Lit up like a christmas tree

Finally for the first time in many years I suspect, I had all of the lights on the boat working, and on at the same time. The starboard bow light was intermittent, and it was down to the contacts on the bulb, although they looked fine, they didn’t feel completely at home allowing electricity to pass through.  A new bulb resolved that for now.
I was very pleased to fix the steaming light, after sleeping on it (the problem, not the light), I thought I had to investigate the end of the wire at the bottom of the mast, about a foot sticks out and sure enough the positive wire was corroded so bad it had parted. I might have hinted at the wire quality before and slagged of Ancor, the makers, or so I thought, but looking closer, this wire is standard 2 core american domestic wiring, just like UK twin and Earth 1.5mm2, but without the earth.

The broken cable is the grey one on top
here I removed the grey sleeve and felt along to find a weak spot, a little tug and the white +ve wire parted
Stripping back the wire shows how corroded it had become.

So with this wire patched up, I expect it will break again soon, all the lights now worked. I have the hose waiting to go on the water heater, but it’s not leaking now and can wait until I next feel in an engine work mood.
I heard the rigging shipped from Florida a few days ago so should be here by Monday, so tomorrow we leave to travel just a few hours north to Rebak marina so Kathy can enjoy the delights of a luxury resort, then on Monday if the rigging is here we will take the boat down to Telaga marina to have it fitted. This will be the last of the jobs planned for here so we’re off to Thailand, really, except we have to come back to Kuah to check out of the country. This may prove tricky as the boat has changed name, registration number, and owner so it wont be on the system as ever having checked in, they could just stamp us out on my passport, and give the boat an exit paper, or they could make life quite difficult, we shall see.

There’s nothing in Rebak for me, well the pool is nice, but I’m going to have fun playing with my new Signal K setup. I plumbed most of in tonight, and I can connect to it via wifi and see the data server (iKommunicate), but no data, I can see an LED flickering on the data server telling me it’s getting data from the AIS, so it’s just a computer thing I need to fix. Once this is going you will be able to connect to Sister Midnight from the internet and see all sorts of exciting data, like the obvious location, course, speed, depth, wind data, battery voltage, but soon I hope to add the dinner menu, latest fish caught etc. the possibilities are endless. However I read today that I have to watch out for foreign states taking over the boat and using it as part of a botnet, or is it a yachtnet/boatnet to bring down other governments. Exciting stuff!

I used to try to document stuff in word, or draw or some other computer package, but more recently I have gone for hand drawing with a pencil and paper and then taking a pic with the iPhone and storing this on the mac. I like this as I generally have the paper backup handy if the mac is in use. Also it’s the only way I practice handwriting these days.

NMEA 0183 and device power drawing

So we had a farewell drink in the marina bar tonight, didn’t need to order the drinks, they knew our round off by heart, other than to check if I was on the diet coke or weak shandy option. Definitely time to move on.

A last sunset picture from here

No filters were harmed in the taking of this photo

Paul C.

Boat bits (Mostly techie, sorry)

So today I wondered how best to sort the problems. Firstly the air lock, I got out the manual for the water heater and after reading it, I realised it’s either plumbed in incorrectly, or I don’t understand the system very well. This has nothing to do with the air lock, and this wasn’t mentioned anyway. However after reading the engine manual, it does say to open a certain valve before filling with water to avoid air locks. Duh!! RTFM Paul. So I did that and it helped, but didn’t completely solve the problem. I ran the engine for an hour and the temperature stayed constant, so I think it’s ok. Anyway, I’m going to be replacing the hoses shortly so can go through the whole process again then.
Yesterday I traced all the wires for the solar and wind generators to make sure I understood how they are wired in. then last night I turned off the charger before bed, and just left on the equipment we would run on a normal night passage, mast head light, AIS, radio, fridge etc to see how much power we consumed. The charger said 25Ah over about 8 hours, which seems very reasonable. Once up I put the solar back on, and we were fully charged within a few hours, thats with my rubbish solar panels that only generate 200W in total, and then only in very bright sunshine. Typically they put out about 5 amps total. The big thing is the wind gen, this is wired into the main battery without any switch, or even a voltage regulator. It’s hard to know what it’s doing, it can generate up to 30A of charge at 14V, it’s basically a car alternator with windmill sails. It has been quite breezy the last few days.
I’m looking into the whole battery charging business thing, as this will be important when we head off, many cruisers spend an hour or two running the engine each day, this is a very bad idea as it costs a lot, is noisy, makes heat and doesn’t do the engine any good. The problem is that boat batteries are very complicated to charge, you have to work within very tight restraints to get the charged fully but without damaging them. Generally you spend most days discharging to 50% then recharging to 80%, however you need to get a full charge in every so often to stop them degrading. On top of that they should be equalised once in a while to stop sulphation. As I see it connecting 3 or 4 generators of power, via individual intelligent regulators that measure current flow and voltage, before determining what voltage to try to generate or current to supply, is asking for trouble. Also I have two banks of batteries, 4 for the house and 1 for cranking, both banks are never going to be in the same state.
Still I’m enjoying learning about these subjects. Ask me any question you like about lead cell construction 😉

