Marinas in Malaysia! 26November2010

Danga Bay, a free marina!

Johor Strait at night from Danga Bay.

Johor Strait, morning while leaving.

Two things about Singapore, other than how expensive things are, the number of ships that loiter at the bottom of the Johor Strait, and the electrical storms.  There seem to be literally hundreds of ships sitting at anchor at Singapore, and all variety of shapes and sizes, some rafted up, some being nudged about by tugs, oil drilling ships, oil drilling platforms, ships for carrying other ships; yep, lots of ships.  One supposes they are waiting to do something constructive or go somewhere more interesting than where they are but the value of the machinery parked in a not overly big area and the cost of all that neglected hardware doing nothing must be staggering.

The ship park receding, headed for the straits.

On electrical storms; apparently Singapore and the Malacca Straits are one of the worst places in the world for thunder-storms and of course with the thunder there is the lightning. According to the cruising guide at this time of the year there are around twelve thunderstorms a month to be spotted but we have been seeing something like two every day; or more.  It seems that when lightning hits the mast of a sail boat it goes looking for a way to ground and along the way fries wiring in the mast and vapourises anything electronic, well almost.  What it will do without any trouble is melt and fuse electrical circuits, destroy ones radios, computer, chart-plotter, other assorted bits of electronic gadgetry and generally ruin ones month.  Even worse is horror stories of fused chain-plates and skin fittings being punched out through the side/hull of the boat, this of course would not be terribly joyful! Whilst we were at Danga Bay a boat at Puteri Harbour just around the corner got hit, everything in that boats mast got fried, the lightning then jumped sideways to another boat and wiped everything electronic in the second boat; that was one determined lightning bolt.

Apparently and according to the pundits, you can avoid such calamity by properly grounding your boat and putting little chimney-sweep type, lightning preventers on the top of ones mast. Grounding seems self explanatory but one feels that little aerials at the top of the mast is a bit like hanging garlic over the door to keep away vampires.  Now the garlic may indeed work as there do not appear to be too many reports of people being bitten by vampires, but, on the Gadfly the response is to disconnect radios from aerials, turn off electronic equipment and trust the weather gods; in this case perhaps ‘Thor’.  As you might imagine nobody likes scratching around under thunder-storms but sometimes it can’t be avoided, which brings us back the Malacca Straits.

After leaving Danga Bay at dawn on November14 we got out of the Johor Strait picked our way through the ‘ship-park’ and headed initially west and then north-west up through the Malacca Straits. We were at this time in loose company with about eight other boats all Thailand bound with the first possible destination being ‘Pulau Pissang’ in a group of little islands about 20 miles NW of ‘Tanjung Piai’ which is the Cape marking the turning point in to the Malacca Straits.  As we arrived at P.Pissang quite early the considered plan was to keep going till near dusk and then head into an anchorage some 20 miles further on for the night. This was in company with ‘Magnetic’, being driven by Kiwi Trevor and Yolanda.  The plan came unstuck at about 6.00 PM when the mother of all electrical storms decided to have a bit of a nudge at us, torrential rain, 40 knots of wind and a quite breathtaking display of lightning.  This wasn’t just the occasional lightning stroke, this was lightning bolts all over the shop and bolts in the same location every minute or so for ten minutes. Lightning was even jumping from cloud to cloud overhead in these lovely intricate designs right across our somewhat limited view from horizon to horizon; Thor certainly had that hammer busy. As one might imagine this had the skipper somewhat concerned and skipping about the boat disconnecting everything possible; the HF radio is currently permanently disconnected!

Pulau Pissang but keep going.

Manu and Mike; storm on the way!

All of this was of course something of a spectacular start for the new crew for whom the plan had been an easy introduction and day sailing initially; but such is life on a little boat!  Anyway after skipping along at 7 knots under the staysail (only) and trying to spot assorted ships, fishing boats and other yachts, we decided our anchorage didn’t look real good as most of the thunder-storm seemed to be parked over that particular part of the coast.  So it was to be an overnighter to hopefully Port Dickson the next morning and maybe a night in the marina.  On the crew front, the Kiwi’s had jumped ship at Danga Bay and sallied forth for Hong Kong to watch Australia beat the All-Blacks in the rugby.  This was only after Tim had nearly been incarcerated as an international gun-runner when he took that little air rifle of his through Customs at Singapore; by all accounts it took quite some explaining.  We now have Manuela, Mike and Niuma on board.  Manu is from Germany and headed home for Christmas and if she can’t avoid it, work in marketing after a year of travel, Austrian Mike is in travel mode but looking to do a PhD in Australia in Geophysics.  Mike already has a Masters degree in quantum physics and as our resident ‘Quantum Mechanic’ it seems only appropriate that he provide the skipper with a ‘Unification Theory’, more about that later perhaps!  Niuma is from the Maldives and will be with the boat for a few weeks before heading off to another job in media.

