Malacca Won’t Release Me


Flying Fish, sails furled, motors into the port of refuge at Sabang, Banda Aech, Sumatra. Photograph: © Jeffrey Cardenas

I thought I had put my squabble with the Strait of Malacca behind me. Apparently not. I am diverting Flying Fish to Sumatra.

Geography: The southern end of the Strait of Malacca is the bottleneck at Singapore. Langkawi is at the northern end, and to sail to the Maldives it is necessary to cross the mouth of the Strait, which is about 300 miles wide east to west. During the NE Monsoon season—now—weather comes into the Strait from the Bay of Bengal. It can provide a glorious broad reach all the way to the Maldives resulting in what a Swiss friend described few weeks ago as “champagne sailing.”

Champagne sailing was also the forecast for my passage. Unfortunately, the bubbly was served flat. Contrary to the weather prediction, there was no wind. I motored over a calm sea for more than 36 hours. What concerned me more, however, were two new electronics failures aboard Flying Fish.

The AIS (Automatic Identification System) tells other boats where I am. It is essential, and also a legal requirement, in high-traffic locations like the Strait of Malacca. My AIS failed last night whileFlying Fish was in a traffic jam of supertankers. Course confusion reigned as the big iron tried to pinpoint exactly where I was and how to avoid crushing me. Within moments of losing the AIS, I was in the glare of an Indonesian patrol boat’s spotlight.

Next was a warning alarm aboard Flying Fish announcing that my GPS signal was lost. This system, of course, tells me where I am. The GPS continued to flicker on and off through the rainy night, not the kind of instrument I want to depend on for the next 15,000 miles.

Sabang, in the Banda Aceh province of Sumatra, provided a port of refuge. It will give me an opportunity get online and on the phone to resolve my issues.

Being here also helps me to understand how minor my issues are. I am humbled by a life-sized statue of a woman, arms raised in terror, as a flood of water presses against her legs. My boat problems are insignificant compared to the reality of the world around me. In this province 164,000 people—a third of the entire population—drowned when a 2004 tsunami swept ashore.

NOTE: On passages when I have no cell or WiFi signal, I activate a satellite tracking link that shows my daily position, current weather, and includes a few personal thoughts from the daily log of Flying Fish. I will not be able to respond to messages via satellite but I love the idea that you are sailing along with me. If you would like to follow the daily progress of Flying Fish into Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean via satellite you can click this link:

Please subscribe at the bottom of this page so that you don’t miss a new update, and consider sharing this post with others who might enjoy following the voyage of Flying Fish.

To see where Flying Fish has sailed since leaving Key West in 2017, click here:

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Text and Photography © Jeffrey Cardenas 2020

13 thoughts on “Malacca Won’t Release Me

    • Jean, I don’t want you to lose any sleep over Flying Fish. Seriously, there are so many other things happening these days to keep us awake at night. I am, however, extremely grateful for your sentiment. Thank you for your concern and good wishes.


  1. No GPS! I’m you could manage with a sextant and a set of sight reduction tables! It’s the AIS that’s scary. Stay safe and carry on. Truly a great adventure.


    • Larry, most readers know Conrad’s Heart of Darkness quote in its abbreviated form: “We live as we dream – alone.”
      The completed part of the quote actually has stronger implications. It continues: “While the dream disappears, the life continues painfully.”
      You may describe yourself as a “landlubber” but you have learned to function well in society. I think often about what will happen after the dream of Flying Fish disappears. Will I be fit for society?


  2. Sorry you are having trouble, Cap, But glad you found refuge. Wish I had a suggestion other than to get two or even three of any of that electronic gear. If I can ship you anything from here, let me know.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are a kind and generous man, Capt. John Wandling. I am looking at the option of a slight detour to Phuket to get Flying Fish back in shape for the Indian Ocean. Now is the time for me to exercise patience and make sure both the captain and the vessel are 100% for this next passage. Thank you for your offer of help.


    • I work enough on my own spirituality to realize I am in no position to suggests to anyone else in what they should believe.
      But… if you could see the middle of the ocean on a moonless night when stars reflect off the water giving the sense of traveling through a galaxy, then it’s difficult to imagine that this was all created by human beings.
      Love you, Marilyn. Thank you for reading.


  3. Travelling through a galaxy indeed! Your uncanny use of words to portray vivid images in the mind have always set you apart. I never considered your ultimate voyage on Flying Fish to be comparable to the Starship Enterprize, however, you have made me a believer!! Fix the electronics and travel safely in search of friendly lifeforms my friend!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wanted to embark on a voyage of surprises. If life was predictable, what would be the point? I just need to remember that everything balances. Setbacks like this are a small price to pay for the opportunity the “sail through the galaxy.”
      Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Alan.


  4. I know I’m being selfish, but, when are you coming home? We miss you 😘 Be safe my friend …we are keeping good thoughts and positive vibes are sent you way!


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