Lazy in Langkawi

So Tuesday morning had me up early to get down to the post office for 8, to get a ‘money order’ to pay the marina. All post offices in Malaysia open at 8, or so I was told by the marina manager. So off I popped at 7:45 sprinting along the coast walk to the post office POS in the mall. It was nice seeing lots of Chinese out doing their Tai Chi routines before work. Arriving at the mall I was disappointed to see it all shut up, the security guard told me the mall and post office don’t open till 10. so after a bit of research with my trusty friend Mr Google, I worked out the University USM had a post office and that might be open now. I asked the guard for his opinion and he replied, of course it will be open, all post offices open at 8! so into a taxi and off I went.

Not long later with the bill paid, and the air-con dispatched to a locker we set off for Langkawi. I think Kathy was pleased to leave, judging by her massive smile and the fact she was dancing and skipping along the pontoon singing , “were leaving, were off,hurrah, hurrah”, I might have exaggerated a little, but Batu Uban is a bit basic / back end of nowhere, but I liked it. I will also miss the interesting group of sailors there too. Touch from ‘MV Memory’ snapped this picture of us leaving, Kathy at the helm, and me bringing fenders in. That’s the Malaysian mainland coast ahead, but we have to turn 90 deg to starboard here as the water is only 3ft deep ahead, and we have to go around Palau Jerajak to get out.

leaving-buShortly after our departure at 10:00 AM we are  around the island and passing under the old bridge to the mainland, this is my third time under the bridge and I felt very confident we would fit this time 😉
old-bridgeWe were fortunate to have a dry day, with the wind at a nice steady 10 knots from the North West, which allowed us to sail 90% of the time, making 5 knots to the north. I had all the sails up and she handled well. I messed around with the Dutchman, but will need much stronger winds to see how well it works really, but the setup I have seems ok for now, and will control the boom making it safe.
The waters were very quiet, no fishing boats to worry us, just one small course change to miss these fish sticks you can see behind Kathy.

We had a choice of three islands to rest at overnight, the passage is just a little to long to do in one day if you want to stay in light, and sailing at night this close inshore is hazardous in the dark because of all the unlit fishing boats that appear, or rather don’t appear until too late. The previous two trips along this route we stayed at Palau Sonsong, but this time Palau Bidan took Kathy’s fancy so we dropped anchor there. The Spade didn’t set again, but in a way I was happy because it was very calm, we were not in a rush and I fancied the practice, mostly I wanted to play with the windlass and watch my fluorescent cable ties going up and down. Kathy also needs practice and we are still working out how to communicate effectively from me at the bow to Kathy at the wheel. We agreed that me shouting “More” would be more effective if I added a noun like “More Revs”.  Of course more Revs means more engine noise by Kathy so “Less Revs” doesn’t get heard so well. Some couple use hand signals, others have walkie talkies, some end up divorcing!
However we very effectively recovered the anchor and re-set it quickly. I’m very pleased with how the cleaned up clutch works, I can easily control the speed of chain descent, and also set the clutch so it slips when the anchor is fully up, something it didn’t do before, possibly explaining why the anchor platform had been so mangled. Once set we could put the boat fully astern and I could see the chain taught and rigid, the boat stationary, and a lot of water being churned up by the prop. That’s a nice feeling when you have to sleep soon and you’re quite close to a rocky shore. We anchored just beyond the palm trees on the right hand end of the beach below. I think Kathy will post better pictures as she was fascinated by the people living on the island. It’s a place you can go to be part of an ecology project, living in a tent with no amenities.
IMG_2580At some point I checked the Navtext to see if there were any weather warnings and the first line said “Typhoon” when I scrolled down it said Force 17, which seems a lot, I thought it only went to 12!. Anyway, this was for much further north and of no concern to us. The weather here is very predictable, other than for powerful squalls that pass through, it’s generally very safe.

We left P.Bidan early, 08:20, on Wednesday as it’s quite a way to Langkawi still, some 9 hours and we wanted to be there before dark. I also wanted to sail as much as possible. The sea was very calm and the wind was light and from the NE which is all wrong, it’s meant to be from the other way, which would have been lovely, but from the NE meant we had to sail close hauled, which isn’t that fast, but the boat performed very well. We managed 5 knots in about 8-10 knots of wind, I would be very happy to sail around the world under these conditions. We sailed between the two islands at Pulau Payar, a renowned scuba resort where the water is very clear and there is an abundance of fish of many varieties. They say if you can’t catch a fish in these waters you may as well give up, however I think my problem with the two lines I had out was that all the fish were over by the scuba divers. Perhaps next time I will be lucky.

