Welcome to the blog of the sailing yacht Sea Bunny.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Another B.O.A.T* experience

Under test at Jasons
The Inmarsat C transceiver, which provides an important safety link when we are offshore went on the blink.
The first symptom was a triple beep, sounding repeatedly some time after switching on the unit & not cancellable - very irritating! Further investigation revealed that the unit would play hide & seek with the satellite signal.
Thinking that this might be a cabling issue several days were spent remaking antenna connections (soldering is not our strongest skill) between the chart table & the gantry but to no avail.
Perhaps there was a hardware fault?
We knew of a Mr Ho at Jason Marine Services Singapore - he had condemned the sat phone antenna which was sent from Thailand last year!  Mr Ho's office conveniently has a window facing west, towards the Indian Ocean Inmarsat satellite, that he opens so that the antenna can pick up the signal. He thoroughly checked out both the antenna & electronic unit.
The automatic gain control on the antennae had died, well it was 13 years old.
The shock - we baulked at the replacement cost over SGD 3000, not much less than a new, up to date unit from the US. After discussion a refurbished antenna was found for SGD 1700, plus a service charge.
Over the next 24 hours we visited  ATM's to get the cash together, collected and installed the equipment before leaving Singapore.  It works! 
Jason's service was excellent.

*B.O.A.T = "Bring Out Another Thousand"

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Pinnacle Rock in Paradise

Four Friends
Towards the end of our visit Four Friends, a charter schooner based in Singapore, arrived with fourteen 17-year old students, all girls except for one, from the Arts School in Singapore together with teachers and kayak instructors.

Pinnacle Rock
We were fortunate to be invited to join them in scaling what the skipper of Four Friends calls Pinnacle Rock, a small , 67 metres high, island at the NW of the group. The top part of this involved a traverse up a fissure in the rock, for which ropes were laid. Richard opted to miss out this bit! Susan sat up top and leisurely watched a shoal of fish meander by.

Setting the ropes

Susan on the climb

View from Pinnacle Rock

It is also possible to get to the top of a rocky outcrop on the main island for a good view of the main lagoon. The path starts between two palm trees at the western end of the beach.
The outcrop

Pulau Bawah, Anambas, Indonesia

Our first over night passage since our return from Borneo at the end of 2010 of 145 nautical miles was to Pulau Bawah. This is in the Anambas archipelago which is not much visitedby yachts as there are no check-in facilities. You have to have a CAIT or a Riau Islands permit and check in or out of Indonesia in Batam or Bintan. As we were in Batam, checked in and aiming to return, this was not a problem.
Sea Bunny at anchor
However, yachts that have decided on the spur of the moment to visit the Anambas while on passage from Peninsular Malaysia to Sarawak (East Malaysia- Borneo) have met with a less than friendly reception from the local authorities.
We had acquired a waypoint for the entrance from friends, together with warnings not to try to enter the large deep water lagoon, which is totally surrounded by reefs with less than 0.5 metres of water over them at low water and less than 2 metres at high water.
The smaller, accessible, lagoon has an entrance, marked by two floats, with about 3 metres depth at low water in the deepest part. It then deepens to 17-20 m with no bommies.

Foundations for a resort villa

We had been told that the islands are uninhabited. Not so!  On our first evening we were presented with fresh coconuts by the construction crew from central Jarva here to build a 14 beach villa resort with attendant infrastructure. Occupation at the end of 2014 and intended for clients flown in by seaplane.
There are plans for moorings in the lagoon and yachts will not be discouraged.

Up to 10 of these shelter most nights

Up to 10 small fishing boats manned by the Orang Laut, sea people come in each night and wave to us.  These either raft up if conditions are suitable or anchor separately if there is a bit of chop the people never going ashore

Susan enjoys the clear water
We spent our time going for a daily walk on the beach, snorkelling and, of course, doing boat jobs.
Chilling out listening to a daily feed of Desert Island Discs and playing board games.
The snorkelling was the best since, probably, East Malaysia with visibility outside the reef over 10 metres, a little less inside. Richard even put on SCUBA gear to start a hull scrub, while Susan cleaned the topsides.
According to the construction manager  liveaboard dive boats rarely visit..

