Day 2, Year 5: LAX to Hong Kong to Penang, Malaysia

Day 2, Year 5:  LAX to Hong Kong to Penang, Malaysia
Date: Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Weather: Southeast Asia Warm and Rainy
Location: Hotel Malaysia, Penang

We started our Tuesday with a midnight toast in an airport bar in Los Angeles International Airport. It certainly wasn’t a romantic setting, but it was the best we could come up with in the airport terminal. We were sitting on bar stools overlooking renovations to the food court area, both of us with our computers going. I think you get the picture. We then boarded our Cathay Pacific plane at 1:00 am LA time, 4:00 am East Coast time. At that point we had already been up for over twenty hours. We were served dinner just after take off and then tried to sleep. The Cathay seats are much more comfortable than most US airlines, but still we only slept for five hours. We still had eight hours to go, so we filled the time watching movie after movie. We arrived in Hong Kong at 7:00 am and spent the next eight hours working on our computers, reading, eating, and walking. We left Hong Kong at 3:00 pm and at 6:40 pm we arrived in Penang, took a taxi for the 18 kilometer ride into Georgetown, and checked into the Malaysia Hotel. We are exhausted, so we are going to forgo the sushi dinner we had planned. We have to be at the ferry terminal by 7:30 am to catch the ferry to Langkawi, so sleep seems much more important than eating at this point. And besides, we were served dinner our flight from Hong Kong and aren’t hungry anyway. We are just happy to be here and grateful that we had no problems with any of our flights. And miraculously, all our luggage arrived. We had a return ticket on Cathay Pacific from Los Angeles, but purchased Delta flights from Myrtle Beach to LA separately. But Delta checked all four 50+ pound bags straight through to Penang and they made it and we didn’t have to pay anything, so for that we are grateful. Now we are just anxious to get back to Windbird to see how she fared in our absence.

From 091027 Day 1 LAX–Anniversary Toast

Day 1, Year 5: Heading Back to Malaysia

091026 Year 3 Heading Back to Malaysia
Date: Monday, October 26, 2009
Weather: Fair and 88 degrees F
Location: Los Angles International Airport, USA

Well, here we are in LAX waiting for our 1:00 am flight to Hong Kong. After an eight hour wait in Hong Kong, we travel on to Penang in Malaysia. We take a ferry from Penang out to the island of Langkawi, a taxi across the island, and then another ferry out to Pulau Rebak where our beloved Windbird waits for us. We lose a day when we cross the International Dateline so it will be Thursday evening before we reach Rebak Marina. In the meantime, we will celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary with a midnight toast in LA, lunch in Hong Kong, and dinner in Penang. Now just how many people do you know who have spent an anniversary in three countries?

Friends have been emailing us telling us that Windbird looks great, but we have never been away from her for this long and are naturally anxious to get back to see for ourselves. But I must admit that this sailor is having a very hard time leaving family after our wonderful six-plus month visit.  When we started our world voyage four years ago our children were in their late twenties, independent, and had no children of their own. That scene has changed. Now that we have three beautiful grandbabies, traveling half-way around the world to continue our cruising life is more difficult.  We will miss them terribly, but at the same time, we know Windbird is chomping at the bit to make her way home. If all goes well, we’ll be back in US waters in a year and half where traveling to visit family will be much easier and more affordable. Until then, we will depend on email and Skype to keep us connected. I don’t think I could have attempted a circumnavigation fifteen years ago when email was limited and Skype was nonexistent. Even three years ago, finding places with high speed internet capable of sustaining two-way video calls was not easy. I’ll never forget how sad our friends Monika and Felix from Germany were when they returned from a visit home after our Pacific crossing. They were so excited to fly home from New Zealand to see their three-year old twin grandchildren. But when they arrived at the airport in Germany, the twins didn’t recognize them. Monika was heartbroken and made the decision that when she and Felix returned to New Zealand, they made a beeline for the Mediterranean. Cruising the world in your own sailboat is a dream of a lifetime, but without good communication with family, the dream becomes clouded. We feel so lucky to be sailing in a time when the world has truly become smaller through the wonders of modern technology.

