Kudat to Kuching: A Rainy End to a Spellbound Voyage III

Last night we spent on anchor in Labuan, we skyped with our parents and wished them Merry Christmas just in case we didn’t arrived to Johor Bahru in time to talk to them on Christmas Eve – Christmas in Czech Republic happen on the 24th. Originally our plan was to sail to Brunei first, but we decided to skip Brunei this time, in order to improve our chances to meet with our very good friends, who were flying to Langkawi for New Year. The odds that we would actually make it were not high, but we thought we would give it a try…

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In the end it took us 7 days to get into a port. Only not to Danga Bay as expected but only to Kuching instead. Hadn’t I known better I would have to believe that we must have left Labuan on a Friday. Or, were I more superstitious, I might as well start believing that leaving on a Tuesday is equally inauspicious…

For the first two days after leaving Labuan, we had either no winds or westerlies on the nose, plus again some weird countercurrent, so even when we were motoring, which we did most of the way (unless we ran into a squall and thus some wind), we were barely making 3 knots. To make matters even more interesting, on the 2nd day just after it got dark, we ran into a huge patch of floating tree trunks, logs and other flotsam. Miraculously we only hit two bigger logs since there were literally dozens of them all around us… On the 3rd day we finally encountered some NE winds, but after couple of hours we were back to motoring and hand steering again. The only sign of the NE monsoon that we experienced the whole way was a huge NE swell, which combined with waves blown up by the westerly winds produced confused seas that made our little boat sway like a cork in a whirlpool. Steering required one hand on the tiller and the other one desperately clinging to whatever in the cockpit so as to stay aboard.

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On the 4th day we were still only 130 miles northeast of Kuching and we began to worry that if the weather continues like this we won’t have enough diesel to make it round Singapore. Thus we decided to head for Kuching to top up on diesel and water. All looked good, for once no rain, until about 9pm when we spotted a huge black veil covering the whole horizon. There was just no way of dodging this one… We braced ourselves in the cockpit, put on our wet weather gear and taking turns on watches slowly approached the awe-inspiring black mass. At that point little did we know, that what looked like a nasty squall in fact developed into a low pressure system that swept over us from west eastwards and forced us to stay hove to for more than 24 hours. The huge waves and strong winds blew us about 40 miles eastwards so once the gale quieted down, we decided to run for a small town called Mukah (approx. 150 miles NE of Kuching following the coastline) instead of Kuching. Finally we had the following seas and winds, except now we were actually going backwards from where we came…

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In hindsight we can’t but marvel at our own stupidity, can’t even call it lack of experience, because anyone with a little bit of common sense would have guessed that the huge waves that were pushing our little boat over 6 knots surely must brake somewhere in the end… And where else than in front of Mukah, where the depths are 1 to 2 meters and it’s necessary to wait for a rising tide to actually get in… Soon enough we saw the powerful surf that even from over 10 miles away looked like a boiling cauldron covering the whole horizon with a white mist. There was just no way we could have got in and so tired as we were, we headed back to sea and in the direction of Kuching. Took us 2 more days of fighting headwinds, countercurrents, squalls and dense rain but at Christmas Eve we finally made it into Kuching’s Jabatan Laut Marina some 20 miles up the Sarawak river – quite a picturesque journey itself only as a part of our spellbound voyage, when we entered the river it was blowing some 30 knots against us, plus the tide was of course ebbing! Motoring at 2000 RPMs assisted by double reefed mainsail and partially furled genoa we were slowly tacking up river at enormous speed of almost 2 knots! Originally we wanted to anchor in Santubong river on the other side of town, but in the huge swell we feared that this anchorage might be cut off same as Mukah. But the marina here, though quite remote from town, is not bad and we even got to enjoy a “high pressure” shower before we went to an Indian restaurant for our Christmas dinner. And then we slept for more than 12 hours. So much for this year’s Christmas celebrations.

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Yet the biggest blow we suffered actually came only after we got to Kuching. Our Kiwi neighbors (currently there are only 4 boats in the marina) told us, that there’s no way we can get across to Singapore for another 2 months because of the seasonal westerly winds that just started to blow. Surely that would explain the headwinds and countercurrent we experienced on our way here, but we still have to research about that… Can it be really possible that we came all this way and for nothing? We even started talking about returning back and going to Brunei after all… Who knows, maybe we might even haul out in Kudat… How absurd!

