Monday, October 31, 2011

The Sultan's private mosque.
We are in Malaysia now, at the bottom of the Malaysia peninsula, which is the most southern part of Asia.  It is hard to believe but we could travel from here to France by land if we chose! We have been at a marina since we arrived in a city called Johor. The marina was built for a very rich fella to moor his boat and it has great slips but there is no infrastructure, no showers or toilets, quite odd.  There is a huge complex though with fancy restaurants where there is live music every night so we have been enjoying ourselves.  Malaysians speak a form of Bahasa, which was spoken in Indonesia, but a lot of them speak English as well.  Johor is a modern city with shopping malls, large grocery stores and huge modern highways with interchanges and overpasses. The predominant religion is Muslim but it does not seem to be a fundamental sect that has power so the women wear head scarves but they are the most beautiful colours. In the grocery store yesterday the clerks had matching beige uniforms with a splash of red at their throats and beige head scarves, Malaysia's head of state is a sultan that is like the royal family, the lineage passing from father to the oldest son.  
The opulent interior of the new state admin building.
Marble mosaic
We visited the new administration centre on a bus tour the other day.  What an absolutely impressive complex.  The downtown area was getting crowded so the state leg. moved to an area where they could build a huge complex.  The inside of the building was so impressive, they had a waterfall, a museum explaining about the history of the gov't, and the interior of the legislature.  All the desks had marble highlights, there was a gorgeous marble mosaic on the floor, the seats were the softest leather, no expense was spared.  There are female members of the governing body, so it is an enlightened Muslim society here.  

We headed to a pineapple museum next, who knew there were so many varieties of pineapple??  We got to taste a couple of varieties and the new one that they have just developed was so sweet, you wouldn't believe it.  I hope the one I have on the counter is that variety. If you take the leaf of the pineapple plant and scrape it you can get a fibre from it and they had examples of clothing made from pineapple thread. 

Next we headed off to a village where the ferries went from there to Singapore.  When we arrived there was an absolute deluge of rain.  It seems to happen everyday about 1400 hours, big black clouds form, the lightening flashes, the thunder booms and the skies open up.  There is no laundromat here so you wash your clothes first thing in the morning, hang  them up and hope that they dry in the very humid environment before the skies open up.  Yesterday I had the wash out and was doing some internet work on another boat and rain started.  I ran all the way back to the boat to find that Barry was already on the job and had most of it in. I ducked inside to close the windows and the hatches.  ANYWAY, back to the tour, we had a lovely lunch in this village, and looked out on a very typical Asian waterway, filled with local fishing boats, houses on stilts and tourist boats.  
The tiger is a very important symbol in Malaysia, and they are now a protected species here.  The sultan has even stopped hunting them, so you know they are serious about protecting them.  Below is the official coat of arms for the Sultan of Johor. The Islamic symbols of the star and the moon are in the centre and below it is Arabic writing. We are headed off north up the Malaka Straits today, that is the body of water between Malaysia and the Indonesian island of Sumatra.  It should be an interesting journey because the tankers from the Indian Ocean transit this strait and the Malaysian fisherman set nets all along the shore, so sailboats are left with a narrow corridor where they can safely make their way north.  Our next stop will be Port Dickson, from there we will travel overland to Kuala Lumpur where we need to renew our Canadian passports.  

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A more than lifesized billboard
What a city, although we are attracted to more wide open spaces, Singapore is something else.  It is very clean and it's inhabitants are very busy people, hustling and bustling around the city. We are on the western edge of the city and the marina provides a bus into the closest large mall.  Malls and shopping seem to be what Singapore is all about, besides architecturally stunning buildings of course.  We have been doing the tourist bit, we have visited Little India, Chinatown, wandered around the much sanitized inner harbour and we took a city tour. 
Their is a styalized boat on the top of this structure
The population is a mixture, it seems mainly Chinese but on the MRT, the rapid transit line, we have seen the broad faces of Koreans, the dark handsome good looks of East Indian people, the Malaysians, and the white folks, left over from the British rule, no doubt.  While on the MRT if you want a seat you have to rush to get one, there are reserved seats for the elderly and pregant women but the young  S'poreans seem to be oblivious to the fact that they shouldn't be sitting there.  On the other hand once the middle aged folks noticed the tensor bandage on Barror  ankle they would leap out of their seats and offer it to him.  The young folks were too absorbed in thier IPhones to notice, I think they were watching TV on their devices.  

