Wednesday, 27 November 2013

2nd stop - Pangkor

After departing Port Dickson we headed to Port Klang for the first nights stop and anchored at the mouth of a river just off the port. A very large busy port with huge ships coming and going 24/7. Second night was at the mouth of the Bernam River near a small fishing village, both very comfortable anchorages with little movement and no storms. Both days were spent motoring as there wasn't much wind - we were advised that this would be the case. The surrounding area on approach to the marina was scattered with small islands with very lush vegetation, the marina itself  built on a man-made island between Pangkor Island and the mainland. On arrival into Pangkor Marina, we needed a small pilot boat to come out into the lagoon and guide us in. Once inside we realised that it was a much smaller marina than Port Dickson with not a lot of room. Thankfully there was little or no wind and we managed to get into our berth without issue, but had the feeling we were being packed in like sardines. At the briefing there was talk of possibly having to raft up but they did seem to find a berth for every boat. The amenities were once again rather disappointing with the shower block  in the middle of the work shop area and not at all inviting, so it was back to showering aboard for the duration of our stay. The marina was offering free water along with 3 free days berthing, so it doesn't really matter how much water we use. This marina is where quite a few boats have opted to lift out of the water to get work done so we saw many of the Sail Indonesia boats on the hard stand.


                                      John (Footloose) lifting out of the water to antifoul

The rally had organised a day trip across to Pangkor Island so we took the ferry from the terminal located right next door to the marina and within 10mins we were getting off at the other end. We piled into hot pick coloured mini vans and started our tour around the island. First stop was an old Dutch fort, then some very interesting temples, followed by a fish market where all processing is done by hand. Oh the aroma !! Then on to a seafood lunch ...... :-(  Markets forgotten, the lunch was great. Back to the ferry terminal to browse for an hour before the ferry home.

Pete standing near one of the brightly painted temples

            Pete and self, Craig and Robyn, Chantelle and Freddie (Micromigas) and Denis (Manta)

                                              Fish processed all by hand - what a job !

The girls at the beach - Marina (Kailani), self, Jen (Tigerlily) and Robyn

Dried fish at the markets - check the left hand side. Fly paper full of flies !

Trays of noodles drying in the sun

1st rally stop - Port Dickson

The first night out from Danga Bay, our little fleet of 4 (us and Tintin, Gemini and Kailani) stopped at Palau Pisang, the second night was Palau Bessar and that nearly counts now as the worst anchorage ever. On arrival mid afternoon, we anchored well out from the 10 other rally yachts already settled, knowing that if the weather changes we had plenty of room. We were in a large open bay on the south side of the island near a small village, a nice clean beach and lush vegetation. We had thought we might have a 24 spell here and head ashore in the morning to explore the island. This island is apparently the birth place of Islam is Asia with a lot of history documented ashore. There was a slight swell coming in to the bay, but nothing that we couldn't handle. Or so we thought. Soon after midnight we could hear the wind suddenly start to howl and there was lightning in the distance. Within no time at all the storm was upon us, with wind gusts up to 35+ and the surrounding waves looking more like a surf beach than our calm little bay. Voices were then heard on the VHF calling to other boats questioning if they may be dragging. Spot lights were being beamed all around us, checking distances to our nearest boats. Suddenly everyone was up and about, some boats opting to lift anchor and re settle, others just taking off into the night happier to be in open water. Whereas other storms we had been through had passed quickly, this one hung around for 3 hours and it was nearly 4.00am before Pete and many headed back to bed. In the light of morning, all we wanted was out of there so a mass exit saw all 12 remaining boats heading north.

Later that day saw us arrive into Port Dickson. This was a beautiful colonial influenced marina building with marble floors and grand staircases sweeping up either side of the entrance. A lovely pool and good amenities, restaurant and bar, IT room - now this was a marina ! Walking distance (10 mins) into a string of good restaurants and the township of Port Dickson also only 5mins in a taxi. The rally had planned a 'team building exercise' for one afternoon right next door to the marina and it  turned out to be a lot of fun. The different challenges were all at ground level, though Pete was hoping the high rope course would be included. Considering the average age of the cruisers is near to 60, the organisers decided to play it safe.

