Sat 13th May To Jason Bay
We were back out in the middle of one the world’s busiest shipping lanes (between Malaysia and Singapore) at 8 30 this morning. It was already hot, with very little breeze. We drew near to a huge oil platform not long after starting out, and the noise it was making sounded more ominous as it grew louder: a rhythmic sonorous drone of metal churning and drilling as it pumped up and down in the water. At 11 30 Paul declared that we had crossed over from the Indian to The Pacific Ocean and I couldn’t help but wonder how the sea and oceanic borders came to be defined. I suspect books have been written that might enlighten me, or I could just ask Paul :). The heat got a bit too much for me during the afternoon and I went below to sit by the fans – and then the rain began to fall. It was refreshingly fine and cooling to begin with but by 2 o’clock we were in the middle of a full on squall. The waves increased in size surprisingly quickly and soon we were lurching from side to side; there was thunder, lightning, strong gusts of wind and very heavy rain which caused poor visibility. Paul was soaked within minutes, hand steering in the cockpit, but it wasn’t cold and we guessed he’d dry out quickly enough ;).
An hour later, when all was calm again it was a lot cooler and squalls at least do a good job of washing the decks. For the rest of the way we had to keep our eyes peeled for all the fishing buoys that were in the area so I went up to the bow to be sure of spotting them in time. By 6 pm we were anchored in Jason Bay – not the prettiest of bays but it was peaceful and sheltered and it had a perfect bottom for the anchor to grip. During the evening we were visited by lots of flying insects in the cabin (I’m pretty sure they were flying ants) but importantly, they weren’t mosquitoes so we ignored them and they were gone by morning. We had the vegetable soup I’d made the previous day for dinner, another favourite meal for short sea passages, and afterwards I read more about Tioman. Named after the Malaysian for mynah bird (tiong bird), it boasts ‘idyllic beaches fringed by swaying coconut palm trees, coral reefs in a myriad of colours and is great for diving and snorkelling’. More fanciful is the belief that the island was created when a dragon froze into rock while waiting interminably for its mate!
Sun 14th May Pulau Tinggi
There was no hurry to depart this morning so we had a leisurely coffee, enjoying the sun in the cockpit before it got too hot. The sea was flat calm when we motored off at 9 30, but not long after that the wind was strong enough to put the mainsail up and the engine was turned off, which is always nice. Captain Mainwaring took over the steering and we made good speed. I love those conditions, it was very relaxing lying on the cockpit cushions, reading and feeling the fresh breeze on my face. I kept watch while Paul had a break and it wasn’t until 3 o’clock that the peace was shattered by the approach of another squall. Paul quickly got the mainsail down and we headed for the other side of the island where it was likely to be less rocky for a night’s anchorage. The rain started as we were doing this so hatches were battened and windows shut tight. At 4pm, taking advantage of what we thought was a lull in the rain, we dropped anchor just as it began to pelt down again so we had to do the whole process in a torrential downpour. This made it difficult to hear each other from stern to bow but we have some hand signals to use on these occasions (polite ones, naturally ;)). It was a lovely calm spot and the view was great. Paul went for a snorkel to check we were secure and discovered that we were indeed secure – the chain was securely wrapped around beautiful living coral formations. This is a definite no-no so we had to disentangle the chain and move to somewhere further out – deeper water but safely anchored in sand this time.
Monday 15th May To Tioman
The headsail and the mainsail were up helping us, along with the engine on a hot, sunny and fairly windy morning. It was only a short passage to Tioman and inevitably, a squall appeared at 11 30, with the usual race to get the sails down before it hit. I’m getting better at guiding the boat into the wind when this happens – it’s a case of having to! We made use of the strong wind behind us post-squall, and turned the engine off using just a bit of headsail to propel us along. It’s interesting to listen to other crew chatting on the VHF during our journeys. Yesterday as we listened, Paul told me that ‘over and out’ is an incorrect term: it’s either over or out. It’s useful to hear when others who are nearby spot an approaching squall or any other relevant information, although I think Paul was slightly envious when he heard that someone in the vicinity had just caught a huge tuna ;). The aftermath of the squall left us with huge waves and a swell that made for a very rocky rest of the journey. Paul put the wind vane (also known as Uncle Arthur) up this afternoon to test it out in the windy conditions and we were pleased to see that it performed well, which will be a huge boon on longer Pacific passages.
