Friday, 30 November 2012

Pangkor to Penang

Hi everyone,
We just arrived at Jerejak anchorage on the east side of Penang Island.  We are anchored in 8m over mud at 05 18.55N 100 18.11E.

The 75nm passage up from Pangkor Island was typical of our Sail Malaysia passages.  We departed at 1600 yesterday afternoon and arrived at 0800 this morning.  We basically went out to the 40m contour where we found no nets, a dozen trawlers and only 3 larger vessels.  Amazingly we didn't see a single tug or barge!

Zen Again Track
Track showing location of new bridge
We had to motor most of the way (as usual) due to light winds.  We had about 2 hours of rain and 30 minutes of 20 knot winds from a thunderstorm which passed nearby.  Although traffic was light, a couple of fishing boats came over for a close look which isn't fun at night.  We had to do two 270 degree turns to shake one off.

We had assistance from the tide which resulted in us arriving south of Penang Island before dawn.  We hove to for a while in very light wind, then a little more wind came up and we tacked onward.  It was good fun getting the boat moving at 3 knots with No 2 headsail and a single-reefed main in 3-5 knots of breeze.  The main was reefed due to the thunderstorms about.

There is a new (second) bridge under construction between the mainland and the island.  The Sail Malaysia organisers strongly advised not to pass under it at night, which is why we hove to and waited for dawn.

Bridge in sight
Approaching the bridge
Under the bridge
Jerejak anchorage
We expect to be in Penang until Tuesday.  In the meantime there's a tour arranged by Sail Malaysia and we hope to explore Georgetown.  On Tuesday there is the big procession under the original bridge, with helicopters taking video/photos.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Cameron Highlands Tour

Hi everyone,
Yesterday we joined an all-day coach tour which took 40 Sail Malaysia participants to the Cameron Highlands.  The highlands are in the mountains which run along the "spine" of the Malaysian peninsula.  The highlands were discovered by a British man (can't think of his name :)) and used as a retreat from the heat of the coastal areas in colonial times.  The British quickly discovered that tea grew very well here, and there are still large plantations.  Vegetables of many kinds are also grown.  The farms are 1000-1500m above sea level.

The highlands became a popular retreat area and are now very popular with Malaysians.  Since it's school holidays at the moment the traffic was intense, with long queues and slow progress.  Despite this we managed to visit the Rose Garden, the Butterfly Park, the markets, an Orang Asli village and the Lata Iskandar waterfall.  We had lunch in the main town, trying out "steamboat" cuisine which is a Chinese version of Swiss fondue.

One of many, many Land Rovers
One very noticeable aspect of Cameron Highlands is the number of Land Rover vehicles.  They are everywhere - old and new, shiny and beaten-up, some with interesting adornments.  Not a Toyota to be seen.  One item of British influence has clearly not yet departed.  They love their Land Rovers here.

The tea plantations are very scenic, and cover entire valleys as far as the eye can see.  We visited the BOH plantation, one of the few which welcome visitors.  We toured the factory which was operating on Sunday since the fields are worked on Saturday.  Malaysian tea is mainly sold domestically and around SE Asia since Sri Lanka has far higher production and sells worldwide.

Rose Garden
The Rose Garden and Butterfly Park are both in the central town area in the highlands.  The town is very busy and crowded with tourists.  There is a lot of development going on with massive high-rise apartment/hotel blocks being built where farmers have sold out to developers.  Very ugly.  There are some small, original British hotels from the 1920s which mostly have a mock-Tudor style.  Quaint.  The same style seems to apply in the old tea plantation houses too.

