Transition Pt 3

The end is in sight but will we make it…..

Saturday 28 September

The haze was back with a vengeance. Visibility was extremely poor, my eyes felt gritty and I’m coughing when I wake up. There was no wind, the muddy water was a kind of glacial blue and shiny as a mirror. The Indonesians were out in force with their nets. Mostly all you see is a line of fenders sticking up like ghastly white fingers, often seeming endless. Each end if you found one was marked with a flag. The nets must be quite deep down as we passed over several without hooking ourselves. Every so often though the attendant boat would come up and shoo us away on a lengthy detour. Kevin found with zero land visible, the constant turning became completely disorienting even with a waypoint to steer towards. We tried out along the edge of the shipping channel but it wasn’t much better.

Thirty odd miles of motoring and dodging lengthy fishing nets Temptress reached a point at the southern end of the Malacca Straits shipping lanes where we could cross over to the Malaysian side. At 14:30 we hoisted the MY courtesy flag over the Q flag, 1650 nautical miles and a month after Temptress entered Indonesia we motored into Malaysia. Same haze, same lack of wind, different flag. Tomorrow morning we should reach Admiral Marina, Port Dixon.

The night watches proved relatively quiet. By motoring parallel to the shipping lanes, just a few hundred metres outside their eastern boundary we met little traffic in the inshore traffic area. The fishing boats were few possibly due to the haze. To port the ships in sight are all travelling north, to starboard is the loom of lights on shore and the lighthouse at Tanjung Tahor. Every so often big ship wash reaches Temptress but mostly it’s a flat sea. Kevin reported seeing lightning during the first watch, now there are stars and few clouds. It’s still moonless so dark that the sea and sky merge without a boundary beyond the ships.

The breeze off the Malaysian Peninsula brings the smell of smoke which seems odd, during the day the haze hardly had any smell. Longing for some rain to clear the air. By ten thirty we’ve less than thirty miles to the next waypoint which I set at the point the shipping lanes make a left turn just south of the Water Islands and Melaka. From there it’s another thirty miles to Admiral Marina. The current in this monsoon is usually north but more strongly at certain states of the tide. Sometimes a couple of knots, others less than half that, it all helps it’s our progress.

We’ve not seen anything of Mai Tai since we crossed the shipping lanes. Temptress motors much faster. However Javerne received her parcel delivery in Belitung and they departed this morning for Pankor, an island marina north of KL. We wish them bon voyage and fair winds, hopefully we will meet up again shortly.

Sunday 29 September

A momentary drop in engine revs has me quick to push the throttle to neutral, the skipper pops up from his bunk. Temptress has run over something probably plastic but the self-pitching propellor has shrugged it off. All is well and we resumed our journey. The watches changed and whilst I slept it rained heavily. What a difference to the air when I came on deck at 4am, fresh and clear. The lights of Malaka were astern, the ports of Udang and Dumai off to starboard with many ships at anchor. Sodium lights giving the clouds an orange glow. In a couple of hours it will be daylight, in three or four Temptress will be off Cape Rochado just five miles from her destination. Before arriving we will flog the clocks to Malaysian time (GMT+8).

When the tide turns the current builds running south, for once Temptress is going faster through the water at 5.2 knots than her speed relative to the ground which is 4.2 knots. The time to go sits forever at three and a bit hours. The sky starts to turn a paler grey, dawn is almost upon us. There is no gradual transition in the tropics, sunrise and sunset are virtually binary between light and dark.

A 330m long tanker, decks aglow with orange lights and the odd name of Cosrising Lake has been turning out of the shipping lanes heading for the anchorage inshore. I keep a wary eye on it as it slows, crossing our path. Prudence demands a ten degree alteration to port to ensure we clear its stern. Drawing closer it is a COSCO ship, China Overseas Shipping Company, better known for their container ships and the fabulous Dragonmart in Dubai. The next hour or so is spent crossing a series of anchorages, weaving between the ships scattered across them. Like Singapore these are organised by type, clearly marked on the chart – general, cargo transshipment, bunkering, explosive and port. The VTS for the port speaks to the ships entering or departing on VHF16, conversations start with a routine confirmation of call sign and name and after some discussion of intentions, end with a polite, formal good morning, good evening or whatever. The whole business of shipping is a mystery but fascinating nonetheless.

Through the haze, Cape Rochado appears, sadly the rain hasn’t completely cleared the air. Less than 15 miles to complete this voyage. Temptress plods on against the spring tide. This last day has been a long one. Motoring is not my favourite method of getting from A to B. Can’t wait for a marina berth and my bunk! Even coffee and breakfast aren’t needed until I’ve had some sleep.

On the AIS I spot a vessel coming directly toward us. I strain to look forward and spot a mast. Consulting the AIS again Jackpot is a 12m German registered sailing vessel, presumably it left Admiral at first light. As we draw closer I can see it’s a catamaran. We pass with 500m between us. I wonder where they are headed?

By the time the skipper was up we were playing a new game, Fuel Chicken – will there be enough to get us there against the strong tidal current flowing around the headland? The fuel tank gauge registers almost empty. By ten thirty, or well actually eleven thirty local time Temptress is tied up stern to in Admiral with a warm welcome. We put the sail cover on and tidied up then showered, lunched and slept. Whilst we were sleeping it rained, a proper thunderstorm most of the afternoon. Just before which Mai Tai arrived in the berth next door! It was lovely to have supper together at the Marina Club because although we’ve been making the same passage and sharing anchorages the only communication has been by VHF, a cruisers life is at times a little lacking in direct human contact.

So the plan was for nine days at sea but the passage has been completed on day six thanks to three overnight stints. We’ve found some lovely anchorages, caught a fish but done very little sailing. The fuel tank must have been down to the last fumes by the time Temptress tied up, we even had a plan in case the engine stopped as we entered the marina. The fuel cans on deck are empty already. Our fresh food is running low, so too are dried foods like cereals, pasta and biscuits. A few leaks have been added to the maintenance list, nothing serious, just annoying. And Temptress needs a good clean inside and out.

Ships Log: Belitung to Langkawi 501 nm

Total since leaving Singapore in April: 3902nm