18/11/2014, Rebak Marina, Langkawi
This blog is a bit technical and I apologise but it is full of important information for other cruisers, and not so much for those at home. We will do a more chatty blog at the next entry.
Diomedea stayed at One15 Marina on Sentosa island, which was excellent. Water on the dock was drinkable. Good electrical connection via adaptors. Diesel was S$1.60 (A$1.50) GST free and obtained from the very nice fuel wharf. To obtain GST free diesel you need to clear out FIRST and then get the diesel AND fill in the application for GST exemption form at the marina office whilst paying your bill.
To clear out, get the girls in the marina office to do it for you the day before you leave or you can go yourself and spend a few hours doing it. On the day of departure you will need to meet Customs at the Western Anchorage, Sister's Island, where you met them on the way in. They spend 5-10 minutes with your documents and then you are on your way to Malaysia. Try and get the westward running tide of course. The Singapore Straits are very busy so pay attention. Aim for the Raffles light.
Diomedea went to Pulau Pisang for her first night anchorage at 01 27.825'N 103 16.194'E, which was 45 nm from Sentosa. We anchored in 5.0 metres, on the south side of the island. It was here we had a Sumatra about midnight and then severe rolling. A crap night, actually, and the worst of the trip. We had up to 1 kt of current in this part of the Malacca straits. The ebb tide sets northwest, the flood tide sets southeast.
From P. Pisang it was a 70nm leg to Pulau Besar a bit south of the city of Melaka. We anchored in 4.5m water at 02 07.518'N 102 19.324'E on the north side of the island in calm conditions and had a quiet night. Another yacht anchored on the south side of the island and had a good night as well. There is some sort of marina at Melaka but the Sail Malayasia Rally pilot argues against it.
From Besar it was 42nm to Port Dickson Admiral Marina at 02 28.590'N 101 50.742'E. We had booked a berth but there was really no pressure on space here. There was 3 kts of current running around the cape just south of the marina so try and get the ebb tide running north for this and all passages in fact. We took the inside channel from the cape along the beaches direct to the marina. We went in at low water with least depth 3.4m. The marina is very nice with excellent pool and a nice bar with good meal facilities. We cleared into Malaysia here and this entails a trip to town in a taxi which costs RM30 (A$10) one way and about half that on the way back if you use a local cab. The office at the marina will give you precise instructions and maps for this exercise. First stop is immigration which is a small office inside a ferry terminal. Then Customs, then Port Clearance. Nobody comes to your boat at any time. No dramas at any stage. No cost involved either. In Port Dickson, we obtained a Malaysian simcard from a Maxis telco shop on the main street. We bought 3GB of data for RM68 plus RM20 worth of calls for our two phones. Internet is up and down in speed and reliability. Good shopping at the large TF Value Supermarket. A few eateries are near the supermarket. We went to the Kenny Rogers Roasters which was quite good. The water is not drinkable from the marina taps. Diesel is available in jerry cans, either yours or theirs. It cost RM3.20 per litre delivered and poured into your tanks at the marina. The diesel appeared pristine. I thought that was pretty good value. We took a day tour to Melaka from Port Dickson and this was quite enjoyable. One could equally well go to KL from Port Dickson. As Malaysia is keen on port clearances, one has to go back to town to clear out of Port Dickson but this is very quick and again costs nothing more than the cab fare. You can leave the next day.
The next leg is really the crux of the whole trip and it is worth pushing to do the distance. We were keen to avoid night time passages due to the proliferation of fishing boats, nets etc and managed to achieve this aim. We were told by knowledgeable local sailors that the passage around the outside of the Port Klang islands was fraught with nasty seaway due to the extensive shoals and that it was much better to go the inside route right through Port Klang itself. We chose to heed this advice and were glad of it. We took the inside route past 10 miles of massive container terminals (82 cranes counted) with favourable current, doing about 8.3 kts. One can anchor at a commercial ship anchorage at 03 03.449'N 101 21.028'E but it is much better to keep going to Pulau Angsa, which we got to just after nightfall on the last of the north flowing current. We anchored at 04 10.902'N 101 13.293'E in 16m with good holding. Port Klang from both sides is very busy so expect to deal with shipping. It is 64 nm from Dickson to Angsa, and by doing this you make the leg to Pangkor achievable in the next day. We had an excellent quiet night at Angsa leaving again early the next morning.
