Ship's Log               s/v Uliad 


 October 1 :



       Our visa renewals finally came through a day and a half later than we'd hoped, so we no sooner had our passports back in hand then we were raising anchor to set off for Borneo.  Kathleen had made reservations for a river trip to an orangutan sanctuary in the jungle in only 4 days and it would probably take 3 to get there.  I was a bit worried about those strong currents in the Bali strait, but after a little research, I found that there was a nice countercurrent close to shore at the right stage of tide.  So by 2 pm we were steaming out of the harbor and an hour later we were riding a nice 1-2 knot current northward while staying a couple hundred yards off the beaches of Eastern Bali.  By nightfall we were pulling away from the north coast of the island.

      Now I'm only guessing that the countercurrent was 1-2 knots favorable, because all our time in that dirty harbor water had fouled our hull enough to stop the little paddlewheel from spinning that tells me our speed through the water.  Without that, I only had the speed over ground from the GPS signal and my own estimate of the difference between that and how fast it looked like we were going based on watching the water go by.  After 5 years out here, though, I'm pretty amazed at how accurately I can tell our speed just by listening to the sound of the bow wake or watching the surface of the water passing by.  Anyway, when we came to the first little island in the Java Sea after Bali, we decided to drop anchor for an hour or two to jump in and scrub the hull clean again.  I figured that a little time spent now would more than pay off in getting us there faster over the course of several days of sailing.

     Relapse and Utopia II were travelling with us up to this point.  They decided to stay the night after their hull scrub to get a good night's rest.  We set off, thinking we could do more sailing and less motoring in these light winds.  With extra motoring, the two other yachts caught up to us just off the coast of Borneo and we all motored up river together, following a large ship down the deep water passage.  By noon we all had our anchor down at the town of Kumai.

     Kumai looks like a big city from the distance.  Then as you approach, you notice something strange about all the buildings:  they don't have any windows...only little slits in the walls that makes them look like prison buildings or giant warehouses or something.  Then as you approach, the next thing you notice is the loud noise of birds singing everywhere.

Bird nest buildings in Kumai

     It turned out that all of these buildings are built as a sort of artificial cave to attract a certain species of swallow.  They actually broadcast the bird noises through large speakers inside the buildings to encourage them to fly in through holes in the roof to build nests in the buildings.  Why?  Well it turns out that these swallows make a very unique sort of nest by regurgitating some substance from their stomachs and letting it dry.  And this is the key ingredient in a certain Chinese delicacy called "bird nest soup".  Every single building in this town more than a single story high is one of these bird nesting places.  And in talking to the locals, they've all been built by Chinese businessmen and all of the nests go back to China.  The Indonesians don't eat them at all.



October 2:


     The other immediately remarkable thing about Kumai, besides theswallow noises emanating from the bird buildings is the smoke.  In the mornings, the fog holds it against the ground so thick that you can barely see across the harbor.  Everyone wakes with a smoker's cough.  Later in the day, the air clears and bits of black ash rain down on the decks from distant fires in the jungle.  The place smells like the bottom of an ash tray.

     Ironically, the smoke of the distant jungle fires is, in a round about way, the reason why we're here.  There are three great ape species in the world (and four if you include us humans).  In Africa there are gorillas and chimpanzees, while the orangutan is native only to the Indonesian islands of Borneo and Sumatra.  Things have not gone well for the orangutan in the last century.  More and more of their habitat here has been destroyed by slash and burn agriculture techniques and illegal logging.  While production of palm oil has increased some 300% in the past couple of decades by burning the rain forests here, the native orangutan population has declined precipitously.

     To save the orangutans, Indonesia has banned the capture, sale, or posession of orangutans, and they have set up a national park preserve just up river from Kumai where they not only have a safe haven for wild orangutans, but they also carry out an active rehabilitation program to reintroduce captive orangutans to the wild.  They have a facility near Kumai where some 350 baby orangutans that have been confiscated from illegal markets are being raised.  Since orangutans are cared for by their mothers constantly until they're about 8 years old, this is no small undertaking to provide constant care for that many.  Once they're old enough, they are released into the orangutan sanctuary.  So yesterday we climbed aboard a riverboat strait out of Bogart's "African Queen" and started a journey up a river straight out of Conrad's "Heart of Darkness".

