Monday, 31 December 2012

Hole in the Wall

Hi everyone,
Today we motored from Kuah to the Hole in the Wall anchorage on the NE side of Langkawi. There was next to no wind and it drizzled and occasionally rained for much of the 15nm trip. We're now anchored at 06 25.1N 099 51.9E in 7m over mud. We're only a couple of boat lengths from the mangroves, so have deployed our hatch screens to keep the bugs out. The rain is continuing, which may also help keep the bugs away. The scenary here is spectacular.

Zen Again Track
Since we knew we'd be motoring we took the "inside" passage which is 10nm shorter than going outside all the islands. It took us through some quite narrow passages and across one particularly shallow area. The latter was NNE of Selat Pulau Balek where we found minimum depth to be 2.7m (1 hour after LW springs). That's about what the charts show. We approached the entrance to Hole in the Wall from the SE where we found significant chart offsets but depths deeper than charted.

Closer look at chart offset at Hole in the Wall
Closer look at chart offset through the shallows
Once inside Hole in the Wall we explored the main N-S channel as far as the fork to the W. On passing the fork the depths decreased very rapidly so we did a rapid 180 and motored quietly up the W channel where the many small ferry boats dock. There is a long "trot" of fore/aft moorings for yachts, most of which seemed to be in use but with no signs of life aboard the yachts. There were a few restaurants and a kayak hire place for the tourists. After exploring this busy channel we returned to the main channel where we anchored N of the fork, on the W side of the channel.

Approaching Hole in the Wall
Entrance visible
Passing through the "hole"
View of the "hole" from within the inlet
View of the inner channel which holds a number of yacht moorings
At anchor
Brahminy Kite
All day there have been small ferry boats zooming to and fro. After 1700 they stopped and it is now quiet. Just the soft sound of light rain to be heard. There are three other yachts anchored in the main channel for the New Year.

Happy New Year to you all!

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Langkawi Cruise (days 1-4)

Hi everyone,
We departed Rebak Island marina on Boxing Day, sailing SE to the "fiords" at the southern end of Pulau Dayang Bunting.  We stayed there for two nights.  Yesterday morning we sailed to Fisherman's Cove (Selat Riang-Riang) at the southern tip of the Langkawi island group.  Today we sailed to Kuah.

Zen Again Track
We had a great sail to the Fiord, eventually reefing the main when the wind got up to 20 gusting 25 knots.  Shortly after that we got into the lee of the island and had to motor the last mile or so to the anchorage.  The fiord is a narrow channel between the main island and a small offlying island.  The entrance is less than 100m wide, and only about 200m wide at its widest point.  We anchored at the widest point, tucked in near a small creek mouth (marked by the mangroves).

Great sail to the Fiords
Spectacular surroundings in the fiords
Great anchorage
Company aboard
Zen Again in the fiords
The fiord is a lovely anchorage, very well protected from sea and most winds.  The clouds were speeding past overhead at times but it was calm in the anchorage.  We saw many macaque monkeys, brahminy kites and several other birds.  We had the anchorage to ourselves on both nights.

Yesterday we motored from the fiord to Fisherman's Cove.  Along the way we calibrated the newly installed backup autopilot, doing the necessary 720 degree turns and zig-zags.  The cove is another small anchorage, this one protected by three islands which surround it.  On the day the wind came up to 20-25 knots at least, with good bullets coming through the anchorage.  The seas from outside penetrated a little, but it was very flat once the wind moderated a little.  We saw only one monkey but lots of brahminy kites (like sea eagles but with chestnut wings and back instead of dark grey).

Dawn at Fisherman's Cove
Today we had a great sail from Fisherman's Cove to Kuah.  We had a very nice 6-10 knot NE breeze.  The track shows we must have been having fun - we were tacking!  We're now anchored at 06 18.78N 099 50.80E in 6m over mud.

We expect to stay here for two nights before heading north to the Hole in the Wall anchorage on the NE coast of Langkawi.  We hope to spend New Year there, and probably won't have phone/internet coverage.

Christmas at Rebak Island

Hello everyone,
We had a great Christmas at Rebak Island.  We had been there for two weeks before Christmas and many of our cruising friends moved on to Thailand or flew home.  But there were still quite a few at Rebak.

