Kid Happy!

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Nothing on this little family adventure of ours — and I mean nothing — makes Leo and Hazel happier than having other kids to play with. Sophie is still in Telaga on the Malaysian island of Langkawi, and there has ben a lot of happiness on our boat over the last couple of weeks. No broken bones, either.

As I’ve mentioned before, Jenna and I always assumed that we would be surrounded by other kid boats for the last two years, but that hasn’t happened as often as we had hoped. This is partly due to the timing and nature of our major routes. For our big Pacific crossing, we departed from San Diego, and apparently many kid boats depart from Mexico. We also departed in early March, which placed us a month ahead of the main fleet doing the crossing to the Marquesas. So for most of our 2013 summer crossing of the South Pacific, we hung out with more Swedes than with kids. At least until we hit Fiji.

From my perspective, Swedes on boats are as fun as kids. But I think Leo and Hazel prefer companions their own size. Most of our Swedish friends were much bigger. Especially the Swede named Kid.

For our passage over the top of Papua and into Indonesia, we buddy-boated with Per Ardua and their three kids (and two awesome parents). It was a wonderful and happy experience for all of us, especially for Leo and Hazel. But we had to move on and have been pretty much in a no-other-kids cruising zone for five months until we hit Penang and met the families on Love Song and Boatylicious. It was great for Leo and Hazel.

Now that we are up in the Langkawi-Phuket cruising belt, the kid happiness for Leo and Hazel keeps getting better.

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Our first source of Telaga kid-happiness is a lovely young girl named Jana from the sloop Momo. Her family was in the process of getting their boat ready for an Indian Ocean crossing. Jana basically moved onto Sophie for a few days, and her presence made everyone on our boat happy. She spent a day on a deserted kid island with Leo and Hazel, she accompanied us into town a few times, she made forts with Hazel, and she even played board games with me and Jenna. After a few days she felt like a part of our family, and we didn’t want to give her up.

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Unfortunately the rest of Jana’s family, shown above, love her a lot and weren’t quite willing to give her up. And in case you are wondering, Momo is a Mason 43.

We spent so much time enjoying Jana’s presence on Sophie that we neglected to pay as much attention to the weather as we normally do. At the time there was a typhoon forming over Japan and China, and that system started sucking all of the air out of this region. So we wound up getting hit by multiple squalls over a two week period. It resulted in some new adventures.

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To provide context, here is a photo of Telaga taken from a local mountaintop. There is a very protected marina to the left, connected by a boardwalk to a row of outdoor restaurants (the red-roofed buildings). Outside of the harbor is an anchorage protected from the Malacca Strait by two islands, which are man-made. The anchorage itself is about 12 feet deep and filled with very soft mud formed by the dirt that was dug up from the land to form the harbor.

The result is an anchorage with a very weak ability to hold an anchor. We found this out as we were returning to Sophie on the dinghy with Jana. A rain shower and a forty knot gust from the side hit us just as we were unloading groceries from the dinghy, and Sophie surged sideways and popped her anchor out of the mud. I was the last one in the dinghy, which was sucked under Sophie’s bridgedeck as our big sailboat started to surge through the harbor, dragging a now useless anchor behind us.

Jenna and I were pretty cool and calm about what happened next. The dinghy was still tied to Sophie’s stern, so I was able to get out of it. Jenna went up top to pull the cover off the steering wheel while I went inside to start Sophie’s diesel engines. We were able to get the boat under control and avoided hitting the Russian catamaran behind us. We reset our anchor while every other boat around us watched warily. And we weren’t alone … three other boats in the harbor popped their anchors during this squall!

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The harbor was a mess until the weather calmed down and the squall passed. So we proceeded with our plans for a little sundowner party on Sophie, and the crews from four boats came over for some drinks and the last of our yellowfin tuna. We also had a lot more anchor rode out to avoid another dragging incident.

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Two more squalls came through during the party, and the second one flipped the dinghy of the Seattle sloop Before while the dinghy was tied to Sophie’s stern. The men all jumped up into the rain to right the dinghy. Mike the surfer dude ripped his shirt off, I grabbed the WD-40, and within 10 minutes we had the water out of the dinghy and its outboard running smoothly. And yes, Sophie now needs a new flag.

