Travelling backwards, going aground and hitching a ride

We were stuck in Tangung Bajau near Singkawan, in Borneo, with our yacht crippled due to a broken gearbox and unable to continue with the Wonderful West Kalimantan Rally until a replacement gearbox was found.

Tanjung Bajau

Having broken down on the way to Lemukutan Island, a popular place for snorkeling, we were feeling a bit sorry for ourselves as we had to limp back to the anchorage (backwards!) and were unable to join the other boats for this part of the rally.

Suddenly that all changed when we received a call to say that the Police launch would travel over from the island to pick us up.


The police launch came to pick us up

My husband (the skipper) decided to stay behind to check Bali Hai over and to speak to our diesel mechanic in Brisbane, Australia, to see if the gearbox was repairable and if not, to see if a new gearbox was available anywhere locally.

The police launch was small but the driver was extremely competent

Our lovely guide Iwan had come all the way back from Pulau Lemukutan in the tiny police launch with the two marine policeman to met our daughter and me.


Our guide Iwan

The ride in the speedboat was fun – and fast compared with our laboured limp in Bali Hai back to the anchorage.

It took us more than an hour to get to the island and as we approached I felt glad that we were only a small rally fleet as there were many large fishing huts dotted through the anchorage – always a tricky proposition but especially if there are a lot of yachts wanting to anchor together.

Kicking up unite a wake in the Marine Police launch with the fishing huts in the distance

SV Matilda dressed for the occasion

We made our way up the long and rather rickety pier, marveling at the clarity of the water and the stunning palm fringed beaches. The we joined the other rally participants who had just finished eating lunch.

The long, rather rickety pier

During the afternoon I stayed behind while the rest of the rally participants went off the snorkel in some lovely coral. There was some concern that if Bali Hai remained anchored in the little bay we had been in for the past few days, we might be vulnerable if a big wind blew up. With no means of moving (except backwards, slowly) we potentially could end up being swept towards the rocks that fringed the shore.

Off for a bit of snorkeling

We were pretty confident about our ground tackle (anchor and chain) and its ability to cope well with major blows. We had experienced quite a few in our two years in SE Asia. However, we bowed to pressure and agreed to have Bali Hai towed to a nearby river where it was more sheltered.

Such a good place for a snooze

Arrangements were made and a fishing boat arrived at Bali Hai. There was only one person on board – my husband – which was the first mistake as in any situation like that there should always be a second person present if possible. The second mistake was listening to other people and not believing in our own judgement.

These girls enjoyed the meal we shared

The tow cost us the equivalent of Aus$70 – not a lot by western standards but a substantial amount from our budget and a lot to be towed to a ridiculously small river mouth and run aground by the tow boat! Now that had real potential for disaster.

This little girl took a bit of a shine to me

Being on his own the poor skipper had to try and steer and get the attention of the people towing him at the same time. He could see the depth gauge getting closer and closer to zero and was helpless to stop our home being run aground. Then he had to explain to the fishermen towing him (who were laughing and carrying on as though it was a huge joke) what had happened, describe what was needed to bump him off the bottom (which fortunately was soft mud) and attend to everything else at the same time.


uch a pretty shoreline

Meanwhile he was calling Raymond Lesmana our rally organiser so he could tell the tow boat captain to stop trying to pull Bali Hai over the mud and to turn round and take him back to the anchorage immediately.

The snorkellers return


So many friendly cats

I was feeling helpless and anxious being stuck on the island and wished I could be teleported back to Bali Hai to help out. Fortunately that phone call worked and after the skipper coughed up the fee they let the towline free so he could anchor.

Beautiful children

When the rally people came back from snorkeling we had a well deserved presentation to our guides, their assistants, photographer, and all the lovely people who had made this rally stop so pleasurable.

Jill and Mike from Yantara had prepared some certificates and each of the rally participants presented one – standing on the long jetty as the sun was on its way to bed.

Thanks everyone!

The rally crews went back to their boats to prepare for a dinner at the home of a local businessman while our daughter and I caught a ride in the small craft taking the guides and helpers back to Singkawang.

Presenting the certificates

We arrived back at the jetty as the velvety darkness fell and were soon in a car being driven back to the anchorage and home to Bali Hai.

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Salty tales from Bali Hai

In 2015, after a break from cruising of almost 30 years, my husband and I sailed off into the sunset - this time to the wonderful Islands of Indonesia and beyond. Three years passed and we swapped sails for wheels driving through Scandinavia and Europe in a motor home. Now we are on the brink of another adventure - buying a Lagoon 420 Catamaran in Athens. This is our story.

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