Wednesday, 2 November 2016

15 October Penang

Straits Quay
We had booked into Straits Quay Marina for four nights.  It's become one of our favourite places to stop. Penang is a great place.  The marina is run efficiently and there is a restaurant here which serves a sublime English fish pie.
Our 'reason' to be here is to get two month Thai visas from the embassy. If you have a visa in advance it is valid for a 60 day stay. If you take a visa on arrival it is 30 days.
Our new rig is scheduled to arrive in Langkawi in two days so it is time to beat feet and do the one last day passage up to Kuah. (Because we had to wait for an 11am high water to leave Straits Quay and then had headwinds we didn't reach Kuah until 10pm. Fortunately the entrance is well lit and we've been here before so no dramas.)

4 October Danga Bay Country Garden Resort marina

sea traffic on steroids around Singapore

Danga Bay Country Garden
Here we are back in Johor Bahru at the small Danga Bay Country Garden Resort marina.
Our journey from Tioman, around Singapore and up the river to Johor Bahru was motor, motor, motor.  Singapore waters continue to be busy although, either because of familiarity or less shipping, seemed quieter though not so quiet you could take you eyes off the shipping lanes. On the west side of Singapore island we turn north up the river to approach JB and have to navigate past a loading port, constant dredger traffic and oil rigs in the middle of the channel.  This was a new build which four tugs were moving out of the building bay and into the Straits.  Once past it was a stright shoot up the river to DBCG marina.
View looking south towards Puteri

pool more decorative than used

artificial beach at DBCG
not the usual marina facilities
It's one jetty with berths for 16 boats and a tricky entry for a keel boat as the beach begins a short distance behind the up river pontoons and the down river ones have too little depth for us. Once alongside and there was plenty of depth.  The marina seems to be a sales point for a massive development of 20 towers of apartments.  As marina residents we could use the infinity swimming pool and the club house.  How many marina club houses boast a free (non alcohol) drinks bar, super fast wifi and a baby grand piano? The wifi was so good we were able to live stream the Malaysian F1 Grand Prix (whilst sipping complimentary juice and coffee). It's all rather more swish than we are used to.
However, our stay was to be a short one; long enough for us to take a day trip into Singapore across the Causeway and re-enter Malaysia with new 90 day visas and to use the internet to order a set of new rigging to meet us in Langkawi.
7 October      Port Dickson, Admiral marina
Awful.  The best word to describe our journey from Johor Bahru around to Port Dickson is awful due to an almost constant headwind and adverse currents.  The first night we anchored south of Pulau Pisang to shelter from the WNW swell and the second night was south of Pulau Besar, south of Melaka, again finding refuge from the WNW swell.
Pulling into Admiral marina was like entering Nirvana - calm, and our friends on Kittani were here too.  We went out for satay and noodle dinner with Pete & Cathy and their friends, Brian and Sandi from Persephone.  Day 2 was a rest day and then we left. Once more into the breach. On the first day the wind and waves were away for the day and we made good time to Port Klang.  The next day wind and waves were back reducing our speed meaning we didn't arrive at Sungai Bernam anchorage until after 9pm.  Normally we would do this distance easily within daylight.
Our next overnight stop at Pulau Teleag, or Monkey island, became so rolly we had to leave.  Upping anchor at midnight we arrived at the Junk anchorage in Penang mid afternoon.  This was a new stop for us and we liked it. Quiet. Not rolling.  What's not to like?

Thursday, 13 October 2016

27 September Diving Tioman

Image result for nudibranch images

Dive vessel Frogman pulled out of the harbour on Saturday morning with three guests, the owners, two dive guides and six crew and headed to a small island off the southern tip of Tioman.  The third guest was a local man, Alan, a friend of John and Eva's coming along for a dive and to do fishing.  The boat captain led the first dive over coral reef where we found nudibranchs and colourful flatworms. A nice dive, not spectacular.  Afterwards we were sitting on the upper deck and David joked that Alan had a electronic tag on his ankle.  A quick look and I said 'could it be his dive computer?'. No it was an electronic tag and by diving he had cut the connection with the police station, received a 'why are you off the island' phone call and a speed boat was on its way to collect him and return to town.  We didn't have time to get to know him before he was whisked away but the crew assured us he was a nice guy and hadn't done anything really wrong.

