Our Lockdown "Hell"
07 July 2020
The geeks at YouTube say that using an emotive sounding title helps attracts viewers. As I'm still counting viewers on my fingers and toes, I need all the help I can get. So, if our plight fails to elicit even the tiniest degree of sympathy then, well, I'm not really surprised..... but why let the truth get in a way of a good story!
30 June 2020
"How's the air con"
That was Tom's greeting this morning as we arrived at the entry to the Corona Express ferry to the big island. After being zapped by the temperature gun I turned to Tom and through my trendy Batik designed face mask told him that the installation had progressed successfully but still too early to tell whether it's been beneficial either in temperature or relative humidity.
You see, over our first Cockpit Corona Sundowner since, what, December, Michael, who knows about these things, had told us that as our domestic air con unit was sucking in ambient air, recycling was inefficient and all the unit's energy was being consumed converting humid air rather than cooling it. All way above my pay grade but I could do the DIY to give it a go and so we're now fully plugged in and hosed up to give us super efficient on board environment management.
What have we come to? I think it's an unknown side effect of COVID-19. We've all sailed thousands and thousands of miles to get here, fought our way through gales, giant seas, putting in first, second, even third reefs with waves crashing over the decks. We’ve navigated our way through unmarked intricate, fibreglass ripping reefs and shoals. We've spent countless nights at anchor in all conditions, yet, here we are - all but epoxied to the dock, hard wired and plumbed, comparing notes on our air conditioning! Aaaargh.
Gone are the days when us hardened yotties would be swapping salty tall tales and comparing notes, experiences and opinions on proper yottie subjects like, for example, anchors.
"Oh? You've got one of these RockBaby anchors". I'd heard the wobble bar makes them unstable and if the boat turns on the tide change then re-setting can be an issue. I've heard of two boats that dragged in only five knots of wind. You'd be much better with the Spatula. Its 3D shape is specifically designed to dig in to anything wet. Ours held us in eighty knots on a scope of 2:1 lavatory plug chain".
Or maybe solar panels. "Oh! You've only got a 200/30 ZigZog phase composer driving your ampler-doodle". You definitely need a manual over ride to compensate for shadows and passing birds......" yawn, yawn. Lost me at hello.
The funny thing is, you seldom hear anyone talking about sails, let alone in mast reefing. Now there's a topic worth debate. I mean, seriously, I know as children we drew sails on a boat as a shapeless white two dimensional triangle, but that's not really how they're meant to look. But they do. I think it's where apprentice sailmakers spend their first year.
"Right you two. See that sail cloth over there? Unroll it, cut it up into a nice triangle then sew it all together."
I mean, how can folk bear to look at these shapeless things? That arrow straight leach running from boom end to the top of the mast, fluttering like a football flag mounted on a supporter's car window doing sixty miles an hour. In fact, the only time they get some shape is in the second or third year after they've been stretched both enhancing the amount of flutter AND forming a nice bag in the middle. Then of course it all jams half in, half out.
So dear readers, having no doubt insulted all my pals with in-mast reefing, I'm going back to tweak the air-con. I think we need to bring it down just a tad as my brain has overheated. Or maybe I'm just old fashioned and should get a gaff rigged Cornish Crabber.
And maybe I can look forward to some reaction. It would be nice to know someone reads this nonsense.
Here’s The Plan
23 June 2020
"What we'll do, given the lockdown has just eased and before the hordes start travelling, we'll head up to that plush hotel in the Cameron Highlands for a fancy weekend"
Brilliant idea. No one about. No tourists. No commuting COVID. First weekend of opening for the resort. Specially reduced rate. What could got wrong?
What could go wrong was that most of Malaysia had the same brilliant idea. The 300 seat Corona Express Ferry to the mainland was packed, all sat cheek by fabric covered jowl, together on manky plastic seats that haven't seen a cloth let alone a disinfectant wipe for years. Some of the travellers were much the same. That's what happens when you live on a boat.
