September 2016 - Malaysia

1 September 2016   Airabu South to Pulau Bawah, Anambas
It was lovely in the morning, so we headed off to Pulau Ritan which is only 10 miles south.  There’s a very shallow fringing reef around the anchorage and the last time that we visited this island, we bottled out because the light wasn’t good enough.  This time we had much better light, so we very slowly motored across the reef, dodging coral heads. 

Pulau Ritan

Once in the lagoon, we anchored at 02°36.89N 106°16.56E on a sandy patch in 6 metres of water.  I put out 25 metres of chain, which put us uncomfortably close to the surrounding reefs, but the anchor was well dug in and the weather was pleasant.

Ignoring my current ban on swimming, we took the dinghy back to the reef and had a look at the entrance and the various coral heads.  The main reef is 2.5 to 4 metres deep, but some of the coral heads come up to within 0.5 metres of the surface.  We’d had good visibility coming in, but what if the weather deteriorated?  With poor light, it would be very dangerous to leave the anchorage. We decided to tie two plastic bottles onto the two biggest coral heads, which would mark a “gateway” out of the lagoon.

Glenys carried on snorkelling next to the boat, while I had a shower, washed out my sore ear and put in some Antibiotic ear drops.  I then took the dinghy ashore and climbed up some rocky slabs that come down to the water.  It was great fun and I had a nice view of the anchorage from the top.

We both got back to the boat around noon, by which time there were some very nasty looking clouds building around us.  Having had a horrible experience with a gale and a lee shore at Pulau Semut South last week, we didn’t like the ideal of weathering a storm in this tight anchorage, especially as there would be no escape over the shallow fringing reef.  We decided to run away to Pulau Bawah.

It only took us ten minutes to tidy up to enough to leave, but by then the skies had darkened considerably and we were very grateful that we’d installed the two plastic bottles marking the way out.  

Another Thunderstorm

Half an hour after we left the anchorage, we were motoring west into a light wind, with black clouds building behind us and ominous rumblings of thunder.  Suddenly, the engine slowed down.  We both looked at each other and realised that we’d picked something up on the propeller again. Within five minutes, I was under the boat using a bread knife to chop away a rice sack, which was completely enclosing the propeller.  Our new rope stripper had not been able to deal with the three foot sack.

We were soon motoring west again, but we were quickly hit by a huge thunderstorm giving torrential rain and violent flashes of lightning with deafening thunder.  The wind veered from the south-west to the north and picked up to 30 knots.  Thank goodness that we’d not stayed in Ritan because we would have been hard up on a lee shore with reefs very close behind and no escape.

The thunderstorm stayed with us for the remainder of the three hour passage to Pulau Bawah.  I was trying to track it using our radar and at one point we turned 120 degrees and headed north because I thought that the five mile diameter system was travelling south.  After ten minutes, the thunderstorm had expanded by a further mile and was still centred around us, so we gave up trying to avoid it and headed directly for Bawah again.

Fortunately, when we were a couple of miles from Bawah, the rain decreased and we were able to see enough to get through the small passage over the reef and pick up one of the white moorings.  The rain continued for another couple of hours, but gradually the lightning faded away.   We’re glad to be safe and secure in Bawah for the night.

2 September 2016   Pulau Bawah, Anambas
The rain cleared away overnight and the morning was fine.  At the north end of Bawah, there’s a small island with a rocky pinnacle that I wanted to climb, so we headed around the stunningly blue lagoon.   Rather than getting hot and sweaty, Glenys went snorkelling, so I dropped her off and landed the dinghy on a small scruffy beach on a spit of land sticking out from the island.  I crossed over to another beach and into the bush below the pinnacle.

Pinnacle at Bawah

It was a great little outing.  I scrambled up the hillside in the bush at the side of a rocky slab for a little way.  As soon as possible, I gained the slab and then scrambled up the easy slope.  At the top of the slab, the route turned left and then left again up a traverse that goes to the left and up to the top.  The traverse is exposed enough to get the adrenaline going but the rock is grippy enough that I felt good in my Teva Sandals.  The view from the top is fabulous with beautiful water colours.

In afternoon, Glenys went snorkelling around the lagoon.  I hate not being able to go snorkelling, so I occupied myself re-editing some of my better underwater photographs - only another two more days before I can go snorkelling.

In the evening, “Wind Hover” came over for a few beers.  Patrick, the owner, is a Singaporian and the other two are expats.  It was interesting to hear their take on the status of Singapore and the tensions with their neighbours.  They are concerned about the political and religious situation in Malaysia.  I had realised how much the Islamic faith is becoming more far-reaching - apparently lots of women didn’t wear hijabs fifteen years ago, whereas now it is almost mandatory amongst the Malay people.

3 September 2016   Pulau Bawah, Anambas
We had a quiet morning pottering about.  I edited some more underwater pictures and have created a Portfolio of my 50 better photographs, which I’ve published to our web site.

“Amulet” sailed by around lunchtime and are continuing on to Nongsa Point Marina tonight because there are no winds forecast and they would rather motor.  We’re planning on leaving on the 5th when I’m hoping that there will be 10 knots from the SSE, which allow us to sail rather than listening to the engine for 24 hours.

