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Tuesday, November 30, 2010.
On Saturday, November 27, we bid a sad farewell (again) to Singapore. We were about to experience the other way of checking into and out of Singapore. We received our clearance papers from the marina the night before. In the morning it was necessary to travel five miles south and west to the Sisters Islands to complete the formalities. The ride to the meeting point was uneventful for us- not so for FAI TIRA. They couldn't seem to decide which side of the reef marker to pass on and finally ran aground beside it instead. Then they proceeded to run aground on the other side as well! Meanwhile, the rest of us (eight boats) had called to Western Immigration and were awaiting the arrival of their boat. This procedure saves time anchoring and weighing the anchor again, but it is a bit bizarre. When the patrol boat comes up to your boat it is necessary to have your documents and passports ready in a plastic Ziplock-type bag. Then, when the man on their bow holds out his fish net, you deposit your documents in it. The documents are then stamped by immigration and returned to you, again by fish net! I didn't get photos as we did not hand him the proper papers and had to scramble to find the correct ones. It is a bit strange, but it IS effective, so long as you don't miss the net and lose everything overboard!
Next we had to cross ANOTHER major shipping channel before crossing into Malaysia. We all had to play a bit of cat and mouse with the ships. It WAS a relief to finally be through the worst of it. However, when we examined the AIS blips, there were still hundreds of very large vessels out there!
We had heard that it is quite difficult making passageway through the nights because of local fishing boats stringing nets from the outside edge of the channel across the inside passageway. Besides, we were tired of racing to meet deadlines without stopping and, accordingly, decided to do some day trips along the coast.
Our first stop was at Pulau Pisang. This was only 50 miles away, but it turned out to be a good idea. Just before we arrived, MOONSHINER once again had a shredded alternator belt and need to be towed the short distance to the anchorage. We were a bit hesitant, seeing that we only have a 56 horsepower engine and they are a bigger boat. However, Dick had the technique down to an art and there was no problem at all. We joined a Dutch-flagged boat in the anchorage and spent a very peaceful night. Dick tried using a Volvo fan belt instead of the belts he purchased (at great expense) in the Galapagos. Sure enough, he has not had fan belt problems since. All of those new belts must have been faulty!
On Sunday morning we had some interesting races with fishing boats towing LONG lines of nets right across our paths as we left Pulau Pisang and headed along the edge of the shipping lanes to Pulau Besar in the Water Islands outside Malacca. FAI TIRA had sent the fleet an email singing the praises of this gem of a city. However, again, they ran aground on entry- and they draw less water than we do! I have visited this charming city with its colonial Dutch architecture a couple of times, but couldn't persuade the others aboard ANGEL and MOONSHINER that they were really missing out. Que sera, sera. The island of Besar was lovely, with two resorts located there and we enjoyed another quiet overnight stay.
Monday's journey was, again, a short hop to Port Dickson. This is very much a commercial port and the marina was closed due to repairs. We decided to anchor in the area where vessels such as small tugs and barges were moored. It was either too shallow or very deep wherever we tried, but finally we were snug for the night between the commercial dock and the small island of Arang-Arang. We got a good night's rest before attempting the more harrowing journey up a narrow river with STRONG tides and currents accompanied by huge freighters, tugs and tankers by busy loading platforms to Port Kelang (or Klang).
As we were journeying up the river, fearing we wouldn't make it before dark since our speed at full throttle had been down to 2 knots before the tide finally changed and the strong winds were no longer on our nose, we had to do some fancy "footwork" to avoid tugs which appeared from nowhere to assist freighters to the loading docks. At one point a cruise ship was heading straight for us and two tugs were coming at us on the other side. Then we ran aground for a couple of minutes in soft mud while trying to make the turn up the side river where we would find the Royal Selangor yacht Club. The club is a private one, with very little docking space beside the lovely club house. It has three floating pontoons, however, on the other side of the narrow river and offer 24 hour water-taxi service to get ashore. It is DEFINITELY NOT a holiday resort. It is a small oasis in a huge commercial port. The river travels from Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia. It has huge tides and very fast currents. It is a place where you can get on the train to visit Kuala Lumpur (KL). It is also rather a fascinating little town. Hans from NAUTIBOU described it as a non-touristy REAL city which reminded him of Rotterdam. The grocery store was very good and the people very friendly and helpful.