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Three more squalls came through that night, and Jenna and I didn’t sleep a wink. This was the first time Sophie had popped her anchor in 32 months, and we were quite wary about it happening again.

Fortunately, we had a reservation for a dock the next day and were quite happy tie up in the protected part of the harbor during such unsettled weather.

We had booked the dock in anticipation of more kid happiness in the form of our friends Misti and Abbi who were coming up from New Zealand for a visit. Since the weather in the anchorage remained crappy, Jana moved back onboard Sophie as well. So for the next two blissful days, we had four children living on the boat.11666217_10154035577142571_6755782919495614900_n

Since we were on a dock and had a rental car, we could go to various local tourist attractions like the mountain tram and the local movie theater to watch the film Minions (before it was released in the US, no less!)

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We gave oranges to the local marina monkey, who is much more gentle than the pack of crazy monkeys on the road who occasionally snarl at you and attack your car in search of rotten papayas or the stray beer. Jenna refused to let me roll down the car windows when we passed by those creatures.

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At one point, Hazel was experiencing so much happiness playing tag with the other three kids that she somehow lodged her leg between Sophie’s trampoline and the boat’s aluminum crossbeam. OUCH! We couldn’t easily dislodge her leg, and she was screaming in pain. I was thinking about grabbing the rigging knife (to cut the trampoline line, not her leg), but we somehow got her to wriggle free. After 10 minutes of mommy’s TLC, she was soon back bouncing around, with one more battle scar added to her impressive collection.

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While in Telaga, we also visited the local liquor warehouse, which arguably has the lowest alcohol prices in the world. Langkawi is a duty-free zone, and this low-overhead operation is located away from the main road, behind a wet market in a parking lot situated underneath some power lines. Nothing in the warehouse is marked with a price, you simply open up a case and bring a bottle up to a shirtless Chinese man behind a desk and ask him to look up the price. A liter bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin cost US$10, and a case of Carlsberg beer cost US$12. In our travels over the last year, each of those items could cost way over US$100, so we stocked up for Misti and Abbi’s visit.

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But our goal was to not stay on the dock for their entire visit; we actually wanted to get out and tour some of the local islands. We had the crews from some of the local boats back over for one last visit, drank another champagne toast to my son Max and his girlfriend Becca who had recently announced their engagement (!), and reluctantly sent Jana back with her family to Momo, which was going to leave for the Indian Ocean in two days. The weather had finally cleared, and our plan was to spend a week wandering over to some nearby islands around the top of Langkawi.

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Some of these islands are part of Thailand, and we would NEVER consider going over there without the proper paperwork, even though we were told by our fellow cruisers in Telaga that boats had been crossing back and forth between these islands and Langkawi for years without going through any sort of customs formality. But within 30 minutes of leaving Telava, we were hailed on the radio by a Malaysian Navy warship that was on patrol.

The following conversation took place:

  • “Sailing yacht Sophie, sailing yacht Sophie, this is the Royal Malaysian Navy. You are crossing the boundary of Malaysian waters. Do you mind if we ask you some questions?”
  • “This is the sailing yacht Sophie, Malaysian Navy. By all means go ahead.”
  • “Sailing yacht Sophie, what is your vessel’s flag and hailing port?” (This is information broadcast to them by our AIS system and may not be readily visible to someone who may have just highjacked our boat.)
  • “United States. Seattle.”
  • “How many people are on board, and what is their citizenship?”
  • “Three adults, three children. All United States citizens.”
  • “What is your port of departure, and what is your port of destination?”
  • “Ummmm … we departed Langkawi and are out for a daysail. Enjoying the break in the weather. We will be returning to Langkawi tonight.”
  • “Sophie, have you seen any suspicious looking vessels or signs of piracy?”
  • “Negative, Royal Malaysian Navy … should we be?”
  • “Sophie, please enjoy your vacation. We’ll be passing you port-to-port. Royal Malaysian Navy standing by on channel one six.”

So much for going anywhere near Thailand. The navy was most likely patrolling the border due to the Rohingi refugee crisis. Jenna and I decided that we wanted no part of that and within a few minutes we did a 180 degree turn, unfurled the jib, and enjoyed a gentle 3 hour sail to Pulau Singa Besar, one of the Malaysian islands immediately south of Langkawi. As we did so, we spotted another navy patrol boat lurking in an island cove, but they soon made steam and joined the first ship on a circuit of the border with Thailand.

