Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Singapore arrival

Crossing the 4 shipping lanes of the Singapore Strait wasn't as tense as I had feared.

Boats less than 20 meters in length have no rights-of-way in the shipping lanes. Since S/V BeBe is only 16 meters long that meant that in the shipping lanes we are never the stand-on vessel. Regardless of the situation, we are the give-way vessel. Also, small boats like us are supposed to cross the shipping lanes at a 90-degree angle to the shipping traffic. The other important rule is using sails is forbidden in all Singapore waters. Anchoring is also forbidden except for the few minutes that one is required to stop in the designated Quarantine anchorages for Immigration clearance prior to approaching the island of Singapore. Another relatively new rule is that all vessels are required to rent an AIS transponder and obtain a special permit when moving between marinas or from a marina to a boatyard. That won't affect us because we have no intentions of moving from this marina slip until the day we depart Singapore.

The first 2 shipping lanes were a breeze to cross. We waited for a break in the traffic and followed a fast ferry straight across. There is a separation zone that provides a few moments of break before tackling the second set of shipping lanes. This second set was more challenging. It was slightly nerve-wracking to time our crossing while avoiding 2 fast ferries, 2 tug boats pulling large barges, and 2 cargo ships coming toward us from the starboard side; while at the same time there were 2 cargo ships coming toward us from the port side and 2 more fast ferries overtaking us from the rear. And, remember, we are supposed to keep the bow of our boat perpendicular to the traffic; so we were not supposed to turn to go behind any of these ships or barges. Well, that just wasn't possible. The only safe way to get across through all this traffic was to turn to starboard and point to the stern of the second barge and then to the stern of the second ship on the starboard side. The port side traffic seemed to handle itself and we were never in their way. But we did have to turn to go behind traffic from the starboard side. Then we were across and what a relief that was!

We arrived in the Western Quarantine Anchorage and hailed for clearance as instructed. The anchorage was full of cargo ships and we did not want to drop an anchor in the midst of all those large ships. The depth was 19 to 32 meters and that was another reason we didn't want to put down our anchor. Instead we idled and circled on the fringe of the ships while waiting for the Immigration officials to deal with us. We had all the paperwork ready. After an hour they finally approached our boat. A man held out a net on a long pole and took our paperwork. They stamped our passports and gave us the Immigration Clearance and we were off to the marina which was a very short distance away. We will let the marina handle our clearance with Customs and Harbor Master. They charge approximately $30 in and $30 out for this service, plus they collect the $30 fee for the Harbor Master. Fine with us; let them do the running around for this paperwork dance. Worth $60 for them to do it and us not have to deal with finding the offices to do it ourselves.

One°15 Marina is nice but the facilities are private. There are several upscale restaurants onsite that are open to us any time even though we are not members. There is also a gorgeous swimming pool that supposedly we are allowed to use Monday through Thursday only as long as there is not a private function being held. The outside wall of the pool is a water wall and there are tables and chairs sunken in a spa section back in a corner near the bar. Technically the pool is only open to members and marina guests are not members, so if someone at the pool asked to see our membership card we would be asked to leave. That is just not our style so likely we won't be using this nice swimming pool. We chose One°15 because of its close proximity to downtown Singapore where we will be sight-seeing. Friends went to Raffles Marina which is way out on the southern tip of the island. From their description Raffles Marina is nicer than One°15. But we aren't moving now. Tomorrow we will begin exploring on the MRT--subway, train, buses.

When we were checking out the marina facilities I encountered the first Asian style toilet in the ladies' showers. I had heard about these. Bill said the toilets in the men's room are just normal toilets. But in the ladies' room the toilet is installed recessed into the floor. There are 2 foot pads on either side of the toilet that is flush even with the floor level. I assume one is supposed to squat over it and let nature take its course. No wonder most of the women here wear skirts. I would imagine it takes a bit of contortionist to accomplish this feat with a pair of tight jeans scrunched around your ankles and keep them dry. There is a hand-held spray faucet mounted on the wall for rinsing off instead of the normal toilet paper. Guess you are expected to drip dry after rinsing. Welcome to Asia.

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