June 2016 - Malaysia & Singapore

15 June 2016   United Kingdom to Admiral Marina, Malaysia
Our flight wasn’t until the evening, so we hung about at Craig’s house, trying to occupy ourselves.  We cracked up at 14:30 and decided that we might as well wait at the airport.

On the way, we remembered that we hadn’t paid for toll for the Dartford crossing.  They have car registration plate recognition cameras on the toll bridge and you are supposed to pay on-line within 24 hours.  When we arrived at the car hire place, they were unable to help us and we were told that there would be a £70 administration handling fee if the hire company had to pay the fine - gutted!

A welcome beer after a long flight

We went on line, but there is no way to pay the late payment until a Penalty Notice is issued.  This would be sent to the Hire Company and we would incur a £70 administration fee - Catch 22.  We decided to make a payment on line (£2.60) and then sent an email to the Dartford Crossing people explaining what had happened and asking them to accept the payment.  Nothing else for it.

The flight was on time and, again, the strategy of two small bottles of wine with dinner gave us five hours sleep and two films filled the rest of the 13 hour flight.  After a one hour taxi ride, we were back at boat by 17:30.  Thankfully, the boat hasn’t sunk and everything works apart from the galley fridge seems to be playing up, so we switched it off.

We had dinner in the expensive marina bar (£20 for two large meals and four beers - almost UK prices.) and crashed out at 21:00

16 June 2016   Admiral Marina, Malaysia
After our tiring flight, we didn’t wake up until 10:30.  We spent the morning pottering about unpacking and tidying up.  I checked the galley fridge and it ran okay this morning - it must have been sulking last night.   

While in the UK, I’d bought a new radiator cap for the engine (at a huge cost of £60 - I hate Volvo sometimes.)   I fitted the radiator cap onto the engine, which looked suitably shiny, but the engine was very moody after being left alone for a month - I managed to coax it into life after bleeding the diesel lines and preheating the injectors - which I’ve never had to do before.  

In late afternoon, we went out to local shops to buy some food.  I still have a problem with tightness between my shoulder blades, so I was keen to have a massage.  We wandered past two massage parlours that looked decidedly dodgy, but eventually found one that looked less seedy, so I went in and paid £10 for a Thai massage.  The girl nearly killed me, but it was good and I felt much looser after the pummelling.

Admiral Marina, Malaysia

17 June 2016   Admiral Marina, Malaysia
Overnight, there was a huge thunderstorm with torrential rain - it lasted about four hours.  At the moment, there’s a huge band of cloud over the Malaysian peninsula caused by the South-west monsoon.  We’ve been told by local cruisers that these “systems” form every two weeks, give lots of rain for a few days, and then the weather settles down until the next system forms.  It looks a little better early next week, so we’re planning to leave on Monday 19th.

We managed to drag ourselves out of bed before eight o’clock and caught a bus into Port Dickson to clear out to Singapore - it costs 1.70 Ringgit (0.34p) each.  One of the ladies at the bus stop told us that taxis sometimes stop at the bus stops on their way back into town and should only charge 2.50 to 3.00 Ringgit per person.  It’s 15 Ringgit (£3) to get a taxi out of town and, if the marina arranges a taxi, it costs 30 Ringgit…

To clear out, we had to go to the Port Captain, then Customs and then Immigration.  It was all very easy.  The marina had given us two forms which we had filled in and photocopied.  The Port Captain stamped these forms and relieved us of 50 Ringgit (£10) for port fees - I asked for a receipt to prove that it was legitimate.

Customs quickly issued our Port Clearance document.  It’s a short walk to the Immigration at the ferry terminal, where we had to fill in two copies of a crew list.  I’d told them that we were leaving tomorrow, so the Immigration Officer gave me a short lecture about staying on the boat until we leave - yeah right!

With our administration complete, we walked to the Billion supermarket, stocked up on food and caught a taxi back to the marina.  It might only cost 15 Ringgit, but I was in fear of my life as we climbed into a very old, run-down car - I’m surprised that we made it to the marina only 5 miles away.

