Friday, July 11, 2014

Three islands

We left the City of Malacca (aka Melaka) Malaysia early in the morning at 07:30 on July 7th. We had a good wind on the port which pushed us along under sail at over a healthy 6 knots until 14:30 when the moribund wind had us resorting to motor power.

That night, stopping before dark would have made it an exposed anchorage so we decided to press on and make it an overnight passage. The chosen route was up a protected channel between some islands and the mainland. In the channel was the location of a huge container port that serviced Kuala Lumpur further inland.

Just before entering the channel in the dark, we had to weave our way through an anchoring field of the waiting behemoths. It was there that the conditions went from calm to a 40-knot gale in a matter of about 3 minutes. These squalls are called the "Sumatras". Jordan said that just before it hit, he sensed something in the air and fortunately, for no definitive reason, was taking down the main sail when it hit.

For some protection from the gale force winds and building seas, we ducked behind and up close to the towering stern of a super freighter that just came in and stopped. That is until the freighter put it in gear and pushed a torrent of water towards Sea Turtle. We escaped being tossed around but then had to face the Sumatra head on until it burnt itself out, about another hour during which the pounding rain scrubbed our decks!

As we motored up the narrow channel, the night darkness surrendered to the glare of the heavily lit container port where a multitude of ships were being loaded and off-loaded 24/7.

Clipping along with the tide in our favour we dodged channel markers and busy marine traffic of all sizes. At about daybreak, we were back out in the open waters of Malacca Straits for another day of motoring.

Flashy fisher

We finally anchored at 19:00 on July 8th in the lea of a small island called Lalang Island (N04°00.516' E100°32.801').

Early in the morning at 04:30, the Sumatra winds started to blow once again along with another downpour of rain and lightning show that lasted for about an hour again. We remained on anchor watch to make sure we weren't dragging, which is hard to tell in the dark and driving wind and rain. When the winds and rain died and it was evident that we were holding, we got the last of the night's sleep. However when we got up in the morning and looked about, we determined that we had dragged about 100 metres towards deeper water. So we re-anchored, then had breakfast.

With a beach visible, we rowed ashore. It was surprising to see that some in the past had set up some humble facilities of picnic tables, enclosed latrines, shelter, and water collection for visiting day users of this deserted island. Perhaps fishermen to wait out a storm?

There were also several rope swings with large colourful plastic seats, a sink, an outdoor shower, and what appeared to be a fish cleaning station with a nearby hose and tap. What was again sad to see that spoiled the tranquility was the plethora of plastic garbage washed up on shore.

Lots of hammocks and bright swings

We walked the beach from 1 end to the other and found a few shells but MANY cuttlefish bones. Today cuttlefish bones are used for caged birds as the bones are rich in calcium.

The fishermen, we suppose, set up an intriguing shrine. Its meaning or significance escaped us.

Food, incense, and 9 figures inside

It was very warm (hot!) out so I luxuriated in the sun and cooling ocean breezes for a short while before heading back to Sea Turtle...

At 14:35, we upped anchor and re-set 3 hours later at Pangkor Island (N04°14.773' E100°34.335'). This Island is just across from the mainland of Malaysia and has lots of colourful houses and fishing boats. But it is also very, very hazy, perhaps from the various coal-fired power stations. It looked like the Island's inhabitants were making energy by burning their garbage. A transitting catamaran anchored just behind us for the night.

On July 10th, we dinghied over to Marina Island. This is a man-made island and about 10 minutes away from our anchorage at Pangkor Island. Marina Island has a fairly new marina (the Island was created in 2009). Our friends had their boat stored there so we wanted to check on it for them to see if all was ship-shape, which it was. They had left Victoria the year before us.

The Marina agreed to send an employee off to a service station to collect some gas for our outboard. While we waited, we tried to have some Thai food at a restaurant there but were told it was closed because of Ramadan. Ramadan is an annual Muslim tradition of daytime fasting for a month (and also prayer, charity giving, self accountability, and for some the pilgrimage to Makkah). Obviously, the restaurant was owned by Muslims. We settled for pizza elsewhere.

Coming back to Sea Turtle, we saw several small dolphins, the 1st in a long time!

We left Pangkor Island at 08:15 on July 11th - a Friday! Superstitious sailors never leave on a Friday. But the strong early morning Sumatra winds had abated and the rain had become a drizzle. It seemed like a good time to leave as we had a long passage ahead of us.

We motored all day making our way to Penang Island (aka Pinang) where again we wanted to anchor in the lea of the Island for protection. It was just after dark before we picked our spot (N05°16.466' E100°17.700') at the southeast. Normally we don't come into protected waters after dark but the bottoms here are typically gradually shallowing mud where the soundings correspond fairly accurately with the charts.

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