So off to town to buy the bits I need, I was very pleased to buy a relay and associated cable from a garage on the edge of town, without speaking any Malay, and him not speaking English. img_2890

From the garage I bought a litre of acrylic paint for the boat, this should be good for 6 years apparently, the blue paint I put on the side in May has faded on the side of the boat that gets most sunshine. It wasn’t a fancy paint, but I have been assured that normal acrylic paint is by far the best to go with. Very cheap too.


I also picked up 8 metres of radiator hose for the water heater, this should leave me with 3 metres spare I can take for a trip around the world before throwing it away. I picked up a strip of 12V LEDS that I plan to install in the cockpit so we have a bit more light for dinner, but yet to work out where or how to install them.

Finally, back to the mast problem, I mentioned how I’m putting 12V into the cable at the bottom of the mast but getting nowt out at the top, well I had an idea, if I swapped the positive/negative of the wires around at the base, and use the mast as a ground I could work out which wire had the break in. Sure enough, it was the positive wire, because by sending +12v up the old negative wire, and using the mast as the negative, I could light up the lamp. Of course I don’t think I can use the mast as a return, sending an Amp or more through the rigging might cause some corrosion. But I’m thinking I could drop a wire down to the spreader lights and use that as the negative return. It’s not often I have both lights on anyway. The cable that has failed is the expensive Ancor pre-tinned ‘Marine’ cable !

The rigging hasn’t shipped from Florida yet, so I expect we are here for another 5-7 days min. So on Thursday we’re going to leave our berth here and head to an anchorage called “The hole in the wall” for an overnighter, then onto Rebak Marina for the weekend, or longer, until the rigging arrives, when we will drop down to Telaga Marina where the rigger is based. Hopefully the rigging will be fitted in one day, and early next week we will be off to Thailand.

Paul C.



Quick Update

I have found the location of the starting problem, it’s the starting relay, or the connector on it.


This is not meant to reflect on the QA standards of Ireland at all 😉
I can’t work out which is faulty, the connector or the relay, as every time I unscrew it from its location to test it, the relay works fine, but once back in place it fails, I can’t get my multimeter onto the pins when it is in place, right at the rear of the engine by the gearbox. I suspect the connector more than the relay, but I will change both. Suffice it to say it’s working now, but I expect it will stop when next needed. Fortunately Car ownership 101 taught us how to start a car without the key, a basic Scouse right of passage, so I have kept a short length of wire near the starter. I’m off up the mast now, but wanted to share the following with you…

I have seen a lot of lovely carved  wooden creations which I wondered what they were used for, now I have found out that they are for a game called Congkak.


I have included the rules below should you want to try this one at home.



Paul C.

Fixing day today

The postman came late yesterday with goodies, but I missed him at the office, so collected the bits, a new water gauge and a bow light, this morning. So after a couple of poached eggs with Kathy I got stuck into the jobs.

Nice tidy cabin, breakfast cleared away
  1. Battery Charger
    Yesterday I was doing some testing to understand how much power I was getting from the wind generator and solar system. During the testing I noticed the battery charger was overheating and shutting down, further investigation showed the fan was broken on the charger. I picked one up yesterday and fitted it this morning. Job done, lets hope it lasts a while.
  2. Engine Water coolant leak
    I spent some time yesterday in hardware stores looking for hose fittings to improve this connection to the engine, but there aren’t any. I will probably post on some sailing forums to see what others do. I noticed the hose was quite brittle and I’m going to replace it all next week. For now I cut back the bad hose and re-fitted it. img_2828
    This worked, but a lot more cooling fluid poured out of the hose than I expected, I think the calorifier must hold a lot, and be located higher than the pipe. Managed to catch most of it in a 5 litre jug, but when time came to refill it, I had a litre left over, which in my mind means there is an air lock in the system now. I was expecting to have to add an extra litre. Anyway, I hoped that if I ran the engine a bit then it might work it’s way through.
    The engine wouldn’t start, turning the key, gives a click from the engine, but the starter doesn’t turn. Really disappointing and I assumed the solenoid had jammed, so a gentle tap on the solenoid was tried, no luck.
    I hot wired the solenoid and the engine started, the water level dropped, but not enough. So now I have two show stopping faults, when before I only had an intermittent drip.
  3. Water levels
    The port water tank level gauge had packed in, the float didn’t float and its magnets didn’t magnetise, so Kathy replaced it for me.img_2808 I have wired up the switch that used to just show the starboard tank level so that it now switches between port and starboard. I’ve never had such sophistication on a boat before, very posh. Hopefully we can top up now before the tank gets empty, that will save the pump running on an empty tank, and air spurting out the taps when we are empty.

