Thursday, September 25, 2014

Pangkor hornbills

Still on our motorcycle trip from Phuket (Thailand) to Malaysia to renew our Thai Visitor's Visas and meet up with our friends at Lumut of Marina Island, we decided to catch the 10-minute ferry from Marina Island to Pangkor Island.

Part of the draw for us to this Island was to see a daily feeding of wild hornbill birds on the seaside patio of a particular hotel. There are various species and these are the largest called Great Hornbills. They are not unlike the Toucan (remember the mascot for Fruit Loops cereal?)

On arriving at the pier, we were immediately met by a young man who had scooters for rent, so we struck a deal and off we went. We had read the feeding time was around 17:30 to 19:00. Apparently the birds don't follow a rigid time schedule! So with time to kill, there was the whole Island to explore.

Pangkor Island's robust terrain is carpeted with lush tropical forests. We headed counterclockwise on the main narrow road that circled the Island.

Before leaving the condensed village that's squished between the shore and the steep hillsides, we came upon a shipyard. There, they were hand-building ocean-going ships of about 25 metres all out of heavy timbers and planking. You could easily picture yourself in a European shipyard of the 1600s.

Jordan was amazed at the huge planks of prized wood. Solid planks the size of a castle's dining room tabletop that could sit 30. What would these planks, rich in colour with a grain completely clear of knots, be worth back home in Canada? And where did they get such pristine timbers?

Beautiful timber

Continuing, the village scene soon drifted aft as we travelled a snaking road that climbed and clung to the sides of the vertical slopes where the forests disclosed where the prime timbers came from. Then the road eased to a pleasant drive past unspoiled beaches perfectly accented with large boulders as if placed by landscape architects.

We ended up early at the hotel where the hornbills would appear so we relaxed to soak up the setting. Soon, out of nowhere, a large hornbill swooped down as a special guest for dinner. First, she set on a tree branch to survey the safeness of the place, then finally flew down to the plate of cut-up papaya on a little table in the middle of the patio.

Free food!

We seemed to be the only persons interested and slowly crept closer to get a few snapshots...

Mrs. Hornbill was fine until she decided we were getting just a little bit too close and flew off into a high tree where she watched the 2 curious humans from her safe perch.

Soon thereafter, Mr. Hornbill came for the last of the meal. (Evidently a "he" as his bill was larger.) He delicately picked up each piece of fruit by the tip of his capacious bill and with a little backward flip, down it went, at the same time probably wondering what are these strange creatures looking at?

Feathered fruit flipper

The sky was turning an ominous charcoal and the faint rumbles were our cue to take flight back to the human jungle.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Visa and video!

Our 2-month Thailand Tourist Visa expires September 30th, at which time we would need to do 1 of 2 things. First, while remaining in Thailand, we could pay for a 1-month extension or secondly we could do a Visa run by leaving Thailand to get another 2-month Visa.

Normally, we would just do the first, but as our close sailing friends are in Malaysia for only a few days before leaving for South Africa, we chose to kill 2 birds with 1 stone and do a Visa run and have a visit. After all, we have wheels now that we bought a motorcycle and a road trip would be a welcomed interlude.

Off to Malaysia

We left on sunny September 22nd, willing to take whatever the rainy season gave us. The roads were great and the scenery amazing. The first part of our travels had us winding past tall pinnacles and mountainous cliffs that reached towards the sky. One could see patches of exposed raspy limestone as evidence of the formations' permanence and betrayed the soft tropical growth that cloaked them. Some were tall and skinny like solitary guards standing watch over the fertile planes at their feet while others were clustered in solidarity as though for protection in a group.

Unfortunately the rain came down in sheets and draped the formations in misty clouds. But even though partially obscured by the shroud of fog, it gave the scene an enchanting aura. However we're hoping on our return trip for better weather and photo ops.

The later part of our travel was past rather boring flat lands matching the monotony of the motorcycle's drone. We arrived just after dark on the 23rd at Marina Island in Malaysia, about 400 km south of the border, and met up with our friends on Jabula.

Bruce and Jeannie were furiously trying to get Jabula ready by Friday to go back in the water and start their passage across the Indian Ocean to South Africa. It's the correct time. Right now, the lights are green for a go but come November the lights will turn red for the sailor and green for the cyclones in certain areas of that passage.

Us with Bruce and Jeannie in their work clothes

We felt very honoured and special when later Bruce and Jeannie presented us with a video production entitled Living the Dream, which is exactly what we are doing! Much of the footage was done while Jeannie manned Jabula's helm, and Bruce, with an expert and steady hand, did the shots as Sea Turtle and Jabula sailed together through parts of exotic French Polynesia.

Included: sailing, swimming beneath a waterfall, watching dolphins jump, extracting pearls from oyster shells...

For a link to this treasured and copyrighted video, either click here or on Living the Dream under Other Links in the right-hand column.