Not long after we left the engine temperature gauge stopped working, this is a pain as we had been running the engine on and off and I like to keep an eye on the temp. If it overheats, and they often do on boats as they are cooled by seawater, and that system can get blocked, or the pump stops working, then when the engine overheats it can do serious damage.
The gauge didn’t work when I bought the boat, but after cleaning all the connections to the panel, it started, so I assumed it was a bad connection and I needed to find the exact one. What better time than now, so off I went with my multimeter. Sadly after a little probing my meter probe slipped and shorted the supply out. I could have predicted that would happen. The panel went crazy, showing revs of 4000RPM, no oil pressure, and no battery charging. Bother.
I brought up the laptop and checked the circuit diagram and it looked like I have probably blown the fuse, but where is the fuse. I have no idea, probably behind the engine, or under the very hot exhaust system. Anyway it will have to wait. After a little bit of fretting I thought that I could run a new supply to the panel from the cigar lighter in the cockpit. This was duly setup and Voila, meters reading again, except for the temp. So now we decided to keep a close watch on the water coming out the exhaust for the rest of the passage and the rest can wait.

I think I have posted a picture of this boat before, the Lili Marleen, but we sailed very close this time and she looked wonderful in the sunlight with the blue sky behind. She seems to be parked up here like several other big ships.
IMG_2591This boat, the one I scoffed at for being registered in Grimsby, was how she looked when I sailed past with Tim on board a few weeks back,
jaguar-thenHowever on the way in the Kuah, the main port of Langkawi we spotted this ship, on the rocks along the coast, on closer inspection I’m pretty sure it’s the same ship. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence, but she was directly downwind from where I remember her being moored. I suspect she broke her mooring, probably at night. I will try to find out the story, I hope she can be salvaged, the coast there is rocks, then a stretch of beach, then more rocks, she missed the beach and is firmly on the rocks!
jaguar-nowSo into the marina at 17:00, I managed to get a clear view of the pontoon finger as we came in, and put the boat alongside so Kathy could step ashore and cleat the bow, walk back to me and take the stern line. Job done, and the smoothest berthing yet. We’re getting there.

Sunset at dinner time on Kathy’s birthday

A quick tidy up, then off to the bar for drinks and a nice dinner for Kathy, well it is her birthday, and the postman didn’t seem to be able to find us on Palau Bidan.


Paul C.

Gone Sailing

Yesterday started with me having a go at the windlass, this is the electric motor that pulls up the anchor, seeing as we will need it soon. It wasn’t letting the anchor go down easily because the clutch was sticking, like trying to start a car in gear.

windlassAnyway I managed to get the clutch cone out to find it was very grimy as was its matching surface. I put the picture here as you can see how well it cleaned up. Now it works really well and I’m right chuffed. A full service of the windlass is still  required, but that requires me to drill out the allen keys holding the chain control in place.
clutch-coneOnce that was done we headed off to straights quay, Kathy had a wine on the waterfront before we moved on to the shopping mall at Gurney plaza.
straits-quayAfter the plaza we headed over the road for a bit to eat. On the way we could see a huge area of land reclamation going on.
new-islandKathy was excited to find a new vegetarian stall on Gurney drive, however it was really the same one with a new sign.
gurney-drive-foodToday is a national holiday, I had planned to settle up at the marina ready for an early start Tuesday, but due to the holiday I now have to get up very early tomorrow to go into town to sort out a postal order to pay the marina people. Still we might get away before 11 and be at anchor at pilau Songsong or nearby by 17:00.
So we took advantage of the tide, and moved the boat from the berth to the outside of the marina in preparation. Before we tied up though we went for a sail down towards Batu Maung. It was a lovely day with 5-10 knots of winds on the nose. We tacked up the strait making 3.5 knots in about 7 – 10 knots of wind. And this was just the main and staysail, we could have done more if I unfurled the big genoa, but I wanted to do a lot of crash gybing and that would have been awkward as you can’t tack the genoa without going up f’ward to manhandle the sail across. So I had the Dutchman working as a kicking strap as we tacked up and it worked well. On the way back it was pulled tight and we did some crash gybes and it worked well, often too well, but that made it no worse than a preventer. The biggest problem in a crash gybe is the main sheets, they still get tangled around everything, even with the boom going slowly across. More fine tuning is needed, but all in all I’m very pleased.

