Kuching in Singapore
Just has to show you the reception area at the Raffles Yacht Club. This was the deluxe version of a marina!
Singapore was surprisingly lengthy stopover considering we hadn't intended to go there in the first place. Our intention was to stop in Nongsa Point, have our dive compressor delivered to the boat and then carry on to Malaysia. However, (surprise!!) our dive compressor was still in Frankfurt and on our second night in Nongsa Point one of the boats in the marina was struck by lightning and totally consumed by the resulting fire. This made us nervous about the place. Well, not that nervous but we decided to go to Singapore for a 3 or 4 days as that would facilitate the delivery of the compressor. As it turned out we were in Singapore 12 days and received the compressor 30 minutes before we left having been prepared to leave without it!
Girding our loins we ventured forth to cross the Singapore Strait shipping channel. Whoa! That is scary! Huge container vessels, LPG tankers, cargo ships of all sizes and descriptions and all travelling at 20 knots and aimed right at the side of our little vessel! We squeaked through somehow and headed for the Singapore Armed Forces Yacht Club right beside the Changi Naval base where ex-Commodore General Tan Huck Gim, an ex colleague from the UN had arranged a berth for us. We'd just relaxed into the thought of a brew in the yacht club bar when we were approached at high speed by a Singapore navy RIB bearing camouflage kitted men with guns! Yikes! Turns out there is a "1 mile off" rule for the naval base and we'd clipped the corner. After examination of our papers and a lot of radio communication we were determined to be relatively harmless (although highly suspect) and released to enjoy our much deserved beer.
The SAF yacht club was accommodating and had a great pool and wi-fi internet access on the boat. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay there! After 8 days we moved to the other end of Singapore to the Raffles Yacht Club to be nearer the marine suppliers. The transit took all day and was full of surprises as Singapore has been very busy reclaiming land so the charts are no longer accurate - in fact one passage were tried to use had been completely walled in. We arrived at Raffles just in time to crash a cruiser's birthday party and so had a great introduction. Raffles is a deluxe yacht club with an impressive pool area and smiling, helpful staff. They delver the paper to your boat in the morning and provide pay-for-use wi-fi on the docks. Itg turned to be a gathering point for cruisers and we met up with the group from Bali (Mokoko, Fontana and Samsara) and met other cruisers we'll be seeing in Thailand.
In 12 days in Singapore we visited with Jim McGowan and his wife Swan, spent a wonderful day with General Tan Huck Lim who gave us the deluxe $.50 tour of Singapore including a taste-testing of 6 different beers at the Brewerks micro-brewery opposite Clark's Quay, experienced the Hindu celebration of Deepavali and the Muslim Eid celebration of the end of Ramadan and did a fair amount of shopping.
Singapore was also the place that we discovered the oil seal on our starboard stern drive was leaking. This led to a futile search for a haul-out facility of a beach so as the seal can only be replaced when the boat is dry. It also led to the discovery that a salt water leak had corroded a screw head an a gasket plate and, more urgently, corroded a hole in the high pressure oil pipe. Now this was so much fun for David as, having finally got the necessary part, the new oil pipe could only be fitted by removing the exhaust manifold and the alternator from the engine block which of course is done is a contorted position in the engine room (also known as the Yanmar sweat box torture device). Thank heavens for yoga and perserverance! It was all done in only a day leaving us with only the leaking oil seal...or so we thought. We started up the engine only to find that the leak was not from the gasket but from a crack in the exhaust elbow. Oops! No part available for at least 2 weeks and we were leaving the next day. Quick arrangements were made to have the part welded first thing in the morning and we were pleased when it all happened but not so pleased when the weld didn't hold! Ah well! Good solid engineering skills were applied to the task as was some "Wet Work" underwater epoxy. Seems to be working (but maybe we should order that part).
All this fixing of boats and pursuing of parts was starting to seem like work! Time to go. We headed for Port Dickson, Malaysia via Pulau Pisang and Pulau Besar in the Water Islands.
Kuching sails to Singapore
KUCHING SAILS (HA!) TO SINGAPORE
We arrived back from Europe on October 12th after a sad month with two funerals. We urgently wanted to get on the route for Singapore as the transition month between monsoons was already upon us. Some fast provisioning and boat maintenance ate up the next two days but we sailed on the morning of the 15th after an enjoyable evening with the crew and delivery crew of "Lord Jim: who sponsored a music night in the Bali marina bar.
