Incorporating the Andaman Sea, Gulf of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia… and more

Southeast Asia Pilot by Bill O’Leary & Andy Dowden

Malaysia West Malaysia, West Coast Penang Island

Racer MarinaSailing Yacht AsiaIMAGE asia

Penang is the famous historical trading island just off the mainland. The Penang Channel is navigable and well marked with two bridges with an air draft of 30 metres connecting to the mainland.

The southern Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge or 'Penang 2nd Bridge' is 24 kilometres, opened in 2014 and its many S-like curves assist motorists to keep their attention on the road while driving.

Penang 2nd Bridge is the longest bridge in the world installed with High Damping Natural Rubber (HDNR) Bearing, an effective seismic isolation system that enables the bridge to withstand 7.5 scale earthquake. The bridge is the first in Malaysia to be installed with seismic expansion joints, which allow for wild movements during a big shake. At 24 kilometres, it is also the longest bridge crossing in Southeast Asia.

Georgetown, north of the original Penang 1st Bridge, is a bustling town reminiscent of Singapore 30 years ago. The Chinese architecture is over a century old, with small narrow streets teeming with shophouses and noodle and roti shops. Many of the walls of the old buildings have been used by graffiti artists to paint interesting murals rather than anarchistic slogans. Well worth the stroll round.

The north and west coasts of Penang Island have pleasant sandy beaches and tourist developments. Ferries run many times daily to and from Langkawi, 80 miles north. The water is milky brown and the currents can run fast.

Penang Island
Penang Island

A THE JUNK ANCHORAGE 180 miles from Singapore

THE JUNK ANCHORAGE. 5°24.595N, 100°20.450E

The Tanjong City Marina once located beside the Heritage Car Ferry Terminal at the century-old Church Street Pier broke up and silted over in 2012. There is no longer a marina at this location.

Anchor anywhere north of and inside the shallow middle bank in 6-15 metres on a mud and rubbish-strewn bottom. This is known as the Junk Anchorage and is historically famous over the centuries where the Chinese cargo junks moored. The area lies off the clan jetties along the shoreline (the New, Yeoh, Lee, Tan, Chew and Lim family jetties). Diesel fuel is usually available from a fuel barge moored nearby.

A mile south (5°23.983N, 100°20.074E) is the Sungai Penang (Penang River) anchorage with the advantage of the dinghy navigable river right up to some floating pontoons, between two bridges. Both anchorages are exposed to weather from the north and east and holding is not the best. Use plenty of scope.

B MARINA BATU UBAN 370 miles from Singapore

MARINA BATU UBAN. 5°21.343N, 100°18.912E

Just south of Penang's 1st Bridge is an unpretentious government-run public facility with 35 berths for vessels up to 12 metres. Coming from the south, after the new bridge turn into the Pulau Jerejak channel and keep an eye for the Komptar cylindrical tower block in the distance. You wont see the marina until you're nearly on top of it because another jetty building with a blue roof mainly obscures it.

Marina Batu Uban is one of the successful marinas built and operated by Malaysia's Marine Department, but has very few available berths for visiting yachts. There is no breakwater so it's open to wind wave and vessel wake from the east. Anchoring off in the channel in 8 metres is fine, but dinghy access to the docks does incur a small fee.

Just north, the 1st Penang bridge has air height of approximately 6 metres here so passing close in to go north is not possible. Best to schlep back south around Pulau Jerejak then north, unless you go at high tide. At any other time best trust someone with local knowledge to draw you a mud map to safely navigate the shallow banks between the marina and the high span mid way. Guaranteed depth across the mud banks close in near the bridge is debatable, even among the locals.

Georgetown, Penang - Photo by Tuah Roslan/
Georgetown, Penang - Photo by Tuah Roslan/

C STRAITS QUAY MARINA 390 miles from Singapore

STRAITS QUAY MARINA. 5°27.504N, 100°18.840E

Penang's newest marina is located within the multi-phased Siri Tanjung Pinang waterfront community development on the northeast coast.

The entrance channel and basin are 3 metres deep at low tide. Inside the rectangular basin are 40 full-facility wet berths for vessels up to 25 metres. Advance booking a berth is mandatory.

The marina management office is located at the Boaters' Centre on the ground floor. VHF Ch.71. +60 48906521.

D BATU FERRINGHI AND TELUK BAHANG 395 miles from Singapore


Anchoring is possible anywhere in 5-8 metres off the beaches from Batu Ferringhi to Teluk Bahang when conditions permit. We recommend just south of the Park Royal for easy enjoyment of all the independent restaurants and facilities ashore. It's not suitable anytime in the northeast monsoon.


BACK OF MONKEY BEACH. 5°27.895N, 100°10.797E

In a northeast monsoon, shelter can be found on the southwest side of Monkey Beach headland. Anchor in 5 metres on a sandy bottom. Ideal spot to overnight if you'd rather not check into Penang on your way north.

Straits Quay Marina - Photo by Bill O’Leary
Straits Quay Marina - Photo by Bill O’Leary

While every effort has been made to ensure that the information contained in this book is accurate, the charts of anchorages are based on personal experience and satellite imagery and are intended as a guide only. They should not be used for navigation. Please refer to Official Hydrographic Charts of the respective countries.

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