Thursday, October 20, 2011

Natural Gas Tanker

 Unbelievable, we sailed up the Strait of Singapore and lived to tell about it! Singapore is one of the busiest ports in the world, tankers, tenders and tugs march up and down the Strait with precision and speed. Well perhaps I should qualify that, mostly with precision, when we approaching up a channel between two islands we heard the frantic calls of a freighter trying to issue instructions to change course and then he called out to all ships to keep clear because he had had a collision.  This was not a conversation which settled our minds about the difficulties in crossing a very very busy shipping lane. 
I will admit to be a tad nervous, my head was on a swivel, my mouth was dry and my guts were churning. I 
couldn’t sit still jumping up from the cockpit to go below to look at the computer to make sure we were on the correct track, I was a wreck (this, of course, had nothing to do with the cup of coffee I had drank in order to stay awake)! We had gotten up at 0300 and motored up the side channel, against the current, in the dark, where there were fish traps lurking to grab us and crazy Indonesian boats with lights on the wrong sides going hither and yon, just to confuse us. We managed to navigate that channel and were absolutely amazed as the dawn broke over Singapore.  There was a wall of tankers in a line down the strait and the mass of high rises that is the city state rose up to meet the sky.  We wondered how we were ever going to get across!
huge 10 story platform
As the sky brightened and we got closer to the action, motoring parallel to the shipping lane Barry figured out that a lot of the tankers were parked and there were actual gaps between the tankers that we might be able shoot through (ya right, shoot through at a commanding 6 knots). The tankers came in all shapes and sizes, car carriers, container ships, natural gas contraptions, another was piled 3 stories high with sand, long ones, fat ones, skinny ones and on and on. We reached what we figured to be the shortest distance across and we angled in toward the oncoming tanker, before he was past us we straightened, gunned the motor and went perpendicularly across.  Barry had timed it to a T and although I was extremely worried about the tanker approaching from behind, doing mental calculations in my head, judging distances and rates of closure, frantically trying to convert knots into distance covered in minutes, he just knew it was not going to be an issue and coolly turned the boat on a parallel course to continue on to our destination. 
rogue American sailor with his police escort
As we turned out of the Strait we were beside another sail boat who decided to cut the corner and go inside a marker that clearly indicated you were supposed to keep outside.  There was a huge platform that must have been at least 10 stories high that probably had something to do with the massive natural gas works that dominated the corner.  I turned to observe a largish power boat come thundering towards us.  It was the Singapore police, with their mounted machine gun on the bow bearing down on us.  As soon as he saw the other sail boat he put on the brakes and closely escorted him;  Another dark blue police joined in and for awhile this free spirit on his beautiful Swan (a type of boat) merrily motored along seemingly oblivious to his double escort.  I was hoping that they would get on the radio and give this non rule following American the what for, but it didn’t happen.  
We went past another tanker parking lot, where they just hang out waiting to be serviced.  Some had tenders beside  them offloading their cargo.  One that was filled with pipes had humungous no smoking signs all over it, yikes, we were that close to a potential James Bond pyrotechnical display.  On the right side of us was a breakwater that is part of the reclamation of the port that is going on continually.  There was piles of weeds and garbage in lines where the tide had pushed them.  At this point we were motor sailing at over 7 knots due to the 3 knot tide that we lucked into, and the fact we had finally turned off the strait after 35 nm of wind on our nose.  We were extremely please to dock at the marina and step off the boat into another world.  
It is an opulent first world spot with a hotel that features a massive lobby overlooking the marina’ that has dolphins with sprays of water gushing upwards out of their playfully open mouths.  There is a pool with a waterfall, a swim in Indian food restaurant and a hot tub area featuring jets that soothe you as you gracefully recline on the curved surface.  I thought I had died andgone to heaven when I saw kite boards for rent, but it turned out they were wake boards :( but on the other hand we had an international 10 pin bowling tournament last night.  There is a free shuttle into a huge mall which Barry and I are going to brave today.  Plans are in the works for a Singapore Sling in the next few days, stay tuned!