Gold Necklace at $65 SD a gram!
I am sure we didn't belong in here

It was packed in Little India both the times we headed there.  Deepavali, the Hindu festival of lights started today and it is a public holiday.  We had a delcious Indian meal there, eating off a banana leaf.  We browsed through many stores and managed to resist buying any gold, but when we were in a tailors shop, the owner tried valiantly to sell Barry and Ken from Cop Out a tailor made shirt, no luck.
Deepvali decorations

We sampled some delicious Indian food here, eating off a banana leaf.  The Western Union office was packed with  East Indian men sending money home to their families back in India.  The women were garbed in an array of colours and patterns that made up their saris.  Western women would not have dreamed to put  this combination of colours together, but they were often stunning.  It seemed like they were decked out to celebrate the holiday, but often they would have shopping bags over their arms.  We stayed until nightfall to see the light festival but left before the craziness that would have been the countdown at midnight.
The "boat," the flowers in the foreground are on every overpass.

                                                                  A Buddist temple in Chinatown.

I am going to leave you with these visual images of Singapore.  We leave for Malaysia tomorrow, that rally starts in a few days and it will take us north up the Malaka Straits to Langkawi.  We have booked tickets to go to Australia for Christmas so we can spoil our grandchildren and visit with our daughter and son-in-law, if we continue west we may not see them again for a very long time.
                             A typical Singapore scene, a high rise with construction work going on  beside it. 

A very sanitized Chinatown as compared with San Francisco.

Singapore River looking towards the down town. 

My favourite statue in a city full of them.

A typical apt. building, they are everywhere. A taxi driver told us a 3 brm apt. cost $290.000 CND.

The Singapore Flyer, at least 20 stories high. 

The Central Business District

Not sure what it is, but it sure is unusual. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Natural Gas Tanker

 Unbelievable, we sailed up the Strait of Singapore and lived to tell about it! Singapore is one of the busiest ports in the world, tankers, tenders and tugs march up and down the Strait with precision and speed. Well perhaps I should qualify that, mostly with precision, when we approaching up a channel between two islands we heard the frantic calls of a freighter trying to issue instructions to change course and then he called out to all ships to keep clear because he had had a collision.  This was not a conversation which settled our minds about the difficulties in crossing a very very busy shipping lane. 
I will admit to be a tad nervous, my head was on a swivel, my mouth was dry and my guts were churning. I 
couldn’t sit still jumping up from the cockpit to go below to look at the computer to make sure we were on the correct track, I was a wreck (this, of course, had nothing to do with the cup of coffee I had drank in order to stay awake)! We had gotten up at 0300 and motored up the side channel, against the current, in the dark, where there were fish traps lurking to grab us and crazy Indonesian boats with lights on the wrong sides going hither and yon, just to confuse us. We managed to navigate that channel and were absolutely amazed as the dawn broke over Singapore.  There was a wall of tankers in a line down the strait and the mass of high rises that is the city state rose up to meet the sky.  We wondered how we were ever going to get across!
huge 10 story platform
As the sky brightened and we got closer to the action, motoring parallel to the shipping lane Barry figured out that a lot of the tankers were parked and there were actual gaps between the tankers that we might be able shoot through (ya right, shoot through at a commanding 6 knots). The tankers came in all shapes and sizes, car carriers, container ships, natural gas contraptions, another was piled 3 stories high with sand, long ones, fat ones, skinny ones and on and on. We reached what we figured to be the shortest distance across and we angled in toward the oncoming tanker, before he was past us we straightened, gunned the motor and went perpendicularly across.  Barry had timed it to a T and although I was extremely worried about the tanker approaching from behind, doing mental calculations in my head, judging distances and rates of closure, frantically trying to convert knots into distance covered in minutes, he just knew it was not going to be an issue and coolly turned the boat on a parallel course to continue on to our destination. 
rogue American sailor with his police escort
As we turned out of the Strait we were beside another sail boat who decided to cut the corner and go inside a marker that clearly indicated you were supposed to keep outside.  There was a huge platform that must have been at least 10 stories high that probably had something to do with the massive natural gas works that dominated the corner.  I turned to observe a largish power boat come thundering towards us.  It was the Singapore police, with their mounted machine gun on the bow bearing down on us.  As soon as he saw the other sail boat he put on the brakes and closely escorted him;  Another dark blue police joined in and for awhile this free spirit on his beautiful Swan (a type of boat) merrily motored along seemingly oblivious to his double escort.  I was hoping that they would get on the radio and give this non rule following American the what for, but it didn’t happen.  
We went past another tanker parking lot, where they just hang out waiting to be serviced.  Some had tenders beside  them offloading their cargo.  One that was filled with pipes had humungous no smoking signs all over it, yikes, we were that close to a potential James Bond pyrotechnical display.  On the right side of us was a breakwater that is part of the reclamation of the port that is going on continually.  There was piles of weeds and garbage in lines where the tide had pushed them.  At this point we were motor sailing at over 7 knots due to the 3 knot tide that we lucked into, and the fact we had finally turned off the strait after 35 nm of wind on our nose.  We were extremely please to dock at the marina and step off the boat into another world.  
It is an opulent first world spot with a hotel that features a massive lobby overlooking the marina’ that has dolphins with sprays of water gushing upwards out of their playfully open mouths.  There is a pool with a waterfall, a swim in Indian food restaurant and a hot tub area featuring jets that soothe you as you gracefully recline on the curved surface.  I thought I had died andgone to heaven when I saw kite boards for rent, but it turned out they were wake boards :( but on the other hand we had an international 10 pin bowling tournament last night.  There is a free shuttle into a huge mall which Barry and I are going to brave today.  Plans are in the works for a Singapore Sling in the next few days, stay tuned!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

