I will write a bit more about Penang before I leave in ten days from now. I haven’t done the touristy thing yet, I’ve been too focussed on making this deal happen. I believe Penang has a lot of great features I haven’t experienced yet, apparently there’s a cable car up a hill with great views, beaches, street markets etc. I’ve been walking down back streets looking for Tarporlin suppliers, debating with taxi drivers how to get to remote jeties they don’t think exist etc etc, I quite prefer it this way actually, I feel like I get a better idea of the place.
My first impressions of Penang are, on the down side, it’s too hot, humid, often very smelly. It’s very dangerous on the streets if you don’t keep a close eye on the traffic, the pavements are full of obstacles, so walking in the road is safer, assuming you can hear the scooters that come at you from every direction, and jump out of the way quick enough. Motorists have no time for pedestrians;  however the people here seem to be very happy, and they often just stop to chat with you, ask where you are from and offer any help needed. I feel very safe here. I have been told if I stagger back to my hotel, drunk at 2 am (no jokes from people who knew me when I was a drinker), I might get mugged, and I would expect that in any big city. The place is a food lovers paradise, they say the Penganese (if that’s a word) are the fattest people in Asia, but that’s not true, so far I would give that award to the visiting Germans, especially the guy sitting next to me at breakfast this morning, I felt guilty getting three little sausages, but eight, really!. He filled his large plate from the buffet table, then also ordered a cooked breakfast, reminds me of  how Americans used to be, and has me wondering if global economic power is directly related to the size of the breakfast your citizens eat.

anyone for frog
anyone for frog porridge

Penang seems to have a happy mix of many cultures, Malay, Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, Thai and more, and everyone seems to get on, there are religious festivals and holidays on every other weekend apparently.
However, as you might expect, there are underlying tensions. My taxi driver the other day was very proudly telling me how everyone respected each other here, and everyone gets on great, yet within a few minutes he had everyone stereotyped into the hard workers, the lazy ones, the professionals, the stuck up and the prejudiced. It could have been a comedy sketch, if it wasn’t for the fact that it does seem to play out in the countries social policies.

Right now we are fast approaching Chinese New Year, and the town is literally turning red, this being the Chinese colour for luck. Lanterns are going up everywhere.

Typical porch display
shopping mall (dig that carpet)

With all these religions, there comes a wealth of temples/shrines & mosques. I’m hoping to get some time next week to visit the oldest, but will probably wait until Kathy comes out with me in the summer to explore them fully

A Temple in Little India
Not sure what this guy is up to, but I suspect it’s to do with food.

And finally I couldn’t resist snapping this picture

Looks like I was expected
Looks like I was expected


Almost mine

Yes, everything is agreed, and I have transferred the payments for the boat, these should clear within a few days and I will have the ownership documents for Wanderlust.

Yesterday, I couldn’t update the blog as Penang didn’t seem to have internet access, also I was exhausted. Buying a boat is a lot more work than you might think.

The boat is in the boatyard, racking up costs while it sits there doing nothing, at the same time I’m paying for a marina berth, so as not to lose it. I have a lot of work to schedule for the boat, including a survey for insurance. The main jobs I have identified that I want doing before a re-launch are:

  1. Solve the blister problem, not with a quick fix either (up to 3 months for the boat to dry out first)
  2. Fit a bow thruster, seems logical now the hull is being worked on
  3. Replace all of the standing rigging (possibly using Norseman/STA-LOK, so I don’t need to go through this again.)
  4. Fit davits for the dinghy
  5. Repair the damaged cap rail and polish up the entry scratches we made on the way here

I need to find the place to do the work, the current yard we hauled in is by way the most convenient, but will it be the best price and highest quality of workmanship.  I need to organise some oversight of the work as I won’t be here, and I can’t easily pop over if there’s a problem. This is where the internet is invaluable, for seeking out advice and others experiences. On the plus side, labour costs are about half of what I would expect to pay if I was in Europe or America.

I didn’t visit the boat yesterday, instead I researched boatyards and surveyors all day, then spent an hour trying to find a shop that sold a pencil sharpener, there are whole shopping malls here dedicated to the God of Android (see pic below), it’s unbelievable, phones and tablets, accessories, cables, cases, chargers, attachments. Also the mall under the big landmark tower here, Komtar, has two floors just selling PC components. It all looks quite ancient to me having become an apple evangelist some years ago.

Android rules
Android rules

Later I had a great dinner with Erik the agent in little India in Georgetown.

