About Me

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Singapore
I am owned by Pauline and Mark Blasky. My hull was built at the Duncan Marine Yard in Taiwan and launched in Dec of 1980. It is a William Garden design based on the Pixie Design and called by Duncan Marine a Freedom 45. They are the fourth owners and have owned me the longest. They have done extensive refitting to me including replacing my entire deck structure and rig. My masts are roughly 10% taller than original and now are made of aluminium as opposed to the original wood ones, which, though pretty, were always problematic. You can read more about me under "MORE ABOUT SARI TIMUR"

September 23, 2010

In Singapore and the US


On Sep 1, we left Sari Timur in her berth and flew to Singapore for a few days.  While there, we attended Raffles Marina’s anniversary lunch and the wedding reception of Johnny and Laura.  It was really great meeting up with friends.
On Sep 7, we flew out to the US.  Our first stop was in San Francisco, where we stayed with Suzie.  In spite of her busy schedule, she took us around, mostly shopping and eating.  During one the nights, we took the Bart train and had dinner with Mike Gilson and his wife.  Mike was a business associate of Mark’s.
We flew to Grand Haven on Sep 10.  We will be here till Sep 29, when we will head back to Singapore, arriving on Oct 2, 2010.

Kinabalu National Park


After the Borneo Challenge, Sari Timur will stay in Sutera Harbour Marina till we leave for the Philippines in November 2010.
view of mountain at sunset
view of mountain at sunrise
In August, we visited the Kinabalu National Park with our friends Walt and Jane LeCompte of SY Callisto.  We hired a car and drove to the Park.  We stayed at the Kinabalu Pine Resort, with a fantastic view of Mount Kinabalu.
The name Kinabalu is derived from the Kadazan words, Aki Nabalu, meaning ‘the revered place of the dead’. The local Kadazan people believe that spirits dwell on the mountaintop.
a pitcher plant
We hired a guide and went on a hike along one of the longest trails in the park.  There were plenty of plants and birds and insects and we had a good time.  The area is also known for its many carnivorous plant, most notably the pitcher plants and orchid species, especially the Rothschild Slipper Orchid.  The largest flower, the Rafflesia is also found in these parts.
the Rothschild Slipper orchid
The Rafflesia
We visited the Poring Hot Springs, which is part of the Park.  Poring is named after a species of giant bamboo that grows abundantly in the area.
On our way back to the marina, we visited the Kundasang War Memorial.  Established in 1962, this was one of the first memorials to commemorate the brave Australian and British Prisoners of War who died in Sandakan and during the infamous death marches to Ranau during World War II.  The memorial also remembers the people of North Borneo who risked their lives to help the POWs.
the Australian Garden
the Borneo Garden
the English Garden
The Memorial is made up of four beautiful gardens - the Australian Garden, the English Garden, the Borneo Garden and the Contemplation Garden and Pool - to represent the different nationalities. The serene atmosphere makes the Kundasang War Memorial an ideal place to contemplate and remember the heroes of the war. We also viewed a brief video on the history of the Sandakan Death March.

September 16, 2010

The 7th BIYC "Sari Timur" Style (posted Aug 17, 2010)


After our terrible performance in the 20th Raja Muda Regatta, we decided that we would try the Borneo International Yachting Challenge.  This is a set of fun races from Miri up to Kota Kinabalu via Labuan, with a few harbor races thrown in just to make up the numbers.  It had been reported to us that this was indeed a fun event similar to the original runnings of the Raja Muda Regatta and the Phuket King’s cup.  It was mostly made up of cruising boats (our kind of racers) and a few real racing boats to keep us honest.  Since arriving in Borneo it was the event that everyone was talking about, so we figured we were into a good thing.  Besides it was free and they even paid us Malaysian Ringgit 688 as an added incentive to help with boat and crew expenses during the event.  This was on the condition we took part in all of the races.

A week before the start of the race, as the boats started coming into the Miri Marina, we realized just what we were up against.  There seemed to be a party every night.  If we could withstand the social life we might be able to handle the racing!

There were 53 boats from 14 different countries, divided into four classes: IRC, Cruising A, Cruising B, and Multihull.  There were 6 boats that didn’t make it but were kept on the registry all the same.  We fell into Class B, which was the largest class with 23 boats, although 3 of the missing boats fell in our category.  But even with 20 boats we had the other classes out numbered.

