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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Smelly business on the way to Luconia

June 24 Anchored at Hayes Reef
After the last goodbyes in Miri and clearing out with Imigresen we left from the marina mid-day on June 23. The weather was fine and there was not much wind but we could set the mainsail for some stability. The engine was running fine but we soon started to notice a foul smell. It was not clear where it was coming from but the engine was the first suspect. However all gauges showed correct values and there was nothing abnormal on the outside of the engine so it remained a puzzle. After a while the smell became very strong particularly in the storage room and Rachel started to feel seasick while preparing her first meal. That's when I decided to set the genoa so we could turn off the engine for a while and let her cool off to have a close look. Meanwhile the wind picked up nicely and we were doing 3-4 knots in a smelly but quiet boat!

 Kevin's first try at steering ALK
When the engine had cooled down enough for a closer inspection I still could not find anything abnormal. This was a real puzzle especially when only two weeks before I had made an afternoon sail with British reservists from Brunei when everything was working fine on board. It was not the smell of electrical wires melting, more of oil frying but where the hell was it coming from!.
Finally it occurred to me what the probable cause could be. A few weeks before I had discovered a jerry can with diesel in the aft-peak that was only two/thirds full. Normally this one is always full and as there was a bit of diesel under it I figured it had been leaking and threw it out. Most probably the diesel had leaked away from this jerry can into the bilge and on the way had been soaked up by the insulation of the exhaust. The diesel being heated by the warm exhaust must be the cause of the foul smell. It was a relief to conclude that there was nothing wrong with the engine but that did not make the smell more acceptable! Meanwhile Rachel had to give up her efforts to prepare the meal as she was seriously seasick by now and she went outside to get fresh air. Luckily Eric was not too much troubled and he finished off what Rachel had started without her instructions as she was flat out on the deck! The meal did not suffer from the interruption and went down well for all of us except Rachel.
By the time the sun went down the wind started to drop and I decided that we should take down the genoa and proceed under engine for the night. Soon the foul smell came back but at least I knew it was not the engine so we motored on into the night. Rachel and I had an uneventful watch but soon after Eric and Kevin took over heavy rain started to pour down and the headwind increased enough to slow us down to 3 knots. At daybreak the weather was still bad and it was difficult to imagine that we could anchor in Hayes Reef where we were heading for. With the rain and dark skies we would not be able to see the reef which is submerged some 3-5m below the sea if our information was correct. But as the sun rose higher the weather improved, seas went down and by the time we reached Hayes conditions were good enough to search for a place where we could anchor. From the spreaders we could see the small reef rising from the deep water and we proceeded carefully around it. There was no lagoon and the reef itself was submerged some 5-7m and would not provide any protection from the waves in case the wind would rise again. In an area of coral rubble we threw the anchor in 6m of water with Eric in the water to make sure the anchor set well and we let ourselves slip back down into deeper water. The holding was not fantastic and if we would get a serious blow we would have to move to the open sea but as long as the weather was fine we were ok. So here we are, anchored in the middle of the South China Sea with no land in sight for 100M!

 Diving equipment and Eric's video camera loaded for our first dive

After we settled into our anchorage we prepared for our first dive on the drop-off on the other side of the reef. As we were already informed by Ian, the fish life was rather poor and not what you would expect in a remote place like this. Fishermen know how to find these places and in recent years it has been seriously overfished as we witnessed. Visibility was fantastic though and we had good dives and are getting the hang of our diving system.

 Good visibility but poor fish life except in the house reef of this oriental sweetlips

For our position go to and enter our callsign PA2ALK under the WL2K Users link.

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