Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The bottom of the sea (or: our career as salvage specialists)

There was an opportunity to make money: a little Christmas bonus that would be very well received by the Ketoro crew, having recently impoverished themselves at the duty-free shops of Langkawi, in preparation for festive-season visitors. Said shops are fun just to explore, let alone use for shelf-stocking: this one is Chinese-owned, frequented by all population groups on the island and resplendent (alongside the Chinese lanterns) in decorations appropriate to the current religious festival: in this case, Christmas season. 
It was here that a staff-member at the till, with red Christmas hat atop her Muslim headgear, said “At Christmas we’re all a little bit Christian”.

There was also a need to obtain revenue to offset the cost of everything on the boat that has succumbed to that dreaded four-letter word: here Rolf displays kitchen tap fittings that were clearly no longer doing their job (shiny replacements on left)
and also on display is the dive-tank compressor, which has given up completely; the compressor left us a reminder of its existence in the rust stains on the deck.
The opportunity for earnings? A yacht had lost its anchor at an island near Langkawi and a reward of RM3000 (Malaysian Ringgits; about SAR7200.00) was being offered. The coordinates were available, depth given and easily dive-able, and we had intended to anchor over at that island overnight anyway, on our way up to Phuket. So began our career as salvage specialists!

We sailed to Ko Tarutao and our esteemed skipper did an outstanding job of getting Ketoro exactly to the given waypoint, so that we dropped anchor 3m from the given coordinates, thus supposedly 3m from the anchor, our prize. We celebrated our future earnings with a magnificent sunset (also celebrating because this was our first sail since visiting home, and the first time we had been free on anchor for over 3 months).

Dawn dawned (as it does!) crisp and clear and beautiful so we waited in eager anticipation until the sun was high enough to give us good visibility.
Preparations were made, after considerable forethought. Some of the essentials are pictured below… dive gear, rope to be our guide and OOB (object over-board marker) for marking the spot when the treasure was found.
What the photograph does not show is the pliers and de-rusting spray lubricant used on everything before any fitting would function or valve would open, nor the scuba regulator that was discarded (faulty pressure gauge… probably corroded!?)… nor the weight belts, which we forgot in OUR rustiness!

So.... how did the job go? Underwater visibility turned out to be less than 1 metre, with swirling mud and dense particulates – even before the bottom mud was stirred up. Undeterred, we tied a 20 metre length of rope to our anchor (which had fully sunk, i.e. disappeared, into the muddy bottom) and used this to grope our way around in a circular search pattern, first remaining above ground and trying to SEE below us but then giving that up and relying on the dragging rope to catch any protruding objects (like errant anchors) that we missed in the swirling mud. To no avail – after about 90 minutes and empty scuba tanks we declared pre-lunch / post breakfast drinks to have arrived and toasted to an inglorious end to our careers as salvage experts… at the bottom of the sea with the forsaken anchor (and possibly to be joined at some deeper ocean point by the compressor!)

The rest of our trip up to Phuket was marvellous: we took it slowly, anchoring every night, often at places we have not previously visited
and thoroughly enjoying the beauty of these islands with their magnificent limestone karst formations (used as great climbing walls),
beautiful caves and hongs (this below taken from inside Emerald Cave, a hong accessed by swimming through 80m of black tunnel, exit seen below),
clear seas and good snorkelling. It was somewhat unnerving to fall off the dinghy to snorkel around rocks (below, near the boat) and land in the midst of a group of the biggest barracuda we have ever seen (with a ravenous glint in their eyes; I always cover my rings in fear when seeing barracuda as I have heard they are attracted by a sparkle…) but encouraging to learn that there are indeed still a few large fish still around in Thai waters. In fact, we landed a huge Spanish mackerel that we will enjoy for a while to come.

