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

Leaving on a Friday is said to be inauspicious, but we were only sailing some 30 miles to a small island Pulau Tiga, where we planned to anchor for the night before crossing to Labuan, which lies some 40 miles SW of Tiga. That day we finally had strong enough wind to shut down the engine and sail, though of course the wind was once again against us… The weather reports predicted squalls and heavy rain, and sure enough, short after we made it to Tiga and dropped the anchor, the first squall hit us. Our hopes of sleeping in the cockpit were quickly abandoned as we hid ourselves inside the cabin from where we watched the terrifying lightings that were hitting the sea all around us. While amidst one of my melancholic broodings I tried reading a book, Petr busied himself reassembling our tiller pilot to see if the repaired circuit brings it back to life. Unfortunately the miracle didn’t happen and we had to face the gruesome fact that we would have to hand steer while motoring all the way to Singapore where we could buy a new tiller pilot. Yet we were not desperate, because at that point we were still hoping to see some of those monsoon winds?!

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Sad to say they didn’t really materialize on Saturday and we basically motored and hand steered all the way to Labuan. Once in Victoria Harbor we first tried to anchor in front of the marina, which is now being rebuilt but you can allegedly still enter with your dinghy, get water and take shower. We tried that, came in with the dinghy but the marina gates were all closed. We also found out that according to our charts anchoring in that area is in fact prohibited. Nobody seemed to care but the prospect of tug and pilot boats driving at full speed all around us during the night wasn’t exactly appealing. In the end we anchored further inside the harbor opposite the water taxi terminal and used their service to get ashore.

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We stayed in Labuan for two days. Weather reports were still predicting squally weather, but during out stay it was usually sunny during the day and only started raining in the evening. Thus we actually managed to wash and dry all the laundry that we collected since leaving Kudat and spent Sunday provisioning for the next leg of our voyage. To obtain diesel was not difficult, we just walked to the local petrol station, where they gave us 60 liters at one go without even blinking an eye (usually in Malaysia you are only allowed to take 20l of diesel per person per day unless you apply for a special permit). But where to get water?

We tried to ask the water taxi drivers but they didn’t seem to understand. Similar enquiries in waterfront restaurants were equally futile. Just when we started talking about trying to anchor in front of the marina after all and reattempt to get water from them, we noticed a water tap above a stainless steel counter belonging to one of the street stalls just next to a narrow alley that leads to the water taxi terminal. I went to the owner to ask if it was alright to take some water. I haven’t even finished the sentence, before she replied: “Of course, go on!” Apparently, we were not the first ones to take water from them… The fried bananas still dripping oil she sold didn’t exactly boost my appetite so we at least bought some cold drinks from her in return of her favor and after we deposited the jerry cans with water next to those with diesel at the water taxi terminal, we returned to town once more in order to buy some of that duty free firewater Labuan is famous for. As we sipped scotch on the rocks that evening and listened to a squall that was thundering by, we thought of our friends in Kudat and elsewhere and were wondering if we could really make it to Johor Bahru before Christmas…

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