Pete taking his team across the moving plank - all 10 members on at one time

          Leading Cheryl (Adagio) through the rope lines without touching - easier said than done

Another rally tour was a day trip into Malacca. It is such an interesting place and one that we will definitely return to. An hours coach ride from the marina and we arrived into the centre of town. Jonker walk is famous for its food outlets, temples and shopping stalls and you could easily spend a day there alone. First stop had to be for a decent latte and morning tea and obviously everybody had the same idea as the café was full of yachties.  We wandered around the harbour area, looked over a replica of an old Portugese ship and took in the maritime museum

The entrance to Jonker Walk

The highly decorated bicycles for hire 

                                                                   Pete with Carolyn and Duncan on the Portugese replica
Robyn could relate to this t-shirt .....:-)

Not sure what the statue was - Mr Universe maybe

Craig in front of one of the many temples and shrines in Jonker Walk - Malacca

Karen (Tropicali) getting lost amongst the t-shirts
We thoroughly enjoyed Port Dickson and the amenities on offer, and usually ended each day with a swim in the pool last thing at night. It always makes for a better nights sleep when you are safe and sound in a marina and even the sight of the approaching storms don't fill you with fear. You can get a permanent berth at the marina for the equivalence of $AUS125 per week including water and electricity and use of all amenities. Food for thought !!



Danga Bay Marina - Johor Bahru

Danga Bay Marina had been our home for the past 4 weeks and that time was fast coming to an end. The marina itself, whilst lacking in amenities was very centrally located for restaurants, shopping, etc. and the time spent there went relatively quickly being broken with small trips away both to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. The first few days in the marina were spent just unwinding as we felt we had been on the go for so long. Then there was the cleaning of everything inside and out and taking inventory of what we had used and what we needed. Buses departed from right out front and a 50 cent fare would get you most places. There were good choices of supermarkets - Giant, Cold Storage and the Kip markets. We found great eateries within walking distance of the marina and it was cheaper to eat out than cook on board. We caught up with our friends from Gemini who had already been here for a couple of weeks, though Robyn had headed home to Oz for a spell. The days soon started to fly bye, one week rolling into the next. The Sail Malaysia rally had organised a day tour of the local area taking in Puteri Marina and development and some very opulent government buildings which looked more like 5 star hotels. We then visited the southern most tip of Malaysia (also of mainland Asia) and it's a long way from Sydney - 6232 kms. The tour was all in the comfort of an nice new air conditioned coach - thank goodness. The heat seems to intensify each day and the build up to the afternoon thunderstorms is palatable. We have finally set up our water catchment from the boat covers so now can funnel the rain water direct into our tanks.

                                                  Opulent government buildings hardly occupied


                                              To think we sailed all this distance  ......... :-)

7th November was yet another birthday for Pete, and not wanting to spend it sitting in the marina, we decided to head to Kuala Lumpur for a couple of days. Along with Robyn and Craig (Gemini) and Jacqui and Kevin (Tintin), we boarded the train from Johor Bahru early one morning for a 6 hour trip north. First class tickets cost us AUS $20 one way and is wasn't a bad trip. Comfy large seats with heaps of leg room, complimentary water and banana bread, good company and lots of laughs - the trip went quickly. Not a lot to see, just palm oil plantation after plantation and the odd station stop along the way. Soon enough we were arriving in KL and had booked rooms at the Pacific Regency Apartments located just across the road from the KL Tower. All upgraded to suites on arrival and the rooms were great, king size beds and marble bathrooms (with bath), pool on the top floor. That evening after drinks poolside for happy hour, it was off to find the hawker stalls. We found a curry house full of locals - always a good sign and the best tasting curries you could imagine. Each morning we started with breakfast at Starbucks, then the days spent exploring.


