Tuesday, January 13, 2009

January 12, 2009 - Pulau Pangkor, Malacca Strait, Malaysia

Melaka, which was once one of the most important centers of trade in the world, controlled at various times by the Portuguese, Dutch, and British, is now just another busy port city. This morning we passed dozens of ships and tankers waiting to unload their goods. The air is still hazy, but from a distance we could make out the outlines of mosques, churches and temples. It would be a fascinating place to explore, but we don't have time to visit both Melaka and Penang, and we hear that the food in Penang is simply amazing, so on we go.

Time to go fishing. Do I have everything? Nets - check. Cigarettes - check. Ski mask - check. Pants - nah, who needs them?

As we headed north, we passed several remnants of the colonial era, including a starkly beautiful old white lighthouse that was originally built by the Portuguese in the 16th century. It was rebuilt in 1860 as control of the region was passing from the Dutch to the British. Nightfall found us just south of Port Klang, a busy commercial port close to Kuala Lumpur (or KL as the locals call it). Since we didn't want to head into a marina for the night, and dropping anchor in the mangroves outside of Klang wasn't particularly appealing, we decided to continue on overnight. Motoring through the dozens of brightly lit ships anchored off of Klang, just before moonrise was a beautiful sight.

Sten took the first watch. When I woke I found that we had exchanged tankers and container ships for small fishing boats and tugs towing unlit barges. The full moon had coated everything in a layer of silver. Between the moonlight and the radar, it was easy to keep tabs on everyone around us, but it required all of our attention. There is no opportunity to for taking catnaps on nightwatch in the Malacca Strait

By early afternoon we had arrived a Pulau Pangkor. Worn out from our overnight passage, we dropped anchor between two islands, surrounded by jungle-clad hills, clad with white sand beaches. The island has long been a refuge for fisherman, sailors and pirates. With its undulating coastline, providing plenty of places to tuck in a boat, it is understandable why Pangkor is a still a favorite place to stop for a rest. Despite the heat, the murky water and reports of giant jellyfish kept us from taking a dip.

We both did a double take the first time we saw the Malaysian flag

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