Almost through the Malacca Straits!
16 November 2010 | Pangkor
We are now two thirds of the way up the Malacca Straits and enjoying a few days in a quiet marina before heading north another 70nm to Penang. We finally left Johor Bahru last Friday after spending three interesting days sightseeing in the city of Malacca. This is a great city to visit with Chinatown being the major part of it's heritage area, tastefully restored and maintained. It's maritime history dates back to the 1400's when it became the centre of trade for the west coast of Malaysia and the meeting point between east and west shipping. Over the centuries, it has been dominated by the Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch and British and the influence of these cultures is evident in the architecture and layout of the old city. Our time there was certainly a highlight of our time in Malaysia so far. Our two day sail up the Straits of Malacca was challenging as far as the weather and the amount of shipping that plies up and down this busy waterway. Huge container ships, tankers, tugs towing barges and local fishermen all have to be negotiated! Fortunately there is a designated shipping lane in which nearly all of the larger ships stay. On the edge of the shipping lane is where the tugs towing barges travel and inside of this area, are all the local fishing fleet. We opted to sail up the edge of the shipping lane and found dealing with the tugs and barges less stressful as they travel slowly and nearly all carry AIS and are well lit. So they are easy to identify. In contrast, the local fishermen have poorly lit boats and of course no AIS so we have to be continually on the lookout for them. Daylight is always welcome after a night at sea when so much is going on around us. The calm, predictable weather we experienced for so long in Indonesia has spoilt us and we now have to adjust to daily thunderstorms, lightening, heavy downpours of rain which is often accompanied by strong wind squalls. We were hit by such a storm on our second night at sea. The lightening lit up the sky for many hours and then eventually we were hit by a strong wind squall, a quick 180 degree change in wind direction and heavy rain which reduced visibility and had us really wondering - where are those little fishing boat??? Thankfully it only lasted a few hours! We are hoping that we will be able to manage the rest of the passage to Langkawi in daylight hours. We plan to leave for Penang tomorrow, apparently Georgetown is a very interesting place to visit. From there we have another 70nm to Langkawi, so we are on the home stretch!