Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Cameron Highlands

This is a late blog post and we'll have a few more to catch up on before we return to Malaysia in September.

When we returned to Tortuguita in January, we planned to take some time to do some inland touring.  As usual, it looked like there wouldn't be enough time for our grand plan.  Since we now have a car, we decided to visit the Cameron Highlands.   The Cameron Highlands are a nice 4 hour drive from Pangkor.  

The winding roads were in good condition and it's almost mile high elevation is the highest place in Malaysia accessible by car.  Due to the elevation and being located essentially at the equator, the daytime temperature is always in the low 70's.  The mountains are shrouded in clouds with rain, even in the dry season.
View of Tanah Rata in light mist from our hotel
Coastal Malaysia is not a very good for agriculture.  It is hot and has months long dry seasons.  The British originally developed the Cameron Highlands for agriculture 100 years ago due to it's moderate climate.  Most of the vegetables for the entire country are grown in the Highlands.  After the Japanese Occupation during World War II ended, the area saw growth in the residential and tourist sectors.  We timed our visit the week following the very busy Term Break school vacation.  We stayed at the Heritage Hotel in Tanah Rata and had the place almost all to ourselves.

Snake Necklace

Bookers New Friend

Leaf Insect, Great Disguise
I can't believe Booker is actually touching a bug
Stick Bug
We took a day tour to a butterfly farm, strawberry plantation, tea plantation, flower farm, outdoor market, and a Buddhist temple.  We were the only people on the tour.  Timing is everything.

Melons grow and hang 365 days a year from trellises.
We had great Thai food at a few different restaurants.  We did quite a bit of walking and had a Thai massage with foot reflexology.  It was a great break from the coastal heat and boatyard work.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Life on the Hard, Malaysia Style

Our cruising itinerary is mostly determined by where we can have Tortuguita hauled out of the water and put on land for maintenance and storage.  In the past 10 years, we have hauled in the Chesapeake, Grenada, Bahamas, Honduras, Mexico, Australia twice, and now Malaysia.  Prior to Australia, we always lived aboard 'on the hard', even though many of the boatyards were hot, buggy, dusty, dirty, and remote.  We just bit the bullet due to the economics.  In Australia, the boatyard did not allow liveaboards on the 'hardstand' due to it's commercial zoning status.  However, it did allow marina liveaboards.  This forced us to do something most cruisers don't like to do, spend money unnecessarily.  It was expensive for an apartment in Oz but we really did enjoy getting 'away from it all' at the end of the day.  We really got to experience and learn the area much more that way too.  We also had to rent a car, another expense, which did give us more freedom to explore.

The House
So here we are, in Malaysia, one of the best cost of living countries in the world.  If we could afford Australia, then Malaysia should be a dream.  Owing to the 100+ degree daytime temperatures and the need for a big floor space to set up the sewing machine, we decided to share a house with Kiwi Mike from FINE SPIRIT.   The house belongs to the marina owner's mother and is about 15 minutes away.  The rent is $450 US per month for this 5 bedroom furnished house.  So our share, $225/month, is less than what 1 week cost us in Australia.

Our daily commute

A small car can be rented from Hertz in the marina for $350/week. Since this is so outrageously expensive, there is a cottage industry of Malaysians renting private vehicles.  They can usually be rented for around $350/month.  Mike bought a beater car for $1500.  He plans to stay around for a few years so buying a car to him was a no-brainer.  We are not sure how long we'll be sticking around so it is difficult to make the cost analysis but in the end we figured buying is better than renting. 

The car parked in the 'driveway' of our house
The hunt for a car began.  I had the best luck on the website which is similar to craigslist, or it's Australia cousin gumtree.  After trying to contact about 10 sellers with no luck, I got a response from guy selling a Volvo S40 in the town of Taiping, about 2 hours away.  Mike took us up there.  We met at the DMV, which they call JPJ.  The price was good, $2500, the miles were low, 150K km, and it was in great shape.  I never owned a Volvo but am quite impressed with the engineering detail in this vehicle.  It is right hand drive, of course, but we had plenty of right hand driving experience in Australia.  Unlike the United States, there is no sales tax on second hand vehicles.  The road tax is $100/year.  Liability insurance is also $100/year. So that afternoon, Booker and I were driving back to our air conditioned rental house in our very own car.  Life's not so hard on the hard, in Malaysia. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Hauling Out a Privilege Catamaran with a SeaLift Trailer

There are 3 ways to lift out a boat.  A Travelift, trailer, and crane.  Our owners manual has a detailed section on using the Travelift and crane but has nothing about the trailer.