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So for the next five days we were forced to hang out in this anchorage at Singa Besar. We tried to make the best of it. We went swimming every day, the ladies broke out the paddleboards, and I even inflated the donut and dragged happy kids through the water.

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Even I joined into the swimming shenanigans, because at heart I am just a happy kid. I soon got a haircut after this photo was taken.

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While we were there, the weather turned bad and we had a couple of days of squalls. The holding was much better than Telaga, so we weren’t scared of dragging the anchor again. We comfortably holed up in Sophie, watching movies, playing board games, eating good food, and enjoying our bounty from the warehouse. We eventually even broke out the Yahtzee.

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Leo crushed everyone. It made him even happier.

But all god things eventually have to come to an end, and we reluctantly returned to Telaga. To the surprise of absolutely no one, we saw that Momo was still at anchor. They did not want to leave during the bad weather and were preparing to pull their anchor and finally depart within the next 30 minutes. We decided to hold an impromptu emergency sea rescue drill, simulating the transfer of key supplies to a stricken vessel.

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Leo did a fine job manning the supply transfer net, and if you look closely you’ll notice that the net’s contents have an anchor on its label.

So that pretty much wraps things up. Momo left and then returned in an hour due to a big swell and no wind. They stayed for two more days. We successfully escorted Misti and Abbi back to the airport after a tremendous visit. Sophie is clean and happy. The kids are happy. Jenna is happy. I am happy. We’ll hang out here for a few more days, then its off for Thailand for real. We need more adventures. Jungle aardvarks? Underwater croquet? Who knows.

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But first, some sleep. Too much kid happiness is exhausting.

Telaga

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Greetings from Telaga, a small harbor on the island of Langkawi on the northwest coast of Malaysia. This will be our home base for the next four weeks. Our current location is 06.21.743 North, 099.40.669 East. Sophie is now 1,299 miles from Bali, 4,935 miles from Auckland, and only 1,212 miles to Chennai on the Indian subcontinent. We definitely seem to be zipping along, but we will spend the next seven months hanging out between here and Phuket, Thailand, which is only 110 miles to the north.

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For the first time since Vanuatu, we fee like we are back in “cruising country.” We are anchored in a small bay with 30 other sailboats, right outside of a marina holding another 50 boats. There’s no real town here, so you have to either rent a car or take a taxi to Langkawi’s commercial center of Kuah if you want to provision. But Telaga harbor boasts a waterfront promenade with outdoor restaurants featuring tapas, Italian, Indian, French, Chinese, and Lebanese food. Meal prices range from $2 to $15 (for filet mignon), and beers cost around a buck.

Did I mention that there are 80 boats here?

The promenade also features flowers, palm trees, and a smiling Jenna, as you can see from the photo at the top of the blog.

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Our harbor is protected from the Malacca Strait by two small manmade island that are uninhabited. These have been used as little adventure playgrounds by cruising kids for years, but recently a sign went up declaring Private Property: Anyone Caught Hunting, Fishing, Swimming, or Trespassing Will Be Prosecuted. That didn’t stop Leo and Hazel from spending the afternoon there with their new friend Jana from Momo, because the kids were playing, an activity not specifically covered by the directions on the sign. They did pick up one of their best sunburns of the entire trip, which I think from their perspective was a small price to pay in return for getting an entire afternoon by themselves without parents on their own island.

IMG_6524One of the nice things about spending time in a secure anchorage in a place without too many shore side distractions is that it creates an environment where the kiddies can focus on their schoolwork. This photo isn’t staged, Leo actually likes Sophie school.

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Leo’s hard work is paying off, because he achieved an important milestone this week by completing 50% of his fifth grade curriculum. We keep a chart on a bulkhead to track the kids’ progress in Sophie School, and Leo was quite happy to fill in his 50% box.

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Leo isn’t the only one on board who is working hard and achieving milestones at school. We are happy to report that Hazel has completed second grade! We are so proud of the effort and dedication both she and Leo put into their schoolwork. Hazel is especially good at getting herself up early and starting schoolwork before anyone else wakes up. Her dad used to deliver newspapers before school when he was a boy, and I guess this is one apple that hasn’t fallen far from the tree.

