Meet the Fishing Nets

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Sailing blogs - Langkawi to JB. One of the many many fishing boats
One of the many many fishing boats we met between Langkawi and Danga Bay

Ten sailing blogs in one: Island hopping and day sailing from Langkawi to Danga Bay

The weather gods were kind to us when we sailed our yacht Yana de Lys south from Langkawi Island to Danga Bay in Johor Bahru .  
We weren’t hammered by any many sudden storms. We didn’t encounter much wind though, being so close to the Equator.  We spent a lot time motoring, rather than actually sailing.

We were in no rush, just day sailing our way down the west coast of Peninsula Malaysia. Our trip was just peachy, the whole way!  

Nine anchorages and two marinas

We made ten stops, mostly deserted anchorages:  Pulau Tuba, Monkey Beach and Pulau Rimau (Penang),  Sungei Dinding (Lumut) , Pulau Angsa, Che Mat Sin (Port Klang), Admiral Marina (Port Dickson), Pulau Besar, Tanjung Tohor, Pulau Pisang, Danga Bay.

(We’re navigating with Malaysian charts which refer to Island as Pulau, Tanjung as Cape and River as Sungei.)

First night at Pulau Tuba

We spent the first night at Pulau Tuba, just around the corner from Langkawi so we could get a head start on the 50 NM (nautical miles) plus leg to Monkey Beach at the north of Penang the next day.  It was one of the rolliest anchorages I’ve slept in.

Meet the Fishing Nets

Then we started meeting the Fishing Nets. 
At our second Penang anchorage off Pulau Rimau on the south western tip, the first net, drifting with the tide and current, wrapped around our bows. 
We were enjoying the happy hour view of the islands and the bridge and all of a sudden the local fisherman had caught our yacht Yana de Lys in their 200 meter long drift net.
The fishermen scowled at us when they cut the net off.  It happened so quickly there wasn’t time for us stop the capture ourselves.
 

Sailing blogs - Langkawi to JB. Sunset happy hour.
Happy hour

Langkawi to JB sailing blogs: Pulau Rimau anchorage
Pulau Rimau anchorage

Avoiding 87 fishing nets

The next day we avoided 87 fishing nets. 
It was easy enough to figure out how to avoid these nets as they were dragged between two fishing boats. 
At our deserted, idyllic anchorage that evening we listened to the call to prayer on the radio and, incongruously, to an Australian Football League match.  Our team the West Coast Eagles lost. Again.

Sailing blogs - Langkawi to JB. Like nearly all our anchorages, we were the only people at Pulau Talang
Like nearly all our anchorages, we were the only people at Pulau Talang

Heading for Lumut

Our course to Lumut was infested with fishing net flags. In shallow water.

The trick is to work out which flags go together and if you can’t avoid going over the net in between head for the middle, take the engine out of gear with enough boat speed to propel you forward and hope the net doesn’t end up wrapped around the propeller. 

Our strategy worked. But it was a slow 15 miles.

 Lumut International Yacht Club

The next anchorage was in front of the Lumut International Yacht Club. 

Lovely architecture but not exactly what we expect of a yacht club.  They didn’t serve food or drink or anything. 

The call to prayer sounded like a gentle romantic love song. 

The Lumut boardwalk infrastructure along the river is really pretty, with the most salubrious public toilets I have ever met.  The blokes toilet is actually a large aviary. 

Langkawi to JB sailing blogs: Lumut International Club. Home to seven boats.
Lumut International Club. Home to seven boats.

Langkawi to JB sailing blogs: Tempting venue in Lumut for tonight's dinner? We never found out why Roland was toting a gun...
Tempting venue in Lumut for tonight’s dinner? We never found out why Roland was toting a gun…

Langkawi to JB sailing blogs. Five star public toilets in Lumut.
Five star public toilets

Pulau Angsa, Che Mat Sin and Sungei Bernam

The next stops at Pulau Angsa, Che Mat Sin and Sungei Bernam, where we sort of blended in with other residents of the stilt burbs, were gloriously uneventful.

Some sailing blogs make it sound like hardship, but we were getting the hang of this cruising business.

 

Langkawi to JB sailing blogs: Pulau Angsa.
Pulau Angsa

Langkawi to JB sailing blogs: Sungei Bernam burbs
Sungei Bernam burbs

 The Admiral Marina, Port Dickson

Langkawi to JB sailing blogs: Marina inmates get full resort privileges at Admiral Marina
Marina inmates get full resort privileges at Admiral Marina

Then we caught our breath at the Admiral Marina at Port Dickson for a few days.

All very civilised, resort style.

It was our first marina stay after being at anchor for the last three years.