The first race was a harbor race just outside of Miri Marina.  As usual Sari Timur had a terrible start.  This was due to a technical malfunction rather than anything to do with crew or boat.  However it did mean we were well and truly in the wrong place.  But hey, we’re in this for fun.  Since we were on the wrong side of everyone and did not want to tack across about 30 boats on a port tack we decided to continue off away from the main fleet and followed a couple of other boats who had similar handicaps as ours. As often happens in the tropics, there was a huge wind shift and somehow we paid off the wind gods correctly, because it was in our favor and we went from being on what from the start looked like the wrong side of the course to being in perfect location.  We were able to pull the windward mark in with just one tack and passed a huge part of the fleet that was struggling with the wind shift.  We kept up the good work and even passed a couple more boats before the finish line.  We knew we had done well but later when the results posted us with a first we were over the moon.  Due to the tides there was only one race which allowed everyone to get back early and prepare for the party, and what a party.  Maybe even on par with the one the night before!

The next day was the passage race from Miri to Labuan, a 95 mile slog of what the weatherman predicted as a broad reach in 25-30 knots breeze.  This time Sari Timur got a reasonable start but the weatherman had it all wrong.  We were struggling with only 4 knot breezes trying just to keep Sari Timur moving.  There was a provision in the sailing instructions to use the engine for the two long passages but we did not want to start putting hours on it within the first part of the race.  We persisted and after about 2 hours the wind came up a little and we were able to fly our big spinnaker and reeled back some of the yachts whom we thought had had a better angle on the wind than us (we later learned they had turned on their engines earlier).  Just after dark as we were struggling through some of the oil rigs in this part of the world, the wind died again so we then used the engine rule.  At about 2 am, we realized there was some wind and it was off with the engine and we had a wonderful sail all the way to Labuan.  What was even more exciting was that we got a second on this race (not running the engine those first few hours paid big dividends).   That evening we again had a great party in Labuan although this one had no alcohol.  This is a bit strange as Labuan is a duty free port and we had been into town earlier loading Sari Timur up with enough alcoholic provisions to further drop her waterline!

The race start for the next day was 11 am and it was an overnight race of about 65 miles to Kota Kinabalu.  We awoke to a beautiful 12 knot breeze that was heading the right direction.  However, when 11 am arrived there were only a few puffs left.  Luckily what little there was came from the right direction and the current was with us so by teasing the spinnaker we were able to keep on racing.  We were passing all kinds of boats and feeling really good about ourselves.  That was until we suddenly discovered that the majority were heading inside of Pulau Tiga and we had opted for the clearer outside passage.  After all the winds were coming from offshore right?  Well this time the wind gods were not with us and once we got within about 3 miles of Pulau Tiga, they dropped out completely.  We knew from what we experienced the previous night, when the wind came back it would be from the shore side and be blocked by Pulau Tiga.  We were stuck and had to use the engine assist again.  This dropped us down to 10th place for this race and indeed dampened our spirits.  But hey another party and a great dinner with all the crew.  There were two races on the last day of racing.  A windward leeward triangle combination and then a passage race back to the marina rounding the islands outside of it.  The crew did everything right for the first race and Sari Timur had the best start we have ever done.  It paid off and we got a second on this race.  The second race didn’t work out as well as we were struggling to make it in before the time limit.  We also got dumped with a little rain (sorry make that a lot of rain) which made it difficult to keep the spinnaker up.  Anyway an 8th was all we could get for this race.  Was it enough?  Yes, we came off with a best overall result and a very nice trophy, which is now displayed on Sari Timur’s “mantelpiece”.

That evening was the party of all parties, these Borneo guys know how to throw a party.  And we were in a great mood, thanks to our crew.  We also wish to thank Alex (Ferret) and Rina Voss who were sailing on Ulumulu.  We contacted them a couple of days before the race to bring some spares for us from Singapore.  This allowed us to compete in this event with a bit more confidence in our engine.

Final results are below.

