02/18/2013, Rebak Marina, Langkawi, Malaysia
Time is starting to draw closer and closer for our departure from Rebak. While we truly enjoy it here, moss is growing on us as well as on Leu Cat. We are slated to depart on the 25th, 7 short days from now. We will be departing for Georgetown which is just about 60 nm southeast of here. Georgetown is the island capital of the state of Penang. We are scheduled to arrive there on March 1st. Since it is just a long day sail, we are planning on first spending a few days at an anchorage somewhere here in the Langkawi Island Group. It will be nice to be out on the anchor again, enjoying the water and solitude that an anchorage can offer: especially in the beautiful surrounding of the Langkawi Island Group.
We are going to Georgetown for a couple of reasons. First, Georgetown is loaded with culture and beauty, which we are anxious to drink in. It is a very modern city, as shown from the photo above this blog, which I snatched from the Internet. The second reason is that it is one of the medical resort centers in Malaysia. Located here are a number of excellent hospitals and well trained doctors such that people from all over the world come here for medical treatments. The quality of care is exceptional and with the costs being relatively low people can have their surgeries and recoup at a luxury hotels while enjoy a vacation during their recovery.
I too will be doing that. If you may recall, last year while sailing through the Indonesia archipelago I suffered two separate and debilitating kidney stone attacks. Each one literally laid me on my back for 24 hours with the most excruciating pain I have had. As the pain subsided, I thought that I had passed the stones. Alas, such was not the case. During my annual physical back in the States it was discovered that I had retained the stones since they were too large to pass. A procedure is required to crush and remove the stones but there was not enough time to do the procedure and recover in time to return to Leu Cat. Thus, a decision was made to have the procedure performed in Malaysia, given the high quality of care that is offered here. I now have an appointment with an American Urological Association certified doctor for March 2nd to have the stones removed. I am anxious for this to happen before any damage to the kidney occurs.
While I recover, we will enjoy the many attributes that Georgetown and the state of Penang offers. Over the next few blogs, I will fill you in with more details.
02/17/2013, Rebak Marina, Langkawi, Malaysia
I always enjoy learning about the history of the countries that we sail to. If you have read the previous years blogs, you know that I try to share a little of the history I learn in our blogs. Today, I will start with some of the things that I have learned. This may take a few days.
Humans have lived in what is now Malaysia for at least 40-50,000 years. Certain modern indigenous peoples, named "Negritos" by Europeans, may be descended from the first inhabitants, and are distinguished by their extreme genetic divergence from both other Malaysians and from modern African peoples. This implies that their ancestors were isolated on the Malay Peninsula for a very long time.
Later immigration waves from southern China and from Cambodia included the ancestors of modern Malays, who brought technologies such as farming and metalurgy to the archipelago between 20,000 and 5,000 years ago.
By the third century BCE, Indian traders had begun to bring aspects of their culture to the early kingdoms of the Malaysian peninsula. Chinese traders likewise appeared some two hundred years later. By the fourth century CE, Malay words were being written in the Sanskrit alphabet, and many Malays practiced Hinduism or Buddhism.
Before 600 CE, Malaysia was controlled by dozens of small local kingdoms. By 671, much of the area was incorporated into the Srivijaya Empire, which was based on what is now Indonesian Sumatra.
Srivijaya was a maritime empire, which controlled two key narrows on the Indian Ocean trade routes - the Malacca and the Sunda Straits. As a result, all goods passing between China, India, Arabia and other parts of the world along these routes had to go through Srivijaya. By the 1100s, it controlled points as far east as parts of the Philippines. Srivijaya fell to Singhasari invaders in 1288.
In 1402, a descendant of the Srivijayan royal family called Parameswara founded a new city-state at Malacca. The Malacca Sultanate became the first powerful state centered in modern-day Malaysia. Parameswara soon converted from Hinduism to Islam and changed his name to Sultan Iskandar Shah; his subjects followed suit.
Malacca was an important port of call for traders and sailors including China's Admiral Zheng He (have you read the book "1421: The Year China Discovered America", by Gavin Menzies?) and early Portuguese explorers like Diogo Lopes de Sequeira. In fact, Iksander Shah went to Beijing with Zheng He to pay tribute to the Yongle Emperor and get recognition as the legitimate ruler of the area.
The Portuguese seized Malacca in 1511, but the local rulers fled south and established a new capital at Johor Lama. The northern Sultanate of Aceh and the Sultanate of Johor vied with the Portuguese for control of the Malay Peninsula.
In 1641, the Dutch East India Company (DEIC) allied itself with the Sultanate of Johor, and together they drove the Portuguese out of Malacca. Although they had no direct interest in Malacca, the DEIC wanted to funnel trade away from that city to its own ports on Java. The Dutch left their Johor allies in control of the Malay states.
