Thursday, May 13, 2021

Everybody dies, but not everybody lives. I have been fortunate to be born in an awesome country where you could make a decent living, have the freedom to make your own life and the security to reach to a ripe old age. I decided at an early age to experience everything, do everything and travel everywhere and live a fulfilling adventurous life. I would not regret, not having done all that I wanted to. Since I love the sea, I bought my first boat, an 18 foot wooden sampan at the age of 16 in 1976. I paid $188 for the bare boat. I couldn’t afford an engine, so I used long oars, secured to rowing-pegs to get around and occasionally borrowed an Evinrude 4hp from my friend Chris who lived in Telok Kurau. The sampan was beached at East Coast Park. It was there, that I learnt many valuable lessons about real life and experienced the seafarer spirit. It felt warm, spontaneous and contagious. We helped launch and recover each other’s sampan, carried each other’s gear and watched for each other’s safety whenever we were out at sea, fishing and netting. My fishing guru was Mr Lim, a local fisherman who lived in a 3 room HDB flat at marine Terrace. He had a larger sampan propelled by a Johnson 6hp. I marvelled at the ease with which he fished and cruised along the East Coast laying his nets. Mr Lim taught me how to repair the nets and maintain the sampan myself. Every few months, I would caulk the gaps between the planking just to keep the boat watertight or risk sinking. I had two bailers onboard. One I cut-out from a used 4-litre oil can and the other a plastic bathing scoop that I secured with a string. I would fish at night and go to school the next morning. Weekends at the beach was packed with onlookers vying to buy the giant prawns that we mostly targeted. $10 for one catty. (1 catty equals 600gm). The most precious equipment onboard for night fishing was my Butterfly brand Pressure Lamp. It lighted the boat and also served as a stove to heat and cook small food. In 1978, I was enlisted into the Navy. Goodbye kampong fisherman, Hello new world. My life took a dramatic change, I was sucked into the work environment of rules and regulations, conformity, discipline and regimentation. You had to account for your whereabouts every minute you’re at work or risk being charged for AWOL. I was forced into a straight-jacket, but I soon adopted and began to love the life in uniform. I grew up quickly from a boy into an officer and a gentleman. There were no ifs or buts, you had to conform or be thrown overboard to feed the sharks. Fifteen years came and went in a flash. In January 1994 I left the Navy and became a civilian. What a strange feeling. I was free again. No stringent schedules, no duties, no routine and no AWOL. They pulled me back July 1994 for reservists, as Commanding Officer of an Ocean Tug. I was elated, I had missed the Navy and felt proud of my Naval heritage. Unknowingly, the Navy had become a major pillar in my life. I felt the pride of being a Naval Officer. I was ready, willing and proud to serve. Today I turned 61. I am fitter, leaner and healthier than I was in my forties; or so I hope. I am optimistic, I am happy, I am content. I look forward to the wonders and adventures that lie ahead of me. The future is exciting. I want to be free and experience everything once again. No staying home. No tip-toeing through life, hoping I’ll make it safety to death. Nope, that’s not me… I’m casting off the bow lines, hoisting my sails, welcome world, I’m off to another adventure. It going to be awesome. WF 1960

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Diving at Pulau Biola

A few year ago, we had the very rare opportunity to dive at Pulau Biola for a Book project named Islands of Singapore. It was tough getting permission and after many attempts, we finally secured a slot from all three authorities to dive there for just an hour. I found a day and time when the tidal stream was slack, usually during periods of neap tines (half-mooon phase). As excpected, the diving was incredible. I descriped it as the Tioman of Singapore. The reef was prestine and full of life. The fish populatuon there was something I had never seen before, not even in Tioman. For the first time, I saw large schools of parrot fish going about their foraging and numerous species of small fish were schooled eveywhere I truned. Although I didn't see any large fish, I'm sure there were plenty of them around. Here's a poory done video of that dive using a cheap land camera in a waterproof-case.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Moorings for Pleasure Craft

 Saving our Reefs in Singapore is certainly a worthwhile effort for the benefit of our children. One way is to anchor mooring buoys in and around thriving reefs fringing the offshore Islands. Namely Pulau Hantu, Jong, Lazarus & St John's, Salu & Semakau. One project that has done this already is the Sister's Island Marine Park project that was 15 year in the making. Fishing and certainly anchoring is no longer allowed around Sister's to protect the delicate fringing reef. Pleasure boats can secure to the yellow mooring buoys already anchored there on a first come first served basis. Diving is allowed, but arrangements must be made prior for the divers to engage in a guided dive. 

Lazarus then during reclamation works

Lazarus today - a popular spot for boaters 

Pulau Jong is rarely visited and maintains a healthy fringing reef

St John's Island. Once used to quarantine migrants; today a destination for picnickers 

The Helical anchor is superior in so many ways to concrete blocks


Tuesday, May 5, 2020

The December 2019 Powerboat Race at NSRCC, Singapore

I had a fun time assisting in the preparations leading to the Powerboat race at NSRCC off the East Coast Park.  Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic that has captured the full attention of possibly 90% of the world population, I remembered the race, the thrills and spills and joy of having been involved with it. Here are some pictures of the event.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Asia Powerboat Association Championship

The heat is on for another powerboat race in Singapore. It has been 15 years since the last one held at Marina Bay. 

