HALEKAI Sailing Around the World

Nancy and Burger invite you to read about their adventures afloat and ashore.

06 April 2017 | St Lucie Inlet, Florida
02 April 2017 | Stocking Island, Exuma
01 April 2017 | George Town, Exumas
30 March 2017 | George Town, Bahamas
22 March 2017 | Elizabeth Island, Exumas
09 March 2017 | George Town, Exumas
04 March 2017 | Thompson's Bay, Long Island
03 March 2017 | Stella Maris, Long Island
02 March 2017 | Long Island
26 February 2017 | Crossing from Water Cay to Comer Channel, Jumentos
25 February 2017 | Double-Breasted Cay to Thompson's Bay, Long Island
23 February 2017 | Double-Breasted Cay, Jumentos
19 February 2017 | Hog Cay, Jumentos
16 February 2017 | Duncan Town, Ragged Island
15 February 2017
14 February 2017 | Hog Cay, Jumentos
10 February 2017 | Hog Cay, the Jumentos
06 February 2017 | Duncan Town, Ragged Island
05 February 2017 | Hog Cay, Ragged Islands
05 February 2017 | Duncan Town, Ragged Island

When Our Ship Comes In

10 June 2011 | Phuket, Thailand
Nancy and Burger Zapf
One day in mid April we learned that a ship was going to stop in Phuket to collect some yachts and transport them as deck cargo to the Mediterranean. Hmmm ... we had been planning to ship a year from now, if the pirate situation hadn't improved by then, but nothing much has been happening politically and we doubt the bad guys will disappear from the Indian Ocean anytime soon. So ... why not ship now? So we contacted the shipping agent and got things rolling. Two months later Halekai was loaded and sent on her way.

Licking the Elusive Engine Leak

01 May 2011 | Phuket, Thailand
Nancy and Burger Zapf
Burger has been troubleshooting an air leak in the engine fuel system for nearly two years now, tightening this and replacing that, all to no avail. Each time we tried to start the engine, the fuel line was once again so full of air that it had to be bled out. And once it started and ran awhile, it would sometimes die upon deceleration and then not restart, leading to some precarious situations, such as maneuvering in the tight quarters of a marina basin.

How many times has Burger emerged black-smudged and beaming from the engine room declaring "I think I fixed the problem this time!" only to discover that alas, he hadn't. By now he's developed a serious engine-starting aversion! The good news is that, knock on wood, the problem does indeed seem to be solved. It may have been caused by a number of things that he gradually corrected, but the latest one that seems to have finally done the trick was tightening connections on the fuel return line.

We've whittled down the to-do list and are now looking forward to some land travel in the next several weeks.

First Cash, Then Splash

17 April 2011 | Phuket
Nancy and Burger Zapf
The long weeks of refit work are over and Halekai is back in the water, looking sleek and shiny as new. What was projected to take three weeks stretched to five, due to days of torrential rain and then the "water festival" Songkran, a week-long holiday loosely based on Buddhism. After paying respects at the temple, the fun begins, with everyone out to splash everyone else with buckets of water and water guns. Given the 90 degree heat it's not unpleasant to be dunked.

It was a team effort of local marine services: Mr. Oh and his crew awl-gripped the hull; Mr. Leow replaced our freezer with a more efficient 12 volt system; Mr. Doh replicated some rusting parts with stainless steel; Mr. Peh made new salon cushions; Mr. Nuan and Mr. Tossapom varnished inside and out. Having contributed enough to the Thai economy, we'll be sailing back to Langkawi for a few weeks and doing some land travel from there.

Elephant Trekking: Adventurous or Foolhardy?

31 March 2011 | Khao Sok National Park, Thailand
Nancy and Burger
Riding an elephant is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Thailand, and it was high on our to-do list. What a neat way to celebrate my birthday! But unfortunately the local headlines reported that a 60-year old woman tourist was trampled to death by an elephant last month, when two males fought over a female and the woman was thrown to the ground. Of all the many places offering elephant trekking all over the country, it happened at Khao Sok National Park, our weekend destination. The newspaper account said that the aggressor male had been removed from duty and placed in a sanctuary. It also said that females were usually used for trekking, to avoid just such occurrences.

Oh well, we rationalized, how dangerous can it be? Accidents can happen anywhere. Thousands of tourists ride elephants in Thailand every year and live to tell about it. And so we went. As we were clambering aboard 15 year-old DoDo, I remembered to glance down. No doubt about it, DoDo was certainly no lady! His huge apenditure was almost touching the ground (no, I don't mean his trunk)! What to do?! We'd already paid our money, and Burger gave me a "c'mon, don't be dumb" look. So we settled onto the hard wooden seat and began our lurching, lumbering, journey along the trail. It was actually great fun.

