Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Singapore Straits - Sailing From Malaysia to Indonesia

The Brightly Colored "Lego Barge" Came Over The Horizon This Afternoon - At 2 Knots
We departed Puteri Harbour in Johor, Malaysia at 11.00am this morning, and arrived at Nongsa Point in Batam, Indonesia, at 6.00pm this evening.   Its only 47 nautical miles by sea, but a world apart in many ways.  Our AIS target identification system was kind of busy - over 2000 targets (vessels) tracked in a single day must be some kind of record.  

Our Track Is The Black Line, With Destination Nongsa Point At Lower Right
You can get a very sore neck trying to keep track of all those ships from the cockpit.

Right now, from our berth in the marina we can identify over 420 discrete vessels in the Singapore Straits, all individually identified and tracked on the plotting system.  

The straits are very busy, and we find the AIS system essential for safe navigation here (see our AIS technology primers Part1, Part2 and Part3 for background).

Puteri Harbour had very few visitors, and lacks any useful services except fuel supply, though it is safe, clean and inexpensive.  But I've never been in a marina that was so ....... soul less.

When the wind came up we managed to sail for just two hours today, roughly a quarter of the 8 hour voyage, which is about average for this part of the world.  But the sailing was a delight, a reminder of why we chose this life style.

Here at Nongsa Point the welcome and atmosphere are completely different to Puteri Harbour.  Staff are more competent and confident, and there are active sailors and cruisers on many of the boats here.  The place has a nice buzz about it, with sail training yachts and dive charters moving about the harbour.  The attached resort provides a pool, bar and meals, and the local ferry terminal has regular services to Singapore.  We're impressed.  We'll be here for a few weeks whilst we prepare for the next phase of our cruising life.


  1. Just adding a few thoughts to your AIS primers, (and thanks for such a good set of primers, very informative, not too technical from my perspective either).

    We installed a West Marine AIS1000 in 2010. It was inexpensive and easily available. West Marine programmed it as required by law in the US. The unit is a bit clunky but is weather sealed and rugged (not essential for our installation) but it installed easily and worked right out of the box with little zero further set-up.

    We really did not want to install a second VHF antenna or the cabling of one so we tried a West Marine VHF signal splitter, which has worked perfectly. Our AIS and VHF share a single cable and mast head antenna. Our cabling to the mast head is RG9U and our losses seem acceptable. We've done limited operational testing but when we have, both class A and Class B equipped vessels have seen us on their displays at reasonable distances. So the installation works.

    We've routed the outputs to both the nav station PC for use on OpenCPN and to a Standard Horizon Matrix GX2000 VHF radio which has a AIS display. This permits us to monitor AIS without continuously running the Dell PC we use in the Nav station. (This is a power saving decision). The GX2000 also requires a separate GPS signal and we route our Lowrance GPS output to that (and to the Dell, for redundancy).

    The biggest benefit we see from the AIS system is a watch-standing function. Using CPA and TCPA alarms we get over the horizon warnings about commercial traffic, very, very helpful and comforting during passages. In bad weather or when the watch stander is drowsy, the AIS lets us know somebody is coming. Of course during transits of the Straits of Malacca, offshore of East Africa, and near the coasts of Brazil and Venezuela, all very high traffic areas, the visual display on the chart plotter has made a world of difference. Commercial traffic is no longer a significant worry although we will be happier when all fishing vessels and small craft also carry it.

    We have some gripes however. While we love our AIS system and would not consider doing without it, there are some design issues. The units and displays appear to be working as designed but the designs have missed some important operational aspects regarding alarm setting, nuisance alarms, and radio interference.

    We won't get too longwinded here, but if you are interested, you can read the details at the following blog posting:

    Fred Roswold, SV Wings, Cartagena

  2. Hey Fred, those primers were written ages ago, a little dated now.

    You guys are like us - 2 crew and a keen desire to keep both alive. AIS helps with that.

    We have a little more power to burn than you, so we leave our navigation PC running all the time, and use an iPad in the cockpit to view the PC screen. That way we get AIS on the iPad screen without needing lots of extra kit. See this link :


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