This coming race will be very different. The race boats are entry level for the common man in the street who wants to race. These boats are know as T750s, about 14 feet long fitted with stock Tohatsu 50hp Outboards and capable of speeds up to 55 mph. They are single seat, mono hulls using foot throttles and fueled with 20 litre plastic petrol tanks. 

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Singapore anglers avoiding Indonesian waters

Fewer recreational anglers have been heading to Indonesia for deep-sea fishing trips since 28 people - almost all Singaporean anglers, were arrested for alleged trespassing and immigration offences earlier this year. Members of the fishing community here say Singaporeans are instead fishing in local waters or in Malaysia. Two Singaporean boat captains, Shoo Chiau Huat and Ricky Tan Poh Hui, remain in Indonesian custody pending their court hearings in the Riau Islands' provincial capital of Tanjung Pinang. Shoo was arrested on April 16 2018 in Tanjung Berakit, off Bintan, while Ricky Tan and his crew and passengers were caught on Aug 21 2018.
Mr Ricky Tan had been detained by the Indonesian authorities since last August for trespassing in Indonesian waters.

Charter Boat Captain Ricky Tan back in Singapore after his release

Image result for image of hoo Chiau Huat

Charter Boat Captain Shoo Chiau Huat

Their passengers, mainly anglers, were deported shortly after being detained but the captains were held for trespassing or immigration offences. Earlier this month, 10 Singaporean anglers were also stopped for sailing in an unlicensed boat off Bintan island. Their Indonesian-flagged vessel was said to be sailing in Indonesian waters without valid permits and a proper passenger manifest. The Sunday Times understands that all 10 passengers on the fishing boat have been released and since returned to the country. Indonesia has been increasing sea patrols - mainly targeting illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing - since President Joko Widodo announced plans to beef up the country's fisheries sector last year. Anyone who enters Indonesia illegally could spend up to a year in prison, while infringement of the Fisheries Act - which covers illegal fishing - carries a sentence of up to five years in jail. Mr Joe Ng, 60, owner of Joe Fishing Tackle in Beach Road, estimates that there has been more than a 50-per-cent drop in the number of anglers travelling to Indonesia. He has been in the fishing business for more than 20 years and used to travel to Indonesian waters. "Those who go regularly to Indonesia to fish are generally above the age of 40," he said. "Such trips often involve spending nights on a boat and can be uncomfortable for land-lubbers." But anglers enjoy fishing there as they catch more as well as land bigger fish. Mr Augustine Chai, 48, owner of trip organiser Fishing Affairs, said that since the incidents, around half his customers who were heading to Indonesia either cancelled their packages or chose a local fishing trip. He added that boat captains are being cautious. "Instead of staying 12 nautical miles away from territorial borders, some stay 20 nm or more away." Mr Soh Hoe Jiang, 50, a fishing boat charter operator and boat captain of 16 years, sails to Indonesian waters about twice a week but has seen a fall in bookings. "Our operations now involve clearance, such as passport and port clearances and customs declarations, with Indonesian authorities in Nongsa Pt Marina or Bintan before we fish in their waters," he said, adding that customers fish for leisure and not profit. "Problems arise when they consider us commercial fishermen." Mr Ivan Goh, 37, chief guide of Deep Sea Fishing, which runs fishing charters, said the firm has stopped making trips to Indonesian waters where the incidents took place as a "precaution". While he will be taking customers on a trip to Indonesia next month, he said, they will head to East Kalimantan, further from the area where the arrests took place. The group intends to travel by plane before going out to sea on an Indonesian-flagged vessel. He added that anglers are attracted to fishing in Indonesia because of the different species found there, such as large stingrays and shovel-nose sharks.  (Information Source. Straits Times) 

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Beautiful beach, no boating activity

The East Coast Beach that was created in the 1970s by National Parks

The 185 hectare East Coast Park is the largest park in Singapore, and is built entirely on reclaimed land with a man-made beach, where swimming is possible. The beach is protected by breakwaters.
The park is a popular place for people to relax and unwind. The park has barbecue pitschalets, food centres and amenities for various sports activities. Visitors can fish at Bedok Jetty (Area F). A cycling and inline skatingtrack runs along the perimeter of the park, which measures over 15 km long. It is connected to Changi Beach Park by the Coastal Park Connector Network, an 8 km park connector running along Changi Coast Road.
Overnight camping is permitted in East Coast Park, at Areas D and G. A Camping Permit is required and can be obtained from the National Parks website.
What is evidently missing is boats. Back in the early 70s, sampans were kept at no fewer than 5 boat parks. Today there's only one. 

Boat owners are expected to berth their crafts at any of the 5 Marinas or 2 Yacht Clubs in Singapore. Namely; Raffles Marina, RSYC, Marina at Keppel Bay, OneDeg15, Marina Country Club (formerly Ponggol Marina), SAF Yacht Club and Changi Sailing Club. Owning a boat is no longer cheap. My first boat was a $188 wooden 18 footer sampan. The 4hp Outboard was borrowed. Berthing was just over S100 a year paid directly to the MPA at the One Stop Documentation Centre at Tg Pagar.

I hope that with the growth of the new Greater Southern Water Front region, simple boating will make a come back to these waters.