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Monday, December 31, 2012

December 21 – 31, 2012 – Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Phuket, Thailand

As promised by our friends Jo and Lex (from Darwin), the staff at Yacht Haven Marina are incredibly helpful, professional and efficient. Although this marina is at the far north end of Phuket and quite a way from most everything else, the berthing prices are great and so are the yacht services. I cannot say enough good things about the entire staff. The tides are big here and so are the currents, but an entire crew arrived to ease Destiny into a very tight berth - much like sliding a letter into an envelope. I just got the heck out of the way, while Frank manned the helm, although they literally worked us like a good cuttin’ horse works a calf, and eased us right in not needing any assist from us. They took the anxiety right out of berthing here.

We immediately set off to arrange for repairs and basically spent the next three months dealing with:
  • Sail repairs – all of the sails needed attention so we loaded them up for the long, long drive down to Rolly Tasker Sails (Wow! What a place!), for re-stitching and repair.
  •  Watermaker – had the experts come and go, come and go, until it finally returned to it’s former self.
  •  Generator – another painful, arduous process of experts coming and going until it has been practically rebuilt.
  • Dodger/Bimini – totally redesigned and replaced (with “Captain Navy”)
  • Canvas awning (the BIG ticket item) built to cover the entire boat.
  • Settee and cockpit cushions replaced
  • Anchor windlass removed and rebuilt
  • Woodwork – removed, stripped and re-varnished in heads and cockpit.
And the beat goes on as they say…Frank and I doing our part with other tasks that were within our pay grade. And then the budget required a rest.

In between all of the above, we stayed in touch with the family back home who were trying to do their best to see that my Mom and Dad were well taken care of, while continuing to assure me we did not need to make a trip back. This was a relief and a real cause of anxiety for me, mainly because we could not leave Thailand right now. I’m sure with all the dissension between my siblings over what was best for my folks, they were somewhat thankful not to add me and my opinions to the equation. Perhaps that is why I was so in the dark over what was going on “back there”. What upset me the most was that my Mom was back and forth between a nursing facility and the hospital for over 2 months – a story I will not go into. She and my father were not together during Christmas for the first time in over 60 years, and I could not seem to be able to reach either of them on the phone.

Thank goodness for cruising friends. A group of fellow “yachties”; Scallywag, Lady Kay, Storyteller & Seabird encouraged us to join them for Christmas brunch at one of Phuket’s top resorts, The Indigo Pearl. We hadn’t even decorated or felt the Christmas Spirit at all around here. Frank and I needed a break so we booked a room for 2 nights at the resort over Christmas. We arrived on the 23rd and while we were being escorted to our room the young lady offered her apologies to us, explaining that the hotel was overbooked and our room was not available. She then pulled out a remote control device, pointing it at a large double door that opened up to a compound with two large buildings, several lounge-covered lanais and a nice sized swimming pool. We stood gape-mouthed and were about to comment that we had booked a room with a private dipping pool (thinking we were going to have to share this big one), when she told us we were upgraded to the Private Villa. This entire complex was ours!!! Wow, what a nice Christmas present. We immediately phoned our other friends, telling them to be sure to bring their swimsuits with them to brunch the following day, but not why. Christmas brunch was unlike anything we have ever experienced. Everything was top shelf. The food was exquisitely prepared, and we rolled out of there three hours later feeling like we might need to call 911 for a stretcher! Thankfully we only had to stumble about 100 yards to our Villa, where Frank first impressed everyone by pointing his remote at the large inward swinging doors. Needless to say we all had an absolute blast using every amenity in the villa – the pool, the Jacuzzi, the dry sauna the steam sauna. The bar and kitchen got a fair work-over too. It was nice to forget stress, health, finances and problems for a while and just play
Just inside the front gate to our villa
The pool area

Jackie and Glor enjoying our bed

view of the property from one of the sun decks

The spa/lounge/kitchen building

The week between Christmas and NYE was just a flurry of – as they say here: Same Same! Work, phone calls, driving forever to get anywhere, and driving to 5 places hoping to find the one item we need. We prayed the “canvas guy” would get a move on and nagged him half to death because we were sitting here with no cover at all in the stifling heat. This parley continued for two more months. So many yachts are log-jammed here that the vendors are overwhelmed with work. Thank goodness for the most part they do really good work!

We joined our same group of Christmas friends for NYE, at a large party on Nai Yang Beach. Other than spending NYE at Sydney Harbour, I must say this was right up at the top of best New Year’s Eve’s I’ve ever attended. The fresh seafood was out of this world – we literally feasted, and then sat with our toes in the soft sand watching fireworks up and down the bay. It was a stunning sight! Afterward we lit sky lanterns and sent up our sorrows and pain (and bad spirits) from 2012 into the stratosphere. It was so beautiful and such a lovely end to an amazing year.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

December 15 – 20, 2012; Island Hopping Malaysia to Phuket

We didn’t venture far from Rebak the first night because we waited for the outgoing tide to leave the marina in the afternoon, then followed s/v Scallywag over to Telaga, which was once upon a time a lovely port and marina. These days it looks sorely worn and unkempt, which seems to be a recurring theme in Malaysia. At the anchorage we ran into an old friend whom we had not laid eyes on in over two years: a British cruiser, Stewart of s/v Nomad. We invited him over for a few beers and enjoyed playing catch-up with him. We had first met Stewart in Tahiti/French Polynesia in 2008.

Afterward we met Paul and Glor over at the marina for a “dine around”. Telaga marina is shaped like a bowl and is encircled by bars and restaurants. We started at one end with drinks and eats and then worked our way around, stopping at each venue for a drink and small dish to share – our version of a progressive dinner. The food choices were great: Japanese, Thai, Tapas, Italian, “pub food”, and Indian. By the time we ended up at the Indian restaurant the boys were feeling no pain!

At 8:30 the next morning we finally departed Malaysia, making it across the Thai border to Koh Adang (koh in Thai translates to “island”). We didn’t venture to shore, as it was just a night stop for us.

Next stop on our little journey was a small island called Koh Rok. It’s part of a marine reserve and has moorings available. We snagged one and then went to shore for a swim and a walk along the beach. There were a lot of tourists here who had arrived en masse in large powerboats and in “longtails”. The beach was gorgeous and the water was so clear! What a relief to be able to swim in clean bays after the murky, fishing net laden waters of Malaysia.