To save seven Ringits, nearly a pound in our money, we set the sat-nav to "Avoid Tolls" and enjoyed a scenic tour through the backwaters of mainland Malaysia. Tarmac would have been nice. Sorry, that was for comedic effect and entirely unjust. The roads were fine. Twisty but fine and we had a great drive up through the jungle to the big city of Ipoh and on up into the Cameron Highlands.
There's two ways up to the Highlands. One heading north from sophisticated Kuala Lumpur and Johor and the other, going south from the more industrial Ipoh. The KL route takes one through delightful tropical jungle scenery, winding ravines and cascading waterfalls. The other route is much the same except the ravines have all been terraced and covered with "poly tunnels" in which grows, it seems, much of Malaysia's veggies and the region's specialty, strawberries. Complementing the veg industry is the tourist tat industry. Not only can you buy juicy strawberries but strawberry shaped cushions, pillows and no doubt, hats, every customer causing a five minute tailback as they reverse out into the traffic.
Finally we arrived at our chosen retreat, the five star, Cameron Highlands Resort, newly opened after months locked down and locked up. Locked to everything except the ingress of damp. Not so much an Inter-Continental Hotel but In-Continental Hotel. All the bed linen was damp giving one the awful overnight sensation there might just have been a wee accident.
In the absence of air conditioning or indeed dry linen, only body heat could dry it out. So, for us, it was home from home. Just like cruising in the lower latitudes. Or Scotland. Being 'ard and ruffty tuffty cruisers it wasn't that big a deal for us. Other guests had their bedding changed three times before bowing to the inevitable soggy sensation. And rheumatism.
Nonetheless, after three months or more on our Love Island, we though it was all very smart. Having climbed the black marble staircase to the foyer we'd bow politely to have our temperatures taken before heading up the landing to our spacious room overlooking the golf course......... and the trunk road which links Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur. Unfortunately, the trunk road passing under our window also links the vegetable farms with their markets in KL and possibly even Singapore. And it's a twenty four / seven business.
Trunk road? So called because it sounds like a herd of elephants going past the end of your bed all night. If having the perpetual feeling you might just have wet the bed didn't keep you from sound sleep, the truck noise would.
But were we downhearted? Being totally spoiled by the super attentive staff certainly helped the mood. Afternoon tea and scones goes a long way to brightening a day. That and a stunning Beef Wellington at the nearby, Smokehouse. Ye Olde Smokehouse in fact. Honestly! This hostelry, built in the 1930's was styled in the manner of an old English pub, complete with black oak beams, horse brasses, inglenooks and log fires. They lost the plot a bit on theme continuity by playing the likes of classic Scottish ballads, "Bonnie Dundee" and "Wild Mountain Thyme"..........
......Oh the summer time is coming
And the trees are sweetly blooming
Where the wild mountain thyme
Grows around the blooming heather
Would you go, lassie, go?
Yeah - Anne will go anywhere there's a cream tea on offer.
It was a fine break in a grand setting, amongst the tea plantations, rolling hills and, with the mist rolling down, a bit like home. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, around the corner from the hotel and golf course was, I guess we'd call it "lower Cameron Highlands" or if you're from Chicago, "The Projects". Weekend retreats for the masses. A bit like a 1960's French ski resort but with the chic removed.
What tourism can do to a place!
(Some more pics in gallery)
The Things You See
17 June 2020
The Recovery, Movement Control Order is easing here. To quote the song lyrics;
Guys are swimming
Guys are sailing
I guess we’ll have some fun
If it stops raining.
Nonetheless, new guests are arriving at the hotel encumbered with all the hallmarks of a tourist - Wheelie bags, Gucci handbags, screaming weans and the obligatory face mask. Us raggedy ass, sun tanned one-time cruisers, but now long term residents of the Malaysian version of Alcatraz, look at the new arrivals warily, wondering what bugs they might be importing to our private isolation ward. They look at us warily, wandering if they’ve inadvertently booked a long weekend on an upmarket leper colony.
