25 February, 2009

The End ..

As promised, here is the final instalment of the adventures onboard Enzwell.

The last blog finished with us seeing in the New Year at Phuket. After a couple more days in the anchorage there – it is not the most pleasant one in the world, lots of swell – we headed off north up the Phuket/Thai coast.

After about four dayhops, we ended up at a lovely little island called Ko Phayam. It is just south of the Thai/Myanmar border. A yachtie friend describes Ko Phayam as how she remembers Thailand about 20 years ago. We had five days there but I could easily have stayed two weeks. A very laid-back place, no cars, just a couple of wide concrete tracks through the island for motorbikes.

Obviously quite a few people think they have found paradise, as there is a surprising number of expats living there; and due to that there are quite a few good cafes and little nick-nack shops, and a German bakery. The coffees and cinnamon wheels went down real well! Phayam also has two large sweeping bays, and the anchorages on the south coast were good. Not so on the north coast – where the main township is – as the wind was howling.

We arrived at Ko Phayam on Shane’s birthday, so had the obligatory dinner out with yachtie friends. We also had another great night at a bar/restaurant called the ‘Happy Hippy Bar’.

Quite a few bars in this neck of the woods seem to have a Reggae/Caribbean theme, and the HH Bar was no exception. We had a great meal there, and I particularly enjoyed Happy Hour, where the pina coladas were about $NZ4.80 each. Even at ‘full price’ they were only about $8, so I gave them a bit of a nudge…….. The bar staff didn’t skimp on the alcohol content either, as Shane found out when he got his Long Island Iced Tea – it was like rocket fuel!

We were at Phayam with four other yachts that we had been travelling up the coast with. One night we all went ashore and had a great beach barbecue, a few wines and beers, and a sing-a-long to Shane playing his guitar.

After Ko Phayam it was off to firstly the Surin Islands, and then the Similan Islands. Both lots of islands are world-renowned for their marine fish and diving sites. We obviously missed the best spots at the Surins, as we thought the snorkelling there was only average, but we really enjoyed the Similans.

The water clarity at the Similans was spectacular. Everything from the deep azure blues, right through to almost clear where the water hits the beach. We went for a dive one day; I was snorkelling on the top and could see virtually exactly the same as Shane was seeing diving 40 feet below me. Lots of beautifully coloured fish, and some good coral.

We went for a walk up to the top of this hill. This is known as ‘Sail Rock’ – this one big rock appears to be sitting precariously on top of the rest. The view from the top of the hill was great, overlooking the bay where we were anchored.

The area around the Similans is a Marine Park; not that you would ever know going by the frequent behaviour of the locals. We returned from a dive one day to anchor off one the islands in the Similans, right out the front of Park Headquarters. One of the Thai Navy ships was already anchored in the bay – about 100 metres offshore – and we are greeted by the sight of personnel onboard the navy ship with their fishing rods out. The park ranger arrived a couple of minutes later to collect our marine park fees. We paid him, and pointed out the navy guys fishing. He went and spoke to them, the rods were put away, but the guys were back fishing 15 minutes later……… Aside from that, we saw many many fishing boats in the distance that appeared to be within the five-mile no-fishing zone. And they will wonder in a few years why there are no fish left…….

Lots of day trippers come over to the Similans each day, either by longtail or speed boat, but once they are gone at the end of the day, we pretty well had the place to ourselves.

After two weeks travelling north, it was time to head back to Phuket, and in to Boat Lagoon Marina to get a couple of things looked at on the boat. We made our marina stay as short as possible, partly because due to the marina’s shallow basin. The bottom of the boat was sitting in about six inches of mud at every low tide!

Our next stop was Panwa Bali, a calm anchorage not too far from Phuket Town. We were there for Chinese New Year, so went and saw the festivities with Roger and Julie from the yacht Tradition. They are both working in Phuket, so know where to go and what is on.

We didn’t think much would be able to match the great CNY we had in Penang last year, so we got a real surprise.

After having a good wander around Soi Rommanie – the Chinese part of the Old Town – we went back to the main park area where the stage was, to watch the show.

It was fantastic – a troupe had come over from China specifically for the Chinese New Year celebrations in Phuket.. There was a young Chinese gymnast (she was so flexible she could just about turn herself inside out); a fantastic Mongolian opera singer; and girls who were spinning plates on the ends of sticks – by themselves and while standing on other performer’s shoulders. All very spectacular, and we managed to score seats up quite close to see all the action.

Our two-month visas were up so we checked out of Thailand on 12 February. We first headed east and went to Krabi. We hadn’t been to Krabi before so wanted to check it out.

