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A New Country, a Sultan and a Guitar Wizard

The small country of Brunei is tucked into the middle of the north coast of Borneo, it is the only country to be solely in Borneo as Malaysia and Indonesia take up the rest of the island. When the Malaysian government was formed the Sultan of Brunei kept independent, an apparently good move. At one time this was the center of a large dynasty that reached into the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, now it is only a few hundred square miles.

With a small population, 300,000 or so, and buckets of oil everyone lives well; free schooling, health care and no income tax. Fuel is subsidized for locals and about a buck a gallon—remember a buck a gallon gas? Fuel is also why I stopped by at all. After a long albeit friendly clearance process we went to the yacht club where I was told fuel could be arranged. Like Indonesia it is a bit complicated as legally I cannot buy fuel here. Locals must buy it and transport it to the boat.  The good chaps at the yacht club direct me to “the guy” and he tells me it takes a three day notice to get fuel. I must leave the next day so give up. I may return when the tanks are a bit lower and reap the benefit on a better planned stay.

I read the “whipping” part and double checked my paper work!

the Sultan of Brunei and his lovely bride.

So back to Brunei, this is another monarchy ruled benevolently buy the Sultan of Brunei. Before Bill Gates came along he was consistently listed as the richest man in the world. One website claims his wealth goes up a hundred bucks a second—not a bad wage.  The Sultan’s picture is everywhere and he seems to be well liked, not the devotion seen in Thailand but certainly not disliked.  With high wages, average income about 35k, no tax, free schools and medical expenses and a low cost of living the Sultan’s flock live well. He did go through a testy divorce recently and took a much younger movie star bride; it is good to be King. His car collection is world famous too. Mm he likes young pretty girls and fast cool cars- so it would appear that I have all the qualifications to be a Sultan too. Now all I have to do is find is a small country full of oil and loyal followers, maybe on Ebay, hahaha.

On our way to the main town we anchored in another of the Sultans projects, a massive two mile wide marina enclosed by what must be 4 miles of huge beautifully constructed breakwaters. It seems the Sultan lost interest as the whole interior of this well protected man made lagoon is empty. We were told that it is all private and secure but cruisers slip in at night, anchor and duck out in the morning unnoticed so that is what we did. Curiosity hit and I took Furthur for a bit of a tour in the early morning expecting to see a huge mega yacht facility but found nothing but a small dock and one average sized sailboat.  Now I know why this place is known as “Sutlan’s Folly”.

miles of breakwater protecting, well, absolutely nothing. a great place to anchor.

The highlight of the stay for me was finding this kid plunking at a cheap guitar at his family’s banana stand. He played a bit for me and handed me the axe, I banged out some blues and he lit up. With the knowledge that he had found a fellow bluesman he took the guitar back and prceeded to blow me away. He was lightning fast and amazing.  Then he played some classical riffs demonstrating a talent I could hardly believe. I took some video and will post it when I next get to better broadband.  Here was a diamond in the ruff.

Our one day stay in this find land ended and we did the check out process early in the morning and headed across the bay to Labuan, back in Malaysia. This is a duty free island and is a popular place for cruisers to stock up on booze and chocolate. My crew fell in line and I have chocolate smudges on my usual smile. We will stay one night here to and investigate some wreck dives in the morning then head to a small island just north where we know there is good diving.

With only ten days left for my wonderful crew I gave them the option of spending it and the sixty miles left to travel as they wished, both blurted out “diving!” so we will hit as much diving as we can before we drop them off. Marina and Amy have crew positions waiting them on an 82’ Swan headed to Japan, a trip I envy. It will be a giant change from life on Furthur and certainly more exciting and demanding yet very rewarding. I will be very interested in hearing of their adventures and hope they come back to join Furthur someday soon.

As they head to Japan I will fly back to the US for a month of speaking, renewing my Captain’s license and seeing old friends, yikes it is a high of 48 there today, 40 degrees colder than here!! I will have to wear pants! and shoes! and even socks! Horrors.  I will enjoy the trip but be very glad to get back into swim trunks and flip flops.

History in a Junk Yard

It is 1983 and the world shook as the unheard of happened, the USA lost the America’s Cup. Dennis Connors was defeated by a newly designed 12 meter with a winged keel. Australia II took the cup across the world to the remote city of Perth and America rallied to get it back.

At the helm of the Aussie effort was an English immigrant sign painter turned zillionaire named Allen Bond. Having seen Aussies celebrate and especially sporting events I can only imagine the revelry that swept the land. Allan Bond was named “Australian of the Year” and made a national hero, ahh but the hero takes a fall.

The defense of the Cup brought out a plethora of boats competing for the right to defend the Aussie held cup. Bond built two more winged keel boats, the Australia III and IV.  After a round robbin series of races he lost the bid to defend the cup to another Australian boat, Kookara II.

In years to follow Bond would go from national hero to convicted felon and in prison.  After milking many people for millions of dollars and convicted of several accounts real bad things, he found himself, get this, teaching business management to prison inmates.  Upon his release his alleged poverty disappeared and he is again a multi millionaire.

Back to the boats, the two Bond boats then went to Japan and sat for years, then Singapore and now they rest in the back yard of Miri Marina where they have sat for at least three years. The sails were left outside in the tropical sun and rain for two years then moved somewhere, the spars lay covered in grass next to the boats. There is a spare winged keel alongside too. They are owned by a chap named Troy who dreamed of future regattas in Malaysia.

This is the site I saw as I crossed the bar entering Miri Marina, I pointed the boats out and excitedly said, “Those are 12 meters!”. I got the usual puzzled look from my young crew.  When I investigated more I saw the winged keels and knew I had stumbled on to history. A combination of Googling, Wikipedia and a long chat with two locals provided the above information.

