01/05/11 The marina isn't that great - it is subject to a
lot of swell caused by ferries and such like and there is no electricity on
my pontoon, or rather there is none available anywhere near my berth. Went into town with Roger, Astrid and Leah, catching a
bus to Queensbay Mall - a similar sort of place to Lakeside in Essex,
but without the choices!
Roger however isn't well and returned to the boat early.
02/05/11 Roger and Jordan are both unwell with 'flu like
symptoms, so a departure today is unlikely. However, I cannot stay
here very long as the constant snatching of ropes will very soon chafe
through my moorings. The almost permanent swell is caused by the
close proximity of ro-ro ferries arriving and departing every few
minutes, the wash from them spreading across the marina.
04/05/11 Roger beginning to feel a little better after a
couple of days in bed so we may be able to move on tomorrow fortunately.
Penang isn't a place to spend a long time (although several boats here
seem to think so), there is little to interest me and you can only take
so much of a shopping mall - fine if you want a new watch or a new
mobile phone but useless for anything else.
06/05/11 Happy Birthday Tracey!
Well, we didn't get away yesterday.....time overtook us!
However, we slipped at 10am this morning and in light winds, we motored
sailed under the bridge joining Penang to the mainland and headed south
toward Pangkor Island. At 1700 my alternator charge alarm sounded
and sure enough the belt had broken again! Continuing under sail
alone, I began the task of replacing the belt. Removing the raw
water pump belt revealed that it also was on the verge of
snapping.......and I didn't have a spare one, so would have to use an
emergency belt. Also, on disconnecting the discharge pipe from
pump to heat exchanger, I noticed bits of loose rubber and thought it
strange that the elbow (new only recently) should already be breaking
up. Further inspection showed the bits of rubber were in fact,
blades from the pump impeller - so that would have to be changed too.
To remove the impeller meant first removing the pump from the engine.
Anyway, the whole thing took four hours to complete, in high
temperatures and darkness. We were back up to speed at 2100.
07/05/11 We passed by Pangkor Island at 0300, deciding to
continue south while we had the benefit of a strong tide. At 1100,
we anchored in an open roadstead to await the next favourable tide, and
to get a few hours sleep. At 1600, we weighed anchor and
again took advantage of the south flowing current to a second open
roadstead, some 28 miles south, where we again anchored at 2230.
08/05/11 At 0400, I was hauling up the anchor again and we
once more motor sailed (where's the wind?), negotiating the estuary of
Port Klang toward our next anchorage off Port Dickson Oil Refinery,
where we dropped the hook at 1845 for a whole night sleep - only
to be woken around 4am by a westerly swell rolling in!
09/05/11 Weighed anchor at 0800, a fairly difficult one this
because the anchor weighed a ton.....or appeared to! When it
finally came up, I must have had half the sea bed on it.....thick clay
like mud which was very difficult to get off. We motored around
the point in search of Admiral Marina to get fuel (a precautionary plan
on my part) but we were looking in the wrong place and it took another
half hour to find the entrance to the marina. We called on VHF and
went in for a half hour only, just putting in 60 litres of diesel to
ensure enough for the passage to Singapore. On our way again by
1030 and passing Malacca (from which the Straits get their name) at
1600, anchoring to the west of Pulau Besar at 1830.
10/05/11 0715, and the anchor is up again and we are
underway. Sadly, still motor sailing as the wind is very light and
generally close on the starboard bow. I now really have the 'flu
like symptoms experienced by Rog and Co and don't really feel up to
making as much progress as we should, but there is no choice in the
matter, so we go on! Dropped the pick again to the west of Pulau
Pisang in about 5 metres of water, at 1945 and went straight to bed.
11/05/11 Call on VHF from Rog....."How you feeling?
Know you are not good but we have to do this last bit." Fair
enough, pull the anchor up one more time at 0815 and get underway.
So far, we haven't had any real problems with fishing nets or boats,
despite dire warnings from cruisers going the other way - they should
try cruising Yemen or India to see what fishing nets can be like!!
Once more we are motor sailing, eventually through one of the very busy
big ship anchorages close to Singapore. From turning into the
Johor Straits to our destination at Puteri seemed to take forever even
though we were still doing around 5.3 knots. The Singapore side of
the strait was patrolled every mile or so by police boats, ensuring we
all kept well away from their waters and the live firing ranges.
At 1630, I finally tied up alongside in Puteri Harbour Marina, checked
in, completed formalities .....and went to bed!
12/05/11 A very different sort of day!!
For a long time I've had thoughts of returning to Singapore as I enjoyed
it so much in the sixties and seventies, but over the last couple of
years I've been looking at Google Earth and thinking that the island has
changed beyond recognition and to re-visit would be a mistake.
