Posted: 26th November 2012.
Picking up from the last spiel; with a very sad looking rubber duck we sailed out of Kumai and headed towards Pulau Belitung on an overnight passage. We ended up stopping at a small island just before Belitung called Pulau Nangka. A very scenic location which sells itself as a meeting place for all migrating jellyfish and offers poor, deep water holding. We checked out the following morning. However, we did manage another international band practice evening, this time on a German boat, I reckon I sing better in German.
Belitung, undiscovered and uncorrupted by Lonely Planet is a unique experience once again aided by very friendly, helpful locals. Mr John, the Jimmy Saville of Belitung without the young boys, fixed everything we asked for, cheap diesel and even clearance out of Indonesia despite our expired Cait (boats documentation). We were still well over 300nm in a straight line from Singapore but “no problem, stop as many times as you like” even though we’d officially cleared the country. Our anchorage was in a bay surrounded in huge bolders with restaurants lining the shore, stunning. We were lucky as our first night there was the official Sail Indonesian dinner, great food and dancing, average karaoke. The next three nights we gave the local Mi Gorang a good hiding. Shame the weather wasn’t better but we’re now well into the wet season with its impressive thunder and lightning and accompanying massive downpours.
Our plan now was to bypass Singapore and head straight for Port Dickson on the western Malaysian coast. We were in Singapore earlier this year and this worked for Avant Garde as they need to get back to NZ and we need to stay with them otherwise we’re confined to Scally. So we set off on a series of day sails towards the equator, anything between 30 and 70 nm days. There has to be more fishing boats than fish in these waters but I guess they’ve been at it for hundreds of years. On 24th October at about 1400 we crossed the equator heading north on Scally for the first time. A tot of rum went over the side for Neptune and apparently we morphed from being Polywogs to become Shellbacks. At 1402 we crossed again this time heading south, with Glor not onboard Scally, as we crossed back and forth taking it in turns to swim the line.
Three more early starts, we’re talking first light, and we’re positioned to cross the busiest shipping lane in the world. Well over 100 ships showing on the AIS, but unlike the NZ coast, we have structure here in well-defined shipping lanes. We creep north on the western side of the lanes thinking we have it sussed and then run into a maze of fishing boats with nets all over the place spread right to the edge of the shipping lanes. Luckily a gap opens up in the south bound lane and we make it into no man’s land in the middle of the lanes. Actually crossing the lanes was relatively easy compared with missing the fishing nets.
We’ve left Indonesia nearly exactly three months since we arrived and are now in Malaysian waters. Two more small island stops and we arrive at Admiral Marina just south of Port Dickson. Very impressive hotel / marina complex with bars and restaurants, we’re definitely well out of Indonesia now. Taxi into Port Dickson the next day to complete clearance formalities, first country we’ve been too that doesn’t worry about quarantine clearance which is usually a performance involving flying a yellow flag until it’s determined that you don’t have the plague. Apart from enjoying the hotel facilities at the marina we took a two day trip down to the historic Malacca city and stayed in the wonderful old Majestic hotel. The mix of the European and Asian cultures in this city is too hard to describe. We wondered around the streets mesmerized, took in more museums than I can handle (two), and ate some great food.
Back at Admiral Marina Scally disgraced herself for the first time on this trip pissing over 400ltrs of fresh water into the bilge. It happened overnight whilst we were onboard but failed to hear the water pump over the noise of three fans whining in the cabin. A small hole had developed over time alongside a jubilee clip in the stupid plastic pipe reinforced with steel wire. Almost guaranteed to happen with the combination of metal on metal with added vibration.
Next stop was Port Klang, a couple of miles of dockside with more cranes working than I’ve ever seen. We choose not to enter the river and anchored up a contributory for the night and then moved on towards Pankor Island.
For the first time in a long time, in about ten knots of true wind at about 70 apparent we managed to get close the 60ft mono Avant Garde , in fact old Colin Coutts had to alter course and continually luff us up beyond the screechers 60 apparent limit to hold us off. Ducking down to leeward we built up momentum to have another go before noticing a tug and container ship crossing our path. AG had the luxury of being able to point higher and drop behind the ship, our only option was to head down and loose speed whilst the ship passed. But the fun wasn’t over, AG had sailed into a hole so once we got going again we sailed right through them. And then physics took over, the wind dropped and wetted surface area came into play. Although AG is 17 foot longer than Scally, our two hulls give us more surface area and at less than ten knots of wind this seems to matter, one day I’ll get to wipe that grin off his face.
These unusual winds made the normally sheltered anchorage on the south of Pangkor Island untenable so we ended up down the river at Lumet and anchored off the once stunning International Yacht Club. It’s now as with most big developments in Malaysia suffering from lack of maintenance, we still don’t understand why so many impressive buildings here are left to decay. Took the ferry across to Pangkor Island the next day and did the tourist pink taxi tour of the island, big fishing boat building yards on the east coast and tourist hotels on the west coast.
