Engine woes in the Singapore Strait

29 Jun


The engine failed our test run, but it at least had the grace to wait until we were beyond the worst of the shipping traffic. With a few miles left to our intended anchorage the needle began to steadily tick up again. This has been the pattern: it’s fine, right up  until it’s not, and then the overheating happens very, very quickly. We shut it down and drifted with the current, happy to be outside the shipping lanes. Jamie replaced 1 1/2 liters of coolant, much of which had spilled into the well.

It’s dashed our plans, if not our mood. After call to the mechanic, we settled in the cockpit to talk about plans. He thinks it’s the head gasket now, and that’s not a quick fix. What we do know: we can’t go to Borneo with an engine that overheats. Instead of heading into the South China Sea at sunrise, we’ll be backtracking across Singapore and returning to Puteri Harbour.

It’s a little more than a dent in plans, though, since there are fast friends who we won’t catch up with now- boats we don’t know when we’ll see again, as they continue from Borneo to the Pacific while we look to the west. As disappointing as it is, it has to be fixed first.

We had been so hopeful, if slightly nervous, heading out under the bridge in the morning. They never look tall enough, do they?



The land reclamation is tremendous.


Whole chunks of land exist where our relatively new charts show water.

Amid the traffic, there are still small fishing boats like this one.


This area has more piracy than any other spot in the world, and there are also a number of other boats that really don’t look like they’re fishing.

2014 incidents of piracy near Singapore. Source: IMB Piracy Reporting Centre


We watch hooded figures in an unmarked boat without fishing gear maneuvering around the stern for a while, before roaring off to another ship. Is this boat complicit?

Some boats have dummies stationed as some kind of pirate scarecrow. I’m not sure they’re fooling anyone. We liked teasing the megayacht guys back in Puteri about their stoic, camo-clad crew. Commercial ships in Singapore take it up a notch: zooming in, this mannequin has a (fake?) gun tucked in his belt in as well.


Perhaps to combat the piracy, and certainly to put on a big show, Singapore is by far the most militarized place we’ve been. We have to alter course to handle the wakes thrown by police boats that roar alongside monitoring shipping lanes. The last time we entered Singapore waters, loops were flown over the city by F-16s in formation. Totem was buzzed by a Chinook helicopter. It came back later with a flag, that that was more likely to be a practice run for Singapore’s upcoming national holiday.



This article was syndicated from Sailing Totem


  1. Pingback: Finding bliss in stagnant cruising | Sailing Totem

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*. Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive. For more information, please see our Comments Policy.

More from the AIM Marine Group