Yesterday we connected with Skype video to both of our children and got to see our grandbabies in action. We then spent a quiet evening with my sister Patsy and her husband Joe and my brother Dickie and his wife Conda. They are spending their retirement years in the Carolinas and enjoying the warmer-than-up-north weather there. And while we were there visiting, they made sure we had a wonderful three weeks. They even ordered some summer weather for parts of our visit. My sister’s daughters Janet drove down from Columbus, Ohio and her sister Jennifer and my brother’s son Tommy came to visit during the first week of our stay. Janet was feeling benevolent and let us use her condo on the beach to warm ourselves after the chilly fall weather we had been experiencing on the Cape. The temp was actually in the high 80’s during that weekend and we enjoyed every minute of it. For our second week, Mark’s brother Steve and sisters Mary Ellen and Jeanie, plus Mary Ellen’s husband Lee, drove up from Florida for a visit. We spent two days looking at about a thousand slides from their childhood years and had a great time reminiscing. My nephew Rex from West Virginia and our good friends Kevin and Claire from Virginia drove down for the next weekend and then last week we drove to Charlotte, North Carolina to visit with my niece Jennifer and her family and my nephew Tommy and his family. While there, we drove north to Boone, North Carolina to visit Tommy’s son Josh at Appalachian State. What a beautiful campus set in the mountains. The weather also cooperated. It was a gloriously warm and sunny fall day and the mountains were aglow with fall color. Perfect. We spent most of the last couple of days furiously shopping for Christmas presents to send to our kids and grandkids before leaving. Christmas shopping in October was just a little weird, but the presents were bought, wrapped, and mailed out this morning on the way to airport. I didn’t get to write, “Do Not Open Until Christmas” on the box, but that is a given. So, no peeking.

Now it’s time to slow down. The very long list of things we thought we would get accomplished while home is still a very long list. We spent our time playing with grandchildren instead of thinking about sailing, but as we chase the sun westward, we are slowly refocusing our attention. It’s time to get ready for our passage across the Indian Ocean. So on goes the voyage of Windbird.

091025 Best of Carolina Visit

Day 53, Year 4: Kuah to Telaga Harbor

Day 53, Year 4: Kuah to Telaga Harbor
Date: Sunday, December 14, 2008
Weather: Hotter and Cloudier Than Usual, Rain in Evening
Latitude: 06 degrees 21.803 minutes N
Longitude: 099 degrees 40.788 E
Location: Telaga Harbor, Pulau Langkawi, Malaysia

We are officially checked-out of Malaysia and will be leaving in the morning for Ko Tarutao in Thailand. It is only about thirty nautical miles, so we will be there in the afternoon. Today, we once again had to motor to get to Telaga as the winds were first right behind us but not strong to move us forward and then we turned and the wind was on the nose. So goes our year of “sailing” in Indonesia and Malaysia. We did get in a few good sails in Australia, but we also had to use the motor a great deal. So the first thing we did when we reached Telaga today was to go to the fuel dock to fill-up. Actually, we didn’t get to fill all three tanks because we couldn’t get the bronze fill-cap for that tank to open. So we filled the gerry jugs and will put that fuel in the center tank when and if we can get the cap off! Diesel here is 2 Malaysian Riggetts per liter which is about $2/gallon US. Like beer and chocolate, fuel is cheap in Malaysia. Maybe that is why there are so many people that get “stuck” here for years.

After getting fuel, we moved back out to the anchorage. The view of the mountains is beautiful from here and there is a white sand beach that sweeps around the bay, but there are also “signs of progress” that we haven’t seen since leaving the US. Little dune buggies run up and down the beach and ski jets run around the anchorage. These things might be fun but they sure spoil the feeling of paradise. I understand that this gets worse as we head get close to Phuket in the major tourist areas. Of course, those are the most beautiful areas, but I also understand that you can pick your anchorages carefully and avoid some of the “signs of progress.” A welcome sight in the anchorage was Lazy Bones. This is the boat that was right across the dock from us at Rebak with Steve and Magnus aboard. They are the father-son team that are heading to Antarctica and their first little step was to leave Rebak and check out the systems. Unfortunately, they have an alternator problem, so they will move around to Kuah to take care of that. We also heard from Shirena on the VHF radio. They are anchored just south of Kuah, but won’t be coming to Langkawi proper for a few days. So we won’t see them here, but we will see them in Phuket in the new year.

