The last month has had us cross the equator for the third time since setting off on our adventure in 2009. As we went south to north, we made our ginger nut and sauvignon cardboard offering to Neptune - which was graciously accepted. We are true 'Trusties' or 'Shellbacks' now, a US term used for those who have crossed the Equator more than once - those who have not are nicknamed Slimies or Pollywogs.
The Captain offering Neptune some ginger biccies
First Mate offers the plonk!
After Kumai we day-hopped through the western Indonesian islands with a favourite stop at Belitung island ...
Particularly memorable for it's clear water, the friendliest people in Indonesia, the tastiest food and the cleanest island by far.
Also remembered for the 40kt storm we encountered two hours offshore followed by a swift return to the island for shelter. We departed the following day!
The next few stops were a matter of convenience so as not to have to sail overnight - some were rolly, some were flat calm, all had good holding and with our new anchor purchased in Australia, we slept well at night.
The Crew of OD were looking forward to arriving at Bintan Island. This is where the Rally would be clearing out and also, where Singaporeans holiday, at the five star resorts on the north of the island. Where we'd be anchoring. The Nirwana Resort was luxurious although we all agreed it was a three star resort attempting to be a five star but charged five star prices! The pool and restaurants were good but the buildings looked tired and many were undergoing maintenance. There was a good on-site 'mini-zoo' with guinea-pigs, mouse deer, chickens, python and crocodiles. Aviaries had falcons, eagles and hawks - all looking as if they could do with a bit more room i.e. freedom! The ten elephants each individually chained to a rock and beaten with a stick by a guide/trainer so as tourists could sit on their knee for a photo was horrendous.
We stayed long enough to have our passport and boat papers stamped, then headed with Aussie friends on Tropicali in search of an anchorage closer to the Singapore Straits.
An early start ensured we were at the narrowest point of the Straits of 1.8nm by 0630. Crossing here would be a matter of dodging two lanes of shipping rather than four. The recommended way to cross is to motor at 90 degrees to the shipping, aiming at the middle of the super-tanker in the hope of passing behind him by a few hundred feet before the next one comes down on you. Not a problem if the ships weren't over 400 metres long, going at a speed of 20kts+ and any attempt for them to alter direction or slow down is not possible due to their size and speed. In comparison, with the throttle full-on, Oceans Dream does a comfortable 7kts and it's up to us to keep out of the way.
We made our approach to cross between two smaller tankers but then, to our surprise we saw a very large container ship pulling out from dock and heading in our direction.
We slowed down and watched on our AIS receiver as he built up speed and then we went for it. He probably didn't even see us!
The Dream Machine is now berthed at Puteri Harbour Marina close to Johor Bahru, Malaysia. The marina provides transport to night markets, local supermarkets and malls all for free. A golf buggy transfers yachties from their boats to the marina office/facilities - despite it being just a 250m walk! Public buses run from here into JB and into central Singapore but we'd recommend the taxis. The same trip can be done for 30 ringet per person with less hassle.
We spent four days in Singapore. Knowing it was Deepavali, the Indian Festival of Lights, we decided to base ourselves in the Little India area just north of the City and we weren't disappointed. The atmosphere was electric, the colours vibrant, the smells intoxicating and the tastes ... well, we were in our element!
Having managed to tear ourselves away to visit the City proper, we stumbled upon numerous Malls ... in fact, there are 40+ shopping malls on Singapore. All much of a muchness. And when inside a Mall, we feel can be anywhere in the World. For instance, the clothing store Gap is in the US, UK, Caribbean, Aruba, Curacao, Panama, French Polynesia, NZ, Australia, Singapore ... BUT (and this is a BIG 'but'!) M&S don't feature in all these places and it was a treat (literally as things were approximately 25% more expensive than the UK) to browse the undies section and enjoy the delicious, if somewhat limited foodhall!
Our trip to Singapore was also a trip down 'Memory Lane' for the Captain having lived here some 40 years ago. To his disappointment (but not surprise), a lot had changed. The fan palms at Raffles Hotel were one of his clearest recollections and upon arrival, not only were these less in abundance, those that did exist were less well cared for and the Hotel was more like a tourist attraction - many of the rooms have been turned into shops.
Sir Thomas Raffles - secured Singapore as a base for the British Empire in 1819 transforming the then sparsely populated, swampy island into a free-trade port.
The red roof traditional buildings are how Adrian remembers Singapore.
Another disappointment was the Cricket Club on the 'Pandang' - a cricket pitch around which sits many of Singapore's Colonial buildings. It was sadly covered with marquees as the International Rugby Sevens was being held in town. On the plus side, we saw the Fijian Rugby team!
Singapore has to be applauded for managing to retain some of it's heritage whilst developing a twenty-second century international city that is the cleanest we have ever walked in. So clean there appears to be no need for litter bins so we had to return to our hotel our used rail tickets and sweet papers. There's certainly no place for Banksy commissions anywhere.