Sunday, February 12, 2012

Change of Plans

We waited and waited and waited in Surigao for a weather window to Palau, which never happened.   There is a La Nina effect right now which has intensified the easterlies to 25 knots with 3 meter seas.   Some days worse.   Just a short way to Palau but impossible from this angle.   So we had a decision to make:  go back to Zeke's and hang out there until May while taking a few side trips or maybe a trip back home, or change direction.    We decided to change direction and go to Indonesia.   The best way to do that at this time of year is to go from W to E so we sailed back to Bonbonon for a short two day stay and visited with friends we had made the first time we were there.  I really liked that place.    We took a quick trip into Dumaguete to get pesos and have a lunch.    We hired a motorcycle to take us to the junction where we could catch a bus, but the motorcycle was a bit small for two Americans (Filipinos, no problem).   When our driver started to take off, the front of the bike came up in the air!!!    Time to diet, I guess.   So another motorcycle was brought in and we were on our way.

We left Bonbonon after a nice evening with friends at Nigel's resort.   Nigel is another one of those characters you meet along the way.   Very funny and the food was good at his restaurant.    We sailed across the Sulu Sea towards Kota Kinabalu on Borneo, 4 days with washing machine seas.  Fortunately it was going with us but was still an uncomfortable trip.   We pulled in to Sutera Harbor where we had stayed in 2009 for a few months, a nice, luxurious resort with a plethora of swimming pools.    It's lost a little of its luster due to the economy and cruisers are now getting dinged about double what it used to cost to go in there.   On top of that there are seldom spots open as it is a members club so we only can get a place if one of the members is gone.   We lucked out and got a spot for 5 nights, right next to another American with a great dog, Buster, a 2 year old Golden Retriever and very friendly.    Nice to get a dog fix for a few days.

We had a nice trip from KK to Brunei with a short stop at Tiga, then Labuan (Palau Booze) where we topped up on some wine, then to Brunei where fuel is very cheap.  

 Cruiser Notes:    Brunei Yacht Club is very welcoming.  They charge 5 BND a day for using their facilities which include showers, a washing machine, restaurant and the pool.    Usually you can call Allan Riches to supply a van to get you to the grocery store and get fuel.    He charges 30 BND for the service for 250 liters and you can borrow the extra jerry jugs from the yacht club.    He wasn't available when we were there so we talked some of the employees to get diesel for us on their own time.   

Then it was to be a quick trip, about 5 or 6 days to Singapore.   The first night out we encountered a perplexing situation.   Lots of boats with lights which we assumed were fishing boats.  Then one of the "fishing" boats peeled off and came straight at us.   We thought perhaps we were headed towards a net or had picked one up, although we were sailing.   We checked around, saw nothing amiss, but the boat kept coming at us with a searchlight, ruining our night vision.    Jim turned the motor on and we tried to get away from it, but it kept right on us.   Then we could make out the lights better on one of the other boats and realized they were vertical:  tug with a tow.   The boat dogging us was another tug trying to warn us away from the restricted tug.   We couldn't make out a barge because there was none.  The tug was towing pipe.   Things might have been easier had they answered our radio calls, but in the end they gave us a course to steer clear of the pipe and we were on our way again.  

The 3rd night the weather began to kick up, we were doing fine, but it was still intensifying up to 30 knots with 3 meter seas on the beam.    The closest place to get out of it was an Indonesian Island but we would arrive in the dark and decided that was not going to work.    Other small islands offered no protection from this kind of sea,, and the prediction was for things to get worse the farther we went, so we had to divert and go 130 miles out of our way to go to Kuching.   Another problem was that the seas were still big and aimed directly at the coast where there were shallows at the entrances to the Sarawak River or Santubong River.   We had to lay off for several hours waiting for the tide to change so we could enter the channel outside of Kuching and still it was another 14 miles to the marina.    We anchored safely about 7 miles in, exhausted and pretty much dropped into bed.   When we awoke we found ourselves anchored in front of a beautiful Chinese temple and all the ships that had been around us were now gone.

We stayed at the small marina outside of Kuching for just a few nights.    There were a couple of other cruisers in there including a German boat with Ulla and Klaus on board and Ulla made a great grain bread that she sold.....perfect.    Also saw a boat that we had seen back in the mid 80's in Cabo San Lucas, Veedon Fleece.   The owner is not the same,  however.