We were worried about the passage up the Lombok Strait the fierce tides of which we had already experienced. But we had secret and cunning plan! We set sail with 3 other boats all heading for Thailand ultimately. They planned a few more stops along the way than us but we all set off together in the same direction. It was not a race! Honest! Light winds so we motored and tried the spinnaker and motored some more. Having left 2 hours before high tide we had current with us for the first few hours when the current changed we followed a tip we had and hugged the shore inside the 50 meter line where the water was smooth. We picked up a counter current and suddenly surged up the coast catching the group leader, Mokoko, who was battling the tide in the channel. We were rather pleased with ourselves!
Late afternoon Mokoko, Fontana and Samsara split off heading for an anchorage for the following evening while we continued under motor for Singapore. And so it went- motoring endlessly past Bawean Island and on up through the Java Sea. On the third day we did fuel calculations and decided to alter course for the Kumai River in Kalimantan, Borneo where we knew we could get fuel and, since we were there, visit the Orangutan Reserve. As soon as we were well on our new course a wind arrived which set us off at a great rate of knots - too great so we ended up double reefed trying to slow down so we wouldn't get to the river mouth before light. It was not a fun night with too much wind and a tugboat towing a barge loitering far too close most of time and to cap itall the discovery that the GPS did not correlate with the chart - leading to us being .5 km nearer a lee shore than we wished to be.
We headed up river about mid-morning and immediately had to plant the anchor as a white- out rainstorm blew in and visibility was 0. After wandering around the river basin searching for the channel (with 1.6 m under our keel at one point) we finally arrived 10 miles upriver at Kumai and immediately made arrangements for fuel and a speedboat to take us upriver to the Orangutan Reserve, To our great surprise we heard Mokoko hailing a boat at the river mouth about 3 pm that afternoon. Samsara and Fontana were held up overnight at the river mouth but all arrived the next day and we invited them all for drinks on board Kuching that evening after we returned from our trip.
The next day we made a quick bemo trip to the nearby "big' town to get enough funds from the ATM to pay for our fuel and tourist jaunt. About 11:30 the speedboat arrived and we tore off up a tributary to see the Orangutuans. Our friends were opting for the much more romantic slowboat overnight visit. We were enchanted by the rainforest river environment and enjoyed seeing about a dozen orangutans coming to feeding station for an afternoon meal. We saw a good range of orangutans from an impressive older male to adolescents and younger babies including one 10 day old baby clinging to his mother. The work the Reserve is doing in both saving the rainforest environment and the orangutans is fantastic in addition to providing employment alternatives to logging!
We made several stops on the way back downriver to view the Proboscis monkeys with their decidedly prominent noses! Our guide told us they were locally called "monyuk blonda" meaning Dutch monkeys as the first Dutch people who came to Borneo bore a striking resemblance to them! We were sure our friend Jorrian would be pleased to heat that!
We ended caught by both a torrential downpour and darkness which was quite an experience. Our speedboat driver had no fear however and rigged up a headlight so we could continue our non-ecological mad tear in the rainforest! All of which made us late for drinks which had started without us by default on Mokoko so we joined the crowd and assured them all that they had a magical experience awaiting them on the river!
Next morning we refuelled and headed down river about 8 am. Once again we had to throw out the anchor when a rain squall passed through but this time we had much better GPS points to follow courtesy of Mokoko so didn't end up meandering around searching for the channel. Now came the hard part - which course to take to pass through the shoals and islands blocking the route to Singapore we opted for the middleground holding the 10 meter line until round Kalimantan then heading for the passage between Serutu Island and Karimata. And lo and behold we were motoring again with the wind on our nose, a sloppy sea and not enough sea room to take advantage of the wind.
The trip to Singapore was mostly motoring with occasional hours of sailing but included the once in a lifetime event for Laurie of crossing the equator by vessel. The traditional offering to Neptune was made and the naval ceremony of shaving the new "shellback" was performed! We voyaged five days doing boat maintenance and relaxing and reading. We finally anchored at Pulau Nyomok for the night after being caught in a fierce wind and rainstorm. We had the pleasure of a visit by 6 local fisherman whom we gave tea notwithstanding they asked for whiskey having firmly denied (tongue-in-cheek) that we ever drank whiskey.
The next morning we were away by 3:45 am for 60 mile trip up the Riau Strait. It started with strong winds and waves of visibility obscuring rain which gave us some concern since that was significant traffic in strait. After a day of motoring against unhelpful winds and motorsailing when possible we arrived safely in Nongsa Point Marina.
Hurray! We have broken the back of our journey to Thailand and squeaked across the equator before the NW monsoons made the trip too arduous and now look forward to a few days in Singapore visiting friends and making the inevitable repairs to the boat.
Kuching Goes to Bali
Kuching goes to Bali
We left Dili at 6:45 am having checked out both of work and Timor-Leste the night before. The Immigration fellow was charming and thanked us for having helped the country during our years of work with the UN. TL continues to be the easiest and most pleasant check-in/check-out we have experienced.
