Tioman Island and Pulau Aur
17 September 2012 | Malaysia - East Coast
Dreamcatcher has been "at rest" at her Keppel Bay Marina home since our return from the Andaman's , Phuket and Langkawi in March. We worked hard to repair the steering and other things we broke after our 2,500 mile Indian adventure, plus we had other travel commitments. But we had promised ourselves a short 2-3 week cruise on Malaysia's east coast in July. Our planned departure date was delayed by 2 days due to a typhoon in Hong Kong, 2000 miles away. It was sucking air from the S.E. Asia region, resulting in an opposite wind (to the expected prevailing) and rough seas. When we did set off, the seas probably had abated but unfortunately not enough to save us taking a good slap on the beam every couple of minutes, so, it was an uncomfortable trip. The first quarter of it is not a picnic anyway: threading through the Singapore anchorages and bunkering fleet, then the Johor Bharu (Malaysia) bunkering anchorage it just not much fun. After the northern turn, however, the shipping lane disappears and the wind does pick up. Despite the beam seas we had a great sail under jib & jigger (no main), turning in a very respectable 7-8 knots for much of the way. Thus we were going to be early into Tioman and decided to bear off and simply sail. We did. We probably logged an extra 25 miles simply because we were having a good time.
We saw the dawn in passaging along Tioman's southern coast, which is spectacular - a touch of the Marquesas (though nothing quite equals those!).
There is a small marina in Tioman but we were much more interested in the moorings than the marina. There are two very large public moorings just off the ferry jetty: one was occupied and we grabbed the free one. Well, you get what you pay for. The boat danced around the mooring all night long, bumping and grinding. We used moorings both here and at the northern anchorage at Salang for about half of the time we were at Tioman, and probably shouldn't have; simply because we spent much of the evening fending them off to stop them banging the hull and waking us up. Silly. We didn't anchor, as much of the anchorage in Salang - our favourite spot - is more than 35 meters deep, leaving us with only 3-scope - unsettling if a squall comes in when you are off the boat. We had a lot of confidence in the holding power of the mooring, so at least that worked.
Our timing for Tioman was poor: it was Ramadan, so nobody in the village was cooking during the day, so a nice lunch ashore quickly became out of the question. Food that was cooked before daybreak was being sold in styro boxes and looked cold and unappetising, not to mention it had been sitting there for hours. So we passed on any shore side activities. We did the rounds of Port Captain, Immigration and Customs check in.... much of which was frustrating as they are no longer in the same building, and operate different hours. When we eventually checked out of Tioman, we did so 2 days late, as the Port Captain had taken leave for 2 days for Ramadan, but had not notified any of the cruisers or marina staff that he was doing so! Yes, island time.
One outing that's fun in Malaysia is the duty free liquor shop : yes, a conservative Muslim country has the best duty free booze shops on the planet!! We bought spirits, wine and beer and jockeyed them back aboard the dink to Dreamcatcher....ah, liquid from the gods!
Unfortunately, on the third day, our fridge started to play up. The Customs officer whom we'd met was really helpful and arranged for a local refrigeration mechanic from the resort to come to the boat and re-gas it. This helped for about 3 days, after which we realised the fridge/freezer was kaput and we were committed to a daily ice run to the beach. Fortunately by then we'd moved 5 miles up the west coast to Salang where the selection of beach restaurants, bars and ice was plentiful. It's a really beautiful bay with a long ferry jetty, where much of the scuba diving activity kicks off. The bay is sheltered, except from the west, but is criss-crossed with mooring lines intended for small fishing boats. To remain clear of the ferry path and not foul the moorings, the shallowest anchorage is at 30 meters. So we took a large mooring ball again, and had the same experience with the bump and grind much of the night, not to mention the marks on the hull. But the stunning scenery made it worthwhile and we stayed for several days. (we did jury-rig an old sleeping bag over the side of the hull to stop the mooring ball clunking).
Our friends arrived on their boat Kokomo, as planned, and we had a lovely welcome dinner for them aboard Dreamcatcher. They too had had a rough ride up and were glad to stop. We spent enjoyable days together but our boats collectively started to give problems.
A funny thing happened on the way to the duty free. Our friends were keen to stock up on low priced alcohol and we shopped with them. They'd gathered all their purchases by the shop's till, and then the power went out. Lights off. Seconds after, a woman came tearing through the shop shouting "Fire! Fire! You all have to get out!" Sure enough, the warehouse at the back had caught fire and we stood and watched with the gathering crowd as the fire tore through the buildings. Our friends left downcast and booze-less. There was no fire truck on Tioman and even the airport fire apparatus was either not available, or not working, so the building burnt to the ground. We felt sorry for the owners, who'd lost probably 90% of their stock.
One afternoon we went to a great, funky, down & dirty bar on the beach. Our friends had discovered it the prior year, and it was truly fun. We ate and drank heaps, and just as we were talking about returning to the boats a nasty, wide-spread squall came in. We got down to the dink quickly but the wind was howling, the rain sheeting, the seas kicked up, it was dark, and the bloody dinghy engine wouldn't start. By the time we were able to haul it out manually along a tie line (in place for the scuba boats) and get in, we were all soaked to the skin with a combination of sea water and rain. We paddled to the closest boat, exhausted: if that didn't sober us up, a hot cuppa did, and we were able to row across to Dreamcatcher after about an hour. That's the thing with these areas close to the equator - squalls kick up with lightning speed: and with lightning!
So, our dinghy engine was now stuffed (again). So with our fridge and dinghy out of action, things weren't looking good. Fortunately our friends' dinghy was working (until its 'gears fouled) and they were able to help us get our daily bag of ice. They too had a litany of boat issues, including a water shortage, and they decided to exit a day after we did.
We did, however, swing by Pulau Aur on the way back to Singapore: only 25 miles SE of Tioman, it's a lovely tropical island spot. There are actually 2 islands close together and one anchors between them in the channel, up close & personal with mid-sized fishing boats. There's a string of moorings along each side of the channel, which we avoided, not knowing who they belonged to or whether we could trust them. Once again, the shallowest spot was around 25 meters, and we did have a good blow while were on the hook: a pretty, pretty spot, but not an anchorage where we had confidence to leave the boat. We had planned to paddle ashore in the dink, but the winds were too strong and we would have struggled to get there. So, we simply vegged out - ate, drank, read, and napped - for 24 hours until we launched out for home: 20 - 25 knots on the nose in rough seas. Awful. When we finally reached Singapore 20 hours later, we, and the boat, were sparkling with salt: we all had a good wash, a cold beer and then things were all right with the world. And we'll do it again next year!