Day 36, Year 5: December Letter to Family and Friends
Date: Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Location: Rebak Marina, Pulau Rebak, Langkawi, Malaysia

Hey guys,

We are still in Malaysia but getting ready to head for Thailand. Tomorrow we will leave the marina where Windbird has spent the last eight months. The short sail to the main town of Kuah on Langkawi Island will give us a test run to make sure all systems are working as they should be. We will spend a day or two in Kuah madly buying food, booze, and other necessities before heading to Thailand. No later than mid-December we should be in Phuket, Thailand, and there we will do the final serious preparations for crossing the Indian Ocean. It’s a long way across with no grocery stores on the way!

We will begin the final stretch of the Voyage of Windbird when we leave Thailand. We have more than 12,000 miles to go before we reach the southern tip of Florida in the USA and deciding which way to get there has been a HUGE decision making process for us. When we started our voyage, we had planned to go around South Africa. We never wanted to put ourselves in harm’s way by going through the pirate-ridden Gulf of Aden to the Mediterranean. But while we were home this summer, the grandmother in me suddenly decided that I would get to see grand kids much sooner if we went that way. Going around South Africa means sitting out in the middle of the Indian Ocean in the Chagos for two to three months while waiting for the seasons to change to allow us to head for South Africa. So we bought all the books and the courtesy flags that would allow us to travel to Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Croatia, Tunisia, and Morocco. We got all excited about seeing the pyrimids of Egypt and the ancient ruins in Turkey and Greece and having our kids come to see us while were in Greece.

But, stop the press. We have just today decided that we just can’t go through pirate alley to get to the Red Sea and then on to the Mediterranean. The odds that we would be taken by Somali pirates is almost nil, but there is that chance. And the thought that family and friends would have to wrestle with the idea of paying ransom or letting us be killed while we would be sitting in mud hut in Somalia is just not something that we can do. So we are headed to South Africa. This time the decision is final, so you can count on us arriving in Cape Town, South Africa, by Christmas of next year and then heading the 6,000 miles north to the Caribbean. We will definitely make a stop in Brazil on the way, but we should be back in the Caribbean by spring of 2011. So that’s the plan.

We are now allowing ourselves to get excited once again about visiting Madagascar and South Africa. We are ruling out going to the Seychelles as there have been Somali pirate attacks there, but at this point, Madagascar looks safe. We will leave Thailand in early January and head to the southwestern coast of India. We will stay in Cochin, India, for one to two months, then head south to the Maldives, and then further south to the Chagos. The Chagos is officially a British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) and most people only know about it from Diego Garcia, the big US military base in the south. But the islands that cruisers are allowed to visit are uninhabited pieces of paradise. Communication is not great from there, and there is certainly no internet, but we will spend two months writing and fishing, and then anxiously await a time when we can once again see the grand babies via Skype (maybe) in Madagascar. Internet is very slow in that part of the world, we will hold out hope. From Madagascar, we will head south through the Mozambique Channel to South Africa.

We had a great Thanksgiving aboard Windbird and even had a turkey we purchased on a trip to the mainland of Malaysia. We will be in Thailand for Christmas and will try to be where we can have Skype contact and talk to some of you then. We think of all of you daily and miss you so much.

Before signing off, we want to do a few thank you’s. We want to thank Patsy and Joe for letting us stay with them while in North Carolina and Dickie and Conda for having us over for fantastic dinners. We want to thank our social director, Jennifer, for organizing our time in North Carolina. We had a wonderful time and give thanks for that to Jennifer. We also want to thank Mark’s brother and sisters for traveling to North Carolina to see us and then for hosting Justin, Jo, and Ziggy while they were in Florida in November. And we thank Heather and Jed and Justin and Jo for letting us spend time enjoying their children while we were home in the US. We love what we are doing, but we miss all of you so much. In a year and a half, we should be home unless we decide on a side-track adventure. But if we do, we will be close enough to visit without having to travel half-way around the world.

We’d love to hear from you, so email when you can.

All our love,

Oma and Granddad, Aunt Judy and Uncle Mark, Mark and Judy