The next morning, we traveled the short distance to Koh Muk where there is a famous “Hong” called the Emerald Cave. “Hong” in Thai translates to “room”. These hongs are actually more like a hole in a donut if viewed from above, and are accessed by entering in through a cave on the face of an island. You then meander through the cave (usually in a kayak), until it literally opens up to a beautiful sandy beach - right inside of the island. They are simply amazing sights! The Emerald Cave can be accessed by swimming in, but we used Paul and Glor’s two-person kayak to navigate the cave. I was a bit uneasy when we first entered because the cave ceiling is very low and the walls felt as though they were closing in on us. It is pitch black in there. Our flashlight only illuminated about a 10-foot diameter in front of us. At one point we took a wrong turn and hit a dead end. Trying to turn the kayak around in this small space was impossible, so we had to back out about 50 feet. It reminded me of the ride at Six Flags where you go into a dark cave and boogey men jump out scaring the bejeesus out of you! Fortunately there were no boogey men, no bats or scary creatures. But the strange sounds and echoes of our paddles moving through the water along with the ocean pulsing in and out of the cave felt a bit otherworldly. Once we emerged from the cave we met the most beautiful crystal clear bay with water gently lapping onto a white sand beach, surrounded by palm trees; just as promised. It would be a wonderful secret getaway were it not for the hundreds of tourists who pour into here, day in and day out.

After our cave adventure, we returned to our respective yachts, which were anchored in a bay around a headland, a couple hundred yards away that was surrounded on two sides by towering limestone walls. In front of us was a very small but pretty beach. We decided to jump in and swim to shore for a look around. The obnoxiously loud and over-packed tourists boats had finally left the area leaving us some peace and quiet. We were standing around in the water just chatting when I began to feel little pinpricks on my body. At first I ignored it thinking it was just the salt in the water irritating my skin, but soon Paul yelped that something was stinging him. Glor and Frank finally began to feel the stings just as Glor said, “Oh! It’s sea lice biting us!” We all jerked and swam so quickly back toward our boats you’d think we were competing for Olympic medals! From now on I’m donning my dive skin when I jump in. Ugh – I’m creeped out just re-living it.

I was getting real uneasy because we had been completely incommunicado for days now. We didn’t have Thai SIM cards for our cell phones or Frank’s iPad. There was no wifi around. Our Sat Phone was out of minutes and our SSB antenna didn’t get reconnected when the riggers put Destiny back in the water, so we didn’t have access to internet, Sailmail or phone service. Last time we were completely out of touch something dreadful had happened back home and no one could reach us. I told Frank I had a bad feeling about this. Of course he said I worry too much (true) and everything was probably fine.

Wednesday, December 19th, we arrived at Phi Phi Don, pronounced pee pee don. It is a thriving tourist island that was all but wiped out in the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami, but I’m here to tell you it is fully recovered and is teeming with young bodies, loud music and a rhythm all it’s own. Frank and I looked at each other and said. “Wow if only I were 30/40 years younger…” We had lunch at a beach bar and then wandered around a bit. Eventually we spotted a 7 Eleven where we were able to get a phone SIM and picked up wifi at a local bar. As soon as I booted up my computer, the first email I saw was from my brother telling me my mom had suffered a stroke. I was beside myself with anguish.

The email said Mom was taken to a hospital in Houston, my sister was on her way there from Dallas and Mom had been stabilized, whatever that meant at the time. I could not reach anyone back home and was not anywhere in a position that I could even consider getting a flight home. We weren’t even legally checked into Thailand yet. I cannot begin to express my emotional pain, guilt, frustration and grief at this moment in time. The rest of the next couple of days was a blur. I used my entire bank of phone minutes trying to call someone, anyone back home. I connected with my sister very briefly to find that she was with my parents and that everything was being handled, Mom was stable and resting, tests were being run, and that there was no need for me to rush home. Then we were out of touch again until we finally arrived at Yacht Haven Marina, Phuket on the afternoon of December 20th.

Friday, December 21, 2012

December 1 - 15, 2012 – Settling in at Rebak Marina (just off Langkawi, Malaysia)

Rebak Marina is part of a resort that, as far as we know, owns the small island of Rebak; there is nothing else here. Guests of the marina enjoy all of the amenities of the resort, (pool, bar, beach, spa) but only to the extent that we do not overtake the resort guests’ space, which I admit, we tend to do (but only sometimes). The marina is a great place with a wonderful little café/pub appropriately named “The Hard Dock Café”, located adjacent to the hardstand. Several of our friends are here from last year and years past that had arrived and are either biding their time to carry on when it is safer to do so or who have enjoyed the inexpensive, and cozy lifestyle available here. It is a great place to get yacht work done for a tremendous cost savings compared to Australia and New Zealand, USA. We quickly arranged to haul Destiny out to have her bottom inspected for damage from our horrific reef hit back in Indonesia.

Meanwhile we got busy getting to know who is here, what is there to do: where to shop, eat, swim, drink, frolic and get provisions. It was like a great homecoming running into folks from this past year’s rally that had scattered along the way. Even better was running into Dick and Lynn from “Wind Pony”, Rick and Robin from “Endangered Species”, and a slew of others. We realized that, although there is a small convenience store onsite, shopping is done on the larger island of Langkawi.  Getting there requires some effort and patience though: a 20 minute ride on the water shuttle from the marina to the ferry dock near the Langkawi airport, then you either hire a motorcycle, a rental car or a taxi to get into Kuah town which is a good 40 minute drive. The rental cars available are as close to a joke as possible; but whatever works! They do come cheaply – for instance $15/day, but boy are they heaps of junk! One day, when I got in and reached to pull the door closed the entire inside panel of the door came off! Windows didn’t roll down or up in some, they shook and rattled and the seats were worn down to the frames and dirty, but as I said – whatever works!
At first we were fine with this adventure it took to get into town, but after a while it got to be a real pain when we forgot something on the shopping list and had to make a return trip. After all the shuttles run on a schedule that was not convenient to a quick trip into Langkawi. Inevitably this did happen several times. Had we not needed to be in the marina for repair needs we would have anchored at the town of Kuah.

It is beyond hot here. We are in a bowl – very protected from the roll and swell but also protected from any hope of a breeze. Being surrounded by hills internet and phone reception are severely restricted. Frustrating. We spent most of our time at the pool just to get some relief. Because our air-conditioning will not operate on shore power here we picked up a window unit in Kuah town. It now proudly sits atop the boat, jerry-rigged to flow into one of the top hatches in our salon. We absolutely could not live without it.  We have been told that we look like the “White Trash of the ‘hood”! Ask us if we care. This is living the dream.