This is one of the land reclamation ships building the land for the new World City complex

Ramming stations

Tomorrow we will be on our way north. possibly limited internet, but AIS should be good.

Paul C.

Work Week


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.

Chatting with Erik at Supertanker
Chatting with Erik at Supertanker


Busy, chaotic, delicious food at Supertanker
Busy, chaotic, and delicious food at Supertanker


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.

Hard at work on deck
Hard at work on deck

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.

This was full of eating places when we arrived
This area was full of eating places when we arrived
The eating places have moved near to the marina now
The eating places have moved near to the marina now
The Mall
The Mall

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.

Fixing the oil leak in the engine
Fixing the oil leak in the engine


Bilge pump work
Bilge pump work
Sunset viewed from the cockpit
Sunset viewed from the cockpit






Mostly cleaning now

The last oxalic acid I bought was from eBay and I didn’t think much of it, however this acid, Penang Style really kicks, and no, I’m not snorting it. I tried some on the teak and on the fiberglass that was stained, and boy does it work wonders, the boat is starting to look really classy now.
I took some of the rubber sole and glued a strip under the bow sprit to protect the galvanised coating on the new anchor, it looks the part and should work well. I think I can just haul the anchor in really tight now and it will be snug, just need to put something on the whisker stay that looks better than the bubble wrap I’m currently using.
I had a problem when I bought the boat that the swim ladder was sitting on the deck with no obvious attachment points. Well I found these when I was painting the sides and later , after I bought new brackets, I found the original ones that connect the ladder to the boat. Now to refit them was a substantial job that took over 2 hours, Toshi, the previous owner had filled the inaccessible void where the nuts go with spray expanding foam which I had to hack out, but couldn’t really hack, because lots of cables were also in the void, also the void is not visible without mirrors, so mighty difficult, and very tedious. All the time I’m wondering why did he take it off, he’s an intelligent man, I can tell that, so when he took it off he knew he wasn’t ever going to put it back there, so I felt all the time that once I had finally got it fitted, I would realise that I too had to take it off. It’s all fitted now, and with a bit more cobbling I made little round feet for the ladder so it won’t scratch the boat. About a day later I realised why it’s not a good idea to have it where it is, it’s at the widest part of the boat, and sticks out a lot, and although it’s raised a couple of feet above the pontoon, sometimes the boat suffers big waves here and the boat can rise or fall several feet, and theres a chance the ladder could come down hard on the pontoon, probably ripping itself out of the side of the boat leaving a nasty gash. I’m going to move it, just as soon as I work out where, I will wait until the new lifebuoy, danbuoy and lifesling are fitted to find a place at the stern of the boat.

Kathy has been hard at work with her toothbrush cleaning the deck, (I’m a stickler for detail 😉 ). Most of the mess is from my varnishing actually, but thanks to her hard work the foredeck is looking very smart now.

I set about cleaning up the coachroof, the window air-con unit was removed along with the wood and blankets used to keep it in place and airtight. I also removed the liferaft so I had a clear deck. The Dutchman was then connected up and tested, its purpose is to prevent an accidental gybe. For the non sailors, sometimes when we are sailing downwind, that is, with the wind behind us, the boom and mainsail might be all the way out on one side, if the boat changes course accidentally, or the wind shifts unexpectedly, then the boom can suddenly decide it wants to fly to the other side, and when I say fly, I mean it, you hardly see it move it happens so quickly. If you are standing up in the cockpit or on the side deck and it hits you, then it’s often curtains for you. We always rig up a special rope called a ‘preventer’ to prevent this happening, but it’s a messy operation and a little dangerous in itself. The dutchman brake promises to tame the boom, so it can swing across, but at a leisurely pace. I’m looking forward to testing this out next week.
Another improvement we made was to remove all the tatty lines that we use to tie the overhead canopy down with and replace them with custom sized elasticated lines with hooks on the end, this way we can get the canopy up and down in under a minute, and it looks smarter.

Today I started with the aim to find the oil leak, we used too much oil on our trip back from Langkawi, this was worrying me as if the engine is consuming lots of oil it’s a sign of serious problems, however a look in the drip tray under the engine revealed about a pint of fresh oil, Erik had already suggested a leak from the sump drain.sump

Further investigation found a loose connection, this should have been an easy fix, but again, only having two arms, both of which are less than 5 foot long was a big handicap. Also there was less than a spanner length of gap for the spanner to go in. After an hour of cursing I was able to get it tight with some mole grips at the oddest of angles. I cleaned the sump tray so that when we get to Langkawi next week I can see if it worked.