Tioman came into clear view at 3pm as we steered towards its south side. Even from a distance it was easy to see that it’s a holiday island. Chalet-style bungalows line the beaches, with larger accommodation in resorts nestling in the thick forest of casuarina trees behind them. We spotted the small (full) marina and a few boats at anchor once we were in the western bay, and Sister Midnight joined them, opposite the village of Tekek at 4 30. We decided to leave going ashore until he following day when the immigration building was more likely to be open. Paul launched the dinghy and went for a row in it just to check all was well. The cabin seemed to have retained all the heat of the day so we stayed up above until long after sunset making the most of the cool evening breeze.
Tuesday 16th May Tekek, Tioman
We dinghied ashore late morning to check in with the harbour master. There is a place for small craft to tie up to not far from the marina so we left the dinghy there while we went to do all the official stuff.
In the baking midday sun it was tough going walking even a short distance, and the few people we saw on the dusty main street weren’t doing a lot. Most people were underneath the shelter of roadside huts and shops and cafes. Lots of motor bikes were going up and down the road, and as in Thailand there is no requirement for crash helmets. Tiny children are perched precariously on the saddle in front of the drivers (who are quite often to be seen texting or chatting on their phones). The guy who checked us in told us we should visit the waterfall nearby and that the jungle trek through the rain forest to the other side of the island is worth doing. I’m not so sure about that, after past experiences in jungle foliage! We explored the main road area after checking in. The tiny airport is on one side and the ferry terminal on the other, so a large duty-free shop is a little way down the road as well as some mini-marts, smaller duty-free shops and souvenir shops. It was very hot to walk around but we wanted to look at the airstrip – the very short runway that the weekly plane uses. We found out that Friday is its scheduled arrival/departure day and resolved to watch it land and take off if we were still in the area.
Thinking a map might be useful we went to one of several stalls with ‘Information’ as a heading but it turns out that these headings would be more accurate if they advertised ‘Boat Tours’ since it was mainly about the times and prices of various boat tours around the island. Our request for a map was met with a gesture at the laminated one on the desk, which showed where the boat tours could take you. Back at the jetty we went inside to see if the customs desk had reopened. I was beginning to feel the sun burning my skin because I hadn’t thought to put any sun cream on when we left the boat. I’d also forgotten to bring water, so when Paul returned from seeing the customs guy we went to a little café on the riverside for a drink. Paul had a fresh coconut with a straw in and I downed a bottle of icy cold water in one almost. There were lots of flies and ants around the table on the grass and then Paul noticed a wriggly black creature on his leg. I was out of my chair and onto the bridge faster than roadrunner! The people in the café must have been most perplexed by my hasty departure, especially as I was slapping at my legs and arms as I ran!
Wednesday 17th May Tekek
Woke up to a much cooler morning which was a welcome relief. With cool air flowing through the cabin it was possible to get a few cleaning jobs done. The temperature tends to hover around 30 -35 degrees on average but any exertion causes you to break out in a sweat and we need to use the fans sparingly in order to save on battery power. As the day wore on, it got too hot to do very much at all so it was another lazy, languid day. We dinghied over to say Hi to Deb and Bruce on their boat, Matilda at 4 30 and then went on to the village. Clouds had been gathering and the sky was darkening but we managed to tie the dinghy and get into the street before the rain started. It didn’t last long and the cooler air was good to walk in. We walked further up the road leading away from the airport and found more shops and restaurants. We also saw some monkeys running on the road and swinging on telephone lines and in the trees. One side road led to the beach and a pier near to the marina so we walked there to have a look at it. It’s small compared to most marinas we’ve been in and it seemed to us that most of the boats were long-stay ones. The construction of the marina had caused some controversy due to the fact that it smothered the coral reef off the shores of Tekek with sedimentation. Plans to extend the airport runway were shelved due to opposition from nature lovers though, so protests are sometimes successful.
