Anchors and Other Stuff

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Here’s a quick update on Sophie’s ongoing Thai makeover. Earlier this week, we replaced our old Lewmar “plow” style anchor with a new Rocna anchor. Rocnas are made in New Zealand and are considered by many cruisers to be the finest anchors in the world.

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Our Lewmar anchor weighed 40 kg and came with Sophie when we bought the boat in 2008. Overall it has served us well, but we’ve dragged our anchor several times in the last 5 months, so Jenna and I thought it was time for a change. The Rocna weighs 55 kg, has a bigger spade to bite into the ocean floor, and features a roll bar that helps keep it set.

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As you can see, the new anchor is significantly larger than this .5 liter beer bottle. Our nephew Dan, who has joined us for a 12 day Sophie Adventure Cruise, was kind enough to point out that the beer bottle is empty.

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Getting the Rocna onto Sophie required choreography and teamwork. We used four ropes and it all worked perfectly. There was no shouting. Just smiles. The new anchor makes us happy.

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Our old anchor was attached to the anchor chain with an inline stainless steel fitting. Many sailors do not like this kind of attachment because side pressure could potentially cause the stainless steel to bend and eventually break. In fact, we have a friend in Seattle who recently purchased a new sailboat, and he spent a week trying to remove this type of fitting from his anchor.

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Our’s came off in three minutes, which is pretty cool given that it has been in use for 7 and a half years.

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As you can see, there is no bend to our fitting.

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We are using a simple shackle to attach the Rocna to our anchor chain. Rocna has an excellent anchoring knowledgebase on their website, and they recommend using this approach.

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We replaced our anchor bridle, the 2 ropes that we clip on to the anchor chain once it has set. The bridle acts as a shock absorber and distributes the load from the anchor to each hull. The old bridle was hard and calcified, covered with dead barnacles and other marine mysteries. The new bridle is soft and shiny. We also bought a completely new anchor chain. We won’t replace the chain until we haul Sophie out of the water for bottom painting in December.

Between the new anchor and chain, we hope to have worry-free nights for years to come.

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We’ve had some other work done in Thailand this past week. Sophie has a wooden seat on each bow pulpit. The original seats were made from marine plywood and were beginning to delaminate.

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We replaced them with solid teak. They are now too nice to sit on.

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We installed a West Marine plastic engine mount on one of our stern pulpits for the engine to our small dinghy, The Baby.

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The mount is designed to attach to the pulpit where a horizontal tube and a vertical tube meet to form a “T”. We didn’t have one of those, so we asked a local guy to make one for us by welding a new piece of stainless steel to our pulpit.

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We had the local rigger Rolly Tasker make a custom bridle for our big dinghy, making it easy for us to raise the dingy out of the water using our stern dinghy davits. The bridle is made from 10 mm Dyneema cored rope. We also replaced the dinghy davit ropes with Dyneema as well.

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Our microwave oven bit the dust 2 months ago, and Jenna brought one back from the US with her in August. We couldn’t buy one locally because all appliances in Asia are 230 volt, and Sophie is a 110 volt American boat. We had to get a local carpenter to recut the wooden face plate in the microwave cabinet in order to get the new appliance to fit. Hi Dan!

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Finally, we got new fender covers. I know it’s a relatively minor thing, but it means a lot to us. They look nice!

That’s about it for now. Please stay tuned, because later today Jenna is going to do a post an out the most terrifying thing imaginable that happened to us this week. It’s awful!

 

 

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Anchorages and MARINAS from Singapore to Phuket

IMG_1178Here is another post for boats following in our footsteps, where we document our stops on this 500 mile stretch of water in Malaysia and Thailand. Please note that this is the first time I am doing one of these waypoint blog posts where I include information on multiple marinas where we stopped. Yes, marinas. We’re not in Tonga any more.

