koh Lipe to anchor. This was our first introduction to long tail fast boats ( should be called long tail noisy fast boats as they have no mufflers) and crazy crowded tourism.

The beach was broad and beautiful with nice clear water. We anchored well out in 23m of water and put out 60m. of chain then went ashore to explore. We found “walking street”, a narrow pedestrian way lined with bars, souvenir shops, dive shops, massage shops and restauants. It was buzzing with tourists mainly from Europe. Motorbikes with wire sidecars provided transport and deliveries. We walked all around and got sorted with a Thai Sim card and another new snorkel for Lea.

An early dinner introduced us to the delight of real Thai food, so fresh and aromatic. As much as we love Malaysia the Thai's win hands down on food.

Back to the boat and we find a large catamaran “Delaware” anchored very close to us. Who knows why when he had the whole bay to choose from. We tried to get their attention but they wouldn't respond so we put the dinghy back in and went to visit. Our request that they move, as they were too close, was basically ignored with that all too familiar arrogant inconsiderate attitude we found frequently in the Med. In fact the captain stated that anchoring this close in the Med was normal. Knowing the type (he had 40m of chain out in 25m) we gave up, figuring it would be him that dragged if the breeze came up. We probably should have moved but my stubbornness and self rightous tendencies occaisionally get in the way of a smarter decision. However, I'll balance that little admission with care and concern for our beloved anchor winch which works so hard on our behalf.

Our neighbours promptly abandoned ship for dinner ashore, returned late, noisy and drunk, then proceeded to party on into the early hours. We derived small satisfaction from the fact the captain was watching closely and keeping the music volume down as we had drifted quite close in the calm conditions. So he couldn't relax. Obviously our smugness came at the expense of a good nights sleep. Timely reminder that the density of assholes sailing the Med is significantly higher that SE Asia.


We got through the night and left early. The traffic here doesn't really start in earnest until 0930. We had picked up a mooring at Koh Bulo and enjoyed a snorkel before the hoards arrived. Coral was average and only a few fish about but conditions weren't ideal.

Moved on to Ko Rawi to hide from the NW wind. Restless M was there. We had met Claire and Errol at McGowans Beach in the Kimberley May 2015.

We went ashore and walked through the jungle to the waterfall. The track was a bit difficult to follow. Suspect the many dive tourists here aren't into walking. Not much of a waterfall but it did offer a cooling bath in fresh water which was delightfull apart from the the very mean Horse Flies out for their pound of flesh.

Drinks that evening on Restless M included a piano recital (Claire has a baby grand bolted to the deck), Christmas Carols, sundry other old time songs and meeting other cruising folk. Errol popped the corks on a few bottles of bubbles to lubricate the festivities. A very enjoyable night. I am still a bit fragile after my Karaoke humiliation in Tawau so didn't join in the singing much. Besides Claire didnt play any Meatloaf songs.


Yoga aboard Restless M on the foredeck. There were 6 ladies joining in the not so difficult session.

We decided to make the most of the breeze and headed out. It was a bit of a struggle to get away from the isalnds with wind and current funnelling down to the south. However, once in clear air we had a great windward beat for 35 Nm with the wind backing to the west enabling us to lay Ko Phetra. A nice bonus as we achieved twice the distance we expected for the day.

The scenery has changed and the islands are now sheer limestone karst ridges rising from the sea.

Ko Phetra was very spectacular but the NW changed to a NE during the night and with strong tidal currents we danced around a bit all night.


The flood tide was running strongly north so we left earlier than planned. Starboard engine wouldn't start again. Suspect same issue as before. Motorsailed up to Koh Muk arriving just on high tide. Had to wait for the tide to drop before we could swim through the cave and explore the Hong. Pulled out the starboard solenoid and sure enough it was cooked. Only explanation is that the spring return on the ignition switch is not opening the contacts and cutting power to the stop solenoid. Now need 2 new ignition switches and another $320.00 solenoid. Re rigged the string line for engine shutdown and placed an order with Volmag in Singapore for the required parts.

Tha tide was dropping so we had an explore in the dinghy. The caves contain a lot of birds nests and during the harvesting season people live in these huts. How they climb up to the cliff face caves is just amazing.

We checked out the cave entrance to one of the best hongs in Thailand.

We decided boogie boards and flippers were the best accessories for the swim through the cave. Once the tide had dropped enough we braved the other 10 boats and 100 tourists here to enter.

The cave was great and our torch showed up the lovely colours.

80m through the cave into the hong itself.

Spent a while inside. Claire and Errol off Restless M joined us.

Legend says pirates used to store their treasure here. The main treasure now is the unique flora that the special micro climate inside the hong supports.


Next stop Phi Phi Ley.

Looked into the SE corner first and managed to find a mooring.

The little beach was lovely. Continued around to Maya Bay and found it full of tourists. We picked up another mooring but some dive boats followed us in and crowded us on other moorings. The yacht on the best mooring in the bay left so we pounced onto that mooring. Well, we went to pounce on it but the engines wouldn't start. Took me a little while to remember that I had disconnected the house battery to prevent overcharging. Once this was reconnected the engines fired up no problem but I had just discovered my engine start battery was buggered.

Ashore we explored and found the track to the southern side of the island we had just come from.

A walkway and net allowed tourists to climb down to the water and swim out to their boats.

As evening came many departed leaving us with a more peaceful ambiance on this magnificent beach.

No restaurant here so back to Gemini Lady for front row seats of the sunset.


Miri to Langkawi

Saturday November 12

We arrived safely back at Gemini Lady after a long 19 hour day of travel. All ok onboard and not too hot, so very pleasant after the chill of Melbourne.


Rented a bomb for the day and started the reprovisioning. Fillled the jerries with diesel to top off the tanks.Price has gone up while we were away. Diesel now 65 Aussie cents per liter up from 50.


The weather was not great for leaving so had time for a big job. We decided we would replace the loose bathroom window so, as we had the car until 10.00am, we headed into town to try to find some acetone. Wasted 2 hours as none was to be found. Decided what we had was enough so got into it. This was a window we had done back in Darwin. The Fixtech 200 had failed in tensile and never seemed to cure properly and we found it quite sticky inside even after 18 months. This is the second window that has failed with Fixtech 200 and as our glass has to be bent and twisted a little I don't recommend it as it is too weak and soft. Roger from Lightwave Yachts had recommended we use Dow Corning 995 so we had returned from Aus with 10 tubes in our luggage.

We prepared the area like a Dexter scene with plastic everywhere to keep the old sticky sealant off the decks. The old Fixtech came off pretty easily after we cut the window out with a wire. While Lea cleaned up the glass I prepared the boat surface. I ended up grinding the fibreglass back a bit to create a flatter surface. The glass hides a multitude of boat building sins but I didn't fancy re fairing the whole area.

After getting everything ready we waited until the sun just went down to commence the reglueing. From the time we opened the first tube to pushing the window on was 10 minutes. The frenzy was needed to avoid the sealant skinning before we bedded it all together. All went well and after clamping it all we covered the window with black plastic to keep out the sunlight and then a tarp to keep it shaded and cool.