We now eagerly await Christmas, January, February and March to share our Langkawi provisions with visiting families: Barry and Kay, Erik and Di, Mark and Livi, then Sonja and Delwin: anyone know of salvage we can use this new crew to make an attempt on?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Periods of adjustment

After 53++ years of living on land and 2+ years of living on a boat, it takes approximately 4 nanoseconds to become adjusted to land-life again.

So Cape Town International Airport welcomed us for our visit and we were up and running… and running… wonderful busyness with family and friends: visiting homes, eating out,
hiking Signal Hill (and actually running: Irene’s knees appear to have improved…) and Silvermine;

sundowners at as many beach-view pubs as possible, wonderful wedding weekend in Stellenbosch, enjoying again all the known tourist venues as well as others previously unknown but now known to our children who are locals; climbing Table Mountain…
(Livi and Mark’s home almost in view in the photo below to the left and foreground of Greenpoint Stadium).
We relished the opportunity to spend time with family again, but missed Kay, who could not make it out for the wedding. Irene never misses a chance to get the 3 boys in the picture!
Adjusting to Cape Town is never a problem; adjusting to Pretoria even less so, it having been our home for 30 years. Staying in friends’ homes for two nights then moving to the next accommodating hosts meant lots of adjustment required by said hosts but ease for the guests in every case! More visiting, shopping, eating, drinking, sheer indulgence and enjoyment of the company of Irene’s Mom and tons of our friends meant we were topped up emotionally and ready to go back to the boat…

Or were we? Turns out a period of adjustment of several days was required. Apart from the travel exhaustion (and 60kg luggage is a lot to heave over 30 hours of travelling with several airport changes: did we HAVE to buy all the boat stuff and hence return without any precious rooibos tea!?),there were emotional issues (we actually miss everyone back home) and then…. there were the boat-life environmental issues:

What! THIS tiny bed? No space around it? Storage? One-man galley? Look at all the mould on the roof! Look at all the growth coming into the loos in the flush-water! How and when and where to shop?

But we’re now back in the swing: got the scooter (vehicle hire in Malaysia appears to be illegal – you simply hand over the money and get the keys - no paperwork at all, not even a name or telephone number. If you are stopped: it’s your friend’s bike!), grin cheesily when we ride past water buffalo at the roadside next to the airport

(yes, Langkawi airport is in the background.. this island is delightfully rustic!); and bought, then sterilised, fruit and veg for longer keeping (why do some plums float and others not? Are they like eggs… the floaters going off?);
We found our way through the deodorants ‘WITH WHITENING’ (what! why?) to get the one that definitively proclaims ANTI-WHITENING (not sure that we want that one, either!).

But while we are at the marina we get to enjoy using the microwave and washing machine; as we see others also liberally using the marina water, but in their case to do their washing in a bucket on the pontoon, we are very aware that back-to-the-boat adjustment for others must be much more difficult than ours, with our home-with-mod-cons on the water.

What better place than the still of a marina to do boat chores? Here Rolf is back at work using his favourite piece of equipment: his plank!
Why would you drill holes in a boat? Wheels are being attached to the dinghy to make our adjustment to the dinghy-is-our-car-to-the-beach life easier in future: no more dragging the 125 kg of dinghy, outboard and fuel tank across the sand and cursing our increasing lack of strength.

These are all such minor adjustments to living a life. Meanwhile there are those world-wide who must adjust to great traumas, hardships, events that necessitate huge change and adaptation for them; we are grateful for our equilibrium. However, we are surrounded in this marina (and the same is true of many marinas in Malaysia and Thailand) by many yachties who set off from their homes years ago with a dream that is now being negated by piracy in the Indian Ocean. The yachts are piling up, with skippers and crew confused, frustrated and endlessly questioning their options to continue with their voyage (often a dreamed-of circumnavigation) by getting to the Med via Cape Town (by taking a big-sea southern route, since the route we took north of Madagascar is now considered out of bounds for piracy incidents) or end it here or put their boat on an expensive yacht-carrier. Trying times.

