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.