Before we left Singapore, we were told that boats were fleeing Phuket to avoid the rainy, windy season known as the “southwest monsoon.”  The best time to head north to Thailand was during the “northeast monsoon” between November and March, when the weather is drier, the water is clearer, and a gentle wind blows from the land.

Now that we are up in Phuket, people here are telling us that the concept of a summertime southwest monsoon — aka the bad, rainy season — has become increasingly irrelevant. Perhaps it is a result of global warming. Our weather has been sunny, the water is clear, and the winds are quite gentle. For us, this has been a great time to begin exploring Thailand. And we recommend all of the anchorages and stops in this post to boats following us, with the exception of the anchorage in Telaga if the weather is squally.

Pulau Pisang
01.28.817N, 103.14.721E
We anchored behind this island on our first stop in Malaysia. It’s about 40 miles up the Malacca Strait from Singapore. It was nice to be on the hook again after a month of city life in a marina. Good holding in 20 feet of water. It was calm enough for me to scrape Singapore barnacles off our hull and props.

Pulau Besar
02.06.603N, 102.20.629E
This was another anchorage 70 miles up the strait from Pisang. We wound up anchoring on the south side of the island because it was getting dark when we arrived. It was little rolly.

Port Dickson
Admiral Marina
02.28.573N, 101.50.704E
marinaWe stayed at this marina for almost a week, using it as our home base for Sophie during our three day visit to Kuala Lumpur. The marina is clean and the staff was helpful. Their fuel dock was broken, but they brought 800 liters of diesel in jerrycans to Sophie’s dock. Once again, I got to pour them into our tanks. It was character building. The marina has a pool and an air conditioned bar with WiFi. That’s about it. We took a cab for the ten minute ride into town to clear into Malaysia Immigration/Customs/Harbormaster. It was a straightforward and friendly process. TripAdvisor claims that the best restaurant in Port Dickson is a pizza place by the beach. Do not eat there. In hindsight, we regret not making the effort to visit Melaka on a day trip, which is supposed to be beautiful and historic. But after our time in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, we wanted to get back into cruising mode.

Port Klang
Royal Selangor Yacht Club (RSYC)
03.00.322N, 101.23.413E
MLYS1999This was our next stop up the coast, and we docked in front of a beautiful facility on the river that connects Kuala Lumpur with the Indian Ocean. There was a strong current in the river, and Sophie strained against the floating dock. The RSYC has a reciprocal relationship with the Seattle Yacht Club, and during our visit we met the RSYC commodore and exchanged burgees with him. They had a big restaurant, a good bar, and a nice pool. We stayed two nights.

Pangkor Marina (Marina Island)
Pangkor
04.12.685N, 100.36.074E
MLYS2012Our next stop was 40 miles up the coast from Klang, and our arrival here was a little stressful. The sun was setting, we were hit by a squall, the marina entrance was not clearly marked on our charts, and we had to motor 3 miles past the marina to avoid a big reef that runs north-south through the channel. Other than that, it was great. The marina looks like it will be an awesome facility when construction is completed in 3 years. They have a boatyard with a haulout that is big enough to lift Sophie. And we met Jack and Jackie on Barbara Ann, who have subsequently become our friends.

Straits Quay Marina
Penang
05.27.539N, 100.19.094E
IMG_1012We loved loved loved Penang. It was a 90 mile run up the coast from Pangkor, a longer trip for Sophie than for most boats, because our mast cannot fit under the two bridges that connect Pulau Penang with the mainland. For our first night we anchored outside of the marina, but it was rolly. For the next 6 days we had a dock at this friendly and inexpensive marina with a promenade featuring 10 restaurants. Nearby access to two supermarkets for provisioning. Easy access into town. Great culture. Monkeys who steal beer. Penang has it all.

Kuah, Langkawi
06.18.733N, 099.50.801E
This was our first stop in Langkawi, and we stayed here for one night. There was excellent holding for our anchor, and we could easily check in to Immigration and the Harbormaster. The marina at Kuah was under construction, which made it off-limits for us. The city itself reminded us of Indonesian cities like Ambon or Sorong, full of small businesses but not easily walkable, so we moved on.