But for us…. A week to prepare here (and provision: we hear that the shelves of supermarkets are empty in Phuket, as no stocks have been received from Bangkok due to the debilitating floods) then we will set off on the trip back to Thailand, where a period of adjustment will no doubt be required again (new bureaucracy, different culture, different rules) but a period of adjustment that we gladly anticipate, followed by an extended stay…. With many visits by friends and family, who will have to do their own adjusting to our world!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A bit of Brunei, Bye to Borneo… and back to the start

Langkawi Island to the east side of Borneo Island, following the Malaysian coastline, and back.

4338 nautical miles in 163 days (excluding a month in the UK).

You can play with the numbers and find that, at an average speed of 5nm per hour (very generous!), we were on the move for 867 hours, which would be 108 days on the move, assuming about 8 hours every day. More than 3 months of days just ‘getting there’. Somewhere. The next place. Half the time of BEING there was spent on the move trying to find …. Well, the next place to stop.

And those stopping places are what it is all about. They are somewhere to find food and boat necessities, sure, and they themselves are usually not a tourist attraction, but they offer the attraction of being different from what we know and full of people and shops and vehicles and food and plants and animals that are just so interesting.


We left Sabah State (Malaysia) and sailed south into Brunei, a tiny country squeezed between Sabah and Sarawak on Borneo Island and about which we knew nothing, except for the certainty of oil riches, no booze … and that we wanted to buy cheap fuel here! With an easy river entrance (except if you don’t follow the local advice about the non-visible breakwater, and lose your rudders and props here: no, not us!) you anchor off the Royal Brunei Yacht Club and soon find that they have an excellent kitchen, inexpensive food and sell beer: the only place in the country where you can drink, so a place well-frequented by yachties and ex-pats working in the oil industry.

Brunei’s great oil wealth is legendary, but local Brunei people are hardly better off for it, as 85% of this income is in the hands of the Sultan and his family. One understands the need for this money when regarding the 33 palaces (and another under construction) and the royal collection of 4000 fancy cars (Porsche, Lamborghini, Mercedes, Ferrari, Rolls Royce, etc.).
However, the 300 000 citizens receive free health and education (albeit highly supportive of the status quo) and highly subsidised housing: this presumably compensates for the fact that their salaries are very low, thus preventing independence and personal wealth? They do have more cars per family than many other countries and the citizens appear content … perhaps because uprisings are met with alacrity and force, and we believe martial law is still in place since the 1960s. Interestingly, there are 3000 British Ghurkhas in Brunei: the Sultan’s private force, as he appears to not trust his own army or his own police.
The Sultan’s mosque, able to seat more than 3000, is awe-inspiring in its grandeur (notwithstanding the escalator for the Sultan’s personal use), with magnificent tiles, prayer-mats and voluminous spaces, while the Regalia Museum (a pictorial history of the Sultan’s life and collection of garments, carrying-sedans and gifts for his investiture) must be one of the few state museums in the world focussed on one man alone!

Mosques and palaces are always interesting, particularly when contrasted to stilted fishing villages in the river.
We happily got our jerry-cans filled with fuel (it is sold illegally to foreign yachties, and sometimes plans all fall through due to police road-blocks and checks on suppliers; the purchasing and procurement process can be a trifle fraught if you are unlucky…. hence the “happily” comment) and left the main anchorage for one in a small river further south. The river is stained dark with tannin, evidently the result of extensive logging upriver, and the yacht is still carrying these stains on its white gelcoat.
Yes, once-extensive tropical rain forests and jungles are mostly gone here too. Brunei’s oil stocks are due to be depleted by 2020 hence the focus on an alternative money-spinner: on our port side we were flanked by miles of palm plantations (for palm oil), while on our starboard side we watched construction work continue through the night and great activity from the ships that service the oil rigs.

