|STRAIT OF MALACCA 2
Including Johor Strait, Johor Bahru, Singapore Strait and Sabana Cove
May 17th to July 7th, 2001 A:
On the 17th of May at 3:30 in the morning, we left Langkawi and entered the north end of the Strait of Malacca. This is our second transiting of the strait as we had come northbound through here just over a year ago, March 2000. We’d left at this odd time of day as we wanted to arrive in Penang before dark and we figured this departure would get us there in the late afternoon of the same day. It was not to work out that way however as the propeller shaft broke 12 hrs later, at three in the afternoon. There was no wind then and there was an adverse current so, even though we were only 13 miles from Penang, we had to anchor and wait for favorable sailing conditions. I made use of the time by going into the water and removing the propeller. The water was clear here and the current moderate. I knew that conditions would be worse off Penang.
We continued checking current and wind through the rest of the day and the night. At 3:30 in the morning we had a useable wind so we raised anchor under sail and made slow but steady progress to Penang. It took us 4 hours to cover the 13 miles we had to go. We sailed into the Georgetown Anchorage and saw that Sunflower and Isobar were there. Within an hour of anchoring, a fisherman laid a big drift net up current of us and it soon caught up on our anchor chain. I raised it and the fisherman was able to retrieve the net. This was one extra little hassle we didn’t need at the moment. Once finally at anchor there, I lifted the engine a foot or so off the mounts and slid the propeller shaft out under the engine and plugged the stern tube with a wood plug. The reason for the break was twofold. One must be that the engine was out of alignment and the second was that I insisted the machine shop weld the shaft and coupler together. The welding weakened the stainless and it was at the weld that the shaft failed.
On Saturday morning we rowed ashore and took the broken shaft to the Chinese machine shop neighborhood just off Armenian Street. We found a machinist who could do the work and negotiated a price. Really, he stated a price and I accepted it. He said that stock would be 1inch stainless and would be ready Monday afternoon. Today is Saturday and he said he can’t do it now and he’s closed on Sunday..so that leaves Monday. We don’t mind the wait as Penang is an agreeable island with a rich history and we had planned to stop there anyway in order to go to the computer fair on the upcoming weekend. We went to the computer fare both Saturday and Sunday and did finally buy an ACER laptop for about US$1500.
On Monday we picked up the new shaft. The machinist was unable to get 1-inch stock so used 25mm instead (That’s about 1/64 of an inch less). I accepted it, as there was not much else to do. The smaller size means there will be a little extra play in the cutlass bearing but otherwise I figured it should be ok.
I reinstalled the shaft and got stung by a jellyfish while putting on the propeller and the zinc. I did it at slack water as the current was now running some five knots at it’s peak.
On our final day in this anchorage, we went ashore for provisions and returned an hour before high tide. The current was so swift in the strait that while returning to the yacht I rowed with every once of my strength for what seemed like a long time and barely made headway. We finally gained the yacht and were relieved not to have been swept south in the strait.
Later that afternoon, we motored to the Junk Anchorage off the Chew Jetty, still Penang but further south. Sunflower, Talinga Two and Deusa and two others were there. We left the dinghy on deck here and used the water taxi to come and go from the Chew Clan’s Jetty. There are several Jetties on the water front here. They are long piers built out over the tidal flats. They are rickety appearing wooden structures. Along side the jetty and on the jetty itself are the dwelling and the shops of the clan. Several hundred Chinese of the Chew Clan live here. It’s picturesque and alive with activity and commerce. A large Buda surrounded by gifts of fruit and burning incense mark the shore side edge of the jetty. We stayed a couple of days then put to sea again, continuing south in the Malacca strait.
