Friday, September 16, 2011

WEEKS 21 & 22: Brunei to Miri Marina

Saturday 3 September - Muara, Brunei
We ordered some fuel and the boys and Sandra went to check us all out. Cilantro decided they needed to get going so they left as soon as they had checked out. We found out the penalties for failing to have passport checked in was no less than $5000 and no less than 6 months gaol and overstaying one’s visa no less than 6 lashes and no less than 3 months gaol !
We just did boat stuff and at 7.30pm we went over to Braveheart and Chris and Peter went in to collect Chris’ fuel which was supposed to be there at 8pm. They finally came back at 9.30pm without the fuel which hadn’t turned up.

Sunday 4 September – Brunei to the Sultan’s brother's breakwater
04°57.009N / 114°48.793 (7m)
The boys went in at 8am and were told the petrol station had run out of diesel. By 11am the chap had managed to get 300 litres – we actually wanted 300 each but he couldn’t get more till that evening which meant another day there – so we both settled for 150 litres each (31 cents/litre). We upanchored at 12 noon and headed out. There was a slight swell but the seas were calm and it was a nice day. The Sultan's brother had built a breakwater so their children could enjoy their water sports – two big walls coming out from the beach with a narrow opening to the sea and another wall on an islet just inside the opening to prevent the swell. We anchored just off the islet at 6pm – what a fantastic spot – so calm.
Miles: 25 TTT: 2,792

Monday 5 September – Sultan’s breakwater to Miri Marina
Happy Birthday James
04°23.076 / 113°58.347
We left at 5am in the dark and had good wind but we had a long way to go so we motor sailed. We hadn’t remembered to put our radio back to 16 (oops). It seemed we were heading into a survey area and they had been calling us for ages when Braveheart called them up and told them to try channel 72. The survey ship called us up on 72 and asked us to alter course which we did and then they called us back on 16 to thank us for our cooperation (maybe also checking we were finally on 16!!). Cilantro had reached the marina at 3pm and we came in at 6.30pm We went down to 0.7m under the keel but were soon tied up in the marina. People came from everywhere to help us in. Cilantro had previously told us where we could berth which was really helpful. Braveheart came in abut 8.30 – they had to go around another survey area – and they said it was pitch black out there and the entry wasn’t lit but they found their way in and we soon had them tied up in their berth. We had a little reunion and hit the hay – a very long day.
Miles: 73 TTT: 2,865

Tuesday 6 – Friday 9 September – Miri Marina
We walked to town and back and went out to a restaurant to celebrate James’ birthday. It has been cleanup mode for us all. We have been to the dentist, got new prescription glasses and ordered prescription sunglasses. I had the worst haircut ever! I seriously wonder if Dewie was a bona fide hairdresser! Got Peter’s bike fixed – four broken spokes and can now ride to town and back. They have put in a bicycle track since were last here so that is great. And they are slowly covering all the square drain holes along the way (if you went in one of those no-one would ever find you!) Peter had a run in with a car door – some one stopped in the right hand lane – Peter was in the left hand lane - and the back passenger door flew open and he managed to miss the bulk of it but got a scraped arm and leg. I had lunch in town and three lovely men at the next table insisted on paying for my meal – embarrassing – but they said it was their culture and one had been to Uni in Perth and the other had family there. On Friday night there was a sundowner gathering of marina guests – drinks and nibblies. Peter’s honey chicken wings were very popular. Most people are leaving their boats here to go home but we met Rose from Southern Son who has been here for four years. She gets horribly seasick so that may have something to do with it! Though seriously I doubt it. Braveheart had intended to catch a bus to Brunei for their flight home leaving at 8.30am tomorrow but Rose was able to organise a car and they wouldn’t be leaving till 3pm! I think Rose knows everything and everyone!