Krabi is a bit of a mecca for rock-climbers. High limestone walls border the southern part of the coastline. No cars in this part of Thailand. Everything has to come in on longtails – tourists, all food/drink for the many resorts, and staff for the resorts (who came in every morning by longtail at 0600 hrs, and went straight past our boat……… their very loud engine roaring by).

And did I mention that all the plastic drink bottles have to come in by longtail too??!! We went for a walk one of the days we were there, and the locals were collecting up the plastic water bottles and cans – as you can see, they had a few!

After Krabi we stopped at Ko Rok Nok, another beautiful spot with lots of fish and great swimming and snorkelling. We left early to head down to Ko Lipe, just after the sun had got up!

Our last stop heading south was at Ko Lipe, yet another lovely island. Ko Lipe is not too far from Malaysia. Again, lots of great little bars and cafes; somewhere that would be neat to go for a couple of weeks in the middle of a cold NZ winter just to chill out, relax and read books!

We are about an hour away from Langkawi, where I will have my last week on the boat. I am busy packing boxes, to send everything home. I head back to NZ this Thursday and Shane will follow in about two months. He is going to stay in Langkawi and look after the boat. Hopefully it won’t be too long on the market before it is a great new home for its next owners.

The last three years have been a great adventure. We have made many new friends amongst the yachting community – too many to mention individually, but as a body, they would give you the shirt off their sunbaked backs if you needed it, and always with a cold one ready. The highlights of the three years would have to be: cruising the Australian east coast; the World Rainforest Music Festival in Borneo; seeing the orangutans in Indonesia; and spending time in some very beautiful bays and anchorages that are well-off the usual tourist path. Doing what we have done has given us a new perspective on life, and how people in other countries live. By seeing them in their everyday life it has certainly made us realise that one does not need money to be happy. Most of the time on the yacht has been wonderful, but as with anything, things go wrong; there have been equipment and instrument failures, and we haven’t always had perfect weather……..

We hope that you have enjoyed reading our travels. We must make special mention and thank Doug ‘”the Piano Man’ – it is good to know that someone has been reading these blogs. We appreciated your comments Doug!

We look forward to seeing you back on “the land” soon, when we become landlubbers……

Heather and Shane

PS. For those of you interested in checking out the listing for the boat, go to www.leemarine.com 1996 Roberts 434 Pilothouse ketch (44 foot)

02 January, 2009

New Year in Phuket

Firstly, a Happy New Year to everyone. We hope that you all had a great festive season.

It has been an appallingly long time since we have updated the blog, so here we go…..

The last blog finished with us on our way to Penang. We both really like Penang, so we had another week there, doing a bit of sightseeing and shopping. Unfortunately the marina hasn’t got any better; there was still lots of rocking and rolling with all the ‘wash’ coming through from the ferry terminal right next door. Everyone sort of puts up with it though, as the marina is in a fantastic location, right on the doorstep of the centre of town.

After Penang we did a straight run through to Langkawi. As you can see, it was a hard trip for Shane!

Four days there were spent doing a bit of sightseeing, saying goodbye to friends we won’t see again as they are heading west, and also stopping up on duty-free refreshments!

We stopped at a couple of islands on our way north to Phuket – Ko Muk and Phi Phi Don. The islands were as beautiful as ever.

Then it was straight up to Phuket, and a booking we had at Ratanachai shipyard. Enzwell badly needed a paint, and we could no longer delay the inevitable…….

Ratanachai is a shipyard near Phuket town (the commercial part of Phuket, not where the tourists really hang out). The yard used to be solely for fishing boats, but has become popular for yachties over the last few years, as they were very reasonably priced. That was until this year, when they bumped their prices up 50 percent L . Unlike most modern shipyards – which lift boats out of the water using a travel-lift or sling – Ratanachai uses a frame on railway tracks. The railway track goes down in to the water, and the platform is put in to the water, under the boat, and then a strong steel pulley drags the platform out of the water, with Enzwell safely mounted in to place on the top.

As you can tell, the water near the entrance to the shipyard wasn’t overly clean (to put it mildly!). We watched from the boat, as yard employees jumped in the water to ensure that the frames on the side of the platform were correctly in place. They were just in their ordinary work clothes, and had basic breathing apparatus.

We don’t think this guy is long for this life……. He continued his nicotine fix right up until the eleventh hour, sucking away on his cigarette until the last available minute. The cigarette then got thrown in the water, he put on his mask, and was under ‘Enzwell’ diving in the swampy filthy water. Shane and I both decided – rather him than us!

And then the hard work began. We had five weeks until we were flying home to NZ for a visit, to get the boat painted and get it back in the water. We knew we should comfortably get the job done, but you never know in Thailand. Things happen – like the first day we were in the yard, another yachtie was complaining that workers hadn’t turned up for work. To which the reply from the yard supervisor was they were only doing half a day as it was ‘temple day’. Things like that just have to be factored in to the job….

