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6 Months sailing in SE Asia

April 8, 2018

 

Leaving Papua New Guinea for the Southeast Asia countries, we took the decision to skip clearing in to Australia, and went directly via the Coral sea to Indonesia. Passing through the Torres Straits was an interesting experience. Very shallow water, strong currents (not against fortunately) and a heavy traffic. We were followed by a lot of animals both in the sea and in air. Had some fun time following the Boobies trying to land on Tina.

It all went well and after 10 days we arrived in Kupang, Indonesia, October 14. The clearance procedures took a day and we did it without agent but with a recommended taxi driver who knew all the offices to visit. Indonesia has had recently introduced actions to eliminate corruption, and we were very well received and had no problems with “bakshis”. Kupang downtown is not big, but the amount of motorcycles and small busses / tu-tuks is huge. We were not really used to the traffic so it took some days getting used to. The anchorage outside Kupang was sheltered and we met some fellow  sailors for some bear and dinners during our stay.

Further west we stayed one night at Rincon, a small island attached to Komodo. No big lizards, but monkeys, pigs, deers and eagles showed up at the anchorage.  It was difficult to get good holding but we found a mooring close to the sea shore. On Rincon and Komodo you are advised not to walk without guide due to the dangerous Komodo lizards, so we stayed onboard for the evening, looking at the wild life through binoculars.

Next step was a night sailing to Lombok. We caught a mahi mahi, for the first time since the Atlantic ocean. The sailing was half engine and half motor, big current leading us in to the Java Sea, lots of fishing boats at night and the scary FADs (fixed fishing devices) with absolutely no signs such as lanterns or AIS and very hard to see even with radar. They just appear!! In the early morning we reached Medana Bay. A bit tricky to find the way in through the coral reef, since the charts were “way off”. The place is beautiful and very sheltered. The “marina” (no pontoons, just moorings) has a low cost restaurant which we used frequently for beer, book swaps, talks with other sailors and some dinners. Early morning 04.30 the first muslim prayer was heard from the towers, early enough for the fishermen before they started the day’s work. The small village was poor but with very friendly people and a market where we could stock up on vegetables. We did  some snorkeling on one of the Gillie Island. The water was clear, the island is very touristic and the boat trip to the island was exiting.

We did one further stop on our way towards Malacca Straight, on Belitung. Good anchorage, clear water but eyeball navigation was a must with many uncharted coral reefs. The food in the small restaurants on the beach was excellent. We truly enjoyed the Indonesian food, especially fish and shrimps. People were as usual very friendly and helpful. To check out from Indonesia we used the marina in Nongsa Point. Much easier than driving around the island to the different offices. The marina also had a good, free laundry, so we did a major washing up of all our clothes and bed sheets. We also managed to find a fantastic local restaurant for sea food, close to the nearest ferry terminal. Just cross over the golf course to get there.

Malacca Strait crossing was something we had dreaded. We had heard a lot about it, but being through the English Channel and crossing outside Rotterdam and Göteborg, it was not really that bad. You had to call up different coastal stations and watch out for the crossing ferries, but otherwise it was OK. Checking in to Singapore was easy. The Customs came with their boat to a designated spot, where we handed over the passports in a plastic bag and got them stamped. The rest of the clearance was easy with the help of an agent in the marina. We choose One 15 marina, which was a good choice. Not that expensive and with a shuttle bus to the nearest shopping mall, where we could take the metro to down town Singapore.

We love this city/country. It is a mixture of China, India, Malaysia, Indonesia and England. The language is not a problem and everything you need can be bought here. Food and drinks are expensive in the more touristic areas, but we found cheap phones in Little India and excellent food for a cheap price in China Town. Here, we also celebrated Eva’s birthday together with relatives. We enjoyed the Raffles Hotel, the Boat- and Clark key areas as well as the big landmark in the outer harbor, the 3 towers connected with something that looks like a boat on top. 53 floors up you have a marvelous view over the city and the Strait.

Further to the north we checked in to Malaysia in Puteri Harbour. The marina is rather new with a waterfront filled with restaurants. Shopping has to be done by taxi. We had to stay here a bit longer than expected. Eva got a nasty infection in her hand so a couple of visits to the hospital were necessary. The medical treatment was first class, very efficient and modern. Further up the coast we stayed a couple of nights at Port Dickson. The marina is OK but expensive. Shopping for groceries has to be done with taxi and the marina is rather isolated with approx. 10-15 km to town. We took a taxi tour to the old town of Malacca, to check out the history. This is where the trading started and the name Malacca Strait comes from this town. A lot of the old Dutch and English houses still remains so the old town of Malacca is well worth a visit. We also got a nice history lesson from the Hindu taxi driver during the travel.