Morning run then a walk into town with a few things on our shopping list. We found some “Super Thinner” which had been recommended as an alternative to acetone. Lucked out on a new barrel for the lock of our new safe and also couldn't find any decent cheese. Picked up some greens and headed back to the boat. Lea reckoned we had done over 25,000 steps.

I pulled out the dodgy battery switch for the house battery and it fell apart in the process as it was all melted internally. We suspect this was another hidden consequence of the lightning strike. We had bought 2 new ones back from Aus so replaced both just to be sure. Set up Lea's new can crusher on a board so she can stand on it for stability.

Finally got to catch up with Michael and Sally off Tramp for drinks. We had just missed them about 3 times previously. Great to catch up with them but we were exhausted so declined going out for dinner and crashed early.

Wednesday Nevember 16

Poured with rain all night but stopped for my morning run/walk. Lea did a Michelle Bridges workout. Treated ourselves to a “massage”. Something got lost in translation and we didn't get the full body massage we were expecting. We got a foot massage and reflexology treatmeant instead. A bit different but very pleasant and we both felt like we were walking on air afterwards.

Todays boat job was replacing the winch handle holders as the old ones were very sun damaged and unsightly. Sould have been a 12 screw job but no the new holders didn't have the same screw hole dimensions so all the old holes had to be filled with gelcoat and refinished before the new holes could be drilled. So it turned into another 2 day job.

Lea declared war on mould and attacked it everwhere she found it with oil of cloves. Sandfly bites driving us nuts.


Lea too sore to run so joined me for my walk/run. Finnaly getting the boat looking ready for sea instead of a workshop. Party on Tramp and got to meet more of the long term “locals”. Impressed with the friendly and supportive atmosphere within the Marina community.


Walked into town to clear out of Miri at Customs and Immigration. Final supplies purchased and got a taxi back to the marina. Lea got into last lot of laundry while I spent 3 hours underwater on the electric Hookah removing the bags from the legs and props. The bags had done a great job keeping them clean but the growth around the fairing boots was very heavy with oyster shell. The rest of the hulls had to be cleaned of significant barnacle growth and slime. Visibilty under water was about 6 inches so it all had to be done by feel. I found out later that there have actually been croc sightings in the marina. Terrific!

A group BBQ had been arranged onshore and another big turnout. Everyone was super friendly and a few local Chinese and Expats came down to the marina to join us. Met Chai and Li who provided the BBQ and is always ready to help yachties find anything they need. Great people!

Saturday November 19

A cloudy start with rain threatening as we topped up watertanks, washed the mooring lines and then motored out at 0745 just as the rain started. Breeze came with it so we got 3 hours of unassisted sailing in. Then it calmed off again so motor was back on. Lea cooked a big pot of chicken and corn soup to go with the fantastic german bread we had gotten from Ola off Chez Nous. We could see how Miri Marina got the nickname ” the honey pot”. It would be very easy to adopt a local cat and fall into marina life pottering about and welcoming the transient folk like us.

Smooth seas and not as much debris as last time. However, we still bumped 2 logs during the night. The gas fields and attendant shipping were well light but we still monitored the radar intensely to avoid any of the unlit installations and vent pipes we were warned about.


Our half a super moon came up in the early hours and gave us some difused light from behind the clouds. it cleared later to a spectacular display of moon and stars. Easy day taking it in turns to nap.

Lea had a challenging night watch with 3 small fishing boats to weave between. Each boat was hovering near large surface nets that had only tiny flashing lights to show where they were. At least the near miss kept her awake and alert. It was a quiet night with flat seas and some sail assitance to the motor. A surprise increase in the breeze at midnight allowed the motor to be turned off for 4.5 hours as we romped along under Main and Screecher.


Land Ahoy! A pleasant morning motor sailing in calm waters and no traffic. The island of Sarasan appeared lush and mountainous ahead with brilliant white beaches. We had no current visa for Indonesia but thought we would anchor up for a good night sleep before continuing. We tucked in around the western side to get out of the breeze and anchored in 7m over nice clear sand. Not too shabby!

Our first visitor, in a canoe, came over within minutes of the anchor going down. A brief chat with lots of waves and smiles at other canoes and we settled down for lunch and a rest. About an hour later a little power boat arrives with 5 Indonesian Navy officials. They wanted to come aboard and check our papers. They were very friendly and polite. After checking all our papers they issued us with what looked like a 2 day pass and invited us to sleep in their office. There was even a suggestion of a night on the town and karaoke. All formalities done they asked for alcohol. We explained that we didn't drink on passage but were happy to provide them with soft drink. They stayed for about half an hour taking photos and chatting. They were nice guys. During their visit the wind had turned to the SW so once they left we up anchored and went around to the northern beach and found a nice quiet place just off the beach. The water was lovely and clear so we spent an hour cleaning the hull again picking off the barnacles and slime that I had missed in Miri. A good nights sleep was very welcome.

Tuesday 22 November

Comfortable night but with lots of rain and some swell. Went to start the motors but the Stbd motor turned over but wouldn't fire. Initially I thought it was a vapour lock which does happen occaisionally on this motor. I have always assumed due to to latent heat from the water heater. Usual basic bleed procedure to clear it didn't work so we headed off with just 1 motor.

Sloppy seas and a light SW breeze with just enough angle to give us some sail assistance and current against us. I had a few hours lying down and studying all my references on diesel engines.

Figured it had to be a fuel issue so I studied up on doing a full bleed of the fuel system. Later in the day the seas calmed down so I went down and cracked all the injectors and got Lea to crank the motor. Not a drop of fuel getting to the injectors. Bugger! Problem must be in the high pressure fuel pump which put me out of my depth completely.

Fired up the HF Radio and via Sailmail sent an email message to David Spencer, describing the problem and requesting him to contact a Volvo mechanic for any suggestions. While waiting for a response I figured the engine kill Solenoid may be the problem. David came back promptly and he too identified the Solenoid as the likely culprit.

We discussed it all over a few emails and he chased down a Volvo mechanic as well. The mechanic agreed that the Solenoid was the likely problem but thought it strange as they rarely fail.

Meanwhile we were bobbing along watching the skys around us turn dark. Mid afternoon the only 3 entities in the whole ocean converged on 1 spot. Us, a big squall and a large tanker. Stressfull half hour as we got hit with 32 knots and had to bear away across the bows of the tanker with full Main up. The squall was brief and violent and left a lumpy sea. The tanker disappeared into the heavy rain. We motored all night into the breeze.


A few more close encounters with ships as we passed through the Archipelagic Shipping Lanes 60 Nm wide. Its the main route between Singapore and China so always busy. Stil a few fishing boats about as well.

The motor droned on as we pushed into the breeze. We considered heading more north to get a better sail angle but decided to push ahead due west and pull into Bawah Island to work on the Stbd motor. After a long morning we were approaching Bawah as was another large squall cell. Terrific! Just what you need when you have to shoot a narrow gap in the reef with only one motor. We pulled the sails down before the squall hit and motored slowly around toward the Lagoon entrance. We hung back for 90 minutes until the rain cleared.

