Happy New Year!
11 January 2011 | Kuah, Langkawi, Malaysia
Holg / monsoon
Dear Friends! 22 December 2010
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! May the future bring mostly happiness and fulfilment!
Last Christmas we celebrated in Batam (Indonesia) right across from Singapore. Now we have spent more than a year with DHARMA BUM III in Asia. It is quite a different experience from living on land or visiting these places as a tourist or traveller. Of course we knew that beforehand, but it is still much more noticeable when one experiences it for a while.
Singapore reminded us very much of Taiwan and we made a lot of friends there. We had no unpleasant experiences, were not bothered at all by the supposedly draconian rules and regulations and we often think of our time there. An additional highlight was the short TV programme, in which our life was presented. A very special souvenir, indeed!
Malaysia, where we are now, is also very pleasant. We spent pretty much all the time in Langkawi, but didn't do any heavy duty work on the boat. That was reserved for Phuket and we quickly got to understand that Phuket is not really Thailand. It is a tourist enclave and many of the tourists have permanently settled down there. This is made quite easy these days, especially for those who are over 50 years old.
We hauled out at Asian Phuket Marine and Dockyard and in the beginning things seemed to go quite well. We made friends with the manager Jeab, who was absolutely fascinated by our daughter. Although the yard was quite a bit more expensive than Norsand Boatyard in New Zealand, the labourers were inexpensive. Our engines and saildrives were removed on the second day by Virat Hlanden and his crew and soon our boat was prepared for spray-painting by Khun Oz and his boys. I had intended to do this job last, but unfortunately I let myself be persuaded that it would not matter. It sure did.
Another crew went to work on the new headliner, new cushions, new curtains and so on. While I have to say that DHARMA BUM III looks very beautiful now, both inside and out, the more than five months on the hard were one of the most frustrating and annoying experiences we've had in recent years. After a while everything slowed down to a crawl and this while we were permanently living on the boat and around all the time. Also, nobody, with the notable exception of our carpenter Sutin Pensawat, had any competence in his supposed field whatsoever. The winner was the complete engine and saildrive overhaul. Although we had tested the engines on the hard, the had problems as soon as we were in the water.
We couldn't get either engine started and had to ask the mechanic for help. On the way to the anchorage one of the engines overheated while the other one didn't produce electricity. The so-called electrician cum mechanic Virat Hlanden had not installed the ground cable correctly, which destroyed both the new alternator which I had fitted in New Zealand as well as the very expensive Xantrex alternator regulator (XAR). You can imagine, how happy I was. On top of that, there were oil-leaks all over the place, both for the engines and the saildrives. At least there wasn't any water in the latter...
The next thing I noticed was that the outboard wouldn't start. When I removed the hood, I noticed a huge crack in the engine block, just below the lower cylinder. The boys in the yard must have dropped it. Of course they didn't mention it to us. Not repairable. I had to buy a very expensive new outboard engine. By then I was so angry that I was well on the way to doing something really stupid. Fortunately reason prevailed.
Another very sad thing was that except for Sutin, we didn't make any local friends. Everybody who knows us well, also knows that these friends are one of the main reasons why we live this arduous, uncomfortable and often dangerous lifestyle. In that respect Phuket was a total waste of time. Really too bad. Fortunately our foreign friends made up for all that. Thank you, guys!
What was really nice, were all the little islands between Langkawi and Phuket. Those are the places one dreams of. Plenty to see under water, beautiful to look at on land, secluded, quiet and peaceful. Before taking off from this area altogether, we hope to visit these wonderful islands one more time.
Both on the way up and on the way down we spent a considerable amount of time on these. On the way down, we were often together with Swiss-Germans Martin, Theres and Ann of the STYRR. Normally we prefer to be alone and go our own way at our own speed, so it was quite a change in our rhythm. We all got along fabulously. Ann and Aurora Ulani were playing happily together and their parents enjoyed each other's company just as much. I still can't quite get over the fact that Martin often sails this gigantic ancient square rigger by himself. And how he deals with the trusty old Rolls Royce engines is a mystery to me. I sure as hell take my hat off!
Back here in Langkawi we immediately renewed our friendship with the Chinese family which runs Sin Hwa Cold Storage. Aurora Ulani was especially happy to play again with Junxuan and Ningning. Abraham/Ibrahim, our friend with the big banana farm, was out fishing, but after a few days we got together as well. And then we had to start rectifying all the mistakes the guys in Phuket had made, but I won't bore you with all the technical details. Suffice it to say that I am now the proud owner of a brand-new 15 horse Yamaha outboard and this afternoon I have to pick up my alternator.
Soon, the STYRR should be back here and today I got my anchoring permit for the Chagos archipelago. Next on the agenda are the visas for Mauritius, Madagascar and South Africa. Once we have these, we'll set out to cross the Indian Ocean - making sure to stay well away from those areas frequented by pirates. And soon (30 December) Aurora Ulani will celebrate her seventh birthday. So far she has managed to celebrate every single year in a different country! Her schooling is going well. I have to say that it is a bit hard on her parents, though. I finish the German part around 10:00 am and then Liping does the Chinese part as well as Calvert School until lunch - and often late into the afternoon as well. Aurora Ulani is fully trilingual; listening, speaking, reading and writing. Her best spoken language is her mother tongue, Mandarin. Her best written langue is English. Her German reading is fine, but when she is speaking she often runs aground on the reefs of German grammar. Writing German is her weakest part, which is the reason why I have added yet another hour of that to the programme.
One thing that amazed me was the response I got from Liping a while back, when I asked her what we should do if we were unable to sell our boat in the Caribbean. Her answer was: "Then we just sail one more time across the Pacific. Why not?" Why not indeed?!? Liping pointed out to me that high-school in Taiwan starts at the age of twelve, which would give us another five years of time for this amazing lifestyle. If the choice falls on Germany, though, we have only three years left. We'll see. I am sure that life will continue to be interesting!
Hope that you are well and happy and that we'll hear from you soon!
Greetings, best wishes and all that from Holger, Liping & Aurora Ulani on the catamaran DHARMA BUM III, currently in Kuah, Langkawi, Malaysia