Ashore on the big island, the shuttered and economically battered shops and stalls are very slowly beginning to come back to a semblance of life. There’s still only maybe five to ten percent actually open, all selling the same “Luscious Langkawi” luminescent T-shirts. Sounds of banging and sweeping emanate from the next phase of openings. No doubt they’ll be flogging kiss-me-quick hats. There’s even a few folk sunning themselves on the beach. Well, three of them.
A few cafes and restaurants are offering “Covid Specials”. Ten to fifty percent off their already extremely cheap prices, meaning they basically pay you to come and eat.
Two butter chicken curries, one fruity Kashmiri naan, one large portion of rice, a Coke Light and a green tea....... stuffed to the gunwhales for something like eight quid. Makes you feel a bit guilty. Especially when you key it all into the calorie count app.
Anyway, it’s good to see these signs of life, less so the first jet-ski tour which went roaring past the marina this morning.
The things you see when you haven’t got a rifle.
12 June 2020
That’s this month’s government acronym. It’s even colour coded.
It stands for Recovery Movement Control Order. Or Relaxed maybe. Something to do with constipation I think. Constipation of our cruising plans that is.
The good news is that from this week, we can go sailing in Malaysian waters, but possibly, only between zones of the same colour although we’re waiting on clarification from on high. That as opposed to pages and pages of Facebook and WhatsApp speculation and conjecture as bored cruisers and “Tourists stranded in Malaysia” try to outguess and forecast the official, final detailed announcement. I’ve kind of lost interest in the whole damn thing. I also think there’s Corona Zones to deal with;
Green - good to go.
Orange - Watch out, Covid’s about
Red - resuscitator required.
Speculating, I think you can only travel between like colours. Like dominos but in colour.
We’re in a Green zone. The places we want to go aren’t. So, with our understanding of the new laws we’re restricted to the environs of Langkawi and tempting though it is, our cruising mojo has, over these last couple of lockdown months, somewhat run up on a metaphorical reef.
But not to worry, berthing fees renewal coming up in a week or so. That should ease the constipation and get us moving.
If you know what I mean.
Australia's East Coast 2019
07 June 2020
Somewhat out of date and out of sequence, but if you can't go sailing perhaps this will help.
31 May 2020
Lockdown. Day 86.
Way back, as hopefully you read one time in the distant past, I mentioned, at least once, that we're in lockdown on our own private, 5* (as advertised) resort island.
But eighty six days? I now fully understand why the norm is for people to take only two week vacations. Any more and seriously, you'd go completely nuts. One of my favourite movie quotes, which I've used here in the past, is from Robert DeNiro in The Intern. Asked why, as a retired seventy something he wants a job in a tech driven business he says, "As for retirement, that's an ongoing relentless effort in creativity."
But hey, on the whole we're doing great. Our Ian's online fitness classes out on the Moondeck have a trail of lost kilos leading to and fro. Not to mention a trail of sweat. Our mid sections have muscles we didn't know about and slowly but surely, the Time Bandit video backlog is also slimming. I'm now almost half way through Indonesia. In addition, I've even written a few more pages of my forthcoming book, Diary of a Sailing Cynic.
Months ago, during one of our early evening beach get togethers we ran a sweep on how long "this" would last. My gut feel was the most pessimistic, and I'm usually a cheery sort, and I put my money on September. The polite folk in the group just smiled, indulging my "WE'RE DOOMED" prognosis. Consequently, our planning and preparation has been based on the idea of a long term vacation. Not only have we been in lockdown for these months but also in yachting shut down. The sails were long ago, covered up, stripped off and packed away. The engines flushed with fresh water, oiled and greased. The running rigging is also stripped off, washed and coiled in a bag somewhere, out the searing sun. Plugged into the dock we have full power for the lights, hot water, radio, TV, microwave and crucially the air con. All the comforts of home.
All that's missing is a door bell.
(If you don't know, my amateurish but hopefully improving videos are on YouTube. Search SV Time Bandit )
28 May 2020
I'm trying to sort out my videos and YouTube account and unsure if this ever got posted. If it did, apologies for repetition. If not, hope it whiles away a few lockdown minutes.
More to come I think.