Slip Away

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Logbook:       Orangutans, the USA and Southeast Asia (August 2017 to April 2018)

Early in 2017, we changed our cruising plans for the year and delayed our Indian Ocean crossing to 2018 due to a number of circumstances.  In the meantime, we made several alternate cruising plans, but the plan that eventually stuck involved no sailing at all and a trip back to the USA.  Before heading back to the USA, however, we flew to Borneo to see some wild orangutans.  After that, we spent 2 months in the USA, which included hip replacement surgery for Rich and meeting our new granddaughter Cambra in Seattle.  Then it was back to Malaysia, a bit more boat work, a shakedown cruise to Thailand, and a bit more boat work in preparation for our voyage across the Indian Ocean in 2018.
 

Orangutans of Borneo (August 17 to 21)

Wild Orangutans are found only on the Southeast Asia islands of Borneo and Sumatra.   The word "orangutan" is a combination of the Malay words "orang" meaning "person" and "hutan" meaning "forest", so "people of the forest."   Orangutans share 97% of human DNA and are the largest tree-dwelling animals in the world, eating, sleeping, breeding and even giving birth in the rainforest canopy.  Since we were in the area, we didn't want to miss the opportunity to see these marvelous creatures.  Although we would have preferred to stop at Borneo as we sailed through Indonesia in 2015, devastating fires on the island that year crushed that plan. So, instead of sailing to Borneo, we flew.   

Our plan was to see the orangutans on a three-day river boat trip from the town of Kumai, which is in Indonesia's Kalimantan Province on the island of Borneo.  Booking the boat trip was the easy part.  Coordinating transportation and hotel stays for getting there and back took a bit more effort - a bus trip to Kuala Lumpur ("KL"), roundtrip flights from KL to Jakarta, roundtrip flights from Jakarta to Pangkalan Bun (Borneo) and hotel rooms in KL and Pangkalan Bun.  The most challenging part was booking the flight from Jakarta to Pangkalan Bun, as only small local airlines fly that route.  Jan booked the tickets through an Indonesian online travel agency called Traveloka, but the difficulty came in trying to pay for the tickets because the credit card transaction was denied (the bank blamed Traveloka, and Traveloka blamed the bank).  We were finally able to pay for the tickets through a service called MolPay at a 7-11 store.  Traveloka sent us a booking email with a bar code on it, and we needed to pay for our tickets within three hours or the reservation would be cancelled.  We went to an ATM and withdrew the cash (fortunately flights in SE Asia are not expensive) and then took the cash and a copy of the booking confirmation email to a 7-11 store (which are ubiquitous in SE Asia).  The clerk at 7-11 scanned the bar code, the correct amount owed showed up on their cash register, we paid the money, and they gave us a receipt.  Minutes later, we had an email confirming our tickets.  Not everyone in SE Asia carries a credit card, so we thought this was a pretty slick concept. 

On August 16, we headed off.  The trip started out with a 5-hour bus ride from the town of Sitiawan (near Pangkor Marina) to the KL Airport, and we spent the night at an airport hotel.  The next morning, we flew to Jakarta, and then on to Pangkalan Bun.  Everything went smoothly and on-time, and when we arrived in Pangkalan Bun, Siti of Siti's Tours greeted us at the airport and arranged a taxi for us to our hotel.  So far, so good.  We spent the night at the Alibaba Hotel, which was basic but clean and comfortable, although we weren't particularly appreciative of the 5 a.m. call to prayer from the local mosque which woke us up the next morning.  Siti's staff transported us the next day from our hotel to the river, and thus began our jungle adventure.

   

Our trip was booked on a private boat called a "klotok", and we had a crew of 5 looking after just the two of us.  We spent three days on the Sekonyer River in the heart of Indonesia's Tanjung Puting National Park and visited three different locations where orangutans are studied, cared for and/or rehabilitated.  The orangutans are free to roam, but at each of these locations, there was a daily feeding at a platform, which allowed us to see the orangutans more closely.  (The food provided at the platforms is only a small portion of the orangutan's daily food requirements, so they are not dependent on these feedings.)  We were quite lucky to see Orangutans at each of the feeding platforms (occasionally they are no-shows), and it was an incredible experience to watch the behavior of these primates.  We also saw a few swinging through the trees near our boat while we ate breakfast one morning - what a show!  Though not the headliners on this trip, we also saw proboscis and gibbon monkeys. 

Our crew took great care of us.  Our guide shared entertaining stories of his experience as a park ranger.  The food was delicious and plentiful, and when we returned from a hot and sweaty walk through the jungle, they provided us with cold wet wash cloths.  We slept like babies on a mattress under mosquito netting on the top deck of our klotok.  The only negative about the river trip was our timing.  August is their busiest month of the year, so the river was packed with klotoks, and the number of tourists present at the feeding platforms made it pretty much impossible for us to get up close and personal to the orangutans.  But all in all, it was still a great experience. 


Mum & Bub in the trees

 
 
Such a cute kid!
 
There was a dominant male at each of the feeding stations, and this was
the biggest one that we saw.  Female orangutans are attracted to
males with large cheeks, called flanges.

 


Dominant male proboscis monkey - what a nose!
 
A couple of human monkeys
 
Gibbon monkey

 


Klotok traffic jam on the river

 
 
The crew who took such good care of us - front row:
Iqus (assistant to the Boat Captain), Ariq (assistant to the Guide);
back row: Abu (Guide), Amat (Boat Captain), Timah (Cook)
.

On the last day of our trip, we bid farewell to the crew who had worked so hard for us and headed back to the Alibaba Hotel.  We spent the afternoon relaxing, sorting through photos and reading.  Our hotel had some rooms with no exterior walls, and we requested one of those so that we wouldn't be woken up by the call to prayer at 5 a.m. since our flight wasn't leaving until 10.  All was right with our world until about 7:30 p.m., when we received a text from Siti advising us that our flight from Pangkalan Bun to Jakarta had been CANCELLED!  Jan immediately called Siti, and she was on her way to our hotel to help us.  Even though she had not booked these flights, she didn't want us to be left stranded.  Siti came to our hotel, got in touch with a travel agent friend who managed to find us seats on another flight - no easy task due to the high season and only two other flights each day.  Siti had loaned her car to a friend for the evening, so she had another friend pick up the three of us and take us to the travel agent to pay for our new tickets and then brought us back to our hotel.  All of this took hours, and we finally got back to our hotel at about 11 p.m.  When we tried to offer her money for all her time and effort, Siti refused it.  Had we not been able to get back to Jakarta on the following day, it was likely that we would have missed our flight from KL to the USA on the following day.  Siti was our hero!!  KalStar Airlines, however, was high on our $h!t list because they never notified us of the cancellation. 

At the airport the next morning, there were a number of stranded travelers who did not find out about the flight cancellation until they arrived to check in - and there were no seats left on the other two flights.  Since the KalStar tickets were the ones we paid for at 7-11, we couldn't rely on a credit card company for a refund.  So Jan marched into the KalStar Airline office and told them she wanted her money back for the cancelled flight.  Much to her surprise, they gave it to her - the guys in the office actually dug the money out of their pockets!  Our new flight on Nam Air took off on time, and we had front row seats in Business Class - nice!  When we arrived in Jakarta, we had a tight connection, but fortunately, our flight to KL was out of the same terminal, and then it was delayed, so we had no problems making the flight.  We both breathed a huge sigh of relief, first when we took off from Jakarta, and then again when we landed in KL.

We spent that night at the KL Airport hotel again, and the next afternoon, we departed for the USA.  Our flights to the USA were booked on the Taiwanese EVA Airlines, and we managed to score exit row seats on both of the flights - four hours to Taipei and then 14 hours to Los Angeles.  Very nice!

