Saturday 21 November 2015
One can actually get stuff done at Pangkor Marina Island and environs. Boat stuff - this is the home of Malaysia's navy. Fridge, which had been misbehaving just as was freezer in Mexico, has been vacuumed and recharged. Recurrent air conditioner implosions were discovered (we Pollyannaishly surmise) to be malfunctioning start relay leaving successive capacitors powered up until they melted. Azmun, our capable if English challenged repairman, has begun stalking the certain-to-be illusive part. Propane tank was quickly refilled with actual propane for a pittance. Diesel is cheaper than Indonesia. Sure it's foreign (many Malaysians disagree), but darned civilized.
Spent a couple of days touring Pangkor Island and Ipoh (state capitol of Perak), between activities directed primarily toward reestablishing an operable fuel system. May not have mentioned that engine stopped every few minutes on approach to marina, including when reversing to prevent imminent dock impact. This likely due air incursion from cobbled together fueling through generator filter which has smaller barbs. Happily modest speed and spring lines had been prepared for just such an eventuality. We remained unscathed to sail another day.
About that fuel thing, engineering division of crew had previously dismantled filtration system 6-way valve to determine efficaciousness of spending unconscionable dollars to ship minimal repair kit to Malaysia. A regrettable character flaw made aforementioned individual want to fix the thing (being in possession of it and all) even though subsequent industrial looking valvage works well and was easily created... well, except that necessary, but complicated, proprietary hose barb fittings are impossible to obtain. A machine shop in nearby Sitiawan made 4 of them for less than shipping from company, not even to mention parts cost. Racor are diabolically proud of their stuff. Up their nose with a rubber hose. Do you feel better too? Probably should have tried to fabricate buggered, nylon valve innards too. Current plan is to kit up 6-way and use then superfluous plumbing to allow both engine and generator to use any of 3 mounted filters. By the way A/C relay continues to elude apprehension.
Pangkor - best stop yet. Dinner-cum-party last night was well attended and more fun than .97 to 1.63 barrels of monkeys, depending upon age and genus of incarcerated simians. Will most likely return for yard work, tentatively delaying initially planned haul early next year due wanting to play for awhile and no system crying out for attention.
En route as this is written, toward Pinang Island, site of World Heritage City, Georgetown (there are a lot of these implying that George was a really popular guy or that many explorers wanted to suck up to him), and Straits Quay Marina. Reputed to be way fun as well, the area sites a hot dip galvanizing company where treatment of rusty ground tackle has been organized. This could get interesting as we're required to leave marina after 2 December and anchoring is tricky without proper accoutrement. As a technique, attaching to bottom using centerline keel with 2.5 meter tide leaves much to be desired and is frowned upon by discerning boat owners.
Tuesday 17 November 2015
Canadian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur (means muddy river in Malay (confirmed)) opened earlier than scheduled and contacted both of Jan's references who then notified her before noon, having reported (they claim) that she is indeed of the highest moral character. No mention was made of mental fitness. Current thinking after auspicious beginning is that new passport will arrive Langkawi sooner than published 3 weeks.. perhaps, yet again, a triumph of hope over experience.
Having seen little of Port Dickson area due road tripping, we now proceed toward Pangkor. As with last occasion it will be an overnight sail. This was not suppose to happen, but there seems little reason (apart from missing sleep and avoiding undesirable, possibly deleterious, contact with other boats or chunks of flotsam) to dawdle at anchor in the Strait. Besides, located at the likeliest distance for stopping is busy Port Klang, proximate to KL and mouth of previously mentioned estuary following 2 days of flooding rains. Should get safely beyond subsequent discharge before dark, he averred impetuously with sanguine sangfroid (this particular pathology requires some credulity and a bit of practice).
Sunday 15 November 2015
Having dodged sudden death on the overnight trip up while making excellent time to arrive at Admiral Marina before 1100 we found plenty of room. In fact, the place didn't fill up until 3 days later. Turns out all the guys who went to Penang City for the rally scheduled clearance out of Indonesia and who then planned to clear into Malaysia here before we arrived, ran into the filibustering queen of port captains and were stuck there for several days. Forget what your mother used to tell you - wandering off is good.
After a day and a half of extensively scrutinizing the one bar and one restaurant at Admiral, we rented a car with Chris & Sara from Tulu (who for some inscrutable reason purchased a catamaran instead of a real boat) to drive back south to historic Malacca (or Melaka), the namesake of the Strait and former center of trade in the area: lots of museums, temples, churches, mosques and some terrific, inexpensive food. Next time you're in town, don't miss the Baboon House. It makes only burgers, but is Tripadvisors #2 rated restaurant out of 343 in the city. No apes were harmed in this production, but can't guarantee the same for the odd lamb or steer.