The overnighter went swimmingly (it felt like that on the boat initially what with all the rain), with the word being ‘traffic’.  There are shitloads of ships, fishing boats and other assorted water-craft plying the Straits.  This was especially the case off Malacca proper where large number of moving boats were combined with even larger numbers of boats and ships at anchor with lights everywhere and in most cases no inclination to even follow the standard rules when it comes to type of light or colour; this minor requirement seemed only to apply to the bigger vessels. On traffic here, the locals seem to love towing things around, in fact they seem to like it so much that you get the feeling that if there is nothing else to do they will tow things around for fun.  You might after all question the economics of towing barge loads of sand fifty miles between ports!

Port Dickson is 110 miles from P.Pissang, we arrived there bright, early and still in company with Magnetic which appeared at dawn having come to the same conclusion as us regarding planned anchorages.  The problem at Port Dickson however, was that the marina was closed.  It seems that in the middle of the Sail Malaysia ‘Passage to Langkawi’, they had decided to undertake major maintenance work.  In their defence the marina really is falling to pieces so after being told that we couldn’t even anchor inside the breakwater wall we headed off yet again, this time for another 50 odd miles to Port Klang.

The new marina at Klang!

Klang is the major port for Malaysia and Kualalumpar and should probably be on the top of places you shouldn’t bother to visit.  We didn’t actually go into the port proper and the ‘Royal Selangor Yacht Club’ but instead parked at the new yacht club marina about 30km away on the Selat Lumut.  It seems the brand new marina was opened just before the Sail Malaysia rally boats were due to arrive, notwithstanding that boats had been stopping there for a year already (for free).  It is in the middle of nowhere about a half hour taxi ride to get anything at all. Before the rally boats arrived there was only one boat parked in the marina and while we were there a couple of German expats came down to marvel at actually having boats in the place at all.  There is a very flash office type restaurant complex above the marina (empty of course but one day there will be a bar and restaurant), a gymnasium with no people to use it, a hard stand (boat free) with no way to get boats out of the water and a couple of fairly lonely security guards. But, the place did have a monkey that people insisted on patting; one bite and it’s off for the obligatory rabies shots!

The monkey at Klang.

Sloop adopting us.

At Klang we were reunited with Simon, Amanda (and Sloop) on Thyme along with a number of the other boats that had come up through Indonesia; we even had shore power here after Simon rewired the power box on the pontoon.  Having missed Malacca city the next mission was a bus ride back south and a night in Malacca, on the way we came into company with English Neil who was to join the boat later at Pinang.  Malacca is great with a convoluted history involving armed conflict between the locals, the Portugese, the Dutch and the English with architecture, ‘historic’ sites and museums that reflect the past.  Great place to visit and very cheap food; but you do have to drink from under the table at the Moslem, outdoor, Indian restaurant.

Strange bars at Malacca.

Looking for digs in Malacca.

The Dutch quarter, Malacca.

We were out of Klang on the 19th at dawn, slipped around through the commercial port and motored 30 miles out to a little island called ‘Pulau Angsa’, or Lighthouse Island. This was a deep anchorage (20 metres) but a good break before the next 75 miles to Pangkor, which we could then do in daylight.  The sea glassed off that night and it was quite something parked almost underneath the lighthouse with the light revolving and reflecting off the water.  With a pre-dawn departure we were into Pangkor just before dusk (just before dusk apparently being the scheme of things) once again motor sailing using every bit of wind possible; although with a rain squall we did get about 40 minutes of just sailing!  Leaving Klang we almost inherited a cat when Thyme legged it without Sloop who had adopted us for the morning; he did seem very happy and not at all inclined to go home.

Can you believe it, made of wood and probably driven by steam once!

Pangkor is a small (5 mile long) but very pretty island catering in a big way to the local tourist industry, with the usual beach activity and boat rides, motor-bikes and bars on the beach.  We spent four nights on the west coast, two in ‘Telak Mati’ and another two in ‘Telak Nipah’, apparently the second is called Coral Bay although there didn’t appear to be too much coral about.  The day after arriving we went to check out the main town and managed to get ourselves invited to a local Moslem wedding reception. The wedding seemed to be a very big event in town, lots of music, lots more food and the locals were more than happy to feed us; although they were a bit perplexed when Yolanda asked “what will lunch cost”!  Never a dull moment with Yolanda! The happy couple, Norlia Ramlii and Mohd Sazli Hafizi were even happy to have the brides photo taken with the skipper. That night was dinner ashore, beers and dinghy-warfare with water pistols on the way back to the boat.