We have left Belitung and are headed for Singapore.  We plan to take about 4 or 5 days to get there, no hurry. Belitung was a whirlwind of activity.  First the president of Indonesia was coming and we had to figure out a way to pick 10 people to meet him.  It was decided that boat names would be chosen out of a hat and then the crew of the yacht could arm wrestle each other to see who was going to meet him. We were all invited for a dinner with him but 10 would have a private meeting.  Then it became known that the president was busy and the vice-president would appear in his place, no problem the 10 people could still meet with him.  In typical Indonesian fashion he did not show up to the gala dinner and the 10 people who were chosen got their knickers in a knot for nothing.  Oh well, it was lovely to see everyone dressed up, they had requested the men all wear batik shirts, so Barry now has a very nice rusty red batik shirt, we had to shop for awhile before we found one large enough to fit.
The last day we were in the anchorage the security was phenomenal.  The vice-president, the minister of defence, the minister of fisheries, etc, etc were to visit the site and speeches were given and a display of dragon dancing took place. Wendy from Cop Out and I wandered around, had my backpack frisked by commandos with M16's and then I asked if we could have a picture and they happily posed, but no smiles from them.  There was a sniper up in the wooden tower and there were bomb squad, riot police vehicles hanging about.  I will post pics when I get to Singapore. We were positioned where the performers would go on the stage so we got to talk to the kids who were very nervous about performing on national TV. The day ended up with a party on the beach which the guides and the boat boys participated in.  The boat boys have been valet parking our dinghies all week, which has been really handy all week with Barry bad ankle.  Speaking of which it is almost all healed up and he is walking around with only a small limp. The valet parking consisted of the guys picking up our dinghies, turning them around so it was easy to launch, and sometimes they was a double row stacked up down the beach. That was the official end Sail Indonesia, we will join the Sail Malaysia Rally in Singapore and head up the west coast of Malaysia to Langkawi.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Welcoming Dance in East Belitung
School children out to visit the boat to practice their English.
The internet is excellent today, yahoo!!!   On one of our tours we visited a school and had fun telling all the teenagers we were from Canada and we knew Justin Beiber!!!  There is Beiber Fever all over Indonesia, he is hugely popular.  Anyway after the tour was over one of the yachties suggested that it would be cool to show the kids our boats. About a 100 kids showed up,  24 yachties were sitting on the beach holding up their boat name signs and the kids came tearing down the beach to find us with matching pieces of paper, they piled in the dinghies and off we went, a mass of dinghies roaring away from the beach piled up with kids.  We had them on board for about an hour and tried to get them to speak English to us, they were very shy but we did get some information out of them.  We gave them Canadian flag patches to sew on their clothes!
Canadians celebrating Thanksgiving in Indonesia!

