The Malacca Strait (again)

Our second transit through the Malacca Strait and, again, we were too late in the season. We took much longer than planned to antifoul the boat and were further delayed waiting for engine parts (held up by customs in KL for 2 weeks). Anyway, we eventually managed to escape Rebak and headed to Kuah, Langkawi to clear out and provision before heading south. The SW Monsoon was well established and it promised to be a long hard slog. And so it was.

Day 1: Kuah, Langkawi to Penang (60NM)

We decided to try and avoid night sailing. There are too many floating fishing nets and logs and, frankly, if you can stop for the night and get some sleep, why not? It’s just more civilised. We left Kuah at the crack of dawn, had breakfast en route and motor-sailed to Penang, 70NM down the track. It was a relatively calm day and we had the sails up most of the way. We dropped anchor just outside Straits Quay Marina before dusk but decided to lift it again an hour later to move to the Junk Anchorage, a few miles further south. The first anchorage had become untenable due to an uncomfortable swell. A quick dinner and we all hit our beds early.

Day 2: Penang to Pangkor (70NM)

We had set the alarm for 5am and left the anchorage before sunrise. The few extra hours could mean we might get to Pangkor before dark. And we did. Just. We anchored in a bay on the northeastern side next to a fish farm and were happy to put our heads on our pillows.

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One of the two bridges we went under in Penang

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One of the reasons we don’t like to sail at night: floating logs

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Sunset at anchor

Day 3: Pangkor to Pangkor

Unfortunately some engine problems meant a late start. Seathan managed to fix the engine and we took off late morning. We motored along the coast of Pangkor and into the Malacca Strait. After half an hour of slamming into 20 knots of wind and making very little progress, Seathan decided to turn back. It was uncomfortable, we were burning a lot of diesel and we were hardly making any ground. After making a 180 turn, the ride was comfortable and fast. If only we were heading north. We promised ourselves we would make the transit during the correct season next time. We’ll see… We found somewhere to anchor just outside Pangkor marina, had a lovely roast pork dinner and a little rest.

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A mosque on Pangkor island

Day 4: Pangkor to Klang (90NM)

Luckily, the wind died down overnight and we left Pangkor before dawn at 5am. It was going to be our longest day yet to cover the 90NM to Port Klang. We got in just after dark and anchored somewhere up the river, in Port Klang. The area is very industrial and within close proximity to KL. Not the most picturesque anchorage, but it was fine for the night.

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Approaching Port Klang at dusk

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Early morning and it’s busy already in Port Klang

Day 5: Klang to Port Dickson (50NM)

We left early again and arrived in Port Dickson mid-afternoon. We stopped in a marina this time, to make it easier to do repairs and order new starter batteries for our engines. Unfortunately it was Sunday, so nothing was open and we had to wait another day to get hold of them. Two nights in the marina wasn’t so bad, especially as our friends on ‘Tsonoqua II’ were there and we had a lovely time catching up. The kids spent most of the time in the pool with their friends and I took the opportunity to top up on provisions and do some laundry. Seathan fixed the engines, filled up with diesel and replaced the shaft seals and we left at the crack of dawn on Tuesday.

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Rehua in Port Dickson marina

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Dinner with fire show in Port Dickson marina with our friends from ‘Tsonoqua II’

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Fixing the engine

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A spot of laundry with my little helper

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The kids enjoyed the pool in Port Dickson marina

 

Day 6: Port Dickson to Pulau Besar (40NM)

We could have covered more miles but getting all the way to Pulau Pisang would have been too much. Pulau Besar, aka the water islands, are a pretty anchorage and the islands were once frequented by many ships because of their natural water source. These days it’s a place of worship for Indian muslims who consider this ghost-town-like-island to be a very spiritual place. We didn’t see anyone and spent a quiet night at anchor.

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It’s always busy in the Strait

Day 7: Pulau Bessar to Pulau Pisang (70NM)

Another loooong day. Fortunately, the sailing angles were much better now as we were easting; we had 14 to 18 knots just forward of the beam and enjoyed a very comfortable sail, making good ground. We dropped anchor as the sun was setting and enjoyed a sundowner, feeling relieved that our transit was nearly complete. Just one leg left through the busy Singapore Strait.

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Anchor down as the sun is setting 

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moon rise over Pulau Pisang

 

Day 8: Pulau Pisang to Nongsapoint, Batam (55NM)

Our last day was, indeed, a busy one. There’s a lot of traffic around Singapore and we had to cross the transit lane. I didn’t see much of it as I was down below cleaning the boat, getting it ready for our friends who would come onboard in the evening. I popped my head up a few times to look at the massive ships and to see what was going on when we were chased down by the Singapore Coastguard (twice). The first time they ordered us to head east in the west going transit lane. Seriously? It meant we were illegally easting in the westbound traffic, but we couldn’t argue with the coastguard. They followed us for at least 30 minutes and then turned around. A few hours later, another Singaporean coastguard called us on the radio to ask all our details: Where did we come from? How many people on board? Where were we heading? They were friendly enough and wished us a safe onward journey before throwing some impressive doughnuts to the delight of the boys. We crossed the transit lane at the correct junction and headed for Batam, Indonesia.

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On the radio to the Singapore Coastguard

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They kept following us for at least half an hour

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Lots of traffic

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Our friends were waiting on the dock as we motored into Nongsapoint marina around 4pm. As soon as the lines were secured, I jumped ashore. I hadn’t seen my dear friend Nadine for 4 years and we stood and hugged and shed a few tears. It was so good to see them and I was so glad we made it just in time. Well, one day late actually, but that’s not bad at all.

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presents from Belgium

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Ready for the Anamabas!

For the first time we didn’t do the Indonesian formalities ourselves as the marina staff in Nongsapoint took care of it all. The whole process (immigration, customs, harbourmaster and quarantine) was taking care of in less than an hour and we didn’t even have to leave our boat. It would normally take us one to two days and a lot of running around, taxis and hassle. So for the price of USD 50, I would say that was totally worth it.

A final day of preparations: servicing the engines and the generator, a few more provisions and some laundry, and we were ready to leave in search of remote turquoise anchorages. We left Nongsapoint after breakfast on Saturday morning, ready for, what should hopefully be, a comfortable 24h downwind sail to the Anamabas Islands. Yay!

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