Cochin, India.

Southern india.

After Karen’s arrival from Melbourne, she and Michelle left by train the following day to Varkala, 4 hours south of Cochin, to go surfing. Three days later they took the train to Alappuzha, in the “Backwater” area to spend two days exploring these waterways. Annie and I in the meantime, took the bus from Cochin for a 5-hour trip into the mountains to Munnar. The young driver of the bus, has aspirations to join the formula one circuit and managed to turn our already grey hair, white. Traffic on these narrow roads is chaotic and we had many near misses with trucks, cars, cattle and pedestrians. He had three rules: overtake on blind bends in the road; avoid eye contact with any other road users and blow the horn for 50 minutes of every hour. I think horns and hooters on vehicles here are replaced once a month, when they are worn out.

“CH–ST” ….  The bus nearly ran me over!

After a recovery nap in our B&B room, we set of to find a calming beer, white or red wine. We spent two hours and walked about 5 km’s before we found a government hotel, where we could order a beer and dinner. Evidently, alcohol is government controlled. After a Tuk-Tuk ride back to the B&B we had an early night. The temperature difference between Cochin and the mountains was substantial, so we had to buy sweaters to add to the jumpers, we had brought along.

Mr Blossom Dinesh Munnar

At 9 am the following morning Mr Blossom Dinesh Munnar our guide and us, set off on a 12 km hike up the mountains. The route took us through beautiful tea plantations, up to forested areas, before cresting in grasslands at the summit of the mountain we were climbing. Far below, we could see the town we set out from, before taking a different route to descend, back to town. Opposite us, we could see the highest mountain in southern India. We also took a Tuk-Tuk out of town to visit an herb and spice producing farm. We had a most informative tour of the farm with the owner, before buying some of their spices.

Starting fresh at the foot of the mountains.

Climbing higher through the tea plantations.

And higher – taking a breather.

At the top.

The view down to Munnar town, below right. Anamudi mountain, above left.

Winding our way down to Munnar.

Tuk-Tuk trip to the spice and herb farm.

Arriving at Green Valley farm.

Our guide and Annie.

I can’t believe these are figs!

Crucifix flowers.

The trip back to Cochin by bus, was again white knuckle stuff, which required two stiff shots of calming whisky when we got back to the boat the following evening. The next day we took delivery of 200 litres of fresh water for the front tank, as the town water on the marina jetty is only good for washing and showering. The rear tank is used for the town water, but we cannot use our water maker as the water we are in, is a Petri dish of contaminants. I also updated our GPS charts for the Red Sea, whilst we had good internet reception at the Bolgatty Palace Marina.

The girls returned from their travels the following day, very happy with the trains and their experience, despite the lack of good waves to surf down south. I did a run with Mr Nazar to the government liquor store to purchase beer. This store was specifically for tourists, even though it resembled a prison, with limited stocks of beer, wine and spirits. At this store, tourists can buy unlimited quantities of booze, unlike the stores for Indians with queues outside, where they can only buy 6 x 500ml cans of beer a day. I walked out with 4 cases of beer – 96 x 500ml cans at 100 rupees/can, which equates to less than AU$2/can.


Little surf.

Three of the yachts in the marina had left for the Red Sea run and in their place arrived “Soul” a NZ cat and our old friends the Rigney’s from California on “Kandu”. We have established a large sailing group with satphone and SSB comms, to exchange daily reports on our progress. We are leaving in batches of yachts with similar speed potential and 44ft Esprit will team up with a Beneteau 44 “Elas” from Switzerland and a Jeanneau 45 “Balickil” from Turkey. We will give them a 36-hour head start to rendezvous about 1,000 nm from Cochin, before entering the shipping corridor south of Yemen.

We are all registered with UKMTO (United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations) and MSCHOA (The Maritime Security Centre – Horn of Africa). Travelling through the HRA (High Risk Area) in the Gulf of Aden, between Somalia (potential pirates) and Yemen (war), through to the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait before entering the Red Sea. These organisations co-ordinate the coalition naval vessels patrolling the HRA. Wish us luck!

Passage to Bab-el-Mandeb, into the Red Sea.

Michelle and a friend from Sydney set off on Friday to Munnar, to climb Anamudi, southern India’s highest mountain, over the weekend. I did final maintenance on the boat and spent the warmest parts of the day at the hotel pool, while Annie and Karen visited the markets for fresh produce and finally the “Lulu” shopping mall for provisions.

Going up.

And up.



On the Sunday before we departed, Mr Nazar insisted that we join his family at home for lunch, so we took the ferry across to Fort Cochin where his family lives.

Waiting for the ferry at Fort Vypin.

The ferries are packed on a Sunday.

Lunch with Mr Nazar’s house – Grandma at the back.

Mr Nazar’s pride – his, and his son’s Tuk-Tuks. A far cry from Sydney’s BMW’s and Merc’s.

After lunch, we explored the Fort Cochin area where Vasco da Gama landed in the late 1400’s. The state of Kerala has the highest percentage of Christians, with churches everywhere. Followed by the Hindu religion and then the Muslims – all living in harmony.

Santa Cruz cathedral – first church built in 1505. Named cathedral 1558. This cathedral blessed in 1905.

A more modern Catholic church.

The Fort Cochin area was first settled by the Portuguese, then the Dutch and then the British. It has some grand homes dating back to the colonial times.

Councilor Shiny Mathew’s abode really shines.

Around the corner, the overhead cables hang low and is an obstruction for pedestrians – “No worries”

After the long walk, we needed a drink. This little cafe poured us cold Kingfisher beers in coffee mugs, because they were not licensed to sell alcohol. They also had a resident eagle.

Karen and feathered friend.

We were walking past the big fishing nets on the beach. I was intrigued with how they worked, so the chief fisherman showed us the process and enlisted our muscle power to lift the huge nets out of the water – aided by big rocks tied to the boom.