Our haul out date arrived after being postponed a day. The plan is to get cleaned, checked and waxed. The guys here at the boat yard make hauling out a cakewalk. They actually have fun doing it! A diver goes into the water to assure that the straps are properly situated. We were so impressed with these guys!
Thankfully our hull looked pretty darn good. The front and bottom of Destiny’s keel had taken the brunt of the hit and was missing chunks of gelcoat, but for the most part we are once again reassured that Island Packet builds one heck of a solid yacht. Destiny is as sturdy as a tank – not that we want to do any more reef-climbing any time soon, but we know she can take it. Frank ordered some temporary patchwork done to scrape, clean and seal up the damaged portions until we can do a proper bottom job later this year. Our original hardstand time was to be two days that stretched into three, so we booked a room at the resort. It is a very nice room! They upgraded us to a big room with a massive bathroom and hot tub, and gave us a large discount for being patrons of the marina. We spent these three days acting like we were on a resort vacation – big buffet breakfast each day, time at the spa, pool and lots of time lazing around in the nice cool room in front of the television. Ha, ha, who would have thought a vacation to us is world news on TV, HBO and an air-conditioner? Frank checked the progress on Destiny each day, but otherwise we took it easy.

After Destiny splashed we made several trips to town for more bits and pieces. Langkawi is a duty-free island. If you want liquor this is the place to stock up. It is a very strangely disorganized town that is full of outlet stores. Corning Ware outlet shops are on nearly every corner. There were a lot of Duty-Free shops as well but as far as we could tell the prices were still quite high for everything but liquor. We did buy chocolates because we found the good Aussie and NZ stuff. The American and European chocolates were really pricey. I can’t speak about perfumes, jewelry or makeup. I’m sure if we had the time and patience to shop around we would have found some bargains but by the time we hit the essentials we were so hot and sweaty all we could think about was getting back home. One day it got so hot we had taken the floor mats out of the car to cover the windows while we were in town. When we returned to the car the mats had MELTED onto the back window! So being a Texas gal, when I say hot, I mean HOT! Paul and Glor (s/v Scallywag) had gotten us into the habit of driving to the ferry terminal for Starbucks frozen frappuccinos, followed by lunch at our new favorite Indian food restaurant.  Then our friends on Imagine turned us onto a place called “Dominos” that serves not pizza but great western-style hamburgers. Turns out it was right next-door to the Indian restaurant. I know it is a bit sad, but this is how we spent most of our time. So to sum up our two weeks in Rebak/Langkawi: Hard Dock Café; sweating; hull cleaning/repairing/polishing; sweating; hitting the pool; junk rental cars; sweating; running around endlessly looking for parts while sweating; seeing old friends come and go; Starbucks; eating and sweating…Oh, and a time or two in town meeting Ute and Hans for sundowners.

Before we knew it, it was time to get going. We had plans for Christmas in Phuket so the last few days there we went to see the movie “The Life of Pi”, checked out the country and made plans to leave Rebak on December 15th, 2012.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

November 29 & 30, 2012 Leaving Penang and Encountering a New Twist

Goodbye lovely Straits Quay Marina. I shot over to TESCO for last minute fresh food shopping before we met Ally and Wayne for a farewell breakfast. We left the dock at close to mid-day when the tide was up, giving us better depth to clear the shoals and mud. Our journey was fairly uneventful other than navigating the typical drifting and speeding boat traffic. We arrived at a lovely little island called Songsong by early evening and were greeted by fishermen and goats on the beach. What an interesting combination for a welcome party! Even more intriguing was the fact that these fishermen were fly-fishing and using casting nets and waders, so unlike the typical Malay style. The goats were frolicking and bleating amongst the coconut palms on the sandy shore, while fish jumped all around us in the water.  The little bay was very calm giving us a pleasant rest for most of the night until the big bad storm hit, streaking the sky with lightening and sending tympanic booms through the atmosphere interrupting a really nice dream I was enjoying. We could hear the distressful chatter of a group of yachts anchored several miles away giving us the impression that someone or several of them must be dragging and having a rough time with the storm. We were very happy to be away from the crowd. Friday morning we awoke at 5:30, exhausted from interrupted slumber, and although it was very dark out we had to get going in order to arrive at the Rebak Marina in Langkawi before 3 PM. We felt pretty good about traveling with minimal light thinking that there won't be fishing nets about because we don't see the fishing boats around.  By 7 AM we were proved very wrong! Although we see no nets, Frank spotted yet another bizarre site: dozens of sticks or poles set in disarrayed groups all about us literally sticking up in every direction out of the water. What is this? We assume they have to do with the fishermen and are perhaps supporting some type of net. There is no rhyme or reason to the nests of sticks. No structure and no markings in the way of flags, bright colors or lights give hints either. Obstructions, in the manner of an obstacle course, are what we see although we suppose what THEY see is a means to make a living. Of course it could be that the groupings of sticks are marking dangerous uncharted underwater obstacles. Hmm. Something to ponder as we keep a sharp eye out for them and journey onward also dodging fishing trawlers and tugs pulling barges. Ahh, the joys of cruising Asia.

Approaching the island of Rebak, Frank asked me to go to the bow and watch for the entrance. There was no entrance that I could see, only an island filled with trees that rose upward. As we neared the waypoints for approach to the inlet it felt as though we were in a fantasy movie and at any moment all I had to do was to wave my magic boat hook and proclaim, "Abra Kadabra!" so that the island would open up to reveal her hidden marina within. As I was stretching and peering, however, a green channel marker appeared and then the slight outline of a rock jetty came into view. Within a few dozen more feet a narrow entrance revealed itself and we lined the boat up to delicately thread the needle through the middle of the small man-made channel. After a short "S" curve the narrow channel opened up to reveal a large beautiful marina. The first yacht we saw was "Scallywag", moored to the end of A-Dock. Big smiles played across our faces and we danced a little jig as we headed toward our berth that would be home for the next two weeks. We have now sailed all the way to the top of Malaysia.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Nov 22 – 29, 2012 Penang – Our Favorite Town in Malaysia (so Far)…

Happy Thanksgiving, America! We arrived in the beautiful Straits Quay Marina at mid-day.  It is only 18 months old and still growing. This place has got the makings of a perfect marina. It is beautiful, quiet, peaceful, surrounded by a mid upper-class condominium complex with the first two floors being a shopping mall full of wonderful restaurants, clothing stores, and a multitude of sundries. There is a large TESCO (similar to a super Wal-Mart) one block away, and a Cold Storage (a high-end grocery store that stocks a number of "Western" products) within a kilometer the other direction.  We have very nice laundry and ablution facilities, a cruisers lounge and access to a beautiful swimming pool. The bus stop is very close and for 30 RM we can ride all day every day for a week (that's about $10 USD). A cab ride into the heart of town runs between 25 – 40 RM if we prefer not to ride the bus. We could seriously stay here forever.

There are only two yachts in here that we know: Blue Heeler (Aussies) and Kilkea II (Canadian/Irish) We met them for happy hour at the Irish Pub and then afterward Frank and I dined at The Cheeky Duck, having Peking Duck for Thanksgiving. It was perfect!

