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Chatty log | Langkawi to Singapore

Langkawi to Singapore

25 August

John: Oh my, did I sleep soundly last night! Caro is already feeling better for a good night's rest and we are able to set about the refuelling (of boat and people) we need to do here. I spend a good deal of time setting things up for our homecoming. I sign and return the RSYC contract (even though this is sponsored and we're not paying for the event, it still has a bizarre S$2k cancellation penalty clause). It's now very late to be sending out invitations but the RSYC took two months to make a clear offer so we're stuck with a very compressed timetable now. In the afternoon Caro and I set off to find some shaft coupling bolts and a bottle shop with good prices. We end up buying a few cases of wine and some spirits with a few more cases of beer (strictly for ballast purposes); enough to fill three trolleys when we get back to the club. Some time is spent finding homes for it all on the boat. A good dinner ashore in the posh restaurant upstairs and then our traditional chapter of Harry Potter, though I must say that this book is turning out to be rather grim.

26 August

John: I am guessing the nasty crunching sound at the front of the engine is the pony shaft drive chain that's fused into a solid block of rust by the recent salt water leak. I set about greasing it all up, grease-gunning the bearings and fitting new shaft coupling bolts. I am therefore up to my armpits in oil, grease and diesel down in the bilge when Cindy from Pharmanex shows up to talk about our supplements and experiences. She takes a few photographs and scans us after lunch. All our scores have taken a dive over the last year, not too surprising given the hostile environment. Then it's Harry Potter hour, though things are lookng very poor indeed for our wizarding friends on that front. In the afternoon we set off to get some replacement bolts for the coolant reservoir (the ones I had made in Zanzibar have dodgy threads and the reservoir leaks at the gasket) plus maybe some clothes for the kids. We stop off at Langkawi Fair, a glitzy shopping mall, and get sucked into buying all sorts of good stuff; shoes, shorts, shirts. Casper and Alex have whole new outfits. By the time we make it into the main part of town for the hardware stores they're closed. We make do with buying pots and pans and plastic crockery instead. On the way back we stock up on a minor mountain of fresh food for the next few days. Quite a spree!

27 August

John: So off I go this morning to get the bolts, if I can, and check out. The bolts turn out to take a bit of finding, of course, so by the time I'm done in town it's just after midday and we take our last lunch at the club and finish Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (we're all traumatised at the ending) before the final step of taking on diesel and leaving for Singapore. That last step turns out to be a biggy. Despite earlier assurances that the diesel is clean and an old problem with the supply pipe fixed, the pre-filter I am using clogs and we see a big plume of diesel discharging into the marina. We stop after 240 litres, but how much of that is in the tank and how clean is it? We can only hope that our pre-filter caught most of the crud. We also need more diesel. The Club is very helpful and sets us up to take 200 litres from a barge just outside the marina, driving me into town so I can pay by VISA while they take one of their tenders out to fill our jerries. Problem solved (though still with less diesel than I would have liked) we set off at 1700, much too late. Little chance, it seems, of arriving in Singapore in the light on the 30th now. Even so, we find a favourable current and good conditions, so maybe things will work out.

28 August

John: By 02:00 we are swallowed up in boiling squalls and lightning. I hate lightning when I'm on a boat. Dawn is grey and green with lots of ships. With a helping current still with us, we're making good time until... Motoring along happily, the engine drops revs and quits at 21:30, long before we're supposed to run out of fuel. I am worried that the filters are blocked, and in attempting to blow imaginary acretions clear, succeed only in injecting enough air into the system to make it virtually impossible to bleed. Two hours later, with bruised and burnt hands and forearms, I get the engine running again. We must have had only 150 litres or so of the 240 that Langkawi pumped. Now we're short on fuel even to reach Singapore. Back in the same hole again...

29 August

John: We made a minor detour to call in to Port Dickson's Admiral Marina for fuel. It added maybe an hour to the journey and another to actually tie up and take on 500 litres, but well worth it. The Bohemian Rhapsody has decided to quit, the hard disk is givig errors that crash the OS. Oh great, just as we're entering one of the trickiest and busiest channels in the world, the Malacca Straits, we lose C-Map. A mad scramble ensued to dig out whatever miserable photocopied backup charts we have for these twisted waters. Not much. Now we really appreciate C-Map. We sure do like to have coloured charts with our position and COG plotted. Eventually, by systematically countermanding Window's most urgent recommendations, I managed to get the beast to boot up again and we got C-Map back up. But for how long?

