Singapore - 2012

Lion face at Fort Canning reservoir.

April 27 - Raffles Marina, Singapore

Dave dove on Baraka to remove the plastic bag he’d wrapped around the prop. Yippee, it did the trick - no barnacles after 36 days in a marina, though the uncovered shaft got crusty. Why haven’t we tried this before? We made the rounds to clear out of Malaysia, driven to the port captain, customs, immigration, etc. by the helpful Puteri staff. Then we cast off, and motored westward down Johor Strait a few miles, under the Tuas Bridge that connects Malaysia to Singapore, and turned into Raffles Marina, named after Singapore’s founder, Sir Thomas Raffles, who recognized that swampy Singapore was strategically situated to become the hub of SE Asia marine commerce. Today Raffles Marina is posh, with pool, gym, restaurants, but key for us is proximity to the mechanic slated to help Dave fix our engine oil leak. While I checked out the pool, Dave started dismantling the cabinet over the engine. This cabinet holds a couple galley drawers, and also the heavy inverter/charger that runs all our electrical systems. Dave has to come up with a solution to move it aside but keep it alive. Today’s unwelcome discovery: the wiring for the refrigeration/freezer also runs through holes in the cabinet. Nothing is simple.

Posh Raffles Marina is on the western end of Singapore in the industrial Tuas area, just adjacent to the Tuas Bridge connecting Singapore to Malaysia. Visiting yachts may use the pool and other resort amenities, including laundry, and a free shuttle to town.

May 3 - an elephant in the living room

Dave spent the first couple days here at Raffles dismantling the engine block, removing alternator, heat exchanger, wires and fuel lines, in preparation for pulling the engine above the floor. Yesterday, Akind came and constructed a rail lift inside the boat. It runs from the back of the galley to the mast, down the boat’s centerline. To get into the galley or to the table we have to stoop low and limbo under it. The supports are toe-breakers, so we are leaving the offshore floor lights on at night. It looks like it will do the job. Tomorrow we will find out. Meanwhile I have sewn a new bimini, a 5-day effort, using a vinyl recommended by Sailrite. The Stamoid fabric was expensive, but was supposed to offer better shade protection from the sun, as I get sunburnt daily on passages. No joy - it lets a ton of light through, so much so that holding any object beneath it casts a shadow. Pretty disappointing. To drown my sorrows, I took the free marina shuttle into town, to explore Cold Storage, a grocery chain that has many western hard-to-find foods, including canned stews and turkey chili. I’ll stock up for our passages. Then for a taste of the orient, I visited Mustafa’s in Little India - a giant sprawl spanning several long blocks. Aisles were jammed with shoppers from all parts of the globe - I was the pasty-white oddity. Fun to explore. Given time, I’m betting almost anything could be found inside Mustafa’s, a Singapore experience. For boat parts, I visited Marintech nearby and met helpful Jessie. Good prices, and if she doesn’t have it, she can order it. To get around Singapore I ride the excellent MRT rail system. Easy to use, just swipe a eLink debit card in and out. Singapore is spotless - no graffiti, no litter, no crime. It is illegal to chew gum or spit. Our friend John says "It’s a police state. You’ll like it." Singaporeans love to shop. Huge modern malls adjoin every MRT stop, and young Singaporeans shop for entertainment. Virtually everyone has a smart phone or tablet and is madly texting, playing games, or watching movies. Evolution in action.

U Kent rigs a hoist for the engine...

...and lifts it above the floor.

He even turned it turtle to install the pan seal.

I made a mess repairing sails.

Dave replaced watermaker membranes.

Wench rebuilding a mast winch.

May 11 - Engine alive!

After 2 weeks here at Raffles, the engine is back under the floor and the crane system dismantled. We can again move around the boat without banging heads and toes! Yesterday Dave and Au Keng, our mechanic, fired up the engine. It promptly overheated - an air lock in the cooling system, but the mechanic pumped a hose and the bubble cleared. The engine work went extremely well. Au Keng knew Perkins 4-108s intimately, and ensured all was reassembled correctly, including turning the 500-pound block completely upside down to install the oil pan gasket. The damper plate to the transmission was badly worn, and all gaskets were shot. Baraka is now 25 years old, and this is the first major engine overhaul that we know of. Dave says we were dodging several bullets, and now can have much more confidence in both engine and transmission. A messy job, though we were lucky not to have to haul the boat, and especially lucky in finding a great mechanic. Dave worked alongside him and learned a lot. Dave already knew this engine well, but each exercise like this teaches us more. Meanwhile I rode to town on the marina shuttle and renewed our Singapore visas for another month, located silicone sealant, paints, antifreeze. Every day Dave had more items for the scavenger hunt, and I was glad to escape the mess on the boat. Singapore has huge retail malls, but the kinds of things we needed were in small obscure shophouses tucked away in industrial sections. We located UV treated polycarbonate to replace one of our windows. Next week I’ll take the old window to town to get the replacement cut. Dave still has a lot of reassembly work, to secure hoses and wiring, and replace the galley cabinet that had to be removed. And we need to run the engine some hours under load to test it. Then he will tackle the watermaker (to replace membranes) and rebed the window. I have sewing projects - replace the staysail luff tape, sew cockpit splash cloths, and recover fenders. Then I’ll inventory food and reprovision. Lots to do. At some point we’ll try to take a day off and go be tourists in Singapore. Meanwhile the clock is ticking on our CAIT (Indonesian cruising permit) so by the end of May we need to clear out and be moving along.

