Quick overnight trip to the Southern Islands
17:45 – I motored out of the marina without any clear idea where I would be laying anchor that night. Depending on the weather, wind and tide conditions, I could either play it safe and anchor off the East Coast where I usually do, or take the chance to sail (mostly at night) to the Singapore Southern Islands.
Two weeks before I had made this trip – discovering for the first time the newly man-made “Pulau Seringat” , only accessible by private boat. This land reclamation is described in Wikipedia:
“As part of the Singapore Tourism Board‘s (STB) plan to develop the other Southern Islands after Sentosa, land reclamation was started in 2000 to link Pulau Seringat and Lazarus Island. The reclamation created a sand bank between the two islands, forming a lagoon that has an unobstructed seaview.
Pulau Seringat, which is now part of the extended Lazarus Island, now has a 800-metre stretch of beach. Thousands of cubic metres of sand, checked for sandfly eggs, was imported from Indonesia to make the beach. 1,000 mature coconut trees were also planted to add to the island feel of the place.
A causeway connecting Lazarus Island and Saint John’s Island was also built to make the three islands more accessible and help attract more visitors.
Previously a shoal that was barely visible at high tide, Kias is now an island that houses an electricity generator with enough capacity to support the other three islands.
18:30 I was way out in the Eastern Anchorages - heading straight to Kusu Island – I looked back and saw my usual stopping place off the East Coast, as I was making good time I decided to go for it and head for the Southern Islands. Estimated time of arrival 20:30
19:30 Cloudy skies to the West hid my sunset, anchor lights came on on the many ships around me. Those underway were mostly recognized by their green and red running lights.
20:00 - I crossed the shipping lanes which go into Keppel harbour, watching carefully for traffic like a turtle waiting to cross a busy street. Arriving at the other side, it was very dark but a red blinking light which I assumed was the Southern end of Kusu Island beckoned me over. I continued to proceed over what I thought was the Eastern side of Kusu Island but all the time feeling something was not right. I entered what looked to be like a big oval beach but it turned out to be surrounded by seawalls. Not the place I had intended to anchor. To rest and gain some perspective, I dropped the anchor and had a sandwich and cola - but the anchor would not hold on the rocky bottom. I sat there about 15 minutes watching fireworks over Marina bay.
21:00- After crawling around the land reclamation and seawalls, and occasionally encountering rather turbullent waters due to tidal streams colliding between the islands, I knew I was in the wrong place. I could see clearly across the straights the Shangri La hotel complex on Sentosa Island. I retraced my steps slowly under power and then I discovered the big beautiful beach, where there was already one 40 ft motor boat at anchor.
21:45 Anchor down, boat secure for the night. The danforth held well in the muddy bottom. It is dark enough to go up to the bow, strip naked and take a fresh water shower with the plastic jug I store upfront, lashed to the bow cleat. I towel down and retreat to the cabin for some remaining tuna and egg salad sandwiches from the Marina, cold drinks and a fresh garden salad. Later – I check Google Earth on my Blackberry to see where I was and realized my navigational error seeing the layout of the Island:
08:15 The heat from a windless morning and the sunlight shining through the hatch was enough to wake me from my deep slumber. I crawled out into the cabin looking at what had been so hard to see the night before. What I saw was a beautiful half-moon beach with white sand and clear water. On the north side of the bay I could see the skyscrapers of the Singapore city center rising above the newly planted mature palm trees. I dived in the cool water and swam ashore to explore my surroundings. As I did not carry a camera, I borrow these photos from another source:
(photos courtesy of http://wildshores.blogspot.com/2009/06/life-on-seringat-kias.html)
Seringat Beach – a man-made paradise.
The reclamation project of Seringat Island actually joins four existing Islands and atolls into one very interesting and exotic destination. Lazarus Island, previously inaccessible due to it’s poor anchorages and thick brush has got a makeover in the process, and won a “top landscaping award” http://www.wildsingapore.com/news/20061112/061213-1.htm
At 10:30 I swam back to Sirena, took a freshwater shower on the bow and changed into dry clothes. The cooler still had about 1/3rd of the Ice from the day before so I feasted on cold fruit, featuring American bing cherries and yogurt. Slightly smashed Croissants went down well with the Japanese “Pokka” brand black can coffee and orange juice. After doing my morning readings and studying the tide tables I decide I had better be on my way, hopefully to catch part of the East flowing stream home.
