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.

24 June Pulau Perhantians

Visible from Pulau Redang and a mere morning hop north are two islands, one big, one smaller which make up the Perhentians.  On the morning we crossed there was a sudden onset of a squall with strong northerly winds so we changed plans and we joined two Malaysian Maritime boats in the southern bay of the small island
Long beach

West side of island

View from the top
.   With Jackster settled we went ashore for an excellent prawn lunch at one of the many cafes.
Next day the prevalent south westerly winds re-established and we decided to move to out next spot.  Motoring through the channel between the two islandds we emerged in to the northern side and almost a different island with more resorts, more people, more boat traffic.  Looking for protection from the SW wind we picked a spot off Long  Beach in 5m of water with sand bottom.  There are lots of restaurants here. However, it is Ramadan and many weren't serving until after the daytime fast was broken and staff had had their meal, ie 8 o'clock.
Big island isn't so big and has walking tracks, but no roads connecting the bays - boats and walking are the way to get around.  We walked over to a couple of beachs on the other side and along the ride to the wind generator and solar panel installation at the highest point.  Both were installed about five years ago and worked for one year. Until during the off season enterprising thieves stole the copper cables and rendered the installation useless.  They have never been repaired.
We stayed in the Perhentians until we could find out the result of the UK Brexit vote on Friday, 24th and then knowing the fate we departed for Thailand next morning.

19 June Pulau Redang

We've been in Redang for five days and it's been a most enjoyable time.  Redang island is U shaped and we opted for the southern end of the big bay on the north side of the island.  There is a five star resort, clear water, a handful of dive sites and friendly hawksbill and green turtles in the vicinity.

Swimming off the boat in the clear and warm water we floated around watching the turtles grazing on sea grass but when a boat load of tourists arrive the turtles forego grass for a tastier meal, squid, which the tour guides bring to hand feed them.  We had small and medium sized animals swimming all around us, close enough to touch, searching fingers for food.  One cheeky animal nipped my finger with her beak.  My fault for not keeping out of her way.  I was fortunate it was only a nip which broke the skin as I understand a full bite would be strong enough to inflict considerable pain.
We've done threee dives.  The first was along the rock and coral cliff with two caves where we found plenty of nudibranchs.  The second dive was the wreck of a ferry boat, sunk by the resort to be a dive site and our third dive, around a headland.  The visibilty is the best was more than 20m and the water 30c which has led to bleaching of the large pore corals.  There are fish here, but interestingly no shrimps about, and definitely no lobsters because we looked.
David dived in shorts and t shirt. I chose to wear my Australian stinger suit but with the hood down.  Perhaps if I'd had the hood up I woundn't have been stung by hydrozoa floating  on the surface when we surfaced from the last dive.  Next day my neck was a mass of red and itching spots.   They continued to be uncomfortable for the next two weeks.  David was lucky to avoid being stung as we learned later there has been an outbreak of these stingers in the area.

Pulau Redang, a pretty and sheltered anchorage which we look forward to visiting again on our way south in about six weeks.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

