Sunday, August 16, 2020

Dead fish... and rain

Date: Aug 15, 2020
Weather: Sunny, then rainy, and then clear
Waters: Slightly choppy, but looked clean - except for the fish kill
On board: C, A, J1, J2, R, P and the dog 

Hundreds of milkfish flashed their bellies of silver on the surface of the water as we approached our usual mooring spot north of the SAF firing range. 

What happened? The water looked fine today, quite clean and clear, so if it was some kind of algae bloom that sopped up the oxygen from the water and killed them, it wasn't apparent. We were wondering about the fish in the floating fish farms just 80m from where we dropped anchor. 

A similar thing happened in May 2019. Here's the news report

We used our boat hook to bring a fish on board for a closer look, and Pudding was curious, his nose probably in overdrive. Our human noses, however, didn't pick up any odour. After J1's droll idea of bringing them back for dinner was roundly rejected, the sport of fish flinging (using the boat hook) gave no more than a few minutes' amusement. Now you know why it's not going to make it as an Olympic sport... 

Nobody was going to swim in these waters today; memories of a resident croc and box jellyfish provided other good reasons not to.

We don't know when these fish died. Their bodies were beginning to bloat. 
There were fewer of these where we dropped anchor, perhaps about 100
 near the boat. Most were further south, nearer the Second Link.  

The day's outing had begun in sunny weather, but about an hour after we dropped anchor, the skies above distant Johor Bahru turned gloomy. It began pouring there and the skyscrapers disappeared. Soon enough, a drizzle began where we were. 

J1, P and the dog had retreated below deck by then. Only C, A, J2 and R stayed out, with J2 giving his Very Expensive Raincoat, a Musto, a try. By appointment to Her Majesty, The Queen, and also to the Duke of Edinburgh, he sniffed, reading its label out.  

A video of the stormlight just before the rain came. 

Those awesome Orlebar Brown shorts.

Fresh from repairs to flush a choked manifold, the boat purred today. 

The journey back was uneventful. 

Friday, July 31, 2020

Sea trial after repairs

Date: July 31, 2020
Weather: Cloudy
Waters: Slightly choppy, absolutely filthy and brown-foamy within the marina 
On board: C, A, Rodriz (the repair technician) and Eric of SG Boating 

Little Wanderer 2 has been giving off really loud warning beeps when the speed hits 22 knots in the last few trips, though it hasn't given any serious mechanical problems. It's not like we've been stranded at sea or anything... 

So into the repair shop it went. Turns out the manifold on the starboard side needed to be chemically flushed because it was choked, and water couldn't flow through it. Result: an overheated engine which tripped the sensor, hence the beeps. 

The portion that was choked (arrowed).

The repairs turned out like the worst nightmare for any hypochondriac who goes to see a doctor for Problem A, and finds in the course of scans and checks that there's also Problems B and C: The repairman also found the two batteries on board in bad shape, literally so - their sides were bulging out. They will need replacing. 

There was also an issue with the risers. They will need replacing, perhaps in six months or so. The replacing is in itself a two-hour job. It's the process of ordering the parts and waiting for them to arrive that takes a while, no thanks to Covid-19 disrupting shipping and delivery lines. So we made arrangements to get the parts ordered now, before replacing these parts become a matter of urgency.  Sounds like a kerchinggg business, what with manifold + batteries + risers. 

After today's fixings were done with the manifold, Eric took the wheel and we went out for a spin. He hit 22 knots and beyond in the waters outside the marina and things looked fine. 

All A did was sit out back for a Friday wind-in-her-hair ride. 

From left: C, Rodriz and Eric at the wheel,
gunning the engine in the waters
just outside the marina. 

A gets a Friday afternoon boat ride.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

First outing since Singapore's lockdown - and the batt is flat

Date: July 18, 2020
Weather: Gloomy, slightly drizzly, then sunny
Waters: Flat off Tuas
On board: C, A,  J1, J2, R, P and Pudding
New gear on board: C's stylish swim shorts by Orlebar Brown, haha.   

A marine crocodile poked its snout out of the water just off the Yio Chu Kang fish farms, where we were anchored,  and caused a bit of a tizzy on board Little Wanderer 2. We have hung out at this peaceful spot so many times in the last couple of years, but this is the first time we have seen anything beyond a Brahminy kite up in the sky, terrified fish leaping out of the water, chased by some predator, and wild boar by the water's edge. 

