Nov. 2001
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Week Ending 3 November 2001 (Bob)

Cruising again - finally! Monday morning we pulled out of Raffles Marina after 1 months of collecting barnacles and other growth on our bottom and set sail north to Phuket.  We traveled in company of our friends Peter and Jeanette from the schooner Voyager.   The high (low?) lights of the week?

  • Pulau Pisang - Anchored at the end of the first day of motoring, the NE corner offered a peaceful scene within hearing range of the shore birds and we relaxed and watched a large school of dolphins feeding or mating (we were not sure) around our boat.  When the typical thunderstorm blew through at 1 AM the anchorage turned nasty, with 3' waves threatening to pull our anchor loose and making sleep impossible.  Voyager felt they were too close to the island and pulled out at 0130 while we hung on until 0730 and continued to motor north.

  • Pulau Besar - We had to really push this day - 65 miles is a bit much for one day, and we pulled in just as the sun dipped below the horizon.  This anchorage was a little more sheltered, so the nightly thunderstorm only created 2' waves.  We all hung on until morning and set out for...

  • Port Dickson - After 2 nights at windy anchorages, we were again ready for the luxury of a marina, so we pulled into Admiral Marina in Port Dickson.  Another high-class spot with swimming pool, cold beer, nightly movies (some ghastly), a place to meet cruisers, and a center for travel around Malaysia.  Well-run by an Australian couple, this is a very nice place.  The weekend brought a dozen racing boats to the annual ASEAN Regatta and Mumm 30's and a Farr 40 vied for line honors and beer consumption records.

  • Melaka - We hired a taxi and went 80 km south to visit this historic tourist town on the coast.  Originally established as a Malay/Arab trading port, it drew waves of colonial powers as Portugal, Holland, and Britain exchanged control from the 1500's until Malaysia was granted independence in the 1950's.  The town has forts, interesting architecture, antique shops galore, and root beer floats at A&W.  We had a good time, and probably should have stayed over night.

Next week: visit KL and prepare to continue north.

Week Ending  10 November 2001  (Judi)

Sunday was a recovery day after our whirlwind tour of the historical and quaint town of Melaka.  We planned and organized our trip to Kuala Lumpur (KL) for Monday and reserved a taxi to catch an "express" bus to KL.  The rest of the day was spent relaxing with friends around the beautiful pool at the marina and watching movies in the small theater that they have at the resort.  We could definitely get used to this lifestyle.

Up early on Monday for our taxi ride to PD to catch the bus to KL.  After some confusion over whose taxi belonged to whom, we all finally jumped into one and arrived at the bus station just as the bus was supposed to leave.  But this is Malaysian time and the bus finally left 45 minutes later.  The trip was supposed to be 1 1/2 hours in a luxury air-conditioned bus, but, in reality, turned out to be 3 hours in a loud, dirty, air-con. bus. We arrived in Chinatown, found our hotel and had lunch at a terrific little Chinese restaurant.  

Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, was not exactly what we had expected for a capital city, but we spent 2 1/2 days exploring as much as we could.  The highlights:

  • KL Tower - The main communications tower in KL.  Not very impressive itself, but it provides a panoramic view of the entire city including the...

  • Petronas towers - these are the tallest buildings in the world (although I believe there is a slightly taller one now in Japan).  They are built of stainless steel grid work and are truly impressive.   About 1/3 of the way up is a sky bridge between the 2 towers and the public is allowed up only that far, but you must get there early in the morning to get a pass as they only allow 400 people a day up there.  We did not go, but were really impressed with all the security in the buildings.  It was eerie looking at them after the attack and collapse on the NY world trade center buildings.

  • Historic, restored Malaysian house - This house was a home of a village official about 100 years ago.  The family abandoned it and it was discovered, acquired, moved and completely restored, piece by piece by the Kuala Lumpur Heritage society ( a non--profit NGO).  The design and  workmanship was just beautiful and this became the highlight of our trip to KL.

  • Cultural dinner and dance show at the new Malaysia Tourist Information Centre.  We enjoyed a wonderful evening dining on traditional Malaysian food and being entertained with custom dancers from all over Malaysia.

  • Night markets in Chinatown - This was held on the street right outside of our hotel.  Every night hundreds of little stalls are set up and taken down in the early morning hours.  You can get all the pirated VCDs, DVDs, software you wanted, all packaged in what looks to be original packaging, for $US1-2.  Also available were Gucci, Prada, Louis Vitton  and other designer purses and clothes.