We heard from Kevin and Claire this morning when they had seven hours until take-off. So we are hoping they are in the air and on their way. They should arrive in Bangkok tomorrow and find their way south to Pak Bara where they will take a ferry out to Ko Tarutao to meet us on Tuesday. Sure hope they are having a safe trip and that they arrive in a quiet Bangkok.

Late note . . . we put up our Christmas tree today. I guess the out-of-place Christmas music in Kuah last night got us in the mood. The Christmas tree this year is artificial garland wrapped around the compression post that comes down from our mast and goes down to our keel right through main cabin table. We will wait until Kevin and Claire get here to decorate it, hopefully with shells and seed pods we find on the beach so at least part of it will be natural.

081214 Day 53 Langkawi, Malaysia– Kuah to Telaga to Check-out

Day 52, Year 4: What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Day 52, Year 4: What’s Wrong With This Picture?
Date: Saturday, December 14, 2008
Weather: Yet Another Beautiful, Hot, Sunny Day
Location: Kuah, Pulau Langkawi, Malaysia

Imagine that it is 8 o’clock in the evening. You are on a tropical island in Malaysia. Most of the population is Muslim with a few Chinese Buddhists thrown into the mix. You walk into town to get the eggs that you had forgotten to buy during the day. It is Saturday night and the streets are jam-packed with families shopping and eating in the street-side cafes. You are the only woman not wearing a head scarf, but that is no problem. Everyone is friendly. When you reach the main street, you
hear music playing. What do you think that music would be? Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Here Comes Santa Claus would not have been my guess. But bizarre as it might sound, that is what was playing in the streets of Kuah tonight. Something just didn’t seem right about this picture. But there you have it.

We spent a crazy day running all over the island today in a rental car. Patrick and Margaret of Aqua Magic went with us as we went to the veggie market, another place to buy frozen ground beef and chicken, a Chinese hardware store where we spent a small fortune on locks and wire rope to secure our new dinghy motor and dinghy and a host of other small goodies, a Chinese restaurant to buy frozen pork chops and a pork tenderloin roast, the marine store that orders from West Marine, and then back to
the yacht club to put the first load in the dinghy and take it back to the boat. We then took off again to the Rebak Marina ferry dock so Patrick and Margaret could visit Rebak before moving their boat there in a couple of days. While they did that, Mark and I did more food shopping. Then we headed back to Kuah for even more food shopping. Just how much food can one sailboat hold? Actually quite a bit, but it sounds so complicated because each thing you want to buy is in a different store and
the stores are spread all over this island.

But by evening, we had completed most of the shopping and only needed bananas and eggs. There is a night open-air market in Kuah on Saturday night not far from where we are anchored, so we went there to get the bananas and then across the bridge to get the eggs. That’s when we ran into Rudolph!

Tomorrow morning we will wind things up here and sail/motor around the island to Telaga Bay. There is a marina there where we will fuel up and it is also the easiest place to check out of the country. Hopefully all of that will be done by day’s end and we will be headed to Ko Tarutau in Thailand to rendezvous with Kevin and Claire. We thought Langkawi was going to be turquoise waters and white sand beaches. Actually those things are here but only on the north side of the island where we have
not gone. But we are assured that crystal clear water and white sand beaches await us in southern Thailand.

