nic the brit
31 March 2011 | singapore
So to sail, it massively helps to have wind (the weather type), fundamental I know. Due to the imminent arrival of a new dingy in Singapore, more importantly a new crew member flying in, we had to do some very uneventful motoring to make it on time. To break up the journey we change course to head for an uninhabited island, lovely teeny tiny Pengibu. Haloed by turquoise waters, white beaches and a plush of vibrant green vegetation that we can see from the distance appeals, the detour looks worth it.
Land for the first time in four days, there is surge of excitement on the boat. Boys doing their thing(blue jobs), sorting out dive equipment and breathing life back into a wilted Holes, me doing my thing (pink jobs) sorting out provisions, I think I excelled in the catering department with a bottle of water and a packet of crisps.
After a brief exploration (Pengibu is very small) we cooled off with a snorkel. It was whilst we were drying off and having a quick tidy up that we heard the approaching engine. From the shore Alex and I watched an Indonesian boat circle Bubbles and head our way. Dressed all in black they walk towards us. No words, none of the usual welcome. I think we both spotted the machete at the same time. I bravely stood right next to Alex (Protection is defiantly a blue job I was comfortably about 5 paces behind him) waiting for him to utter the code word (this is actually true we do have a word that pirates won’t recognize and it’s our warning to each other). There we stand in silence, them all wearing black and one sporting the 80s mullet (but I wasn’t going to take the Mick out of him for it) and calmly smoking. Us dripping wet, wearing only our swimmers and nervous smiles. Thankfully all these blokes wanted to do was come ashore for a break, to climb a coconut tree with agility and ease, thankfully they were not here to see our previous breathless efforts. So we shared a coconut or two, they worked that machete to their advantage with skill and precision, sculpting the fruit into a spoon and a bowl, the Mullet man still smoking and not saying a word. We watched them as closely as they watched us the watcher was now the watched. They loved the awkward way we handled and ate the fruit (to their amusement) and we looked mimicking their techniques. They went back to their boat, with their curiosity about us settled and happy with the bottle of rum we gave them, they shared their fruit with us, so we shared ours with them.
The fridge, the keeper of all things healthy and fresh has died a tragic death!! Shame it’s taken us two days to realise. The warm beer was the first clue, closely followed by my discovery of our unwanted guests. My demand that the fridge be emptied, was quickly acted on because I wasn’t going in their again till it was, the threat of no lunch had a rapid response. So as I sat on the bow, furthest away, and the “cockroach appreciation society” set about their task with a lengthy discussion between Kirk and Alex, on what incredible creatures they are. Did you know they can lift 50 times their own body weight? I can assure you that when we reached Singapore I made sure we had products for termination. Kirk described it as the Merican education policy “no one will be left behind!” I cringed and jumped like someone with a nervous disposition as I removed items and objects in a bid to solve this situation. I was not amused!!
The Journey into Singapore led us down one of the world’s busiest shipping channels at night, from a distance the horizon is littered with bright lights. This could be mistaken for land but it’s actually hundreds of huge tankers. I was on watch as the sun rose; normally I make a casual coffee at this time and enjoy my private view of the sky’s magnificence. Not on this leg, I’m firmly gripping the wheel as bubbles shimmies her hips in the wake of these huge tankers, making her tumble and throwing me about the cockpit. From a distance they resemble children’s toys, laden with multi colored Lego stacked containers. Not until they are upon you can you appreciate their size and power. It was about 9am (rush hour) when our engine failed, completely powerless we bob up and down for over an hour. This is like being on a unicycle on a motorway (freeway to the Yankee doodles reading). After trouble shooting “we” (I use the term “we” I can assure you I had nothing to do with them. maintenance and tinkering) fixed the engine enough wind to sail. So we waltzed with the tankers, we tacked across their paths, some sounding their horns and others with crew waving. We can only assume these were all signs of appreciation from the ships and not because we had cut them up and were costing the Singapore shipping economy thousands in late fees.
We start to approach the city sky line and it looks like Gotham city. The buildings architecture is fictional and in some aspects defies gravity. We observe this with our privileged view from Bubbles. In the shadows of the tankers we wait for immigration to come and meet us. They arrive and fishing net is thrust at us to retrieve out passports and papers. All the technology in the world cannot replace the humble fish net.
Keppel Bay marina is rather plush and our neighbor is a huge highly polished yacht called White Rabbit. There is a great deal of money all floating on the water. Our first impressions of Singapore are that the streets are cleaned and regimentally manicured to a high level and the public toilets have loo (toilet) paper??!! After being at sea for 6 days the first thing we do is hit the bars in search for COLD beer, we not only find COLD beer but we also have the pleasure of meeting some of the local characters (lady boys) Alex was less than impressed with being propositioned, this meant we got to me some of the public sector workers. The police were more than helpful in diffusing the situation and were happy to give us directions. In a country that won’t allow Jay walking or chewing gum they are more than happy for blokes to dress as women!! Explain that to me? We also managed to make some really good first impressions in our new marina, we know they respect us as sailor but we also know they will never respect us as drinkers. By the time I got to the boat Alex was passed out semi naked in front of Bubbles (I say semi naked because a crew member of White Rabbit had draped a towel over him).
Another female on Bubbles!! No more monosyllabic answers to my questions, I’m now engaged in constructing full sentences! Christine’s arrival was helped by her checking in a hotel… so we checked in with her, air conditioning. As usual made some lasting impressions! Asking for ping pong balls from room service at 3am (I promise this was just a drinking game) unfortunately it was explained to us that the “recreation facilities” were closed, then filling our bags with fruit at breakfast (we had to stock up) it’s all about maximizing your recourses. And back to the deep blue we go, with our Skipper (Alex) our Ships Engineer (Kirk) our Wench (me) and our new Communications Expert (Christine).