Blogging off for 2012
Greetings dear reader and welcome to the final blog for 2012. At the moment, I am sitting down below on The Doc right under the aircon and comfortably nestled in the safe lagoon of Rebak Island resort and marina Langkawi. This is it folks, the end of the journey that started way back in Fremantle on a cloudy Tuesday evening in May as we motored out of Challenger Harbour en route to Darwin. What is more amazing is that after nearly five and half thousand miles of motor and sail we had to be towed the last mile and half into the marina. Outrageous I hear you say and I couldn’t agree more. We were anchored about 7 miles from the marina and after a swim and leisurely morning decided to make way to said marina around lunchtime. Pulled anchor, washed off copious mud, tidied up and engaged motor for a leisurely tonk to our berth in marina. A few minutes in (actually a little more than a few but I can’t bear to remember how long) I felt something was wrong. No overheating alarm but something smelt strange. I checked exhaust and you guessed it, smoke only. Off goes the motor, down goes the anchor and maintenance team switch in to action. Checked intake filter....clear, checked impeller....one and a half blades left out of 12....ummm not good. Changed impeller....still no water coming through. Tide still with us so we decide to sail as close as we can to marina a get a little tow in and sort it out later. Well the Doc seemed to pick up on the emergency and we tacked and tacked our way ever onwards and had the best sail we have had for a long time. The boys came out and tied up alongside and gently placed us in our berth with the added help of some cruising friends. No drama. Problem seems to be a non return valve off from the main sea water intake may have been sticking causing restricted water flow or it may have been barnacles in the filter housing. Certainly putting on the wrong impeller didn’t help. I grabbed the only one I had left at it was a key lock style that without a key just sat there as the motor turned the shaft. Anyway, all sorted now.
Rebak Island being a resort, we have access to all resort facilities and that includes a lovely big pool, restaurants, gym and morning yoga sessions. December and January are the hottest months in Langkawi and while we do get afternoon rain relief, the aircon is a life saver. We kept ours from the Darwin build up days and stow it under the table where it sits quietly awaiting its next mercy mission. Well, what a year it has been.
I suppose it all started back in March when we landed in Darwin and began the serious preparations for our sojourn through South East Asia. It was a mad time when I think back. We had major engine work done, a new cutless bearing fitted, a complete package of navigational and radar equipment fitted, massive provisioning to do, Motley the wonder cat to prepare with shots, vet checks etc and visas and medical arrangements to finalise. It seemed an endless list but by the morning of July 14th when we pulled anchor outside Fanny Bay to sail to Timor Leste it was all done and we were ready for our SE Asian adventure. And, it has been a fantastic adventure. Dili, Aturo Island then down to Kupung and then along the top of Flores to Komodo and Rinca Islands, then across to Lombok and Bali, then up to Kumai on the bottom of Kalimantan, then across to Batam Island and into the Singapore Straits and then up the Malacca Straits to Malaysia and all the wonders of Penang, Pangkor, and finally here in Rebak Island Langkawi. WOW!!! Including our trip up the west coast from Fremantle to Darwin we have done over 5,500 nautical miles. Thank you Doc, thank you navigator extraordinaire (Diana) and thank you head of maintenance (me). Together we have done it and, I might add, done it bloody well.
Some thoughts on sailing Rallies.
We have been part of three rallies: The Darwin -- Dili, The Sail Indonesia and the Sail Malaysia and, as always, there are pros and cons. One of the great things is you get to meet a whole range of new people who are all in the same boat and there will be no apology for that one. We all do battle with the vagaries of this cruising life: weather, wind, currents, mechanical breakdowns and ........hopefully repairs . We all share each others’ concerns be they personal, medical and sometimes philosophical, help when we can or just lend a sympathetic ear over a beer and Nasi Goreng. Perhaps the biggest downside is the sailing to dates aspect of rallies. There is this tour on this date in this place followed by this tour on that date in this other place and proper cruising is not like that. I think it’s called rally fatigue and I noticed a few signs of it at various ports of call. Of course you don’t have to make any of the set functions and can come and go as you please but you pay your money and you kind of feel like getting something back for it, if you know what I mean. Would I do another rally? No. (was that too quick?) I suppose the main reason we chose to do the rallies was to help ease our way into a new part of the world, to fast track immigration procedures, and to have some backup if Motley ever became an issue. There is no real problem with checking in and not one official has even asked about the invisible cat. The functions can be fun, the tours tortuous, especially when you get a 45 minute lunch stop at 3.45 in the afternoon and blood sugar levels have sunk to dangerously homicidal lows. Still, there’s always the visit to the Pineapple Museum to keep your excitement at fever pitch.
Rally shirts are another plus and I have known some yachties who have built extra cupboards in cabins just to accommodate the steady flow. The rally meals have all been excellent and in most cases no expense spared. Anchorages can be crowded and this can lead to some friction and even minor outbreaks of international conflict. I think the best aspect is the quiet undercurrent of camaraderie that flows between us all. You hear it in the noisy banter on the tour bus, you hear it around the table in the Indian restaurant or the Hard Dock cafe here at Rebak and you get this sense that we all part of the same thing, that we are all family in a way and that’s a good feeling. But, would I be lining up to do it again....no thanks. Diana and I have always sailed on our own and enjoyed the unexpected, the unplanned and the spontaneous aspects of this cruising life. You tend to lose a part of this when you sail with 80 other boats.
So, a final word. Our favourite time has been sailing the north coast of Flores Island including Rinca and Komodo. The people are mostly poor but their kindness knows no bounds and their smiles are unforgettable. Malaysia is more developed, has better food and shopping but it is more western in attitude. I think my lasting memory will be of the father who paddled out to our boat early in the morning in an anchorage half way along Flores just to say farewell and left with a new pair of reading glasses. The look on his face was as if a new world had suddenly opened up before his very eyes. And that is exactly the feeling we have as we sit back and slowly ponder the last six months.
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We hope you have all enjoyed the blogs and it is nice to know you are out there somewhere in the world sharing in our crazy life. Have a pleasant and peaceful Christmas everyone and we’ll be back on air sometime in January.
Love and best wishes Rob and Diana December 14th 2012 Rebak Island Langkawi