Tea Plantations
Butterfly House
Reptiles in the Butterfly House
We visited an Orang Asli village in the afternoon.  "Orang" means people and "asli" means original.  These people are hunter-gatherers who inhabit the Malaysian jungles.  Some of their communities live on the edge of the jungle, such as the one we visited.  The people of the village have recently converted to Christianity.  According to our guide they chose Christianity over Islam since they could continue to drink alcohol and eat pork - both of which they traditionally do.  The Malaysian Government strongly encourages Islam but religious freedom is guaranteed by the constitution, so this development was an interesting case study.  One small win for a permissive religion!  ;)
Blowdart Demonstration
The Lata Iskandar falls aren't particularly spectacular, considering I've been lucky enough to visit Niagara and Victoria falls, but they were interesting to visit nonetheless.  The amount of rain here is impressive, with constant roadwork required to make good flood and landslide damage.  The jungle above parts of the main road has been terraced to try to stop landslides.
Lata Iskandar falls
Blowdart anyone?
The guide claimed Malaysia has all-but ceased cutting down their rainforests.  The forests are the oldest in the world, being much older than the Amazon rainforest for example.  Apparently 60% of the original forest is still standing in the Malaysian peninsula States, but the situation in Malaysian Borneo seems less clear.  The guide mentioned a Swiss activist Bruno Manser, who worked with the Orang Asli tribes in Malaysian Borneo.  He went missing in 2000.  See his web site here.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Pangkor Marina Island

Hi everyone,
Yesterday afternoon we arrived at Pangkor Marina Island after a 140nm passage from Admiral Marina (Port Dickson). The trip took about 31 hours for an average boatspeed of 4.9knots and average ground speed of 4.5knots.  The engine was on for 27 hours so we managed to sail for a while - huzzah!
Zen Again Track
We departed on Wednesday morning just after dawn.  We had to motor or motor-sail all day, into a light breeze but more importantly a left-over sea/swell.  We tried sailing but the boat was stopped by the sea and the best we could do was 2knots - not fast enough.

Late in the afternoon we passed the entrance to Port Klang, having to dash between two big ships in a "convoy" of 4 to cross the channel.  From there we headed for the inshore channel as night fell.  Approaching the channel we were hemmed in by a tug and barge on one side and lots of fishing nets and fishing boats on the other.  The wind was right on the nose and the sea had worsened so we were pitching violently.  Most unpleasant.  Eventually we overtook the tug and sailed west to get away from the nets.  It was good to have a sail, even though we weren't heading towards our destination.  It also allowed us to check and top up the engine oil.  The "zig" west can be seen on the track above.

After a pleasant hour or so sailing west we tacked and resumed motor-sailing.  The sea was less disturbed offshore - there was probably wind over tide inshore.  There were no nets offshore and we only had to contend with a series of tugs hauling barges and trawlers.  Some of the trawlers seem to like playing "chicken" - twice we were the chicken and took major avoiding action.  All good fun - sorta.  As the night wore on the seas continued to abate and we had a reasonable motor-sail for the rest of the night.

Pair trawlers - don't go between 'em! 
Shortly after dawn a nice W breeze came up and with the calmer seas we could at last have a decent sail.  Very nice!  Then we came upon a fleet of 50+ trawlers in several lines across our course, trawling up and down, and some charging around without their nets aboard.  It was fun weaving our way across.  At one point we had three trawlers within 100m - one hauling his nets going astern towards us, one shooting his nets directly ahead of us and another trawling directly towards us.  Twas interesting.

Nice sailing
We charged up to Pangkor Island at 7 knots under sail - marvellous.  So good we almost forgot about the dramas of the previous evening.  We passed the area where we had a one week holiday on Pangkor Island in 2000 but the resort appeared to be gone.  Then we were off the new Pangkor Marina Island, a completely reclaimed area of new land.  It has a marina, hotels and (I think) apartments.
Approaching Pangkor Island
We had a reservation at the marina but had heard other boats trying to get in but being told there was no room.  We adopted the approach of "I've got a reservation and I'm coming in now - what berth please" which worked very well.  We're in a slightly shallow pen but we're in!  The marina seems pretty good.  There is a hardstand area and also a large covered "shed" in which several boats (with masts down) can be worked on.  Nearby there is a Best Western hotel with a pool and bar which yachties can use.
Zen Again at Pangkor Island Marina
We'll be here until sometime next week and over the weekend have several organised events to attend.

