Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A day out

Back at Danga Bay Marina (Malaysia), it was out with the auto-pilot and off to FedEx it back for repairs. So we were faced with waiting time.

We don't usually go on group tours, you know the type, "round them up, load them up" where you feel conversing with words like "Mooo." But we were not keeping busy with anything else so we said why not join the day tour arranged by the Rally organizers! We weren't even sure what the tour included.

So we were loaded on the bus as we kept a close watch for the cattle prods and off we went. The driver managed to get lost twice before finding the first stop which was for some quick "brekkie". In a small seaside town where the residents were a strange ethnic mix of Chinese, East Indian, and Malaysian and most evidently of the Muslim persuasion, we had a chance to sample the locals' typical breakfast.

We watched a woman swirl around her dough to make home-made roti at her sidewalk stand and decided to join the breakfast lineup. Simple and tasty!

Roti production

The next stop was at a 40-hectare fruit farm (100 acres) promoting eco-agriculture. A guide walked us all through the farm pointing out the different fruits and herbs, some we had never heard of before. We later were treated to a colourful and large buffet of all the fruits from the farm along with cold lime juice and hot tea made with the herb called Cat Whiskers.

Cat Whiskers herb

Fruit feast

A list of some of the fruits, vegetables, and spices grown: Basil, breadfruit, cocoa (to make chocolate), curry leaf, daun belalai (claims to be an anti cancer agent), dragon fruit, gourd, Hawaii papaya (NOT from Hawaii - just the name of this type of papaya), jackfruit, jambu, lemongrass, mango, mangosteen, mulberry (the leaves of which are favoured by the silk worm),  noni and durian (both of which are stinky), pamelo (similar to grapefruit), pandan (to get rid of cockroaches), passion fruit (I wonder what it claims to do?), pink guava...

At a point in the walking tour, we stopped for an exotic drink made fresh from their fruits. As a first for us, we tried the one made from the Rosella fruit and really enjoyed it.

We saw hives of small black stingless bees. Normally I am quite frightened of bees but these tiny fly-like bees were great in their busy bee business.

There are many, many types of bananas throughout the world and here they had several. One very unusual type had a stalk of very teeny tiny bananas growing solid on a stem over 2 metres high...

1,000 Fingers Banana

Another oddity was the poisonous banana. How can one tell? The flower is purple and is unique in that it grows pointing UP. So be forewarned for your next marauding foray.

Purple means poison

There was also a mini zoo at the fruit farm that had ostrich, monkeys, tortoise, python, pygmy chicken, rooster, many goats, and the cutest rabbits! I couldn't resist holding and feeding carrots to this little one...

Next we attended a short lecture on a variety of honeys and their associated properties and qualities, with lots to purchase for those in need of sweetening.

Another stop was at a palm oil factory where we were hit with an earthy, fetid odour from the culled compost pile. Unripe fruit clusters cannot be processed and are made into compost so there is no waste product. This factory at Felda Semenchu produces about 100 tonnes of oil per day.

Palm oil production

Next up was lunch where we watched a few traditional dancers, drummers, and a mock wedding while we feasted on a delicious vegetarian meal except for 1 chicken dish. Weddings in Malaysia are very costly for the families, easily running in the 5-figure sums. When guests leave, they are given a hard-boiled egg signifying new life (then the egg would be part of their next morning's breakfast).

Another stop was at Kota Johor Lama historical site on the banks of one of Malaysia's largest rivers. In the mini-museum, we learned that this was the site of the Old Johor fort built in 1540 by a Sultan who was driven out of the north by the Portuguese. But it came to ruin in 1587 when the Portuguese sacked and burned it. The museum contains recent archaeological finds including weaponry and artifacts of daily life.

Final stop: again on the river banks, a privately owned crocodile farm (Taman Buaya) with over 1,000 crocs. Evidently, there roam the escaped crocs that now skulk the rivers and estuaries of southern Malaysia.

"Hmmm, why are so many sailboat dirty bottoms around here not cleaned?" News too little too late for Jordan. He had been diving to clean Sea Turtle's prop!

Crocodiles are cold blooded reptiles and can live to be 200 years old and one here is 155. There were some impressive specimens laying about in a petrified stance. Our guide would yell loud in Malaysian and bang on the wall to get the attention of the reptiles before a feeding.