We had some waypoints and instructions but its fairly nerve racking to approach a reef and watch the depth sounder leap up from 80m to 3.2m (on a 1.9m tide at Tioman) in the blink of an eye. Scary.

Even in grey weather the lagoon is spectacular. High lush hills and beautifully coloured waters surround it. 5 moorings to choose from and lots of workers onshore completing a stunning new resort.

After picking up the mooring and enjoying a beer I was off to the Stbd engine room to pull out the Solenoid. My biggest shifter only just fitted. Sure enough it was stuck in the activated position preventing fuel flow to the high pressure pump. The coil still works but the spring return had failed. Tried to clean it a lubricate the spring but no good and couldnt see anyway to get it all apart. Pushed the pluger back in and refitted. Engine fired up straight away. One new Solenoid needed. Rigged a pulley and line from the manual shutdown lever to the engine hatch.

Emailed Dave with the good news and the job of finding a new one and getting it sent to Langkawi. Another beer in celebration of course.

Thursday 24th

Weather still from the SW so decided to stay another day. Pancakes then into more maintainence. Outdoor shower leaking, Saltwater presure leak and port toilet vacuum leak. Always a list of things to fix.

Then set up the dinghy and went for an explore of the NW lagoon. Tide was dropping so we had to leave that area or get stranded.


Went over to the main jetty and had a chat to the security officers there. Again, they were very friendly and ok with us stopping there for engine repairs with no visa. They said we were welcome to explore the lagoon but there was no invite to come ashore so we didn't ask. Our chat was cut short by another rain squall which developed and lasted most of the afternoon with gusts up to 23 knots.

Lea studied the weather from GRIB files I had downloaded via Sailmail and the HF. Saturday morning looks like the best departure time for Singapore.

I fired up the genset only to find the waterpump leaking again. So my afternoon was filled by rebuilding the waterpump again. Re polished the shaft but found the new water seals that I had in stock a fraction too big so refitted the old one with an “O” ring fitted inside to tighten the seal on the shaft. Had to leave the gasket goo to set for 12 hours so ran Stbd motor to charge batteries.

Once the rain had stopped, late afternoon we backfilled some of the port bathroom window in the high stress points with our remaining tube of 995. Clamps and window all holding well so far.


A still morning so we went out with our iPad and Dragonfly to survey the entrance chanel. Also took the GPS co ordinates of the 2 entrance buoys for the Navionics Community Layer. Checked the weather again and found Saturdays good window was delayed. I wanted to go and Lea wanted to explore more. Compromised on a morning exploration then lunchtime departure so that we would arrive at Singapore in daylight.

Checked in with the security team on the jetty again then off into the larger eastern lagoon to explore. Lea enjoyed a snorkel but the coral was poor and not much fish life. The resort complex is large and well spread out. It is supposed to open in March.

Back on the boat and underway by 1100 on a glassy South China Sea with 140Nm to Singapore.


Good passage with minimal deviations for ships, however, we did deviate south to go around a large electrical storm cell ahead of us. No rain on the cell so it was hard to work out how far away it was. Reassured by the fact that we couldnt hear the thunder. As we approached the convergence of the shipping lanes leading around Singapore at around 0200 the trafic started to build. We were soon in the thick of it thanks to favourable currents with 6 hours of darkness to go.

We were very surprised at how many ships were anchored just outside of the designated shipping lane, miles from Singapore itself. This made it harder to work out which boats were moving, their convergence path and likely future turns to funnel into the lanes. We stayed just north of the main channel which was fine untill we got to the point where vessels coming south down the Malaysian coast wanted to filter in. I find this stuff an exciting challenge but Lea hates it. Did I mention the occasional unlit fishing boats that barely show up on radar adding to the excitement.

We were very grateful to see the sunrise and the tidal current held for us all the way to Raffles Lighthouse. We then had to fight the tide up to the western coast of Malaysia in the Malaka Strait proper where the tide turned in our favour again. Again masses of ships anchored with thousands of containers.

Back in cell range for internet I confirmed the order of the new Solenoid with David. We decided to get it sent to Langkawi from Singapore as stopping in Singapore is a pain both in red tape and financially.

We pushed on to Palau Pisang through another big rainstorm. Lea used this to wash her hair. We had used less than 400l of water in the 7 days. We had decided against recommissioning the watermaker until clear of the dirty water around Singapore and the Melaka Strait.

Finally anchored of the island just before dark. 200 Nm from Bawah and a day ahead of schedule. Still had plenty of fuel so didnt bother with the fuel barge at Sebana.


A Sumatra woke us at 0130 with rain and swell but not too much wind. Every time we have used this anchorage (3 times now) we have had a storm. Boring day motoring up to Water Islands for the night.


A nice peacefull night then a loud call to prayer at 0430 from the island. We waited until 0900 for the tide to change in our favour then headed up to Admiral Marina arriving just before the afternoon thunderstorms.

Great to be on land again after 9 days on the boat. Lea hit the treadmill in the gym. I hit the pool. The rain eased so we walked into town for our favourite Tandoori meal. Topped up with fresh fruit and vegies ready for another early departure tomorrow.


Off at first light and picked up great current 20 Nm south of the Port Klang fairway buoy. This swept us along halfway through the chanel by 1430. As the current turned against us we anchored and waited for the tide to change again. Set off again when the tide turned at 2100 figuring the chanel and the entry lanes should be free of fishing nets. The Port Klang chanel is well lit and we gave way to 2 incoming tankers. The pilot boat kept a close eye on us. We cleared the chanel and headed north. By 0300 the tide was turning again so we anchored on a mud bank and waited for the next tide.

Another day of motoring and hard yards punching into it for the final 15 Nm to Pangkor Marina. Wind instrument died. Tied up and off to catch up with friends. Tikki, Ocean Jaywalker (now Samira), Spruce, Kittani, Aussie Anthem and Psycho Pus. Other aquaintances, La Passerola and Obsession 2. Ben and Belle (Samira) and Andy and Sue (Spruce) were well into major refits. Thier boats were nicely under cover with benches and work stations. They both appeared to be settled into the marina community with cars, apartments and lots of local knowledge regarding local stockists.

After a bit of a chat and conscious we were holding up work we left them to it and joined the Tikki crew for drinks with Peter from Kattani as well. Then we all piled ito Peters car with Sam in the boot and had a great dinner at a local Biryani Restaurant.

Thursday December 1

Starboard hull side washed. The black streaks came off a bit easier thanks to the polish applied 8 weeks ago in KK. The rain here is filthy. It must be the coal fired power stations. Laundry off to Ruz at the marina office then me up the mast to check the wind instrument. No problem found and working again so cleaned the contacts anyway. Lea's need for clean overcame her fear of heights so she went up to the first spreaders to polish the radome.