The yard was like a trip back in time in some respects. All the workers clocked in. The ‘nearly start time’ siren went at 7.55 a.m., the ‘start’ siren went at 8 o’clock, and then again two hours later for smoko. The end of the day was at 5 pm, and when the siren went to signal that, there was a steady stream of workers heading out the yard gate. No overtime or extra work done here……

We had a few neighbours while we were in the yard. Roger Rat and his family were living in a nearby drain. We hadn’t even got the boat finally settled to it’s final place in our little part of the yard, when Roger stuck his head up from the drain to see what was going on…… Fortunately they decided their home in the drain was OK, and didn’t try to move on to Enzwell! There were quite a few rats in the yard, and also a few BIG cockroaches, so I always had my wits about me!

There was a lot of preparation work to be done before we could do the painting. Getting the old paint off, sanding, fairing, it all took time…. Just before we were about to start the painting, we had to get a big ten put up right around the boat, so that no over spray went on to nearby yachts.

This is what Enzwell looked like one she was ‘tented’. It was hot enough working on the boat before the tent went up, it was like a sauna with it! The temperature on the deck was over 45 degrees Celsius. The sweat was just dripping off us! The conditions were a bit trying, but as they say, we could see the light at the end of the tunnel as the job was not far off being done.

I had to leave Shane and the boat in the yard, and head home two weeks earlier than planned, as Mum passed away. In my absence, Shane got the work on the boat finished, and the boat was back in the water a week before he flew home.

Although the first part of my trip home was somewhat sad, we both had a good time in Wellington, catching up with friends. Shane was rapt to be in Wellington for the birth of his first grandchild Ethan.

On December 16th we were on the plane and heading back to Phuket, bringing a few goodies from NZ to enjoy back on the boat. We stayed in the marina for a couple of days to finish painting the deck, and then it was down to Panwa Bali at the south end of the island to celebrate my birthday.

Our Christmas Eve dinner was in a nearby bay – Nai Harn - with fellow Wellington Roger and Julie from the yacht ‘Tradition’.

The bay has a lovely big calm anchorage, and is a popular Christmas stopover for yachties.

Two nights later we went over to Tradition for dinner, and took over some of our ‘goodies’ – a pavlova all the way from NZ, topped with strawberries and whipped cream.

Every mouthful was savoured! All the sugar was a bit too much for Shane, who spent most of the next day in bed with a crook tummy…!

We headed around to Patong Beach for New Year. Patong is the tourist hub of Phuket, and is where all the bars and nightlife is. We had also heard that there was a great fireworks display at midnight.

We went ashore and had dinner, and then wandered down Bangla Road, the main area for nightlife. Past throbbing masses of tourists, jammed-packed bars, and lots of good-looking Thai ladies, who used to be men…….! A lot of the hotels put on beautiful dinners, and quite a few had beautiful ice carvings on display.

Later on in the evening, we headed down to Patong beach. The Thais have a tradition with lanterns, where you put all your worries and stresses in to the lantern, and float then float the lantern away, sending all your worries and stresses with it. It can be done either by sending your lantern in to the air, or floating it away on the sea.

These two lanterns are just about to be sent on their way. Hundreds and hundreds of these lanterns filled the sky on New Years Eve. It was quite a sight. We came back to Enzwell, and sat on the boat and watched the fireworks. There were fireworks going all night long, but the display at midnight was spectacular. Fireworks were going off not just in one place, but the whole length of the 2.5 kilometre beach!

And so to 2009. We are, as they say, “swallowing the anchor”, and the boat is on the market. We have enjoyed our travels around Australia and Asia, but late March will see us return to Wellington and head back to work. Hopefully we’ll get at least one more blog done, updating on our travels around Thai waters before we head home!

Heather and Shane

30 September, 2008

So Long Borneo

And so to racing. A new experience for us as the results would testify but we improved a great deal with each race. Starting in Labuan, an island just off Brunei, we had the first day of racing round the cones. This was a nightmare. Didn’t leave the dock till late and ended up being about a mile from the start line when the whistle blew, and the wind died, and the current was against us !!!! One hour later we limped across the start line. The wind slowly picked up and so did our speed, alas too late. Never mind we learnt about starting. The next race was the 100 miler to Miri. As there is often very little to no wind you can motor in this race and they have a system of multiplying this time so it’s all pretty fair in the cruising class. Great start on the line and we kept a pretty fair wind till night time. Anyway one way or another we managed to come in second on adjusted time and were pretty thrilled with this. Now we have mentioned the oil wells before but here is another example of them.