Hermosa Beach, California, and Cincinnati, Ohio (August 22 to October 28)

We are so fortunate to have dear friends and family who look out for us.  When we arrived at LAX, our friends Camille & John in Hermosa Beach picked us up, took us to their home, and we enjoyed a couple of days with them before we continued on to Cincinnati.  We arrived in Cincinnati on a Saturday night in the middle of Labor Day weekend, and Jan's siblings were spending the weekend at their river camp.  But all three of them and our friend Megan made the trek to the Cincinnati airport (about a 30 minute drive) to welcome us home and deliver our car to us (picked up from storage by our brother-in-law Fred earlier in the week).  The siblings returned to the river camp, and we drove "home" to Judy & Fred's house to get settled.

We had been quite eager to get back to Cincinnati because Rich had some doctor appointments scheduled the following week.  One of those appointments was with an orthopedic surgeon, and by the end of the week, Rich was scheduled for hip replacement surgery on September 20.  Rich had been dealing with arthritic pain in his left hip for a few years but until very recently had been able to manage it with ibuprofen.  However, after a hike we did in the Cameron Highlands in July, the pain had become debilitating.  While still in Malaysia, he saw and doctor and had it x-rayed, and the doctor told him his hip "wasn't in very good shape."  The orthopedic surgeon in Cincinnati (Dr. M. Scott True of Christ Hospital) agreed with the Malaysia doctor's findings and recommended that Rich have hip replacement surgery sooner rather than later, especially given our lifestyle.   

Normally when we're in the USA, we do quite a bit of traveling to see family and friends.  Jan's family is based in the Cincinnati area, but Rich's is scattered across the country.  We let everyone know that although we were in the USA for a couple of months, we wouldn't be able to travel much due to Rich's surgery.  We were so pleased when Rich's siblings organized a get-together in Ohio at Hocking Hills State Park, a 2 hour drive from Cincinnati.  Kathleen (sister) came from Annapolis, Bob (brother) from Atlanta, and Ron & Kim (brother and sister-in-law) from Miami.  They were able to organize the trip before Rich's surgery, and the timing was fortuitous because it was the weekend that Hurricane Irma hit Miami.  Ron & Kim were in an area of mandatory evacuation, so they needed to get out of town, and they worked long and hard days preparing their house prior to leaving.  Another fortunate circumstance was that brother Bob was able to help them because he had been working on a job in the Florida Keys and was evacuated earlier in the week.  The three of them flew out of Miami just hours before the Miami airport was closed.  We were grateful that they were safe and sound in Ohio and happy to be together, but the worry about that incredibly destructive hurricane pervaded the weekend. 
 

   


There were some big chairs in the doctors'
 offices waiting rooms!

Hocking Hills is a very scenic park, and although Rich wasn't able to hike due to his hip, he was able to get out on a couple of short walks.  More importantly, it was a wonderful opportunity to spend time with all of his siblings together in one place, which doesn't happen very often.  We cooked delicious meals, enjoyed adult beverages, and the siblings talked, laughed and reminisced a lot.  Jan really enjoyed hearing them tell stories about some of their childhood adventures growing up on the farm in Southern Illinois. 


Pretty scenery in Ohio's Hocking Hills State Park
 
Who knew that Ohio was so beautiful?!
 
Rich and his sibs - Kathleen, Ron & Bob

In the couple of weeks before Rich's surgery, we caught up with a few other local family and friends, and Rich spent some time at the gym to ensure that he was in as good of shape as possible before the surgery.  When Jan learned that Wicked was playing at Cincinnati's Aronoff Theater, we bought tickets and went to the theater.  (Jan had been wanting to see Wicked for years.)  Judy & Fred went on vacation for a week, so we were charged with cat-sitting for Barney & Lucy, a job that we were more than happy to do.

Rich's surgery went well.  The only hiccup was when the anesthesiologist had some difficulty administering the nerve block prior to the surgery - he had a hard time finding the nerve because Rich was skinnier than most of their patients!  Rich was out of bed the afternoon of his surgery and the next morning, he showed off for the physical therapist and walked the entire length of the hallway with a walker.  He was released from the hospital the day after his surgery, and Nurse Jan brought him home.  The setup at Judy & Fred's house could not have been more perfect - a ranch-style house with no steps, and the bedroom we stayed in was used by Jan's Mom in the last years of her life, with a private bath which was set up for handicap access. 


View of downtown Cincinnati from Rich's room at the
Christ Hospital Joint & Spine Center
 
Ready to go home the day after surgery
 
Barney & Lucy thought it was their job to keep an eye on Jan
 

After his surgery, Rich attended physical therapy sessions three times a week for the following four weeks.  He also did all of his assigned home therapy, and he progressed rapidly.  Jan had an opportunity to catch up with some girlfriends while Rich was convalescing at home (happily reading or watching the Velocity Channel on TV), and after a couple of weeks, he too was getting out for a few social visits.  It was nice to have Jan's family around, and we especially enjoyed our October "Thanksgiving" celebration.  It had been eight years since the two of us had a traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner, and we asked the family if they would like to do an early celebration with us.  Jan's sister Judy works for a meat distributor, and her boss donated the turkey to us.  (How nice is that?  Thank you Gary!)  Jan cooked the turkey - only the second time in her life she's ever roasted a turkey - but Judy coached her well, because it was the best turkey ever!  It was a fun gathering of Jan's family, and it even worked out that we were able to schedule it for when our niece Erica was in town from North Carolina. 

At 3 weeks post-surgery, we did a weekend road trip to Rich's home town of Carbondale, Illinois, to see friends and enjoy the Southern Illinois University homecoming festivities.  It was a beautiful Fall weekend, our time with friends was great fun, and the SIU Salukis brought home a winner.  After that road trip, Rich had just a couple more PT sessions, then a follow-up appointment with his surgeon, who gave him the OK to fly, so we prepared to head back to Malaysia.  Judy organized one more gathering of the Schwab family - ostensibly just a pizza party and a chance for us to say goodbye to everyone.  But in fact, it was a surprise early birthday party for Jan.  Jan would be turning 60 in December, and the family couldn't let that milestone birthday pass without a celebration.  Jan received some nice presents from most of the family members, but her brother Jeff gave her a package of adult diapers, which had most of us in tears because we were all laughing so hard.  Remember what they say about "payback" Jeffy!  :-)


On our way to Carbondale, we stopped in Louisville KY for brunch
with Mona & Marty Kerns.  Rich & Mona grew up together but had not seen each
other in many, many years. 
 
The weekend weather was glorious for
Southern Illinois University's Homecoming
 

 


Jan and her girlfriends did the "Walk Ahead for a Brain Tumor
Cure" in honor of their friend Ron Konieczka, who was married
to their very dear friend Chris.  Sadly, Ron recently lost his
battle with brain cancer. Rest in peace, Ron.
 
Rich with his physical therapist Tim
 
Jan's birthday party with her family


 


Seattle, WA (October 28 to November 4)

Before heading back to Slip Away in Malaysia, we had just a couple of stops to make.  First and foremost was a visit to Seattle to meet our new granddaughter, Cambra, who was born in August to Rich's son Erik and our daughter-in-law Chrissy.  We spent a week in Seattle, and it was a delightful time.  Chrissy was still on maternity leave, so we had some bonus time with her, and at 12 weeks, Cambra was a happy, smiling baby who easily won our hearts.  We were entrusted with watching Cambra a couple of times so that Chrissy could go to the gym, and it was during one of those times that Cambra had a poop explosion while sitting on Grandpa's lap.  It had been over 40 years since Jan had changed a diaper, and Rich insisted he didn't know how to change girls' diapers since he'd only had boys.  The two of us muddled through the process, and Cambra giggled at us the whole time. 

