Kuching's Singapore to Langkawi Leap
KUCHING'S SINGAPORE TO LANGKAWI LEAP
It all came together at the last moment. The starboard engine repaired (ok patched) but still having a leaking oil seal and the compressor delivered at the last moment. Away for the 600 mile trip to Langkawi. We had to make 30 miles the first day which we did motoring on the Port Engine. We anchored on the S E end of Pulau Pisang at 1"a 28.063N 3"a16.022E in 3.4 metres.
The next morning we set off with Mokoko et al in unfavourable conditions for Pulau Besar 67 miles away. We motored and motorsailed all day but by 8 pm were still 2 hours away from the anchorage. The boats ahead reported numerous fishing nets in the water. We¡¦d already dodged a couple and decided not to venture into the anchorage in the dark and risk getting our one good engine caught by a net. We changed course and headed for Port Dickson arriving at about 11 am after a slow trip with wind and tide against us ¡V sometimes only making 2 knots! We had some difficulty finding the entrance to Port Dickson as the chart and coordinates didn¡¦t seem to match. We called Admiral Marina and once we had their waypoints it all made sense.
Later that day Mokoko et al arrived and Ray from Fontana persuaded us to beach the boat the next day and he would help us do the oil seal. To make a long story short we did change the oil seal at midnight under torch light. It was an educating experience and heaps of gratitude to Ray without whom we certainly wouldn¡¦t have completed the job in a single tide!
Resting up at the pool, a figure from David¡¦s past arrived ¡V Tony Bolingbroke who had been his training officer when he was a midshipman and was now circumnavigating with his charming wife Serena. With our minds at ease on the engine front we planned a trip with Tony and Serena to the Cameron Highlands to see the colonial tea plantations. We set off early one morning taking a 1.5 hour taxi ride to KL and then a 4 hour bus ride to the town of Tanah Rata. We found a clean and comfortable room at the Hillview Inn and arranged a tour of the tea planations for the next day having discovered it rained every afternoon and there was nothing to do but have cream teas (life is hard sometimes!). We changed hotels the next night to the Junin Inn run by the delightful Mr. Mari. It is immediately behind the Hillview Inn and we would recommend it.
The tea plantations were gorgeous and we enjoyed the tour, bought tea, had a great lunch (the small town has surprisingly good restaurants) and planned our return for the next day. We were up early to take the VIP bus (24 RM with plush wide seats) to KL and then the bus to Seremban where we did some provisioning.
The 21st of November we left Admiral Marina headed for Pulau Pangkor off the mainland town of Lumut having decided to skip Port Klang. Another marathon motor trip and we arrived about noon. What a pleasure to be at anchor again! We relaxed and enjoyed an afternoon spin around the anchorage in the dinghy looking at the extensive resorts that have been built on Pangkor Laut. However just as we neared the boat the outboard died and refused to restart. The next day we took the 30 minute ferry over to the mainland for the startling price of 3 RM return (less than a dollar) where we walked around the newly built waterfront and checked out the rather down-at-the-heels yacht club who gave us some up-market estimates for long-term berthing (with the assurance that it was negotiable).
We were rudely awakened the next morning when our anchor dragged. We hadn¡¦t anticipated leaving Pangkor that day but we decided we would since the anchor was up anyway. We set off for Penang and, wonder of wonders, the wind was blowing and it was on our stern quarter. Hurray! Sailing again. We sailed off and on all day dodging (and sometimes not dodging) rain squalls. Arriving at the southern tip of Penang we found a minefield of fishing nets and finally just motored through them. No one complained and we didn¡¦t foul our props. We anchored at the Seagate anchorage (5"a18.82N 100"a18.42E). It was a very still anchorage close into the west side of Pulau Jerejak. Right above us in the trees a sea eagle had made its nest and we heard the young squawking madly as the parents returned to feed them.
Next day we sailed under the Penang Bridge and into the new Georgetown marina. A great location in the heart of the old town that we thoroughly enjoyed walking around looking at the commerce and industry and discovering some great restaurants. Penang is cool - not tarted up for tourists yet so there are lots of fascinating shops and industries being run out of two storey shop houses. Over the five days we were in Penang we wandered about finding a wonderful variety of enterprises from a newly opened art gallery in a converted shop house to an anchor maker and a handmade beaded shoe shop. A favourite spot was the clan jetties which are ramshackle wooden jetties extending out into the East Channel along which families are living in one to two storey houses that don¡¦t appear to have changed much since they were built in the late 1800¡¦s. A few have been renovated to an upmarket level and are likely indicators of what will happen as the Penang economy strengthens.
We can¡¦t mention Penang without talking about food. We ate wonderfully. Indian, Chinese and Malay meals and all delicious and costing ridiculously small amounts. Out last night we had take-away from a Malay-Indian corner restaurant and had four courses for under a pound. All in all our experience of Penang was wonderful ¡V it is truly like Singapore of at least 30 years ago ¡V the people were universally friendly and really helpful and everything was such good value. As an illustration D had spent a morning struggling to repair the ouboard ¡V changing the fuel and concluding that a blocked slow running jet was the culprit. Attempts to clear same with wire having failed we phoned the local outboard repair man. 5 hours later having collected from us, stripped and serviced the carb, changed the oil and spark plugs returned and checked that it was running perfectly ¡V he charged us the ringgit equivalent of 13 pounds sterling ¡V why did I bother to get my hands dirty(still at least I diagnosed the fault!)??
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and look forward to going back but Langkawi beckoned so we set off on November 30th and motorsailed our way to Pulau Payar Marine Park. We had hoped to dive in the marine park but that night a huge storm blew through and we decided visibility would be poor. We did snorkel off the Marine Park centre and were pleasantly surprised. We saw the largest population of Gropers that we¡¦ve seen in anyone place, a good variety of other fish and had a visit from a small but inquisitive black tip shark.
December 1 we set off for the short trip Bass Harbour which we sailed and motorsailed. And here we are! Almost in Thailand ¡Vonly 120 miles to go!
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.