Monday, 27 May 2013

Bumming it in Brunei

Well, we have now been just over a week in Brunei. Plans change all the time, now the change is we're not leaving Sophia in Miri (in Malaysia south of here) to fly to Singapore, but instead here. A nice cruiser who has got a mooring here just left to go haul out in Kudat and then to Philippines and he is letting us use his mooring. We actually even think we'll use it also when we go to Denmark in July. The big advantage of a mooring over a marina is no rats or cockroaches are able to get on the boat. The mooring is almost new and it's pretty safe here, so we feel OK leaving our most precious possession here.
Royal Brunei Yacht Club's mooring field (all owned by the locals and expats), only the big ketch is on anchor, as well as the Polish boat that's on a lean when they anchored too close to shore, ups.
Tomorrow we then begin a marathon travel day to get to Singapore. Two buses to get into town, then another bus to Miri across the border, then two flights to Singapore and finally a taxi to Theresa's house very late in the evening. We're really looking forward to Singapore though, it will be great to see Phil's parents and Theresa & co, plus they got great food there...

We have literally just been bumming around here in Brunei, but have enjoyed it too. The club really is very nice, and is a bit of heaven for the many expats living here, in an a country where alcohol is illegal, so everyone walks around with a chilli bin, pretty funny. We have met a bunch of people and they are all very nice and friendly to us, even buying us dinners! The far majority seems to be teachers, but there are also pilots and a few other industries (oil one of them).

We even joined in on the club's dinghy racing on the Sunday in an ISO, but unfortunately it was a total drifter and because there's so much current (tide) we were literally sailing backwards despite there being some wind. The fastest we went was when we towed by the dinghy! We still had a nice day and got to meet even more people.
Where we bum around most days: in the yacht club with free wifi and power plugs... Swimming pool in the background! No, it's not ice cream wrappers on the table...
We did go into town one more day for more sightseeing. Unfortunately the national museum is closed because it's leaking, and the big mosque we had hoped to get into and especially up the tower was also closed to visitors. Instead we visited the Royal Regalia Museum, basically the Sultan's show-off of his life and all the silly things has been gifted by other countries etc. There was nice air-con and we even 'got' to wear these cosy slippers while inside. About the only cool thing was the huge dragoon 'car' which is powered (pushed and pulled) only by people!

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

In Brunei and a slight change of plans

I think we ended up spending three days in Labuan. We visited the Labuan museum for a history lesson and also the marine museum, although our general marine knowledge is higher than the average, so we didn't really learn much new. We also had one last fun night with kiwi Sarah and Dave and not least Russel the dog (a Jack Russel) who lives in the Labuan's marina (which unfortunately is falling apart, but may be fixed some day). They treated us to yummy kiwi wine and we went out for a late dinner.
How cute is Russel the boat dog?!
It meant next morning was a bit slow, but we eventually got out act together and went off to Brunei. Luckily it was only a couple of hours of sailing (or motoring, there was no wind) away. We first anchored off the ferry terminal so we only had a short dinghy ride in to see customs, immiration and port control. It sure was a nice and easy way to do it, and fun walking into an empty ferry terminal the backwards way.

We then went to anchor by the Royal Brunei Yacht Club. It's a really nice club with friendly people and for NZ$5 a day we get: dinghy dock, free use of facilities including: swimming pool, showers, wifi and washing machine. The only downside is the location in the middle of nowhere. Brunei has SE Asia's richest average income per person thanks to all the oil. I guess this means a lot of cars and spread out places. There are however some busses and we did manage to catch one into the city. 

The down town was quite different from any capitals we have ever been in. It's very organised and clean, similar to Singapore, but, there are hardly any people walking around and not that many cars either. Admittedly, it's a small country and hence a small capital. But it made for a very casual and relaxed non-stress feel and we liked it. We saw the impressive Omar Ali Saifuddien mosque with the concrete 'boat' parked in the 'mote' around it but otherwise just wandered around with occasional trips into small malls mostly for the air con!
Behind us is Kampung Ayer, a water village build on stilts, aparently app 30,000 people live there!
As for the change of plans, only few people actually knew those plans, so it's mostly just a change of our mindset. Phil's parents are coming to Singapore on the 31st May on their world cuise(ship) and we have for a long time figured we'd try and get there by then and it did also fit quite nicely into our overall plans. But we spent a bit longer in Philippines than originally anticipated, then we were hanging out in first Kudat, then KK, and now we're still pretty far away from Singapore. We could sail straight to there from here, it's about 700 miles or 6-7 days, all depending, but we don't really feel like such a relatively long passage, but most importantly we just don't feel like we have seen enough of Borneo yet. Instead we now going to fly to Singapore from Miri.

We're looking forward to seeing Phil's parents and of course they are also boat part mules like all visitors to Sophia... We're going to be staying with one of my oldest best friends Theresa and her family and we will also go see Jenny, the Norwegians we spend xmas with in Palau. Now we just have to try and figure out where to leave Sophia when we go to Denmark in July and what to do before then, so many options!

