Drama from Kuah to Rebak!

We enjoyed a fairly leisurely final week at Langkawi’s Royal Yacht Club. Paul concentrated on engine and mast work while my days were mainly spent practising route-plotting on the Navionics app, looking up places to visit in Thailand; daily trips to the shop for dinner ingredients; creating my own vegan meals, and reading while listening to music or radio programmes – not a bad way to pass a week :). Below are a few pics of food items I’ve discovered and grown fond of here, either as snacks or in recipes.

Like green Wotsits without the cheese: addictive!
Like green Wotsits without the cheese: addictive!
Spicy and delicious TomYam sauce
Spicy and delicious TomYam sauce
These can be used in lots of things (it's recommended as an addition to porridge here)
These can be used in lots of things (it’s recommended as an addition to porridge here)
Tasty and very nutritious :)
Tasty and very nutritious 🙂
Salad dressing (vegan too)
Salad dressing (vegan too)

Learning the Navionics app presented a few frustrating challenges for me.  The first and foremost one being that I couldn’t distinguish between zooming in and zooming out!  Whenever Paul told me to zoom out, I spread my fingers out, which created far less detail than intended, while zooming in had me drawing my fingers together, thus honing in on a place instead of looking at the wider perspective.  Another problem was that I found the iPad to be hypersensitive to touch: an inadvertent brush with my fingers on the screen might transport me from the map’s fine detail of a marina berth to a vague spot somewhere in Southeast Asia. Once I’d conquered those challenges, I had the task of remembering the sequence of commands necessary to create waypoints, check water depth, any hazards in the area, location of buoys etc.  As with most things technical, I’ll get the hang of it eventually and it will be a useful contribution to plot future passages, and rewarding to steer a course that I’ve plotted myself. This time, with Paul’s help, I created a route from Kuah to Rebak and I went to bed on Thursday night looking forward to following those waypoints from start to finish on the iPad in its stand in the cockpit, for the two and a half hour journey to Rebak.

Since it was only to be a short journey, and we had to arrive at the marina before 3pm (all the staff finish early on a Friday to prepare for prayers), we weren’t in too much of a rush to get away. It was about 10 15 by the time we were ready to depart, which would get us there around lunchtime.  It was quite windy and I knew from past experience that this can cause problems when steering slowly away from pontoons but Paul said it would ‘be a doddle’ when I expressed concern.  I turned the bow thruster on and waited at the helm while Paul cast off the stern line. In the short space of time he was walking to untie the bow line, the wind was blowing the stern away from the pontoon – creating a wide gap. I yelled at Paul to get on the boat but it was too wide by then and the boat began drifting further away with only me on board.  My cries of alarm (which Paul says sounded hysterical and he was probably right, to my shame) must have alerted a guy from a nearby yacht because he appeared on the pontoon and proceeded to stop the bow hitting the power sockets.  I was worried about the stern hitting the edge of the opposite pontoon but Paul told me to get to the bow and get a line to take back to the stern to attach to the cleat so he could narrow the gap and get on.  I was struggling to cleat it properly, my head bowed in concentration and Paul was telling me it would be fine as long as it was attached when I heard a loud splash that could only be a person hitting the water.  My first thought before looking up was that I must have really fouled up if he’d had to resort to jumping in.  For a few seconds I didn’t know what had happened and all I could see was Paul’s cap floating away on the surface and then his head came up and after taking a breath, he quipped ‘who shortened the length of the pontoon!’  I knew then that he’d fallen in and he was having a bit of a struggle to get out (it’s really tricky to get out of the water at a marina because the pontoons are high, move a lot, and have sharp shells attached). He ended up having to stand on the line I’d attached to the cleat to heave himself up but my hand was in-between the rope and the cleat, causing me to yelp a bit as it was momentarily crushed. My main concern was obviously that Paul was ok and when I saw him standing on the pontoon, dripping wet but engaged in polite sailing chat with our neighbour I knew he was alright. With grateful thanks to the guy, we managed to manoeuvre the boat out of her berth and achieve a smooth departure.