While in Seattle, we took walks each day and enjoyed some beautiful Fall weather and colorful trees. We had one day where it snowed, and we were all a bit shocked to see white stuff falling from the sky so early in the season.  It was also especially nice to have the opportunity to celebrate Erik's birthday with him at the end of October.  Our week in Seattle flew by. 


Cambra is such a sweet baby - she even laughs at Grandpa's jokes!
 
One very happy family - Chrissy, Erik & Cambra
 
Pretty Fall colors and a sunny day in Seattle


Hermosa Beach, CA (November 4 to 13)

Two-and-a-half months after arriving in L.A. from KL, we were back in L.A.  Camille & John once again picked us up from LAX, and we settled in for a 9-day stay with them.  While we were in Cincinnati, we had done a lot of shopping on the internet, and the boxes were waiting for us.  We unpacked the boxes, started packing our suitcases, picked up an order of boat stuff from the West Marine store and packed some more.  We found a great set of steps at the beach and went there daily for some exercise.  Camille & John hosted a couple of dinner parties with friends, and on our last Sunday morning in L.A., we went to our friends' Rox & Larry's house for breakfast and to watch the Brazilian Formula 1 Grand Prix race.  After the race, Rich and John both went out for a drive in Larry's Ferrari - they were happy boys!  Larry offered Jan an opportunity to drive the Ferrari too, and she passed, but then later regretted that she had not at least gone for a ride in it. 


We like cooking great meals at Camille & John's house.
We don't often find Rich in the kitchen cooking,
but he always helps with the dishes. 
 
Our very dear friends John & Camille
 
Rich had a smile on his face all day after driving
our friend Larry's Ferrari
 

 And, now it was finally time to head home to Slip Away in Malaysia.
 

Pangkor Marina, Lumut, Malaysia (November 15 to January 25)

Our bags were packed, and we were ready to go.  This may have been the first time ever on a return trip to Slip Away that we were within our checked baggage allowance and didn't have to pay excess fees, but since we had done so much work on Slip Away this year, we didn't need to bring back the normally large amount of boat parts and equipment.  Rich was walking well but brought along his cane in case we had long walks through the airport terminals.  The cane allowed us to board with "passengers needing a little extra time", but it did not prohibit us from sitting in an exit row, and we once again scored exit row seats on the long-haul flight (15 hours) from LAX to Taipei.  We did not get exit row seats on the five-hour flight from Taipei to KL, but the seating on EVA Airlines was quite comfortable with a surprising amount of leg room.  Overall, the trip went smoothly, and 24 hours after leaving LAX, we were in Kuala Lumpur.  We spent a night at the Tune Hotel at the KL Airport, and the next morning, our driver picked us up for the 4-hour trip back to Lumut (a different driver this year than last, and less of a white-knuckle ride).  The driver brought us to the Super Clean Holiday Tours office in Lumut, where a rental car was waiting for us.  The Super Clean staff transferred our bags to our rental car, and we drove off to the marina to check on Slip Away.

Slip Away was floating happily at the dock right where we left her - in need of a thorough scrubbing on the outside, but otherwise fine.  We left our bags in the car, opened the hatches to let some fresh air in the boat and immediately got to work setting up our air conditioner.  It was great having the car for storage, and we could take our time getting organized.  We checked in with friends and the marina staff - it was good to be home!


Celebrating our arrival in KL with a cold Guinness

 

 
Ladies room at our pit stop on the way from KL to
Pangkor Marina  - welcome back to SE Asia!
 
Slip Away in Pangkor Marina.  Our air conditioner was vented
out the front hatch, and the green netting also helped
to keep the boat cooler.

Despite all the work we had done on Slip Away in the past year, she wasn't quite ready to leave the dock.  We were eager to wrap up the boat work and get out on the water, but we also wanted to spend time with friends, take care of ourselves, and give Rich's new hip a bit more healing time.  So, we gave ourselves a couple of months to stay put, and made a plan to depart Pangkor Marina sometime in January.  In order to "take care of ourselves", we checked out a couple of local gyms which had decent equipment but none of them had air conditioning.  We went anyway - three times a week to the Workout Station, where we sweated buckets in the heat, but our muscles appreciated it.  (We couldn't beat the price of the gym - 6 Malaysian ringgits per day, or about US $1.50.)  A few of the ladies in the marina were interested in doing yoga, and Jan has the Yoga Studio app on her iPad, so on non-gym days, Jan and the other ladies did a morning yoga class.


Introducing our friends Sue & Bob (s.v. Mawari) to
Wan's Coconut Shakes
 
 
Our favorite local breakfast at Old Town White Coffee -
soft boiled eggs seasoned with soy sauce,
kaya toast (kaya is coconut jam),
and white coffee (coffee with sweetened condensed milk)
 
Lots of wedding photos were taken at Pangkor Marina.  We thought
 their outfits were quite beautiful, and the wedding parties
loved that we wanted photos of them. 

 


Our local sweat shop
 
 
Not a bad spot for morning yoga - Jan with friends
Heather (s.v. Psycho Puss) and Elizabeth (s.v. Lavarque)

A couple of weeks after arriving back in Malaysia, it was Jan's real birthday.  Three other yachties in the marina were celebrating birthdays that same weekend, so we had a big celebration at Jook's Joint in Lumut.  Although the two of us normally don't exchange birthday presents, Rich wanted to buy Jan a little something for this special birthday and thought a bottle of champagne would be the perfect gift.  Finding a bottle of bubbly in this area wasn't easy because the local Muslims don't drink and the Chinese tend to prefer spirits, but he persevered, driving through a torrential storm and flooded streets and found her a bottle of sparkling wine from Australia.  True love!


The big birthday party at Jook's Joint

 

 

 
Four birthdays in the first three days of December  -
Fabio (s.v. Amandla) on the 2nd, Jan on the 3rd, and
Heather (s.v. Psycho Puss) and Bob (s.v. Mawari) on the first -
an Italian, an American, an Aussie and a Brit. 
We love our international community!

A few weeks after the birthday celebrations, it was Christmas, and the marina organized a Christmas party for the yachties and marina staff.  Despite the various religions and ethnic backgrounds, everyone attended and participated in a gift exchange, and a great time with lots of laughs was had by all.  On Christmas Eve, the two of us enjoyed a casual dinner at the Rockbund Fishing Chalet Cafe with our friends Ben & Belle (s.v. Samira), and service was very slow, so we ended up drinking a lot of beer!  On Christmas Day, a small group of us tried a new restaurant in Sitiawan called AsiaPro Chef, which is associated with a culinary arts and hospitality training center.  The food was outstanding, and the service was excellent. 


It was so much fun having the office and yard staff
at the Christmas party
 
Meow from the office looking to trade the hacksaw
she received as a her Christmas present
 
A fabulous Christmas dinner at Asia ProChef in Sitiawan

 


Chef Ong leads the award-winning team at Asia ProChef
 
Beautiful presentation of the Christmas pudding dessert

 

In the midst of all the celebrations, we were starting up and testing boat systems, some of which had been dormant for almost two years.  Shortly after we returned, it became apparent that we needed to replace our "house" bank of batteries, which supplies electricity to all of our 12-volt systems on the boat (lights, fans, refrigeration, sailing instruments, etc).  We wanted to buy Trojan 6-volt golf cart batteries and found them through YHI Group in KL.  Our fridge had been up and running for several months (we started it up when we launched from the boatyard last April and left it running while in the USA), but when we started up the freezer, the system needed a serious dose of refrigerant.  We had some on hand, and once recharged, it worked like a charm.  A new sailmaker had recently setup shop in Sitiawan, and Au Wei (aka Mr. Teh) who had learned his skills in Australia, inspected our main sail, gave it a thumbs up, and did some minor repairs on our staysail.  The previous year, we had purchased a new mizzen and headsail from Zoom Sails in Langkawi, Malaysia, so our sails were good to go. Jan had spent some time sewing - new curtains for our stateroom (the old ones lasted 15 years!) and new covers for our cockpit cushions, although we will continue to use our old cockpit cushion covers until we leave the hot and sweaty climate of Southeast Asia. 