The croc didn't seem too large, but we were so excited that nobody thought to whip out a phone camera or the binoculars. So, no pic, sorry. There was some general musing about whether it would be safe to swim in these waters - this afternoon, or ever again... 

And crocs aren't the only problem, apparently. Box jellyfish have been reported in Singapore waters too.  

We had been late getting to the marina, as usual, because of the usual tardiness. Then when we got to Raffles Marina, another delay awaited us: The marina staff who have been keeping the boat's batteries juiced up forgot to turn off the batt after the last top-up of power earlier this week, so every last bit had drained out. 

It was a sinking feeling as the ignition was turned and the boat didn't power up. It reminded us of our old (fifth-hand or something!) boat, which broke down with alarming frequency, disappointing the kiddie-versions of J1 and J2, who were swim-suited and goggled, and all ready for a ride out and picnic on the beach of some Southern island.  

I guess we have to be thankful that today, it was just a flat battery, not some mechanical problem. All we had to do was wait until spare batteries were installed on board, and our flat ones were sent to be charged in the dockmaster's office while we were out. 

This is our first outing since the circuit breaker was lifted, although with some conditions, such as masking up, keeping a metre apart and gathering in groups of no more than five. As Singapore emerges cautiously from that partial lockdown, owners of private pleasure craft are allowed to have a maximum of five guests on board, excluding the boat captain, in our case, C. So we were five plus le capitan, and the dog. 

We spent a couple of hours out at our usual spot north of the SAF firing range, just chilling. On the ride out, we were met with a fine drizzle. We were just on the edge of a rain cloud, which quickly blew Malaysia-ward. It got blazingly hot after that. 

Le Capitan with his swank swim shorts. 

J1 and P

J2 with R

Photo by P
And so this was the Saturday that was. Good grief, it was only the second outing in 2020, and it is already past mid-July! No thanks to the coronavirus, which shut down the marina. 

How about playing catchup with outings for the rest of this year?

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Coronavirus 2020: First outing for the year ... and the last (for a while)

Date: April 4, 2020
Weather: Hot and sunny
Waters: Flat off Tuas
On board: C, A,  J1, J2, R, P and Pudding
New gear on board: Collapsible cooler for the beers  

This modern-day scourge, the novel coronavirus or Covid-19, is sweeping the world and making its presence felt in every last sphere of human activity. Most governments have imposed lockdowns to curb the spread of the flu-like illness (fatal for the aged or the immune-compromised) within the community. 

In Singapore, the number of cases is still rising. There is still no total lockdown, although the government has announced a near-total one, effective Tuesday, April 7. All schools will be shut, and workplaces have only newly been told now - get all your staff to work from home with very few exceptions. Only supermarkets, wet markets and essential services will remain open. Restaurants can stay open as well, but only to offer takeaway or food delivery services. 

Meanwhile, the following words and phrases have been heard often these days: Wash your hands. Don't touch your face. Social distancing. Work from home. Flatten the curve... (Singapore's curve has yet to flatten, and C and A believe it's the direct result of the government's super-calibrated (too calibrated?) series of moves to limit people fraternising. The schools, for instance, have gone from staying open to okayy, one day of home-based learning a week, to (and only two days ago), okayy, we'll shut the schools.  

Marinas... of course, aren't "essential" amenities, so with Raffles Marina being shut from Tuesday, the family took the chance for one last outing (at least for a while). This also happened to be the very first outing for the year 2020. I can't exactly remember why we haven't  been out - we just haven't. Our last was on Dec 30, 2019. Read that log here

We went to our usual spot in the waters just north of the Sungei Gedong military-firing area, and saw at least two Police Coast Guard boats there, ever ready to tell us to move away from the area. 

The dog didn't seem too nervous, despite the long layoff since the last outing. (See video of him with P, on her second outing on Little Wanderer 2.) If it hasn't been mentioned before, this doge has his own Instagram feed. Find him at @pudding_thegoldengod.)

As usual, we dropped anchor, broke open the beers, turned up the music and let the sun bake a new shade of tan into our skin. 

Pudding, as usual, getting in the way of
the main event, opening of the beers.
All pix and video shot on iPhone X.