Now on a rally sponsored bus to Kuala Lumpur (KL) for sightseeing. We'll stay over tonight so Jan can apply for a passport at the high commission early tomorrow. Not quite sure what Canada expects its citizens to use them for, but apparently not travel as hers has gotten completely filled since 2013. The new one will be good for 10 years (increased from 5) and has a few more pages. She'll be restricted to Malaysia for the 3 weeks needed to process it as officials get all huffy if one tries to leave without. We have so far toured Batu Cave (Buddhist temple) and the Royal Selangor Pewter factory. Next stop is the Petronas twin towers (former tallest buildings in the world). So far it's been great except the bus tour guide speaks in the lilting, high pitched voice one might use with 3-year-olds. Regrettably Malaysia doesn't recognize this as grounds for justifiable homicide. On second thought given my commensurate attention span, it's not so bad. She means well.
Monday 9 November 2015
It seems that some mention was made of constructive exertions to be undertaken over the past 3 days. This has regrettably not transpired for reasons entirely unrelated to endemic sloth.. OK, not entirely, but there were extenuating circumstances. Registering for the rally on Friday and arranging for departure early Monday, while taking but half an hour around noon, nevertheless destroyed the smooth progression of the day. It's like laminar flow over an airplane wing. Once the boundary layer becomes detached, it stalls and produces a cataclysmic shock to man and machine. In this case the psychic trauma was momentous and subsequently required continuous social interaction and adult beverages to right the ship before bedtime.
Rain disrupted exterior work Sunday following a full day Saturday devoted to a tour of Johor including the magnificent state government complex with integrated mosque and a trek through a mangrove swamp to the southernmost point of continental Asia. One can walk from there to Siberia if for some curious reason one is so disposed. Like Key West's comparable location for all, even non-contiguous bits, of the US, there is a monument, except this one is spherical and unaccountably not banded red and white.
Apropos of that the Malaysian flag is similar to the US's, which has 13 alternating stripes for the original states, although here there is a 14th of equal size for the federal government. Apparently they have not yet similarly succumbed to the chimera of America's ongoing encroachment of cradle to grave central control, preferring federalism. However, although catching up, we do lag somewhat vis-a-vis corruption so perhaps a semblance of balance is achieved. I mean it's not like bureaucratic malfeasance isn't a favorite method everywhere to accumulate that all-important bling.
As this is written we are proceeding up Malacca Strait toward Admiral Marina just south of Port Dickson, about 140 NM. Theoretically a tidal current of up to 2 knots should reverse every 6 hours, but speed and direction are wildly unpredictable such that planning generally involves sailing as far as possible during the day then dropping the hook before dark wherever you end up along the coast (the Strait is quite shallow). This of course is completely at odds with what we're actually doing. Because we love sailing coastwise, overnight, in heavily congested waters, have decided to cheat death from ships in the deeper channel to port and fishing vessels to starboard so as to arrive tomorrow, beating many other cruisers and thus, possibly, getting a slip at the soon to be overwhelmed, first come, first served marina. Also, just to be clear, the term 'sailing' is entirely rhetorical as nearly everyone agrees this presupposes wind.
Thursday 29 October 2015
Felicitous news continues to rain happy. Although stateroom AC always worked, saloon unit has been defunct forever (slight hyperbole) after operating a short time following 2nd replacement of start capacitor. Figured it was weary, old compressor killing the things, but wanted to try one more time, so dug down to remove said bit for discovery that one of its connections was loose (suspect the rabbit). Once put right, the unit sprang to life and is, as we speak, working its little heart out to envelope us in cool bliss. This morning at 1000 the Fahrenheit temp is 82 with heat index 100. Afternoon observation to follow - eventually.
Reports from Malaysia have been delightfully correct: first world benefits, third world prices, friendly people and the Bahasa we learned in Indonesia works pretty well here, although nearly everyone speaks American. English speakers such as Jan, Aussies and assorted others struggle a bit.
Afternoon temp 91F (33C). Feels like 108F (42C).
Spoke too soon as AC start capacitor has oozed molten plastic around connector to reestablish original misgivings about compressor. However, expect to try more robust unit requiring minimal ringgits before invoking outside expertise.
Although possessing new Canadian passport for only 3 years, Jan has used all space for stamps. US allows purchase of extra pages. Had to obliterate Costa Rica to place full page Indonesian visa therein and now Malaysia immigration although testy about overlapping its stamp did so with strong recommendation to fix. Half of crew will visit Singapore tomorrow as distaff component stays home to preclude getting stuck there for the 3 weeks renewal requires. She has solo appointment for leg wax which is fine as rest of crew is insufficiently hairy at this point for concern. Will presently apply for new paperwork in Kuala Lumpur to be delivered to Langkawi if Canada officialdumb will do that and the crik don't rise (southern US expression).