    Half full tank on port captain

    Full tank on stb captain





4. Steaming light on mast

The new light finally arrived, and I popped up the mast for a fitting 😉 Well the mast is sort of oval shaped in cross section and the light has a flat back, I took the old light down and worked out a way to use its bracket for the new light. It looks like it will work well, but by now the sunlight was going so Kathy and I headed off to the pool to watch the sunset and have a cooling swim.

Tonight I have been studying the wiring diagrams for the engine, I now know far more about the Volvo MD22 (AKA Perkins M50) than I ever wanted to know. Things like, the engine ground is isolated from the boats electrical ground when starting or stopping the engine. Doesn’t say why, but might be related to galvanic corrosion caused by heavy currents.
Anyway the click I can hear when I turn the key to start, isn’t the solenoid, it’s a separate relay that switches the starter solenoid. I found that 12v leaves the control panel, and the relay is clicking with it, so it must be the wire or relay contacts from there that leads to the solenoid, as there isn’t any voltage getting to the solenoid. I’m very disappointed with the electrical side of the engine. It’s only ten years old, very low hours, yet the electrics are giving me too many problems. I think the control panel is damaged because it’s out in the cockpit, the UV caused the corners to crack so moisture gets in and has its evil way. How long should water hoses last, these are only 10 years old. The engine on Stardust is 8 years old and still looks new.

Not looking forward to tomorrow, the relay I need to get too is in a most inaccessible place. I will do the mast light first before it gets too hot. Hopefully if I can sort the engine tomorrow we can get out of here on Tuesday and go for a sail and anchor overnight somewhere nearby for a change. I’m hoping the rigging will arrive in a few days time and we can depart for Thailand.


Paul C.


Our Day Out

Not quite the same as the events in Willy Russell’s tale, but it would have been nice to take a monkey from the park if they’d only been more friendly ;).

We hired a car last Thursday so that we could explore more inland places of Langkawi.  The process of hiring a car turned out to be a lot less of a hassle here than in any other country.  Apparently the lady on the desk just took a cursory glance at Paul’s driving licence, charged him the equivalent of £12 for 24 hours, asked for a £10 deposit, and asked if he’d return it with the same amount of petrol. There was no inspection of the car’s condition; in fact she merely pointed to one, seemingly at random, gave him the keys and said ‘there you go, take that one’.  It was small, automatic, air-conditioned and comfortable, even if it did struggle to work out which gear it should be in sometimes. Our first stop was to get some petrol so we stopped at the first one we saw in Kuah Town.  Paul couldn’t work out how the petrol cap came off and was trying various buttons and levers while I searched compartments for a helpful manual or leaflet until an attendant with a world-weary expression came over, reached inside and pulled a lever near the handbrake (I have a feeling he might have had to do this before). Petrol is a lot cheaper here (the equivalent of 40p a litre). Paul put £4’s worth in and could have got away with a lot less for the day’s use.

We’d worked out a rough itinerary of where we wanted to go.  We were heading to the western side of the island, where the Machinchang Cambrian Geoforest Park is located, taking in a few other places on the way.  There is a road that cuts through the island’s rural middle and we drove along that after leaving Kuah’s busy centre.  Soon, lush rainforest was on either side of us, and as we climbed higher, there were steep rock faces (no protective netting or warnings of loose rocks here).  There was hardly any other traffic so we could slow down to look at anything interesting.  The houses in the tiny villages we passed looked just like Swiss chalets or the more ornate sheds and cabins found in garden centres. Other places were made up of ramshackle buildings that looked as if they might fall in strong winds. On the roadsides we saw several stray dogs, beautiful red roosters and chickens, cows and the ubiquitous monkeys, which I’ve since found out are mainly Dusky Leaf or Macaque. On one stop, quite high up, we stopped to look out at the Andaman Sea and on the beach below I was most excited to spot what looked like a crocodile or alligator but it could well have been a Komodo Dragon.  You can just about see it in the picture below in the middle of the beach.

