Monday, April 20, 2015

Put to bed

We tied Sea Turtle up to a dock on April 13th, the first time in many months, at Marina Island, a 318-acre man-made island. Here, we prepared her to be put up on the hard at the family-owned Pangkor Marina.

We hauled out on an unusual but very efficient Sea-Lift, a first for us. Jordan manoeuvred Sea Turtle onto the air-filled bunks and the operator of the lift first raised and then directed Sea Turtle up the ramp and out of the ocean - all with his remote control! No scratches, bumps, or nicks. After a bottom power wash, she was settled on the hard.

Jordan powering onto Sea-Lift

Soft and easy lift

In the humid heat with the daily predictable afternoon showers, we continued preparing Sea Turtle for a long sleep. We found relief from the heat by taking an air-conditioned hotel room and an occasional swim in another hotel's swimming pool!

We felt comfortable with the security of Pangkor Marina's yard knowing Sea Turtle would be in good company for the months to follow, nestled in with other yachts from all parts of the world, some from Canada too.

With a sad goodbye to Sea Turtle on April 20th, it was a cheery hello to family and friends in Canada where we will be until approximately November to complete a project.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Back to Malaysia

We needed to travel a couple of days south from Koh Lipe of Thailand to the Pangkor Marina of Malaysia. So on April 10th, we checked out of Thailand, and with a breeze on our nose, we first motorsailed for the Langkawi group of islands about 5 hours away. Halfway there though, we decided to bypass Langkawi and do an overnighter south for our check-in at Penang Island of Malaysia.

Throughout the night, we kept a vigilant eye to avoid nocturnal fishing boats and nets. Then as the day broke and we cut through the haze as we entered the Penang Strait, it was the freighters we had to give way to. We anchored in front of George Town at Penang Island (Malaysia) around noon (N05°24.646' E100°20.569').

At George Town, having previously seen its sights, we made haste and did our Malaysia check-in and our port check-out all at once for a quick departure to resume our southbound track. The afternoon departure was good timing. Just! We picked up a southbound tidal current that pushed up under both bridges while we watched an ominous black squall intensify just over our shoulder. Realizing we couldn't outrun it, we pulled over in the shallows as close to shore as we could and dropped the hook (N05°16.321' E100°17.524') just as the wind and rain hit.

Looked lower than it was!

Once the squall abated, we lifted the hook at 23:00 and continued to motorsail until we reached Pangkor Island (N04°14.696' E100°34.344') where we anchored on April 12th for one evening. The next morning, we dinghied to the nearby man-made island (Marina Island), where we confirmed our reservation and then motored Sea Turtle over (N04°12.688' E100°36.109').

This would be Sea Turtle's home for awhile...

Thursday, April 09, 2015

In stitches!

April 7th was an interesting day at Koh Adang of Thailand. Early in the morning, many longtail tourist boats passed Sea Turtle on her mooring ball heading to various shores for their passengers to snorkel in the nearby coral or stroll on the uninhabited beaches. We counted at least 20 boats, sometimes 5 all together!

Tourist transportation

We were excited to get into the water for some long-awaited coral reef snorkelling. But as Jordan was about to attach the dinghy wheels, he stumbled when a wave from a passing boat bobbed the dinghy and he stepped on a sharp bolt head which was part of the dinghy wheel bracket. It sliced and ripped into the bottom of his little toe. The diced flesh was bleeding profusely, and upon examining it, it was obvious that it needed stitches. Koh Adang was uninhabited so it was back to Koh Lipe for medical attention.

Back at the village, we went to the closer of 2 clinics along Koh Lipe Walking Street, later wishing we had tried the second one. For 8 stitches in a small toe, including doctor and nurse, it cost $350!! Plus they wanted another $200 for antibiotics and anti-inflammatories, which we succinctly declined.

We returned to Koh Adang immediately afterwards where I snorkelled for the next 2 days with Jordan following me, peering down below from in the dinghy. I felt so bad for him not being able to get into salt water because of his wound, but at least he had snorkelled this same area previously when I was in Canada.

Evening sunset

From Koh Adang, we once again returned to the white sandy beaches of Koh Lipe (N06°29.074' E099°18.009') for one last evening.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Koh Lipe and Adang

After checking out of Telaga (Malaysia) on April 5th, we pulled the hook, and 6 hours later were in Thailand at the island of Koh Lipe (N06°29.076' E099°18.058'). Here the anchorage depth was 22 metres in clear clean waters before the bottom rose abruptly to the shallow coral reef that pre-empted the beautiful sandy beach.

Anchorage real estate was in demand at this busy destination and great care was needed in dropping the hook, because at that depth, at least 60 metres of chain was prudent so swinging radii ate up the available bay.

The first night required close watch as swirling tide and variable winds swung boats around and at times too close for comfort from each other. Competing crafts included longtail shuttle boats, day tourist speed boats, ferries, dive boats, supply vessels, and a few sailboats.

With last night's full moon, tide changes were extreme. There was oodles of coral near the shore so to avoid our dinghy's prop meeting coral, we had to wait for a higher tide before going to or leaving shore.

This was my first visit to Koh Lipe but Jordan had stopped here while I was back in Canada. Ashore, I "met" the Asian girl that Jordan confessed to kissing and groping during my absence...


I forgave him! LOL!

Koh Lipe is a small out-of-the-way tourist island destination. Its main attraction is the powder fine sandy beach where visitors' whims are satisfied by the many bars, restaurants, and places to stay that range from very basic huts to fine resorts. It can be defined as a stroller's dream destination as its arteries are built for pedestrians where they can stop at leisure for a massage, a drink, a meal, book a dive, or even get medical treatment. For us, it was also a required immigration check-in port.