Telaga, Langkawi
06.21.764N, 099.40.677E
telagaWe spent over two weeks here, first in the anchorage and then in the marina. It is a great spot, and we will return here later this year. The holding in the anchorage was terrible, and multiple boats (including Sophie) dragged their anchors during squalls. The marina was much more protected and featured several excellent, inexpensive restaurants. They also had a machine that used an electric motor to pump diesel fuel directly into your boat. This was a first for us in almost 10 months. It is easy to rent a car for a day to head into town. Langkawi is a duty free port, which means there are no taxes paid for alcohol or for boat parts you ship in from the United States.

Pulau Singa Besar, Langkawi
06.13.598N, 099.44.800E
MLYS2857We left Telaga for 5 days with our friends Misti and Abi to enjoy watersports in this anchorage 9 miles south of Telaga. We swam, paddleboarded, barbecued, drank, and played a lot of board games. We were back in Sophie Adventure Cruises mode, and it was a lot of fun. We were told that a local cruiser organizes impromptu bonfire singalongs on the beach here every Saturday night, but he had to cancel the week we were there.

Ko Lipe, Thailand
06.29.651N, 099.17.774E
IMG20150722183737We finally left Malaysia and spent two nights anchored on the north side of Ko Lipe. We never went to shore and instead spent our time padleboarding, swimming, and conducting Sophie School. The Ko Lipe area is part of a National Park, and we used a park service mooring even though we were warned to not trust any moorings in Thailand. After we tied up to the mooring, we ran both engines in reverse at 2000 RPMs, and nothing broke. Ko Lipe becomes much more crowded with the beginning of the high season in November, and we will return.

Ko Tarutao
06.42.456N, 099.40.072E
THAI3030After Ko Lipe we motored 25 miles east to visit another Thai National Park at Ko Turatao. Initially we anchored on the northwest tip of the island (06.41.764N, 099.38.249E) in order to visit “Crocodile Cave”, a spot where you pull yourself a couple of hundred meters along a rope on a raft to check out stalagmites and bats. But as we motored a mile up the mangrove in our dingy to reach the cave entrance, we saw a massive thunderboomer cloud approaching from the east. Our dingy motor has been a little tenuous lately, and Sophie was anchored in a very exposed area. So we punted on the idea of the cave (for now), got back to the boat, and motored around the corner to a much more sheltered anchorage. We anchored in 40 feet of water and marveled at the hundreds of basketball-sized jellyfish slowly bouncing around the bay. We did not swim.

Ko Rok Nok, Ko Rok Nai
07.12.815N, 099.04.156E
THAI3018Our next stop was another Thai national park, and we picked up a mooring in the channel between these two small islands. Our first week of “monsoon” weather in Thailand was perfect, the water was crystal clear, and there were thousands of reef fish swimming under Sophie. We enjoyed a grand afternoon cavorting in the water. The next morning a bit of a squall showed up, and we were directly exposed to a southerly wind that would have pushed us onto a reef in about 5 seconds if our mooring line broke. We decided to leave that morning, knowing full well that we will return.

Ko Phi Phi Don, Ton Sai Bay
07.44.051N, 098.46.304E
WP_20150727_002Phi Phi Don is a backpacker tourist island and is very, very cool. We anchored in the main harbor, slightly to the west of the route that the ferries, speedboats, and longtails use. Next time we’ll anchor to the west, away from the traffic and closer to the wall. The village reminded us of a bigger version of Gili Air, with 10 blocks of walking streets filled with backpacker bars, dive shops, tattoo parlors, and foot massage stands. Wandering these streets were Russian girls in bikinis and Australian bros with bad tats and hats, and everyone seemed to be having a good time. We stayed two nights and enjoyed some great people watching. We also caught up with our friends on Garuça Cat, whom we hadn’t seen since Bali. We will definitely be taking our nephews Steven and Dan here when they visit in the next few months.