About midnight, no moon and raining we are sailing through this huge oil field with good wind doing about 7 knots, oil wells everywhere with gas flares and lights, next thing this huge black shadow passes between us and a rig. “What was that” ? It turns out there are multiple capped well heads with no lights all through this area. It was a tad scary to say the least, hitting one of those with about 18 tons at 7 knots would not be a pretty sight. The heavy rain blocks out the radar so it was squinting through the rain and mist for a while. Still could have been worse, another yacht had his son on board as crew. Woke up hearing banging on the side of the boat. Found the son sound asleep on watch, with the boat banging down the side of a huge anchored ship!

All in all we had a great time and old “enzwell” didn’t do too bad. Giving us four nights in hotels, free marina, free meals and US$400 was very nice of them we thought.

After a few days in Miri it was off with LaBarque up the Rajang River to visit a long house that a few yachties have kind of adopted. Now a long house sounds rather exotic and the older traditional ones were, yes with skulls hanging from the ceilings, these were head hunters not so long ago. In the cultural village in Santubong where the music festival was held, were a couple of very traditional longhouses, really nice, and in Kuching was a replica of part of a long house, and I swear to you they were real skulls in the ceiling.

The present day long houses are not such a grand affair. Basically you put 20,30,40 or so houses beside each other, sharing dividing walls and roofline, and they all share a communal area in the front, like a long giant hall, with the front doors leading off this space. Kind of a marae environment. Not too grand as we said but real life and a great welcoming people.

We anchored right out front about 40 miles up a river and awaited our invite. Late afternoon we had visitors; most of the village came out and we showed them through our home – enzwell – and they also went and looked at LaBarque.

Give them a can of beer, any other gifts you may have, tee shirts, caps etc, and then they ask you to their home that night. Taking the Vat 69 donation, in you trot and you all gather in the front hall. Out comes their gongs and things plus the local brew, Tuak rice wine and you all get p*ssed, and bang gongs and things. Well since we took two bottles of whiskey and some beers, some of them got quite nicely thank you. We quietly supped the rice wine when offered and since we drink from shot glasses and it’s only about wine strength, we stayed pretty sober. All in all a great experience and meeting of cultures. I think Heath found a hidden talent on the gong.

Staying in the river was beautiful. Very peaceful and calm and at night right beside us was a tree full of fireflies twinkling away like christmas lights. Can’t be quite as rapturous about the mossies though!

The Rajang river, where the long house is, is huge, fed by various smaller rivers and it is the main logging area with logs piled up all along its banks. So if you want to know were the rainforest is going/going/gone, here it is, mostly into plywood.

Unfortunately with this many logs sitting on the edge when a big rain comes, logs just float away and you get to find them in the sea around this area, a real hazard to cruising yachties. Not so bad in daytime but at night you can’t see them. Then BANG, bang, bang down the side of the boat. Being steel we are not so bad; it is rather unnerving though.

Next stop was back to the Santubong river and Kuching. Picked up a few mementos and saw the Orangutans again. Not nearly as natural or interesting as the orangutans we saw up the Kumai river, but still worth while.

And so farewell to Borneo. Definitely the best and most interesting part of Malaysia. Next stop – over to Singapore. Now I forgot to mention that the auto helm gave up around Miri so we have been hand steering all the way and three days and two nights across the South China Sea is no fun. Fortunately we had a good run with light seas and moderate wind. We got a new part in Singapore, still thousands of huge ships in harbour,

and now it’s back in action steering us to Penang.

12 August, 2008


One thing that needed to be dealt with before the rally finally split up was the petanque contest. Now you see some time ago off Tioman Island an international was held and the kiwis, us that is, Tom and I off Matariki, kicked butt. The aussie contingent found some lame excuse to call that null and void and decided a rematch was to be held, while Tom is away. Now I won’t bring up underarm, but what can you say. The Aussie official, self-appointed seemed a little biased perhaps. Still holding all titles what can one do. Well done Sal. With new team member Marlene, we still came a credible second though.

Left Miri, with the seahorse guarding the way, and had a great sail up the coast to Kaula Lait, (I think) Brunei.

Brunei is a small independent state like Singapore. Very like singers actually with their currency interchangeable, and very wealthy thanks to oil in Brunei’s case. Still sinking wells up the coast. Amazing operation. They take this barge/ship thing out and then jack it up on stilts and away they go. Some time later the cash register is ringing again.