11:15 Anchor up – I motor out of the bay, passing the big motorboat I see now is from New Zealand. A few other motor boaters and their toys are entering the bay as I leave. I decide to pass on the West side of Kusu Island, hoping to have at the Chinese temple where I’ve anchored several times in the past. The small island passes by quickly to port and as I near the Southern part of the Island I can see the sea churning whitewater as the tides between the Islands meet the major tides of the Singapore Straits. Soon I find myself in the midst of it – catching and riding waves only to find myself not making any headway. The turbulence has the motor prop in and out of the water, making it hard to manouver and I find myself victim of the churning waters. I am right in the middle of a rip tide and I decide to move further out to calmer seas where the engine can actually help propel me forwards. Whew, I had all my gear knocked around in the cabin and lucky I didn’ t take on any seas or broach coming off a wave. As I motor out into the calmer water to approach the crossing of the shipping lanes my heart is nearly jumping out of my chest and my mouth is bone dry.
12:00 Clear skies make it easy to judge the incoming and outgoing traffic to Keppel bay. As I leave the red port marker and head for the green starboard buoy about 1 km on the other side of the shipping lanes I gun the motor to 3/4ths speed occasionally running full blast to make good way as I see a good opportunity to cross.
12:45 Winds have started to blow out of the Southwest at 3-4 knots and I find I am riding on a 1 knot current heading directly home. I turn off the motor, raise the sails, lash the tiller and proceed to put things in order in the cabin. I look out periodically at to see the position of anchored boats all around me and make occasional adjustments in course with the tiller using my foot.
13:30 Winds are now 6-8 knots and I am enjoying sailing wing on wing directly downwind watching Kusu Island slowly dissapear into insignificance off the stern, and my destination growing in size through the bow pulpit fore. A beautiful Sunday afternoon! I eat the remaining fruit in the cooler as well as some biscuts for lunch, weaving around the many ships at anchor.
15:30 I approach the marina and turn up wind to lower and lash down the sails. It turns out it’s a girl who I’d met a few weeks before who had been admiring my boat. She looks like she is having fun and the wind has kicked up to about 10 knots. This is too good to miss, I raise the sails again against the strengthening, gusty winds and proceed to sail hard, back and forth in front of the marina. As long as I’m out at sea I guess I should make the most of it before heading in! The winds continued to strengthen and start to howl, and somewhere in the meantime the girl in the laser decided to call it quits. I struggled to get down the flapping sails and lash them down in a primitive way and then fire up the motor for the last 1/2 mile into the Marina. Huge, slapping waves make my entrance through the narrow marina entrance a little tricky and I get a round of applause for my grand entrance by several fishermen on the waterbreak.
16:30 As I get my boat pulled up the ramp by the tractor I find My wife waiting for me! We have a lovely early dinner at the Marina restaurant and I feel completely refreshed by my 24 hour adventure to Pulau Seringat, and I am already making plans for the next time.
*-Navigating at night in unfamilar waters is tricky business. A simple mistake cost me an hour of motoring around treacherous landfill. Had I arrived with some daylight still in the sky I don’t think I could make that mistake. Even with spectacles my night vision is really poor. I should have made use of the Blackberry and google maps earlier, but it’s hard to convince myself to do that when underway or trying to get a dragging anchor to hold.
*-Pulau Seringat is a beautiful place only accessible by recreational boaters or those who hike over from St. Johns. You can see the shape of the housing lots around a lagoon start to take shape as this little expensive piece of man-made real estate should attract the lifestyles of the rich and famous. So close to the central business district yet so far away from the stress of the city.
*-I’m definately going back and make the use of this artificial paradise before the authorities decide to make it off limits. Fishing should be very good in the clear waters in the bay or between the Southern Islands. Even dolphins have been sighted nearby!
*-I’ve tried to use this trip as an excuse to get a GPS which I can use as a car navigation tool as well as at sea with nautical charts loaded. It’s hard to justify it as paper charts and I’m never out of sight of land. I’ll wait for the prices to drop further.