Fishing net contraption.

Father and daughter helping to pull the nets out of the water.

Finally, for you bike lovers, the second world war Royal Enfield motorbikes (Single cylinder, Twinspark) are still built in India, as are Jeeps by Mahindra. These range from the stock standard to the customized versions on the streets. See below:

The standard Classic 350cc version.

The Classic 500 cc version.

A customised 1969, 350cc Bullet version. (Harley-Davidson 1400cc ghetto blasters take note – these machines purr).

Mahindra Jeeps – still produced by the hundreds.

Stop Press: We have updated the “Follow Esprit” page with charts taken from our Open CPN navigation programme, to graphically show our progress. These will be updated with every post, to make it easier to follow the places mentioned in the text.

Cheers for now.



Phuket to India.

As reported in our previous post, we departed Langkawi in a hurry, as there were a number of deadlines ahead of us – much as we don’t like to rush! The shipwrights and service providers in Langkawi are mostly Australians and South Africans who have settled there and are very relaxed. They appear to think “you are retired, so you have a lot of time to waste”. Add to that the duty free aspect – gin, vodka and brandy at AUD7.50 per litre! Most locals and hard-core yachties are chilling in an alcoholic haze. The result was that we sailed back to Phuket ten days later than we had planned – cutting out a later visit to Sri Lanka enroute, to be in time to meet Karen in India, when she flies in from Australia.

Annie at a Langkawi shopping centre.

We did an overnight dash to Phuket to arrive at the Yacht Haven Marina in the north west of Phuket, just in time for Michelle’s arrival from Sydney. She arrived loaded with equipment for the yacht, a spare code zero sail, Aldi coffee capsules and meds for us. We managed to vittle the boat at Tesco and Makro, fill up with diesel (with additional containers on deck) and connected the additional 200A/h LifePo4 battery. The 2 x 265W Canadian solar panels and the 2 x 200A/h LifePo4 batteries are working a treat – I can monitor charging progress through an app on my iPhone. It shows the charging, absorption and float cycles.

Another 100 litres of diesel on deck. Total diesel load 500 litres.

iPhone screenshot.

Phuket: back in superyacht territory.

…and floating Chinese restaurant!

Yacht Haven marina’s most gross cat, behind a Leopard 39 cat.

Yacht Haven – view from the bar.

Father and daughter enjoying a drink.

Yacht Haven marina and Sevenstar laid on a fantastic party with free drinks and food for 150 yachties, the night before we left. We checked out with the harbour master, customs and immigration in Au Chalon, and set off in a fresh breeze from Phuket to India at midday on Saturday the 3rd of February 2018. The Predictwind ten-day forecast was for north easterlies of around 13-15 knots. It turned out to be easterlies, which meant we had to pole out the jib and run zig-zagging downwind. Esprit with her new clean bottom was like a young filly – we did 24 hour runs of 160 to 170nm, averaging 6.5 to 7 knots/h. Early on day 2 we passed Indira Point lighthouse on the southern tip of Great Nicobar island and Annie celebrated by catching a blue fin tuna.

Traditional music before the party.

Leaving Thailand behind.

New crew member Michelle.

Passing the lighthouse south of Great Nicobar island.

During the night of day 4, the long expected 15-18 knot north easterly kicked in and we could sail a rhumb line route, broad reaching to the southern tip of Sri Lanka where we passed the lighthouse at Galle on day 7. There was a 6-hour low wind period in the lee of the island, which we used to run the water maker to refill our aft tank – our 550l water supply had run out two hours earlier. Despite numerous reports to expect strong head winds on the leg from Sri Lanka to the south of the Indian peninsula, we caught the prevailing fresh north easterly again, about 25 miles offshore. This allowed us a romping tight reach across the Gulf of Mannar, between Sri Lanka and India – dodging numerous fishing boats enroute.

Sundowners sailing up the west coast of India.

No sooner had we made our Indian landfall at Cape Comorin at 5am on day 9, when we were intercepted by the Indian Coast Guard. The friendly commander asked for our boat and crew details on VHF channel 16 and welcomed us, checking if we had enough diesel, food and water to reach Cochin, before wishing us fair winds. We were expecting to motor the last 100 miles up the coast, but the wind fortunately turned north west to allow us a pleasant port reach up the west coast of the Indian peninsula to Cochin. At this point I should add that having Michelle on board for this crossing has made the experience really enjoyable. With Karen joining us later this week, the crossing of the Indian ocean to the Red Sea and beyond to Suez, should be a lot easier for us old codgers.

The new crew member even served us dinner.

Esprit at anchor off the Taj hotel.

We slowed down our speed approaching Cochin at midnight on day 9, to arrive at sunrise at the Cochin port entry, as there were numerous ships showing up at the entry area on our AIS. As we approached the leading marks at about 6:45 am, Cochin port control who had picked us up on AIS, called us on channel 16 to ask if we were entering port. Confirming this, we were told to enter and anchor off the Taj hotel, where a boat would meet us to start the entry paperwork. At 7:30 am the port manager and a guy from Immigration boarded Esprit with the necessary documentation. We were told to come ashore to their offices.

First Immigration – still fresh and all smiles.

… then Customs.

The British has left a legacy of official paperwork in India, that has no equal in the world. Six hours later, after visiting numerous buildings in the area, our entry was finalised by Customs, Immigration and the Port captain. We then proceeded to the Cochin “International” marina, where the berths are undersized and very shallow. The other yachties who we met over drinks later, told us we were very lucky to have finished checking in in 6 hours – most of them took 6 hours on the first day, with another 9 hours the next day! Possibly, we were lucky that our check in was on a public holiday, with only a skeleton staff at each department, thereby reducing the number of officials who wanted to shuffle the documents around.

Then breakfast at the Taj Hotel, while Customs shuffled our paperwork.