We're tied to a tree and this trailer needs to be perfectly positioned
I contacted Privilege about using the trailer and got a very non-committal answer saying "we don't recommend it".  Other catamarans however claim that it is the preferred way to haul them out.  In the past 10 years, we have been hauled out 8 times and always by a Travelift.  We heard the FULL MONTY, a privilege 48, was hauled out with a trailer in Tahiti and cracked both their escape hatches.  In Australia, we saw a Privilege 48 being hauled by a SeaLift trailer and it seemed to work out fine.  So we figured why not give it a try.  It may also be a handy thing to know about for use in other parts of the world.

Trailer going down the ramp and under Tortuguita
Pangkor Marina has a SeaLift and the best price going for boatyard storage so we figured why not give it a try.  SeaLifts seem to be becoming a popular means to haul out since they are much cheaper to buy than a Travelift and the boats can be packed closer in the boatyard which increases the number of boats and therefore profit for the yard.

Pneumatic tubes (strapped to steel) that support the boat

We're finally being lifted.
They SeaLift goes down a ramp like a regular trailer and the boat is positioned over 4 pneumatic tubes.  The Catamaran is lifted from under the deck and a monohull is lifted by the sides of the hull.  The trailer needs to be submerged completely beneath the boat and due to the depth of the boat ramp at Pangkor Marina, high tides are a must.  They also only schedule one launch and one haul out each day.

Here are the blocks and timbers lifting the stern

On a Privilege catamaran, the underside of the bridge deck has two different levels.  It is lower where you step in to the salon.  If not compensated for, the tube would crush at this corner and the steel supporting the tubes would be hitting the fiberglass.  At the very least, there would be very high point loads created in this area.  To solve this problem, timbers are placed across the back of the tubes with wood blocks stacked on top.  This allows the aft structural part of the boat to be lifted albeit only at two places.  It also keeps the pneumatic tubes from cracking the Plexiglas in the escape hatches. 

All done and pressure washed.  It actually worked.

We thought we had everything arranged with the crew prior to 'the day'.  They were shown pictures from the lift in Australia, we made measurements.  They knew what timbers we needed to help support the hulls, etc.  Except when 'the time' came, it wasn't correct.  The board was too long and they had no real way to cut it or get one so late in the day.  There was also a huge language barrier.  My Malaysian was about as good as their English.

On the road again, with training wheels.
I ended up in the water with the workers stacking timbers and padding until we finally got it to work.   Booker was onboard when the weight shifted from the floating hulls to the center deck and she said it felt as if the boat was bending severely.  Not ideal, but next time the timbers will be the correct length.  I also think the tube air pressure should be lower to help spread out the load better.  It's really not something to screw around with because 17 tons of boat weight in the wrong place can do some real damage in a hurry.   

So, yes Privilege, it can be done.  As long as you are careful.  But that's true of anything.  Total time to haul, 2 hours.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Penang Island

Our last stop with the rally is Penang Island.  It's a 60 mile day trip so we decided to leave a few days early and kill a few days anchoring off the nice little beach at Pangkor Island where we had the catered lunch.  Big mistake.  We were buzzed all day long by motorboats and Jet Skis.  We did have a nice dinner on shore once all the commotion calmed down.

The following morning we moved to the next bay to the north along with LUNA BLU and FLOMEIDA. We swam to the beach and did some walking.  I helped Christoph troubleshoot his malfunctioning dinghy engine.  Turned out he had bad petrol from Indonesia.  Seems to have been mixed with diesel.  

Rimau Island Anchorage

We left this nice quiet spot the next day at sunrise which was a good thing.  Not that we were running out of daylight but that we barely anchored before the thunderstorms hit.  We anchored in a nice little cove at Rimau Island.  Just off the south end of Penang.  The thunderstorms were brutal and lightning was striking very close for a few hours.  The cracks and flashes were instantaneous, and loud.  We were with about 10 other boats and fortunately nobody was struck.  We spent the next day exploring Rimau Island but it was pretty overgrown and we couldn't get to the lighthouse. 

Rally going under the Penang Bridge
The Rally had planned a group sail under the Penang Bridge during morning rush hour.  About 50 rally boats from various anchorages rendezvoused an hour south of the bridge and we went in full convoy mode under the 2nd longest bridge in Malaysia.  Another 30 minutes further up the Selatan Strait, we dropped anchor in front of this leg's rally sponsor, The Straits Quay Marina.

The streets of Little India, Penang Island
We learned the bus system fairly quickly.  We went with LUNA BLU and LAZY LADY exploring the historic Capital City of Georgetown in search of culture, hardware, and food.  We ended up in Little India for a great lunch.  That evening the marina had free beer and food for Happy Hour.

