Sunday 29 October, 2017
It was 7.30am when the log book was opened and an entry written. Brahminy had just enough water under her keel but not enough to go around the fishermen with their netting buoys strung across the only passage that had some depths. While Burney went to observe from the bow, Hans stopped the engine on cue and thus the propeller, using the momentum to pass over the net. Then we were off. +/- 50 nm to Pulau Pisang with a “lovely offshore breeze on the beam”. Wind registered 13.5 knots and our speed was reaching 5.9 knots under sails. Large FAD’s (fish attracting devices) and fish farms dotted the passage. It was because we were so focused watching the approaching obstacles that we were fortunate to notice 2 bumps appear and disappear, breaking the water surface. ????? Thoughts rose and were cancelled in a millisecond, Turtle? Fish? Shark? Stingray? Until Burney said “Sea Otters!” Yes.
Encounters with sea otters are few and very far between. Burney had her first experience when birding on Pangkor Island. One scampered out of the neighbouring bay and along a creek bank before disappearing into the lush vegetation overhanging the next bend. Then, while standing at the end of the Chew Clan Jetty gazing out into Junk Anchorage near Georgetown, Penang, two were spotted chasing fish. Our last sighting was while exploring the Lake Gardens of Taiping where we saw them on 2 consecutive days. However, this was the first time we had seen them doing a coastal passage. The area around us had some shoaling banks and was less than a mile offshore. Perhaps it was an ideal fishing ground.
With a wind shift the genoa was furled. Thunder rumbled although there was no obvious front rolling through. Nevertheless our anemometer had completed a 180° shift of the dial before settling on a direct head-on sodding blow. With another 20 miles to cover, we were looking at a late arrival.
More fortunate was a fleet of monohulls heading north. The AIS described some as of Australian and American registration. Since Burney thought they were perhaps part of the Sail Malaysia Rally, Hans contacted one vessel on the VHF radio. Indeed they were with the rally and were heading for Port Dickson further north. Friends were also anticipating a couple of the American boats in Pangkor. Whilst we felt like the salmon heading against the flow, we separated saying our “fair swells and fine winds”.
Our memories of having previously anchored on the southern side of the island, Pulau Pisang, were unfavourable. There was an uncomfortable roll and wrap-around backwash. This time with light fading we edged gingerly between neighbouring islets till we found a well sheltered location. The sea bottom was reported to be of mud and shell so we dropped the anchor and reversed her into a firm holding. Possible storms were brewing.
What a remarkably restful night, it was!! Sometimes we’re lucky. Or are we getting better at this?
With a relatively short junket of 20 nautical miles to our destination at Country Garden marina in Danga Bay, Johor Bahru, we settled in for the ride. This section of coast was particularly interesting as we were approaching the confluence of Malacca Straits, Johor Straits and the Singapore shipping lanes. Tankers, and cargo ships plied the lanes, tugs (with no AIS) towed barges, pilot boats raced to and fro and great rafts of flotsam streamed along our hull. Ever anxious that a rope or large sheet of plastic might foul us again, we sat close to the gear lever. Should the slightest sound possibly indicate a snag, we would have pushed it into neutral and possibly reversed her slightly.
The sighting of sand dredgers was a regular occurrence. Both Singapore and Malaysia were creating new islands with development for multiple high-rise urban centers in the planning.
Near Port Tanjung Pelepas, while alert for any incoming or departing Big Girls as we crossed the shipping channel, we noticed tankers taking on fuel from bunkers (huge fuel ships). Other vessels had their center hatches open while diggers filled their cargo holds with coal scooped off a barge. Business was happening at anchor, not along the wharves, which we were accustomed to seeing. With the AIS on our chartplotter going into overload due to all the Singapore Straits traffic, we gratefully hung a left and cruised into Johor Straits heading for the 2nd Link Bridge which connected Malaysia to Singapore.
An invisible line exists along the waterway separating the two countries. Any craft breaching the boundary was often politely but firmly approached by the Singapore Water Police. Whilst never actually crossing the border, we, like most crafts, were shadowed for several miles. A Police escort, if you will.
Once back in Danga Bay and alongside our designated marina berth, 2 crew members from the Country Garden catamaran took our mooring lines. A full year later, we were reacquainting ourselves with the friendly people, the saluting security guards and the pool facilities of this gigantic residential complex.
All the towers had been completed with more than 50% of the apartment units having been sold. A few more shops had opened, too. For us, it was inexpensive berthing fees 1000 MYR (Aus $300) per month including water and electricity. We also had use of the pool, quite a bonus. With our beloved Elba cooling our home on the water, we settled in to plan our jaunt back to Brisbane for the month of December!
But first a few days birding the renowned Fraser Hill…..