The picture of the guys on their horses was a very unusual experience.  This island is very close to Malaysia and the Chinese influence is also very prominent.  LUCK is huge here as well as the belief in demons.  This group got on their horses and called down their demons and then they rode the horses around, drank potions to get themselves into an altered state and then tried to exorcise the demons.  The exorcism consisted of being whipped, eating handfuls of hot chili peppers, and eating glass.  One fellow actually went a bit crazy and charged into the crowd, there was a very huge guy there to control the horse riders if they  were in danger of hurting themselves or other people.  Another fight with a demon was demonstrated by the fellow above.  He wrestled with his demon in form of a ghost. The ghost was a bunch of rattan fibers bound together covered in white material.  This fellow rolled around on the ground trying to break the rattan in half, you could see  the strain on his face and in the tenseness of his muscles.  He would wrestle with the ghost sometimes on top, sometimes underneath and  he would pull with all his might using his feet against the ghost as leverage. Every once in awhile he would stop and collapse and rest for awhile before resuming his mission.  This went on for quite awhile and he ended up with the ghost bent double.  We think he won so that would mean that he got rid of the demon and the village would have good luck for another year.  
  Update: The president is not coming so we do not have to move our boats 2 miles away from the beach, which if it came true we would all have left for Singapore.


The much improved foot
Welcome Ceremonies In East Belitung
Just to let you know we are alive and well.  We are in Belitung, Barry is on the mend. We are nearing the end of our time in Indonesia and the big wind up is tomorrow night with the dinner with the President of Indonesia.  There has been a blizzard of activities today, the most fun being yesterday, Canadian Thanksgiving.  I organized a get together to celebrate, Cop Out our buddies from Calgary graciously agreed to host the event because they have a 42 foot catamaran.  We had it at lunch time and I cooked 2 pumpkin pies, everyone brought a special dish to share and we had a blast.  The best part was we had to organize a presentation to the regent or head of the area and all the other cruisers.  Well, there were 3 French Canadian boats and 4 English Canadian boats and what a time we had coming up with a Canadian tune that would please everyone.  I wanted to do a skit about a hockey game with the Canadiens playing the Flames but I was voted down.  We ended up singing a couple of verses of  C A N A D A  by Stompin Tom and Wherever You Are by Celine Dionne otherwise known as the Titanic Song, it satisfied both groups.  We practiced until I was almost hoarse but once we got up on the big stage we muffed Stompin Tom but did a credible and heartfelt rendition of Celine's big hit, which the Indonesians know and love. 
The internet coverage has been REALLY BAD, but it has suddenly improved tonight.  More later. 

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

We are on our way north and will not be near an internet connection for a few days so we will not be able to answer any questions you have about Barry's condition for a few days.  He seems to be healing very well but I had a few concerns so we just called up our Doctor Daughter and fired away.  It seems like the care I have been giving his wound is acceptable but she gave us a few hints to perhaps make the healing progress faster, whew! Barry is able to do his watches and is now putting weight on his ankle and seems to be getting around much better.  He has 3 stitches to pull together the hole they made to drain all that ugly pus.  They will have to come out soon!!
Tonight it felt like we were Kevin Costner in one of our favourite movies, WaterWorld.  We were dodging oil tankers and oil platforms all night.  "Tankers to the left of us, tankers to the right of us, here I am stuck in the middle with you." One in particular reminded me of the Exxon Valdez as portrayed in WaterWorld, it was moving very slowly and at one point we will both swear it did a 360. I tell you very unusual behaviour for a tanker.  They usually go in a really straight line at about 15 knots and you just have to get out of their way.  It was so confusing, he seemed to becoming towards us, yup, the radar confirmed that, so we tried to duck behind him and then he turned a 360.  I finally got on the radio and told him we were a sailing vessel asked him to tell us what he was doing and where he was headed, NOTHING!  He just kept getting closer and closer until he was less than a ΕΊ mile away so we just rolled in the sail, turned on the motor and motored 2 miles in the opposite direction to get away from him.

