October 2018 through January 2019: Here’s another mishmash of activities and photos from the remainder of our stay in Kota Kinabalu.
Nukaat Goes to the Vet
Itchy ears, sneezing and time for updating vaccinations drove us to take Nukaat to the vet one afternoon. I got a lesson in how to clean his ears properly, Nukaat got some meds for his cold, they checked his blood and gave him some pokes. All updated except for rabies. Apparently Sabah is rabies free so they don’t do rabies vaccinations. That will have to wait until we get to Sarawak or mainland Malaysia. For the next week, daily ear cleanings and twice daily pill delivery sessions made me very unpopular, at least until I got out the treat bag.
Borneo Bugfest 2018
When we got back to KK in September, I made note of all the upcoming special events from the tourism bureau so we wouldn’t miss a thing. Admittedly, we didn’t expect to still be hanging out in Sutera Harbour Marina come October, but I added a bunch of events to my calendar right through the end of the year. As luck would have it, the delay to our battery shipment pushed our departure to November. Then plans to do some deck touch-ups pushed it later still into December. And that’s how we ended up at Borneo Bugfest.
When I first saw the name Bugfest, I immediately thought about all the giant creeping, crawling and flying insects that live in the wilds of Borneo. Then I learned it was a car show for VW bug enthusiasts. The event is held every two years, somewhere in Borneo, and bugs gather from all over Sabah, Brunei, Sarawak and even Kalimantan. There were old bugs and new, a few buggies and even a couple of VW vans in the mix.
Spending the Holidays in KK
Weather considerations and the pending holiday season pushed our departure back once again. We decided that we may as well stay for Christmas and the New Year. We had Christmas Eve dinner with Rigo at the Brass Monkey, and joined John and Kay for the massive buffet spread at Sutera on Christmas Day.
We spent the days leading up to the new year getting MOKEN ready for an early January departure. The freezer was turned on and stocked with meat and seafood. We bought loads of beer and stashed it in lockers. Laundry was done. The boat was cleaned. Chris did his engine checks. That’s when we discovered a problem: the engine wasn’t running right. After checking through the entire fuel system, Chris found the culprit. There was a small tear in a diaphragm in the water separator fuel prime pump that allowed air into the system. We weren’t going anywhere. We pushed our departure back to the end of January and ordered the necessary spare parts. (At this rate, we started to think we might still be in KK come Chinese New Year in February.)
On New Years Eve, there was a potluck party on the dock with all our liveaboard yachtee neighbours. The plan was to watch the fireworks at midnight with free music from the massive beach party at the resort next door. With a couple of hours to go, the rains started and we all scattered back to our boats to avoid the deluge. Fortunately it was brief and soon a smaller group of us decided to try and crash the beach party because we knew they had freeflow beer. We managed to get in without tickets, possibly because the security guards all knew us and we walked in like we owned it. The party was fun, we wound up back on MOKEN near dawn and the rest of the day was a write off.
The Sabah Museum
The big state museum was on my bucket list but Chris didn’t seem terribly enthusiastic, so I persuaded Kirsten, one of our yachtee neighbours to join me one morning. The architecture of the main building is one of the museum’s most impressive features, perched on a small hill overlooking the massive grounds that also include an ethnobotanic garden and a heritage village. Inside, galleries cover archaeology, natural history, social history and cultural history of the Sabah region.
There weren’t many people in the museum as we wandered through the exhibits, but when we got to the heritage village, we suddenly found ourselves thronged by 11 busloads of tourists off a Princess cruise ship that was in port. Get me outta here!
We shop for food and cook on MOKEN for most meals, but that doesn’t mean we don’t go out from time to time and try different restaurants in the area. Some of our favourite spots were Popo’s for seafood laksa, Sri Latha for curry and roti served on a banana leaf, the Brass Monkey for roast lamb, New Diamond for duck, the Rat Hole for Chinese-style ginger chicken and sweet and sour pork ribs, dim sum at Dragon Palace, fajitas at El Centro, pretty much everything on the menu at Chilli Vanilla, Silla for Korean, and the Cage for steak and chips. We finally found a decent pizza on the waterfront, but we weren’t too impressed with any of the sushi we tried. By the way, you won’t find Popo’s, the Rat Hole or the Cage on Google or Trip Advisor, as those are the yachtee community’s nicknames for our favourite hole in the wall places.