When I woke up the first morning with another boat’s mast looming largely right there in my porthole I had a nanosecond of Anchor Angst.

Until I remembered where I was and that our anchor hadn’t dragged, but we had deliberately parked this close to another boat.  Phew.

Port Dickson town

In Port Dickson we stopped for a beer at an unassuming café and ended up staying and eating and staying even longer absolutely spellbound by the chef constantly cooking a minimum of three high speed wok dishes at once. 

Like a highly entertaining live cooking show.

Langkawi to JB sailing blogs: Live cooking show in Port Dickson.
Live cooking show. It took three staff to keep him stocked with chopped ingredients to fuel his frenzy.

The Malacca Strait

On the move again the cargo ship traffic in the Malacca Strait was beginning to build up.

I’ve read sailing blogs about pirates in the Malacca Strait. It’s really the big boats we had to worry about, not pirates.

Langkawi to JB sailing blogs. We stayed out of the way of the big ships in the Malacca Strait.
Oh boy. We stayed out of the way of the big boys.

We poodled along in the slow lane with a constant stream of varied commercial vessels parading past in the fast lane.  Flying fish and dolphins kept speed with us.

A peaceful anchorage at Pulau Pisang

When we had just settled in to a very peaceful anchorage at Pulau Pisang some fishermen came up to us and politely asked us to move.
“Boss you move boat boss” indicating the nets they intended to lay out.  So, reluctant at first, we moved and were safe for the night.

Anchored in the middle of nowhere

It was different the next night when we were camped in the middle of nowhere out of the way of the shipping lane freeway. 
We were woken by a loud clunking near the bows to find Yana de Lys well and truly caught in a drifting net with increasing burden on the anchor. 
With no fishing boats in sight we had no choice but to hack the net off.  It came free with a super loud twang.  The pressure release was scary.  We apologized to the invisible fishermen.

 

The next night we made it to Danga Bay.  I’ll tell you all about it in my next sailing blogs.

Related

A snake in the sink and other fun at Danga Bay Johor Bahru

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Noonsite: The global site for cruising sailors

 




Don’t Mention the Pork

Island hopping from Phuket to Langkawi

We took a couple of weeks island hopping from Phuket to Langkawi. Some sailors do this trip in 24 hours but that’s just not our style.  We’re slow travellers.

Our first anchorage, Koh Phi Phi (Phi Phi Island) was pleasantly free from crowds. Unlike our last visit when we could hardly move on the island during the day for all the tourists, and there was uber loud doof doof music for the party animals every night.  This time the sound track was something so benign I didn’t even remember what it was in the morning.

 Koh Lanta

The next leg from Phuket to Langkawi was hard work with 30 knots on the nose on the way to the historic east coast anchorage at Koh Lanta.
I decided to give the anchoring way point from our last visit a miss.  It was being used by a sunken boat.  Sunk by politics according to the local intel.  The interested parties couldn’t decide who was supposed to pump the bilge until it was too late.

This yacht in our anchorage at Koh Lanta (sailing from Phuket to Langkawi) was sunk by politics apparently
Sunk by politics

The green prawn curry was just as delicious as I remembered from our first stay. When I asked the staff if the prawns were farmed or wild he articulately pointed out to the sea.

 

Old Town, Koh Lanta (sailing from Phuket to Langkawi)
Old Town, Koh Lanta

Koh Muk

It was an easy run to Koh Muk. At one point I looked out the porthole and saw fish jumping a meter out of the water.  Like something out of the film Nemo.

The other captain kept telling me about the dolphins he was seeing.  All I saw was water disturbances.  Hmm.

Cruisn. Or is the other captain dolphin spotting (sailing from Phuket to Langkawi)
Cruisn. Or is the other captain dolphin spotting?

The fabled Emerald Cave

We visited the Emerald Cave on the way to Koh Muk.

It takes a 70 meter swim through a dark cave to get into the sea cave or “hong” as the Thais call it.

Our waterproof torch ended up being allergic to water.

On the way back out we realised we had taken a wrong turn.  We had to back up in the pitch dark.  Maybe that was the way to the fabled pirate treasure.  We wouldn’t have found it with a dead torch anyway.

Inside the Emerald Cave, sailing from Phuket to Langkawi
Inside the Emerald Cave

Koh Taratao

The unmistakable limestone karst geology of the islands between Phuket and Langkawi
Limestone karst island between Phuket and Langkawi

We took our time slowly heading south down Koh Taratao. I guess we didn’t want our cruise from Phuket to Langkawi to end.

We stopped at three different overnight anchorages.  Did some of exploring.  Had a bit of stormy weather.