Dick arranged for a man to come and look at his engine. After arrangements had been made for the work to be done, the four of us took a trip to town to check into Malaysia and then boarded the lovely air-conditioned train into KL to see the famous Petronas Towers. We managed to visit KL and travel up to the top just before we left Asia in 2002. At that time these were the tallest building in the world. They have since slipped to second place, but that doesn't make them any less impressive!
Alas, we were not to travel to to the top or even to the Sky Deck that day. Apparently it is necessary to get your tickets very early in the morning and then return at your appointed time. We did manage to stand at the foot of the towers and get the view from the ground up. I also managed to get a shot through the window of the cab as we approached them.
the very elegant and impressive Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur
Although we were a bit disappointed, we had fun checking out the gift shop. Then we managed to get back to Chinatown, where we had had lunch- just before it POURED!!!!
We must be one of the few groups who descended on Chinatown for lunch and managed to eat at, of all places, a Rasta restaurant! It actually DID have Chinese food and we loved the decor and the atmosphere.
inside the Rasta Chinese restaurant
The obliging and friendly staff wanted to take our picture for us- we didn't even need to ask!
We had seen many small shops with fascinating wares and Sara and I wanted to return after the trip to the Petronas Towers fell through. Dave nailed the weather properly, insisting on the visit before shopping as the afternoon teorrential rains would catch us in horrific traffic. As we returned to Chinatown, the heavens opened. There was a covering over the area, but the roofs drained onto the vendors' plastic tarps, just about drowning them inside!
We all needed to visit the loo. We found a MacDonalds and assumed that all of those stores have standards for their lavatories. We have now discovered that there is NO universal standard for the one in KL! There were unisex toilets, old, rather dingy and of the straddle type. I didn't dare lock the door as there was no handle on the inside and I didn't want to be stuck in there! However, their ice cream has the same standards as elsewhere!
Sarah decided her daughter need something very special for a wedding gift next May......
belly dancing clothes- a unique wedding gift!
After the rain let up a bit we did look about at many of the stalls. I managed to find some delicious rambutan ("hairy fruit"). They have a thick covering with long soft tendrils. They are great for the fruitseller to stack- they cling to each other rather like burrs!
shopping in Chinatown
There is a wonderful use of Moslem geometric patterns incorporated in the modern architecture of apartment buildings....
geometric patterning on apartments
and at the train station
At the train station there were also more classical minaret-style architecture...
minaret at the train station
There also was at least one car on each train reserved for women only. Most Malaysians are Sunni Moslems. The women are to cover their hair and should also wear clothing that covers the shoulders and legs. Most women seem to follow this dress code. However, the uniform of the teenagers and younger adults seems to be blue jeans and t-shirts.
Back at the Royal Selangor Yacht Club we enjoyed a lovely meal of chinese food- delicious and very inexpensive. The internet service was excellent at the club house- very fast - and free! The clubhouse is lovely......
Royal Selangor Yacht Club, Port Klang
HOWEVER, the pontoons are another story. There are no amenities (water and electricity). There are old boats that seem to have been there since Noah's day- one even had plants growing around the windows and a tree growing out of it! We discovered that rats come aboard your boat at night (they were probably left over from the Ark). When we woke up in the morning, the tide coming down from KL left this trapped by our fenders...
But that was NOTHING compared to the load crack in the night beside MOONSHINER. The high winds and current had broken apart the pontoon sections beside them. They were tied to both sections, fore and aft, as was the boat beside them on the other side. Between the two boats, they were keeping the entire pontoon from being washed ashore. (Thanks, Dick and Sara!)
Workers from the club fixed the break with chains. However, they also sandwiched MOONSHINER's dock lines into the join. It took a LONG time for them to prise apart the sections to free it when they wanted to leave!
Port Klang was definitely a new experience for all of us. However, on the positive side, we had fun, met some lovely people and Dick had a man fixing his engine until midnight the night before we left. The engine has behaved itself well ever since.
There was also a travel lift there. We were wondering what to do about ANGEL's hull repair work, not to mention the sea cock frozen open in the forward heads with a hose about to rupture attached to it. There is no chance to haul out in any of the ports we will be visiting- all are fully booked with local boats. We enquired about the lift here, but it was broken. However, the chandlery owner told us about the new marina opening at Pangkor Island. They have a lift but do not want to haul us before the 10th of December. We will stop there and see if they can be persuaded to do the work earlier. We can but try!