13 January 2021
During this Covid imposed sailing hiatus, in the absence of stirring yarns of us battling the high seas, avid blog followers will know I have drawn on the experiences of the past, harking back to my youth, to bring you amusing and heart warming anecdotes to help while away the lockdowns.
Anne's told me to stop. "Nobody's interested in stories of your childhood". I'm not so sure, people are interested in the Royal family, Beyoncé and the like so, brace yourselves, here comes another.
Earlier today, walking along the trench we've now worn in the beach over these last many months aimlessly plodding back and furrit' into town, I spotted a guy whiling away his last few hours of freedom under the present Movement Control Order. The MCO is due to be tightened up later today as, after opening the gates to internal tourism, Malaysia has hit something of a spike. A spike of some magnitude with Covid now scoring two thousand five hundred cases a day as opposed to the eighty we've, "enjoyed" most of the year. You might remember I said this would happen just a few posts ago. But as usual, did anyone in the government think to ask me?
Our new best friend was amusing himself sketching one of the pseudo Arabic towers in one of the nearby hotels. "That's pretty impressive" I said, and we got to chatting.
"Where you from?" he asked. "Just over there" I replied pointing over his shoulder at our island home. "No" he replied, "where are you FROM?".
"Scotland" we said. Then, with a slight look of exasperation, probably much like you're feeling just now, he kind of said, and certainly implied, "Aaargh, NO - where are you FROM?"
"Stirling" we replied, half uttering "between Glasgow and Edinburgh" which we normally add to help folk who've done the usual tourist, lightning tour of Scottish castles and/or golf courses. Before we could get it out he says, "I spent seven years in Dundee".
I was too polite to say, "Oh, which prison was that?" as that's about the only reason people go to Dundee, but instead said "that must make you a doctor or a dentist" as the other gothic fortification in Dundee is the university.
"No" he says, "I'm a crazy cartoonist". Well, you could have knocked me down with a feather., or indeed a large weight that says "1 ton" on it.
So, there we were, on the other side of the world speaking to a local Malay who brought Desperate Dan, cow pies and the like to life every week in the Dandy. The staple reading diet of kids in the sixties.
It's where I learned my literary skills.
(If you want to see the modern version, click here;
Your text to link...
Marathon New Year
06 January 2021
Our brother in law runs marathons. He also does triathlons, you know, a hundred miles swimming on your back followed by many more on a bike sitting on a saddle designed by a masochist. Then I think you run the last bit. Actually, maybe they're all masochists.
He's also a regular participant in Yorkshire's Swaledale marathon. Talk about up hill and down dale. Twenty six miles of misery. Usually in the pouring rain. It wasn't always an organised marathon for masochists. I believe it started life as just normal Yorkshiremen going to town avoiding the bus fare.
All of which is a long way to say he's pretty fit. And has the short arms and deep pockets of a true Yorkshireman......who lives in Aberdeen, when he's not posted to Malaysia.
Jonathan had a significant birthday so we braved the Covid express all the way down to Penang to help him celebrate....... being old. Ha ha.
Now, while we've been exercising rigorously and indeed vigorously, for the last nine months, climbing Penang Hill, all eight hundred and twenty seven metres of it, was a bit of an acid test. 6 1/2 km straight up and 6 1/2 straight down, feet slippin around in yer flip flops from the sweat pouring off your back.
The lesson of the day is don't go walking with a Yorkshireman when there is a perfectly serviceable 50 Ringgit taxi service to the top￼.
29,358 steps and 278 flights of stairs if anyone's interested and us booked into an hotel with no elevator.
And so, we toughed it out until midnight, if you can call, scallops seared in ginger with caviar, Cod and Wagyu beef "toughing" it, rang in the bells and crawled up the stairs on our hands and knees to bed.
Happy New Year everybody.
05 January 2021
One of the many exciting and intellectually stimulating topics of conversation among locked down cruisers is audio visual entertainment, whether The Donald Trump Comedy Hour, (although surely 70 million Americans can't be wrong?), the latest movies doing the rounds, like Forrest Gump or Gone With The Wind, such is the vintage of most folks hard drive collections.
TV series are much sought after as it can be a real challenge to fit in a whole movie between Sundowners and us old timers heading to bed at Cruisers' Midnight.
One series we latched onto was Grey's Anatomy. It was OK for a while but, for me anyway, it got a bit repetitive. Personal problems, stroppy patients, a disaster of some mind blowing proportion and of course, the out of their depth trainee doctor screaming, "he's coding" as yet another poor sucker gets a jolt from the paddles.