That night the weather really packed up with the biggest thunder and lightning storm we’ve experienced hitting us at about 2100. We woke the next morning to learn that Avant Garde had been hit. Colin’s story is that he was watching from his cockpit as the lightening headed for Scally and then diverted and hit AG. Could it have been the bottle brush lightening protector on top of our mast that saved us? It blow the VHF aerial clean off the top of AG’s mast, took out the autopilot, electronic engine controls and numerous other items some only becoming apparent over the next few days. We feel real sorry for Colin and Marion, this would have been a disaster back in NZ but is worse up here as finding qualified tradesmen and sourcing parts is not easy. True to form they don’t stress too much but just get on with fixing things one at a time and now have most of the work under control.
So with Marion now confined to the engine room, manually operating the gear and throttle levers we head off the next day towards Penang Island and Straits marina. Glor is on AG for the day to help out with the helming and I get to singlehand Scally. Penang Island lies of the Malaysian coast with two 16k bridges joining it to the mainland, one still under construction. How can they do this with less population on the island than Auckland which struggles to maintain an old bridge a fraction of the size? It’s another fascinating area full of history justifying world heritage status. Georgetown, the capital, has a huge Chinese influence and is a fascinating city to walk around. One store worth a mention is Liangtraco aka the Chemical Man. Hardly room to tread inside the shop the old Chinese guy, in his eighties, shuffles through the store stacked high on either side with bags of powder and bottles of liquid. The guy is a walking encyclopaedia on all chemical concoctions. Boaties use him to mix up stuff to add to antifoul, banned in NZ or Aus. I bought some powder that helps clean the hull when properly mixed but haven’t been brave enough to test it yet. We then found a Ukulele shop, Glor bought a new guitar, Colin and I upgraded our Ukes. I’ve moved to the tenor, bigger and louder but surprisingly no easier to play.
Our base on Penang was Straits Quay Marina, another marina with a very flash complex built around it, even including an Irish bar. Five minutes’ walk to Tesco supermarket and fresh markets just down the road. Stocked up, Thai visas stamped in passports we head out after five nights on the next leg of the trip up to Langkawi Island, last stop in Malaysia.
Now safely tied up in Rebak Marina located on a small island just off the main Langkawi island. In fact we’re on the hard for a few days cleaning, changing anodes and other maintenance work. We’ll stay in Rebak marina whilst we wait for our new dinghy to arrive and then head up to Phuket around the 14th December. It’s not hard to hang around here as the marina has a hotel attached with restaurants and a pool which we can use. There is a free ferry across to Langkawi where you can pick up a rental car for the day, no questions asked, costing about NZ$10. Langkawi is a duty free island so for the first time since Darwin we can get reasonably priced wine. Our wine stock was down to boxed wine which had gone off and only good if mixed with fruit juice and rum in a sangria type cocktail.
We’re a little lost today as Colin and Marion left yesterday, we’ve cruised closely with them over the last six months and had great fun . We know lots of other boats here from our time in the Pacific and the Sail Malaysia rally arrives next week with most of the boats that came up through Indonesia with us.
I nearly got to play my first gig on the new uke at the Yachties Thanksgiving dinner the other night only to be frustrated accompanying the first track when a string broke. Maybe somebody’s trying to tell me something!
I’ll just wrap up with a little reflection and a reminder that we’re back in civilisation and open to visitors again.
The whole of Indonesia was a great experience, one that we’ll probably never repeat. It is still remote with very little tourism. However, western influence and the internet is definitely creeping in. Maybe ten years ago it would have been different, certainly in ten years time it will have changed. Even now the county becomes noticeably more wealthy as you head west towards the big economies of Asia. I don’t think we traded with the locals much after half way through the Islands when cash became the norm.
Five favourite spots:
- Banda – great history, diving and people
- Gili Lawa Laut – very senic and just great diving
- Lombok – interesting cultural experience and awesome rice fields
- Lizard Island – stands out as special on the Aussie east coast, good snorkelling, captain cooks lookout and the research centre
- Darwin – jumping crocs, unregulated and so much better than expected
Surprisingly, Kumai and the oragnutans misses out on the top five only because it had been built up so much by other cruisers that my expectations, I guess, weren’t quite met. Seeing the apes swing through the tree tops was awesome but watching them feed was zoo like, the river trip was great but too long. Kumai town had character and maybe the best value food of our passage though Indo. However it was dirty, hot and very smoky.
So we made it through the Malacca Straits without spotting one guy with an eye patch and a parrot sitting on his shoulder. Along the way we clocked up over 24,000nm on Scally over 5,500nm since leaving Mooloolaba back in April. It’s great to be finally in Langkawi and we’re looking forward to the next three months up in Thailand.
Cheers and Happy Christmas
Paul & Glor
06 17’48.48 N, 099 41’56.56 E
12-11-26 13:01:17 +0800 +0000