nic the brit
07 April 2011 | port dickson, malaysia
Leaving Singapore, yet again allows us to play, like children on a busy road, tacking through the tankers. Only with more confidence this time, we do see how close we can get to the huge freight (only to the anchored tankers and a few that were moving slowly). With necks arched back, wide mouthed and wide eyed we gaze up. Nothing prepares you for your own insignificance as much as this; if they hit us (there was more chance of us hitting them!!) they wouldn’t even know.
We sail using the sun, the moon and of course the stars, (believe that and then you will believe anything) it is very technical, so when this fails us we use satellite navigation, which is programmed with charts. These are usually up to date and reliable. I say usually as this time after sailing for about 2 hours we hit a dead end. This is definitely not on the charts and according to the sat nav we are where we think we are (that doesn’t happen often). Only thing to do is turn and sail around all the reclaimed land that was once water. According to one of the tanker workers we spoke to it’s been closed off for about a year. Just lucky we were not on a night sail.
We sailed up the Singapore straight to the river that divides Singapore to Malaysia a gentle cruise towards Danga Bay, we did however notice that we had a police escort for most of it. With police boats hanging back from us, then over taking and waiting around corners. It was like they were haunting us, even when we couldn’t see them we were fully aware of their presence. We hope that is this just precautionary because of the international border and not that we look rather shifty. When entering a port, waters normally change depth; this is another example of needing instruments and eyes. With Alex at the top of the mast, Kirk on the bow, Christine our “communications expert” in the middle, confirming my shouts (cause there were shouts) and myself, stressed out me at the helm. We can normally see the color of the water change with depth, being on a river the water was muddy. So I’m left driving, with Alex and Kirk trying to decide to go on the inside of the buoys or outside of them, something I wish they had decided before this crucial moment as I slalomed in between buoys with 0.0 feet registering on the depth, whilst they casually discussed the best option.
With the helm still attached, we moor in Danga Bay. Not the best facilities, it’s hard to tell if they are pulling it down or doing it up. The showers are basic, there is no water plumbed to the sinks and the floors haven’t seen a mop in months, even though there is one in the corner that’s threatening to be used. Hearing the boys moan about the state of their showers, fuels my sense of humor. I start to talk to Christine about the massage setting on the shower and the HOT water being a bit temperamental with the boys in full ear shot. This roused there curiosities as they question “you have hot water?” A casual reply from me “yeh, course?” working on the general rule of thumb that ladies bathrooms are normally nicer than men’s, they were sucked in. Never have I dangled an easier carrot(s) in front of a donkey(ies)!! Of course our shower room had none of the described features and yes we did put them out of their misery before they went charging into the ladies on a quest for a hot shower.
We eat that night at an Indian restaurant. You get your food served to you on a banana leaf, as always with the Bubbles crew any hesitation where eating is concerned means it will go to a very willing home! When we stood up to leave, it was only then that our elevated position gave us a chance to realize that everyone else in the restaurant had plates. So for once, people were not staring at us because we were white.
Any entry or departure to a port, since I have been on Bubbles, has yet to go smoothly. In Labuan, Valentine was still in the marina showers when we left, so they made her jump. Singapore, Alex is still on the dock settling an outstanding bill, yet he has no money on him, so we are all running up and down trying to hold the boat close to the jetty whilst various transactions take place. In Danga Bay, we cast off with the help from another boat; this is good we are all on board. With big waves from us to say thanks only to turn around to settle into the cockpit to realize we hadn’t attached the steering wheel and better still couldn’t find the locking mechanism for it. If anything though I can honestly say we provide much entertainment for other sailors, as they wave us off you can see them scratching their heads and asking each other “How have they made it this far?”
On our way out of the river and back out to sea and clear waters, we need no pass under one of the two bridges that connects Singapore to Malaysia. The bridge is arched and divided with supporting stations leaving 7 gaps for us to clear under; this gives us three easy options to clear the mast. This is too easy and we (Alex) want to see how close we can get to the roof of the bridge. So we approach with sails out, Christine at the helm (first time driving the boat), and Alex at the top of the 64ft mast, camera in hand at about 4kts, if we hit it will snap the mast. The speed of approach means that we watched quietly, as once committed to our course, it takes another 10 min for us to realize how close its going to be, very close. Drive your car at 4 mph and you will realize this is the most tormenting potential impact. Much to our delight the antenna off the top of the mast gently grazed the concrete and you could feel the tension lift. a) Alex was happy that we had touched the roof, b) we were happy to be alive and still sailing c) part of me thinks he would have made us go around again ant try a lower section until we did hit.
The sail to Port Dickson takes two days, we have good wind and a good speed and we arrive outside P.D. at 1am. The lights on shore draw us closer and the music starts to rouse the crew, sheeted in we fire up the engine ready to enter the marina. As I said before it never goes smoothly, the engine fails and for an hour we try to restart the engine as bubbles gently floats away so does the music and lights. We now have to rely on old Holes (the name of our dingy with so many of its namesake) to tow us in. at 3.30 we eventually get to the marina and dock. Despite me saying nothing ever goes smoothly this actually did although we still have no functioning engine. After being at sea and spoiled with the sea breeze, the lands hot still air suffocates you. Enviously you can hear all the other boats air conditioning running as we empty the boat of our bedding and line up on the jetty for a motionless night’s sleep. Successfully lowering the tone of any mariner, we sleep alfresco like a Bubbles “welcome” mat; you will always know when Bubbles has arrived.