Once we were out in the bay, and the fenders and lines were in, Paul was able to get out of his wet clothes and assess his water-damaged items. The table was soon strewn with notes of various currencies, credit cards, receipts, and more worryingly, his sodden passport.  Meanwhile, in the cockpit, I was a bit concerned about the amount of traffic around us and discovered that the iPad was difficult to see without reading glasses and I found I couldn’t steer and keep us on the course at the same time. Once we’d got all that sorted and it looked as though we were finally on our way, Paul noticed that that the engine temperature gauge was showing it was in danger of overheating and we’d have to do without the engine.  This meant Paul having to put the headsail up to give us some steerage, all of which took another hour and we were still in sight of the yacht club at 12pm.  I wondered if we’d have to go back there but Paul was keen to do the journey to Rebak under sail even if we might be cutting it fine to arrive by 3pm.  The next couple of hours were spent ‘tacking’ our way along because the wind was head on and as you can’t sail into the wind you have to ‘zigzag’ your way around it.  It’s crucial to get the steering right while the other person adjusts the sail and all Paul’s instructions about wind direction, angles and judging the correct time to change course just wouldn’t go ‘in’ my head.  I floundered, fouled up, panicked and felt so useless I burst into tears of frustration, too upset to even take in the beauty of the islands we were sailing past.  Amazingly, after a few more attempts and a concerted effort to understand the basics, something clicked and I finally grasped what I needed to do (a lightbulb moment indeed :)). Nevertheless it was a relief to learn that the marina was near (also a relief to learn that the gauge was wrong about the engine overheating so we would be able to motor in after all).  The waves were strong and high and it was still very windy right up until we were in the shelter of Rebak’s marina. I felt I could finally relax a bit then and in blazing hot sun we followed a member of staff’s signals to guide us in to our berth.  When I looked around me and saw all the palm trees, the lush rainforest opposite and ‘heard’ the silence around us I realised just how beautiful a setting it was. A can of Tiger beer and a glass of wine later and the trauma of the journey began to fade. As Rafiki in ‘The Lion King’ famously said ‘it doesn’t matter; it’s in the past’.  I’m still eager for the next trip (I just hope Paul is) 😉

Paul’s passport dried out and is fine, as is all his money. I wish I had thought to photograph of some of the day’s events – the wet money being laid out carefully on the table to dry was a sight to behold. We couldn’t stop laughing later that evening at the thought of Paul walking off the pontoon – it would have been exactly the sort of thing Harry Hill’s funny video programme showed.  Anyway Rebak’s delights have been well worth the trials of the journey. We’re here for a few days and I intend to make the most of it.


Safely tied up in Rebak
Safely tied up in Rebak

Pre-emptive strike

I had a few titles going through my mind, like “Not my finest hour” or “How Embarrassing” , but on hearing snippets of Kathy’s forthcoming blog, I thought I should get in first, damage limitation being the main aim.
We are currently in Rebak Marina, which is a luxury resort on a private secluded island just off to the north west of the Main Langkawi Island,rebak-marina
It’s a short 2 hour hop from our last port at Kuah town, but due to unforeseen circumstances I managed to make that a little bit longer and a lot more interesting on Friday when we left.