Finally, the Port Captain – what? we have to pay port dues?

Cochin is a revelation – chaotic traffic, unbelievable air and water pollution, with piles of rubbish around. Another source of pollution is the ear piercing Bollywood music emanating from the passing sight-seeing boats next to the marina. On the positive side, the Indian people are extremely friendly and willing to help. Confusing at first though, is their habit of shaking their heads from side to side, to confirm or agree with your conversation. We would of course nod our head up and down to confirm or agree.

Mr P.M. Nazar taking us to the Vodafone shop for our mobile SIM cards.

Downtown Cochin.

Ferry terminal in the city.

Ferry across the harbour to the marina.

Esprit on the right at our compact marina berth – almost touching the yacht behind us.

Interesting ferry – passengers are allowed to fly on the wing.

Our anchor and chain was again showing serious rusting, so we took the opportunity to have these re-galvanized at reasonable prices, while we are here for a fortnight. We will also stock up with provisions and replenish the diesel before we set off for the Red Sea crossing at the end of February. Karen will arrive on Saturday – she and Michelle plan to head south to do some surfing, while Annie and I will travel inland to do some sight-seeing. We will keep you posted on further developments. Cheers for now.



Langkawi – take two.

Sunset over Nai Harn Bay from the Phuket Yacht Club.

After Michelle left for Australia, we stayed on at anchor at Nai Harn Beach, which was well sheltered from the weeklong strong northerly winds. We did daily walks and took the opportunity to explore Phuket by rented car and mopeds. The car was necessary to collect boat spares at Boat Lagoon Marina and our new davits from Scotland, at a post office north of the town.

Coffee and croissants after a morning walk with Mike and Debi from Cape Town.

Budgie smugglers rule! The wife of the bloke on the right, slapped him with a wet copy of the Women’s Weekly.

Easy riders.

Phuket’s big Buddha.

Christmas day coincided with Mike Kruyt’s birthday. We had a jovial group of friends celebrating at a Christmas lunch on the beach. New Year’s eve arrived and we had dinner with friends from the UK and Holland before settling on Esprit with drinks, to see in the New Year and celebrate Annie’s birthday. The locals put on quite a spectacular but un-coordinated fireworks display on the beach. It started at at 11:30pm and sporadically carried on until 2am! Great fun.

Christmas lunch.

Michelle and Karen – Christmas day at Byron Bay.

New Years eve dinner.

Michelle & Karen: New Year’s day music festival at Wisemans ferry.

We set sail back to Langkawi on the 3rd January and had a leisurely sail visiting islands enroute, on the 3-day journey back to Rebak Marina. The reason we sailed back for the haul out of Esprit, was that the quote from Rebak Marina for the slip, pressure clean, sanding down the hull, two coats of antifouling, polishing the topsides above the waterline and a comprehensive engine service, was around AUD1,500 less than in Phuket. Grant and Pete, both Aussies, did a fantastic job.

Esprit haul out and barnacle scrape off.

Pressure cleaning the hull.

For our non-sailing friends, a few photos will show the effect of the oceans on a sailing vessel after only 14 months at sea, since the previous haul out. Like a car or a house, a boat requires annual maintenance.

Esprit off to her parking bay in the rain.

Yanmar leg and prop with worn anodes.

Pete stripping the saildrive leg to drain the oil.

Once out of the water, the 2-metre long rudder showed movement on the shaft, resulting in Grant removing the rudder to have new nylon bushes and brass shims turned and fitted. An unexpected AUD 700 remedial exercise, but a precaution against losing the rudder in mid-ocean.

The rudder waiting for new bushes.

Mr Sahad applying the second coat of anti fouling paint.

Folding prop with new anodes and propspeed silicone paint.

The boat went back into the water after 8 days. We spent this time at a charming beach resort on the main island, taking the free ferry in to Rebak island each day to do work on the boat.

Esprit going back into the water.

View from our room.

Our wing at Senari Bay.

Sundowners on the beach.

Dinner at an Indian restaurant.

Dancer at the Indian restaurant.

It was a short trip to Telaga Harbour Marina, six miles to the north where we took a berth while Chris Morgan arranged stainless steel welding for the new davit mounts and a frame to carry the two new Canadian Solar panels above the bimini.

New dinghy davits.

New solid solar panels mounted above the bimini.

The customs and immigration office opposite our berth at Telaga Harbour Marina, has a clocktower which plays a tune and rings the bell every hour from 8am to 8pm. Very quaint.

There are a number of restaurants around the marina with reasonably priced food and drink. Langkawi is a tax free island, so we stocked up with wine, diesel, engine oil, filters and other tools and spares.

Dinner on the marina waterfront.

After ten days we sailed back to Phuket, to meet up with Michelle and prepare for the trip to India.

Langkawi to Thailand.

Looking up into the sky in Langkawi, you are bound to spot sea eagles, which are fascinating to watch as they swoop down to catch Garfish, which are in the habit of tail walking across the water. Langkawi, according to folklore, got its name from the two Malay words ‘helang’ (eagle) and ‘kawi’ (reddish brown): hence, lang-kawi.

The huge eagle statue in Kuah town.

After a five-day stay at Rebak Marina west off Langkawi, during which time we met a host of new yachties and travelled across to the main town Kuah, we set sail to explore some anchorages on the surrounding islands. The scenery is absolutely unique, with sheer limestone marble cliffs rising from the landscape at every turn. The land is densely forested with small fishing villages found only where there is flat land, which is rare. Most of the population resides on the biggest island Langkawi, where Kuah is the centre. We saw surprisingly few cruising boats and had anchorages to ourselves.

Rebak marina.

We anchored off Princess lake, which is quite a tourist attraction. Because we had no dinghy at this time, Annie used her paddleboard a lot to visit onshore sites.  We tied up at the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club for two nights, during which time I installed a new anchor pressure wash system to cope with the muddy bottoms in these parts. We also filled up with diesel before setting off north to Thailand.

