February 16-17, 2019: The run down the coast of Borneo from our anchorage at the Royal Brunei Yacht Club in Serasa to the marina in Miri was about 110 nautical miles. There are a lot of offshore oil platforms in this stretch of water, so we really didn’t want to be doing an overnight run. That meant anchoring along the way, and our only good option that didn’t involve navigating tricky river entrances and currents was at Jerudong Harbour, just 30 NM into the trip.
With a short first day ahead of us, we weren’t in a big rush to get underway. Instead we dawdled a bit as we did a final run into the yacht club to take in our garbage and give Louie some gas money. In the midst of our final preparations to leave, Chris discovered a water leak in a pipe in the engine room, but he soon had that problem solved by replacing the length of pipe.
The dinghy was lifted into place, all the loose items below decks were stowed away, the anchor was raised from the muck and we were off. It’s a long way out from the yacht club, under the new Serasa Bridge, beyond the ferry terminal, commercial docks, navy shipyards, fuel docks and various other commercial marine interests until we finally got to the channel to exit Muara Habour. There was a lot of big ship traffic in the separation lanes, although they seemed to be passing us on both sides as they headed in to port. Finally, we were outside and could head down the coast.
The first day was fairly uneventful, albeit a bit rolly. With no wind to speak of, we didn’t bother with the sails and it certainly didn’t warrant deploying the paravanes. There wasn’t much to see along the way as we were running well enough offshore to avoid shallow areas, but too far to get a good look at the coastline. We reached Jerudong Harbour in the late afternoon and anchored on the inside of a small island in the midst of this giant manmade harbour.
The Jerudong Breakwater was built in the late 90s to create a safe harbour along the Brunei coast at a cost of more than £112,000,000. It was one of many elaborate, pricey projects undertaken by the Brunei Royal Family during the heyday of high oil prices when money was rolling in. We weren’t sure if we’d be approached by security and asked to move along, but we spotted only one lone fishing boat in the area. We basically had the whole place to ourselves, so of course we celebrated our opulent surroundings with a couple of frosty Tigers. It was great to be out of the swell and we got a great night’s sleep.
Day two would be a much longer run, so we were up before dawn and underway quickly, reversing our track in the dark. With no moon to help guide us, I was on the bow with a torch trying in vain to locate the navigation markers. At least we could see the large concrete abutments on either side of the exit. As the sun rose over Borneo, we made our way out into deeper water.
In addition to the swell, which continued on our starboard beam, we were soon approaching Brunei’s offshore oil field. Seeing all the rigs on the chart is pretty overwhelming, but in reality they are much more spread out, everything showed up really well on our radar, and it’s fairly straightforward to navigate through them, giving every rig, wellhead and all the support vessels a wide berth.
We started seeing a lot of logs in the water as we approached the point where the Baram River delta juts out into the ocean. This is the boundary between Brunei and Sarawak, the other Malaysian state located on Borneo. Now we were into the first of Miri’s offshore oil fleet.
Not long after we rounded the point, our Malaysian SIM cards kicked back into service and we were able to notify Walter and Gisella at the Miri Marina with our ETA. They offered to come down and help us with our lines, which we very much appreciated as we were without our bow thruster and didn’t know what to expect.
It was late afternoon by the time we finally spotted the distinctive seahorse lighthouse that marks the entrance to the marina. Using Walter’s instructions to hug the starboard jetty as we first entered the channel and then switching over eventually to be closer to the port side, we easily navigated the entrance. We had tried to time our entrance to arrive as close to high tide as possible, as we’d heard the channel isn’t always well dredged.
The marina was half empty and a lot of the boats there seemed to be commercial and coast guard vessels. We had our choice of berths, so we picked one that would be easy to get into without the aid of our bow thruster and pointed it out to our line handlers waiting on the docks. Four of them in all. The water was smooth as glass and the winds were light, so Chris soon had us nosed in, I tossed the lines and before you know it we were secure. Special thanks to Tony and Pam as well as Walter and Gisella for their help with our lines.
It being quite late in the day and a Sunday afternoon to boot, we had to wait until the following morning to register at the marina office, and then handle all the official clearance paperwork at immigration and customs, which turned out to be a piece of cake, our easiest check in yet. In the meantime, after Chris got us hooked up to shore power, after we discovered the joy of excellent water pressure, and after we checked out the nicely appointed washroom and shower facilities, we enjoyed a couple more refreshing celebratory Tiger Beers to wind up this leg of our journey. If only there weren’t so many noseeums about, the blasted little biters.
Tomorrow we’d get MOKEN all cleaned up and settled in. We had a feeling we might be here for a while yet. Stay tuned for our Miri exploits.