During the week before Christmas we got a couple of important boat jobs done.  The first was to install our spare autopilot - another Raymarine SPX-5 GP.  We bought the backup unit just before leaving Darwin after the primary unit misbehaved temporarily.  Since that time we decided that having a backup autopilot in a locker is all very well, but having it installed and calibrated would be much better.  So we fully installed the backup so that both systems are powered-up together and a single switch selects which drives the ram (which turns the tiller).  The one trick discovered is NOT to let both units send their heading data out onto the shared SeaTalk network - that's very confusing (especially if one is misbehaving or uncalibrated)!

Backup Autopilot Controller in quarterberth
The second job was similar.  We installed our backup chart plotter - a Garmin GPSmap 450 - in the cockpit.  That involved relocating the existing gear on the starboard side of the cockpit bulkhead.  The $14 hole-cutter set bought on eBay earlier this year was money very well spent!

Second chartplotter installed in cockpit
On Christmas Eve we had a great dinner in the evening, with the tables set around the resort pool.  The food was fantastic and we had a great time with Urs and Maggie from Better Than Shares and an American couple Rick and Sarah who were staying at the resort.

Rebak Island Resort pool
Rebak Island Resort
On Christmas Day the cruisers met for a champagne breakfast organised by Brian and Gail of sv Dol Selene.  That was lots of fun.  We spent the heat of the day relaxing by the pool.  In the evening we went to another dinner at the resort which was also very good.  We sat with the crews of Dol Selene, Blue Heeler, Sea Mist and Comedie.

On Boxing Day we departed Rebak Island for a 10-day cruise around Langkawi.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Zen Again's Sail Malaysia 2012 Summary

Hi everyone,
It's time for some statistics describing our Sail Malaysia 2012 adventure.  Zen Again was one of the smallest yachts on the rally this year.  She is a 34' (10.4m) cutter-rigged cruiser/racer monohull displacing about 6500kg.

One of the key differences between Sail Malaysia and Sail Indonesia is that nearly all Sail Malaysia stops are in marinas.  So below the statistics is our personal opinion on each marina.

Zen Again approaching Langkawi
  • Duration = 31 days
  • Distance Logged = 444nm
  • Sea Time = 93 hours
  • Average Distance = 14 nm/day
  • Engine Hours = 80 hours
As the stats show, we motored for most of the rally.  We only had one passage where we sailed from beginning to end - from Songsong Island to Langkawi Island.  It was very nice to end the rally with a good sail.


Danga Bay Marina

  • Pros - cheap; wifi in/near main building; close to public transport
  • Cons - dirty with debris in water; very poor toilet/shower facilities; poor laundry service; generally in a state of decay

  • Zen Again at Danga Bay

    Admiral Marina
    • Pros - good jetties; nice resort with very nice pool; nice bar and restaurant; fast wifi in main building; laundry service; small convenience store
    • Cons - availability of electricity and water to pens variable depending on location; no reliable public transport nearby
    Zen Again at Admiral Marina
    Pangkor Island Marina
    • Pros - good jetties; large hardstand area; small covered hardstand; OK pool (at Best Western hotel), happy hour bar (ditto); range of restaurants; small convenience store; laundry service
    • Cons - very basic toilet/shower facilities; no reliable public transport nearby
    Zen Again at Pangkor Island Marina
    Jerejak Anchorage
    • Pros - free; short dinghy ride ashore 
    • Cons - variable holding; long taxi ride to Georgetown
    Zen Again at Jerejak Anchorage
    Rebak Island Marina
    • Pros - good jetties; reasonable size hardstand; good toilet/shower facilities; bar/restaurant dedicated to yachties; lovely resort with very nice pool, bars & restaurant; wifi useable from onboard (F jetty); laundry; small convenience store; chandlery
    • Cons - 15 minute ferry ride to Langkawi Island; sandflies

    Zen Again (far right) at Rebak Marina

    We had a great time on Sail Malaysia.  The "sailing" was mostly motoring.  There were many nets, fishing boats and commercial vessels to watch out for.  By going well offshore we seemed to get away from the nets.  We had no serious problems sailing at night while well offshore.

