Thursday, November 5, 2009

Settled in at Puteri Harbour Marina

The 30 mile trip from 1° 15 Marina in Singapore to Puteri Harbour Marina in Malaysia was easy since it did not involve crossing the shipping lanes again. We circled in the Western Quarantine Immigration Anchorage for about 45 minutes waiting for the officials to come out to our boat so we could legally leave Singapore. Then we stayed well outside on the western side of the shipping lanes as we headed toward the Johor Strait that separates the island of Singapore from mainland Malaysia. We saw literally hundreds of large cargo and LNG and other types ships. There was a favorable 2+ knot current almost the entire way. As we approached the Johor Strait the current became neutral and then was 1 to 1 1/2 knots against us; but this did not last a long distance so it was a non-issue. We turned north into the Johor Strait at the top of the tide and made our way northward up the strait during the descending tide. Current was again a non-issue. That was a relief. Bill had been a bit worried that we would have a strong current against us and that it would take hours to go just a few miles.

However, there was one major difference in reality than what was shown on our 2005 C-map chart and also what was printed in our 2006 sailing guide. The guide and the chart both indicated that we should go beneath the Tuas bridge on the eastern side rather than go beneath the center. The chart indicated an extremely shallow spot right in the center of the bridge and that the height clearance was greatest on the eastern side of the bridge. T'aint so, folks!! That was the old bridge.

Now there is a new Tuas bridge and the center of the strait has been dredged to a depth sufficient for almost any sailboat. There was a sign on the eastern side of the bridge and we slowly made our way towards it until Bill could read it with the binoculars. The clearance where the chart and guide book said to go beneath the bridge is now only 12 meters. The mast clearance is 25 meters at the center of the bridge. The mast height on S/V BeBe is 20 meters. The tides in this area rarely exceed 3 meters, so there should be no problem fitting our boat beneath this bridge at any stage of tide.

There are 2 radio antennas mounted on top of our mast, but there should be sufficient clearance for those also.

This was our first time to take our yacht beneath a bridge. Our friend Pam has sailed on the Chessapeake Bay and has gone down the ICW and is familiar with going beneath bridges in a sailboat. She had warned me that it often looks like your mast is going to hit the bridge. So I was prepared to just ignore that altogether and deal strictly with driving the boat, and let Bill deal with taking a few photos when we went beneath this bridge.

I aligned the boat with the 25-meter sign on the side of the bridge and drove straight beneath that sign while Bill took several photos.

He also took a photo of the sailboat that was following us. We do not know the owners of S/V Brio so we cannot forward this photo to them, but you can see that it sure looked like a close clearance when they went beneath the bridge at an angle rather than straight beneath the 25 meter sign.

After the bridge it was a short motor up the strait to the entrance of Puteri Harbour Marina. There was a lot of dredging work going on at the marina entrance, but getting in was not a problem because they sent a boat out to guide us to our berthing slip. Again, the C-map chart was incorrect. Since that chart was produced there has been a huge amount of development in this area. A Dubai company is sinking many, many millions or billions of dollars into developing this area of Malaysia. Puteri Harbour Marina is part of that development. There are gorgeous new buildings of government offices near the marina, all part of this development. The marina is isolated and quite a distance from the nearest town or city. The marina staff are the nicest people imaginable and go out of their way to accomodate guests. They have several shuttles and cars and provide free transportation to numerous places, including the airport and bus station and shopping malls.

Tuesday evening we went in the marina shuttle to a local Night Market. There have been night markets in Australia and all through Indonesia and are the same here in Malaysia. There are several night markets at various small towns in this part of Malaysia, but the marina only provides transportation to the one on Tuesday evening each week. We walked through all the stalls of produce, cooked foods, clothing, DVDs and CDs, and all kinds of things for sale. We ate dinner there and bought a sim card for the phone so now we have a local phone number.

Wednesday evening there was a party at the marina. Many of the boats participating in the Sail Malaysia Rally are berthed here in Puteri and in Danga Bay Marina. They were supposed to depart on 1 Nov but many still have not yet departed to sail up the western coast of Malaysia. They do not stay together and instead tend to follow their own schedules. Several of those cruisers play musical instruments and they wanted to get together Wednesday night for a jam session. So the marina quickly put together a potluck dinner. They provided the grilled meats, salad, juice drinks, plates, cutlery and napkins. All for free. And they brought in a local band for some real music. The cruisers had their fun playing music but weren't very good. Then the local band played and they were much better than the cruisers. One band member looked like he was a Willie Nelson wannabee. We really liked him.

The predominant religion in Malaysia is Islam. Bill said he likes the local version of Muslim-light. Women have a choice whether or not to wear a hijab. Women drive cars and scooters. We haven't seen any women covered head-to-toe but would guess about half the women do wear hijabs. It seems odd to see a woman in tight jeans driving a motor-scooter and wearing a hijab on her head. They look happy and joke around just like women in the western countries.

Today we took the marina shuttle to a shopping mall. While checking out at the supermarket the man ahead of us asked if we were from the new marina. He introduced himself and offered to take us with him when he drives out to check on his plantation tomorrow. How nice of this total stranger! We plan to take him up on his offer. He explained to us that people of his generation speak English but that the younger generation does not. Malaysia had a strong British influence for many years but after gaining their independence the government stopped requiring citizens to learn the English language and stresses Malaysian in the schools now. They are also trying to stress Mandarin Chinese as being the new international language instead of English, but that program is not very successful at this point in time. I know that Mandarin Chinese is also required today in Australian public primary schools, so maybe there is something to the idea that it will be the new international language. If so, the US schools need to get on this bandwagon ASAP.

Every day there are several F-16s that fly overhead. Seems like they are going round and around Singapore. I am surprised that these fast-flying planes can turn so tightly as to encircle the island of Singapore; it isn't very big. It does seem a might silly for F-16s to be circling Singapore. Cannot imagine what purpose this could possibly serve.

It is raining. And raining. And raining. And then I bet it will rain some more. It has rained every day since we left Indonesia. Not all day most of the time, but it has rained at least part of each day. At least there isn't any lightning with today's rain, as there has been every other day.

But, ah! There it is! I hear the rumbling of thunder in the distance. The lightning should arrive soon. And it isn't even monsoon season yet.

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