Now I haven’t taken you through the process of checking in and Brunei was a good example. First, find were to go. Fortunately others have been before and you usually have some idea of the location of the various offices. Here, like singers, they have set up a one stop shop which is great. Then any one of many options may be run into. Here, first people in uniform we met said “Go to customs first.” Gave them the clearance from the last country, OK that was easy. Next immigration. No sir, go to port authority first. OK, up the stairs. No they say go to immigration first. Down the stairs to immigration. Now this office has about six people all sitting around doing not much. “Oh, they said that ? OK, fill out this form, plus crew list, plus cargo manifest”. But we don’t have cargo, Oh,ummmm. Fill out this form then. Now go to port authority and get them to sign this then come back. OK up the stairs, can you sign this please. Sorry that man is out at the moment, tell immigration we will sign it later. Back down the stairs. Oh, OK, umm……..OK they fill out the rest of their bits, in triplicate of course, then, back up stairs. Man is back, signs, back to immigration, yep they’re happy. Now take all this back to port authority. OK. Sorry the man is not here and I can’t find him ?? Waiting, waiting…… he comes back takes his copy of the paperwork and just two short hours from walking in we walk out (Backchat and I) and find a well-deserved coffee. Now they aren’t all this bad, but pretty similar. Paper shufflers rule and all consider their bit vital. God save us from bureaucrats !!

So here I am in Brunei for a couple of days so I can get another three months on the passport when I go back to Malaysia, just a short boat trip to Labuan Island about 10 miles away. Heath is back home visiting her sick mum. Anchored off the yacht club, which is very welcoming with showers, washing machine and a good restaurant. They had a club picnic on Saturday which we got invited to.

Mostly ex-pats working here and it is like their social club. Happened to arrive when Brunei was having their big dragon boat festival, right beside us so we have had a great vantage point.

Serious stuff here with about 15 boats in each race and at the end, they have an all in covering about a mile. Hard work. They also had small speed boat contests and water taxi races etc etc. Big party on the beach, loads of food stalls and fireworks on the Saturday night. As I said, got my passport stamped and off to Labuan today, another duty free port so time to stock up the booze cabinet again. Can’t work out why, but Malaysia has three duty free islands, Langkawi, Tioman and Labuan. Maybe they had a raffle and these islands won?? It sure is a big money spinner for them. Till next time

04 August, 2008

Borneo rocks

Very odd things happening with the font ?????

So the rally is now over and we have to make our own plans. Since the last blog we have probably had the highlights of the entire trip through asia, with the odd low point, like crossing the south china sea for four days and nights. Parts where OK, when we had no wind and were motoring in smooth seas, then the wind kept getting up with 40 knots, rain, biggish sloopy seas, yuk. It really is total crap. At least we weren't alone in our turmoil with two others crossing about the same time breaking gear on the way. At least all we had was our headsail weather strip ripping apart which is now fixed.

We stopped at two islands on the west side before crossing over. Redang and Perhentian. Both really great. Beautiful Islands with clear water, diving, snorkeling, sand like talc and really friendly people. Managed to dive and swim with a turtle at Perhentian Island with my hand on his back for about 50m. It is starting to get developed big time at places like Redang with big resorts etc but is still a nice mix of old and new.

So after the crap crossing we arrived in the Santubong river near the city of Kuching. First walk in the Kampong, or village, was greeted with cleared roadsides and believe it or not…..rubbish bins at every house. Now this is a first for Malaysia. It's a real mix of west and east values, the best from both we think. Kuching is a lovely city, maybe the size of Hamilton, with a river running through it. Like all Malaysian cities the commercial area is mostly a china town or little India with two storey shop houses being the mainstay of trade. It also had the best and cheapest carvings, masks, drums etc we have seen so far, not to mention antiques. Like to buy an old Portuguese cannon ?

But, the main event and one of the main reasons to be here was the Rainforest World Music Festival. It was just awesome. Max of about 9000 per day for three days. During the day they had "workshops", which meant getting people of similar instruments from different parts of the world, from different groups together, talking and showing off their own stuff then jamming. What a treat. Drums where needless to say very popular, then violins playing with Greek and Japanese strings, guitars with lutes and other ethnic strings, and on and on. Then at night the groups from different parts of the world played. The hits where probably a group just formed, Akasa, with a guitar maestro from KL ex Aus, a sitar player and two tabla players, playing a fusion of blues, western and eastern traditional. Sounds weird but what a fantastic result.

Then a group from Poland plying Celtic with such passion and flare they probably stole the show. Indian group playing bollywood, Portuguese group playing like madmen. Ah so much. Great setting at the rainforest park around a big lake and with cheap, great food and beers for about NZ$3.20. Just to add to the occasion it was run with a craft show with great local art and craft. The weaving was far more delicate and fine than anything I've seen. Then of course being in the rainforest, it rained. Each night for about an hour, turning the mosh pit to a mud pit.

No one seemed to mind though as it is about 30 degrees and some great mud fights where had. It's also a bit of a rendezvous for any yachties within a couple hundred miles so we knew lots of people there and spent most of our time with a couple from Aussy, Ian and Christine, ex Rhodesia that we meet in Penang a while ago.