Our main engine started up and ran beautifully, but unfortunately, we had a significant issue with our Northern Lights generator.  Although it appeared to run OK, it really struggled to start.  We spoke to the Northern Lights support team in the USA, and they thought the problem sounded like a fuel supply issue.  We contacted Supreme Power Engineering (a highly recommended local diesel mechanic vendor), and Mr. Choo (the owner) sent his associate Mr. Lim who investigated and agreed that replacing some fuel system parts was a good place to start.  We ordered a lift pump, check valve and associated gaskets and seals from the USA, installed them, and the problem persisted.  Further discussions with Mr. Choo indicated that the generator would require some major work, and we scheduled that for April in Port Dickson, Malaysia, which is closer to Mr. Choo's main shop near KL.  Although the generator isn't a necessary piece of equipment, it's a highly desirable one because in addition to being one of our battery charging options, it powers our watermaker (converts salt water to fresh). 

   


Inspecting Slip Away's main sail at Au Wei's sail loft

Finally, in January, it was time to get moving.  Slip Away had not ventured beyond the confines of Pangkor Marina & Boatyard for almost two years, and it was time to get her out on the open water again.  She had a new paint job, some new gear, and we had completed a long list of maintenance and repair items.  It was time for a shakedown cruise!  We set our departure date for January 24, returned our rental car, paid our marina bill and prepared to head north to Langkawi.  As our departure day approached, we watched the weather, and the forecast for January 24 called for north winds - ugh!  Our friends Mike & Rosie (s.v. Shakti) were heading south, so were quite pleased with the forecast, but this was not good for us.  The north winds were only expected to last for one day, so we waited until the following day.  On the morning of January 25, our friends Heather & Rod (s.v. Psycho Puss) helped us untie our dock lines and sent us on our way. 


Celebrating our pending departure with Ian & Alison (s.v. Nereid),
Rod & Heather (s.v. Psycho Puss) and Sue & John (m.v. Solita)
 
Slip Away finally leaves the dock at Pangkor Marina
 

We were definitely looking forward to being out on the water, getting our sea legs again and putting Slip Away through her paces.  We were not looking forward to having boat equipment break or not work, but that's boating life and also the purpose of a shakedown cruise.  We would have liked this to be a leisurely cruise, but that wasn't an option if we wanted to make our plan of crossing the Indian Ocean this year, for which we wanted to be at the Sunda Straits (waterway between the islands of Java & Sumatra) by May 1.  We also now had the generator work scheduled for April in Port Dickson, and we needed to allow ample time for that.  We pulled out the calendar and quickly realized that we needed to follow a fairly tight schedule, but the weather in this part of SE Asia at this time of year tends to be mostly benign (light winds and not much rain), and barring any major mishaps or mechanical failures, we could do it.  

Rebak Marina, Langkawi, Malaysia (January 26 to 31)

We left Pangkor Marina in the morning, headed offshore a few miles and did an overnight run to Rebak Marina in Langkawi, Malaysia (142 nm, 25 hours).  Winds were light and variable as expected at the start of our passage, and that continued all day, so we didn't even bother to put up a sail.  Light winds are quite typical in this region, so sailors often end up doing more motoring than sailing.  The wind showed up at about midnight, but we were both tired and didn't feel like dealing with the sails.  We also had some fishing boats around us, and they are easier to dodge without sails to worry about, so we used that as our excuse to continue using the engine. 

We pulled into Rebak Marina at 9:30 the next morning, had some breakfast, checked in with the marina office and took a nap.  Overnight runs are great for covering longer distances in one hop, but they are tiring, and especially so since we were out of practice.  But had we done day hops along the coast, the trip would have taken us at least three days, rather than 25 hours. 

Langkawi is an island off the northwest coast of Malaysia near the border of Thailand, and Rebak Marina is part of a hotel resort complex on a smaller, private island.  On our way to the office we ran into an acquaintance who told us about a happy hour at the beach bar that night (every Friday evening).  It was a fun time with some yachties playing guitars and ukuleles, and all of us singing along.   

We needed to check in with the local authorities the following day, so the next morning, we took the resort ferry to the main island, and taxied into the main town of Kuah to take care of that business.  When that was done, we did some shopping.  Langkawi is revered among the cruising community because it's a duty-free port, so beer, wine and spirits are significantly cheaper here than in other areas of Malaysia where they are heavily taxed.  And, the supply and selection are much better too.  Yahoo!  We also found that chocolate was significantly cheaper here.  This was all good!

   


Malaysian Navy ships along the coast

We spent five days at Rebak, caught up with some old friends, met some new people, stocked up on adult beverages and other provisions and bought a new/used outboard.  Although our old outboard (a Yamaha Enduro 15 hp 2-stroke) is still fully functional, it is 13 years old, and we were able to buy an "almost new" version of the same engine for less than half of what we paid for ours brand new.  Outboards are often a target of theft, so it's not a bad idea to have a spare, but where do we put it?  The old outboard is now stored inside our forward head, which is normally our guest bathroom, but since we don't get many guests, that seemed like a good spot for it. 

From Langkawi, we would continue north to Thailand.  Langkawi sits very near to the border of Thailand - the closest anchorages in Thailand are less than 30 miles away.  Our goal, however, was to get to Phuket, which was about 120 miles away.  Our friends Randy & Saify from Chicago were traveling in Thailand and planning to be in Phuket in a week, and we were looking forward to meeting up with them.  Although we didn't have a lot of time to get to Phuket, we had enough that we could stop at a few places along the way. 


Thailand (February 1 to 21)

We've traveled to Thailand a few times in the past, but with the exception of a few days spent on a scuba diving boat, all of our previous visits were land-based.  Our first trip to Thailand was in 1998 and took us to Bangkok, as well as Chiang Mai & Chiang Rai in the north and scuba diving in the Surin and Similan Islands off the west coast of Phuket.  We returned to Thailand twice in 2016 and revisited Phuket and Bangkok and saw some new areas, including the Hua Hin District, the Phetchaburi Province and the ruins of the ancient Siamese capital of Ayutthaya.  Tourism has exploded in Thailand since our first visit 20 years ago.  In 2017, Thailand received over 35 million foreign visitors, as compared to just over 10 million in 2001 (we couldn't find data as far back as 1998). 

We'd heard mixed reviews about cruising Thailand from friends who had gone before us.  The complaints we heard were that the numbers of tourists were overwhelming and that ecosystems were suffering from too many people, and the resulting trash and other pollution.  Friends who went snorkeling and scuba diving were mostly disappointed at the condition of the reefs.  However, some folks had great things to say about cruising in Thailand.  What we heard from them is that the people are lovely, the food is delicious and the above-water scenery in Phang Nga Bay (between Phuket and the mainland) is stunning - beautiful small islands, limestone cliffs, rock formations, and sea caves through which one can swim or kayak to the interior "hong" (the Thai word for room).  Since our time in Thailand was limited, we thought we'd to try to see a bit of Phang Nga Bay. 
 

