Malaca Straights and Familiar Places

This is my third trip transiting the famed Malacca Straights and we returned some of my favorite marinas. This is simply the way from Thailand to Indonesia, well-travelled routes with great places to stop along the way. This is not a cruising ground one would visit for its own merit; the water is yukky, no scenery and just not allot to see. Malaysia does have the premier marinas in SE Asia. After Indonesia which has no marinas, well one run down one, it is fun to tie up, plug in and jump in the many swimming pools offered. One does need some time in a lounge chair drinking drinks with little umbrellas after all.

We make the trip up with long days but no overnight legs. There are simply too many fishing boats to run outside the shipping lanes and too many ships to run in them. The weather is always flat and the currents predictable, fortunately this time the ebb which runs to the north is in the early morning so most of our days we are blessed with a 1 to 2 knot push. We simply run until dark, pull inward a bit and drop the hook. The depths are constant and shallow, not much protection but the seas are calm so no need.

I did learn one lesson, I ran into the dark trying to get in the lee of a small island. Turns out it was in the middle of a fishing grounds where the fishermen leave their long, (2km) nets to drift with the current back and forth. No sooner had I anchored than I felt the boat spin and found a net wrapped round the bow over the anchor chain. The fisherman was not long behind the event and was bewildered that we had anchored in “his” fishing ground, “you can no anchor here” “no one anchor here” After a bit of circling dialog we agree the net must be cut and that I would pay him 50rm (15 dollars) for his trouble. I thought that was the end of it but just after I crawled in bed he returned telling me that the net would come back by here at 2 am and that all I had to do was move until it passed. He was tired and going home to bed. This led to a bit more heated circular debate, which I surrendered and pulled the anchor, moved 3km and anchored again. We shook hands and he offered us a small fish to show friendship. What I learned from another cruiser is to anchor next to a fish platform, there are many, as they will not drag a net into them. We used this trick the next anchorage.

After the net debacle we arrived in Port Dickson at Admiral Marina. This is my third visit to this elegant resort. The modern marina is part of a luxury hotel so we get the swimming pool and other amenities. Towel boys bring you towels, those famed tiny umbrellas appear and we relax. This is all for about 18 dollars a night. I took the crew and our friends to one of my favorite eating haunts, an huge open air Chinese restaurant next to an very active temple. We gorged on steamed fish, prawns, plate after plate of wonderful food. Upon entering any country I also hit the cell phone store for the local sim cards, internet and phone. Last year I had such remarkable service from two gals at the Digi store I contacted their boss to tell of the good service. When I walked in this time, a year and a half later, I was greeted by, “Mr. Brian, you are back!

With one two long days and one anchorage between them we revisited Pangkor Marina. This was the scene of our joint birthday party with my Aussie friend Steve. Again we were welcomed, and again remembered. This super modern facility is still under construction and the many commercial building surrounding are mostly vacant, common in Malaysia. The next stop is Penang, the old run down marina we have stayed at before is right down town so very handy albeit a pit. The year was not kind to this place and silting and storms wiped it out. Now the only place is a very nice new marina on the north side of the island, Straits Quay Marina. The marina is situated in a massive hotel, shopping center development. Starbucks and Subway surround us where a few weeks ago bamboo huts and street venders were our view. Pengang has a Thai embassy where we easily got our Thai visas and hit a few wonderful local food courts. We had a hard time convincing one cabby that we wanted local food not mall court food, he just could not understand that. I got a visit from past crew member, Troy, who has settled in Penang and working on boats, good to see him. Of course he had a lovely lady on his arm, I am glad to have influenced him a bit on this issue.

I took Rachel and July on a tour of historic Georgetown. This is a clashing vortex of culture; British control with strong Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist influence. We stroll through Little India, I buy some more CD’s of Indian music. A block away we are in China Town and visit an ancient Temple. The incense is burning sot strong the girls stay outside. I enter with the shoulder to shoulder crowds of devout Buddhist all wanting the blessing of good fortune. I buy and light a candle and write “Crew of Furthur” on the Chinese symbol lined label and hold it above my head as I kneel on my knees (ouch) in front of the statues of Buddha. Knowing my crew is once again blessed we can set sail with the protection of the gods. When it comes to blessing me, the crew and the boat I take all I can get, seems to be working.

From Penang we leave the Malacca Straights and enter the Andaman Sea, the water is cleaner and less rain. We are headed to the last stop in Malaysia, Langkawi. I wrote last year about meeting the former Prime Minister of Malaysia and his gift of a book on his home, Langkawi. I think if him at each visit. We arrive at the southern end of the Archipelago and tuck between two islands to anchor, a spot I have used before. The anchor drops and no sooner we are all jumping off the boat into the 89 degree water. The girls take off on the kayaks and I enjoy some time on the boat. The next morning I take a long paddle around one of the islands and see monkeys scurrying up the rocks and pass under a large local breed of eagle.

With the high tide for the shallow entrance in mind we head to Rebock Marina, a favorite stop for cruisers. It is like old home week as I find many of my cruising friends. Some have stayed here long periods of time and others are transiting like me. We all get together for dinner and share many stories. Some of them have kept up on my blog so know most of my travels. Some are going to Phuket for the first time so I give them “the scoop” on boating in Thailand. The marina/resort has a wonderful pool and grounds, a good place to relax a couple of days….then off to the Land Of Smiles!!!

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