If you want a holiday with a difference, this would be it. But book early, all accom is booked out by about March and it gets more well known every year.

After that we spent another week in Kuching on a hired motor bike so had a real good look around then headed off. First stop was an island just out of the Santubong river where we were. Forgot the name but this is where the turtles come and do that egg laying thing. Crawl up the beach, at night, dig a big pit, drop in about 70-100 eggs and the cover it all up again. And it was turtle laying season. It's all national park so you aren't allowed out when they come up the beach and dig the hole 'cause they would bugger off, but after that you go out with your torch and have a nosey round. We saw a big green turtle, about 2.5 m burying it stash. Poor bugger, takes over an hour of very hard work to cover the eggs, what a great thing to see.

Time to move along though as the next and last rally stop was at Miri.

The trip up was a bit harrowing. We stopped in a river fro one night and it was a continuous flow of bits of old trees and logs coming down. The river bank was completely covered in old logs, teak, just rotting. Out at sea at night sailing up we heard a couple of huge bangs as we would run into logs floating at sea. Either washed down rivers or fallen off barges which are continuously taking logs to the mills, acres of them. The rainforest disappears as we speak to be replaced by palm oil trees. Billions of them.

Anyway, now in Miri and while here a few of us managed to get an invite to the local hash house harriers and as they said they had a walking group, I was in. Well, I don’t know about NZ harriers but this was no walk like I had been on. We are talking fairly serious Borneo jungle, wading through creeks and swamp, up and down steep muddy banks, through the vines and teak forest. Didn’t pay to think about the leech's and snakes they have here. Still about 120 people where on the “run” so it couldn't’t be too bad. Bit of advice though, when you are next asked to go into the jungle, don’t were your old crocs, those plastic shoes all yachties live in. A really memorable experience though. And, they are not called the drinking club with a running problem for nothing. Massive meal and free beer all night for NZ$14. Great club, great people,e great hangover !!

At each of the rally stops we do a local tour. Here we drove pout to the Niah Caves. Took the coast road out past HUGE mansions along the way. There is a lot of very serious money in the country. Anyway the caves where awesome. About 2 kms worth in the hill with heights from about 2m to 80m. They harvest guano from the floor, bird shit to you and me, and birds nests from the roofs for birds nest soup. They have poles coming straight down from the roof of the caves, only in the really high bits, and these they climb up. No safety ropes nothing, straight up and yes they lose people now and then. What we couldn't work out was how they got the poles hanging from the top in the first place? Also in the caves is an excavation from the 70’s were they found a n old skull, as in 38 000 years old. This was twice as old as homo sapien was supposed to be there so they got very excited. Just above the town here is the first well put down by some upstart company in the early 20’s which continued producing for Shell right up till 72. There are now hundreds of wells in the South China Sea and as you sail at night you can almost always see at least one flare burning in the distance.

Now if you want any expensive medical work done. Think of coming here. While at Kuching I decided to get an MRI on my back. Yes sir, how about at 4 today. No OK, Monday lunch suit. So in I go get the MRI, see the doc again. She says I should see the ortho doc and you can see him now, I’ll take you up. So, two visits to doc, one MRI, one specialist, Scottish trained, all in one day off the street NZ$360. Unreal.

25 June, 2008

The Rally continues......

21 June 2008

We are four weeks in to the Passage to the East rally, and things are going well! Ten boats eventually started in the rally. Although there were early stops at Penang and Port Dickson, the rally ‘proper’ started in Sebana Cove.

Our day trip in to Kuala Lumpur (with Sazli, our rally host) was interesting. We went to the Batu Caves, a special area to followers of the Hindu faith. A flight of 272 steps leads up to Temple Cave, which has Hindu shrines in it. Each year during the Thaipusan festival in January or February, up to a million Hindus come to the area near the caves. Some of the truly faithful devotees subject themselves to body piercings; they have spikes, skewers and other piercings through their skin, attached to which are offerings such as milk pots, feathers and flowers. Although it looks very painful, a trance-like state aapparently stops the followers from feeling pain. We were actually in KL during Thaipusan, but didn’t really fancy either the crowds, or seeing people with numerous body piercings with hooks from them, dragging things along the road!

We arrived at Sebana Cove early, and got the ferry over to Singapore for three days. We had to buy a few boat spares, and it meant we could also spend some time with my cousin Jo-Ann and her husband Terry again. Each Thursday evening they go to Scottish dancing, so off we went too! Shane’s and my ceroc and salsa dancing in Wellington must have stood us in good stead, as for rank amateurs on the Scottish dancing front, we didn’t do too bad!