Saturday, 18 May 2013

No more rattling and on the move again

Yeah, no more rattling. My handy boy friend fixed the problem :-) Last blog post finished with cheap us anchoring outside Sutera Harbour marina waiting for the return of our gas bottles. Amazingly the new bearing turned up even before the gas bottles (so only 48 hours after it was ordered, good service!), so we only spent two night outside the marina on anchorage before moving back in. We didn't want to be at anchorage with a non-functioning engine (while Phil pulled the shaft etc out). Not that we minded being back in the luxury of the marina and the facilities surrounding it, hello again swimming pool.
One of our 'neighbours' in the marina was Keith, ex-paua fisherman from Picton (but fishing in Chathams) who has spent quite a while in KK and has a motorbike, so besides helping Phil with the engine, he also knew all the right places and took Phil to a shop where they machined a new cooper housing for the cutlass bearing. We did have to wait a few days for this, but there's plenty to do in KK. It's actually a big tourist destination, mostly Asian tourists, jets are flying over the city all day long.
So very KK-ish, Mt Kinabalu behind the city, a para sailor in the water and a jet above
We took a local bus (always an interesting experience in itself) to the big city mosque. Here we paid a few dollars to get properly dressed like Muslims (I had come prepared with lots of sarongs and scarves, but that didn't seem to be an option) and our private guide showed us around inside the mosque, which was neat because we got to ask him lots of questions. For some reason all the Asian tourists visiting the mosque only stay outside.
Hilarious how there are paddle boats in the water around the mosque!
Another must-do touristy experience in KK is the night market. It's on every night and the people who wrote the lonely planet guide are very enthusiastic about it, especially the Filipino food section. We did have a yummy bbq fish and scrimp, but otherwise I almost think the market in Kudat was more interesting, because it was more local and actually busier too. Or maybe we just weren't there at the right time.

After in total two night in the marina, two night outside and then four more nights inside we left KK. It has definitely been a great visit, but not so great on our wallet. Especially hanging out with cruisers with more money than us was tough, paua fishing must be very profitable ;-)
We spent one more night by one of the islands off KK where it's swarming with tourist boats during the days, so we figured it must be good snorkelling. It was NOT, limited coral and fish, and lots of jellyfish that sting, not too bad, but enough to be quite unpleasant. On our way south the next morning we tried again at a place LP claims is the best for snorkelling and it was just as bad, if not actually worse. Bugger, we had been hoping for a bit of snorkeling therapy after all that marina and city time.

We are now on Labuan island after one stop at Tiga island. Tiga is another beach where Survivor has been filmed. We choose to go check out a place with bubbling mud, as Phil has never been to Rotorua and therefore hasn't seen the phenomenon before. Rotorua is way cooler though, Tiga's mud pools were just extremely muddy and only a little bit of bubbling.
Labuan is famous for being tax-free, so it's the place to buy cheap booze and beer in an otherwise alcohol-expensive country. There's also lots of duty free chocolate, heaps of yummy stuff, things you normally only see in Europe, so a bit dangerous place to be nostalgic. Maybe it's good I got a reminder to be healthy the other day. The lovely older lady dressing me up in muslim clothes, pointed at my tummy, looked shy and like she wasn't sure, but then did ask anyway: bebe!!! Ups, first time that has happened, and I wouldn't like it to happen again before it's actually true.
Sophia anchored in Labuan close to a whole fleet of ships and oil tankers (oil rich water around here!)

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Luxury overload in KK

We ended up spending in total two weeks in Kudat, including three days in the haul out. Phil spent several days trouble shooting the engine vibrations, but in the end decided we need a forward cutlass bearing. Unfortunately they didn't have this in Kudat, and especially I was getting pretty sick of being stuck in a very hot marina, so we decided to sail onto Kota Kinabalu (KK). It's only at certain revs that the engine vibrates, so it wasn't too bad, but we actually had two and a half lovely days of sailing, only the last half day was too light to sail so we motored.
Mt Kinabalu, the biggest in SE Asia, I think, 4095 meters, it's only visible early in the morning, later on it's covered in clouds. If we were much fitter (and could afford the marina fees) we would climb it, but as things are, it's just not going to happen...
monkey on the beach!
We have how spent two days in the ├╝ber posh marina, It was actually funny, because we just came from the (free!) marina in Kudat and there Sophia was a total average boat and even on the slightly nicer side, but in KK she's a nobody, tiny and simple looking. The marina is attached to a country club of sorts and a set of swimming pools, one of them 50 meters and it's all part of the fee (NZ$ 28 a day for Sophia's 35 feet), they even give you towels! There's also a gym, tennis courts and lots of other fancy stuff. We of course tried to maximise using the pool and showers, I even got up at 6.30 every morning to swim, it was slightly cooler then, although the water was still really warm! Luckily the showers had a really cold option, super nice. 
We even managed to order a cutlass bearing from a local boat (fishing) shop, it will have to be sent from west Malaysia and they promised it would be here in 2-3 days, but we'll wait and see about that before we believe it. Because we are such cheapies we have now left the marina and have anchored just outside, because we're still waiting for our gas bottles to be returned (full ). After we get the gas bottles back (tomorrow morning hopefully) we will head out to explore some nice islands and anchorages just off KK, supposedly it's even good snorkeling! When the bearing turns up, we'll head back to the marina. As usual more photos on facebook.

Phil in the Chinese boat (fishing mostly) shop where we'll hopefully get our new bearing from in a few days

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

April's cruising costs for Philippines and Malaysia

Wow, we're really into Asia now! Despite the fact that we hauled out, April was still a cheaper than our monthly average! Overall we spent NZ$ 1314, but excluding the haul-out costs it's only NZ$ 527! It's probably mostly because we spent 2/3 of the month day passaging along the west coast of Palawan, Philippines where there aren't many possibilities to spend money. But, so far Malaysia is also very cheap, and the food is even better.

We are still in Kudat, it turned out the rattling of the shaft was worse than we initially thought and Phil has been working on a solution with some help from a couple other cruisers here in the marina, luckily enough one is a mechanic!