December 21, 2010

malacca strait

crossing this body of water was very challenging. it was only 370 nautical miles but yet we had very diverse conditions every day. apparently the change in weather in this area of the world is very common, so we were expecting it and somehow prepared; but still we did not like it. as we left johor bahru and passed west of singapore we had good wind, and lots of ships and platforms. the same obstacles that we had when we approached so we had to sail with 100% attention to the water... not snoozing or napping at all. by night the wind turned from our nose and we had to motorsail tacking our way upwards into the busiest waters in the entire world.

that first night was fascinating. so much traffic was exciting to see. one ship after the other in an almost straight line every 300 meters; unbelievable. it is a true highway of ships.

by the second day the weather went from zero wind to clam seas to wind on the nose again to sunny and later cloudy and then at night to the most bizarre mini storm. strong wind against and a ridiculously strong current of at least 4 knots also against us. there was no way we could make any progress. we made miles alright but away from our course. with then engine at full throttle we were only making 1 knot per hour. i do not think we have ever even walked this slow. it was awful and still we had to maneuver away from the passing giant ships and the fishermen and their lines with no lights whatsoever. the next day the sun came out and again we had a lot of wind on the nose and then nothing and we ended the night with the most amazing thunderstorm that now made us intentionally turn around and sail backwards to avoid it. One lighting strike can be fatal and the chances of attracting it with a 16 meter tall mast out of the water are not so slim. If we get hit all electronics and electrical components will automatically fry, and at this point of our voyage there is no money to replace any of them. So we better sail away from any electrical storm.

by the final day we were tired of the bad weather and got a little lucky. it did not rain and the wind and currents were good and steady. we made it by night into penang. a scary entrance because there is a new bridge under construction. there were metal structures showing just above the surface everywhere and this was of course not in any chart. We made our way through the entrance very slowly and the lights of the bright city helped us see the obstacles a bit. we finally anchored in the middle of town safely and we crashed dead tired for the night.

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