Sun 26 Sep 2010 09:26
Raffles Marina, Singapore
Position; 01:20.55N 103:38.00E
Sunday Sepember 26th
Time on the run again, I suppose that's how David Milliband must feel, too. I'm well up to date with all things British, as one of the perks of staying at Raffles Marina is a 'free' morning newspaper, 'The Straits Times' delivered to your boat each morning. I really have a fascination for other peoples' newspapers, and still hanker after the Sydney Herald. The Straits Times seems to be very much in the Government's pocket, but does give a good view of local issues, even if it tells you what to think about them. There are ongoing tensions between here and Malaysia to the North and Indonesia to the South, and the current spat between China and Japan is big news too. Globally there is quite a lot of interest in the USA, and the English Priemier Football league! Speaking of which, I see that B'ham scrambled to yet another goalless draw yesterday, and Worcester are going to struggle all season to get back into the Rugby premiership.
Difficult to believe that I've been here nearly a week: an absorbing crossing from Batam Island last Monday, as these really are the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Having checked out of Indonesia, you are obliged to leave at once, so I was relieved to find good visibility in the Strait, and at dawn, no sign of thunderstorms. There is a traffic separation zone, and small boats are required by law to cross these at right angles to the big ships. We minows have absolutley no rights of way at all. When it looked clear I darted behind the stern of two ships heading east, but when I got to the imaginary central reservation there was a supertanker coming from the opposite direction. The huge size of these things makes it very difficult (for me!)  to judge their speed. I was about to charge across in front of it when I suddenly realised that I would never make it, so I stopped in my tracks to let him pass, only to find a whole rag bag of shipping in his wake. Whatever, we made it safely accross, and no one felt the need to hail me with a series of long horn blasts: one of the Collision Regulation messages which would politely translate as 'Would you be so kind as to get out of my way?' Now we were in the Port of Singapore, bustling with ships of all shapes and sizes. My route was prepared the night before, and fed to the chart plotter, I also had some paper charts of the Straits from Australia: very costly, but useful, as you can see the whole picture at a glance, much better for these congested areas than the 'plotter's 5inch screen and zoom buttons. All went well, we cut through several small ship channels, and across big ship anchorages, weaving under the bows and sterns of container ships and bulk carriers of all descriptions. We passed Sentosa Island where Hannah and I spent an afternoon on the beach during our stopover her four months ago. I do remember that day, wondering how clean the water might be (not very) and being amazed by the number of anchored ships just off shore. I hadn't imagined that I would soon be threading my way between them. Further to the West they are solving their population density problem by creating more land: huge amounts of it. None of it shows on my electronic charts, but the Australian charts were updated with purple ink, and proved their worth again, So, by the simple expedient of staying on the sea we safely crept round the western tip of Singapore Island, and reached Raffles Marina on the North West Coast, in the early afternoon.
Its a Country Club for the locals, membership is very expensive, and visiting yachties, like me, are in the minority. We feel rather out of place in the loos, where the attendant counts his complimentary little bottles of shower gel, shampoo, and conditioner very assiduously as we enter and leave. Electric sliding doors in several areas, but not the loos themselves: you can still lock yourself in there! There is a posh eating place which I cannot afford, but a bistro too which is OK. and just a little cheaper than UK prices. We are miles from downtown, and our local shops are at Boon Lay. a residential area, full of concrete high rise like Berlin, but much much cleaner. The completely graffiti free MRT underground terminates here, and passengers transfer to the local bus network to get to their homes. The system is amazing. you wait in air conditioned comfort, and when the bus arrives a glass door slides open and you board the bus; like walking onto an aeroplane, you hardly notice the join! I have a Singapore Oyster card, which works on the trains and the buses. The centre of Boon Lay is this transport hub, over which is a huge shopping mall: like Merry Hill, or Touchwood! There are a huge number of eating places as well, and of course a multiplex. it really does seem to be the case that Singaporeans live to eat and shop. The roads are modern motorway standard, and not so many cars, as vehicle ownership is controlled by a curious flexible taxation which gets steeper as demand for cars rises. An incredible contrast to Indonesia.
The Big Thing is the Singapore Grand Prix. As it's a street race there is a huge impact on the city, but this seems to be very welcome. The attitude is extraordinarliy upbeat: 'Singapore's race is the jewel in the Crown of Formula One', 'the only night race in the Calender', etc. Huge coverage in the press and TV, VIPs like drivers, Richard Branson etc are followed everywhere, and the various sponsors get huge coverage. All the tickets (£500 for a grandstand seat) are sold out, and there are huge pop concerts inside the track area, each night of the practice sessions.
The race is tonight, and I shall watch it on the big screen that has been erected here on the lawn: the pundits fear rain, but the marina clearly knows best!
I have been very busy indeed with maintainence tasks: the engine needed a lot of love and care after the marathon Bali trip, and the sails have also had a hard time, all that reefing and gybing up the Australian coast, and then the slatting and chaffing in the lighter Indonesian breezes. Plus the water maker, loose gas bottles, you name it!! Work is quite difficult in the heat: early morning and evening are not so bad, but midday is best spent in this air conditioned lounge, writing my blog!