Pulau Angsa to Pangkor Island is 75nm. We encountered truly massive trawler fleets of hundreds of boats. We were glad it was daytime. There is a marina on the mainland side of the channel opposite Pangkor but it was described as remarkably average by one yacht. There were two toilets with a shower head above each toilet bowl, as the only facilities. We chose to avoid the marina and anchored on the western side of Pangkor at a very pretty bay, at 04 13.944'N 100 32.381'E. Good holding in mud/sand outside a tourist resort. We were there on Saturday so lots of speed boats churning the bay up but otherwise just fine. The night was very quiet once the afternoon thunderstorm went through. Other anchorages are available in the area.
Pangkor to Penang was between 60 and 70nm depending on your final destination. We ran along the 15-20 metre depth contour to end up at the small P. Kendi on the SW tip of Penang, anchoring in 8 metres at 05 13.539'N 100 10.803'E. A fair weather anchorage only, we were joggled a bit by tide overnight. Not fantastic. Penang now has two massive bridges across the main channel with reported clearance of 25-28 metres on both. There is only one functioning marina at Penang, The Straits Quay marina. Sadly, this was completely full and we could not get in so we did not go up the strait between Penang and the main Malay peninsula. Apparently one can anchor off the marina and dinghy ashore but we have no experience of this.
Our penultimate leg was to Pulau Dayang Bunting in the Langkawi group. And finally we hit the NE trade winds. Yippee. Diomedea close reached the entire 60nm in 10-22 kts of breeze and remarkably lumpy seas at times. The Bunting area is stunning with vertiginous limestone cliffs, sea caves and dense jungle. The air is clear and one can see for many miles. This is an outstanding cruising destination. From this anchorage it was only 7 nm to Rebak marina. The marina is very well protected and its structure is good. There is NO diesel here but apparently is available at Telaga harbour nearby. Water on the dock is as usual "safe for drinking after boiling". Good electricity supply. There are some basic, and I do mean basic, shipwrighting services here but not much else. The haulout yard looks good but it is mainly a DIY yard as there are no trades. The resort looks good. Free ferry ride to the main Langkawi island. The wifi internet is slow and patchy of course. A total of 422nm from Singapore.
There are really no intermediate anchorages in this trip. Thus, there is always that pressure to get to the next destination. Generally, there was little wind in the Malacca strait. We had the motor on all the way to Penang but got breeze north of 5ºN. We managed to motor sail from time to time as well. There were sporadic westerly seabreezes in the afternoons in the strait. Thunderstorms over the Malay peninsula occurred virtually every afternoon/evening, moving away to the SW. Early morning thunderstorm activity was intense over the nearby Sumatera island of Indonesia. We only had the one Sumatra squall as mentioned. Knowing what to expect with tidal flows was important. We used the Sail Malaysia rally pilot notes and these were very good. I enclose a copy with this article. We also used Total Tides software which was very accurate. Fishing boat activity is intense. Buoys with flags are very common but it appears that the nets are quite deep, as we sailed over a few of them without problem. Rubbish in the water is also quite prevalent, particularly in tide lines, but not as bad as Indonesia. Generally the fishermen skippers are much more sensible than their Indo counterparts and behave reasonably. Mostly the boats are lit. We stayed out of the sea lanes at all times. Initially we skimmed along the edges of the sealanes but even then there was no escape from the fishing activity. Mostly we tried to stay around the 30 metre depth contour. If we were doing it again, we would skip Pulaus Pisang and Besar, and overnight sail in the sealanes direct to Port Dickson. Alternatively you could just get out into the sealanes and stay there until Penang and do the section from Singapore in one go.
11/11/2014, One15 Marina, Sentosa Island
Singapore is many things - uber modern, vibrant, busy, expensive, heavily regulated, hot, muggy, infested with CCTV cameras, and very well equipped with food outlets. We were happy to accept all of these and more for our short stay. The marina was very much a wealthy enclave surrounded by quite pricey real estate, up to $25 million I am told. Perhaps with a top personal tax rate of 25% one has a different perspective in this town. We availed ourselves of the pool, reading room (airconditioned) and restaurant. I am fairly sure I saw a Mr Nathan Tinkler outside the bar one evening. A free shuttle bus runs one out of the Disneyland that is the rest of Sentosa island to the massive Vivo City shopping mall. From there copious transport options are available including the hi-tech and driverless underground railway. The architecture of the city is absolutely amazing. The casino triple towers feature hyperbolic shapes and nestled on top is a ship -like structure that houses pools, gardens and presumably other diversions. At night it looks like an ocean liner in the sky. However, the authorities have lovingly preserved the British heritage buildings, all of which appear to be in outstanding condition. Our excursions were limited but we enjoyed the National Museum with its excellent display of Singapore history over the last 700 years. I was moved by the description of the Japanese occupation of Singapore. They ruthlessly attempted to Japanize the local populace with forced re-education, persecution, and execution, particularly of Chinese. The plight of POW's was discussed. Having just read the Booker Prize winning novel by Flanagan, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, I was quite interested in this period.
