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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.

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