Monday 3rd May 2010 our good friend Mike drove us across Peninsular Malaysia from Kuala Lumpur to Cukai on the east coast. Here we met up with Capt. Wong, who had us all organised including an overnight stay and a gourmet meal cooked with his own hands. We had bought the Strider 24ft some month earlier from him, but had not had the chance to pick it up.
The day was spent checking the boat out and making a few minor adjustments, food and drink etc. in
preparation for a passage sail the next day.
First night near the bridge at Kuantan
After a great breakfast of Won Ton, we topped up fuel tanks and set sail around 1100. By noon we were clear of the Kemaman River and under the watchful eye of giant tugs and offshore oil rigs, we set the sails for the first time. The very odd little wrinkle popped up like broken shackles etc. but the cat sailed superbly. All the rest of the day we were on a close reach all the way to Kuantan over 40Nm south. We topped 8.3 knots across the ground surfing into the mouth of the Kuantan River. This had not been a good day for wife KC as she was dreadfully seasick. Thankfully over the next few days she got her sea legs and all was well.
Totally knocked out, we anchored in shallow water below the bridge for our first night aboard and how we slept!
0600 next morning found even less wind and the poor little Suzuki 8hp slogged its heart out all day till we reached Tiomen Island. I heard that this was the the island used in the original South Pacific musical and its nothing short of spectacular.
With our hopes up for wind, 0700 next day we headed for Tinggi Island, but after a few hours it was evident there was to be no wind at all. The fuel tanks had taken some punishment by now and we motored into Mersing late afternoon. What a dreadful river to negotiate. Shallow, narrow, strong current, fishing boats everywhere and bank to bank rubbish. We fouled out propeller aiming at a Police boat and managed to get untangled only just in time. We found friendly locals who helped to get out tanks filled and we took off out of there as the mouth gets too shallow at low tide and we were only an hour off.
We had these new fangled flashing nav lights which all the fishermen use as well, so we set the jib up and drifted south all night pretending to be a trawler so others kept away. We had seen a small bluish white light with 4 sec flash all night and assumed it was another boat, but at daylight it was a brand new lighthouse strobe on a rock...not on our chart!!. During the day passing Tinggi Island and Sibu Island and a huge number of smaller islands, it struck me what a sailors paradise. The waters are pretty clear and the islands all have their own distinctive character. Also, when there is wind during the NE monsoon, each major island is a perfect days sail from the next. This has to be one of the great sailing spots in the world and a few Singapore boats were the only ones seemed to realise this. That night we reached Sedili in a wide bay. The new village was basic but had fuel and food, a cool breeze and long easy chats with the locals while watching fishing boat loads of Singaporean sports fishermen come and go parting with money much to the delight of the locals. The only blight again was the habit of fishing boats to throw rubbish into the river, this time in neatly tied bundles that the Singaporeans had left to be cleared up.
I have a problem with Malaysia and rubbish. Kuala Lumpur is a wonderful city...but the dirtiest in S.E Asia. The seas and rivers are floating masses of rubbish. You can study the dietary habits of a trawler by studying its trail of rubbish. Why do people take the time to replace the cap on an empty drink bottle if they are going to throw it in the sea?
0700 Sedili on route to Sebana Cove. This was a monumental mistake. Not only is Sebana Cove in the middle of nowhere, its unfriendly, second rate with 6 star prices. Fuel at almost double the bowser price. Yuck and never ever again. We got out of there 0430 to try and be out the river at daylight. I don't care how up to date your charts are, Singapore keeps creating islands and extra land so fast nobody can keep up. I have never liked sailing round Singapore and my last time was over 25 years ago when there were 100's of ships in the main channel. Now there are a lot more channels and all absolutely full. Not kidding to say 1000's of ships are either killing time, bunkering, waiting for a spot in one of 100's of wharves or charging off at a great rate. Sailor beware. We survived the rounding of Singapore and stopped totally exhausted a few mile north of Kukup Island off Johor back in Malaysia. Actually in the quite shallow water a mile or so off was a very good nights sleep. We did the same next day south of Batu Pahat.
We now had wind again, which would come in around midday and create an uncomfortable chop as we had the current with us, but the wind against. Still it was wind and the cat loved it. Capt. Wong had made new dagger boards and they were a bit longer than standard. I think they did a great job as we didn't fall off the way I would have expected. Getting used to sailing the cat took me back to dingy days. Set the jib, then the main to it and forget a quite decent luff. The apparent wind became pronounced and the point higher and higher. The trick is not to point that last degree too much or you have to do a massive bare away to start all over again.
Next stop was Muar, where we found what looked like a marina just inside the breakwater. ..but totally abandoned. We motored in and saw one pier and fingers destroyed, but another in good condition. We tied up and a young guard announced “you no parking” “ Oh but I just want a bit of petrol and some makan lah” (food). After a few phone calls 2 off duty officers of the Marine dept came down and explained that before the marina was finished a huge storm washed trees and stuff downstream and demolished part of the marina. I gather everyone then lost heart. However we were allowed to stay and all are welcome although overseas boats are charged a small fee. The officers gave us pillion rides on their motorbikes to the petrol station and top up. There were hawker stalls and some small food shops close at hand and we enjoyed our stop there a lot.
Next day was my long suffering wife's 61st birthday...so she took the helm... a while and we headed for Admiral Marina at Port Dickson. We had the usual tide with us, wind against and nasty little chop...but the tide changed against us just short of Cape Rachado and that Cape did its usual. Rounding we caught 2 wind and wave patterns and got a drenching. The first wave over the top found KC below under an open port trying to keep cool. A drenching was not her idea of fun especially on her birthday. Col. Tommy Tay and lovely wife Claude met us and took us for a great meal at the old Port Dickson Yacht Club. ...and put us up for the night so we could sleep in a soft bed and have a long shower.. Just a wonderful stopover. They saw us off from the marina at 0930 next day and we mostly motor sailed as fast as we could to try and reach our final target, Port Klang in daylight.
We actually made very good time and were around 4 miles from south channel Port Klang, before the current turned against us. This was then a motor slog inches from the mangroves to keep out of the current until being swept into the Royal Selangor yacht club at 1830. Met by very great friend Gerhard who had missed some SMS from us and was about to send out a search party, so he was relieved to see us.
It took 4 days of Gerhard and Shirlee's nurturing and countless numbers of beers to get us fully recuperated after what was quite a long trip in a small boat. For another perspective on this trip see http://pythonjoe.blogspot.com/2010/05/day-my-cat-sailed-off.html