Early Friday, we boarded the bus with Ally and Wayne from BH, for a trip to the Thai consulate to get our Thai visas, (our next cruising destination). The bus dropped us right in front of a Baskin Robbins ice cream shop so naturally we just had to stop for an ice cream on our way to the consulate. Application for the visas was a breeze. We were told to return at 3:30 PM to pick up our visas. So we trotted off to Pen Men Marine, the local chandlery. It turned out to be a very big disappointment – so small you had to go outside to change your mind! And the prices were as high as Whitworth's in Australia. As our Aussie friends say, "Bugger that!" Next stop was a nearby shopping mall where we met Ute and Hans (Taimada) for lunch. They were anchored nearby. We then returned to the consulate, picked up our visas and returned to the marina.

Every day here was something different because there is so much to see and to do in Penang. One day Frank and I embarked on a guided bicycle tour of the old town – Georgetown – into the Clan Jetty where we learned the history of the inception and development of the Chinese Clans in Penang and walked onto an actual Clan Jetty where the Chew Clan still thrives. Its construction is a marvel in itself. This part of the waterfront is completely owned by the various clans. We next toured the Clan Temples and museums. The Chinese influence is very strong here and still prevailing today. We saw many of the street murals and sculptures that make Penang famous, went on a culinary journey as well into Little India and China town, all part of the tour. We spied secret tunnels and went into Muslim and Hindu neighborhoods to gaze upon their most famous worship icons. It was truly a fascinating and memorable tour. We would recommend this to anyone visiting historic Penang.

We enjoyed the company of Ally and Wayne as we embarked on several escapades together, going up the Penang Hill Funicular for incredible views of the island, then over to the
Kek Lok Si Temple - the largest (and probably most beautiful) Buddhist temple in Asia, and then rode trishaws to dinner at "Kapitan" which is a fabulous Indian restaurant where we'd had breakfast during our bike tour.

The Gurney Street Mall is the largest and nicest in Penang where we caught the new James Bond movie, "Skyfall", for 14 RM per person (just under $5), including popcorn and soda. Penang offers free wifi, everywhere.
It is simply an amazing city, melding ancient with modern cultures, architecture and entertainment. There is one major concern to be aware of here, however, and that is the existence of "pick-pockets" on the buses and in the crowded areas. Of course this is no different from many major tourist areas, yet it is certainly something to be aware of. One of our friends was relieved of her wallet on the bus one day. It was taken right out of her backpack and as soon as she realized it the thief had hopped off the bus and was long gone before she could do a thing about it.

We fully intend to return here though to spend quite a bit more time in this lovely marina and on this fascinating island. But our schedule beckons us to move on now. We have a prepaid booking at Rebak Marina just off Langkawi for Dec. 1st.

Friday, December 7, 2012

November 20 – 22 – Sailing to Penang - Lamb Overboard! Getting Offered a Tow and a Good Night’s Rest

We decided to make a two-nighter of the trip to Penang, traveling only about 20 NM the first day.


The waters here are literally teeming with row upon row of 100's of zigging and zagging fishing vessels moving as though they are following swim lanes. It is an incredible sight. We thought Indonesia was rife with them, but this beats anything we have ever seen. Again we ask ourselves, "how can there be any fish left?"

Arriving at our stop for the night, just off the small island of Tabung, we noted only one other yacht at anchor, Blue Heeler. Deciding to give them plenty of room we dropped the hook a few 100 yards away, but by late afternoon the current had turned us pushing us out into a busy zone of fishing boat traffic. The swell was causing us to roll at a particularly uncomfortable angle to the wind and current, quite typical of Malaysian waters. Fishing boats were zooming past our bow and Frank commented that if he didn't know better he would have thought they were playing Chicken with Destiny. We had just put a beautiful lamb rack on the grill, but decided before dark settled in we had better move farther in toward shore where perhaps the roll and the traffic would be less bothersome. Frank left the meat on the grill but turned it off while we maneuvered into place. Destiny pitched and heaved, but the meat survived the move. I returned below to finish the rest of dinner, when after several minutes I heard a string of expletives from the stern deck. Frank appeared in the companionway looking forlorn and sadly announced, "We won't be having lamb rack for dinner!" It had decided to take a leap into the water as he was removing it from the grill. There would be some very well fed fish this night. We dined on fresh mixed veggies and a side dish of instant pasta. The anchorage became intensely uncomfortable as the night wore on and we celebrated surviving the night on minimal rest by weighing anchor at first light.

A long day of travel faced us in order to arrive at the next anchorage outside the famous Penang Bridge by nightfall. We were moving along nicely, dodging shallows, tugs pulling barges and even more fishing boats pulling their long nets when I announced to Frank that the engine sounded funny. We played the age old game of his coming downstairs to hear nothing unusual while I insisted that it was making odd noises and seemingly mis-firing for about an hour when he finally witnessed a loud sputter and belch coming from the engine compartment. Meanwhile a storm was fast approaching throwing lightening all about. We really did not need this right now (do you ever?), but he reluctantly turned off the engine to check the filter. Replaced the filter. Instructed me to turn on the engine. It started, shuddered and then died. I issued forth a series of prayers. He tinkered. I started the engine. It shuddered and died. I kept praying as we kept drifting. I turned the wheel this way and that, hoping the 6 knots of wind would give us a little assist. We repeated this process for well over an hour. Meanwhile, Blue Heeler hailed us on the VHF asking if we were all right and offering a tow if we found ourselves in need. They slowed down to shadow us just in case. I thanked them and then turned to Frank exclaiming, "Do they realize what they just offered? I wonder if they know how heavy this old girl is. I bet they are praying we do not take them up on their offer". Frank laughed and said, "I bet they are wishing they could eat their words but I know I can get this figured out, and I appreciate their being near by". Eventually, he asked me to come down and flip a switch while he did something in the other part of the engine compartment. When we did this I cried out "There is some kind of liquid shooting all over the place in here in a jet stream!" It was fuel, and it was coming from the filter, shooting across and then pooling down into the engine room. Bummer, bummer, bummer! Frank feared the worst and I continued to issue forth a series of prayers since I am no help whatsoever in the mechanical arena. Eventually, out of nowhere a thought came to mind and I asked him, "Could it be a missing gasket?" Where did that come from? No idea, but sure enough the gasket had come off. Frank smiled, stuck the gasket on, we cranked the engine and she purred like a kitten. We hailed Blue Heeler with the good news and were off once again, making the anchorage at Rimau Island with plenty of daylight left. For the first time in absolute ages, we enjoyed a blissful and gentle night on the hook. We slept like the dead that night, awaking rested and happy. Next stop: Straits Quay Marina, Penang.

Monday, December 3, 2012

November 19, 2012 – Our Version of Pangkor, More Dreadful News and Another Wet Moped Ride

I say "our version", because we did not actually venture to Pangkor, rather we remained at the anchorage between the islands of Pulau Pangkor and Pangkor Laut where a few small tired-looking resorts, restaurants and shops are located. The marina is on the other side of this island on the mainland.  There is a bit of a swell in this anchorage but not uncomfortable enough to send us scurrying elsewhere.