Will continue this evening on quest to try every bar and restaurant in Puteri Resort before departure to points north around 9 November.
Leaving for the big city state at 0700 began a process that ended around 2030 with 8 separate bus rides (divided by 4 trips into immigration and/or customs) and 2 (potentially 4) subway legs. Initially deposited near Raffles Hospital (Jan's bionic knee) to commence trek up Rocher Rd. and Jalan Besar for electrical/electronic gear (Sim Lim Sq and Tower), boat gear (Marintech and Aqua Int'l.) and nearly anything else (Mustafa Center). Traded a boat unit for about 20 kg of various crap that was schlepped back to Puteri with help from Mike of Fyne Spirit who prides himself on buying and subsequently carrying as little as possible. Didn't help him this time.
Thursday (the next one)
This is getting out of hand. Can't seem to finish one of these things without dragging on for days.
As Tuesday and Wednesday were squandered at dentist, dermatologist, optometrist, phone store, clothing store, grocer and several other places that escape memory (not even to mention happy hour(s) schmoozing with good friends, mates and nearly everyone else in the vicinity), have used none of purchases to fix anything except AC... priorities. Even that took 2 days as a power wire came loose and hid in rat's nest of others for a day. New start capacitor is big enough to get Starship Enterprise rebooted. By the way there are new TV series, movie and Spock hand emoji to keep trekkie's hearts aflutter for awhile. Live long and prosper.
OK, that's it. Really, really, really must do something productive today. Various deadly sins regrettably held in abeyance for the interim.
Wednesday 28 October 2015
Conveyance across Singapore Strait in limited visibility was as interesting as anticipated. Despite reports to the contrary not all traffic have AIS transmitters, but radar helped as even wooden boats have metal engines. It's wonderfully stimulating to look up as the bow of a 900 foot tanker making 12 knots appears out of the mist pointed directly at you. AIS receiver monitors the closest 100 signals and at one point the furthest away was less than 2 miles. Perhaps when we leave in a couple of weeks, after the fires, smoke and haze are gone, all the ships and skyline of Singapore will add a bit more perspective.
Speaking of which we seem to have brought rain. While dining last night with longtime mates whom we hadn't seen in nearly 3 years, Gary & Jackie from Inspiration Lady, it rained cats and cats (Muslims don't have dogs). Rain continued all night and into this morning. Expect to get out in bathers with a mop to clean off 3+ months of grime. With luck it will be sufficiently widespread to put out fires and clear the air. Whatever else it's done, temperatures are much lower.
Speaking of which after cooling pump was inundated with saltwater several days ago it was immediately flushed with fresh and deluged with WD40. Notwithstanding that AC refused service on generator, after connecting system to shore power (first time since July), with nothing to lose, turned the thing on and it worked. First night in Malaysia required sheet and blanket. Entire crew, not even to mention firmly topped up batteries, are happy chappies. This undoubtedly includes Rabbit, but being quite an undemonstrative and, indeed, contrary creature he prefers not to let it show.
Speaking of which Puteri Harbour, whether it's pronounced 'poo tree', 'pooterie' or 'poo terry', the name belies its character. Besides other amenities, most of which have yet to be revealed, there's a Starbucks with free internet. Cool, connected and caffeinated, we have taken a vote to reach the conclusion that, for the indefinite future, civilization doesn't suck.
Monday 26 October 2015
As we near Singapore Strait there is nearly constant talk on 16, the calling and emergency channel. Visibility is perhaps a mile and the sea is an oily slick with virtually no wind and none forecast. No way to discern clouds, but suspect few as enveloping smoke is quite bright. Resultant air pollution, virtually an annual event, causes sneezing and coughing, probably increasing local occurrence of COPD and emphysema. Polarized sunnies cut through some of the glare, but a constant lookout is necessary to avoid small fishing boats which bob about in significant numbers and dart willy nilly. Evading collision tomorrow while crossing the Strait's shipping lanes should be quite stimulating given the volume of traffic (this is perhaps the busiest port on earth), but fortunately the big ships have AIS transmitters giving position, course and speed to help thwart a dramatic if rather expeditious death.
Well, that last was pretty somber and depressing. By the way, have you ever seen a squirrel caught on a highway in traffic? More fun for you than the squirrel. Not to worry, the heat is too enervating for any rapid movement.
On a more upbeat note, at dusk we had a lovely cockpit dinner with chilled red wine as a peculiar fish netting operation took place just off the port beam, then watched Game of Thrones, episode 3, season 5 as the plot thickened. A full night's sleep was a breeze (possibly a poor choice of metaphor) as we now consider comfortable an overnight low of 29 C (84 F).