Princess lake.


Sunset from Charlie’s Bar at RLYC.

The new anchor pressure wash system installed at RLYC.

Sailing north along the east coast of Langkawi island, we stopped at the “Hole in the Wall” which is part of the Kilim Geoforest Park – a World Heritage area and definitely worth a visit. We had a leisurely three-day sail from Langkawi to Phuket, averaging about 45 miles a day.

Kilim Geoforest Park.

Entering the Hole in the Wall.

The lake inside hole in the wall.

On our first day, as we crossed the border from Malaysia into Thailand, I was busy lowering the Malaysian and hoisting the Thai courtesy flags, when Annie shouted for help. Thailand had welcomed us with a beautiful Spanish Mackerel, which Annie landed, filleted and cryovacked into 16 portions. This catch will keep us fed with protein for more than a week. The beauty of this species of fish, is the absence of scales and fish bones – simply slice the meat off the spine and its bones.

Up goes the Thai flag.

Spanish Mackerel.

Annie the filleter at work.

As we approached Phuket, the peculiar vertical limestone marble outcrops rising from the sea became numerous. These sheer stone structures known as karst outcrops, with vegetation clinging to it, are all over. The last time we visited Phuket was two months before the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004. After the utter destruction, now 13 years later, it is paradise again, as usual.

Karst outcrops.

We arrived at Chalong Bay in the south of Phuket on Monday 11th December and anchored to check in with the harbour master, customs and immigration. It was a public holiday and we were advised to check in later. So, we sailed up the east coast of Phuket to a berth at Ao Po marina. Cholamark Boat Company delivered our new Highfield 2.9m Ultralight dinghy the same afternoon.

Michelle hiking with friend in the Lake District.

The following morning, we drove a rented car to the airport, to welcome Michelle our daughter, who flew in to Phuket from London where the temperature was – 6 degC. Two days before flying over, she was hiking in the Lakes District where it was snowing and the week before, she and her friend Simon, were in Iceland to see the Northern lights at -18 degC. The local temperature of 30 degC was a welcome relief.

Gosh – look at this pale girl.

Pale girl with dark father.

Afterwards, we drove south to Au Chalong to check in with the harbour master, customs and immigration – this was a painless and speedy 15-minute exercise. On the way back to our marina, we stopped to stock up with Vittles for Michelle’s 10-day stay.

Hong entrance.

After two nights at the Ao Po marina, we set off to explore the numerous islands in Phang Nga Bay, between Phuket island and Krabi on the mainland. Some of these karst outcrops have internal lakes, accessible by narrow caves which you row through in the dark to get to the “hongs” which means rooms. These are spectacular natural wonders, sometimes open to the sky through steep shafts, letting in light and air.

Entry to hong at Koh Phanak.

From the inside.

Light shaft.

Annie on an internal lake.

After exploring a few of these hongs, we were motoring to “James Bond Island” when we ran aground on an uncharted sandbank. This resulted in a 6-hour wait for the rising tide to lift us off, with the aid of the Mercury outboard on the new dinghy, pulling at the 10-tonnes of Esprit, at full throttle.

James Bond island in the distance – Esprit careening in the foreground.

Visiting JB island by dinghy while we wait for the tide to turn.

We continued at a relaxed pace to the east coast at Krabi which is really beautiful. We spent a few days exploring and sampling the local food before heading south to the Phi Phi island group.

Koh Yao Noi beach resort for lunch, enroute to Krabi.

Esprit anchored off Railay beach in Krabi.

At the penis shrine on the beach.

Rock climbing is very popular in Krabi.

Outdoor stalactites.

Amazing walks.

But, I am so hungry!

Krabi village street.

Bob Marley bar – magic mushrooms and ganja with the drinks.

Railay beach.

The ubiquitous and noisy long-tail boats.

Canoeists give scale to the overhanging stalactites.

Annie & Michelle on the beach.

A strong wind started to build up out of the Gulf of Thailand from the east, so we had a boisterous sail back to the shelter of Nai Harn beach on the southwest tip of Phuket island. In the relative shelter of this beautiful beach we sat out the gale force winds for three days. This severe weather system sank a yacht in the Philippines, drowned the Aussie skipper and left two crew in hospital.

We did numerous walks and on Thursday the 21st of December we will rent a car to drive to the airport in the north of the island, for Michelle to catch a flight to Sydney. She will spend the festive season with Karen and friends in Byron Bay, before going to the Rainbow Serpent Festival in Victoria, where she and a friend have received a grant to do an art installation.

We will be hanging around this area for the Christmas and New Year festivities with the other sailors, before sailing back to Langkawi to have Esprit slipped, cleaned, antifouled and the engine serviced for the long haul to India at the end of January. We will do another post before setting off. Cheers for now.


The warm welcome we received on entering Malaysia at Puteri Harbour Marina was a harbinger for the friendliness and excellent facilities which awaited us, as we sailed north.

Puteri Marina harbour.

Approaching the bridge linking Singapore with Malaysia.

Esprit sailing north – from catamaran “Por Dos”

Malaysia is a modern country with good infrastructure, a varied manufacturing base and a country that seems to have pollution under control. After crossing the South China Sea which was busy in terms of marine traffic, the Strait of Singapore was an eye opener in respect of serious marine traffic, as reported in our previous post. Sailing and motoring north through the Strait of Malacca, between Sumatra and western Malaysia, traffic intensified even more, due in local fishing and cargo vessels.

Approaching Malacca.

Our first anchorage after leaving Puteri was at Pisang Island (Banana island). A further two days of motor sailing got us to Malacca. The Portuguese, later the Dutch and then the British, settled and administered Malacca as their trading outpost in this region. Lots of the original buildings are still standing and the old part of town has been declared a UNESCO world heritage area. The oldest church in Southeast Asia sits on the hill in the centre of Malacca and has an interesting history.

