Anchorages and MARINAS from Singapore to Phuket

IMG_1178Here is another post for boats following in our footsteps, where we document our stops on this 500 mile stretch of water in Malaysia and Thailand. Please note that this is the first time I am doing one of these waypoint blog posts where I include information on multiple marinas where we stopped. Yes, marinas. We’re not in Tonga any more.

Before we left Singapore, we were told that boats were fleeing Phuket to avoid the rainy, windy season known as the “southwest monsoon.”  The best time to head north to Thailand was during the “northeast monsoon” between November and March, when the weather is drier, the water is clearer, and a gentle wind blows from the land.

Now that we are up in Phuket, people here are telling us that the concept of a summertime southwest monsoon — aka the bad, rainy season — has become increasingly irrelevant. Perhaps it is a result of global warming. Our weather has been sunny, the water is clear, and the winds are quite gentle. For us, this has been a great time to begin exploring Thailand. And we recommend all of the anchorages and stops in this post to boats following us, with the exception of the anchorage in Telaga if the weather is squally.

Pulau Pisang
01.28.817N, 103.14.721E
We anchored behind this island on our first stop in Malaysia. It’s about 40 miles up the Malacca Strait from Singapore. It was nice to be on the hook again after a month of city life in a marina. Good holding in 20 feet of water. It was calm enough for me to scrape Singapore barnacles off our hull and props.

Pulau Besar
02.06.603N, 102.20.629E
This was another anchorage 70 miles up the strait from Pisang. We wound up anchoring on the south side of the island because it was getting dark when we arrived. It was little rolly.

Port Dickson
Admiral Marina
02.28.573N, 101.50.704E
marinaWe stayed at this marina for almost a week, using it as our home base for Sophie during our three day visit to Kuala Lumpur. The marina is clean and the staff was helpful. Their fuel dock was broken, but they brought 800 liters of diesel in jerrycans to Sophie’s dock. Once again, I got to pour them into our tanks. It was character building. The marina has a pool and an air conditioned bar with WiFi. That’s about it. We took a cab for the ten minute ride into town to clear into Malaysia Immigration/Customs/Harbormaster. It was a straightforward and friendly process. TripAdvisor claims that the best restaurant in Port Dickson is a pizza place by the beach. Do not eat there. In hindsight, we regret not making the effort to visit Melaka on a day trip, which is supposed to be beautiful and historic. But after our time in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, we wanted to get back into cruising mode.

Port Klang
Royal Selangor Yacht Club (RSYC)
03.00.322N, 101.23.413E
MLYS1999This was our next stop up the coast, and we docked in front of a beautiful facility on the river that connects Kuala Lumpur with the Indian Ocean. There was a strong current in the river, and Sophie strained against the floating dock. The RSYC has a reciprocal relationship with the Seattle Yacht Club, and during our visit we met the RSYC commodore and exchanged burgees with him. They had a big restaurant, a good bar, and a nice pool. We stayed two nights.

Pangkor Marina (Marina Island)
Pangkor
04.12.685N, 100.36.074E
MLYS2012Our next stop was 40 miles up the coast from Klang, and our arrival here was a little stressful. The sun was setting, we were hit by a squall, the marina entrance was not clearly marked on our charts, and we had to motor 3 miles past the marina to avoid a big reef that runs north-south through the channel. Other than that, it was great. The marina looks like it will be an awesome facility when construction is completed in 3 years. They have a boatyard with a haulout that is big enough to lift Sophie. And we met Jack and Jackie on Barbara Ann, who have subsequently become our friends.

Straits Quay Marina
Penang
05.27.539N, 100.19.094E
IMG_1012We loved loved loved Penang. It was a 90 mile run up the coast from Pangkor, a longer trip for Sophie than for most boats, because our mast cannot fit under the two bridges that connect Pulau Penang with the mainland. For our first night we anchored outside of the marina, but it was rolly. For the next 6 days we had a dock at this friendly and inexpensive marina with a promenade featuring 10 restaurants. Nearby access to two supermarkets for provisioning. Easy access into town. Great culture. Monkeys who steal beer. Penang has it all.

Kuah, Langkawi
06.18.733N, 099.50.801E
This was our first stop in Langkawi, and we stayed here for one night. There was excellent holding for our anchor, and we could easily check in to Immigration and the Harbormaster. The marina at Kuah was under construction, which made it off-limits for us. The city itself reminded us of Indonesian cities like Ambon or Sorong, full of small businesses but not easily walkable, so we moved on.