Luckily I hadn't done my homework before we left. This is what I found later, online:

"Elephants reach puberty at around 14-15 years. Periodically male elephants go through "musth," extremely aggressive sexual behavior. Musth in Persian means intoxicated and it is recorded that a male elephant in musth has a 60 times higher level of testosterone than normal. An elephant male in musth will kill and destroy everything in his path."

Hmm ... Well, this report and our photos attest that we survived our latest adventure. DoDo was well-behaved and even performed tricks for us, such as sucking up and squirting water from his trunk, and retrieving our dropped water bottle for us. He was very sweet and clearly enjoyed the pineapple chunks we fed him at the end of the trek. Take a look at our photos in the Thailand Photo Gallery (click on right menu near top).

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

29 March 2011 | Khao Sok National Park, Thailand
Nancy and Burger Zapf
After six weeks of nearly non-stop boat work, my birthday gave us a good excuse to get away for a few days. Typical of this cruising lifestyle of ours, we've been so busy with refit projects that we had yet to see anything outside of Phuket and its raunchy beach tourism. So we rented a car and drove across the bridge to the mainland, then headed north for a couple of hours to Khao Sok National Park, one of Southern Thailand's chief eco-tourist destinations. We hoped to hike, canoe and swim in a lake, visit caves, and see the wildlife. According to our Lonely Planet, Gibbon monkeys, hornbills, elephants and tigers are native to the area.

We didn't think to check the forecast before we left, since the weather has been consistently dry with only occasional afternoon thunder showers. Monsoon season is supposed to be a month or two away. But it was overcast when we left and got progressively worse as we entered the rain forest. Just after we checked into our riverside cottage it began to rain. And rain, and rain, and rain. Thank goodness the tin roof was covered with thatch to dampen the sound of the torrential downpour. Later we learned that snakes like to nest in roof thatch!

We spent a sleepless night under the mosquito net, wondering whether the shallow stream next to our cabin would swell and overflow its banks, floating us downriver in the night. Instead of counting sheep we practiced alliteration: The rushing river, roiling with reptiles, rose relentlessly, resulting from recurring rainfall, with rangers ready to rescue us from the rapids ...

Just as we were finally getting sleepy at dawn, the tropical world awoke noisily all around us: exotic birdsongs, the loud ribbit of frogs, and then a strange, hollow clap-clap sound, right outside our window. Burger said maybe it was the satisfying smack of big bird lips, swallowing a juicy frog.

I got up and looked out the front porch as soon as it was light enough, and saw that the river had indeed risen precipitously. It was swollen, muddy and angry-looking, but it wasn't close to overflowing the riverbank. Burger assured me that our weathered-looking cottage, built on sturdy stilts, had evidently withstood several monsoon seasons without being swept away. We finally got to sleep.

Photo: Thai raingear on motorbike with sidecar

Who Says Going to the Dentist Is No Fun?

23 March 2011 | Boat Lagoon Resort, Phuket
Nancy and Burger Zapf
Wow, what a bargain. Dental check-up, thorough cleaning and panoramic x-rays, all for $100, at the super-modern practice right here on the premises at Boat Lagoon. But the enjoyment was in the ambiance … a beautiful building complex with amazing architecture and landscaping.
Photo: This is the entrance to the dental and dermatology clinic . See more photos at our Sailblog Gallery.

Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho ...

18 March 2011 | Boat Lagoon Marina, Phuket
Nancy and Burger Zapf
It's off to work we go ...

After a month of living aboard at Yacht Haven Marina, where a crew of young Thais sanded and varnished inside and out and replaced our head liners (ceiling panels), it was great to finally bid them good-bye and have our privacy back. But in a fit of masochism, we left the following morning for Boat Lagoon Marina, where we hauled out for a second month of refit. The hull is now being painted and the freezer system will be replaced. I'm the "assistant project manager" while Burger attacks a slew of other boat repairs. Our new ultrasuede salon cushions will be delivered by Mr. Pei "tomollow." Slowly but surely our floating home is returning to its former glory.

Since living aboard on the hard would be unbearable in the heat, not to mention the toxic paint fumes, we've taken a blessedly air-conditioned "marina room" with balcony at the resort, where we're enjoying a king-sized bed, large tiled shower, cable TV and wifi, for $12/night, including maid service. With the help of a mini-fridge and a hot water maker, we eat out only once a day at one of the many eateries within walking distance, ranging from cheap Thai to fancy French. Often we'll meet up with friends at Mama's for a $1.50 hot Thai lunch. Yesterday I had a $6 pedicure and a $9 haircut, and tomorrow I'll have a $10 hour-long oil massage. There are two swimming pools to choose from and a fitness center. Life is good!