     We lounged on deck chairs watching for crocodiles in the water and proboscis monkeys in the trees going by.  Slowly the river narrowed until finally after lunch, we had reached one of the three remote ranger stations of the park.  We stepped from our boat onto a long wooden pier that cuts several hundred yards through the jungle.  In the rainy season, the water is about 6 feet higher than now, so this wooden walkway saves the rangers and visitors from wading through muddy leech and croc filled water during that time of year.   We got a short briefing of how to behave around the orangutans that had no surprises:  stay a meter or two away, don't try to touch them, don't have any food or drink on your person that might tempt them.  After all, they're trying to make them wild, not beggers and stealers like the sacred monkeys of Ubud. 

     We no sooner started down that wooden pier than an orangutan climbed up to check us out.  He sat down on the narrow pier and the guide had to shepherd us around him one by one until the ape grabbed the hand of one of the boys and put it on his shoulder and started walking along with us!  I guess he was just wanting to be one of the guys!

Orangutan greets us on the boardwalk   Us at the feeding station   

     After a while the orangutan moved on up a tree and we plodded on to the feeding station.  Every day at 2pm, the rangers put a couple of backpacks full of bananas on an elevated wooden platform.  At first, I thought this seemed like a cheap way to lure them in for the tourists, but our guide explained that many of these orangutans have not yet learned to find enough food in the wild and needed these supplements.  Also this part of the jungle had a large population of only partly rehabilitated orangutans and there wasn't enough natural jungle food to support them.  Many would never become fully wild, but the females all seemed to have babies clinging to them and many of the babies, it seems, would grow up and move out to more remote places and live as orangutans were meant to.

     Meanwhile, the feeding station was a great opportunity to watch them go about their business.  There were wooden benches set up and a thin rope tied between trees to remind the tourists how close they could get.  But the orangutans didn't much care for those boundaries and they'd often walk right among the humans with a mouth full of bananas to find a good spot to sit and eat for a while. 

The orangutans didn't mind joining the tourists at feeding station

     Beneath the platforms, several wild boars patrolled looking for bananas and peels that had been dropped.  They'd occasionally chase an orangutan back up a tree and it was clear that the apes kept their distance from the boars.  Apparently the boars will kill baby orangutans and devour them if given a chance...yikes!

     Like our experience on Komodo Island, it was like going to a zoo, but being able to go sit down inside right next to the animals!  After several hours, our guide finally pried us away and we got back to the boat to find cool drinks and supper waiting for us.  After that, the boat staff put away the dinner table and chairs and set out sleeping mats underneath mosquito net tents and we drifted off to sleep with the eerie sounds of the jungle as our lullaby.



October 5:


     For the next few days, our riverboat moved from one camp to another and our guides took us through the jungle pointing out all sorts of interesting plants and animals.  Then, of course, there were the orangunans that we would come across occasionally in the forest, and always in large numbers at an afternoon feeding station.  We never grew tired of watching them.  They say that we share something like 97% of the same DNA with orangutans, and one can truly sense that kinship in their facial expressions.  One morning we awoke to find a young orangutan sitting on a branch a few feet from the pier.  A few of us sat quietly drinking our coffee and you could just see in his eyes that he was trying to figure out how he might sneak past us to the breakfast table and get himself something to drink as well.  He'd casually wander a bit too close and the guides would shoo him back into his tree where he'd sit in a frustrated huff trying to figure his next move.  When you sit and watch an orangutan, you're suddenly struck with this feeling of awe, as you realize that this creature is startlingly close to an intellectual equal.  The only other time I've gotten that feeling is swimming with dolphins, where they are so obviously watching you, and playing games with you.  Orangutans have a more mellow, less playful personality than dolphins, but there's some real thinking going on in there!