Although rabbit must be distressed by the heat (white - likely a snowshoe hare) he displays unflinching stoicism and remains punctilious in guarding the aft bunk. There seems, however, to be a slight ear droop and lassitude that, while not completely atypical, may bespeak significant trauma. As he is normally somewhat phlegmatic, this is as yet supposition. Careful observation will ensue as there is suspicion in some quarters that the little blighter may be engaging in chicanery to gain undeserved sympathy.
Sunday 25 October 2015
First time to have white herons hitch a ride. Two of them on the bow rail, several miles from land, apparently forgot they're shore birds. The girl probably led her feckless paramour astray... that's what normally happens, right? (ouch! - the slings and arrows of outraged feminists) Boat isn't rolling much in the long, oily swell, but it's fascinating to watch birds with such long legs balance - like an upside down pendulum.
As last 2 days have been such a hoot decided to continue on to west side of Pulau Galang, tomorrow's planned destination. Having made good time, can make it by dark today, then 2 rather than 3 daysails to Puteri Harbour. Likelihood that smoke would get worse, temperature and humidity would increase and wind disappear had not gone into previous, now reevaluated, reckoning.
Having complained about no precipitation for 3 months we can finally find fault with new conditions: just enough occasional drizzle to cause deck crud to clump and visibility to decrease even more, but insufficient to rid atmosphere of heat or smoke. Recreational whingeing can be fun and mildly cathartic, but this could get out of hand.
"Down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down, 'Twas sad as sad could be; And we did speak only to break The silence of the sea!"
"Day after day, day after day, We stuck, nor breath nor motion; As idle as a painted ship Upon a painted ocean." - Samuel Coleridge, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"
Our world is tinged as strangled fringe upon a mirrored sea. We carry on, yet on and on, To 'scape this dread ennui. (iambic tetrameter?) - "The Doggerel of the Ancient Mariner"
There, I feel better now. How about you?
Saturday 24 October 2015
Currently in the South China Sea west of Kalimantan (Borneo) and expect to cross the equator early tomorrow morning after which flushed toilets will again swirl anti-clockwise as is right and proper. Haze and smoke carried on southeast wind from wildfires reduces visibility, makes everything grey except the sun and moon which, when infrequently visible, appear orange and nullifies benefits of having given up cigarettes 38 years ago. With little rain (Belitung has been arid for 5 months) this may be the case until the southeast monsoon abates in November. Since we are proceeding northwest in light wind and didn't get away until afternoon yesterday and it is desirable to finish the 260 NM passage to Pulau Mesanak before dark tomorrow and we need to make electricity and water and anyway we love the rumble of exploding diesel with attendant fog of inescapable exhaust fumes, the Yanmar has been deployed since midnight. GRIB (Garbled Recounting of Inaccurate Bullflop) indicates that spinnaker may offer only chance to outpace a sea cucumber without the aid of fossilized dinosaurs. This prospect has been entirely theoretical so far today.
All in a hot and copper sky, The bloody Sun at noon, Right up above the mast did stand, No bigger than the Moon. - Samuel Coleridge, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"
Monday 19 October 2015
Do the terms hazy, hot and humid ring a bell? They do if you've ever spent a summer in Columbia, South Carolina, Houston, Texas, or probably any time of year in Kelayang, Belitung. Also smoky here not from other islands, but from fires ashore. Nevertheless, reports indicate this is an OK place with critical elements at hand - restaurants and bars. Snorkeling has also been reported good and an island lighthouse is within dingy range. Although 22 km into the city, Pandan, it's apparently quite easy to arrange transport where provisioning, cash and diverse bric-a-brac may be acquired.
Except for visibility as low as 1/2 a mile in smoke, high temps and humidity, Belitung has been great fun as per first paragraph. Expect the ceremonies post our leaving will be decent as well. Conditions last couple of days indicate that smoke is now coming from Kalimantan which no doubt means the trip north will not escape it.
Have decided to make one last 2 night passage, then 3 daysails into Puteri Harbour so to arrive on the 28th and have air conditioning.. oh wait, watermaker sprung a leak yesterday that sprayed salt water on AC cooling pump, which has expressed its displeasure by dying. Put it on the list along with engine room blower, solar charge controller, zinc anodes and several other bits and pieces.
As happens periodically, a bittersweet departure as we say goodbye to great people we've come to know and like over the last 3 months to pursue further adventure and find more friends over the horizon. In this case many will be wandering about Malaysia so the fun can resume.
After 3 month notice of early departure from Indonesia, 3 week announcement of specifics and producing paperwork 3 days early, may or may not have departure clearance around noon today, last legal day in Indonesia before visa expires. Wonder if they have color telly, air conditioning and memory foam mattresses in Indonesian prisons?
Finally got all paperwork for clearance to Malaysia?.. no, Singapore. With insufficient time and/or patience to redo will, like Blanche DuBois, rely on the kindness of strangers. Understand the Malays are pretty mellow in this regard and the important bit is leaving Indonesia without being fired upon.