30 August

John: A neat trick this, and a good one so read on... I woke when I heard the engine revs drop, my internal alarms ringing. Stumbling up to the cockpit, I find Caro and Casper on watch, staring intently ahead into the night. A fishing boat has crossed our bows then, amazingly, doubled back and began sowing a net right across our path. Caro cut the engine to coast and put her hard to port. Thinking Jocara must have drifted clear by now, she gently put her back into gear. We weren't moving. We were stuck. A check on the shaft confirmed it was entangled. Oh great, our last chance to make Singapore in the light now just got yanked out of our reach. The fishing boat, meanwhile, was calling out 'Oleh! Oleh!' or something to that effect. I called on the VHF, more for form than out of real hope. No reply, of course. Then they left. By divelight we could see a line in the water, running under the boat. This was about the time a squall hit, with 20 kt wind and rain. The dinghy was making some terrible banging, so I went out to check. Jocara's stern was being held down by the net and, unable to rise to the swells, waves were pooping her and slamming into the dink. A webbing strap had broken, the dink hung crazily. Repeated waves caught and slammed it up into the davits, breaking off a wheel, snapping a stanchion (right, another one bites the dust) and splintering the pushpit teak rail. Eventually I got it tamed and into the water, allowing the dink to stream to the bow. We remained pinned and waited for dawn. Once light, I jumped over the side with a mask and fins to take a look at how bad the tangle was and found my feet immediately wrapped in the deathly brush of netting, threatening to entangle me and drag me under. There was net right under the boat from port to starboard and wrapped around the prop. We got a set of dive gear ready, no easy job with the boat rolling so badly. The fishing boat came back and we were made to understand that they had no radio and that we should cut ourselves free. They didn't want to have anything to do with that part of the operation. I dived in, feeling very vulnerable to being either smacked on the head by 25 tonnes of boat gyrating like a mad thing in the heaving sea or being entangled by the folds of netting all about me like a dolphin bycatch. Probably first one then the other fate. I managed to swim around to the other side of the boat and moved in to take my chances, sawing with my knife at what looked like the key line to sever. It parted, and the netting began to tear around and away from the prop under the drag. I moved back to avoid being wrapped in the released sheets of netting that writhed in the water around me and then had to swim as hard as I could to catch up with Jocara again; she was now pivoting to the wind and drifting away rapidly. We were clear. Not quite the most challenging and exciting (read 'scary and uncontrolled' if you're not British) dive I've ever had, but definitely worth an honourable mention. Somehow I managed to get back on board in one piece, gasping, spluttering and exhausted. The fishermen signalled, asking if we were clear. I signalled yes. Then they asked for money... I tell you, if I'd had a firearm on board it would have taken Neptune himself to prevent me from loading it with the most damaging ordinance I could lay my hands on and blowing dirty great holes in the hull of that piratical scumbag heap of rotting wood they called a fihing boat. I would have been happy to ream their various orifices with both barrels, the safety firmly off. I wouldn't even have used vaseline. We had been royally penetrated with a rotational twist and they had the gall to try asking for money. Although their command of the King's English scored an all-time TOEFL low, and my Malay was only inconsequentially better, I think they got the general gist of my intentions and thought better of pressing their case.

Caro: We're all on edge and the kids get more and more excited the closer we get. Finally, late afternoon, we round the last corner and enter the madness of Singapore waters. Weaving our way through a big ship anchorage the light is fading fast. There are so many boats and they're moving so fast. We're all looking out spotting the boats that are heading our direction. Not easy with so much background light. To make life harder still we have to work out how to find our way around the latest reclamation. It's pretty tense for a few hours as we slowly make our way to the RSYC. At 22:30 we ease our way into the marine and tie up at our old berth D9. We've made it, it's over. Time to get the champagne out.



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