Cruiser Notes:   Pending (Kuching) 01 33.54N; 110 24.3E.   This marina is small and the current zips by here.   Enter on a flood and go beyond the marina and turn back into it if you can.    Its a ways out of town and supposedly easy to get in but is quite a walk to the road and the bus only comes once an hour and stops around 5 pm.   Taxi service is expensive.    The marina staff will take you to CIQ which is actually very near as the crow flies but a considerable walk.    They charge 20 MYR to take you there and back.   Our driver took us farther into town for an extra 10 MYR.    They will also get fuel for you.  The surcharge is kind of high, but you probably could not do it yourself for any less and they pick up the jugs at your boat and deliver direct to the boat for you so it pretty easy.

We left Kuching for the remainder of the journey to Singapore, another 407 miles with the added diversion.    It was a pretty good trip, sailing all the way, until we got into a nest of anchored ships about 40 miles from Singapore.   Then I sailed into the traffic lanes which was a little unnerving and I called Jim out to help.   We ended up in one of the traffic lanes behind a submarine for a little bit.    Too many ships so we turned on the motor for the rest of the trip.    When we arrived in Singapore we made our way to western quarantine to meet the immigration boat and as we did we sailed by One 15 Marina where we had hoped to stay and saw that it looked pretty full.   We called and indeed they were full up and couldn't let us in.  You are not allowed to anchor anywhere in Singapore waters so we had no choice but to continue on to Danga Bay, Johor Bahru, Malaysia, another 30 miles.    We were kind of tired and grumpy at this point, it was dark, no moon, and we were negotiating our way around the busiest shipping harbor in the world without a decent chart.     We ended up lost behind a reclamation wall and decided, legal or not, we would drop the anchor for safety's sake and get some rest.     

In the morning, rested, we made our way up to the Tuas Bridge and on to Danga Bay.  On the way we encountered a tall ship coming the opposite direction and we were going to share the opening under the bridge.  He needed every inch of space he could get and even with that he knocked something off the top of his mast.

We like Danga Bay.   Some boats have been here forever as it is very cheap, about $33 a week and close to everything, including Singapore.    There's been a few festivals since we've been here.     Thaipussam, an Indian religious ceremony was going on near one of the Hindu temples in town so we jumped on a bus and headed in to see what it was about.    This is when Hindus honor Shiva.   The actual religious nature of this event has been corrupted a bit over the years as some Hindus will carry a kavida to the temple and suffer piercings through their cheeks and tongues.  

 Some had fish hooks stuck in their flesh with ropes attached and a "driver" pulling on the ropes.  Supposedly these penitents feel no pain as they are in a trance like state.  

  Musicians follow them playing music that helps them to stay in the trance.   When it is all done, they go into the temple, the devices are all removed, wounds are rubbed with ash and amazingly they heal quickly and have no scarring.    Small pots are offered to the gods, usually with milk in them.

We were the only white faces in the crowd.  We just got into the procession and watched what was going on with the Hindus.    They were very gracious to us and offered us water, fruit drinks and even chatted with us about what was going on.

Danga Bay just celebrated its 15th anniversary.  The Malaysians are proud of all their development, although it is going rather slowly.   One of our observations is that they fill in what they consider useless, wasted space like marshes to build big showy edifices that they don't maintain well once they are built.  It seems to me they are more into the display of wealth and progress rather than a concerted effort to care for their environment.

We've enjoyed staying here for a couple of weeks as there are a lot of cruisers around.     Johnny and Shelley Mahoney sing on Tuesday nights at Lazios right here in the marina.  They can belt out some great old rock and roll hits and get the crowd going.  We had lots of fun listening to them last week.

Cruiser Notes:   Danga bay Marina (01°28’.5N 103°43’.5E), is two miles W of the causeway to Singapore     Buses into town are easy to catch just out front of the marina, as well as taxis which are affordable here.    Getting to Singapore is also very easy, best way is to catch a taxi to take you to the Singapore Taxi stand, then you share a taxi which will drop you off right next to Sim Lim Square.   Cost is 15 MYR per person if there are 4 people in the taxi, otherwise you pay 60 MYR to have the taxi to yourself.    Coming back is the same but in Sing dollars, 10 S$ each.   The marina was free up until the 1st of the year, now you pay a whopping 100 MYR a week (that's $33 folks).   That's less than what you would pay for a night in Singapore.    Lots of grocery shopping. Chinese stores that sell pork and good cheese, places to get things fixed, etc.   Danga Bay provides a free service 3X a week for CIQ, laundry pick up, propane pick up and diesel pick up.

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