Last night we enjoyed Happy Hour aboard Bicho, and the snacks were enough to suffice for dinner.

Today we casually went ashore, joining Bicho and Imagine for what we thought would be a day of discovery and adventure aboard mopeds. An Italian couple, Vivian and Giorgio from s/v Tamata had just gone to shore and offered to help us pull our ridiculously heavy dinghy up onto the beach and then joined us all for lunch. During lunch we were told that one of the rally yachts anchored in the Lumut River, just outside the Pangkor Marina, was hit by a barge at 5 AM this morning! I have not spoken to the owners of that yacht, but what we heard is that the tug pulling the barge either did not see the anchored yacht or that the river's current caused the barge to hit the bow of the yacht. Word is that the tug said he did not see the yacht because it was not well enough lit. As a result of this shocking tale, many of us have run out and gotten flashing lights to mount all about our yachts while at anchor. Further rumor indicates that the offending boat is going to pay the 6,000 Euros worth of repairs to the yacht.

After lunch the skies looked ominous to me and I mentioned to anyone who would listen that I didn't fancy another treacherous moped ride in a monsoon. No one else seemed bothered or perhaps they tire of listening to me whinge, as the men carried on negotiating a good price for the sad looking mopeds parked along the street. Alas they decided on a vendor, paid the funny little man with no voice and then each took a quick spin to make sure they had selected a bike that would at least stay together long enough to get us around the island. Typically, none of the bikes had any fuel in the tanks, so the first order of business would be to get to a petrol station right away. As Frank and I were getting onto our bike, the little man began waving furiously, motioning for us to switch to another bike, communicating with a series of tongue clicks. I kid you not he has no voice but how he figures we understand his clicks was beyond us. We have no idea why he had this sudden change of heart but followed his hand waving gestures and moved our gear over. The bike he had selected was a rust bucket, and the seat looked as though something had taken offense to it and had brutally punished it leaving very little cushion and a lot of gnarled vinyl cover.  As this was happening, the other three couple shot off down the road and out of our sight. Immediately an argument ensued between the two of us as Frank chose to turn left at the corner and I had pointed for us to continue straight ahead. We didn't bother pulling out the cell phone to call the others to ASK where they were. That would be much too simple – right?

After several kilometers we realized three very important things:  The others must have gone straight, we were definitely going to get wet, and there were no petrol stations around this part of the island. The rain came with a vengeance and the serpentine roads became very slick, winding upward into the forested hills. Poor Frank had no choice but to hear me groan and gripe about not having found the petrol station and about the possibility of running out of fuel in the middle of a tropical rainforest. Neither of us was having a lot of fun. We never did find the others. Although I was carrying my mobile phone there was absolutely no place for us to pull over in this driving rain and furthermore there was absolutely no shelter to be found. By the time we did find a small gas station we realized the fuel gauge was inoperable. This was actually a blessing because had the tank been as empty as we had feared then we would never have make it to the other side of the island where the fuel station was located. We put a couple of liters in and then set off to find our way back. Eventually the road entered a trash dump that was about as disgusting as an open septic tank! Then the road ended abruptly. HMMM. OK, we turn around here. We knew that somewhere there was a road that cut across the island and if we could find that road it would take us back to the anchorage. By now we were soaked to the bone and although we had finally located the main town we were done in. The others were long gone. WE slogged our way back to the moped rental, dropped of the bike and went in search of an ice cream. When the rain abated we made a mad dash for the dinghy, returning to Destiny before the next wave of storms hit. More lightening and frightful thunder filled the troposphere, sending shudders through us testing our nerves, but the storm passed during the night and we awoke to a beautiful calm morning. At 10:00 we weighed anchor, heading for Penang. This is where we split from the rally.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

November 16 - 18, 2012 Sailing from Port Dickson to Pangkor - Swelly, Smelly, Stormy, Strange and Just a Bit Scary

We knew that we would have a 2-knot current on the nose leaving Port Dickson, but that by 9 AM it should turn in our favor. Based on this information we decided to leave well after 8:00 AM.  No matter how well we tried to time it that countercurrent pushed against us until nearly 11:00 AM, but then by noon it had diminished bit by bit until we picked up the flow and rode with it. It is now 2 PM and we are flying at 10+ knots (SOG). We have not only picked up a 2.5-knot positive current, we also have a lovely 12 knots of wind abeam giving us a lift. We are inching closer into the shipping lanes as we near Port Klang, rather the shipping lanes are inching nearer to land and we are speeding over fishing nets with fingers crossed and prayers flowing upward that we do not get tangled. We've now moved our waypoint forward some 30 more miles because at this rate it would be a crying shame to stop. We hope to make that anchorage by dark.

The waters are becoming dirtier and dirtier resembling the color of café au lait. The entire front of Destiny's bow is slightly discolored from the waterways here. Several friends who have previously navigated these waters have told us that the shipyards in Langkawi and Phuket love to see yachts coming in from the Malacca Straits because they all need hull cleaning work! The water is also littered with trash and floating debris that has either fallen off ships and barges or has just been washed away from who-knows-where/what. This is not only hazardous sailing but nauseatingly odoriferous.

Right now we have entered the vein-like canals that meander through the islands outside of Port Klang. They are absolutely strewn with communities of floating fish farms. The stench is unbelievable. The waters are milkier and milkier and as we make our way along, we are passing dozens of boats playing out fishing buoys and nets. How can they tolerate this dead carcass stench? Obviously that is a rhetorical question, nonetheless, one that I continue to ask myself because right now I could just gag and am looking forward to getting through this area as quickly as possible. Fortunately, we still have a positive current of over 1 knot and should reach the anchorage within the hour. It has been a very interesting little journey to be sure.

Nearing the anchorage several other yachts emerged from another route through the rivers around Port Klang, racing us for the best spot to drop the hook. Isn't it funny how people not only do this in parking lots like Wal-Mart, but also in wide open waters? We backed off to let them rush on ahead – no point in crowding in - there is plenty of room but you can't tell them that. We spent an OK night until the swell moved in, which has become the norm here in Malaysia along with the terrifying evening rainstorms. When the nightly storm hit it sounded like a hurricane! No one warned us about these things when they sailed Malaysia in years past. I guess they didn't want to spoil our fun. It was not a pleasant night, although we did enjoy a beautiful sunset (the bonus) and snapped a photo of it with Bicho in the foreground.

