Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Impenetrable causeways

It's only 6 miles across the Singapore Strait, and a surprisingly enjoyable hour was spent weaving my across the busy shipping lanes. No rest though for the radar detector - it was permanently detecting. In a disarming contrast with the bustling man made scenery around me, I was briefly joined by two dolphins in the middle of strait; I've never seen that off Dover.

A dramatic thunder storm welcomed me to the Johore Strait, allowing the engine half an hour rest and me a brief break from hand-steering, while the sails and wind-vane took the strain. The Johore Strait separates Singapore Island from mainland Malaysia. My plan was to work my way round the island to an anchorage off Johore Bahru from where I'd check-into Malaysia and be a bus ride away from Singapore.

My route took me past heavy industry closely followed by packed beaches; high-rise to precarious homes built on bamboo stilts in the shallows of the channel. Each twist of the channel revealed unexpected sights.
Eventually I emerged from the final turn in the channel. Ahead of me should have been my destination, instead was a road linking Malaysia to Singapore. As I approach I scanned the horizon for a break in the causeway. Nothing, it was impassable. Disconcerted I studded the chart and pilot book. I was sure I'd read about a bridge with over 25m clearance. Belated I realised that the bridge was on the west side of the island, in-front of me was an impenetrable causeway. Disaster. As fuel was expensive in the marina in Nonsga point, I'd only bought enough to get me to the anchorage. If the causeway would let me through I only had a couple of miles left, instead I was faced with a 60 mile circumnavigation of Singapore, with dusk rapidly approaching and no fuel. I decided to put my fate in the hands of the officials. Close by was a dock with a Malaysian customs ship. Instead of laughing at my stupidity as I'd anticipated, they invited me along side and asked for the jerry cans. I was driven by one of the crew to the local Shell station and told I could anchor off the shore for the night. Phew...

I'd just dropped the anchor when I spotted another yacht heading in my direction. It was Peter and Margaret on Sandpiper who I'd first met in Panama and seen more recently in Darwin. Feeling slightly better that another yacht had made the same mistake, I rowed over to see them. No mistakes on Sandpiper, they'd deliberately chosen to anchor here as it was ideally placed for trips into Singapore, and the customs dock provided a secure place to leave the dinghy. Perhaps I've accidentally stumbled across a perfect anchorage for my stay around Singapore. Now all I have to do is check-in...

27/10 17:30: N1° 27.5' E103° 46.4'

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