13 June Terengganu

It's been a week since we arrived at the marina in Terengganu.  No problem with finding a space - the place is less than half full, and of those boats, at the end of our visit, we were one of only two boats with crew on board.  The remainder were locked up and here on a long term basis.
Terengganu has gained recent wealth from offshore oil fields and from providing services to those fields. All along this coast there are newly built sea defences paid for from oil income.  Terengganu itself is going through a building boom with new multi storey edifices towering over the original two storeys and a new swing bridge being built over the entrance to the river harbour.  How that will work with the high volume of boat traffic and high volume of car traffic will be interesting.  The river is busy with incoming and out going fishing fleet and a steady flow of ferries from the islands, plus dredgers bringing in building sand for land reclamation projects.
construction of a swing bridge underway
Ramadan began last week which means the mullahs chant from the spires five times a day. The first call begins an hour before dawn and the last begins at sunset.   During the month of Ramadan no Muslim is supposed to eat or drink while the sun is above the horizon.  Luckily a significant Chinese population ensure there are plenty of restuarants open and serving food all day.  We quickly established a favourite spot - The Golden Dragon - in the heart of China town, close to the temple and I think they established us as their favourite clients.  Lady owner, Shuey, ensured there was a table whenever we appeared and sent over a complimentary dish each time.  First there was pineapple, next night a few frogs legs from a large plate ordered by a Chinese family and hardly touched, which came our way and then more fruit after dinner.  One lovely lady waitresses fell completely in love with David's baby blue eyes.  Eng must have been 50ish, spoke no English but giggled and blushed when he smiled at her.  She asked her friend to take photos of us and, call me suspicious, I'd swear the camera was angled to miss me from the frame!
Although we are in a marina we still have to use our dinghy to cross the river to reach the town which is on the opposite bank.  Terengganu marina is part of a large resort on Duyong island.  Your choice is either a 2 mile road trip or a 2 minute dinghy ride with a perfect placed jetty to safely tie to and right by the main market.  We took the dinghy every time.
the art of coffee
On our first visit to town  we went straight to the post office to establish contact for prompt delivery of much awaited parcels.  Pos Malaysia put the Service in Customer Service. At one point we had five assistants helping us to track it on their computers and phone calls to Customs in Kuala Lumpur. Not there today, but one of the lovely ladies phoned an hour later to advise delivery would be in four days time.  Two days later and we receive a text to say our parcel is here and we can go to the post office to collect it which is when we  discover there is another offce, the sorting office which is a taxi ride away.  The lady helping us goes more than out of her way to write down the street address and apologises for not being able to drive us there herself, but as we can see, as we are now outside the building looking for a taxi, her car has been blocked in by another car.
It was a quick taxi ride and as we walk in we are at the back of four lines of customers.  However, the staff must have been advised we were coming because as soon as they spotted our foreign faces, big smiles and we were beckoned forward.  'Here's your package, please sign and thank you for using Post Malaysia.' Back on the road and taxis have become as rare as a correct weather forecast and big, dark rain clouds are gathering and coming to our rescue, a very kind man with a smart SUV offers us a lift back to the town centre.  He's on his way to the mosque for prayers and it's really not out of his way.
We found the people of Terengganu to be universally friendly and welcoming.  The two stories of the restaurant and Post Office are only two of the many kindnesses we received during the week we were here. In addition to the thoughtfulness of strangers we were also able to complete the lists of wants and needs we always jot down before coming in to a big town.  We found the right parts for boat jobs at reasonable cost, had our international gas bottled filled without having to do handstands and leap through hoops, Polly visited the vet and had her annual innoculations for the fraction of the cost if we'd been in UK. Between them two large supermarkets stocked all the items on my list, except for a particular brand of mayonnaise we prefer, and we were able to fill up with diesel ahead of our trip up to Thailand.
Our last but one task to do before leaving was to visit harbour master, Customs and Immigration to clear out from Malaysia, bound for Koh Samui.  The final task to settle our account for the marina and then it was time to throw off the lines, say au revoir Terengganu (we'll be back in August) and begin the next journey.

