Following is a way-too-long writeup of our trip up to Tioman and back, which ended up lasting eight days instead of the originally planned seven. Aboard were Doug, Charlene, and Charlene’s cousin Debbie.
Tuesday night was a flurry of shopping and preparation. We finished provisioning and got the boat all ready to set off sometime around midnight, went to sleep, and woke up dark and early at 04:30 or so. Flipped on the running lights, started up the engine, set off around 05:10, and headed east. We made surprising progress under motor, around 7 knots with a helping current. Dodging anchored ships in a port as busy as Singapore’s is hard enough in the daytime; in the dark it was really challenging. Adding to the mayhem were a whole bunch of other ships underway. Luckily there wasn’t too much small craft traffic, so most of the underway vessels were in charted fairways following the rules. Small craft tend to flout the rules here. We found the AIS to be immediately useful and were able to use it to plan ahead a few minutes, distinguish various dark shadows and anchor lights, hail other vessels in ambiguous situations (not that any of them cared to respond), etc.
Around sunrise we were about halfway to the Eastern Quarantine anchorage:
Sometime around then Debbie woke up. Throughout the trip she displayed an amazing and enviable ability to sleep through pretty much any conditions.
Not long after, Charlene started thinking about breakfast. We were still making good progress — 6.5 knots here, according to the chartplotter. It only took a couple hours for me to fall completely in love with the chartplotter. It has a few problems (mainly software issues) but it’s still worth every penny.
We reached the Eastern Quarantine around 08:00 and hailed the immigration boat. They zoomed over right away and cleared us in about 10-15 minutes, and we headed off. It took a couple more hours of motoring through traffic and anchorages before we turned the corner and headed north around 11:15. Not long after that we raised both sails in a light wind and motorsailed for a couple hours at around 4-6 knots, slowing later on in an opposing current.
Charlene took the helm for a while:
And Debbie was wide awake and enjoying the nice weather:
For good measure, here’s the whole gang (minus me), Debbie smiling as usual, Doug trimming sails, and Charlene making a face as usual:
It ended up being quite a long day. We reached our intended anchorage in Jason’s Bay around 18:30 after dodging a lot of fishing nets, and anchored in about 17 ft of water on a muddy bottom. We weren’t particularly well protected from the NE swells so it was a rolly evening and night. Early in the evening Ima from Telaga Harbour was finally able to SMS me Oia‘s Malaysian MMSI number, which I programmed into the AIS transponder. Confirmed it was transmitting fine.
Sunset was pretty nice:
After a more than 14 hour day with few breaks, Doug and I were pretty exhausted:
Thursday we picked up the anchor just after sunrise around 07:00 and mostly motorsailed all day. Around mid-afternoon it became pretty clear we weren’t going to make it all the way to Tioman, heading dead into the wind and against a mild current, so we detoured to the slightly closer Pulau Seri Buat, about 23 nm west of Tioman. The anchorage there was a little treacherous — steep dropoff from a ring reef — and we ended up anchored in 50 ft on mud and sand, on the south side of the island. Coincidentally, we found the full scope of the anchor chain (60m), which I hadn’t had time to measure before leaving, kind of by accident. The bitter end isn’t very well secured — it’s just tied to a ratty old twine rope with a small plank at the end to keep it from flying out of the chain locker. Definitely needs replacing and rethinking. When we went to bed the weather was calm and from the NE, so things were pretty nice.
Around 01:30 we woke up to a partly unfurled mainsail luffing pretty dramatically in 20-something knots of wind and rain from the SSW. Not what we were expecting during the NE monsoon. The mainsail hadn’t furled well earlier due to a stretchy halyard, and the wind had caught a loose flap of the leech and yanked it out. The anchor had drifted a bit so we started the engine just in case. We failed to rewrap the mainsail at first and later realized we should have just completely unfurled and refurled it. Too late, though. By the time we got it lashed down securely, the sunbrella protecting the leech of the sail had shredded. Here’s what it looked like in the morning:
Not so nice. Luckily the sail itself wasn’t too damaged, just the sunbrella.