Over the next two days we continued south, anchoring at night in the protection of small islands and then made our way up the Sungai Dinding ( Dinding River) to the town of Lamut. There is a marina and a yacht club of sorts. It’s got a swimming pool and is an easy walk to town. The town is very Muslim but pretty easy going and friendly. Good and inexpensive food and drink were available. We used the bathrooms at the public ferry landing and were directed to a side door, as there are separate facilities for Muslim and Infidel toilet goers. They were clean and off course were the squat style. We stayed five days here, thoroughly enjoying the swimming pool and the social life, and the almost daily parties with other transiting yachts, some who we’d known before and others we just met here. We met the yacht Miami here and shared future adventures in the Gulf of Thailand.
On the 3rd of June we left in the afternoon and anchored in the early evening near an island at the rivers mouth. At 1130PM the wind rose and was pushing us shoreward. The anchorage was no longer safe for us so we raised anchor and blew south with a strong northerly. The sailing was very good and very fast, for us. We continued on through the night and the following day, enjoying the rapid progress.
At 3:30 in the afternoon, sailing at 6 knots we slammed into a floating log. We hit it’s midsection, not it’s end, so no harm was done except to our nerves. We hate it when the boat shudders on impact with anything. We continued on with good conditions, sailing the remainder of the day and through the night, arriving in the morning at Port Dickson, where there’s another marina; Admiral Marina. It’s seems wimpy that we can enjoy marinas twice while transiting the infamous the Malacca strait.
We entered the marina, got snug in a slip and went for a swim in their very nice and social pool. We met lots of folks there and it seemed that from three to five in the afternoon everyone was in the pool some swimming but most just socializing We made a point of swimming 20 laps each day so we wouldn’t just stand in the pool and jabber away. Showers were available after the swim then the boaters would often gather on one yacht or another for sundowners. It’s another very social place.
I checked the engine alignment again and replaced an engine mount while here.
On June 8th we took a bus the short distance to the city of Malacca, the ancient sultanate after which all of this is named. We stayed overnight in the city at the Gold Leaf Hotel (RM45) and spent our time touring the historical section and china town. The Straits Chinese have a long presence here as merchants as the Nyna Chinese established a firm cultural presence.
After a few more social days and a little provisioning, we put back to the Strait and continued south. We had good wind a favorable current and made 7 knots most of the day. Mid afternoon we anchored off Palu Besar, just south of the port of Malacca. By seven in the morning were in the midst of a serious squall with heave west winds and seas for which we had no protection. The boat was pitching wildly and the bow burying in steep seas. Getting the anchor up with the bow rising and falling so elaborately was a thrill and I got completely dunked several times. Once the anchor was secure I raised sail and took a double reef in the main. I put up our small sturdy staysail and we reached along before the squall making very good time. At one in the afternoon, we were abeam Tanjung Pia, the southwestern tip of the Malay Peninsula, where the Singapore Strait and the Malacca Strait meet. Here we altered course to the northeast heading for Johor Strait, the narrow waterway separating the Malay Peninsula from Singapore
. We entered the strait passing under a bridge that had 25-meter clearance. This bridge connects Johor Malaysia with Singapore and is one of only two roads connecting the two. We now had Singapore to Starboard and Malaysia to Port. Singaporean gunboats keep a close watch on their shoreline with a continuous and through patrol. Never once, day or night, were we out of the sight of one patrol boat or another. We continued up the Johor Strait until we could go no further. A causeway across the strait provides road transport between the Malaysian City of Johor Bahru and Singapore. We anchored on the Malaysian side as we still had a current Malaysian Visa and had not exited the country when we left Langkawi, only secured permission to move from the Port of Langkawi to the Port of Johor Bahru.
As we were proceeding up the strait I noticed an unusual amount of water in the bilge and an inspection revealed a small river of water flowing from the bow. Perhaps when we hit the log, the bobstay tang, which is at the waterline took a serious enough hit to fracture the fiberglass in which it is embedded. Then the battering the bowsprit took while raising anchor during the morning squall shifted a lot of stress to that same fitting. After that we sailed in heavy conditions for a while. So if it did get damaged, even a little at impact with the log, the subsequent abuse to it could have worked it further loose.