  Our guide was busy keeping this one from stealing pancakes  Our jungle boat, just before supper time    The kids with our two guides: Evan & Arsey

     Other times an ape would find a comfortable spot to just sit and watch us.  It was hard to tell who was being studied by who!  The babies would play, the mom's would patiently tolerate their shenanigans until they took it a bit too far... and the big males would strut around or slink off in what clearly was a carefully followed heirarchy.  The current "lord of the jungle" here is a gigantic male orangutan named Tom.  He wandered into camp on the second day for a rare visit.  This was the one time that the guides got visibly nervous, quickly shooing us back a safe distance.  We needed little encouragement.  Tom was enormous...almost double the size of all the other orangutans.  They say that a male orangutan has about 8 times the strength of a human and after one glance, none of us dared test that bit of trivia.

we kept our distance from big Tom  

     After enough time in the steamy jungle heat, we'd retreat to the shade of our riverboat and share meals and talk as the sun set.  Em and I brought our ukuleles along to pass the time and soon all the kids were begging for lessons.  The parents had agreed ahead of time that our orangutan jungle cruise would be free of all electronics.  It was good to see that kids in this day and age can still be content singing songs, drawing pictures, and playing board games.

Steve teaches Ava her first chord   A proboscis monkey   Kathleen & Karen: evening in the jungle

     Three days in the Borneo jungle came to an end much too soon.  On our final evening cruise to the mouth of the river, we again saw proboscis monkeys, macaque monkeys, river crocodiles, and all sorts of birds.  The final treat was marshes swarming with millions of fireflies.  This was not new for us after living in the midwest, but none of the Australian or New Zealand kids had ever seen real fireflies before, so it was great to see what a thrill it was for them.  The riverboat pulled up alongside Uliad and we unloaded our bags.  And once again on this trip, we found ourselves walking on air from an amazing experience and asking ourselves, "Oh my gosh, did that really just happen?"  As we drifted off to sleep in our own bunks again, I tried to list all of the big creatures that Emmett has had a chance to see an arms length away or less in the wild on our voyages.  Orangutans were now added to a list that includes whales, dolphins, komodo dragons, sea lions, leatherback turtles, sharks, monkeys...zzzz.



October 6:


     Once you've been to visit the orangutan sanctuary, there's not much to keep you in Kumai.  The amplified bird noises can be ear piercing, the smoke from the burning rain forest chokes you, the heat is insufferable.  But the civic leaders had planned a little program for the rally yachts, so we went on a tour of the town, watched another dance show, ate lunch, and then went to a turtle sanctuary.  A few baby turtles swam around in a dirty aquarium and we tourists were invited to pick one and release it on the beach for the low price of only $5 each.  This seemed a lot more like turtle ransom than turtle sanctuary.  But we felt bad for the little guys so we gave Em some money and he turned it loose.  Good luck little guy!

     The hospitality some of these communities are showing to the rally has been amazing.  Free meals, drinks, dance & cultural shows, t shirts, tours... one of the upcoming islands is even offering 100 liters of free diesel to each boat that comes.  It's great fun, but sometimes I wish these local governments would put a little tax money toward garbage collection instead of dance shows for foreign yachties. 



October 12:


     We finally set sail back down the Kumai River and then turned west toward a little island called Belitung.  Utopia II and Relapse followed close behind as the sun set and we were settling in for a two day passage when I heard a funny clattering beneath us.  Then suddenly it stopped and my best guess was that we had run over something like a rope or a fishing net.  Then a minute later I could see Relapse changing course behind us.  I called on the radio and learned that they had also found the fishing net in the dark and Mark had to stop to clear it away.  Relapse is a style of boat you might call a racing sled--deep bulb keel, twin unsupported fin rudders, flat bottom... these things make his boat go fast, but they also make it snag lines that just rolled under our more conservative slanted fin and skeg hung rudder arrangement.  He sounded pretty unconcerned on the radio at the time.  Utopia II offered to stand by and we offered to continue on and clear the way of any other unlit nets.  But the hours went by and we were soon out of radio range.  So it wasn't until the following morning when we got an email by SSB that Relapse's entaglement was bigger than first anticipated.

