Plan Z: The Med or Bust!
06 February 2016 | Ao Po Grand Marina, Phuket
Sorry! The reason for the big gap in our blog is we've been completely consumed agonizing over a big decision that marks a turning point in our around the world voyage. It's been weeks but it feels like months but we have decided to ship Evergreen to the Mediterranean! We feel bad for all the cruising friends who had to witness our indecision but we couldn't help it. It was a hard one to make because all of the options required us to give up something big. We are now in Phuket at Ao Po Grande Marina and scheduled to load on the ship tomorrow. But as we've learned, with shipping, it is hurry up & wait. It was going to be mid to late February, then we got a call while we were in Malaysia on the 1st that the date had been moved up and it was now the 5th- whoa! So we rushed up here doing an overnight (most lovely sail since Indonesia), ran around like crazy people getting checked in, meeting with our agent and preparing the boat, then yesterday, we got a breather since the ship wasn't ready to load yet. We finished up little preparations to the boat, worked out at the gym, relaxed at the pool and then Jon looked out at the marina slips and saw that our boat wasn't there anymore! So we went tearing in to the marina office to find out that they'd moved it so we'd have a regular berth rather than a side tie. The staff saw our look of terror and we had to explain that we are a little on edge right now and also, we don't normally have people move our boat around when we are not there! Of course it is all spic & span and polished up, ready to get dirty on the ship! Then again today, we didn't load because the mega-yacht that is probably responsible for the good quote that we were able to obtain for this trip, took longer than expected to get situated. So now it is tomorrow. Or is it? Another day to do some odds & ends and talk with other boats in our group who are also waiting. Then we will be cast out on our ear with no home for not less than 19 days if there are no delays. Our backpacks are packed and we're looking at Nepal & India options and then will meet the boat in Greece, but who knows, since we can't actually book any tickets until Evergreen is all tucked in for the voyage. We were all set for Montenegro with a marina all arranged but then the ship changed destinations so now Greece. It's OK, it is all new to us anyway. It is both exciting & scary.
While we've enjoyed seeing some of SE Asia, we both recollect that the last serious fun we had was at Komodo. We tend to look at cruising on a 1-10 scale where we have lots of incredible days of 9 or 10 and then it is balanced with more mundane days of 3 or 4 where we're just chilling out waiting out weather or a crappy anchorage. Then there are some 1's or 2's where something major broke, we had a rough passage but those are usually few & far between. We've always thought that the balance of highs & lows was way better than a bunch of 5's. Well, it could be that our judgment is being clouded by near fever body temps in this heat or that the sweat rolling down into our eyes is preventing us from seeing what's around us clearly, but we're not having a ball here and have had a hard time finding things to do that we like. There isn't much snorkeling & diving. It is also the first off season that we've spent outside of NZ or Australia where we got to switch gears and really do a lot of fun stuff in a first world country. Plus, we like to eat our version of well and we can't do that here. But continuing on to S Africa this coming season felt like too much since what we really want is a break. When this offer came up, it seemed like a chance to change things up and hopefully give us a jump-start.
Of course that meant changing all of our plans. We'd pulled in to Rebak Marina poised to do land travel with Shayne & Lisa in Vietnam & Cambodia but of course we had to abandon them. Quotes for new sails and some smaller boat work jobs have been postponed and our big trip back to the US for 6 months this summer is not going to happen. But we think we can swing the usual 2, it just can't be set up yet. We were able to do some boat projects at Rebak on our own though and it felt good to get some things accomplished such as replacing all the head hose, taking apart the heat exchanger on the engine, re-running the wires on the fuel system for the generator and my favorite project, repainting the gold trim stripe on the hull! Throughout Malaysia & Thailand, there are temples everywhere you look and they are all heavily painted in gold paint. I was intrigued by this paint because it would seem it would have to be tough given the intense sun, the salt air and the mere fact that they can't be repainting all of this all the time. Every hardware store stocks it since everyone has a little temple of their own too, so we bought some and put it on. It looks great and I really hope it holds up. The heat exchanger was interesting. Our manual says it should be done every year but we fell behind and it was just under two years instead. The o-ring had deteriorated to the point where it was allowing salt water to enter and corroded the housing. Jon had a heck of a time getting it out. We had noted a few heat exchangers sitting by the garbage drums at the marina and couldn't figure out why. Now we know! The engine uses the same warm water that we scuba dive in in a skin to cool itself and it is running hotter than it ever has. We're lucky Jon did it when he did.