Telaga, Langkawi
06.21.764N, 099.40.677E
telagaWe spent over two weeks here, first in the anchorage and then in the marina. It is a great spot, and we will return here later this year. The holding in the anchorage was terrible, and multiple boats (including Sophie) dragged their anchors during squalls. The marina was much more protected and featured several excellent, inexpensive restaurants. They also had a machine that used an electric motor to pump diesel fuel directly into your boat. This was a first for us in almost 10 months. It is easy to rent a car for a day to head into town. Langkawi is a duty free port, which means there are no taxes paid for alcohol or for boat parts you ship in from the United States.

Pulau Singa Besar, Langkawi
06.13.598N, 099.44.800E
MLYS2857We left Telaga for 5 days with our friends Misti and Abi to enjoy watersports in this anchorage 9 miles south of Telaga. We swam, paddleboarded, barbecued, drank, and played a lot of board games. We were back in Sophie Adventure Cruises mode, and it was a lot of fun. We were told that a local cruiser organizes impromptu bonfire singalongs on the beach here every Saturday night, but he had to cancel the week we were there.

Ko Lipe, Thailand
06.29.651N, 099.17.774E
IMG20150722183737We finally left Malaysia and spent two nights anchored on the north side of Ko Lipe. We never went to shore and instead spent our time padleboarding, swimming, and conducting Sophie School. The Ko Lipe area is part of a National Park, and we used a park service mooring even though we were warned to not trust any moorings in Thailand. After we tied up to the mooring, we ran both engines in reverse at 2000 RPMs, and nothing broke. Ko Lipe becomes much more crowded with the beginning of the high season in November, and we will return.

Ko Tarutao
06.42.456N, 099.40.072E
THAI3030After Ko Lipe we motored 25 miles east to visit another Thai National Park at Ko Turatao. Initially we anchored on the northwest tip of the island (06.41.764N, 099.38.249E) in order to visit “Crocodile Cave”, a spot where you pull yourself a couple of hundred meters along a rope on a raft to check out stalagmites and bats. But as we motored a mile up the mangrove in our dingy to reach the cave entrance, we saw a massive thunderboomer cloud approaching from the east. Our dingy motor has been a little tenuous lately, and Sophie was anchored in a very exposed area. So we punted on the idea of the cave (for now), got back to the boat, and motored around the corner to a much more sheltered anchorage. We anchored in 40 feet of water and marveled at the hundreds of basketball-sized jellyfish slowly bouncing around the bay. We did not swim.

Ko Rok Nok, Ko Rok Nai
07.12.815N, 099.04.156E
THAI3018Our next stop was another Thai national park, and we picked up a mooring in the channel between these two small islands. Our first week of “monsoon” weather in Thailand was perfect, the water was crystal clear, and there were thousands of reef fish swimming under Sophie. We enjoyed a grand afternoon cavorting in the water. The next morning a bit of a squall showed up, and we were directly exposed to a southerly wind that would have pushed us onto a reef in about 5 seconds if our mooring line broke. We decided to leave that morning, knowing full well that we will return.

Ko Phi Phi Don, Ton Sai Bay
07.44.051N, 098.46.304E
WP_20150727_002Phi Phi Don is a backpacker tourist island and is very, very cool. We anchored in the main harbor, slightly to the west of the route that the ferries, speedboats, and longtails use. Next time we’ll anchor to the west, away from the traffic and closer to the wall. The village reminded us of a bigger version of Gili Air, with 10 blocks of walking streets filled with backpacker bars, dive shops, tattoo parlors, and foot massage stands. Wandering these streets were Russian girls in bikinis and Australian bros with bad tats and hats, and everyone seemed to be having a good time. We stayed two nights and enjoyed some great people watching. We also caught up with our friends on Garuça Cat, whom we hadn’t seen since Bali. We will definitely be taking our nephews Steven and Dan here when they visit in the next few months.

