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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

May 31. 2006-The Last Thirty Miles

Sailing The Last 30 Miles to Singapore

Sailing the last thirty miles back to Seattle was fun in the old days, back when we did that trip three or four times a summer. You picked a weekend when there was a big flood tide on Sunday, and, after a week in the islands, you'd hit Point Wilson on the return trip about 11:00AM, when the sea breeze is starting to fill in, and you could set the kite and jibe on each bend of the Sound, and come all the way home going eight knots. It was glorious.

We used to drink on that trip, and arrive at Shilshole bay in the late afternoon tired, sunburned, and slightly drunk, with wine or rum bottles rattling around in the aft cockpit like trophies. It might have affected our judgment. I remember one time when we came steaming into Shilshole on port jibe, pole on the headstay, going 10 knots, rounded down right at the north entrance, dropped the kite and sailed in under main, excited and jubilant, only to find the marina filled with boats with people sitting in the cockpits, afraid to go out because the wind was too strong. We didn't even notice it.

The ship traffic on Puget Sound wasn't too bad either, although I remember one time when I was down below yelling on the radio at a tow boat skipper who came out of his lane to cut the corner at Double Bluff and left us nowhere to go while Judy sat topsides watching helplessly as the spinnaker wrapped itself four times around the headstay.

No mostly there was plenty of room to avoid the ships.

Not like Singapore. The last thirty miles here won't be exciting sailing. It is hot alright, hotter than summer in Seattle, but the wind just isn't here. And the ships come by about one every 5 minutes. You have to be sharp to dodge them just right.

Today we are coming into Singapore, and we do have the tide with us, but we are motoring, or else we wouldn't get there by night fall.

At least we're here.

Singapore Flag

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Singapore

PS: Since I wrote the above we had a nice little squall blow through, 25 knots, and we had a pleasant sail, if not exciting. We arrived in Singapore at 16:00, cleared customs, and we are in a marina at Sentosa Island, Singapore

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Monday, May 29, 2006

May 30, 2006- Life at Sea

Black Squall

We need a good run today if we are going to make it to Singapore tomorrow. Ten knots of wind from a favorable direction will do it, or maybe a little less wind if that is asking too much, and less opposition from the current; we have had that against us most of this passage, a knot or two. That has been aggravating.

Yeah, with ten knots of southerly or SE wind we can do 6.5 and get through straits before the tide turns, but ten knots might be asking a lot. We've been sailing for six days now and the wind has been light most of the time, except at night during the squalls, then it has often been too high.

The first few nights down the coast of Borneo were not that much fun. The days were OK, a bit slow maybe, but the nights brought nasty squalls with black clouds, heavy rain, and gusty winds. The first one we used to get a boost, sailing towards it instead of tacking away, and it worked, we picked up a bit of wind and saw some good speeds. The next night we tempted fate again, or tweaked Neptunes tail once too often, and WHAM! We got caught in twenty nine knots of wind with full sail up. Overpowered, the wind still rising, rain belting down, no visibility, we reduced sail in a panic and then sat around waiting for it to pass. It wasn't any fun. Since then we have treated these squalls with a little more respect and they have been no problem. A little work maybe, several times a night, we wake up the off watch, go on deck, reduce sail, get wet, wait, then shake the reefs back out, get going again, dry out.

After The Squall

Yesterday was OK. Nice breeze, averaged ten knots I guess, and we sailed all day. We worked on the Singapore courtesy flag, and noon, had a nice meal of red bean chili. But the current kept our average speed over the bottom down to 4 knots. We need to do better today.

It doesn't really matter anyway, just one night more or less at sea, and we are into the routine now, we are comfortable with the passage and the sailing. We rest, stand our watches, go through the squalls, do our thing with the reefing and the jib. We have hit that sweet spot where the passage can go on and on and it doesn't worry us. So it is OK either way.

But still, we'll try to get to Singapore tomorrow if we can.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, On Passage.

01 deg. 55.7 lat 106 deg 22.3 lon

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Friday, May 26, 2006

May 27, 2006-Passage Report-On the Way to Singapore

Slow Passage

WINGS is slowly beating to the SW in a light breeze, on choppy seas, and under grey skies, going down the west coast of Borneo, bound for Singapore. Its 07:00 A.M. and I'm on watch while Judy gets what she usually says is her best sleep of the day. All I know is that she had a tough night and she is really sawing logs right now. We're making about three knots with six knots of wind in waves left over from some squall somewhere. It's slow going.