The overnight storm riled up the seas pretty badly. We crossed to Tioman in 2-3m swells and a thunderstorm from the NNW, taking the swells broadside. We pretty quickly figured out which of our things needed further lashing down, and were pretty happy to have the hard dodger and bimini keeping us mostly dry. We ended up just motoring the whole way until we reached the well protected Teluk Tekek marina around 13:30. We just pulled into the fuel dock (which doesn’t actually have any fuel), since nobody seemed to care and it was the easiest option. Here’s Oia at the dock:
Note the tumbled electrical/water pedestal. We weren’t particularly impressed with the marina. It’s almost new — finished in 2009 — but it’s pretty well disintegrated already. Clearly it isn’t maintained at all — many of the pedestals looked just like that one, and we weren’t able to plug into shore power. We jury-rigged our hose to a leaking faucet to fill the water tanks. No marina, immigration, or port clearance staff was around — according to some of the other sailors wandering about, staff may or may not bother to show up to work if it’s raining, if they’ve got something more interesting to do, or whatever. Here’s a kind of overview of the marina:
The only thing that isn’t slowly disintegrating is the breakwater, which is rock and therefore doesn’t need much TLC. It did a great job of keeping things calm even in the quite rough weather. Here’s another shot of the boat while I’m at it:
After poking around the marina for a bit, Charlene and I wandered out to the main road. Teluk Tekek is kind of a one horse town, particularly now during the off season. There weren’t many people around and most of the shops and restaurants were closed down. Here’s the main road, which looks like it might go for a mile or so in each direction:
We wandered down to the duty free store. Tioman is a duty free island, and we were on a quest for whisky as a favor to some of my neighbors at One 15. We picked up a couple bottles (~US$13 each). Victory!
Charlene wanted to celebrate too:
We did some laundry at one of the marina’s few working taps:
Later we grabbed some tasty fried rice, ginger chicken, and other Malay food at the one open food stall we found, while watching some kind of bizarre Malaysian television drama.
Saturday morning the portmaster apparently felt like showing up to work, so I did the port clearance paperwork and paid for the berth (about US$8). The immigration officer was nowhere to be found at first, but he magically appeared just as we were about to call his cellphone (posted on the office door). I was pretty happy to get all the paperwork taken care of; otherwise we’d have had to detour to Sebana Cove on the way back into Singapore, 10-20 miles out of our way.
Doug and I did a little work on the mainsail — he stitched a bit, and I went up the mast with some shears and cut away all the ripped sunbrella:
Then, after waiting out a rainstorm for a while, we motored around the north end of Tioman for three hours and then anchored at Telok Juara, a nice little bay on the east side, in about 20 ft with a sandy bottom. Even with a west wind, the bay didn’t protect us so well; the wind seemed to funnel straight down the mountain at 25+ knots. We put out quite a bit of scope and set various anchor and depth alarms.
Charlene cooking some yummy noodles on the newly installed gimbaled stove, which worked great:
A fishing boat moored at Telok Juara:
The next morning we went through the laborious process of getting the dinghy into the water to go to shore. It’s pretty heavy. Even with a halyard lending a hand, Doug and I struggled a bit, and scratched Oia‘s gelcoat a couple times while lowering the dinghy. The outboard had some issues starting at first but once I got it running it was fine. I did notice it was leaking gasoline. Probably it’ll need to be at least partly disassembled, and some gaskets replaced.
Charlene and I motored to the beach. Not being too used to approaching beaches with an outboard (I’ve pretty much only beached Lasers or dinghies with oars before), I stopped and lifted the motor a little too early. A breaking wave swung the dinghy around and capsized it. At least the water was warm, and the outboard was fine. There was a tiny little cluster of villas on shore, and a small road, which we followed briefly before deciding there wasn’t much to see. When we got back to Oia Doug and Debbie decided not to bother heading to shore, and we labored through getting the dinghy back aboard. I’m more and more considering getting an inflatable dinghy; as much as I enjoy the aesthetics of my hard dinghy, it’s really not very easy to deal with and I don’t think I could handle it myself.
Here Doug, Debbie and I are prepping for some sailing later in the day by unlashing the mainsail:
We departed for Pulau Aur at around 11:30 and sailed most of the way on a broad reach, making 5ish knots in 10-12 knots of wind.
Doug stowing some lashings:
Charlene showing her muscles:
Debbie relaxing as we sail along:
Approaching Aur we started up the engine and it had some issues going into gear. Doug checked the transmission fluid and found it needed refilling. I hadn’t actually done that yet (I really need to get a basic engine maintenance schedule going). Luckily there was some ATF aboard. We couldn’t immediately find an obvious fill cap so Doug used a suction bulb to fill via the dipstick opening. That resolved the problem and we had no further transmission issues for the rest of the trip.
We reached Aur around 17:45 and planned to anchor in the channel between Aur and Pulau Dayang. We trolled around for a while but weren’t able to find anything shallower than 60 ft at a safe distance from shore. There were some random moorings here and there; we weren’t sure how trustworthy they were but we picked one up in 80 ft and kept an eye on things. No issues. We were joined later by a fishing boat at a nearby mooring.
Doug and Debbie taught Charlene and I bridge, which I really should have learned by now, and which we played for a few hours. Fun!
A “ferry” picking up a few people on a half-finished jetty at Aur in the morning. You can see the new mosque behind them. Almost every anchorage we were at was near enough to some tiny little town that we could hear the evening call to prayer:
A small flock of birds decided our masthead was a great place for a party. They left quite a mess in Debbie’s favorite lounging spot:
Around 11:00 we dropped the mooring and headed WSW to Pulau Sibu. We alternately sailed and motorsailed in light winds first from the W, then shifting to the NNW. We practiced a few knots to pass some time; later I spliced an eye thimble into my new anchor line. I need to pick up some whipping to finish it off:
We ran into a storm a couple miles from Sibu and had some issues lashing down the mainsail; unfurling and refurling with some tension on the leech resolved the problem well enough. We headed around to the west side of the island and anchored in 18 ft on a sandy bottom in between a couple fishing platforms.