Ko Phi Phi Le, Maya Bay
07.40.815N, 098.45.847E
pp1This day stop was literally spectacular, meaning “of or like a spectacle; marked by or given to an impressive, large-scale display.” Phi Phi Le is where the Leo DiCaprio movie “The Beach” was filmed, and it is apparently a required stop for every tourist who visits Phuket, which is 20 miles away. We arrived at 7:00 AM to grab one of the few mooring balls there, and by noon we counted over 50 high speed (500-1000+ hp outboards) tourist boats in the little bay. They would roar in, wait for their landing instructions from the BTC (Beach Traffic Controller), drop a sand hook off their bow, back 150 feet up to the beach, unload 20 tourists, then roar away. We counted a couple dozen of these boats lined up on the beach at one time, and later heard that during high season there are 2,000 boat trips a day to this little bay. Thankfully there is buoyed off swim area on the beach, and we simply sat in the water and marveled at the spectacle of thousands of tourists doing spinning panorama shots of themselves with their GoPros on selfie sticks. 

pplRemember, we’ve had most tropical beaches to ourselves for the last year, and this was a little more crowded. Phi Phi Le is a National Park, and we had to pay a beach landing fee of $40 for the family to enjoy the scene. It was worth every penny.

Ko Phi Phi Don, Laem Thong
07.46.744N, 098.45.956EWP_20150728_001
After the spectacle, we motored back up to Phi Phi Don and dropped the hook off of the sea gypsy village on the northeast coast of the island. It has a beautiful beach, nice coral, and wasn’t very crowded. There is a beach bar there named Jasmin, and we enjoyed a seven hour meal there, swapping stories with Peter, the Scot who’s married to Jasmin and serves as the restaurant’s official greeter and beer pourer. IMG20150728174023He’s quite a character, telling stories about Leo DiCaprio, Amy Winehouse, and his dark past in London. We will definitely be back.

Chalong, Phuket
07.48.965N, 098.21.574E
chalongWe could have stayed in the Phi Phi for a month (the kiddies never get tired of the fact that the islands’ name is pronounced “pee pee”), but we needed to officially check into Thailand so we motored over to Chalong harbor on the southern end of Phuket. On our way we caught our first tuna since November, thanks to advice we got from Peter. Apparently tuna and whale sharks are running through the islands here for the next few months, so we’ve got our lines back out after months of the fish nothingness that is otherwise known as Indonesia. Chalong has a one stop check-in center (Immigration, Customs, Harbormaster) all located in a single building at the end of a big pier that juts into the crowded harbor. Better yet, these different agencies use computers to share your information across their offices, so we only had to fill out a form one time, and that was on a computer! Amazing. We only spent one night here and anchored out from the main fleet. There are plenty of bars and tourist restaurants in the area, but we only stayed one night.

I continue to write on this blog that things on our little adventure keep getting better and better, and at some point you might begin to think that I am guilty of exaggeration. How could this be possible?

Come to Thailand, and you’ll understand.

City Life

IMG20150429124510Time has flown by since Sophie arrived in Singapore almost two weeks ago. At the start of the month, our big decision of the day involved choosing which two-year old cans of food from Safeway should go into that night’s chili surprise. Now our big decision involves selecting which of the country’s 30 malls we should visit via Singapore’s modern and clean subway. It has been quite a transition, and I like it.

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Our last stop in Indonesia was Nongsa Point Marina on the northern tip of Batam Island. It was actually a marina, with docks and shore power and security and smiling attendants, our first visit to a marina in 7 months! We spent a couple of days here, and the marina staff handled all of our paperwork for leaving Indonesia. It was easily our most straightforward and efficient encounter with Indonesian bureaucracy.

Covering the 14 mile passage across the Singapore Strait from Nongsa to the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club was like driving Sophie through a video game. Here is a shot of our chart plotter as we left Nongsa.IMG_0763Each of those triangles represents a ship, and most of the ships were 800 foot long tankers and freighters going at 15 knots down designated traffic lanes. Fighter jets passed over us every ten minutes. We had a 15 knot wind behind us, but I didn’t dare put up any sails because of the need for visibility and maneuverability.

It actually got worse when we reached the point where we had to cross the traffic lanes. It was like running across a highway.IMG20150430095844

Our AIS tracker showed over 100 ships within 2 miles of us. In fact, it is illegal for a boat to enter Singapore waters without having an AIS transceiver (a radio that enables your boat to appear as a triangle on other boats’ AIS screens.)

I had to hand steer to get Sophie across the street, but we eventually made it to our designated quarantine area, where a grey-hulled immigration boat was waiting for us. They pulled alongside, and we dropped our passports and ship’s papers into a net they held out for us. 10 minutes later, we were admitted into the country. No boarding. No sweaty motorcycle rides to remote government offices. No surprise fees. We were back in modern civilization!