Photo: Asian girls trying not to get a tan

Ship or Stay in SE Asia?

10 March 2011
Nancy and Burger Zapf
We wrote to a UK-based armed security service that specializes in escorting private vessels through pirate alley. A Google Search brings up several such services, but this one was mentioned in the Washington Post recently and was also in the news for thwarting a pirate attack on a Danish motor vessel it was accompanying. Being curious what such services cost, we wrote to them. Here's their reply:

"Thanks for your email.

I'm sure it would be cheaper to load your boat onto a cargo vessel than hiring an escort vessel. Costs are around 8-10 000 USD per day of escorting. We can on occasion give much better quotes if we are "empty" in the same direction you wish to transfer but that requires a bit of luck to get together.

We normally don't do convoys of yachts, it is simply too dangerous. We could not effectively defend several yachts and we would never take on a boat under sail."

Brgds

Mike

Naval Guards Ltd (UK)
http://www.navalguards.com

We have been talking to professional crew of some mega-yachts here at the marina, and they concur that this is a typical price. Mega-yacht crew all have scary stories about attack attempts that are not making the news.

I think this effectively puts to rest the possibility for world cruisers to safely transit the Indian Ocean alone or in convoy until the piracy situation is resolved. To sail without armed escort would be foolhardy given the recent dramatic escalation of attacks on private vessels. Yesterday's US Government statement makes clear that government escort of those stranded by this crisis is not being considered.

There is much discussion about the South African alternative, but given the ever-widening range of pirate mother ships which have attacked commercial vessels as far south as Mauritius and Madagascar, the only route not yet attacked would be far offshore, avoiding the Seychelles, Mauritius and Madagascar. The S. African route used to be an attractive alternative for those who wanted to go that way, but part of the attraction was visiting those very islands that are now on a course deemed too dangerous. The offshore route is notoriously stormy and is a huge detour of several thousand miles for those whose goal is the Med.

So the options are narrowing for those of us here in SE Asia who would like to transit to the Med: ship for USD 30,000+, or remain here indefinitely in the hopes the situation will eventually be resolved. We plan to remain here till next year, so we'll be weighing our options then.

Photo: View of mega-yachts from our cockpit

Searching for a Sail

28 February 2011 | Phuket, Thailand
Nancy and Burger Zapf
On our quest for a new mainsail to replace our aging one, we stopped by the Rolly Tasker Sailloft to check it out. The famous Mr. Tasker himself greeted us at the entrance. At 85 he's tall and slim, in great shape except for skin ravages of a life in the sun. He proudly gave us a tour of the huge loft (see photos). He's been making sails for over sixty years, having begun his career in Hong Kong after WW II. Not one to sit idle in retirement, he started the Phuket operation in the mid 1990's when he was nearly 70.

While Burger chatted with Rolly about the merit of his sails, I studied the photo gallery. Mr. Tasker was an accomplished Olympic yacht racer from Australia. His biography, Sailing to the Moon, is for sale in the sailloft chandlery: it's so named because he sailed enough miles to take him the moon. I spotted Prince Charles crewing for him in one photo.

But alas, Burger was disappointed with his sails. Not one to mince words, he let Rolly know that the quality wasn't up to his standards. The lack of UV cover on the webbing was dismissed as "not pretty enough." When asked whether they sewed using a composite zigzag stitch, Mr. Tasker said they had the six-point machine needed for it, but hadn't yet taught their workers how to use it. Our 18 -year old mainsail was made on such a machine, so it's hardly new technology, and is, in fact, the industry standard. "That's a deal-breaker," said Burger.

Sailors come to SE Asia to take advantage of cheap labor, but the quote we were given for a mainsail wasn't competitive with recent quotes we got from sailmakers in the States. We could have a mainsail with composite stitching, shipped in by Leesails of Hong Kong or by Doyle produced in the Philippines, for a third less that Tasker's price. Oh well, so much for having a new mainsail made while we're here in Phuket.

Photo: Burger with Rolly Tasker at his impressive loft in Phuket
See more photos of the loft in our Photo Gallery.

Wall Street Journal article about our friends

24 February 2011
Nancy and Burger Zapf
We were quoted in this WSJ article about the murder of our friends Jean and Scott Adam aboard sv Quest:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704520504576162762560989234.html?mod=WSJ_hp_MIDDLENexttoWhatsNewsTop#articleTabs=article

Photo: Scott Adam presenting Bibles to a pastor of a tiny church in Vanuatu, August 2009

Tragedy at Sea

22 February 2011
Nancy and Burger Zapf
We are devastated by the news of the murder of our friends Jean and Scott Adam and their crew Phyllis MacKay and Bob Riggle.