At the den of the larger ones, he would toss frozen chickens onto the dry concrete area where the big crocs would depart from their still pose to advance slowly, mouths agape before snapping up the morsels. What type of chickens did they use? Stupid ones. The smart ones we saw were running around just outside the dens.

You snooze, you lose

In the den of the juveniles, they were all gathered in the shallows like a listless bunch at the mall. They wouldn't listen to their moms who would say "Get a job or you are going to end up as a purse!" But all hell broke loose as the guide heaved in a shovel load of chicken pieces!

Snack time

As well as older and larger crocodiles, there were also tiny ones and deformed ones. These had a variety of abnormalities like missing or deformed tails or limbs, kept separate no doubt to protect their self image. The baby crocs were kept separate in a "kindergarten" away from their cannibal elders.

These crocodiles were farmed for food and products like belts and purses. How do they taste? We were told "like the other white meat" but Jordan and I won't be sampling!

In the shadows

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Let the ties go?

We dropped the ties to the dock of Danga Bay Marina (Malaysia) at 13:30. We had to make sure the tide was high as the inlet just outside of the Marina gets very shallow at low tide. We motored down the west channel that separates Singapore Island from Malaysia mainland where we were under constant surveillance by vigilance of the small Singapore border patrol boats.

After a couple of hours, we had to go under a bridge. Even though we were following Sea Turtle's inbound GPS track, it was still nerve wracking for me as I was at the helm. Is the bridge high enough for our mast? Is the water deep enough for our keel? I haven't been at the helm since we anchored at Mentok (Indonesia) back in mid-January. But I guess it's like riding a bicycle...it's something you never forget.

Half an hour later, where the channel widened, we dropped anchor (N01°19.200' E103°37.410') close to a very small Malaysian island. Did you know it is illegal to anchor anywhere in Singapore waters?

So this small Malaysian island is a good spot, just outside the busy freighter area and it provides for an early start in the morning to make it all the way around Singapore Island before once again being able to anchor in Malaysian territory. Then just before sunset, 3 catamarans and 1 sailboat pulled up and anchored.

During our transit down the channel, the auto-pilot refused to work properly. Jordan checked and tried various things but to no avail. We had internet connection from cell phone towers so after Skyping the manufacturer, it was determined that damage was done when the wires were cross connected during re-installation.

Our only wise option was to return the next morning to Danga Bay Marina and send it back to the USA manufacturer for repair. Double darn...this will now delay our distant explorations.

Oh well, what can one do but go with the flow, so we settled in with a relaxing sundowner in the cockpit. It was a pleasant change to be at a quiet anchorage for the night with no loud bar music...what a treat!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Back at Sea Turtle

Back at Danga Bay Marina (Johur Bahru, Malaysia) from our trip to Canada and with not much to do, we spent a lot of time in the Marina's air conditioned library/internet room where a few other cruisers hung out. It was a good time to bring our blog more up-to-date and get out of the heat. With internet in Indonesia being so poor, and far between connections, we had gotten quite far behind.

We thought the Marina was rather pretty at night with all of its bright lights. They were in the man-made trees, running along the bottom edge of the dock, strung above the dock, fancily lighting up poles, etc. Especially vibrant were all the lights on the Danga Cruiser 8 at the dock.

A local cruising yacht

A disturbing sight was the garbage that would collect in the waters all around the boats after rainfall would wash it downstream and out into the bay. People here can be indifferent towards using the open waters to toss their waste out of their hands, but not as bad as the Indonesians. What an ugly shame. Hopefully as we continue our passages to other places in Malaysia, out and away from the heavily concentrated populated areas, we will discover more pristine locations.

Drifting from shore towards boats

There are 2 dining establishments and 2 drinking establishments, 1 being very loud from 10 at night till 3 in the morning! And did we mention there is no hot water? But that is not a negative situation as it's so blistering hot that a cool shower feels pretty good.

We were surprised at the number of people who attended a potluck since we had seen a lot of boats tied up but hardly ever saw any cruisers hanging around! Food was excellent and karaoke provided for entertainment had both good and bad songsters.

On our trips to the large city for groceries and miscellaneous, we have noticed so many similar available businesses as back home: Honda, Panasonic, LG, Sony, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Domino's Pizza, Kawasaki, and the list goes on. Not so foreign in a foreign country!

Motorcycles here, as in other Asian countries, are a main means of transportation. We learned that here the motorcycle repair shops are open 24/7. These service hours are crucial for the masses so that their vital means of daytime transportation is without interruption. When bypassing these shops, they always seem to be full. Motorcyclists don't concern themselves with the little things such as broken rear lights, etc. so defensive driving is a must.