Ko Phi Phi Le, Maya Bay
07.40.815N, 098.45.847E
pp1This day stop was literally spectacular, meaning “of or like a spectacle; marked by or given to an impressive, large-scale display.” Phi Phi Le is where the Leo DiCaprio movie “The Beach” was filmed, and it is apparently a required stop for every tourist who visits Phuket, which is 20 miles away. We arrived at 7:00 AM to grab one of the few mooring balls there, and by noon we counted over 50 high speed (500-1000+ hp outboards) tourist boats in the little bay. They would roar in, wait for their landing instructions from the BTC (Beach Traffic Controller), drop a sand hook off their bow, back 150 feet up to the beach, unload 20 tourists, then roar away. We counted a couple dozen of these boats lined up on the beach at one time, and later heard that during high season there are 2,000 boat trips a day to this little bay. Thankfully there is buoyed off swim area on the beach, and we simply sat in the water and marveled at the spectacle of thousands of tourists doing spinning panorama shots of themselves with their GoPros on selfie sticks. 

pplRemember, we’ve had most tropical beaches to ourselves for the last year, and this was a little more crowded. Phi Phi Le is a National Park, and we had to pay a beach landing fee of $40 for the family to enjoy the scene. It was worth every penny.

Ko Phi Phi Don, Laem Thong
07.46.744N, 098.45.956EWP_20150728_001
After the spectacle, we motored back up to Phi Phi Don and dropped the hook off of the sea gypsy village on the northeast coast of the island. It has a beautiful beach, nice coral, and wasn’t very crowded. There is a beach bar there named Jasmin, and we enjoyed a seven hour meal there, swapping stories with Peter, the Scot who’s married to Jasmin and serves as the restaurant’s official greeter and beer pourer. IMG20150728174023He’s quite a character, telling stories about Leo DiCaprio, Amy Winehouse, and his dark past in London. We will definitely be back.

Chalong, Phuket
07.48.965N, 098.21.574E
chalongWe could have stayed in the Phi Phi for a month (the kiddies never get tired of the fact that the islands’ name is pronounced “pee pee”), but we needed to officially check into Thailand so we motored over to Chalong harbor on the southern end of Phuket. On our way we caught our first tuna since November, thanks to advice we got from Peter. Apparently tuna and whale sharks are running through the islands here for the next few months, so we’ve got our lines back out after months of the fish nothingness that is otherwise known as Indonesia. Chalong has a one stop check-in center (Immigration, Customs, Harbormaster) all located in a single building at the end of a big pier that juts into the crowded harbor. Better yet, these different agencies use computers to share your information across their offices, so we only had to fill out a form one time, and that was on a computer! Amazing. We only spent one night here and anchored out from the main fleet. There are plenty of bars and tourist restaurants in the area, but we only stayed one night.

I continue to write on this blog that things on our little adventure keep getting better and better, and at some point you might begin to think that I am guilty of exaggeration. How could this be possible?

Come to Thailand, and you’ll understand.

Malacca Strait? Piece of Cake

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I’ve heard stories about the dangers of the Malacca Strait throughout my entire life. This narrow passage of water connecting Singapore with the Indian Ocean was one of the most dangerous stretches of water in the world, teeming with nonstop marine traffic, pirates, waterspouts, unmarked fish traps, and treacherous currents. Our passage through here was supposed to be one of the riskiest parts of our entire circumnavigation.

The reality? The picture of Hazel up top pretty much summarizes our experience over the last three days as we covered the 140 miles from Singapore to Port Dickson, the town where we checked into Malaysia this afternoon. We saw very little shipping traffic, and fewer fishermen than we saw in northwest Indonesia. We didn’t even get a thunderstorm. We had nothing but flat seas, a nice breeze, and a favorable north-setting current in the afternoons. Overall, it was a piece of cake.