While we were in Singapore, the Great Singapore Sale was on. I was very well restrained though, and didn’t buy anything! We also went to the movies and saw “Sex and the City” which we really enjoyed.
For our rally gala dinner at Sebana Cove, we were all presented with the traditional Malay dress to wear for the evening. It was lovely woven cotton, and very cool to wear. In the heat here, it makes a lot more sense than the tight-fitting clothing we are used to wearing.

Our day trip the following day took us to the Desaru fruit farm. We had a tour around the orchard, and then got to sample lots of the different fruits, some of which we had never had before. We had the chance to sample all the different fruit; we took it easy as we still had to visit the homestay village where we were having lunch! And that proved to be another feast…….

A friend has commented to me that these rallies seem to involve a lot of gala dinners and eating – she would be right! Fortunately I am keeping up with my running, otherwise I’m sure I would be not far off signing up for Jenny Craig!

Our next rally stop was Tioman Island. A lovely little island, with white sandy beaches and clear blue water. Let’s hope commercialism doesn’t move in and spoil the great atmosphere the island has……… While we were there, we went to the local school’s karnival, a bit like the school sports day we all participated in when we were at school years ago. Just before prizegiving they marched around the field in their house colours.

Another rally stopover, another gala dinner……. At least we did have a bit of a walk before dinner this time. A big squall blew through a couple of hours before we were due to be picked up, and a tree was blown over, blocking the main road on the island. Tioman only has a relatively short stretch of road; transport to most of the bays and villages is by water taxi. Tioman has become very popular because of its lovely clear water (great for diving and snorkelling). It’s duty free status hasn’t harmed it either – all the yachties stocked up on liquid refreshments.

After Tioman we went to Kuantan, the capital of Pahang state. Our anchorage there was in front of the very flash Hyatt Hotel. It was just a pity that it was quite a rolly anchorage, as most of us only stayed two nights. The Hyatt put on a wonderful night for our gala dinner – a great meal and some wonderful traditional dancing. Plus we all got a lovely woven carry bag each.

Our day tour took us to a batik factory, where we saw the intricate work being done. It is very labour intensive. The wax is put on by hand; after that most of the painting is hand-done by small paintbrush, rather than the whole piece of cloth being dyed. We also visited a traditional village where fish are dried, and rubber and palm oil tree plantations.

After Kuantan we stopped at two islands on our way north. The islands on the way north had lovely clear blue water, great for swimming and snorkelling. Not so great was the view that greeted us this morning – off Pulau Kapas the water is thick with jellyfish. Some of them have long tentacles at least 2-3 metres long. Shane is not looking forward to what is hanging off the anchor chain when we pull it up……

Later on this morning, we will head in to Terengganu marina. Our first mission is to find somewhere to watch the second All Blacks vs England rugby game. We missed watching the game last week, but the marina manager (an Aussie) assures us the game is on. We should be kept busy for the week we are going to be in the marina, as Shane has a few things to do on the boat, and there is a bit of work to be done by both of us before we do our five day passage over to Kuching, where we will spend 2-3 months over in Borneo Malaysia.

We both agree that the east coast of Malaysia leaves the west coast for dead – we can swim over here, and the water is lovely and clear. There is far less rubbish in the water, and way less fishing boats. The Passage to the East rally will certainly become more popular in years to come.

Heather and Shane

28 May, 2008

East Coast Rally

Prior to leaving Thailand, we got one last bit of work done on the boat. We came to the conclusion that our fridge was on it’s last legs. At anchor, we needed to have the engine on for about three hours each day, just so there was enough juice in the batteries to keep the fridge running. Of course, that was starting to wear the batteries out…….. So we bit the bullet, and got Siam Cooling on the job, and we now have a wonderful new fridge!

On our last night in Phuket, we went to Nai Yang beach, on the west coast near the airport. Only a few tourists go there, it is nothing like Patong. We found this great little restaurant called Mamma Mias, and sat and had our meal at the bar. There was a poster for the movie Bridget Jones’ Diary on the wall, with a couple of scrawled signatures on it. Yes, Renee Zellweger and Hugh Grant had dined there! The second Bridget Jones movie was partly filmed in Thailand, near where we ate at Nai Yang. They stayed there while filming the movie. We just had to watch the movie, and also noticed that Ko Panyi, the Muslim village on stilts that we wrote about in our last blog, also featured in the film.

We stopped at Phi Phi Don on the way south. They got hit hard there by the tsunami, but tourism is totally up and running again. This is what the beachfront looks like during the day – longtails from one end to the other.

Just as we got to our next stop – Ko Lanta - our camera decided it didn’t want to play anymore, so that was the end of photos for a while.

We left Thailand, and arrived in Malaysia six days after having left Phuket. Our port of arrival was Langkawi - a duty free island – so we just had to stock up on beer and wine! There is a large expat community there, and because of this, quite a bit of western food. One of the big local supermarkets sells 2 kg blocks of NZ cheese. It’s amazing what you miss when you can’t buy it for a while! Suffice to say, I stocked up….