     They had several nets wrapped around their keel and rudders, which led to overheating the engine and breaking the tie rod between his two rudders.  By dawn, Mark had the dinghy in the water and was trying to snag the net with an anchor to cut it--he ended up poking a hole in his dinghy with the anchor and nearly severing the tip of a finger when the net line suddenly went taut in the 3 foot chop. They ended up limping back to Kumai for repairs after finally cutting away the mess.

    So we had the first anchorage in Belitung all to ourselves the first night.  It was a lovely spot, but we felt a bit guilty that we had sailed off into the night while our friends were having all those problems.  I'm not sure we could have done much besides possibly get ourselves tangled in it, but still...

    Utopia II caught up with us the following day and after a bit of exploring, we eventually found a great anchorage off a tiny island with a tall light house on it to the north west of Belitung.  The island was surrounded by crystal clear water over dense coral reefs.  For part of the day, the island is over run with day-tourists from Belitung who are carted out on boats to snorkel and climb the light house.  By mid afternoon, it was just us and the light house keepers.  Beautiful spot.  

Uliad off the north coast of Belitung.  Rainy season arriving!   Atop the lighthouse off NE Belitung

   Then after having threatening skies every afternoon all week... for the first time in months, it rained.  I managed to get one nice shot of the approaching storm before running back to Uliad to celebrate finally getting a good rinse of our salty decks.  There are two seasons in this part of the world: Dry (south east monsoon) and Rainy (northeast monsoon).  The change seemed to take place within a matter of a few days.


October 15:


     Relapse eventually caught up with us at the light house, looking no worse for wear (except for the still raw wound on Mark's fingertip).  We all took another day to enjoy this pristine little spot before moving over to the source of all those Indonesian tourists:  a little bay on mainland Belitung lined with half a dozen beach bar/restaurants.  Here we came ashore in the midst of some sort of corporate retreat day.  Two teams were trying to move a coke can using ropes while blindfolded and taking directions from their team leader.  I still don't speak much Bahasa, but I imagine their mutterings went something like, "I can't believe they make us do this BS, but at least we're on the beach instead of the office."  Several large corporate posters from similar past events adorned the walls of one of the restaurants.

     With all its beautiful places, Belitung seems to be a jewel that the Indonesians keep for themselves.  You can't find out much about it on the web or Lonely Planet's guide, or even from the Sail Indonesia Rally, but it is really a gorgeous spot.  Aside from the great waters around here, the hospitality was truly the best we've had in all of Indonesia.

Emmett explores the shoreline

     For starters, the beer was even cheaper than the cheap prices in the rest of the country.  Then on the night we arrived, one of the restaurants announced a free meal for all the cruisers in the harbor.  This was accompanied by a short dance show and some pretty mediocre karaoke singing by some self-styled local singer.  But after a few of those cheap beers, we didn't mind a bit.  The local  girls seemed very intrigued by the caucasian three adolescent boys from our boats...which only seemed to terrify Emmett, Ash, and Josh.  They stuck together tightly all night and did their best to ignore.

Emmett & Ash with local dance team

     Then before the night was over, it was announced that there would be ANOTHER free meal tomorrow night!  And since several of us had asked about clearing out of the country here, there would be a free bus to take us around to Customs and Immigration in town.  And our hosts were also going to deliver diesel the next day for only 50 cents per liter for any boats who needed it. 

     This was starting to get excessive.  But eventually, I put two and two together to come up with an explanation for all this largesse.  In our rally information, the "official" events on Belitung were happening on the other side of the island.  The map and tourist information provided to us showed us only that half of the island.  It seems that our current location was the site of last year's rally stop, but for some reason it was changed this year to a different town that was spreading the word about the free parties and meals and tours and t-shirts that would be held for the cruisers there in a few days. 