A rendezvous for the yachts in town was organised with drinks at the Long Bar in Raffles hotel. Certainly long on price but remarkably short on service and dress codes. Men with blue singlets were even admitted (OMG). No tigers were shot. At this rendezvous we farewelled Meika, crew on Mediterraneo who was going back to a new life in Newcastle/Sydney. Her captain Stevan was off to do some consulting work. Our group from Mediterraneo, Almacantar, Elonnisa, and Oda repaired to the Singapore riverfront for a meal. It reminded me of the canal café district of Milan without the style. Our Vietnamese meal did not even come close to the quality of Tran's in Military Rd Mosman. The first language of Singapore is English, better termed Singlish for its dialectic variations, followed by Mandarin, Malay, and then the rest.
In terms of shopping we had to do provisioning for some yachting essentials such as Nespresso capsules, fresh milk for the frother, wine, and Soda Stream canisters for G&T's. Oh, and some food. We sourced some travel guides for Malaysia from the most incredible book store I have ever visited, Kinokuniya, and our stock of engine filters was renewed economically at Lee Beng Filters. Ship's chandlers were quite modest but one could order in anything. A day was spent installing a separate dedicated start battery, cabling and double pole isolater switch for the genset. Labour rates were good - two men working for 4.5 hours cost S$250. Cash payment only.
Too soon the time to leave came. Thunderstorms crashed and rolled around the marina. Our final meal was at One15 and was called Lok Lok. A small LPG burner is set on your table with a pot of laksa broth. One selects from a vast range of food prepared on skewers, all in Chinese format. Like fondu, one cooks it onself on the table. Really excellent quality. A large range of desserts was also available, which we fitted into the second compartment.
Departure day was a mad rush of organization with a dash to catch the remaining favourable tide (unsuccessful) for the westward run out of the Singapore straits. The VHF radio is completely saturated with traffic on all channels at all times in this region, making for a noisy experience when passaging here. Diomedea, in company with the Norwegian yacht Oda, turned the Raffles light and headed northwest for the Malacca straits and further adventures.
Shots from the approach to Singapore here CLICK HERE
Check out some more shots CLICK HERE
03/11/2014, One15 Marina, Singapore
The ebb tide took Diomedea in her arms and carried us away back out into the Java Sea for the penultimate leg from Kumai to Pulau Belitung. Once out into the Teluk Kumai we found excellent breeze and sailed fast to a waypoint off the SW corner of Borneo. This area is infested with shoals, the Fox Banks, and one is obliged to do a big dog leg around them. The chart clearly states that there is no safe inshore passage to cut the corner. By nightfall the breeze was faltering and once we turned the corner our course brought the light wind dead astern so it was time for the diesel topsail. During this night we passed hundreds of squid and prawn boats all mostly anchored in the shallow waters of the Selat Karimata but some occasionally moving off at speed. Daybreak brought us to the end of this incredible armada but into the choke point of the strait's ASL (Archipelagic Sea Lane). This is the corridor for large ships to transit into the Java Sea and beyond from the Sth China Sea. So virtually all traffic to and from Asia traverses the strait. A busy time for the watchkeeper. As before when we spoke to the masters of the big ships they were always courteous and our time in the Selat passed without further incident. The second night out took us along the northern coast of Belitung island after we turned the Pesemut light in the Momparang group. The final approach to the anchorage on the NW tip of Belitung was interesting as there were many uncharted or mis-charted features. An easily visible rock that was about 150 metres long and 20m high was indicated on the chart as a pinpoint "rock awash", whilst an island with a very tall lighthouse tower that was visible for miles did not exist at all on the chart. Finally the hook went down at Tanjung Kelayang in surroundings of dazzling white sand beaches and granite outcrops. (02 33.379'S 107 40.557'E) My first reaction was that the anchorage was rather exposed and this proved to be correct. Most days a NE seabreeze developed and blew at up to 20 knots. With a large fetch the anchorage became extremely uncomfortable, with the boats pitching quite violently at anchor. Activity on board was quite limited and some people felt seasick.
