By Anne Wilson
A land as old as time itself swathed in the mysteries of the exotic east has expanded to become arguably the world's largest floating warehouse.
We crossed the shipping highway between Batam Island Indonesia and the island of Singapore early on a Sunday morning. Having been forewarned about the shipping traffic in this channel, we were initially happy to believed as it was a Sunday that most of the vessels plying the straits around Singapore to be at anchor.
We were wrong.
People say that crossing the straights around Singapore is likened to crossing a major highway except there are no traffic lights, no give way signs, and definitely not a place to be without a motor. We chose to cross at one of the three designated areas and as Hybreasail is a sailing catamaran we timed our run to use both our 15hp outboard motors.
We immediately found the warnings to be true, the selat which means strait was indeed a highway, a shipping highway, with vessels of varying sizes criss-crossing across our bows. I was constantly on watch and alerting my husband Brian of the all clear for crossing, or that there was a vessel on our bow, another coming towards us, one to port, we were surrounded in all sides from all directions, but slowly we negotiated the Strait and headed past one of the many docking areas towards our official entry point of the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club. We had not only managed to dodge the vessels on passage but also the many ferries, large and small tugs and numerous other vessels at were at anchor that gave the area the look of a huge floating warehouse. As far as the eye could see there were ships of various colours, shapes and sizes, either waiting to unload their cargoes or gather a new load before setting of to the far corners of the globe. I could truly see why they refer to Singapore as the hub of the commercial shipping world.
Once the formalities of our arrival had been dealt with we decided to make the most of our two weeks permit and stay for the whole time. Sailing for the three months across the seas of Indonesia had left us fairly depleted of energies and we badly needed a place to be able to recharge our batteries for the boat and for us.
It soon became obvious that the floating warehouse theory was just the beginning of what makes Singapore tick. From the efficient and air-conditioned public transport system, the inexpensive and clean buses and trains to the more than 6,000 taxis available for hire we soon found that there proved to be just too much to be able to do and see in this small island country. From the history of the islands settlement and the separation of Singapore from mainland Malaysia, to the poignant remains of Singapore's involvement in WW11. Singapore has become a country vibrating to the changing times, pulsating with life and history and regardless of the maze of shipping it is truly a must see stopover when sailing around South East Asia.
Anne has been sailing with her husband and skipper Brian aboard their 12m catamaran Hybreasail for the past seven years. They are currently on the Sail East Malaysia Rally after having cruised through Indonesia, West Malaysia and Thailand.