Thursday, October 24, 2019

Slinging Across the Singapore Straits

We left Nongsa Point Marina around 6:30 am to start our passage to Malaysia. This required crossing the Singapore Straits  The Straits (along with the connecting Malacca Strait) are the busiest shipping lanes in the world. About 2,000 ships per day transit the area carrying a quarter of the worlds traded goods. We timed our passage with the tidal current, spending hours going at 9-10kts with the extra push.
We decided to run along the shipping lanes on the Indonesian side until we could cross at an area where the East bound lanes are widely separated from the West (and north) bound lanes. You can see where we crossed in the pic above. We waited about 15-20 mins. before finding a hole we felt comfortable to cross the East bound lane. The ships are spread out at about a 12-15 mins spacing coming down the lane. That took us into the purple area on the chart that is a ship anchorage. At the top of this area we crossed the West bound lane. We started to cross as soon as we got there but turned around when a new ship showed up on our path. After again waiting about 15 mins for a hole we shot across.

It's not only commercial ships that cross the Straits.

 After we crossed the west bound lanes we started up the Johor Strait that separates Malaysia from Singapore. Pretty quickly we were hailed on the radio by Singapore Port Control and were reprimanded for not calling into Port Control on channel 22. A little while later this Singapore Police boat tracked us for over an hour heading up the Strait. The port side (left) is Malaysia and the starboard side (right) is Singapore as you head toward Johor.  There are a continuous group of yellow buoys on he Singapore side. Apparently if you cross over those the police boats come to board you. 

This travel lift for lifting big ships, and probably big catamarans, can handle 15,000 tons.

Once you go under the Second Link Bridge, connecting Singapore and Malaysia, you come on the Singapore Defense Force's live firing range.

There's no shortage of construction going on on the Malaysia side. Dense condo living in the background.

We ended up in Puteri Harbour (middle left of map).  We easily cleared into Malaysia and then had a nice visit with some old friends from Edmonds, Owen and Carrie, who arrived here with their kids on their sailboat Madrona about 5 years ago and now live here and teach at the local American School.

Cruisers Notes:
Clearing in is very simple, almost all handled by the marina office. We received a 90-day visa.
The marina is clean and has nice docks with easy, wide fairways. For those that don't want to go into the marina, you can anchor out in front of it and pay a nominal daily anchor/dinghy fee and get cleared in through he marina office. As I understand it, the customs and immigration officials, located nearby at the ferry dock, will not clear in walk in cruisers.


Monday, October 21, 2019

Crossed the Equator Again

We recrossed the equator Oct 19 at 10:55 (Singapore time). While I'm not one to be religious or believe too much on old tales, I figure you should always cover your bases when dealing with Neptune and his associates. You dress appropriately - in this case you'll see a nice silk Lombok shirt with a Fiji sarong, highlighted with a Bali Bintang hat along with the ever present sunglasses. We decided to offer up a shot from the Southern Ocean, a fine Tasmanian sassafras liquor, to Neptune since we're out of rum and are assuming that it's been a long time since anyone at the equator had something cold to drink.

After Neptune got his shot Chris and I took ours.

Here we are with our GPS telling us we are just crossing from the southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere. Technically we are 18 feet north of the equator in the picture.

This little swift came along to rest on our railing to see what the celebration was about. I wanted to offer her (or him) a shot too, but Chris insisted that she was too young.

Being in the equatorial zone it didn't take long for yet another rain squall to arrive. These squalls have a lot of rain, and some lightning, in them. The wind speeds so far have been fairly mild ranging from 18-29kts, and not for very long.

Due to some careful misplanning on my part, we were a little low on fuel before we got to the next stop. We had originally planned to leave Belitung and do an overnight to Bangka. Instead we opted for a three day passages and had a little sailing conditions. So when we anchored at Mesanak island Ali rowed up to us to say high and show off his half dozen English words. After a long, friendly conversation with neither side too sure what was said I asked Ali if he could get us some 'solar' (the word that Indonesians use for diesel, as the petrol company puts that label on the lowest grade of diesel). Ali smiled a lot and said he would. I dug out a 20 liter (5 gal) jerry jug and handed it to him. Then passed over two 100,000 rupiah notes. 200,000 rupiah seems like a lot, but it converts to about usd$14. After much further conversation we all agreed on pagi - meaning morning.
The next morning Ali rowed out to the boat with our jerry jug, came on board and helped fill the tank with it, as we continued our in depth conversations. This one primarily about the merits of metal anchors versus the wood anchor he had. He picked up our boat binoculars and peered through and was very impressed. This prompted us to dig up an old pair of binocs for him. He was over the top happy with that gift.

