Lankawi to Penang
Tue 25 Apr 2017 07:21
We spent a week anchored in the outer harbour of Telaga, Langkawi and discovered that the Marina rented out cars for 10 Malaysian Ringits (£2) per hour. This turned out to be a very simple process which did not involve showing any form of identity (including driving license) or deposit. We were handed the keys of a small battered Daihatsu with bucket seats and a ‘boy racer’ steering wheel and off we went. Roads in Langkawi are good and uncrowded and the best thing is they drive on the left. A map was an impossible task to find so we relied on google maps to find us the boatyard that had promised us the quote. This was not easy as the boatyard was in the Port Area which involved going through security and having a pass issued by the police so we left the car and walked through the loading area for the ferries and eventually found the boatyard (good security for Gaviota!). The office was a portacabin and the owner of the yard a rather ancient looking South African called Barry seemed quite surprised that we had entered ‘Fort Knox’ and found him. He was an extremely knowledgable ex-yachtie who had circumnavigated the globe 3 times and had owned several yachts and boatyards, there was not a lot he didn’t know about boat problems and had his own team including a skilled carpenter working at the yard. Overall impression was good although his time-scale for haul out seemed overly optimistic as major building work was underway to get a new slipway operational for the travel-lift. He was in the meantime using a crane which he said could lift up to 50 tons. Quote to follow . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . !
Having stocked up with food and duty free wine and essential chocolate supplies Syd made the decision that rather than sit in Langkawi and wait we should get the ball rolling and sail down to Penang and get the anchor and chain re-galvanized (the only place other than Bangkok which has this facility and one less job on the list of priorities) also a lot cheaper to get done by us than pay for it to be shipped down.
We left Telaga Harbour Wednesday, 29th March and sailed slowly South and anchored off the island of Dayang Bunting (our first stop when we arrived in Langkawi over 3 months ago). Langkawi’s scenery is fjordlike and if it had clean clear water it would be stunning but as with the whole of Western Malaysia and most of Thailand the sea-quality is poor. We did swim but the combination of dirty water and jellyfish is not very alluring! Next morning it was an early start and we had wind so up went the sails and we had a nice run South to the Islands of the Pulau Payar Marine National Park – allegedly the best diving off the West Coast of Malaysia and Langkawi – Uhmmmmmm!!!! We arrived midday and with no anchoring within a 2 mile radius of the Marine Park we hunted for Park Mooring balls which were non-existent. There were several tripper boats there and a floating barge full of tourists and the sea looked clear though there was the usual scum and odd bits of rubbish floating by. We found a mooring which did not look safe enough to hold us for the night but looked okay for a quick snorkel so in I went! It was the quickest swim I have ever had as when I jumped in I felt long tentacle like things touching me, on looking with my mask the sea was full of strings of fish eggs – there were literally millions of them and some had protective stingers attached to them, it was pretty horrible and Syd immediately made the decision he was NOT going in – I agreed! As we were watching these strings of eggs floating by the boat we had a visit from one of the locals who said we were on his mooring. Okay time to move, anchor up and we were directed with a wave of the hand to the other side of the pier where there were 3 mooring balls – all in use. At this point we decided not only did we not want to swim but there was nowhere to stop so we headed off and left the trapped hundreds of tourists probably wondering why they had paid vast sums of money to be dumped on this Island.
Up went the sails and we had a nice run across to a small Island Bidap17 miles from Straits Quay Marina in Penang where we had booked the last remaining berth for 5 nights to enable us to get the anchor and chain re-galvanized.
We motored the last 17 miles on a glassy sea and arrived at Straits Quay 3.00pm. Entrance is through a narrow passage and can only be attempted at high tide but the Marina is well protected and is the centre of a large shopping centre (very convenient). We were met and helped into our berth which was next to a row of large motor cruisers.
Next 2 days were a hectic round of washing, cleaning the boat and provisioning. During this time a half-hearted quote appeared from the boatyard we had hoped to haul out in at Langkawi, this came with a message that their crane for haul out was not working! Alarm bells started ringing and Syd made the decision it was not going to happen. Back to where we had started from and 2 possible options left – one was a company in Penang (reputedly good but expensive!) and the other cheap but none of the major jobs would be possible there – more decisions, the boatyard in Penang came round and we are now waiting for a quote!!! Sounds like a familiar pattern emerging here!!!!! The anchor and chain were collected and a double dose of galvanizing was booked. The sea around Malaysia and Thailand must contain something that turns anchors and chains brown (good business for the glavanizers).
Day 3 we had a day off and headed into Georgetown where we discovered several areas we had not been on our last visit, then we took the ‘hop on, hop off’ red double decker bus to the foot of 830 metre high Penang Hill (for some reason the driver did not want any money so it was a free ride via the Botanic Gardens). We took the funicular railway to the summit and were surprised at the speed it travelled up to what was a former British retreat during the colonial period. At the summit there are amazing views across Penang and the Straits to the mainland. We were also surprised that there were several small temples at the summit.
Next afternoon a lovely shiny silver anchor and chain arrived back so Syd re-attached the anchor to the chain, replaced the anodes and it was ready to go back on the boat – minor hitch when the chain decided to drop into the muddy marina basin and had to be washed but aside from that it was all pretty straightforward and was soon stowed away.
We decided to stay an extra night and have a meal out so left with the high tide on Saturday, 8th April to go and wait for either a quote that would mean we can haul out in Penang or to sail the 70 miles South to Pangkor Island to haul out there and not get the major boat work done. We sailed North to a bay past where all the major Hotel developments are and were surprised to find it to be very dirty and full of local tourists on jet skis and other toys with speedboats and tripper boats speeding in and out. We took the dinghy and swam by the rocks for safety but were warned by a local that jellyfish were about, so the combination of jet-skis, possible box jellyfish and a disgustingly dirty sea got us moving again next day and back to the Islands off the mainland where we had stopped on the way down, the good news was we had a nice wind and managed to sail all the way to Song Song Island where the sea was clean enough to swim.
No significant wind was forecast but about 9.00pm a squall passed over with gusts up to 30 knots, this passed and the rest of the night was peaceful. Monday, 10th April the wind was strengthening from the South West, it was a sign when all the fishing fleet were suddenly surrounding us! The waves started building and it became very uncomfortable with the boat lurching – time to move yet again and to motor sail the 5 miles to tuck behind Bidap Island – protected from the South but not the North. The winds here can blow from any direction so nowhere is out of it but the swell is generally from the South West, next day the wind and swell switched to the North West and increased so we were on the move again back to Song Song (this is all getting exhausting!) but Syd did get a whooopeee sail into the bargain and the lovely newly cleaned boat got dowsed in salt water again.