To that end, I had more or less decided not to go there. However,
we all need to renew our Malay visas and a day trip to Singapore would
achieve that...........so today, we went. First it was a taxi to Gelang Patah where we caught the causeway bus to Singapore. This
bus stops twice - once at the border control on the north side of the
Johor Strait and again at border control on the south side. OK,
all the locals dash off the bus and scan their own passports before
rushing through customs and boarding the bus again whereas we (the
foreigners) have to hand in departure and arrival cards etc., and miss
the bus, so having to wait for the next one through. Now, at the
Singapore border control, we walk through the "nothing to declare"
channel and get searched....fair enough.....but what we didn't know was
that only 19 cigarettes per person are allowed and of course Rog and
Astrid had several packets. Now there was a delay of a half hour
while the customs men counted exactly how many 'sticks' they had, filled
in all the paperwork and charged the appropriate taxes.
Eventually however, we arrived at Jalong East bus terminal and boarded
the MRT train to Bugis Street Junction - which I am sure most of you
have heard of. From about 1950 to 1980, Bugis Street was famed for
it's nightlife, a gathering point for the 'lady-boys' or Kai Tai's as
they were known, along with generations of seamen and tourists of all nationalities.
Nowadays, Bugis Street is a high class shopping area and the street
itself is a sort of covered bazaar type of place. Interestingly,
it got it's name from the Bugis of South Sulawesi who apparently used to
sail from Indonesia, and tie up on a former canal on the site, to trade with the
Singaporeans. The Bugis were also a fearsome people who were not
adverse to acts of piracy and warmongering, and they were seldom
defeated in battles. Allegedly, it is also where the child scaring
term, "the boogie-man is coming to get you" originated. Anyway,
apart from some familiar street names, I recognised virtually nothing
from my earlier times here, some of the old China town area is still
standing but mostly the landscape has been turned into a clinically
designed city. All the kampongs were bulldozed some years ago and
replaced with multi storey tenement blocks, new high speed roads,
motorways and railways are everywhere and in my humble opinion, the
island's appeal and character has been ruined by commercialism or modernisation or whatever
you want to call it. Some of the original kampong villagers also
thought the same way and left Singapore when their communities were
destroyed, not wanting to live in isolation in some non-descript tenth
floor flat. I used to have a house in Chong Pang village in
1973/74 but Google Earth shows no sign of that now, just more anonymous
tenement blocks, the same as Sembawang and Nee Soon villages.
So, late evening saw our return journey....a repeat of the outward
journey but with different hassles - this time at the Malay border
control. Immigration officer questions me.......
"What's the purpose of your visit to Malaysia?"
"I'm returning to my boat which is moored in Puteri Harbour Marina."
"You are crew of a ship?"
"No, I'm the Captain."
"Have you applied to enter Malaysia Captain?"
"I think you misunderstand, I'm already in Malaysia and have just been
across to Singapore for the day, shopping."
"You have to have a letter from your company."
"The shipping company for which you work."
"I'm retired and do not work for any company - I live on my boat, I am
the owner and Captain and am just returning to my boat from a day out."
"Bring your daughter back here." (Leah, who had been in line with
me, had moved to next desk)
"She's not my daughter, she's his daughter," pointing at Rog, two desks
Officer frantically scanning through my passport for the umpteenth time,
looking at the many stamps, "You do not have visa for Malaysia."
"Yes, I do........there, see?"
Immigration Officer takes my fingerprints, then calls superior.......meanwhile, Rog and Astrid are
having similar problems at their respective desks, but eventually, all is
resolved and we get our new 3 month visas and re-board our bus. Or
at least, we thought we re-boarded 'our' bus. Later into the
journey, a local woman passenger asked me where we were going and when I
replied "Gelang Patah", she informed me that we were on the wrong bus.
As we were passing a large Tesco store at the time, we stopped the bus
and got off, thinking to do a bit of food shopping before getting a taxi
for the remaining distance. Ha! By the time we finished, it
was gone 11pm, the store was closed and the car park deserted. It
was out of town and no taxis around, so it took a little while to find
one who said he would take us to Puteri for 20 ringitt - a fair price we
thought. The trouble was, like many other taxi drivers we have
encountered over the last months, he didn't know where Puteri was and we
finished up in Danga Bay - which is miles from where we wanted to be!! Now
the haggling started about the cost of taking us to Puteri (which he
still didn't know how to get to) and he ended up driving back to Tesco's
and asking another driver, then a filling station, then phoning friends
before we finally ended up in the right area but on the wrong side of a
construction site of which he had no idea how to get round. Roger
and I went through a small gap in the site fence (which is government
sponsored) and panicked the taxi driver into shouting "Come back, you'll
get shot!" Then Roger picked up a big stick because of guard dogs
and was still carrying it when we returned to the road - this really
freaked out the driver who, hiding behind Astrid and thinking we were
going to beat the hell out of him for getting us lost, was frantically
asking, "why is he carrying a stick?" It was
now gone 1am and everyone was tired, but we had no choice but to get out
and walk, carrying our shopping under road blocks past the building site
to the marina about 1 kilometre away. Now the driver tells us he
is scared of this dark area and doesn't know how to get back, and wants
more money than the 55 ringitt we have now paid him. Tough, that's
his problem!! You couldn't make this stuff up, could you?
