: We spent the night anchored off Nongsa Point on the island of Batam, which is just across from Singapore. After a pretty sleepless night (me) stressing about towing another boat across the busiest shipping lane in the world, we got up at 4:00am ready for a 5:00am start. However it was still too dark at 5:00am to organise tow lines so we waited until it got a bit lighter and we set off at 5:30am. It was pretty easy getting the tow line across to Don and Phyllis on Solstice, Robbie had a big heavy duty rope coming off each cleat on the stern of Southern Star with the main tow rope coming off that which we threw to Don on the bow of Solstice.
We set off slowly but we had really good current and were getting over 7 knots of speed at only 1500 rpm’s. (Normal is 6.5 knots at 1650 rpm’s) We had to run alongside the main shipping channel of the Singapore Straights for a couple of hours, this is the busiest shipping lane in the world with over 200 ships transiting every day. The AIS screen looked horrendous, it was just choked with ships targets and their courses, there were boats anchored, and there were boats moving in all directions. There were lots of huge tankers but also a lot of fast ferries zipping past at 30 knots. We show as the bright green target with no name, and because we are towing Solstice you cannot see their target but they are 50 metres behind us. Stormvogel was leading the way, and this was a huge help. Peter with all his knowledge and experience (peter was a Seaman in his younger days) was brilliant. We had a really good run. There are only a couple of places where you can cross the main shipping lanes to get to the Singapore side, and Robbie and Peter had chosen the narrowest crossing point.
As we got to the designated crossing zone there were only two ships approaching in the immediate area that were a concern, one on our Port side and one on our Starboard and Peter said lets go for it, and we did. We headed for the midships of the tanker approaching from our port side and as he was travelling faster than us we crossed safely behind his bow. We normally stay at a minimum of 1 nautical mile away from any of these container ships or tankers so this was pretty dam close for us. Because we were towing Solstice it was a concern if we would have had to stop in a hurry and of course manourvreability is really limited when you are towing, but luck was on our side and the shipping traffic was light at that time.
It was a huge relief to cross that shipping lane, but don’t think it was over – not by a long shot. There were ships of every size, shape and speed. A lot were anchored, but there were a lot on the move too. We have never seen so many ships. It was great having Stormvogel and Solstice – extra sets of eyes, and we kept in constant radio contact on channel 69 for the whole time. You are constantly keeping a vigilant eye on the traffic but also on the AIS for ships that are moving towards you. AIS is a brilliant invention and it would be a much easier cruising world if every boat had it. AIS gives you information such as the boat name, type e.g. Cargo ship, dangerous goods carrier, their speed, their course and the CPA to you, which is the collision data. Once the ship becomes a danger to you it flashes up as a red alert. We had lots of those yesterday!
We had to drop Solstice off at the Sisters Islands, which is an immigration holding point where boats clear into Singapore. As we are staying at Raffles marina, we don’t have to clear in here as Raffles is also an entry/exit point. There were lots of boats in this holding area but we found a good space and Don threw off the ropes. I had to pull in the rope as quickly as possible so it couldn’t get into the propeller. All went well we ticked off slowly in case Solstice had a problem anchoring, which he didn’t so we then had to weave our way through hundreds of boats for the next few hours until we got to Raffles marina. This is quite a way from the city which is OK as it will be a good place for us to exit when we leave for Malaysia in about a weeks’ time.
We arrived at the marina at 11.45am and docked with no problem. It’s great to be here!
We had to wait for the customs and immigrations guys and they weren’t coming until around 4:00pm so we had a bit of a clean-up and then the Yamaha outboard tech turned up. We have had an issue with the outboard on the duck for a while, it’s not charging and the tachometer is not working. Robbie had tried everything he knew and we had also had 2 lots of Yamaha people in Indonesia look at it and they couldn’t find the fault. As we had already paid someone twice with no results we have been emailing and sending photos to the guys in Singapore for a couple of weeks now. They were great they arrived at 3:00pm with some second hand parts and were able to diagnose which part was faulty and they will be back tomorrow with the part. Meanwhile Peter and Heidi came down and we played a few hands of 500, and had a couple of beers. It is really hot, 34 degrees.
The customs guys turned up around 4:00pm and that took about 2 minutes, they simply stamped the paperwork that we had previously emailed into the marina, stamped our passports and that was it. Very painless.
We joined Peter and Heidi for dinner in the Hotel attached to the marina, was so good to have a selection! We had a seafood combo Appetiser which was scallops, prawns, fish and calamari, and I had pork chops and Robbie had a chicken Caesar salad for mains. It was way too much food, next time we will share. I had a glass of wine and the others had 2 jugs of Heineken. Bit of a change when it came to paying the bill, it was $110 more than 10 times what we have been paying in Indonesia! Back to the boat and straight to bed, we were exhausted.
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