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Our home in Singapore is the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club, a marina and hotel complex located between a container terminal and a public park on the island’s southwest coast. It’s a modern facility complete with a pool, gym, bar, restaurants, and even a kid’s playroom.

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The RSYC has a reciprocal relationship with the Seattle Yacht Club, which means we can stay here at a discounted rate with complete access to all of their facilities. We may want to give them a new burgee while we are here.

So … what does one do in a cosmopolitan city after spending 8 months in remote Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia?

The short answer? Everything!

For starters, the park next door has an extensive set of bike trails. We bought the kiddies some bikes in New Zealand, but we hadn’t used them for over a year. In fact Hazel’s bike still had training wheels attached. We felt bad that at age 7 she still couldn’t ride a bike, but I guess it’s one of the prices you pay for living on a boat. We took off the training wheels and then took her out riding every day. Within a week, Hazel was doing laps of the park, as you can see from the photo at the top of the blog. This now means that as a family we can start going on bike hikes.

On our second night here, we went to dinner at Din Tai Fung, a chain of dumpling restaurants based out of Taiwan. There is one back home in the Seattle area, and it’s Hazel’s favorite restaurant in the U.S. The kiddies loved visiting this little slice of home.

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Singapore has an excellent Science Center, and Jenna wore a lovely red summer dress on the day of our visit. The dress inadvertently set off a fire tornado in one of the exhibits! The museum also had an interactive exhibit where you literally walk through the inside of a human body, learning from the inside how the body’s different systems work. We walked through the exhibit twice, and Leo had a big grin on his face at the exit.

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It just so happens that the Singapore Yacht Show was taking place during our first week here, so naturally we had to attend. I first saw a Lagoon 500 at a Singapore boat show in 2007 when I was here on a business trip, and based on that visit we decided to place the order for Sophie. As part of the order process, Jenna and I flew to the Lagoon factory in Bordeaux with my father and Todd Rickard, a friend from Seattle. While there we had lunch with Yann Masselot, the head of Lagoon.

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Yann was at the boat show, and it was great to catch up with him after 8 years. We are very happy Lagoon customers. Here is a picture of Yann and Jenna posing in front of the new Lagoon 63 Motor Yacht. Jenna and I agree that it would make an excellent Seattle power boat and plan to buy one when we return in 7 years. 🙂

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During our first week in Singapore, we learned of some bad news: Jenna’s grandmother in Michigan was dying. “GG” was 94 and lived in a house on a lake with Jenna’s parents. We decided it made sense for Jenna to fly home and for me to remain in Singapore with the children. Jenna made it home in time to spend a couple of days with he grandmother before she passed away in her sleep.

I’ve now spent the last week in Singapore with Leo and Hazel, while Jenna remains in Michigan helping her parents. How are we spending our time while she’s gone? Basically more of the same.

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We spent an entire day cleaning out Leo’s room. He has spent his entire life collecting Lego sets, and it can be difficult to keep a lifetime’s supply of Lego organized and neat  when you live on a boat. We sorted through and removed three duffle bags of Lego from his room. We also removed 3 garbage bags of toy junk along with all of his clothing that no longer fits. Hazel looks stylish in her new khaki pants and 2nd grade polo shirts.

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We went bowling, and Leo and Hazel both trounced me.

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Also, we eat. And eat. And eat. Singapore has wonderful food. We go to the hawker stalls every day, where you can buy plates of sushi or noodles or dumplings or satay for $3-$4 dollars. We’ve been to German restaurants three times, eating wurst and schnitzel. On the night of GG’s death, Hazel suggested we go out for sushi since one of our last meals with GG last summer was an extensive sushi feast at Jenna’s parents’ house. So we went to a mall (where else) and the kids experienced their first ever sushi restaurant with a conveyor belt. They ate a LOT.

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I try to keep the kids moving. We swim and/or bike every day. We walk to the bus, which then takes us to the subway, which then takes us to a new place to explore on foot. We saw the fort on Sentosa where the British accepted Japan’s surrender. We saw the new Avengers movie (in a mall, where else). We explore playgrounds, parks, stores, and street scenes. The kids are actually complaining that I am working them too hard.

They miss their mom, they are getting along with each other, they are plowing through season 2 of Gilligan’s Island, and they are loving city life. We assumed we would spend 2 weeks in Singapore, but I am now hoping we can stay much longer. We need to give Jenna a chance to catch up with us (our legs are getting really strong!), and I kind of like being a city mouse again. A lucky, lucky city mouse.

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