The forecast wind was not yet around, so we motored along easily in small swell under gathering cloud. Rene got our new autopilot (a Raymarine ST 1000 Tiller Pilot) working and we enjoyed its ease of operation. We've named it MeesterRay (inspired by Indonesia) and are quite impressed with how it keeps us on course.
|MeesterRay in action working with Aries to steer us along.|
Instead of water spouts, our first night involved the other danger out here near the equator, electrical storms! The lightning started during my watch, just after sunset as large, black clouds ambled towards us, sparkling with sheet lighting. I woke Rene just before it hit and we pulled in all the sails, battened down the hatches and held on! Visibility reduced to a few metres in front of us as heavy rain blasted down. I maintained a constant watch for shipping, using the near-constant lightning flashes to scan the horizon. Some of this lightning was so bright that it hurt my wide-open night eyes! I convinced myself that the lightning was getting ever closer and so unplugged our laptops and GPS and shoved the laptop under the stove in case of a direct hit. I then painstakingly wrote out all the 30 or so GPS waypoints for our course into Johor Bahru in case we suffered a strike and lost our computer and GPS.
|An approaching storm.|
|Stormy skies surrounded us.|
My midnight watch that first night was not so good. The storms still surrounded us - but now, so were many small fishing boats and FAD's. Many of these small boats would only put on their light when we got close-ish to them! I spent the entire 4 hours of my watch staring out into the night, tracking, spotting and navigating around various lights. The worst are lights which flash on and off in blue, red or green as they're very difficult to take a bearing of. There were so many flashing lights that I was forced to alter course hard to port. Then, when more and more started appearing, I changed course completely and headed out to sea - rather than parrallel to the land. After all of my careful route-planning back in Belitung, we changed our minds and instead took the outside route where we hoped there would be fewer small fishing boats/traps. Again, I wrote out all the waypoints by hand.
|Beautiful clouds bringing rain.|
More and rain and no wind. Some swallows landed on Anima for a while to shelter from the wet weather and dry their wings. They were very unafraid of us and one even landed on Rene's shoulder for a time!
|Rene and his new little friend :)|
We passed a few seasnakes (the biggest was 2 metres long and 20 cm thick!) swirling down through the clear water to escape our hull. A few small pods of really large dolphins also came by to say G'day.
|Glass-out seas means there's no wind for sailing!|
|This is the life! Very relaxed in calm seas.|
|Rene refills Anima while underway.|
Early morning on the 21st, Rene woke me and we turned off the engine. Rene had hoisted the sails so we could sail (at 1 knot) across the equator. I offered Neptune a shot of Captain Morgan Rum over our bows which Rene teased me incessantly over. He thought it was all a big joke and was yelling out taunts and challeges to the nautical God (much to my displeasure!). He then added insult to injury by pouring water over my head!
|The GPS doesn't lie! We're in the northern hemisphere now!!|
|Pouring a shot for Neptune.|
Perhaps Rene's taunts to Neptune were indeed heard, as the wind picked up from the North and we had to punch into (small) waves hard on the nose for the rest of the day. The sky was a metallic blue/grey, heavy with the threat of something nasty.
|Threatening cloud approaches as does a tug boat!|
|Taking a compass sight to ensure we don't collide with another ship.|
|Sunset over the Riau Strait|
Rene let me take a cat nap for an hour and when I arose, we were well on our way along the Singapore Strait! WOW! The horizon was filled with thousands of lights - not Singapore, container ships!! HUNDREDS OF THEM!!! We now rebooted our laptop every 5 minutes to keep an up to date account of the surrounding shipping and their movements. Often, a ship would look like it was coming for us, but we'd see on the AIS that in fact, it was about to turn, to follow the marked shipping lane.
We made our way along the far edge of the Singapore Strait, away from the busiest parts of the shipping lanes. We still had to be constantly alert however, as these massive container ships would frequently peel away from the main laneway to head off on alternate paths, right past us!
|Close encounters with container ships.|
At dawn we were followed by a water Police vehicle, ensuring we didn't stray over the line into Singaporean waters. We motored through hundreds more giant ships, all waiting at anchor to be processed in or out.
|So many ships!!!|
Eventually we made it to Danga Bay in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. The marina here was fully booked for the Sail Malaysia rally so we anchored in shallow, muddy water right near Yawarra 2!! Our relatives we last saw a year ago in Townsville!!