Was it a good idea?..


Sumatras, this is the local nick name for squalls...

Sumatra is a huge Indonesian island that forms the western seaboard of the busy Malacca Straits. The high peaks of Sumatra's volcanic hinterland are probably responsible for generating the catabatic winds that fan out across the Straits of Malacca and accelerate to become Sumatras! No trip up the Malacca Straits is completed without having at least one of these visit you.


We successfully skirted Port Klang and smuggly figured we might have avoid the Sumatra issue. But as midnight approached, the distant glow of the fishing boats suddenly disappeared! Ok, here it comes!

A few minutes later, the dark anvil shape cloud appeared immediately overhead. It was so laden that it appeared as if we were passing under a lower lying bridge. So far so good, but once that low cloud base is overhead you know there is no avoiding it!


The wind ahead of the Sumatra is dense and cold, it builds rapidly from a mean 8 knots to a very mean 35 knots with raindrops about the size of buckets that can be seen whizzing by at an acute angle in the stern light. We've still got full sail up so this was going to be a good test of RAW's new sails and rigging!


The blessing of heading north - the Sumatras are heading the other way and so you will just have to weather it for a while! With the main traveller eased down and cracked sheets, RAW hovered around 9 knots! Nothing startling about that and we were extremely happy that she was as docile as anything.


Sumatras pass in about 40 minutes. The front comes through in a heavy manner for about 25 minutes and then drops away. On this evening as the first Sumatra faded out the back, the next one was forming! Nice!..



A nice riverside town on Malaysia's west coast, there's a huge Naval base on the southern shores of the river but these days you don't have to venture up the river as there is a nice marina just outside the entrance to the town on Pulau Pangkor. Of course Pangkor is best known for the Pangkor Laut Resort, a 6-star spa!


A quick scan of the charplotter located Pulau Buloh, Lalang and Rumbia. These were about 10nm's closer than Lumut. A couple of fishing boats were anchored on the south side of P. Rumbia - that was a good sign but in 30m of water just 20m from shore! Pulau Lalang is adjoined to the next island by a sand spit so we found a great anchorage in 7m of water right on the spit.


Drifting off to sleep in the cockpit I remembered battling the Sumatra, dodging those stakes on the Nacra. We'd got so cold at night that we took it in turns to sleep in the spinnaker bag! By dawn, we were close to the coast and found a line of sticks in the mud. Lining the sticks up we saw a village at the end of a mud lined river. We figured that if it was a fishing village the minimum they would have is a hot coffee! We sailed the Nacra 'beneath' the mud banks until we were able to go alongside a fishing trawler stuck to the mud. I don't think I'll ever forget the bewildered looks that we got as two Orang Puteh's climbed ashore. The chief came and asked us where we were going "on that?!" Phuket we declared at which point he said, "give them what they want, they're obviously mad!" And so it was that we came to spend the next few hours sleeping soundly in the chief's house! 


When we pulled out of the village it was with the whole village watching! Another long sail as we bashed our way towards Lumut arriving at the Lumut Yacht Club at 9pm. That was a long sail!


Sleep was broken on RAW only by the shallow water alarm going off.

Peering out, we had found the ideal anchorage! The sand spit was a beautiful spot with perfectly clean water and white sand all around. Log that one in because it is a really nice spot.


As every day passed on RAW, I could picture exactly how it was on the Nacra.

Overall timings were similar but the Nacra was going non-stop. On RAW we had a few comforts, hot meals, dry clothes, food and sleep if we wanted. It was tough going on the Nacra. After enduring the Sumatras on the Nacra our only entertainment was the phospheresence! That was like two missile tracks coming off the hulls, just beautiful.


That night on RAW after the Sumatra, the whole 2m of daggerboard was a glow! Some of the nice things of being offshore, stars and rocket trails!


But we needed to get to Penang some 90 miles further on...







Sails. Tested full rag in the middle of a very nice Sumatra! Bug shaking, nothing fell off!

Parallel Universe 

Living with Sumatras.

Men. This is when instant noodles taste best! sitting in the rain! 

Garmin. Runs perfectly and keeps us right on track. Bit different from the dead reckoning we did on the Nacra!

  • Wix Facebook page