                             Poolside for 'Happy Hour' at the Pacific Regency Apartments - KL.
                                               Jacqui, Pete, Self, Craig, Robyn and Kevin

                   KL Tower at night                                  The base of the 275 stairs to the Batu Caves

The Batu Caves were very impressive, with a humongous gold statue at the entrance. 275 steep stairs to the top and horrid little monkeys along the way throwing coconut husks at people as they passed. You had to watch they didn't make a grab for your handbag, hat or sunglasses. Inside the caves there were blessing ceremonies going on, chanting and lots of incense burning. We had arrived at the caves relatively early morning, just as well. By the time we were leaving, the bus loads of tourists were starting to arrive - it was mobbed. Back to the apartments for a lazy afternoon with local shopping in the myriads of stalls surrounding the hotel. On dusk we headed down to see the Petronas Towers and what impressive architecture they are. With the sun setting quickly, the appearance changed by the minute as their magnificent lighting became apparent. From there it was a walk to Alor Street, famous for its hawker stalls and every type of cuisine you could think of. A 10 mins stroll back to the apartments in the balmy evening and a good nights sleep had by all. The next day we had an afternoon departure back to JB getting back to the boat around 9.00pm. A birthday for Pete to remember.

                                          The fountains at the base of the Petronas Towers


Happy Birthday drinks for Pete in KL

Alor Street - famous for its Hawker stalls
A few days later it was off to Singapore which as the crow flies is only 2ks from JB, but requires crossings the causeway, exiting Malaysia and entering Singapore with border stops at both ends, passports, customs and immigration so does take an hour. Lunch at Fatty's with my girlfriend Mojca (ex Sailors Bay Dentistry in Sydney) and lots of catching up done. Shopping in the afternoon and staying the night in a small, very basic hotel in Little India. Clean enough but no room to swing that cat !! Up early next morning and off towards Orchard Road to check in at the Royal Plaza on Scott's for a night of luxury. On arrival we could see mum and dad at reception checking in themselves, having just arrived from the overnight flight from Paris. Just so good to see family again. This time the room was lovely, and plenty of room for 10 cats !! The time in Singapore was spent ambling down Orchard Road window shopping - Tiffany's, Cartier, Gucci, Rolex - hence window shopping only. Lots of chatting and catching up and swapping travelling stories. That evening we went for dinner with mum and dad to where Pete and I had eaten 25+ years earlier - a traditional banana leaf curry. Back then, it was a eatery run by the civil service. These days it is known as Sammy's and famous for it's cuisine. The Xmas decorations and lights were all in place along Orchard and Scott's Roads, however they do not turn them on until 1st December so we missed seeing their spectacular colours at night.

Mum and I having our banana leaf curry at Sammy's

Pete and self in the foyer of the Royal Plaza on Scott's - Singapore
Again it was time to say goodbye but not so sad knowing I will be home in a couple of months. It was the trek back to JB exiting Singapore and re entering Malaysia - the passport could fill very quickly this way. We were setting sail the following day with the Sail Malaysia Rally so there were last minute things to be done on board. A final gala dinner that evening starting with drinks overlooking the marina, then a fantastic meal in the Convention Centre next door.

             Karen (Tropicali), Janice (Zoa) and self at the pre dinner drinks at Danga Bay Marina.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

The other side of Belitung

Sad to be leaving the lovely people of East Belitung, it is a short day trip across to the other side of the  island for the next rally stop. As we approach the anchorage, we are being chased down by another storm. We know now we are really getting into the storm season and it will only get worse for the next month or so. We don't mind so much being at anchor when they hit - we don't like being out to sea. Finally anchored with the storm going around us, it was a pretty spot with huge granite boulders along the shoreline and crops of them off the beach. The locals have illuminated them with floodlights and in the evening they are quite a spectacle.

Sunset at West Belitung. Pete and Raymond (Antaros).Not sure which improved -  Pete's French improved or Raymond's English, but they had the love of wine in common.

The granite boulders along the shoreline of West Belitung anchorage

Rusty's is the place ashore for the best meals and the man himself who organises water, fuel, transport and anything else you may require. It was also the spot for sundowners each evening. Up the beach were containers of baby turtles where for $5 you could catch one and release it into the ocean to fend for itself - they were so cute. A bus trip into town to the local markets for the final supplies before Singapore. The mid afternoon downpour had the market owners rushing for plastic covers and tarps only to pull them off 30mins later and back to business. They must get so used to doing this. Another gala dinner in a huge no-walled building, traditional dancing and people in costumes - not really sure why.