This is not going to be an easy or fast passage. The winds have been light and contrary, often non-existent. We've motored about 20 hours out of three days so far, and much of the sailing time has been struggling to find a point of sail which will take us towards Singapore instead of away from it. But we have been averaging 100 miles a day, which is OK.

This afternoon we hope to get to the halfway point, which makes it look like a seven day passage, or more. The weather forecasts are for even less wind. We might be able to motor all the way from here, if we had to, we've got the fuel, but we're nursing a leaking transmission, and we want to baby it rather than push it to the limit, plus, we like sailing more than motoring, so we're sailing when we can.

Anyhow, some passages are like this. We're safe, well fed, have plenty of water and food. And we've had some periods of glorious sailing; so it's not been all bad. We've just got to hang in there and get across the South China Sea one more time.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, On Passage

03 deg 05.8 lat, 110 deg 45.2 lon

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Monday, May 22, 2006

May 23, 2006-Brunei Today, Singapore Tomorrow

Brunei Mosque

We’ve been in Brunei, in Borneo, for a week, since sailing down from Labuan, Malaysia last Monday, enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of the Royal Brunei Yacht Club and touring around this wealthy and fascinating Islamic country.

Royal Brunei Yacht Club

We’ve rented a car, and driven on many of the roads in the country, and we’ve taken a water taxi tour of the old and famous water village (houses on stilts) in Brunei’s capital Bandar Seri Begawan. You can visit our photo pages here (May 2006 Photos) or wingssail-images, here to see some of the sights we've seen.

Now the boat is stocked for a passage, with plenty of food prepared and frozen, the water and fuel tanks filled, and we’ve even stocked up on toilet paper, so we are ready for the trip across the South China Sea to Singapore.

It is only 750 miles, but it could be a slow trip; this part of the world is called “the land below the wind”, meaning that the strong winds and typhoons of Asia don’t usually come here, and the weather forecasts are for extensive calms.

Night Rain

We’re off in the morning, with the tide.

We’ll let you know how we are doing by updating this web-log by sailmail, although we won’t be able to send any photos.

Click Here for all the Brunei photos

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Brunei

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Friday, May 19, 2006

May 20, 2006 Brunei


On the west coat of Borneo Island, surrounded by the Malaysia states of Sabah and Sarawak lies the small but rich country of Brunei.

We sailed the 17 miles from Labuan, Malaysia to Brunei one day last week, leaving Labuan at 07:00 in order to make Serasa, on the Brunei River, before the ebb started at noon, and we anchored off the Royal Brunei Yacht Club at 11:45AM landing in our 18th country, and starting another new adventure. As it turns out that 17 mile sail was the shortest international passage we’ve done on Wings.

Brunei is an Islamic sultanate with extensive oil reserves and income. The current ruler, the Sultan of Brunei, is the world’s richest man, putting Bill Gates to shame, since he basically owns the whole country. He is an absolute monarch, and part of the single family which has ruled this country, passing the crown down from father to son, for 600 years. This family ruled this country before Columbus sailed to America in 1492. It hasn’t changed much, except that the sultans rarely obtain their position any more by assassinating their rivals, including family members, which they apparently did in previous centuries. We read the history of the sultanate, starting from the first sultan of this dynasty in 1406, and many, if not most, of the Sultans of Brunei ruled for very short times before dying in office. Quite a number died after they were appointed but before they were able to take office. More than one voluntarily submitted to execution after learning that a beloved relative was trying to kill them. They just marched into court and named their poison, so to speak. One chose to be garroted. I thought that was a bit odd.

We also toured a museum, and many of the exhibits consisted of daggers, swords, spears, guns, rifles, and various jars and bottles (suitable for poison?). We wonder of there is any correlation?