We went for dinner in The Coral Reef Café which is next to the beach with a beautiful view overlooking the sea. The guy who served us was lovely. He understood my request for no meat and fish and advised Paul on the catch of the day which was Marlin. Later, Paul was certain they’d gone out to catch one judging by the time we had to wait before our meals came, but it wasn’t a bad place to wait after all, and the food was lovely when it did arrive. I had a veggie version of a dish called Nasi Lemuk which came with coconut rice, a spicy sauce and peanuts instead of anchovies.
We were joined by several cats during the meal and one of them jumped onto a vacant chair for a better look at what we had. As we left, the owner/waiter had just arrived back from somewhere with a huge bag of cat food under his arm. He told us he feeds them – I was very impressed. Our dinghy ride back was hampered slightly by vision problems. Paul had broken his glasses and the torch didn’t work so I kept my eyes peeled more closely during the short journey back to the boat.
Thursday and Friday – more laziness
We spent the next two days anchored at Tekek, enjoying the relaxation and the chance to catch up on a few things. Paul fitted a useful piece of elastic in the galley to prevent bottles sliding and crashing into the sink in rough sea states. I defrosted and cleaned the fridge, and washed the walls on the port side. Deb and Bruce invited us to join them for dinner at a place that had been recommended to them which served good pizza, so at 6 that evening, the four of us headed across the bay in their dinghy for pizza on the beach. It was a pretty spot and the pizzas were great: cooked to order so I was able to have a roasted vegetable one without cheese. The only drawback to the day was that we had no internet and it’s frustrating being out of touch with people, and not having information to hand when you need it. We intended to leave on Friday but the weather looked a bit threatening when we woke up and without the internet we hadn’t had access to a reliable forecast so we decided to stay another day. This meant that we could watch for the plane in the morning. Unfortunately we missed its landing, mistaking the sound of the approaching plane for that of a boat’s engine. We did see the take-off though, and the little plane looked like a huge moth emerging from behind the trees – it was mostly empty, too from what I could see as it glided over the boat.
Did a lot of reading today and the internet came back in the afternoon so there was all that to catch up on too. We went ashore at 6 30, just a quick trip to get water and bread. It was time to move on in the morning.
Saturday 20th May Monkey Bay and Beyond
We didn’t move very far to start with – just around the corner to have a look at Monkey Bay which is one of the places advertised on the boat tour. It didn’t take long to see that it was a sandy beach populated with day-trippers and monkeys. We had intended to stop and maybe have lunch and a swim, and to go ashore and snorkel but there was a lot of coral on the sea bed which makes it tricky to anchor, and we guessed there would probably be more monkey beaches to see as we travel around.
I took a few pictures and we motored on towards Tulai Island, a short distance further on. It looked delightful as we drew closer, enhanced as it was by the early afternoon light. The sun was fiercely hot and as soon as we picked up a mooring buoy and were securely tied, we retreated below for some lunch under the cool of the fans. Two scuba diving school boats were next to us having their first lesson by the look of it. They were having great fun egging each other on to flop backwards into the water but the equipment they have to strap to their bodies looks so restricting and cumbersome – it’s not something I would fancy trying. We did think the water looked cool and inviting, however so we got in the dinghy to check out the beach opposite to us. Paul taught me how to row and I actually managed to get the hang of that! The beach was fabulous, the water was clear and there were no big waves – ideal conditions for me to swim in. We stayed for an hour until we felt our skin beginning to burn, then rowed back to the boat to slap on some factor 30 before getting back into the dinghy to cruise around the bay a bit to photograph the coral and marine life in the clear shallow water. Some pics below of a great afternoon on the beach.