Thursday 11th June 2020
Time flies, and it’s hard to believe it’s over a year since the last blog entry. So much has happened, but little of it involved sailing. Here is an update.
The Big Decision regarding our future sailing plans had been on hold ever since arriving in Malaysia. Although we hadn’t really set out to do a circumnavigation, the further we sailed, the more it seemed like we might. At that point, however, with just one-sixth of the globe left to go, we both had mixed feelings about whether we actually wanted to continue. Yes, it would be a great achievement to close the circle, but this last leg would not be straightforward or easy, and possibly risky if we took the Red Sea option. It would probably be the most challenging sailing so far. We had no doubt that both we and Scott-Free could do it, but after ten years and over 40,000 nautical miles, we were unsure if we had the enthusiasm, or indeed the will, to do so.
So in true Rawlinson style, we avoided the Big Decision by making a smaller decision to keep the boat in Rebak and be part-time sailors in the area for a season or two to give us time to think about it. At the same time we would spend part of the year at home testing our ability to become landlubbers once more. So it was that we returned to the UK in November 2017 for our first stint at home as part-timers.
Originally a six-month stay, it ended up being a year as we carried out a long-overdue refurb of our house. During that time, the boat was struck by lightning which took out the electronics and some of the electrical system. We arrived back at the boat in December 2018, but the strike had pretty much put paid to that season’s sailing plans. It took us four months to wade through an insurance claim, source new equipment and parts and eventually get them fitted. It was like wading through treacle, highly frustrating and gave us a lot of time to think and talk about the future. We decided that we would return next year for one more season of sailing, and that if our enthusiasm for it did not return at that point, we would consider putting the boat up for sale. Once the boat was finally fixed and re-launched in April, we sailed up to Thailand to get the last repairs done. We enjoyed exploring the islands of Phang Nga Bay whilst testing out the new equipment, then headed back to Rebak where we had the boat lifted back onto the hard before returning to the UK in mid-May.
We were due to return to the boat for the sailing season in November, but a serious illness in the family led to us postponing. Instead we arrived back at the beginning of February when we thankfully found Scott-Free a bit grubby but otherwise fine. We scrubbed her down, gave her a coat of antifoul and put her back in the water. Just a few jobs to do, then we’d go sailing. At the same time we made preliminary enquiries with Seaspray Yacht Sales about the practicalities of marketing the boat in Rebak and did some research on shipping belongings back to the UK…just in case.
Then Covid-19 arrived….
With rumours that ports would shortly be closed and boat movements banned, our plans to go sailing were totally scuppered, so we brought forward our hauling date to 15 April and booked our flights home for a few days after. That would allow us time to finish off jobs such as re-proofing the bimini and sprayhood and replacing some of the deck caulking. In no time at all, however, the Restricted Movement Order was introduced, the resort closed, hardstand operations suspended and only the marina manager left in the office to keep the basic marina services running. That meant we couldn’t be hauled until the RMO was lifted, and we couldn’t sail anywhere. It didn’t seem too bad a place to wait out the coronavirus crisis. We were on an island off an island, and there were no tourists at the resort as it was closed, with just a skeleton staff. We didn’t want to leave the boat in the water, as we had no idea when we’d be able to return, so we waited and hoped that the RMO would be lifted soon. Weighing everything up, we thought we were probably at less risk of catching the virus there, though not sure what the situation would be if we needed hospital care. Having medical insurance reassured us that we would be ok.
Then two things happened - the UK Foreign Office decided to advise all British travellers to return to the UK, and Emirates cancelled our flights. Things were changing, and not in a good way. We were unsure of the effect the FO advice would have on our insurance, so we now had the possibility of not only being stranded in Malaysia for goodness knows how long, but also of having no medical cover either. We weighed up the pros and cons. Steve felt we would be fine if we stayed, but he knew I was keen to go home so we spoke to SYS who agreed they would get the boat hauled for us once the hardstand operations restarted and we made the decision to head home if flights could be found.
Two days later we spent eleven hours in a deserted Kuala Lumpur International Airport before boarding a Malaysia Airlines flight to Heathrow. The flights had cost three times the amount we’d paid Emirates for the cancelled flights.
Here in the UK we currently have around a thousand new Covid-19 cases a day. In Malaysia it is in single digits, with three states completely Covid-free. One of them is Kedah, where you will find a small island called Langkawi, next to which is an even smaller island called Rebak…
The RMO restrictions there began to be lifted a few weeks ago, and as soon as hardstand operations began again, Scott-Free was hauled. She is now safely back on the hard…and up for sale.