Despite this history, Brunei is a peaceful country. The full name of the country is Brunei Darussalam: Brunei, Abode of Peace, which name was ostensibly adopted after the rulers stopped killing each other. We find the country peaceful and quiet in a different way. Sleepy is the better term. We are anchored in a river delta, with views of many miles in any direction, and this place pretty quiet, hardly anything moves. When a speedboat comes by it can he heard and seen for 10 minutes before it arrives. When we go to town, the only jumpin’ place is the Gadong shopping district. People here have money.

The monarchy is benevolent. Brunei provides for its citizens free healthcare, free education, and nearly free fuel and oil. Diesel here costs about $.73 per gallon. The highest standard of living of all of Asia exists here in Brunei. The country side is dotted with houses which are nothing less than ostentatious mansions. Oil has been good to the citizens of Brunei. Brunei also has probably this highest density of foreign embassies in the world. There are 18 of them here, including US, France and Iran, but these are not neighbors on embassy row; they are discretely separated.

Water Village in Brunei

The capital, and main city, Bandar Sere Begawan, is located 15 miles up the Brunei River, and it has historically been water based. Many of the homes are located on stilts over the water, and always have been. Today Brunei boasts the world’s largest water village and engravings of the city scene from the 14th century show most of the buildings were built over the river even then. High powered outboard motors speed water taxi’s from downtown to the kampong, or water village, across the river. Commuters park their cars in lots near the river’s edge (on the city side of the river) and take a water taxi across to their houses on stilts. The city itself is spread out, with shopping areas connected by freeways, and most of it is modern.

This is NOT the Sultan of Brunei

We are enjoying our stay here. We’ve rented a car so we can get around, (mostly so we can get lost) on Brunei’s maze of freeways, and we’ve been shopping. The Yacht Club extends a welcome to visitors, has WiFi, a nice pool and a great restaurant on the water’s edge, and it is one of the only places where we can have a glass of wine with dinner. We’re allowed to drink in the clubhouse as long as we bring our own. Alcohol cannot be sold or served in Brunei.

This is probably our last stop in Borneo; the water tanks are full, so are the diesel tanks, and we expect to depart for Singapore within a week.

Click Here for all the Brunei photos

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Brunei


Sunday, May 14, 2006

May 12, 2006-Beat to Labuan

Tacking Action

It is 66 miles down the Borneo coastline from Kota Kinabalu to Labuan Island. We plan to make the trip in two days, with a stop at Tiga Island, 30 miles down the line.

The Previous Day

The morning of the second day, after an easy genoa reach down from KK the day before, we are surprised to wake up in our Tiga island anchorage to a fresh southeasterly breeze instead of the normal morning calm we've seen each day preceding the sea breeze which usually fills in at 11:00 AM. Don't know what it means, but it could be interesting.

We weigh anchor at 08:45 and sailing out of the anchorage on the main we consider whether to use the genoa or the number 4. Reaching the point of the island the conditions dictate it for us. This is definitely a number 4 wind, and it is out of the SW, not the SE. Our 36 mile leg this day will be a beat dead to weather. Not our choosing, but there it is. There is nothing for us to do but get going.

We set the number 4, sheet home both sails, and start to beat south. We've got 15 knots of wind and we're making 6.2 knots, pretty close to our numbers, 38 degrees off the wind. It looks like a good sail. We calculate our ETA to Labuan. At 4.5 knots VMG we'll get there in eight hours; 17:00. We put on the windvane and relax, enjoying the day.

Sailing past the south side of Tiga we see two yachts anchored in the cove there, on a lee shore, and pitching badly in the chop which is rolling into that side of the island. We wonder why they stayed there; it must be mighty uncomfortable, and with a nasty coral reef just behind them; if it was us we'd leave ASAP. We wonder if they are northbound or southbound. We watch them through the binoculars for an hour but they don't make a move.

The wind is building and at 18 knots we flatten the sails and load everything up for a stiff breeze. We have Wings in point mode but we're still going fast; this is our wind. Sunny day; put on sun screen. Sit on the high side with my feet over. Move the genoa to the high side, hike the boat. The boat works through the waves like it knows how. We take a little spray, but not too much, and once I get a real splash, but it is OK; I love it. This is sailing.

I sit on the rail and watch the water sweep by past my feet. I start to daydream. I wonder how far below me is the surface of the water, I'm high up on the high side. How high? I guess eight feet. The time passes. Judy checks the chart a couple of times. There are some reefs around which we need to get past as we work our way south, but right now we're doing fine.

