Saturday, 11 October 2014

We "Love" The Mallacca Straits

This was our eleventh Malacca Straits passage, and it turned out to be just like some of the others - a pain in the neck.  Keeping in mind that the boat hadn't been actively used for fifteen months, we started cautiously with a 40 mile passage from Singapore to Pulau Pisang.  A quiet night there was followed by a good 6 hours of sailing before the wind dropped and we started the Cummins diesel.  All systems were working fine and we spent some time on deck that day, completing the re-rigging - runners, preventers, down-haul and the like. The new Raymarine autopilot worked fine straight up and it was a joy to be at sea again.

With The Smoke Haze, It Felt This Black
That night things changed, with a decent 35 knot Sumatra (squall) coming in from the north west just after 21:00hrs.  It blew for a couple of hours and settled down gradually.  Our real issue was that I managed to receive a bad rope burn on the fingers of my left hand when releasing the traveler under pressure - substantial skin removed from two fingers and minor burning on the palm and others.  Yes it hurt like hell. After 52 years of sailing I felt like an amateur again - definitely out of practice.  We immersed it in ice water for 15 minutes, then cut away the loose bits, lathered it in Savlon and wrapped it (photo here if you're medically interested).  I have never been so glad to have good pain killers on board.  We call that Incident #1.

Motoring in flat conditions just off Port Klang we took a sloppy ship wake over the deck.  With great skill we managed to direct most of it down the galley and nav hatches,  they being the only ones open.  Damn. Major rinsing and cleaning followed, but no damage done. Incident #2, check !
The Admiral Fishing, Not sleeping

During the trip north Ley did not put a fishing line in the water, but we still managed to land four fish on deck.  Most were placed gently back over the side,  but the big one (over 2 feet long) wanted to tap dance around right next to the open hatch above Ley, asleep below.  Fortunately he slid to port and he flipped himself back over the side - it could have been a grand awakening for the sleeping fisherman (Ley), with a slimy, though amazingly agile, new bed partner.  Didn't really rate as an "Incident", more like a comedy.
Malaysian Flag Raising

 We rode the tide northward that night, with great speed over ground (often up to 10 knots) and arrived in the Penang south channel right on time Thursday morning to catch the rising tide inbound.  At about that point I breathed a sigh of relief, thanking the sailing gods that we didn't pick up any line or fish nets around the propeller on this trip.  We moved into the marina, swung the boat to starboard, selected reverse and the Cummins almost stalled - couldn't get her to back into the berth.  Selected forward again, did a slow U-turn and tried a second time, this time clearly hearing the sound of something wrapped around the propeller hitting the hull.  It took a lot of horsepower to get her moving, but we berthed safely and looked over the side to see hundreds of pieces of fish net float to the surface.  Incident #3 had arrived, as expected.

I've had the hand treated and dressed at hospital (2nd degree burns) and will go back for re-dressing on Monday.   I'm also quite sure that we have a big ball of net around the propeller, but it can stay there until my hand heals and its safe to dive again.  

Meantime we received a very friendly welcome from many boating friends in the marina, the cruising life feels very good and so did the first gin and tonic.

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