A jolt I very nearly needed last week on the way back from Kuah.
It was light airs, maybe 10 knots. We'd just filled up with diesel and, not wanting to actually use any, we upped the main and Solent and wheeched out the anchorage on a nice reach planning to circumnavigate the island. We're not likely to circumnavigate much else at the present rate so might as well do Langkawi we thought. That is, until the wind died a bit and went more behind. Solent away, Code 0 rolled out and off we went again. Until the wind went even more behind. Code 0 away, spinnaker hauled out after twelve months hibernation, and hoisted up what seemed to be a mast taller than I remembered.
"Phew. That was a bit of work"....and we'd only covered about six miles down to the end of the channel and time to turn for Rebak. Gybe, kite away, furled Code 0 down, Code D up unrolled and winched in......and off we went again. For five minutes, sailing right out the island thermal and into the afternoon sea breeze coming at us really fast. Really fast and really windy.
Frantic action to get the Code D furled and down, tack the boat in the transition from land to sea breeze, get the Solent back out, drop the boards and all in the few minutes before the wind hit.
In a previous life, I'd be stood at the wheel while my "people" rushed around like loonies doing the donkey work listening out for the skipper's shouts of perhaps, "Excuse me chaps, we may be gybing soon" or "it looks like we may be tacking RFN ........ so get the flippin' finger out".
Nowadays, it's just us, Anne driving and instead, it's just me running about like a loonie pulling ropes and winching.
The only shout you're likely to hear these days on Time Bandit is, "He's coding" as I lie on the deck, surrounded by acres of sailcloth, half conscious, blood vessels popping and me wheezing like Thomas The Tank Engine, but hey, we sailed all the way and used not a drop of diesel.
I never have been very good at this cruising lark.
Happy New Year Everybody.
(Nothing on the tele? Look for SV Time Bandit on YouTube. Nearly as bad as Greys Anatomy. Especially the episode when they all sing).
Safe To Go Back In The Water?
19 December 2020
My apologies for another reference to an old movie but a scene from Jaws played out in my head this morning, (there’s a lot goes on in there you know).
In the movie, it was peak holiday time, the beach was mobbed but after the recent fatal shark attacks, no one, but no one, was going in the water. Not even for a pee.
Enter the politicians.
Dressed in his best 1970's, multi coloured, checked sports jacket, still very popular today among many European men of a certain age, (is it any wonder we voted for Brexit?), the mayor puts pressure on his colleagues, sunbathing a good ten metres from the water, to show some leadership, save the economy and get back in the water.
And of course, it all goes tits up. One death from a heart attack, another from shark attack.
Our Covid world seems to be re-enacting that scene.
The world's economies are in the tank. The only hope is tourism. (Whatever happened to manufacturing?) And so, the politicians have thrown open the borders and the eager tourists have flooded in.
Two weeks later. Guess what? You really didn't have to be Einstein or indeed Dr Fauci to forecast what would happen.
Covid spikes. Hospitals nearly "overwhelmed". New mutant strains emerging. Total lockdowns reintroduced. Jeez. What next?
All this going on while we sit in Rebak; our "Alcatraz". Delighted to be isolated here. Safe and secure on our own private island, off an island, off the mainland. Until the tourists started arriving.
Arriving from their Hot Spots in the south. We watch their 'planes fly overhead on the approach to Langkawi airport. Seventeen of them yesterday. We watch them climb into our ferry bringing them to our island. We eye them suspiciously from behind our reinforced, inadequate, fancy Batik patterned masks.
We now know exactly how those folks on the Jaws beach felt, not to mention the islanders of Sumatra, Maldives, Madagascar and Reunion who look at strange white sails coming over their horizons. Boats carrying STRANGERS!!!
It's therefore with a real sense of hypocrisy that we make plans to head for these very islands next month, finally en-route to South Africa.
The question is; is it really safe to go back in the water?
What Ho Chaps
14 December 2020
Remember our impotent, liquid Viagra fuelled outboard?
Well, we decided maybe we should get it looked at. Not in a Stuart kind of way; where, in an effort to fix some failed part or other I give said part a long and withering glare. Usually to no avail. Instead, I was going to pay, heaven forbid, an expert to look at it.