Fred enjoys the day.

At 11:30 we are shocked out of our reveries by a loud bang from the rig. We look aloft for loose things hanging, half expecting to see a mast coming down on our heads. It looks fine. We look around the boat. Judy sees a pool of blood red hydraulic fluid spreading on the cockpit floor. We've lost hydraulic pressure on the backstay! We crack the release valve and drop the pressure and I tighten a fitting which was dripping. It stops. We put some pressure back on, but not as much. The leak stops. We clean up. Now it's time to look where we we've got to while we had our heads down. Uh, no problem, we're still OK. Back to sailing, only this time I'm thinking about what I've got to do to fix the backstay line once we get to Labuan.

At 1:30 the wind drops, a lot. It also shifts to the left, and we are way out to the right side, where we went to get around a patch of reefs. Tactically this is bad. I feel like a dummy for not staying closer to the rhumb line. We change to the genoa and tack. Problem number two occurs: The tack which looked like 95 degrees on the compass turns out to be more like 129 degrees on the chart. Whoa, what is going on?

We quickly assess our situation. The actual VMG is more like 3.3, and that, combined with what we see on the tacking angles, tells us that we have a big current against us. It must be about 1.2 knots.

Now we realize we have our work cut out for us to reach Labuan that day. Actually, getting there in daylight is out. Best we can expect is 21:00 or so.

We check out the harbor chart closely. Can we go in after dark? I judge that we can.

Now we've got to get the boat cranked up to make even that.

I take off the wind vane and start to steer. I've got to get a feel for how she's doing in the 8-9 knots of wind we're getting. We adjust the sheet leads and fiddle with just about everything. We can get it up to about 5 knots and pointing pretty high, but the current, which we decide is a strong ebb tide, is holding us back. It is knocking 15 degrees off our course on each tack. Motoring wouldn't help that much, and we don't want to motor for six hours anyhow. Once we have the boat sailing its best we put the wind vane back on.

We sail on.

We get a few good shifts and we arrive on Labuan Harbor at 21:30.

It is good to get the hook down. We have a beer.

It has been a long hard day of sailing, but it has been a good day too. We like sailing.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings. Borneo

Note on the mechanical problem: After arriving in Labuan we checked out the hydraulic system, and we found that, under pressure over 2500 psi, the backstay fitting leaks, even after I tightened it. Something in there broke and that was the "bang" we heard. Now I know that, I can work on it, maybe replace a "T" fitting or a connector. Anyhow, we'll solve this one easily

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May 13, 2006-Calling in the Faithful

Labuan Shipyard

From our anchorage in Labuan's Victoria Harbor, in Sabah, Borneo, we can hear the mullahs calling the faithful to prayers at mosques on both sides of the harbor, even behind the shipyard. At 18:30 we can hear four of them competing with each other for the faithful.

Judy says we should catch a photo of the water village nearest us with the mosque's minaret and dome poking up above the stilt houses. I think we should go visit the village and see what it looks like up close. Anyhow, they have a good PA system; their mullah is loud and clear.

Labuan: a place of contrasts. We see water villages and mosques. We also see shipyards and oil rig tender vessels. We see ferry docks for fast ferries which arrive every half hour from places unknown, and we see water taxi's speeding past in every direction, it is a busy place.

Ashore it is not so busy.

There we find a quiet central business district with cobble stone streets and veiled women. There are the normal shops, and there are the "duty free" stores for which people come to Labuan. Liquor here is minus the heavy taxes found elsewhere in Malaysia and that's where a lot of the business is in Labuan. People come here by ferries to stock up. We came by boat. This place definitely does not adhere to a strict Moslem rule, despite the many mosques and loud mullahs.

The harbor and Lubuan town are interesting, but we won't stay long. We're here to buy some liquor, check out of Malaysia with the authorities and head to Brunei.

Duty Free Stock Up

Click here for more Labuan Images

and here for more shipyard images.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Labuan

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

May 9, 2006-Pretty Good Day in KK

Girls at the Mosque

These girls have nothing to do with the story below, but I liked the shot, and a lot of the other ones I've taken in Kota Kinabalu, so I'm putting it in. Also the one of the mosque where I photographed them (at the bottom of this story)

I'm having a happy day.