We were invited.

A big event in Pangkor!

Happy wedding guests!

The happy bride; tolerating a grotty yachtie.

The next day was a motor-bike ride around the island and after procuring scooters and more pump up water pistols we were off to check out the sights; well at least the fish factory, the Buddhist temple, lunch on the beach and then beers on the beach. On Malaysian tourist attractions you have to marvel at the ‘suspension bridge’.  What you do is drive to where you can park your motorbike, walk to one end of a bridge , walk to the other end and then walk back to your motorbike!  It must be an Asian thing, but, it was a nice bridge! The last night was a big beach barbecue this time cooked by the Swiss couple who run  the very nice café on the beach in Coral Bay with the name none of us can remember.

Niuma and one great sign! No delusions here!

One great suspension bridge! The skipper, Amanda and Simon.

The fish factory, lots of dried fish (lots of little fish and all).

The next day was our passage to Pinang and with the obligatory pre-dawn pulling up of the anchor we headed further north still in company with Thyme and once again our other Indonesia consort, ‘Moontan’ with Sean, Carina and Kesh.  Of course we arrived just before dusk and after another 75 odd miles put the pick down in the ‘Junk Anchorage’ just out in front of ‘Chew Jetty’.  There is a marina here but we are very happy leaving the dinghy on deck and getting picked up by the bum-boats and ferried ashore for 2 ringgits each. The ‘Chew’ jetty is rather interesting with houses lining both sides of the narrow walkway which extends out over the water for a good 200 metres.  There are lots of houses, little workshops and even a Buddhist temple right out on the end of the pier where one catches the Bum-boats. This really is a bit of the old Pinang and stands in somewhat stark contrast to the huge multi-level developments just down the road but this seems to be the way of things in Asia; but some development in Malaysia defies explanation.

Bum boats to get home on.

Chew Jetty, inshore from the Junk Anchorage.

Chew Jetty.

It seems that in Malaysia they must run University subjects on ‘Construction Folly’!  If one goes looking one can find all sorts of examples of construction and building that can only have been taken on with no research or concepts of ‘will this work’. It seems that a lot of people subscribe to the concept of ‘if we build it they will come’, or we will build things and hope for the best, or we will build it because we like the look of it, or we will build it because it looks like the real think even if it never provides what the real thing might deliver.  This includes hotels, restaurants and bars where the places are either empty or still operating, with staff but almost no customers.  Not just small places but huge completely empty major developments.  It probably doesn’t help that if you buy a bunkrupt business in Malaya you buy the debt as well!

On marinas, our friend George Wah stayed with his boat ‘Amable’ at Sebana Cove marina in the Johor Strait for about a year and by all accounts it was cheap, almost empty and the restaurant and bar were fully staffed with almost no customers.  Well Sebana Cove has closed just as two more marinas have opened in the Johor Strait; Danga Bay and Puteri Harbour. Danga Bay has some activity but the pens are currently free (wonderful as that is) and apparently Puteri is looking suspiciously like Sebana Cove.  At Malacca the old marina is falling to bits, at Port Dickson they are rebuilding at just the wrong time and the marina at Klang is so isolated that the pet monkey is going to be very lonely; although the security guards will be able to spend lots of time in the gym!  But the very best marina is the one on the south side of the island at Coral Bay (Pulau Mentangor) on Pangkor. This is a brand new development that is falling completely to pieces.  It is surreal driving the dinghy round inside a brand new marina with the smashed up pontoons scattered all over the place in what could best be described as random assortment and there is nothing like a walkway aimed at 45 degrees into water.

That marina, spectacular really.

Breathtaking, and brand new.

Amanda on the slideway.

In Indonesai there would be an entire community living here by now!

Wonder if they advertise???

So buggered is this marina that a piece of it was actually outside the entrance washing around in the gap between the two islands; probably secured by the remains of the electrical cabling.  The pontoons here haven’t even had time to develop any fouling.  It gets better though!  The marina has, just like Klang, a massive shore development associated with it, a potential restaurant and bar, change rooms, offices, power plant, roadway and it’s all on an island.  They must have actually barged everything in from presumably the mainland.  Even better, there is nobody there (at all), the place is brand new, completely isolated on an island, falling apart (at least the actual marina) , there is no access for anybody except by boat and the power is still on.  We actually went into rooms with a rather large main switchboard and electrical plant and it was all happily humming along all set to receive punters!  Yep, if we build it they will come!!!!