Trust all's well where you are!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Four Days in Kuala Lumpur

Hi everyone,
Yesterday evening we returned to Admiral Marina in Port Dickson from a four day trip to KL.  We enjoyed the earlier day tour so much we thought we'd spend a while there.  Anne and Graham from sv Kakadu thought likewise so we went to KL together.  The next Sail Malaysia events are not until the coming weekend so we had plenty of time.

On Friday morning we took a taxi from Port Dickson to Seremban, from where we could catch the train direct to KL.  The train was cheap, quite fast and very clean.  From the station we took a taxi to our hotel.  The two-bedroom suite with common living area and kitchenette was very nice.

The confluence of two rivers "Kuala Lumpur"
On Friday afternoon we had lunch at a Persian restaurant near the hotel.  From there we headed into central KL.  We visited the National Museum of Textiles which turned out to be very interesting.

Later on Friday we went to the Central Markets where there are Malay, Indian, Chinese and other stalls.  Bought a few bits and pieces.  From there we went to Chinatown for more shopping and for dinner.

Central Markets
Central Markets stall
 On Sunday we visited the Botanical Gardens including the Orchid and Hibiscus gardens.  After that we visited the National Museum which was very interesting too.On Saturday we visited the Pavilion Mall which was all decked-out for Christmas.  From there we walked to the Low Yat Plaza which has 6 floors of IT and electronics shops.  We had lunch at a cheap but tasty Pakistani restaurant.

On Monday we revisited the Central Markets and the mall at the foot of the Petronas Towers.  Both have very good food malls with very cheap meals.
Petronas Towers
All in all it was a very pleasant four days.  It was good to be able to laze around in our hotel suite each afternoon and evening.  On Monday we took the train back to Seremban and then the bus to Port Dickson.  The bus was very cheap, but crowded and quite old.  Twas much more fun than a taxi.
It's good to be back aboard.  Today we had a lazy day.  A little provisioning trip to the local supermarket was all we needed to do to prepare for our departure tomorrow.  We plan to head directly to Pangkor Marina Island, which is a 140nm passage.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Kuala Lumpur Tour

Hi everyone,
Yesterday we had a great coach tour of Kuala Lumpur.  We left Admiral Marina at 0730 and returned at 2100.  The guide was very knowledgeable.  Sadly he had to cope with a number of fussy yachties who don't seem to understand that tours have itineraries, but he coped with better humour than I would have!  The tour included stops at the Batu Caves, the Royal Selangor Pewter factory, the twin Petronas towers for lunch, the KL tower and at Chinatown for a quick dinner.

Central KL
We certainly enjoyed KL, so much so that we've booked accommodation for three nights from tomorrow so we can see more of the city.  We have plenty of time before Sail Malaysia activities start at  Pangkor Marina Island.

The Batu caves were first documented by an English naturalist in 1878.  Local Hindus then decided it was an ideal site for a temple and it is now looked after by the Hindu community.  It's a good climb from street level up to the cave entrance.  The caves are very large with several chambers.  Each chamber has openings to the hilltop above, so varying amounts of light are let in.

Batu Caves
Batu Caves
Monkeys in the Batu Caves
 The Royal Selangor Pewter factory was very interesting, with demonstrations of various parts of the manufacturing process.  Selangor is the name of the state in which Kuala Lumpur is located.  One interesting thing was the discovery that pewter coins were manufactured and used as money, and were cast on "trees"!

We had a good, cheap lunch in the mall at the foot of the Petronas towers.  We had a look around the mall and bought two pewter tumblers and a pewter tea caddy at the Royal Selangor shop.  Prices were the same at their online store, factory visitor centre and at the mall.  We chose a Japanese themed style which of course compliments our Japanese yacht.
Money growing on trees at the Royal Selangor Pewter Factory
What a tankard!
After lunch we visited the KL tower from where we had a great view of the city, limited a little by smog and haze.
View from KL Tower
KL Tower
We visited the war memorial and Royal palace too.  Both are kept very clean and tidy.  Rain clouds were building and we were lucky not to get wet.

