Langkawi to Pulau Inda/Kuala Lumpa & Then Johor Baru

Getting the anchor up at 0400 am on Monday morning 09/09/2013 under a pitch black, but clear and calm sky – it really felt like the trip had begun. The first leg to Langkawi is on a regular route and now I am waters which are a bit less familiar even though I have sailed them many times in many different boats. It is interesting to realise how offshore skills and familiarity with equipment like plotters and radar need to be retuned after being left seldom used for some time.

Things continue to need coaxing and adjusting and my first repair job before bringing up the anchor required me to show the hammer to the auto pilot before it finally woke up and allowed me to get under way!

I did a quick provision in Langkawi and decided to move on as the weather forecast looked good for the next few days. North westerly winds below 11 knots for the day and then below 14 for the next day. As I am single handing I hope to use the following wind and have an easy trip, with any luck arriving early. I plan to stop at Penang, Pankor Laut and then Pulau Inda.

Well it was a good start ghosting out of the harbour under sail passing some big anchored ships in the eastern entrance looming out of the gloom with barely a light on them. by 0900 I had Pulau (Island) Payer abeam.

A fishing boat passed me ahead from port to starboard and I watched it carefully as it passed me about 300 meters ahead dragging its trawl. I was feeling tired so once it had passed I checked course 160 and speed 5 knots and then settled down for a quick snooze, shut my eyes and nodded off. Not long afterwards – just a few minutes -I looked up sensing something not quite right and saw that the wake was very defined and canted off to port by 45 degrees. I looked at the course 210 and the speed 2.2 knots. Something definitely not right so I jumped up to the stern and looked down, sure enough I am towing a net, which looked like a mono filament drift net. Then I look forward and can see the other end around the front of my keel – then I see the fishing boat still 300 meters ahead of me to starboard plodding along as before. I am in a net seeming being towed by him. I stopped my engine and tried some maneuvers to try and dislodge myself. My rudder is free but it does not seem to make much difference at first until suddenly with a bang and net came free. I waited a while, dived to make sure the hull and prop were clear and then headed back on course and restarted my engine. The net I was in did not look like a trawl and was a very long way behind the fishing vessel so I wondered whether the trawl had snagged a drift net and towing that behind it, also snagged me. I suspect I have lost quite a bit of paint and maybe even some gel-coat. Later when I dived it properly I found that the sensor for my sonar had been ripped out of the keel as well as chunks of filler.

Not long afterwards I got my first squall and just managed to get the reef in before I got the full 30 knots so that picked up my speed a bit more and we were flying along at 6 -7 knots and a lots of rain. By mid afternoon I was approaching Penang when I got the second squall with about the same amount of wind. Thinking that the wind would drop soon afterwards we drove on somewhat over canvassed at the height of it. This squall lasted longer and the driving rain made it hard to see so I decided to by pass Penang and avoid the difficulties of finding my way into the channels to pass inshore.

Later that evening came the third squall which I could barely predict as it was more or less pitch black by then. This time I went down to 3rd reef and carried on a little more under control this time but still flying along and enjoying the sailing, spray flying and speed going 6….7……8 knots. By now I am beginning to realise that my nothing but trouble and more or less useless Raymarine instruments are under reading significantly, especially as the wind gets stronger.

0400 – Just before dawn I have done well and setting a good course the northern entrance to Lamut. It really is dark now and very hard to make out much but I can see that it looks like another squall brewing out to the west so straight in with the third reef and the Genny is furled in plenty of time. This time the squall hits and I am seeing around 25 – 30 knots on my gauge but I can see by the sea and the waves that I am getting at least 40 knots maybe more. I am close in shore in about 10 meters of water and the seas quickly build to 2 and then 4 meters. Short nasty steep sided slabs which smash into Meniscus and throw her around. Not Good! I quickly decide to abandon my attempt to get into Lamut and get some sea room. Back in 20 meters the seas subside and the wave length gets longer and then 30 and 40 meters things become more manageable especially for the auto pilot which was struggling badly before. Now I am in safer water I furl my head sail and reduce speed riding out the waves more comfortably. I am in full oilskins soaked to the skin, shivering violently, very tired and not at all happy.

Pankor Laut

After 4 or 5 hours of that the wind finally drops enough to make me think I might be able to get some shelter at Pankor Laut a small island just south of Lamut. So I trim my sails and head in closer to the shore the waves build again and tower over me when we are down in the troughs. The water is deep close to the island 50 – 60 meters and there is obviously a strong current against the wind which causes the waves to stand up steeply to 5 meters, well above my head. With the wind blowing off the breaking foam before they tumble over beneath our hull picking us up and launching us forward. Meniscus rarely surfs but now we we do 6……7……8…..9….knots – there is no room to make a mistake and broach in these seas! Once in the lee of the Island I anchor on a shallow patch SE of Pankor Laut and get some sleep.

That was a rather more challenging 30 odd hours of sailing than I had expected or hoped for. Part of the forecast was right the NW part but as for the rest – wrong! That’s why it is always better to get a proper marine forecast if you can. Well I am certainly getting tested and my rusty skills are getting polished up pretty quickly. Mother nature has really put me through my paces and reminded me never to let my guard down and never be complacent.

Pulau Inda – Kuala Lumpa

After a good nights sleep I get up to a bright morning and get going again mainly motor sailing in the lighter northerly breeze and go through the night arriving at Pulau Inda by 1100 the following morning. Its a quiet spot miles from anywhere except ship yards and docks but I learnt to Paramotor here and will meet up with old friends, spend some days in town and celebrate my birthday.

Leg 3 – Pulau Inda to Johor Baru – 200 miles

20/09/13 I am up at 0330 to crank up the anchor and set off with light head winds getting to Malacca by 2000 in the dark. I find the river entrance, then the Marina and nudge my way in but it looks deserted and without pontoons – not welcoming at all. I carefully maneuver out again and find a spot deep enough to anchor just off the river mouth.


The following morning I go back into the marina, this time I see a few boats and some pontoons which are actually loose and not joined up presumably to protect them from damage in the prevailing SW winds. Heading into town for a very quick look around. Just 4 hours was enough to depress me even though it is by far one of the most interesting places I have been in Western Malaysia so far. It must have been a lively bustling place in its hey day. Now it is a quaint old town and gives a glimpse of bygone times when people had imagination and empathy with the world. Swamped by tourists it is a place where cultures clash and bad taste abounds not least with all the modern development – “progress”? Its a classic case of the way human beings (or is it just money grabbing developers) make a lemming like stampede to destroy anything good in the environment and fill the surrounding space with massive overpowering ugly developments, making it more and more oppressive.

It might well be worth a visit but mine didn’t take long and glad to be gone!

Johor Baru and Denga Bay Marina

The next 3 days and 2 nights see me mainly motoring into head winds, dodging fishing buoys and tugs on the way down to JB. I anchored at night in the Mallaca Straits and off Raffles Marina to get some sleep before arriving in Denga Bay Marina in Johor Baru. The marina itself was full of friendly cruisers and not such a bad spot. BUT the surrounding area is all being developed and if its not already soulless enough and difficult to get around it will soon be a complete concrete jungle. The food was available only in supermarkets and virtually inedible, nothing fresh anywhere (although there may have been a wet market about 5 km up the road). Fuel was also a problem limited to 20 Lt per trip a real PITA to top up.