      Not to be out done, and perhaps to show that this was the best place for the foreign sailors, the restaurant owners and tourism officials on our side of the island were making sure that we were so well taken care of that we wouldn't want to go over to the party on the other side of Belitung!   Well it was sure fun to be fought over like that!

      The sad moment for us was the realization that Belitung would be the last real cruising spot for us on this journey.  We're on a schedule now that will require us to get to Singapore, then Malaysia, and then the airport.  We'd drawn things out as long as possible, but it was time to clear out with customs and move on to a whole new life.  But if it had to happen, Belitung was a perfect spot for one last hurrah. 

      So the next morning, we found two large air conditioned motor coaches waiting.  One was to take the captains in to Immigration, the other was to take the ladies shopping.  I wish I could have been on the other bus.  We spent hours sitting around in 5 separate offices getting all the paperwork sorted.  Thank goodness we had a guide with us, I never could have figured it all out on my own.  Half way through the day, we were taken to a large "traditional Indonesian house" that acts as a sort of museum and lunch spot where the local Regency welcomes its VIPs.  The ladies were waiting for us there.  We were all seated on mats and served a rather elaborate meal of many small dishes before going back out.  As we were getting ready to leave, the local minister of tourism arrived with his entourage, so we were able to thank him for hosting us here.

    The diesel arrived as advertised and a sort of filling station appeared on the beach.  This consisted of a dozen barrels of diesel, and a crew of guys to pour it into an open half-barrel, then ladle the fuel out by hand with a 2 liter cup to be poured into jerry jugs.  Not the cleanest setup in the world.  But at these prices we made do. 

Mark helps pour diesel in Belitung.

     That night, we celebrated Kathleen's birthday as well (a few days early since our friends were here) and Em and Ash baked her a cake.   We all said our goodbyes and have made promises to meet up again in Singapore.   And with that, the party was over.  Now begins a two and a half day slog north to the work of putting Uliad to rest in a marina.



October 20:


   We sailed for a total of 3 hours in the 2 1/2 days it took to get to the Singapore Straits.  The rest of the time was spent with the motor droning on over flat and glassy seas.   Sure glad we had filled our tanks with every ounce we could hold of that cheap Belitung diesel!  Along the way, we crossed the equator and right on schedule our toilets started flushing counter-clockwise again.  Emmett ran to the stern as I announced the moment and stuck his foot in the water so he could say he dragged his foot across the equator.   Last time we crossed the line it was right about sunrise, and this time it was just after sunset.  Fitting, I suppose.

    The other memorable part of this crossing was a little exhausted bird flitted into the cockpit and after flitting about a few times, it eventually settled on Kathleen's arm as a restful perch.  Then eventually it decided to come down below out of the light rain.  Kathleen fed it crackers and it settled in for the night.  I was on dawn watch and a few moments before the first sun's rays appeared, the little guy flew away looking rested and ready.  The only other time this has happened was our first year out, and that bird died in the night.  So I wasn't holding out much hope but I ended up having to compliment Kathleen on how much her bird resuscitation skills have improved over the years.

Kathleen with her bird

    Now Singapore is a little island on the south tip of Malaysia which looks out over perhaps the worlds greatest shipping choke-point, the Singapore straits.  Most any shipping traffic going from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific has to pass through this narrow (maybe 8 miles wide? )here.  Singapore has prospered for centuries in controlling these trade routes.  In the early days of ocean voyages, this was where Chinese and Indian traders met to exchange goods.  Later the Portugese, Dutch, and finally the British fought over this lucrative spot in securing the spice trade.  Japan stepped in and took over until World War II, and now it is an independent city-state, with a tremendously diverse population and a vibrant economy that continues to be based on shipping.  The island is filled with container terminals, warehouses, and logistics offices that move manufactured goods to everywhere.

     So of course we knew there would be a lot of ship traffic coming through here.  I wasn't too concerned.  After all we'd been through the Panama Canal, which is another modern choke point, so we'd seen busy shipping lanes before.

