Posted by: catamarantwooceans | April 16, 2012

Sailing from Singapore to Thailand

12.4.12 – Thursday – At 0720 we slipped our lines and in half an hour maintained station northwest of The Sisters, two small green islands that are the place to wait for the immigrations boat. We didn’t have to wait long; the grey boat arrived, took our papers and in 15 minutes the procedure was completed. We’re on our way to Thailand!

We hugged the coast motoring between small islands where ships, mainly tankers, were either moored or in motion. This was "Oil Town" with refineries and storage tanks all around. There were also some man-made islands on which they will probably build even more of those. Here’s a ship hiding behind one.

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A huge rain cloud covered the sky but we were lucky to escape its full force. We did not escape the counter current, though, and at one point I started the second engine to move up from less than 3 knots of SOG.

Turning northwest past Pulau Kukup we passed the last staging area with its multitude of anchored ships and could finally sail a straight line. Dany was wondering whether there were more than a thousand ships in the area we passed through; difficult to say but certainly there were hundreds of them.

I read a few accounts of yachties about this passage and found out diverse ideas about how to execute it. Most people anchor at night which was not an option for us. Everybody is cautioning about the ships, fishing boats and nets you could run into. I chose to sail just outside the shipping lane, thus maintaining a healthy distance from shore. The ships keep mostly to the center of the lane and as one of the yachties wrote:"they have their lights on at night" to which I will add "and their A.I.S operating".

At some point the current turned around and gave us a nice push in the right direction. Still no wind, so a single engine operation was in effect. As the day passed we sat watching the ships go by; there were quite a few tugs towing barges, some were "pushers", the tug inserting itself in a dedicated cavity on the barge’s stern.

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When evening came we had two tugs come at us from ahead, green and red nav lights clearly visible. When I turned to starboard to open lateral separation, they seemed to turn straight at us again. A sharper evasive action did the trick and we passed "port to port" safely.

On the Sumatra side of the straits there was a thunderstorm and I hoped it will not reach us. I don’t like getting wet at night, neither during the day for that matter.


13.4.12 – Friday – Dany had the first watch, 2200-0200. I woke up at 0100 alerted by the reduction of engine noise. Popped out to see Dany has already put the jib on the pole and that we had about 10 knots of easterly wind. The pole had to be taken off as the apparent wind came forward but we were sailing and aided by the current, at a good speed too. When I came back for my stint Dany showed me a light ahead, on which we were closing slowly. This turned out to be another tug-boat and maneuvering to pass her took most of my watch.

The lightning and thunder drew nearer and at 0500 caught up with us. I was aware of the possibility of the "Sumatra" wind, which is said to hit at night with no warning, reaching velocities of over 50 knots at times, so when the wind came up to 22 knot I was quick to reef the main. Thankfully it was no Sumatra and the wind went down to 17, then 12 knots. The rain was your typical tropical one. I donned my weather –proof jacket over swimming trunks and still got wet.

Dany came on at 0545 to see the last of it. At 0700 (we changed the clock to Thailand time – U.T.C + 7) we covered 120 miles out of about 530. During the morning it cycled back (or forward) to current turning against us and wind dying down. Single engine on again, we’ll wait for the cycle to turn in our favor.

The Malacca Expressway is active all the time.

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During the last two day we’ve been trolling; not a lot of expectations as the seas here are far from clear and terribly dirty. When the reel made the noise of the line going out I was caught unaware and got to it at the very last moment before the line came to its end. I started pulling it back and it was real hard. Luckily this new reel has "low gear" feature with which, after almost 15 minutes of turning and grunting I finally saw something whitish at the back. A few more minutes brought in a large plastic bag which when hit by the lure filled with water and gave a show of a large one. I stopped fishing.

We were approaching a port named Klang and discovered yet another huge area full of ships. The sun just set and we had to navigate between all those and the odd unlighted fishing boats with their floating small buoys connected to nets or traps. Very stressful!

14.4.12 – Saturday – Dany woke me at 0520 to help him with a gusty situation with heavy rain and wind up to 29 knots. Mercifully the sea did not have time to build up. We put in second reef and had good speed in the  in the right direction. Was this a "Sumatra"? It lasted for about two hours and then the wind went to our stern and blew 12 knots which enabled us to sail wing and wing with a poled out jib. 

The nautical scene changed; we did not encounter as many ships as before, their place was taken by Malaysian fishing boats like the one below.

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Night brought the threat of thunderstorms but those passed at a good distance with no trouble. Perhaps because we took the precaution of reefing in advance?

15.4.12 – Sunday – Motoring. Fishing boats. At 0700 Phuket was 165 miles away. With good wind we could have reached it tomorrow evening, but even Dany’s positive thinking will NOT MAKE IT HAPPEN (in my humble opinion).

It’s 2230 and I am thirty minutes into my night watch. No wind came during the day as we progressed on flat seas with a one knot current giving us extra speed. Noon arrival now seems achievable. Yael, my eldest daughter, is in Krabi,Thailand with her partner, Nir and their 18 month baby girl, Maya. We were supposed to meet but the changes in our timetable canceled it. Now she calls me on the Iridium to tell me they will stay six days more so we can get together. That would be great fun!

We are passing west of Langkawi, Malaysia. This is right on the border with Thailand and we notice a change. The color of the sea has become bluer, there is no longer garbage floating all around. I see a sail behind us and call that yacht on the V.H.F. They are called Saldrago (I hope I got the name right) and are on the way to Cocos Keeling. The few words we exchange reveal the fact that they are long term cruisers.

Dinner is Wok stir fried shrimps and vegetables on rice and a bottle of South African white wine gets miraculously empty.

16.4.12 – Monday – A quiet night. Apart from a visit by a few dolphins at 0115 nothing of interest happened. We’re getting closer! At 0700 we are 33 miles from Au Chalong, the bay with the entry facilities into the country. Dany went to bed at 0630 and I, after looking all around to see that our track is clear, went to shave and brush my teeth. Coming out I am surprised by the sight of two trawlers at two o’clock, one of them in a clear collision course with the obvious right of way. I broke immediately to starboard and took their picture.

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The Thai fishermen were waving happily. Welcome to Thailand!

Three hours later we were welcomed by the huge Buddha statue overlooking the Au Chalong bay.

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This brings to an end the voyage that started in Palau. Perhaps too early to sum it up but I will surely do it later!


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