Beautiful white sandy beach of Koh Lipe

We did our official checking-in the morning after we arrived but soon left for quieter anchorage dibs an hour away on Koh Adang, the next Thai island just to the north where we grabbed a mooring ball (N06°32.139' E099°16.860').

The first thing we did was jump in the water where we had to hang on to the dinghy rope attached to Sea Turtle as the current was so strong it would have pulled us away from the boat and out into the ocean. But it was so refreshing and the water was so clear you could almost see the bottom at 15 metres.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Back to Telaga

After a few days exploring the south islands in the Langkawi anchipelago, we made it back to Telaga Harbour (N06°21.711' E099°40.832'). As our next trip would be over to Thailand islands, Telaga is an official "check-out-of-Malaysia" port.

Telaga is an out of the way port with a nice secure anchorage ringed with beaches. The numerous anchored boats are protected from sea waves by 2 small breakwater islands and the pleasant scene is marked by steep verdant mountains overlooking us from the north. From the anchorage, one takes their dinghy in past a faux lighthouse and resident monkeys scampering on the rocks eager for tossed treats, then through a short channel to the inner harbour marina.

Sea Turtle anchored at Telaga

Monkey mania

Once inside, we took advantage of the facilities which, among other things, were happy hours at the various harbourside restaurants, the fuel and laundry facilities, convenience store, and of course the official government border control offices.

And Telaga is where we could once again play badminton to get a bit of exercise...

No, that's not a halo!

As soon as the sun sets, the ocean horizon lights up with a multitude of green lights from local fishing boats, out for the night's bounty that the lights attract. No chance of anyone running into these fishermen in the dark! But what they did not have was the "longtail" motor which gives these boats their name. Sadly, almost all of them now in this Malaysian area have regular motors.

Friday, April 03, 2015

The lake

We rose to another hot and sunny day that began with a 10-minute dinghy ride to a jetty already swarming with tourists shuttled by longtail boats from Langkawi (Malaysia). The attraction was the 10-hectare freshwater lake on Pulau Dayang Bunting, the largest freshwater lake and the second largest island of the Langkawi archipelago.

It was a short walk from the jetty, up an incline, through a draw in the cliffs, then down some 100 steps to the rafts on the lake - along the route were many monkeys, some with adorable new infants! Signs at the lake indicated Lifejackets Must Be Worn which seemed strange to us having spent so much time swimming without such things and even au natural. Was it that many visitors don't know how to swim?

However after diving into the cool blue water, we realized right away that the freshwater, compared to seawater, made us much less buoyant and required some definite expense of energy to simply stay afloat.

Freshwater for a change

After swimming, we walked the boardwalk nature trail along the lake shore to a spot called the Miracle Border where we could see the ocean at a level some 12 m (40 feet) below separated by only a thin ridge of rock.

We diverted our return to our Sea Turtle to explore a cluster of smaller islands. There we spotted a cute romp of otters hanging out beneath a cut in the limestone formations with just their curious heads peering out at us. Above the otters, we admired the grey limestone cliffs textured with hanging gardens of streaming 30-metre (100-foot) long vines, palms, and bushes interspersed with weeping limestone stalagmites. We again dinghied right inside a couple of caves carved out by ions of erosion.

Dinghy spelunking

We left later in the day to return to Singa Besar for a relaxing evening.

Another day done

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Here and there

On March 30th after enjoying our experiences at the Hole in the Wall in the northeast of Langkawi Malaysia, we sailed back around to the west side and to the smaller private island of Rebak best known for its marina.

As of late, we've been taking it easy which is a nice way of saying we have been lazy and consequently certain boat jobs have been ignored. But there was one job that was impossible to ignore. The hydraulic steering showed signs of being "mushy" and lacked appropriate response from the wheel and/or auto pilot. It was just a matter of adding fluid, but it begged the question of where it was leaking, albeit slowly. Something that would have to be later traced and remedied.

Our bottom (the boat's bottom, that is) also needs to be painted as it's been 2 years since haul-out in New Zealand. Other big jobs that can't be ignored too much longer are new deck paint, stainless steel polishing, and teak wood refinishing. Sea Turtle seems to be lapsing into poor fettle and in need of some tender loving care!

Our initial plans had been to haul out soon at Rebak Island Marina but now we have decided it will be necessary to wait. More on that later.

We anchored on a lea shore off Rebak Island and the breakwater to the marina entrance (N06°17.382' E099°41.546') at 15:45. With an onshore wind, we would only leave the boat for a short time to meet up with Trevor and Jolanta of sailing vessel Magnetic which was on the hard. We walked the nature trail to the swimming pool of the marina and resort where we caught up on past travel adventures and tried to solve some of the world problems.

Then back to Sea Turtle to re-anchor in more protected waters (N06°16.175' E099°43.712') about an hour away from Rebak - at the spot where I had re-joined Jordan when I returned from Canada.

The next morning to the throb of the engine, we headed south for some island gunkholing. First anchorage an hour away was at Singa Besar Island (N06°13.854' E099°44.738') where we dinghied around some nearby rock islands. Singa Besar is a wildlife sanctuary for monkeys, deer, snakes, lizards, and birds. The island is also rich in unique rock formations and mangrove plants.

Another Langkawi anchorage

Then on April 2nd, we motored a little further south through mystical karst islands whose sheer limestone cliff faces rose straight out of the waters.

No beach here!

We dropped the hook in a narrow but calm channel between the 2 islands of Gubang Darat and Dayang Bunting where their cliffs towered above us (N06°11.366' E099°47.257').

As the cool of the evening approached, we saw a troop of monkeys exploring the rocky shore and night was ushered in by sweet avian chatter...