Saturday 10 September – Miri Marina
We said goodbye to James and Sandra (Cilantro) at 8am as they headed home. We rode to town with Chris and Judy (Braveheart) and did some last minute shopping for them and rode around and had lunch (not the best) then went to the seafood restaurant where they keep the live bullfrogs – for beer only!! Studied the menu and it is amazing what they can do with bullfrogs! They had a lot of ‘unusual’ dishes on the menu. We said goodbye to Chris and Judy at 3pm when the airconditioned car did turn up - $20 each to Brunei airport – pretty good
Sunday 11th – Friday 16th September
Happy 21st Jackson – 11th
Happy birthday Greg – 14th
We are currently going through the boat cleaning out cupboards, washing everything (great to have water!!). Peter has fixed the water pump, the toilet holding tank and cleared the toilet pipes – a pretty shitty job by all accounts but better to do it now than when we come back. The sails are coming down today to be stored below and hopefully we might have a day off to enjoy ourselves before we come back!! Today is Malaysia day so it is a public holiday.

Well this is where Pacific Express will spend the next four months while we go home. On this trip we have clocked up 2,865 nautical miles and since we have had the boat we have done 15,395 nautical miles.

We arrive in Adelaide on Tuesday 21st and are looking forward to catching up with family and friends. To all of you who have followed this manic journey – thankyou – and hopefully you will be with us again from January 2012. To those of you who we have met along the way and who have accompanied us and shared the journey and the tears, the fears and the fun – what can we say – thankyou! What’s next? Who knows. We hope to do the Philippines early next year and then may bring the boat home but these decisions cannot be made until the day they are made!!!!

Anyway all the best to everyone, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and stay safe.

May you always have a foot of water under your keel, fair winds and calm seas and until we meet again may God hold you in the hollow of his hands.

Dell and Peter

Ode to a Rally - Ketoro

A flotilla of yachts to the tip of Borneo
In no wind, slowly did go
Cilantro wept at the pace: “We’ve come to a halt!”
But Nimbus shrugged and poured a Single Malt,
Explaining: “We’ll just have to Linger Longer,
A Braveheart’s not required till the winds get stronger.”

“But, which way?” Ketoro did cry.
This Way Up came the aghast reply;
What will you do when you cross the Pacific:
Express your ignorance? This is horrific!”
The advice they received, best by far,
Was to use nightfall to follow the Rubicon Star.

Other yachts, leaving earlier, had gone in Full Flight,
The French (Baginaff, Cariad and Anne) were nowhere in sight;
There were those who came later, Chatelaine overtook;
Wave Sweeper a dentist required take a look.
Of others a mere Whisper, Chez Nous seen round the top;
Intiaq, Orono, Storm Dodger and Rhum Do - an earlier stop.

“Bye” to Nyami and Neptune who elsewhere flew,
Elevation, Naga, Kristie and Investigator II,
Harmonica went shopping (for a cat: they sailed miles)
While to aid parents - Present, and Ingrid of the Isles.

Through new rally acquaintances we had much to gain…
When other paths are taken, our memories remain.

Written and shared by Rolf and Irene, Ketoro

Monday, September 12, 2011

WEEK 20: Pulau Tiga to Brunei Darussalam

Friday 27 August –sandspit at Pulau Tiga – Labuan
05°16.42N / 115°14.338E
We upanchored at 7 after a very good night. It was hazy and we motor sailed in good conditions to the Port of Labuan. Along the way a swallow flew in and rested on the bimini – he flew around a few times and settled at various parts of the boat for a ride and then came around and landed on the skipper’s shoulder where he sat for around five minutes – magic!! The port of Labuan was very dirty and we dodged a few bits of wood and came in to anchor next to Braveheart at 3.40pm. It took us three goes to get the anchor to hold. Braveheart called up the water taxi and it picked us all up and took us the 300metres to shore but when we got there instead of charging us the 1RM it usually cost they charged us 5RM each. We have no idea why they decided to charge us so much. We looked around and got the only three casks of white wine in town and had a very nice meal with cheap beer – yep duty free Labuan! We found another water taxi who said he would take us back for 2RM but then it went to 3RM. Had a good night. Fireworks and crackers and big bangs and call to prayer in stereo!
Miles: 44 TTT: 2,714