Dive two was on the other side of the island, more of the same but better diversity of coral an better visibility.  Dive three was a night dive under the jetty Frogman was tied to for the night.  An easy dive in that we jumped of the boat on to the site, an average 5 to 6m deep and great creatures spotted; a leopard shark swam through and there were many exotic morays.  For us this was the best dive of the weekend

Tioman marina
We arrived in Tioman five days ago and took a berth in the marina next to a live aboard dive boat; the first one in Tioman and preparing for it's inaugeral trip.  From the moment we arrived we struck up a friendship with the owners and crew, saying hello, visiting each others boats and passing the days chatting about diving.  This led to an invitation from the Singaporean owner John and his wife Eva to join them for a two day shakedown cruise around the island.  As we have been on many live aboard dive holidays they wanted us to give them feedback and if required to make suggestions for improvements.
Our only hesitation about two days and a night away would mean we had to leave Polly cat on her own.  We choose to keep her inside with two big bowls of kibbles, two big bowls of water, a topped up litter tray and the air conditioning running.  Safety before liberty as the local tom cat had been prowling on deck at night.  The day before we went off I was baking cakes and cookies to take along and Polly insisted on helping, or is that hindering?
was 'cat' in the ingredients list?

Jackster next to Frogman

On the same day I was baking we went to the Duty Free shop to buy wine and had taken our trolley to cart it back to the marina, but the shop owner offered us the use of his delivery vehicle (it was the delivery man's day off), a motorbike with sidecar so it was a case of DIY duty free delivery.
DIY delivery
Danny, dive leader
Image result for leopard shark image
leopard shark
Image result for moray eel picturesNext morning we awoke to a storm passing over; the dive boat was being side slammed into the jetty and it was raining heavily.  The proposed walk to a nearby waterfall was cancelled.  Instead John and the dive guide scoped out new sites and in the afternoon we all dived a wall by the lighthouse.

Angah, dive guide
S Tioman landscape
Halfway through the dive David and I were at the back of the group bumbling along as usual and I heard him shout me (yes, you can grunt into a regulator and be heard). I turned to see a large black tip shark cruising with us.  To see a shark in these waters is a rare occurrence. Over fishing and shark finning have cut numbers drastically.  This one was big and he wasn't which scared at all. He came close three times taking a good look at the visitors to his 'hood before swimming off to look for a proper meal.
Frogman returned to the marina late in the evening. Polly had survived her home alone experience without mishap.  For dinner we popped along to our regular restaurant (in fact we only ever eat at the same place, Lina's BBQ).  David and I shared four dishes of tasty nosh; chicken, squid, fries and vegetables.  Three hours later David is suffering from chronic food poisoning which lasts until the next evening.  In the end it took almost a week for him to fully recover yet I felt fine.  How can that be?

Friday, 16 September 2016

1 September Change direction

I ended our last blog post with us leaving Koh Samui and bound for Kuala Terenngganu with stops at the Malaysian islands on the way.  However on the second day of our coastal hop down the Thailand coast I received and email from my sister telling me our Dad was in hospital and very ill, I should come home without delay.
Most fortunately we still had internet connection and as we were sailing and motoring along I was able to book a flight back to England.  Despite the urgency we still stopped and anchored at night.  There are numerous hazards of fishing pots, fishing nets and fishing fleets which make night passages a form of Russian roulette, run over a line and your propeller might be fouled.
Our final night stop was off the smaller of the Perhantian islands, but in order to reach KT in time for my flight we had to leave an hour before mariners dawn. (Mariners dawn is thirty minutes before dawn and is when you see the first lightening of sky in the east.)  In our dark getaway David sat on the bow with a light searching out the fishing buoys.  We had to change direction a couple of times before it was light enough to see without the torch.
Luck was with us today. We made good time to KT and we arrived a t slack water which is necessary for safe docking in the river marina.  Immigration department were on hand to clear me in to Malaysia so I could fly out 4 hours later and I was able to be with my Dad by lunchtime next day.  He was in hospital for two weeks and has now made a good recovery.
sooo good

I came back from UK yesterday to a very warm welcome from David and Polly.  While I was away we Skyped regularly so I kept up with the ongoing boats jobs and Polly's adventures as she makes the most of access to terra firma.  She's being making the most of my absence too; daily grooming sessions by her hairdresser David and sleeping in my spot in the bed.  I left with an empty bag and returned with a bag filled with boat bits, new clothes and shoes for me and some foodie treats which we don't see on our travels.
It was lovely to see my family and to see my Dad better and it's lovely to be home on Jackster once more.