Langkawi to Phuket (February 1 to 5)

When we left Langkawi, we were excited that the weather forecast called for favorable sailing winds as we headed north.  An hour after we left Rebak marina, we had the mainsail up and headsail unfurled.  We shut down the engine and were sailing for the first time in a long time.  We started out with lovely conditions - 12-15 knots of wind off the starboard beam - but then it quickly grew to 20-25 knots and we were scrambling to reef the sails.  Nothing like trial by fire!  Thirty minutes later, the wind died - blocked by a high hill - so we furled the headsail and started up the engine.  For the next couple of hours, the wind would come up, and we'd sail for a bit, but then the wind would die and we'd be motoring again.  The wind finally died completely, so most of the passage to our first stop, Ko Phetra, was a motor trip (50 miles, 8 hours). 

   

Ko Phetra ("Ko" is the Thai word for island, and "Ph" is pronounced like a "P", so "petra") was an open roadstead anchorage, but it was calm, the scenery was beautiful and we had it all to ourselves.  It was the perfect opportunity for a skinny dip in some beautiful blue water!  That night, we slept just OK - not bad for our first night at anchor in over two years, but little noises and movements woke us up. 

We had a short run the next day to Ko Muk (27 nm, 5 hours), where we met up with our friends Bob & Sue (s.v. Mawari).  The four of us did some snorkeling and although the underwater scenery wasn't so impressive, the swim through the "Emerald Cave" was fun, and the interior "hong" was quite beautiful.  We did the Emerald Cave swim early in the morning and enjoyed the peace and serenity of the hong for about an hour.  When the tourist boats started arriving, we decided to depart, and it took some perseverance to swim out against the incoming tide of tourists. 


Approaching Ko Phetra, our first anchorage in Thailand
 
Snorkeling through the Emerald Cave
 
After swimming through the cave, we arrived in this beautiful "hong"

 

Our visit with Bob & Sue was short but sweet, and after two nights at Ko Muk, we carried on toward Phuket (pronounced poo-KET).  It was too far for us to make it all the way to Phuket in one day, so we stopped for the night at Ko Phi Phi (pronounced pee-pee), which was on the way,  We motored most of the trip (41 nm, 8 hours), but we did have about 1 hours with enough wind to try out our new mizzen sail, which flew beautifully. 

Ko Phi Phi is actually a group of six small islands, and they are reputed to be some of the most beautiful in the world.  The movie "The Beach" (released in 2000) with Leonardo DiCaprio was filmed on Ko Phi Phi Le, which is the second largest island in the group.  We anchored at Ko Phi Phi Don, which is the largest island in the group.  This is one of the places where tourism has become overbearing.  We were forewarned, so we knew what to expect, but the loud techno music which was blaring from the beach when we arrived at 3:30 p.m. and continued until about 4 a.m. was incredibly annoying.  With Jan cooking dinner in the galley and Rich sitting in the cockpit, we needed to shout to hear one another, and we were anchored a half mile offshore.  Fortunately, earplugs and the fan in our stateroom muted the noise enough to allow us to sleep that night, and the anchorage was flat calm. 

When we left Ko Phi Phi the following morning, we had just 25 miles to go to Ao Chalong Bay on Phuket Island.  We actually sailed wing-and-wing for about half of this five-hour trip, and it was a good opportunity for Rich to re-acquaint himself with procedures for poling out the headsail (not that he would forget how to do that!). 

Ao Chalong Bay is an extremely busy harbor because many of Phuket's day-trip boat tours depart from this bay.  It's not a place one wants to hang out very long, but it's a necessary stop to do check-in paperwork with the officials.  Thailand has a very efficient system for checking in visiting yachts, with the Harbormaster, Customs and Immigration offices all located on the end of Ao Chalong Pier.  We were in and out of all of the offices in less than an hour.  Nice!

We anchored Slip Away in the northeast corner of the bay, away from the hubbub near the pier, with a plan to leave early the next morning to continue north to the Royal Phuket Marina.  The wind blew pretty hard from the east that night, making for a rolly and uncomfortable anchorage, and when we left the harbor in the morning, it was blowing 20-25 knots right on our nose.  It was quite a bumpy ride for about an hour until we cleared the harbor entrance and turned north. 

 

   


Our new mizzen from Zoom Sails

Royal Phuket Marina (February 6 to 14)

We needed to enter Royal Phuket Marina (RPM) on the high tide, and the route into the marina is quite tricky following a dredged channel, so the marina offers the services of a pilot at no charge.  Captain Kai met us at the designated waypoint in the early afternoon, took the wheel and guided Slip Away through the channel to the marina.  Once inside the marina, Jan asked Captain Kai if he intended to dock the boat, and he said "No, the Captain needs to do that" as he pointed to Rich.  Jan smiled and told him that's normally her job, and he also smiled and turned the wheel over to her.  Docking the boat in our assigned berth required a tight u-turn to insert Slip Away between two large power yachts.  Yikes!  Slip Away doesn't do tight turns!  But, there was no wind or current, and Jan had enough room to do a "w-turn" and safely dock the boat.  The marina staff helped us to secure Slip Away in her berth and delivered an information packet, cold towels and cold bottles of water - very nice! 

Slip Away would be spending a week at RPM, and we would be leaving her for a couple of days to catch up with our friends Randy & Saify.  They were staying at a hotel on the west coast of Phuket Island, and the marina was about 30 minutes away on the east coast.  We had given some thought to anchoring in a bay near their hotel, but we felt our visit would be more relaxed and enjoyable if we left Slip Away in RPM, rented a car and spent a couple of nights at a hotel ourselves - no worries about weather or leaving the dinghy on the beach. 

Our time with Randy & Saify in Phuket was so much fun!  Jan and Randy have been friends for many, many years and were even housemates in their 20's, but we had only met Saify one time, very briefly about 16 years ago.  They generously treated us to the Hong by Starlight tour and we spent the day exploring hongs in Phang Nga Bay by kayak and eating delicious Thai food.  The following day, we brought them to the marina to show off Slip Away, and we also had an opportunity to just hang out for a bit.  We had a really nice time catching up with Randy and getting to know Saify.  Sharing experiences like these create special bonds.


Such beautiful scenery in Phang Nga Bay
 
This time, instead of swimming,
we kayaked through the caves.
 
Incredible limestone formations

 


Our group selfie
 
The last activity of the tour included making floating
offerings called krathongs.  When we floated them
in the water, we made a wish.  Rich and I both wished
for safe ocean voyages in the coming year. 
 
Randy & Saify on Slip Away at the Royal Phuket Marina

During our time at RPM, we also enjoyed catching up with our friends Yi-Lin and Vincent from Singapore.  They are doing a complete refit on their sailboat Hakuna Matata at Phuket Boat Lagoon, which was just next door to RPM.  Since they have been in Phuket for a while, they knew the lay of the land and had good contacts.  They helped us find a few boat bits we needed to buy, and also put us in touch with a rigger named Jai to do a rigging inspection for us, which was an important item on our "to-do" list.


Catching up with our friends Yi-Lin & Vincent
 
 
Captain Kai driving Slip Away through the narrow dredged
channel entrance to Royal Phuket Marina

Jai inspected our rigging while we were still at RPM, and his findings were mostly good, but he identified a couple of items that needed to be fixed before we set off across the Indian Ocean - a couple of cracked shroud fittings and an issue at the top of our headsail furler.  We did not have the expertise to make these repairs ourselves, and Jai was available to do the work for us, but he recommended that we come to Krabi Boat Lagoon Marina on the Thai mainland, across Phang Nga Bay from Phuket.  Although Jai works in Phuket, his main base of operation is at Krabi Boat Lagoon, so it was easier for him to do the work there, and it would be cheaper for us too.  We agreed and after our week at RPM, we set off.  Unfortunately, the need to do these rigging repairs dashed our hopes of spending a few more days in Phang Nga Bay. 

