Malaysia - Profile
- The Federation of Malaysia consists of thirteen states, eleven stretched out on the long peninsula between Thailand and Singapore plus the states of Sabah and Sarawak on the north/north-west coast of the island of Borneo (Indonesian: Kalimantan).
- It's best to think of Malaysia as 3 separate, almost autonomous areas (Peninsula, Sarawak and Sabah) plus 3 duty-free federal territories (Langkawi, Labuan and Tioman) with Islamic Brunei wedged in the middle.
- The west coast attracts most cruising yachts and there is plenty to see, from the attractive old city of Malacca and the fishing port of Lumut to the islands of Penang and Langkawi.
- The Langkawi islands lie close to the border with Thailand and possess the finest scenery anywhere in Malaysian waters.
- The east coast is less visited as it is not on a cruising route and its harbours are better protected during the SW monsoon, when few cruising yachts linger in SE Asia.
- The best weather is during the NE monsoon when the west coast provides an excellent lee and most yachts cruise up the coast from Singapore to Thailand.
- Sabah and Sarawak along the northern coast of the island of Borneo tend to be visited by yachts en route to or from the Philippines and Hong Kong.
- Port Klang is also a good base for trips to the capital Kuala Lumpur, or to leave the boat for visits into the interior.
- There are several small boatyards, often with their own slips, on both coasts of the peninsula but as they are used to working on local craft, standards are not high. See this useful report which has lots of tips about boatyard practices in SE Asia and may help you avoid a few pitfalls. Getting work done on your boat whilst long distance cruising.
- Facilities in Langkawi have steadily improved in recent years and the Malaysian authorities are making a determined effort to turn this area into the premier yachting centre in SE Asia.
- A great many oil rigs litter the coast of Borneo, so great caution should be excercised, particulary if sailing at night, as whilst the rigs are lit, large metal moorings around the rigs are not.
In Malaysia most thieves are likely to be opportunistic rather than violent. Most cruisers visiting the country report having no real security or safety fears. However, best practice is to take the usual general precautions (locking the boat, lifting and securing dinghy & outboard, removing valuables from sight etc.) as thefts and burglaries have been reported.
Penang and Johor Bahru are reported to be the worst areas in Malaysia for crime. When going ashore avoid wearing expensive jewellrey, carrying open bags and cycling with open baskets and crates.
There are regular political demonstrations in central Kuala Lumpur on Saturday afternoons. Monitor local media, be vigilant and avoid all large political gatherings.
June 2015: Current advice is against all but essential travel to all islands off the coast of eastern Sabah from Kudat to Tawau, including (but not limited to) Lankayan, Mabul, Pom Pom, Kapalai, Litigan, Sipadan and Mataking.
There is a threat to foreigners of kidnapping and criminality on the eastern coast of Sabah and in particular the islands close to the Sulu Archipelago in the southern Philippines. The southern Philippines is just a short boat ride away from Sabah's east coast. There have been several incidents of kidnapping and worse in the last 2 years.
A German couple were abducted from their yacht by bandits at Palawan, Philippines in April 2014.
A yacht was pursued by pirates in November 2015 off the eastern coast of Sabah, who attempted to board.
The FCO currently advise against travelling here - see advisory here.
In 2016 a number of cruising boats have been harrassed by fisherman when at anchor on the West coast, blamed for laying their anchors over fishing nets and then being pushed for money to cover the damage (when in fact the net was laid over the anchor whilst the owners were sleeping). This kind of extortion is being taken seriously and cruisers along with local marine businesses are working together to try and present a compelling case to stop this action.
Any cruisers who suffer similar concerning incidents with Malay fisherman should contact Jennifer aboard MV TigerLily in Straits Quay Marina in Penang.
Incidents noonsite knows about occured off Pulau Rimau at the southern end of Pulau Pinang and Tg. Tohar (1° 51 N; 102° 45.5 E).
Last updated March 2016.
On the coast the temperatures do not rise too high in this tropical climate, averaging 70-90°F (21-32°C). November to February is the rainy season when sudden downpours are frequent, especially on the west coast. The NE monsoon is from November to March, but on the west Malaysian coast local land breezes have a major effect on sailing conditions.
Brunei Bay Radio operates a regular voice broadcast sked of METAREA and local coastal forecasts for SE Asia waters, the NW Pacific and eastern Indian Ocean. For details of Brunei Bay Radio broadcast skeds and frequencies, see http://www.bruneibay.net/bbradio/bbrschfvoice.htm and http://www.bruneibay.net/bbradio/bbrscweathMSIbcasts.html
Singapore Weather Portal - http://www.weather.gov.sg/wip/web/Marine
For links to free global weather information, forecast services and extreme weather information see the Noonsite Weather Page.
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