13/05/11 Friday the 13th! I think it came a day early
and was yesterday! Anyway, took a day off and relaxed, sleeping a
lot and trying to shake this damn 'flu thing off. Last night I was
feeling pretty rough by the time we had got back to the boats.
Tomorrow, we will attempt another manic journey into Singapore.....to
visit the zoo, which is supposed to be very good, not that I'm a lover
15/05/11 So we went to the zoo yesterday, same
travel....taxi to Gelang Patah, causeway bus to Jalong East, and this time we
had the border controls sorted out and breezed through without problems
(still took my fingerprints again though!), then the MRT to Choa Chu
Kang (close to the former RAF base at Tengah) before boarding another
bus to the zoo. I have to say
that I was a little disappointed in the zoo, having heard all the hype
about how good it was. It's true that the animal enclosures
are spacious and not just cramped concrete pens, which is my main
gripe against zoos, but.........I don't know, it just lacked something
which I cannot identify and I have seen better animal exhibitions
in the UK and other parts of the World. However, it was good to
see the Orang Utans, tigers and elephants, and it wasn't until early
evening that we made our way back to Puteri.
16/05/11 Caught the morning courtesy bus to Justco
supermarket, stocking up on essentials for tomorrow's
departure.........except by the time we got back it had become evident
that we wouldn't make it for tomorrow, still needing to fill the tanks
with diesel and do all the other little important jobs. Probably
sail just before dawn on Weds the 18th. Although I have, over the
last few weeks, been uploading some more photo's (Malaysia and
Thailand), it is a very time consuming task ..........and I'm well
behind!! I will get some more done as and when I can, although I
am not sure when that will be as I am expecting there to be little
chance of internet connection as we cruise up the east coast of
17/05/11 Made the short trip into the next basin to top-up
with fuel before returning to my berth. Roger accompanied me to
help with ropes and lines and then we took Storm Dodger round for
the same thing. I then took off the emergency water pump belt and
replaced it with the correct belt which I had bought in Singapore the
other day, cleaned the intake filter and carried out normal engine oil
and water checks. At 6pm, we paid our marina fees before catching
the courtesy bus to the local night market, returning around 9pm.
We intend to sail in the morning just before daybreak and make our way
around Singapore Island......through one of the busiest shipping lanes
in the World.
18/05/11 Cast off the shore power and lines at 0600 and
motored out into Johor Strait for our 'circumnavigation' of Singapore.
We need to be at the other end of the Johor Strait but have to take the
southern route all the way round. If you wonder why we can't just
go through the Straits.......it's because of the causeway blocking the
route!! With all we had read and heard, neither Rog nor I were
looking forward to this task, but in the end it all turned out
reasonably well. The tides and currents around Singapore are
very complex and we found we were battling against it for most of the
day, sometimes dropping below 3 knots. Unable to sit down or relax
for any length of time, my feet were soon 'killing me' and I would have
given almost anything for a long sit down and a drink. There are
hundreds - no, thousands of ships of all shapes and sizes but 98%
of them are at anchor, so getting around them is fairly easy (it
wouldn't be so at night!) and although we crossed a couple of shipping
lanes, it was not as difficult as crossing the Dover Straits in the
English Channel. We eventually entered the river at Tanjong
Pengelih, and anchored in the approaches to Sungai Santi,
at 1730, taking care to stay well clear of the Naval Jetty. Today, we were at our
closest point to the equator....just seventy miles south of us!
19/05/11 On the move again at daybreak, motoring around the
headland through the last anchorage, and setting a course north up
the eastern coastline of Malaysia, the sea turning from the streaky
muddy brown colours of Singapore to clearer emerald greens. There
was absolutely no wind and once again we were against the tide, so it
was slow going. We made it to our intended anchorage in Jason Bay
just as night was falling and after dodging the fishing pot markers,
anchored in about 8 metres for the night. Now in the South
20/05/11 Weighed anchor once more at 0730 and continued
northward. This time, we were able to hoist the mainsail and the
genoa although there was still too little wind to go under sail
alone......so the engine continues to run at 1500rpm.....grrrr!
