Malacca had a nautical museum featuring a replica of Albuquerque’s flagship Flor de la Mar, which sank with a fabulous treasure. Father Pintado, the Portuguese priest, was a keen supporter of the museum. He and his sister had been in Malacca since 1948 and had accumulated many antique books; original sources in old Portuguese that were unfortunately inaccessible to me. He translated some of the choice bits for me. He seemed a peaceful man rather than happy, with a gap in his top row of teeth and an impish squint when he laughed. Although he belonged to the Society of St Peter he was fascinated with St Francis Xavier, who was buried in Malacca for 9 months before being shipped to Goa, in India. It still lies in state and is placed on view every 10 years. He and his sister waved goodbye from the jetty when we set off on the next leg through the Malacca Strait.
Strong tides, foul winds and frequent squalls made the going fairly tough but snug anchorages compensated somewhat. Pangkor was a pretty place marred only by over-friendly fishermen and holidaying Chinese singing Karaoke on the beach at night, pounding out old chestnuts like ‘I’ve got a loverly bunch of coconuts’ in nasal, high-pitched accents. The fishermen redeemed themselves by trading a bucket of crabs for two glasses.
As in other parts of the region, Portuguese colonisers were succeeded by the Dutch and then the English, with the British East India Company setting up a trading post on Penang Island in the 18th century. Independence came after a turbulent period of insurrection and war but the British colonial influence was still evident in a number of yacht clubs along the Malacca Strait. Club- houses resembled English pubs, with silver sporting trophies in glass cabinets and international yacht club pennants pinned up on the walls. Robin and I felt quite at home in these places. We left behind a pennant of our own.