Penang Hill Incline train tracks
The following day we took the inclined train to Penang Hill.  At 2500 feet above sea level, the air was cool and the view incredible.  

Notice the angle of the Incline train in the background

Georgetown from Penang Hill, still have haze in the air from burning forests.

Penang has a large Chinese population and we spent a few hours exploring the enormous Kek Lok Si Buddhist Temple and monestary.  They have 10,000 Buddah statues.  Seems like they must have gotten a good price on them.

Buddahs everywhere

We go to the same barber.

Entertainment at Fort Cornwallis

The Penang Dept. of Tourism put on a great dinner for us that evening at Fort Cornwallis.  It is a star shaped fort built by the British in the late 1700's with some canons that date back to 1600.  We had use of the entire fort property after closing hours, the food was nice for us vegetarians, finally, and the entertainment was interesting.  They had the large Chinese dancing dragons, singers and dancers.

Buddhist Bunny

The following day, most boats departed to the north towards Langkawi and we went south back to Pangkor Island.  We passed CONVIVIA, who was heading up to Penang.  We've been trying to meet up with them since Australia but kept passing and never ended up in the same place at the same time.   Had a nice chat on the radio though.  Tucker is the guy who designed the Farkwar website.  They are heading across the Indian Ocean after Thailand so we may not cross paths for a while.

The day was long, the current strong, and anchorages were nil.  We would be making a night arrival at our anchorage and have to risk collisions with fishing boats.  We passed up an unfamiliar anchorage for the one on Pangkor Island that we already visited, were familiar with, and had GPS tracks from when we left a week earlier.  In 10 years of cruising, this was only our second night time arrival.  The next morning we motored over to our new home at Marina Island and started preparing Tortuguita for haul out and storage.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Pangkor Island

We arrived at the Pangkor Island Marina around noon.  The marina seemed to be very professionally run.  There were dock hands ready to show us where to berth and catch our lines.  The depth in our berth was almost nothing below the keel at low tide but 10 feet at high.

This marina is where we are thinking of hauling out Tortuguita for the season.  We scoped out the entire operation and were quite impressed.  It's not a professional boatyard like the Gold Coast City Marina in Australia but more like a DIY place like Marina Seca Guaymas in Mexico.  They have a giant shed where about 15 boats can be stored or worked on in the shade.  However, all masts must be taken off in order to get in the shed.

Marina Island sits between Pangkor Island and the mainland.  It is entirely man made over a 5 year period.  The island has the marina, a ferry terminal, small mall, shops, offices, restaurants, apartments, and a hotel along with a causeway connecting it to the mainland.

Marina Island

A very nice banquet for the rally
The marina manager, James Khoo, has sponsored this stop on the rally and set up a day trip and lunch out on Pangkor Island, and a banquet dinner.  We did find out that if the marina paid for the events, they would not be allowed to serve alcohol so James paid for everything personally.  Way to go James.

Good thing James provided the beer.

Grounds of the Buddhist Temple
Pangkor Island is a tourist destination with the clearest water that we have seen since Indonesia.  We went to a Buddhist Temple and saw fishing boats under construction.  Amazing carpentry skills and beautiful tropical hardwood.  We had a catered lunch on the beach and were all pretty much burned out by the time the ferry got us back to the marina.  A good long day!

Boat Craftsmanship


Sunday, March 13, 2016

Anchoring off Port Klang

We left at sunrise from Port Dickson.  I think I've said this before, but, you can never leave early enough.  Right outside the marina, the current had us down to 3 knots and we had 50 miles to go to Port Klang.  Port Klang is the major shipping port for Kuala Lumpur and most of Malaysia and looked to be our stop for the night.  

We could see other rally boats 10 to 15 miles ahead that were doing 8 knots but the current that they had just hadn't progressed toward us.  I found a very good way to tell what the current ahead is.  AIS targets can be seen 30-40 miles away.  The large ships' that are anchored all along the edges of the Malacca Strait show symbols on our AIS display.  They point in the direction that they are heading, even while anchored.  Small boats like ours, however, point only in the direction they are traveling.  When the current changes,  the large ships all change direction with the current.  You can actually watch the tide progress down the Malacca Strait by watching these anchored ships turn like dominos, but in real slow motion.

AIS Ship Traffic from

The early departure from Port Dickson was not much help.  The tide must have just switched so we pushed against the current for 6 hours until early afternoon.  Now that we were enjoying a nice push, it didn't make much sense to stop so our plan was to go as far as we could and just drop the anchor wherever we were when the sun went down.  There were a few possible places that looked like anchorages but what you see on the charts is a world of difference to what it really looks like.  On the chart below there are large green 'islandy' looking areas.  Our track is the purple line.  The plan was to tuck up behind one of these 'islands' for protection for the night.