The sump tray

Next onto the bilge pump. All this bending has loosened me up so I slipped into the innards of the stern and tried to work out why the hand operated bilge pump didn’t work, In cleaning the drip tray, I used the hose to fill the bilge with soapy water. I removed all the oil first with nappies and kitchen roll, so I could try to reduce the pollution, but I couldn’t do much about the fairy liquid. I couldn’t see any problems, so I removed the pump and brought it on deck to check. It seems ok on visual inspection, so perhaps the pipe is blocked. Toshi has been creative in his plumbing here so I may need to investigate further, but this is something I really don’t want to go to sea without. We have a great electric pump, but these often clog with debris in an emergency, and rely on power, which often isn’t there when you have a flooding boat.

Finally I must say the boat is starting to look smart, Kathy keeps it very tidy inside, and now the outside is clean and presentable, and all the crap on the deck has been lost, she looks like a slick, classy boat. The biggest handicap to presentation, is that near the equator you really do need the air-con, which looks well ugly, and lots of canvas strung above the boat to keep the temperature tolerable. I don’t plan to travel anywhere that needs jumpers or heating of any kind, but I think another 15 deg North or South might be better.

The plan has been revised, Monday we are waiting for the delivery of some safety gear, then Tuesday we head back north to Langkawi Yacht Club, arriving Wednesday afternoon/evening for Kathy to have her Birthday drink in the posh bar there. That’s assuming nothing else crops up.


Paul Collister

Lots of chemicals

Todays main activity was popping into town and getting some hard to find chemicals. I bought:

2 litres of Acetone, for cleaning surfaces before applying epoxy glue
1 litre of MEK, not sure what that is for, but heard it’s very useful to have. I think it’s a solvent for epoxy, which means it can dissolve my boat, hmmm.
1 litre of Isopropyl, or something like that, another good cleaner, I think its like alcohol. Chemistry isn’t my strong point
1kg of Oxalic Acid crystals, these dissolve in warm water to make an excellent cleaner for most things, but it works very well in cleaning teak.

The total price for this was £10, can’t complain. I bought this from a shop run by a rather famous local man called Mr Ong, the chemical man. He is 91 and is thinking of retiring soon. I had a brief chat with him in the shop. It’s amazing what you can buy here.  Later I bought some sheets of hard rubber/plastic, used for cutting soles for shoes from a shoe repair and leather supplier. This will fit under the bowsprit nicely and protect the sprit and the galvanising on the anchor, again, just £2.

I bought some plastic sheeting in a shop and asked for a discount as it was a bit shabby, the guy dragged his abacus over and used it to knock 10% off, very impressive how fast he used it.

abacusI use Uber to get around, they are very good, cheap and most of the drivers are ethnic Chinese so their English is generally better than the ethnic Malaysians. As was usual I had to explain everything about the boat and our plans, and as usual, the drivers are amazed we are sailing around the world, after lots of questions this driver asked me if I was a proper sailor man, I replied yes, I suppose so, to which he launched into singing “I’m popeye the sailor man, I live in ….”. When he extracted from me that I was doing this trip with my girlfriend, he started exclaiming over and over, “So Romantic, So romantic”. I would have said, stop here, drop me off here, yes, this motorway flyover is just fine. However it’s difficult to change your destination on Uber, even harder not to give your driver 5 stars after the trip, just in case you get him on the way home.

Another place with hanging things

Later back at the boat I pulled the aircon off the deck and cleaned up, we will get this deck looking fit for purpose soon.

Tonight we went for dinner at Supertanker, a giant Chinese / Thai foodcourt. Erik drove us there and I think Kathy enjoyed it. I love the place, great food, dirt cheap and a lovely busy but friendly atmosphere. I had a tasty chocolate and banana pancake for pudding from a vendor who is famous for his wares.

General chores tomorrow, specifically the sails and control lines and the water tank guages.

Paul C


Ready to sail again.

Well not really, but getting close now.
Firstly some pictures of the Kek Lok Si temple visit

IMG_2326 IMG_2320 bud2 bud1

I enjoyed the temple visit very much, they sure know how to do Buddhas over here.

So earlier in the week we went to the Mall at Queensbay, they usually have something going on in the main open areas, today was no exception, I think they were selling power exercise drinks and potions. Quite mad if you ask me, however the two kids joining in made it seem ok, except at the end when they turn to face each other, I think the boy thinks the girl is going to high five him, but she walks right past when she realises he is way to young for her. Tragic.