1 August Bophut part 2

We are safely back in Bophut bay in Koh Samui for the last week of our stay in Thailand. We'd timed our return to be a Friday so we could go to the night market at Fisherman's Wharf; food stalls and mobile cocktail bars are a harmonious mix.  From the first we collect sweet corn cobs, chicken satays, prawns and mango salad and take a table at the second and order our drinks; pina colada for David, mango mojito for me.  Our theme for Thailand is food - lots of scrummy food.
On Sunday evening we were at The Frog and Gecko, a British type bar beachside which is convenient to land the dinghy and step off the sand and up the stairs to a table.  Tonight they were showing the Austrian Grand Prix on the big screen.
On Wednesday we were back at the Frog and Gecko for Pub Quiz night.   There are expat teams who come every week and the tourist teams, who like us, are there for one night only.  With just David and me in Team Jackster we are the smallest team.  Going in to the half time break we are in the top three with two large (one team with 10 people) expat groups ahead of us and we are the only team to score 100% in a round.  At the end of the competiton the ten person team have scored highest, but the smallest team scores the highest amongst the tourists. Yes, Team Jackster.  Our prize was a drink on the house.
The following Sunday we were back for another Grand Prix race, this time from Germany and Lewis Hamilton won again.  Is David his lucky mascot?
It's now Monday 1 August and we're cleared out and ready to begin the journey back to Malaysia, destination Kuala Terengganu with stops in Perhentian and Redang islands.

24 July Koh Phangan bike tour

Now David has recovered from his cold we hired a motorbike for the day to explore the rest of the island. Phangan is not large but the topography is hilly meaning the roads are winding and up and down. There are some steep up and downs which require all of David's expertise and care for safe negotiation.
Did you mean to park here?

north beach

north beach art work
On the road into the main town on the south coast  we passed the turning to the bay on the south east corner which is infamous for it's full moon parties.  These attract the young hipsters backpackers, but as oldsters this wasn't on our wish list.
Main town is more functional than attractive with an old naval boat in dry dock as a feature.
A quick stop for a designer coffee and we were back on the road across the centre of the island to the north shore.  It's only 6 miles so we were quickly there.  There was even less to see here on this overcast day; a walk on the beach with stop for a quick swing and then took the coastal road back to the main town.  Parts of this 'road' are a dust track and an accident waiting to happen. Indeed one poor girl had come off her bike and scraped her knee.  Fortunately she was going slowly and wasn't badly hurt and her friends were helping her.
Later in the afternoon we encountered a far less fortunate motorbiker.  We were half way up a steep hill when we were faced by a bike coming too fast down the hill and careering out of control towards us.  Only David's quick reaction saved us.  He quickly read the situation, steered us clear towards the centre of the road and we passed with less than a metre between the two bikes.  Two hundred metres further on at the foot of the hill the young guy came off the bike.  His friend and two passing cars were on the scene immediately to offer assistance.  In any other country we would have gone back, if only for David to berate him for endangering our lives, but given that help was already on hand and we didn't feel we had anything to add, we carried on.  
On reflection, this near miss is probably the closest we have ever been to disaster on our eight year trip.  Nothing on the sea has been as bad as this could have been which leads to the conclusion that sailing is not a risk sport. It's when we come in contact with land that it becomes dangerous.

17 July Koh Phangan

We've been anchored in Thong Nai Noi bay on the north east coast for a week.  It's a wide bay with good holding and on shore many hotels and a 'walking street' lined with lots of restaurants, clothes shops and­­ ATMs to access our money to spend in the shops and bars.
Mr Dollar at Jip's bar

Long beach bay

Polly goes for a boat ride
My cough and cold have cleared but David is now suffering and seems to be more affected than I was.  Despite this, or because of it, we've been having a relaxing holiday; wonderful Thai massages, delicious meals and for me, kayaking around the bay.
 The owner of our favourite restaurant, Jip, has a collection of pets which live in the restaurant; a mynah bird and a baby rabbit called Mr Dollar.  Mr Dollar is a star performer in a different outfit each day.  Here he's hopping from table to table enjoying a lettuce leaf and the occasional sip of beer.

Monday, 18 July 2016

10 July Koh Samui week 2

It had been our intention to move north to Koh Phangan after our first week in Samui but on the day we were due to leave we checked the weather and the forecast was for strong winds beginning two days later and lasting through the weekend.  As we are not in a particular hurry we opted to remain in the well protected Bo Phut day for another week.  My eyes were now back to health but I'd developed a nasty cough and cold and didn't feel too sparkling and needed to rest.  Our days were quiet on board and out for dinner in the evening.
Friday's in Bo Phut is market night; a host of stalls selling everything from tourist collectibles to food stalls and cocktail bars springs up in a large car park from 5 o'clock until late with a party atmosphere.  This market rotates around the island in a different venue on each night of the week.  We passed the T shirts in favour of chicken kebabs, satay and spring rolls with a cheeky cocktail on the side.  All good fun.
a cheeky Pina Colada
beautiful beach of Samui
And tonight, Sunday 10 July, was the prime reason to be in town with access to a big screen - the British Grand Prix with local lad Hamilton in pole position and Wimbledon men's final with another Brit playing.  I think we should call this a 'night of indulgence', something we rarely get the chance to enjoy, dinner in front of the TV and watching two major home wins in one day.
Tomorrow we'll head off for the quieter Koh Phangan....