Final Borneo visit

Heading south again, Brunei gave way to Sarawak state (Malaysian Borneo) and we headed for familiar Miri Marina to berth the boat as we flew to see some raw jungle and caves. It became quite clear why some areas of Borneo are only accessible by boat.
Gunung Mulu National Park is a fantastic 544 sq km wonder of nature: limestone cliffs form sharp huge pinnacles and needles 1200m above ground and the limestone base underground gives form to some of the world’s most spectacular caves…. In fact, 259 miles of them, including the world’s largest natural chamber (could accommodate 40 Boeing 747 planes) and longest underground cave passage (Planet Earth documentaries feature many of the Mulu caves’ splendours).
But the stats and accolades don’t matter - except to get visitors there, and tourism is well controlled to preserve the park’s resources, but excellently provided for. What matters is that we, who are not particularly “cave” people, enjoyed every minute (and mile…!) of our visit here.

We appreciated the size of the caves, the beauty of the cave formations and the fact that they were not permanently lit up and there was no piped background music... just the quiet sounds of millions of bats and swiftlets that take turns, day and night, in making the caves their sleeping quarters.
One of the spectacular sights in Mulu is that of millions of bats exiting the caves (black hole below) en masse at dusk …. and being swooped down upon by predator birds who await the moment.
Well, we can’t have it all: this whole area is covered by magnificent rainforest, and the awesome growth has to be supported by metres of rain annually. So, it rained that dusk and the bats stayed asleep in their warm caves, leaving us to enjoy the feel of walking back to the cottage in the dark in the close, warm rain and interpret the night sounds and sights (and watch the bat exodus on Planet Earth...)
Not having been in tropical rainforest of such density before, we loved the whole experience and the beauty of the place and the incredible way that the lives of thousands of species of plants (ferns, mosses, fungi, orchids, pitchers) are interwoven with massive wonderful trees and giant lianas and provide homes for a large variety of mammals, birds, insects, fish, frogs, reptiles…
The local ethnic community, the originally-nomadic (a few hundred are still nomadic) Penan tribe, live on the river, work for the park and produce their craft (basket-, bead-and woodwork) for both tourists and themselves: many of the Park staff favour their basket backpacks over modern canvas ones for work in the rainforest.
So we walked the paths, joined the tours, enjoyed the canopy walkway and tree-top tower, and were happy and exhausted and hungry all the time!
Just… WOW. What a great trip to have as our last experience of Borneo.

And by the way, you know where to get the best carrot cake in the world? At Gunung Mulu National Park restaurant, Borneo!

Bye to Borneo

So it turns out Borneo takes the cake for nature visits: we have wonderful memories of mountain parks, rivers and jungles, rainforests; incredible under-sea vistas and marine life, interesting birds and primates endemic to Borneo.

It is also hard to beat for fascinating history and a multitude of interesting ethnic communities, some of whom still lead “primitive” lives in areas only accessible by river; it holds awesome music festivals in its forests to celebrate and perpetuate the music of international minority communities; there are towns and cities that have stimulating old streets of shops and cafes and some that have surprisingly western and modern infrastructure too: no wonder many westerners are making Borneo their home!

The best is the warmth and welcome that the local people of all communities extend to visitors. Borneo is about an intriguing past, fascinating present, and awesome natural world: it is a must-visit, and a place that, all our land-lubber lives, we had not even contemplated visiting. But we did not get to see it all! We will have to go back…

Heading to Langkawi again: with guest / passenger / crew…?

Finally leaving Borneo, we did the Miri-Singapore trip (a somewhat exhausting passage that we blurted about in the last blog), then John joined us in Singapore; the Immigration formalities proceeded without a hitch…
And we were on our way, setting off into the shipping traffic with a third hand for the 450 mile passage up the Malacca Straits to Langkawi Island at the northern end of peninsular Malaysia (border with Thailand).
Happily most of the ships immediately in the area of our boat icon in the photo above were anchored, but nonetheless they can frighten you… Irene took Ketoro right in front of an anchored behemoth, passing right under its bows (20m clearance… very stupid, really) and the crew on the bridge decided to have fun at our expense: they ‘hooted’ at us. Four massive, deep, ponderous blasts of the horn that had the effect on us of…., well, never mind, you can probably imagine the absolute fright!