So here in the wilds of Borneo sit some of the boats that we all huddled around the TV to watch, the boats that gave national pride to Australia and united America. Tis a sad fate for such noble vessels.  The sadder story is that of the America’s Cup itself. After this historic set of races the Cup fell victim to greed, ego and lawyers. It will never again be the premier yacht race of the world, a great loss for the us all.   

Back at Sea

With Thailand and all its wonders fading in the distance we began the long journey down the Malaaca Straights to Singapore and then Borneo. The trip to Singapore is just over 500 nautical miles of straight passage plagued by strong current, usually against us. We will skirt the oncoming shipping lanes staying on the Malaysia side.

The Malaaca Straights are the longest straights in the world and one of the most historical and well traveled shipping routes in the world. A quick look at the AIS screen verifies the traffic, lots of traffic. We are safe outside the shipping lanes where the only hazards are the scattered fishing boats. About ten years ago there was some piracy on the Indonesian side, cruisers were cautioned when taking this passage. The Malaysian military responded quickly and without brutal efficiency ending all piracy instantly. Maybe we should hire them to fix the Somali piracy as it seems with all our might we rendered impotent.

 With the lure of great Borneo diving we decide to make fast tracks and be able to use some time on the Borneo coast. I have seen this passage and will again in the fall so fast tracking is fine with me. This is such a shift from the short runs and tons of fun cruising mode we enjoyed in Thailand that I was concerned for the happiness of my wonderful crew. No worries, both Marina and Amy were glad to be under way, do night passages and gain experience. The Serenity (a nice name for boredom hahaha) of being at sea seams to suit both of them well.  We pass the time talking, listening to music, get a bit of exercise and I take the opportunity to add to my song list on the guitar.  For me, predawn departures and long long days are heaven; I am in my natural realm. Maybe it is my brush with Buddhism but I find joy in the absence of thought now, the miles upon miles of flat water provide a Zen like carpet to travel on.

Amy getting some exercise at Sea, she can do amazing Yoga poses while we are underway too!

First stop was Langkaw after an all night passage in near perfect conditions, flat seas, stars and half a moon. This was perfect for the girl’s first night watches. Up before the sun we hit Penang then several late night anchorages and early departures until we hit my favorite marina in Malaysia, Admiral Marina, in Port Dickson. Here we met several of our cruising friends and met some new ones too. We relished the time in the luxurious swimming pool and a great feast at a local outdoor Chinese Restaurant with our friends. This marina is a great deal, uniformed guards to open the gates, exquisite architecture and well maintained and protected marina all for under twenty dollars a day.

We will reach Danga Bay, a marina on the Malaysia side just above Singapore tomorrow just a short week after we left Phuket. We all agreed that we did not need to stop in Singapore on this trip. We are on a mission.

Thailand in pictures 2

Greetings Furthur Followers, i just added a group of pictures about Thailand and rather than e mail them i want to send you this link so you can have a look at your pleasure.  Always happy to hear feedback on the blog and the voyage,

Thailand in pictures

After Three months of cruising and enjoying the wonders of Thailand, here is a glimpse of what we saw, did and learned. Thailand is cruiser’s paradise, unlimited anchorages, caves and lagoons to explore, and world class diving.

anchorages abound

Kayaking at its best

warm water always good for a dip

Well kept parks

clear water and great views

Look at that water!!

world class diving

and more

and more

Phuket is famous for its night life and party world. We found some awesome live music. this my friend, Hootey, who let me sit in with him on Mondays at the ATM Bar. He is a phenomenal guitar player. I had a blast jamming with him and his band.

The famous “Lady Boys” of Phuket.

And some “real girls” Thai ladies are world renowned for their beauty and charm. there is a good reason men come from around the world to find true love in Thailand.

Thailand has three faces, the natural beauty, the party life and the spiritual relm. Here is the Big Buddha, which i visited five times and each time was a awakening experience. Life in Phuket envelopes all three faces, all enter wound in a maze of joy and all under the watchful eye of the Big Buddha. 

I was blessed by the monks

i visited several Temples and was always moved by the experience.

No trip to Thailand is complete without an elephant ride

While westerners enjoy the boating and natural beauty, trip the light fantastic with the night life and become awakened by the spiritual side all with the features of the western world, the Thai fishermen go about life as they have for time eternal, unchanged.

Life on Furthur

I am often asked what a day of Furthur is like, hard to answer as the vary so much. Here is a collection of pictures mostly taken by crew members that will give you a glimpse of Life on Furthur.

Meals are an important part of the bonding and fun the crew have. i have been blessed with some phenomenal cooks and i am happy to say I am spoiled rotten. Here is a pancake breakfast under the warm Thai morning sun.

it is a Furthur tradition for new crew to jump from the upper deck– and great fun for old timers too!

We celebrate the entrance into each country with a flag raising ceremony–here we are back in Malaysia

Not all hard work and fun, there is always time for a nap

We celebrate birthdays with zest.

Shore side exploring can take us into caves, lagoons and jungles.

We make friends with the locals as much as we can, here is a lovely Thai girl who joined us.

Local sea food is always a favorite and we buy it from the fisherman when we can.

We partake in the local customs and religious practices. i found a real connection to the Buddhist Temples.

dive gear stored and off to the next dive site, with a little fishing on the way.

the kayaks are great for exploring remote white sandy beaches.

diving is a major part of what we do. Yes when we say meet the locals it may have big teeth

We sing songs and i love to play the guitar for the crew.

Not all fun and games, provisioning is the hardest job the crew does. planning, buying, getting it all to the boat and storing provisions can be a long job but fun if done as a team.

this is just a glimpse of what we do, i hope you enjoyed a look into the Life on Furthur.  let me know if you have any questions or comments,