Although we could cover the distance from Phuket to Krabi in a day trip, we weren't able to enter the Krabi Boat Lagoon Marina when we arrived because it was low tide.  So, we dropped our anchor at a lovely spot called Koh Dam Khwan, locally known as "Chicken Island" (29 nm, 5 hours of motoring in light headwinds from RPM).  There were a couple of other boats in the anchorage with us, so no skinny dipping here, but we had a refreshing swim and celebrated what was left of Valentine's Day with a bottle of pink champagne that we had purchased in Langkawi.


Rich found some of his favorite snacks in Phuket. 
Although we could not read the Thai writing on the package,
 the familiar graphics were a dead give-away.   
 
The night before we left Phuket, our friends Fabio & Lisa
(s.v. Amandla) took us to an outstanding pizza joint.  While
underway to Krabi, Rich heated up leftovers in our solar oven. 


Krabi Boat Lagoon (February 15 to 18)

We weighed anchor early the next morning, and headed into Krabi Boat Lagoon Marina, which is tucked into the mangroves about 5 miles up a small river.  The entrance to the marina was such a narrow path through the mangroves that we drove past it thinking that couldn't be it - perhaps they need a sign...  The marina was nice, but it was about 30 km from Krabi town with nothing much close by.  It suited our purpose for getting our rigging repairs done, however, and it had two on-site restaurants which served excellent food - the best Massaman curry we had in Thailand on this trip - yum!  On our last day in Krabi Boat Lagoon, we rented a car and drove into Krabi town to do our exit paperwork with the Thai officials.  It was time to leave Thailand and head back to Malaysia.   


Jai working at the top of Slip Away's mast
 
The Harbourmaster's office in Krabi -
thank goodness this sign was in English as well as Thai,
or we would have never found it!
 
Intersection in Krabi Town


Krabi to Langkawi (February 18 to 21)

We left Krabi Boat Lagoon on the high tide, shortly after noon.  We'd been hearing about the beautiful Railey Beach which was nearby and thought we'd check it out as a possibility for anchoring that night.  It was gorgeous, but also packed with tourists and tourist boats - not a very peaceful place - so we did a drive by, took some photos and went back to the Chicken Island anchorage (15 miles, 3 hours of motoring).  We arrived late afternoon, decided we'd take a swim to cool off, and since our cruising guide told us that snorkeling in that bay was "superb", we donned our masks, snorkels and fins to check it out.  Although we thought it was "just OK" snorkeling, it was good to have our faces in the water and to spend time with some fishes. 


The scenery as we approached Railey Beach was stunning
 
But we were looking for something a bit more quiet
     

Railey Beach
 
Back to our anchorage at Chicken Island.  It really does sort of look like a chicken!

When we left the Chicken Island anchorage the next morning, we headed south, back to Ko Muk (49 miles, 9 hours).  We had a couple of hours of decent wind on this passage so had an opportunity to sail a bit more with our new mizzen and head sails - they are really nice sails!  Early the next morning we continued on Ko Tarutao, another 49 miles (8 hours) of motoring in light winds.  At Tarutao, we crossed paths with friends Bev & Bob (s.v. Icaros) who were heading north.  We shared dinner and drinks on Slip Away, and caught up on what had been happening since we last saw one another in Pangkor Marina a month earlier.  The following morning, we weighed anchor and motored the final 27 miles back to Langkawi, Malaysia.


Leaving the limestone islets of Phang Nga Bay
behind us as we headed south
 
A fortuitous opportunity to meet up with Bev & Bob (s.v. Icaros)
 

Now that we were back in Malaysia, we needed to really focus on preparations for our Indian Ocean crossing.  Our planned departure from the Sunda Straits in early May was just over two months away.  The Sunda Straits are 1000 miles from Langkawi, so we had a lot of miles ahead of us just to get to our starting point.  Before leaving Malaysia, we needed to be mostly self-sufficient for the better part of six months, so we need to make sure the boat was in top form and that we had sufficient fuel, provisions and medical supplies on board.  Although the major boat jobs (with the exception of our generator issue) were done, we still had a number of items on our "to-do" list for Slip Away, and we also had some shopping to do. 


Telaga Harbour Marina, Langkawi, Malaysia
(February 21 to March 2)

We're not normally in marinas so often because they can eat up a significant portion of our budget, and we generally prefer to be anchored out in beautiful surroundings.  But since we had boat chores to attend to and a number of errands to run, we booked into Telaga Harbour Marina for a week.  It's a good thing that marinas are fairly inexpensive in Malaysia, but sometimes you get what you pay for.  We've known a number of folks who stayed at Telaga Harbour Marina and really liked it, but our first impressions were not all that favorable.  The docks are not in great shape, the men's bathroom was gross (the women's was OK), and the trash disposal area was disgusting.  But we adapted - we watched carefully where we walked on the docks, Rich showered with a hose on deck, and we avoided the trash area unless we needed to dispose of something (thankfully our berth was far away from it) - and the place eventually grew on us.   We needed a car to accomplish a lot of our errands, and car rentals were easy and inexpensive through the marina.  The marina setting was quite pretty with mountains in the background, and unlike most marinas, this one had a nice breeze that blew through it.  There were also a number of restaurants a short walk from the marina, and most of them were pretty good, albeit a bit pricey. 

Shortly after we arrived, Phil from Zoom Sails stopped by Slip Away to double-check the fit of our new sails and take care of one very minor issue (reinforcement of the slug slide attachment on the mizzen).  We did a lot of provisioning here, checking off a number of items on Jan's extensive "to-buy" lists, loading the freezer with frozen chicken breast, as well as chicken and beef mince (aka ground chicken and beef) from Sailor's Meats, and buying enough rum, wine and beer to last us for the next several months.  We calculated our fuel consumption and bought a dozen 30-liter jerry jugs to put on deck to replace the fuel we expected to use motoring through Indonesia to the Sunda Straits (670 miles from Port Dickson).  We had a couple of packages shipped to us in Langkawi, and both of them required time and effort in terms of tracking them down and getting one of the packages (a box of with vitamins and supplements) past the Ministry of Health.  We had been spoiled by the staff of Pangkor Marina who always took care of that for us when we were there, but here it was up to Jan.  While dealing with the vitamins and Ministry of Health issue, our laptop shut down trying to install the latest Windows 10 update - that was special!  The competent, efficient and friendly staff at PC Langkawi Computer came to our aid, managing to save our data (shame on us, it had been a couple of months since we last backed up) and reinstalling Windows.  Ironically, a few days after this happened, we received a request from Microsoft for feedback on Windows 10 - after our reply, it's doubtful they will ever again ask us for feedback! 

Langkawi is one of Malaysia's top tourist destinations, and we had hoped to do a little bit of sightseeing while we were in the area.  We were especially interested in taking the Langkawi Cable Car ride to the top of Manchincang Mountain, but when we heard that a number of folks had been stranded for several hours by a breakdown the previous week, we decided to pass.  In the end, we were so busy with errands and boat jobs that we did no sightseeing.  We ended up staying in the marina a few days past our original plan, so we also didn't have time to stop at any of the anchorages that others have enjoyed in this area.  But, by this time, our heads were in a different place.  We were focused on being prepared for our upcoming Indian Ocean travels, and sightseeing in Malaysia was put on the back burner. 

After ten days in Telaga Harbour Marina, we departed our berth, topped off our diesel at the marina fuel dock (one of the few true fuel docks in the area) and continued on our way.  We didn't go far that first day, stopping to anchor outside Rebak Marina (6 miles away).  It was a good location from which to depart the following morning, and we also took advantage of the opportunity to dinghy into the marina to have dinner and say good-bye to our friends, Sue & Bob (s.v. Mawari).


