The past week has been all about tasks and chores relating to ongoing maintenance, and cosmetic jobs which have been neglected due to time and situation constraints. Paul has been up early most mornings when it’s cooler working on the bowsprit, as well as doing more sanding and varnishing, while I’ve worked on the interior of the cabin and polishing the steel from the cap rails with Brasso. It’s got a lot cooler during the course of the week and there has been a lot of rain. The preceding nightly storms consisted of distant rumbles of thunder and hours of flickering lightning. For the first time, last Saturday afternoon, it was possible to sit in the cockpit and enjoy the fresh breeze while watching the raindrops bounce off the water before it got heavier and forced us inside. The slight drop in temperature made it a lot more comfortable to work in, both above and below deck. Here are some shots of the interior (still a work in progress).
There is quite a community spirit in this marina. Paul got to know a few of the permanent residents when he was here earlier in the year. They have been very helpful, providing Paul with useful local information and driving him to places, while he’s been able to help them with some technical and boat-related issues. The marina entrance has a little hut for the guard on duty (it’s manned 24 hours a day) and all of them get to know the boat owners because we’re passing in and out daily. There is a family of cats in residence by the hut (a mum and her kittens) but I’m not sure if they belong anyone in particular or anyone at all. I look for them each time we pass and one guard has got to know this – he always laughs and says ‘you want one, you take’. Paul always answers for me and declines the offer, but they are so gorgeous, it’s hard to resist.
Most evenings we walk to one of the nearby supermarkets so that we’re not on the boat all day and as they are both a mile or two away it’s a chance to get some exercise. The only difficult part on these walks is crossing the roads. The main roads are very busy with no facilities for pedestrians apart from a few faded zebras which are largely ignored unless you happen to catch an approaching driver’s eye and look appealingly at them to slow down. Otherwise you take your chance with the rare gaps and run for it – like a game of ‘chicken’! Before we get to that part, though, the walks are scenic and pleasant. We hear cicadas in the undergrowth, frogs on the water and pass beaches and leafy lanes.
I’m going to be learning a lot about the food on offer in the supermarkets. So far, I’ve managed to keep to my mainly vegan diet and I’m keen to try some of the exotic-looking fruit and veg on display. I also need to get to grips with cooking tofu. We’ve had some nice dishes in restaurants where it is one of the main ingredients but whenever I’ve tried to cook it, it’s been bland and the texture hasn’t been right. I thought there was a lot of different types in the UK (silken, firm, soft etc) but here there are lots more variations! I made a stir fry dish with it the other night using mirin, ginger and soy sauce as a marinade and that was ok but I’ve got a lot to learn. I’ll need to start by identifying the veg, herbs and other unheard of ingredients that are listed in recipes in the book of Vegetarian Chinese Cooking I’ve bought (‘wood ear fungus’, ‘dried lily buds’, and ‘wolfberries’ make it sound more like a spell from Harry Potter than a meal). It’s already been a fun ‘treasure hunt’ tracking down the list of suggested basics on the shelves.
I haven’t missed television at all. I would probably have watched the Bake Off and some of the crime dramas, but at home I mainly watch Netflix or Amazon Prime programmes anyway. We’ve discovered that we can access Netflix here but it uses a lot of bandwidth – it was like having to ‘put a shilling in the meter’ every half an hour to continue watching :). The radio is good entertainment and I can listen to the book and film programmes I enjoy and ‘Johnnie Walker’s Sounds of the Seventies’ to my heart’s content (usually while Paul’s busy on deck). Reading remains my favourite leisure activity and I’m adding to the small library of books onboard each time we go out and I spot a second hand book shop. This marina doesn’t have a laundry service like the one in Langkawi so I washed a few things by hand the other day, rinsing them with the hose on the pontoon. Needless to say they didn’t take long to dry, and nothing needs ironing, which is nice ;).
On Wednesday we went back into George Town, making the most of a break from the rain and to have a change of scene. We didn’t have a strict itinerary apart from my desire to see the Beach Street area where the focus is on animal welfare. It was nice to just slowly walk the streets, going wherever looked interesting to check out the architecture, the shops and exhibitions. It was a very humid day and after a couple of hours of this I began to feel weak and dizzy. I didn’t know if I was hungry, thirsty or overcome with heat but I had to sit down and wait for Paul who was further down the street buying a pump for the air conditioner. He suggested we head to the Black Kettle for a rest and refreshment. One glass of wine, a sit down and some pricey bread later, I felt fine again. Later, we came to the area near Beach Street purely by accident. Too tired to visit the actual cat sanctuary which was further on (I’ll save that for another day), we spent some time looking at the street art and browsing in the ‘hippy-themed’ shops. It’s a picturesque and fascinating hotchpotch of streets and alleys that reminded me a little of Brighton’s Lanes.
That evening we had the heaviest downpour of rain yet, but the day in George Town had so exhausted me I was asleep on the bunk while Paul went up above to watch it. He said it was so heavy, the paths and boat decks looked white and shimmering like they were covered in snow. I’m sure there will be more opportunities to see that while we’re here.