We got into a pretty good routine over the past few weeks where we took an exercise walk first thing in the morning on Rebak's nature trail circuit, with all the hornbills flitting around in pairs or taking dust baths. They remind me of Fruit Loops and I really enjoy seeing them. I miss Fruit Loops too. Then we'd try to bite the bullet and get some projects done before the sun made the teak & anything other than the white deck so hot you couldn't touch it. You could smell the various plastics on the boat baking. Then we would dive into the cabin with the AC on and revive ourselves with fluid until later when the sun weakened and people would start emerging from their boats for happy hour. All the while, we were hemming & hawing & doing a fair amount of hand wringing about what to do. I figured out it was cyclic for me, depending on the time of day. In the morning & evening I felt like I could stay another year and in the heat of the day I knew I couldn't. And Jon just panted at all times occupying himself by continually looking at the thermometer every time I tried to make something nice for dinner that involved more than one burner.
We took a ferry to Penang for a few days to get some health check-ups since it is the best place in Malaysia for good health care. We were definitely happy with the care we received. Jon found this great hotel called Chulia Mansion that had really nice rooms, a rooftop open deck with a complimentary drink each night, a BIG brekkie in the morning (complete with a salad bar since Malaysians often eat salad for breakfast) and get this: FREE ICE CREAM bar 24/7! Needless to say we got our fill of ice cream there! Penang was in full gear getting ready for Chinese New Year with more decorations going up by the day. We strolled around the historic district, went to a museum, had some decent meals out and got our medical & dental appts accomplished. We also learned a few things. The Chinese think that the #4 is bad luck so no buildings are built with a floor 4, it is 3B instead. We learned this first hand when we visited friends who lived on the 4th floor- but it was 3B. We also just crack up at all the signs for "NO DURIAN". Durian is a popular fruit in Malaysia but I guess some people think it smells terrible while others think it has a pleasant aroma. Because the smell can reportedly linger in a room or say, a bus, for days, there are restrictions everywhere on where one can have or carry durian. There are these funny stickers on cars here where they will put all the things you can & cannot do in a car whether or not it is a rental or private car- it doesn't matter. So you might see the icon for no smoking, no food, no drink, no DURIAN, no WINE, has wifi, has stereo- I have no idea where they get this from but it is funny. One night at an outdoor restaurant this college age girl came up to us asking if we would complete a survey on what would make Penang a better place to visit. Having just trekked all around town for the previous 2 days, we could definitely say that the sidewalks are an issue. We witnessed this guy fall through one of the many grates covering the graywater sewer that lends that distinct aroma to the area. His leg fell right in the water and he lost his sandal. This particular spot was right in front of an Indian restaurant so the sewer was understandably orange from all the.. curry? Well, he took it like a real man and barely lost a step but did forfeit his sandal and he's lucky he didn't break a leg. We always walk with one eye on the ground because in these countries, there is never a straight sidewalk. Combine that with the rule that motorbikes can indeed go anywhere, and you the pedestrian are last on the hierarchy for right of way. We gave our suggestions for a safer pedestrian experience before our own orange Indian dinner arrived at the table. Penang is an interesting place though and friendly as most everywhere we've been in Asia really.
On another day we rented a motorbike and returned to the Seven Wells waterfall where we'd found a great trail when we were there a while back but had to turn around because we didn't have enough water with us. So we got to summit the mountain this time fueled by delicious coconut milkshakes both before & after at the base. Jon's favorite. Rebak Marina is on a little island just off the coast of another island called Langkawi. You take the resort's free ferry to get ashore and then cruisers can rent cheap cars from a man named Mr Dinn. You just text him that you want a car and he always responds with "OK" and after paying him $11 and having him give you an intro to the special characteristics of the particular car you've been provided, you are off on your way. After several rentals, you get to know each car and what to expect. All are guaranteed to have AC but you may need a certain RPM to get AC to go on. One is 2000RPM. So you have to rev the motor at lights and stay in low gear. One car requires an easy touch when shifting to get it to go into gear, another has no gas gauge unless you press the lucky spot on the dash and others, like this one, have wobbly speedos that stay around 200k. And all cars are always on Empty. Always. But having to provide nothing more than a 50 ringit note for a day of whatever you please is a bargain.
We also caught up with some friends and met some new ones. Chapter Two stuck around in Kuah for us to return from Thailand and we got to catch up. And we met a new couple on Christine Anne, Russ & Christine, who really helped get us psyched for the Med since they spent years there cruising all over the place. We caught up with Iris & Alex on Alearis who are in a similar mindset as we are and it was good to hang out by the resort pool and distract ourselves from it all for a bit.
This year is our boat's 30th birthday, and just like us, it doesn't look a day over 20 ;-) Our friend Karen said at Christmas time that as usual, the boat got all the expensive presents. Yep, we agree with that. Three of our four largest expenditures have been on boats. With any luck, it will soon be out of the heat and in to cooler temperatures in a whole new place. It just has to weather the journey. And so do we.