IRC                 1st place    Selma Star (Philippines)
2nd place   Ulumulu (Malaysia)
3rd place    Miri Magic 1 (Malaysia)

Cruising A       1st place    Remington (Canada)
2nd place   Jaraman (Australia)
3rd place    Shah (UK)

Cruising B       1st place    Sari Timur (Singapore)
2nd place   Destiny III  (Australia)
3rd Place   Petima (Germany)

MultiHull          1st place   Out of the Bag (Australia)
2nd place  Truest Passion (Australia)
3rd place   This Way Up ((Australia)

Miri and the Mulu National Park (posted Aug 4, 2010)




While we were in Miri, we visited the Mulu National Park.
Miri is Sarawak’s 2nd largest city and the gateway to the state’s northern region.  A rapidly expanding business and commercial centre and the home of Sarawak’s oil industry, Miri is located in Northeast Sarawak close to the Brunei border.  Miri has become a major tourism gateway and the jumping-off point for some of Sarawak’s world-famous National Parks.  It is here that we launched ourselves off to the Mulu National Park.
There are many ways you can get from Miri to the Park – by bus, by boat and by plane.  We chose to fly.  It was a 30-minute flight to Mulu.
There are different types of accommodations at the Park – homestays, tents or the up scale Royal Mulu Resort.  Well, we gave ourselves a treat and stayed at the Resort.  The resort sits on the bank of the Melinau River and is built in wooden longhouse style.
The Mulu National Park is Sarawak’s largest national park and also Malaysia’s first World Heritage Area.  It is most famous for its limestone cave systems.  The park’s main attractions are the four show caves – Lang Cave, Deer Cave, Cave of the Wind and Clearwater Cave.  There are other sights and activities but we only did the caves and the Canopy Skywalk.
The Lang Cave is small and intimate with elegant rock shawls and cave curtains, dramatic stalagmites and stalactites and unusual rim stone pools on the cave floor.
Profile of Abraham Lincoln
The Deer Cave is the world’s largest discovered cave passage but we were told that in recent days, a larger cave has been discovered in Vietnam.  The Deer Cave is home to the largest known bat colony.  The huge cave passage was formed by an ancient river that carved the spectacular scalloped walls and left a number of fascinating rock formations.  At one point it is possible to see a remarkably lifelike profile of Abraham Lincoln (an ex-president of the USA) outlined at the cave entrance.
Bat flying out of the cave
From the cave exit we walked to the Bat Observatory to view the mass exodus of millions of bats emerging from the entrance of the cave to forage in the rainforest.  It was quite a “performance”.  Millions of bats stream from the cave and for up to 30 minutes, they spiral across the sky towards the setting sun, forming long ribbon-like shapes, swirling donuts and corkscrew trails as they try to elude the bat hawks looking for a meal.  It is estimated that the bats eat about 15 tons worth of mosquitoes every night.  We believe this is true because we didn’t get a single bite while up there.  But we do wonder how far they have to forage to get the mosquitoes they need to eat.

Bats in formation
 The Wind Cave got its name from the cool breezes that blow along the narrow passages inside the cave.
The Clearwater Cave was formed by an underground river, which emerges near the cave mouth.  It is Southeast Asia’s longest cave passage at over 170km.  We had to climb up the 200 steps to the cave mouth, which has some superb dripping stalactites and 2 species of bizarre one-leave plants.  Inside the cave entrance are strange spike-like formations formed by bacterial action, all facing towards the cave entrance.  At the end of our visit we went swimming in the clear, cool water just outside the cave entrance.


Mark on the Canopy Skywalk
We went on the 480-meter Canopy Skywalk, which is the longest tree-based walkway in the world.  We were supposed to be able to view a variety of birds, insects and plants that cannot be seen from the ground.  Unfortunately, we did not see any birds or insects (only butterflies).
We walked a lot during the visit to the Park, which was good.  As a treat, we decided we had enough and stayed in our room to relax a whole day before we flew back to Miri.
A visit to the Mulu National Park and the caves is highly recommended for anyone visiting Sarawak.  It is an experience not to be missed.  We had a great time.
Here are more photos taken at the Park.
Fungi
They call this the Lady

A Lantern Bug

Stalactite resembling a hand

Rajang to Miri (posted Jul 14, 2010)