3 July Koh Samui week 1

Go straight to hospital. Do not pass GO.  Within an hour of anchoring in Bo Phut bay we'd hired a motorbike and I was in the capable hands of the Emergency unit at the international hospital.  My eyes were so sore but at last I could start receiving treatment.  The doctor suggested staying overnight so they could administer intravenous antibiotics as well as hourly eye drops of more antibiotics and anti inflammatory eye drops.  It all worked because and I was discharged next morning with a bag full of more antibiotics and more eye drops.
Back on the road once more on the motorbike it was too late in the day to go into the main town and complete arrival formalities, but not too late for a quick trip to Tesco on the way back to the boat to buy a new SIM card for the phone.
With the phone now working we called the Harbour master in Na Thon to make an appointment to see him. He's busy and spends a lot of his time on other islands or checking in cargo boats.  Na Thon is on the western, windy side of the island, not a comfortable spot to anchor,  but an easy 25 minutes by motorbike. First stop was immigration to request a 30 day visa. No problem. Welcome to Thailand.  Then Customs who we surmise don't have many visits from yachts; they had to clear lunch from a table for us to complete the forms, but the ladies did offer us tastes of their fruit while we were waiting.  Now across the road to the Harbout Master office to find he wasn't there and they had no electricity.  A quick phone call and HM arrived to advise he couldn't do clearance because there was no power to run the computer.  We'd have to come back tomorrow, Friday. On Friday HM had power but was out of the office until late, but we could email copies of our paperwork to begin the process and collect our papers on Monday which we did.  If we'd been relying on taxis to run us backwards and forwards it would have been a costly exercise. However, hiring a motorbike was quick, cheap and we used the extra time for island exploration.
Maenam beach

Buddha presides
We explored the food stuff in the cash and carry emporium and Tesco's, visited a vet clinic and bought a rabies injection for Polly and checked out the Big Buddha.  Samui caters to the tastes of foreigners and thus a good place to find the Western produce we don't find so readily in Malaysia such as a brand of pickle called Branston, plus wonderful fruit and vegetables.  Polly visited the vet in Terengganu for her annual inoculations last month but they didn't have stock of the rabies vaccine which is required for her international travels.  Then we were able to take her in her travel box in a car.  This time she'd be travelling ashore by dinghy and then onwards on the bike which would be distressing.  We asked the vet and she agreed to give us the vaccine and needles to do it ourselves.  All we needed was a way to transport the vaccine refrigerated.  A small thermos flask filled with ice chips fulfilled this requirement and having watched a YouTube video on how to inject a cat David and I became vet for  an afternoon.
On our island tour we visited the big Buddha which presides over the next bay and then on around the headlands to C(h)aweng beach, reputed to be the best beach on the island except you can't see it for the mass development of hotels between it and the road.
Bo Phut beach is also much developed, but it's smaller and seems to have a greater diversity from the smart hotels, through bijoux hotels to the budget end of the scale enabling us to pick and choose as it suits our mood.  An English run bar called the Gecko and Frog has big screen sports and our timing coincided with the Austrian Grand Prix (David hasn't seen a live GP for a long time) and Wimbledon tennis.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

25 to 28 June Passage to Koh Samui

The four day three night passage to Koh Samui, Thailand is memorable for the wrong reasons; first a lack of protected anchorages and, second, I picked up an infection on day three.
The coastline on the eastern seaboard of Thailand is one long sweep of beach.  It lacks offshore islands and headlands where one can duck into to avoid the regular swell rolling in from the China Sea to our east.  Only at Songkhla town are there two islands of sufficient size which can provide a welcome shelter; the smaller is Koh Meao (cat island) and the larger, Koh Nu (rat island) so named for their respective profiles.  Rat island was our choice and we enjoyed a roll free night tucked away from potential hazard of moving boats.  The nights either side were spent in what are commonly called 'open roadstead' anchorages, where you simply turn in towards the coast until you find a comfortable depth to drop the hook.   On the last night we were more than a mile off the beach in less than 4m of water.
After our night at Songkhla I awoke with eyes feeling sore. A check in the mirror showed one to be bloodshot.  During the next two days the infection worsened with the whites of both eyes inflammed and David pushing on as fast as we could to reach Koh Samui and medical attention.