Survey trip to Batu Maung boatyard

Yesterday started well, we left the outside berth at the marina and motored out into the main channel between Penang and the small island of Pulua Jerajak.

We threw Erik’s dinghy on the foredeck, just in case!

The island is a tropical rainforest, I think it’s ancient and unspoilt, bar a small resort at the southern end.


The waters here are very shallow and we had to keep a close eye on the depth sounder and the navionics chart to keep in 5 metres. At the end of the little island the water shallowed again, and we had to head out to the other side of the island then down to the centre arches of the bridge.

bridge approach
Erik was sure we would fit under the bridge, which was nice.
I took this little video below of the trip under the bridge.

From the bridge we proceeded to the the travel lift slip, now this is where it gets challenging. Erik was in charge, but very nervous, and for good reason, with the boat so fouled she was very unresponsive to the throttle and rudder, and reverse wasn’t that effective at stopping us quickly. To make matters worse, the entrance to the lift was narrow and had a few knots of current going at right angles to it. also the waters around the sides were full of concrete piles and shallow mud. As we tried to enter the stern was being pushed down, and going fast wasn’t an option as we couldn’t stop quickly, going astern did seem to swing the stern to port exacerbating the problem, also some wind picked up from the opposite way, making it even worse. slings1

Erik got the bow in, but only just and the tide took the stern down river, I was doing my best to fend off , but the concrete piles were arriving thick and fast. The end result is we ground (hate that noise) to a stop on one of the piles, then we motored away to lick our wounds. We then waited an hour for slack water,  but it didn’t seem to come, waiting a bit longer made a slight improvement, but Erik was keen for me to have a go, so I did, I got a little further in before the tide dragged us around, but we managed to get lines ashore and with the help of a lot of fenders were able to get in without any further damage. The damage we sustained was slight, the topsides were scratched, a little filler and polish should sort that out!

Up and away (3rd attempt at sling positioning)
Washed down

Not so bad news after all

I met up with the agent this morning, and we spoke to the boatyard where we hauled yesterday to get a ballpark figure for fixing the blisters. I took the worst case scenario, added on the cost of my flights back to check on the work, which will take a few months, then added a large contingency percentage and came up with a huge amount I wanted off the price. The agent baulked, the seller offered a compromise, I walked away, they called me back and agreed. So once we have a few formalities sorted, I will own Wanderlust. This is a great result, as I will have a very sound hull, and hopefully a little extra to cover some of the other jobs. I’m hoping to complete the deal by Friday, leaving a week before I head home.

So now I can post the details of my trip up to the yard yesterday in a new post.

Below are the blisters that caused so much concern. Bloody scientists with their lack of understanding of the long term effects of styrenes, saline solutions and osmosis eh!

More blisters
More blisters
even more blisters
even more blisters

Bad news

I will never forget the day David Bowie died, the same day my plans to buy a baba 40 also died. The connection is strangely real for me, as if today I had committed to buying Wanderlust, then I would be saying goodbye to ‘Lady Stardust’, a boat named after a song by David Bowie about Mark Bolan.

Yes, we had a lovely motor for 2 hours up to the boatyard, and a rather harrowing ordeal getting her into the travel lift slip, then once out and pressure washed, we could see that most of the hull was covered in blisters. Big blisters, and lots of medium blisters, and lots of small blisters, probably still growing.

This is a massive blow, to fix this properly, means peeling the hull, then drying her for a few months (probably weeks in these temperatures), then layering on fiberglass, and resin, fairing and then primer and antifoul. I don’t think I have the time for all that unless the seller makes a massive discount. Also I don’t think there is anywhere nearby that can do the work.

Oh well, we will see what happens tomorrow, but by Wednesday, I expect to be just be another tourist


A quick motor out of the marina

Today Erik and I took the boat out for a quick spin and to move her to a new pontoon.

Marina from the shore

Basically the marina needs dredging, there is only about 0.5 metres of water there, so you need a tide of 1.5 meters to be sure of getting out, 2.0m is more practical (Wanderlust draws about 6ft), so this means leaving on a high tide. Unfortunately, we want to be at the haul-out two hours before HW so we can haul-out, power wash, check the hull, and relaunch. So today we moved to an outside pontoon at the end of the marina that always has enough water for us to float.

Before we left Erik wanted help to change the flap valve on the head (Toilet for non-yachties),

The Head

I pointed out that I had a rule of only fixing heads on my own boat normally, but the the opportunity to be doing this on the other side of the world was too much to resist, I was reminded of the saying that owning a yacht is really only a way to spend your life repairing boats, but in nice places.