We're wondering why we haven't seen statement by the White House or news of a press conference by Obama. Isn't this deemed important enough?

We're hoping that news of this incident, involving four US citizens, will increase pressure on the US and other countries to take serious action against the increasing piracy, which is threatening commercial shipping as well as private vessels. There are hundreds of hostages and numerous ships in captivity, awaiting ransom. The ransom money is fueling terrorism.

We want government armed escort of private vessel convoys through the danger area, as those of us now stranded in this part of the world (estimated at a few hundred boats) can't afford the private armed guards that some commercial vessels are using, nor can we all afford to transport our boats on cargo ships.

Somali Pirates Capture Our Friends on sv Quest!

20 February 2011
Nancy and Burger Zapf
Horrific news greeted us upon checking our email this morning: our friends Jean and Scott Adam, sv Quest, along with their crew, Phyllis Mackay and Bob Riggle, were hijacked by Somali pirates yesterday! We're reeling in shock. We first met Jean and Scott in Suwarrow, the Cook Islands, five years ago and we met up again in Fiji and Vanuatu. Jean wrote me just three days ago that they were about to leave Mumbai for Oman, and hoped to be in Turkey by May.

Piracy has been the major topic of conversation among our friends here in Langkawi and Phuket for the past several months. The Thailand to Turkey (TTT) convoy of 30 yachts planning to sail from the Maldives to Oman disbanded last week out of piracy fears, with some boats risking it alone, others changing course to South Africa (a BIG detour to the Med!), some returning to Thailand, with some putting their boats up here for sale. And some are deciding to ship their boats next month aboard a commercial yacht transporter. A pricey solution, at USD$650/foot (that would cost the typical yacht around $30k).

The organizers of the TTT tried in vain to get a government forces escort for the convoy. There are typically over 100 yachts (around 250 crew) that transit from Southeast Asia to the Med via the Red Sea each year. Many of us are on our way around the world and are now stranded here by the situation. Many are about to make their way across the South Pacific or are planning to embark from New Zealand or Australia across Indonesia, and are wondering whether to leave or abandon their dreams. Hopefully the plight of sv Quest will finally result in some strong action by our government. We're praying for the safe and swift release of our friends and their crew.

As to us: we aren't planning to transit to the Med till next year, so we're hoping the situation will improve by then. Otherwise, we'll be considering the alternatives above.

One more possibility would be to hire an armed security escort service to accompany a small fleet of yachts, if the price isn't too exorbitant. There are several advertised on the Internet, specifically for private yachts (but they surely cater to the mega-yachts). Lloyds of London is finalizing plans to hire a fleet of armed escort boats for their insured vessels. All the government forces seem to do is capture and release the pirates! Actually the latest news is that the pirates are filling their mother ships with hostages, making it difficult to attack them.

What we'd really like is for the government to take the plight of stranded citizens seriously, and offer armed escort protection of private vessel convoys. So far they've refused such requests, and are focusing their efforts on commercial shipping only.

Sticky-Rice Hearts for Valentine’s Day

15 February 2011 | Haven Restaurant
Nancy and Burger Zapf
Instead of a tête-à-tête dinner for Valentine's Day, we shared a table at the waterfront Haven Restaurant with Seattle friends Marsha and Dave of sv Strider, yet another "lifer" couple who, we learned, met the same year we did, way back in 1968. It was a farewell meal for them as they're about to leave for South Africa, via Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Chagos. Given the small world of cruising, we may well meet up with them again one day, maybe in the Caribbean.

The special six-course Thai dinner was superb. Dessert was fresh mango slices served with sweet sticky-rice shaped like a heart. It was much better than it looked!

On our way home we took a romantic moonlight stroll past the multi-million dollar mega-yachts berthed near us. It made us feel like we're slumming it on our "little" 50' sailboat :).

Photo: huge three-masted schooner, viewed from our cockpit

All Work and No Play ...

12 February 2011 | Phuket, Thailand
Nancy and Burger Zapf
There's no time now for the two-hour daily fitness routine we enjoyed in Langkawi, and the postage-sized marina swimming pool is warm as a bathtub and taste like an acid solution. But we're going to weekly yoga classes and, since our slip is way down near the end of the dock, we get some exercise just getting ashore.

No sooner had we secured the lines at Yacht Haven Marina than the first workers showed up to offer their services. Labor is cheap in Thailand and there's a cottage industry of marine businesses catering to the many visiting and resident yachts. That's why we're here. The day after our arrival men were cleaning and polishing the deck, for less than $20 per person per day. The labor estimate to replace our salon cushions is a quarter of what it would cost in the States.

