A BBQ in the South China Sea: Palau Gaya and leaving KK.

Gadfly on passage to the 'Spratlys'. Photo - Ivonne.

 We had been at KK for three weeks and were pretty keen to head off for Layang Layang which was to be our next destination of note before we headed to Kudat for the obligatory haul out and anti-foul. The only problem was we had told the Malaysian Navy we wouldn’t be there until the fifteenth and then thirteenth, so the decision was we had better have a BBQ. The plan was to get away from our fisherman’s anchorage on the tenth, have a very laid back afternoon and evening on the beach at ‘Police Bay’ on Palau Gaya, chill out for another day and then head for Layang Layang on the twelfth with an overnighter on the way out. So at lunchtime on the Wednesday and after a morning shopping at the markets we slipped away to the north-east for the terribly exhausting 5 mile passage to our BBQ anchorage.

Big, black and sneaky!


For our beach soiree we had three boats crews, Amanda, Simon and Ivonne on Thyme (Sloop also of course), on Metana, Daryl, Marjory and Mena and on the Gadfly, Trevor, Neil and Gabrielle.  Neil from the UK has been on the road for several years and had arrived from a stint teaching English in Korea while Kiwi Gabrielle was on leave from her job primary teaching in KL. Daryl was in charge of the steak situation having marinated the local stuff in Papaya, while the other two boats put together anything else that seemed appropriate for the occasion. On the way out the locals laid on a submarine escort to honour us all (appropriate really) but they did keep their distance, probably and with good reason out of concern that we might run into them. We have no idea at all who the submarine belongs to but it was big and very black.

From Police Bay.

Amanda and Daryl.


Next morning Daryl headed back into Sutera to continue his watch over Farmer Dave’s boat (gone to Thailand he had) while Thyme and Gadfly slipped into the next bay north for a change of scenery.  There is a resort in this bay that apparently doesn’t like grubby yachties and does it’s collective best to discourage them from even coming ashore, let alone use any of their facilities; but, they have a swimming pool. That afternoon Simon, Gabrielle and Trevor decided that a swim was in order and while Simon and Trevor surreptitiously (blatantly really) slipped into the pool Gabrielle ordered a drink and was very nicely told the guests get their first drink for the evening free, well cocktails all round then wasn’t it!  In our new status as guests we decided to have a good look at the place and after getting directions to the ‘Spa’ huts, Trevor was all fired up to get some more drinks and fill the local hot tub but was (probably wisely) talked out of it by Simon.

Cocktails next!

Our planned departure for Layang Layang on the Friday was for 6.0 AM (0600 for the more nautical inclined) so bright and early next morning off we went headed around Tanjung Bulijong to steer as close to 302 degrees as we could manage for the 155 mile passage to the entrance at Layang Layang (also known as Swallow Reef). Layang Layang is a coral atoll that sits on a sea-mount out in the ‘Spratly’ group of islands west and north-west of Borneo. Nobody seems to actually own these islands but everybody up here says they do with much arguing between Malaysia, Vietnam, China etc etc.  Anyway Malaysia has a Naval Base and airstrip on this particular one which makes it a good option to visit as long as you get permission from Malaysia.

Layang Layang entrance 1500 metres to 8 metres!

Anchored inside.

The passage out to took us about 33 hours with the mandatory squalls and close hauled on port whenever there was actually very much wind. Always exciting it is to make landfall after any sort of passage out of sight of land and no exceptions here; especially as we had heard much to be even more excited about with regard to this landfall. This atoll rises from abruptly from around 1500 metres and the reef enclosing the lagoon at high tide barely sticks out of the water; or doesn’t at all. Inside the lagoon the depths are around four to 10 metres and there is a sand spit at the North-Eastern end where the Navy has their home.  There is also yet another little resort that operates during the SW monsoon providing dive trips to the more financially endowed members of the diving fraternity. The sales-pitch here is ‘The best diving in the world’ and at this establishment they wouldn’t even sell us a can of Coke; no confusion at all on where we fitted in! Anyway it was good to get inside and get the pick down whilst coming in at the entrance and marvelling at the depth sounder going from no-result (too deep) to 8 metres whilst moving forward about 10 metres. Of course the Navy quickly told us we had to move onto some nearby moorings that are big enough to secure a Destroyer to; this meant of course we were to later spend a lot of time keeping our boats from drifting into them when there was no wind; does wonders for the paint work and all. But my, the water is clear.

Naval support!
Those moorings!

More when we get to Kudat. From the Gadfly at:  07 24.872N 113 47.846E.

Tough life!!!!!


One Response to “A BBQ in the South China Sea: Palau Gaya and leaving KK.”

  1. Deb Says:

    Holy Smokes!! What the hell am I doing here? Glad you are there. Changes everything in the perspective here just reading your blog. Great photos. Thanks for sharing.

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