Tioman, The Surprise Islands.

25th September 2013.

Holy crap Johnno battern down the hatches, get the washing off the line and hang on. It’s 0330 and we are being hit by another Sumatera, this one is a beauty. When we went to bed it was just lightning way away to the north but now it is bearing down on us big time. We watched it approach on the radar as well as visual, the radar had us just copping the edge of it which was bad enough, 30 to 40kns, Windy the wind generator is going off, thunder, pouring rain it’s all going off but then it starts to peter out or so we think. As the main storm passes to the west of us the swell suddenly increases and we are now being dragged through waves by our mooring. It’s brand new and very secure so we just have to sit it out. Up comes Moe not looking real flash, where’s the bucket, then she’s driving it, poor bugger, her last morning and she gets crook for the first time. Try to lighten the atmosphere with a bit of mucking about, doesn’t go down to good. I reckon Moe is looking at the ever increasing waves and wishing she was already at the airport. By 0800 the wind has gone, the swell is dropping and things are looking up. That’s how it goes living on a boat.

We have just spent a month sailing and motoring around Tioman Island and it’s surrounding islands, have only set the anchor once, moorings everywhere, and have seen our share of beautiful locations with beaches, coral, fish and towns and caught heaps of squid. Most of it great but then some places like Salang, I would struggle to return to. This place from out at sea looks idillic, lovely bay, colorful buildings sitting out over the water, resorts tucked away into the jungle, dive boats everywhere and the usual big long jetty but try eating there. I ordered a Tomyum goong and as the menu was a bit Thai I waited expectantly, Jens noodles turned up and looked like spaghetti bog in soup, my soup rolled up looked great tasted ok but then as I went for the prawns they were black, so I fished them out and just as a thought I picked one up and sniffed it, it was rotten, they all were rotten, I held back the vomit and Jen and Moe commented on my strange look. I took them back and told the miserable woman who runs the show they were rotten, she smiled and said thank you. She still wanted me to pay, never ever go to Salang and if you are physically forced to by pirates or spacemen do not eat there. We shifted to another place where the soup was OK, but the simple old hamburger was rawish and tasted like crap.

The diving is excellent, you can moor up and swim to most spots and usually the best coral and fish are in less than 4 metres. Reef sharks swim past, it’s funny as when you see one, you come up to the surface and say did you see the shark, the Japs, who have a set of goggles and snorkel, a life jacket but no flippers turn round eyed as they sort of thrash their way back to the dive boat they came from. We had a favorite mooring about 50 metres from a small island that has the second best coral. Moe and I would swim across with bread rolls and feed the fish, they went into a frenzy all around you so thick you could touch them. We got Jen over there and would crumble the bread around her, funny.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Another spot is Monkey Bay where we tried to stay overnight twice, both times having to pull up stumps and head back in the dark to the safety of the moorings at Tekek, the main town. One afternoon after the tourists left we were alone in the bay and all the monkeys came out to sniff around, they climbed out of the jungle in single file and moved across the beach. Heaps of them. 

On the east side you have Juara Beach, bit rocknrolly but good mooring and if the swell is low you have protection from S to NE. You can buy a beer and have WIFI, pretty hard to get a meal before 2000 as they cater for large groups, but we found some other good restaurants there.

Our new staple breakfast diet is now roti and curry. For 2 ringot Malaysia you get 2 pieces of freshly made hot roti and a small dish of runny curry to dip it into, superb, the only other breakfast option is fried chicken and rice rm3, wierd for brekkie but they all love it.  

We explored the southern island of Pulau Aur, pronounced owl, and anchored up in a bay that a charted boat captain in Batam recommended. We drove right up to the reef and backed out letting the chain out as we went. Jumped in and made a torturous path for the chain through the boondies and came to one that had a vee in it and would not let the boat go very far in any direction, worked a treat and on the last night saved our arses as a swell come from nowhere and with 30 knots on the nose and a metre swell from aft it turned ugly quick. The whole time we were there it had been blowing its guts out but that just held us comfortably and with the breeze made for good sleeps but the swell was shocking. We shifted around the corner and moored up for a night, cost us rm50 but it was safe. We passed another cat and I asked if he was moored or anchored, anchored he yells back, I replied pretty deep for anchoring isn’t it, our depth was showing 28 metres, he said is it. Charter boat say no more. We went ashore and walked the boardwalk, scored a coconut and kicked back. Another charter boat started heading out to our first anchorage, we warned him of the swell, he looked at us like we were dickheads and off he went, then he came back, bloody French.

Moe has been and gone now after a month back on board Boomerang. She rolled up to Singapore white and just getting over pneumonia so the weather would hopefully do her good. Once we got to Tioman she found her straps, diving most days, bike riding and we got her paddle boarding which came pretty easy to her. We dragged the hookah out, diving one that is, and she was off to the bottom and loved it, it was a pity when the battery went flat, she looked like she was having a ball. We still have a coconut that has a couple of faces, happy and sad, on it that her and Johnno drew. It has become another crew member. Moe had a good injury, broke her toe, black and blue, but didn’t whinge to much about it and was soon back diving so all was good. She flew out of Tioman, something I want to do, to Singapore then home looking tanned and fit and healthy. It was great seeing her and its a pity the month flew by.

