1. Strait of Malacca = Selatan Melaka
There's only one strait. The plural form is a hangover from the days when "Straits of Malacca and Singapore" was used as if the two straits were an identity that had to be sailed in series. That was of course because of the China trade
, the procession of ships using the monsoon series (e.g. the NE monsoon to sail from Quanzhou with a load of tea and porcelain to India
and on to Europe
, with lay-over ports
such as Sinkers, Penang, or Junk Ceylon aka Phuket to sit out a squally intermonsoon or a contrary monsoon).
2. Every passage
of the strait is different.
Sometimes calm. Sometimes not. So dinnae believe anyone who says you'll always motor
season (where season = monsoon) is a surprisingly strong NE monsoon.
A year in the Strait of Malacca is made of four monsoons, each named after the prevailing wind
direction: NE monsoon; inter-monsoon; SW monsoon; inter-monsoon.
So late December-early January is in the NE monsoon. If the NE monsoon remains strong, you could expect fair NE gradient winds from Singapore up to about Malacca city (about 2 deg 25 min N); then a relatively calm stretch up to about 4 deg N; then variable winds up to about Penang Island (Pulau Pinang, around 5 deg N; and then fair NE gradient winds the rest of the way to Phuket.
The NE monsoon has been so strong in recent days that some races in the King's Cup Regatta
in Phuket were cancelled and postponed. See: https://kingscup.com/
All of that can be modified by daily sea breeze generation and thunderstorm genesis (both of which depend on insolation, CAPE, and so on - ultimately quite chaotic).
Cyclogenesis in the NW Pacific, S China
Sea, or even in Arafura Sea and off the NW coast of Aus can change the strength and direction of the wind
The general rule
is that the Malaysian coast is safer than the Indonesian coast. Opportunistic theft is always likely in ports
and anchorages (but there is no rule
that you must leave your Rolex watch on deck
unattended). The Malaysian Royal Navy
and the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency are under-funded (only Singapore funds its met service
and maritime enforcement thugs generously). The Thai navy
boasts the best pocket aircraft carrier on the planet (you get big credit if you score a cap from the HTMS Chakri Naruebet (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HTMS_Chakri_Naruebet
). Organised piracy
is largely a deal that is run out of shipping
offices by employees. But your mileage can always vary.
4. Sailing zone
As Dale noted, you can think of the Strait (or at least the Malaysian side) divided into two or more zones: the shipping channels (marked well with Nippon-funded buoys and beacons - if you drop into Penang you can moor at the Jabatan Laut marina which was established in part to support the buoy tender
vessels - and monitored particularly in the narrow S part by radar
and VTS); and the inshore zone. In between is where cruising can be fun.
Across both those zones is considerable fishing effort. The fishing effort has diminished the fish
biomass massively, perhaps by as much as 70% of pre-WW2 levels. The fishing effort comes in several forms: from trawlers and purse seine operators (on Pangkor Island you can see some of the fleet at anchor
and even visit yards in which the boats are built); through stationary fishing platforms and FADs; to small scale fishers with gill nets.
In the past year or three, the use of massive lighting
by fishing boats in the Strait has multiplied. Previously the use of massive green lights was common in the S China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand
. Now it's not uncommon in parts
of the Strait.
In the inshore zone, the gill nets are not uncommon. Marked by a string of floats, with the net suspended 1 metre or more below. Sometimes with a buoy carrying a flag at one end. And sometimes with the fishing boat
at the other end.
Very occasionally you can meet fields of debris - including after squalls and heavy rain on land. Worst I met was nigh on two decades back, when a small ship carrying logs
had capsized, spilling its load.
5. Places to see etc
Depends on your schedule, how many port calls you're making, and your interests.
The Strait has been one of the major thorough-fares of civilisation, including maritime civilisation, for millenia. If that tweaks your interest, you start in Sinkers by doing rounds of the museums, including the Asian Civilisation M. Sinkers has only this year come to accept that its history
did not start with Raffles and that Indian nations, such as the Chola, had been around donkeys' years before. In Kedah in MY, you can visit the Bujang Valley with clear evidence of iron works, not to mention more candi/chandi then you can poke a stick at on a sunny day. In Penang in MY, you can see what little remains of U-boot pens (now a shipyard on Pulau Jerjak, but there were also temporary pens on the N coast of Penang) of the Monsoon fleet (and sail over the spot where a U-boot was sunk as it approached Nippon-occupied Penang with a load of mercury). And in Penang, you can visit the Western Roads Cemetery carrying a bottle of local vodka, go to the memorial to the Жемчуг Zhemchug, read aloud from the memorial the list of sailors lost
when the Emden sunk her, and then toast them and pour the rest of the bottle on the ground for the thirsty (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_cruiser_Zhemchug
So Sinkers is a great place to start exploring everything from the contemporary political economy of the world (see: https://www.straitstimes.com/busines...-07-mas-survey
) back to the Neolithic.
In Sinkers, you can do the rounds of the food
courts to get a taste of what you might meet. Note the food
stalls that advertise "famous Ipoh x" or "famous Penang x". And then you're equipped to wander the streets of any town in MY or TH, looking for good tucker (hint ... look for any food stall with a queue of customers). I'll bore you momentarily with the story of taking a Nipponese cruiser couple, who'd just ported in Penang, to the famous assam laksa food shop in Balik Pulau. I sat them down and ordered one bowl of assam laksa, one bowl of lemak laksa, and one bowl of half 'n half, plus nutmeg drinks, to share among the two of them. After we ate I paid and turned to leave, they looked at me and said 'baka', sat down again, and ordered a few more rounds of the same.
Most anywhere in TH you'll find better and less expensive food than what you get by provisioning
, etc yourself.