The jet lag has seriously caught up with us, so we spent the afternoon chilling out and napping.  

Admiral Marina, Malaysia

18 June 2016   Admiral Marina, Malaysia
While we back in the UK, I spent some time with my 82 year-old mother, starting to gather information on our family history.  I spent the morning building a family tree using an on-line web site, but it just raised lots of other questions.  I’m going to start firing off emails as I think of them - it’ll give my mum something to do..

Glenys pottered about doing a few jobs in the morning and then spent the afternoon playing her ukulele.  I motivated myself enough to do some jobs in the afternoon, including filling a dive tank ready to fit the new rope stripper parts to the propeller shaft tomorrow.

While back in the UK, I’d bought a new, genuine Samsung toner cartridge for our printer, but when I fitted it, the bloody printer says that it is incompatible.  The printer still works with the old cartridge, so I suspect that Samsung have put in some kind of regional protection - I bought the printer in Panama, which I guess is in the USA region.  I hate Samsung and the printer is destined for the skip.

19 June 2016   Admiral Marina, Malaysia
It was a peaceful night, with no rain or thunder, so we’re definitely going tomorrow.

I donned my scuba gear and dived down under the boat to fit the rope stripper.  The visibility was only a couple of feet, but good enough for me to do the job.  I needed four hands and I had some tense moments where I had parts balanced on the propeller shaft, while I tried to fit a clamp with Allen screws.  If I’d dropped one of the parts they would have been lost in the sludge on the sea bed forever…

In the afternoon, we tested the water maker and our 15hp outboard engine.  They’re both working fine, so we’re ready to go.

It was a rainy evening with lightning around, so we huddled down below to watch a movie.   There were a few power surges caused by lightning and unfortunately, our LED projector suddenly went dim and was unwatchable.  I suspect that the power surges have damaged the LED lamp in the projector - I’ll have to try to get it repaired in Singapore (or buy a new one…) 

20 June 2016   Admiral Marina, Malaysia
We woke early to the sound of rain and, after looking at the weather forecast for the next 3 days, we decided to stay another day - we don’t like setting off in the rain.  Instead of sailing for three days with two overnight stops in dodgy, open anchorages, we’re going to leave tomorrow and sail overnight to get in to Singapore on the 22nd.

Our 15 year old main-sail has been getting baggier and has had several repairs, so with the prospect of strong winds next year on our trip to South Africa and another 13,000 miles to complete our circumnavigation, we’re thinking that it’s time to bite the bullet and get a new mainsail.  I’ve already had a couple of quotes, but I sent off a few more emails to sailmakers asking for a quotation.

Briefly sailing towards Singapore

In the afternoon, I sent off the required Advance Notice of Arrival to the Singapore Port Authority and then sent an email to One:15 marina in Singapore to confirm our booking.  A few hours later, they confirmed the marina berth, but told me that the Immigration regulations have changed and that I needed to appoint an agent.  Bummer...  I fired off emails to five agents and, by eight o’clock I’d appointed a Mr Foo Say Juan, who charges £15 for clearing in and £15 for clearing out.

It appears that the Singapore Immigration has set up a new computer system, where agents can enter the crew and passenger details of a vessel.  I guess that this is more efficient and cost effective for the Immigration department, but obviously pushes the administration expense onto the arriving vessel.  By nine o’clock, I’d sent Mr Foo all my details and I’ll have to wait until tomorrow for him to do the administration tomorrow.  

21 June 2016   Admiral Marina to One:15 Marina, Singapore (Day 1)
We woke to a beautiful morning with the sun shining - it was a good call to wait another day.  Glenys went off to pay the marina while I checked our email and was pleased to see that the immigration Advance Notice of Arrival has been issued by Mr Juan.  We were clear of the marina and on our way by 09:30.

