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Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Refitting And Provisioning, Plus A Cruising Award

Since our return to Thailand we've spent some weeks completing negotiations and arrangements with contractors for our refit and painting work, to be carried out later this year. Lots of documentation and negotiations, and we're pleased to say that we've appointed Pro Yachting ("Jill & Pro") to do the work at Boat Lagoon, Phuket. The rig will be removed and painted, along with the hull, and we plan some improvements and stainless steel work. Jotun primers and epoxies will be used exclusively, with Awlgrip Linear Polyurethane topcoats. As we'll have to move off the boat and empty the contents, finding reasonable accomodation has been a priority. Days of driving around the area have proved useful, and we've found some promising places. Our plan is to rent a 2 or 3 bedroom house for the five or six months that we'll be there. Whilst we'll be working on the boat most days, visitors will certainly be welcome! Phuket is a delightful holiday spot. Check your frequent flyer points....we expect to be living and working in Phuket from late August 2008 to late January 2009.

Private and rental villas are big business in Phuket, and we've also been working hard recording two villas on video, using DV.Cam format, as a trial for a new video enabled web site. The pictures look good, and will be edited when we get to Singapore next week. More news on that one later in the year.

Before the haulout we're making another visit to Sarawak, to spend more time with our friends at the longhouse Rumah Lidam. Last week in Langkawi we provisioned extensively for the journey, adding some 800 litres of diesel and about 200 litres of beer, wine and spirits to the payload. The diesel came by jerry can from shore, 100 litres per trip, and we were very glad when it was over. Here in Penang we've added more Aussie beef to the freezer, and ticked off the usual range of boat jobs. We should be in Singapore by April 26, for about 2 weeks.

Our 1st Weblog Birthday, Celebrated With The Ocean Cruising Club

This weblog is 1 year old this month, and it seems that many people are enjoying the content. The site has been visited around 5000 times in the twelve months. Some of the video content has been hit more than that, thanks to U-Tube. Even our simple life raft servicing video (link here) has been viewed over 1400 times(I'm amazed). Back in early January we received a delightful email from Eric Vischer, on behalf of the Ocean Cruising Club in the UK.

In his words, "I am very pleased to inform you that the Committee of The Club has decided to award you the 2007 Water Music Trophy for providing excellent cruising information to The Club. Through your website, you have provided very full cruising information on Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei, Borneo, Indonesia and Australia and New Caledonia. Your site contains downloadable customs and immigration documentation for ports in many of those countries, comprehensive marine service directories for Asia and Australia and a section for your favourite recipes for the gourmet cruiser. We have said that anyone contemplating cruising those parts should not fail to browse your site! This is now all available through a link from the OCC web site for the rest of us to use." Thank you Eric !

The Water Music Trophy is for a member "who has contributed most to the Club by way of providing cruising information, navigation and pilotage", and is one of several awards given annually by the OCC. Another award winner this year was Sir Robin Knox Johnson. Naturally we're honoured and delighted, but were unable to attend the presentation in London earlier this month. However Neil's cousins Sue Wreford and Simon Heap attended the dinner on our behalf, on April 4th at the Royal Thames Yacht Club in Knightsbridge, London. That is cousin Sue in the photo, receiving the trophy from Admiral Mary Barton. Sue now has temporary possession of a medallion that will eventually find its way home to Crystal Blues. Our sincere thanks go to the Committee of the OCC for considering us. Read the official citation here.

The web is an amazing tool - in recent weeks this site has been linked to the Tourist Click web site (see the graphic in the right hand column), and to several marine and cruising oriented news feeds, so we'll try to keep it interesting and relevant.

Creepy Crawly

Earlier today the boat behind us here in the Tanjong City Marina in Penang had a new guest on board - a baby monitor lizard. That's Ainsley Skye from Airlie Beach (Australia) getting friendly with the lizard, along with Vongsaporn Sornsamnet, Thai captain of a local charter boat. The reptile is now being entertained by the crew, happily munching small fish in a recycled oil drum, while awaiting transportation to a wildlife refuge.

On a slightly different scale, the local people at Santubong village (near Kuching, Sarawak) found an unwelcome visitor in their front yard recently. This is the village we anchor near when visiting Kuching, and we have heard of crocodile attacks in the area in recent years. No, we don't swim there. See the full story here.

Long Range WiFi In Malaysia

mssRecently we wrote aboute the Senao high power wi-fi adapter that is so effective on a cruising boat. Over the weekend we visited the Penang PC Show and found that Senao products are now available in Malaysia from Advancenet Technology Sdn Bhd. Price for the EUB.362EXT is MR 270.00 for the unit, plus about MR 60.00 for a 7dbi antenna. This is excellent value. You can download the contact details here.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Cruising Borneo In 2008

We're returning to Borneo this year, with plans to spend most of our time "up river". Crystal Blues will be on the beautiful Tulai River, a tributary of the Rajang River, where we'll participate in the Gawai festivities at the longhouse Rumah Lidam. Besides the Gawai festival, there are many activities that make a trip to Sarawak worthwhile :

Gawai Dayak / June 1 - 30
Main festivities are on June 1, at most traditional longhouses in Sarawak (see our comments below regarding Gawai Antu).
Borneo Culture Festival / June 27 - July 5
In the town square at Sibu. Anchor in the Rajang River opposite the ferry terminal.
Rainforest World Music Festival / July 11 - 13
A world class musical feast, at Sarawak Cultural Village, Santubong. Book early ! Anchorage in the river at Santubong, or easy access from Kuching. More info here.
Kuching Festival & Sarawak Regatta / August 1 - 3
The Kuching street parade is on August 2. Anchorage in the Santubong River. The traditional longboat races are held each day.
Baram River Regatta / August 22 - 24
Traditional longboat races on the Baram River at Marudi. Access via regional air service or ferry from Miri.
Borneo International Yachting Challenge / September 7 - 13
Labuan Harbour and Miri Marina. Info here.

Remember - internal air travel in Sarawak and Sabah is inexpensive, and accomodation is very reasonable. You can move around very easily, and local people are helpful and friendly. More informatin is available from the Sarawak Tourism Board here.

2008 Is Gawai Antu

The Gawai Dayak festival is held each year between June 1 and June 30. To the local people it's a celebration of unity, aspiration and hope that marks the end of rice harvest and ushers in another year of bountiful goodness. Traditional music, dance and tuak (rice wine) are all used in abundance. This year Gawai takes on a special role - it is Gawai Antu, meaning festival of the dead. The ceremony and celebrations are, we are told, more substantial and special. We hope to arrive in Kuching, Sarawak (Santubong River anchorage) in early May, and to depart for the Rajang river by May 20.

If you're travelling north east along the coast of Sarawak, you can enjoy the Gawai celebration up river and then return to Santubong anchorage for the Rainforest World Music Festival, or (as we did last year), move on to Miri marina and fly back to Kuching for the music festival. Its only two days travel by boat in either direction, and flights from Miri to Kuching are generally less than fifty dollars.

Our host and friend Jampie anak Merom, a family leader at the Iban longhouse Rumah Lidam, has encouraged us to invite other vessels to visit Sungai Tulai and the Rumah Lidam longhouse this year. Access by boat is relatively straitforward, being close to Bintangor town on the Rajang River. Deep water is held all the way to the longhouse, and anchorage is in an average of 7 metres. If you'd like to visit please contact us for access details and guidance (svcrystalblues"at"gmail.com). Finally, we've compiled an updated listing of marine services and cruising resources in Sarawak, Labuan and Sabah - you can download it here.