Our chosen engine medic had done a good job for one of the other cruisers, so, with a sound recommendation, we arranged to meet the mechanics on Kuah beach. We had to meet on the beach as the outboard is so heavy, any attempt to lift it is surely hastening a trip to the hernia clinic. Quite frankly, I’ve no idea how you lift it off the dinghy by man power alone without incurring bodily harm. In the end, it took three of us to get it off the dinghy, up the beach and onto the truck. The thing is, Honda put a wee handle on it as if you could lift it like a shopping bag. Their idea of a joke I guess.
Anyway, Honda despatched, we jumped in a Grab, Asia’s answer to Uber, and headed for the 99 Degrees South Golf Club for their advertised Christmas Fair.
Well, it was like stepping back in time, either twelve months or six decades.
The “golf club” was obviously where the UK ex-pats, or Border Rats as they’re otherwise known, gather for their afternoon Tiffin and G&Ts. Not that I ever been to one but from what I’ve read some of the “chaps” from the British Foreign Office circa 1930 or perhaps the Raj would have felt quite at home.
There was also a strange mind set in place with masks and social distancing nowhere to be seen. Plenty of mwaw mwaw, girly air kissing and manly hugs and folk not giving a fiddle-de-di
about that simply too boring disease that awful man Trump keeps going on about.
We felt like we’d landed in a scene from Downton Abbey. And about as comfortable.
We had a quick drink and left what might well become known as a Langkawi hot spot. And not for its night life.
Funny thing us, given it was an ex-Pat hang out we never met anyone who used to be called Pat.
29 November 2020
We re-wrote our “to-do” list. In itself, not news of Blog shattering proportions however, it’s a re-write, finally, with a purpose.
We’re going sailing.
Not, definitely-maybe or definitely-if or definitely-but.
We’re definitely going sailing.
Next year. ￼
Nonetheless, we’ve a new, objective oriented to-do list. (Whoops, apologies for work-speak).
I shimmied up the mast, tightened up the VHF aerial which was waggling a bit, gave the BadBoy aerial a hard look. But it still doesn’t work, never has. Put on a new main halyard. Checked the rig. Had a look at the view.
Serious stuff. See. We’re definitely going.
New engine oil, fuel and oil filters. Diesel supply polished and stocking up on passage grub.
Covid is down en route, there’s a vaccine on the horizon, the new Code 0 should arrive soon and having said nine months ago I’d catch up on all my outstanding videos I need a good excuse to continue not getting round to it.
However, basically, I’m done sitting on my ass.
23 November 2020
A few days ago we "cast off the lines" and headed out to the big wide ocean. Well, Langkawi, anyway. Actually, not really. We didn't get that far. We spent our first three nights off a beach on Rebak, according to the AIS, all of 745 metres from our berth, over the hill in the marina. As the eagle flies.
A few days hull scrubbing later we finally made it to Langkawi and anchored of Chenang beach, hopped in the dinghy and headed ashore for a late breakfast. Now Chenang is a very flat beach and while the tidal range is just one and a half metres, it still goes out a long way. Farther than we can drag the overly heavy dinghy, and that's not been an uncommon problem over the last umpty years cruising. Consequently, over time, we've developed our own dinghy mooring system involving anchors, chains, bouys and endless amounts of rope. It's all a bit of a palaver, keeps other cruisers amused, or bemused, but it works.
We were in the final process of laying our "mooring" when Jens and Alison from Rebak wandered up, out for their daily walk along the beach.
"So, how does this lot work?" says Jens. "Well" says I, scratching the basic principles in the sand, "it's like this........." and on I blethered, ending with, "and the great thing is that if, unlike today where it's glassy calm, if there's any surf, once you've dropped the anchor, you can let yourself down from the mooring, reverse into the beach, the anchor system keeping the bow into the waves, step elegantly onto the sand then using the miles of endless rope, haul the dinghy safely back out into deeper water."
"To retrieve, we simply reverse the process. Simpls". And off we went for a stroll up the beach to the Smiling Buffalo for scrambled egg, smoked salmon, toast and......salad.
Over brunch, for by now breakfast time was long gone, the rain, forecast to break about two kicked off early leaving us to walk back into town in the torrential rain, our worn and somewhat perforated umbrellas creating our own misty micro climates under their shelter. In town, we thought we'd chill out in the air con of another favourite lockdown haunt, The Loaf coffee shop and hopefully the rain would ease.
"Oh look" says Anne as we walked in. "You can see the boat from here". Well, actually, we could see the top half of the mast over the back wall of the cafe. As I'm sure most cruisers will agree, it's always a bit of a relief to see your pride and joy safely at anchor after you've been away for a bit. Relaxed and reassured all was well Chez Time Bandit, we settled in, the rain hosing down outside.
