We can now officially report that we have “gone cruising.” Dock lines were cast yesterday and we spent our first night at anchor. If feels rewarding to be truly afloat again, with bows pointed to the breeze and salt spray cast across her decks.
It is hot here in September – low 30’s hot, which when breezeless means really, really hot. Matters are worse when smoke fills the sky from burning plantations of palm trees, making the heat seem all the more oppressive. It has taken us some time to adjust to the high temperature but the gauges are tuning and our bodies starting to regulate. We initially stayed in a hotel near the marina whilst Atea was on the hard getting her final work done, the air-conditioned rooms a welcome reprieve. We soon discovered, however, that air-con in these parts don’t have temperature adjustments so we either battle hypothermia or heat exhaustion. I’ve never understood why countries with the hottest temperatures tend to turn their thermostats the lowest – it has always seemed counter-intuitive to carry jumpers around when walking around in the blistering heat. But if you intend to spend anytime indoors the extra layers are necessary. I now understand how Muslim’s can get away with head-to-toe covering when I spend time indoors shivering myself blue.
It took us three weeks to get ourselves sorted for the season, which was the timeframe we expected. While Pangkor may not attract the average tourist, Pangkor Marina does offer a good base to get marine work done. We had high hopes of getting a significant refit done to Atea during her nine months on the hard, but we soon realized that you have to be present to ensure progress. Nevertheless, we succeeded antifouling the hull, polishing the topsides, painting rust spots and the interior woodwork has been rejuvenated. At the last minute we added in an anchor winch service, rudder shaft repairs and a leaking hull valve replacement. After emptying out the bank account, we were finally ready to go. You quickly realize why boatyards are full of foreign cruising yachts. With prices roughly 50% lower than western yards, it is the only place you can afford to have work done… and even then boats quickly consume what money you have.
Of our diet, it has changed considerably since re-embarking on the cruising life. As I reflect through the seasons, the taste and flavour of our meals are highly influenced by the regions we travel through. This one more so than any other. In previous years we have left shore with a yacht stocked for extended periods. Rather than a year of stores onboard, this year we have the luxury of easy access to most foods and we are able to provision as we go. A novel experience. For the first time ice-cream blesses our freezer, which sounds a good thing as in years past the entire space has been jammed exclusively with eye fillet and scotch steak. However, while fruit and vegetables abound, quality meat, breads and cheeses are sparse. The chicken is scrawny and the meat ordered by hue: orange, black or green. As such, a vegetarian diet consumes our meals unless we go ashore. Given meals – good, delicious, full-flavour meals – are a quarter of what the ingredients would cost, eating ashore is a regular affair.
That’s great until you are blessed with a toddler who has little appreciation for spice. As meals in Malaysia are a blend of Indian and Malay culture, very little is served bland in nature. Given Braca’s distaste for meals with a red hot kick, rice is slowing becoming his staple. Ayla is getting her balance of nutrition through breast milk, but Braca has been abruptly deposited into a white rice diet.
We lucked into good company on our first day. We went to the boatyard to greet Atea for the first time in ten months when we saw two small figures madly peddling along the walkway. To my delight, they turned down the ramp to a yacht at the end of the jetty. I went around to introduce myself and was delighted to meet a very chatty and warm Canadian woman and her Australian family. Her two daughters are two and five, the youngest a month off Braca’s birthdate. We laughed at the kit that comes with kids and how ridiculous some of it was in a cruising context – babies on boats with bikes. John and I had debated before leaving Auckland at how ridiculous it was to bring a bicycle and trike (for the baby who isn’t yet crawling!), but this introduction started a ritual of morning communal bike rides and an immediate friendship. “Where are my girls?!” was the first thing Braca would say in the morning and they’d soon be off as a connected threesome. They would be off peddling around the marina, swimming in the hotel pool, hanging out below decks playing games or attending home-schooling lessons. We also took excursions into town, which provided access to local attractions and activities. SV Wandoo made the three weeks in Pangkor Marina a very social, welcome affair.
We have reunited with old friends and met some new, and social evenings on the aft deck have kicked in to a regular affair. What stands out is that at some point in the evening all conversation inevitably turns to “where to next?” Opposed to seasons past where routes all led westward, piracy in the Indian Ocean means that cruisers have to choose alternate plans to what was once the “milk run” to the Med. From Malaysia and Thailand, most boats head southwest through the South Indian Ocean to round the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa on a return trip to Europe or the Americas. A few brave or foolhardy team up to head through the Bay of Bengal and the pirate waters of the Arabian Sea (or finance the safer but more expensive option of shipping the yacht by cargo ship). Others look eastward on a circuit that leads them back through the North or South Pacific. Us? We have no idea. Or more aptly put, we have many ideas but none that we have committed to.