Borrowed Ben and Belle's car for the afternoon and went off in search of waterpump seals, engine oil, fuel and dry stores. Came back with the little car chock-a-block. Couldnt find any waterpump seals though.

Drinks and Chinese onshore at the outdoor bar while it bucket down rain. A fun night with everyone in good spirits catching up with old friends.


Lea off early for her run. I got stuck into servicing the engines. Lea scubbed the decks. Went part shopping with Peter and Neil. Ended up ordering new waterseals when proprietor promised they would be in by the next afternoon. Great party dinner in Lumut with the marina crowd.


Turned the boat around so Lea could clean the black streaks off the Port hull side. More boat cleaning and vacuuming. Back into town to pick up seals and go to Aeon for final fresh supplies. Belle and Ben over for drinks then dinner at 555 food court with Kittani, Tikki and Spruce.

The marina owner James Khoo was as hospitable and helpfull as ever. The marina is now very full and obviously all James' hard work is paying off. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay there.


Left at 0700 and caught the tide out of Pangkor. Caught up with Tikki who had left an hour earlier than us. They were sailing along nicely. Because our wind instruments were out again we had underestimated the breeze. We quickly got the Main and Screecher out but soon changed to Spinnaker. We had a great 45 Nm sail up to Penang. The wind backed behind us so we pulled down the Main and continued under Spinnaker alone.

We sailed under both Penang bridges with the kite up. Would have been a great photo from the bridges.

Made it to the Junk anchorage just before dark but too late to join Reverie and Evolution NT for dinner. Barrie and Katrina returned about 2000 and called us up. They felt we were a bit close. Marginal but we moved about 30m forward and everyone slept well.


We spent the next 3 days wandering around Georgetown waiting for our Thai Visa's. Un be known to us Monday was a Thai public holiday so the Embassy was closed. We had loved Penang last year when we visited, apart from the lightning strike, and enjoyed getting to know the town a bit better. We used an agent to get our visas save organising transport out to the Embassy.

Lots of street art and fine buildings. A great place!

Lea got a whole new wardrobe of lovely clothes and we both bought new Sketches casual walking shoes. New fender covers, Thai courtesy flag. New Malaysian flag. Shoes repaired by a roadside cobbler. Some great food. A haircut. Safe lock repaired and visited the museum. Even visited an ENT specialist to get my ears checked as we hope to be in the water lots in Thailand.

Thursday December 8

Passports complete with new Thai Visa's we headed north. Waited for the tide but motoring into a headwind. A tanker was heading into port and throwing up a large wake. I checked on AIS and saw he was doing over 15 knots. I could see the wake appoaching as a breaking wave but under estimated its size. I warned Lea to brace herself but didnt think of the open hatches. The result was 2 large waves that broke over the bow and dumped salt water onto both forward beds and into the Saloon. Both beds were soaked through to the matresses. The clean up took hours as the wind came in and we bore away to sail close hauled in about 15 knots. With the hatches all closed it was stifling inside and the motion pretty ordinary. Lea was not a happy camper. I kept out her way.

The wind backed to the NE and lifted us so we could almost lay Palau Paya. When the NE wind finally died down we dropped the sails and motored the last few Nm to the island hoping to pick up a mooring. When we finnaly arrived we picked up a mooring ok and went for a swim. With nice clear water we scrubbed the waterline of the green beard again as well as the Penang scum.

The resort onshore looked lovely with a great beach and roped off snorkeling area

As it got dark the wind swung to the east and increased. This created a bit of swell that made for a pretty ordinary night. At least the mooring held but I was up and down all night to check.

Friday December 9

The easterly breeze was still blowing so we abandoned plans to explore ashore and go for a snorkel. Headed off instead and enjoyed a bumpy but fast beam reach for the 20Nm into Kuah, Langkawi.

Anchored off the dinghy dock near Evolution NT. After touching base with Barrie and Katrina, clearing in was the first priority followed by restocking the cellar. Jabatan Laut was on a long lunch so we headed for the duty free shops instead.

The duty free liquor laws on duty free islands like Langkawi have recently changed in an effort by government to curb illegal trading and smuggling. New restictions apply and passports need to be presented and a database records all your purchases. Every fully licensed shop has a customs official in attendance. We are allowed 5l of spirits or wine and 3 cases (72 cans) of beer each per month.

We bought what wine we could and beer in 650 and 500mi cans. When we arrived the customs officer was out for lunch so the shop assitant advised us that we could probably get more elsewhere as stores with only a secondary license could still sell without restriction until December 31.

Many businesses in Langkawi, and presumably Tioman and Labuan, have been sent to the wall by these changes. Some say its another way the Malaysian Government can “stick it to the Chinese”. Anyway we taxied our stash back to the dinghy dock and sqirrelled it away. Took the dinghy back over to the ferry terminal and completed all formalities for clearing in.

Another Lightwave 38 was anchored close by when we returned so we went over for a chat. Jan and Terry off Ridgee Didge invited us aboard and we had a great chat about all thing Lightwave and cruising.

We hosted drinks onboard Gemini Lady to catch up with Peter and Denise (Reverie), Barrie and Katrina and Patrick off LeBarque. Great to see Denise and Peter again. They had a great 6 months cruising over to eastern Thailand and Cambodia with a land trip to Vietnam and Laos.

Patrick retired early as Elizabeth was sick and the rest of us went ashore for a good Indian dinner.

Saturday December 10

Dropped off the washing. Walked to wet market which was a bit further than I remembered. Fruit and vegies not so good today but we got what we needed. Caught taxi back and visited the International Paint distributor. Got some advice on what we will need when we strip the old antifoul off in Pangkor next year.

Found the little shop that supplies yachties and bought another 2 bottles of gin, 12 champagne for my sisters visit, 2 dozen white wine and 2 more slabs of beer. That should be enough to keep us going for 3 months with visitors. Had fun stashing it everywhere it would fit.

Left the anchorage but found the fuel barge unattended so kept on going to Rebak Marina. Berthed and while Lea started washing the boat I went up to the office. No parcel for Gemini Lady ???? Back on the email for the TNT tracking number but its on David's work computer and its the weekend so Volmag aren't answering. Office girl suggested it may be at the Parcel Post Office back in Kuah.

Lea and I completed the next stage on the bathroom window. The clamps have been on for nearly 4 weeks so if its not stuck now it never will be. All good so we completed the backfilling and edge coving. Came up quite well. Just needs a final clean up in a few days.

Late afternoon we went looking for Mary and Grant off EL Gato who we last saw in Sydney 2014 on there old boat Endurance of the South. They have subsequently bought a Lagoon 44 catamaran and have just completed Sail 2 Indonesia. On the way down we ran into aquaintances from last year who told us to come to the resort reception for the official lighting up of the Xmas tree and drinks. We happily changed course and joined them.

A bit of a speech, tree lights came on, 2 carols were sung then we were free to enjoy a delicious buffet of finger foods with mulled red wine. We soon changed to normal red and white wine and had a great time catching up with Misty and Peter, long term residents of the marina. We didn't need dinner after that.