Sunday 28 August- Labuan
Its been two years little Maties dog
Chris found another water taxi who would take us for 1RM each so we headed to shore like we were in a racing boat! The guy was having fun. We checked in and out at customs, harbour master and immigration then did some shopping, had lunch and more shopping for supplies then called our little taxi driver. We checked with the first taxi but they were still 5RM so we piled all our stuff in with our little guy and he had to do two trips so we gave him a bit for carrying the supplies as well. The wind came up in the evening and it rained and very rough .We weren’t sure if we were dragging but we seemed to be getting closer to Braveheart. The skipper sat anchor watch until 1am and finally felt confident enough to go to bed. As it turned out we hadn’t dragged at all but all the boats did anchor watch.

Monday 29 August – Labuan to Muara, Brunei Darussalam
05°00.272N / 115°04.123E (5m)
We had been told we could get a 72 hr visa for B$5 each so we thought we would pop in and have a look. We left at 7.45am and dodged a few ships on the way out. The deckwash pump is broken so the skipper was cleaning the chain with buckets of water – takes ages. We arrived in Kuala Brunei at 12.30 and were going to check in but decided to see what info we could get at the Yacht Club. Braveheart were told that Miri Marina was full so it took a while for them to phone to make sure that there was a spot for them and then with one thing and another we didn’t get to Immigration. Cilantro had to tow Bob back to our boat as our engine conked out. The skipper fixed it and we all went into dinner – Had fabulous meals of steak and mixed grill (expensive B$21 = AUS$16 but very nice) We were able to take our own wine in but that is the only place in Brunei you are able to do that. Alcohol cannot be bought in Brunei. We came back to our boats in the rain.
Miles: 21 TTT: 2,735

Tuesday 30 August – Muara - Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam
04°52.637N / 114°55.898E (6.7m)
We went to check in at 9am only to be told we couldn’t have a 72 hour transit visa because:
1. We didn’t have a return airline ticket.
2. We might overstay our three days so we will give you two weeks
3. We went to Labuan
This made no sense to us but we had to pay B$20 each instead of B$5 which was a bit upsetting. We then headed up the river at 10.30am to the city Bandar Seri Begawan. This is the most amazing place and the B$20 charge was soon forgotten! The mountains meet the river so the people have built their houses on stilts in the river. As we got closer to the city there were whole “suburbs” (villages) of houses on stilts and large schools on stilts, and a children’s playgrounds on stilts. And heaps of water taxis buzzing all around the place – such a vibrant place and an amazing way to come into it by boat. We went past the city and anchored at the end of the houses just down from the Sultan’s palace at 2.30 in 6.7m. The police boat came past and we must have been ok because they didn’t ask us to move. At 5pm we hailed a boat taxi who picked us all up and took us to the city. They just pull in pointy end first to the steps and you walk over the front and get off. We looked at the beautiful gold domed mosque built beside a lake and then went to the park where eight gold cannons were lined up and we spoke to the soldiers who told us that one cannon would be fired at 6.30 to mark the end of the time of fasting for Ramadan and the people could start eating again. We watched some local “chefs” in a street stall cooking noodles – what experts. They rolled them around in the pot – flames everywhere and tossed their ladles like they were cocktail bottles!!! We ate at a Pakastani restaurant – buffet which was lovely and then watched boys tossing crackers which made the loudest boom! It was dark and houses were decorated with Christmas lights. At the end of Ramadan is Hari Raya which is like our Christmas. We caught another taxi back to the boats and sat and watched the fireworks all over the city and villages until it started to rain. A couple of barges went past but they were far enough away.