Komodo Dragon?
Komodo Dragon?
Paul with the Andaman Sea in the background
Paul with the Andaman Sea in the background
One of the many stray dogs
One of the many stray dogs
The road through the island
The road through the island

There are adverts everywhere for ‘Crocodile Adventureland’, the pictures on the banners show people variously prising open the mouths of the crocodiles (to place a head or an arm inside), riding on their backs and possibly getting them to perform tricks ‘seaworld’ fashion, and as neither of us are in favour of that form of entertainment, we passed that one by and instead headed for the nearby Handicraft and Art Village.  As well as the usual hand made souvenirs and other unique items, this complex contained a couple of museums about Langkawi’s heritage and culture.


Our next destination on the map was the attractive-sounding Seven Wells Waterfall.  It was a picturesque journey through more thick woodland where all the luxury tourist villas are located.  It was still a surprise, however to come upon an exclusive golf course and resort as we rounded a corner. Suddenly all the jungle-like vegetation had disappeared and it was like we were in the middle of the rural Surrey.  The waterfall was a little way after the golf club according to the map.  Thinking we’d missed it, we had to double back and check the location again and discovered from a roadside plaque that it was still being built! Once finished it will be the biggest man made waterfall in Malaysia apparently.  The climb to its source was open though so we decided to do it. A group of workers on the opposite side (in the pictures behind us) cheered us on when they shouted to check we were climbing to the top and watched us all the way. The pictures don’t show the steepness of the steps – some of the were so steep I nearly had to pull myself up with my hands.  The view from the top was stunning though.

img_0732 img_0733 img_0737 img_0742

Refreshment was in order after all that exertion so we drove to Telaga Harbour for a late lunch.  We’ll be coming back to this place before going to Thailand and Paul’s getting the rigging done here by a guy he knows.  It’s a modern-looking marina with classy restaurants, cafes and bars around it and although it’s not Paul’s ideal place, I was too hungry to search around so we settled on an Italian restaurant with a view over the marina where we had a very nice pizza (for Paul) and fries for me.

 Telaga Harbour

Telaga Harbour

img_0747 img_0748

Finally we visited The Oriental Village in the heart of the Geoforest Park. This is laid out very much in the style of theme parks such as Alton Towers, but without the rides: lots of handicraft and souvenir shops, a ‘feed the bunnies’ area, cafes, play areas, a huge lake with a wobbly bridge over it, pretty gardens, oh and a plastic, roaring dinosaur which had people queueing to be photographed next to it.  The Oriental Village is also the gateway to the cable car ride which takes you to the peak of Langkawi’s second highest mountain, and the hugely popular Langkawi Sky Bridge attraction, but we decided to save those treats for when we return to the area.

Cable car in the distance
A rickety rackety bridge
A rickety rackety bridge


The best part was the monkeys. There were scores of Dusky Leaf Monkeys there, and we sat and watched their antics for ages. They run wild and free within the park, jumping on fences and climbing the trees to feed in large groups.  Some of them had tiny babies clinging to their tummies and they’re not in the least bit bothered by hordes of people photographing and staring at them as they go about their business. Obviously I took loads of pictures in an attempt to capture their cheekiness/cuteness but Paul’s video just about sums them up.  Watch how one of them knocks another off the fence 🙂

img_0763 img_0764 img_0769





At Ease in Langkawi

Most of the ‘big’ jobs have been ticked off Paul’s list now, so we’ve been concentrating on the smaller tasks this week (ok, Paul has done most of those, I admit it ;)).  The first couple of days after we arrived in Langkawi, both of us took it fairly easy.  Even the trip to the supermarket is quicker and easier as it’s a lot closer than the ones in Penang.  There was a lot of heavy rain during the first few days, especially at night.  In the daytime, Paul worked on the engine, trying to find  and fix the location and cause of the oil leak. My part was to hand various tools and things in the fashion of hospital theatre assistant (‘screwdriver’, ‘kitchen roll’, ‘hammer’ etc’) while Paul contorted his body to access the intricate inner parts of the engine.  The same procedure took place when he worked in the cockpit locker to fix the bilge pump, with the added complication of my not being able to hear him very well from my position at the electrical control panel in the cabin when he was shouting instructions while squeezed inside the locker itself.