So with extra hands on overnight sails we had 8 hours off between watches (not the 4 hours that we usually have, with only two on board) and we knew that we could sleep while John negotiated the traffic… at one stage there were over 100 ships with AIS signals within 3.7nm of us.
And so trusted crew-man John negotiated his way through night watches…

It really made a difference to have more hands on board: there was no debate whether John was guest or passenger or crew, he simply mucked in and worked, extending even to a bit of needlework. (For the sake of his manliness, we must sail that was SAILwork!)

We were lucky in having very calm weather: in fact, a bit short of wind and too much diesel… yachties are never happy with the wind as it is either too weak or too strong or from the wrong direction! This was a good thing the night the mainsail fell down, as it did not damage itself or any other structures as it released its purchase 19m above the deck and collapsed into its bag… somewhat astonishing Rolf, on watch!
So this necessitated a stop at anchor off Pangkor Island: very pretty, but that day not to be enjoyed as more than 3 hours were spent in fixing the problem. Rolf, spending 2 hours at the top of the mast in blazing sun in the bosuns’ chair (not designed ergonomically: it took 3 days for the old hips to re-align themselves) while the crew played their roles on deck below, did not appreciate the beauty of the island particularly as day-tripper boats created a wake fit to unnerve and unsettle, if not unseat, one.
However, melted chocolate bars and beer helped to raise spirits again, even before the harness was removed!
We checked into Malaysia again in Penang, always a fun place to see and spent two nights at rest… well, striding the streets enjoying the Colonial, Indian, Chinese and Malay heritage of Georgetown.
It seems there is nothing better (for boatie boys) than retail therapy in hardware areas like this.
We know that you think it is nothing but calm seas and sunsets and drinks on deck, so we enjoyed our last night at anchor in this beautiful “Fjord” area… (never mind that we were up and down several times worrying about our anchorage in the strong currents as the winds wailed past us..)
… and did drinks on deck just once on this trip!
We are now back in Langkawi, from where we initially set off on our trip in Malaysian waters.

It is surreal to look back at the last 6 months and 4338nm and remember the places and faces and emotions and experiences that went into that, which currently make up a kaleidoscope in our heads. Amazing. And of course, at times awful, but that all served to heighten the senses and enabled us to make the most of the good, which was ultimately fantastic!!

Now we are off to SA, to see family and friends…. Fantastic too!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Crossing that sea again

It generally takes us a while to put up a blog posting, because we like to reflect on a place and how we feel about it objectively before sharing our feelings and telling the tales (alternatively, we simply didn’t get around to it earlier!)
But sometimes it is necessary to just vent!!

This is that time: exhausted, having had many intense experiences, we want to get the story off our chests and the head-pictures onto paper; so here, unpolished, is the story of our latest crossing of the South China Sea. This sea evidently has a reputation for sudden tantrums because it is fairly warm and shallow (lots of energy waiting for destructive release), compounding the usual wind and pressure factors. We were to go from Miri in Sarawak (Borneo) to Singapore across this same sea that we wrote of in “Moving House” (June). We hoped it would be a more gentle voyage and allow for more sailing; the grib weather files told us the wind would initially be “on the nose” (that’s not good) but fairly mild and then from the south (“on the beam” – that’s good). There had been a typhoon in Japan to trouble the waters but we set off on Thursday at the back end of this, knowing (!) it would clear.

We expected discomfort, so accepted it: not to say that this fact made it any less uncomfortable… we needed to get our sea legs back, clearly, and also our sea tummies! But the day passed uneventfully with our watches proceeding well; with the wind and the sea “on the nose” a bit, sails were up but it was difficult to maintain a course so we used engines as well, and went uncomfortably into the waves. Then the dolphins came. Very few things can beat the sight of a fin or two breaking the surface of the sea and coming towards your boat…. then the sight of many more as they come from all around to leap and roll and play in the bow wave of the boat. We stand or sit on the front and beam at the dolphins like idiots, certain that they turn and look at us and smile, and also certain that they are a good omen: we will make this passage.