St Paul’s church exterior.

The history of the church.

Church interior.

On the floor: A surprising South African connection.

Malacca bicycle taxis.

Dutch fort on the river.


Old town centre.

Historical Malaccan houses.

Malacca’s famous son.

Malacca has however expanded incrementally and now is a modern city surrounding the old town. After three days of exploring the town and city, a two-day sail to Port Dickson followed, where we tied up at the Admiral Marina. Three days of stocking up, filling with diesel and trying to repair our dinghy, which suddenly started falling apart at the seams followed. Getting around was cheap and easy, as Uber and Grab operates  in this part of the world.

Admiral Marina

Ex Saffer’s on the rally.

Chili’s at the supermarket – an ingredient in most dishes.

There followed a 2.5-day sail via Port Klang the huge harbour for Kuala Lumpur, to Pangkor Marina Island. We managed to get a berth in the marina on our second day anchored outside. James Khoo, the manager is an exceptionally friendly and capable man, who arranges any spares, services etc. you may require. Apart from that, he also organises seriously good parties with free beer, which is a winner with the yachties.

Welcome dinner and party.

Excellent duo.

One of James’s contacts Alan Quek from ATT Marine, came to inspect our over the hill lead acid batteries, wiring and charger controls. He quoted us to replace the four 110Ah service batteries with a 200Ah Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePo4) battery with BMS system, charger and control. His price, including installation, programming and commissioning was 50% of Sydney prices.

The Buddhist temple with Kim & Tom from Canada.

View from the shrine on the hill.

The little Great wall of China.

The tiger shrine.

The fishing harbour at Pangkor island.

Yachtie kids swinging on the beach.

Lunch on the beach – 5 nationalities at one table.

Sundowners at Pangkor Marina.

A wedding party in front of us.

Sundowners take two – Eric, Booker, Dave and Sieg.

We had a wonderful time in Pangkor, with tours, parties and meeting new friends. After 12 days, we set sail for the Straits Quay Marina in Penang. We passed under Penang’s second and first bridges on the way to the marina. The second bridge which opened in 2014, is 24 km long and is the longest bridge crossing in Southeast Asia. It is also the longest rubber damped bridge in the world, designed to withstand a 7.5 scale earthquake.

Approaching bridge no. 2.

Penang bridge no. 2 curving away in the distance.

Penang bridge no.1.

Massive yacht anchored off the city shore.

George Town on Penang island, is also a UNESCO world heritage area and the centre of Malaysia’s first world medical services. I availed myself of the competitive rates, and had my bi-annual colonoscopy performed by Dr Chin Loong (G’day mate! He lived in Melbourne for 10 years, studied medicine at Melbourne University and did his specialisation at Melbourne hospitals). We also applied for our Thailand visas at the Thai consulate in George Town.

The Swettenham Pier cruising terminal at George Town.

Our berth at Straits Quay Marina. Nice spot!

Entrance to Straits Quay Marina Mall – Christmas decorations are up.

We have to confess, we love Malaysia. It is a sensible destination for any retiree. It has first world facilities, excellent medical and dental services and it is very affordable to live here. The government promotes their MM2H programme (My Malaysian Second Home) which encourages foreign ownership of houses, apartments and condominiums at a fraction of Sydney prices. A 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment in the Straits Marina complex (the low rise behind Esprit) for AUD 350,000! No taxes on offshore income and pensions. Also, Penang has island wide free internet broadband, provided by the local government! Maybe we come back here after our planned circumnavigation.

Alan Quek installed the new LiFePo4 service battery, additional battery charger and battery monitor on Esprit, the Saturday before we set sail north. We can wholeheartedly recommend his meticulous service .

Alan with the 200A/h LiFePo4 battery (2,560W/h) that replaced the 4 Exide lead acid batteries (2,200W/h)

We spent a day walking and exploring the World Heritage listed George Town. The old buildings, shops and restaurants in Little India and Chinatown are fascinating.

George Town has some outstanding public art.

Better than Banksy?

Street musicians in little India, raising money for a charity.

Temple in Chinatown.

Colonial architecture: Penang city hall.

After Penang, we had a robust 20 knot one day sail to Langkawi island, in the north of Malaysia. Langkawi is a duty free port and requires checking in and out with Customs. The farewell party for the Sail Malaysia Rally participants  at Rebak Marina was a huge success with around 100 sailors, fantastic catering, drinks and live music, worth more than the $120/boat entry fee for the rally! Langkawi with its 105 islands is beautiful and laid back. We will report in more detail on this area when we sail to Phuket and Krabi.

Sailing into Langkawi – typical sea eroded rocky islands.

Crossing the Equator to Singapore

Ketawai island.

After leaving fabulous Belitung, we did a two day sail to Ketawai, a small island off the mainland. Robby the local organiser did a fantastic job of organising parties, food and music on the island, as well as tours onshore.

Robby, the organiser, with his twin daughters.

During a visit to a local school, I realised I had run out of money. No problem – our tourist police escort ran me to the nearest ATM with their blue lights flashing. I felt like a politician in South Africa!

Two friendly policemen who took me to an ATM.

More friendly students at the hotel and tourism school.

An interesting item on our itinerary, was a boat ride to a secluded and unspoilt mangrove forest. A long walk on walkways to protect the mangroves followed, culminating with lunch at an eco-friendly cafe.

Mangrove walk.

Lunch at the mangrove cafe.

Back at Ketawai, a farewell party with live music provided by a very talented young band and their vocalist.

The very good band on Ketawai island.

The sail north from Ketawai was best done during the day, as the sea was littered by fishing structures made of bamboo, complete with huts on top. Literally hundreds of them, unlit at night!

Fishing structures out at sea.

Number two of hundreds – why we don’t sail at night in this region.

