Friday, 25 July 2008

BIYC & Borneo Cruising Update

With a little under 4 weeks to go, preparations for this years event are moving ahead. Two local entries in the racing division will have local Sarawak Sail Team crews on board. A record number of visiting boats (over 20!) were anchored at Santubong for the Rainforest World Music Festival, with most now heading on to Miri and Labuan for the race start.

Dancing On The Tulai River

SV Harrier and SV Quoll 2 visited Sungai Tulai late in June for the "End Of Gawai" celebrations at longhouse Rumah Lidam. The local population worked hard to welcome everyone, and the Tuak was flowing. Harrier have moved on to Miri after Dennis stole the show with his own unique Ngajat (dance, at left), while Quoll 2 moved back to Santubong for the music festival. Ask Tim about his sumpit (blowpipe) skills - he placed third in a competition among many locals last week.

Unusual Weather

Some boats have experienced unusually heavy conditions on the crossing from Singapore and West Malaysia, with some damage to sails and canvas reported. On the Rajang Delta we've had an unusually wet two months. I'm told the south west monsoon is stronger than usual. Some dry season! With only two sailboats registered in the whole state, there are no sailmakers or sail repair services in Sarawak. Canvas workshops are available in Miri and Kuching, but straight stitch only. If you want zig-zag, you'll need to find a boat with a suitable machine onboard.

Santubong Wrecks

SV Blue Tango, one of many vessels to visit this year, had the bad luck to pick up a wreck on their anchor chain. We're told this happened off the Marine Police jetty, an area suggested to us for anchoring by the locals....and we've seen fishing boats anchored there in the past year. Never the less they had a serious problem, resolved only after hiring a diver and barge etc. Most unfortunate. We're now told there are two wrecks in that area, plus a sunken Japanese aircraft on the other side of the river.

A Visit To Sibu, Sarawak's Second Biggest City

Anchor opposite the express boat terminal, immediately downstream of the sawmill on the opposite bank. Sibu produce markets are exceptional, with unique packaging for live chickens. We recommend a visit to The Fisherman Restaurant, on the waterfront near the water taxi depot (downstream from the express boat terminal). They serve a unique blend of Chinese and Melanau cooking, lots of seafood, and the special Assam Prawn Soup is a must. In daylight hours your dinghy can be left safely on the long express boat pontoon - go around the upstream end of the pontoon and then come back towards the terminal building between the river bank and the pontoon. However that dock is locked up each evening, so at night we use the public dock immediately downstream from the water taxi depot (its right opposite The Fisherman Restaurant). Again we use the shore-side of the floating pontoon, leaving the river side open for commercial traffic. Be sure that your dinghy is locked in both places. Fresh water can be obtained from a tap at the water taxi / fuel depot - if you go in at high tide the tap is only a few metres from your dinghy (I wouldn't recommend putting your yacht anywhere near that dock).

The night market in Sibu is a delight, with many types of local food, clothing, jewellery, gadgets etc. We shop at the council market in the heart of town for vegetables and fruit - the range is fantastic. If you want to see the country further up river, you can take an express boat from here to Song and Kapit, 120km inland. I recommend a visit to the Tun Jugah Museum at Fort Sylvia in Kapit. Coincidentally, it is Datuk Linggi, son of Tun Jugah, who makes available the floating dock at Santubong that is so valuable to visiting cruising boats.

Haul Out Facilities

SV Court Jester arrived in Santubong with a persistent leak - they needed to dry out to access the source. In the end they careened on the piles at Santubong, quite successfully. There is a concrete hard stand area at Miri Marina, serviced by mobile crane. Whilst it is quite full at the moment, Captain Fin advises they would do everything possible to help a distressed vessel. Next stop after Miri for haulout is the big travel lift at Kudat. Prices there have risen recently, but are still reasonable. Check our Marine Services Directory (right hand column) for contact details.

More Boats Visit Sungai Tulai

Whilst the annual Gawai festival is officially over, our Iban friends on Sungai Tulai continue to extend hospitality to visiting boats. Last week we met cruising yachts Circe, Dream Catcher, Millenium and Callala in Bintangor and arranged for them to visit. They came up stream in convoy the next day. Donations from the boats to the fire victim at Rumah Suring were graciously accepted, then the crews were hosted with traditional wine, music and dance at Rumah Labang. That evening the Rumah Lidam families provided a traditional Iban meal inside the longhouse, followed by hours of conversation and tuak (rice wine).

Miri Marina Arrival Information

Head for the giant Seahorse - if you miss that, the next most obvious landmark will be the big smile on Capt. Fin's face (just joking). We sounded the entrance to Miri Marina on October 10 last year, and measured 1.45m on a 0.0m tide (this depth occuring well within the sea walls). Captain Fin recommends using a minimum 1.0 metre tide for entry, and believes there is more water now than we measured last year. The bottom shelves gradually on approach to the entrance. We recommend keeping around 75m clear (SSW) of the sea walls before turning into the entrance. Plenty of water in the pond itself, but don't swim there - I've personally seen a crocodile in the canals beyond the marina, though Capt. Fin tells me thay caught that one a few months ago....

Brunei Anchorage Update

Patrick & Elizabeth on SV Labarque have confirmed that Allan Riches' notes (offered via Sailmail and also included in Envy's compilation) seem to be out of date. According to the Brunei Police, the only authorised anchorage in the Brunei River is now off the Royal Brunei Yacht Club at Serasa (05-00.2N, 115-04.1E, or thereabouts). Labarque tried anchoring up river (in town) but met problems with garbage, officialdom and locals. The holding at Serasa is very good and the club welcomes visitors. From the anchorage you can take the dinghy to the ferry terminal to check in.

Fuel is available at the Shell marine station some five miles inland from Serasa (04-55.98N, 115-01.12E). Subsidised fuel is no longer available. Diesel for foreign vessels costs B$1.30 a litre. You'll need a barge board to lie alongside the fuel wharf comfortably. We've re-fueled Crystal Blues there many times - best to arrive at high tide, slack water. Brunei is well worth a visit. We know of one boat that was hit by a barge when anchored in town, so the yacht club anchorage at Serasa is definitely the place to be. Do lock your dinghy and outboard motors though .... we lost an outboard motor there last year. See our stories here & here.