5 June Pulau Tulai and Pulau Kapas

Moving on from Tioman we moved a short 5nm to Pulau Tulai where we'd enjoyed diving when we were here two years ago.  This time we found a new spot, a group of rocks on the SE corner with plenty of coral, sadly bleaching is starting to happen here too, the same large pore varieties as we saw in Sibu and turning white as the animals cook in water too warm for them.  Happily plenty of other communities are surviving as are the fan corals and the fish are plentiful.  This is a fun dive, relatively shallow swim throughs between massive boulders.
squid hunting
Our first night in Tulai's main anchorage wasn't comfortable.  A major storm rolled over us from the NW leaving us exposed to the full force of wind over water waves.  Fortunately we were the only boat there so our only concern was the anchor holding as it was a nasty lee shore.  Poor Jackster had her bow lifted, her stern dunked and a big strain put on anchor and chain. Our faithful Rocna held well though nothing could make the swell comfortable for two hours and on to dawn although once the storm had passed and the sea calmed somewhat we did go back to bed and slept in late next morning.
From Tulai it took three days, one long trip and two shorter days to reach Kapas island and a lovely anchorage on the north of the island; protection from southerlies and some SW,  5m on sand and a few resorts and restaurants on the beach to the south of us.  The water is clear too; clear enough to see the bottom and lots of squid hanging around us.  It would be rude not to fish so David brought out the squid jigger, cast it over the side and started bringing up squid. If the animal is of a certain size and not happy at being caught he'll shoot his ink at the boat and at you. They have quite a range too, sufficient to hit cover David's legs while he's standing on the bow.  The trick is to keep two buckets to hand, one without water to collect the squid (without water they are unable to replenish their ink sacks) and a second full of water to wash down angler and decks.

kayaking with Polly
Here David has a bucket holding half a dozen animals, his legs splattered with the anger of the largest one, and Polly waiting patiently to be fed.  In the end it was Cat 1 - Crew 5.
We lazed in this lovely anchorage for five days waiting for tracking updates on the windlass motor on its way from Germany and gear box shock absorbers from UK.  When we received news their delivery to Terengganu was imminent we weighed anchor and continued on.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

28 May Pulau Tioman

We left Puteri Marina on Friday, 13th and motored through the Singapore Straits without incident or disaster. In fact we were most fortunate to have a positive current with us all the way around to the anchorage at Pengileh which continued with us next day as we began our journey up the east coast of the peninsular.
anchored oil platforms in the Straits
crew down time
We've ordered a new windlass motor from a company Germany to be delivered to the marina in Terengganu around the first week of June.  With three weeks to cruise the islands we intend to have some fun and to do some diving.  The first for me since having a new hip joint fitted last August.  On the north end of Sibu island we find the coral in a poor state; recent and extensive coral bleaching due to 31c water temperature.  Already the fish have gone and green algae is growing where once coral flourished.
We reached Tioman ten days ago intending to stay for 4 or 5 days.   Sometimes our progress stalls and with no real need to be anywhere to meet deadlines we are enjoying this freedom.  The marina at Tioman is compact and currently run on a self service basis.  If there's an unoccupied berth amongst the few yachts and many local boats, squeeze yourelf in as we did and then visit the Jabutan Laut office to clear in.  On the dock water runs s-l-o-w-l-y and electricity available at a few of the berths.  With our anchor windlass on its last legs and David wanting to do more work to keep it going for the last couple of weeks being in the marina was essential.

Pulau Sibu, south of Tioman
Tioman is a duty free island, much smaller than Langkawi and without their range and competitive prices of goods, with a tiny airport tucked under a big hill behind the town, a regular ferry from the mainland and a steady incoming and outgoing of visitors.  We had the good luck to catch up with many friends including Cathy and Peter from Kittani last seen two years ago on the Sail Malaysia rally,  Chris, Clare, Ryan and Fuzzy the dog on Quasar from Langkawi, John and Sheila on PFM met in Miri last year and a new friend, Henrike who is single handing her Amel Mango, Catherine.
David reached a milestone birthday, 60 and not looking a day over 50, and a group went out for dinner.  On the day there was a running race organised - part way between a marathon and Iron Man the course was 20kms through jungle, no paths, the runners to follow a trail of coloured ribbons tied in the trees.  The route so inaccessible one water station was water collected from a running stream the day before and treated it with iodine.  Runners were locals and people who had travelled to take part.  For example a team of Kenyan runners had been brought by their agent from Kuala Lumpur to take part.  Whichever of the team wins, and they win every time, they share prize money between the group.  Talking to some the day before we learned they are professionals travelling to a race somewhere in the region almost every week.  Mostly they do road running. This was unusual.  The winner took three hours and came back covered in mud and scratches.
Can you see me? At the camouflaged dentist tent