Final sunset in the Anambas

It was such a lovely, sunny afternoon that I cracked up and decided that my ear is healed enough to go snorkelling.  We checked out a few spots outside the reef at the south end of the island group.  A couple of the sites were mediocre, but the third one was good.  It was to the east of the rocks on the southern tip of the island at   02°29.88N 106°02.98E.  There were lots of big fish swimming around and it was interesting terrain.  I spent an hour photographing some very friendly Juvenile Golden Spadefish, which have beautiful long flowing fins.

4 September 2016   Pulau Bawah, Anambas
It was another scorcher of a day, so we went snorkelling in the morning.  Initially, we went to the outside of the reef just to the south of the entrance into the lagoon.  The water was very clear, but the current was far too strong, so we went back to the southern tip of the island which was much calmer.

There’s no internet available here, but there is a telephone signal, so I sent a text off to “Amulet” and they sent me back a short weather forecast.  Looks like South 5-10 knots tomorrow and SSW 10-12 knots tomorrow night.  South-West winds are forecast in 2-3 days’ time, so we’re going to leave the Anambas in the morning.  I texted North Sails and our new main sail will be delivered on the 7th.

We had another snorkel in the afternoon; lifted the dinghy on deck; and tidied up ready to for the 140 mile trip back to Nongsa Point Marina. There was a lovely sunset - a fitting end to our fabulous two month stay in the Anambas.

5 September 2016   Pulau Bawah to Nongsa Point Marina
It was a lovely morning, but there was only 5 knots of wind from the SSW.  The wind was forecast to pick up from the south, so while we were motor-sailing, we set a course 15 degrees further south than rhumb line, hoping to gain some southing and give us a better wind angle later in the day.

The wind played games with us all day.  It would pick up to 10 knots and back a little, so we’d pull out the sails, then ten minutes later the wind would drop and head us, forcing us to roll away the sails. To make matters worse, we had a one knot current against us, reducing our speed over the ground to 4.5 knots.  The monotony of the day was only broken by a large pod of dolphins who came to play in our bow wave.


As darkness fell, the wind was blowing 10-15 knots, but from the SSW which didn’t help at all, in fact the waves started to build, which forced us to increase the engine speed to 2,200 rpm to maintain 4.5 knots over the ground - very frustrating.

At 02:00 with 55 miles to go, we entered the edge of a huge anchorage where super-tankers wait for to enter Singapore waters.  Our route was taking us through the middle, so rather than dodging anchored tankers for the remainder of the night, I diverted us to the north, between the edge of the Singapore shipping lanes and the anchorage.

6 September 2016   Pulau Bawah to Nongsa Point Marina
Dawn found us still weaving our way through huge ships at anchor.  It was a pleasant morning, but we still had the wind; waves and current against us, which made it tough going.

We arrived at Nongsa Point Marina at 14:30.  It didn’t take us long to get plugged into the electric and set the air-conditioning running.  We then relaxed, chilling out for afternoon using the internet and catching up on emails.  In the evening, we went out for a meal at the marina’s restaurant, which is very posh, but painfully devoid of guests - the food was disappointingly mediocre.

7 September 2016   Nongsa Point Marina, Indonesia
It was raining quite heavily in the morning.  The guys from North Sails turned up at 09:00 to fit our new mainsail, but the rain stopped play and they postponed until tomorrow.

Nongsa Marina is in the middle of nowhere and the sail guys had to drive to the other side of Batam Island, so we bummed a lift from them to a shopping mall with a big Carrefour supermarket.  After two hours of shopping, we had lunch in a Chinese restaurant and caught a taxi cab back to the marina.  The taxi cost 130,000 Rupiah (£6.50), which was a bargain because it’s a twenty minute drive. 

In the afternoon, we stayed on-board, hiding from the rain and doing some internet research and planning.  We’re aiming to leave the boat in Admiral Marina in the middle of October, so that we can go on a land trip to Thailand and Cambodia.  This means that we’ve only got three weeks to spend on the east coast of Malaysia before we have to start travelling via Singapore to the west coast.  

Fitting the new main sail

We were hoping to sail to the north-east of Malaysia to the Perhentian Islands, but with only three weeks, we’ve decided to restrict ourselves to the Tioman Island area.  It looks like there are loads of good dive sites spread amongst the islands, so we expect to be doing a lot of diving.

8 September 2016   Nongsa Point Marina, Indonesia
The sail was delivered and fitted.  It looks really good and I’m pleased with the quality.  The material looks to be good quality Dacron and all the stitching is three point zigzag in a dark blue thread, which is very UV resistant.

We spent the rest of the day doing chores.  Glenys made extensive use of the laundry room, while I serviced the main sheet winch and tested our domestic batteries.  I’ve not been happy with the batteries for a couple of months, with the voltage being down to 12.2V most mornings.  I used my digital tester which unfortunately showed that three of the batteries are no good and the other three are weakened.

It’s interesting that the three bad batteries are directly connected to the charging systems - wind generator, solar panels, engine and battery charger.  The worst battery is the one where the wind generator is connected.  This is an unregulated system and I’m wondering if there is some local overcharging involved.  Perhaps I should be swapping the batteries around every 12 months.  The batteries are AGMs which I installed in November 2012, so they’ve lasted four years, which I guess is a reasonable performance. 

Later in the afternoon, we moved over to the fuel dock to fill up with diesel.  The marina staff delivered our clearance papers out of Indonesia to Malaysia and we’re all ready to leave in the morning.