Mandolin Wind under Spinnaker  

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Martin & Sue


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Retracing our steps - Malacca Straits to Singapore April - May 2012


With the change of the monsoon season upon us (from the North East Monsoon to the South West Monsoon) it was definitely time to move around to the East Coast of Malaysia. We had decided to join the Passage to the East Rally and needed to get down to Johur Bahru (Southern Malaysia) by early May for the kick off dinner.


Rally’s are a mixed blessing. They are a great way to meet new friends and being able to travel in company through remoter regions offers a certain measure of comfort. Given that we were venturing into Malaysian Borneo where the cruising grapevine was rife with reports of incidents of petty theft and boardings travelling with other boats definitely seemed to be a smart move.

On the down side, it means that anchorages at scheduled rally stops are often crowded and there are always one or two rally boats who will insist on anchoring way too close. In addition, it is often a nuisance to have to rush through scenic areas in an effort to ensure there is plenty of time to make the next event on the rally list.

Nevertheless, despite some reservations, we signed up and pointed our bows south towards Singapore ready to retrace our route along the Malacca Straits.

Before leaving Rebak we took the opportunity to haul out and give Mandolin Wind a much needed bottom scrub and antifoul.  

As often happens with boats, 4 days work turned into 10 when Martin decided that it was time to remove all the old layers of anti foul (using paint stripper and a scraper, followed by a heavy duty orbital sander). Over the years the different applications of paint had somehow created patches where applying a roller of new paint simply peeled off a previous layer and nothing would stick. So it was time to bite the bullet and do the job properly.  
Below: Since our Airconditioner is seawater cooled we could not use it on the hardstand. Our hired unit had seen better days but it did the job
Above & Below: MW certainly needs some attention!

Once again Martin became the Blue Smurf – but at the end of the hard work Mandolin Wind hulls gleamed.


The only interruption to the hard work came when a Tsunami warning was issued after an earthquake off Sumatra. During the Boxing Day tsunami Rebak Marina had been destroyed so in response to the warning most boats in the marina decided to head for sea. Being on the hardstand this was not an option for us so we spent several anxious hours listening to radio reports until the all clear was given. Interestingly, in a reversal of roles, Nyree took us to task for not having our phone fully charged! We packed an emergency pack of supplies ready to run for the hills (behind the boat) should the need arrive.

Above: All Clean!

By the 20th April we were ready to head off south. Our first stop was Penang where we were lucky to secure a berth at the new Straits Quay’s marina. This very modern, well protected marina is surrounded by high rise apartments. Unfortunately for us, it has a promenade where in the evening the locals wander along peering into the boats making it bit like being in a fish bowl. It was in an attempt to obtain a bit of privacy by putting up boat covers on the front deck that Sue managed to trip on a rope and sprain her ankle (not again!) Fortunately it was a different one to the last incident!

Above: The new Straits Quays Marina is well protected behind a sturdy sea wall

Luckily this happened after we had already had a day or so of exploring and shopping. We had also managed to fit in a visit to the modern hospital for an all over skin check by a skin specialist for the ridiculously cheap price of only $20 each.


  In hindsight, the biggest bonus from our visit to Straits Quays was that we met the crew from the Aussie catamaran Splashdown who were to become our ‘buddy’ boat for our trip down the straits and beyond - and who also were to become very good friends. This is despite a very shaky start to our relationship when Martin – being his usual diplomatic self - asked if ‘splashdown’ was named after the dunny company from the Aussie cult movie Kenny!
Above: Splashdown Crew - Bev, Colin & Alex

It took us 10 days to make the trip from Penang to Johur Bahru (across the causeway from Singapore). These were very full days of motor/sailing from first light to dark and sometimes even longer. Apart from the wind generated from the many squalls (sumatras) that characterise this time of year we did not have many opportunities to test out our new mainsail as the winds were generally light and on the nose (naturally).

Below: A new bridge between Penang and the mainland
Below: Up at dawn for an early departure at Port Klang
  Left: At Port Dickson Marina we finally caught up with our good friends on Two Up.

Most boats were mustering at Danga Bay marina but we chose to stay instead at Puteri harbour, a relatively new marina with great facilities 5 miles away. Although a bit isolated, Puteri Harbour is well protected from the sumatras ( Strong winds and lightening storms that sweep in from Indonesia at this time of the year ). Luckily management provided a courtesy bus to the local shopping centre and to the night market. For the rally dinner at Danga Bay we booked into the Tune Hotel (within walking distance of the reception centre) for only $15 a night including the surcharge for air con and towels !

Above: 'Western' food on the menu at the night market
Above: They told us these were duck eggs but we weren't convinced!

Deciding to take advantage of the safe marina, we headed off to do some land touring. First up we caught a first class bus to historic Malacca (4 hours and $6.50 each) where we stayed in a lovely old guest house, enjoyed the cheap Indian food and walked the old streets of Chinatown revisiting the historic sites (this was our second visit but Malacca is one of those places that is well worth a second look).



Above: our hotel in Malacca, ... NOT the water wheel !
Above: On our first visit to Malacca on MW we stayed in the brand new marina. Now only 4 years later it is deserted due to the inadequate design of the pylon protection walls which offered minimal protection from waves during rough weather




After a few days, we reboarded a bus for Singapore where we had a great time catching up with nephew Matthew and his new wife, Jemma. We even had time to pop over to Sentosa Island and pay a visit to Universal studios where, despite our wimpy refusal to join Matt and Jem on most of the adrenelin pumping rides, we had a great day. We also managed to do some serious denting of the credit card by investing in a new Dell laptop and digital camera.






One night, while we were snugly enjoying the air conditioned hotel in Singapore, a Sumatra blew through and with it 50 knots of wind !. We were therefore blissfully unaware of the fun and games our fellow yachties were having. Splashdown, who that afternoon had left the protection of the marina and anchored off a small island in the straits between Singapore and Malaysia, had fun and games when they dragged anchor and then spent the next few hours rolling violently in the subsequent cross swell and actually were then pooped when the tide held them, eventually, stern on to the waves. Other friends, on board Seventh Heaven, were in supposed safety and tied up at a marina in Singapore. Unluckily for them this particular marina was exposed to the west where the Sumatra came from and for several hours they feared losing their boat (or at the very least, suffering serious damage) as the violent waves crashed them against the marina arm, blowing out 2 large fenders and snapping two mooring lines. Luckily they survived intact with no holes in the hull that was riding up half way onto the marina arm.


Fortunately Mandolin Wind was in a much more protected marina and suffered no such problems. However, we were a bit taken aback when we returned to find that the boat moored beside us had suffered a fire onboard the previous night , nothing to do with a storm, which started where the 240V electricity was connected on the boat. It was only by luck that the owners happened to be on board and were able to prevent the fire from doing too much damage. However, they were quite badly smoke damaged.

Above: early morning view from the very protected Puteri Harbour marina

On the day we left Puteri Harbour our destination was only 10 nm as the crow flies – but unfortunately we were unable to take the short route between Singapore Island and Mainland Malaysia because of a low bridge ( the causeway ) . Instead the trip took us 9 hours to do the 55nm and kept us very busy as we traversed the busy Singapore Shipping channels.


Above & RIght: We had good views of Singapore during our trip around the Straits, although the haze was a problem at times.
Above: The AIS was useless in the Singapore Straits as there were too many targets. We just had to keep our wits about us and maintain a good look out


Finally, with the Malacca and the Singapore Straits behind us, new crusiing grounds on the East coast of Malaysia beckoned.

Time will tell whether the regions lives up to our expectations of secluded tropical islands, abundant underwater life and, hopefully, clear water. Fingers Crossed!