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  may 2011


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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 or so, 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."

"What 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 away.

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 of zoos.

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 Malaysia.

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 China Sea.

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 Spanish Mackerel, 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 Ibiza!  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  monkeys.

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 bay.

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 great BBQ.

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. 

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