Thursday, December 31, 2015

Flinders - 38° 27' 04" S 144° 57' 27" E

Flinders - home for Christmas! Days filled with friends and family, cycling and lazing on beach after beach, the mandatory jumping off the pier, chicken parma at the pub, eating, visiting and a tad too much drinking.

Down at the Flinders Pier
Hot days means the beach. Which beach depends on the wind, tide and appetite to hike up the sand dunes. McCrae, Flinders Back Beach, Shoreham, Flinders Pier, Fingal...  and we are yet to scratch the surface.  We are noticing how conditioned we are to start a hike by going up, reaching the goal and having an easy skip back to the starting point.  It doesn't work that way when the goal (eg. a sandy beach) is at sea level.  We have to remember to save some energy for the slog out.

Un-squished roadside attraction
Early bike rides looping though Red Hill, Shoreham, Flinders or Arthur's Seat, Red Hill Flinders. Well maintained, undulating roads with mostly courteous road users.  We both truly appreciate the lack of sand/grit on the roads here.  Fitness is slowly, slowly coming back to our legs after months of sitting in the cockpits of various sailboats.  We have yet to do the big grind up the front of Arthur's Seat, but we will.  The gradual and gentle speed of travel means we are more likely to spot and appreciate roadside attractions ... like echidnas!

Kangaroos everywhere. The hot dry weather is drawing them to the grass along the road reserves. A particularly large old fella came a cropper (was fatally injured by car) just outside Dad's gate. We have watched  (and smelt) its decomposition through hot weather, insects and critters every time we pull out of the drive.  Sean has been amazed at just how little time a 90+ kg kangaroo takes to decompose, though.  Seven days after the end of its hopping days, there is very little left of the carcass besides bones, claws and a little bit of hide.

New Year's Eve was spent on the beach. First the Back Beach then the Pier. Half the town (cousins, old friends) was jumping off into the cool water. Great entertainment in watching a black jeep disappear beneath the waves up to his doors as he tried to tow out his boat! Beers on the beach then fish and chips. Fabulous end to 2015.

Fingal Beach - full of danger!
Much easier going down
Simon and Angus play catch in the gentle surf
Blue shirt memo received, read, executed
Kate looks out over Western Port
Angus in mid-air
Kate and Susan
One of our rides
A happy end to 2015

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Bruny Island - 43° 29' 21" S 146° 08' 39" E

Another ocean, another island. Despite having beautiful white, sandy beaches and crystal, blue seas, the water temperature is a little brisker at these latitudes!  We are staying at Richard's shack at Apollo Bay on the D'Entrecasteaux Channel, a short ferry ride and a hop, skip and a jump to Hobart. We are enjoying a slow pace with breakfast on the veranda overlooking the water and feasting on Richard's fabulous meals cooked up in the pizza oven (when not a total fire ban!).

A spotted quoll
We arrived tired from our trip back from Thailand so spent a lovely first day lazing on the porch, overlooking the natural bush garden that runs down to the sea.  Critters abound.  We have spotted quolls gamely venturing onto the porch, only to scurry away when we move.  Bennetts wallabies lazily hop by and we have visits from the local echidna. 

Snake - we think a young tiger...
Yesterday, we hiked the 16.9km walk up and back the Labillardiere Peninsula on South Bruny.  Beautiful views and sightings of black cookatoos, wallabies and a couple of snakes. Today was the gourmet tour.  We indulged in several lunched, one at Bruny island Cheese Factory and a second at 'Get Shucked' the local oyster farm. We loaded up on cheeses and other local produce to to take back for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Kuala Lumpur - 02° 44' 43" N 101° 41' 03" E

Back in Malaysia enroute to Melbourne. Our SE Asia trip in summary:

Flew to Phuket
Sailed to Kuala Lumpur
Raced to Langkawi
Sailed to Phuket
Caught ferry to Langkawi
Sailed to Phuket
Flew to Kuala Lumpur

...and tomorrow, we fly to Melbourne then to Hobart!

Ao Po Marina - 08° 04' 09" N 98° 26' 32" E

Last night, whist enjoying a fabulous Last Supper, Kokomo was struck by lightning. A very loud bang, sparks showering and rain hammering. We were below, snug in the air conditioning with lights blazing and every device connected to wifi.

This morning, in the cold, hard light of day, we discovered Kokomo had lost all her nav instruments, AIS, VHF radio, auto helm and the deck lights. We motored into Ao Po Grand Marina where calls were made to surveyors and insurance companies. It appears to have been a very expensive bolt from the heavens and Julie and Mark will be enjoying the luxury at Ao Po for some time while repairs are made.

Ao Po is where we farewell Kokomo so like rats leaving a sinking ship, we head back to Australia. Thanks Julie and Mark hosting such a fabulous adventure - we look forward to many more!

Sean found another place to do laps

Mark and Julie looking over the marina

Friday, December 11, 2015

Ko Muk - 07° 19' 37" N 91° 16' 01" E

the lovely Kokomo
On the last night we were in Langkawi, we met an Australian couple sailing a boat with a Canadian flag and got to chatting with them.  Mark is a master mariner and has spent most of his life on large container and cargo vessels.  Julie, his wife, is new to the cruising life but game to join Mark to live aboard Kokomo, a 60 foot Cooper sloop that they bought in Vancouver.  They started living aboard in June and are now retired and exploring the Singapore/Malaysia/Thailand area.  They let us tour their lovely boat, fitted with Canadian maple and many luxuries that would make life aboard very pleasant.  How excited do you think we were when they asked us if we wanted to sail with them from Langkawi to Phuket?

