Saturday, April 4, 2015

Miri to Singapore

                                                             MIRI TO SINGAPORE

 We left the quiet city of Miri and headed southwest down the coast of Borneo in order to minimize the length of the passage across the South China Sea. We anchored amongst the construction equipment of a new LNG terminal the first night and in the petro-harbor of Bintulu the next. For the next four days and three nights we sailed and then motored across open ocean to the Islands of the Tioman group off the southern east coast of peninsular Malaysia. On the first day we had 5-7 knots of wind on the beam and sailed at 7-10 Knots. Days two and three were windlass, so we put lots of hours motoring at 6-7 knots. As we approached Tioman we begin to cross the freighter lanes going to and from Singapore. Lots of ships going different speeds and directions. At one point I (Steve) had just gone to bed (at 1 am) when the AIS showed that we had two ships from opposite directions both converging on us. So, very little sleep for me that night.
One day this huge Cicada circled the boat and landed. It spent the day on our solar panels, but was gone the next morning.

The South China Sea required constant lookouts as there were freighters and fishing boats everywhere.

By cutting a bit across Indonesian waters we were able to make landfall on one of the Tioman islands, Pulau Aur, at the end of the fourth day. It was a beautiful spot with majestic cliffs and had some of the nicest snorkeling we've seen in Malaysia
                                                          Aur Island in the Tiomans
                                               Local fishing boat in Aur Island
After two days at Aur, we headed up to Tioman Island where we anchored behind a small island that is used by many tour operators as a dive and snorkel site. We got there on Saturday and were amazed at the number of boats and vacationers using this rather small site.
When we went ashore we saw trees covered with what looked like large black fruits.

Closer inspection showed the "fruits" to be fruit bats who were spending their days hanging out in the trees around town.

Both Pat and I are fascinated by bats so we spent a lot of time watching these animals as they bickered among each other while roosting in their colonies.
While not everyone agrees, we think they are quite handsome, kind of like good looking chihuahuas with a cape.
A closer look reveals one of the real downsides of communal living, the sharing of parasites.

Back on board we decided to go snorkeling, so the three of us got into the dinghy and anchored up close to the rock with all of the tourists. Mostly Chinese and South Koreans, they were having the time of their lives, snorkeling around close to their boats, many wearing lifejackets.
Turns out that Saturday is the busy day as tourists come from Singapore for the weekend. For the next several days we had some great snorkeling with good if not great visibility.
                                                    A coral garden with rabbitfish
                                               Vikki snorkeling with lots of reef fish
                                                               Thick-lipped wrasse
While the snorkeling was fun and there were lots of fishes and corals it became apparent that this reef was not in great shape. There were virtually no adult (large) fish present. Every night after the tourists left, locals were out fishing on the reef, even though it is a marine reserve.
One of the results of killing off all of the large fish is that for species that change sex, such as the wrasses and parrotfish, we find extremely small males as the way the sex changing works is that the largest female in the population changes sex and becomes a male if there are too few males present. On this reef we saw males much smaller than would ever be found on a healthy reef with less fishing pressure.

                                                             Female slingjaw wrasse
                               This male slingjaw wrasse was much to small for a healthy population
 This crown of thorns seastar eats corals but they were uncommon on the reef, so did not appear to pose a danger to the habitat.
                                      the red-breasted wrasse is striking and curious

And of course, there were anemonefishes

                                                                          Hi Nemo
After a few days shopping and snorkeling at Tioman, we headed south to rendezvous with our friend Barry who built a sistership to us, called Twocan. We met on an island (Sibu) on our way to Singapore and visited for a couple of days. Barry and crew are headed across to Miri, Borneo, then eastward to the Pacific Islands and finally they plan to go to Fiji.

                                             Twocan sailing into the harbor on Sibu Island
We cleaned the bottom while anchored in Sibu and got ready for the second big challenge of this leg (the first was the South China Sea), Singapore harbor. Singapore is by far the world's busiest harbor with ships from everywhere converging on this small city state on the southern end of the Malay Peninsula.
As we approached the harbor the amount of traffic became almost unbelievable. There were literally hundreds of ships in view all the time, many anchored, some underway, some anchoring and some getting underway. There were tugs with tows, pilot boats, supertankers and junk freighters, all moving in a controlled but unpredictable fashion.
This shows our AIS as we moved through the thirty some miles of heavy traffic. This was a really awesome experience as we had never seen so many ships or so many types of ships.
                                              Supertanker head-on (thankfully anchored)

Then the squalls came, and for the next four hours we had low visibility, driving rain and an intermittent chart plotter. The three of us were extremely busy and the day went from exciting and wonderful to just plain hang on and stay alive. We used radar, AIS, chartplotter, computer charts and three sets of eyes. It was a good day to be done with. At the very end of the day we anchored on the west side of Singapore and as we dropped the anchor Vikki saw a strange pink thing that turned out to be a small pod of river dolphins.  None of us had ever seen these in the wild so it was a great end to a harrowing day.

The next day we motored up to Puteri Harbor where we said a sad farewell to our great crew Vikki and picked up our friends David and Noreen who will sail up to Phuket with us.
                                                                   Bye Vikki

 We traveled into Singapore with Vikki and experienced one of the world's great cities. Marvelous architecture, great restaurants and a fascinating blend of cultures from all around the world.
 If you can count the stories on the three towers, you can estimate the length of the "ship" that spans the top of the three towers, pretty impressive.
 The Singapore Flyer's "ferris wheel" cars can be used as dining cars for special dinners or you can just have a drink. The flower-like building to the right is the museum of science.

 Oysters for sale on the waterfront from just south of Quadra Island in British Columbia
 After a quick look around the city, Pat decided we should see the Singapore zoo, and we ended up at the "Rivers of the World" exhibit, quite impressive. They have an excellent manatee exhibit and other tanks as well as a short river cruise by tapirs, capybaras and a jaguar.
 Mekong River catfish with strange placement of it's eyes
 The Gharial is a fish-eating crocodile, look at the long slender snout
 No, pandas do not live in rivers but the zoo has lots and it keeps people coming to the rivers exhibit if there are a couple of pandas there, this giant panda was asleep in the middle of the day
 The red panda is much more active and better looking, but not so famous.
                                   One of the large freshwater tanks in the exhibit

Our bus ride back to the harbor was typical of public transport in Singapore, efficient but crowded.

                                                Crew change at the BIG Hotel with Vikki off to the airport
                                         and David and Noreen getting ready to come to the boat. 

Black line leads to Silver Tern in Puteri Harbour Marina, Johor

 David took this photo from the top deck of Hotel Jen above the marina. They have a swimming pool, spa and bar that cruisers can use while here. Our galley is full of food and we are refueled, ready to take off tomorrow for ports north as we head up the Straits of Malacca. Our next check in port will be Langkawi Island.

No comments:

Post a Comment