For the past two years Jolene and I have been sailing Labyrinth around coastal Malaysia and Thailand. It’s always comforting having land in sight, knowing the odds are good that you can duck into a nearby anchorage if a storm blows up.
However, with the start of the Voyage of the Labyrinth it is time for us to spread our wings (or sails) and head to deep water. The first leg of the voyage was four hundred and five miles across the South China Sea, from Tioman Island off mainland Malaysia to Sarawak in Borneo.
South Eastern Asian waters are notorious for unreliable, fickle winds. Some of my friends have taken up to a week to cross and I wanted to make sure we had a good weather window to speed us along. We spent the time waiting on our own cruising grounds of Tioman Island shooting Coral Island Clean Up, the first episode of Voyage of the Labyrinth – but when the winds began to blow true in the first week of July we knew there was not a moment to be lost.
I was very excited about the passage as Labyrinth is an ocean sailing vessel and I had kept her on a short leash for the past two years. Now it was time to see what she could do.
And she did not disappoint! The winds were steady and strong – 15-20knots holding from the south & south east, a bit more east than forecast or I would have liked. They caused a head sea that relentless slammed into Labyrinth, making a lot of noise and making us feel like we were in a washing machine at times. But Labyrinth rode over them easily and raced along at speeds of up to nine knots, even with her sails reefed.
This was also exciting for me as it was Jolene, James and Roxy’s first taste of real sailing – and a forecast of what the next six months would bring. Would they enjoy it? For many people hold a very romantic view of what sailing is like and find the realities a far colder, wetter, uncomfortable and nauseating experience. I was concerned my crew would quit before the voyage had even properly begun!
Sailing from Tioman to Borneo was my first ‘real’ open water passage. We spent four days at sea, and it was a hell of a lot rougher than I thought it was going to be.
“Roxanne, do you get sea sick?”
Well yes, yes I did. I got so sick during this passage but I still tried to do my jobs around the boat and help out in between puking my guts up. Anyway, that’s enough of that. The passage really was a lot of fun and the stars, oh my, they were beautiful.
After four days we finally arrived to Borneo. However, I could not see the island so I was convinced it was made up. Borneo in my mind did not exist. We anchored up on a small Island called Turtle Island and had a very good and peaceful nights sleep. When I awoke the next day, there was Borneo. Coming out of the mist. It was beautiful, full of magic and hopes.
We anchored in a river by a small village named Santubong and left the boat to hire a car for the day to look around Kuching, the city of cats. It looks exactly like I imagined it to. The streets are full of colour, textures and dreams. The smells in the air are so strong but extremely pleasing. I could love this place.
In the next few days we are going to explore, film and photograph this small part of Borneo, to show you guys in our next episode. We are going to meet the Orang-utans, play in the jungle dancing all the way.
I am extremely excited, and I hope you are to.
Until next time!
We’ve arrived in Borneo!
Sailing across the South China Sea was a fantastic experience. Labyrinth really proved to be the boat she was designed to be – a go anywhere ocean crosser – and she looked after us well during the crossing. Had someone put me in that position 3 or 4 years ago, before I had become more comfortable with the ocean, I would have found the crossing an uncomfortable and unpleasant ordeal. But instead I found the experience to be the opposite.
The sea was rough, the wind was howling and the boat was knocked around by the ocean almost continuously for 3 days! But I loved it. Your home is floating on the waves and there is something incredible about feeling the ocean continuously for all that time.
Jase and I rotated 4 hour watches for the duration of the crossing and I found the night watches to be particularly enjoyable. At night you are graced with a serenity that I can only explain as being awake in a really good dream. The stars are breathtaking, and so far out to sea even the light of our galaxy was clearly visible. These are new memories and experiences that I will now cherish for a lifetime.
Now we find ourselves in Borneo, where work begins for our second episode of the series as well as for our first feature. We have already spent a day in Kuching and will return there today to capture footage of this incredible place. Over the next few days we will visit Orangutan sanctuaries and spend time exploring the local landscapes in our quest to build this episode and provide our viewers with an insight into this magnificent part of the world.
There is some debate to whether this is my first blue water crossing. I think I did one when I was a delivery crew on a catamaran going from Melbourne to Eden in Australia, but Jason says that was just a coastal cruise.
Either way, that one was nothing compared to the South China Sea! It was quite rough and I got very seasick – thank you Jason for looking after me! Unforunately I had to spend most of my time in my bunk. However it was good to see that we all performed well under the circumstances and Labyrinth lived up to her reputation, cutting across the South China Sea, seeking the shores of Borneo, and making the passage in only three days.
I may have been miserable on the trip but seeing a whole new coastline opening before us, just waiting to be explored, makes it all worthwhile!
Now we are anchored in the Santubong river, north of Kuching and the work of filming the location shots of our first feature, BORNEO, is underway. We have already captured amazing footage of a family of orang-utans and enjoyed exploring the ancient city of Kuching – but soon we must put to sea again, moving up the coast so we can take Labyrinth up river, into the heart of Borneo.