Two day sails brought us to Lingga island with it’s smaller surrounding islands – absolutely beautiful and unspoilt by tourism. On Tuesday the 17th October 2017, we crossed the equator just south of Kentar island. This was followed that evening with a party on Esprit with the other three boats at the anchorage.

Crossing the equator as shown on our chart plotter.

A toast to King Neptune.

And another G&T for us!

Our second last stop in Indonesia was at Sembulang island where Thant Zhin from Burmese Breeze helped me repair four leaks which had suddenly sprung on our dinghy.

Thant Zhin fixing our dinghy.

Our last Indonesian anchorage was at Bintan Lagoy where the Sail Indonesia Rally organisers and the Bintan Tourist Ministry pulled out all the stops. Trips to various sights, like a beautiful Buddhist temple with 500 soldiers, a music festival and the final night gala dinner with a band and a beach party.

The representatives from Sabang island in attendance to market their island to us for Sail Sabang week, after Sail Malaysia.

Buddhist temple – completed two months ago.

Our guide and an army of 500.

Annie and an angry fellow.

These senior ladies know their moves at the Bintan festival.

Kids play area – just like in Sydney.

Join the Indonesian Army, Navy or Airforce!

Beach structure resmbling a snail or hermit crab?.

Seriously good rock group for the beach party.

The yachties doing their moves.

Midnight – setting off the mini hot air balloons.

Annie waiting for her balloon to lift off.

Up, up and away!

After the farewell and checking out of Indonesia at Bintan, we had to cross the Strait of Singapore – quite intimidating when you have to cross two shipping lanes, with more vessels than you can count on your AIS.

Most of the large vessels are travelling at around 20 knots, with the numerous ferries going at 30 knots. A rain squall hit us just before the first lane so we waited for it to clear and was lucky to get a reasonable gap in the east flowing lane. The west flowing lane required gunning it at maximum revs to pass just ahead of a 200 metre long tanker doing 18 knots.

Esprit approaching the Strait of Singapore.

Esprit approaching the Strait of Singapore.

Shipping highway.

Massive crane.

We checked into Malaysia at Puteri Harbour Marina where the organisers made the customs procedures part of their service, requiring only our electronic fingerprints. Absolutely painless and a 3 month visa at no charge! They laid on a gala welcome dinner for us at the 5-star hotel on the waterfront. A total of 68 vessels have signed up for the 5 week sail to Langkawi. We depart from here to Malacca on the first leg.

Puteri marina reception.

Sail Malaysia 2017 entrants.

Annie in her pedal VW Kombi.

We will catch up again in Langkawi, before we sail into Thailand. Cheers for now!



Bali to Belitung

Bali to Belitung

The Watson’s took a ferry from Gili Air to Bali on the 22nd September and we cast off the following morning to have a brisk sail to Ambat on the north-east coast of Bali. Ambat is at the foot of the active volcano, Ugang. The Watson’s who keep abreast of the news, told us that volcanic activity was imminent and that people have been evacuated around the volcano.

Mount Ugang

When we set sail the next morning, Ugang emitted a light cloud of steam, barely 10km away, so we hotfooted it to Lovina Bay for an overnight stay.

She’s smoking!

The rest of our rally group was now in Kumai, Borneo to see the orangutans, so we day hopped from Bali along the coasts of Java and Madura, before we did an overnight sail to Karimunjawa. With a population of about 140 million people, Java is the world’s most populous island and is home to about 60% of the Indonesian peoples. Around Surabaya, the second largest city after Jakarta, there are extensive gas and oil fields with very heavy shipping traffic and thousands of fishing boats.

Huge clouds forming over Java.

Approaching the strait between Madura and Java, I counted 73 large vessels on our AIS system. Mostly tankers waiting to take on oil and gas, but also ferries, tugs with longline tows of barges laden with mountains of coal and of course, the ubiquitous fishing vessels. It is best to only sail during the day because of the traffic intensity, but we had to do a 170-mile overnight sail to Karimunjawa, which was nerve racking. Most of these vessels don’t have AIS, and being timber built, not visible on radar.

One of the many unique Javanese fishing boats.

Internationally, vessels at sea show three lights, red (port), green (starboard) and white (stern). In these parts, strobe type LED disco lights in blue, pink, purple etc. are popular, making it impossible to determine the vessel’s course. The larger fishing boats have very bright arc lights to attract fish. So, sailing at night is a real challenge, particularly when you factor in the fish traps and fish nets. After anchoring in Karimunjawa, Annie had to dive to get some fish nets off Esprit’s propeller.

Even the smaller boats are decorated.

Karimunjawa is a pretty place where we stocked up with fruit and vegetables at the market and had dinner at a local café. The two plates of Nasi Goreng cost us AUD2.40, all up. The beers were slightly dearer at AUD3.00 for 500ml of Bintang beer (Bintang meaning “Star” in Bahasa). We left the following day to do the long haul to Belitung island. The 274 nm crossing of the Java sea took us 52 hours. Very little wind, meant we motored for 49 hours, burning about 90 litres of diesel.

Karimunjawa fisherman’s house.

And another quaint house.

A big and strange looking fishing boat.

We arrived in Belitung in a heavy rain squall at about 3pm in the afternoon. A lot of familiar faces from the rally awaited us and we joined Burmese Breeze for a fish BBQ in the evening. Annie discovered a lesion on her calve which she thought should be checked in case it was a melanoma.

The beach resort at our anchorage.

Kelayang beach on Belitung reminds a lot of our previous home in Bakoven, Cape Town, where we surrounded by these huge granite boulders and white sandy beaches.

View towards the Kelayang village from a small island offshore.

A small island near our anchorage.

Walking trail on this island.

This island is a sea turtle sanctuary.

The view from turtle island.

A huge granite boulder.