Pudding dons a lei for the holiday vibe.
A lot of people say he's handsome, and we agree.
(The vet has pronounced him overweight though,
 at 33.1kg. A diet of reduced kibble portions
is ongoing, and treats have been greatly cut down.)   

The first three in the water, which was clear of flotsam,
but looking uninvitingly olive green and opaque.
 From left, P, J1 and R. Filter by Pixlr

From left, P (in water), J1 and R (on the swim platform)
and J2, half-in, half-out. Filter courtesy of Pixlr.

Fair is fair. Everyone on board on this
sunny Saturday is pictured here. 

A with Puddng. Shot taken by P.  

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

A new drone takes off from the boat

Date: Dec 30 2019
Weather: Sunny and searingly hot
Waters: Choppy, especially out in Sinki Fairway
On board: C, A,  J2, R and Pudding (the dog an afterthought)  
New gear on board: The DJI Mavic Mini drone  

The last outing for 2019. We made a total of nine trips this year, going out at least once a month except in January, July and September. We had two outings in October. Wishing we could be out on the water more often. 

We are missing J1 on board today. He's laid up with a bad throat infection.  

We hadn't planned on bringing the dog along, but he put on his best "sad face"... Of course, when he realised we were at the marina, this aqua-phobic doggo must have regretted his Oscar-winning performance of grievance heartily. While leashed, he was doing his darndest to pull away from the dock, away from all that water. 

Anyway, he was part of the crew for the day, so he bore his suffering for the next one hour 10 minutes as Little Wanderer 2 powered towards St John's Island. Without the usually-seasick J1 on board, we picked the farther-away destination. 

It was blisteringly hot as we pulled into the lagoon between St John's and Lazarus Island and dropped anchor. Pudding ducked below deck. As R says, we can just jump into the (rather chilly) water to cool off, but the poor boi cannot just shrug off his fur coat and jumping into the water isn't much of an option. Maybe his doggy mind has made a note to himself: If hoomans are dragging out the icebox, do not - I repeat, DO NOT - put on sad face and beg to tag along. 

C brought out his newest toy, a DJI Mavi Mini, which took off from the back seat of the boat and flew rather self-assuredly into the sky. Both stills and video clips were taken. 

C piloted his Mavic Mini without problem. His earlier
drones seemed more difficult to control.
Advances in technology since the earlier versions ?  

You can just make it out in the centre of
this shot. Pic by C

That's us in the BIg Blue off St John's/Lazarus islands.  Pic by C.

We are wondering now if the dog won't be as keen
to join us if only he can find out in advance
where we are going. We all know he's not keen
 on the water or swimming or any kind of
water-based activity. 

Portrait time. 

Portrait time Part Deux. 
The doggo chills on the journey back, seemingly more
 relaxed than during the outward journey, when he
cowered beside A for more than an hour.

Back at the marina, the drone was sent up again to capture one of Raffles Marina's legendary sunsets.

That's the environmentally-damaging Forest City condo development on the skyline, built by a Chinese developer with zero regard for the effect of the construction on the quality of the water in the Strait of Johor. Pic by C.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Back to Lim Chu Kang, a first-time visitor on board

Date: Nov 9, 2019
Weather: Sunny and hot, cloudy and cooler later
Waters: Slightly choppy
On board: C, A, J1, J2, P and Pudding (R is away)  

Taken by C who was treading water with A's iPhone X.
Little Wanderer 2's impressive profile. 
 The plan was to go back to St John's, but of course, the young ones didn't wake up early enough...

So back to the Lim Chu Kang fish farms it was. We had P on board, a first-timer on board LW2 and a first-timer on a sport cruiser like this. 

First time I've seen the rabbit-ear thing done to a doggo. And said
doggo didn't seem the wiser about what was happening. 

J1 and P jumped off the swim platform to cool off, and Pudding, hearing the splash, went to see. Maybe his doggo brain understood them to be in some sort of trouble. He began to whimper, like he did two weeks ago, when C dived off the swim platform. 


Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The empty nesters head out for a trip

Date: Oct 27, 2019
Weather: Sunny and hot
Waters: Choppy, especially on the return leg; anchored off St John's Island
On board: C, A and Pudding 

With J1 and J2 spending time with their girlfriend and wife respectively, we (C and A) found ourselves with an empty nest this long Deepavali weekend. Well, OK, we still had the dog, who has come to expect outings every weekend, so why not head out on the water with him, right? 