IMG_1168Now that school is over, Hazel has apparently discovered other ways to occupy herself before everyone else on the boat wakes up. This morning, she looked up from her magazine and said “Dad, can you believe that there is a movie star that loves her butt? She even pays someone to clean and polish it. That’s ridiculous!” I asked her if this person was named Kim Kardashian. Hazel put her hands up to cover her mouth, an endearing trait of hers when she is feeling a little shy, and giggled, “Yes.”

Until today, our children lived in a world where the Kardashians did not exist. Pretty cool.

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We have been enjoying mostly sunny and dry weather since we arrived here, which of course is not supposed to happen during this rainy monsoon time of year. The kids have been hoping for a “Sumatra,” the name for vicious squalls that form over Sumatra and then hit this coast during this monsoon. They can bring 50+ knot winds, lightning strikes, waterspouts, and cloudbanks that look like a black wall of death. Leo even wrote a report on them.

We were hit by a squall the other day, but it’s subject to an ongoing debate as to whether or not it was a Sumatra. We had gusts that exceeded 40 knots and cycled around 360 degrees. But the black clouds came mostly from the mountains.

The squall hit us in the middle of the day, and in our scramble to gather laundry and tie down the surfboard, Jenna unfortunately slammed her foot into a little plastic hose nozzle that has fallen off the aft cockpit counter and lodged in the teak grate right outside of the cabin entrance. We are not sure if it is broken, but it hurts like heck.

So there you have it. We are back in a tropical paradise with new friends, deserted kiddy play islands, great focus on Sophie school, inexpensive and delicious food, and 50 cent happy hour beers. On the downside, my wife is hobbling, and we now all know that we live in a world where the Kardashians are popular.

On balance, I think we’ll take it. But that’s easy for me to say because I’m not the one with a broken toe.

Penang. Who Knew?

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Once again, we have stumbled into a place where we were planning to stay for two days and it now looks like we will stay for up to two weeks. Penang is full of surprises for us.

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When we departed the United States in 2013, we painstakingly researched every harbor on every island that lay in our path across the Pacific. Two years later, we are in more of a “wing it” mode, where we aren’t as knowledgeable about the different places we visit before we get there. That’s clearly not the case when it comes to navigation; we still try to have as much information as possible about every rock, reef, and anchorage in our path. But from a cultural perspective, we are learning more as we travel.

Our plan after Singapore was to travel 450 miles up the west coast of the Malay peninsula to Langkawi, an island just below the Thai border. Langkawi is a cruising destination with a marine service industry, plenty of anchorages, and duty-free booze. Our initial plan was to hang out there for a month and then continue on to Phuket, Thailand. To us the Malaysian coast was going to be a highway to Langkawi with overnight rest stops every 80 miles or so at places like Behar, Port Dickson, Klang, Pangkor, and Penang.

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Penang has turned out to be a surprise for us. We love it here. It has the sophistication (meaning money) and food culture of Singapore, but on a much smaller scale and at half the cost. It has great culture and swimmable beaches. It has a modern, inexpensive marina where we have met other cruisers, including a boat with kids! Sophie played host to an impromptu hide-and-go-seek party with six kids tromping around the trampolines while the parents watched from the relative safety of an Irish bar on a terrace above.

Leo and Hazel are very happy here.

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Our current home is the Straits Quay Marina, a mixed-use development on the northeast corner of Penang. We are about four miles north of the main city of Georgetown. The marina has 20 boats in it, and half of them are catamarans. There is a bit of a silting problem here, and even Sophie can only enter and exit the marina at high tide despite our 4′ 7″ draft.

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Before we got here, we knew Penang had a rich cultural heritage. We were expecting some old colonial buildings and some fishing villages. Instead we found an island with three times the number of skyscrapers compared to Seattle. That surprised us. Our marina is located on the right side of the photo above.

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Most of the skyscrapers here are condominiums, and one of our cabdrivers said that 70% of the units are empty, held by foreigners for investment purposes. He was very proud of the fact that Jackie Chan owns three condominiums in Penang. I’ve also read that “young retirees” from Hong Kong and Shanghai move here to educate their children, because Malaysia’s private schools are excellent and relatively inexpensive. The marina’s other cruising boat with kids has been here for a year, and their two boys are attending a local private school.IMG_0919

In addition to having lots of skyscrapers, Penang is home to one of the best life raft servicing facilities in Southeast Asia. It took me a while, but I was finally able to wrestle our life raft out of Sophie’s transom cradle and into the dinghy, and then from the dinghy onto the dock.