On Belitung we took the 40 minute ride into the town of Tanjung Pandan for the excellent markets and some shopping as well as a visit to the museum and a local and very large primary school where we were entertained by dancers. Our agent, Joni obtained our clearance out of Indonesia and it was time for us to say farewell to the other yachts in our rally who intended to stay longer in country (why??). We enjoyed a nice party with renditions of the rally song composed by Elizabeth from Elonnisa and sung to the tune of "Bad Moon Rising".
The overnight leg took us across the Sth China Sea toward the island of Lingga, to an anchorage just shy of the equator at Pulau Bujang (00 08.34'S 104 54.334'E) and boy was it hot. Cabin temp sat at 34 C all day. To keep cool is impossible other than by repetitive spraying of water over oneself from a spritzer bottle. The water dries rapidly. Even sitting still in the cabin, the sweat just runs off your body. Very little breeze in the aptly named doldrums and so the trip was once again all motoring. During this passage we hit a large log with rope on it. The rope went around the propeller, dragging the 10cm diameter and 4 metre log under the boat where it smashed and splintered around the rudder skeg. The log remained there banging on the hull and efforts from the deck failed to move it. The only recourse was snorkel and mask to free the wood feature from our rudder and then cut away the rope off the prop. No need for a wetsuit in this 31 degree water!
Neptune, King of the Seas, arrived on board as we crossed the equator at 00 00.000' 104 54.195'E. David had previously been across the line twice by ship but Andrea was yet to be initiated. For Neptune's visit, a trident had been fashioned and various deep sea jewellery was made from squiddy lures and sponges. Neptune came up the swim ladder and held court on Diomedea. Andrea meekly came forward as she had to answer to a charge of receiving goods stolen from Neptune's realm (a basket of shells given to her in Belitung). She pleaded guilty and agreed to undergo "rehabilitation".
To renounce the land she was smeared with egg yolk. To embrace the sea she was covered in tinned tuna. To pay penance for her crime she was obliged to endure two clothes pegs attached to her body. Finally Neptune was satisfied, so a quick swim followed at which time the King departed and Diomedea was free to move on. We headed up to a night anchorage at Pulau Mesenak (00 26.077'N 104 31.357'E) and then up the mighty Selat Riau to Pulau Buau (01 02.370'N 104 13.591'E). The strait between Riau and Batam has tide runs up to 5 knots so timing is everything. The last leg out of Indonesia was the very intimidating and intense 30 miles to Singapore, across the world's busiest sea lane, the Singapore Strait. The chart plotter showed hundreds and hundreds of AIS symbols, each representing a very large ship - a target rich environment. We were definitely playing with the big boys. Diomedea ran SW along the north coast of Batam before approaching the traffic separation zone immediately south of Singapore. Here there are eastbound lanes, then westbound lanes all full of ships doing 10-18 knots. The crossing was about 1-2 miles wide. We timed our run with the engine going hard then slowing then gunning again and we made it across, much to our relief. It is like trying to walk across the six lanes of Military Road without the benefit of a pedestrian crossing or traffic lights, knowing that the traffic will take no notice of your presence (vessels under 20 metres have NO rights in these separation zones). Unbelievably we saw tiny on-man sampans out fishing in this frantic maritime autobahn as well as a 70 foot yacht tacking up the westbound lane under sail. The tanker bearing down on him indicated his displeasure quite assertively with the horn. The skyline of Singapore hove into view as we came into the Western Anchorage at Sister's Island very close to Sentosa island. Diomedea was then anchored amongst about 500 hundred massive vessels so that Customs could come along and take our paperwork in a net for rapid processing on the spot. A final battle with 2 knots of adverse current in the Bulan strait and we entered One15 Marina on Sentosa ( 01 14.851'N 103 50.478'E). Diomedea was in Singapore.
Since leaving NZ in May we have done 5421 nautical miles (about 10,000km) and we had done a similar amount since leaving Sydney and sailing around NZ. Thursday Island, which we left in late July, is 2716 miles in our wake. Indonesia is a big place. We have done 468 hours of motoring which equates to three oil exchanges or about 2100 litres of diesel since leaving NZ. Water temperature has ranged from 10 C in Fiordland to a top of 32 C just north of the Equator.
Indonesian cruising is hard work and the trip is not to be taken lightly. If we were doing it again (god forbid), we would leave Australia at Darwin and go to Kupang in Timor and then either around the north of Flores or direct to Komodo. The east can be skipped altogether. For now we are enjoying some R&R here in civilisation but we will move on to Langkawi island in Malaysia over the next few weeks, via the famous and infamous Malacca straits.