     But Singapore was 10 times busier.  On Uliad we have a device called an AIS which reads radio signals of the location, speed, and other information of any boats in the area.  Most large ships have them, and many yachts do as well.  On a busy harbor, we've sometimes watched our AIS track 25 different boats and warn us about any potential collisions coming up.  Well by the time we were still a few miles from the straits, our AIS had reached its maximum of 150 ships being tracked.  There were more than that.

     The Straits are marked out in east-bound and west-bound lanes on the nautical chart, just like a freeway.  Outside those lanes are all sorts of craft coming and going from different harbors and wharves on either side.  Our job of the day was to stay outside the lane, then when an opening came, go Frogger style across the traffic as quickly as possible before the next gigantic ocean freighter bore down on us.

Kathleen watches for an opening in the traffic   Quick Immigration visit at Singapore

     After motoring along parallel for 5 or 10 miles, a nice gap occurred and we hopped across without incident.  But we still spent the rest of the day dodging ship traffic coming and going from all the anchorages that surround the island.  The AIS pretty much beeped its "dangerous target" warning continuously.  By 15:00 we were at the "Western General Immigration Anchorage."  We quickly learned that this is not so much an anchorage as a spot where foreign vessels stop and float, waiting for the Immigration officer to come in a boat.  The boat comes, a holds out a big basket into which you drop your passports and foreign port clearance papers.  A minute or two later, the officer comes back out of the boat and the basket is held out with your stamped passports.  Slick!

A break between the Straits & the lightning storm.  (Supertanker is anchored!)

    But we really couldn't anchor at the "anchorage" so we ended up motoring on through the "explosives and dangerous cargo anchorage" through a lightning storm no less!  Then darkness descended and I had to continue up the strait that separates Singapore from Malaysia with one eye on the radar and one on the chartplotter and a third eye peering through the smoggy mist trying to make out what was what out there.  It was an exhausting day but finally by 8pm we pulled into the luxurious Raffles Marina, tied off to the fuel dock and turned out the lights.  A cold beer never tasted so good, and shortly I was fast asleep. 


October 25:


   Uliad's insurance comes due every January, and last year, our insurance company informed us that they wanted a survey done before they'd renew our next policy.  A survey is basically a thorough inspection and report to show the insurance company A: that she's in good condition and in no danger of sinking and B: how much it's worth if she were to sink.  This required us to be somewhere that we could find a professional surveyor, and also to haul Uliad out of the water so the surveyor can look at the bottom.  So with time running out on this year's policy, I really needed to get this done in Singapore.

Emmett in the pool at Raffles Marina

    So we arranged to have a quick overnight haulout done at Raffles.  And as long as she was coming out of the water, I figured we should throw a fresh coat of antifouling paint on as well.  Then as soon as we could get that accomplished, we'd move across the narrow channel that separates Singapore from Malaysia where marinas are half the price of here.  In the mean time, Emmett was making the the luxurious swimming pool here.  We also combatted the equatorial heat here by plugging into shore power and firing up the air conditioner. 

    That's when the trouble started.  Several hours after plugging into shore power, I heard the sound of all the ground fault circuit interrupters on the 110 volt outlets popping, followed by the unmistakable smell of smoking plastic that means that there's an electrical fire starting onboard.  The problem eventually was traced back to our isolation transformer. An isolation transformer takes 240 volt shore power and protects our aluminum boat from reverse polarity and more importantly from ground leaks that can cause galvanic corrosion and rapidly destroy a metal boat sitting in salt water if there were some bad wiring somewhere.  If you want to know more than that, you'll have to look elsewhere.  Anyway, more importantly, it takes 240 volts and separates it into both the 240 volts needed to run our Air conditioner, and 120 volts which runs our American battery charger and appliances.