Lea up at daybreak for a run. I covered and tarped the bathroom window. Bacon and eggs for a celabratory breakfast for completing the 1100Nm passage from Miri. Caught the 0845 ferry and hired one of Mr Dins bombs. No fuel in the tank and the closest servo closed. Made it into Kuah on fumes. First stop after fueling up with 5l was the parcel Post Office. They were terrific and searched the place thoroughly but no parcel for Gemini Lady. Not happy Jan!

Then off to Telaga to clear out of Malaysia followed by a visit to Sailors Meats to stock up on some of Lea's favourite sausages. Just managed to catch the 1230 ferry back.

Checked engines and found a split line on the engine oil pumpout. Fixed that, emailed Dave that no luck with the package then went to the office to fix our account so we could get away early tomorrow morning. Lo and behold they had found our parcel. A miracle!!

Fitted the new Solenoid and all fixed and working again. Emailed Dave and Aldrich at Volmag that all is well.

Still had time for an hour in the pool before catching up with Grant and Mary for Drinks on El Gato and then dinner ashore. Changing to a floating apartment has made all the difference for Mary and her enjoyment of the cruising lifestyle. Great finish to our stay in Malaysia

Monday December 12

Early depature and successfull refueling at Telaga before heading NW for Koh Lipe and Thailand.


Home for little while

Monday October 3

Back on the boat finalising jobs. Up at all hours trying to update charts and software using the generous night allowance of internet data. The service is still not stable enough to allow successful download of very large files though.

By Thursday we were ready to go and our driver, Simon, picked us up at 1030. Malindo Air didn't impress us much at check in but we found out that computers had crashed and staff were doing the check ins via their own mobile phones. After that all went well. A short stop in KL for a meal then on to Bali.

Danni had arranged a driver to pick us up and he was there waiting for us. The roads were terrible and crowded but eventually we turned down this seedy looking dirt track driveway with a tiny sign ” Jungalow Villa”.

It was the right place and we were greeted by Danni and James. Soon got hold little Miss Bailiee before we all headed off to bed.

We had a great few days relaxing and being grandparents. The “Jungalow” was just perfect.

We looked after Bailiee while the kids went off to the wedding.

Lea gave Bailiee her first iPhone lesson.

We we generally just messed around doting on baby Bailiee, who it turns out, is just adorable. Went out for brunch each day and enjoyed fabulous food. Bali had a good vibe and although we didnt get out to look around much we liked it and plan to return sometime.

I discovered I had left my phone at the airport but fortunately it had been handed in and I was able to reclaim it from Airport Security before our flight to Brisbane.

The red eye to Brisbane was good and I got some sleep. Picked up a car and headed straight up to the Sunshine Coast. Spent a few nights with our friends Brian and Marcelle, who we met in the Kimberley last year. Went out to visit Lea's stepson and family at Beerwah. Enjoyed a couple of good walks with Brian around Mooloolabah. Brain cooked up a fabulous feast on our last night. Definately a meal to remember.

Then it was back down to Brisbane to catch a flight to Rockhampton then a bus to Rosslyn Bay. From here we got a lift with our friends Rob and Henma on Easy Rider out to Great Keppel Island for the 20 years of Lightwaves Reunion.

Rough weather had Louise tear up the running sheet for the programme a few times but we worked around it and had a fabulous time catching up with old friends and new from the Lightwave Family.

17 boats and 22 owners attended.

Heather and Steve off Inforapenny 2 graciously accomodated us for the weekend. Gemini Lady won the last Lightwave Regatta and I helmed Inforapenny 2 to victory this time. The race was on the last day and finally we had some nice weather.

The race was close but we managed to stay out in front. “Sweet Justice”, our nearest rival, tacked too early and we were able to see her course made good on AIS. This helped us to delay our final tack just right to nail the last turning mark and head for the finish.
Heather had made “Roger and Louise” Dolls to put out as figureheads as we crossed the line.
Another great weekend!

Monday October 17

Hitched a ride on “Red Undies” back to Rosslyn Bay. Had to sneak aboard early as Steve was pacing the decks, keen to get rid of us and catch the breeze through to Lady Musgrave.

Caught the bus, then the flight to Brisbane followed by the one to Melbourne. Dave picked us up from Melbourne Airport and got us in the car before we froze to death. Anne had a their apartment nice and toasty but Lea still pushed the cat out from in front of the heater and stood in front herself for a while.

Finally back in Melbourne. However, it was another 3 days of catching up with friends and family before we actually got back to the house. We'd had a fabulous time but it was nice to be home for a while.


Mulu National Park

Our 4 days in Mulu NP turned out to be another highlight of our trip this year. The park, in the Karst area of central Borneo, north of Brunei, is very well run with lots of walking tracks and caving experiences at all levels. The only access is by air or river boat. We arrived with no accomodation booked and tried a local homestay for the first night.

This was lovely and Lydia looked after us well but it was a bit too far from the park so we moved into accomodation within the park for the other 2 nights. The bathroom was also a bit to basic for my liking and you couldn't read at night due to the bugs.

We had considered doing the “Pinnacle” walk but that would have taken up all our time. We will come back another time to do that. We started with an afternoon cave tour heading up river in a longboat to “Fast Lane” Cave.

The cave was spectacular and our guide Jasper, who we had to ourselves, was a mine of information. These cave systems are the second longest in the world at about128 km long.

Lots of these fellows around.

Monash Uni was running a field trip at the park and we enjoyed a chat with one of the students over a couple of cold beers before heading back to our homestay late afternoon.

Next morning we packed up and headed back to the park for the 0845 tour to “Clearwater Cave”. Lots of rain overnight had lifted the water level and muddied the waters but the boatman did a great job pushing us upstream beyond where we went yesturday.

First we visited the “Cave of Winds”

Then a lovely walk above the river to “Clearwater Cave” past rock formations similar to the “Pinnacles”

The pool here flows out of the cave and was a great place for a swim after exploring the cave.
The river runs through “Clearwater” and has created some beautiful sculpting.

We walked through “Lady Cave” which branches off “Clearwater”, then a refreshing swim before it was back to the boats for the downstream trip.

Back at HQ we picked up our room key and moved in to our “Rainforest Lodge”.

The room was brand new and lovely.

After a quick lunch we were off again to “Deer Cave” and “Lang Cave”. We walked the 3.8km along the boardwalk with our guide ” Christian” pointing out creatures and plants along the way. We watched this green tree snake for some time.

Lots of the Rajah Brooks butterflys
Lea tried on some “elephant ears”.
“Deer Cave” was massive and very spectacular
Inside the rains had created waterfalls from the roof.
In nearby “Lang Cave” the formations were huge and it's probably one of the prettiest caves we have seen.
After exiting the caves we waited for the nightly bat exit.
We were not disappointed as wave after wave of bats gathered outside the cave exit and then spiraled their way off to feed. Its estimated that about 3 million bats live here.
On the way back the “chirping” was amazingly loud. We eventually tracked it down to coming from these frogs.

