Monday, August 30, 2010

Jellyfish and Sumatras

The waters in this part of the world are filled with jellyfish. In the small anchorage where we have been for the past 3 nights I have sat in the cockpit reading and watched jellyfish for hours on end.  Most of them are the sturdy, almost solid body, kind of jellyfish -- ranging from the size of my thumbnail to the size of a bushel basket.  I have seen none of the ultra large bright pink and orange  diaphanous jellyfish with the yellow centers that we saw farther east in Indonesia.  Those were beautiful in an eerie sort of way and reminded us of huge ocean flowers floating alongside our boat.  The more substantial jellyfish in the Malaysian waters have not one bit of beauty about them.  Interesting to watch; but not attractive.  And definitely plentiful enough that one would not wish to enjoy a dip no matter how hot the sun gets or how inviting the water might appear.

At 03:15 Saturday morning a Sumatra blew through.  Cruisers experienced in this area had warned us that we would not be able to make it up this coast without enduring at least one such storm.  I am glad we were in this protected anchorage when we endured our first one.  It seems that each sailing area of the world has a nickname for the most common particular local weather systems.  In the Mediterranean one finds the Meltimi and the Mistral, among others.  Along a certain section of the Pacific coast of Mexico one finds the Tehuantepekkers.  In Colombia and the San Blas Islands of Panama one encounters Chocasanos.  Here along the Malacca Strait one endures Sumatras -- so named because the weather systems move in from the west where the Indonesian island of Sumatra is located.  The sky blackens; winds pick up to 25-50 knots; heavy rain falls; and lightning fills the sky as the weather system moves eastward to the Malaysia coast until it wears itself out.  To me, the lightning is the worst element of a Sumatra.

We immediately jumped up to close the hatch in our bedroom and flip on the instruments to check the wind speed.  We leave an anchor alarm set on the GPS in our bedroom all the time, so obviously our anchor was not dragging.  Bill fired up the main computer and set a tight circle to monitor our tracking as we swung on the anchor in all directions for the next 1 1/2 hours.

It is funny how we each worry about different things.  Bill was worried about the anchor dragging.  I stood in the companionway worrying about the lightning.  His worry was more logical.  If the anchor failed to hold, we could start the engine and motor to avoid going aground.  If lightning struck the boat, there was nothing we could do about that.  Nevertheless, the lightning received all my attention.  I had already figured out where to point the boat under motor should we receive a lightning strike and lose our electronics.  I was prepared for that -- as long as the buildings on shore continued to have electricity and the shore lights remained visible.  I knew the compass heading to follow, but would need the lights on shore for depth perception to know where we were as we motored in relation to the known hazards of rocks and reefs and land.

By 05:00 the storm had passed and all was well.  Our anchor held (as it always has in previous heavy weather -- knock on wood).  We were not affected by any of the nearby lightning strikes.  And a big bonus was that the middle-of-the-nigh temperature had dropped from 84F to a very pleasant 76F.  It felt like air-conditioning blowing through the boat when we opened the hatches.  We went back to bed and slept until 08:30.  Cannot remember the last time we slept that late!

Today we are moving to the northernmost western anchorage on this island.  That anchorage will put us 3 miles closer to Penang, a/k/a Pinang.  The chart also indicates that there is clear egress at that anchorage, so we can leave before sunrise tomorrow morning.  Theoretically we could also depart this anchorage near Pulau Pangkor Luat before sunrise because we have the track of our friends on S/V B'Sheret who stopped here last month.  If we stayed right on top of their track then we could leave before daylight, but I would not feel comfortable doing that because there are so many rocks heading out of here.  Better for us to move to the more open anchorage.  Besides, it will be about 76 miles to Penang; and 3 miles less to go tomorrow might make a difference in whether we arrive before the marina closes.  There are several anchorages on the western side of Penang, but we need to go into the marina right next to Georgetown because there are several items we need to attend to in that city.

1 comment:

  1. Glad to hear you dodged the lightning and even got to sleep a little late. =) Jellyfish are beautiful to look at, but that's all! Reminds me of the invasion of giant jellyfish in Japan. Ugh!


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