Discovery (in hindsight) is a good thing. The NE Monsoon is the best time for the Straits – why on earth did we rush up to Phuket in 2003?
After catching up with old friends from Pollen Path, Kay Sira and the Blue Bananas, it was time to head south to Singapore in time to make our way over to north Borneo. We were on a time limit – something which should never be done! Barns arrives in KK in early March, so we best be there!
Our first anchorage on the west coast of Penang gave us an excellent start to Lumut, some 75 miles away. As it was still dark (first light is 0700 hours!) it was not long before we had a fisherman wave to us with his tilly lamp. We kept changing course until he stopped waving the lamp. We were both happy we did not run over his net!
The prevailing wind that was only during the daylight hours was NW through to SW, which gave us some good breezes to motor sail as well. The ocean was a little sloppy which meant that any road stead anchorages would be a little rolly. The roll was livable but the clanging in the mast from the loose conduit was not!
Our arrival in the Dinding River, Lumut, was in the dark, managing to get through trawler city without incident. The radar screen looked like one of those sticky cards full of flies!! Coming in the channel, we thought that the big red mark might not be there as we could not see the light. Moseying along as we do, Peter asked what this white tower was in front of us that we were leaving to stb!! Depth ok - and yes, there was the red light, with little red flashing lights surrounding the bottom of it - that would be the fishermen tied up to it!! We stopped the boat and did a double check - one of the little fishermen kindly yelled out and asked us if we were ok!! How very kind and polite of him. We stayed a few days in Lumut - only now to find out it is where a most deadly form of sea snake breeds. Our prime concern was that of a rat or snake crawling up the anchor chain as many yachts have had this! Could you imagine it -----dying from a snake bite at sea!! Pangkor Island has a nice white sandy beach and is covered with forest. We hired a bike and rode around the island and spent our last night anchored there.
Sailing with the current all the way to Klang meant for a fast passage; Lumut to Klang - 98 miles in 15 hours!! Managing to motor through the debris of logs - big logs, just before sunset, we took it in turn to have one of us on the bow giving directions and the other at the helm. We anchored in the main channel in Klang - the cesspit of Malaysia, and fortunately we did not see the colour of the water. As we were in amongst the designated anchorage, we had lots of little ships for company along with a tall ship. Got a bit of a fright when we heard the unmistakable dropping of the chain next to us - but the little ship was not too close. Anyway, muddy bottom, so we were not going anywhere. Decided to depart one hour before O dark 30 to go the remainder 8 miles through the harbour (harbour is 10 miles long!!). Der! There was a rush of ships coming in to unload/load at first light. We were doing well, just moseying along on the edge of the channel, when a ship came up behind us followed by two huge tugs (with an even bigger wake!) She was right over on the wrong side of the channel as the tugs needed to turn her. Another ship coming in - we were looking like the meat in the sandwich so we did a u turn and aimed for the stern of the ship behind us. Good move! Of course this was the narrowest part of the channel!
Well, we were thinking we were very cleaver, only to find a 1.5 adverse current getting from Klang to Port Dickson and it took us all day to do 50 miles! Current only changed mid afternoon. A big thunderstorm cell formed over the land but was held there by the westerly wind! We hit the pool at 6pm. We met a couple in the pool who are sailing north. Lots of info swapping today.
Escape, with Bob and Sandy were heading to Raffles Marina. We both departed the same day and shared anchorages in the Water and Pisang Islands. Very strange people as they did not want to socialize or talk on the VHF. The weather remained calm with a thunderstorm forming over the land near Pisang Island, and moving off behind us. Our destination was Johore Straits – Danga Bay.
The trip up the Johore Straits, past Raffles marina was a surprise. We expected many settlements, but instead found a lot of jungle and only a few villages on the Malay coast. The Singapore coast along here is actually the firing range and it was very strange to hear gunfire and see a camouflaged tank moving across a hill! The Singapore shore was fenced and had patrol boats that were in sight of each other. They sounded a warning siren at some locals who were water skiing along the fence!
Danga Bay anchorage had a small jetty with security, providing a place to leave our dinghy. A short bus ride into town and access to more shopping! Not a lot on offer. Other yachts have chosen to moor here and cross into Singapore, rather than stay in Sebana Cove. The forecast of strong winds, rain and the thought of swimming rats taking a liking to our boat made us move on to the sanctuary of Sebana Cove.
Our computer screen, after having black tearing marks around the edges, now has a black blob at the top!! Possibly as a result of salt water damage from the window above the chart table, which leaked over the screen last year!!!???
Departing just before first light, we actually had the current with us until we entered the river going up to Sebana Cove. The new digital charts made navigation easy and now we have a better track, with only one major shipping lane to cross. The increased security risk to Singapore was apparent and we were never out of sight of a police boat or navy patrol ship. The police boats would kindly stand between us and the path of a ship which made it easier for us to know where the ship was headed! We were free to keep to our course. A good NE wind came in, in the afternoon, allowing us to make use of the wind to cross the main shipping anchorage on the south east side of Singapore. We must have given one police boat a bit of concern as they appeared to pick us up, moving slowly in between the ships. They came flying in a top speed towards us, stopping abruptly when they identified their target.
Sebana Cove Marina was just as we had left it in 2003. Very peaceful. The day after we arrived, we had 30 knots of NE wind and a lot of rain. As usual, timing is everything. The days were cool and even a little too cold for the pool! WIFI on board and great bagettes for sale!
Quite eclectic mixes of people were around us. George, the Australian who had been there for two years and who could talk his way out of a paper bag tied at the top, our Australian neighbour and teenage daughter who were doing a refit on his boat and a French couple, Donise and Jean Claude, were good company. We gave them lots of information and Donise cooked us a great meal.
After watching the weather for two weeks, the swell and winds finally died down and we had our first weather window. As you never make up for the one you miss out on, we made our hasty departure for Borneo.