While at Langkawi, we stayed at Rebak Marina for a week. It really is a resort, with a marina attached. Yachties are treated just like hotel guests. There is a great pool and other creature comforts; no wonder some yachties stay there for months! We nicknamed it ‘Fantasy Island’, as although it is a great place, it is a little removed from the reality that is Malaysia.

And then it was south to Penang, and the ‘East Coast Passage’ – a rally starting in Penang, down to Singapore, then up the east coast of Malaysia and over to Borneo by early August. This is the first year the East Coast Passage has been run, and there are 14 boats doing it. Most are starting from Sebana Cove near Singapore; only three of us started in Penang. The rally can only get more popular in years to come, as the east coast is where all the great beaches and dive spots are, and the area is largely untapped as far as a yacht cruising destination goes.

The night before the rally started, we enjoyed the customary ‘gala dinner’. Quite a small event this time, given the small number of yachts starting in Penang.

On Monday morning 25 May we were off. We were the first yacht to leave, and managed to get under the Penang bridge without any problems. Although you know that the boat will go under the bridge, without the mast getting knocked off, it is still a little nerve-wracking until you have actually passed underneath! Shane wasn’t obviously too stressed, as he enjoyed his early morning cuppa…..

We arrived at Port Dickson yesterday afternoon, and head off on a day tour in to Kuala Lumpur this morning. We have been there before, but it should be good fun, as the host of the rally, Sazli, is taking us there.

I’ve just checked the date, and realised it is two years ago today that we moved on to Enzwell in Brisbane. Where has that two years gone??!!

For anyone that wants to check where the rally is taking us, go to
http://sailmalaysia.net/rally-info-east.html and if anyone wants to email us, the address is crew.enzwell@gmail.com

Heather and Shane

26 April, 2008


After a great holiday in NZ, it was back to the boat in Phuket. We enjoyed getting back to the warm weather again, as the weather had packed up for our last two days in Wellington. However, I don’t suppose we can complain too much, as Wellington had by all accounts had it’s best summer for years!

We decided to get a couple of things done on the boat when we got back. A new mainsail cover (the old one was falling to bits), and some davits on the back (so that we can lift the tender/dinghy out of the water when we are motoring or sailing). We have always had to drag the tender along behind us, which isn’t that good for it.

The guys came to do the davits, and put bamboo poles across the back of the back of the boat. For a while we weren’t sure whether we were getting bamboo davits, rather than the stainless steel ones we had asked for! All was soon revealed; the bamboo poles were simple ‘scaffolding’, to enable the guys to weld the davits on. Poor old Enzwell did get a few funny looks from other yachties though, wondering what the heck was being built on the back of our boat!

We hired a car one day, and did a bit of shopping and had a look around the island of Phuket. We went out in Patong at night, and after dinner went to a bar for a couple of drinks. I had a pina colada, and being in Patong and near all the ‘girlie’ bars, this is the glass it came in!

We were in the marina for two weeks, and then it was off to explore Phang Nga Bay. The bay is lovely and sheltered, so we didn’t get to sail at all, but the water was lovely and warm, so swimming was on the agenda each day. There are also a long of islands with hongs “rooms”, that are great for exploring. Teems of tourists come in each day, so we tried to do our exploring either first thing in the morning, or late in the afternoon after they had all gone.

We went to the first hong at Ko Phanak during the day. We followed in a bunch of tourists who had come on one of the tour boats. You can see them kayaking towards the hole in the cliff. It is totally dark inside, so we needed to wear a headlamp. We paddled in on the tender. There are bats in the cave, hanging from the roof, and the cave itself smells a bit. But once we paddled to the other end, it was worth it, as we came out into a huge big lagoon.

We also visited a Muslim village, which is built on stilts next to an island. Heaps of tourists visited during the day (you can see all the longtails – boats – in the photo) but we waited until the end of the day before we went ashore. We hired one of the locals to take us for a bit of a tour in his longtail.

We went through this cave, with huge limestone formations hanging from it. The scenery in Thailand is certainly quite spectacular, huge limestone cliffs and rocks everywhere.

Our Thai visa runs out this coming Wednesday, so we will be checking out and heading back down to Langkawi, primarily for a bit of R and R at one of the resort marinas there, but also to stock up on duty free wine! Our plans are to hang around Langkawi for a bit, and then to get down to Penang by the end of May, to start in a rally that goes down the west coast of Malaysia and then up the east coast, where all the great beaches are. Some of the yachties that we met in last year’s rally are doing the Malaysia too, so it will be good to catch up with people we haven’t seen for a while.

Till next time.
Heather and Shane