Sunday, June 22, 2014

Bidong June 2014

We visited Bidong Island, what used to be a Vietnamese refugee camp in the 1980's, about 20 miles out of Terengganu.  The boats of the Vietnamese were scuttled here in the bay so they couldn't escape or be moved off the island.  Its a small island with little signs of past habitation.  No fruit trees, no cleared land, no housing remains.....odd.

Now it is a private island owned by Universiti Malaysia Terengganu and is used as a field station for their coral research and breeding program.  I wanted pictures of the place and finally had to break out a different camera to get some shots (Thanks Tomas for the camera!).  Here's my mug testing the self-portrait mode at arm's length.
 We were told the island now has three wells and we could take some water if we wanted.  We found the hose that we could use and the first load of water had lots of reddish-brown clay in it, so we used it only for outside washing.  As we took more and more, it got much cleaner/clearer looking and Ajax decided to fill their boat tanks with it for drinking.  That is Jason making faces behind soaking wet Heather and Mark at the water hose on the island.  The university folks left after a couple of days and we had the place to ourselves for several days and made the most of the free water.  You can see our buckets ready to load in the background, too.

That's YOLO just off of Bidong.  We picked up a mooring ball the first night, but when a squall came through with westerly winds, we moved around to the other side of the island to get away from the lee shore.  Jason thought the mooring block might've started dragging.  The next day we picked up a different mooring ball.  
We were on that mooring ball when a squall hit at midnight and we nearly lost the boat on the reef as that mooring dragged.  A backhoe that is upside down in the shallow water out there acts as an artificial reef and we came within 20' of getting smashed into it.  We called Ajax to come help us winch ourselves off the line of floats and I had to get into the churning water in the middle of the rain, thunder, lightning and bouncing waves to cut us loose so we could get away from the coral and that backhoe!  That was a harrowing night!  

This is the backhoe that has been toppled upside down in the shallow water just off the beach at Bidong.  You can see the treads with a ball of fish swimming in the center of the shot.
 The digger bucket of the backhoe.  This is what we nearly wrecked on.
We don't generally trust moorings we can't inspect, but the Science Officer had assured us they were strong enough and the lines on the mooring balls were new.  Unfortunately, the blocks they were attached to were too small to hold our boat.  "Never trust a mooring!" is good advice.  We trust our Rocna anchor and chain much more and sleep better at anchor than on a mooring ball.
 These are still shots from Mark's Go Pro video camera
 Karen snorkeling on the backhoe.
 You can see how close to the surface this thing is.  At times, part of it is out of the water!
 Upside down heavy machinery.  Unfortunately, its battery was on the seabed nearby, too.  Perhaps they just drove it off a barge?
 Karen on the left, digger treads in the center.  Lots of fish now call this home.
 Karen in an underwater Ooh-la-la pose.  I'd float up pretty fast.
 Karen snorkeling away over backhoe.  I like my new red fins we bought in Phuket.
 Karen snorkeling over the backhoe.
 More backhoe pics.
  YOLO with the genoa out sailing away from Bidong to Gelok Is, just 2 miles north.  We anchored in a sandy hump off the shore.
 The beach at Bidong.  The university folks leave food, clothes, toys, etc. just laying around even when they leave for days.
 Looking the other way down the beach at Bidong.
That's Karen doing one of the "Ooh-la-la" poses while soaking wet from the hose.  Another yachtie lady was getting annoying always posing in front of the cameras at every stop and exclaiming, "Oh-la-la!" at everything.  We were making fun of her and taking ooh-la-la photos above and below the water here.  Not very nice, I suppose, but it made for some laughs at trying to match the poses.

Below is Karen doing another Ooh-la-la pose by the backhoe digger on the shallow reef at Bidong.  This is the beast that we nearly ran aground on when the mooring we were on dragged in a squall.  At low tide,part of the bucket is actually out of the water.
The fishermen had a jetty in the next bay and were using the entire length of it to straighten out and fix their nets and lines.  What a snarl!  I don't know how they ever got them straight.
 Their lines and nets went on and on and on.....
 A view from the fishermen's beach.  The bump way out there in the middle on the water is an odd octopus-like structure that sits up out of the water.  There are three or four of them here and we think they used to be part of a fish farming enterprise.  Now there are no fish in them, but they look like Octopus From Outer Space landing on the water here.
 A monument to the Vietnamese boat people.  Its shaped like a boat to commemorate how they got here.
 We saw this monument from the sea as we came around the point of the island.  We came back to hike up to it by land and found several shrines and lots of plaques.
 The only word I can make out is Vietnam.
 More octopus structures, surrounded by big yellow buoys.  You don't want to sail these waters at night.
 Lots of plaques cover the monument, giving thanks for making it here.
 More plaques from the 1980's.  We aren't sure if the 'Maria' refers to the Mother Mary or the name of one of the boats that brought folks here.  Most of the plaques were dated 1985-1987, but some from 1989.  We ever saw a recent polished black grave headstone from 2003, looking very out of place here.
 A Christian cross shrine.  Crosses are not very common in this Muslim Malaysia, but some Vietnamese brought their religion with them.

 A headless Buddha shrine with flanking dragons was a little further along the climb, facing out over the point.
 A headless statue of some Christian figure we think.

 The small bay around the point.  We'd originally thought we might anchor here, but it was way too shallow in the clear sand and the surrounding area is covered by coral.  We brought the dinghies around and drift snorkeled into this bay.
 An unusual emblem on this marker caught my eye.
 The bay beach around the point.  You could climb down from the monuments to reach this bay, too.
 View from the beach to another island nearby.  Snorkeling here was very good,
 Looking back up the hill from the beach to see the shrines
 A wall of more plaques as I climbed back up from the beach.
 Giant Buddhist or Confusian temple candles were just laying on the ground.  We saw these in the Chinese temples in other parts of Malaysia.  They are over 5' tall when standing.
 These containers were just sitting at the top of the point, a bit back from the shrines.  These may be where people lived?  They are made of pieces of fiberglass squares that bolt together.  We don't really know what they were for or how long they've been here.  There is very little info about this place here on the island. There was no internet reception here so we couldn't look up anything either.
 Hilltop view of the monuments on Bidong.
 The rusty remains of a ship on the beach in the fishermen's bay.  More scuttled boats can be seen in deeper water beyond the fish farm, but little is left of the boats other than the ribs.  This was the place where the Sail Malaysia dive was going to take place, but it was cancelled for lack of interest and the cost to dive here.
 Local fisherman trying to repair his lines on the jetty.
 Fishermen's bay from the dinghy.  There was lots of trash and discarded lines and moorings on the bottom.  Where the good sandy anchorage might have been, they've erected floating fish farms, basically nothing more than giant nets suspended from the floats.  They raise grouper and barimundi to sell for eating.
 Ajax motoring along.
Gelok beach view from the boat.  This is an uninhabited little island just two miles north of Bidong.  We dropped our anchors in the sandy area offshore here and snorkeled in to the beach over the reef.  Clear, warm water makes the long distances much more appealing.  We just have to make sure the tides aren't sweeping us away when we get into the water.  Coral won't grow much beyond thirty feet deep, so we find the sandy spots a little farther from shore on the outside of the reefs around here.

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