Finishing line

We'd gone to the finish line where a party was taking place and the army were manning the first aid tent.  While I was chatting to the army lady dentists (a side programme to promote dental hygiene in Tioman) and admiring the camouflaged treatment chair and camouflaged spit bucket which I almost   see, David was chatting to a lovely doctor who happens to be a General and who had done his medical training in the UK.  He was there with his non army wife, a top dermatologist from KL who also trained in Britain.  David has had a rash on his back and chest which has been giving him some concern so we were very, very cheeky, or rather I was, and asked if it would be possible for her to have a look.  Such a kind lady not only gave us her time and opinion, but also a wash treatment for folliculitus (inflammation of the hair follicle).  Together with our visit to the outpatients department at the hospital for a precautionary tetanus shot (following his bat bite three weeks ago) David has had a full health review for his sixtieth birthday.  A wonderful present I think.
Happy Birthday. Here with fave waitress from best BBQ restaurant
A couple of days later we hired a motorbike to take a trip to Juara town on the other side on one of the most impossibly steep and winding stretches of road, in places it was a 45 degree incline, ie one in one, but being in the heart of the forest was well worth it as was a side trip to see a small waterfall.  It took 45 minutes to negotiate four miles from coast to coast. Being safety conscious, and David is a very safe and competent rider, we always wear our motorbike helmets (cleaner and a better fit than the rental companies offer). This brought looks of wonder from local people who never wear helmets, perhaps never worn a helmet.  As we were cautiously making our way from the summit down to Juara town we were passed by school children on motorbikes flying along, but then they will have been travelling this road every day for years and know where every corner, pothole, camber (or lack of) is without having to think about it.  It took us a mere two hours to cover every available road on the island, not that Tioman is small, there just aren't many roads due to the terrain.
And then suddenly ten days had passed and it was time to move on.

10 May Singapore

Having made the journey down the west coast of Malaysia we are now at Puteri Harbour Marina which is separated from Singapore island by the width of a river. However, to make the 15 mile journey from Puteri in Malaysia across the Tuas Bridge, aka Second Causeway Bridge, to central Singapore takes an incredible 3 1/2 hours. Why?  It's a border crossing with the accompanying emigration / immigration procedures and a number of changes of bus.
Puteri marina late afternoon
We thought we'd be flash and instead a bus from marina to Legoland and then a cross border Causeway bus across the bridge (with a change at either end of bridge) we'd hop a taxi straight to the Malaysian Immigration.  That was fast as was getting stamped of Malaysia.  On to our first Causeway bus to cross the bridge with a 30 minute wait to get into Singapore border control. Off the bus and to the back of the line to clear into Singapore.  This took over an hour to queue and less than 2 minutes to process. Then through and back on to the next available bus and a twenty minute ride to an MRT (overground / underground train) station.  Now we were on our way...the journey from leaving Jackster to reaching the city - almost four hours! Giving an average speed of approximately 3 knots per hour.
David returned same day starting at 5pm and took a mere two and a hlaf hours for the same journey. I stayed with friends overnight and my return was in the peak time and took four hours, one of which was spent on the bus queuing to get into the bus stop on the Singapore side of the bridge.  (Next time, if there is a next time I think we'll try crossing using the first Causeway Bridge in Johor Bahru. It was a faster process when we used it two years ago.)
colonial cricket and modern Singapore

