Fri Feb 3 22:25 2017 NZDT

Robbie and I send our very best Happy Birthday wishes to our precious friends, Koji Nakao in the United States, Derek Stembridge in New Zealand, and Kevin Pool in Thailand!

Yesterday, in celebration of your birthdays, we visited the Kek Lok Si Hokkien Chinese Buddhist Temple nestled at the base of Penang Hill in Air Itam, a close-in suburb of Georgetown. Neither of us actually thought we'd make it to the top, but we managed to climb the 500 stairs and were rewarded by a fantastic temple complex decorated in all its Chinese New Year regalia and featuring not hundreds or thousands, but millions of figures and images of the Buddha. Construction continues today, one hundred and twenty five years after the completion of the first temple hall.

From the top of the pagoda

Dreamed about you two nights ago. We were back at KU. 😊 You're always in my thoughts sweet friend. Hope all is well!

Beautiful! Sounds like all is well and you are certainly having wonderful adventures. Miss you, love you. Weezie

Love your pictures Bev, I am glad you and Rob are enjoy yourselves
Thu Jan 26 3:00 2017 NZDT
Run: 189nm (342.1km)

Filling the next ten months with boat projects, land travel to other parts of SE Asia and devouring the delights of Penang and its colonial heart, Georgetown, we've taken a berth at Straits Quay Marina and expect to remain here most of the time until November.

With so much to see and do in Penang, fantastic dining, shopping, and cultural opportunities such as we haven't seen in years, this seems like the perfect spot to relax for a while.
Robbie won a great victory shortly after our arrival with the huge, heavy, black, scary looking step-down transformer he had ordered from America. Not even certain that it would work, he has magically assembled new cords and plugs and connected it in such a way that the 230A/50Hz power at the dock comes out of Mersoleil's electrical outlets at 110A/60Hz. We have air conditioning now without running the generator, we can wash and dry a load of clothes, and run the water heater, perhaps not all at the same time, but, hey, one needn't have everything.

Delighted to be in Penang, enjoying the fireworks every night (Chinese New Year goes on well into its first month!) we have found the place to feather our nest for the next several months and we love it here.

Penang, Malaysia's Second City
Straits Quay Retail/Condo/Marina development with the red tile roofs, top notch facilities
Fri Jan 20 3:00 2017 NZDT
Run: 23.8nm (43.1km)

Koh Phi Phi Don is the most popular tourist hotspot in the entire Phuket area, so we went there just to find out why none of our friends like it. Now we understand.

If we were 22 years old, carrying everything we own on our backs, wanted to dine on $4 per day and preferred loud music and late hours to bird calls and a good night's snooze.... why, then Phi Phi Don would be just the ticket! One night there was sufficient, we loitered for two, and then, rather than stopping at nearby Maya Bay under grey skies, we began to make our way south back to Malaysia. Maya Bay will still be there next time we sail up to Thailand.

We'll collect a package waiting for us at the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club and have lunch with Kevin Pool, then we'll make straight for Penang and Chinese New Year on the 27th.

Wed Jan 18 3:00 2017 NZDT
Run: 25.8nm (46.7km)

With an eye toward our preparations for the jump to Sri Lanka next northern winter, we're interviewing marinas in Thailand. We've stopped at Krabi Boat Lagoon on the Thai mainland for provisions and to check out the area. It's a beautiful marina with a spacious concrete paved hardstand, two excellent restaurants, pool, Thai massage service, potable water and rental cars available, a good thing since the nearest Tesco supermarket is 30 minutes away. The manager, Ben Macrory, will do anything to make his customers happy. The water on the east side of Phang Nga Bay is cleaner, clearer, bluer than that on the west side, but really, it's not crystal clear and this alone is not enough to get us to spend two months there toward the end of the year. We have a reservation at Phuket Yacht Haven and watch this space eight months from now. We'll probably choose to prepare for the Indian Ocean passages over at Phuket.

Sun Jan 15 3:00 2017 NZDT
Run: 11.6nm (21km)
Weather: Gorgeous. Dry (sort of) and sunny.

Several years ago an Indie Film Festival was staged inside the hong at Koh Kudu Yai. They constructed floating platforms right on the water and projected the movies on a screen with the cliffs as backdrops. We're not sure they're doing this anymore, the construction and removal of the structure being such an elaborate venture, but we had to come have a look. We're considering being back up here in mid-March, the time they'll hold the festival, if at all, and thought we'd scope out the location.

Honestly, this is the last time we're taking Mersoleil across water that's only seven or eight feet deep. It's simply too hard on the nerves! But now, having crossed the shallowest parts of the navigable Bay, and I use that term loosely, we'll be able to ride deeper channels back south over the next several days. Most cruisers never come up here, so high into the Bay, but we took the challenge and, whew, we made it!