Day 51, Year 4: Meeting Up with Old Friends

Day 51, Year 4: Meeting Up with Old Friends
Date: Friday, December 12, 2008
Weather: Another Beautiful, Hot, Sunny Day
Location: Kuah, Pulau Langkawi, Malaysia

We didn’t get all of our shopping done today, but we did reconnect with a few friends that we haven’t seen for some time. We worked on the boat until noon and then went to shore and met up with Steve of Oz, Margaret and Patrick of Aqua Magic, and Rosemary and Mike of Jemimah. We all had lunch at the Asia Restaurant close to where we take our dinghies to shore, and then we headed into town to shop. Since Oz, Aqua Magic, and Jemimah had all just arrived, we helped them get oriented, went to the
ATM to get more money, and then started our searches. We walked far across town for the second day in a row trying to find Epithanes varnish thinner, but on both days the store has been closed for lunch-a very long lunch. I think we might have to give up on that one, but we did go back to a fabric shop that we had visited yesterday to get mosquito netting. I had seen some Songkat woven fabrics that I just had to have, but didn’t have the cash yesterday. When we walked back to town we met up with
Jean and Ken of Renaissance 2000. We haven’t seen them since way before Bali, so we had a good time catching up. Our final task for today was to do a little Christmas shopping. On Friday, most of the Muslim businesses are closed but the banks and Chinese shops are open. We walked the back streets and found just the things we were looking for, so we called it a successful day and headed back to Windbird.

Shortly after we returned, the folks from Oz and Aqua Magic came over and we all piled in our dinghy with its brand new motor to go to the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club. Mark and I needed to meet up with Ben, the canvas guy, to give him a deposit on making a new sail cover (stack pack) when we come back in February. He has to order the materials and that requires a deposit. Oz and Aqua Magic were just interested in seeing the yacht club and checking out the facilities and services. We stopped for
sundowners in the yacht club bar and then came back out to the anchorage.

Tomorrow we have a full day of shopping. We need to provision for the ten day trip from here to Phuket, Thailand, so we will need to go to the wet market for veggies, the fruit market for fruit, the frozen food outlet for meat, and the supermarket for all the other stuff. It is not a one-stop shop, especially since none of these things are close together. And then we will have to stop in town for beer and soft drinks in the duty-free stores. We need to have enough drinks to last us until we return
here in February as the cost of drinks quadruples in Thailand. So it will be a shop ’til you drop day, and then we are out of here!

Day 50, Year 4: An Early Christmas Present for Mark

Day 50, Year 4: An Early Christmas Present for Mark
Date: Thursday, December 11, 2008
Weather: Another Beautiful, Hot, Sunny Day
Latitude: 16 degrees 18.632 minutes N
Longitude: 099 degrees 50.904 minutes E
Location: Kuah, Pulau Langkawi, Malaysia

We left Rebak Marina around 9 am and arrived back here in Kuah before noon. Our list of “to do’s” was long, and not everything got done, but we did manage to take our two old dinghy motors in to Nauti Bits to be sold on consignment and we bought a big, new, shiny Yamaha Enduro 15 hp engine for our dinghy. Mark has wanted this since Panama, so he is a happy cruiser this evening. On Christmas morning, I will decorate the motor with red ribbons as this is most definitely his one and only Christmas
present for this year and maybe next! So Merry Christmas to Mark. And we think we have to name this motor “Aunt Ethel.” My Aunt Ethel is in her nineties and going strong, and when we were on our way to shore today we saw a sailboat named “Aunt Ethel.” If our new dinghy motor has the stamina of my Aunt Ethel, we will be very happy. So “Aunt Ethel” she is.

After being out on Rebak island for more than two weeks, we are all of sudden back to “civilization.” The mosque blares prayers, the ferries come in and out, duty-free stores are everywhere, and tonight the shore is lit brightly with lights. But even with all that, it is very peaceful here. We will spend another day or two here and then head to Telaga Harbor to check out of the country. We’ll be back here in Langkawi in early February, so this will not be an emotional departure. There are still
so many things we want to see and do here, as well as many beautiful anchorages that we have not had a chance to visit. But we will be back to do these things later..

The really fantastic news of the day is that transmission does indeed appear to be working just fine. Another motor from here to Telaga on Saturday or Sunday should give us more confidence that all is well, but so far so good.