A night’s sail to Langkawi. The fore sail halyard broke again. Something cuts the halyard somewhere in the mast top. We changed halyard  and after an early morning we anchored close to Rebak and later went in to Telaga Harbor for clearing in. Stayed there for couple of nights re-visiting places Peter and I saw 20 years ago and then went to anchor in Kuha tha main town of Langkawi. The Island was as nice as we remembered and we had a nice stay, strolling around the area, eating good food, visiting the night market. We even saw a lot of animals in the park between the anchorage/dinghy jetty and the marina: Hornbills, Squirrels, Dusky Leaf monkeys, Monitor Lizards, King fishers etc. My sister and husband left us after a week, for Thailand and then home to Stockholm, but we hope we managed to give them a nice flavor of the Asia that we love.

 

Since we had an appointment with a marina in Phuket at Christmas, we had go get going. Checked in to Thailand December 17. The check in procedures was efficient but the anchorage at Ao Chalong is not particularly nice, rolly, windy and difficult to beach the dinghy at low tide. We therefore moved over to the south west corner of Phuket: Nai Harn, where we had a pleasant stay for a couple of nights. Good water quality and nice food stalls along the beach. December 23 we waited for the highest tide possible, entered into the Boat Lagoon marina, through an scary shallow canal. HU!

The marina was nice but hot with hardly any wind but we liked it there. They have good facilities in the surroundings with chandlery, restaurants, a pool that marina guests could use, engine and fridge maintenance workshops, and most of all the Phuket Interwood company that took care of our teak deck replacement project.

During the time on the hard (2 months) we had find somewhere to stay away from the boat. We thought that we could travel around in the nearby countries, but we found it best to be able to discuss issues hands on while the work was done on Tina. There were minor questions from time to time and it also popped up things that needed to be taken care of. So we ended up renting houses, living one month in the mid of the forest at Katuh Waterfalls and one month close to the marina. We had a car most of the time so we managed to see most of the Island. We also used the nice local buses to take us to the Phuket city. The work was done on time and with a very good result (thanks to owner/project leader Nai) but after another 1,5 week in the water fixing all other projects we were happy to leave after 3 months in the marina area.

We are now end March beginning April  back to Kuah in Langkawi, fixing everything for the next passage out into the Indian Ocean. We have a boat that looks new, with every system now up and running, including freezer. The new log/echo sounder arrived after some chasing. Hopefully we will start our journey west on Monday April 9.

Some learnings

  • Checking in/out to Indonesia was straight forward. No agent necessary, no payments/corruption.
  • Shallow areas in the south of Java sea. Big discrepancies between charts and reality
  • Lombok/Medana Marina: very nice, however not a marina but moorings. Peter (the owner) was very service minded.
  • In Indonesia it is difficult (nonexistent) to find milk products such as yoghurt and cheese.
  • Diesel is possible to get almost everywhere, but you have to use jerry cans. The only marina we found with a diesel pump was Nongsa Point. Water in the marina was potable.
  • Clear snorkeling water: we found that north of Belitung the water is murky with no visibility. Due to sand/silt in the water
  • Nongsa Point marina: not that expensive, helped with clear out procedures, no charges, good washing facilities. Potable water at the jetty
  • Singapore: “one 15” marina was not very expensive. The MRT (metro) goes not far from the marina (a free shuttle bus takes you there) to all places in town. Potable water, swimming pool at the marina.
  • Puteri Marina (Malaysia). Easy clear in procedures done close to the marina.
  • Langkawi: we stayed at Telaga Harbour on our way up. They then had clear in/out procedures. On our way back (March 2018) that facility (Harbor Master) was closed, but anchoring in the bay outside Kuah town is good with plenty of space. All sorts of help could be gotten from Surin Kaur with her small office at Pelancongan Jetty. She even supported with the visa procedure for Thailand. In town we also found a well-supplied hardware store, as a complement to the marina chandlery.
  • Languages: in Indonesia you can find most (young) people speaking English, In Malaysia it is the second language in school so most young people can speak some. In Thailand English was almost nonexistent and in combination with their written language, not possible for us to read, it was difficult from time to time.

 

 

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