This is the absolute BEST Immigration line I've ever been in.
We needed to get Popeye up to Kata Beach (on Phuket) for Craig and his charter group first, so having done that and spent some time on the island, we then needed to get back to Langkawi.  The milk-run island ferry seemed like the best solution, so we packed up four days ago and started back.  The ferry stopped at many different islands, but we didn’t disembark.  The ferry went as far as Ko Lipe, where we had to overnight and catch the Malaysian speedboat the next morning.  Ko Lipe is a National Park, but with all the hotels, longboats, dive shops and restaurants along the beach and on the island, we couldn’t figure out what benefit the National Park designation was providing the island.  Hopefully, the 200 Baht each we had to pay to come ashore was going towards park rangers who were keeping the coral in better shape than it would normally be.

Mark and Julie Board
We were a bit nervous upon going to spend five days with a couple that we had only met very briefly before.  It turns out that there was not need for worry.  Mark and Julie are marvelous, generous, interesting people.  Mark was filled with stories from his merchant mariner days, having travelled much of the world and had some great experiences.  Julie had some stories to tell about being an ex-pat in Singapore.  Both were great hosts and Kate and I were suitably impressed by our accommodations.  They have done a great job of setting themselves up with a new home on the water, having sold their land-based house and fully moved onto the boat.  Mark and Julie are justifiably proud of Kokomo and have been very patient with all my questions about systems on the boat and the hows and whys of the systems.  They have been giving us insight on the good and the bad parts of living aboard – I am finding this invaluable for assuring me that Kate and I can do this successfully. 

We spent a day settling into the boat in Langkawi before setting out.  We brought out both main and jib sail and even brought out a seldom-used gennaker, but the winds were a bit too light to really get Kokomo going properly.  We ended up relying on the iron sail (engine) to get us to Taranto, our first stop.  Mark and Julie prefer to just day sail, so we were going to be hopping from one anchorage to the next.  During the day passages, we find ourselves in the cockpit, under cover of a wide biminy behind the generous wheelhouse, chatting about our working days, friends, places we’ve been to or would like to go someday. 

a.k.a. Emerald Beach!

Last night we made it to Ko Muk and decided to go to Emerald Beach on the island.  What makes this beach unique is it can only be accessed through a dark, 80 metre-long tunnel that is wide enough for swimmers, kayaks or very small dinghies.  Flashlights in hand and Kate and I in the water towing the dinghy (Julie wasn’t quite brave enough to get out and swim through an unknown cave), we felt very much like we were in an Indiana Jones movie as we made our way through the twisty, dark tunnel.  We managed to find the pathway through and were treated to a secluded wander around the beach.  As we were making our way out through the tunnel, there was the traffic of a tour group, all lifejacketed up and paddling nervously through the water the way we had just came.  Thank goodness we went in before breakfast and had the place to ourselves – the rest of the day was likely to be busy in there!

We are now underway to Ko Phi Phi Don, where we will anchor tonight and likely go ashore for a look around.  Cruising life is very much suiting Kate and me.

3 kms? When the tsunami comes, you better be fit!
Lots of Kings Cup tenders ashore on Kata Beach

Dinner on Ko Lipe after a long ferry ride

Mile Zero of the Andaman Highway on Ko Lipe

Beach at Ko Lipe
Kokomo's salon
Wheelhouse - snug place in a storm!
Kokomo's galley

real portholes!
Proper bathroom - shower to the right
Alcohol leads to dance parties
properly sheltered cockpit
exploring Emerald Beach
Indiana and his sidekick get towed through the tunnel
out of the tunnel from Emerald Beach
On watch

Julie and Mark look out to Kokomo

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Ko Lipe - 06° 29'16" N 99° 18'29" E

 Ko Lipe, the start of the Andaman Route and our farewell (for a day or two) to Thailand.  Immigration on the beach and the very best line-up I have ever been in!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Krabi Boat Lagoon - 08° 00' 37" N 98° 57' 41" E

Popeye raced The Kings Cup under charter by a boatload of Russians. With a few professionals onboard, she was put through her paces and the sail wardrobe suffered another casualty - the heavy spinnaker.  With a spare in the storage at Krabi, we volunteered to do the seven-hour return trip so Craig could continue his owner's obligations with Popeye.

This time, on land
We headed out through the craziness of peak hour traffic. Scooters piling out of side streets, cars passing on both left and right, across double lines, on blind corners.... Despite the chaos, we thought the drivers far more courteous than in the order of Canada and Australia. Oncoming car on your side of the road, threatening a head-on?  No problem.  Just slow down so he can get back onto his side of the road. No fists shaking, horns blaring in anger or obscene gestures.

Our route took us through the stunning Phang Nga province with its towering limestone monoliths soaring above palm and rubber plantations.

Entering the Krabi Boat Lagoon was like returning home. A long chat with Des (who did the overhaul on Popeye) about the alternator and steering trouble, Guan wanted to know how we enjoyed her food and Jim and Katie off 'Asylum' remembered us too! We organized to go aboard 'Roxy', the 48ft Hans Christian Craig thinks we should buy. Lovely boat with many of the attributes we are looking for, a good benchmark!

Another meal of Guan's fabulous cooking then we hit the road, music blaring, back to Kata to deliver the sail. A marvellous adventure...

We drove through amazing rock formations

Back home to Krabi Boat Lagoon

rubber trees!

Good luck with the signs!

Sourcing a new outboard for Craig's tender

much worse than hitting a gopher