Soft corals in the lagoon

Yachtspeople may be interested in our anchorage notes for Pulau Bawah 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Waiting in Nongsa

As with most countries Indonesia has regulations governing foreign boats and foreigners in the country. In the case of Indonesia they can cause some frustration.

Clear to go!
Firstly, as foreigners we need a visa. There are essentially options. the first is a "social visa". This is valid for an extendible two month stay and is obtained from a consulate overseas on presentation of an invitation letter from a sponsor or agent. The second is a "visa on arrival". This is issued, to certain nationalities including British, at the point of entry on payment of a fee - USD 10 for 7 days, USD 25 for 30 days. Being close to Singapore we are using the visa on arrival approach - requiring a ferry trip every month - return fare SGD 40 each and using half a page in the passport each trip. The social visa, while allowing a longer stay, is single entry, so a new sponsor letter and application would be required on each entry.
As for the boat - to enter Indonesia, to cruise in Indonesia or to leave requires a CAIT (Cruising Authority for Indonesian Territory). This is be obtained through an agent, and requires the approval of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Transportation. It takes 4-6 weeks between application and issue and costs IDR 2,200,000 (£ 125/USD 200). The CAIT is valid for 3 months and can be extended for a fee of IDR 1,800,000. It is also single entry; if the boat leaves Indonesia a new CAIT is required to reenter. Confused so are most people!
Our CAIT, originally obtained to cover our trip through Indonesia on our journey to South Africa, expired on 10 October. We should have applied for a renewal when we headed off to the UK but our minds were on other things and did not apply until after our return. Consequently we have been waiting for the renewal to permit us to leave Nongsa for a trip to the Anambas Islands. There were jobs to keep us occupied.  With the CAIT we could now apply for a port clearance, which takes only a few hours. Getting the marina bill right so we can pay it takes somewhat longer!

The American School Singapore

While waiting for Sea Bunny's CAIT, we needed a visa run to Singapore. Ley, on Crystal Blues, had agreed to look after friends children there & invited us to join her for a few days. This gave us an opportunity for shopping - fuel cans & metres of hose filled the spare bag.. Fresh fruit & veggies filled other bags, these are very watery in Batam.
The photos were taken when we visited the largest international school in the world with 3,6000 expatriate students The American School in Singapore to watch the younger child play soccer.The school site is 37 acres & has a strong athletic tradition. A shipping container had just delivered the pumpkins that the students are washing to sell for Halloween. In the UK Susan would probably have been escorted off the premises for taking the photos!

The cheerleader team

Track and sports hall

Ready for Hallowe'en

UK trip no 2 of 2013

There could not have been a warmer day in the UK for the funeral of Susan's mother back in her home town of March in Cambridgeshire & to be surrounded by so many supportive relatives.

Max and Archie
An upside of the unscheduled trip was the opportunity of extra visits to our children and grandchildren, so we set off on the well-travelled circuit via Bransgore, Edinburgh, Bath and Epsom, taking in a couple of stopovers en route and spending our wedding anniversary at the same hotel we were at for our 25th. Unsurprisingly there was also shopping for boat bits to do, mostly on the Internet, despite the significant amount we had done on our first trip!
The Water of Leith, Edinburgh

Swinging on Corstorphine Hill

On 25 September we were back on Sea Bunny in Nongsa Point Marina.

Friday, August 30, 2013


This is one big, air conditioned greenhouse
In what we thought was a final farewell to Singapore, a country that we have had a love hate relationship with for many years, we visited the Gardens by the Bay. Construction moves fast here; three years ago the docks were being moved from this site to reclaimed land. Monet once referred to his garden as his most beautiful masterpiece. This 101 hectare attraction with over 250 thousand rare plants in huge domed conservatories is perhaps Singapore's.
Ten days later, in  Nongsa Point Marina Indonesia the decks were scrubbed, the watermaker unpickled, the coms finally sorted & the departure email drafted. We were ready for our farewells on leaving towards South Africa.
Then, instead, we shall as the Australians say, be 'farewelling' Susan's 104 year old mother in the UK next week. The Glory of the Garden, Kipling's poem, will be read.
So it's farewell to the South African passage for this year & hello to the passage in 2014 (3rd time lucky?) - meanwhile we will find people to eat our fresh provisions!