During our stay in Sibu we had noticed the incredible currents there.  With that in mind we wanted to pull anchor on slack tide.  This was no easy task as the currents had caused the anchor to be severely buried and our windlass motor could not pick it up.  So we went as tight as possible and started using a combination of manual winch and the force of Sari Timur driving on the anchor then slacking off.  We know we were making progress, as we were able to grab a few extra links each time.  After about 20 minutes of this the mud finally let go of her captive and we could again use the electric winch.  By now the current was flowing a bit stronger and we were soon up to 10 knots under slightly above idle!  Anyway what a sleigh ride, however we were a bit concerned about hitting bottom at such speeds but luckily we had our track to follow on the way out.  We noticed the engine was getting warm.  Something we had been seeing a lot lately.  We thought it might be because the current was pushing so hard up the exhaust it was partially blocking the exhaust.  Though we really found that to not be so plausible we accepted it.  Anyway just about an hour after leaving Sibu we were approaching our turn for the Sungai Labaan.  This same trip in the other direction was over 3 hours!  We noticed a sailboat anchored waiting for the current to slacken.  We called them on the radio and found out they were Cloudy Bay, a boat we had seen in Thailand but never met.  They were going to do a similar trip to ours but were about 3 days behind us.

We made our turn into the Sungai (river) Labaan and the currents slacked off considerable but we were still doing 6 knots under idle.  The Labaan has a new bridge over it, which we had been told had 20 metre clearance.  We were desperately looking for some kind of confirmation, not on any of our electronic or paper charts.  You hate to take word of mouth as your sole source of reference, especially when you have heard it from only one source.  We eventually saw a sign warning us it had 20 metre clearance and to slow down to 5 knots.  Not quite an easy task and still remain with steerage but we managed to get the boat down to 5.1 by alternating the engine between idle and neutral.  Luckily the engine was now running quite cool (maybe this water up the exhaust is the problem).  The bridge turned out to be no drama in the end as there were even buoys indicating the passage through.   Buoys in Malaysia are a sheer luxury and often do not exist even when they are supposed to!  We were very pleased with ourselves and settled in to navigate the river.  Some beautiful scenery but alas no pictures as we were both busy with navigation and driving.  Still making speeds of 6 knots and now no track to follow meant we needed to be on our toes.

We had made a decision to turn off the Labaan and follow the Loba Singat.  This is a rather narrow river but looked like we could navigate it ok.  The charts showed a couple of areas where the sphincter muscles would be tight but all in all navigable and it should cut some time off the trip plus provide even more spectacular scenery.  We didn’t have any reports of any yachts going this way before, but reckoned with the nav charts updated there must be traffic.  Just as we were getting to the entrance we saw a ferry boat head in.  Though these boats are shallow draft we reckoned it was a good sign.  The scenery was well worth it.

From the Singat we entered the Lassa and if the Singat was narrow and shallow the Lassa was as wide and deep.  We had thought about anchoring near the town of Daro but as we approached we could not see the skyline and realized the anchorage would be a bit out of the way.  As it was early we decided to go up near the mouth of the Lassa and anchor there for the evening.  This would allow us to get a good early jump in the morning on the way to Bintulu.  But the best laid plans often go out the window.  And as we approached the mouth, the river did shallow and we had 13 knots of wind blowing straight in.  This was creating a chop that would have been uncomfortable to sleep.  So we decided to continue on and do a couple of overnight sails to go straight to Miri.

As we were coming out of the mouth the wind slowly veered so that it was tight going but manageable and we were able to sail.  As evening came the wind did drop and we had to turn on the motor.

In the morning the wind came back up and we even had reasonable angle so it was off with the engine and streaking towards Miri at high sixes and low sevens under sail.  Is this what we are going to have for our race north at the end of the month, was all we kept thinking.  Anyway at the change of tide both late morning and early evening we noticed a large amount of logs and bits in the water and were glad we were under sail.  Hitting one of these bits with a rotating MaxProp could be expensive!  As we were passing one of the oil platforms we saw a large school of tuna.  Now Sari Timur has a reputation for not catching fish.  As a matter of fact it has been a 15 year drought. Of course most of that was because we seldom put a line in the water.  But since we were having such a great sail we decided maybe luck had turned with us.  And we rigged up a line.  Sure enough a few hours later we were rewarded with the sound of a fish on the line and we soon reeled in a nice mackerel of about 34 inches.  Sashimi for dinner!