One day we took the dingy for a look up one of the rivers.

Out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw a dog swimming.  It was a sea otter.

We heard the last of the Thai radio we’ll be hearing for a while, because suddenly, it seemed, we were in Malaysia again.

The Langkawi time vortex

Royal Langkawi Yacht Club, when we were sailing from Phuket to Langkawi
Royal Langkawi Yacht Club
Monkey caution sign on Langkawi Island, sailing from Phuket to Langkawi
Cautious!!!

 

Monkey on the electricity wires, sailing from Phuket to Langkawi
Oh. Is that what they want us to be cautious of?

Langkawi is a time vortex.  Like the Hotel California you can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave. We planned to say a few days. We were there for a month.

Bass Harbour, Kuah

Anchored in Bass Harbour, Kuah, we were waiting for some credit cards to arrive in the mail.  And waiting.  And partying. And waiting. And eating.  (The Bak kut the which is the only dish on the menu at the Shark Fing is still my benchmark for that delicious pork stew.)
And of course consuming and stocking up on the duty free grog. And catching up with old friends. And making new ones.  And provisioning for our next leg.

Don’t mention the pork

Naturally the shopping had to include pork espionage.  On a Moslem island they do sell this forbidden product but it requires being in the know. 
You have to go into the back room of a shop selling spices.  Quietly – I thought the proprietor was telling us not to wake the baby – to choose your cloak and dagger snaggers.

They were yummy too.  Sausages and mash for dinner at our first anchorage on the way to Danga Bay.

Related

Meet the Fishing Nets Langkawi-Johor Bahru Sailing Blogs

A snake in the sink and other fun at Danga Bay Johor Bahru

Eagles – Hotel California

I Heart Georgetown

Visit Penang to discover the funky art and beer joints.
Georgetown is full of funky art and beer joints.

Who needs a reason to visit Penang?

Living in Phuket, we often heard the expats talking about visa runs. Because typically you only get a 30 day visa on arrival in Thailand. We stayed two years (mainly fixing Yana de Lys). Which meant we decided to visit Penang in Malaysia a few times so we could sort out extended visas with the embassy there.
I fell in love with Georgetown, the main city. I’d never miss an opportunity to go back. Click To Tweet

Two days in Georgetown

Our last visit to Penang was just a two day visa run.  But it was sublime, totally reaffirming my love of Georgetown.  We stayed at the Chulia Heritage on (duh!) Chulia Street.  And yes we ate at the Red Garden Food Paradise.  But shock horror tears we found the Famous Crispy Duck stall closed!  For Ramadan?  No doubt it was the quietest we had ever seen Georgetown.  It was kinda weird the way the chaos level of the traffic was so subdued…

Tickets to the Blue Mansion

I decided we would take a look at the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion  after walking past it so many times on our visits to the Red Garden.   I’d heard you have to book in advance so headed off on our first morning to organise tickets while the other captain did some serious TV time in the room.  As it happened we didn’t need to book ahead.  I ended up with some time up my sleeve before our lunch date so wandered around Muntri Street and Love Lane checking out some of the cool art galleries and old buildings.

Check out the Hainan Temple when you visit Penang.
Are they dragons on the roof ? Or is it the patron saint of sailors at the Hainan Temple?

Spiritual leanings

I also snuck in a temple visit, spending some velvet devotional time in the Hainan Temple.  (The other captain runs a mile when I mention temples.) The building just looked so exquisite from the outside I had to go in.

The Hainan Temple looked so exquisite from the outside I had to go inside. Click To Tweet

I lit a candle for my beautiful lost wild child – a Catholic ritual in a Chinese temple.  (I definitely have catholic tastes when it comes to spirituality and religion.)  Later I read in the Lonely Planet the temple’s patron saint is the patron saint of seafarers.  No wonder I felt drawn.

Our first guided tour. Ever.

Anyway for the first time in our travelling careers, we took a guided tour.  Well, it is the only way to see inside the Cheong Fatt Tze AKA the Blue Mansion.

Our tour guide was excellent, an expert at engaging her audience of some 37 people.  She told great stories about the family who built and lived in the mansion, including the original owner’s (favourite) wife number seven.  Our guide’s depth of understanding of Chinese culture as well as the architecture, intrinsically linked with Feng Shui, was fascinating.

Visit Penang to see how the Kongsi Clan Temple is as georgeous on the inside as out.
More dragons. Maybe the next Game of Thrones will be filmed here? The Kongsi Clan Temple is as georgeous on the inside as out.