Chinatown was interesting too.  Full of stalls selling "certified original copies" of western brand name goods.  Very stylish, but not particularly cheap.

All in all a fun day.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Melaka Tour

Hi everyone,
On Sunday Admiral Marina put on a High Tea for Sail Malaysia participants.  No loud music!  Lots of yummy food!  Very civilised.

Sail Malaysia Group Photo
Yesterday we joined other Sail Malaysia participants on a coach tour of historic Melaka.  The city has a rich history including settlement/occupation by the Portuguese, Dutch, British and Japanese.  Prior to all that the port was visited by a number of Chinese fleets.  The city is listed by UNESCO, which will hopefully slow down the encroachment of shopping malls on the historic areas.

Arrival at Melaka
We walked around the old part of the city which features many old Dutch buildings and a few from Portuguese times.  Some of the streets have interesting Dutch names, such as Jonkers Street/Walk and Herren Strasse.  These streets are now quite touristy, but have many interesting shops.

There are a number of temples, mosques and churches, some dating back to the 16th century.

Colourful shops
Central Melaka
The city was founded at the mouth of a river.  Sadly the river is silted up and yachts can't enter.  The shallow river and shallow approaches were what eventually moved traffic to Singapore.  The river through the town is still walled by the original Portuguese stonework.  The Portuguese fort was torn down but parts of its foundations are being uncovered as new developments take place.

A replica Portuguese caravel is a central feature along the river side.  Interesting shape.  Must have needed a lot of ballasting!

Another feature of Melaka is the "trishaw" tricycles.  They are done up with very colourful decoration and carry powerful boomboxes which pump out the music.

Portuguese church

All in all Melaka is well worth a visit.  It is touristy, but there are many interesting historic places to see.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Admiral Marina

Hi everyone,
On Wednesday afternoon we departed Danga Bay marina.  This morning we arrived at Admiral Marina, Port Dickson, at 02 28.60N 101 50.75E.  We did the 140nm trip in two legs - the first 20nm to Tanjung Piai and the second a 24 hour passage to Admiral Marina.

From Danga Bay we motored down the Johor Strait and across to Tanjung Piai.  There were some big thunderstorms about but happily they all missed us.  Nevertheless a huge lightning bolt hit the ground within a mile of us with a mighty (and almost simultaneous) flash-bang!

Tangung Piai is the southernmost point of mainland Asia.  We visited it by land on the coach tour from Danga Bay.  From the boat at anchor we could clearly see the globe shown in one of our tour photos.

Zen Again Tracks
Zen Again track into Admiral Marina
At 0700 on Thursday we weighed anchor and headed around the cape with Kakadu.  There was a light wind but our course just outside the shipping lane on the Malaysian side was too high into the wind to sail.  Kakadu "took a flier", crossing the shipping lane in order to sail.  We decided to stay out of the lane.  As a result we motorsailed for the entire trip and Kakadu managed to sail nearly all the way.  Darn.

The shipping lanes were extremely busy, and fun to watch.  At least three ships overtook us each hour heading NW, and probably a similar number on the far side heading SE.  That's at least 150 ships during our 24 hour passage.  Outside the shipping lanes we encountered about 20 tugs pulling barges and about a dozen trawlers at work.

Traffic in Malacca Strait
So far we're impressed with Admiral Marina.  The pens are good, although they have some problems with electricity supply to some pens.  Ashore there is a great pool, a yachtie's bar, an airconditioned restaurant, wifi and most importantly functional toilets and showers!

Zen Again in Admiral Marina
We expect to stay here until next Thursday.  In the mean time we have a reception on Sunday, and tours of Melaka and Kuala Lumpur on Monday and Wednesday.