Around Sutera Harbour
Once our fuel system parts arrived, Chris had the engine purring in no time. It looked like we were back on schedule, but of course, that lasted all of about ten minutes. That’s when our bow thruster decided to pack it in. The culprit here was a stripped bevel gear in the lower leg. Another order for parts was made and within a few days we had the replacements in hand. But this new job would require a haulout, something that we weren’t planning to do until the fall. Instead of rushing to haulout right away, we decided to rework our cruising plans and skip the marinas en route that are located in fast flowing rivers, have tight accesses or are really busy. The rest of our stops would be anchorages…no bow thruster required. When cruising, flexibility and a good attitude are every bit as important as technical know how and all the right tools, parts and spares.
With our departure now pushed to the end of January and Kuching dropped from our itinerary, we now had to see about getting our two-month visas for Indonesia at the consulate in KK instead. This took three visits: the first, to scope out the requirements and get the forms; the second, to drop off our applications and fees; and the third, to pick up our passports and visas a few days later. It was all very straightforward and the officials were very helpful. Now, when we arrive in the Anambas Islands later this spring (the Anambas are a remote archipelago between Borneo and West Malaysia that is actually part of Indonesia), we’ll be able to stay for two months, rather than showing up and getting a one-month visa on arrival. We’ve heard the islands are pretty spectacular, untouched and worth spending a bit of extra time. Plus, by now you already know how slowly we travel.
Grab Driver Saves the Day
I’d been downtown one afternoon and caught a Grab back to the marina. The driver was one of only a handful of female drivers we’d had around town. She and I spent the whole trip talking about food and travel. Back on MOKEN, maybe 45 minutes later, I realized I’d lost my phone. After an initial panic, it was eventually sorted out and Yeun, the driver, returned with my phone, which I had dropped in her car. That might have been the end of it, but Yeun and I made plans to go for beef noodle soup for breakfast the following Sunday. She was an excellent tour guide and took me to a couple of different Chinese shops selling a wide range of unusual dried food, teas, medicinals and more.
We also arranged for Yeun to be our driver on our long trip out of town to the Harbour Master as part of our clearing out process. After those formalities were done, the three of us had lunch at one of the popular waterfront seafood restaurants on an estuary and then drove out to the nearby Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort for a look around their extensive grounds. Then we made an impromptu stop at a row of roadside stalls where Yeun insisted we tried local BBQ ginger clams and coconut jello served cold in a coconut shell. Very refreshing on a hot day.
Hanging with Yachtees
We made some great new friends in Sutera during our months in the marina, some of them long-term liveaboards, some just passing through briefly, some that we had already met cruising in the Philippines. some waiting on parts or repairs, and some that were crewing on other boats. The yachting community here may be small but everyone was super sociable and helpful. Hope I didn’t forget anyone…
Glynn (SY …), South Africa
John and Kay (SY Salicorne), Scotland
Carel and Bear (SY Rampage), South Africa and Switzerland
Bryson (SY Lady Emma), New Zealand
Sutera’s unofficial ambassadors with a wealth of knowledge about the area
Iain (MY Lifelines), Australia
Fellow stinkpotter Iain showed us how to decant LPG from a Malaysian bottle into our North American bottles
Linda (SY Serafin), USA
Pierre and Anita (SY Xemala), Australia
Frank and Nikki (SY Stars End 2), Australia
Errol and Claire (MY Restless M), Australia and New Zealand
The last of the Rally to the East holdovers
Lee and Jason (SY Santorini), England and Australia
Ben (SY Dream Reach), USA
Jarrod and Tanya (SY Chantilly), Australia
Joe and Kirsten (SY Halo), Australia and England
When we met a bunch of young cruisers. we felt a bit old, but we did our best to keep up!
Phil, Chris and Cindy (SY Nomada), Guam
Rigo and Jeannie (MY Paperina Bella), Ecuador and Hong Kong
Some cruisers we first met in the Philippines and reconnected with in Sutera
Chris (SY Crysallis)
With the tallest mast in the marina, Crysallis’ mast was hit by lightning when one of many thunderstorms rolled through
And last, but by no means least, if we hadn’t been delayed into staying at Sutera until the end of January, we never would have met Riko and Evelin from Estonia. They had come to KK to learn about Diesel Ducks, and although their original plans for cruising on another boat fell through, we were able to show them around MOKEN and answer a bunch of their questions. We hit it off right from the start and spent a fair few evenings talking and laughing about boats, travel and life over beers. Hopefully our paths will cross again soon.
Our last official duties in KK involved clearing out and clearing up our bill at the marina. As with clearing in back when we arrived last May, we had to visit three different government offices. Our first stop was Jabatan Laut or the Harbour Master. They gave us a document which we had to take with us to Immigation and then to Customs, which provided us with a customs clearance document (Zarpe) which we would need when clearing in at our next port in Brunei. After eight months at Sutera Harbour Marina, we were finally, finally, finally ready to leave in the morning. Whew…time to switch to cruising mode.