Saturday we went into town for a veggie meal, great that they have such places here and the food was good. We passed a lot of street food hawkers on the way

Lots of things hanging down, weird

Time Square was interesting, I had never really looked around inside, quite classy.
IMG_2406After the meal, we popped along to the prom area where there was a big display of bears, think Cows, Penguins, Liverpudlian Lambananna, or just the latest way to move a lot of plastic around the world. But to be fair it has raised a lot of money for UNICEF, an organisation I have a lot of time for since I saw loads of little boys and girls marching to school for the first time in post Taliban Afghanistan, all carrying UNICEF bags with pencils paper etc.
IMG_2422Each bear represented a country, but we had one for the UK, which got me pondering again on our national identity. It had been a bad week on that front, firstly there was the independence day, when the British flag is lowered and the Malaysian flag replaces it. The whole country celebrates this day, then on the same day the taxi driver told me his son had graduated uni in Dublin and now lived near the post office on O’Connell’ Street there, and did I know it. Felt like shouting, look I wasn’t born then, it’s not my fault 😉 Anyway, so after trudging over to the E for England section, then over to G for Great Britain, I ended up at the UK bit, each bear represents an artists impression of his country and I was keen to see what we had, hopefully not a bear in a bowler hat with brolley. So I was rather disappointed to see this chappy. Perhaps he should have been placed by Germany, France, and the other EU countries, but facing the wrong way!

This one reminded me of the burning man, I named it burning bear.

Now I expect you are all thinking, that’s all well and good Paul, but what about the bowsprit!
Well I have finished working on that now. I need to replace the sprit and the platform at some point, probably when I’m in Thailand, but for now I have re-assembled everything and we are fit to slip our lines and sail off into the sunset, well once we finish the other 40 non-bowsprit related jobs.
Before I replaced the windlass, I thought I should re-fit the chain pipes, these are the metal tubes the anchor chain slides down. They were loose on the deck and would allow rain and waves to get into the chain locker, making it damp and smelly. When I removed them, I could see that they had never been sealed to the deck, and in fact worse than that they had leaked water into the deck core and the wood was rotted.

This can be a really bad deal requiring the deck fiberglass having to be cut out and just loads of horrible stuff that takes forever to do. Fortunately, these boats were designed with this problem in mind, and will not allow the damp/rot to travel far. In my case I was able to scrape it all out as it only went a few cm into the deck. Then I could fill the area with thickened epoxy

Rot removed and epoxy filled

The deck is stronger now and this problem shouldn’t happen again, at least not here.
This gave Kathy an opportunity to polish up the chain pipes ready for refitting

Finally I had everything in place and brought the anchor back on board, I’m still trying to work out how best to stow it, it’s not a comfortable fit on the bow sprit and has to be lashed in, just not quite sure how yet.

I reconnected the Navigation lights on the bows pulpit at the connections in the chain locker and was most disappointed to find the port light didn’t work, after making sure the connections at both ends were perfect. I lost count of the times I went between the pulpit and the chain locker with my multimeter, but eventually I found a break in the wire about 6 inches from the light. Now the break was caused by corrosion inside the wire, some distance from the end connections. I only mention this because the previous owner spent a fortune using the very highest quality pre-tinned wire, which in my opinion is useless, or as effective as gold plated loudspeaker cables, i.e. not useful at all.

Tomorrow I go in search of Oxalic acid and Acetone to restock, then more cleaning up the deck and rigging the dutchman, which isn’t a euphemism, all will be revealed.


Paul C.

Merdeka, Moon Cakes and Buddy Bears

Wednesday 31st August was Malaysia’s Independence Day, known as Merdeka Day, when Malaysia gained independence from British colonisation in 1957.  The whole of August builds up to this day, with the Malaysian flag proudly displayed in shops, in windows and on balconies, and celebratory processions and performances are advertised on billboards for the day itself. It’s a national holiday, but not for shops, supermarkets and restaurants where it’s business as usual only busier.  In the spirit of joining in with the holiday, we took things a bit easier for most of the day (me a little more than Paul if I’m honest), and headed to the Queensbay Mall early in the evening. It had rained for most of the day and was still falling when we left but it was warm and not unpleasant to walk in for half an hour, though our friendly gate guard produced an umbrella when he spotted us leaving and insisted that Paul take it.  It kept collapsing on him all the way there and he pondered on how to fix it for most of the way.  We heard music coming from the entrance as we got near the mall and discovered a keep fit dance event taking place in the foyer in celebration of Merdeka Day. It was really entertaining to watch – Paul filmed a bit of it and will hopefully put it on his blog at some point.