"Two of your finest cappuccinos mein host, and how about an almond croissant?"
About an hour later, we paid up and headed for the beach. Turning the corner we were somewhat astounded, nay, panic stricken to see that under the top half of the apparently steady mast, rather than sitting sedately at anchor, Time Bandit was tossing and pitching, her bows leaping into the air, in some pretty big, steep waves and all that, not very far out from a newly developed surf line.
"Oh gosh" I thought. "Where the !?#% did this come from?" The forecast was rain from 14:00 and a measly variable 3.4 knots from anywhere (I just looked back at the data - honest). Next up was, "Where's the flippin' dinghy?"
As a sense of urgency, and a loosening of the bowels overtook us, like an aged version of Baywatch, we sprinted down the road and along the beach to where we'd left the dinghy on our super duper, fancy mooring. For a while we couldn't see it, then, appearing out the foaming breakers and spume, our little RIB was valiantly battling for survival, hooked, bow on to the pounding surf by said super duper fancy mooring, leaping up and down, pretty much awash as the top few inches of each wave were skimmed off into the boat. Not much longer and the whole boat would be awash.
"Pamela" and I quickly made a plan of action. We'd go all Baywatch, wade into the surf, climb in to the boat, haul ourselves out a little deeper and critically, for our hair do's and well being, ensuring the anchor kept us bow into the waves. Side on wouldn't be fun. I'd then start the engine and as we powered into the surf, Anne would haul in the mooring gubbins while throwing herself bodily forward as we hit each crest. So, just like Baywatch, we launched ourselves into the surf, climbed aboard and started to put the plan in action.
What is it they say about plans falling apart after the first engagement? Well, ours kind of held together, except, if the outboard engine's cold, our Honda needs a squirt of magic go juice up the air intake to get it going. A kind of Viagra for reluctant outboards. And it was cold. After a few energetic pulls, I knew we needed the juice. So, while the boat is leaping around like a bucking bronco under a fire hose (I said "bucking" but was feeling otherwise) muggins has to take the cover off the engine, give a magic squirt and a pull.
Cover off, squirt, pull and..........vvvrooooooomm...... Anne starts pulling in the anchor, then nothin'. "What the %#€$."
"Put the anchor back down" I politely suggested, as, side on to the surf, we were toast. Very soggy toast. Anne quickly eased out what she'd got in keeping it all under tension holding us head into the waves. Good skills that girl. I pulled and pulled but nothing. There was so much water around and with the cover off, we weren't going to get many chances to get the beast started.
It was then I noticed that after the magic squirt, when I'd executed my half rotation, triple salco, full extension starter cord pull, the engine fired......then instantly died as my elegant twist whipped out the kill cord, diligently attached to my wrist.
I quickly fished around in the mess and attached the cord to my ankle. If we were going to go upside down, it wasn't going to be in company of a flesh eating whisk. Another squirt of liquid Viagra, a pull and rewarded with a relieving "vvvrooom". Cover on, we motored into the surf, Anne hauling in the endless line as fast as she could.
More Baywatch, or indeed, lifeboat action as with each wave, the bow leapt into the air, in a welter of spray, Anne leaping forward to keep the bow down and get a refreshing hair rinse. We were so awash by this time that we were up to our knees, petrol cans, umbrellas, magic cans of juice sloshing around and worse, stopping us cresting the waves. Half the waves went under the boat. Half over the top, thankfully, as much sloshing out the back as came over the front. It seemed to take forever but finally we cleared the breaking surf and gingerly headed for Time Bandit, still pitching like a wild thing.
As we approached, getting aboard was obviously going to be a bit of a laugh, and a time when boarding up a ladder positioned in a seaman like manner mid-ships would have made life a lot easier. So much for fancy transom steps. One minute ours were totally submerged, the next, up in the air, rudders exposed. Nice and clean I was pleased to notice.
It was all about timing. And luck. Some bruises, rope burns and a chipped tooth, but we made it. It wasn't pretty. All knees, elbows, slithering and scrabbling for a safe hold, but it worked. Pretty much a nautical version of my climbing style.
Aboard, there was no way we could lift the RIB, not without the weight ripping out something, either the davits or the bottom of the dinghy. Something was going to go. Our only option was to put it on a short length of painter and hope it would be there when we got moving. We kept the painter short so it wouldn't foul the prop. We were in a precarious enough position as it was and losing an engine could have been embarrassing. Not to mention being back in the coffee shop faster than planned, Time Bandit parked neatly on the beach like some unwanted Hobie cat.