Our planned two week stay in Singapore wound up being a six week stay, and we loved every minute of it. Jenna and I each had to separately fly home to the US for a week — she went to attend her grandmother’s funeral, and I went to have a cancer scare checked out (false alarm!) — and Singapore was a great spot to hang out with the kids. Jenna is pulling together a blog post documenting our adventures there, so stay tuned.

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Checking out of Singapore was as easy as checking in. Zeina, pictured above, runs the marina office at the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club and handled all of our paperwork with Singapore Customs and the Harbormaster. She is awesome.

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After we left the RSYC marina we had to motor 5 miles up to Singapore’s western quarantine and immigration anchorage where we would drop our passports into a fish net extended by a guy on the deck of a patrol boat. On the way there, we passed a fellow Lagoon 500 taking some school kids out for a holiday sail on Buddha’s Birthday. The Ozzie skipper of Talise yelled “nice boat!” as he sailed past us.

I love boats named after girls.

Once we cleared immigration, we motored back through the harbor, turned the corner into the Malacca Strait and saw … nothing. There was virtually no shipping traffic. Perhaps it was the holiday?

We motored 35 miles and dropped a hook in the lee of Pulau Pisang. 01.28.807 N, 103.14.759 E. It was a nice anchorage and we enjoyed a quiet night.

The next morning I had to do some work on Sophie. The engines had been running somewhat sluggishly during our exit from Singapore, so I changed the fuel filters. I also replaced the starboard engine fan belt and fixed the cracked fan belt cover that had been causing the fan belts on that engine to chafe and stretch. Finally, I got to dive the boat and scrape some nice Singapore barnacles off of the props. I didn’t want to swim in Singapore harbor due to the combination of waves and pollution, but the water by Pisang was so silty that I had to feel my way to where the propellers were located. It took 25 dives, but both props were soon shiny and clean again.

Needless to say, I was back in my boat maintenance happy place.

We got underway at 10:00 AM and covered the 65 miles to our next anchorage in Pulau Besar in the Water Group (02.06.593 N, 102.20.630 E) by sundown, thanks in part to an afternoon of motorsailing at a speed of 10+ knots aided by a favorable current.

Today’s motoring run of 38 miles to Port Dickson was uneventful, except for the part where we passed the world’s largest ship whose security guard pointed a gun at us.

ti side

According to Wikipedia, the TI Europe is one of 4 vessels in a class that are the largest ships in the world. It was anchored off an oil terminal halfway between Malacca and Port Dickson. Here’s what AIS had to say about this boat:

ti ais

Think about it. 1243 feet long, 223 feet wide, and 72.5 feet deep. That is one BIG ship!

Naturally, I changed course so we could pass right alongside TI Europe. While doing so I trained my binoculars on the bridge. Usually when I do this while passing a ship, I spot someone looking at us with their binoculars, especially when Jenna is on deck. We then wave at each other and continue on our merry way. This time I saw no one, not a single visible soul on the largest ship in the world, until I spotted the head of a person who was crouching behind a metal plate welded to the railing right outside the bridge on the top deck. At first I wondered if the guy had dropped his keys or was scraping paint. But then I realized that his head repeatedly bobbed up for a peak at us every few seconds and then disappeared. And then I saw something that looked an awful lot like a sniper rifle. He clearly wasn’t scraping paint with it. I’m sure it didn’t help that I was spotting him with my binoculars. The entire stern area of TI Europe was covered with coils of barbed wire, so it was clear that they were worried about security. It all happened quite quickly, and then we were gone.

But man, the dude pointed a gun at me!

I was tempted to call them on VHF channel 16 and say “TI Europe, TI Europe, TI Europe, this is the sailing yacht Sophie … Were you just pointing a weapon at me? While my children were on deck waving at you?” But the most that call would accomplish would be a likely visit from a Malaysian Coast Guard patrol craft, who are out in force looking for Rohingya refugees (which is an awful, awful situation.) So I kept my mouth shut and kept on going.

ti bow

But again, that was a big boat.