Kongsi Clan Temple

The next morning I felt inspired to continue the theme with a visit to the Cheah Kongsi Clan Temple. The other captain was out buying electrical wire for Yana de Lys God bless him.
I was amazed at how the stuff I learnt in the Blue Mansion tour helped me understand and interpret what was going on with the design and history of this gorgeous building.   Without a tour guide heh heh.

Found in translation

By the end of our Penang visit I had almost been able to dredge up and appropriately use the Malaysian language I’d learned in my on and off two years in Langkawi.  It’s all about the menus.  Roti Canai.  Yes! Mango Lassi.  Yes!  (I hadn’t found my Malaysian breakfast favourites in Phuket.  Well not in the English alphabet or picture menus anyway.)
Then we were back in Phuket International Airport with our three month- convertible into six-month visas. (I know it’s complicated. Let’s not go there.) I had to switch back to my basic basic basic Thai.

How do people know how to speak multiple languages without getting confused?

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Road Trip to Malacca

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Georgetown Attractions

 

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Finally we left Langkawi in Malaysia after working on Yana de Lys for two years. It was kinda late in the sailing season for a sailing trip to Thailand. Were we too impatient? Was Yana ready? What could possibly go wrong?

Stranded in paradise on our sailing trip: the view from our anchorage at Ko Muk
Stranded in paradise: the view from our anchorage at Ko Muk

Sailing to Phuket in easy stages

We were going to sail to Phuket in easy stages, with safe anchorages planned along the way in case the weather hit the fan.

Well it wasn’t the weather which hit the fan it was the drive shaft.

After two nights of blissful anchorages, I was thinking this is why we have a boat. That two years of hard work was worth it after all. Perky the engine was purring and I felt I could trust her to motor all 120 NM (nautical miles) if we ended up with no wind to help us.

When a sailing trip goes wrong, it can go very, very wrong

Then  at around 9 am on Day 3 of our tropical island sailing trip, 20 NM north of Taratao Island the drive shaft  snapped, right at the end where it meets the gearbox. No way we could jury rig a fix on board, alone in the water.

This is where the drive shaft broke on our sailing trip
Drive shaft before the disaster

Sailing into the wind

We started sailing north in about 3 knots of wind (from the north!). We tacked for three or four hours between Ko Phetra and Ko Tului Noi making less one than mile progress.  Then the wind picked up but it was still pretty well in the direction we wanted to go until we began heading for Ko Talebong.

Passing rocky outcrops in the dark

It was hairy passing those rocky outcrops at the SW end of Ko Talebong, close hauled in the moonless dark. But we finally made it to a safe anchorage at Ko Muk by 11 pm, despite the fact the only night sailing we’d ever done was in our TAFE Yachtmaster courses and we’d never anchored without using the engine before.

What is it they say about cruising sailing trips being 99% boredom and 1% panic? Click To Tweet

You can read more about how this sailing trip got better, then got worse, and how we finally made it to Phuket six weeks later, in the Stranded in Paradise blogs.

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Stranded in Paradise

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Floating my boat

We left Australia in March after replenishing the anorexic bank accounts and returned to Langwaki where we lived in a room above our favourite lunch spot, the Watergarden Hawkers Centre and finished some work on Yana de Lys on the hard stand.

And finally relaunched with brand new standing rigging, clear see through windows, freshly painted topsides, a lot less leaks, new engine mounts, LED light tricolour and anchor light and a myriad more improvements.  Still a lot to do, but at least she’s floating again.

 

 

The plan is to sail to Phuket and finish Yana so we can focus on cruising after that.

It’s been fun living in Kuah. Our room came with one TV station – A National Geographic channel which seemed to have The Dog Whisperer on a continual loop.  I saw a Bollywood movie shoot, and one car crash out the window .  No one was hurt in the crash, just a bit of mangled metal and lot of walking around in circles by both parties.  And occasionally I heard all the taxi drivers over the road shouting.  That meant another tourist was driving the wrong way up the one way street.

I treated myself to an Ayurvedic massage in Pentai Cenang  at one point.  The Njaravkizhi treatment was described as a relaxing massage in the brochure, but I did find it a bit hard to relax while I was being bashed by bags of hot rice.

We took the ferry to Penang for three days so we could get our extended Thai visas.  I love Penang.  The food at the Red Garden is sensational.  We ate there every night, even though we tried to talk ourselves into trying somewhere else.

We lost track of how many times we got lost shopping for items for Yana de Lys which weren’t available in Langkawi.  On the third day we decided to play tourists and hire a scooter to check out the Funicular rail at Penang Hill.  It feels like you’re going up vertically. And when you get to the top the views are sensational.  I felt like I could see all of Malaysia, while we drank the most expensive beer of our whole trip.

