Posted by: catamarantwooceans | April 10, 2012

The Philippines–Singapore leg

1.4.12 – Sunday – I was happy to finally leave the Philippines, having been held there by weather too long. But the trip ahead was not without its problems. We had about 880 miles to Singapore and the forecast was for light winds; this means having to motor. Now I have fuel for about 110 hours per engine, which, in ideal conditions, sails contributing a bit and a speed of 5 knots, could give a range of 1100 nautical miles. The thing is, ideal conditions rarely exist and today this fact was brought home once again.

It started nicely, with just enough wind to give us SOG (speed over ground) of 5 knots. At noon we could even shut the engine down for an hour. But as the day progressed the wind died and we noticed that there was some counter-current taking our speed down to 3.2 knots. If this keeps up our range under power will be more like 650 n.m – not nearly enough to reach Singapore under power. Hopefully this current will disappear, it really is not supposed to be here at all!

2.4.12 – Monday – Quite a few ships passed us during the night. The current has become even stronger. We are sometimes under 3 knots! A yacht could go into Malaysia and refuel but not if the only passport you have is Israeli… They will not let us in or even worse – won’t let us out…

All the while we had ships around us, the A.I.S working incredibly, showing their position relative to ours, their names, heading and speed. I took pictures of the first ones, writing their names in the log, but after the fifth I stopped Clearly this is a busy waterway!

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The combination of engine noise and ridiculous SOG was getting on my nerves. I kept tweaking the sails, making small adjustments, trying to goad "Two Oceans" to go faster but to no avail. The apparent wind was too light to keep the poled out jib from deflating. This sail is simply too heavy! So how about the Spinnaker? I rarely use it but surely now is the right time!

We put the Spi up, shut the motor down and went on advancing at a snail’s pace but without burning precious fuel! Dany and I were in agreement that the priority was saving fuel for later and both did not care if it meant prolonging the voyage by a day or two.

With the light wind we  had to hand steer in order to keep the light sail from collapsing. As the sun began setting the wind reached 12 knots. We took the spinnaker down and continued wing and wing. 38 miles in the last 12 hours, caused by the accursed current.

During dinner preparations a loud thump was heard. We scrambled out on deck, shining lights all around but could see nothing. Obviously we hit something but it was not a "breaking" kind of noise; just to keep our peace of mind we checked the bilges and the hulls as best as we could and then carried on.

We changed our watch system. Instead of four 2.5 hours stints we now do two four hours watches starting at 2200. At all other hours the system is "informal", one takes  charge when the other goes for a rest. Dany finds the longer sleep period more restful and the four hour shift to be easy. For me it’s fine too.

Now, as midnight approaches, it seems that the current has weakened; it is now about half a knot.

3.4.12 – Tuesday – At 0600 I came over to replace Dany we saw that the conditions were good for hoisting the spinnaker again. Today it was on starboard tack and even tough the wind was practically the same as yesterday the sail pulled much better, autopilot holding the course with no problem. We started theorizing about the unique performance of the boat in the different tacks and I jokingly said: "Maybe yesterday we mistakenly interchanged the clew and tack positions and gave the asymmetric sail the worst shape possible". 

Dany looked at the Spi thoughtfully "Yes, this must be it, I distinctly remember seeing the sail number on the trailing edge of the sail. Now it’s on the leading edge". I looked at pictures of the sail that Dany enthusiastically took yesterday and sure enough this was the case!

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                                 Properly hoisted

So now Miki, here’s a reminder: Always connect the corner of the sail that has a sticker saying "tack" to the red bridle on the front of the boat and the spinnaker sheet to the clearly marked "clew" corner! Capiche?


At 0700 I checked our daily run; 74 miles in 24 hours… A negative record for "Two Oceans". The forecast is for light winds, less than 10 knots, in the next five days. We are resigned to a protracted voyage.

The spinnaker was aloft, giving us respectable speeds and a pleasurable ride until sunset when we changed to the easier manageable poled out jib arrangement. The current, by the way, is now the normal southwesterly at about half a knot.