The following morning a helpful local gent took her on the back of his scooter to the local hospital, where he announced her as an emergency. She saw a doctor who confirmed it was a beetle bite, picked up in Karimunjawa. There seems to be poisonous rogue beetles on that island. The doctor gave her cortisone cream and antihistamine tablets – total charge was AUD0.60.

The doctor and Annie.

We visited a local senior high school where the students and staff laid on breakfast, singing, acting and dancing of a very high standard.

The teacher’s welcoming us at the gate.

Entry ceremony.

Male students doing their thing.

Female students welcoming dance.

Revlon has a big market in Indonesia.

First, a vegetarian breakfast.

Some of the 700 friendly students.

Welcoming song where Annie was asked to join in.

One of the student’s acts.

Dancing to wrap up the ceremonies and our visit.

The teachers also want to join in.

This was followed by lunch at a traditional timber house, with more dancing and music. Again the entry ceremony is a quaint and funny ritual where our host had to convince the owner of the house to let us in. In this case the owner was offered and accepted a fake A4 size, 100,000 Rupiah note (about AUD10).

Convince me why these people should enter.

Welcoming gifts.


Lunch at the traditional house.

Our traditional lunch.

Lunchtime music.

On the way back to our anchorage we visited a timber boat building yard where fishing boats are built in the traditional style.

Planked timber hulls.

Boat interior.

The evening was devoted to our welcoming dinner with various musical acts, excellent food and even the minister of tourism singing for us!

Opening act.

Childrens group creating environmental awareness.

Another environmental act aimed at unlawful hunting.

Leslie Rigney, one of our yachties, singing for the locals.

The minister doing his thing.

We had to do a closing act, so we sang Rod Stewart’s “We are sailing” to the max.

Part of our group.

Full blast.

The local tourism authority laid on an extensive programme of tours, cultural events and music performances for us. We also spent time talking to the local high school student’s “English Club” to give them the opportunity to practice their English and learn about our countries and cruising agendas. The students are bright and eager to learn, knowing that the future of their island is in tourism.

My group of English Club students.

The East Belitung Tourist Authority took us on a bus day tour to the capital Manggar and on the way we visited an open pit tin mine, a Buddhist temple with dragon dances and the local fighting between young men who try to cane their opponents on the back.

At the mine with Khadafi the tourist police chief.

Dragon dancing.

The dragons and us.

Beating the bejesus out of one another.

We were treated to lunch at a restaurant on the water’s edge before visiting the tourist authority offices and finishing at a coffee bar (Manggar has approximately 1,100 coffee bars) where a local music group performed for us. The two 17-year old local vocalists were very good.

Welcoming us at the restaurant.

Lunch table.

More ceremony at the tourism offices.

The coffee bar.

The talented 17 year old vocalist, Sasha

Another talented 17 year old.

Our own Leslie Rigney singing “Over the rainbow”

That’s all for now folks!


Bali and the Gili’s

From Komodo to Java.

Our last report was from the Medana Bay marina on Lombok. We called in at Gili Air on the way to Lovina Bay in the north of Bali. Michelle our daughter, has spent some time surfing in the Gili’s and highly recommended a visit to these islands. Ironically, she and Karen her sister, was in the heat and dust of the Burning Man festival in the USA, during our visit to these islands.

Gili Air – no motorised transport!

Gili Air anchorage.

Esprit enroute to Bali.

We arrived in Lovina Bay to renew our 3 month visas for Indonesia. Our Sydney friends, Ron and Michelle Watson, arrived the next day to join us for some sailing and R&R. The visas took five days to process, but the welcoming parties for the Lovina Bay Festival kept us fully occupied.

Annie and Michelle.

Ron, our new six pack barman.

Mr & Miss Lovina Bay Festival 2017.

Ladies, all dressed up.

Gents, also in their best.

Yachties, in their best.

Eric from Seattle, looking like a local.

Lovina Bay locals welcoming us with a dance on the beach.

Beautiful ladies on parade.

Very good kids band.

These girls were excellent twirling their flags.

Traffic jam.

Mick, Annie & Dirk at the selfie seat.

Fashionable teenagers strutting their stuff.

While these kids are making mud cakes.

Creating awareness for recycling!

Lovina Beach wall sculpture.

Buddhist/Hindu prayer posts everywhere.

After receiving our visas, we backtracked to Lombok island to show them the southern Gilis  (Gede and Asahan) and northern Gili islands and visit Medana Bay.

Gili Gede.

First customers at a pub on Gili Gede.

View from the pub.

Hoola Hoop resort on Gili Asahan.

Drinks at Gili Air.

The young lovers in front of us.

To remind us of our age – the Stones mural at a music venue.

Aji the driver took us to some spectacular waterfalls near Medana Bay and also to an Elephant and wildlife park. After this we visited Gili Air where we enjoyed some good food and music. Unfortunately, the Watson’s had to catch a ferry back to Bali after 10 days on board, but hopefully they will join us again in Thailand.

On our way to the waterfalls.

Adam and Eve.

Ron and Annie had to swim.

Walking back through the Dutch built irrigation tunnel.

Park entrance.

Annie and some birds.

Ron, the snake handler.

Less dangerous feeding an elephant.

Agile monkeys.

You call that a day bed? Annie calls this a day bed.

We are now working our way across Java up to Karimunjawa to re-join the rally. There will be a number of overnight sail legs and we will report on these in our next post.

Komodo National Park

Our route to Komodo.

After day hopping along the north coast of Flores island, we arrived at Labuan Bajo on the western end of the island. This is a popular destination for those visiting the Komodo and Rinca National Parks. After re-stocking with beer, fruit and vegetables we did the short hop to Rinca island where we anchored late afternoon. At 7am the next morning, we started the long trek with a guide through the hills and valleys of the park. We saw quite a large number of male dragons of up to 3 metres in length. There are also numerous monkeys, buffalo and deer in the park. After hiking for 3 hours, we got back to Esprit and lifted the anchor.

