Incorporating the Andaman Sea, Gulf of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia… and more

Southeast Asia Pilot by Bill O’Leary & Andy Dowden

Malaysia East Malaysia (Borneo) Kuching to Sutera Harbour

Racer MarinaSailing Yacht AsiaIMAGE asia

A SARAWAK RIVER MARINA (KUCHING) 365 miles from Singapore

SARAWAK RIVER MARINA (KUCHING) 1°33.536N, 110° 24.304E

In the past, yachts could go up the river to Kuching and anchor right in the middle of town. There are two causeway bridges now, so this is no longer possible.

The best option now is to motor seven miles up the Sarawak River to the Borneo Convention Centre with the small government-run Kuching Marina right beside. There is space for twenty boats with water, electricity and showers ashore in the blue-roofed building. Customs and Immigration clearing are a short drive away at old Pending Port.

There is good transport into town and the Bako National Park is nearby.

Kuching is wedged between the Santubong and Sawawak rivers and as the capital of Sarawak it has a fascinating colonial history. After years of ownership by the white Rajahs (The Brooke family), the State of Sarawak eventually became part of post-war Malaysia. There is an excellent museum in the city with such unusual items as shrunken heads and a monster crocodile.

Alternate calm anchorage is 4 miles up the Santubong River just before the bridge at the Sarawak Boat Club. Anchor just before the bridge in 4 metres to use the cheap facilities at the club on the west bank. Diesel can be sourced and the club has great seafood.

B SIBU CITY – KINGWOOD HOTEL 120 miles from Sarawak River Marina (Kuching)

SIBU CITY – KINGWOOD HOTEL. 2°17.005N, 111°49.904E

On the confluence of the Rajang and Igan Rivers, 70 miles from the South China Sea, Sibu is the second largest town in Sarawak. It is a thriving, modern town dominated by its bustling and crowded waterfront. Anchor on either side of the wide river, keeping well clear of the central channel and busy barge traffic.

Best holding is off the famous Sibu Swan sculpture past the ferry piers near the new Kingwood Hotel. Sibu’s wealth and fame are largely due to its enterprising, hard working, Foochow community, who arrived in Sarawak from Southern China during the reign of Rajah Charles Brooke (1900-1917). The city’s population of 260,000 is a colourful mix of Chinese, Malays, Ibans and other ethnic races. Each race takes great pride in its own traditions and customs, but racial harmony is the norm here.

Sibu City is the gateway to the mighty Rajang River and its vast hinterland. As the main commercial centre and port for the Rajang Basin, it is the starting point for one of the world’s great river journeys. From here, local ferries can be taken hundreds of miles up the river through steep sided valleys, and on occasions rapids, right into the heart of Malaysian Borneo.

The passage from the coast to Sibu is available only through the Ranjang River. The Igan River was an option until the recent causeway was built. The Ranjang is well charted and deep enough for keeled vessels up to 4 metres draught. The journey is fascinating and anchorage can be found virtually anywhere, but particularly at one of the many longhouses on the banks.

The local tribes provide famous hospitality and are always ready to tell you of the exploits of their grandparents. They may even show you the hut where they keep ancient shrunken heads from previous skirmishes.

C MIRI MARINA 280 miles from Sarawak River Marina (Kuching)

MIRI MARINA. 4°23.118N, 113°58.352E

The Miri marina is a mile south of the Baram River (called ‘Miri River’ by the locals), tucked in behind a breakwater in a sheltered lagoon. The statue on the port side breakwater on entering is a Sea Horse, the city emblem of Miri. The marina offers full facilities and berthing for 80 yachts up to 115 feet.

The depth inside is approximately 5 metres with a 2-metre soft mud bank at the entrance. Located in Miri town, the marina offers plenty of opportunities to discover the wonders of Sarawak. It is an ideal base from which to explore the nearby Mulu, Niah and Lambir Falls National Parks. Only one mile north is the river mouth, which is well worth exploring by dinghy or hiring a local boat. The water comes out black from the tannins it collects on its run from some 400 kilometres inland.

Since Miri is often the first or final port of entry when cruising this coast, the local government officers are used to dealing with clearing yachts. The Marine Department is on the way into town and Customs and Immigration buildings are not far from each other in the main city. www.mirimarina.com website is under development at writing but contact can be made direct at: info@mirimarina.com

D LABUAN MARINA 370 miles from Sarawak River Marina (Kuching)

LABUAN MARINA. 5°16.353N, 115°14.909E

The government-run Labuan Marina is open again and has 50 berths. Facilities include toilets, showers, washing/drying machines, Internet and WiFi. The pool is open to marina guests for a small fee and there is a café on site.Yachts at anchor outside the marina are welcome to leave their dinghies, take showers, drop rubbish and decant water here. No fee at the time of writing.

Anchorage is also available in the south-facing bay off the town in 8 metres. Fuel is available at service stations in jerry cans or can be arranged in greater quantities from local barges.

Labuan is an island off the coast of Brunei Bay. Once a part of the Sultanate of Brunei, Labuan was ceded to the British in 1846. It remained under British colonial rule for 115 years, except for three years when it was under the Japanese occupation.

Labuan became part of Sabah in 1963. Its strategic location and proximity to major shipping routes and offshore oil and gas fields has boosted the local economy. As Malaysia’s only truly deepwater anchorage, Labuan is a free port, a Federal Territory, and an International Offshore Financial Centre. Bandar Labuan is the main town, with airport and ferry connections, and is a popular tourist destination offering good diving, snorkelling, beautiful beaches and nature trails.

E SUTERA HARBOUR 435 miles from Sarawak River Marina (Kuching)

SUTERA HARBOUR. 5°58.037N, 116°03.371E

This marina is part of the Sutera Harbour Marina, Golf, Spa and Country Club estate. The modern 104-berth marina is located adjacent to the city centre of Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah, and has an array of sporting and leisure facilities. Flanked by the 5-star Magellan Sutera Resort with 456 rooms, the complex also has a 27-hole championship golf course.

With the large island of Pulau Gaya abeam the port side, approach the marina on a heading of 117-115 to waypoint 5° 58.18N, 116° 03.31E.

The channel into the marina is marked with white pylons and runs parallel with the shore in a northerly direction. These can be hard to spot from sea but the stone seawall is easy to distinguish and the marina entrance will be clearly visible to starboard once closer to shore. VHF Ch.71.

The most recent chart does not indicate Sutera Harbour's location. The average depth is 5 metres inside the basin and outside the breakwater is more than 7 metres.

Fuel, water and WiFi are available, but any provisioning will have to be done at the five major shopping centres in town, ten minutes away by taxi. www.suteraharbour.com

Pedestrian avenue in Little India in Kuching - Photo by Fabio Lamanna /Shutterstock.com
Pedestrian avenue in Little India in Kuching - Photo by Fabio Lamanna /Shutterstock.com

While every effort has been made to ensure that the information contained in this book is accurate, the charts of anchorages are based on personal experience and satellite imagery and are intended as a guide only. They should not be used for navigation. Please refer to Official Hydrographic Charts of the respective countries.

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