This was our evening view to the east, of Pulau Tinggi’s mountain poking above the clouds behind Pulau Sibu:
The sky was nice and the seas were calm as the sun set:
Debbie grilled some Taiwanese sausages (sort of like sweet hot dogs) while Charlene was cooking spaghetti down below:
Some clothespins in the cockpit:
Debbie clowning around after dinner:
The next morning we hauled anchor around 08:10 and headed SSW. Our intention was to go 40ish miles to somewhere around Kampong Setajam, about half the distance to Singapore. We partly motored and partly motorsailed until around 13:50, at which time Doug noticed the engine was smoking when I had the compartment open to switch fuel tanks. We also noticed there was fuel all over the engine and the compartment. We sailed on a dead run through a brief storm while diagnosing the issue. It turned out to be due to a ruptured coupling on the fuel supply line to the third cylinder’s injector. Fuel was spraying from the coupling at a pretty high rate. We failed to fix it; looks like I’ll need to get a new fuel line and coupling. Not sure of the cause but Doug suspected vibration; we both noticed the engine is vibrating quite a bit when the boat heels to starboard. Will need to check the engine mounts, although I also think the vibration may just be caused by the missing cylinder; we’ll see.
We decided to sail as much as possible and only motor when necessary for the rest of the trip. We continued on a dead run until 18:00, making it past our original destination to the bay south of Kampung Punggai (just before turning the corner west toward Singapore), anchoring in 13 ft on a sandy bottom at 18:20. It was a really horrible, unprotected anchorage and we were heaving around all night; nobody (except Debbie) got much sleep.
We sailed away from anchor at 07:15 Wednesday morning in 12-15 knots on a dead run with the current. Using only the the genoa we were making 6-7 knots; we jibed into a broad reach to head west after an hour or two and continued making good speed, but slowed as the tide and winds shifted in the late morning. We ended up on a close haul making 2-5 knots from 10:00-12:30 or so. Sailing into Singapore with no engine is not easy, especially on a close haul where we kept finding ourselves heading as high as possible to try to stay windward of some of the anchored ships.
When we couldn’t beat the ships we ended up in their lee and dangerously close a few times, but had no major issues.
I think we probably could have sailed right under this platform:
We hailed Eastern Immigration a little before 13:00 and tried to get them to come to us so we could cut off a mile or two, but they weren’t game at first. Not long after we just dropped anchor, gave them our position, and convinced them to head over. I had all the paperwork ready so we were cleared in just a few minutes. We again sailed away from anchor.
Winds were extremely light and the current was against so we were topping out at 2-2.5 knots. Near the Changi naval base a warship decided to cross us pretty close:
Here’s another shot:
We continued fighting the current for some time, slowing to 0.5 knots in almost no wind, with increasing static and dynamic traffic and the added complication of a heavy rainstorm killing our visibility. AIS was again extremely useful.
It became apparent we weren’t going to make it to One 15 before dark without the engine. Doug pondered a bit and came up with an aluminum foil tube to direct the leaking fuel into a pan in the bilge. That worked pretty well so we proceeded under power, wasting quite a bit of diesel on the leak. The pan wasn’t big enough to keep up so quite a bit of diesel ended up in the bilge; the pump was switched off so it collected there and we can hand pump it into a container for disposal.
With the city in sight and the engine running semi-alright, Charlene was pretty happy:
We limped into the marina around 18:30 against a strong current, got things semi-situated, took some showers, grabbed some dinner, and then headed off to sleep. The next day I took care of port clearance, which went through with no fuss.
Aside from the engine and the sail, there were no real major issues over the course of the trip, which was great. There were a whole host of minor ones; Doug and I came up with a new todo list — a few pages long — to add to my existing one. After handing off the Tiomanese whisky to our neighbors they gave me a number for a guy who sells Perkins engine parts here in Singapore. (My engine is a Westerbeke marinized Perkins.) Seems like it shouldn’t be a huge deal to get a new fuel line and coupling, although I’m not sure if I’ll get that taken care of before I head to the US for Christmas.
Things that worked quite well during our trip: the new electrical system — perfect; the chartplotter — just a few software issues, but otherwise extremely useful; the autopilot; the new stove/oven; and pretty much everything else other than the furling mainsail and engine.
We did discover a new crew member Thursday: a small rat (or large mouse) stowed away while we were in Tioman. It’s surprisingly hard to find mouse traps in Singapore; for now we’ll try some sort of sticky glue-type stuff.
I also took some video during our trip; I’ll upload that soon.