At about 10 pm the wind started to diminish and turn more on the nose.  We wanted to make the entrance to Miri at first light, as that was optimum tide (Miri has a very shallow entrance and keel boats need some tide to enter).  So we turned on the engine.  Again we were running very warm and this time nothing was choking up the exhaust.  We have a problem!  So let’s try taking out the thermostat.  The symptoms running sometimes hot, sometimes normal, could be explained by a sticky thermostat. In doing so we damaged an endcap hose on the heat exchanger without noticing it.  Thermostat removed and the engine back together, let’s turn it on and give it a try. Without a thermostat the engine was running cool but that was expected, so let’s go.  Clean up, get some sleep.  Barely into dreamland when the engine overheated again.  We opened up the engine room and found the above-mentioned endcap for the heat exchanger spraying water all over the place and things were very hot!  It was off with the engine and drift sail towards Miri, as we again got out the tools.  This endcap we do not have a spare for but Rube Goldberg style we made up an alternative and again started the engine.  It was working and again, packed up the tools and cleaned up again and tried to get some sleep.  An hour later and Rube let us down as one of the fittings wouldn’t hold.  This time we have cooked the hose on the exhaust riser as well.  This we have a spare for so we changed it and tried a different approach with ole Rube.  And now we have learned, do not put away tools, do not get cleaned up and keep the engine box opened so we can watch.  With no thermostat in the fresh water system by the time it gets warm on the gauges the salt water side is well and truly cooked.  Anyway it all holds together and 4 hours later we are motoring into the Miri Marina. 

We are very pleased with Miri.  It has a true cruising community and we are experiencing the social life full on while we wait for those spares from Singapore. All in all a great trip so far.  Other than a few hours worth of engine work on a hot engine with the wrong spares the trip so far has been fantastic.



The Rajang River (posted Jul 8, 2010)

We left Santubong on Friday, 25 Jun 2010 at about 1500 hours.  We were planning to have an easy slow sail to arrive at the mouth of the Rajang River just after sunrise.  However the wind did not cooperate and we had to motor sail.  That meant we got to the mouth of the Rajang River in the dark.
During the night out at sea, we encountered many fishing boats.  We came real close to one and actually went over their nets as they were frantically trying to get them in.  We put our engine to neutral and floated over.  All was well but that got our adrenaline going.
We arrived at the mouth of the Rajang River at about 0400 hours and with the full moon behind us, we worked our way up the river.   As the tide was flowing out and we were fighting our way upriver, we decided to anchor off a tributary at 0830 hours to wait for the tide change.  We also took the opportunity to take a nap and refresh ourselves.   At 1100 hours, we weighed anchor and continued upriver, and arrived at Sarikei at 1500 hour.
Sarikei is a little town on the Rajang River, with mostly Chinese and Ibans.  We only stayed the night and after topping up our diesel at the fuel dock, we left at 1200 hour the next day.
We continued upriver and motored past Bintangor, another little town and turned up into the Tulai River.  Our destination was the longhouse, Rumah Lidam, where cruising friends told us we have to visit.  We past many longhouses on our way up and at 1615 hours, we were anchored in front of the dock to Rumah Lidam.  Before long, the children were gathered at the dock and screaming their welcomes.

