CHANGI SAILING CLUB TO RAFFLES MARINA (8 to 10 August)
An account from Genesis.
It would have been a cruise to Nongsa Point Marina if not for the border closure due to Covid-19. So, what should we do and where can we go to? This was the question posted during one of our many coffee talks. Desmond Wong, our new volunteer to head the cruising division in the Events Committee, then suggested doing a cruise within our local waters.
The National Day weekend provided an opportunity for us to organize a weekend cruise. The trip would require us to sail from Changi Sailing Club to Raffles Marina on day 1, Raffles to Lazarus Island on day 2 and returning to Changi on Monday, 10 August.
As SKYBIRD is still stuck in Batam, I gladly accepted the invitation to crew on GENESIS with Desmond; the 50 nautical mile passage would take us 10 hours travelling at 5 knots. So, if the wind is bad, we would have to motor-sail to keep to the minimum speed as per our plans.
As we were planning for the trip, together with Choy, we had initially expected a fleet size of 5 to 8 boats. As the day drew nearer, and to our joyous surprise, a total of 18 boats signed up for the weekend cruise. Though we are still subjected to the only 5 person per boat rule, it actually won’t be too bad as there would be probably more space for whoever. Joining in the cruise were; Ikaroa, Simba, SDF, WYSIWYG III, Born In Fire, Red Rum, Kristina, Waka Tere, Elessar, Sapphire Star, Boreas, Genesis, Cicak, Marut, Shardana and Baby Beluga. New Blue Eyes had planned to join in but had to pull out due to engine problems, Arbudhen was to join us at Lazarus. Quite an impressive fleet.
We set off at 7.30 am on the 8 August, almost the same time as SDF, the others would have left within the hour after. A gentle breeze was in but it was coming straight on the nose so we motored all the way to the Changi Naval Base before putting up the sails. As we had planned, 5 knots were the targeted speed for us to be able to make Raffles by daylight. After keeping a safe distance from the boundary markers off the Changi Naval Base, we set a course for 244 degrees from Airway Buoy, which would bring us to Raffles Lighthouse. However, the heading had put us a little too close to the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS). Having had one foot out of our port limits, we were soon approached by the Police Coast Guard who had very politely advised us to come back into Singapore Port Limits. No arguments, we complied.
After 4 hours of motor-sailing, we were at the southern point off Kusu Island. Also known as Tortoise Island, legend has it that a magical tortoise turned itself into an island to save two shipwrecked sailors, a Chinese and a Malay. Check wikipedia for more on the island, but I think it was the Singapore government that turned it into what it is today.
Sailing on, we soon reached Raffles Lighthouse. The lighthouse sits on the island named Pulau Satumu, with a rotating beacon that produces 117,000 candelas which is visible to a distance of 20 nautical miles, on a clear night I suppose. For those who may have forgotten the islands after the lighthouse are Pulau Senang, Pawai and Sudong, in the order as we sail by. Just as we rounded the lighthouse, channel 16 came alive, “Waka Tere, Waka Tere, this is the Singapore Police Coast Guard”. Apparently, they were a little too close to Pulau Sudong which is a live firing range for the air force. Don’t want to be mistaken as a live target, do we.
The breeze was light and coming from our port beam so we decided to put up the asymmetric spinnaker. Waka was way ahead and we saw her beautiful red flying in the distance. Derek and Ad was on SDF and they were not too far away from Waka. Even though we have been sailing around the areas at Changi, it was still nice to see the coastline from the sea. With a vivid recollection of Changi in the years gone by, the transformation to what the area is today is amazing. The massive area, housing the airport, unfortunately the constant approach and departure of aircrafts are missing. Things that we took for granted are now so noticeable due to the silence from the turbine engines. Even the island of Pulau Tekong has a beautiful resort where only young male Singaporeans get to spend 3 months to turn them from boys to man; and all for free. As we passed further towards the southern corner of Singapore, the view of the coastline was again amazing. The Cruise Centre, the Singapore Flyer, Marina Bay Sands and the many impressive structures that stand tall, shows how far Singapore has come to. Being our National Day weekend and all, it has kind of make me feel proud to be part of this nation.