A highlight of visiting the Kudu Yai anchorage was that we happened to stop to greet the crews of the other two cruising yachts anchored there, something that's always fun, though we don't always make the effort. The first boat was a rental catamaran occupied by seven young Americans who travel together once each year, always to someplace interesting. They were interesting, themselves, two young women working in Kenya for a waste management company, a long-haired guy in sunnies who looks more like a rock musician than a man who's just completed his PhD in robotics and is celebrating his accomplishment, and a captain (the only one on board who knew how to sail) whose curly black hair was very recently spruced up with a wide bright red mohawk plus a couple of patches in yellow and electric blue. And they thought what WE are doing is unusual! The second yacht contained Aussie cruisers Chris and Phil, good friends with Peter and Cheryl Ainsworth, whom we met in 2012 in French Polynesia while they were still cruising their Hylas 49, Stolen Kiss.

Mersoleil and company at Koh Kudu Yai
A low tide beach inside the hong
Hong entrance guarded by a lone sentinal
Fri Jan 13 3:00 2017 NZDT
Run: 3.9nm (7.1km)
Weather: Lovely, still an occasional cloud and a shower

Only a short run from the village of Pan Yi, Koh Deang Yai provides another scenic overnight stop. The distance is short, but it's an unnerving route crossing such shallow waters that we probably dredged a little furrow with the keel as we passed by James Bond Island, named for the filming there of The Man with the Golden Gun.

An afternoon dinghy exploration gave us some remarkable close-up views of the island and further demonstrated how shallow are the northern waters of Phang Nga Bay. Doggie's outboard only draws about 18" and we got stuck on the sandbar numerous times trying to enjoy the island from all sides. Still, it's a beautiful spot and we had it all to ourselves.

Location of filming The Man with the Golden Gun
Approaching Deang Yai anchorage
Kind of makes you want to see the movie, doesn't it?
Thu Jan 12 3:00 2017 NZDT
Run: 7.2nm (13km)
Weather: absolutely gorgeous

At the head of Phang Nga Bay the waters shallow very gradually to muddy flats and mangrove forests surrounding the karst sea mountains that jut impressively into the sky. One of these sea mountains, named Koh Pan Yi, has virtually no level ground, nothing even remotley useable, but a thriving fishing village of 1.500 has grown up there anyway. The community of Pan Yi is populated by Sunni Muslim fishermen and their families and they've overcome the absence of terrain by building their entire village on stilts above the water. Pan Yi has its own school, a health clinis, a floating football pitch, a mosque, a few restaurants and lots of souvenir kiosks, tourism having surpassed fishing as the major income source for the village. We arrived on the morning high tide, anchored east of the village, lunched at one of the restaurants and wandered for two or three hours exchanging warm greetings with the friendly peopleand declining over and over again to buy pearls and elephant pants. Sitting in the cockpit at sundown, mesmerized by the erie sound of the call to prayer echoing once, twice, thrice against the mountain before it wafted out across the water, Robbie and I agreed Pan Yi is indeed unique and remarkable. We've never seen anything like it. Glad we came. Bev

The village of Pan Yi on stilts
No beer, but fruit juice of every kind imaginable!
Simple, but comfortable homes
Pan Yi football pitch - out of bounds balls are recovered by boat
Mosque reigns beautifully over the village
Happy great grandma, lucky little boy
Tue Jan 10 3:00 2017 NZDT
Run: 2.9nm (5.2km)
Weather: clearing, occasional showers

Only a couple of miles from last night's anchorage, Koh Hong has such a spectacular enclosed room (the hong) that the island is named for it. In mid-afternoon, despite the fact that tour boats were still dropping people off by the score, we paddled Doggie into the hong through a cave opening into a lagoon on one side and out into the open Bay on the other. Inside the cave is a pool about 35 meters in diameter whose ceiling opens through a natural chimney to the sky. Stalactites cling to the ceiling of the cave and we had to dodge them as we paddled Doggie through the caves and into the hong on a low, but rising, tide. We're both pitiful at paddling Doggie. It's an inflatible dinghy with a rigid bottom and has oars, such as they are, and even oarlocks. Actually we should be rowing, but in a place as small as the hong, there's no room for error and going backwards would have just created a game of bumper cars with the kayaks. Instead, we both took an oar and used them like canoe paddles to propel Doggie forward, punting when necessary in the shallowest spots, and both facing forward so we could enjoy the amazing scene. No bats in these caves, we noted with disappointment.

The anchorage we selected was tucked into the curve of a high sheer rock face, sheltered on the other side by another towering sea mountain. We took a vote and have declared this spot the most beautiful place we have ever seen, knocking the Moorea Belvidere and the view from our home in West Seattle to numbers 2 and 3. Between us Robbie and I must have uttered the word "wow" at least twenty times today. It's so incredible that we've decided to stay two nights just to soak in the beauty.

This place inspired meto get out the instructions for my new camera again and figure out how to download photos so I can show it to you. If you're a Mersoleil subscriber reading these postings in the email sent to you by the YIT system, next time you must click on the link and go directly to the Mersoleil page where you can see the photos and the satellite image of our position.

Lucky Mersoleil to spend a few days here
Inside the hong
Exploring on Doggie1
Mon Jan 9 3:00 2017 NZDT
Run: 130.6nm (236.4km)
Weather: still raining, sometimes in great torrents, but we left the marina anyway

This is our first anchorage in Phang Nga Bay and we're nestled up to the west side of Koh Phanak near the hong (Chinese for room), busy with tourists paddling in and out on kayaks. As we prepared to lower Doggie into the water the rains returned in full measure and we bailed on the idea of exploring. There will be other koh and other hongs for us.