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Once the life raft was removed, I had the opportunity to give Sophie’s entire transom area a thorough cleaning. This included removal of the two empty beer cans that somehow found their way to a spot behind the life raft.

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It can be a little nerve wracking for a cruiser to hand over their life raft to a stranger for servicing. Your life raft is arguably the most important piece of equipment on your boat. But as soon as I walked into the life raft servicing center at Ocean Success here in Penang, I was relieved. Their shop was spotless, their tools were well-organized (always a good sign), and the two guys there seemed to know what they were doing.

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I was there while Ibrahim and Zabbir unpacked and inflated our life raft. They both gave it a thumbs up. I then left it in their capable hands as they tested it for leaks over the next couple of hours. They also tested the gas tank. They used their phone on the next day to video themselves repacking the raft, including their attaching the painter to the gas bottle pin. The entire bill for the inspection and service was US$238, which is about a quarter of what a similar service would cost in the US.

Have I mentioned lately about how much we love Penang?

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After two days of chores and Sophie School at the marina, we finally hopped into a cab and began exploring Penang and its culture. Penang is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a source of pride for the locals. Downtown Georgetown is a warren of little streets filled with Chinese, Indian, Tamil, and Malay shops and restaurants. Along the waterfront are six Clan Jettys, a series of houses and shops extending out into the strait. Each one is organized around a single Chinese family, and some date back over a hundred years.

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Farther up the shore we visited Fort Cornwallis, an installation the British built in order to defend their local investments from raiding Thai pirates. While we were doing the tour, I asked Leo if he could name the famous figure from the US Revolutionary War that Fort Cornwallis was named after. It took him a few seconds, but he finally came up with the correct answer.

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By doing so, Leo freed himself from history jail.

The rest of the afternoon was uneventful and involved a siting of sea otters on the sea wall, lunch at a hawker center, visits to two luxury malls, and a siting of the oldest MacDonald in the world (based on the date of the building.)

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A few days later, we got up early and headed over to the Thai consulate to apply for visas.

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We then bought tickets for the Hop-On Hop-Off tour bus to explore the northern part of Penang. These double decker buses have an outdoor flybridge that make them a great platform for taking pictures.

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Our first destination was Monkey Beach. We hadn’t been to a decent beach or seen a decent monkey for over a month, so we were due. It was a lovely day for a beach excursion. This whole northeast-monsoon-rainy season remains a myth for us, at least for now.

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To get to Monkey Beach we had to hire a boat. While waiting for the boat we spotted a five foot long monitor lizard hanging out on the dock. He didn’t seem to bother a rooster that was in the vicinity, but I am still not quite used to seeing small dinosaurs lazing about.

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It does make me happy that after 12+ years of marriage, Jenna still enjoys herself a good boat ride.

Once we arrived at the beach, Jenna and the kiddies went off to check out some rope swings, while I stayed back to look for monkeys. I soon found a pack of them raiding a garbage can. One of them was a big male. He looked up at me, bared his fangs, and charged.

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I didn’t a have a stick on me, and he kept charging. When he was 5 feet away I kicked sand at him. He stopped and said to himself “My charging teeth kung fu is no match for his sand kick kung fu! I must find his weakness and pursue another plan.” He quickly scampered away.

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The beach was rich with monkey sign. I should have kept my guard up, but I didn’t.

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We continued up Monkey Beach to a shack that sold beer and grilled fish. There were monkeys here as well, but these monkeys were different. They were all mommies with tiny babies clinging to them. They were so cute! Hazel climbed up a tree so she could be like a monkey, Jenna went to take pictures, and Leo and I sat and relaxed in the shade.

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I went to check on how lunch was progressing. Didn’t it look delicious? While I was at the grill, a monkey sprinted from the trees, grabbed my beer (which I had inadvertently left on the table right next to Leo), raced back into the trees, and chugged it. I never saw a thing. I just heard Leo sputterlaughing, saying “Dad, Dad, Dad, a monkey just ran over here and stole your beer! Seriously!”