We had one more night and two days sail to Pangkor. Taimada is a day ahead of us, sending waypoints for us to anchor along the way that they have found to be decent. It seems they are getting better weather than the rest of us. We hope conditions at the next anchorage are better than last night's. We enjoyed a cleaner journey on Saturday, arriving at the appointed stop knowing it was a bit odd from what Taimada had described to us. The actual "anchorage" was 200 meters away from a large house (hotel?) that had been built smack dab in the middle of the bay on massive pylons. 

How extraordinary. Land was miles away and in addition to the house, several lone pylons were scattered about in the water causing us no small amount of concern. We used up all of our guesses trying to figure out what this had been or is becoming. The depths were only 11 – 20 feet, and although it seems safe enough we soon discovered it is a thoroughfare for local fishing boats who buzzed us continuously coming and going making it very rocky. Not long after getting hooked we took a short rest before dinner – big mistake - I should have prepared dinner straight away because within the hour a hellish swell began and worsened as the night wore on. Dinner turned out to be cheese and crackers and as we braced ourselves to dine on this gourmet fare, a nasty storm hit us with the full force of Neptune's fury, churning up the shallow waters even more violently. We hardly slept from the thunderous cracks above and the slamming of waves against our hull. Daylight couldn't come early enough and as soon as it did we were out of there. The seas were calmer underway than they had been in the anchorage.

The sail to Pangkor was not bad, as we picked up a nice flowing current that took us nearly all the way to the little island called Pulau Pangkor, a pleasant spot outside of some resorts where at least a dozen of the Racing yachts were bobbing about restfully. Although we had an opportunity to go into shore for dinner, all we wanted to do was to sit peacefully on board and get a much needed rest.

Monday, November 19, 2012

November 14 &15, 2012 – What do Mexican Train, My Daughter’s 30th Birthday, Batu Caves, Rubber Trees and Qwirkle Have in Common?

Absolutely nothing other than these were part of our itinerary until we left Port Dickson and "firsts" in one way or another. November 13th, my daughter Jennifer turned 30 years old. We sent her wishes twice since we celebrate the 13th one day ahead of America. She is a beautiful and amazing young lady & I'm just so proud of her and everything she has accomplished in her life.

That night we joined Isabel and Bob (Bicho Vermelho) aboard Taimada for a post dinner game of Mexican Train with Ute and Hans.  It was the first time any of them had played and was a great evening.

Very early Wednesday morning we boarded buses once again, this time the destination was Kuala Lumpur – KL. Frank wasn't keen on taking a one day tour there because we had already spent 4 days in KL a few years ago, but I wanted to go in the event we saw something new that we had missed before, and this was cheap, cheap, cheap – only 120 RM for us both ($40). This tour did in fact include sites we had not made on our previous trip.

The first stop was the former site of a massive rubber tree plantation. Sadly, all that is left are a few trees left standing on the side of the highway. The rest has been built over and turned into condominium complexes, office buildings and other symptoms of progress.  The buses pulled over to the side of the highway, we tumbled out and gathered around one of the rubber trees. Our guide explained the process of extracting the sap which, remarkably turns to white rubber when exposed. We could see trails of white that had seeped out of the tree and many, many scars from previous tapping. I pulled on a piece of sap and watched it stretch all the way out to three feet away without breaking. How simply marvelous! It was crawling with large ants and immediately we all thought of and began humming the song about the ant moving the rubber tree plant.

Our next stop was the famous and mysterious Batu Caves. 
Originally inhabited by indigenous Orang Asli people then later "discovered" by an American Naturalist in 1878 they are now a Hindu temple and shrine guarded by a massive statue of the deity Murugan, and now accessed by climbing 272 steep steps to the main Temple Cave. We noticed locals leaving their shoes at the base then entering barefoot. It is a magnificent natural wonder. Now the caves are inhabited by hundreds of scurrying and thieving little fang-toothed monkeys.
We were told to hang tight to anything we valued because they will swoop down and snatch your belongings before you know what hit you. Ascending the steps we dodged pelting droplets of water streaming down from the top some 100 meters above and sidestepped the large puddles they formed. The steps were very slick with streaming water and yet this did nothing to distract us from the magnificence of the caves. 
We entered trying to be respectful of the Hindu worshippers at the various small shrines and temples set all about among the alcoves and even in the main cavern, wherein microphoned priests attend to the faithful. We are after all intruding on their sacred place of worship.

Leaving there we asked to be dropped at the KLCC Twin Towers to do some touring on our own. We joined friends from s/v Imagine and s/v D'ol Selene for a delicious Thai lunch and a few hours of shopping and browsing before joining up with the tour group again at the KL Tower.

The buses drove us to several more sights including the largest mosque in KL and to a gallery depicting the 50-year plan for KL's future growth, ending the day at China town where we were given a few hours to eat dinner and do some of what I affectionately call "rip-off shopping". Here you can buy ANYTHING knock-off, from top designer watches to shoes, handbags, electronics…you name it.

I managed to buy only an average quality copy of "Revenge, Part One of Season Two", but we enjoyed a delicious Chinese dinner with a large group of fellow cruisers. I thought my daughter and grandson would have a great time shopping here, except that you are expected to haggle, and never pay more than ¼ the asking price. Sometimes that is much too much because they see our white faces coming and the price goes right up. This ended our tour and a very long day. We returned to the marina well after "cruisers midnight" which is 9 PM.

Thursday, November 15th we didn't' do much more than finish a few chores, go for a swim, have a little lunch and then invited Ute and Hans over for a game of Qwirkle that evening. They beat the pants off of us. Frank attributes that to "beginner's luck" and vows revenge the next time we meet. Frank usually wins at this game.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

November 11 - 13, 2012 – Port Dickson and Malacca/Melaka (Po-tay-to/po-tah-to?)

At Admiral Marina we tried in earnest to live up to everyone's expectations of doing nothing but lazing at the pool acting retired.  I swam a little but the most exertion Frank wanted to expend was walking into the pool while keeping his beer hand out of the water. This is the life, at least until the monsoon rains hit each afternoon causing everyone to race for shelter from the lightening part of the storms. We heard that yet another yacht has been hit. Sitting ducks is what we are and yet there isn't a thing to be done about it but pray. We have enjoyed reuniting with Bob and Isabel from the yacht, Bicho Vermelho, a Brazilian couple whom we'd met in Opua, NZ in 2009. We have introduced them to the Class of 2012 (the group with whom we are now cruising). 

Sunday was the Sail Malaysia Rally's official welcome reception and buffet. They keep feeding us like we are royalty. If we don't watch it we will all bear a strong resemblance to King Henry VIII!