Other European powers, particularly the UK, recognized the potential value of Malaya, which produced gold, pepper, and also the tin that the British need to make tea tins for their Chinese tea exports. Malayan sultans welcomed British interest, hoping to stave off Siamese expansion down the peninsula. In 1824, the Anglo-Dutch Treaty gave the British East India Company exclusive economic control over Malaya; the British crown took direct control in 1857 after the Indian Uprising ("Sepoy Mutiny").
Through the early 20th century, Britain exploited Malaya as an economic asset while allowing the sultans of individual areas some political autonomy. The British were caught completely off-guard by the Japanese invasion in February 1942; Japan tried to ethnically cleanse Malaya of Chinese, while fostering Malayan nationalism. At the end of the war, Britain returned to Malaya, but local leaders wanted independence. In 1948, they formed the Federation of Malaya under British protection, but a pro-independence guerrilla movement began that would last until Malayan independence in 1957.
On August 31, 1963, Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore federated as Malaysia, over the protests of Indonesia and the Philippines (which both had territorial claims against the new nation.) Singapore broke away from Malaysia in 1965 and additional local insurgencies within Malaysia continued through 1990. However, Malaysia has survived and has now begun to thrive.
02/16/2013, Rebak marina, Langkawi, Malaysia
Today was Saturday and I decided to just chill. Chill is the key word. It was one of the hottest days we have had since returning and I just could not get up for working in this heat. Thus, I simply stayed mostly indoors and enjoyed the comfort of an air conditioned boat.
Oh, sure, I did sneak outside for a bit and hung up the shade tarp over the front of the boat. However, I was motivated in doing so since it helped keep the inside of the boat cooler and helped the A/C a bit so it did not have to work as hard.
Outside of that, I stayed strictly inside. By staying inside, I had an opportunity to continue making progress of reviewing and correcting the untold errors in the techno-tips that I had previous written. It looks like the techno-tip document that Brian helped in organizing is going to be about 270 pages long and I am now up to page 195. These are well over 650 techno-tips which simply amaze me. By the time this document is finished, it will have a wealth of practical information in it. By far, it will have the most cruising tips in it than any other document I have seen.
I have decided that we will end up making 4 separate documents from the various tips we have written. The first is the document that we have already written on making the drive cone repairs to the Yanmar SD40 or SD50 saildrive. The second will be the document I am now working on. This has the bulk of the sailing techno-tips. The third document will be the travel tips we have written and the fourth document will be by Mary Margaret and will contain her kitchen or galley tips that she wrote.
By the time this is all done, we will have a "library" of books that will be available for free to whomever is interested!
02/15/2013, Rebak marina, Langkawi, Malaysia
It was so nice to get Valentine' Day emails and blogs from friends and family. Thank you. The US is a day behind us here in Malaysia so we were able to celebrate twice! The photo attached to this blog is our grandson, Isaac. How cute is that! He certainly steals our hearts away!
This morning was Veggie Man day. Each Friday an enterprising Chinese gentleman drives his van loaded with various fruits, vegetables and frozen meats and fish over to the dock area on Langkawi where the shuttle boat from Rebak Island lands. He sets his various boxes of stuff on the ground and we cruisers wander around picking up the goodies we like for the next week. It basically is our little grocery store on wheels. Since the supermarkets and meat stores on Langkawi are in the town of Kuah, which is about a 20 minute drive away, Veggie Man makes our lives very nice and convenient. We have to either take a taxi or rent a car to get into Kuah. This way, we just take the free 0830 shuttle boat to Langkawi, buy our week's worth of groceries, and then return to the Rebak Marina.
Mary Margaret has been fighting a bit of a bug this last week so I took the list of goodies she made and went over to Langkawi to get our groceries. After filling up a shopping bag worth of stuff and paying $200 RM (about $65 US) I was done. Along with what was on Mary Margaret's list I had scored a package of bagels, a package of cream cheese and two packages of lox which made my total bill a bit on the high side but what the heck. It has been a while since I have had those fixings for breakfast.
Once I paid my bill, I hoped in a taxi and drove about 4 miles to the local sail maker's shop. Nasir had texted me that our shade cover was ready to be picked up. Last week I had asked him to sew on some white seatbelt material that I brought back from the US around the hems of the shade cover to strengthen the hand stitching that Mary Margaret and I did last year. This cover should now give us years and years of great use. It is made of a double layer of polypropylene material. Its total cost was just about $250 which was about 1/8 of the cost of the old Sunbrella shade cover we used to have.
Once I returned to Leu Cat the rest of the day was spent on...Yep, you guessed it...more boat projects!