We're now busy managing several projects at once, such as having the delaminated headliners (ceiling panels) and worn-out salon cushions replaced, varnishing inside and out, and having a new freezer compressor installed. As I write, three skinny young men are in our tiny forward cabin sanding the woodwork, while two more are busy in the cockpit. While I sit here decadently keeping cool with a/c ...

Burger has his own list of projects, such as troubleshooting an air leak in the diesel engine fuel system, replacing generator capacitors, doing some electrical rewiring, and his favorite job, refurbishing the toilets. I'm managing our finances (thank goodness for Quicken and Turbotax!), researching travel plans, and doing the usual "pink jobs" such as laundry and cleaning. Hopefully everything will be done in the next month and we can get back to cruising and land travel before the rainy season.

Photo: Thai worker busy in our cockpit

How Much Opium Do You Use?

10 February 2011 | Phuket, Thailand
Nancy and Burger Zapf
On our first day in Phuket we rented a car and drove all the way to the other end of the island to clear in with Customs & Immigration. One of the forms we filled out asked for the amount of opium we carry aboard, and our daily usage! This must date from the 19th century British Opium War. It's certainly illegal to possess it today!

Done with the formalities, we then explored the shopping malls. Most everything is available here, for a price. Burger is like a kid in a candy shop in hardware stores and chandleries, and "requires adult supervision," as he jokes, so as not to spend all our money. We have enough tools and spare parts aboard to build a new boat! Friends salivate when they see our workshop, complete with lathe ...

Photo: Happy Hour at Boat Lagoon Marina, celebrating our arrival in Phuket

Tall Thai Tsunami Tales

08 February 2011 | Phi Phi Don, Thailand
Nancy and Burger Zapf
On our last night together en route to Phuket, The Three Musketeers, as we've dubbed our sailing trio, anchored at Phi Phi Don, a popular Thai beach resort island where the Tsunami of 2004 did major damage. A 30+ foot wave swept across the narrow isthmus, destroying everyone and everything in its path. But it didn't take long for the enterprising landowners to rebuild their tourist trap, despite government calls to develop a public park instead. The low-lying strip of beach is quite literally a death trap should there ever be another major tsunami.

This time it was our turn to entertain for dinner, and by all accounts our eclectic meal of chicken breast with mango chutney, salsa, and pesto pasta, washed down with lots of cold Sangria, was a big success. Next morning we parted ways with Dave and Di of Amoenitas and Kathy and Pete of Waverunner, with plans to reunite in a week or so in Phuket.

Photo: Burger showing off his washboard abs :)

Bad Things Happen to Good Yachties

07 February 2011 | Butang Islands, Thailand
Nancy and Burger Zapf
There are places in the world where cruisers feel unsafe, but not as a rule in SE Asia. Yet as we all know, bad things can happen anywhere. Two years ago the skipper of the British yacht "Mr. Bean" was murdered by three young men, right where we are anchored as I write this. He and his wife were alone and didn’t lock themselves in that night, since it was hot and closing the hatch makes the cabin hotter.

Dave and Di on sv Amoenitas, one of the two couples with whom we’re buddy sailing to Phuket, were good friends with the unfortunate couple, and they were the first aboard the day after the grizzly deed. Last night the six of us had dinner in the cockpit of Amoenitas and toasted to Malcolm’s memory, then listened as Dave recounted the chilling tale. I’ll spare “my readership” the bloody details that still haunt us. The men were desperate Burmese refugees who had been enslaved on a local fishing boat. They had jumped ship due to unbearable conditions and were in hiding with no food or water on the island where the yacht Mr. Bean was anchored. They were caught and are reportedly now serving long prison sentences.

You can bet we now always lock our hatch at night!
Vessel Name: Halekai
Vessel Make/Model: Alden 50 Center Cockpit
Hailing Port: Berlin
Crew: Nancy and Burger Zapf
About:
We sailed around the world in stages aboard Halekai, leaving Annapolis, Maryland in 2004. After several seasons in the South Pacific and Southeast Asia, Halekai was shipped from Thailand to Turkey to avoid the pirates in June 2011. [...]
Extra:
We left Germany aboard our first boat, Phantasus, a LeComte NorthEast 38, and crossed the Atlantic in 1975. Six years later we spent a year sailing her from the US East Coast to the South Pacific. After acquiring Halekai, our Alden 50, in 1993, we cruised extensiviely up and down the US East [...]
Home Page: http://www.sailblogs.com/member/halekai
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