Don’t leave port on a Friday

Maybe it was the bananas, hanging so innocently in the cockpit, or perhaps we shouldn’t have left on a Friday. More likely, it’s time I accepted the adage that cruising is simply an exercise in fixing your boat at exotic locations. For the past 2 weeks we’ve fixed our boat in the open ocean, every day. We left Pangkor in Malaysia, sun gleaming off our freshly painted hull, the boat laden down with provisions and chocolate stuffed in every available space, proud of our well prepared selves, Our itinerary is ambitious and limited, Malaysia to Sydney, as fast as we can safely manage, stopping only for fuel and fresh provisions. It was time to get back to reality and lucrative employment. When we weighed anchor at Pangkor Island, we waved farewell to the land, next stop Kudat, some 1000 or so miles away.

First day at sea, the salt water pump in the galley leaked puddles all over boat, necessitating a day long repair activity.

Second day a sea, more puddles all over the galley. The culprit this time was a blocked drain in the flooded anchor locker, seeping its contents under our bed and beneath the settee. A trickier fix, we had the heave to in choppy seas and head winds for Fred to clamber in and poke around with a screw driver to clear blockage. No more flooding, but the scent of damp now pervades our cabin.

Third day at sea, in the frantically busy Singapore harbour with 20 knots of wind on the nose, while avoiding giant cargo ships, a sickening ripping sound heralded the demise of our mainsail. The seam above the third reef had given up and the sail flapped wildly and uselessly in the glaring light. It took the rest of the day to motor painfully and slowly through the shipping lane, against the whipping wind, choppy seas and strong current to a safe spot to anchor. We feared Paul, our lovely new crew member, may be losing faith in the boat. Instead, he was a dab hand with a needle and thread, and after a day of what he dubbed the ‘Blair Stitch Project’ we were back on our way.

The Blair Stitch Project

The Blair Stitch Project

Day 4 at sea, another sickening rip, and the resurrected sail gave up again, the fabric ripping all the way across. No stitch job could fix it this time but at least the damage was further down so we could roll up the sail on the second reef and continue on. It would slow us down and potentially require a stop in the Philippnes for a replacement but we could keep going.

Day 4 at sea, later that afternoon, more ripping, another seam gave way, rendering the sail unusable and our spirits a little lower. But there’s not much to keep you occupied on a calm day at at sea, so day 5 was spent on deck with our sewing kit, an up the sail went again.

Every day there was something new. The autopilot packed up, freshwater pump failed, the spreader light smashed on deck, fishing lure was eaten by a fish too impolite to offer himself for dinner in return. We added some self inflicted problems just to keep us busy, breaking the gas regulator on the stove, leaving only one burner. It keeps us busy.

It seems the sea is conspiring against our rushed schedule. The need for a new mainsail is now inevitable. So instead of dashing through the Philippines as planned, we might now have an extra couple of weeks waiting for the sail to be made. The cruising life is not ready to let us go just yet.

Delays, delays

Delays, delays

Location:South China Sea

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5 Responses to Don’t leave port on a Friday

  1. Yann Dunlop says:

    Great to have news from you guys – hang on there – Sydney is not that far and you will think about those mishaps with a smile in a few months ! We learnt in India – Everything will be alright in the end. So if it’s not alright, it is not yet the end.
    Safe sailing.
    Helene, Arthur, Ewen and Yann

  2. pedro says:

    There was a topless man in the picture but alas not Fred.

    Hopefully you have better luck in the sailing, it should be downhill past the Philippines

  3. behan says:

    Blair stitchers, where the heck are you? We are coming your way… maybe?! Totem is checking out of Indonesia and headed around the W end of Borneo to Kuching. Planning to be along the Malaysian coast of Borneo for the next bunch of months. Please get in touch, we’d love to see you again!

    • svmaryblair says:


      Great to hear from you guys! We’ve been reading your blog and hoping we might cross paths. You write so well, its lovely to hear of all your adventures.

      We’ve reached the end of our journey.. for now. Happily back in Sydney Harbour and in a berth in Cammeray. We had briefly considered settling in Singapore, but turned out the lifestyle was not for us. We ended up doing the trip back to Australia from Malaysia in one big leap.. 38 days at sea at one point, we slowed down towards the end and stopped a little while in Vanuatu and New Caledonia, but otherwise is was a good 3 months on the go.

      We’d a wonderful time, but we’re also thrilled to be back in city life and to see all our friends again…. and planning the next trip for a few years time.

      We spent a good 6 months cruising along the Malaysian side of Borneo and still didn’t discover everything. It was great to be abe to safely leave the boat occassionaly and take some inland trips. Kudat is not the most interested stop, but there is a free marina andthe chance to haul out if you need it. Kinabatangan river is amazing, our most spectacular wildlife experience. We did the trip overland but many boats take the trip up the river… just be prepared to watch our for huge logs!

      Kuching was our favourite city of the whole trip, a fascinating charming place. Marina is miles out of town, but there are buses you an catch. There are tons of national parks to discover all through the country. We loved Tiga Island, just a little south from Kota Kinabalu, and Datu (I think!) Park just outside Kuching.

      You’ll have a fabulous time!

      love to all the family!

      • behan says:

        Wow, you’re in Cammeray?! That was fast! Sorry we’ll miss you but I bet it’s great to be there again. We’re in Lauban now, we got as far as KK and then did a U-turn- meeting up with friends in Kuching in about a month, and expect to jump over to the peninsula in the end of August. I can see how it would be really easy to spend six months in Malaysian Borneo- there is SO MUCH! We’re missing a lot (like, um, the Philippines) but I guess those places aren’t going anywhere…we’ll be back someday. Happy to think of you all snug back in a Cammeray berth. Say hi to Kelvin, Jane and Victoria from us… and anyone who still remembers the totem crew!

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