'Turn the switch on now, Kathy!....have you turned it on yet?' 'What?'
‘Turn the switch on now, Kathy!….have you turned it on yet?’ ‘What?’

I’ve taken to going to the local shopping mall daily here as it’s only a ten-minute walk, and the roads to get there aren’t as hazardous to cross as those in Penang.  The walk is pleasant and it’s always a joy to see the monkeys in the trees opposite the marina. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of watching them. They stare if you get close to them, and when one yawned I saw just how long and sharp its teeth were, but they run off when you get too close.  They tend to pick up discarded crisp/food bags in their search for food, and I often see them scampering over a roadside cafe’s tables when it’s empty.

img_0661 img_0711

It was Paul’s birthday on the 18th.  We had our usual leisurely Sunday breakfast after he’d opened his presents (and like me, his one and only card) and then it was work as normal for him for the best part of the day. In the evening we walked into Kuah (about 30 minutes’ walk), to revisit the Chinese restaurant we went to the first time I was here.  It was just beginning to get dark as we walked through the park. Twilight is lovely here: the smaller trees are lit up like Christmas trees and there are stalls selling drinks to the families who come to visit the kids’ play area in the cooler evenings.  As we got nearer to the town, I noticed that more construction is taking place here too. The buildings aren’t as high or extensive as the ones in Penang – Langkawi is more of a holiday resort.  Billboards portray what the finished complexes will look like; modern, elegant holiday apartments and retail arenas, all opposite old ruined hotels and restaurants, their facades are full of character but sadly they seem set for demolition.

Birthday treats
Birthday treats


Deserted and set for demolition
Deserted and set for demolition

The meal was excellent. It’s testament to the success of the restaurant that it alone was busy and lively amid several others that were virtually empty. On learning that I was vegan, the waiter went through all the dishes that could be adapted for me, and he even sorted it so that the sauce that came with Paul’s meal could be shared with me.  You can see all the food being cooked to order in the nearby kitchen.  I enjoyed it all much more than the first time, now that I’m more used to the Malaysian way of dining.

Wonderful Wonderland


It’s Autumn here now and we’re experiencing the south-west monsoon as it blows over the western coast.  This means heavy thunderstorms, windy days and nights and choppy seas.  The average temperature is still 30 degrees, however and this is probably the coolest we’ll get because it will get slowly hotter from now on.  The choppy seas and wind are certainly making the boat rock at times but that is pleasant, as it’s like being rocked gently which is great when you’re feeling lazy and drowsy, especially when accompanied by the sound of heavy rain on the coach roof.  The rain rarely lasts for longer than an hour, though and during one of these rainy afternoons we sorted out all the folders and files on the boat that were crammed with things like charts,  old equipment manuals, yacht rally programmes, receipts and much more.  I’ve also had lessons on chart plotting (using the navionics app on the ipad) so that I can – hopefully – take on the task of planning the itinerary for Thailand next month.  Another benefit of being here is the proximity of Charlie’s Place, the marina bar. It’s nice to sit there after a swim, or a walk and watch the sun sink below the island.

Rain clouds over the marina
Rain clouds over the marina
Sister Midnight in her berth at RLYC
Sister Midnight in her berth at RLYC

On Tuesday and Wednesday this week, Paul concentrated on jobs that needed doing on the boat’s mast.  There was a fair bit of preparation involved in this.  On Lady Stardust he had to hoist himself up in a bosun’s chair, but this boat has rungs to climb up, so Paul had to ensure he had all the necessary tools and fittings for the job in a bucket attached to his safety rope.  He’s related the details of what needed doing in his post. I felt that I should be outside while he was up there in case he needed me to do anything (although I would have stopped short of going up there to take something to him). I took pictures instead, from as many angles as I could. It wasn’t easy because it was hard to focus for long with the sun in my eyes, and also, it made me feel decidedly dizzy looking up at him that high up. I can only imagine what it must be like looking down! I refused his kind offer of ‘having a go’ at getting to the top myself when he came down. 😉 Some pics of the day are below. Next post will be about our trip around the island in a car yesterday.

Halfway up
Halfway up
No hands!
No hands!
At the top
At the top


Up the mast pics

Popped up the mast today to replace the Navigation light with a new Nasa Marine SuperNova Tricolour/Anchor light.
I’m going to wait until sunset and go to the bar to see how bright it looks. Kathy thinks this a fine Idea.