Some time later the sea was a bit calmer, and we hoped the rest would be plain sailing. We so loved one whole day of just the sounds of the sea and the rigging, no noisy engines, and the wind speeds gave us flight. However, early the next morning an ominous, pitch black sky coming at us from the west warned us to deal with the sails (we were going to put in two reefs but during the operation at the last moment decided to drop the sail entirely) so we were reasonably prepared when this incredible black line of squalls thundered into us with their 40 knot winds. The transition from 14 knots to 40 knots is literally a few seconds. This meant that the sea was now ultra-grumpy for many hours after the storm passed and Ketoro went into them, crashing and banging, rising and falling and rolling over. We got grumpy too, but heard on the radio from friends, slightly further north than us and in stronger gusts, who ripped their main sail in the winds. We were at least intact.

So it went. Faring as well as we could, eating well and often and healthily but not gourmet stuff, sleeping on our off-watches when we could and trying to make forward progress, but frustrated at the mind-numbingly slow speeds imposed by sailing into big seas and big winds with strong current against us too. Everything was sodden: sea water came over the top of the deck and up into the windscreen, it came round the sides and saturated us and all it could find. It is difficult to describe what it is like when every surface you touch is encrusted with slippery salt grime, and that includes us too. Then the rain came from all sides and finished off the job of saturation - but at least washed off some of the salt grime. The boat inside was in as much disarray as it has ever been, with things falling and tumbling about. We have subsequently found that after the Japan typhoon, a major typhoon set up north-west of the Philippines and our weather was being affected by this.

The shipping out here was easily manageable, although it always needed careful monitoring and action: in this case the AIS triangles show 2 boats on a collision course with us (and the pink dot without triangle is a fishing boat without AIS – his speed and direction we must estimate differently). Mostly other boats see what is around and ahead of them and adjust course accordingly; sometimes we called them up by radio to ensure they had seen us and to confirm a strategy.

All passages have golden moments, and this one offered us the dolphins which came in many pods to visit us and boost our morale. The tuna also kindly gave themselves to us (5 in 3 days) so the freezer is full and we are fish-replete!

At the western side of the South China Sea are the shipping lanes providing for ordered traffic leaving and entering Singapore for or from the east (Hong Kong, Japan, China, Bangkok, etc). There are also huge areas where these giants simply anchor off to await instructions. We needed to cross these shipping lanes and had planned to get there at dawn on the Monday, cross the channel in daylight, anchor for 30 minutes nearby in order to do some necessary boat things, then set off alongside the shipping lanes to reach the marina in Singapore in the late afternoon.

Plans? Oh well. We got to the start of the shipping channel about 4am on Tuesday, having picked our way in the still-grumpy sea around the edges of the giant “car park” and (and dodging those ships that were suddenly getting underway themselves). Near the shipping channel, the storms hit; massive winds, huge rains, visibility miserable both actual and on the radar screen: all we saw was rain-reflected smudge across the screen. Excuse the terrible photo, but it gives an idea of the usefulness of the screen on the right to us... normally we would see the ships as yellow blips here!

The shipping channel is about 3 miles wide, traffic going one way down one side and the other way down the other (if you know what we mean…). We figured we would need about 40 minutes to cross (at the speed we could maintain in the current conditions), and knew that some of these ships travel at up to 24kn, so we needed the closest ship to be 3 miles away or we could not set off. That of course was for one lane; and we needed the same thing for the other lane, and the second gap needed to occur exactly when we reached the middle…

We turned round and dawdled on the outskirts, thinking to wait for the storm to pass. BUT. All shipping in the channels around Singapore are supposed to use AIS, hence we see them on the screen as little triangles pointing (mostly) in the direction they are supposedly going. We spotted a gap in the outbound traffic nearest us and a big gap the other side, so hopefully that would give us time to cross. We decided to make a run for it…. Oh my word! A fairly torrid experience, playing chicken with the big boys when you cannot see anything around you and are using your chartplotter and helm as if it is playstation… and the sea is huge and the winds come in with reinforcements when you are half way and the current is massive and it is a fight to hold your course.