We've decided to do something we usually avoid, visit several different spots around the Bay, spending only a single night in each. Some cruisers do this habitually. For us it's exhausting and denies us the opportunity to grow familiar with a place, to meet the people, to know if that bird sings every night, to learn the rhythm of the tides and currents. But in this case, we're interviewing Thailand, trying to gauge how much time to save for our return visits here later in the year. That and it's so unbelievably beautiful here that we can't resist running from one spot to another cooing and exclaiming, "Ooh! Look at that!"

Koh Phanak, Phang Nga Bay, near Phuket
Just like in the brochure! We are amazed!
Closing in on the anchorage at Koh Phanak
Wed Jan 4 19:39 2017 NZDT
Run: 32.7nm (59.2km)

Slowly but surely, we're moving in the direction of Phuket and the stunning islands of Phang Nga Bay. We've stopped at tiny Koh Lipe, koh meaning island, and checked into Thailand here. Will take a walk around the island today and confirm our suspicion that Koh Lipe is cousin to Indonesian Gili Air, a cute, happening little tourist hotspot full of small resorts, beachfront restaurants and bars, and twenty-somethings. I'm in search of my first authentic local Thai curry with lots of chillies. I ask the waiter to have them take enough chillies to make me cough, then dial back a notch. If we fail to ask for spicy food, emphasizing the word spicy, we get a bland flavourless version of the local cuisine. - Looking like Aussies and waiters being unable to distinguish amoung English accents, they automatically assume we can tolerate nothing stronger than coconut milk.

Heading next for Koh Rok Nok, then Phuket Yacht Haven marina for one night where we'll wash clay off the bow and anchor chain, do some laundry and fill our water tanks again. Watermaker is on the fritz despite our best efforts to treat it reverently. It was the project of the year for 2016. May win that ribbon again in 2017.

Sun Jan 1 15:27 2017 NZDT
Run: 8.6nm (15.6km)

Happy New Year!

Taking New Year's Eve as the perfect opportunity to escape yet another marina, we made a quick grocery run, checked out of the country of Malaysia, enjoyed a tasty Malaysian lunch with grieving friend, Kevin Pool, then sailed away from Royal Langkawi Yacht Club.

Sailed! Sailed, I said. The winter months bring northeasterly monsoons to the Andaman Sea along with drier cooler air. Unfurling the genoa in a 10kt breeze, we let it pull us gently along at 5kts from Kuah Town to Port Chenang where we anchored and celebrated New Year's Eve, just the two of us. We'd heard that the place to see NYE fireworks is Port Chenang, really just a long white beach lined with the resorts for which Langkawi is famous.

Not knowing where exactly the fireworks might originate we employed the popular technique used by many sailors, dropping the hook between Pulau Tepor and Langkawi near other yachts who'd arrived earlier. Awakened, we confess, by the first cracks and explosions of the midnight show then climbing up to the cockpit sans champagne and caviar Robbie and I were delighted by a lengthy display of red and gold sprays and sparkles originating from not one but many spots running north along the shore for almost two miles. The fireworks, quite spectacular in breadth and scale, backed up by the whooping, squealing and shouting of uninhibited revelers on shore, proved a stunning and satisfying inauguration for the year of 2017.

We had planned to spend two full months at RLYC, taking enormous pains since September to obtain commitment from marina management that they'd allow Mersoleil to occupy her berth continuously even through the mid-January Regatta, one of SE Asia's premier sailing events. But the sudden death of Lisa Pool three days ago left Kevin, alone at anchor offshore, in a horrible position. Returning their yacht to RLYC he was told that it could remain no longer than two days. Hence our speedy departure from the yacht club yesterday after signing over Mersoleil's berthing agreement to Aguabago, relieving Kevin of at least one stressor. Robbie and I begin this new year more aware and more grateful than ever for our many blessings and grieving along with Kevin, whose life was changed completely in a brief moment on Wednesday.

When we weigh the anchor in an hour or two our destination will be Thailand. How very exciting to begin the year in a new country! As we say, "Cruisers' plans are written in sand... at low tide."

May this be one of your best years ever! Happy New Year Sir Robbie and Ms., Jod

Hope you have a happy and safe 2017. Your lovely nesting dolls made an appearance during the holiday and they are again resting, getting ready for next Christmas. Life in Lawrence is routine and pleasant, but on Thursday, I depart for a few days in South America, visiting Iguassu Falls and taking a small ship to Cape Horn and Magdelena Island, debarking at Punta Arenas for Santiago before heading home. Should be an adventure. Wish I had a travel buddy, but going alone is normal.

You will have travel buddies when we get to the Med anyway. Your reservation for the Adriatic is still in good standing. Do tell us all about Tierra del Fuego.  Mersoleil and crew being disinclined to latitudes higher than 40, I do not envision us rounding that Cape. Much love, Happy New Year, Bev and Robbie P.S. I can'tdo anything about those extra characters... sorry.

Happy New Year. So good of you to give up your marina berth. Heroes both!

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