So a few pics from above.

Whatever you do, don't look down
Whatever you do, don’t look down
Panoramic view
Panoramic view
Selfie with tricolour
Selfie with tricolour
Scruffy boat cover
Scruffy boat cover
Old light removed, bar one broken screw
Old light removed, bar one broken screw


Paul C.

Ultravoilet light

Powerful stuff, must put more lotion on.

I popped up the mast today to replace the spreader working lights, these are lights that we use to light up the deck at night if we need to work in the dark. I also use them to illuminate the sails to make ourselves more visible if I want other boats to see us.


I also wanted to extract the old masthead Tricolour/Anchor light. I was surprised to see how deteriorated the light was. This was quite crazed when I looked at it back in May, but now it was disintegrating, it really brings home how powerful the Uv rays from the sun are here. One of the screws that fixed it down snapped off as I was removing it, so I need to remove that tomorrow.

The spreader lights work well now, I can’t replace the steaming light, which is a white light on the front of the mast we have to have on when we are using the engine for propulsion, because when I tested the light I brought out, it wasn’t white at all but red and green. I ordered a new one today from Austrailia along with a new water tank sensor, should be here in a few days. Tomorrow I will fit the new masthead light which is an LED job from NASA  Marine.
I have also paid for the new standing rigging to be made, it’s being fabricated in Florida and flown out here as I write this, seems crazy, but these wires hold the mast up, and the quality from the USA is very high, so it”s worth it, it’s also quite a reasonable price.

I’m hoping to have the rigging replaced and to depart Langkawi for Phuket in about 2 weeks time. Kathy is working out our itinerary for the trip, so many places to see and events happening there, I can’t wait.

Paul C.

Pumps and Engine work, plus another birthday.

Yesterday I set to work on fixing the instrument panel I blew up on the way up to Langkawi. The fuse I blew, turns out to be a little resettable button on a box at the back of the engine. If I had known that, I could have reset it on passage. at least I know now.  So I took the panel apart after studying the circuit diagram for an hour or so. Some of the circuitry is in an epoxy potted box and the circuit is kept secret. Somehow I seem to have found the details on the internet of this unit’s internals so that was a help. Anyway the main culprit was the connector shown below,this connects the panel switches and alarm signals for oil pressure, water temperature and battery charge to the aforesaid secret box with the lights in it. Someone had previously rammed the plug and socket together, but 90 deg out of position. It’s there so you can replace the box if needed, I understand Volvo wanted about $500 for the box, which is effectively four LEDS, and a few diodes, so I was never going to buy it, even if they hadn’t stopped making it several years ago. So I hard wired around the connector. I replaced all the bulbs in the meters, and epoxied the front of the temp gauge that had fallen off. Now it works 100% and lights up in the dark. Oh I replaced the buzzer, though I hope to never hear it, it only sounds when there’s a big problem. Cleverly those diodes stop it screeching when you turn the key or stop the engine, as it does on most boats.


So I expect you’re wondering how I can top that story, well just wait till I get on to the hose clamps later, but first I had a birthday today. Kathy kindly got me some lovely chocolates and a nice new money belt, which is handy, my old one is disintegrating.

I managed to get the last of the metal strips onto the side of the boat this morning, these are thin strips that stop the fenders ropes from rubbing the varnish on the cap rails. They also look classy, Kathy polished them to a fine mirror like finish.

So onto the hose clamps, I decided to fix the manual bilge pump which wasn’t working, This will be my last contact with the boat before it sinks, should I ever end up in a sinking situation 😉 It’s a pump for pumping water out the bilge, assuming the two electric pumps can’t work. I took it out, serviced it, tested it and couldn’t really find a problem, so put it all back together. On tightening the hose clamps, it has two, they both snapped, this had me thinking, My surveyors and insurance company always insists on double clamping the hoses so that if one breaks, the other will still hold the hose on to the device, yet they both generally are identical when fitted, often from the same production run, live identical lives, and should fail at exactly the same time, all things being equal. I bet they have a different strategy on the International Space Station!
img_2654Anyway, both electric pumps and the hand pump work now. The second pump, marked “Emergency Bilge Pump” can’t half shift water, like gallons per second. I was very impressed. I cleaned the bilge some more and ticked that one off the list now. We had some fun when I turned up the tap on the hose pipe Kathy was squirting into the bilge with and the hose jumped out of her hand and started a snake like dance around the galley 😉