In actuality, there are no islands.  These green areas are apparently mud flats but the water was so muddy, you couldn't see the flats.   


Here's the Google Earth view.

Notice the four green islands.  They are the same as the brown islands on the chart view.   The green areas that look like islands just don't exist.

So we anchored out in the middle of nowhere and as the tide changed, so did the current and so did the direction we pointed.  The wind and chop made for a noisy night. 

It turned out that was fine because around 2AM we were woken up by the sound of thunder.  The storms were a few miles away just south of those little brown islands.  We were a sitting target for lightning out in these flats.  The current was again now in our favor, so we pulled up the anchor and headed out for the fish trap free deep channel to our north.  This would give us a nice early arrival at Pangkor Marina.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Admiral Marina, Port Dickson

Front lobby entrance of the Admiral Marina

The Sail Malaysia 'Passage to Langkawi' rally is organized each year by a great guy named Sazli Kamal Basha.  He also does the Sail Malaysia 'Passage to the East' rally.  Sazli has a knack obtaining sponsors who pay for events during the rally.  Our $65 entry fee was paid back to us many times over by the free parties, dinners, lunches, and tours that we had.

Central Park, Malacca
Port Dickson is more or less between Malacca and Kuala Lumpur.  We took the public bus(es) with our friends Paul and Lilanne of LUNA BLU to Malacca for the day.  We made the mistake of not finding the Express Bus which cost us an extra hour in stops.  Malacca was the original main shipping/trading port for Malaysia for hundreds of years.  All trading routes between China and India/Europe go through the Malacca Straits. The port has since silted in and most shipping now goes to Port Klang.  You will sometimes see it spelled Melaka, which is the Malay name.

Entrance of the Baba and Nyonya Heritage Museum
We walked through the parks and ended up in China Town for lunch.  We did a tour of the Baba and Nyonya Heritage Museum.  This is a house of a wealthy Chinese/Malay family from the early 1900's turned in to a museum. We learned about their culture and how it was to live in this part of the world a hundred or more years ago.  We climbed 'the hill' to the Ruins of St. Paul's Church for a good view of town, met up with other cruisers for some beers and took a cab back to the marina.  Much quicker than the bus and not too much more expensive.

Statue in front of Batu Caves
The rally had a planned bus tour day of Kuala Lumpur.  We started out at the Batu Caves.  One of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India even though Buddhist and Muslim religions are also represented here.  

The stairs
It is really a beautiful massive place with 272 steps from ground level to the caves.  Women have to have their legs covered so the rent-a-sarong lady had a good thing going providing for the tourists.  A monkey thought Booker's earring was some kind of food, jumped on her and ripped it out of her ear.  Fortunately the loop pulled out and didn't damage her ear.  The monkey tried to crack it with it's teeth and smash it on concrete with no luck.  It thought it was some kind of nut.  I used the other earring to distract the monkey and he chucked the one he had on the stairs.  We were lucky to get it back.


Renting a sarong and the last time Booker's earring was intact.

The earring stealer.
Inside Batu Caves

Petronas Towers

We had lunch at the Petronas Towers.  They are the tallest twin towers in the world.  We've seen them in a few movies and even look bigger in real life.  The first 5 floors are just one huge mall.  Very expensive name brands which we had no interest in.

Making the handles for pewter mugs
We drove by the King's Palace but didn't go in because it was raining very hard and continued to the Royal Selangor Pewter factory.  We had never heard of Royal Selangor but it turns out that it is the largest manufacturer of fine crafted pewter.  It was interesting to see pewter products being made and how the discovery and mining of tin was a major source of economic development of this area.

Friday Night Market 'Street Food'
We did have a few free days between all these tours which came in handy to keep up with boat maintenance, etc.  The marina had a fine happy hour with marginal food and an over amplified band.  We did find good street food out at the main road and went to the Friday night market. 

Buddah's at the Kwan Yin Cave
Another bus tour was to the town of Ipoh.  We visited an organic farm/ecolodge and ate lunch at a Homestay Klawang.  We then walked through the Buddhist Kwan Yin Cave Temple.  

Ipoh Street Art
The Old Town area of Ipoh is very artsy and historic.  It is a short walk from the historic train station and mostly has Chinese influence but we had a great Indian curry at the Banana Leaf restaurant in Little India.

Team building, after the water balloon tossing exercise
As if all this was not enough, Sazli organized a team building event and lunch buffet for us.  We had four teams and had to work together and compete against other teams.  It was quite fun and educational.

Next, off we go to the marina at Pangkor Island.

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