Neither of us wanted to let this long weekend go to waste, sitting catatonic in front of the TV and binge-watching Netflix series. And since we can wake up earlier, it seemed to make sense to try for an earlier start - seemingly impossible when young people are on board - and head out towards the Southern Islands. This is a route Little Wanderer 2 hasn't taken in a while, not since September 2017, when a trip was made to the waters off Pulau Bukom. Thanks to J1's chronic seasickness and the family's habitually late starts at noon, this longer route has been ditched in favour of going west towards the SAF live-firing area instead.  

And so on this sunny Sunday, after a little over an hour hugging Singapore's western coast, rounding The Elbow near Jurong Island and going down Sinki Fairway, we found ourselves floating in a calm lagoon (pic below) just about 100m off the causeway linking St John's and Lazarus islands. The dog was by then panting under his fur coat and nervous from the much-longer, bumpy trip. 


The plan had been to anchor the boat just off one of Sentosa's beaches, but when we got to just off the Tanjong Beach Club (scene of the Wedding of the Year in July), the waters just outside the floater lines cordoning off the lagoon were choppy and over 20m deep at that - too much anchor line would have to be paid out. St John's became Plan B.   

Hot dog being cooled down with a wet chamois. 

At the place where we anchored, there were two other pleasure craft; on the shore, a surprising number of day trippers were walking or using their PMDs (no escaping these nuisances on two wheels) between Lazarus and St John's islands. Not many swimmers on this scorcher of a day.  

Lazarus Island to the left and St John's to the right, and
the causeway, dotted with people, in between.

It was much quieter today on board as we floated there, and I was reminded that we are going through that rite of passage that many, many couples undertake - to try to reconnect with each other after the children have grown and go out to make their own lives, on their own time. For many years, the logistics and the effort of raising children typically consumes both halves of couples, who would also be navigating through their careers. Then when this time rolls around and they have only each other (most of the time anyway), what do they do together or say to each other? After 20-some years in marriage, there's not that much that's new to report anyway. Are they going to find an activity to share? Live separate lives while chasing disparate hobbies? And what about financial security and health? Will they remember (and celebrate) day to day the reasons they came together right at the beginning of their story? This leaves couples hoping that the intervening years haven't changed either of them too much that they are practically strangers to each other in their later years. Or, at the very least, they would hope that if they did change a lot, then the people they have become would still be tolerable!

Anyway, wine was drunk and Dire Straits and the Allman Brothers Band crooned. At around 3pm, we hoisted the anchor and made tracks for home, tanned some shades darker (C) and sunburnt (A). 

The return leg was even choppier and the boat captain had to slow down to a sedate 18 knots and even nearly stop at times. 

Once more, the dog was afraid, and planted himself
on A's lap pretty much all the way home. You know he's
 nervous when he refused the offer of a treat.

Pudding (check out his Instagram feed @pudding_thegoldengod)
happily accepted treats again back on terra firma at the marina.
He will be two years old in less than a month, and now weighs 32 kg. 

 One thought that struck us on this trip: How will boating change for us when Singapore's busy port starts operations at Tuas? The waters will be busier for sure, and making our way down the west coast and towards the Southern Islands will become a little more dangerous, with our small boat ducking around the massive container ships. Or we might have to swing out wider to avoid all this traffic, which will certainly add to travel time. 

The time might well have come to consider moving to another marina, the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club nearer Sentosa, for one. We have come to like Raffles Marina a lot, the long east-to-west drive for us notwithstanding. The marina is home base to many anglers, and though we don't quite "get" the joy of fishing, we like the laid-back, unpretentious atmosphere there. 

The downside to Raffles (aside from its location near the future Tuas megaport) is that it's anti-dog... which we have discovered only in the last year and a half that Pudding has come to join our family. We take him from car park to the boat and back, slinking around the edge of the marina, unable to go enjoy beers at the Discovery Pub or to have a meal at the bistro. We have offered to take tables far from other club patrons, and the dog - always leashed - is quiet and doesn't bark.

However, we have consistently received a "Rules are rules" response from the wait staff... 

Boating, the great outdoors... and dogs. They just "go" together. But a member of our family, sadly, isn't welcome here.