Tue 26 Apr 2011 06:55
Tuesday, 26th April
Location Sebana Cove Marina, Sungai Santi River, Malaysia
Position, 1:24.722N 104:09.83E
Very pleased to say that I am recovering well, but slowly, from my fall two and a half weeks ago. Yesterday I sailed (well, motored, never any wind here) around Singapore Island to reach this strange place, and physically managed quite well: things 'jar' when I jump about the deck, and using my right shoulder muscles for winching is very sore, but I can swim a bit, and walking on land is no problem. Odd that running is quite impossible, is it just the 'jaring' effect, or do we use different abdominal muscles? A couple of incidents en route made me a little sheepish. First I invaded the Navy's 'no go zone' off the SE tip of Singaopore Island: two gunboats came streaking out of the harbour, but when they saw I was a yacht (so what do terrorists look like then?), one of the gunships turned back, and the other very politely informed me of my transgression, and escorted me 'off the premises'. My excuse, I'm good at excuses, is that the electronic charts that I use dont have all the printed information showing at all magnifications. On the projection that I was using I did notice a thin purple line, crossing my path. Had I 'zoomed out' I would have been able to read what the line was all about! In my efforts to keep up with the gunboat my engine overheated, which reminded me of this ongoing unsolved problem, so I had to stop to let it cool down, and try to explain to the gunboat skipper that I was not going below decks to detonate the fuses!! Finally parted the best of friends (not), and I was then confronted by several miles of reclaimed land not showing on any of my charts, whatever the zoom! Finally worked out, by trial and error, which way round to go, set the autopilot, and for a few secs, well, it seemed like only a few secs, retreated below to make a coffee. Very loud sound signal! Up the companion way, ribs forgotten, and wheel hard to starboard, before even I could turn round to face forward and catch site of a large tug bearing down on me! In fact I did well, his blast may just have been out of concern, but a single blast means 'I am altering course to starboard'. So, if we both alter course to starboard, having been in danger of collision, we should pass port side to port side, the correct rule of the road. And this is what happened. I looked up to the bridge of the tug as we passed and offered a friendly smile and a congenial wave: the sort of greeting that seafarers offer one an other the world over. Odd then that the skipper didn't seem to wave back.
Just on the subject of excuses, I will mention that I revisited the accident scene at Raffles Marina and found that the polished stone steps that I fell on have been the victims of quite severe subsidence, being tilted sideways and downwards. Subsidence has affected much of the ground around the marina. Lucky for the management I'm not from the USA! I fact I was quite ressured to find a reason for the accident. Now, its just a matter of avoiding things that tilt.....!
I am four miles from the sea in a marina carved out of the banks of a river, and the dense mangroves on its banks. Ashore is a generally oppulent hotel complex, with a rather ecclectic collection of accomodation around it, plush bungalows on the waterside, and other dormitory blocks that are well past their sell by date, and where the jungle is re-establishing itself. There is a big golf course, which is possibly the main attraction. Today however the resort is a ghost town: a few yachts cocooned on finger pontoons, a few more, like Fleck are occupied, but there is no sign of anyone staying in the resort itself. Promised myself a meal out last night, having economised with food on board during my expensive extended stay in Singapore, and I visited the hotel restauraunt at tea time to check the menu. The chef, the waitress, and the maitre d' were playing cards and smoking (we are back in Malaysia now!). "When is supper?" says I. "When you wish, Sir". "I would like to eat with the others, says I"."That will be when you wish, Sir". "But when do the others eat?"says I. "Sir, you and the others are just one person, and that person is you". Intensely mataphysical, and accurate. We all had supper at 20.00 hours, though it was a rather quiet affair.
Today I took the shuttle bus to the local town, whose emblem, rather promisingly, is a large shrimp. Shampoo, distilled water for my batteries, and oil for my engine, all nice Malaysia prices from little stores along the main street. Sadly no sign of the prawns. Newspaper and a cup of hot sweet coffee for a ringet from a cafe (that's 25pence, as opposed to £3 for a Starbucks in Singopore). We left for the return journey as soon as I got back to the waiting bus; it felt quite crowded, what with me and the driver on board.
The past receeds so quickly, I must just mention a couple of Singapore things. Firstly the Singapore Biennale, 2011. This is the Far East's answer to the Turner Prize, except that you get the chance to see all the entries, not just the four finalists, and anyway there is no prize. So, actually, it's just a huge modern artfest, spread over three established museums, a disused airfield. and the Iconic Merlion on the Esplanade. An hotel room has been built around the statue; by day anyone can go in and get up close to the Merlion, or you can book the hotel room, and spend the night with him! There is a vogue for transplanting things like this. When Hannah and I visited the Tate St Ives this year there was an Artists Studio relocated from the North of Scotland. The hanger of the disused airfield housed a life sized recreation of a Dutch barn, with a stuffed cow. The exhibition has not received rave reviews, and when I took the free shuttle bus from the Singapore Art Museum to the airfield at Kampong, I found meslf, once again, quite alone.
Not so at a Gala concert of the Sigapore Symphony Orchestra. Midori, (but I do rather get irritated by the rich and famous who adopt silly names: 'Sting' is especially upsetting to me) pushing 40, has lost her youthful figure, but none, to my ear, of her talent, and Tchaikovsky's violin concerto was otherworldly. (Late birthday idea: Midori and the Berlin Philharmonic's recording of this?). Conservative Singapore likes this sort of thing much more than video installations, me too!
And finally, and not for the first time, I must mention again how clean this city is, and how utterly pleasant it is to enjoy the environment that results. There is no graffiti anywhere, there are no cigarrette butts or spat out chewing gum on the pavements, and because no one can eat or drink on the underground, there is no litter, and nothing is sticky or smelly. Singaporeans love their Island State, why oh why can't the rest of us show a similar respect for our own surroundings?
What then am I doing here? Collecting my indonesian Cruising permit is one answer, and so far as that is concerned mission accomplished, or more accurately permission for mission to comence has been granted and received. A month ago I had to provide a forwarding address for the documentation, and Sebana Cove sounded nice, and I havn't been here before. The guide book says of the trip upriver 'It's a Maughamesqe experience'. Not finding that word in my Australian dictionary, I thought that my own trip might unlock the meaning of this adjective. Well, I don't know how Somerset made so much of basically dense green river banks, although there is something about the increasing sense of encroachment as the river narrows around you that is a little eerie and strange. I would have used the adjective Apocalypse Nowesque, as these days I think more poeple will have heard of Marlon Brando than Somerset Maugham.
Tomorrow I am off to Indonesia.