But I guess even this is part of the life aboard, not every day you get the sunny days and in the end experience such as these are soon forgotten in favor of those nice ones! Plus right now it seems there might be a good weather window at the end of next week, so provided the predictions don’t change (which they now do every day), we may be leaving in attempt to cross the South China Sea and round Singapore to get to the marina in Danga Bay, Johor Bahru after all. Or we retrace our wake and head for Brunei instead. Let the weather gods and Neptun decide!

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21 comments to Kudat to Kuching: A Rainy End to a Spellbound Voyage III

  • todd

    I am living my cruising dreams through you guys so keep the stories coming. Happy New Year!

  • Hi Todd! Thanks a lot, will try to sail more and post more here next year! Happy New Year to you, too!

  • jo

    Safe travels and happy new year from Ko Phra Thong!jo@tra Biax.de

  • Hi Jo! Thanks a lot and Happy New Year to you as well!

  • Marc / Rewind TPE007

    My dear friends … Great to follow your adventures at sea! Happy New Year and safe sailing!!!

  • Hi Marc, thank you very much for your wishes! Happy New Year and many a race won to you, too!!!

  • Yibo

    Crazy stories… Yesterday in Tainan marina, on board of Elan 40 (乾杯), i asked the “young” and 80.000 NM experienced captain (swiss guy Eric): what make you sailing? His answer was: “i sail with the seasons all around the earth from north to south and from west to east”.
    Reading your fights against winds, currents, waves, river… now i understand his meaning 😉 We wish you Happy End 2013!!

  • Yibo, crazy stories indeed! But you know, craziest of all is that it was actually supposed to be a voyage in the right season, WITH the wind and current. Yet for some odd reasons it just wasn’t… Anyway a good experience for us as well! Happy New Year to you and your family and lots of sailing and fishing in the upcoming year!

  • Dave

    Wonderful account, and great pics.
    Well done guys, you handled adverse conditions very well indeed.
    As I have always said, you are great kids!

    Look forward to hearing how the next trip went! (Don’t listen to Kiwis!)

  • Dave, thanks a lot, so much praise from such a celebrity just made our day! :) Btw, tried to comment on your post about commencing the deck repairs but for some reason the system wouldn’t oblige. Must do it here then: Good luck, hope the work is finished soon!

  • Amy Chavez

    Ah, sailing! Such diversity :) Where are you guys now?

    • Hi Amy, we are still in Kuching, waiting for yet another new credit cards. Cos ours got stolen just a few days after we arrived here… We maybe leaving to Johor Bahru in a week or two. And yourself? Still in Bali or back in Japan?

  • Dave

    Hey, when’s the next log entry? I’ve just about worn out the keys on my keypad, checking every five minutes. Why the quiet? Have you taken out the engine again? Or too busy cooking mushroom stews with your new Czech friends?

  • Hey, sorry to hear about your keyboard and no worries on your part, our engine stays safely put INSIDE the boat.Right now we are in Taiwan for a few days, will be back in Langkawi on Friday and then finally the big haul-out commences. Will try to find some time to write but not sure. So don’t try every five minutes, once a day is quite enough!

  • Dave

    Well, thank God to hear from you. Was worried you might have gone off the radar, like Flight 370!

  • Yibo

    Jana & Petr, you are sailling very fast from Johor Bahru to Langkawi. You don’t have even time to up date your blog… How do we do without any signal from Janna?! i’ve 2 great memories from LKW: “The Whole in the Wall” mooring and first time of my life i’ve seen the Green Flash. Have you seen it already?

  • hi Yibo,
    yes it’s been a while since we’ve written anything. We are thinking about it all the time, but a lot has been happening, no time to write. We’ll do something about it soon.
    We are already in Langkawi on the hardstand on the island Rebak and we are planning to sail to the famous Hole in about 3 weeks. Will surely look out for the green flash. We haven’t seen it yet 😉
    Cheers

  • Yibo

    Now i believe you fall down in the Hole without any connection ;-D

    • :) Not so. We’ve been on the hardstand for almost 4 weeks. Hard work, hard… now we are getting back to shape, but too busy translating… But don’t forget about us, one day we will write all about these interesting times :) Take care.

  • Yibo

    i don’t believe you, half a year without new stories ;-D
    WHERE IS JANNA, WHERE ARE YOU???!!!!!
    Well, no news is good news but we feel lonely…

  • Hey Yibo, our apologies again and again. We’ve made it all the way to Langkawi, where we have left Janna and flew back home.
    We will start writing soon, that’s a promise!
    Cheers

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