The Old Bridge to the Mainland

Getting out was fun, we basically had to get a few neighbours to guide us out using ropes attached to our bow and stern, it was very tight, but fortunately we were at slack water and the wind had dropped to a gentle breeze.

Erik carefully motors us out of the mud

Once out we soon realised there was very little power going into propulsion, mostly going out the exhaust as black smoke.  Erik couldn’t understand how the rudder worked in reverse, I had explained how it could be used as a random number generator for the lottery when in reverse, but even so, he was surprised. I suspect it was even worse than normal due to all the fouling.

We had a little motor around and then back to our new home where we tied up. We were only able to make about 3 knots in fwd, so it’s going to take a couple of hours to cover the 6 mile trip to the yard on Monday.

Erik checks the fenders
The Bow
 A few more random boat pics…
local boats
Local boat squatters
ST50 Instruments, and the Mechanical Autohelm computer
At last, a boat with a proper panel

An experiment with video and wordpress.


The old Penang-Butterworth bridge at sunset

Finally as sunset approached, we cleaned up the boat a bit and headed home, me to a fifteen minute taxi ride into George town, and Erik, a 10 second walk to his home, a Benateau 40 something just along the pontoon. I took a last picture of the old bridge from this island of Penang over to the mainland town of Butterworth. On Monday we have to pass through the arches at the centre of the new bridge, further south, which isn’t on any of our charts.

hot hot hot

Last night I braved the backstreet restaurant scene with a little trepidation, but given that this is considered to be one of the greatest culinary destinations of Asia, I felt I had to get stuck in at the deep end.
Everyone seems to speak english to a certain level here, so how I picked a Malaysian only speaking resaurant for my choice is beyond me.

I think the word Seafood tricked me, however I resorted to the universal sign language, I waved my arms in the air and looked confused, lots of strange words were shouted out by the staff, and two Malay ladies came to my rescue from the next table, not only did they help me work out an order, they joined me at my table and extracted my life story over the next half hour. They were here on holiday from Kuala Lumpa. One of the women was at university studying avionics engineering, we discussed the level of maths on such a course, and why so few women studied engineering. Their takeaway arrived and I stayed for a fantastic dish of Fish, mixed vegtables rice, and a sauce that looked innocuous, but however had hidden chilies that must be the strongest I have ever had. Bye bye taste buds.




An afternoon in the lazarette

Didn’t get much sleep last night, Jet lag has a way of messing with your head, hoping to be back to normal by tomorrow (sat).

Today I spent the morning doing research and boring checks on the boat history, everything looks good and I’m progressing to the completion of the purchase, which should happen next week. Right now Im trying to work out what to do with the boat once I own her. The season for sailing the boat back ends in Feb, and she won’t be ready by then, unless I go with the basics. The alternative is to leave the boat here on her own for most of the next year, not a great plan really.


On my way to lunch with Erik, we passed this little shrine, they are everywhere here. The state religion of the Malay’s is Islam, but the Chinese make up the majority in Penang, but there is also a sizeable number of Indian, Indonesian and Thai people, so there is all manner of shrines, temples and mosques around.

Lunch was at a roadside cafe, very nice, duck leg soup with mee, a kind of pasta noodle, very tasty, and only RM7 which is about a pound. The Jam jar with the straw is iced lemon tee, very nice, so said the 100 year old waitress with no teeth.

Later we unfurled the headsail, to find it not looking to good, marked with a worn out sacrificial strip, and quite baggy.

We also had a look at the staysail, again that was a quite dirty, and damaged, so I think it’s new headsails all round. There is a spinaker below and a trisail that look in good nick. I believe the Mainsail is better, but I havent seen that yet.

Just like Lady Startdust, the steering quadrant has rusted, and one of the wooden boards in the rudder compartment had got loose and had been munched up by the quadrant, there’s a bit of cleaning up to do here. Everything else looked good, the backstay chain plate looked to be well secured.

And finally I got to destroy my new T-shirt in record time, just 4 hours I think.



Boat repairs and a trip to the haulout yard

Another very hot day. It started with a huge breakfast in the hotel, as I wanted to not have to worry about lunch later, then a taxi down to the boat in Batu Uban. As soon as I arrived I headed off with Erik to check out the boatyard at Batu Maung, where we will haul-out for a jet wash and a visual inspection of the hull. I think Batu means rock or stone in Malay. We had to drive through a building site on the way, quite crazy, the Chinese are building everywhere, huge, huge skyscraper tower blocks with gigantic shopping malls, in the middle of nowhere, I think they plan to create a whole new society in that area, that was before a very sleepy place with a craggy coastline and a little boatyard. Erik thinks they build them and th Chinese buy the properties as an investment, but they mostly sit there empty. Renting is really cheap as a consequence.



