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Top of Borneo

21 July 2014, NE coast of Malaysian Borneo

Under spinnaker en route to KK
Under spinnaker en route to KK

Dear Friends and Family,

We last wrote from Labuan, a duty‑free Malaysian island off the coast of Brunei.  The technicians there were able to breath life into our long‑range SSB radio, so it's now working again.  Jon even climbed the mast and re‑rigged our 2 antennas.  After stocking up with several flats (cases) of duty‑free beer (and a bit of wine) we had a couple of nice sails up the coast to Kota Kinabalu (KK).

KK is the biggest city on this end of Borneo, so we stocked up on what supplies we needed.  Jon's father was to meet us here, but airline problems delayed him by 3 days.  His routing took him through Shanghai, over the Pacific, so he was nowhere near the Malaysian Airlines plane that was shot down by a Russian missile over the Ukraine.

Colin enjoys lunch downwind in 30 knots
Colin enjoys lunch downwind in 30 knots

As soon as Colin was on board, we left KK to head NE up the coast of Malaysian Borneo.  We only sailed 12nm that first day, anchoring in a pleasant bay just north of KK.  (Our "Where's Ocelot" map at the bottom of our homepage has pointers showing where we anchored, and a live Google map that shows place names.)

Today we were supposed to sail 40nm to the Mantanani Islands, about 12nm off the coast.  We wanted to arrive with good sun, so we left at dawn and had breakfast underway, and it's a good thing we did.

We found a nice 15 knot breeze so we set full sail and Ocelot scooted along happily.  But the wind strength continued increasing (despite weather forecasts predicting light winds) and soon we had to reef the sails, not just once but twice!  With 30 knots of wind behind her, Ocelot roared up the coast at 8‑10 knots, even with a double reefed main and just a scrap of jib out.  The GPS says that we went over 13 knots at one point.

Malaysian fishing boat off the coast near Kudat
Malaysian fishing boat off the coast near Kudat

Unfortunately, the Mantanani islands are quite small and provide very little protection from the 8' (2.5m) waves pushed up by 30 knot winds.  So we had to abandon our plans and look for an anchorage that would provide us protection for the night.  The situation was exacerbated by the winds clocking around behind us a bit.  Not only did this require us to jibe the sails to the other side (a difficult procedure in 30 knots of wind) but with the wind blowing more onshore, none of the bays that we looked at had adequate protection for the night.

In the end, we rounded the NE corner of Borneo, which meant that the wind was now blowing directly off shore.  About 5nm down the coast we found a river mouth that had a sandy bottom and dropped the anchor in 20' (6m).  Our early start allowed us to sail 75nm in daylight hours, almost twice as far as we'd originally planned.

Unfortunately, we'd noticed a vibration in the port engine, and when Jon dived down to check the anchor he checked that propeller as well and found that it was missing one of its 3 blades!  We have no idea how we lost it.  We have a spare blade but it has no antifouling paint on it (and we have none with us) so it will need constant cleaning. <sigh>

Fair Winds and Calm Seas -- Jon, Sue and Colin Hacking


Heading for the machine shop, Kudat boatyard
Heading for the machine shop, Kudat boatyard

24 July 2014, Karakit, Benggi

Dear Friends and Family,

On Tuesday we limped into Kudat with a broken alternator on our starboard engine, and port engine not working at all!

Turns out that the rough sail up from KK had knocked an (unused) refrigeration compressor off its pedestal next to the port engine, and this had dragged down other wires, causing several of them to chafe and eventually short out against a bracket.  One was the main 12v lead, which could have started a fire or other unpleasantness.  As it was, Jon remounted the compressor and soldered the wires back together.

Colin on the Kudat town esplanade
Colin on the Kudat town esplanade

The alternator took longer, and several long hikes with Colin lugging the alternator before we finally bought a new one for $100.  It needed several modifications, both to the mounting brackets and to remove the regulator (we use an external regulator).  Thankfully, the neighboring boatyard was very accommodating and let us use their tools.

Then we found that our brand new port‑side Kiwi‑prop had lost a blade.  No idea when or why, but at least we carry 3 spare blades.  A friendly woman (from Seattle!) in the boatyard gave them all a coat of antifouling (left over from doing their own boat) and Jon swam down and mounted the blade.  He also checked the others for signs of problems, but they all looked just fine.

About 1pm the work was finished, so we headed for some neighboring islands.  Started out motoring dead upwind, but then the wind shifted, giving us a glorious beam reach.  Ocelot scooted along happily at 7‑8 knots.

Navigation is tricky here, as there are TONS of shoals and coral heads.  We're headed basically SE, and hope to be in Sandakan (100nm away) in 3 days.  Then we want to go play up the Kinabatangan river for a few days before heading around the easternmost point of Borneo.

Fair Winds and Calm Seas -- Jon and Sue and Colin Hacking

Malaysia Letters: Up | Leaving Borneo | Kinabatangan River | Top of Borneo | South China Sea | Malaysian Interior | On the S China Sea | Brunei to Kuching | Mt. Kinabalu | Heading East | Singapore to Borneo | Malaysia Arrival | Weh Island | Perfect Day | Bountiful Sea | Half Weh | Crossing the Indian | Return to SE Asia | Straits of Malacca

Related Pages: Malaysia Home | Malay Newsletters | SE Asia Flora/Fauna | Cruising Malaysia

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