Just before our epic voyage north around the east side of Borneo there was a series of huge typhoons in the northern Philippines and Hong Kong areas. These events cause disruptions for hundreds of miles as the vacuum in the center of a massive low sucks wind form all around. We rode this condition north with eight hundred miles of unexpected following seas, one of the few times in SE Asia a sailboat would had the advantage. I had dreaded pounding into the seasonal NE winds expected at this time of year so the switch was welcome.
All the positive effects ended as we rounded the end of Borneo. We got bounced a good one our first night at anchor in Tawau with forty knots of wind. We hit squall after squall on our way around the land mass finally making it into Kudat where several cruisers where hanging out waiting for weather.
We rested one night and headed out early to round Tg Simpang Mungyam, the cape at the far end of Borneo. When one is at the far end of Borneo, you are about as remote as life on earth gets. Borneo is a huge island with three countries, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei dividing up the land, most of which is wilderness. We launched off and soon came back with our tail between our legs. We rounded the corner hit a massive squall, confused seas then consistent thirty knots on the nose, I turned around when I saw this was going to be how the day played out. Back in Kudat I got serious about weather forecasts, they come from several places but all use the same skimpy data. I subscribe to Bouy Weather and like there forecast system, it told of thirty knots for two days then a window. I looked at GRID files and got the same message. Malaysia Meteorological gives a “forecast for fishermen” but it always reads 30-50 km of winds, rarely changes.
Not wanting to miss the weather window which would close again in two days, we departed at three AM to round the corner at first light. We passed by the cape and I was glad to see good visibility and about 25 knots of wind, all doable. Then a dark cloud closed around us, the wind howled up to 45 knots and sheets of rain hit Furthur like a drive through carwash. I could see the end of the squall in the radar and it was passing north fast so I hoped things would calm down as it passed, my hopes were well founded and soon we were in nice swells and under 20 knots of wind.
As I have said many times, my Cummins engine has been absolutely trouble free, the electronic brain and electronic controls have performed flawlessly. I had noticed that the electronic engine panel, the Smartcraft, had begun to blink and sometime the engine would sputter when it did. I intended on looking into this at KK where I hoped to find a Cummins dealer, God knows I have no idea how to fix it nor would anyone in Indonesia. This had just been a minor annoyance up to now.
We rounded one for the many rugged points the protrude from the island still in two to three meter seas but gentle ones. Just as we passed the point the engine stopped, could not pick a worse place as the swells now hit us on the beam sending things flying about the boat and we were being swept back onto the rocky point.
I woke Sam and had her watch the helm as I got the Wesmar APU auxiliary drive running. I had this installed just before l left Seattle, at a pretty penny I might add. I had just made the comment a few days earlier to a curious cruiser that I spent a bundle on this system and half way around the world it had not been used. Maybe I should have kept my mouth shut!. The APU got us away from the rocks and held into the seas while I pondered the electrical world I had no place in.
About the time i was contemplating all the bad scenarios the engine lights came on and she fired up, wew. I disengaged the APU and we headed off. An hour or two later the engine died again, so on goes the APU and away we go making 3 knots in opposing wind and current. Again after a while the lights came on and the engine started. This cycle got shorter and shorter so by the end of the 40 miles remaining on the voyage we had a system going; light off, start APU, light on start engine. We made the long hard 16 hour trip and were extremely glad to finally tie up at Suteri Marina.
i took the girls out for a well earned dinner that night. They were fantastic, no panic, no whining all work. i am blessed with a great crew. i am also blessed with a great boat, first failure in over 6000 hours and half way around the world. With the backup systems we were able to solve a serious problem with little fuss. This was clearly the worst day at sea i have had in this four year adventure yet at no time were we in danger or even uncomfortable. Furthur road out the high winds and seas with no effort, the Intrepid Jerry Garcia doll never moved from his perch. This was a great day to be in a pilot house trawler!