02/14/2013, Rebak Marina, Langkawi, Malaysia
Once again, it is that time of the year when we better not forget to tell our love ones how much we love them. The thought goes out beyond just our mates but to all of our family. While we have always been a pretty close knit family, I think our feelings have deepened even more for each other since Mary Margaret and I started cruising. The cliché: "Absence makes the heart grow fonder", really is true. For us, it is now a very special treat to come back to the US each year and see our kids and our brothers and sisters and their respective families. We get one shot a year to see them. It is very special and we try to make the most of it.
What makes it so difficult is that our respective families are so scattered around the US. By the time our stay in the US is over, we are exhausted from all of the travel. However, our hearts have been refilled with the joy of seeing love ones once more. Given how spread out our families are, we never get to see everyone we want. This past year, besides spending time with our kids and new grandson, we saw my sister, Doti, my brother Don and his wife Debbie, and Cass the wife of my younger brother, Dwight, who passed this last year, and her two kids. The previous year we made a special trip back east to see Mary Margaret's two sisters, Gaby and Lonie, and their families who live in the Washington DC area. Next year, Mary Margaret would like us to return there to see them once again. Family is just so important to us that Valentine's Day is always so very special. To all our family we say: Happy Valentine's Day! We love you, we miss you and we wish you could be with us so we could give each of you big hugs and kisses.
02/13/2013, Rebak Marina, Langkawi, Mayalsia
While the sun and the heat returned today, I continued to scrub the decks getting Leu Cat nice and clean. After sitting by herself in a marina for 3 months, she needed the good scrubbing. You now need to wear sunglasses to look at her as she is so shinny and clean. Whew, it was quite a job this time.
I also carried two of our empty propane tanks down to the marina office. They will refill them here without any problem. We have been in a few countries where refilling them can be a challenge. We have two small aluminum tanks and three large fiberglass tanks. When we were in New Zealand, we were told by the marina people that the gas companies would not fill our tanks without a New Zealand certification stamp. We were also told that New Zealand would not certify fiberglass tanks. Well, as it turns out, the cruiser net is pretty strong and word got out that there was a former cruiser in Whangarei that ran a propane distribution company and that he would fill any propane tanks that had active certifications no matter what country did the certification. Thus, because of his understanding of what cruisers face when they go from country to country, we avoided the problem there.
We also had heard that you needed special fitting in Tahiti to fill you tanks there. US fittings
are different that European fittings. However, that was inaccurate information as we never had a problem wherever we went in Tahiti or any place in French Polynesia for that matter.
I mention this only because things change with each passing year. What once was the case may no longer be so today. Thus, if you are preparing to cruise and are boning up by reading cruising books and magazine articles, just realize that they may be out of date by the time they are published.
02/12/2013, Rebak Marina, Langkawi, Malaysia
Yesterday I moaned and groaned about how the hot and humid weather here has limited my ability to do outside boat projects. The result has been the "heating up" (if you will pardon the pun) of my "itchy butt' syndrome; my desire to leave and start our cruising down the Malay Peninsula. Well, I think that the weather gods must read our blog because they revamped the weather today so I could spend all day outside working. Yea!
Today was overcast and cooler with temperatures in the upper 80s and only hitting 90 in the late afternoon. Plus, there was a nice breeze that sometimes found its way into the marina. This was the first overcast day we have day since our return from the States and it was great! I was able to work outside for about 7 hours washing cushions and then scrubbing the decks of Leu Cat. I still have a bit more to do but great progress was made. Yoohoo!
I noticed Clint's comment to another comment we received on our blog a couple of days ago. Clint wrote: "Don't ya love this blog!!!! How awesome!!!" He was not referring to the enlightened and pithy writing I do on this blog. Instead, he was referred to a comment left by another reader. As it turns out, a former student of my brother Don is from Malaysia. She is now at Penn State University on a Fulbright scholarship. How great is that! Anyway, she read our blog and left a comment offering to meet us when she and her husband return to Kuala Lumpur in June. This truly is awesome!
As we sail around the world, our blog has opened the door to meeting lots of wonderful people. Blog readers have invited us to their houses in such places as Lima, Peru; Whangarei, NZ; Wellington, NZ; Brisbane, AU, Sydney, AU and Darwin, AU. We also have a standing offer from a fellow in South Africa, when we arrive there. Oh, I almost forgot...we also have met a really nice guy and his family from the US through our blog. Clint, how can I forget to mention you!
We have also received lots of timely advice from readers on how to repair things on our boat and on places to see and things to do when we get there. Our blog readers have been so nice and generous that I wish we could meet each and every one of them. Thank you from our hearts for your support, kindness and generosity!