Each time we’ve visited the mall in the three weeks we’ve been here we have looked with interest at the stalls selling moon cakes.  They look delicious and it was clear that they were food linked to a sense of occasion, like mince pies or easter eggs.  It was also clear they were very popular. I’d read it was a Chinese tradition to do with the Mid-Autumn festival but from the queues at the stalls, and the amount of money changing hands we wondered if there was a connection to Merdeka Day.  Deciding it was time to see what the fuss was all about we chose a stall and agreed to buy a tin with four moon cakes.  There are lots of different flavoured-fillings which turned out to be quite glutinous in texture, and are encased in a thick pastry (they look a little like pork pies).  We spent some time choosing four flavours for 50 ringitt (£10), (durian, fruit and nut, pumpkin, and red bean paste).  All I can say is, they look a lot better than they taste, we have three going spare if anyone’s interested – nice tin though!

Moon Cakes
Moon Cakes

On Thursday, Paul was out most of the morning sorting out parts for the bowsprit, so later on, when it was time to go to Batu Maung to collect the frame from the welder I went with him. This small town is quite a run-down looking place, a dusty industrial area with the main street creating the impression of streets seen in Western movies.  Once we’d collected the frame from the industrial estate, we went for a drink in one of the roadside cafes.  We got more outright stares in this town than anywhere else we’ve been, but we must have looked odd – a Western couple walking around with a cumbersome metal frame…and then we sat right next to the smouldering giant joss sticks that had been part of the recent ‘Hungry Ghost Festival’ so the wind blew thick smoke into our eyes and throats.

Paul with the bowsprit frame, Batu Maung
Paul with the bowsprit frame, Batu Maung
Pungent smoke just before the fire brigade put them all out
Pungent smoke just before the fire brigade put them all out

Friday, and a good deal of Saturday were spent doing the final bits of work on getting the bowsprit polished, cleaned and put back together, as well as ticking off other jobs from the large ‘to do’ list.  Early in the evening on Saturday we took a taxi to George Town to eat out, having looked up some vegetarian places beforehand.  We had a look around The Times Square Mall when we arrived. It was one of the few places Paul hadn’t been to before. The Chinese design and decoration of the place was spectacular! Artificial, but elegant and stylish trees adorned the floors, with flowers and bridges in the middle. Most of the lavish, ‘airport style’ shops were empty, some not even open, yet quite a few were advertising for staff.  It’s hard to see how they make any money, but again, building was going on to create more shops.

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It was twilight when we came out of the mall and such a lovely, atmospheric light. This, and the breeze coming off the sea made ideal walking conditions so we took the long way round to the restaurant area, taking in George Town’s back streets.  The quiet, residential streets have a unique charm in that there is no uniformity in the architecture of the small shops and houses.  Places we’d walked before in the searing heat of day looked entirely different in the evening.  Little India was our destination, but not for Indian food this time. We’d picked out half a dozen options from a google search and the one I favoured was the second one we came upon (the first being closed), called The Leaf Healthy Recipes.  Inside, it looked like an English tea room but the smells were mouthwateringly Asian.  The waiter left us a couple of menus with pictures and descriptions of the dishes, and a pad to fill out our choices on (a great way to get over communication difficulties). I loved the fact that the drinks menu boasted no added sugar or ice – my main problem with most non-alcoholic drinks on offer has been their sickly sweetness and the fact they contain enough ice to make it a sweet ‘slush’. We opted for a tapas-like array of different dishes to try and share as many as possible of the delicious range. The Tom Yam soup was a bit spicy but the Pumpkin Mee and the side orders were wonderful.

Pumpkin Mee
Pumpkin Mee
Vegan fare
Vegan fare
Inside Leaf Healthy Recipes
Inside Leaf Healthy Recipes (Paul did enjoy the food, honestly:))

We intended to go straight back afterwards but as we approached the promenade to find a taxi, we noticed the park lit up, with clusters of people gathered to look at something, so crossed over to take a look.  It turned out to be the Buddy Bear Tour (details in a pic below).  149 bear statues arranged in a circle, standing shoulder to shoulder, arms up, representing various countries of the world to promote world peace and harmony. Each bear is decorated with a different design and in the middle of them all stands a huge wire bear lit up with light that changes colour. It was a lovely atmosphere: lots of families, vendors selling night toys for the children, food and drink but no alcohol, so no loud, drunk people and hardly anyone smokes outdoors in Malaysia. I found it to be so much more enjoyable than some of the crowded events and festivals I’ve attended in other places. A great way to end a night out, and I had a glass of wine or two to look forward to when we got back to the boat 🙂