Well at least there is power on! Sean and Simon.

Sending this from the ‘Hong Kong Bar’ on Pinang; leaving tomorrow for islands further north, more later as it all happens.

Cheers from the Gadfly.

Lightning is an atmospheric discharge of electricity accompanied by thunder, which typically occurs during thunderstorms, and sometimes during volcanic eruptions or dust storms.In the atmospheric electrical discharge, a leader of a bolt of lightning can travel at speeds of 220,000 km/h (140,000 mph), and can reach temperatures approaching 30,000 °C (54,000 °F), hot enough to fuse silica sand into glass channels known as fulgurites which are normally hollow and can extend some distance into the ground. There are some 16 million lightning storms in the world every year.

How lightning initially forms is still a matter of debate: Scientists have studied root causes ranging from atmospheric perturbations (wind, humidity, friction, and atmospheric pressure) to the impact of solar wind and accumulation of charged solar particles. Ice inside a cloud is thought to be a key element in lightning development, and may cause a forcible separation of positive and negative charges within the cloud, thus assisting in the formation of lightning.

The irrational fear of lightning (and thunder) is astraphobia. The study or science of lightning is called fulminology, and someone who studies lightning is referred to as a fulminologist.

A thunderstorm, also known as an electrical storm, a lightning storm, thundershower or simply a storm is a form of weather characterized by the presence of lightning and its acoustic effect on the Earth’s atmosphere known as thunder. The meteorologically-assigned cloud type associated with the thunderstorm is the cumulonimbus. Thunderstorms are usually accompanied by strong winds, heavy rain and sometimes snow, sleet, hail, or no precipitation at all.


In Norse polytheism, Thor (from Old Norse Þórr) is a hammer-wielding god associated with thunder, lightning, storms, oak trees, strength, destruction, fertility, healing, and the protection of mankind. The cognate deity in wider Germanic mythology was known in Old English as Þunor and in Old High German Donar (runic þonar), from a Common Germanic *Þunraz “thunder”.

Ultimately stemming from Proto-Indo-European religion, Thor is a prominently mentioned god throughout the recorded history of the Germanic peoples, from the Roman occupation of regions of Germania, to the tribal expansions of the Migration Period, to his extreme popularity during the Viking Age, where, in the face of the process of the Christianization of Scandinavia, emblems of his hammer, Mjöllnir, were worn in defiance and Norse pagans personal names containing the name of the god bear witness to his flourishing popularity. After the Christianization of Scandinavia and into the modern period, Thor continued to be acknowledged in rural folklore throughout Germanic regions. Thor is frequently referenced in place names, the day of the week Thursday (“Thor’s day”) bears his name, and names stemming from the pagan period containing his own continue to be used today.


4 Responses to “Marinas in Malaysia! 26November2010”

  1. Alexsandra Trevor Says:


    Thanks for the newer post. It is nice to see where you are and what you are doing these days.

    Have given notice to my house mate who doesn’t live here and the Spa where I show up occasionally. Both very supportive of my wandering ways. Everyone is always a bit envious when I tell them I am taking off again.
    Still have no definite time frame. Will stay in touch of course.
    Have fun.

  2. Phill Says:

    Loved your impressions of the Malaysia West Coast. I live in KL so know the coast quite well. The Pangkor marina must have got worse. I have been thinking of nicking a few pontoons for the Perak Yacht Club up the Dinding river, who could make good use of them. The new marina on Marina Island in the south channel between Pangkor and the mainland is pretty good and almost finished.
    Keep having fun

    • Trevor Says:

      Yea, quite a wreck Pangkor is. You might as well borrow a couple of the pontoons, nobody is going to use them in a hurry and they will probably end up drifting around outside sooner or later. You gotta love the power on stil though. Good chance nobody is prepared to accept responsibility for the failure of it all. Cheers.

  3. caver38 Says:

    Hi , very interresting your observations , out of the N marinas that the Malaysian authorities built few are operational .
    For the Johor area , there is a new harbour master , and now boats of 40 ft and above are required to have a pilot beyond the second link bridge so that includes access to either Puteri or Danga Bay.
    Also the number of anchored boats outside SIngapore is on the increase again , a real slalom .
    Also foreign boats in SIngapore a required to have a cruising permit even moving between marinas , and use of sails is banned .

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