Pitcher plants

Inside the flower dome

The trees

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Back in Singapore

In June we returned to from the UK to Sea Bunny, which we had left at Puteri Harbour Marina in the Johor Straits. A good, very sheltered, place to leave a boat but fairly remote, with surrounding facilities still under development.

After a month there, more boat jobs, we checked out of Malaysia and in to Singapore, intending to spend 2 weeks in One15 marina before heading on to Indonesia. The main purpose of the visit was to have a major service on the engine.  However, various issues were found which kept us here for an extra 3 weeks.
The extended stay meant that Richard had to extend his landing pass. On entry into Singapore at least one person must be declared as crew; this person receives a crew landing permit stamp, which is valid for 2 weeks and does not permit leaving Singapore, in the passport. Passengers receive a visitor visa, duration according to nationality, 90 days for the UK. Until a few months ago extending the crew pass was a simple matter of taking the papers to immigration at the ferry terminal at Marina South Pier and getting a new stamp, costing MRT and bus fares. No longer! It is now necessary to hire an agent to do this at a cost of, in our case, SGD 150.

We also needed some engine parts, which could not be found in Singapore. Marking the package "Ships spares in transit" allows, in most countries except Thailand, importation free of duty and VAT/GST, under an international customs agreement. It does apparently also allow this in Singapore. Unfortunately, according to UPS, to benefit from this it is necessary to complete various forms and guarantees and possibly to hire an agent (again!) to carry out the clearance. In the case of our parts the fee was almost equal to the GST.

Sea Bunny dressed overall for National Day
Singapore National Day was on 9 August, just after the end of Ramadan holiday (Hari Raya/Eid-el-Fitr) on 8 August so there was effectively a 5 day holiday from Wednesday to Sunday. This did not affect us much as boat work continued, including fixing the boat central heating, which has not been used since Australia but may be needed as we head further south out of the tropics. Richard managed to flood the system with diesel which resulted in large clouds of dense white smoke when it eventually fired up, causing major concern to the marina staff and a reprimand from the marina manager for not informing them in advance.

Stowage & Play

We are asked lots of questions about how we cater for long passages ie about 3 weeks at a time at sea. The answer is a ridiculous amount of planning, lists & use of every spare space.

Flour stowage for passage
The photo shows enough flour for 50 loaves of bread stored under the salon table and dosed with chloroform to deter weevils
Shelves have been made in spaces behind draws to accommodate spare engine parts!
Even sailing boats are power hungry so parts for engine, generator, wind generator, water turbo & water maker have been procured. When the sea state is ferocious or the currents is strongly against us the iron donkey will be needed but remember that radar, computers & autopilots gobble up energy.

Daily Telegraph cryptic crossword on the iPad
Puteri Habour's new build is vast, the new 5 star hotel allowed us to use the pool FOC which overlooked the marina- here is Richard, the only user, relaxing with a crossword.

UK trip 2013

Highlights of this year's UK trip were

  • Spending time with our children and grandchildren
  • A trip to the highlands of Scotland
  • The wedding of Susan's nephew Simon to Susie
Some photos
With Jane and Josh in the New Forest (new in the 11th century)

Camera-shy Jake
With James & Josh at Bucklers Hard

Ferret racing at Bransgore fair

Skiff racing at Achiltibuie
Max enjoying the cold water

The Newhaven skiff - The Wee Michael. Cox Cath & Steve at no 2

It was cold on the beach!
A warmer day - water temperature 7 C

Cox Susan
All this play is tiring!