The boat was a shambles since we'd been working at a hectic pace and having farewells in the evening. We spent the first hour and a half having breakfast, clearing up and making sure we could locate essentials- passports, boat papers, crew lists.
The sky was clear and the wind light from the north-east - spinnaker time. Up it went and up it stayed until almost 6pm. What a glorious first day! We had a four knot tide with us all day so despite 7-8 knot winds we had a speed over the ground (SOG) of 8 and sometimes even 9 knots and we were able to make a course within 10-15 degrees of our waypoint. We also had the pleasure of seeing a whale mid-morning and towards sunset we saw a large pod of dolphins making wonderful spinning leaps out of the sea.
We had our first reminder of being a little rusty in seamanship as we tore along at 8 knots, D. was setting the fishing line and I was indoors when I heard shouts. We hadn't kept an adequate watch and were about to run into a fishing net. A quick wheel to starboard collapsed the spinnaker but allowed us to slide along the edge of the net and we carried on with a slightly guilty feeling that our negligent watch keeping had made that fisherman's day a little more difficult.
As the sun set the wind died and our wonderful tide assist also diminished so it was time for the port engine and getting ready for the evening watches which were uneventful but beautiful. There was no moon so the stars and Mars were brilliant and the phosphorescence flashing as the boat cut through the water was a magical sight that made us smile and think of my friend Mike who would have been saying "I wonder what the rich people are doing tonight?".
Our second day began much as the first with the spinnaker up just after sunrise. The day was beautiful but unfortunately the wind died in the early afternoon and we were back to motoring. We did some calculations and decided we should call into Ende on the island of Flores to take on additional fuel just in case the fine calm weather prevailed. Having made that decision, of course the wind came up but surprisingly from the southwest so we beat to the west for a couple of hours until it came around onto our nose. Now motor sailing we realized we would be off Ende at about 2 am. None of the alternatives seemed appealing so we slowed our engine revs and planned to approach Ende in the early morning.
The approach to Ende on the south shore of the island of Flores was dramatic. As dawn broke we motored by an active volcano and along the edge of its towering slopes to find a busy harbour. The shore was already packed with people at 8:30am and boatloads continued to arrive for the Saturday market. We were, of course, an object of curiosity and, to our good fortune, this brought us Harus within minutes of the anchor being down. Harus was able to take D. directly to the diesel shop-a few 45 gallon drums on the beach. We bought diesel and were on our way within an hour. Of course the transaction was straightforward! We paid R380,000 for 145 litres although we actually only received a bout 110 litres. D.'s arguments about the maximum capacity of our containers were not successful but considering the price was about 50 cents less per litre than we paid in Dili and the fuel was good quality and so easy to acquire we left Ende happy. Harus received $2 and a packet of cigs for his trouble (no we haven't taken up smoking and I know its vaguely unethical but as they were Marlboro they were better than currency hereabouts).
The exit from Ende was complicated by the fact that the entire bay near the town had been filled with fishing nets between the time we arrived and left. We couldn't see a way through the maze but finally made it guided by the fisherman guarding the nets.
We motored and motor sailed most of the afternoon in light winds/.Late afternoon we put the spinnaker up and were running so well (4-5 knots SOG in 7-8 knots of wind) that we persuaded ourselves it would be alright to leave it up past sunset (yes, we know we shouldn't and don't try this at home folks!). We had sundowners on the trampoline admiring our spinnaker which was saving us from the motor and assuaging our worries about fuel supply. The spi stayed up until midnight when the wind finally fell off.
We arrived in Rinca early afternoon and took a mooring buoy on the east side of Nusa Kode in the Lehok Uadadasami channel. There were two large dive boats there on the Rinca side of the channel also on mooring buoys and a local fishing boat sharing our anchorage.
We took the dinghy over to "Adventurer" to ask about dive sites and seeing Komodo dragons. There were 7 Americans on board diving the area. They recommended Cannibal Rock and we did a quick recce snorkel to see if we wanted to dive it. Visibility wasn't great but there was a superb coral garden and a multitude of fish. Given the visibility we decided not to use our dive tanks and to be satisfied with the snorkel (we plan to get a compressor but meanwhile have 2 filled bottles for emergency anchor clearing etc.). We also snorkelled over to the shore on our side of the bay which proved pretty uninteresting.
D. went to ask the fishermen if they had any fish. "Besok" he was told which means tomorrow (shades of manyana!). A little later one of the fishermen came to visit. It turned out he wanted to buy sugar which we happily gave to him. He sipped a beer which he pronounced to be bitter!! (close but no prize - it was Lager) and after an awkward discussion making use of the dictionary he excused himself and took his sugar and the better part of his bottle of beer and a packet of cigs back to share with his mates.