Did I mention that I was doing ALL the chores on the boat while Barry was in hospital?  It really made me realize how much he does and how much I missed his company.  I got my fill of putting diesel in the tank, mixing gas for the outboard, taking the garbage in on a regular basis, changing the oil, changing a lower shroud that needed replacing,  hoisting the dinghy out of the water every night and worst of all, doing all the dishes!  Barry's Mom must have done a great job because Barry never complains about doing the dishes so as a consequence he does most of them. I am so glad he is getting better and it is great to have him back on board.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

At it's worst, notice the small incision I made to drain it.
Woes in Paradise
The very spacious if not so clean room.
When you get a cut or a small little scratch in the tropics you had better pay attention. If you don't it will get you.  Barry got a very small cut in his ankle from his rented fins when we were in Labuanbajo.  He looked after it, he disinfected it, then covered it in Vitamin E, a week later he went on a 2 dive trip in Bali.  The first dive was okay but by the second dive he had no energy and was really worn out.  He went back to the boat and slept.  I was on my trip to Ubud, when I got back to the boat the next day his ankle was red and swollen.  The following morning we had our Canadian doctor buddies over to have a look and it was determined that he had a urinary tract infection and his ankle was infected.  Barry went on antibiotics but the ankle had become to infected to be treated by them . Our buddies sailed away leaving instructions, I was to make an incision to drain  the pus if it got to a certain stage.  I did this and we decided if it didn't look better by the next day we should head to the hospital.  Our Australian friends took us ashore and Barry hobbled into a taxi with a plastic bag on his foot so if wouldn't get sand or sea water in it.  To make a long story short, he was put on intravenous antibiotics and they operated on his ankle because it had abscessed.  He spent 5 days in the hospital and now is on the road to recovery, his ankle is growing new skin to replace the stuff they scraped off and he has stitched to close up the hole they made to drain the pus.  
Needless to say it was a very anxious time for us and I have waited until he was better to let you know because all you would do was worry and there was nothing you could do about it. 
      The view from Barry;s room, gorgeous.
The Indonesian approach to hospitalization is that the family rallies around.  Their loved ones are never left alone, so when you go up and down the corridors there are people camped out with blankets and food,  I spent most of the day with Barry but would go back to the boat at night, so as not to have the dinghy onshore unattended at night and to do boat chores in the early morning.  The Balinese people were a bit shocked that I would leave Barry alone in the hospital.  I found one man on the beach that was willing to take me to the hospital, about 15 minute ride on a motorbike, and come and pick me up at night. (I made him get an extra helmut, but I felt like a local hanging on the the back of the bike with my flip flops on my feet while he zoomed in an out of traffic). One night ,I had arranged to have him pick me up at a certain time,  Barry went in the operating room to have his stitches put in so I called him to let him know that he should not come and lo and behold he showed up to keep me company while Barry was being operated on.  He was very concerned that I would be alone without other family members and he wanted to make sure that Barry was all right. 
Barry was his usual stoic self through the whole thing, trying to figure out what he had done wrong in caring for his cut and being disgusted at the cleaning methods used in the hospital.  Barry worked as a janitor in U of A hospital for 2 summers.  The mops the housekeeping staff were using did not meet his standards and he talked about how if they would just hire him for a week he could give them a really good seminar on cleanliness.  We had a very nice room with air conditioning and a TV that had BBC World News but no kidding, the sink was clogged and in five days the housekeeping staff would just look at the standing water in it and then leave without cleaning it so there was a dirty soap scum left once the water eventually drained.  The doctor was very professional though, and the nursing staff were very caring and if you called them they were very responsive.  Altogether we were very lucky to be in a spot where there was good health care and we are thankful that the infection has been treated and Barry is well on his way to recovery.