We made it into Admiral Cove Marina in Port Dickson by 1:00 PM and talked them into providing us a birth for a few days. We then took a cab into town and cleared Immigration, the Harbormaster, and Customs in under an hour, which is really, really fast given our non-Singapore experiences over the last year.

pd immi

As we walked into the Immigration office, we saw a sign describing the required dress code for people visiting government offices in this Muslim country. Jenna quickly dug through her bag and assembled something that made her appearance appropriate in the eyes of the government here. She now says that she wants to buy a scarf while she is in Malaysia. To think of all the Hermes stores she walked past while we in Singapore over the last month…

After we visited the government offices, we stopped in a MAXIS mobile outlet to buy Sim cards, and half of the customers were local Chinese women wearing short shorts and tank tops. It was no big deal.

The more we travel the world, the more we see that people, regardless of their country or culture or religion or economic status, are almost entirely friendly and open and tolerant of others. And the more we travel the world, the more we realize that the perceived dangers in our trip — the 3,000 mile crossing to the Marquesas, the uncharted corals of the Tuamotos, the pigs of Tonga, the passage to NZ and back, the gangstaz of the Solomons and PNG, the corruption and bureaucracy and religion of Indonesia, our counter-monsoon cruising calendar, the pirates of the Malacca Strait – all of these perceived dangers never really amounted to anything. Instead we have consistently encountered good people going about their lives, and weather that we can manage if we are patient and informed in our choices and scheduling.

Maybe we are lucky, but maybe there is more to it than just simple luck.

marina

Anyway, here is the view from Sophie’s back porch this afternoon. The Admiral Cove Marina complex here is fairly inexpensive and has a pool, tennis courts, kids’ room, and a sailor’s bar that serves $3 Carlsbergs from 5:00-8:00 PM. We initially thought we would just spend a day or two here, but it now looks like it could be closer to ten days. We’ll leave Sophie here while we head into Kuala Lumpur for a few days to celebrate my birthday and watch the Champions League final this weekend.

International PTDJ Day.

We also just realized that the Muslim holy month of Ramahdan (as they call it here) begins on June 17th, and we will be living in in a Muslim country for the entire month. What a tremendous opportunity for our entire family to learn so much more about how a quarter of the people on the planet go about their lives and practice their faith.

When we left on this trip back in 2012, I thought I knew it all. I now realize how little I actually know about pretty much anything.

Bali Belly

IMG_20150325_165611We left Bali a week ago and have made overnight stops at Lembongan, Gili Air (above), Kangean, and Bawean. We are heading north to Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) to hang out with orangutans. It is our next big adventure.

I would love to be able to tell you that we successfully made it out of Bali without encountering any problems, but I cannot. Unfortunately, one of us came down with “Bali Belly,” a local disease involving water-born parasites that can get inside your system and ruin your vacation. But it wasn’t me that picked up the hitchhikers, or Jenna, or Leo, or Hazel.

It was Sophie.

Our first sign of trouble occurred last Monday afternoon when we started up the engines and pulled the anchor in order to leave Bali and make the 12 mile trip over to Lembongan. The propellers felt like they were covered in seaweed or plastic and were not working well. Our anchor chain and anchor bridle, the 10 meter length of 1″ nylon rope we use to attach the point of each hull to the anchor chain, were covered in barnacles. And when I say covered, I mean COVERED.

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We had been anchored in Bali’s Serangan Harbor for three weeks, and the harbor has a reputation for fostering marine growth, but I had never seen our anchor chain encrusted with so many barnacles. We quickly raised the rest of the chain, and after alternating each engine in forward and reverse gear a few times, the propellers seemed to be working again. I assumed we had successfully knocked off whatever was hanging from them. I had no desire to dive under the boat in that harbor, whose muddy water flows from Bali’s primary landfill. Lembongan has much cleaner water, and I figured we could explore the problem when we got there.