Today's destination of Pulau Tinggi was only a thirty mile run and we
anchored in the shelter behind the reef just after 1pm. Within a
half hour, we had spotted four turtles swimming close by the boats, then
took the dinghy ashore to the reef islands to explore before having a
BBQ onboard Storm Dodger.
21/05/11 Again only a short run today so we all had a bit
of a lie in, weighing anchor at 0815 and steering almost due north, the
sea colour now an inviting blue. With no wind yet again, and both
mainsail and genoa up, we made our own wind and managed to maintain a
speed of around 5 knots or just over. I finally caught another
fish........the first since the Red Sea I think........we believe it's a
measuring 77cm and weighing 3kg. By midday, we could see Pulau
Tioman some ten miles ahead, shrouded in heat haze, but it wasn't until
1545 that we arrived in the anchorage off the main town of Teluk Tekek,
where all the other boats of the Sail Malaysia Rally were anchored.
We had finally caught up with them! If you think the island looks
familiar then you are probably the same age as me and were dragged off
the cinema by your Mum in the 1950's to see the musical 'South
Pacific'....for this is the island allegedly renamed 'Bali Hai' for the film,
although this is unlikely because I believe it was filmed on Es Vedrá in
Because the anchorage is deep (and I don't have a decent windlass) I was
advised to pick up a buoy which had been vacated this morning......but
an hour later, the owners sailed back in and I had to leave!
I went into the very small marina but the only berth available was on
the water dock - so I tied up there. At 1700, we attended an
informal meeting of the group and introduced ourselves - it was good to
see Chris and Judy of Braveheart (Satun) again, and of course
Gary and Vanessa of Neptune II and to meet Sazli, the organiser.
We then all went off into town for a meal at a Chinese restaurant - and
my Spanish Mackerel went into cold storage onboard Rog's boat!!.
22/05/11 As we will be here for a few days, we went ashore
for a bit of a look around, finding the cheapest 'booze' store, where we
can buy internet sim cards, where the ATM is, who sells bread and
veggies etc. We passed by the airport and watched as the
DeHaviland Dash STOL aircraft took off on the alarmingly short runway
cut into the jungle before banking left to avoid the mountain slope.
At 2pm, we all met up at the stage, north of the marina, for an
afternoon of entertainment provided by the local 'boy band', lunch and
beach games against the local population - a great afternoon! The
wildlife in the area is amazing and we spotted many fruit bats hanging
in the trees, Monitor lizards from a half metre to two metres, Miner
birds, Sea Eagles, huge spiders and the ubiquitous
23/05/11 I topped up with fuel from the local mini-market
(delivered to the boat). tried to obtain a sim card for internet from
the Post Office (no luck), moved berth in the marina and my Spanish
Mackerel provided a fish and chips supper for myself, Storm Dodger
and Full Flight.
26/05/11 Daily attempts to get a Celcom sim card in order
to connect to the internet have all failed - the girl in the shop
knows nothing about it and her boss is never there. so updates to my
blog will have to wait. At noon I slipped the lines and made out
to sea, only to go a few miles up the coast to Monkey Bay and pick up a
mooring buoy there. An hour later I was joined by Storm Dodger
and two other boats - everyone swimming and snorkelling in this tranquil
27/05/11 Despite the lovely setting, we decided to move
around to the other side of the island because of forecasted stronger
S'westerlies (nothing drastic...just stronger!) and so weighed anchor at
1245 and motored around to Telok Juara on the east coast, dropping the
hook there at 1500. Roger had a great deal of difficulty in
getting his CQR anchor to 'set' here and after two hours of trying,
changed the anchor for a Fortress which dug in straight away.
30/05/11 It's been fairly idyllic here in the bay, a little
bit of a blow on the 28th (as predicted) but generally good. The
boats - about 12 of them - roll a little during the night but it isn't
enough to throw you out of bed! We've all been socialising in the
local beach bars and restaurants, chilling out and relaxing.
Seventeen of us boarded Storm Dodger during the evening for a
31/05/11 Talk amongst the skippers.....and several of us
decided that a 165 mile trip north to Terengganu, only to come back
again in a south easterly direction across to Borneo, wasn't worth the
effort and decided to change plans and make the 360 mile trip directly
to Kuching in Borneo from Tioman. With that in mind, we weighed
anchor and came back around the island to the main town of Teluk
Tekek. I anchored in about 10 metres in sand and laid out 40
metres of chain but the swinging circle took me over a coral reef which
was only 4 metres down - too shallow! I weighed anchor again and
went into the only available berth in the marina, tying up at 1730 and
going ashore to eat with several other crews.