Saturday, May 9, 2015

Singapore to Phuket

Singapore to Phuket

Our new Crew, David and Noreen quickly fit into Silver Tern’s mode. David is a retired biologist, Noreen a retired physician and both are avid birders and good natural historians. We spent a couple of days at the dock in Puteri harbour, marina getting ready for our trip from Singapore up to Thailand. A number of the pictures in this blog were taken by either David or Noreen, thanks!
Puteri Harbor with Silver Tern about half-way up the right side of the dock.
While working around the boat I noticed a small (1”) crab that appeared to be swimming on its back on the surface of the water, then I noticed another doing the same thing. On closer inspection, there were lots of them, and they were using leaves as floats, grabbing onto them with their hindmost legs and using the next set of legs to “row” themselves around,usually upside down. I had never heard of this behavior, nor have my invertebrate biologist friends, so I wonder if crabs making boats is another example of “tool use” among animals. If their leaf was taken away and another floating object (cardboard, wood etc.) offered, the crab would quickly grab onto and make off with their new “boat”.

Leaving Puteri harbor we had to go under the same two bridges that we passed on the way in. They were still intimidating. While they were supposed to be 25 meters tall and our mast is only 23 meters, looking up it appeared like we were way too close. In any case, there was enough clearance and we left Puteri and headed up the Malacca Straits. 

Still lots of freighter traffic, but nothing like we encountered entering Singapore.

The Straits of Malacca are rich with the history of trading and colonial ventures. In the town of Malacca we took a ride on a canal boat that took us through parts of town that seemed like an amalgamation of Venice, Italy and Buenos Aires, Argentina.

There were a huge number of museums from colonial history to maritime to a kite museum.

This is also a very heavily fished area. Fishing ranged from individuals with cast nets

To trollers, to draggers, to seiners, even pair trawlers.

In addition, everywhere there were floats, some supporting surface gill nets but most just marking fish traps. The floats ranged from quite substantial to a pair of soda bottles with a piece of bamboo with a rag on top. The only danger these posed was running directly over them and tangling the line in our propellers. The other problem is that the traps were home-made from bamboo and old gill net material. As they get old they are abandoned and end up floating around just at the surface. A structure of bamboo and netting would also easily catch a propeller.

What all of this meant is that a constant watch was essential. Both David and Noreen became expert at spotting fishermen, flags, floats and traps.
The trip north included stops at several marinas, in one of which we met our friends Fred and Christianne from the Nordhaven 46 Arcturus. They have taken Arcturus from Dana Point, California all the way to SE Asia and have cruised her extensively for the past 15 years. We had a great visit and dinner with them before heading on north.

When we could, we went ashore and took hikes, often running into local inhabitants.
and enjoying the offerings of the local markets

Approaching Thailand we anchored up a river Sungai Selangor) where we explored the mangroves and watched the fishermen and birds as the evening set in.

A bit north, Noreen said we should watch out for milky storks, a rare bird sometimes found in the area. As I had just taken a photo of a stork flying by I showed it to her, and we actually have an OK if not great photo of the rare milky stork

Anchored at Pulau Bidan, three of us went ashore while Pat stayed on the boat and made dinner.

Like many other deserted beaches in SE Asia and around the world, this one was full of litter, mostly plastic trash. Among the trash of course were beautiful sea shells and animal tracks.

 We also found ruins that appeared to be from WW II. And David and I saw a monitor lizard that was easily 6’ long and must have weighed well over Back on the boat we were abbe to watch a Brahminy Kite fishing nearby.

However, the real king of the skies is the white bellied sea eagle

The sea eagle started to chase the kite off, but the tables were quickly turned when the kite’s mate appeared and the two of them chased off the intruding sea eagle.

The northernmost set of islands in Malaysia are around Lankawi and we enjoyed several days exploring this area. Beautiful islands, great wildlife and protected anchorages. However, the water was too murky for snorkeling so we decided to continue on into Thailand
North of Lankawi we were in Thai waters. For reasons we don’t understand, the waters are clearer here. We took a week to cruise the islands here, sailing for a few hours and then anchoring at interesting islands. The first anchorage was at Ko Tarutao where we took several dinghy rides up a pristine mangrove estuary.