Johnno had an unusual trip to Tioman, he caught a plane to Singapore, a bus to Mersing, a ferry to Tekek but didn’t get off so ended up at ABC and walked a few Ks back to Tekek then we made him swim to the boat, although I think he was pretty happy to cool down. In true Johnno form he took a dive off the dinghy head first onto the sand, Brufen 400 to the rescue, but he didn’t complain once even though he was visibly hurting. I was keen on getting the Pethidene out but doctor Rod was not called for.

We hired motorbikes twice and rode from Juara to Tekek and back again twice and we rode every track, path, road you name it. One of these tracks, a rutted dirt one ended up at a Moesque, as they are now called due to Moe wanting to live in one. We would leave the concrete on our 110cc honda road bikes then tear down this track enduro style and pop up at the entry to the Moesque, turn a few heads and be gone. We rode through back yards,  front yards, anywhere and I can pretty safely say we toured all that were available. The best was up in the jungle, the road is concrete and sections of it were like the Isle of White GP. Not one get off and we did it over and over again, getting quicker all the time. It is supposedly a 45 minute ride but 15 is more like it.

We hit the resort one night to see the band, good fun, Philipinoes singing country and western. Walking through the resort made me think of all the stuff we do, not only for free but different things because we can, compared to the other type of tourist. Down by the river most of the resort people get dropped off to a boat then all day bouncing around in it, windy or not, then back to the hotel for cocktails at the pool. The cocktails at the pool is the one thing they have over us, oh yeah and the AC and the TV and the WIFI.

Then you have the marina mob. These guys just love being tied up to a safe jetty, washing their own clothes in buckets and then hanging them out all over the boat, pulling something apart, leaving it on the jetty. The marina here is way different to any others I have come across as it costs rm280 a month, about $85, and a lot of them have been there a long time. Quick trip to Singapore and the 3 months starts again and again and again. Too bloody hot in there for me plus there was a dodgy character who we called Jock, as he was always in them, he just comes out with the most suss comments, always going on about the nudist beach, does your wife go topless, crap like that.

We did meet some good marina people, Martin, a long time resident and Julie who was always happy. Old Martin doesn’t have much time left so is happy to pass on any helpful knowledge he has picked up. Has got us headed for Johor Bahru instead of Singapore, a third of the cost for anything, only rm100 per week which is better than $100S a day. Not sure what the marina is like but he reckons its flash, I will let you know.

Well all in all Tioman is a great place, the people are nice, had to hire a motorbike to go and say goodbye to all our new mates in Tekek before we left, they cook fish to perfection, not much chop at Tomyum and since the place is duty free it is possible to live here cheaply. At first we were splashing money left right and centre but by the end a rm100 would last a few days and for me that’s pretty bloody good.

I was going to end it there but today is a worthy inclusion.

We woke early to a thunderstorm, 0400, I typed this as I kept an eye on the storm. At about 0800 I started up the engines to head out but could hear a noice that I don’t normally hear. It was coming from the starboard engine, so I thought I had better check. Stripped the bed and stuff, opened up the engine room hatch and checked it out, oils cool, the water  was low so topped it up, almost a litre, not normal. We got going, swell and wind against us and I could hear a noise like the prop was cavitating so once again stripped the bed and had a look, this time the bilge is full of oil, horror. Checked the oil all good, checked the water, all gone. It had mixed with the oil in the well under the engine, reckon limp wristed Len was a bit lazy and just used to dump it in there.

We then put up the sails and headed as high as we could, 12 kn SSE and sitting on 45 to 60 degrees alls good. I am down stairs trying to fix the engine and Jen is driving, we come across a fishing net so we tacked and headed out to sea. All of a sudden out of the blue it got cold, Jen thought it was great until she saw the clouds, so off we went trying to outrun it but then we had a wind change, all of a sudden we were pointing in exactly the same direction as on the other tack. The wind picked up to 25kns and then we are flying along heading where we wanted all be it into a storm. It passed pretty quick but was followed by another this time hitting 28kns, we reefed down in between and much easier to control. About an hour later we were passing where we were meant to get to for the night so we kept going. We finally came out the back of the storm but there was another one coming, this one had lightning and thunder and as black as, I was going to put another reef in but thought better of it and dropped the main completely. Just in time although I kicked my tequila over, spewing. We got fairly flogged for about an hour then it slowed down a bit and  rained, we  were near 2 fishing boats when the rain hit but you couldn’t see them. Once the rain stopped we looked for a place to park up for the night and found a bay with muddy bottom but pretty open to the elements, by then we were a bit frazzled so good enough.

Set to work on the motor, found a leak through a perfectly round hole on the water pump housing, but on the drawings there is no hole, plugged it up with some jizz and refilled the system, no leaks. Left it to set and had a few beers then bed. Woke up at 0300 and gave it a run, seemed good but after a bit checked the level and it had dropped,so back on the hunt for another leak and you beauty found it. Fixed it and off we go but it made a funny noice then the lights went dim so shut it down again.

So now we find ourselves heading west through the Singapore Strait with one motor and the jib up with a 1 knot tide doing its bit to help. Ships are coming and going but at least the suns just come up. 

I don’t believe it, a change of fortune, our old mate Acok from Nongsa Point has given us permission to go there to suss out the motor. Back to Indo again, bargain as the tide was about to change and that would have stuffed everything, there is a god, plus I have not had mie goring done properly for a month.


The Ranga’s.

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