The Malacca Straits

The Malacca Straits are famous as one of the largest areas for shipping in the world--80% of the world's oil travels through the Straits.

I think it's time to give in and accept the fact that life from here on in is not going to be easy. Gone are the days of easily walking on board. Gone are the days of eating and knowing you're not going to spill your porridge all over you. Gone are the days of uninterrupted rest...

As life gets more uncomfortable, we will soon look back in fondness on the painfully boring days with no wind - we've all forgotten how much we hate living at 30 degrees.

We're in to the South China Sea now and that means five days of upwind sailing. It's a bit like running up a down escalator--not very easy.

To get to our current location we had to sail through the infamous Malacca Straits. The Malacca Straits are famous as one of the largest areas for shipping in the world--80% of the world's oil travels through the Straits. Aside from ships the size of islands (or Malaccamaxes) we have also been dodging an incredible amount of debris from plastic and Styrofoam to bedside tables and trees. However, the Malacca Straits will be memorable to Team SCA for another reason: the boat-stopping current.

We've all seen 'Finding Nemo,' right? The EAC [East Australia Current], that's a current. For a sailor, a current is just like an underwater hose pipe that will either push you along rapidly forwards or backwards in the ocean. You then have tide, which is related to the gravitational pull of the moon, and this is the water height going up and down. Effectively they were both going against us.

So there we were, a stone's throw from land (about 1 mile!) and an all too close for comfort distance to the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS), and we're not moving. We've stopped. Well, no we haven't stopped--we've started moving backwards!

So, out the anchors came; seals were being cut left and right as the girls tried to set up the anchor system on the bow. In theory, the anchor would prevent us from moving until the wind picked up again and we could begin moving under our own power.

Fortunately, the wind began to fill in just in time, before we beached ourselves on the closest sand bank. We did not need to use the anchor--which caused a boat-wide sigh of relief as we were a bit concerned about the ease of picking up the anchor as the boat would have possibly cruised along at 5 knots. Would we have been dragging the anchor!?

We narrowly escaped the Malacca Straits without dragging too much debris with us. As we sailed up we have seen everything from plastic bottles, Styrofoam, wooden planks, shoes, and sticks--pretty much everything including the kitchen sink! The sticks progressively grew in size and we soon became on the look out for whole trees!

The pollution in this part of the ocean is pretty unreal and tragic, and we're regularly avoiding catching debris on our keel and rudders. As a group of women who have so much respect for the sea, this can be difficult to stomach.

This is view that is shared by our peers at SCA, who as a sustainable company, strive to work in conjunction with people and nature to minimise their impact on the environment in the UK and Republic of Ireland. So, when we see the environment being mistreated, it's something that lies quite close our hearts.

If we do have something stuck on the bottom of the boat we have a few ways of clearing either the rudder or the keel.

First, we can do a 'back down;' this means we furl the front sail, center the main sail, and then try to back down, in reverse on ourselves--the philosophy is this will then float off effortlessly. If there is seaweed wrapped on the rudders, we can help someone hang off the side of the boat with the boat hook. Finally, the most drastic means of getting something off the keel of the boat is send someone over board entirely. Obviously this means is the least preferred as it means we are stopped completely, losing miles, for a longer period of time.

Fortunately, we only had one back down--we did not need to send a swimmer over and we did not need to intentionally cut fishing lines which could ruin someone's livelihood.

We've been racing for weeks in a little personal bubble-- occasionally receiving emails or news-- and it feels suddenly like we've just come out of a forest. Ta-da! People of all ages! Boats-- big and small! Skyscrapers and aeroplanes!

When it comes to seeing people, we're all staring at each other... They're taking pictures, we're taking pictures, and everyone is in awe of the other's boats. Despite our differences, perhaps there is another reason we are all staring at each other: a common understanding, appreciation, and respect of the sea.


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