     So when a 110 volt wire corroded coming out of the isolation transformer, it's resistance rose to the point that it only would carry about 50 volts, meanwhile a second leg of 120 volts was forced to carry the rest:  a whopping 190 volts--which was enough to melt a circuit board on our battery charger and set off the GFCIs on the outlets (thankfully preventing damage to anything else.)  Now usually figuring out what was the problem in the first place is about 80% of fixing it, but in this case, both the isolation transformer and the battery charger are practically built into the boat.  The battery charger is stuffed back into the remotest corner of the engine compartment and took me several hours to remove.  The isolation transformer was even worse.  It is bolted into a corner of the stern compartment where it's difficult to even see, much less remove and work on.  I brought in a marine electrician who checked all of the voltages and assured me that my transformer was just fine, but there was certainly a wire that had gone bad somewhere.  He looked back into that far corner of the stern compartment, shook his head, and said that he'd come back in a few hours to see what he could do.  That was the last I ever heard from him.  I'm sure that he knew what a miserable job it would be and decided he didn't want the job.

     So I took the battery charger to a shop for repair (for the third time now on this particular Inverter-charger) and got Uliad into the boat yard to paint the bottom and get ready for survey.  The electrical problems would have to wait a day or two.  Emmett and I slapped a gallon of paint over whatever places seemed to need it most, finishing well after dark.  That night we spent hanging in the slings of the travel lift will probably be remembered as the most miserable night I've ever had onboard.  At anchor, we naturally point into the wind and the hatches scoop air down below.  On the hard it aways gets hot below.  With no cooling water intake we couldn't run our AirCon.  So it was 90 degrees and humid down below.  And then came the swarms of mosquitoes.   Sunrise came as I watched a marina worker walk around with some sort of machine that pumped out huge clouds of smoke.  I suspect he was fogging for mosquitoes and he probably gave us all cancer, but I honestly welcomed cancer clouds at that point if they could only stop the itching.

     The next morning we had our survey...everything went well and the surveyor seemed to have no doubts that Uliad would last a while longer.  The only suggestions he seemed to have after his $500 of inspection was to clean the bilges and put the latest NOAA sticker on our EPIRB (which is waiting back in the USA for us).  Good suggestions, but my first priority was the electricity.  We went back into the water and tied off to a nearby pier and I spent the rest of the morning in the stern compartment taking apart the cover of the isolation transformer.  Just as the electrician had predicted, there was a corroded wire that had come loose from one of the output leads.  A second wire also looked bad so I spent the next few hours trying to cut back the bad wire, crimping on new terminals, and then reconnecting everything.  It was so hard to get at that I had to first look with my head craned at a funny angle, then with one hand reach back and blindly do the next step.  For those steps, such as tightening bolts, where I really needed two hands, I ended up clamping one end with a vise grip and then pushing that up against the wall to tighten with my other hand.  Hours later I emerged covered in sweat and dirt, but optimistic that I had fixed the problem.  We motored back to our original slip at Raffles just long enough to plug in and throw the switches to confirm that we were getting proper voltages again!!  Success!!  "Who needs that damn lazy electrician anyway!", I muttered to myself.  And with that we disconnected and sailed off a short 5 miles up the channel to Danga Bay Marina on the Malaysia side where we had been planning to leave ULIAD.


October 28:


     Danga Bay Marina sits on the edge of the town of Johor Baru.  This city is filled with shopping malls and seems to be a popular day trip for Singaporeans looking to evade the higher prices/taxes over there.  The marina is dirt cheap, but as we soon learned, it's not a good spot to leave our boat unattended.  They have no services to manage or look after boats, and the liveaboards we talked to there described occasional high waves, power outages, and things that left us looking for alternatives.

     So we moved back down the coast a few miles to Puteri Harbor--a brand new marina that costs a bit more, but had assured us that they could look after Uliad while we're away.  We arrived in Danga just in time to catch up with Allan from Love Song, who was just getting ready to sail to Langkawi.  He's a trained electrician and A/C technician, so we talked him into looking over my transformer repairs and he gave me his blessing and seemed rather impressed that I accomplished it in such a hard to reach place.  We plugged in, but had to wait until Monday to go back to Singapore and get our repaired inverter/charger.  So that was nice to hear that everything was good so far, but the inverter/charger would be a few more hours of sweaty purgatory to reinstall in it's own remote corner of the engine room.  Fortunately I had done that installation before, so it went smoothly aside from the dehydration dizzy spells from sweating so badly down there while hooking everything up.

