Our final destination in Malaysia!
07 April 2010 | Danga Bay Marina, Johor Bahru, Malaysia
We left Melaka in the late afternoon and managed to get the anchor down at Pulau Besar just as the sun set. From the boat we can see the lights on shore starting to twinkle and over the loudspeakers comes the haunting sound of the muezzin calling the Muslims to prayer. We crack a beer and sit on the front deck watching, Pulau Besar has a resort and is a popular place with local tourists on weekends. There are some rainforest walks on shore which we missed last time and will miss again, we will leave early in the morning. But at the moment the anchorage is flat and the air is cool, it is one of those clear starry nights that make you glad to be on the water.
A 6.30am start and 83.4 nautical miles later we find ourselves at Pulau Kukup, we drop the anchor just before sunset and then up anchor and move when a ferry comes a little too close, the passengers and crew hang out the sides waving hello madly to us. We can sleep in tomorrow as the trip to Danga Bay Marina is not far from where we are anchored. We can see the lights of the fishermen around the island and the ships anchored in International waters dot the horizon. Looking in to shore we can see lots of houses on stilts built out over the water but all is quiet. We find out later that a lot of the ferries coming through are from Indonesia and that Pulau Kukup is a popular spot to go for seafood, in particular their prawns and chilli crab. Many of the houses we saw built over the water were in fact restaurants, another missed opportunity.
A late 9.00am start sees us navigating through the Johor Strait, we have a number of waypoints to help us and we need to make sure that we stay on the Malaysian side of the waterway. Every couple of kilometres a police patrol boat on the Singapore side stands guard. It's obvious that they have no intention of ever letting Singapore fall again, the Malaysian fishermen are out in large numbers but they stay on their own side. We pass under a bridge, holding our breath as we do so, we have learnt not to rely on the Malaysian way of measuring things, it is often wrong. From the angle we watch from it looks like our mast goes close to touching but we have cleared it easily by several metres. We navigate around some rocks, avoid some fishing platforms, give a wide berth to a big sandbank and call the marina on the VHF. An Aussie voice comes booming back at us, 'Yeah, Makani Kai, just come in to the end of the first pontoon, I'll be the bloke on the end in the white shirt waving! You'd better get in before the storm hits!' We look up to see dark clouds and a wall of rain headed our way. Frantically we organise our fenders and ropes, 'Makani Kai, Makani Kai! Don't worry about your fenders we have a rub strip on the pontoon, you'd better get in here!' We already had the fenders and ropes on anyway and motored towards the marina as the storm hit us, we were both drenched, it was close to a white out. We contemplated anchoring and waiting it out but continued on when we saw a man in a white shirt and short shorts waving madly. Nearing the pontoon we were glad we had taken the time to get ready, rub rail, more like 'rub your paint off' rail! We introduced ourselves and realised that Ron was on the Sail Indonesia rally with us in 2008 on 'The Lady C', he was now Marina Operations. A fan of the 'Freemantle Dockers' he said the only prerequisite for staying in the marina was supporting his team, he almost untied us when I mumbled that I was a Collingwood supporter. He left us with these parting words, 'You'd better get finished up and get inside, we're prone to lightning strikes here!' Fantastic, this provoked a flurry of activity as we madly threw phones into the microwave and plotters and computer into the stove (this is supposed to prevent damage if we are struck by lightning).
After an hour the storm has passed and we head in to our allocated berth, safely tied up we joined some fellow yachties on the jetty for evening drinks before the rain again forced us to our respective boats. Among the yachts here that we know are Destiny III, Muscat and Oema. Oema are also heading back into Indonesia but a month behind us, we'll meet again in Bali and may travel back to Australia together.
Danga Bay is a little bit outside off Johor Bahru and we don't actually end up venturing into the town itself, our Indonesian cruising permit has already started and we are keen to get to Indonesia. We walk around the Danga Bay complex which includes the marina, several restaurants, function centre, stage for live entertainment every night, theme park with all sorts of rides on offer and an animal show. Just outside the complex is a marketplace that comes alive at night. The animal show is called the Danga Bay petting zoo, the animals were all from the now defunct London Circus whose big top sits empty on the waterfront. We don't make it to the show but every time we walk past there is another animal out the front with its trainer, one night a sun bear, one night a young tiger. They seem healthy and content but I am wary of animal shows. In the marina itself we had been placed on a berth right at the head of the jetty, this means that we felt like we were in our own personal zoo with locals perched on the seats above us watching our every move.
We made use of our fold up bikes while we were in the marina and took off in search of the local shopping centre to get some supplies. The roads were busy and the highway impossible to cross, we ended up hoisting our bikes up and carrying them over the pedestrian overpass. We took a roundabout way to the shopping centre and rode through the residential area full of neat rendered houses done in the Muslim style, all tiles and stainless steel gates. Everything was green and lush looking due to the recent rainfall which they will be getting much more of as they enter the monsoon season. We soon headed for the air conditioned comfort of the shopping centre, it was so ridiculously hot I had to keep stopping to wipe the sweat from my face, by the time we reached the shopping centre our shirts were soaked through. We had a meal and browsed the shops, Malaysia is frustrating to me in terms of shopping. Jay has found some good quality t-shirts at really good prices but the women's wear is always covered in frills, bows, lace and cartoon characters that remind me of the whacky Japanese fashion that graces the pages of many magazines. This time Jay found some shoes, he asked me if there was anything I saw that I liked, I hardly ever bother looking, Asian women have such tiny feet and it is rare that I find anything that will fit. But as Jay went to pay for his purchase I decided to have a quick look, I found a funky little pair of slip on canvas shoes that would be perfect for when we hire motorbikes. I don't think the thongs (flip-flops, jandals) I wear are much protection and have a fear of returning home minus a couple of toes!! I took the shoe off the shelf and checked the size, so far so good, I tried it on, mmm comfy! Sold! Giving it to the sales assistant I said I would take a pair, off she went to get the other shoe. She returned 10 minutes later sans shoe, it could not be found anywhere. 'How about these ones?' she asked. No, I do not want a pair of pink polka dot shoes that aren't my size!! Off she went pointing at every other shoe in the shop as an alternative. Could she not see my humungous white woman feet?? I left empty handed and disappointed.
The few days at the marina flew by and soon we were checking out. It cost us a grand total of $2.80 for our five night stay! For any cruisers following us Danga Bay Marina have no plans to start charging for marina berths in the near future, all you are charged for is water and power. But be aware there are no facilities, so no showers or laundry. Laundry can be sent out at a reasonable price. The marina also do a fuel run twice a week (jerry cans) and a clear in/clear out run twice a week, both are free of charge. Our final night we enjoyed a beautiful Indian meal served on banana leaves at a restaurant called 7 Spice with our friends Gillian and Brian on Destiny III. Our goodbyes continue, Gillian and Brian continue their adventure as we head home, good luck guys we will keep in touch. Farewell Malaysia, Hello Indonesia!