May is the start of the rainy season, the southwest monsoons. It's the time of year where the Intercontinental Convergence Zone (ITCZ) here is extremely potent from the moist winds of the Northern Hemisphere colliding with the Southern Hemisphere moist air. The results are frighteningly huge thunder clouds with their intense lightning displays. During more than 1 of these storms, the frequency of lightning bolts was about 2 seconds apart.

The lightning, now almost daily, has been striking very close to the Marina and boats. A boat was just hit causing a great deal of damage. Apparently, it damaged most of their electrical systems including taking out their alternators, chart plotter, and other cockpit devices and they said daily they are discovering further damage.

The boats from the "Sail Malaysia Rally" were passing through making the Marina and city a major stop. This particular rally's route is from the general area of west Thailand down to the eastern water of Indonesia via a northern route (over the top of Borneo). It tends to accommodate Australian sailors making their way back home.

The major sponsor of the rally is Tourism Malaysia. We were invited to attend a "Sail Malaysia Rally" dinner at the Marina's Convention Centre one evening even though we had not signed up for the Rally. The meal was excellent and consisted of several courses, thankfully with a short break in between each course. Entertainment consisted of dancers in costumes performing Malay traditional dances as well as pop singers.

Dancing for the diners

Jordan re-installed the repaired auto-pilot and the refurbished watermaker that had sprung a slow but constant leak after 5 years of use. But lo and behold, once again the auto-pilot did not work! We just had it repaired.

Jordan tried different things but nothing worked so he contacted the manufacturer of the unit and explained the symptoms. He told Jordan where to zero in on the problem and sure enough, Jordan found a loose crimped connection which explained why we occasionally had one type of intermittent malfunction during the last few years.

After a quick fix, Jordan reconnected everything but unfortunately he inadvertently crossed the positive and negative wires. He switched them back again hoping for the best for our departure the next day...

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Together again

Jordan had made the passage from Mentok (Indonesia) to Danga Bay (Malaysia) without me as I needed to return to Canada at the end of January. Once he arrived in Malaysia on February 16th, he was able to quickly check in and book his flight to join me.

Upon arriving in Victoria BC, Jordan had a good catch-up visit with his son Aaron and daughter-in-law Dee and started to get all the necessary items we needed for Sea Turtle replacements and repairs. He then joined me in frosty Alberta where we spent much needed time with my parents and helped out as much as we could.

We spent our days at the hospital where I discovered something new about my Mom that I had unbelievably never noticed before - she has 1 blue eye and 1 green eye!

Unusual eye colours

I felt very lucky to be home for my Mom's birthday. My daughter was also in town for the event making for a joyous occasion. We celebrated with a homemade dinner of Mom's favourite ribs, cake, and presents in a separate dining room that the hospital had graciously allowed us to use. Mom was soon exhausted and upon her retirement, we returned to the house.

A long but happy day

Another day when energy levels were a bit higher, I convinced my Mom to dance to the music we were listening to in the room. It had been awhile since my parents danced but I believe both enjoyed the short waltz to a tune of Willie Nelson.

Dancing once again

Unfortunately, too soon, it came time to leave. I sadly said my goodbyes and we then drove towards Penticton BC where we spent a couple of days with Jordan's parents. It was a worrisome drive as we were hearing constant avalanche warnings on the radio. We had to holdup a night in Canmore BC because the highways ahead were closed due to avalanches. But the next day all was fine.

Our journey back next took us through Seattle and Bainbridge Island in the States to pick up our auto-pilot that had been repaired.

Once back in Victoria, we continued to mark everything off on our list of things to do and things to pick up to bring back to Sea Turtle. We also found time to visit friends.

A few years ago, Jordan's close friend passed away just after he finished restoring a classic 1966 MGB Roadster. His widow offered to sell it to Jordan. He gladly accepted and we had some fun running around in it. It will remain in storage for our future returns.

New toy

Finally on April 8th, we boarded a plane for the lengthy flight to Malaysia. We crossed the International Date Line and lost a whole day! It was so nice to have had the family visits and we will miss them greatly, but it was also necessary to return to Sea Turtle.

There was such a huge weather difference from Canada's -40°C freezing winter to Malaysia's 30°C rainy season and high humidity!