The morning was gorgeous. The anchorage was as still as a lake and we watched sea eagles, lesser eagles, herons, and egrets fishing on the shore near our boat. We searched in vain for a Komodo dragon but left without seeing one although the Americans had assured us they were there. This gives us an excellent reason to go back on a diving and dragon-sighting expedition.
A mostly motoring day and night followed although we started off hurtling through the tidal rip between Rinca and Komoda islands under spinnaker. Great fun until the wind direction changed. We switched to main and genoa for a couple of hours but by afternoon were windless. An abortive spinnaker run that lasted just long enough for sundowners on the foredeck was a welcome relief from motoring but then we were back at it through the night.
Early morning (4 am) L. was on watch when Kuching was approached by two boats without navigation lights traveling one behind the other about 500 metres apart. They were visible as they had orange lights in front of their cabin structures. As the first boat approached Kuching it shone a spotlight on Kuching and then changed course to come across Kuching's bow. L. interpreted that as a hostile act as it should have crossed under the stern. The boat then turned back towards Kuching and shone the spotlight again. L.'s heart rate leapt and she called for D. who leapt out of bed to assist. The other boat was approaching and shone a spotlight toward Kuching as well. It appeared we would be caught between the two of them but after a few minutes it was clear they were resuming their course to wherever they were going. In the end, it was probably simply an issue of the on-coming boats not knowing the rules of the road and taking the wrong evasive tactics. Pause for thought for us though on our pirate tactics (which we won'treveal on the web!).
Another similar day and a night and we found ourselves in the early morning in the not uncommon position of being in the right place at the wrong time. We were close to Bali but could not get make enough miles that day to get to the enoa Harbour entrance at the crucial slack water time. Having missed the last daylight slack water we would have to stand off for 10 or more hours through the night. As the strait that passes the harbour entrance is a major shipping lane where the currents can run up to 8 knots we looked for alternatives and found an anchorage in Teluk Blongas on the southwest end of Lombok
Teluk Blongas was a delightful anchorage with a dramatic rock pinnacle guarding the entrance. We anchored on the west side (8°52.580 S, 116°01.418) close to the entrance. The east side of the bay is filled with buoys for shellfish farming and there are several structures thoughout the bzy for the shellfish farm workers. We passed a lovely afternoon reading in the hammock with a breeze blowing to keep us cool as we rested up for a pre-dawn start to our traverse of the Lombok strait and morning arrival at Benoa Harbour entrance..
We love it when a plan comes together! Our crossing of the Lombok strait was under spinnaker often making only 2 knots against the tide but a thrilling ride through the overfalls. We motored south of Nusa Penida and across to the entrance to Bali Harbour which was a circus of activity - crashing surf to port and starboard and a four lane highway in the channel with frequent speed boats pulling all sorts of inflatable items with tourists clinging to them. Yikes!
We made it!
Now lest you think that this has all gone too swimmingly - some of the things we didn't admit to above:
- Developing a "spiffing" spinnaker technique involving hoisting straight from the bag - only to find that we (alright D had crossed the sheets inside the bag - we think we may patent the resulting "Spirinnaker"!
- A new methodology for picking up mooring buoys:
o Stand fearlessly on the foredeck boat hook in hand whilst partner edges neatly up to buoy under one engine (port had suddenly developed loss of cooling water).
o Notice that there is no pick up rope on buoy and the height of the cat's deck makes it unlikely that you can hook the mooring chain.
o Miss the mooring chain (*$%).
o Watch in admiration as buoy slips neatly in tidal stream down Starboard hull.
o "Eureka" as you leap elegantly aft on the stbd side and triumphantly grab the buoy from the "sugar scoop" where it is easily reached.
o Request earnest (!) assistance whilst contemplating imminent closer association with buoy from aqueous perspective. Receive prompt and unruffled same from partner in form of rope which she threads adroitly through mooring shackle. Tie fastest bowline to date and (assisted by neat astern work from same unruffled partner) haul line forward to connect with mooring bridle. What do you mean clumsy- we meant to do it like that!
- And finally (for now) - how to enter plot and execute a perfect harbour entry.
o Enter way point in good time
o Lay off course - estimate ETA, monitor distance to go and other GPS info assiduously etc.
o Keep close watch for salient geo-physical features (harbour entrance - duh!).
o Overshoot (deliberately) first of two entrances - think better of it and reverse course - battle against tide and triumphantly round corner to admire the magnificent spread of ..the wrong harbour (well only just - it was the next one honest - Vasco eat your heart out!).
Note: October 14th: After a delayed return we set off tomorrow on the Singapore leg of our journey. We're not the only late season sailors which is comforting - we will set off in company of 3 other boats.
'Til next time!