But the job was done remarkably well by Rolf, and a few hours later we anchored in a bay so Irene could go up the mast and untie the Malaysian flag - it was in knots around the rope hence could not be pulled down, and we need to go into any new country with its flag and the yellow Q flag flying before we have been through immigration… certainly not flying the flag of another country! This job was achieved with ease but when we tried to pull up the anchor we could not: a long, heavy fishing line and net had been brought down in the massive current and wrapped itself around the chain. The fisherman was angry and spoke poor English; we were angry and spoke worse Bahasa Malay. Rolf tried going under water to release it but the current was so strong he could not get down and back; another option involved getting our dinghy down, pumping up its flat pontoon and dragging the other end of the net around, but that was abandoned…. The fisherman, observing our efforts and the futility of fighting nature’s whims, took out his machete and cut his net; here he is (now with two nets... or some repair work to do). We gave him a solid amount of Malaysian ringgits and he was happy… and we “raced” off for the marina, still 7 hours away.
The rest of the trip, in terms of our experience of the sea and the sailing, was calmer and less eventful: well, that would be for us. But for the two ships in an incident that happened about 100m off our starboard side it was not….
The guy on the right had hooted: we thought at us, so adjusted course… turns out he had hooted at the other ship on the left, which was simply blundering into the traffic…
They both try to turn and we watch it as if in slow motion, knowing they are not going to make it…
We see the impact and the crumpling and water pouring out and only later hear a massive boom.
They rebound off each other in a slow turn-away; they seem to take forever to stop. The whole thing seemed surreal, distant and removed due to the slow unravelling quality of the picture... but it was very close!

And it was very real; here is the damage on the one that ends up close to us: (buckled steel and pouring water apparent…. What else was wrong inside?).
(What if, at the start, the guy on the right had turned to his port (left) side?)

We raced away at the end of this episode, only able to imagine the thoughts that went through the heads of all those involved – on the bridges and down below in the ships – and also imagining the result were a small yacht to be involved in an incident like this.

Adjusting our course many times for other big guys and slowly getting to the end of our passage, we were overtaken at very close quarters by this monster;

… seeing him approaching us and unable to turn away because of oncoming vessels, we had been in awe of his bow-wave, but now we were about to be in it.
Rolf steered the boat over the waves, but nonetheless again we had water over the bow and deck… and this time, of course, the hatches had not been closed, because the seas had settled, we were in protected harbour waters, and the rain was gone and we had dried and cleaned earlier!

No matter, we were soon round the corner from “home”, and dealt with immigration in the Singapore way: this immigration boat approaches (after having been called and of course, seeing the yellow flag), you switch off and the boat drifts while your passports and papers go to the immigration guys who hold out a long-handled fish net for them. Efficient and simple... and easy for yachties.

We were accepted in, and tied up at the marina late yesterday evening; we are SO happy to be still, to catch up on lots of lost sleep… and to clean up, de-mould the boat interior, fix a torn sail (old news), stitch two broken sail pockets (again), get the generator charging problem fixed by the agent (hold thumbs - third time lucky?), shop for provisions, calculate whether we can make Malaysia before refuelling as Singapore diesel is very expensive, and meet John, who arrives soon to join us for the next leg.

But we DO have another posting to go up: on the one good passage day, I jotted into a notebook the story of our last visits in Mulu, Sarawak, and last perspectives on Borneo, which we had just left… but those thoughts need tuning and working on and polishing, not simply to be thrown and tumbled out like this… watch this space!