Monday morning, we piled into large motor coaches to embark on a tour of the historic and ancient town of Malacca or Melaka (the historic name for the town) that is considered the birthplace of Malaysia. The town is a study in convergence of cultures, religions, and architecture. Originally settled by Sumatrans, then "discovered" by the Chinese, and greatly influenced by Dutch, Portuguese and Indians, it is now largely a tourist destination. Our first stop was a beautiful and rather small Chinese temple, followed by a trip to the Cheng Ho museum to see the history of Melaka from the Chinese perspective. It housed scores of artifacts from the Tang and Ming Dynasties and related the exploits of Zhen He, aka Cheng Ho, the Chinese eunuch cum explorer, mariner, admiral and diplomat. The museum was built over an excavation site where ancient wells and fields of Chinese pottery were unearthed. They were left intact, and have been marked by barriers. It was truly fascinating. Some of the pottery was brilliantly restored and preserved.

Walking through the modern city we passed a number of ruins from the 1500's and 1600's, stopping in at "Fort A Famosa" and the remains of the mission of St. Francis Xavier. Today of course there is not much left of either other than the droves of souvenir hawkers and artists. We purchased some charcoal sketches of the mission, the Chinese temple and the old town, looked down into an empty crypt at the mission where people toss coins, hoping for a Blessing and then moved on to the shopping district where, according to Frank we could purchase future garage sale items. Not true, but he was happy when I parked him with the boys and went shopping with Ute and Isabel. Soon the driver came for us motioning it was time to leave. We hadn't seen enough and wished we had followed the example of some friends who rode the bus in, got a hotel for the night and planned to find transport home tomorrow.  Because we are hoping to remain in Malaysia/Thailand for a year or so perhaps we'll get a chance to return.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

November 8 – 10, 2012 Cruising the Malacca Straits – Is This Dangerous?

The next official rally stop is Port Dickson, about 150 NM from Danga Bay, which translates to a three day trip for us, stopping to anchor at night. Throughout the briefings, we had a pretty good scare put into us about finding exactly the perfect path to navigate this passage up the Malaysian coastline. As the shortest link between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, the Strait of Malacca is one of the most heavily traveled shipping channels in the world. On the one hand is the shipping lane where the large tankers and cargo ships travel. Among this group and not keeping to any particular path are the tugs that pull the barges back and forth and up and down the straits. Add to this cocktail the commercial and smaller private fleet of fishermen with their nets and traps who engage the waters between the shipping lanes and the shoreline and you have a fair minefield to navigate for some 500 miles. There is also a history of piracy in this area but that has been diminished considerably in recent times to petty theft. One cruiser who had gone on ahead awoke one morning to find that his dinghy (which had been chained to the boat) was long gone.

Leaving Danga Bay, several cruisers were aquiver with trepidation in spite of some coaching from a couple of seasoned cruisers who have sailed these waters for years, assuring us that there is a safe way to do this which mainly involves traveling during the daytime about 50 meters from the edge of the shipping lanes, avoiding fishing boats and nets with little flags sticking up out of the water, and going right over the top of the larger deeper nets that are lined with small fender-like buoys. And whatever you do, do not get too close to shore! WHA? WHU? HUH?

I think I can, I think I can. Why, yes we can! How bad can this be?

Some of the yachts in our little fleet opted for the direct overnight trip, traveling nonstop to Port Dickson. We were in no hurry and felt no need whatsoever to follow their example, finding our sweet spot and although there was a bit of dodging a fishing net or two, we had a lovely motor-sail to the first targeted stop at Tunda Island. We managed to set the hook about half an hour before the drenching rains came-a-callin' at around 3 PM. The storm brought a fair bit of lightening and belly-rumbling thunder. We watched the spectacular light show and at the same time prayed our, "Lord, keep the strikes away from our mast" prayer.

Rising very early the next morning we made a 68-mile push for Water Island, encountering no problems whatsoever. The forces of Nature treated us kindly once again allowing the daily storm to hold off until we got settled at 5:30, just before dark before unleashing their fierce and mind-blowing tempest. It is a terrifying thing to be sitting on a yacht with a large lightening rod sticking up 68 feet into the air during an electrical storm. Already three of our fellow yachts have been struck, wiping out everything electronic: computers, phones, charts, GPS, auto pilot, iPads, iPods, televisions, you name it.

Leaving at 7:00 AM we had one more push to put us into Port Dickson's Admiral Marina by mid afternoon. This is a very nice marina with a gym, a pool and a decent restaurant. There are guards who open and close the gates for us, and a very friendly and helpful marina staff. Destiny has a happy home for the next week.

Friday, November 9, 2012

November 3 – 8, 2012 – Danga Bay Marina and Johor Bahru, Malaysia

The days here in Danga Bay were sort of a blur – mostly because it rains every single afternoon, so anything you want to do should get done in the earlier part of the day making us feel we had to rush around early each day, but Frank and I do not rush in the morning unless we have to (because we HAVE to so much when on the move). We managed to discover some very fine Chinese and Indian restaurants nearby where we absolutely feasted for next to nothing. There are public buses here that will take us to most places if you catch one and then there are also loads of taxis that will really "take you" since most of them seem to be absolute crooks. These guys are worse than even Mexico!  We rode the buses when convenient and the taxi's when not, although many of the drivers were a source of real irritation. At one point, Ute and I got put out with a driver who refused to take us to the marina for less than double the usual metered rate, although the sign on his door clearly states that "…this is a metered taxi, haggling is prohibited". They all have this sign but it is generally disregarded. Anyway, Ute said, "Let's call and report him!" So I grabbed a tablet and pen then peered into the cab for his name and ID. As I was writing, he became very agitated, waving his arms at me and yelling! Frank and Hans stood nearby weighted down with supplies pretending they no longer knew Ute and I. Men are so easily embarrassed :)

I continued writing and then began to pull out my mobile phone. At that, the driver threw up his hands and said, "OK, I take you". Ute asked "On the meter? No tricks?" He nodded, but then said he would not open the boot for less than 2 additional ringgits. We laughed at him and said, "Fine, we will carry them in the front". He shook his head, mumbling to himself the entire ride. He pulled onto the freeway driving at a speed of about 30 km p/h (less than 20 mph). I nudged him telling him to drive faster because all of the other traffic was speeding past us. The little devil was trying to run up his meter. He said we should not report him, but Ute assured him we planned to anyway (not really). In spite of a generous tip Frank left him in the end, he dropped us off about 100 meters short of the marina, causing us to lug heaps of heavy groceries to the wharf. The beer bag busted, nearly destroying 36 cans of Tiger beer. But Frank and Hans were quick to respond and managed to save their precious cargo.  So that is just one example of what it is like to deal with these taxi drivers. We had been warned but had not expected to be refused cabs, and extorted to pay more because we are Westerners. We were loathe to use them but they knew when they had us in a pinch.