Judy says the reason I like everything tonight is the scotch I'm drinking, “It's just the alcohol.” She said. It’s true, the scotch Andy brought me has got my head spinning a little, but never mind that, today has been a really good day.

First of all we got the bloody leaking water tank out of the boat without any drama. That in itself is cause for celebration, although having a leaking tank, a new one at that, is not. Anyhow, this water tank has broken for a second time and that sucks. But we found a guy here in KK who will fix it, no problem (have you heard that one before?) and today we took it out of the boat so the welder could pick it up and take it to his shop…in two hours flat. BANG! Beat that! And neither of us hurt ourselves. Terrific!

Then we went to town for our regular shopping trip and scored some really cheap wine. Not just cheap, but good. Australian good. Now, that might not be cause for celebration to most of you, but to us here in Muslim Malaysia, it is a true score. Islamic countries don’t feature too many sales on wine, but on Wings, not a dry ship, we need it, so finding some is a major deal. Now…we’re fixed.

Then, the fish we bought at the market turned out perfectly when we grilled it. Together with that wine we spoke of just previously, it made for a great dinner.

Finally, I have been reviewing the photos we got here, and we have some really good ones. So, I am happy, really happy.

I invite you to link to our photo site, here,
and here,

or just go to the month of May on the Images site, and browse Wingssail 2006, and take a look at Kota Kinabalu.

Sabah State Mosque

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Kota Kinabalu

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Monday, May 08, 2006

May 8, 2006-Old Racing Photo

Wings Finishing

I ran across some images that were sent to us by DBYC from their Tsing Ma Regatta last year. Since this is supposed to be a sailing Blog, I thought I'd post them for you.

We had a great race that day, but none of the fast boats did well on handicap and we didn't get any prizes. Thats OK, we've had them before.

We miss the fun racing and other activities of DBYC.

Click the image above for the rest of the shots.

Click here to go to the DBYC site for more racing news from this great little club.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Kota Kinabalu


Sunday, May 07, 2006

May 7, 2006-Sabah Fest

We Stumbled onto a Treasure in Kota Kinabalu

Malay Girl

It’s just one of those things: “We fell up out of a hole”, as Jim Watson would say.

It happened like this:

Judy was over at the hotel next door on Friday to check out some craft exhibits and she saw a sign about a presentation that night that included some dance groups. So she mentioned it to me.

“OK, I’m up for it, whatever it is, let’s go.” We had a bite aboard Wings and I grabbed my camera and off we went to the Magellan Hotel.

Good move.

When we arrived there was some sort of a queue forming up and people herded us into it. Turns out it was for the local dignitaries and we were mistaken of being part of that group. They rolled out the red carpet for us dignitaries. There were a few hundred kids in local get-up lined up for us on each side of the grand stairwell as we walked down to the grand ball room. (Is this us, or what?)

Once seated in the ballroom we were able to watch the annual Festival of Sabah; and we didn’t even know it was going to happen that night. Yeah, there were some speeches, but soon a dozen or so dance groups got on stage and stunned us with their well rehearsed performances: we enjoyed every minute of it.

Grand Finale

Click here for more images from Sabah Fest

and here, to see more crafts

So how do we get so lucky? I don’t know, but is it good. Maybe all cruisers get their share of these things, I know we do.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Kota Kinabalu

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Monday, May 01, 2006

Searching Wings' Sailing Log

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May 1, 2006-Kota Kinabalu & The Mountain in the Clouds

Kota Kinabalu

We are still in Borneo, in KK (Kota Kinabalu), the booming capital of the Malaysian state of Sabah. We last wrote to you from Kudat, also in Sabah.

We left Kudat one morning, headed for KK.

It is calm, no wind, and we are motoring north to the “Tip of Borneo” where we can turn south towards KK. Just before we arrive there the wind comes up, a nice NE breeze of 15 knots. The sky is blue and the water sparkles. This is going to be a nice day of sailing.