I finished Amitav Gosh’s book "Sea of Poppies" (India in the 19th century, a lot of bizarre characters and Hindu words) and gone on to Jo Nesbo"s "The Leopard". Harry Hole tries again to uncover a serial killer while fighting his alcohol and drug addictions as well as the Norwegian police establishment. A good read!

4.4.12 – Wednesday – At one point during the early morning the wind went away. Sunrise showed an oily sea surface and bellowing clouds, typical doldrums conditions.

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Last 24 hours moved us 104 n.m closer to destination. We motored until after lunch, when a northerly started blowing at around 10 knots. In the spirit of "Save fuel not time" we continued under sails at what now we considered a respectable speed of a little over 4 knots.

Reaching a distance of 550 miles to Singapore I calculated that we had enough fuel to get there under power if needed. That was reassuring!

Close to sunset we had a visit of a nice pod of dolphins, I estimated there were at least 25 of them, densely packed in front of the bows. They stayed for about 15 minutes and Dany was ecstatic. I don’t think he ever saw them in such numbers.

5.4.12 – Thursday – Motoring during the night; coordinates at 0700 show we covered 117 miles in 24 hours. The words:"Slow boat to China" come to mind. Was it a song? A name of a book? Or both?

We fly the spinnaker from morning till noon when the wind goes down to funny numbers, 1.4, 0.8 and the kite has to go down.

I’ve become bored with the bread we have on board, and decided to go baking. Pita bread in the pan and focaccia in the oven were a big success at lunch.

A line of blackish clouds comes up from the west and one of them sports an impressive water spout. It is about 2 miles away and we can see the point it touches the sea surface erupting in revolving spray, that may be as high as our masthead. Picture taken with long lens gives an idea of this dramatic phenomenon.

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It seems to be coming our way, so we take the precaution of taking the main down. It disappears quickly but the line of clouds brings rain, a westerly wind and choppy sea that slows us down to less than 4 knots. Remember we are still on austerity measures regarding fuel and do not start the second engine.

In the late evening the sea is calm again. A fantastic red sunset makes Dany reach for his camera and his smart phone, clicking away and having me take his picture on the vivid background. Just like yesterday, some dolphins come to play near our bows. Awesome!

Night falls. The moon is almost full. Dany takes the first watch so at 2200 I turn in, letting the drone of the motor lull me to sleep.

6.4.12 – Friday – I am writing this at 2200 as I take the night’s first watch. At 0700 we checked the 24 hours result: 110 miles of mostly motoring. Today is not so different; apart from a short interlude of trying to fly the spinnaker, it is again engine work. At least the sea is calm. 

7.4.12 – Saturday – 105 n.m since yesterday. We are motoring through the Indonesian archipelago of Natuna and all we can see is a lighthouse on Subi Besar 15 miles to the south and another island 7 miles to the north. All day we had only 75 minutes of 11 knots wind then again around 5.

Life on board consists of reading and watching the procession of ships to and from Singapore.

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8.4.12 – Sunday – 0700 – 128 mile run mostly using an engine. Today, apart from 75 minutes of 11 knots wind it was less than 5 all the time. Disgusting!

9.4.12 – Monday – We planned to reach the east corridor into Singapore at 0700 in order to have daylight. But before that we were surprised to find big clusters of ships as far as 50 miles from port. We passed through those "parking lots" using the radar, the A.I.S and our moonlight enhanced vision.

We arrived at the south side of the corridor and turned right to cross it at 90 degrees, passing the flow going east and immediately the one going west.

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We then motored through a vast area of anchored ships; there were literally hundreds of ships in all direction. We made our way to the Angler buoy where we met the immigration boat. They came by, collecting our papers by a poled out net.

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Quickly and efficiently they admitted us into the country after which we went further 5 miles to the west, to take up a mooring at the Changi sailing club.

Eight and a half days from the Philippines to Singapore. That was a long one! I thought about the ancient mariners who did not have the benefit of a motor. They would do the same trip in months!


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