The pass to Applecross (reputed to be highest in UK)
Water play in the garden

At the wedding with Susan's sister Sarah and Barrie

The happy couple with the groom's parents

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Ghosting along

Heading south from PD, minding our own business with a light wind forward of the beam - we are of course motoring. Suddenly big noise from aft. Rope around the prop? Engine put hard astern then ahead again. Nothing - apart from more revs. Quick investigation below - the anti vibration disc between the gearbox and the shaft is no longer attached to the gearbox flange. No problem! Sail for a while while the engine cools a bit and rejoin them.
Some time later the engine is cooler but the shaft can be neither rotated nor slid forward - both normally easy. There must still be something around the propeller (or - horror of horrors - a bent shaft). Meanwhile there is now some wind and we are heading towards our  target destination at up to 7 kn. 
We need to close the coast to anchor and dive on the propeller but the coastline is lined with oil jetties and the sea littered with anchored tankers.
Our guardian
Once South of Tanjung Bruas the oil installations finish. By the time Sea Bunny gets there the wind has died to about 3 kn and the tide has turned against us. We crab shorewards avoiding being swept onto anchored ships by the tide and anchor in 7.5 m, hopefully sufficiently inshore not to be in the way of the ships and tugs.
An anchored tug observes our progress and raises its anchor so that we do not drift into her. She re-anchors some 100 m from us and stays there overnight - looking after us, we think.
The pilot variously states the time of the tide change as 1 hour before local LW or 3:30 after HW Penang. The former gives 1530, the latter 1830. At 1600 the tide is still running strongly, so it seems 1830 may be the time. It was - R was able to push the propeller and shaft back from outside while snorkelling - the dive gear had been prepared in anticipation of a longer job. There was in fact no rope around the propeller.
A couple of hours later all was reconnected ready for us to move on the next day to Pualu Besar in the Water Islands, then Pulau Pisang (literally Banana Island). Finally we arrived at Puteri Harbour Marina in The Johor Strait between Malaysia and Singapore.

Port Dickson

Continuing southwards, Sea Bunny spent nights anchored off Pulau Pangkor and Pulau Angsa before stopping at Port Dickson.

New rope - R didn't really want his picture taken!
A primary reason for stopping at PD was to visit Cordage International's rope factory at nearby Seremban. At one point we thought this might not happen as we had been told of people being quoted MYR 400 (about £85) for a day's car hire. In the event Sara, the marina receptionist, put us in touch with a hirer with much more sensible prices, although the car had automatic transmission that occasionally slipped, a cracked windscreen and, as we discovered when paying motorway tolls, windows that did not open!
Cordage International is a major manufacturer and supplier to US and UK rope brands as well as to the Royal Malaysian Navy. However, they are pleased to supply direct to yachties. Sashi, the Technical Director made us welcome while a replacement furling line was made up from  6mm dyneema spliced to 10 mm polyester double braid. We also got 100 m of 16 mm nylon double braid for replacement dock lines (with a lot to spare), 35 m of 12 mm polyester double braid for a replacement topping lift and another 25 m to replace the purchases on the running backstays. Prices were very significantly below chandlery prices. The next day Richard returned for more double braid to replace the purchases on the running backstays. On this second visit he met Ben, Sashi's father, who founded the company.
Milin, on Nae Hassle, told us of a chandlery in an unlikely location near Lukup, just off the motorway between PD and Seremban. Having failed to find it on our first trip we tried again. In the midst of a small yard where they build small fishing boats and up a staircase we found a small, chaotic but reasonably well-stocked chandlery. We succeeded in acquiring a boathook, some spring reinforced hose, a catch for the anchor well and the penny washers that had eluded Richard in Penang. 


Tanjong City Marina - now all gone!
The Tanjung City Marina in Penang having finally succumbed to silting and the depredations of swell and wash we spent a few days in Straits Quay Marina, which has opened since our last visit to the island.
We had successful shopping experiences at Sam's Batik House. Less successful was Richard's search for 10 mm penny washers, conducted in pouring rain after he had decided that the rain had finished for the day and left the umbrellas on the boat!
A bonus was that Shadow Trader came in to the marina while we were there so we were able to spend more time with Elspeth and St John.

