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.