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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 links....it 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.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Maintenance In Paradise Again

Lat. 04deg 23.11 North Lon. 113deg 58.33 East

A surprise visit to Australia last month let us join Shaun and Sarah for their engagement party in Melbourne. It also allowed us to stock up on the bits and pieces we needed for the forthcoming cruising season. Back in Miri (Sarawak) we dived into some serious boat maintenance. In between the inevitable dock parties and cruiser dinners we've put a solid three weeks into maintenance, repair and refit work. Payback time.

First off the block was the Onan genset, which needed to be stripped down to isolate a fault (again) in the drive train. This time round we attacked it with advice and support from the technical team at Cummins (who now own Onan) and we believe we eventually found the culprit - a dodgy bearing in the idler pulley of the auto belt tensioner. No Onan parts within a thousand miles or so, so we headed for town and managed to have a replacement bearing pressed in for the grand total of 20 ringit. About $8.00 Australian. We hope it lasts until we hit Singapore in November, where we'll fit a complete new self tensioner. Not having complete faith in the little Onan devil, we also bought a compact Honda petrol genset, as a get-out-of-gaol device. It's stowed in the lazarette and we hope we won't need it for a long while.

This is definitely the month when the maintenance bugs bit hard .... a new pressure vessel was fitted to the fresh water circuit, and a new over-pressure relief valve to the hot water service. A rusty spot on one chain plate has been repaired and re-painted, along with paint touch-ups around the aft steps. A new forward navigation light, plus a repair to the stern nav. light. A full service (1500hrs) on the Cummins engine. Adjusted steering cables, greased rudder bearing, new protective coating on shaft. Repaired the hose on the dinghy foot pump, backwashed the watermaker, cleaned both sea strainers. New leather boots on the aft lower chain plates. New hand controller on the anchor windlass. New engine start batteries (the old units died at seven years of age). Re-installed repaired water bladder in aft tank, touched up paint areas inside the tank. Bow anchor and chain re-galvanised and re-installed. I think that's it, thank heavens !

The last of the jobs was completed yesterday, today we tidied the boat and made ready to go to sea. Our next destination is the Lasa River, then on to the Rajang and our Iban friends at the longhouse "Rumah Lidam" on Sungai Tulai. In November we'll cross to Singapore and move north to Penang and Langkawi. Departure will be on the high tide after midnight tonight, and we should enter the Lassa about 36 hours later.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Another Race

48 hours after winning our class in the passage race from Labuan to Miri, we left Crystal Blues in Miri Marina and secretly flew back home to Melbourne.

We walked into son Shaun's engagement party on the Saturday, giving him a big surprise. His fiancé Sarah had kept our travel plans a secret. Sarah's parents, Bill and Margaret Cooper, introduced us to many of their relatives and Shaun's mates kept us entertained with a variety of party tricks.

Over the next week we ticked off the items on our shopping list - mainly boat spares - and generally emptied our bank accounts. Neil's old window seat in Tiamo Restaurant, in Lygon Street Carlton, was also visited a few times. The coffee, food and the friendly staff always draw us back.

A final weekend in Sydney was a social and culinary whirl. On Saturday we drove to Pittwater, our old haunt, to catch up with SV Ulumulu and Captain Arrifin (aka Fin). Fin has been supervising the refit of Ulumulu as she is prepared for his solo circumnavigation. Staying at Hotel SpaceAge on Saturday evening, we wandered across the road to Puntino Restaurant, and had a fabulous meal cooked by Tony Fabia. We didn't have to order - Tony knew we wanted his mussels and rocket salad. After being regulars for more than six years, he knows our tastes.

Sunday brunch was enjoyed with Mike and Tracey, SV Seadrive, right on the waters edge under Sydney Harbour Bridge. Boy, are we out of touch - the parking meter in Sydney cost more than a meal for two in Malaysia...! Another delightful visit on Sunday evening with Graham and Lesley, SV Wow, rounded out our time in Sydney.

Departing on Monday morning, with 20kg of baggage over the limit was a challange. We departed at 12.30pm and were back on board in Sarawak by 9.30pm. A whirlwind trip!