We are now in Nongsa Pointe Maina, very first world, still in Indonesia but directly across the narrow Spingapore Straits from Singapore and Malaysia. We will clear out of Indonesia today with a little luck and one more day left on our visa. Then in the morning we will motor the 50 miles across to Puteri Harbour in Johor, Mayalasia-- very close to Singapore. This requires crossing the busiest shipping channel in the world. With a little luck we won't end up a bug on the windshield of some giant freighter.

Cruisers notes:
We left Bangka NE anchorage about 3 am local time. Motored past the few FAD platforms in the bay that were all lit up as they were being worked. Arrived at the south end of Lingga Island just at sunset. We past a few fish boats about 25 miles out and few close in, but really very empty. The Scott guide anchorage, A, seemed way too shallow, so we anchored further south of it in 10 feet of water. We didn't have time to poke around to see if we could find the deeper depths in the guide as it was getting dark. S00*18.337, E104*58.775, mud.

Next stop was Masanak island. A little roll got in but it wasn't bad.
N00*25.935,E104*31.416, sand.

Passage to Nongsa Pointe Marina. If possible, plan this with the tidal current. we had 1-2kts with us all day. As you get further north the shipping channel becomes busy with tugs with tows and high speed ferries (23kts) crossing at odd angles. Not really fun in the low visibility squalls. Entrance directions for the marina are on the website.


Thursday, October 17, 2019

Bangka Island, NE

It was time to leave Belitung as we only have ill Oct 23rd on our Indonesian visas. Before we left we had an attempted stow away by this very tired swimming lizard.
The next main stop after Belitung is an anchorage on the NE corner of Bangka Island. This is about 125 miles, so would take an overnight passage if done direct. Because night travel in Indonesia is so taxing, and potentially dangerous with the number of fishing boats, creative lighting and Fish Attraction Devices(FADs), we decided instead to make it a 3 day hop.
Not far out of Belitung we thought we were coming way too close to a fishing boat then we decided it must be a FAD. Looking a little closer it looks like someone lost their 4 foot long toy sailing ship. A perfect replica of the local fishing boats.

We spent a rolly night in Gelasa Island and then headed the next day to Ketawi Island. On the way to Ketawi we encountered yet another style of FAD. These are platforms that fixed to the sea bottom via long bamboo poles. Apparently unlit.
This chart picture with the Radar overlay shows how many of these FAD platforms were out there at one point in our passage. The red boat at center screen is our current location (at photo time). Each of the red dashes on the screen is a FAD. Why we don't want to make night passages around here..

The next day in a little deeper water we started to see platform style FADs that were floating instead of fixed on bamboo poles.

Next day we arrived at the top of Bangka island. This enabled us to take a walk and stalk shells on the long beach. Its pretty overcast with a mix of cloud and pretty bad smog from land clearing fires. They'e suffering record level air pollution in Indonesia and Malaysia right now. We are off at o'dark thirty in the morning for a long day passage to Lingga continuing the long trek out of Indo.

Cruisers Notes:
Route to Gelasa Island was straight forward. As you get near the island you cross a busy N-S shipping lane. We anchored at
02*24.387,107*04.243 in 57ft. The area is flat with sand over coral ruble. Many fishing boats use the bay in the day time, waiting to fish at night. Most are much further in than you'd go. It was very rolly for about 3 hours in the middle of the night. I suspect if this anchorage was in the Scott Indo guide he would say very protected with the possibility of a little roll (optimistically:). No cell coverage.

Route to Ketawi was straight forward till you start to get closer to the island. Then there are a hundred of these fixed on bamboo pole Fad like high platforms, They are large and very easy to see visually and on radar. So not a problem. We went through them, but I saw a ferry and a tug go south of them. There are a few black flags as you approach the island, but they don't appear to have anything attached to them that is close to the surface.
Anchor at 02*15.982, 106*19.321 in 35ft good holding clay like sand. Very smooth and flat anchorage. Fish boats on the beach.

Leaving Ketawi you go west toward Bangka Island. There is a ship channel that runs N-S and feeds the shipping port to the north. At the port you work your way east and NE in the channel. There are large, easy to see and deal with Fads all the way north. They are up to about 6 miles offshore. Bangka NE anchorage 01*30.563,105*52.691 in 15ft. Flat calm, with a nice beach.