The Ibans are the biggest indigenous population in Sarawak.  They live in longhouses by the river.  The Rajang River is the greatest river in Malaysia and is a lifeline for the people who live on its bank.  A longhouse is constructed, well, long.  It is then sub-divided into rooms.  There is a long verandah outside the rooms.  Behind the door is a little apartment, complete with living room, bedrooms and kitchens.  The Ibans gather socially outside on the verandah.
We were invited to visit the longhouse by Jampie, our host and after showers and dinner, we grabbed some beers and trekked over to the longhouse.  We sat on the floor on the verandah and drank tuak with our hosts.  Everyone came out and sat with us.  Only a few of the Ibans there spoke English but that didn’t stop the others from visiting with us.  They brought out bottles and bottles of tuak.  Tuak is a rice wine made from sticky local rice and is a popular drink with the Ibans.  We had a great time and it was soon time to leave and we made our way back to the boat for a good night’s sleep.
The next day we hosted them on our boat and we made the children cookies, which they enthusiastically consumed - sometimes 3 or 4 at a time.  They were happy campers.
The Tulai River is not on the charts and we are sure the longhouses are not on the tourist maps.  That is a good thing because the week we spent there was so blissful.  It was quiet and serene.  The lightning bugs were all over the trees at night but the downside is there were mosquitoes too.
We left Rumah Lidam on Saturday, 3 July 2010 at 0800 hours and as we were bringing up the anchor, discovered the chain was wrapped around a log.  Mark had to saw off the ends in order to untangle it from our chain, and after about a half hour, we were on our way upriver to Sibu.  There were so much debris floating down and we had to avoid hitting them.  Some of them were big logs, about half the length of Sari Timur so it was scary at times, but it was a nice motor upriver.  We arrived at Sibu at 1400 hours and were anchored across from the waterfront.  The current there is massive, roaring down from 3 to 7 knots.  Logs continued to bombard us and we had to dislodge several during our stay.
Sibu is the gateway to the Rajang and the second largest town in Sarawak.  It is a bustling and modern town and the main port of the Rajang Basin.  It is also the wealthiest town on the Rajang Basin and is a jumping off point for embarking on a Rajang River journey.  We went to church on Sunday and visited the central market after.  The place was pulsating; people everywhere, cars were stopped all over the place and even the traffic police were busy writing out tickets for illegal parking and too busy to give directions.  We walked all over, definitely looking like tourists.  We had lunch at the Fisherman’s Restaurant, who serves local Melanau cuisine.  The Melanaus are another indigenous people of Sarawak.
On Tuesday, 5 July 2010 we again weighed anchor to continue on to Miri.  We backtracked our way down the Rajang and turned off into the Sungei Lebaan.  From there, we went on the Loba Singat and the Batang Lassa.  The Loba Singat is a very tiny river on our chart.  The Batang Lassa is actually very wide and it ends up in the South China Sea.  We were planning to anchor for the night just inside the river mouth but the shallow depth as well as the fact the wind had picked up and were causing lots of chop, made us decide to go for it without stopping to head straight for Miri.

Santubong and Kuching (posted Jun 21, 2010)


The entrance into Santubong is fairly straightforward but a little review never hurts anyone.  So upon arriving near the entrance to the river, confirm you have some tide.  A sailboat requires her keel depth to get over the sandbars.  There are soundings of about one metre at low tide so most boats are going to need some tide to enter.  Never fear, there are up to 5 metre tides twice daily so you will not have to wait long.  And there is a long enough approach so you should be able to get it close enough to not have to stand off.  In our case, we were coming in just about perfect on a rising 4.5 metre tide.  However, remember entering on a rising tide means you are coming in fast.  We had the motor going at slow idle and were still ticking over at six knots.  Running aground at these kinds of speeds means that you will run up hard!  We looked for leading lights or markers on the entrance and there were several things that looked like they could be leading marks but nothing seemed quite right so we came in on the chartplotter.  We do not recommend this normally but in Santubong the entry channel is quite wide so it is ok.  However, the area that we were told to anchor is a tributary just off to the left and this has a very narrow channel and some reef and sandbars on it.  The good thing is there are some great leading marks, two triangles that form an hourglass shape when lined up.  They are also equipped with lights so you can enter or leave at night as well.  However, remember my earlier statement about incoming current?  When it comes time to turn broadside to it you best be ready to put some crab angle in or you will come to some grief.  As you start to see the marks (well before you are lined up look ahead to see if there is a marker pole on the reef).  There usually is, unless someone has recently come to grief and knocked it over.  If so, you have it made, just keep a 100 or so metres to the left of it and you are fine.  If it is not there get lined up on the leading marks and come in.  Do not let yourself drift off the leading marks, especially to starboard.  We did not know about the pole until we passed it on our starboard side.  And we did get a little too close but luckily had about 3 metres of tide under us as we came in.
We anchored as we said in our earlier post, off of Datuk Linggi’s jetty.  You need to anchor in front of his jetty or either up river or down river of the marine police post.  You cannot anchor directly off of the police post.  Also you are not allowed to come alongside the Datuk’s jetty with anything but a dinghy.  He is very gracious and allows the yachts to use his jetty for dinghy berthing and he even provides you the tap to take potable water in jerry cans.  This is a great service so hopefully no one will abuse it.  Anchor on the north side of the river as there are barges and ship traffic using the river all the time and they also have trouble maneuvering in the currents so weaving in and out of anchored yachts is asking a bit much of them.  The understanding has always been to leave the south half of the river to them and the yachts keep to the north half.
In days of old one could get all the way to Kuching via the Santubong or the Sarawak rivers.  However, progress has put some low bridges in the way and so we have to stay out of town.  Up the Sarawak River there is a new marina that gets you closer to town but we have heard from many that it is very rolly in there and that part of the marina has just broke away and drifted down river as it was hit by a boat.  Also electricity and water are only at a few of the berths.  We have also been told getting to town from the marina is difficult if you do not have your own transport.  In Santubong there are minivans that act as buses running by all the time.  Fares run from Malaysian Ringgit 4-15 (about US$1.25 – 4.75) depending on type of van.  Also the locals are quite friendly and often pick up hitchhikers.  It takes roughly 35 minutes to get into town this way.  So you really do not feel too isolated.  Santubong is only about two kilometers from Damai Beach, which is Kuching’s resort area on the sea (hence all of the buses and traffic).  On the other side of Damai is the Bako National Park, a very worthwhile entry into rainforest type jungle.
Kuching is a great city.  It is bustling with all kinds of activity.  It is the capital of Sarawak, Malaysia’s largest state and with a population of about 600,000 people.  This means that one can meet most of his requirements here.  But truly, it is a real charming city built along the banks of the river.  It is a very pretty town made up of several ethnicities and they have done well to preserve heritage despite the phenomenal growth.  The other thing that impressed us is we felt totally safe wherever we were and with whomever.   There are large hotels, banks, grocery and hardware stores all within walking distance of the riverfront.  We toured 6 of the 8 museums and tasted many of the delicacies unique to Kuching and Sarawak.  Kuching means cat in Malay and so there are many statues of cats around.  We noticed even several of the drain manhole covers had a cat symbol on them.  But it is unlikely it was named after a cat.  The two more likely suggestions are that it is named after the Chinese word kuchin meaning harbour or it is named after the mata kuching (cat’s eye) fruit, which grows widely around Sarawak.
All in all we are very happy to have made this stop.  We are next on our way up the Rajang River (one of Malaysia’s longest) as far as Sibu.  We will be visiting longhouses and villages along the way.  This is a very rural trip so we do not know how often we will be updating the blog, but if we can, we will.
The museum
The manhole cover
India Street in Kuching