Lea had measured our steps for the day and the count was 24,000. No wonder we were tired.

Lea was over caves and especially bats so we went walking and did the 8km Paku Valley Loop. The waterfall halfway along gave Lea the opportunity for a swim.

The water was a bit cold for me.

Headed back for a nice relaxing lunch and a quiet afternoon.

On our last day we packed up and headed out for one last walk via the tree top tower and

Kenyalang Loop.

Then looping back from the entrance to “Deer Cave”.

Back to the room in time for a shower and clean clothes before check out. A fabulous few days.


KK to Miri

Monday September 10

We spent the next 10 days at the Sutera Harbour Marina Resort. For the first 4 days we worked our butts off giving the boat a much needed polish. I enjoyed 3 badminton games with Toby off Simpatica but couldn't get the better of him. We shared the adoption of “Sammy” a very friendly black cat with Ian and Marilyn off Songbird 50. The laundry managed to shrink our woollen underblanket to a 1 x 1m square even though we requested “Dry Cleaning” so we explored the many shopping malls in town to find a new one. Uber provided us with great service and cheap travel around town.

Lea enjoyed the very well equiped gym while I played Badminton. Spent an afternoon sailing out on Songbird 50. Managed to get it going a bit better with altered mainsail trim which Ian and Marilyn appreciated.

Had a great Pizza night on the marina dock using Ian and Marilyn's Pizza stone on their BBQ.

We had been looking at every town for a small front loading washing machine to replace our little Dometic. At 3 kg it just isn't big enough to cope with sheets and towels so rather than repair it again we hoped to replace it with a larger machine. We identified the 6 kg Midea Front loader as the only option as it would just fit through our doorways. We preferred the 6kg LG but that didn't seem to be available in Malaysia or Thailand. However, installing any new machine was going to be a major job, either revamping and taking over a starboard side pantry or rebuilding the entire back wall of the port side bathroom to accomodate a larger machine. In the end I bit the bullet and pulled apart the existing washing machine again and replaced both relays on the circuit board. I also pulled out the dampers which were stuffed. Tried to source new dampers in town but with no success. So I modified the old ones with “O” Rings and grease to provide some resitance, put it all back together and it works beautifully again and much more quietly than ever before. Its not a definitive solution but a lot better than nothing. I'm sure that all sounded nice and straight forward but getting that bloody washing machine apart is an absolute bastard of a job and getting the dampers out even worse. Just as well the bloody thing worked afterwards.

We took Gemini Lady out for sail with Ian, Marilyn and John aboard. In a couple of hours we went through our sail wardrobe finishing with a spinnaker run back to the marina. Fuelled up for the next leg before returning to our berth.

Monday September 11

Very early pick up at 0500 by minibus to drive us to Beaufort Station. John and Karen off Esoterica and John and Ces off a boat I can never remember the name of. Coffee and a snack before hopping on the very old and crowded train to Rayoh. The train had 2 seating carriages and 2 for cargo. All were filled with local people. It was a cheerful if slow and jerky journey following the river unstream. Swap trains further up the line to continue on up river.

Arriving at our destination we walk off the platform down to Riverbug Headquarters and stow our bags. At the briefing one of our German friends gets quite faint and I organize him some more watermelon to lift his blood sugar. The briefing is thorough and includes recovery techniques in the event of capsize or MOB. Our route is about 10 kms of river with 7 sets of large rapids.

The first 2 km is warm and scenic. We get out for a swim and float quickly with the current to the first gentle rapid and bodyraft down it. Our group has 2 rafts with 6 tourists and 2 experiencd crew in each as well a 2 guides in kayaks shadowing us.

Back in the rafts we hit the bigger rapids and enjoyed a wild ride. I was in the front and got thrown out twice. I suspect our helmsman was seeing how high he could toss me in the air by choosing a route over the biggest pressure waves. It was great fun and we all loved it.

Lea swapped places with John just before the biggest rapid. The raft hit a wall of water and the nose went straight up causing bodies and paddles to flail everywhere. I got tossed out again.

There were photographers on the bank at every rapid and we paid 150MYR ($50.00) for a CD with over 100 photos. We shared the cost between the 6 of us and ended up with some fantastic action shots.

Lunch was a big buffet with nearly cold beer available. Quiet snoozy trip on the train.

Farewell dinner with our friends at the fancy Spice Island, Indian Restaurant. 12 for dinner. The food was great but the service abysmal.

Tuesday September 20

Lines thrown at 0700 with farewells from our friends on Songbird50, Esoterica and Simpatica. Strated with a good sail but the wind died and we motorsailed the next 6 hours. A squall line was headed our way and gave us a blast with 18 knots on the beam. This made us a bit jumpy as we haven't had “strong” conditions for ages. However, we did cover the final miles into Labuan Marina nice and quickly.

Wednnesday September 21

Our first job was to get our Visa's extended. Cleared in at Jabutan Laut with no problems, then off to Immigration. Here, they noted our visas about to expire and after clearing us in to Labuan directed us to the main Immigration office the other side of town to get an extention. Here we took a ticket and waited 30 minutes for service. Obviously a visa extention was a bit out of the ordinary for them as there was much conferring and discussion. We were askied if we had a local friend inLabuan who could vouch for us. We said no. This caused more conferring and phone calls. Eventually the officer we were dealing with suggested we go accross to the photocopying shop close by. Not much explaination was given but at the photocopy shop the lovely lady gave us a photocopy of her Malaysian ID card. She had agreed to vouch for us. Back at Immigration with all paperwork requirements now complete we were told to come back after 1500 to pick up our passports complete with new visa extension.

Spent a bit of time researching booze prices before electing to go back to One Stop again to restock as they offered free delivery of both us and our purchases back to the marina.

All stowed away onboard then a tramp back to Immigration to collect our Passports. Then it was back to the Ferry Terminal Immigration Office followed by Jabutan Laut and Customs to clear out of Labuan. On the way back we dropped in some chocolates to the photocopy lady as a thank you. The day was done and so were we.

Thursday September 22

Mornng run, washing and WiFi. Marilyn and Ian off Songbird 50 visited us on their way to Brunei for a visa run. We enjoyed lunch with them in town before their ferry departed.

We had booked a car for the afternoon and enjoyed a drive around the island, visiting the places we had missed on our first visit.

These were on the northern side of the island. Surrender Point was the actual spot where the Japanese Commander signed the surrender documents to the Australian Army Command in 1945.

The Peace Park was created by the Japanese as a memorial to all those that lost their lives in WW2.

The gardens of the Peace Park are beautifully maintained.

A quick visit to the wet market for some fresh vegetables then back to the boat. The sky began to blacken and lightning lit up the Brunei coast in the distance. We shut up tight, turned everything off and retired to the nearby Kraken Bar. Arrived just before the first down pour and enjoyed our beer and fish and chips as the storm raged.

Friday September 23

Up early but still a bit blowy. Settled a little and we made our way out through the hundreds of oil rig tender boats anchored in the harbour. It was a bit choppy still which made it hard to connect the headboard of the Main but once that was sorted we were hard on the wind with motor assist. We reached Jerudong by lunchtime and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon.