Friday, September 19, 2014


We have posted a new entry for The Pea Green Book blog (link on far right of this page). Libertad was the latest host of Pea Green.

Also posted in our slideshow link at the far right are photos of our visit to the Galapagos.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

As the days go by

Thailand, or at least the Island of Phuket, seems to really love the colour pink. Yes, pink. We notice it everywhere. Large buildings painted entirely pink, bus signs plus many others, men and women both owning pink motorscooters and helmets, vehicles (including garbage trucks and buses), chairs, clothing, etc. Also popular here are cartoon characters plastered onto everything, whether owned by male or female. Perhaps this indicates their young-at-heart spirit!

There is also a multitude of different types of street lights, many quite ornate. Our favourite is just before approaching the pier at Chalong Harbour.

Golden illumination

I was fighting a cold that I just couldn't get rid of for several weeks. I finally went to the hospital (which is where you go for a doctor appointment) and was informed that I had pneumonia! He felt that I was also dehydrated (I know, I never drink enough) and I had a seriously low blood pressure. Once admitted to the hospital, I was hooked up to IVs for antibiotics and fluids. The next day I was feeling much better and headed back to the boat.

But after running a course of antibiotic pills, I was still not feeling top notch. A young nurse in a clinic took my blood pressure and suggested that my electrolytes were probably low. Bingo! After drinking a few Gatorades and other sport-type drinks, I was feeling 100%.

A long time ago, a sailing friend of ours, who by the way drinks water non-stop, fainted. She too was lacking in minerals and told that she needed electrolyte drinks.

With all the rain we have been getting in the past couple of weeks, we had quite a bit in our dinghy. What to do? Take a bath!

Splish, splash...

With the weather not the best, we are in no hurry to head out to the islands. As there is no problem finding minor boat jobs to do, some of our slack time is diminished with such chores. World cruising as they say is defined as fixing your boat in exotic places!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Let's eat

One of the things Thailand is known for is its cheap and abundant food, not to mention it's DELICIOUS!. The choices where to buy are varied. If one wants to mix with the locals for traditional fare, vibrant outdoor markets are everywhere with the best prices. They are always crowded with enthusiastic and inquisitive buyers.

People and motorscooters everywhere

As well as food to take home or food to eat on the spot, you can also find housewares, handicrafts, clothing, shoes, knickknacks, etc. for sale.

Anything and everything

The streets are lined with eateries and bars with good and inexpensive menus so we end up eating out a lot. It's less expensive to eat out than to cook on the boat, plus we don't heat up the boat with hot burners or oven. Dinner out for 2 with a wine or beer each is typically less than $10 total.

For more American food stuffs, there are modern air conditioned grocery stores typical of the western world but you pay for the price above the local outdoor market price. There are at least 2 very modern and big malls that make the tourists and expats feel at home. A couple of them are so large, you can easily get lost!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Eventful anchorage

Our sedate life at anchor in Chalong Harbour (south Phuket, Thailand) has been punctuated by some interesting and lively events.

Clear skies showed us the brilliance of the blazing white supermoon as it was the closest to the earth while it was full. We never knew that the orbit of the moon is elliptical which brings it closer to earth at times. At the risk of sounding trekky, the technical name for supermoon is the perigee-syzygy of the Earth-Moon-Sun system, just in case you were wondering.

We arrived in Thailand during the rainy southwest monsoon season that brings unsettled weather. Actually as I am writing this, a squall passed through with gale force winds and horizontal rain that lasted an hour. Surprisingly, no boats dragged. The bottom is muddy sand and excellent holding.

A week ago, we had a similar rain event. We opened up a deck watertank fitting and let the rain fill our 50-gallon starboard tank in about 10 minutes! At times, we've been caught by a sudden downpour while out on the motorcycle but we could duck in under cover and wait it out which usually doesn't last very long. At least it's warm.

Then in heavy winds once again, a boat behind us with no one on board escaped its mooring. Jordan thought the mooring line looked chafed. It drifted over to a distant muddy shore and grounded. We unfortunately couldn't do anything to help as water had leaked into our outboard fuel tank so it wouldn't start. We tried the VHF with no response - no one turns them on at anchor here! But fortunately, the boat had the owner's phone number posted on the side and someone from shore called him. The owner was able to move his boat at high tide and re-moor it. We saw its anchor light on later in the evening. So all ended well.

Another night, we awoke to the sound of booms at 01:30. Fireworks are common here but this was different. Jordan got up and looked out and saw that a big dive boat had exploded and was engulfed in flames!


As we watched, there were a couple of more loud explosions. It was surrounded by other boats, and being downwind, we were a bit worried that once the boat's mooring line burned, it could drift towards us. But once it burned to the waterline, a couple of police boats tied a line to it and towed it to where it's cremated remains sank to its water grave. We later learned that only 1 crew man was on board when it exploded who promptly jumped overboard and was soon picked up, unharmed.'s been an exciting month so far!