Jan stows her wine bottles in socks to cushion and protect
them while we're underway.
 
We were in Thailand for Chinese New Year this year
 but managed to catch this Lion Dance in Langkawi
on the last day of the holiday period.
 
Animal sightings along the side of the road are different
here than in the USA

 


A get-together in Langkawi and a farewell to friends.  It was
especially hard saying good-bye to Heather & Rod (s.v. Psycho Puss).
We spent the better part of two years with them at Pangkor Marina,
and will miss them a lot!
 
Leaving Langkawi in our wake


 

From Langkawi, we were continuing south to Penang Island, which was almost 80 miles away.  Enroute, we stopped and anchored at Pulau Bunting (49 miles, 8 hours), which was a pleasant spot for the night.  We were up early the next morning to finish the trip to Straits Quay Marina on Penang (30 miles, 5 hours).


Straits Quay Marina, Penang Island, Malaysia
(March 4 to 11)

When we were based at Pangkor Marina & Boatyard, we visited Penang a few times by car, but this was our first time to bring Slip Away here.  Straits Quay Marina (SQM) is a well appointed marina in a city setting.  It's the nicest marina we visited in Malaysia with sturdy docks and good, clean facilities.  It's a small marina and has limited space, so Jan booked us a berth several weeks ahead.  We like Penang - it's a busy island/city with a good vibe.  It also has good healthcare facilities, and that was the primary reason for our stop this time.  We both had skin checks by a dermatologist and thorough eye examinations, and Jan did an extensive wellness exam at the Gleneagles Hospital.  Our health checks revealed no big concerns, so we still had a green light for this year's sailing plans.  We also did more shopping and provisioning here, and Jan was quite happy when the Assistant Manager of the Cold Storage store at Gurney Plaza helped her to procure enough Easiyo Yogurt mixes to supply us through the end of the year.  Thank you Rani!  We enjoyed our time at SQM and wished we could have hung out in Penang a bit longer, but we needed to keep moving. 


Slip Away docked at Straits Quay Marina - a very nice spot!
 
 
Elvis sighting at the St. Patrick's Day Parade at SQM
 
We saw a number of these fishing boats with hugs nets just off
Penang.  We can't imagine there are many fish here anymore

From Penang, we were heading back to Pangkor Marina, 86 miles away.  We left SQM and motored south along the channel which separates Penang from the mainland and under the two bridges which connect them.  We stopped and anchored for the night at Pulau Rimau, which sits off the south end of Penang Island (16 miles from SQM, 3 hours).  We weighed anchor at first light the next morning and motored 70 miles that day to Pangkor Marina, arriving a half hour before sunset (an 11 hour day underway).  A 70-mile day is pushing it a bit when we normally motor at 5.5 to 6 knots, but we kept our speed up and fortunately did not encounter any strong counter currents. Shah from the marina, and our friends Sue & John (m.v. Solita) were waiting for us on the dock and helped us tie up.  Our first order of business was to get our air conditioner set up, a process at which Rich had become quite proficient, and while he was doing that, Jan tidied up a few other items.  Once the AC was running, we left it to cool the boat down and joined John & Sue on Solita (conveniently docked right next to us) for a couple of cold beers.  It felt good to be back!


Approaching the Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge
 (better known as the Penang Second Bridge) which stretches
24 kilometers (15 miles) from the Malaysian mainland to Penang Island.
 
Flat calm conditions as we motored to Pangkor Marina
 - not a breath of wind, and it was HOT!
 


Pangkor Marina, Lumut, Malaysia (March 12 to 18)

There's nothing flash about Pangkor Marina and the area surrounding it (a friend fittingly described it as very "ordinary"), but we liked it here.  The marina facilities are basic, but they are clean, and the boatyard and its associated services are growing.  There's a cohesive cruising community, the marina staff are the nicest and most helpful anywhere, and locals are friendly too.  Since we'd spent so much time here, we knew our way around, had some favorite local restaurants and shops, and it felt a bit like home. 

We arrived in Pangkor with a very specific "to-do" list, and we accomplished everything on the list.  We got the hull polished and waxed, our fire extinguishers inspected and re-charged, canvas repairs done on our cockpit enclosure, topped off our propane, replaced expired medicines in our medical kit and stocked up on other prescriptions.  We enjoyed a Friday night barbeque at Jook's Joint, dinner at Vasantha Bavan (our favorite Indian restaurant) breakfast at Old Town White Coffee and of course we couldn't leave without one last Wan's coconut shake.  When we left Pangkor Marina this time, barring something unforeseen, we knew we would not be back, and it was sad to say good-bye to the folks who had made our time here so enjoyable.


On our last night at Jook's, Josh (s.v. Obsession) was
celebrating his 18th birthday.  Fun times!
 
Jan savoring her last Wan's coconut shake
 


Admiral Marina, Port Dickson, Malaysia
(March 19 to April 25)

The distance from Pangkor Marina to Admiral Marina in Port Dickson was just under 150 nautical miles, which could be covered in just over 24 hours, so we planned an overnight run.  The route to Port Dickson took us past Port Klang, which is the primary port for Kuala Lumpur, and shipping traffic was heavy in that area, with cross traffic as big ships exited the port.  Jan had the pleasure of dealing with the worst of it on her watch which started at midnight.  AIS was extremely helpful in this situation as she could tell which ships she needed to keep an eye on, and since we have a transponder, the ships were aware of our presence too (at least, we hoped they were aware of our presence!).  Although a couple of the big ships passed a bit closer than Jan would have liked, we got through this area safely.  A fair amount of lightning added a bit more drama, but fortunately there was no rain or big winds.  Just as we were clearing the cross traffic area, and Jan was starting to breathe a bit easier, she saw two fixed flashing lights ahead and was unable to identify them.  Neither C-Map nor Navionics charts showed these lights and they were right in our path.  Rich woke up for a pee just as we were getting close to the lights, and after some discussion, we decided to pass them to starboard.  Apparently that was a good decision because we didn't hit anything!  Jan has since asked other boaters in the area about those lights, and others have seen them too, but no one knows what they are. 

We pulled into Admiral Marina late morning after a 27-hour passage (146 nm).  We checked in with the marina office and then "ubered" into town for lunch and to do the required paperwork with the officials.  When we got back from town, we were hot and sweaty, so headed to the lovely pool, which is part of the marina/hotel complex.  It was a school holiday week, so the pool was overflowing with people.  It's not that we're antisocial, but we just prefer smaller crowds.  We did cool off at the pool that afternoon, but the next day, we went to the gym, which had basic but sufficient equipment and was air-conditioned!  Going to the gym once again became part of our routine, and the air conditioning was much appreciated!

Our plan was to spend a few weeks in Port Dickson, and our goal here was to fix the generator.  A couple of days after we arrived, Mr. Choo from Supreme Power Engineering came by, and the first order of business was a compression test, which unfortunately showed low compression, but at least we had identified the problem.  We agreed to have him rebuild the engine, and he proceeded to tear it down.  The rebuild of the engine went well, and it was completed quite quickly after we received the parts ordered from the USA.  Mr. Choo did not have the parts we needed in stock, and as a "yacht-in-transit", we could import parts duty free and get them through Customs faster than could Mr. Choo.  Putting together the parts order with our supplier, Hatton Marine, disrupted our sleep schedule for a few days because Hatton is located in Seattle, and their working hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific time) coincide with our sleeping hours (11 p.m. to 8 a.m. Malaysia time).  But, we stayed up late a few nights, and even checked email and made a couple of calls in the middle of the night to answer questions and get the order finalized and on its way.  We were thrilled when our box of parts showed up at the marina just three days after they were shipped (excellent service from DHL), but then incredibly disappointed when we discovered that the connecting rod bearings were missing (they were on the invoice and packing list but weren't in the box).  We immediately emailed Hatton, and when we followed up with a phone call that night, they were already on it.  They took responsibility for the error, apologized profusely, shipped out the missing parts that same day and paid for the additional shipping.  Despite the hiccup on this order, we still highly recommend Hatton Marine - it's a top-notch organization.  And, fortunately, the mechanic did not need the connecting rod bearings immediately and could make progress on the rebuild while we waited for them.  The entire generator rebuild process took about 2 weeks, and it solved the starting problem.  Rich immediately started putting it through its paces, and the genset ran well, charged the batteries, and ran the watermaker.  We were doubly happy that both the genset and the watermaker were working because the watermaker had been sitting dormant for over two years. 