While I was in the engine area I had another go at fixing the oil leak, I had tightened up the scavenger pump fitting where I could see it had been weeping oil the other day, but it was still weeping. I think it was a lot better, but it was hard to say as we hadn’t used the engine much on the trip up here, so that may be a factor. So I took the fitting out this time to inspect it. It comes with a soft washer, I remember having an air leak on the fuel system of the old baba , which was a Volvo, and it was down to a slightly worn brass washer somewhere in the fuel line. I wonder if this washer might be causing the leak. I will order a new one. For now I cleaned the surfaces and re-assembled, making sure to get the fitting up tight, and the pipe that goes onto it, snugged up tight too. We shall just have to see if this works or not.
img_2656I also had a made a note to look for a water leak, back in May I had to top up the fresh water, not by a lot, maybe half a cup, but it shouldn’t need topping up at all, there’s no way out for the water.  However the water level has been fine since, so I had a look around and found a small leak where the hot fresh water leaves the engine block to go off to heat the domestic water via a heat exchanger. It’s just on the pipe with the hose clamp in the picture.img_2671 There is the tell tale sign of corrosion building up on the clip. This is going to be a sod to change, the reason it’s leaking is because it’s not fitted on snug, and it cant because of the angle the hose approaches, so whoever fitted it must have struggled, and given up before getting it to fit properly, then tightened up on the clamp and hoped for the best. The worst bit is that it slowly drips hot water onto fittings below which are showing signs of corroding. It’s either bad design by Volvo, or more likely, there is another fitting that should be used to get the pipe to connect properly. As it’s used for an optional external domestic water heater, this hose will have been fitted by the engine installer, not Volvo.
I won’t be happy until this is sorted, because when this pipe fails the engine will lose it’s cooling water and fail. worse than this it will be a sod to fix if under way.
We had a very similar situation on Lady Stardust in Martinique with Max and the boys nearly 10 years ago, a leaking pipe was dripping onto the throttle cable for some years and had caused it to corrode, just as we were trying to get into a port in a very heavy headwind, the throttle cable seized up at the point where it had corroded, I couldn’t work out what was wrong as I couldn’t see the spot on the cable, and had assumed the fuel pump the throttle was connected too was seized and we ended up needing help to get into the port. A very expensive affair, all caused by a slow and persistent drip drip over time.
So given that I had fitted the steel strips, fixed two pumps, an oil leak and found the water leak, it was time to go for my birthday dinner with Kathy at my favourite Langkawi restaurant “Wonderland”
img_2675I had Sea Bass grilled and served with a black bean sauce, It was very tasty, we also had a sauce called ABC, which along with the black bean sauce and the rice, they had made vegetarian so Kathy could enjoy it too.

Wonderland was  Kathy’s first encounter with Malaysian restaurants and she was a bit shocked when we first went the back in July, but now after she has eaten at several different places, she appreciates what a class joint it really is 😉 they even sell beer!

I picked up a parcel here that Isaac had sent out, it included lots of things that need to go on the mast, LED lights etc, so that’s tomorrows fun.

Paul C.

Birthday at Bidan

On Sunday afternoon (11th September) after we finished work for the day, we ordered a taxi via Uber to take us to Straits Quay Marina. Paul asked him to drop us a little way from the marina itself so that we could walk to it.  There were so many high rise buildings surrounding us that it was hard to believe we were anywhere near water. More of these towering apartment buildings are being constructed constantly – all over Penang. So many homes are contained in each of those huge complexes, it really creates a sense of how many people live there.  I keep wondering where they all lived before they began to build them. Straits Quay is another smart shopping and dining hub, and it’s only when you walk through the ornate entrance with its cafes, shops and restaurants that you spot the masts of boats in the marina and beyond, the channel of water between the island and the mainland. It was a hot, sunny day and the smart bars along the waterside were too tempting to resist (for me anyway), so we sat at one of them and people-watched for a while, enjoying the view over to the mainland.

Yachts in Straits Quay Marina
Yachts in Straits Quay Marina

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Walking further along from here, we passed ‘Uncle Albert’s Fish and Chip Restaurant’, English-style pubs and tearooms, and a lively Irish Pub packed with people in green T shirts watching a rugby match. Time to move on! We ambled slowly and leisurely along a path by the coast watching the boats out on the water until it began to get darker, then went for a drink in Gurney Plaza before heading on to Hawker Food Market for dinner.