Meanwhile back in Langkawi we loaded Yana with provisions in readiness for our our trip to Phuket.

Third world lift out, first world touch down

We had Yana de Lys lifted out at the customs hard stand on Langkawi.  Over the years I have been involved in hauling out boats in a variety of different locations but man this was a first and makes me think next time I use the tammy lift at Fremantle Lifters I won’t have even one nervous moment.

They use a crane to lift the boats about three metres up onto the hard stand.  We multiplied the degree of difficulty by having both masts taken off first.  Just when we had all the stays loosened, a pile of storm clouds appeared on our horizon.  We decided to forge ahead anyway and the big winds decided to go elsewhere. Yay!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think the slings they use are the ones the mining companies in WA sell off after three months because the fraying  voids their insurance.  Anyway the slings ended up in the right place, despite being twisted.  No point diving to check the placement, there is no visiblity because the bottom is mud.

Then two days later we flew home to Perth.

It’s true the other captain and I had been feeling a little bit depressed at the thought of going back to Australia.  But it’s not that bad.  I’d forgotten how much I love

  • Abundant salad and fresh veg being easily available
  • Great coffee, anywhere
  • Good radio which makes sense. ABC 720 local radio got me back up to speed and I still lerve RTR’s music
  • Exercise without becoming a puddle of perspiration within the first minute. I had a minor concern I had forgotten how to row my plastic dingy, The Brave, to shore and back from Beyond.  Maate, just like riding a  bike, there’s no forgettin.

Everything feels excruciatingly exxy after living seven months on and off a tax free island in Malaysia, but we’re back here earning Aussie dollars so we can go back and enjoy living off them in SE Asia.  ASAP.

Navigating a nest of vipers

Our final anchorage for this trip to SE Asia was at Awana Porto Malay on the south west corner of Langkawi. I planned an extra cautious route as the chart showed lots of areas of shallow water, a wreck and underwater rocks – a real navigational nest of vipers, especially around Pulau Ular (Snake Island). We arrived safely after a detour near Pulau Singa Besar where we hid out during a short storm, and anchored for two nights in company with Sweetie and a fun collection of friends and family.

The anchorage is near the Awana Porto Malay Resort, with its totally incongruous and unmalaysian  Mediterranean-style architecture. We were surprised when they made us pay RM20 per dingy to leave our tenders at their jetty when we first went ashore. As far as we could work out the fee entitled us to use the facilities for 24 hours so we decided to hang out at their swimming pool the next afternoon. At least we got something for our money, including a fresh water shower.

Awana Porto Malay Resort

 

We spent a whole morning exploring the itty bitty Pulau Ular. Contrary to the expectations of the five year old in our party who announced it looked like an “extwemely boring island” as we pulled up in the dingy, we found it endlessly fascinating. The interpretive signs told us it’s a Geological Monument. The rocks are truly amazing. I swear some of the formations look like they have been carved by a talented and funky stone artist. I found a tiny cave filled with bats. And we all feasted on the most delicious fresh oysters straight off the rocks.

Pulau Ular

When we got back to Kuah, the other captain and I started getting Yana de Lys ready for the planned haul out and (sigh) our return to Australia.

Holed up at the Hole in Wall

 

The Hole in the Wall seen from the Kilim River.
The entrance is almost impossible to spot from the ocean.

 

 

Kilim River

 

Trees grow horizontally here

 

Yana de Lys at anchor in the Kilim River

 

Yana de Lys close up

 

The other captain, driving the dingy

Continuing on we rounded the eastern corner of Langkawi to arrive at the Hole in the Wall anchorage on the north coast, at the mouth of the Kilim River.   Apparently this is where the pirates used to hide out before Langkawi was settled.

There are monkeys in the mangroves and lots of monitors swimming in the river.  Around one bend I counted 14 sea eagles feeding.

We visited the Gua Kelawar (Bat Cave).  At the end we realised we hadn’t seen any bats though, so we started again from the beginning,  and there they were, hundreds, maybe thousands of the cute little critters hanging up right at the entrance.  We’d been too busy marvelling at the stalactites and stalagmites to notice them before LOL.

There are a couple of fish farms and a floating restaurant just round the corner from our anchorage.  When we dropped in to the restaurant for refreshments, Rod asked for a couple of Tiger beers to begin with.  “No thank you sir, we only have Skol” was the waitress’s terminally polite reply.

Electricity wires going to the fish farms

Those places get their electricity via cables which snake through the mangroves and over the limestone karsts to a jetty about 20 minutes by tender down the river.  At high tide some of the lines hang in the water.

Oh, and now it’s started raining again.  We could be here a while…