I did so two hours later, and I was shocked with what I had found. The entire metal surface of both propellers and their saildrives (the device that looks like the bottom half of an outboard motor and connects the propellers to Sophie’s engines) were completely encrusted with barnacles. Each hull had over 1,000 barnacles growing on it as well, with one located about every 3-5 inches along the entire length our catamaran.

We had visited Lembongan three weeks earlier, and when I checked the boat at the time I saw that the propellers, saildrives, and hulls were completely free and clear of marine growth and barnacles. This didn’t surprise me, because we had hauled Sophie out of the water a year ago in New Zealand and had painted her hull with antifouling paint and her propellers and saildrives with PropSpeed, all with the goal of retarding this type of growth.

What happened during the three weeks in Serangan was a complete and catastrophic failure of our boat’s chemically-derived underwater immune system. Sophie had Boat Bali Belly, and she had it bad. It was time to go to work.

I grabbed my mask, snorkel, fins, and a plastic scraper, and then went to work on the propellers. I normally like to use plastic scrapers underwater in order to avoid damaging the hull or the antifouling, but I immediately broke the plastic scraper on the metal propeller while simultaneously cutting my hand on the saildrive barnacles while trying to steady myself. The barnacles clearly won Round 1.

I then had Jenna get me my Kevlar gloves (which I used to wear back in the days when we cruised in waters where people could actually catch fish)  along with a metal putty knife we had down in our bilge stores. The combination of these two tools worked much better, and after 2 hours of underwater aerobics I succeeded in getting both propellers and their saildrives completely clear of banacles. Round 2 went to me.

The next morning we fired up the engines, dropped our mooring line, and headed northeast to Gili Air, which is 50 miles away. Unfortunately, that 50 miles is through the Selat Lombok, the strait between Bali and Lombok that connects the Indian Ocean with the Java Sea. During this time of year it can have a 5-8 knot current flowing south, and we were initially making 2 knots of boat speed with both engines running at 2600 RPM against the current. We were following a course recommended by a local ferry captain that was published in the Noonsite cruising website, but that strategy clearly wasn’t succeeding, so we turned back to Bali and crept north along a countercurrent flowing right next to her eastern shore. We made it to Gili Air by late afternoon and picked up a mooring right off the beach. Hazel jumped into the water and continued to practice standing up on Leo’s surfboard – she has become obsessed – while I attacked the barnacles on the hulls with my 10 inch plastic scraper.

Fortunately, these barnacles would come off with a single scrape. I assume they had a difficult time establishing a strong purchase on Sophie’s antifouling paint. Unfortunately, Sophie has a lot of underwater surface to cover, and I spent another two hours clearing off the port hull. Also, I wasn’t wearing a shirt, and I realized later that night that every time I leaned my forearm against the hull, the barnacles would scratch my arm. The next morning I woke up to find red, cat-like scratches covering my arms and shoulders, scratches created by landfill-fueled super barnacles that had attacked our boat. Round 3 went to them as I bathed myself in Neosporin.

The next morning Hazel went back out for surfboard practice, and I went back out to finish the job. This time I was wearing Kevlar gloves AND a long-sleeved shirt. It took another three hours but I removed all of the barnacles from the starboard hull and even used a large screwdriver to auger out all of the throughhulls, the openings in Sophie’s hulls where seawater is pumped in and wastewater is pumped out. Sophie has a lot of throughhulls, but I go the job done. Hazel loved being on the surfboard when the high speed ferries carrying backpackers up from Bali passed right by us, throwing up a big wake with a nice break. I think Instagram has 100 new photos of a little elf in her stingray suit hanging 10 while tethered to a French-made mothership.

It was good to be back in the water.

Gili Air is a cute tourist island that is a mile across and has a ban on gas-powered cars and motorcycles. Instead there is a fleet of pony-drawn carts that haul freight and tourists around the island, and it reminded the kids of their visit to Michigan’s Mackinaw island last summer. Just imagine Mackinaw filled with surfers, surrounded by coral reefs, and blanketed with beachfront bars serving 2-for-1 happy hour cocktails for $4 to Russian backpacker tourists in bikinis. In other words, it was just like Michigan.