When we anchored at the Johor Bahru Causeway, I put all our chain out so as to lighten the bow and get the suspect fitting out of the water. That was sufficient to stop the inflow of water.
We took the dinghy to the secured and guarded Malaysian Customs Station on the banks of the strait. We could leave the dinghy there without fear of it being stolen and the customs station was open 24 hours a day so we could come and go as we please. However, no matter what time we returned, the staff were either eating or sleeping.
We stayed just over two weeks, making frequent trips to Singapore by bus from Johor Bahru. We visited museums and admired the ornate mosques and palaces that were generously placed here. Johor at times rivaled Malacca as the dominant Sultanate of the Malay Peninsula and it ‘s grandeur is apparent.
For boat projects, I ground away all the damaged fiberglass securing the bobstay tang and replaced it with a new epoxy layup, bigger and better than the original. It was a messy uncomfortable job but one that had to be done. We also had an additional propeller shaft made of 1 inch 316 grade stainless steel as we’re not 100% confident that the 25mm Penang shaft will be of long duration. We are fortunate in that our propeller shaft is only 28 inches long costs under $100 to make. We know of one boat in our size range that has an 8-foot shaft with a 2inch diameter. That would be very difficult to carry around in buses, ferries or the rapid transit systems. We also varnished the cabin sole (floor) while here, replaced the float switch on the automatic bilge pump and ordered new engine mounts from an Australian Company.
A few days before leaving a 40-knot squall came upon us but since we were in such protected water there were no waves to speak off. Much in contrast the Malacca Strait drama.
We visited every big shopping venue in Johor Bahru and many in Singapore and then decided it was time to go. We got our customs clearance to proceed to the nearby Malay port of Sabana Cove, a very upscale resort and marina.
We tacked our way back down Johor Strait and through the Singapore Ship Anchorage. Late afternoon we anchored just west of Palu Rawaii. The next day with a 15 to 20 breeze we sailed along the Singapore Strait in the company of hundred of ships and tugs of all sizes and purposes. The enormity of the super size ship is staggering. We continued around the south coast of Singapore and once clear of it’s southeast point we bore northeast toward Bukit Penerang and the approach to Sungai Santi, the mangrove river leading to Sabana Cove. We anchored off Bukit Penerang, about a mile from a navy installation. Twenty minutes after anchoring, a large navy inflatable with several men on board roared up to us and told us we were in a navy security area and had to move a mile further north. We generally don’t try to argue or reason with these kinds of requests as it is pointless but sometimes fun. So we raised anchor and took our threatening selves a mile away and let the navy feel secure once again. An hour later a fisherman came by and asked us to move down by navy installation as he driftnets in this area. We like to be accommodating but explained as best we could that the navy sent us here and we cannot move back. Hew suggested we move further into the river but for us, the water at the bar was questionable and we were not going to attempt that first crossing in the dark. The fisherman was a bit angry but we had to leave it there. He’ll have to manage his fishing around us.
The next morning we went up the beautiful Sungai Santi (Santi River), lined with lush mangrove trees and scores of noisy monkeys carrying on. It was only an hour’s trip and we were secured in a modern lavish marina and luxury resort. A Sultan’s son has a vacation home here, actually several. One luxurious home he had gutted and converted into a huge indoor swimming pool. A custom dock was built off his holding to accommodate his huge crewed motor yacht.
We just wanted to have a look at this place so only stayed for a couple of nights. We had already provisioned the boat for a three month cruise in the gulf of Thailand so did not need to shop a lot. So two days after arriving we left. At three in the afternoon we took on 88 liters of diesel and 5 liters of petrol, topping off our tanks and motored out of Sungai Santi and anchored just over the bar where we had bothered the fisherman a few days before. He was not fishing this day which we were glad about.
(next is gulf of thailand)