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Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Traditional Wisdom

Our 18 year old Iban friend, Beretin, tells us that in traditional Iban culture it can be bad luck to talk about the future, because it may not happen. The Iban people won't discuss food (as in "whats for dinner tonight ?") when outside the longhouse - it could be bad luck - maybe no food. Traditional hunting parties won't discuss the hunting plans before departure - it might bring bad luck to the hunt. After 11 months in Sarawak, over the past two years, we now have a sense of what questions not to ask - because for the local people it might be bad luck to answer.

We found it specially difficult to know who would join us on board Crystal Blues, for a trip from the longhouse "Rumah Lidam" on the Tulai river to the city of Sibu, on the Rajang river. Not one commitment for many days before, yet on the morning of departure we had nine eager passengers waiting on the dock - this does take some getting used to. Right now, it seems to us that our Iban friends were really trying to tell us something .......

Christmas on Crystal Blues

Neil planned Christmas - and foolishly discussed it with friends. A quiet dinner at our favourite local seafood restaurant and then a Christmas Eve service in the oldest Church Of England church in Asia. Christmas Day he booked a buffet luncheon with Canadian cruising friends Terry and Janine at the classy, colonial Eastern & Oriental Hotel. Well all these plans went awry one hour after dinner, when Neil came down with a very violent attack of food poisoning. He remained ill for 2 days, but now can report that all normal body functions have been restored!

Stocking For Departure

We were planning to depart for the Andaman Islands this week, with a provisioning stop in Langkawi along the way, and of course we discussed this with many people. Langkawi has always been a favourite stop over for cruisers. Shops filled with food, chocolate and spirits, wine and beer are on every corner. Our plan was to clear in to this duty-free island, shop furiously for two days, then head north to Thailand to meet with friends on the yacht Tui Tai, before heading to the Andaman Islands together.

Our plans changed dramatically as soon as the new Tohatsu motor was lowered on to the dinghy. Neil tried to start it - nothing happened. The starter cord would not pull out. Removing the spark plugs told the story - glistening in rust and salt water spots. Our new outboard motor had seized up. We called Tony Wee, the Tohatsu supplier, in Sibu, where we bought the engine in September. He recommended that we take the engine to his friend Geron, who has a business back in Penang. Disappointed, we completed provisioning using our spare (2.5hp) egg beater.

Mechanical failures seemed to be our constant friend in 2007, with multiple genset failures and even an outboard motor stolen back in August. So we celebrated a quiet New Years with a group of international cruisers, and vowed that things had to improve now.

A Sailing New Year

Yesterday we raised anchor at 11 am and just 9 hours later we had covered the 65 nautical miles back to Penang. We had a great sail, with NE winds at 15 to 18 knots, averaging 7.5 knots of boat speed for the journey. Top speed was 9.1 knots. What a fantastic start to the year.

On the way Neil saw two large sail fish feeding on the surface. They appeared to be floating with their fin sailing and tail in the air, competing in a feeding frenzy with a school of diving birds. It is heartening to know that these magnificent creatures are surviving even though the local fishing fleets are out trawling, netting and fishing the coastal waters 24 hours a day.

Good News .... This morning we called Geron at Onomichi Marine Enterprise. Within 20 minutes he collected the seized engine and transported it to his workshop. They stripped it down, made a few phone calls and within minutes we received a call from the distributor back in Sarawak - don't worry he said, it will all be repaired under warranty. The lower seal had failed on the crank shaft, allowing water into the engine. The photograph shows a main crankshaft bearing after de-greasing and cleaning - quite a mess. The only sad news is that the parts have to come from Sibu, in Sarawak, but should be here in two days. So things are looking up.

So what happens now you ask ? You know, we really can't tell you - in Iban the words are "Jai Nasib", or bad luck. Our new traditional wisdom says that if we tell you it might not happen ! So we may be going somewhere, but then we may not. It may be in the Andaman Sea, but maybe not. It may be a group of islands, but maybe not. You get the idea - stay tuned.