Passage to the East (posted Jun 21, 2010)

We had been in Singapore for over a month and after many delays and dollars, we finally left Raffles Marina on Friday, 11 June 2010.  What?  Leaving on a Friday?  Is it not bad luck to leave port on a Friday?  Well, we cheated.  We didn’t actually leave port.  We motored over to St. John’s Island and anchored there for the night.
We left early on Saturday, 12 June 2010.  The sails went up but the wind was not cooperative and we had to motor-sail all the way, save for about 6 hours of sailing.  The trip was pretty not bad.  We had a storm on day 2 just before sunrise with lightning! (OOOPS!); we dropped sails, turned off all our electronics and motored blind but it was not that bad, mostly just rain.  It was frustrating though as the waves were setting us back and we were not making much way.
For the largest part of the trip, it was clear skies and millions of stars.  There was a beautiful new moon setting one night, where we could almost see the whole moon, though just a sliver was showing.   A very bright planet sat right above it.  We tried to capture it on camera but to no avail.
We had dolphins come along side to play a couple of times.
We didn’t encounter as many fishing boats as we had over in the west of Malaysia and Thailand.  However, there were a couple of close encounters with ships.  We had one literally up our stern and we had to raise him on the radio to ask the ship’s intention.  He then said he was overtaking us on our starboard but we kept seeing his starboard light, so we hailed him again.  Oops, he said, we actually wanted to overtake to port.  Duh.  We sweated for a while but all was fine.
We arrived at the mouth of the Santubong River at about 1500 hours of Tuesday, 15 June 2010.  After a little dicey maneuver, we finally dropped anchor in front of Datuk Linggi’s private dock.  Soon after, someone came over in a fishing boat to say hello.  Hey he looks very familiar and turned out to be Dollah, one of the crew from Datuk Linggi’s boat, the Melreni.  They were berthed next to us at Raffles Marina for many months back in 2002.  Datuk Linggi had sold his boat but most of the guys are still working for him.  So far we have met Effendi and Zamrin as well as Dollah. It is nice that they still recognize Sari Timur and her crew after all these years.  Hmmm, it is so nice to meet old friends.
It is really peaceful here.  Mount Santubong looms overhead, with its peak in the clouds sometimes.  The birds with their songs, the most beautiful sunset we have ever seen, what more can we ask for.  Even the rain didn’t dampen the good feeling.