After weaving our way past the sandbank outside the marina, we edged out to the shipping lanes and set a course ½ mile from the edge of the lane.  There was no wind, so we resigned ourselves to motoring, although after lunch we had a little excitement when the wind picked up and we pulled out the sails - only lasted 30 minutes…

The newly fitted Rope Stripper rattles a tiny bit, but seems to be okay, which is a relief.  However, our iPad had decided to play up again and won’t show us our current position.  After resetting it and messing about for an hour, it looks like the GPS has stopped working.  We’ve had it repaired twice over the past year, so it looks like the past four years have been hard on the poor thing and we need to get a new one.  This trip to Singapore is going to be expensive with a new LED projector, a new printer and a new iPad.

A Thunderstorm chases us in the middle of the night

It might be mindless doing all this motoring, but at least the seas were calm and we were making good progress.  The first half of the night was idyllic, with clearing skies and a nearly full moon.

22 June 2016   Admiral Marina to One:15 Marina, Singapore (Day 2)
At 02:00, a thunderstorm built up behind us with towering clouds and large flashes of lightning illuminating the cockpit.  I switched on the radar and was pleased to see that it was 20 miles behind us and not as close as it looked.  Interestingly, it was a long line of clouds about 4-5 miles wide that were streaming out to sea in a line that was 90 degrees to the shore - everywhere else around us was clear.

I went to bed at 04:00, leaving Glenys to worry about the thunderstorm and was woken at 07:00 to find that the storm never caught us up and that we were already in the Singapore Straits with only 20 miles to go.

Glenys sloped off to bed for an hour or two, leaving me to cope with the busy shipping lanes with all sorts of vessels entering and leaving the various anchorages.  However, it wasn’t too bad, with only one anxious moment.  A tanker was coming out of the port and I expected it to pass ½ mile in front of us, but it suddenly slowed down to allow the Port Pilot to leave the ship.  (The Pilot scrambles down a ladder and boards his Pilot Boat while the ship is still under way at 5-10 knots.)  This put us on a collision course, so I had to speed up to pass in front of the tanker’s bow, which is not my favourite tactic, but we made it with 400 metres to spare.

After rounding Raffles Lighthouse, which is on a cute little island, we arrived at the Western Quarantine area at Sisters Island.  Despite having used an agent to submit an Advance Notice of Arrival with all of the crew details, I still had to present three signed crew lists and our passports.  While we drifted around in the Quarantine anchorage, an Immigration boat came alongside and I placed my documents in to a fishing net held by an officer.

Pilot boat leaves after picking up the pilot

Apparently, I should have printed out the official crew list sent to me by the agent because they rejected my “Alba” crew lists and printed out their own, handing them back in the net for me to sign.  It’s a strange system, but it seems to work and they probably have hundreds of boats to clear in every day.

We were in our berth in One:15 Marina by 11:30.  It was a good 26 hour trip and much better than doing it as three, long day sails.  After a quick bite to eat, we caught the marina’s courtesy bus to Vivo City and then had a 5 minute ride on a public bus to the One-stop Port clearance centre.  I had a moment of panic when I discovered that the marina office had kept the original port clearance from Malaysia and given us their photocopy.  However, the lady clearing us in was very nice and let me off with the photocopy.  Phew!

After catching the bus back to Vivo City Shopping Mall, we wandered about looking at new printers and a replacement for the iPad.  I refuse to buy another Samsung printer because I’ve had so much trouble with the draconian control of their cartridges, so it looks like a cheap Brother laser printer will do.

The replacement of the iPad was a quandary.  We know how the iPad works, but I hate Apple’s bloody-mindedness and the way that I have no control of the synchronisation process in the (loathed) iTunes, so we think that we’ll get a Samsung Tab S2, which is an Android device.  I need to check that the Navionics chart software works on it and that it has good GPS - we’ll be checking the prices tomorrow when we get to Sim Lin Square.

We had dinner on the boat and went to bed early, exhausted by the lack of sleep last night and the frenzy of running about today.