  • National Museum.  OK, but it as a little devoid of really good artifacts.

  • National Mosque - This as very interesting.  The public could go in as long as it was not prayer-time.  The men had to be suitably attired (long pants) and all women had to don robes and head scarfs.

  • Railway Stations - The old station is an architectural marvel, with a mixture of British empire and Turkish motifs; the new one is shiny and modern.

We returned to Port Dickson by fast, clean, modern commuter train from KL to Seremban.  From there we took a 30 minute taxi ride to the marina - a much more relaxing return trip.  Our impression of KL was, basically, that we were glad that we went, but that we would probably not go back for another visit. A few more days of relaxing by the pool, a quick top-up of our provisions, fuel up the boat and then continue to motor-sail up the Malacca Strait to Port Klang.

Week Ending 17 November 2001  (Bob)

Back in cruising mode again!   This week we made a couple of hundred miles progress up the Straits.  First to:

  • Port Klang - This is the main port of Malaysia and it services the capital of Kuala Lumpur.  We left Port Dickson at the crack of dawn and motored for 11 hours, tying up at a floating dock in front of the Royal Selangor Yacht Club as a 2 1/2 knot current rushed by.  The club was very pretty and friendly and had good beer and food - we would recommend a stop-over even though it is a little out of the way.  We left just before the Raja Muda Regatta (named after a Malaysian prince who circumnavigated on a Swan 68 in 1994-5).

  • Penang - After 2 nights at the RSYC we steeled ourselves for an overnighter and motor-sailed to Penang.  This  island was colonized by the British and once vied with Singapore to be the prime settlement on the Malacca Straits.  Singapore won, and Penang settled into being a quaint backwater.  We found it to be delightful, with an exotic Chinatown and Little India, Kampongs (houses on stilts that extend over the water) and lots of 'antique' shops.  We walked a lot, bought some, and rode 'bumboats' (wooden runabouts that run people between their boats and the shore), grateful that we did not have to run our dinghy in the strong current.

  • Langkawi - Another overnighter that started with 15 knot winds and steep, square waves brought us to Langkawi, a premiere vacation spot at the north end of the Malacca Straits.  We have just arrived, but we have already run into cruisers last seen in Vanuatu, Fiji, American Samoa, Australia, Singapore, and probably more - it is going to be hard to leave in a week (our current plan).

We are now 80% of the way to Phuket, Thailand.

Week Ending 24 November 2001  (Bob)

Langkawi is a beautiful cruising destination!  A resort island that has been partially developed, it has high peaks, beaches, rainforests and a few resorts around the edges.  Unfortunately the waters are fairly murky, probably due to high nutrient levels.  The outlying islands are heavily forested and used mainly by the fishermen who ply the waters between them.  The 'Lang' in its name is for the beautiful sea eagle that soars over the anchorage looking for fish that stray too close to the surface - it has a 5' wing-span and looks similar to a bald eagle.  The highlights of our visit so far:

  • Kuah - This is the main town on the south side of Langkawi.  It has a well-sheltered anchorage where 50+ yachts are spread out, some transients like ourselves and others semi-permanent who thrive in warm waters and low-cost living.  The town is full of 'duty-free' stores where liquor may be bought at 1/2 the Singapore price.  During the day prayers are heard over the loudspeakers at the mosque on shore as the faithful Muslims honor Allah.  The people have been friendly and our only problem has been getting ashore.  The dinghy dock we have been using is the subject of a local dispute between the owners of the moorings we are using and the (bankrupt) hotel we have to walk through to get to the street.  So now the dock sits, chained and unused, while they sort it out in court.

  • Thanksgiving - Judi prepared a wonderful traditional Thanksgiving dinner, with turkey, stuffing, vegetables, potatoes, cranberry sauce, and great apple pie to top it off - delicious!  We shared this with Jeanette and Peter, our friends from Voyager who had to row their traditional skiff 1/2 mile cross the anchorage to visit us.

  • Birthday - Bob had a low-key birthday (made somewhat traumatic by the fact that it is one of those that end in a '0') and we celebrated with turkey left-overs!

  • Fresh Water lake - After a couple of days at Kuah, a short sail took us to an anchorage on the West side of Pulau Dayang Bunting.  With the NE monsoon blowing this is the lee, or protected side of the islands, but we were kept up much of the night as wind gusts made us swing wildly at anchor, and a swell from the SW rocked us severely - not much sleep that night!  A walk to the lake revealed a pretty swimming spot (full of resort tourists at the moment) and monkeys on the trails watching the proceedings.

