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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.