Saturday September 24

Up at 0430 in the pitch black to get the best out of both breeze and tide. The anchor winch tripped out and all instruments and lights went off. Not what you need in a tight anchorage in the pitch black with unlit steel poles, rocks and land close by and a nice breeze blowing. Took me a while to sus that it was the house battery switch that had failed. Twisted it a few times and all came good. Did it again before the anchor was completely up but I knew what the problem was now so sorted quickly this time. Battery switch needs replacing.

Eventually under way just as the glow of predawn light showed the outline of the steel poles which seem to be randomly placed in the harbour. Not to mention the unlit steel Vent Pipes offshore. The radar was closely monitored.

Good sailing for the first 3 hours then motor assist required as we need to keep the average speed up today to cover the 80Nm to Miri before dark. Tide gave us some good assistance and we arrived at 1600. The barcrossing was very shallow but no problem and we were greeted by Heather and Rod off Psycho Puss. Drinks aboard then dinner up at the Seahorse Restaurant. Forgot about the sandflies here and we both got lots of bites.

Sunday September 25

After saying goodbye to Psycho Puss we moved into their berth and spent the next few days cleaning and getting the boat ready to leave. The list of jobs included:

Pickling the Watermaker

Flush all engines with fresh water and Saltx.

Tie plastic bags around the legs and props (this reduced the effectiveness of the anode protection so I added an additional anode to the system outside the bags). It was only afterwards that I heard rumours of a croc in the marina.

Double up the lines.

Close all sea cocks.

Raise the boom for drainage.(As it was only for 6 weeks we elected to leave the sails on)

Grease anchor winch and outboard.

Remove outboard.

Cover and tie down dinghy.

And Lea cleaned everything in sight.

We had fun when we went to Immigration to clear into Miri. We were informed that the visa extension we got in Labuan was not valid in Sarawak. He showed us the fine print and sure enough our extension was valid in Labuan and West Malaysia only. Very frustrating as the officials in Labuan knew we were coming to Miri. The officer sent us to the main Immigration office to get another visa extension. Not happy Jan! Its 1500 on the second last day of our original visa and bloody hot! Long walk to the other Immigration office where after much conferring and discussion we were told that they couldnt give us an extension until we had cleared into Sarawak. To do that we had to go back to the first office. Blood pressure rising! Another hot walk back to the first office where the officer knew we were very displeased that he hadn't cleared us in the first time. He wouldnt make eye contact. Probably just as well, as my ragefull glare would have burned his retinas. We think he had already been told off by main office as with just a few grunts he quickly cleared us in. I suggested he provide us transport back to main office but all that got was another grunt as he walked away.

Once more back at the main Immigration office we get the paperwork done. However, the cashier was now closed for the day so we couldn't proceed as we needed to have a receipt for 50MYR from the cashier before the visa extension could be processed. At this stage the officer looking after us took pity on us and offered to help. He promised that if we left our paperwork, passports and 100 MYR with him he would get it all done in the morning ready for us to pick up at 1030.

True to his word, all was ready for us the next morning including an official receipt for 100MYR. I relayed this story to Sazli and posted it on both the Sail Malaysia and Sail Indonesia FB pages to make others aware of this little glitch in the system. Hopefully Sazli can get the Tourism Ministry to put some pressure on government to make the visa extensions valid for all Malaysia.

By Wednesday we were pretty well organised so Lea went online and organised us a 4 day trip to Mulu National Park to fill in the time before our departure on the 6th October


Back to KK

Sunday August 21

Anchors up with no snags and the 5 boats retracing the route back to Kota Kinabalu were soon underway. Esoterica, Beau Soleil, Songbird 50, Psycho Puss and ourselves. No slow coaches or “difficult” personalities here.

A SW breeze picked up slowly and by 13Nm we had the kite up with the full Main. We had the best sail of the whole trip averaging over 9 knots for the next 30 NM to our anchorage on Mabul Island.

While we had no formal escort from ESSCOM we had 3 boats nearby during the day and another 3 made themselves known to us once we had anchored. We kept a loose watch all night figuring between 12 middle aged adults needing to get up for a pee we should have the night covered.

