It took five years of planning to go cruising. Under the ‘KISS’ theory (Keep it Simple Stupid) we sold our Perth home, moved to Melbourne, bought Blue Heeler, learnt to sail, sold the new home and quit fulltime work. The five year period ended two years ago. We’ve now lived aboard Blue Heeler for two years; sailed over 10,000nm since owning the boat, and we’ve recently had our 30th Wedding Anniversary. Where has the time gone? As the song says, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy doing other things…”
Some time ago before Blue Heeler, I remember reading an article in Cruising Helmsman magazine about Rebak Resort and Marina in Langkawi. “That is the place where I’d like to sail to” I announced to Wayne who was busy at the time scouring Yachtworld for a suitable yacht to take us there. So finally here we are. Langkawi is a couple of day sails from Penang. Along the way we anchored at the pleasant Pulau Bidan then grabbed one of the four massive moorings at Pulau Payer. We motored by the large eagle at Dataran Lang (Eagle Square), one of Langkawi’s most easily recognised attractions then anchored in good holding outside the tourist jetty with many other boats. From here we had easy dinghy access to pickup supplies in Kuah, Langkawi’s main town.
The Sail Malaysia Rally 2012 ended with a final dinner at the Burau Bay Beach Resort. It was a great night with plenty of food and entertainment. The rally organisers and the Langkawi Development Authority also offered a bus trip around the island. The day trip included a 20 minute trip up the Geopark Chair Lift to the apex of the imposing Gunung Machinchang with great views of the surrounding islands; onto the Seven Wells Waterfall, then Galeria Perdana to which displays interesting gifts and awards presented to former Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahatir and his wife, Dr. Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali.
Langkawi is a duty free island, so booze, chocolates and perfume are really cheap (eg: a one litre bottle of Jameson Irish Whisky for RM50 (a ridiculous A$15)). Rebak Island is one of the 104 islands in the Langkawi group, located on the western side of the big island. The resort marina has approximately 180 wet berths and a very clean and orderly hard stand with many boats hauled out for repairs and general maintenance before heading up to Thailand and beyond. As marina guests, we have access to the resort facilities (pool, gym, spa, restaurants, etc), but as yachties, we’re too stingy to pay full price at the three fancy restaurants. Fortunately the marina has the cheap’n’cheerful ‘Hard-dock Cafe’ where we can grab a reasonably priced feed of Char Kway Teow, Beef Rendang or a tasty beef burger and chips. The Hard-dock Cafe allows us to bring our own drinks so it makes for a cheap night out. The resort has a regular ferry service that tears over the water to drop us of at Langsakawa. From there we can hire a cheap car and go into Kuah. For those just wanting some groceries, the Veggie Man comes each Friday and has a great selection of veggies, meats, cheeses and fish. The local ‘Sailors Products’ business is run by a South African fellow and he and his wife sell scrumptious goodies such as salami, pies, sausage rolls, boerewors and the like. These products may be bought directly from him at the marina.
Speaking of food, I’m delighted to say that reports of ‘really cheap food’ in Malaysia is in fact correct. For example, while waiting for the Rebak Island ferry, Wayne and I each had a feed of Char Kway Teow plus two cans of beer for the measly sum of RM15 for the lot (that’s about A$5). Absolute bargain! But if you want to go to a fancy restaurant you may be hit for around RM30 for a main meal. I enjoy the food here. It’s fresh, tasty and cheap. A favourite snack of mine is dried and salted broad beans (I can hear my sister laughing: inside joke). They are actually very moorish.
But it’s hot. Not every day is a sweaty day, even though the heat in this part of the world is incessant. Today was fairly less humid and not too uncomfortable. Over 30 degrees most days, but high humidity; a welcoming heavy downpour in the afternoons or early morning. And maybe, just maybe, a nice blow of wind to cool things down. Most of the yachts have aircons installed, but we’ve not yielded to the temptation of installing one yet. The pool at Rebak is an obvious hit with the yachties – one afternoon a group of aged yachties went crazy throwing a ball around the pool alarming resort guests causing them to flee back to their air conditioned rooms. Reminded me of the pool scene from Caddyshack! Luckily we didn’t get kicked out!
Finishing off the year involves ticking off usual tasks on the never-ending list. There’s been a problem with our seawater pump over the past year. Wayne deduced a blockage in the exhaust system was causing back pressure blowing the seals on the pump, causing the bearings to corrode. He was spot on. A blockage in our exhaust elbow (apparently a common problem) meant a new one had to be couriered from the UK. Wayne has spent the past couple of weeks with his head either inside the locker fixing the watermaker pumps or the engine room repairing the engine. In between though, we’ve managed to have a few laughs around the pool and catch up with many of the rally participants we’d met along the way. While Wayne spends his days fixing engines and watermakers, I spend my time passing him tools, greasing things, polishing hull and stainless, cleaning, cooking or sewing things. I had to make new seat covers for the saloon seats and I’ve gone through my annual cleaning frenzy. Another problem always on the bloody list is computers. An external hard disk failed and after finding a suitable recovery program, managed to get the files back. But it’s a slow process with an ongoing chain of problems with our backups and disk drives. Nowadays everything is on disk which although handy when it works, is a real pain when it fails.
Nonetheless, 2012 was a great year to meet many people and launch friendships with sailors from a variety of countries. We also had the opportunity to catch up with our Swedish mates Bjorn and Annika who sold their previous boat ‘Lindisfarne’ and have spent the past year working very hard on a new boat they’ve named ‘Moon’. We originally met them in Tasmania, spending some time in Port Davey back in 2010. It was a real treat to catch up again now that we are full-time cruisers.
Looking ahead, our ideas for 2013 are in full bloom. Obviously the next country for us is Thailand and we’ll head up there just after New Year after we clear out from Malaysia in Kuah. Blue Heeler could use a little bit of TLC so one of our ideas is to replace the old, tired teak deck and tidy up the topsides. We may even get a new dodger and bimini and a few other things. Rumour has it that due to piracy in the Red Sea, there’s a bottle-neck of yachts in Thailand; which in turn causes a delay in getting work done, and also boosts the prices up. Some yachts will be having their yachts transported by ship to Turkey to avoid the area but this costs tens of thousands to do this, so not an option for us. I think also next year we’d like to do some overland travel while we’re in the region.
To help the cruising kitty I may in fact return to Oz for a few months to pick up some work while Wayne stays here to project manage any work we have done. I’m on the lookout for a house-sitting stint perhaps for a few months either in Melbourne or Perth between May and October. And after that? The conversation leans towards a trip across the Indian Ocean to South Africa in 2014 then the Atlantic in 2015. We’ll see about this too… we have a lot to think about and a lot of planning ahead.
While many yachties have returned to their families in different corners of the globe for Christmas, we’ll be joining friends Brian and Gail from Dol’Selene and many others for drinks and Christmas dinner.
To my readers, thank you for taking the time to read my blog; to our sailing friends, safe travels; we wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas and a safe, healthy and prosperous New Year.
– The crew of Blue Heeler.