We have problems because we cant leave the marina until we are near high water and we can’t get to the travel lift at the yard much after High water, and it’s a couple of hours away, maybe more depending on how fast we can go with a crabby bottom.

A haul-out was provisionally booked for Monday, and we headed back to Wanderlust to see if we could fix a few problems that were an issue for the passage, like no VHF Radio and the alternator not charging, once sorted we called it a day. I managed a good walk around the old part of town before it all shut up and managed some pictures.

View from my Hotel
ch1 taken thursday 7th
Downtown George Town


Wanderlust – First Impressions

Today was my first day looking at the new boat, Erik drove me to the marina (click here for a google map) and before looking inside the boat, I spent 15 minutes just walking around her and then on the foredeck. My first impression was that this is a lovely big Baba, but in need of a lot of cosmetic attention,  she has a brass rub-rail which is coming away in places, the cap rail has a little rot around a couple of screws where the bungs have popped out. there was a little water damage around one of the 5 prisms, but all in all, nothing major there.

It was while we were looking that a Chinese man came running up to us rather excitedly telling Erik to hurry up and get to his boat before he lost his dinghies. It transpired that the management of the marina had decided to have a ‘Spontaneous Radical cleansing’  of the pontoons, this entailed taking everything on the pontoons off and to a lorry to be disposed of. This was without warning or notice to the berth holders, Erik, like most in the marina is a liveaboard, and he rushed back to his boat to see the security men walking away with his dinghy! Angry scenes ensued, people dragging there bikes, storage boxes and other junk onto their foredecks. Some owners not present may have lost a lot! The marina is run by the state, and the officials can be very officious it seems.

On with the inspection, once I had helped Erik get his dinghies off the pontoon.

The boat is lovely, huge inside, not sure I will ever be able to take the baba 30 seriously again, I can’t imagine ever wanting a boat bigger than this. Everything is of the high quality you would expect of a baba, however as usual, the chainplates had been leaking, some very badly, and will need to be pulled to check for crevice corrosion, before hitting any oceans.

There were lots of small problems, like hoses that need replacing, the battery wasn’t charging the engine, the instrument panel for the engine was cracked and I suspect moisture has got in, explaining the intermittent readings it gave. a lot of the electronics doesn’t work, and the masthead sender for the Autohelm Wind display is U/S.

On the plus side, the engine started instantly, the Fuel tanks are new and in two pieces, so a day tank, backup system is possible.

We went to a local shopping Mall for lunch as I needed a local SIM card and desperately needed some sun tan, so hot here. It’s a bit sad that the Mall could have been liverpool one, Barcelona or probably any other large city in the world, we could chose from KFC, subway, dunkin donuts, starbucks etc etc.

Back to the boat to read through its paperwork, hoping to find proof of VAT payments, or proof of a visit to the EU or a French department before the RCD rules call into play. Managed to find that the boat has been everywhere I want to go, like bora bora, fiji, vanuatu etc, I wonder if it left good Karma.

Back at the hotel for the evening to watch a spectacular display of lightning.bowon bowonstb



Arrived in Penang, Malaysia (by plane from Manchester)

It’s now midnight on Tuesday, local time in Penang, I started my journey here from West Kirby, in the UK yesterday at 07:30 on a drab and cold Monday morning. The trip here went flawlessly, hats off to Turkish airlines.

Bridge linking East & West

For some reason I had expected it to be nice in Turkey,but Istanbul was carpeted in snow, I saw the new bridge over the Bosphorus,  I hope soon to be able to see it from underneath as I sail one of the Baba’s through the straits.

Later on I was surprised to see Herat in Afghanistan popup on the in flight system, a place I have fond memories of, after we went out post 911 to help bake bread following the departure of the Taliban. I’m not sure if we flew over Syria, but definitely over Iran. Now if there aren’t enough keywords in this text to get GCHQ following this, then I feel like not paying my taxes anymore 😉

Flying past Herat

I have met up with the seller of the boat, and he suggested we wait until tomorrow to take a first look at the boat, the main reason being that the dock has no power at the moment, but that should be repaired today.

I like Penang, but it’s hot and very humid, like Greece in August, food is very cheap, as are most basics, however us yachties get to pay top whack for anything we need, just like anywhere else.

Typical house/shop