Monday August 22
The swell made the night uncomfortable for the monos and we weren't much better off so we all elected to move on back to Bohay Dulong. ESSCOM was notified of our change of plan and we were off for another great Spinnaker run for the short 23 NM run. ESSCOM pulled up Songbird 50 asking them to head back inshore as they were getting too close to Phillipine waters. We found out later that a few days after we went through another kidnapping took place in this area and another one has occured since then.
We took the route through the southern passage that we had surveyed last time. Songbird 50 and Beau Soleil took the long way. We settled in for a few days R&R. It was John's birthday on the 23rd so we had a celebratory pot luck dinner on the jetty. Lea came down with a bad case of the flu so it was good to give her a few days to rest.
We still managed a couple of climbs up the hill.
We left on the 25th and made our way to Sandakan over the next 3 days. It was amusing at Palau Evans, the scene of the squall that caused us to drag onto US Anthem and Esoterica to hit Psycho Puss, as all boats anchored miles away from each other. Heavy rain one night filled the dinghy and Lea took the opportunity to do the washing as we sailed along. We also caught a nice Spanish Mack that day which we shared with the fleet.
Saturday August 27
We pushed on to Sandakan the next day. 63 NM with only light winds.
Many sail changes and gybes left Lea up to her ankles in ropes
Spinnakers were up and even Songbird 50 raised their micro spinnaker.
They had a tough time putting it away as their sock ring broke and wouldn't slide down to snuff the sail.
Took 3 goes to set the anchor with a big storm on its way accross the harbour. Not very happy with our anchor at the moment and considering going for the next size up. The storm looked very black and angry but only hit us with 20 knots.
Sunday August 28
Lea happy to get off the boat as she is still trying to shake off the flu. It was good to stretch the legs with walk up the hill to Agnes Keiths house to purchase her other 2 books recounting her wartime experience as a POW and her subsequent return to Borneo with her husband to commence the rebuilding following the war.
Monday August 29
Walked to the wet market to stock up on vegies. Lea got a haircut and we picked up the laundry. Then off to the Oranutan Rehab Centre which we missed on our earlier vist here. The juveniles were delightful. The handlers try to keep them off the ground as in the wild this is when they are most vulnerable. However, these kids think this is a great game and as soon as the handlers backs are turned they are gambolling all across the lawn.
Tuesday August 30
A late start waiting for the ebb tide out of Sandakan. Bright sunshine made the Berhala Island cliffs look very spectacular.
Ever optomistic we put up the Main then motored the whole 17Nm to Turtle Isand. We were contacted by a land based surveillance station that had seen Esoterica turn around into the wind to drop her Main.The Coastal Station wanted to make sure that all was ok. Again we were feeling very safe as ESSCOM assets were rarely out of sight.
Wednesday August 31
Another later start to make use of the north flowing ebb tide. Again we had to motor the whole 19Nm to Palau Langayan.
This is a beautiful small island surrounded with extensive reefs and pristine white sand beaches not far from the Phillipine Border. We could not get high res Google Earth pictures of the Island so we suspected a significant military presence. Sure enough this privately managed exclusive dive resort has more military personnel than guests. We noted 2 machine gun emplacements and a radar station. We elected not to take photos of the island for security reasons. The office and reception are out the end of a long jetty built in an octogonal shape with beautiful hardwood timbers.
We had picked up a mooring and then spent some time in the crystal clear water hull cleaning. A few barnacles but not too bad. Songbird 50 was visited by resort staff and we were given a run down on do's, dont's and costs.
We went ashore for a look and paid our 25MYR pp Conservation fee for the day. The other costs were a little unreasonable, we thought, so after a good look around we decided to have dinner on board with Rod and Heather off Psycho Puss. The others had dinner ashore.
Thursday September 1
A grey breezy morning wasnt the best for snorkelling the reefs but we had to go anyway. There were patches of great coral but not much fish life. I was towing the dinghy in the strong current and had soon had enough. Lea joined Adi off Beau Soleil to watch a turtle resting on the bottom .
We left at midday in light winds that gradually built to a pleasant 12 knots. Another great sail under Main and Spinnaker for 10 of our 25 Nm for the day to Jambongan
Friday September 2
The GRIB files were spot on today and leaving early meant that we avoided having to motor into strong headwinds. ESSCOM sent Esoterica some photos of our boats taken by one of the Coastal Surveillance Stations along the way at one of the small islands. Good to know they are watching! The level of protection we have received has been fantastic and with anchoring off military bases most nights we have felt very safe.
We arrived at Karrakit before the NW set in and enjoyed a walk through the village. Pot luck dinner on Beau Soleil as they would be leaving us tomorrow for a haul out at Kudat.
Saturday September 3
Our planned early start was delayed by a search for Esoterica's dinghy which had gone AWOL last night. ESSCOM had been notified and had searched late last night but without success. It was quite choppy already so Ian off Songbird 50 offered his dinghy to go and search at first light. Fortunately the dinghy was found in the mangroves a few NM down wind of us. After a difficult extraction over the reef and a slog into the wind and chop the recovery was complete. It was a sobering reminder just how dependant we are on our little dinghies in these remore areas.
We rang the dads for fathers day as we suspected we would have no phone service tomorrow. After some discussion about the weather we decided to slog across to east side of the cape and anchor up well protected from the strond westerlies we were experiencing. So off we went bashing into 16knot headwinds and a choppy Sulu Sea. 20 Nm with 2 engines at 1800 RPM averaging 5.5 knots.
It was worth the discomfort as the anchorage was lovely off a white beach in 6m clean sand and clear water. We jumped in the dinghy and explored a small river exiting close by before the tide dropped.
We went about a Nm up the river edged with mangroves and sand stone. The trees were overhanging and we had to weave our way in. Very secluded and quiet but we saw no wildlife.
Drinks on the beach was very pleasant.
Sunday September 4
Another 0600 sart to try and beat the headwinds. War ship ” Uncicorn Bravo” was watching over us all night just offshore. She followed us to the tip of Borneo. Here we ran into headwinds and had an hour or so punching into it to get to our anchorage, number 144 in the Sail Malaysia Guide. We bunched up tight behind the Island to get out of the swell. Esoterica was rolling badly so Lea and I surveyed the bay with the Dragonfly and iPad. Armed with a new Sonarchart we were able to show John that he could safely anchor much further in out of the swell.
A beach walk before lunch only to find that the nearby buildings were privately owned villas and not a Resort. Hence no coffee shop or restaurant. Bugger! Settled for an afternoon movie ( Jupiter Rising) on board Songbird 50 complete with popcorn and drinks. Good fun!
Monday September 5
It hasn't been often that we have been held back by the weather but today the forecast of 15knot headwinds was very unappealing. Quiet day instead with a brief walk/scramble up to the top of the island followed by a brisk walk up the road for a few kms.
Tuesday September 6
Said goodbye to Songbird and Psycho. They were heading direct to KK with 1 overnight stop. Esoterica and us were heading for Mantanani Island.
A light rain and threatening skies made us a little wary of putting up the Main. The storm cells didn't develop and we motored the 28 Nm to the Island, admiring the white beached and gorgeous aquamarine water. The reefs were easy to see even in the overcast conditions. To get out of the swell we headed between the 2 islands of the group to anchor in nice clear sand in 7m. Many dive boats around so we were soon in the water for a snorkel. Very disappointing! The coral was all brown with lots of rubble. Not much height to the coral and no fish over 10cm. The occaisional bommie held a bit of interest but overall it was very poor. This area is not a NP and we were soon joined by local fishing boats trying to rape the empty reef further.
Pork Roast and game of 500 with Esoterica was a very pleasant end to the day.
Wednesday September 7
Leisurely start to the day as we waited for the overcast sky to clear. The sun came out mid morning and we headed ashore to the main island to explore. The amount of rubbish and dead wood on the beach was astounding. It was so thick you couldnt even walk from the beach up to the shoreline track.
We spoke to a European Backpacker who was cleaning up the beach in front of the Greenhouse Guest House where he works as a volunteer. He told us that there had been a big storm about a month ago which had deposited a lot of the debris and rubbish. In one month only three businesses had cleaned up their beachfront. Some effort had been made in the past to clean up but the bags of rubbish were just lying there falling apart.
The village beach was the worst area with nappies, food packaging and plastic water bottles strewn everywhere. The actual village precinct was quite clean. Its a real shame because without the rubbish this place is spectacular. Add in healthy reefs protected from fishing and it would be fantastic and not too far from KK.

We were encouraged to see these new garbage compacters on the beach. Hopefully, they get put to good use soon.

Erosion is another big issue.

We were also surprised to see many local fishermen offering live crayfish, abalone and reef fish for sale to Chinese Day Trippers. They wheeled there wares around in wheelbarrows. Some even had battery powered aquarium pumps to oxygenate the water and keep their stock alive for longer.

We walked the length of the Southern Shore and back stopping for an icecream along the way. Heading back to the boats we tried another snorkel spot listed as “Giant Clam Garden”. It was little better than we saw yesterday and not a clam to be seen. This area need to be declared a NP, cleaned up and protected. Fabulous sunset.

Thursday September 8

A long motor to Palua Gaya just off KK. Polis Bay was stiflingly hot until the rain came. Dinner on board Esoterica.

Friday September 9

Bucketed down all night and continued all morning. Still warm so Lea went out and scrubbed the boat taking advantage of the autorinse function provided by the rain. I caught up on the blog. We almost decided to stay another night but with a break in the weather we followed Esoterica outside Palau Gaya into the biggest swells seen on this trip. It was rollacoaster ride into Sutera Harbour Marina where we were warmly greeted with many hands to tie up. We were devastared to find that the Olympic size pool was out of action for repairs. Caught up with friends. Another leg of our journey completed.


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.