Although we spent a lot of time running around trying to get supplies we were very pleased to find a great number of American, NZ, Australian and UK products in many of the shops. Of course if you buy local items the prices are much more reasonable, so one must ask oneself: " How much am I willing to pay to taste and feel the comforts of home?"  Frank was immensely pleased to hear that Pop Tarts and Snyder's pretzels are available at a grocery store called "Cold Storage" so on Saturday, Sheila (s/v Imagine) and I trotted off to do some shopping there. I finally had to stop when I could no longer push my shopping cart. As soon as Sheila and I headed out of the building, the afternoon rains hit. In spite of our men meeting us at the marina entrance to help us back to the boats with our groceries, everything got completely soaked. When it rains here, the sky just opens up dumping pitchforks and devil babies down upon us. It is a bad, bad rain with lots of loud thunder, lightening and angry wind.

Sunday, three large motor coaches arrived at 7:00 AM to take us all on a tour of Johor Bahru (JB to the locals). We learned of the history, which included the Japanese invasion and occupation during 1942, using Johor as a base to conquer Singapore.  Although we discovered JB is the second largest metropolis in Malaysia after Kuala Lumpur, we had never heard of it.  I won't go into the history lesson here for something easily covered in Wikipedia. We visited the Parliament Buildings that are new and very beautiful, even venturing into the actual House chamber where we had a chance to peer at the Sultan's sky-blue velvet throne. Next we toured a pineapple museum. We'd never imagined an entire museum solely dedicated to pineapples, however, we now understand a bit more about them and furthermore, learned that fabric can be made from shredding pineapple leaves. They demonstrated the extraction of the fibers for us, let a few of us play around with the mechanism and then we were given some fresh pineapple to sample. Leaving there we passed several fresh markets and a bit further on the drivers stopped so that we could pick up some fruits and veggies. Afterward we were driven down to the southern most tip of mainland Asia where we strolled the boardwalks, gathered a bit more history, witnessed dozens of wild monkeys and snapped some nice photos. Afterward we were taken to a guesthouse and fed a delicious lunch of local food that consisted primarily of noodles and pastries including many fried & breaded dishes. They wrapped up the tour dropping us off at – of all places – the Premium Outlet (outdoor) Mall informing us we had 30 minutes to shop. We all looked at one another asking, "Is this a joke?" Oh, by the way, it was pouring buckets of rain. Half of us didn't want to get off the bus and the other half literally ran off hoping to find a bar. We stumbled upon most of the gang at Baskin Robbins ice cream store, and then on the way back to the bus found the rest of the group sitting in an Irish bar with large mugs of beer. Well, that is about all 30 minutes will get you anyway.  We arrived back at the marina at 6:00 PM, soaked and exhausted. But it had been an interesting day.

Monday we sat in briefings from 9 AM to 12 PM, getting "briefed" about technical procedures, anchorages, marinas, events and schedules. They did their darndest to impress upon us how dangerous cruising the Melaka/Malacca Straits are and had some of us starting our prayers early.

Monday night was the big gala event – dinner, singers, dancers and speeches from local dignitaries. We were told to dress up. It was so nice to see everyone in his or her finery, although we had to do several double-takes to recognize a few. I was one of those whom people walked up to, saying, "Is that you, Barbara?". Most of the men actually wore shoes, collared shirts and long pants. To see the ladies wearing makeup and dresses or slacks and pretty blouses with their hair styled is a rarity among cruisers, and something that I miss. Sometimes male and female cruisers can appear a bit crusty! The food was all gourmet and absolutely delicious. The singers and dancers were extremely professional,  performing a Las Vegas style show for us.  It was an evening that rivaled any event either of us had attended in the good old (working) days. Did I remember to bring the camera? Of course not.

The next two days were relatively routine other than taking care of our clearance on Tuesday and Fueling up on Wednesday.  I did manage to get to town with Ute for a broadband sim card for my internet dongle. Every place I'd been to was sold out of pre-paid broadband sims.  I guess we are like locusts – when cruisers arrive businesses tend to get wiped out of supplies. By early Thursday morning we were all ready to brave the Melaka/Malacca Straits.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

November 2, 2012 – Moving on From Indonesia, Through the Busy Shipping Lanes of Singapore to Malaysia

I think the title is as long as this post. We cast the dock lines at around 6:00 AM and stuck our nose out into the busy channel, learning from others' experience that we should stay on the Indonesian side of the Singapore Strait as long as possible. It seems everyone else who has already done this reported back to us what a hellish experience they'd had dodging fast moving cargo ships, tugs and containers and getting hit with squalls that blotted out visibility. We were braced for the worst-case scenario.

Other than getting hit with a large wake or two that would roll Destiny like a toy boat in a bathtub, we had no such frights. We stayed to the Indonesian side of the channel long enough to avoid the dreadful stuff. The route took us around the bottom of Singapore to the river that separates it from Malaysia. Singapore sits at the bottom of Malaysia like a backwards italicized exclamation point. For a tiny country, until recently it has claimed the title of the busiest shipping port in the entire world. I think Shanghai has now beaten it. Nonetheless, sailing through these huge SHIPS feels like walking the streets of NYC, but the tall buildings are moving!  When we reached the mouth of the river, most of them were moored so we only dodged a few barges, tugs and ships before we managed to get across. No storms, no hair-pulling moments. I did try to take some photos but couldn't capture the experience as well as looking at our AIS, so I did the next best thing: I took some photos of the AIS screen to illustrate the intensity of the traffic. It truly is mind-boggling!
The red ones are potential targets, the ones with black dots are moored, and the ones with no dot are on the move
Destiny is depicted as the large red one with the white dot, although we are more the size of the dot!

Once we passed the shipping lanes the river was relatively devoid of traffic other than the many, many patrol boats on the Singapore side. Their border on the Malaysian side is much more fortified than the Texas/Mexico border. Interesting.

The rest of the ride was uneventful until we approached Danga Bay Marina. It is really a nightmare to get into. It sits at a part of the river that collects so much debris and silt from the shifting waters that half of the berths are unusable. Navigating into the actual marina is like walking a tightrope trying to follow the narrow passage that has been dredged. The marina itself has been managed very poorly. They have no workable VHF radio so trying to raise them about assigning us a berth was very difficult. They do not take reservations which overwhelmed them when several yachts arrived at one time (us included). Finally through the efforts of friends already in the marina, Ute on Taimada and Ian from Sea Eagle II, who managed to make contact with the Dock Master, we were told we had no berth and would have to find a place to anchor. Joy! God bless Ian who appealed to them to get us in, they double parked us on a 20 meter berth behind a smaller monohull, leaving us sticking out at least 10 feet beyond the pier. These guys had put tiny little boats in massive slips taking up all the berthing space. Why they didn't stack these smaller boats is beyond anyone's comprehension. We had no power access and the dock was missing cleats, but somehow we managed to get in there and were simply relieved not to have been forced to anchor in the shallow mud. Fortunately we made it in time for the 4:00 welcome reception for the Sail Malaysia Rally.