OK, wake up – enough of these patriotic reflections. We’re sailing on and by now we have reached the Tuas area where a massive reclamation project has turned it into a huge port facility. We know that the plan is to shift all port operations from Tanjong Pagar to Tuas. Soon we were closing in on Pulau Merambong, a smallish island within the Malaysian port limits. I remember the small kelong structure just before Merambong, now it’s a big kelong cum on-water holiday resort of sort. Personally, I think it’s more like a statement telling us that, “here I sit and it’s Malaysian waters”. From there we still had another 2.5NM before arriving at the marina. It was still early but it was good that we were timed to arrive as per our schedule.
Keong our other crew member, called in as we approached. Boon, the marina manager, was quick to respond and offered us a much-appreciated welcome. With all efficiency, we were met by the marina dock-hand and were soon plucked into shore power and the much-appreciated wind from the air conditioner was the reward at the end of the journey. Mind you it was way into 35 degree celsius all the way through the trip and that was hot, burning hot.
By the time the last boat came in, the good part of the evening was a little rush as the restaurant was to close by 8.30 pm. I suppose everyone had their well-deserved drink and dinner at the bistro. However, it was very unfortunate that the marina could not open the bar due to regulatory controls under phase 2 and the restriction on group size also added to the gathering control measures. This prevented us from being able to congregate like in the pre-Covid days. So, everyone went back to their respective boats or rooms for an early night cap and for the much-deserved rest.
August 9, National Day, Happy 55th Birthday Singapore. I remembered, I was in Nongsa Point Marina last year, we had a small group of about 8 boats, I think. I remembered being dwarfed between two big catamarans, Katrianne on my right and Rehua, I think, on the other side. It was as if someone is trying to tell me to change, no lo creo. Raffles Marina had been very welcoming to us. Apart from providing us with complimentary berthing, we were all berth together in our individual berths. Much thanks to Ray Parry, CEO RM, and his team.
After breakfast, Desmond and I pushed off at 9.30am. Based on our boat speed, it would take us about 6 hours for us to get to Lazarus. With the engine at low rev, we had full sails up, tacking our way up or down the channel. Seeing the presence of the PCG and a Singapore warship, we were reminded to keep within our port limits. Soon after more boats could be seen coming out of the marina. As we went along, we saw three naughty boats sailing way into Malaysian waters and without fail, channel 16 came alive, Sierra Zulu (SZ_____) this the Singapore Police Coast Guard…bla bla bla. Not receiving a reply, they charged towards the offending boat and escorted them back to Singapore waters. It was like, be nice to sailor’s weekend, no one received a fine.
Passing Raffles Light, we put out the trawling line and in a very short while, we picked up something heavy and the fishing rod was bent over to a big C. With our forward movement we thought that we may have caught a big bunch of seaweeds or some plastic bag but not a fish. When I slowed the line kept being put out. Desmond went into full-fishing mode, grab the rod and started reeling in. It was like one of those big game fishing documentaries on Nat Geo Wild. With engine at neutral and headed into wind, the fight continued. By then we knew that it was something huge. After a long while we managed to bring it to surface and wow, a whopping 2m barracuda. We tried using a net to land the monster but unfortunately the hook got entangled with the net and the monster got away. Well no photos no proof, that’s how it goes. It was really exciting.
When we arrived at Lazarus, the bay was already filled with boats. Many were day charters from One15 but the impressive sight was seeing the sailboats from CSC. Elessar and Boreas came in just slightly later making the total of 16 boats from the club. It would have been 17 if NBE didn’t have their engine quitting on them on the morning of departure; next time Callum. A record for any organised cruise for the club in local waters. After the long hot sail, the dip in the clear Lazarus waters was the best thing ever. And again, it was observing the social distancing rules that kept people to their own boats. In the evening, the anchorage was relatively calm and peaceful expect for a party that was cranking away until 3am on a boat anchored in the middle of where we were. I suppose it’s their way of letting loose.
August 10, well all fun must come to an end, so it was back to Changi. The light breeze and incoming tide didn’t help much but that’s sailing, sometime good, sometime not so good but enjoyable at the end of the day.
It was good that all went well with no serious damages except for Amanda on Simba who had a prickly experience when she stepped on a sea urchin at Lazarus. I think that there is a rule about damaging marine life; oops! I think I’ll be in some trouble here. Wishing you a speedy recovery!
Overall, this was such a great National Day weekend, thank you all for your participation. We should be looking at more of these local flavour in the near future.