  • Pulau Gabang Dar - We decided to seek shelter, and have tucked into a popular anchorage between Pulaus Dayng Bunting and Gagang Dar (6° 11.1'N, 99° 47.2'E).  Here we are in deep water and sheltered by high cliffs all around us.  It is very pretty although we have not seen as much wildlife as we had hoped.

Next week we plan to hit (read the following!) a couple of other spots in Langkawi and then set off for Phuket.

Week Ending 30 November 2001  (Bob)

This week ended with bang - quite dramatically, but first the good news!  Langkawi, we can see how people can get trapped here for a year or more. We spent the week exploring new anchorages and only touched the surface:

  • Fresh Water Lake - South of the main island on Pulau Dayang Bunting is a fresh water lake, a short 10 minute walk from the sea.  We anchored nearby in the lee of the island in a quite pretty spot.  Unfortunately swell came in from the sea to our southwest and we rolled much of the night - probably rain squalls offshore that built up the waves.  The lake is quite pretty, but we arrived with a wave of tourists from nearby resorts who swam and splashed and kept all wildlife well hidden.  Monkeys roam the trail looking for handouts from the visitors.

  • The Fjord - South of the Fresh Water Lake is a pass between Pulau Dayang Bunting and a small island that has steep cliffs like a fjord.  It was a beautiful spot with lots of birds, cicadas chirping, and sea eagles fishing around us.  It was one of the nicest and most protected places we have seen in years.

  • Pantai Tengah - A short trip to north and we tucked into the SW corner of Langkawi at a white sandy beach with cabanas and expensive-looking resorts.  This anchorage is well protected and a short dinghy ride to resorts with cool sundowners.  

  • Royal Langkawi Yacht Club - Back to civilization for a few groceries and prepare for the trip to Phuket.  This 'club' has an ideal spot, with bar and restaurants overlooking the protected waters of Bass Harbour and unobstructed views of the scenic sunsets.  Unfortunately it has no breakwater, and the wakes from the nearby ferry terminal make it a rolly place to berth.  In any event, they had no space, so we anchored for a couple of days as we rented a car and toured the island and visited:

    • Datai Resort - a very beautiful high class resort on the NW corner of the island with impeccable service and almost no customers; a shame.

    • Seven Wells Waterfalls - a moderately pretty set of waterfalls that can also be reached by foot from a nearby anchorage.  We were disappointed in the large amount of trash in and around the water.

    • Gurung Raya - the highest peak on the island (2500') with good views.  The peak is covered with Government buildings (looks like an officer's club) and satellite control center, not tourist-friendly.  We saw black-faced monkeys with white eyebrows, unlike any others we have seen on the islands.

    • Rebak Marina - a short ferry ride from the west coast, this is the only protected marina on the island and about 150 boats enjoy the fully-protected lagoon and cheap food and drinks.  We decided to stay a couple of weeks and paint the bottom here rather than in Phuket - fateful decision.

  • Up on a Reef! - On 29 Nov. we motored around to Rebak and mid-afternoon we drove straight onto a reef 2-3' below the surface at 6 1/2 knots.  The tide was falling quickly, and we were hard aground.  Judi quickly checked to see if we were flooding (not yet) and sent out a 'Pan Pan' (request for help) on the VHF radio.  The yacht 'Ultimate Warrior' responded and after an exciting hour was able to pull us off of the reef.  A quick damage assessment showed that we were taking on water, at a slow rate, and our rudder was jammed so that we could not steer.  'Ultimate Warrior' towed us the rest of the way to Rebak, and here we wait to be hauled next Monday for repairs and the normal bottom paint job.  Full details can be found in our latest Up on a Reef Horror Story.  We consider ourselves VERY lucky that we got off the reef with as little damage as we did, and really must thank Murray and Chris on 'Ultimate Warrior' and the anonymous Malaysian fisherman for saving our bacon that day!  And kudos also to SHANNON BOAT COMPANY, the builder, who makes yachts that can take this kind of abuse and suffer such small amount of damage!

So, we remain in Langkawi, hoping to make repairs and get back in the water by 15 December - otherwise all workers here go on on Holiday to celebrate the end of Ramadan until about Christmas day.  Tune in next week and see what happens.

 

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