I started a little later than intended from Penang, I wasn't organised enough to arrange my clearance the night before, instead I had to hang around for the marina office to open at 9am - not a problem you have when you swing from your own anchor. I wanted to make an early start as it was 58 miles to an anchorage at the southern tip of Langkawi and ideally I'd arrive in the light.
Once clear of the marina, I drifted for a while in a big-ship anchorage while I checked the charts and entered waypoints. Heading back up the companionway my heart skipped a beat when I saw the towering bows of a tanker virtually on-top of me. After I retreated to a safe distance, I watched as the ship dropped its anchor in the position I'd been. They could have easily sounded their horn, but I think they chose to maximise their surprise... well they succeeded.
As ever I set off motoring in little wind towards my final destination in Malaysia, settling in for day's monotonous motoring. However by midday the wind started to pickup. All the more surprising as there didn't seem to be a thunderstorm around. Unfortunately it was blowing from the north. I remember a cruising guide saying: "Gentlemen don't go to wind" - but as this clearly doesn't apply to me, I hardened in the sheets, set the wind-vane and bashed my way, close-hauled, into the building sea. The wind continued to strengthen all afternoon. It was great to be sailing hard again at 7+knots with spray from the waves soaking the foredeck as Kika cut through the waves at a precarious angle. Late in the afternoon Prudence visited and I agreed that it would be wise to calm-down the boat a little before dusk - I'd almost forgotten the routine of reefing - it's been so long. Even well-reefed it was dramatic to be speeding towards land, picking out the silhouettes of the many islands on the southern coast of Langkawi against the darkening sky. When I was a mile off, the sea calmed down and I lowered the sails and tentatively motored towards the dark masses ahead.
The anchorage I'd chosen was in a small channel between a couple of islands. Very slowly, while anxiously watching the depth gauge, I made my way between the sheer islands until I found the channel. Normally passages which appear small on the chart, turn out to be wide expanses of water in reality, however in this case the scale appeared to be 1:1; the channel was as depicted. The feeling of being hemmed-in seemed exaggerated by the dark cliffs looming over the water. The final challenge was picking a spot to anchor between the three boats already secure for the night. Slowly with the help of the torch I worked out the available width of the channel and relative positions of the boats and on my second attempt found a spot far enough from the cliffs and the other boats to be able to sleep soundly for the night.
I'm looking forward to seeing the anchorage in the light, in the dark it feels as dramatic as our first landfall in the Marquesas.
Anchorage off Palau Dayang Bunting, 23/11/2008: N6deg 11'.17 E99deg47.2