By Neil Campion
The Explorer team (CEO Mark Campion, our quality control manager Kurt Healy and me) were recently invited by the owner of an Explorer 50 Sedan based in Singapore to undertake a trip to Tioman island off the east Malaysian coast. Of course, we jumped at the chance. While Mark and Kurt have made a number of trips aboard Explorer models, this was my first lengthy trip on our 50 Sedan. I believe it is important for builders to undertake these trips; they help us learn what could be improved from a cruising perspective. Without being too biased, I have to say how stable she is even when the seas did momentarily pick up.
The boat, named “Current Affair”, is moored outside the owner’s home at Marina One 15 on Sentosa Island, the southernmost tip of Singapore.
We arrived two days early to assist the owner with provisions and preparing for the voyage.
We set out early on a Monday morning with the plan to arrive at the small marina at Tioman early in the evening, a voyage of about 130 nautical miles.
The first challenge was to navigate the locks of the marina’s docking system. It is well thought out and, once you have done it a few times, is fairly straightforward, taking about 20 minutes. As we headed out of the marina and through Singapore harbor, it was amazing to see so many ships either at anchor or laid up. It really is quite a majestic sight.
The voyage was a relatively simple piece of navigation, first traversing east along the Singapore Strait then turning north toward Tioman, XX nautical miles away. The weather was perfect although very hot.
We cruised at 15 knots for several hours with the two Cummins 480hp engines purring along. We eventually put the throttles up and went along at 17/18 knots.
As we settled into the cruise, the owner duly served us a lunch of noodles. These were not any ordinary noodles. The owner has perfected a special recipe for them over the years. They were simply delicious and rather spicy.
As the hours passed, we started to see small, uninhabited islands with their pristine beaches. It was tempting to stop and have a swim but we decided to keep going so that we could make Tioman by early evening.
A few hours later we approached Tioman Island with its majestic lush green peaks. There are a number of resorts on the beach and up in the mountains. The marina is small and somewhat run down but helpful staff assisted us with the mooring and, of course, the immigration papers as we were now in Malaysian waters. There were lots of cruising boats in the marina with the usual mix of characters! It was early evening so we headed off on foot to search the many local seafood restaurants, which were excellent.
The next day we took the dinghy to a small raft that is used for tourists to snorkel around the many reefs. There was an abundant array of fish but Mark, who had visited the island some 20 years ago, commented that there was less variety now.
Having explored the island near the marina, we decided that we would take the boat the next day to explore the other side of the island. We headed off mid morning and, after an hour or so, found a lovely spot to tie up to a mooring buoy. It is illegal to drop anchor around most parts of the island as they are protecting the coral reefs so the authorities have placed a number of mooring buoys for boats to use. I believe there is a hefty fine for any boats that use their anchors in these areas. It is great to see the authorities protecting this wonderful island.
We set off again in the afternoon to make our way around the rest of the island and back to the marina to have dinner with friends of “Current Affair’s” owner. His friend is generally regarded as the father of boating in Singapore. He has cruised extensively over the years. He suggested that we make a detour to Aur, a pair of small islands approximately 40 nautical miles south south-east of Tioman, before returning home.
Our intention was to leave early afternoon, but our plan was put on hold to come to the rescue of an Australian Navy girl who had been dropped off at the marina with no money. She was waiting for the Navy to pick her up later in the day. She had suffered a family bereavement and was going back to Australia. We invited her on board and then took her to lunch. The Navy did not pick her up until around 7.30pm, delaying our departure. Once she was picked up we cast off and made our way to Aur in darkness, reaching the island at around one in the morning. It is a small island with two boat entrances. We were told to pick up one of the mooring buoys in the middle of the channel but trying to spot these in the dark took some doing as some of the buoys were occupied by small fishing boats. We eventually found a vacant buoy and tied up. We were glad to fall into bed.
I was the first to wake to a what can only be described as a breathtaking scene of two small islands either side of us with pristine white sandy beaches. The birds were in full voice as were the other tropical animals. We ate breakfast and donned our snorkeling gear. As I made my way to the beach I found myself swimming with turtles, something I have always wanted to do. They are such lovely creatures and glide around so effortlessly. The islands have only a handful of people living on them . We spent two days there and were so pleased that we took this detour.
We left Aur in the early morning in order to get back to Singapore at a reasonable time. It was mostly a smooth trip, travelling at 16 to 19 knots with bad weather blowing up about three hours from Singapore where the rain and wind swept in creating white water.
The Explorer 50 cruised effortlessly and during the whole trip. All in all it was a fabulous trip and we look forward to more cruising adventures with our owners – if we are invited, of course!