Our disassembled genset looking quite sad
 
Mr. Cheong and Amir starting the reassembly
 
Not quite done, but looking much better!

While the generator rebuild was in process, we continued working on our to-do lists.  Rich climbed both masts to install new spreader boots, built a 12-volt pump to transfer diesel from jerry jugs on deck to our main fuel tank, fixed a problem with our main engine alternator, and cleaned sea strainers and filter housings.  We removed and re-sealed a couple of leaking pieces of deck hardware, replaced a couple of ports with new ones we had brought back from the US, replaced our wind instrument display  (ordered and shipped from the USA), charted our intended route from Port Dickson through Indonesia to the Sunda Straits, and researched visa, advance notice of arrival requirements and other general information for our upcoming destinations.

Port Dickson is a fairly nice marina, but it's not a big draw for cruising yachts.  It is close to KL and the KL airport, so it's a good place to leave the boat when traveling.  But there are much better haul-out and repair facilities elsewhere in Malaysia, and since there's always work to be done on boats, the cruising community tends to gather in those places.  Cruising boats do sometimes stop in this marina as they move north and south along the coast, so we occasionally met a few folks who were doing that, and Jan enjoyed having a yoga partner for a couple of days when Midge & Michele (s.v. Fourstar) stopped in.  Although there weren't a lot of boaters here, we had become acquainted with some local folks here.  Admiral Marina was our first port of call in Malaysia in October 2015, and at that time, we met a super nice couple, Stephen & Mei, who live in one of the condos adjacent to the marina.  Stephen & Mei live in the UK during the summertime, but spend the UK winters in Malaysia and New Zealand (Mei has family in Malaysia, and their son lives in NZ).  When we arrived in the marina this time, Stephen & Mei were a week away from returning to the UK for the summer, so we crammed in as much visiting as possible in the few days before they left.  They introduced us to some of their other local friends, and after Stephen & Mei left, their friends Shanti & David carried on with incredibly generous hospitality, and we count them as friends now too.  It's been such an enjoyable opportunity to get to know these folks, and they've helped us out a lot too. 


Stephen & Mei
 
The two of us with Shanti & David

Once the generator rebuild was completed, it was time for us to take a little break.  We wanted to see some friends in Singapore before we sailed off, and since the KL airport was not far away, we hopped on a plane.


Singapore
(April 12 to 15)

Our friends Sivea & Mario live in Singapore and always welcome us to stay at their lovely apartment when we're in town.  We booked a long weekend with them several weeks ahead of time, and Sivea was once again an outstanding host, but at the last minute a business trip took Mario to Sydney, and we were very sad to miss him.  Our weekend with Sivea was fairly low key, but it was great fun and exactly what everyone needed because we had all been working pretty hard recently. 

While in Singapore, we also had an opportunity to catch up with  our friends Margaret & Alan, who were our neighbors at the One15 Marina a couple of years ago.  Coincidentally, the weekend we were in town was the weekend of the Singapore Yacht Show at the One15 Marina, and Margaret & Alan offered us passes so we could join them and go to the show.  We've been to a number of boat shows in the past, but this was a super-yacht show.  Wow!  Most of the yachts were shown by appointment only, so we didn't get to see the interiors, but we walked the docks and ogled them from the outside, and talked with a few boat equipment vendors.  Our favorite booth was the Seven Star Yacht Transport booth, where we spent a couple of hours chatting with the local representative Chris and his associate Peter, while they plied us first with Heineken beers and then with a couple bottles of Prosecco.  What a fun day - best boat show ever!


Drinking Prosecco at the Singapore Yacht Show
with friends Margaret & Alan
and Peter at the Sevenstar Yacht Transport booth
 
On our last trip to Singapore, we finally made it to the
bar at the top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel & Casino
with Sivea

 


View of Sivea & Mario's apartment from the top of Marina Bay Sands
 
View of the Marina Bay Sands from Sivea & Mario's apartment


Back to Port Dickson (April 15 to 28)

After our weekend in Singapore, we headed back to Port Dickson and it was time to wrap things up and get on our way.  One of the big chores still ahead of us was topping off our diesel supply.  There's no fuel dock in Admiral Marina, but there's a great guy here named Panir who is the go-to man for fuel supplied in jerry jugs.  Panir schlepped numerous jugs of fuel for us because we needed to top off our main tank and are carrying 400 liters of diesel in jerry jugs on deck since we are expecting to motor the 670 miles from here to the Sunda Straits.  That route will take us through Indonesia, and there are not good options for procuring fuel in Indonesia (their fuel is usually very dirty and mixed with palm oil).  In addition to fuel procurement, we've continued with other items on our "to-do" list - oil changes, hose replacements, completing an additional bilge pump installation, activating the SIM card for our SatPhone and setting it up to interface with our computer for email,  waypoints and navigational routes entered on our iPad and into the chartplotter, podcasts loaded onto the iPod, e-books loaded on to our Kindles.  It's incredible the amount of last-minute details that go into planning and executing a significant voyage like this. 


Mr. Choo stopping by to do a final check on the genset
installation. We were impressed with his
professionalism, and he's also quite gregarious.
 


Panir at Admiral Marina in Port Dickson helped us with fuel
and a few other miscellaneous items.  

 


Slip Away is sitting low in the water and looking like
a fuel barge with 12 of these 30 liter jerry jugs on deck.
 

At this point, we're counting down the hours to our departure.  The critical items on our "to-do" list are completed.  We've never, ever completed our to-do list, but this has to be the closest we've come! Slip Away is loaded down with fuel and food. The boat bottom and propeller have been scrubbed.  Laundry is done, bills are paid, and our website is even updated.  :-)  

Our plan is to leave Admiral Marina in Port Dickson, Malaysia, on Saturday, April 28.  We considered leaving on Friday, but sailing superstition says that it's unlucky to begin a voyage on a Friday.  We're not overly superstitious people, but we see no reason to test that!  From Port Dickson, our planned route is to travel south along the Malacca Straits to the Durian Straits, Berhala Straits, Bangka Straits and finally the Sunda Straits (670 miles).  We expect this portion of our voyage will be a motor trip, and we're hoping to do it non-stop.  If we go non-stop, the journey should take us about 5 days, but there are places to stop and anchor along the way if wanted or needed.  Once we're through the Sunda Straits, we hope to anchor and rest up for a few days before continuing on.  The Krakatoa Volcano sits on the Indian Ocean side of the Sunda Straits, and there's a nearby anchorage, which would be an awesome spot for a stop.  After that, we'll carry on another 600 miles to the Cocos Keeling Islands, which are a territory of Australia.  From Cocos Keeling, our planned stops as we travel across the Indian Ocean include the islands of Rodrigues, Mauritius, Reunion, and Madagascar, and if all goes as expected, we will be arriving in South Africa in about six months. 

if you are wondering where we might be, just click on the Current Location link on any of our website pages.  We'll report in regularly.  Wish us luck!