Rebak again

We remained in Rebak for 7 weeks, somewhat longer than intended, reducing the jobs list and only leaving the island for the essential, roughly weekly, shopping trips to Kuah and, in Susan's case, Friday trips to the "veggie man".

On our last trip to town we were able to meet up with old friends Elspeth and St John (MY Shadow Trader) who we first met in 2002 in Fiji with their previous yacht, Galyfreae, and last saw when we visited them on their farm near Gin Gin in Queensland in 2005, shortly after we arrived in Australia.

While in Rebak we had a new Silentwind wind generator delivered from Portugal to replace the 3 year old Air Breeze which had got flooded internally while we were on the hard in Boat Lagoon. TNT managed to send the correctly addressed package to Labuan and apparently lose track of it for 2 weeks and take another week to get it from KL to Rebak - door to door nearly a month! The Silentwind  is much quieter than the AirX, which with Silentwind blades retrofitted, is itself quieter than it used to be.

The new genset arrives at Rebak
We also gave up on our 7 year old Pajuro 4000 genset and, after some research into slower-running alternatives, ordered a new one. This arrived on the cargo boat to Rebak and was manhandled onto the pontoon before being lifted onto Sea Bunny using the boom and mainsheet - a routine we've got quite used to.

On 31 March we checked out of Langkawi at Telaga Harbour, collected more duty free booze and headed south, stopping for two nights in Teluk Ayer Tuan at the south of the Langkawi group where Richard dived to clean most of the ecosystem acquired from a stay in Rebak from the propeller.

Goodbye to Thailand

Sorry for the lack of updates since the snake incident! Things got a bit busy.

The sandbar off Yacht Haven at high water
After a New Year spent again in Panwa Bali in company with Crystal Blues we headed up to the north of Phuket to Yacht Haven Marina to sort out a few more jobs from the list, which seems to grow by two items for each one we tick off!

Sea Bunny finally checked out of Thailand for the last time on 30 January for the trip to Langkawi, stopping overnight at Ko Yao Yai, Phi Phi Don, Ko Kraken, Ko Yaing Yai and Ko Turatao. Half way across the Cincin Strait between Turatao (Thailand) and Langkawi (Malaysia) we decided to take the scenic route around the east of Langkawi, instead of the direct route around the west. We arrived at the anchorage in Kuah at dusk, checking in the next day before some shopping, obtaining new SIM cards for mobiles and iPads and, most importantly, stocking up with duty free drink!

Next day Sea Bunny made the short journey to Rebak Island and its marina (aka amongst yachties as Rebak Retirement Village due to the number of people who arrive and stay)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Snakes alive!

Christmas 2012 was again spent in Nai Harn Bay at the SW of Phuket. On Christmas Eve the company at the Ao Sane restaurant on the north of the bay was mostly British. The buffet dinner was excellent as usual. The swell breaking on the main beach, although not as bad as in 2011, made dry landings there unlikely. Landing at low water at Ao Sane was made more difficult by the large numbers of bulky Russians who stand around in the narrow passage in  blissful unawareness of dinghies trying to get through.

New Year was again spent at Panwa Bali where conditions are calmer, beach landings possible, and the Russians (who are everywhere on Phuket) better mannered. We saw the New Year in in the company of Australians.

Prefer not to have in the RIB
Between the two holidays Sea Bunny went the short distance north from Nai Harn  to Kata Beach. Coming back in the dinghy from the beach we noticed something that looked like a piece of multi-coloured braided rope wrapped around the outboard motor between the motor head and the leg going down to the water. It is a narrow gap, not easily visible. There did not seem to be any rope hanging out, which made it surprising when the “rope” moved independently of its surroundings. On our arrival at Sea Bunny.judicious prodding with the boat hook provoked further movement and the emergence of a head. Further prodding persuaded the snake to emerge from its adopted home, slide across the tube of the RIB and in to the water. Over the next 24 hours it visited other boats in the anchorage and returned to visit us, thankfully without being able to get on board. We think it was probably a golden tree snake (Chrysopelea ornata ornatissima), mildly venomous, although as we were some ¼ mile from the beach trees were in short supply.