Oh well, beaten again. By a monkey. I have no power against their baby-beer-fish kung fu trickery.

The day was too nice me to remain sad for long, however, so we took the boat back to the dock, hopped on the bus, and returned to Penang.

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Our next destination was the Kek Lok Si temple, the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia. It was a sprawling complex of pagodas and shrines situated on a hillside overlooking Penang. Jenna takes much better photographs than I do, so I’ll leave it to her to share with you the sense of beauty and peace we encountered there.

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I’ll simply say it provided a wonderful vista of the city, and we got to ride a cool articulated railway to reach the summit.

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We hurried back to the Hop On Hop Off bus stop and caught the last bus of the day to get back to Sophie. The service was shutting down early due to the start of Ramadahn.

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Fortunately for us, we got stuck in evening rush hour traffic. The city was bathed in golden light, and the bus flybridge was a great photography platform. Jenna was in her happy place.

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Leo was happy to be reading. Can anyone guess what his favorite Microsoft program is these days?

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Hazel was simply happy.

Me? The monkey beer theft incident makes for a funny story. But having the opportunity to spend time in a peaceful, culturally rich city with loved ones is way better.

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Given the horrible news coming out of the United States today, I want to emphasize the peaceful part. Here’s the sign posted outside of the central police station here.

We’ve been in Penang for a week and haven’t seen a gun. We have seen some police on motorcycles writing speeding tickets. We see security guards outside of hotels, banks and malls, but they are armed with billy clubs and wear cool-looking berets and are uniformly polite and helpful. Throughout the city we see mosques, Buddhist temples, Hindu temples, and various flavors of Christian churches side-by-side on the same block. Chinese and Halal stalls stand next to each other in the hawker centers. Our Italian restaurant had a Ramadahn special last night, where everyone got a complimentary bowl of chicken mushroom soup along with some cinnamon date spread at sundown.

Our brief glimpse of Penang so far reinforces for me and for Jenna and the kids that people from different cultures and religions can live together in harmony without sacrificing the things that make them unique. Who knew?

Now if we could only do something about the darn monkeys.

 

City Life

IMG20150429124510Time has flown by since Sophie arrived in Singapore almost two weeks ago. At the start of the month, our big decision of the day involved choosing which two-year old cans of food from Safeway should go into that night’s chili surprise. Now our big decision involves selecting which of the country’s 30 malls we should visit via Singapore’s modern and clean subway. It has been quite a transition, and I like it.

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Our last stop in Indonesia was Nongsa Point Marina on the northern tip of Batam Island. It was actually a marina, with docks and shore power and security and smiling attendants, our first visit to a marina in 7 months! We spent a couple of days here, and the marina staff handled all of our paperwork for leaving Indonesia. It was easily our most straightforward and efficient encounter with Indonesian bureaucracy.

Covering the 14 mile passage across the Singapore Strait from Nongsa to the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club was like driving Sophie through a video game. Here is a shot of our chart plotter as we left Nongsa.IMG_0763Each of those triangles represents a ship, and most of the ships were 800 foot long tankers and freighters going at 15 knots down designated traffic lanes. Fighter jets passed over us every ten minutes. We had a 15 knot wind behind us, but I didn’t dare put up any sails because of the need for visibility and maneuverability.

It actually got worse when we reached the point where we had to cross the traffic lanes. It was like running across a highway.IMG20150430095844

Our AIS tracker showed over 100 ships within 2 miles of us. In fact, it is illegal for a boat to enter Singapore waters without having an AIS transceiver (a radio that enables your boat to appear as a triangle on other boats’ AIS screens.)

I had to hand steer to get Sophie across the street, but we eventually made it to our designated quarantine area, where a grey-hulled immigration boat was waiting for us. They pulled alongside, and we dropped our passports and ship’s papers into a net they held out for us. 10 minutes later, we were admitted into the country. No boarding. No sweaty motorcycle rides to remote government offices. No surprise fees. We were back in modern civilization!

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Our home in Singapore is the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club, a marina and hotel complex located between a container terminal and a public park on the island’s southwest coast. It’s a modern facility complete with a pool, gym, bar, restaurants, and even a kid’s playroom.