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The Temple of Supreme Bliss

The title is what Buddhist temple Kek Lok Si translates as. It’s also said to be the biggest one in Malaysia, so on Tuesday we got up early to pay it a visit.  The temple sits on a hilltop and the ascent to reach it is a gradual one.  The steps of the stairway are typically dilapidated, and on either side the whole way up, a multitude of shops and stalls provide a welcome distraction from the climb.  The vendors pounce on you as you approach, to urge you to ‘buy something’ from the various souvenirs, clothes, food and drink on offer.  A polite ‘just looking’ doesn’t deter them as they are determined to tell you how good the cloth of a certain T shirt is, or about the good value/bargain/handmade quality of their wares.  They are very friendly though and it wasn’t in the least bit annoying.  Paul did actually want to get a small wooden buddha for Sister Midnight but the ones shown to him were in a set of six. We figured we’d probably see more buddhas before the day ended.  We hadn’t gone far when we came to ‘The Liberation Pond’, a sacred pond for tortoises. There were loads of them, all shapes and sizes and it’s possible to buy food to drop in the water for them. Apparently people will buy a captive turtle in order to release it into the pond for good luck.

Beginning the ascent
Beginning the ascent
Paul checking out some buddhas
Paul checking out some buddhas
Turtles in the Liberation Pond
Turtles in the Liberation Pond

The walk up was a pleasant one. It wasn’t crowded, it was bearably hot, as opposed to debilitatingly so, with plenty to look at on the way.  Each level of the complex has something to recommend it. The flower gardens and fish ponds are beautiful and of course, there is a plethora of stately statues, buddhas and incense-fragrant shrines.  Several of the temples sell religious paraphernalia to raise money for ongoing construction and maintenance.  This was obvious from the scaffolding and building materials on show: apparently the largest temple in Malaysia is still growing!  The view from the top of the seven-tier pagoda was wonderful, and luckily it was a clear day so it was possible to see it at its best.IMG_0510 IMG_0526 IMG_0536


Paul resting at the top
Paul resting at the top

After resting for a while, we moved on to the second part of the visit.  The bronze Kuan Yin Statue is reached by taking a funicular lift up to its location on a hillside opposite Kek Lok Si. The ticket office was at the back of a large shop, packed with all the usual gifts and trinkets, but it also had an array of more interesting and unusual ‘stuff’: ornately-carved wooden table decorations, chinese boxes, tibetan jewellery, cloths etc.  A great place to browse.  It was a very short ride but again, a great view of Penang on the way up.  Kuan Yin (The Goddess of Mercy) is housed in an octagon-shaped pavilion and there were other shrines and pagodas in the area as well as a lovely garden with a bridge and waterfall (ideal as a resting place before the descent).

Kuan Yin viewed from Kek Lok Si
Kuan Yin viewed from Kek Lok Si


View from the funicular
View from the funicular

The walk down was hard on legs already tired from walking and standing for such a long period in the heat. I kept thinking a beer would be very welcome once we got to Air Itam, the town at the bottom of the hill. In Anthony Burgess’s book ‘The Long Day Wanes’ Tiger Beer seems to be plentiful in Malaysia – not so here.  Even cafes with signs outside advertising Carlsberg or Tiger don’t have it, so I made do with a coke while we waited for the taxi to pick us up.

In front of bamboo trees
In front of bamboo trees
Air Itam, the town with no beer :)
Air Itam, the town with no beer 🙂





Slow progress

This week has been slow, but mostly enjoyable for me.
The main focus has been on this bloody bowsprit. For those of you who haven’t worked it out yet, it’s the pretty big wooden stick that protrudes from the bow of the boat. It’s job is to allow us to get a bigger sail on the boat than would otherwise be possible. Boats don’t have them these days, as a longer boat means a faster boat anyway, so boats tend to be longer and also the old fashioned look of the square rigged boat with the multiple headsails is not in fashion.
So just to give a chronology of events on this bloody stick so far.

    1. Decide the varnish needs re-doing on the bowsprit as it’s very stained and missing in lots of places, also there’s a small bit of rot near the tip, so no harm in looking further. The whole job should be done in a few days max.
    2. So I remove the pulpit rail, that’s the steel tubing that you hold onto when working up there, I notice the wiring to the port and starboard lights on the rail is faulty so spend half a day renewing that, during the process the starboard bulb falls apart in my hand.
    3. Remove the teak platform, this is the decking you stand on in the pulpit area, and the supporting steel frame. I notice the platform is very weak and split in many places so a lot of gluing and clean up ensues, another day lost.


