The checkout process in Puerta Princessa was pretty straightforward. No bribes, no hassle, just do the paperwork and leave. I had some extra cash though so I bought a ton of dried mangoes. They are delicious! I also treated the tri-cylce drivers to a couple of cokes and bought them a pack of cigarettes. They were really happy with this, and on the long ride home the would stop at every road side market and say “bolat, bolat?” They were looking to treat me to a local Filipino specialty that is basically a fermented duck egg that hasn’t hatched yet. I think they wanted to surprise me but I knew what it was. Luckily though, there was none available. I would have eaten it, not to offend and to try something new, but I would rather not.

When we got back to the village we took some pictures and they were on their way. I walked down to the dock to head back and Duffy was gone. I got really concerned but then some fishermen showed me where he was. They moved him so they could get some bankas in. Nice of them to take care. The only problem was, he was in a position where he could not get out without going under some of the trimarans. I laid down in Duffy and hand-walked my way out, it is amazing how delicate these boats are. They are made with just bamboo and fishing line but they take them out to heavy seas. I reached a point though where Duffy was too tall to get under a stringer, so one of the fishermen came out and stood on the outboard to help it pass. Everyone was laughing and it was a great experience. As I was leaving, Duffy was his usual one-pull-wonder and I headed out into swell and wind waves. This was a miserable experience and then the unthinkable happened. Duffy wouldn’t do it, he just quite. I rowed awhile and then tried again, this went on and on. Finally, and luckily, all the village fishermen were heading out for a night of squid fishing and one of them gave me a tow two miles back to the anchorage. I thought this was going to destroy the small banka, but it survived the jerking. I didn’t really know how to thank them so I gave them the rest of the cigarettes I bought for the drivers and a bag of dried mangoes. They seemed happy with this and off they went. I knew that night no one would steal Duffy for sure, but I also was sick of him. I just wanted to send him to the bottom with extreme prejudice and no remorse.

We left in the morning around 10 and motored out the passage. Once we were clear we had to cross some very shoally water for about 60 miles. The problem was the charts were way off and there was plenty we could run into. It was a very nerve racking trip, especially as the sun started to set and we could no longer see the shallows. About two hours after dark we were finally off soundings and safe from the shoals. But then again, now we were in the shipping lanes. We spent the next two nights calling every ship that would come close by name (provided by the ever handy AIS) and tell them to watch out and not run us over. They always kindly obliged and changed course.

After a few days the wind died completely. Since we couldn’t get much fuel we tried every option to keep going. We ran the spinnaker, it just collapsed. We tried poling out the jib and going wing on wing, we just rolled a lot. Then we decided that we would go to Kota Kinabalu (KK) instead, since we could motor there. We would fuel up and then head for Brunei.

There was some real interesting events trying to get in. First, when we were about 100 miles off, a fishing boat started following us, right at sunset. I turned 30 degrees, they turned too, I went 50 the other direction, so did they. Uh oh, what is this? The boat didn’t have the usual fishing stuff on it either, so I thought we might be in trouble. I had Zach grab the flare gun and the spear guns, our only defense. But then through the specs I saw guys on the roof waving frantically so I thought they might be in trouble. They were going to catch us anyway and we reduced speed. When they approached they were really worried and I could barely understand them.

It turns out they just wanted directions to Kudat. I think they must have gone to Captain Ron’s school of navigation. “Don’t worry boss, if we get lost, we’ll just pull over and ask for directions.” I didn’t know exactly where Kudat was and I couldn’t find it on the chart. Not that it would have mattered as they had no compass anyway. I told them I head to KK and it is this way, and so they said oh, Kudat is over here and sped off.

That night we saw huge flaring from the oil rigs. The excess gas just gets burned off and you can see the huge flames for miles. We had to run a fairly narrow channel between two reefs and luckily the charts were accurate. When we approached I saw a red a green pair that wasn’t on the charts but thought it was nice of them to mark the passage. I headed to split them but closer to the green that I thought was way off. Not so far off, a few minutes later I lost track of it and it ran a few feet down the side of the boat, fortunately we were outside of it.

Why fortunate? Because it was actually the end of a fishing net, the other end being a boat with a red light. Why would any fishermen pick those two colors to run a net between is beyond me but we got very lucky.

The next morning another small fishing boat came up. This time I was not so worried as it was only one guy in a small boat. He motioned he was hungry and told me he had not eaten as he didn’t catch any fish. So I gave him a bag of mangoes and he was really happy. Off he went, chowing down. They really don’t mind just coming up to you on the open sea here, that is something really new for us.

We pulled in to KK Sunday morning and there was the usual no answer on the radio. So we just came into the very modern marina and parked in an available slip. The neighbors told us it was unoccupied and so we stayed. This place is palatial. Clearly the oil money is spent here to really boost the esteem of KK. The class difference is huge, you have fishermen who live in shanties, service workers and then the oil people who all have nice cars and whatever else money buys. This is also the nicest marina I think I have ever been in. There are three hotels attached, a golf course, 9 bars and three swimming pools. The nicest showers I have been in on the entire trip and an actual finger pier to tie up to, all for $25 a night.

We decided to stay two nights and moronically I tried to check in and out of the country. This took all day and was not without headache. Turns out there is special clearance from the state to be here but that sort of got brushed away as I was not staying long enough. We also wanted to go down to the Kinabatanga River and see some pigmy elephants and orangutangs but some Filipino invaders claiming to be the army of the Shah of Sula or some such thing recently came ashore nearby and the country has been on high alert since. There are historical reasons for the invasion but I think the Malay forces have taken care of it.

I also want to replace Sir Duffy Mercury Johnson III, Esquire, since outboards are relatively cheap here. I was all set to buy a Yamaha Enduro 8hp and when I went to pay, they only take cash. What? On a $1500 purchase? I couldn’t get the cash so I will give Duffy one last chance. Anyway, tomorrow we head for Tiga Island where there are supposed to be monitor lizards and then on to Brunei. The last few days have been full of luxury, accidental adventure and wracked nerves and I am loving it.