Monday, August 23, 2010

Malacca Strait = debris, detritus, garbage floating everywhere

22 August 2010 Sunday
Anchored 1.27.885N 103.16.219E at Pulau Pisang
Distance traveled: 45 NM

First day on western side of Malaysia was great. Not enough wind to sail, so we motored all day. But the sun was shining all day; sky was blue; seas were flat; and the anchorage for our first night out in such a very long time was wonderful. So what if the wind was too light to sail; this day was perfect!

We slipped the dock lines at One Degree 15 Marina at 07:45 and motored the short distance to the Western Immigration Anchorage to clear out with Immigration. The officials promptly arrived at our boat and soon we were free to leave Singapore for the final time and we were on our way at 08:35.

As typical, there were hundreds upon hundreds of cargo ships and tankers in the area. As we continued westward through the Jurong Anchorage, at one point we had to dodge between 5 ships coming at us from every direction. A little exciting but very easily navigated. The anchorage at the end of the Johor Strait between Singapore and Malaysia was full. We motored through between the huge ships at anchor, only having to watch out for occasional speeding tug boats. Then, as we continued westward along the Malaysian coast, we could see the heavy shipping traffic in the Malacca Strait off to our port side. This will continue all the way up to Langkawi. The designated shipping lane is very close in this narrow section of the strait. Heck, we could even see all the way to the Indonesian island of Sumatra on this clear day.

We opted to anchor overnight at the tiny island of Pulau Pisang. This is not an anchorage mentioned in our sailing guide, but we have tracks for 3 other cruising boats who have anchored here. The others anchored on the northwest side of the island, but we decided to anchor on the southeast side because the wind finally started to pick up (to a whopping 10 kts) just as we arrived at the island. The wind was from the NW and we did not want to anchor on a lee shore, so we veered right a mile or two before the island and entered a “deep” channel that leads up near the island. The water depth was 11 meters almost all the way to the island. Then we turned sharply to port over a narrow strip of 3 meter depth before finding another “deep” channel of 8 meters. Since we draw 2.1 meters, we get pretty nervous seeing depths of only 3. Anchoring was a bit unusual because the current was so strong. The current held the boat sideways to the wind.

Bill decided to run the watermaker for the first time since early last October. We had pickled it, of course; and we wanted to run it for a couple of hours before using the finished freshly produced water. It is running now and is producing over 200 liters per hour! It is rated to produce a minimum of 160 liters per hour, and it usually produces 180; but this is the first time we have seen it produce over 200 liters per hour. TDS at 85 ppm. That is better than Evian. It tastes great!

There is a small gentle swell slightly rolling the boat in the current. The fans have cooled the interior to a comfortable temperature. I precooked dinner last night so I just have to heat it up so the galley won’t get too hot. I love it! We will be gently rocked to sleep tonight. I AM SO GLAD TO BE OUT OF MARINAS!!!

23 August 2010 Monday
Anchored 02.06.393N 102.20.554E Pulau Besar (Water Islands at Malacca, a/k/a Melaka)
Distance sailed today: 72 NM

Our first night at anchor required a lot of adjusting to the heat and humidity. That was to be expected since we have spent all our time in this part of the world sleeping in air-conditioning. About 04:00 I moved up to sleep in the cockpit where there was a pleasant cool breeze. By 07:30 we had weighed anchor and were off again. There was no wind until mid-afternoon when it suddenly jumped from 3 knots to 25 knots right on our nose. After half-hour or so it subsided to 12 kts just off the port bow and we were able to motor sail the rest of the day. At 17:45 we arrived at Pulau Besar of the Water Islands, located right at the entrance to Malacca. There is a resort on this island and we were able to connect with their wifi, albeit a VERY slow connection.

Today we passed a continuous stream of floating plastic bags, plastic bottles, beer and soda cans, pieces of lumber, logs and every other imaginable kind of garbage. Most of it harmlessly bounced off our hull, and we altered course to avoid the larger logs and pieces of lumber. What a mess!

The shipping traffic was heavy all day in the shipping lanes to our left, and there were large barges being pulled on very long tow lines by small tugs in the area where we were sailing. Less than half these tugs had AIS transponders. I was glad the day was bright enough to see them clearly. It was very hazy today and we could no longer see Sumatra to the left. In fact, we could not even see Malaysia on our right -- and it was very close by! We saw no other pleasure boats, just cargo ships and barges with tugs.

Then the last 10 miles to the anchorage we dodged small fishing boats and fishing lines strung long distances across our route. The key is to look for a floating flag and then try to find which direction from that flag there might be a series of tiny floats. It is often impossible to see the tiny floats until you are practically on top of them. These fishermen go right up to the boundary of the designated shipping lanes, so there really is no way to avoid them. One must stay constantly vigilant. Excellent reason for not sailing at night because I know these little boats do not have navigational lights. Good thing it is so easy to day hop up this coast.

Marine life is almost gone along this coast. Yesterday the only marine life I saw were large jellyfish. Today I saw 3 fish and 7 birds. No dolphin, but I wouldn't expect there to be any left here since there are almost no fish left in these over-fished waters. I feel sorry for the local fisherman trying to eek out a living from these waters.

There is a ferry service from the resort on Pulau Besar to Malacca. I don't think we will be going. No one who has visited Malacca has told us of any reason why we should want to go there. We will give it a miss.

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