    1. The frame has a crack in it, I decide to ignore, then after refitting I decide to fix, so off to a steel works to get it welded, two half days gone there.


  1. 4 days spent cleaning and sanding the varnish on the front of the bow sprit, but the wood is so deeply stained, it’s not the most impressive of sprits, and never will be.
  2. Now there seems to be some rot under the anchor windlass, this is the very heavy motor that pulls up the anchor / chain and is installed on top of the bowsprit. I remove the windlass to get a better look, sort of wished I hadn’t, the rot is quite bad, goes all the way into the sprit. I think I’m ok for coastal sailing, but I need to replace that sprit before I contemplate taking on any gales. This will not be an easy job and I have decided to wait until we are in Thailand to do the work, as they have better wood and plenty of skilled carpenters there.rot1
  3. I remove all the rot I can see, but suspect there’s more under the sprit, and fill the voids with thickened epoxy, this should be good for a while but it’s hard to know. How do you know how strong it needs to be, and how do you work out how strong it currently is. I do know the sprit behaves as a post under compression, and the damaged area is clamped with a steel plate ( The Windlass and backing plate) on either side of the damaged area, and they wont compress easily. 
  4. On trying to put the windlass back in place I notice the cover I put over it, while it was on its side doesn’t seem to have stopped the rain getting in and the inside of the windlass is full of water! This could be really bad, I don’t want to even try to use it if it’s rusting, as a good cleaning will save it. If I leave a spanner on deck here for a couple of days, it’s very brown by the time I find it, the constant rain/heat seems to have a bad affect on metal. A new windlass will cost £2-3000, so I decide to take this one apart and clean/grease it up.
  5. Three of the four screws on the windlass cover come off, the fourth has been stripped by a previous gorilla, I also discover after removing the bottom metal plate that half the base of the windlass has rusted away, leaving a huge mass of aluminum oxide, a whitish crumbly powder. Now I’m starting to wonder why I’m bothering, and why did I ever give up stamp collecting as a child.
  6. I drill of the head of the fourth screw and voila, we are inside, well nearly. I have access to the motor, and I can see the gears are all encased inside another unit which is sealed and looks ok. A good cleaning followed by a healthy spraying with WD40 has it looking a lot better. When I power it up, it runs very well, seems to be even faster than before. Must dismantle it completely soon and give it a full service.
  7. Start to reassemble everything now I have the frame back but find the holes in the teak platform where the screws used to be are massive and this is why the platform was tied down before, so I fill all the holes with thickened epoxy and will try to re-assemble everything again tomorrow.

All in all this job that was meant to take a few days is looking like two weeks, and I still need to build and fit a new bowsprit, build a new platform and service the windlass. The thing is, if you plan to go sailing offshore, especially if you are crossing oceans where you will be bound to be hit by severe weather at some point, I think it’s really important to have full confidence in every inch of the boat, and turning a blind eye to something that might be OK, because it might also be a lot of hassle to check fully, is just not an option.
Also I must say I really enjoy the aspect of finding local skilled people to help out. The trip to the industrial part of town (Batu Maung, behind the airport) was great, a lovely big workshop with laser cutters, giant bending machines and a few dozen guys all working hard. Also Miss Chew, who like many businesses I have dealt with seemed to be showing the men how to do things, was great, she understood the job perfectly, offered advice on options for repair, and did the job on time for just £6. The crack was quite big, and I cant even see where it was now, just shiny steel, very impressive.

This is Inge, a Swede from another yacht here with me at a cafe outside the steel fabricators on Monday. These candles/giant joss sticks were about to be lit as it’s the end of August and the Chinese are crazy about keeping the ghosts happy and away


Today, Thursday, when I collected the frame with Kathy the Jossies were almost out, in fact in a few minutes time the fire brigade arrived and put them out before they were dismantled. The ghosts are quite chilled in September I understand.

During the week we visited a very big temple, more on that in a separate post.

And apologies if you were expecting notifications to be emailed to you of new posts, the system broke, due to the way security works on wordpress, this blog software I’m using. They upgraded the software to make it more secure and broke it, I have made it less secure and it works again, but the notifications may find it harder to traverse some spam filters. For the techies following, it’s all related to domain names of the From; envelope From: and Host needing to match. It’s complicated, too complicated for me.

Paul C.