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The RSYC has a reciprocal relationship with the Seattle Yacht Club, which means we can stay here at a discounted rate with complete access to all of their facilities. We may want to give them a new burgee while we are here.

So … what does one do in a cosmopolitan city after spending 8 months in remote Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia?

The short answer? Everything!

For starters, the park next door has an extensive set of bike trails. We bought the kiddies some bikes in New Zealand, but we hadn’t used them for over a year. In fact Hazel’s bike still had training wheels attached. We felt bad that at age 7 she still couldn’t ride a bike, but I guess it’s one of the prices you pay for living on a boat. We took off the training wheels and then took her out riding every day. Within a week, Hazel was doing laps of the park, as you can see from the photo at the top of the blog. This now means that as a family we can start going on bike hikes.

On our second night here, we went to dinner at Din Tai Fung, a chain of dumpling restaurants based out of Taiwan. There is one back home in the Seattle area, and it’s Hazel’s favorite restaurant in the U.S. The kiddies loved visiting this little slice of home.

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Singapore has an excellent Science Center, and Jenna wore a lovely red summer dress on the day of our visit. The dress inadvertently set off a fire tornado in one of the exhibits! The museum also had an interactive exhibit where you literally walk through the inside of a human body, learning from the inside how the body’s different systems work. We walked through the exhibit twice, and Leo had a big grin on his face at the exit.

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It just so happens that the Singapore Yacht Show was taking place during our first week here, so naturally we had to attend. I first saw a Lagoon 500 at a Singapore boat show in 2007 when I was here on a business trip, and based on that visit we decided to place the order for Sophie. As part of the order process, Jenna and I flew to the Lagoon factory in Bordeaux with my father and Todd Rickard, a friend from Seattle. While there we had lunch with Yann Masselot, the head of Lagoon.

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Yann was at the boat show, and it was great to catch up with him after 8 years. We are very happy Lagoon customers. Here is a picture of Yann and Jenna posing in front of the new Lagoon 63 Motor Yacht. Jenna and I agree that it would make an excellent Seattle power boat and plan to buy one when we return in 7 years. 🙂

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During our first week in Singapore, we learned of some bad news: Jenna’s grandmother in Michigan was dying. “GG” was 94 and lived in a house on a lake with Jenna’s parents. We decided it made sense for Jenna to fly home and for me to remain in Singapore with the children. Jenna made it home in time to spend a couple of days with he grandmother before she passed away in her sleep.

I’ve now spent the last week in Singapore with Leo and Hazel, while Jenna remains in Michigan helping her parents. How are we spending our time while she’s gone? Basically more of the same.

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We spent an entire day cleaning out Leo’s room. He has spent his entire life collecting Lego sets, and it can be difficult to keep a lifetime’s supply of Lego organized and neat  when you live on a boat. We sorted through and removed three duffle bags of Lego from his room. We also removed 3 garbage bags of toy junk along with all of his clothing that no longer fits. Hazel looks stylish in her new khaki pants and 2nd grade polo shirts.

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We went bowling, and Leo and Hazel both trounced me.

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Also, we eat. And eat. And eat. Singapore has wonderful food. We go to the hawker stalls every day, where you can buy plates of sushi or noodles or dumplings or satay for $3-$4 dollars. We’ve been to German restaurants three times, eating wurst and schnitzel. On the night of GG’s death, Hazel suggested we go out for sushi since one of our last meals with GG last summer was an extensive sushi feast at Jenna’s parents’ house. So we went to a mall (where else) and the kids experienced their first ever sushi restaurant with a conveyor belt. They ate a LOT.

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I try to keep the kids moving. We swim and/or bike every day. We walk to the bus, which then takes us to the subway, which then takes us to a new place to explore on foot. We saw the fort on Sentosa where the British accepted Japan’s surrender. We saw the new Avengers movie (in a mall, where else). We explore playgrounds, parks, stores, and street scenes. The kids are actually complaining that I am working them too hard.

They miss their mom, they are getting along with each other, they are plowing through season 2 of Gilligan’s Island, and they are loving city life. We assumed we would spend 2 weeks in Singapore, but I am now hoping we can stay much longer. We need to give Jenna a chance to catch up with us (our legs are getting really strong!), and I kind of like being a city mouse again. A lucky, lucky city mouse.

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