The “Tip of Borneo” is not one of the world’s great capes, but it is a scenic landmark never the less. We want to sail past. We hoist the main and cut the engine, and head for a gap between the cape and an off lying island, intending to round inside the island, close to the surge and swell breaking on the point. The wind is blowing and we’re sailing fast. It is exciting, and maybe a little dangerous. At first there appears to be breaking waves and shallows stretching across the whole gap, but the chart shows deep water. As we get closer the passage opens up, just like the chart said it would.

We fly through and jibe to the south.

With a good following breeze we are making great time down the coast but too soon the breeze starts to falter. There are still whitecaps behind us and more whitecaps farther out, but where we are there are none. We are almost becalmed.

We jibe back and try to head out. Soon we have more wind and are moving again, but the breeze proves to be elusive.

For the rest of the day we chase the wind and sailing becomes hard work. We head out, then back in trying to find some pressure, trying to keep our speed up. The wind stays steady for couple of hours once and we are hopeful, only to watch it die again. Always we can see stronger wind behind us and we think maybe it will reach us, but instead the trend is lighter and lighter. We consider setting the spinnaker, but we suspect it would just have to come down right away if the wind quits altogether.

At about 17:00 we are approaching to the bay we have selected as a likely anchoring spot, and just then the wind switches to the west and fills in, making our chosen anchorage, which is open to the ocean, into a lee shore.

With a little disappointment we decide that we must carry on towards Kota Kinabalu. There are few anchorages with protection from the west along this coast, and it will soon be dark. We can’t go into any place on this coast in the dark.

So we sail on through the night, the westerly breeze holding, past several anchorages we might have stopped in other conditions, but don’t because of the wind direction and darkness. This is OK; we are now looking forward to getting to KK in the morning with its promise of civilization, not the least of which is a berth in a nice new marina and a swimming pool.

We arrive in KK at noon the next day, and soon are tied to the dock and hooked up to electrical power. We head off to the pool for a dip and a cool drink.

Fellow cruisers in KK party on WINGS

The Mountain in the Clouds:

Mount Kinabalu

Andy and Nita have flown down from Hong Kong for a short holiday. It is great to have good friends visit. We rent a car and head off to tropical rain forest and Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain here in Borneo, and a World Heritage Site.

We leave the humid coastal plain and head up the winding roads into jungle and rain. The air becomes cool. We catch occasional glimpses of the base of Mount Kinabalu, but the top remains shrouded in clouds. We arrive at Mesilau Nature Reserve base camp, where big boned, healthy looking men in slickers and hiking boots are staging their two day ascents to the top. Andy studies the trail map carefully but the peak is more than 7000 feet above the 6000’ level of our base camp and Judy and I know we don’t have the time or physique for this climb. We check into a lodge for the night, settling for the hope of a better view of Mount Kinabalu in the morning.

Mesilau Forest Santuary

We have some time before dinner so we drive down into the valley to Poring Hot Springs for a soak in the sulfur water. Starting back up the mountain it is dark and raining; we can’t see a thing. To add to our misery, fog sets in. Big trucks are coming down hill and their fog lights appear out of the gloom and temporarily blind us. The drive is slow and nerve wracking. We get lost; our navigation on land isn’t much better than it is at sea. The drive turns into something like a night passage on Wings, or a bad dream.

Finally we arrive back at Mesilau just in time for a drink before dinner. Outside our lodge the rain continues to pour down and a stream thunders somewhere nearby in the forest. It is cold up here in the mountains and we pile on the blankets before going to sleep.

Rain Forest

Dining at Mesilau

In the morning the sky clears briefly. I catch a glimpse of the granite peak glowing in the morning sun. I grab my camera, but the mountain is gone back into the clouds. No matter, it is a nice stay in the rain forest for us anyhow. We take some walks and enjoy the wilderness setting.

Driving down that day we discover that this area is a big farming region, and we find fruit and vegetable stands filled with local produce. Also some craft shops. By the time we get back to Kota Kinabalu we have a trunk filled with purchases from the Mountain in the Clouds.

Fruit Market

Andy and Nita return to Hong Kong and the other cruising boats in the marina have started to start leave as well, heading south, but Judy and I like the modern and bustling town of Kota Kinabalu, and we decide we will hang around here for a few more days… or maybe weeks.

Cruising lets you do that.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Kota Kinabalu

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