May 16 - Sound and Light Show

Last night we had the mother of all lightning storms. Singapore, sitting near the equator at the junction of Johore, Malaka and Singapore Straits, is called the Lightning Capital of the World, and last night showed us the moniker is warranted. Yikes. For several long hours in a near-windless downpour (so the storm parked on us), we had simultaneous flashes and cracks, no delay between. Sound, at 90 degrees F, travels at 1150 feet per second. Usually we can count between flash and crack, but not last night. The flashes were almost continuous - several each second - like we were under missile attack. We crammed all the small electronics into the oven, though if we get a direct hit it is doubtful whether that might help. This time of year such storms are frequent, but last night’s drama was uniquely spectacular. For the modern cruising boat, a lightning strike would be expensive. So many systems that keep us safe are electronics, and a direct strike would destroy them all. We appear unscathed, yay!

May 28 - Marina at Keppel Bay

After 31 days at Raffles Marina we managed to break free. Very enjoyable stay - lovely pool - and we got a lot accomplished, including engine repair and watermaker membranes replaced, plus many other tasks in preparation for a passage year. Dave worked long hours, and the boat is in good shape.

Estrellita joined us for a play day in Singapore, which included the successful search for Corrosion X, a miracle lubricant that reputedly can fix otherwise hopelessly corroded connections. It has already cured our sticky dive light switch.

To transit from Raffles to Keppel Bay, Dave had to pass a self-assessment test on Singapore waters, and we had to rent an AIS transponder (we only have a receiver). Sort of a pain, though Raffles rented the transponder ($90 for 3 days). We lucked out and picked a mild day to wrap around the west end of Singapore, dodging freighter and tug traffic. This extra stop at Keppel allowed us to sea trail the engine and watermaker, making sure our repairs are solid. And we’ll have a couple days here to top up the lockers. Several large grocery stores are walking distance - at Harbourfront and Vivo City. And they will deliver to the boat!

The Marina at Keppel Bay is pretty posh - and pricey - with few amenities beyond proximity to shops. But it places us an easy half-day passage from Nongsa Point, where we will enter Indonesia later this week. The marina is tucked inside a tiny islet across from the north side of Sentosa, surrounded by soaring high rises, very dramatic. This area used to be Keppel Shipyards, which helped put Singapore on the trade routes from Asia when the Suez Canal opened. Today Keppel Shipyards have moved west to the "reclaimed" (filled) lands of Tuas and this area has become high-end residential.

We celebrate with rounds of beer and Corrosion X!

Our faithful air conditioner, R2D2.

May 31 - Provisioning Frenzy

The past 2 days here at Keppel Marina, Dave and I visited Carrefour, Cold Storage and Giant, spending enough at each to warrant free delivery to the boat. 4 shopping baskets full, over $1k worth of food. Singapore represents the Last Grocery Stores before South Africa in November. We will be able to get a few things in Cocos Keeling (where a single banana is $2.75 US) and Mauritius, but on those islands everything must be flown in, and is therefore expensive. Amazingly, the elastic boat lockers seemed to absorb the huge quantities, though we are low on our waterline. And we still have to take on fuel, cheaper in Indonesia than here.

Singapore represents a lot of "lasts" - last cool night of sleep as we will part with R2D2, our faithful air conditioner. Last easy access to fuel hoses, and water hoses with unlimited water. Last laundry. Last easy shopping. Last (except for Cocos) easy communication in English. Last wifi internet. Last quiet nights moored to a secure dock. Part of me is in deep purple mourning for all these comforts.

But none of this represents the spirit of adventure that is cruising. It is time to move on, and seek new horizons, landfalls, cultures. The boat is ready, and so are we. We will clear out Friday, and cross Singapore Strait to Indonesia on Saturday.

4 deliveries come from Singapore groceries.

Where to stow it all???

June 1 - Singapore history

Yesterday Dave and I took a play day to visit the Singapore National Museum, a quick MRT ride away. We were especially interested in how tiny Singapore made the transition from swampy backwater with high unemployment after WWII to become the industrial and commercial giant it is today. There are really 2 major stories - Raffles recognized the opportunity of geography for shipping, and Lee Kuan Yew made the risky investment to turn boggy Jurong land into a massive field of factories. Singapore’s history is colorful, with episodes of colonialism, racism, rioting, Japanese invasion and brutal occupancy, a brief flirtation joined to Malaysia, and finally independence and the path to power. Makes me want to read more - especially about Lee Kuan Yew who had the vision and force to create today’s Singapore.

Spectacular Marina at Keppel Bay.

Playing frogger across Singapore shipping lanes.

Click here for our Thailand 2012 journal.

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