The 2 nights in Gili Air marked the end of our 2 months in tourist country, the first tourist area we had visited since Fiji last August. It was nice being in a place where we could see couples from China posing for wedding photographs on the beach at sunset …

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… along with ridiculously-named boats that pulled tourists on inflatable toys.

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I could have spent at least another week in Gili Air, but we had to leave the next day if we wanted to get to Kalimantan to see the orangutans and then to Singapore before our Indonesia visas expire on April 18th.

But our departure from Gili sparked a bit of a soulsearching conversation between me and Jenna: are we going too fast?

It seems that with every country we visit, we seem to be falling in love with it just as we rush out the door and head for the next country. This is happening right now with us in Indonesia. We love this place, and we are leaving in three weeks. Why aren’t we slowing down?

I don’t know the right answer. It’s been 2 years this month since we left San Diego. In our first year abroad, we visited six countries: French Polynesia, The Cook Islands, Niue, Tonga, Fiji, and New Zealand, where we spent 6 months. In our second year of travel, we visited five countries: Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia, where we have stayed for five months. This year also included a 6 week visit for all of us back to the US. For our third year, we plan to visit four countries on Sophie (Singapore, Maylasia, Thailand, and Sri Lanka) along with four countries via land (Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar.) We can envision doing five countries in the following year: Maldives, Seychelles, Madagascar, Mozambique, and South Africa. So over a four year period, that is averaging around 6 countries a year. On paper, that seems slow. When your are in the middle of doing it, it seems way too fast.

There is, however, one area where I will plead completely guilty when it comes to going too fast, and that is when it comes to shopping for groceries. The morning we left Bali, I was responsible for going to the store and doing our provisioning. Jenna had recently taken a Balinese cooking class with the kids and carefully prepared a shopping list of ingredients she wanted from the store that she could use in preparing the new recipes she had just learned. I confused her list with a list of everything we needed for 10 days of passage making. So we are week into our current trip and have a great supply of things like tumeric root and fresh shallots, but we are out of things like bread, fruit, meat, and juice.

I’ve been going through our larder as a result and realized I have a mustard problem. I grab a jar every time I go to the store. We now have a year’s supply on board.

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Fortunately I also discovered (in Bali, of all places!) the perfect passage-making food for boats going offshore: jars of German sausages.

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I never knew that these existed! The kiddies look at them as if they were jars of crack cocaine and have even volunteered to clean toilets if I promise to open up a jar.

In addition to mustard and sausages, we still have 30 meals of frozen fish left on board along with lots of pasta and rice and some remaining greens. So we should be able to make it to Kalimantan in 2 days without starving. We will be staying there in the port of Kumai, where there is supposed to be a good market and some grocery stores. We should be all set from a food perspective.

From a weather perspective, we are definitely in the transition period between monsoons. That means very light air, and now that we are away from big islands it seems we haven’t seen a rain shower or squall for a week.

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Jenna took this picture of a small cargo vessel yesterday. It passed our stern as it slowly chugged north from Java to Kalimantan. As you can see, the seas are like a mirror and there is no wind. Clearly we would prefer a nice 15 knot tradewind blowing behind us, but we are not complaining about covering ground in these conditions, either. We are averaging 5 knots while running just one engine at a time at 2000 RPMs. It helps that Sophie has a clean belly. 🙂

We have another 180 miles to go before we see the orangutans. We hope we have enough fuel. We know we have enough mustard. The crew is in good spirits. Leo and Hazel are doing great in school and have even found the time to start memorizing lines from Gilligan’s Island. We know we are going too fast on our journey. We know there is so much more we want to see. We know we could (and increasingly think we will) spend a lifetime doing this. We know we are running out of time. And yes, we know how lucky we all are.