 We were lucky to spot a variety of birds and monkeys including more hornbills and spectacled langurs.

This mother was carrying a very young infant, but it did not seem to slow her down much

Most of these islands are limestone (karst) and in the middle of the mangrove swamp we found some really interesting limestone cliffs and formations

Leaving Tarutao Island we tried David’s fishing rig and caught a military seapike (a small relative the barracuda). Very nice dinner.

As we traveled on we had to avoid lots of low-tech FADs (fish attracting devices). Again, lots of eyes watching as most were not as easy to spot as this one was, sometimes just a single small bamboo a couple of feet above the surface.

Our next stop was at Ko Rok Nok where we were able to tie to a park mooring and do some marvelous snorkeling. The water was clear, the coral was in good shape and there was the incredible diversity of animals you would expect in the tropics.
 This sea snake wandered through the reef, completely unperturbed by us. Notice how similar the head is to the tail! Which is which?
 This anemonefish was not in any of our books but was quite common. The anemones that it lives in are quite beautiful as well as unique.
Black-spotted Puffers were common and usually completely oblivious to our presence.
 I never get over the patterns and colors on a coral reef. This giant clam (Tridacna) has colors that beautifully match its surrounding coral
 While this individual has a suite of simply outlandish colors and patterns.

Sea Cucumbers are the bottom cleaners of the reef, removing organic materials from the sand.

 The dusky wrasse is one of those pickers who looks for small animals among the corals.
Golden and Java rabbitfish were both common on the reefs

Christmas tree worms come in a variety of colors but are incredibly intricate plankton feeders
 This crown of thorns seastar was very different from the ones we have seen elsewhere, turns out there may be a number of species, all of which presumably prey on living corals.
 Bicolor blennies are simply too cute to ignore, this one was feeding on its small algae patch.
 The powderblue surgeonfish (yes, that is its real name) was another striking reef inhabitant.

After that we cruised to Ko Muk, the home of the well known “Emerald Cave”. We were able to visit it first thing in the morning before the tour boats arrived. It involved a 100 yard swim into a dark cave, but near the end was a side channel that led out to an enclosed beach open to the sky from a past collapse. You could walk 20 ft back into tropical trees before the rocks led straight up 250 ft. to the top. When you swim towards either entrance, looking underwater, the color is an emerald green.

 At the end of the cave, a small opening to a completely secluded beach.
The anchorage here was big enough for only one boat and it was the most picturesque anchorage yet, so a photo was in order.
 The tall, karst islands of Thailand are stunningly beautiful and many are home to countless numbers of of swiftlets and bats.

We checked into Thailand in Ao Chalog, the main yacht harbor in Phuket at their one stop building for customs immigration and port captain- Very efficient.
We had dinner at the Yacht Club with our friend Bob Mott and had a quiet night anchored in the harbor.

The next we headed the next day to our destination, Yacht Haven Marina. Nice marina, but pretty isolated. Once again, our solar array has proven invaluable. We have not needed any external power since we launched Silver Tern. 

Going to a movie in Phuket was an interesting experience. You choose your seats when you buy your tickets and they are very comfortable with high backs. But before the movie starts, after the upcoming movie trailers, everyone stands and listens to the King’s anthem. The fact that we had to sit through the Avengers was incidental; the theater was air conditioned and the sound and picture quality were stunning . Outside was 98 degrees with 90% humidity.
We are now getting Silver Tern ready for her six-month layup on the hard here in Northern Phuket.

Sadly enough, we have decided to sell Silver Tern. Having two boats in different hemispheres is just too much for us and we feel the need to be closer to friends and family. So, as of right now, Silver Tern is for sale for $325,000.00 US dollars. That is almost exactly what it cost to build her, not counting our labor, so she will be a great buy for someone.  She will soon be listed with a broker, but you can purchase her directly from us if you wish.  email:

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