After heading south "all lights out" from the Philippines via a detour through the Spratley Archipelago to avoid Palawan and possible ill-fated encounters, the expedition reached Brunei late February before continuing on to Kuching. And as the boat sails for Singapore, let's pick up the log where we left off: as we approach the small sultanate wedged between the two Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak.
"Fleur de Passion arrived at noon on February 22 at the Mangrove Paradise Resort (MPR). The first impression of Brunei is very industrial, but gradually becomes wilder as we sail up the Brunei River, lined with houses on stilts and thick jungle growing along the banks. The capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, is located higher upstream than our anchorage and is only accessible by land for the crew, because a bridge 15 meters high prevents Fleur from approaching, its air draught being 28 meters ...
The city is a mix of administrative and commercial buildings (almost too) imposing and more modest buildings and stalls. On the other side of the river, the “floating village" (on stilts) has retained a certain charm. Note that the first time this village was described by a Westerner, it was by Antonio Pigafetta in 1521, when the survivors of the Magellan expedition made a brief stop in Brunei. The Portuguese navigator had just died on the island of Mactan in the Philippines, in April, part of the crew had been massacred by the ruler of Cebu who took exception for their uncivilised behaviour towards the local women, to say the things modestly. And what was left of the expedition looked in vain for the passage that would lead them to the Maluku Islands, the famous spice islands. End of the historical parenthesis ...
February 23 is the 34th National Day of Brunei and some teammates will enjoy the two and a half hour parade (military, police, schools, seniors, etc.), which will march to a military tune in front of the Sultan himself. Passengers who embarked in the Philippines leave us the same day to return to Geneva and the rest of the crew will take turns taking a day off to explore Temburong District’s rainforest and the surrounding mangroves.
On the morning of 26 February, Fleur de Passion welcomed students from two of the city’s schools for a tour of Brunei Bay. The wind is initially lacking but we still manage to hoist the mizzen, the yankee and the staysail in the early afternoon. We even take the opportunity to perform a sampling of seawater under the Micromegas program on micro-plastic pollution with the help of students who, by chance, are also studying the problem of plastic pollution! Then we return to the Brunei River where we land our sailors for a day at Queen Elizabeth II Jetty, a pontoon a little further upstream of the MPR where the Sentosa is already docked. Fleur joins forces to host an evening organised by the Swiss Ambassador to Singapore, who is also the non-resident ambassador to Brunei. As his term of office is coming to an end, he takes advantage of the presence of the sailboat flying the white cross flag to organise his farewell reception in Brunei, which is attended by some eighty guests.
The 27th and 28th of February are devoted to departure preparations, and then from 28th February to 3rd March, we sail to Kuching, in the Malaysian part of Borneo. 400 miles and a day ahead of time, Fleur moors at Marina Kuching on the edge of the Sarawak River. Once again, it is by land that we will visit the city. With a very strong Chinese presence, the city center is very pleasant with its many restaurants and stalls. The crew takes the time to go to a protected area one hour by bus to see the famous Orangutans of Borneo, or what’s left of them ... The massive and dramatic deforestation of which Borneo as a whole has been a victim for decades because of the intensive cultivation of oil palm, decimated these great red-faced monkeys whose name in Malay language literally means "forest man".
Here we welcome our next passengers: Jacques and Véronique Savary, Lionel Crooson (writer, journalist met at a café in Kuching) and Daniel McGinnis from the University of Geneva and responsible for the new program The Wind of Change on greenhouse gases . He must take advantage of the crossing to Singapore to check the equipment that was installed in late December in the Philippines, and provide the first results on the concentrations of methane and carbon dioxide on the ocean surfaces. The next stopover is Singapore, planned on March 13.