    The many tours put on or made available by the rally were excellent.  They allowed us to get a taste of the hinterland at each stop.  The fairly relaxed port to port schedule gave us time to arrange our own touring to see more of the places which interested us.

    Considering the low cost of joining Sail Malaysia, it is outstanding value!

    Langkawi Tour

    Hi everyone,
    On Saturday night we had the final Sail Malaysia dinner.  It was held at a very nice resort on the main Langkawi Island - Burau Bay.  Getting between Rebak Island and Langkawi Island is fun - on 30-40 foot launches powered by several hundred "horses".  They fly along at well over 30 knots.

    The dinner was very enjoyable, particularly circulating amongst the yachties we've sailed with during the Dili Rally, Sail Indonesia and Sail Malaysia.  We were lucky in that we sailed with the Dili fleet, a group of mainly Kiwi yachts, the French yachts, as well as with Kakadu after meeting them in Flores.  At the dinner there was also a traditional dance show, which started very traditional and ended up very "hip-hop"ish.  Very colourful.  There were speeches but they were kept mercifully short.

    On Sunday we had our final Sail Malaysia coach tour.  We visited a number of places around Langkawi Island.  The first was the Seven Wells Waterfall.  Very hot walking there (only a 10 minute walk) but nice and cool once we got there

    Seven Wells Waterfall
    From the waterfall it is a very short drive to the cable car complex.  The complex houses a deer park, rabbit "farm" and lots of tourist shops and restaurants as well as the cable car.  Since our tour was sponsored by the Langkawi Development Authority we got into the express queue for the cable car.

    Going Up! 
    Second Stage
    Great View!
    There is a great view from the top, and it's much cooler!  Nice ice cream too!  The elevation is over 700m, very similar to the top of Penang Hill.  Apparently the rock formations here in Langkawi are some of the oldest in SE Asia - over 500 million years old.

    In the afternoon we visited Galeria Perdana, which holds state gifts received while Dr Mahathir was president of Malaysia.  Everything from motor cars to machine guns...

    A small part of Dr Mahathir's gun collection
    Ditto cars
    Today (Monday) we have the final Sail Malaysia event.  It is on here at Rebak Marina, but no-one seems to know what's involved.  All we know is that it runs from 1100 to 1600.  There has been a rumour of a "trash n treasure" session so we spent last night digging out all the "stuff" on board that we no longer need.  ie Non-safety items which have failed the "used in the last year" test.

    Saturday, 8 December 2012

    Kuah to Rebak

    Hi everyone,
    We spent Wednesday and Thursday nights anchored off Kuah which is the main town on Langkawi.  On Thursday we went into town to clear in to the port and to check out the shops.  We found a pretty good chandlers.

    Zen Again Track
    GoogleEarth Track entering Rebak Island Marina
    Langkawi is a duty free zone, and that's certainly clear from the price of booze.  Very cheap!  The shops in Kuah have lots of it, plus lots of chocolate and crockery.  No idea why there's so much crockery - perhaps it's popular with SE Asian tourists.

    On Friday (yesterday) we weighed anchor under sail and had a very pleasant sail 8nm SW to a place called Sunset Beach.  We sailed past several tiny but spectacular islands.  All the islands are covered in thick jungle, and most are very steep-to so one can sail past very close.  Some rise out of the water almost vertically as exposed cliffs, while others have cliffs elsewhere on the island.  Very spectacular.  The area reminds us of the Whitsundays, having lots of islands close together which clear sailing between.

    Departing Kuah Anchorage
    En route
    We anchored at Sunset Beach with Kakadu and everyone jumped in the water to cool off and to scrub their hulls.  We managed to clean all but the keel.  The Coppershield/Coppercoat antifouling is almost two years old and still appears as good as new.

    In the afternoon we motored the 4nm to Rebak Marina.  The marina is "inside" Rebak Island and you can't see the yachts until you're in the narrow entry channel.  Happily the light breeze was flowing through the marina, contrary to some reports we'd heard of it being windless inside.  It was great to have a proper shower, and to catch up with other yachties at the resort Happy Hour.  The facilities here seem pretty good.  We are at 06 17.78N 99 41.89E.