Pete and myself with some of the locals dressed in costume for the gala dinner

Traditional dancers from West Belitung Regency

Due to the storm activity, we have decided to do day hops only for the last 150nms to the end. Day 2 saw us watching the latitude count down to 00*00.00 at the equator. We had planned to stop and swim across, but the winds and the current were quite strong so instead as we crossed, we gave Neptune some coins and a nip of Bourbon and thanked him for safe sailing in the Southern Hemisphere and asked the same for the top side. Our official equator party would happen that evening at Kentar Island, .3nm north. It was a great night with 14 of us on the back of Alleykat with a pot luck dinner. We did it is style with bottle of Veuve and Moët saved especially for the occasion.

The girls in the water with noodles - Coleen, Pam, Gayle, Self, Jacqui and Cheryl
Cheryl &  Phil, Kevin, Terry, Bill & Gayle, Jacqui, Self, Jenny, Pam & John
Jacqui and self about to open a bottle of Moet saved especially
The closest I could capture the latitude to 00*00 as we crossed the equator
Off the next day and headed to the island of Bintan where we had our last rally stop and cleared out of Indonesia. Good strong winds pushed us all the way nearly to the top of the island, anchoring late afternoon near an oil refinery not far short of our intended destination. The next day it was a short hop into Bintan where we anchored off the Nirwana Resort. First thing was to get papers in to Sam and start the clearing out procedure with Customs and Immigration. Then we could sit back and enjoy the pool and the amenities of the resort. Fresh water becomes such a novelty at time at sea. The gala dinner was fabulous, held in the grounds of the resort, the lay out similar to a wedding reception. The food and entertainment was amazing and a great night was had by all. However, it had to be an early evening as we were to be away by 5.00am if we wanted to make it across to Malaysia in one day.

      Carved watermelon as table decorations at our gala dinner at the Nirwana Resort in Bintan

A local Katar boat - a gitft from West Belintung regency to East Belitung

A snapshot of our AIS screen showing all the boats moving through the channel

First light say many of us heading off towards the west, motoring past Nongsa Point marina and wondering where to cross the Singapore Strait. This is the part I had been dreading, hearing stories of AIS showing 800 - 900 targets at any one given time, some anchored but many underway With Tintin not far behind us, we watched with fascination the lines of ships - bulk cargo carriers, cruise liners, tankers, tug boats, patrol boats, navy craft, yachts, fishing boats and more making their way up or down the channels. And we have to cut across them all!!! We kept heading west until Pete decided it was time and could see a break in the lines, so we went for it. Slotting in behind one then pushing Kittani harder than she has ever gone before we powered on, eased off to fall in behind another liner then full throttle again, till we were finally across the other side and into Singapore waters. Then hugging the coast line and dodging tankers at anchor, we headed up the Straits of Johor making good time and arriving into Danga Bay marina mid afternoon, our home for the next 3 weeks.

                   The afternoon thunderstorm brewing - time to put things in the microwave

So that was it and what a day. Safely crossing the Singapore Strait and the end of Sail Indonesia. About 40 rally yachts are continuing on with us to do Sail Malaysia, others we may see some time next year as many of them will stay around this SE Asia corner for a few years. Such is the life of a cruiser. To sum up the last 3 months, it has been all and more than we expected. Travelling through a 3rd world country has its issues but being patient and smiling goes a long way. Some cruisers have found this difficult, expecting everything to run like  clockwork and when it doesn't, they grumble. For those who kept an open mind, Indonesia has been a remarkable experience and we will definitely return again. The beauty of these islands has made us want to see more. The Indonesian people, who often had so little have given us so much in the way of memories we will never forget. Also the friends we have made on this trip have made the rally for us. The sundowners on the back of boats, the  times of emergencies when we've needed help, the yacht lights in the darkness on those night sails - knowing there has been someone there has been peace of mind for me - the reluctant sailor. To me that's what joining a rally is all about. Thank you Sail Indonesia and Sam for everything,