Engines on, Anne had a salt water shower lying on the trampoline as the waves crashed all around while she dialled in the chain. Fortunately it was still raining hard so she got a rinse as well.
Anchor up, we pulled away slowly, easing the dinghy painter out as far as it would go, lifeboat tow style. All we had to do was haul our semi-submersible the two miles back to the marina and at two knots or less to make sure we didn't break the tow rope. The "pitching hour" hour we called it.
An hour and fifteen minutes later, we're tied up at the dock in the glassy calm that is Rebak marina.
It was an exciting afternoon and after nine months where crossing the road on one of our interminable walks was the stress point of our day, last night, sleep wouldn't come easy.
It was either our poorly timed coffee giving a shock to our caffeine free systems or residual adrenaline. Either way, we just couldn't get over, tossing and turning in the heat the air-con was failing to subdue. Finally, I put on one of my "help you nod off on passage tracks", appropriately called "Atlantis".
Gentle soothing tunes, no melody you'd recognise to get you hooked and start thinking, just anonymous, soothing sounds.........all played to a background of waves breaking on the shore.
12 November 2020
We've been here so long we're now quite well known amongst the locals...... probably as the nutters who walk for miles and miles under the blazing sun. We've also effectively eaten our way around the world as Langkawi is home to quite a diverse population. The Jasmine for the Indian Butter Chicken, the Yasmin for Syrian lamb mandi, the Palm View for Chinese and Arts Cafe for Malay, each offering a range of exotic dishes...... and a dozen or more variations of chicken and rice. Where it goes wrong is when one nationality tries to cook another's food, eg: Scrambled egg, salmon and salad at our favourite haunt, The Smiling Buffalo, but it works. If it weren't for the walking we'd be about fourteen stone by now.
Yesterday morning we went ashore with M & P (nameless, to protect the innocent) and over breakfast, we talked about options for our day's walk. Michael had a suggestion (oops, that's his cover blown). "Yes", says Michael over breakfast, "if you go out of here, turn right, keep left at the river, then you'll be in the workings of the new road. When it's finished it will link the cruise terminal to the main road."
And so, fortified with a breakfast of Scott's porridge oats, bacon, eggs, sausage, fried tomato, beans, slice and a few cups of builders tea, off we went, (in my culinary dreams - actually, it was a breakfast of roti, dahl and curry sauce with tea and condensed milk - just to keep the diabetes moving along).
We knew the road Michael mentioned as we'd walked out to the cruise terminal a few days ago and seen the workings up on the hill. It seemed pretty logical that the road could be joined up into a scenic, albeit, long hike around the headland.
Just as well we had the condensed milk. It was all that kept us going as we climbed higher and higher up the hill, each "last crest" merely leading to the next. Forging deeper and deeper into the jungle, up this mud, rock and gravel half built and ever narrowing road we soldiered on. We didn't see a single soul, just one passing works truck. On and on we went, sweating like a racehorse, although, being British, we merely perspired. Nearly expired as well.
Nonetheless, after 14,324 steps, the next crest was, surely, the last, and, even if the road stopped, as seemed increasingly likely, there surely had to be a workers' path up to the road workings from the cruise terminal.
Our plodding in silence was broken by the sound of a truck labouring and bouncing up the broken track.
"Allo, allo, allo.......... what are you two up to then, out walking around in the middle of the lockdown," said the passenger..... from the door of their dark blue Polis wagon. Or at least that's what I think they said.
We were not only on rocky ground on the track but with new lockdown rules, not sure whether we were actually allowed out and pretty sure the big red warning sign, we'd ignored, a few K back, was Malay for "No Trespassing".
Dancing around their loaded questions about who we were, where we were going, why we're we going and where did we live, we stuck to our "we're dumb, lost tourists" line, which wasn't far from the truth.
It was also clear we were where we shouldn't be and were invited aboard and climbed, for the first time, into the back of a police car......... at least as far as I can remember.
For a while, we weren't sure if we were en route for jail or just being escorted from the premises. Fortunately, it was the latter and our two new best pals drove our sweaty, exhausted bones back to Chenang. "Anywhere particular you'd like to go? This is a good cafe".
And with a cheery wave and possibly Malay for "'evenin' all", off they went. Or maybe it was, “nutters”.
What nice young men.