Just a few of the tower blocks in the background
Just a few of the tower blocks in the background
Gurney Plaza
Gurney Plaza
Hawker Food Market
Hawker Food Market
Veggie Tom Yam (delicious without added shrimp paste!)
Veggie Tom Yam (delicious without added shrimp paste!)

The following day we took the boat out for a spin to check the sails and to practise a few boat manoeuvres. It felt great to be out on the water, making the most of the sea breeze – a respite from another sweltering day. It was hard work keeping the boat on course while Paul tacked and gybed but I felt that I learned a lot in the few hours we were out there, and certainly feel more comfortable with the steering now.  When we got back, Paul taught me the correct way to cleat off on the pontoon, and the art of throwing and catching ropes (this time with no spectators to put me off :)).  However, when we moved the boat onto the emergency pontoon ready for the morning departure, I didn’t throw the line far enough for the guy to catch it so he had to retrieve it from the water, and then when Paul threw a line to me, I dropped that in the water so it seems I need a lot more practise yet.

Luckily, the 10am morning departure on Tuesday went without a hitch and soon we were watching Penang’s skyline fade into the distance. The conditions for sailing weren’t quite as good as Paul had hoped but we got some sailing in and the six-hour passage to our anchorage was squall and storm-free. Paul let me choose the place to drop anchor and it was Pulau Bidan that took my fancy – not because Song Song was further away but because it looked so intriguing.  The island was bigger than Song Song and we could see people moving around near huts by the beach and it was very peaceful and serene-looking. I thought it a nice spot to watch and listen to the birds and to spot any other creatures that might inhabit the place.  As we were anchoring I saw a fish (looked a bit like a swordfish) leap out of the water and it went higher than I would have ever thought possible – a real ‘wow’ moment.  Despite its being a rich fishing area, Paul has yet to catch one, even after putting two lines out over the stern ;).  Once we were secure, we went for a quick swim round the boat to cool off.

Leaving Penang
Leaving Penang
Pulau Bidan
Pulau Bidan
No fish caught yet
No fish caught yet 🙂

Paul looked up some information on the island and my guess that it looked like a place for volunteers interested in nature-watch projects turned out to be on the right track. It’s an ecotourist destination, host to a range of wildlife and natural biodiversity and the aim of the organisation running it is to build up a community dedicated to preserving and protecting the island’s ecology. We spotted some geese marching up and down the beach and heard a cockerel crowing regularly, so I guess there are hens there too. The living conditions looked fairly rudimentary but I thought what an amazing and worthwhile experience it would be – it beats what Bear Grylls has people doing on the islands in his TV series’ anyway.  While we ate dinner in the cockpit, the shore of the beach was lit up with a line of subtle ‘street lights’, creating a wonderfully atmospheric picture for us to look at.

The night we spent there turned out to be the hottest and stickiest night I think I have ever had! Paul slept in the cockpit and I thought I’d try the V berth as it had been fine at Song Song but it was too hot in there so I moved to the port side sofa and that was no better.  I didn’t fancy the cockpit because mosquitoes feast on me, so I put the boat fan on and lay as still as possible until I dozed off.  I woke three hours later, soaked in sweat and itching with bites so I gave up and read for a few hours which was pleasant enough. As the boat shifted with the tide, a breeze came through the hatch and window in the V berth, and I was finally able to get more sleep in there until Paul woke me at 8 with a Happy Birthday coffee and said we’d need to get moving soon. I opened my one and only card and the thoughtful presents he’d got me (see below), and then we set off for Langkawi.


A soda maker! :)
A soda maker! 🙂

The journey was very relaxing. I tried to get some more sleep but it was still very humid, even up above so I lounged below, reading (currently reading Dickens’s Little Dorrit, The Long Day Wanes by Anthony Burgess, White Jazz by James Ellroy, The Enemy by Lee Child, Far Eastern Tales by Somerset Maugham, and four mystery/thrillers on my kindle phone app, so no shortage of material to get through).  Not a bad way to spend my 56th birthday all in all.

Paul working on the engine's components on the way to Langkawi
Paul working on the engine’s components on the way to Langkawi

We arrived at the marina at 5pm and the cleating lessons paid off because I was able to jump ashore with a line and tie us to the cleat with no difficulty. It was very hot and humid and by the time we’d got secure and the boat shipshape we had to use the hose on the pontoon to cool ourselves down.  My unusual and enjoyable birthday ended with a drink and a meal at Charlie’s Place. It’s great to be back in Langkawi 🙂


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