Friday, 19 October 2007

Seven Rivers In One Day

Lat. 02deg 10.53min North, Lon. 111deg 40.90 East

The Rajang Delta, Sarawak

Crystal Blues entered the river delta at 1.00pm on October 11, crossing the outer bar on the Paloh River. We'd planned an entry just 2 hours after low water, to take advantage of the tidal inflow, which in this case is significant. Heading upstream the tidal assistance grew to a maximum of four knots, and we managed to cover 58 nautical miles before dropping anchor in the Tulai River just before 8:25pm that evening (you can click on the image at left for a detailed view). This is a trip that normally takes two days, working the tides to cross the shallow sections - using the Paloh, Seredeng, Lobah Semah, Leba-An, Rajang, Binatang and Tulai Rivers. The last five miles were in total darkness, with no moon and no stars (Ramadan was about to happen). Ley stood watch on the bow with a spotlight as we motored very slowly upstream. Our motoring light cast a shadow of the mast on the water and the jungle, which we could use to judge position in the stream. On the Tulai River our Iban friend Sap was waiting with a flash light and a smile, to guide us home. It was very good to be back.

Tulai River Anchorage

Here on the Tulai we've an anchor down both fore and aft, with about 50 metres of scope on each. This keeps us moored mid-stream, in depths that range from 5 metres to 9.5 metres, subject to tides. Even though we're over 100km upstream, the river still flows backwards twice a day.

By 9.00am the next morning we had visitors on board, and life with the people of longhouse Rumah Lidam began again. The next day our friends Jampie, Dungert, Dayang and Jabu went into the jungle in the afternoon to pick Miding, the local fern that we love to eat. Beautiful river prawns, local rice, tuak, vegetables and other gifts have arrived on board. In return we've delivered many more English language books for the longhouse library.

Last night Ley and I travelled downstream with Jampie in his canoe, with Sap in the bow, to visit the last longhouse on this river. We'd been there once before, back in June for the Gawai festival. It was a very beautiful experience, being paddled peacefully through the jungle under a new moon. The folks at longhouse Rumah Surin are delightful, and we had a fine time, with lots of tuak.

Tomorrow we're off to plant padi (rice) with Jampie and his family. We plan to stay another two weeks here, before heading to Kuching.

Maintenance Update - Many Links In A Chain

For those who've been following our work stories, we're pleased to say that the Onan genset is running fine. The new Honda portable also works well - we've put two tanks of gas through it, and it will run our big freezer and battery charger together.

In our last news we reported on the re-galvanising of our chain in Miri. What we didn't know then was that many of the links had large drips or bulges of zinc on one end. Here on the Tulai we experienced a couple of jams when anchoring, so we inspected the chain. The drips and bulges were causing jams in the hawse pipe, and had to be removed.

Every single link in 120 metres of chain was inspected, and more than half required work with the angle grinder. At 34 links per metre thats over 4000 took two days of very dirty, noisy and tiring work. There was a LOT of extra zinc on that chain - we left as much as we could on the chain of course, but the mess in the forward hold still took another day to clean up. Maintenance in exotic places again.

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