A 30 year old male dragon.


A wary Annie with a 15 year old young lad.




Deer – one heavily disguised with vegetation!


Walking with our guide.


Female dragon digging a hole for laying her eggs.

It was a short sail to Komodo island, where we sailed past the popular pink beach, before anchoring off the eastern reefs to snorkel the next day. The ladies were lucky to be entertained by the huge Manta Rays doing their graceful ballet in about 4 metres of water. The reefs had good coral with numerous tropical fish.

Manta Rays, 3-way dance.


Red soft coral.


Reef finger coral.

It was a short hop to the top end of Komodo where we anchored in a sheltered bay called Loh Gebah. This gave us the opportunity to do a 3-hour climb and walk up a hill affording us beautiful views across the surrounding islands. We spent three days at this anchorage, snorkelling, paddle boarding and doing general maintenance on the boat.

Looking down to Loh Gebah.


View looking north.

Sailing from Komodo island to Wera on the eastern side of Lombok island, we passed an active volcano.

Smoking gun near Wera.

On the way to Wera, Annie caught a juvenile barracuda of about 800mm long. The following day, sailing to Kawienda, she caught a 1 metre long Spanish Mackerel, which will provide fish portions for about 10 meals.

Spanish Mackerel.

After Kawienda, we anchored off Pulau Satonda to visit an extinct volcano, the caldera now filled with water, more saline than the sea.

Caldera of Pulau Satonda.


School girls at the volcano asking for a photo with pale people.


Cool dudes asking for the same.

From we did three day sails to Medana marina on the western tip of Lombok island. This marina was a lovely stop with excellent meals and cold beers, efficiently run by Peter from Australia.

View from Medana Bay marina restaurant.

Our next post will be from Bali where our Sydney friends Ron & Michelle Watson will join us for a sail. Cheers until then.



Alor to Flores island.

Esprit’s route from Darwin.

The rugged north coast of West Timor.

After the welcoming dinner and tours of Wini, midway up the north coast of West Timor and close to the border with the Timor Leste enclave, we set sail for Alor island, 69 nm to the North. There was a good breeze at 6:30am when we set sail, but this only lasted for two hours, when the wind dropped. The spinnaker was deployed to make the most of the 6-7 knot wind, but had to be taken down after 30 minutes when the wind veered north. The Yanmar cranked to life and we motored the rest of the way, to the south of Alor and dropped our anchor in a sheltered bay after covering 44 nm.

Drinks on Ocelot.

There were three other yachts anchored there, who decided to overnight, rather than arrive at our destination at around midnight. Jon and Sue from Seattle, invited everyone around for drinks on their catamaran, Ocelot. A pleasant time was had with the yachties, before heading back to Esprit for dinner and an early night. We set off again at 6:30 am the following morning to do the last 25 nm leg, but on activating the autopilot, the GPS reported “Rudder response failure”.

Not a bad spot to wait for the tide to turn.

We called the other yachts on VHF to let them know we were going to anchor in the next bay, to reconnect the rudder response unit arm. This requires unpacking the life raft, fenders and mooring lines in the lazarette locker, to get to the hatch, giving access to the steering quadrant. It turned out to be a good move, as we could hear the chatter on our VHF radio, reporting a strong 5 knot current slowing down the three boats already on their way up the channel between the islands of Alor and Pantar. We checked the tide tables for the channel and found that the tide would turn from low to high tide at about 10:45 am and assumed this might reverse the current.

Fish traps on the way to Kalabahi.

This bay was quite a pleasant spot, so we had breakfast, fixed the RRU and Annie went snorkelling in the crystal clear water, while I settled down with a book. We set off again at 10:30 am and had a 2 knot current in our favour, going up the channel to Kalabahi town on Alor island. We anchored at 3pm. Kalabahi was a smaller and dirtier (if that’s possible) version of Kupang. The harbour was particularly trashy as it’s at the end of a fjord and doesn’t flush as well as Kupang. The locals throw everything into the water and most of the trash these days is non degradable.


The harbour master of Kalabahi (and 4 assistants) checking our paperwork.

Children rehearsing for the Indonesia day celebrations.

Indonesia is a country consisting of 15,677 islands, including the western half of New Guinea. It has a population of over 260 million with the largest population of Muslims in the world, although it is not an Islamic state. The island archipelago stretches for over 3,200 miles from north- west to south-east, straddling the equator. Indonesia is located on the Pacific “Rim of Fire” and leads the world in many volcanic statistics. It has the largest number of historically active volcanoes (76), and has a total of 1,171 dated eruptions since European arrival.

Two of the most devastating volcanic eruptions during historical times, took place in Indonesia: the enormous eruption of Tambora in 1815 – the largest known eruption in the world, had such far-reaching effects on the climate, that for instance Europe was to experience 1816 as the year without summer. In 1883, the disastrous eruption of Krakatau was followed by severe tsunamis that killed about 30-40,000 people. The first volcano we sailed past after leaving Alor island, was Lewotolo on the island of Kawula, where we anchored overnight at the town of Balurin.

Lewotolo volcano on Kawula island. 

When we reached Wodong on the island of Flores, we were able to travel overland to see the Kelimutu volcano, now dormant. It has a caldera of three lakes with different colours due to minerals such as copper and tin. Flores island stretches more than 300 nm from east to west, so we day hopped from Wodong to the west coast over four days in the company of 4 to 7 other yachts. There wasn’t much wind, so we had to motor quite a lot. Another reason for only travelling during the day, are the great number of floating fishing platforms off the coast, which are unlit during the night.

Annie admiring the caldera.

The lakes from the highest point. We are above the clouds.

Two old guys at the top lookout.

Lunch on the way back.

Our next stop will be the Komodo island National Park where the famous Komodo dragons and two other species of giant lizards live. We will report more in our next post.