      The battery charger worked great on reinstallation, but despite promises to the contrary, we just couldn't get the Air Conditioner to adequately cool the boat, so after overcoming all our previous problems, we ended up needing to call for a refrigeration tech.  He came the first time while I was in Singapore fetching the inverter/charger.  Kathleen couldn't give details of exactly what he said other than there were problems with our system and he'd have to come back the next day.  I made sure to be there for his return where it turned out that the problem was simple:  the refrigerant was a little low and needed to be recharged.  The solution in the tech's mind was to pull out the air conditioner and inspect it carefully for leaks before recharging.  But after an hour of scratching his head at how to access this system that was built into yet another inaccessible spot (are you noticing a pattern here??) under the navigation desk of the boat, I suggested that in this case, it might be best to just recharge the system and see if it lasts another 20 years.  He agreed, and ended up charging me $30 for 2 visits, hours of labor, and a few ounces of refrigerant.  Not bad.

    AT LAST!!!!   We have air conditioning in our cabins again.  Which is a darned good thing, because everyone on board had been getting pretty ornery from the heat, and we still have to pack, clean, and lay up the boat before we fly home.  The final salt in my wounds was that I had finally restored Uliad's electrical grid just in time for us to have to leave.  We would catch the bus back across the bridge to Singapore to have dinner with our cruising friends and wouldn't even get the chance to sleep in air conditioned luxury that night as we planned to overnight on Relapse.


October 31:


     We ended up celebrating our final success over the electrical system melt down by leaving our Air Conditioned bubble to go back over the bridge to Singapore and meet up with Relapse and Utopia II, who had by now arrived at Raffles Marina.  We had offered to take the parents out for a celebratory dinner at a nice Italian place downtown, followed by one last kid's adventure the next day at the Singapore zoo.  Both venues were fantastic.  For the first time in a week, Kath and I felt like human beings again.  Our sweaty, grumpy toils were quickly forgotten and we were almost like cruisers again.

     You might think that a trip to a zoo would be a bit of a let down after the real-world animal adventures in Borneo and Komodo.  That was certainly my fear.  But the Singapore zoo does an amazing job of minimizing the barriers and distance between you and the animals.  There's still the standard moat between patrons and tigers, but there are other (safer) animals who are free to wander among the people.  Clever use of water, trimmed branches, and a keen understanding of animal behavior  create clever natural barriers and allow many of the monkeys and small mammals to live without bars or chain link.  I found it just as fascinating to study how the zoo enclosures are designed as it was to study the animals themselves.  Of course, a zoo like this would only work among the super well-behaved Singaporeans, where a sign discouraging you from trying to pet the cute animals is all that is necessary.   (Remember, these people have laws against spitting, swearing, or even chewing gum in public.)  I couldn't help but think that back home, where all of us believe that we are an exception, the signs would be ignored, 8 foot fences would be necessary, and anyone who scaled it would still try to sue.

Emmett and his cruising buddies at Singapore Zoo

     But our airline tickets have been purchased.  Reality awaits us.  Emmett & Kath stayed behind at Raffles to show the Australian kids what a Halloween party is all about, while I caught the bus back to Puteri Harbor to fire up that delicious air conditioner again and get back to work on prepping the boat for storage.

      There is a huge change ahead in our lives, but I've been so busy with these final social engagements and physical repairs that I really haven't had a moment to get my head around it yet.  Perhaps it's better that way.  Every time we go home, I always have these pangs of jealosy toward those friends who will be continuing on sailing.  I always have these parental anxieties as to how Emmett will do going back to a regular school.  I always end up bickering more with Kathleen as we suddenly feel overworked, over scheduled, and over stressed compared to the cruising life.  I stress out over the boat and all the bad things that could happen while we're away. You might think that it would get easier...I just try to remind myself that this is the price of those last 8 months of bliss.







                                                                                                                             created by Steve Erickson 2007-2012
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