    Anchored off Sunset Beach
    In the entrance channel to Rebak Island Marina
    In the pen
    The Hard Dock Cafe and hardstand
    This evening we have a Sail Malaysia dinner to attend, followed by a coach tour tomorrow and the farewell party on Monday here at Rebak.

    Wednesday, 5 December 2012

    Songsong to Langkawi

    Hi everyone,
    Today we had a magnificent, amazing, totally awesome SAIL from Songsong Island to Langkawi.  Beautiful 8-12 knot NE breeze all the way, giving us a nice reach.  We had the full main, #2 and staysail up and averaged 6 knots boat speed and 7 knots over the ground.  We are now anchored off the town of Kuah in 4m at 18.88N 99 50.83E.

    Zen Again Track
    Approaching Kuah
    Tomorrow we expect to go ashore to do the necessary paperwork with the harbour master.  We will then sail the few miles around to Rebak marina where we expect to stay for several weeks at least.

    Who'da thunk it - we completed Sail Indonesia and Sail Malaysia!  Statistics in a later post - now we're going to have a quiet little drink. ;)

    Penang to Songsong

    Hi everyone,
    Yesterday we sailed from Penang to Songsong Island, the latter being about halfway to Langkawi.  We anchored off the E side of Songsong Island in 9m over sand at 05 48.58N 100 17.91E.

    Zen Again Track
    The departure from Penang was different since Sail Malaysia runs a "parade" under the main Penang Bridge.  A fleet of powerboats came south from Georgetown, and the Sail Malaysia yachts went north from Jerejak anchorage.  We had a bit of fun motoring around the anchorage at the nominated departure time sounding our bugle to get everyone out of bed.

    Jolie Brise and Zen Again led the yachts under the bridge after the motor boats came through.  The organisers had a helicopter taking video throughout, and we hope to see the pictures soon.

    From the bridge everyone headed north towards Langkawi.  As usual the wind was on the nose and we motored clear of Penang and onward to Songsong Island which we reached mid-afternoon.

    Yachts parading under the bridge
    Dol Selene (L) and Kakadu (R) passing Penang
    The Doctor crossing a tide line
    Kakadu anchored off Songsong Island
    From here it's only 40nm to Langkawi!


    Hi everyone,
    We had an organised coach tour on Sunday and a day ashore on Monday with Graham and Anne from sv Kakadu.  Both were fun.

    Zen Again at Jerejak Anchorage
    The coach tour visited Pen Marine, where yachts and also much larger vessels can be hauled out and servicing carried out.  From there we went to the Loh Guan Lye Specialists Centre, where we learned about Malaysia's "medical tourism".  Interesting to a point, but not really our thing.

    Presidential Suite at the Specialists Centre
    We then briefly toured Georgetown, the main city on Penang.  It has a lot of historic buildings and is another Malaysian city awarded UNESCO heritage listing.  Fort Cornwallis was unfortunately just a quick photo opportunity.

    We stopped for a while at a Buddhish temple featuring a large "reclining" buddha.  We visited The Coffee Tree, where we bought some very nice local coffee and chocolates.  Finally we visited Straits Quay, where there is a small marina and a large mall.  The tour ended with a really good dinner at an excellent Indian restaurant.

    Reclining Buddha
    On Monday we took a taxi into Georgetown and walked around exploring.  We started at Tanjung Marina where quite a large marina disintegrated within a few years of completion.  The piles were at all sorts of crazy angles, and not a walkway to be seen.  In town we tried the very tasty Penang "white coffee".  We then spent a couple of hours in the Perakhanan Mansion which is a very interesting museum.

    From the museum we walked around a little more and found an excellent spot for lunch - RM30 (A$10) for four!  After that we caught a taxi to Penang Hill where we rode up the railway to the top of the hill.  Impressive views from the top, which just about made the queues and busy train ride worthwhile.
    Penang Hill train
    View from Penang Hill

    All in all Penang is an interesting place.  It has a free trade zone on its SE side, where many semiconductor and electronics factories are located.  The airport nearby has a lot of cargo flights, as well as many international passenger flights.  The traffic around the island, and particularly near Georgetown, is very heavy.  Lots of housing development underway.  Tis a happenin' place.