a contrast of architecture
We were in Singapore on the hunt for boat parts and electrical items we-didn't-know-we-needed-but-might-find.  A replacement motor for our windlass came close, but a two week wait and high price eliminated it from our list.  We were just being too picky.  The shelves at Aqua Marine International were piled high, but not with anything we had a need for today.  Along the road at the Sim Lim Tower ( a mecca for all things electronic) we did find several shops selling small invertors which would convert our 24v DC boat power to 220v AC for running household appliances like the food processor, power drill etc.  And for David a long wished for megaphone with a number of models in different sizes and powers.  He chose a compact one with the standard voice amplification for attracting attention over longer distances than ones voice will carry, an inbuilt police siren and a record/playback facility.  Now he can blast our Pirates of the Caribbean theme as we enter an anchorage (in his wildest dream!).
Derek and Rachel
David had to go home to feed Polly cat and be on board for an AC engineer booked to visit early next morning while I headed to Chinatown to meet old friends from London now working and living here with their young family.  It's always fun to catch up, especially when they know the best places to go.  I stayed with them overnight and next day we went to the Singapore Art Gallery for a bit of culture.  For me the architecture of the city is as interesting as what's in the building.  The art gallery used to be two Colonial era buildings now joined by a unifying exoskeleton.  Beautiful to see.  The exhibitions were also very good, well presented, and new for me, a focus on SE Asian artists old and contemporary.  It's a big gallery and there were very, very few visitors. It had the feel of a private viewing.  There was a charge, not cheap being Singapore, for non Singaporeans which might explain this is in part.
atrium of Singapore art gallery

roof under a roof
On my slow journey back to Malaysia there was plenty of time to reflect on our visit and to read my book which I'd been advised to bring for the journey.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

1 May Southbound Langkawi to Johor Bahru

With new antifoul, a new mizzen sail, some duty free booze and the cat we began the journey from Langkawi to the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia where we intend to spend the SW monsoon season.
Spectacled gibbons in Langkawi

red roofed buildings of SQ marina, Penang

Our first leg was a day sail 60 miles to Penang with good on shore winds in the afternoon to speed us along.   We had a booking at Straits Quay marina but the marina is silting up and we can only enter and leave at high water.  (It is scheduled to be dredged in the next few months.) After anchoring out for the first night we went in on the early afternoon high pulling the newly antifouled keel through the mud. Knowing we would be staying only three days we went straight to work and hit Tesco's (a short walk away) for the first provisioning trip.  Next day we went into Georgetown and visited China House cafe / art gallery on the recommendation of the sailmaker's wife, Astrid.   She was right – a long, long table of cakes.   Lunch became a coffee and half shares in three different kinds.  I'm not usually a sweet person, but these cakes were divine, not too sweet and full of flavour.  We left feeling rather full.
garden at China House
why limit yourself to only one piece?
We didn't do a lot at SQM apart from enjoy being there. It was like a mini break with provisioning.
Leaving Straits Quay on a mid afternoon HW we motored down the channel with a favourable tide and anchored in a quiet spot south of the airport. Next day was morning motoring then afternoon sailing with our overnight stop behind Pulau Talang, then a short day past Pangkor island and up the Sungai Bernam river to anchor by a Chinese Temple. It was at the entrance to this river friends anchored overnight and were hit by one of the fishing boats that constantly stream in and out of the river.

After sunset we were in the cockpit having a drink before dinner when Polly leaped in from aft with a bird in her mouth.  We thought it was a bird – wings, flapping...brown fur, squeaking. A bat, and not a small one either. Somehow she'd caught a flying bat about half the size of a fruit bat and now she wanted to take it inside to kill and eat.  Not what we
two small wounds below little finger
wanted. David reached down to grab cat and bat and he was bitten.  The bat was released from cat's mouth and released into the night to fly away leaving David with two puncture wounds. Measuring the distance between holes at 8mm and Polly's fang gap we concluded he'd been batted.   I swabbed with medical alcohol, administered a glass of drinking alcohol and waited for signs of rabies.  Luckily we are still waiting to see if David is foaming at the mouth and not seeing any fear of water I conclude he's going to live.  Even more fortunate is Polly has been inoculated for Rabies...perhaps I'll see if David can have a shot when she goes for her booster next month.