Friday, July 20, 2012

Interlude in Singapore

We've been marina hopping in Singapore. Our first choice of posh marinas has always been 115 Marina but at present they are "fully booked". So we arrived at Raffles Marina and checked in there from Malaysia. There's no good reason not to like Raffles but we just didn't care for the place itself. Janet says the 'vibe' is off and I couldn't come up with a better explanation. When you add to that the isolation of the marina, you have to take a twenty minute bus ride to get to the MRT (the Singapore subway) and then ride the MRT for at least half an hour to get anywhere you might want to go, and the fact that there's no store of any kind at the marina, it's pretty inconvenient. There is a nice pool and a gym of sorts and probably the best yacht chandlery in Singapore (still not all that great) but for us it didn't add up.
Raffles Marina
 So when we got an opening at Keppel Bay Marina we switched. Keppel is on the other side of the island and has really excellent access to the city. It's part of a very posh development and includes some of the most spectacular high rise architecture in the world. It's very well organized and the 'vibe' is friendly and efficient. True, there's no pool and no gym but the facilities are excellent and the atmosphere is quiet and easy going, especially by Singapore standards.
The Marina at Keppel Bay
Now we have a reservation for 115 Marina beginning the 30th and that's where all the goodies fall into place. If we've got to spend a fair chunk of change to be in a marina it may as well have it all and 115 does. Nice pool, good gym, great facilities, big 7-11 on the property, excellent access to the city, etc, etc. The only drawback is the very urban atmosphere but the marina itself is quiet and peaceful.

Most of the boat stuff is done and the boat is in good shape. I'm a little amazed at my very short "to do" list. I only hope it holds.

The Marina Bay Sands complex
Singapore is as flashy as ever in the flashy parts of town and Little India and Arab Town are as interesting as ever. The whole city is the most incredibly landscaped and vegetated urban environment. Much of that element is truly beautiful. Of course much of the city is high rise, very high density, public housing which is not appealing in itself but is still very well kept and squeaky clean. My understanding is that everyone who lives in this housing has to purchase their property. The purchase and selling arrangements are very carefully controlled but everyone does own their place and that probably has a lot to do with the success of these housing arrangements.

We went to the Jurong Bird Park on Janet's birthday where a Yellow Napped Amazon Parrot sang happy birthday to her in English. The bird park, along with the Singapore zoo, may be the best in the world.

All in all we've been to Singapore too often over the years of flying and now sailing. It's the perfect example of the "interesting place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there." We're waiting for my nephew Scott to show up on the 1st of August and within a few days after that we'll be outta here. Janet is still hoping some other friend will decide to crew with us and she can avoid doing this passage she dreads. We still have a few guys considering the idea. Anybody interested in a little Indian Ocean crossing?

Janet in her "spot".
Love to all,
Bill & Janet
S/V Airstream

Monday, July 2, 2012

Down The Straits of Malacca

We're now at Admiralty Marina, Port Dickson, Malaysia, a lovely place.  It's tropically  hot and humid. There are morning thunderstorms daily but it cools down enough at night to sleep comfortably on the boat.
Calm in the straits
In Rebak we found Airstream in pretty good condition considering it had been out of the water in the tropics for several months. No big trauma suffered. We used a nice night in the hotel at Rebak as a re-entry vehicle and launched the boat next afternoon.  Three days later we had completed enough prep to head south with reasonable confidence so we said a sad good bye to Peter and Misty of 'Tamoure' and a few other friends and slipped out early for Penang. Rebak has always been a very nice place and Noel of Yacht Services is  great.
Typical Malay trawler
Everything worked pretty much as advertised on the seventy mile motor down to Straits Quay Marina in Penang. No wind of course. Didn't tangle any trash or discarded fishing gear in the prop and had no problems getting into the shallow marina entrance at high tide.
Airstream at Straits Quay Marina
Straits Quay is a new marina in Penang and surrounded by a very posh housing and retail development. This isn't what comes to mind when I think of SE Asia. Think 'Singapore' and you'll be a lot closer. The Tanjong City Marina where we stayed a couple years ago has pretty much fallen apart from neglect. Now that seems familiar.

Tim & Ruth, Happy Anniversary!
We spent several nights socializing with Tim and Ruthie of 'Victory Cat' who are living aboard at the marina while Tim works for Honeywell as a little break from his second retirement. We even helped celebrate their 31st anniversary at a very nice restaurant. Ken and Audrey of 'Fast Forward' were there to enjoy as well. I got the new AIS transponder installed with only the usual cussing and deleted expletives.
Favorite Buddhist temple, George Town
  We spent a day tramping around George Town which is what Singapore's Little India and China Town were like 25 years ago. So after three days it was goodbye to friends again, definitely the saddest part of this life, and we shoved off for an overnight passage down to Port Dickson.
Ken & Audrey, Fast Forward is for sale folks!
You just can't expect any wind in the straits during the SW monsoon and what you do get will be out of the south. So, as expected, it was a motor boat job again all the way to Port Dickson. At least it was pretty much flat calm most of the trip. We dodged fishing boats and a few freighters, many, many freighters anchored off Port Klang, and got back into a little of the swing of night watches and being at sea. The AIS works great and is a really nice adjunct to radar. Now if there were  some way to detect prop fouling trash on the course ahead life would be just super ducky.

Motoring out of Penang
As it was we had no problems getting into Admiralty Marina which is even nicer than before with new docks and accessories. Barry and Maggs of 'JJ Moon' came in next day and we'll be circling in the same circles for the next few months, maybe all the way to South Africa, which will be fun. Janet and I took a day trip into the historic old city of Melaka which was the originally colonized outpost in the straits. First the Chinese forced their way in to trade, then the Portuguese in 1511, then the Dutch drove out the Portuguese, then the Brits drove out the Dutch, etc, etc. Melaka sits on a small river on an essentially featureless stretch of jungle coastline. It's a boggling to think of western Europeans sailing half way around the world in crummy ships with almost no charts or nav aids to come to this tiny disease ridden spot willing fight to the death to trade for spices.
The oldest Mosque in Malaysia. Melaka.
 The old town of Melaka is worth a visit for the architecture and cross cultural history. The new city is booming and modern. Another Penang in the making.
"You will live to be 94 years old, you have only one wife..."
So my boat jobs list is pretty short and is best finished off in Singapore. We're in pleasant surroundings here at Admiralty. Janet says she's " coming to grips" with being back on the boat. Whatta girl! Tomorrow we'll go into town and do the check out formalities to leave Malaysia. The 4th we'll depart on an overnighter bound for Raffles Marina in Singapore. To coin a phrase, "the good lord willing and the creek don't rise",  we'll be there the afternoon of the 5th.

Love to all,
Bill & Janet