As Paul has related in his post, the past week has been quite a slog to get assorted jobs and cleaning completed and fine-tuned. For me, this has involved:
- polishing steel parts with cleaning paste and brasso
- cleaning the guard rails
- helping with the anchor locker and air conditioning unit (ie locating and handing various tools and parts as needed, and holding nuts and bolts in place so Paul could secure them)
- rearranging the books, manuals and charts and scrubbing the lockers they are contained in
- swabbing the foredeck with acid using a toothbrush (!)
All this on top of my regular duties, such as cleaning the cabin, washing, cooking, filling the water tanks and doing the dishes etc ;). Actually, it’s been fine and I’ve felt that I’ve been learning things while carrying them out regarding what’s involved in maintaining a boat. In previous years, just as things were beginning to sink in, it was time to return home and any knowledge I’d gained faded away as I settled back in to the routine of work and home life. Now that we’re going to be sailing around for years it’s crucial that I know such things as how to secure fenders with clove hitches, and how to cleat off ropes properly when we tie up at berths. Tying knots has always been a tricky area for me – the phrase ‘all fingers and thumbs’ comes to mind and several times in the past I’ve thrown the ropes to the ground in a display of petulance. This week we’ve concentrated on the practising of tying, loosening and tightening fenders and I’m resolved to do it at frequent intervals until it sinks in. Apart from one incident when I took exception to two guys staring at my attempts, it’s going well. My next tasks to master will be cleating off and tying reef knots. I don’t think my excuse about being left-handed will cut much ice with Paul if I don’t come up to scratch ;).
It’s been very wet and rainy for most of the week, with thunder, lightning and very heavy downpours. The positive outcome from all the rain has been to confirm that Sister Midnight is completely leak-proof. It’s also meant cooler temperatures to work in. We took a break from chores on Tuesday evening and went for dinner with Erik, Paul’s friend from the boat behind us. He drove us to a place called Supertanker. I’m used to these dining places now; they are lively, noisy and crowded environments, very much like the old-style large indoor markets found in some towns and cities. The smells from the stalls lining the hall are gorgeous, even to a veggie. When you sit at a table here (if there is one free), no waiter will come with menus – it’s a case of wandering around to see what takes your fancy and giving the table number to the vendor when you’ve made your choice. People from a separate drinks stall (they own the whole hall and rent spaces to the food hawkers) will come over to take a drinks order which you pay for when they bring them over. Paul and Erik went off to look while I got into conversation with a lovely Indian family at the stall next to our table who were very keen to compile a vegan platter of Indian fare for me. I ordered a Tiger Beer while Paul and Erik opted for Coke and Lemon Tea which caused the guy who brought them over some amusement. The beer turned out to cost more than the meals! Each generous portion of food we had came to less than £2, and the Indian food was wonderful. The older lady who cooked it was keen to know where we were all from. This happens quite a lot, people are curious about us and it’s great to talk with them.
On Thursday the task of cleaning the foredeck began in earnest. We got up early in order to beat the midday peak of heat but it turned out to be hot and humid all day after the relative coolness earlier in the week. Even with a canopy shielding me from the sun, and a bit of a breeze, it was still very hot under there when Paul explained to me what needed to be done. Basically, all the stains, varnish drips, dirt and spills had to be completely removed from the white deck and sides so that it would end up pristine clean and gleaming. In order to achieve this I had to scrape all the varnish off very carefully with a blade (being wary of gouging the surface), make up a solution of oxalic acid (exact formula only), paint it all over, rub the stains with various cleaning products until I found one that worked, (but it mustn’t bleach the delicate fibreglass), use a toothbrush on the more stubborn bits etc, etc, etc. My spirits were sinking with each new instruction and caution, and I felt convinced that I’d cause irreparable damage. Not the best enhancement to an already hot and bothered state of mind. It was akin to being told to push a pea up Everest, but I thought I might as well give it my best shot. Once I got going it wasn’t as bad as I expected, and Paul reassured me that any damage wouldn’t be irreparable. It was quite satisfying seeing it come clean(er) – there was no way it would be completely spotless and I think Paul knew that all along.
By Friday afternoon, with both of us scraping, scrubbing and washing, the deck looked as good as it was going to and Paul wanted to get on with other things in order for us to be able leave on Tuesday. I decided to venture out on my own for the first time since we got here. We’d done a ‘big shop’ the evening before but I hadn’t been able to get any wine because that area had closed at 9pm. Leaving at 5pm so that I’d be back before dark, I set off for Queensbay. It was nice to walk along the coast road listening to music on my ipod and take a few pictures on the way.
I spent a lot longer inside than I meant to. It was nice to walk around at leisure alone, knowing I wasn’t going to be hurried along and I browsed in the bookshop for a while too. Anyway by the time I had bought my wine and a few other bits I knew I wouldn’t get back before it got dark. I didn’t mind however. I’ve never felt it to be risky here – in fact the most scared I’ve been in Malaysia is whenever we have to cross busy roads. I set off with my music playing as the sun began to set, planning to return via the coast road and country lane. I hadn’t got halfway when Paul texted to check all was well. I guess he has reason to worry, having been mugged previously, and it was good that he came to meet me – carried the shopping bag the rest of the way back.
Yesterday (Saturday) was a more leisurely day for me, mostly spent editing pictures, reading and catching up on emails. Paul worked on the engine and then the bilge pump in the cockpit locker for most of the day so that we could take some time on Sunday to go out. So hopefully we’ll be revisiting the Gurney Drive area later.