As you can see above we had a double berth at Kuah, so there was an empty space for a boat to fit in on our starboard side. This meant we didn’t need to worry about being pushed onto anyone when we left. So at 10:00 AM we decided to depart, Kathy was on the helm ready to slowly reverse us out, ready to use the bow thruster if needed.
The wind was quite strong now, about 20-25 knots and blowing onto the port quarter of the boat, pushing us away from the pontoon, so a quick reverse and then the bow would blow down in the direction of the exit and away we would go. In theory…
With just a single bow line, and a stern line I let go of the stern line, the boat stayed still and I walked to the bow line and started to un-cleat it. Now the drama starts. Kathy is shouting “Get on the boat Paul” in quite an agitated way, I’m used to this, she doesn’t appreciate just how nimble my ancient frame is, and how I like to jump on at the last minute, but as her cries got louder I looked back and sure enough, the stern was heading of to Rebak on its own, at quite a rate of knots. I re-cleated the bow line and walked back to the stern, sure enough, there was no way I was going to be able to get on. I asked her to throw me the stern line, but when she held up the line, it was obvious it would never reach the pontoon finger. So I walked around the other side of the berth, onto the other spare finger to stop the stern having a big bump when it got there.
By this point Kathy was quite agitated, she has a fear of being on the boat drifting off without me, then she thought we were going to smash ourselves on the other finger. It was all getting a bit much for her, and her cries of despair had alerted our neighbours to the predicament I had created.
No panic, I can handle an audience, usually, after all this isn’t the first time I have messed up mooring or leaving, after all we just needed to pull the stern back and try again, but maybe not let go of the stern line so quickly next time. So I got Kathy to walk to the bow where there was a nice length of rope, pass it to me, I uncoiled it passed the end to Kathy, and instructed her to go back to the stern and tie it on somewhere. This was harder than I expected, Kathy had the gist of it, but didn’t understand that anywhere would do, any cleat or winch would do, but she tried to feed it through the hawse which was full of a big fat (short) mooring line, I was walking back to the end of the pontoon finger with the rest of the line looking at Kathy and giving instructions as to where to tie the line, and just as she got the line around the cleat everything changed. Suddenly I couldn’t see anything, my hearing was odd, my body felt strange, for a split second I was very confused, then it dawned on me I was under water, a few split seconds later I realised the pontoon finger must have shrunk since I last looked, and I had walked right off the end as Kathy was cleating. Part of me found this hilarious, then horror, but a quick pat of my pockets, and Hallelujah, I didn’t have my iPhone on me. Then I remembered how bloody difficult it can be getting back onto the pontoon. The underneath is generally covered in razor sharp barnacles. The Malaysians aren’t the hottest on safety ladders, and my first attempt showed me I couldn’t pull my own weight up. Then a stroke of genius, I still had hold of the mooring line, so I swam to the cleat, cleated Kathy off and used the line to stand on, thereby getting ashore and bringing the boat a bit closer. I did think of trying to pass this off as standard practice for the situation, but looking at the onlookers realised that wouldn’t work. Best just act like this is normal Paul I thought.
So back ashore, I started to pull the boat back over, our neighbour came to help me and joked that he thought I must have jumped in to cool down! that was generous of him, but I felt an idiot. I made idle chat with him, then once we had the boat back I let go of the stern line, he did the same for the bow and off we popped without further issue. We completely forgot to boat hook my cap as we motored past it on the way out of the marina. That was my favourite cap too.
So that should have been enough drama for the day, but no, more was to follow.
As we left the marina we had to cross the entrance to the ferry jetty, at certain times, this gets very busy, and this was one of those times, ferries were queuing up and approaching at different angles, we were motoring though this area just fine when I thought I had better check the engine temperature, as due to the recent problems and the air lock I was a bit concerned. When I looked it appeared to be way too hot and rising. This is bad news. I told Kathy to throttle back, and as soon as we cleared the ferries I stopped the engine, hauled up the staysail, and told Kathy to steer us ahead through the anchorage.
Kathy hadn’t quite seen the funny side of the days activities yet, and was perplexed at the latest development. I wasn’t too concerned as there was 20 knots of wind so we could sail anywhere, I did wonder how you get the mainsail up in 20 knts with no engine to get your nose into the wind. I went below to look at the engine, I had hoped that opening the water filler cap would reveal the air lock had cleared and I could top it up and that would be that, however the water level was fine. Water was exiting the exhaust just fine, I was confused. But no matter Kathy was now shouting that she couldn’t steer and we were going to hit the fuel barge, which to be fair is a lot scarier close up than from shore.
I showed Kathy how we could tack around the anchorage with just the staysail, but she wasn’t a lot happier, some of the gusts now were getting quite big. She continued to steer us around while I scratched my head, opened the air bleed valve on the engine and crawled around the rear of the engine to see if there was anything obvious where the pipes went to the water heater. but everything seemed fine.
So after an hour of prating around, we re-started the engine, and put up the mainsail, with the engine just at tick over, we made course for Rebak.
The engine wasn’t overheating now at idle. Due to the wind direction, which was basically coming from Rebak, we had to tack all the way there, I had one reef in the main, and just the staysail. The genoa might have been better, but I need some more practice in tacking with the Genoa, it’s so big it often has to be manhandled around the inner headsail stay, and under the current circumstances I thought better of it. We also had the problem that it was a Friday today and the Marina office at Rebak shuts early so they can go to Friday prayers, so we were no pushing it to get there on time.
I was now loving this bit, the gusts were pushing us over at times and at one point the rail was just in the water, yet the boat felt very safe, It seemed she would heel so far then be really stiff and heel no more, and there was not much issue with weather helm either.
Looking at the chart plotter, which Kathy had programmed up the night before, kathy-routeI could see some very strategic tacks we could make through the small islands/rocks around us and save a few minutes, definitely worth a try if we were racing, but in each case we would be just half a mile from lee shores , rocky ones at that, so again, I didn’t think it worth it.

Our track, once we remembered to turn logging on

For the last tack I pumped up the engine a bit, just to give us a few more degrees and we made the entrance to the marina with about 3 minutes to spare.
We arrived out of the pounding Andaman sea int a tranquil lagoon, and Kathy seemed most relieved, in fact I’m not sure she will want to leave here.
On checking the engine, the air lock had now worked it’s way through and I was able to replace the missing coolant, and as a bonus, the water pipe wasn’t leaking and the oil scavenger connection wasn’t leaking either, so the sump tray was completely dry and clean.
We did have a good laugh about events later, Kathy had thought I had jumped in to swim over to save her, that would have been very gallant of me 😉

Yesterday she spent the day at the poolside reading, I spent the afternoon doing computer / techie things on the boat with a thing called SignalK and openCPN which was great fun. I also found out how much more I can achieve without the internet to help me. I deliberately didn’t buy any internet access for the boat just to see how we get on. We have it at the pool for emergencies 😉 but I found not being able to follow interesting tangents, made me reach my goal much quicker. More on that in a subsequent techie post.

Sunday Breakfast in the cockpit
Kathy in Kuah, she was trying to find a small bag of rice
The banana equivalent of a double yolka

I look forward to seeing Kathy’s take on the events of the day

Paul C.