Wednesday 31 August – Bandar Seri Begawan - Brunei Darussalam
A whole pile of rubbish came up against the boat at slack tide until we turned with the tide. We ended up catching two taxis (cars) for the six of us and the driver told us about the water villages. Only people who live in a particular village can buy a house in that village and if they want to build a new house they must buy an old house and pull it down. Houses have been passed down through the generations. We went to the Royal Empire Hotel which was originally built for the Sultan’s brother Jeffri as his palace at a cost of US$1.1 billion. Jeffri was also Finance Minister at the time and it put the country under immense monetary strain. Not sure what happened to Jeffri. We walked all through the hotel – 7 star – and the grounds and pools and then shared a salad roll and had a delicious cake each feeling rather decadent! We walked down the drive looking for a bus stop and a man delivering flowers pulled up and gave us a lift to the bus stop. We all got a seat on the bus but it kept stopping for more and more people and they perched on the edge of seats and when we all got off we couldn’t believe how many people had fitted on that bus. We went back to the boats and back in again for dinner. The boat taxi suggested dinner in a water village so he took us across to a house with a big verandah which sloped towards the water. It was a local meal – just rice or noodles and while it was ok we wouldn’t race back!

Thursday 1 September – Bandar Seri Begawan - Brunei Darussalam
Selamat Hari Raya
We caught a taxi at 8.30 and then a bus to the Sultan’s palace. He opens the palace for three days at the end of Ramadan for Hari Raya. Everyone gets dressed in their best clothes and our boys put on long trousers and shoes! Ouch. When we got there we went through security and were separated into male and female lines. Then we lined up for breakfast. The plates were all noritake trimmed in gold. The locals are not good at lining up and kept sneaking past. We got our food which was really a lovely meal but we couldn’t find a vacant table so stood balancing our plates as people pushed past – not the most relaxing meal. The boys meanwhile had been asked how old they were and were taken and seated for their meals – the poor old things!! Then we had to line up to get through to the other side of the open air building. By this stage men and women had converged in a horrible big squash of people. There were a lot more men than women and children and we ended up in this huge squash with a couple of small children in front. Whenever they let a few more people through the crowd behind would surge forward. It was extremely hot and a bit scary. We could certainly see how stampedes happen. You wouldn’t have wanted to fall down that’s for sure as you would not have been able to get back up. Eventually we got through and men were once again on one side and women on the other –I am not sure why this didn’t happen at the convergent point – perhaps they lost control. The women then went to the other side where we sat on seats in big long rows. They had big fans which threw out water sprays to cool us. We sat there for over an hour until once again we were on the move and went in to a big room almost like a church. All the women sat on one side and on the other side amongst all the “old” men were the boys. They had been escorted through and were sitting in air conditioned comfort. The women and men then went in their respective lines down some steps and along another terrace. The women were very pushy and kept pushing in front of us using their children or great handbags so it took us a while to get ushered into a room where we shook hands with the Sultan’s wife and other female members of his family. The Sultana (?) asked where we were from and what we were doing. We didn’t have a clue who the other women were but shook hands and then we were out and given a gift – a lovely box containing biscuits and that was it. We thought we were going to see the palace!!!! Anyway about 20,000 people a day go through and are fed – the women all shake the Sultana’s hand and the men shake the Sultan’s hand. There was such a lineup for the bus we walked back to the boat taxi stand. We went back and got out of our hot clothes and then took a water taxi ride through the stilt villages. We went to the taxi driver’s house which was spotlessly clean and he put on a lovely afternoon tea for us. He had a lovely lounge suite and his lounge room was much as ours would be. His sister showed us around. She lived next door then she took us to their parent’s house – all along boardwalks over the water. The houses are mostly sparsely furnished and go a long way back. We met the old couple who were sitting on the floor and shook their hands on the way in and on the way out. The houses are surprisingly big and it was very interesting to see inside them. We went into town for dinner – Indian – and after again sat and watched the fireworks.

Friday 2 September – Bandar Seri Begawan -- Muara,Brunei Darussalam
04°52.637N / 114°55.898E (5m)
We went to town at 9.30 to the Regalia Museum which has all the presents given to the Sultan and the carriage he rode in and all sorts of interesting stuff. It closed at 11.30am and we only just made it through in time. Back to the boats. We all upanchored and headed downriver – we and Cilantro followed Braveheart across a shortcut and we anchored off the Yacht Club at 4.15pm in 5m. We went ashore for another lovely meal and had a welcome shower.
Miles: 17 TTT: 2,752

Sorry this is so late and sorry so many photos! – currently in Miri but more on that later.

Take care all
Dell and Peter