Sat May 6 17:34 2017 NZST
Run: 12.2nm (22.1km)

May 6 Limbongan Batu Maung Sdn. Bhd., Penang, Malaysia

With apologies for delayed reports of our adventures, and all the typos and volunteer characters that magically litter some postings, today we're giving you a summary of our activities all the way back to early February.

Since arriving in Penang on January 27th, we've been as busy as ever. What happened to the idea of cruising as a leisurely retirement? I think, as Humphrey Bogart said in Casablance, "I was mishinformed."

Four days ago we delivered Mersoleil to LBM Shipyard for bottom paint, repairs of several little gelcoat imperfections, repacking of the rudder post, refinishing of teak window frames that have taken about as much UV as they can tolerate and a few other odds and ends of skilled labour that they didn't teach Robbie in law school. The initial plan to live aboard the boat while on the hard fell victim to a sudden realization that we couldn't run the air conditioning while out of the water. We were game for the other inconveniences that go along with hauling a yacht for three or four weeks, not running water between 8AM and 5 PM, climbing up and down a twelve foot ladder, living with the inevitable dirt and chaos of projects underway, but no air conditioning, in this bloody hot climate, was a deal breaker. We've rented a nice little condo in Georgetown, and a small car, and I'm spending every day at the shipyard making decisions, answering questions and being a nudge while Robbie drives all over the island running the errands that have been piling up because they're so difficult to complete without a vehicle.

Clapping guy and the beagle are on their own for a few weeks. (See earlier postings.)

With a little luck, we'll be back in the water on May 18th, return Mersleil to Straits Quay, then return ourselves to our cool and spacious Georgetown digs for ten days of sightseeing and local exploring. Today, though, and six days per week until the work is finished, we're rising at 5:30, out the door by 7:00 and I'm sitting all day in a yacht that feels like a steam room, studying my Portuguese, approving gelcoat colour matches and writing to you.

Are we all right? We couldn't possibly be better! Life is good.

I simply ADORE your updates, Bev. You paint such wonderful word pictures with your phrasing, but also of your experiences by what you choose to share with us. A travelogue but SO MUCH MORE. And your never ending optimism and delight in this world you are experiencing. Someone at Shilshole, who parked near our gate, had a bumper sticker on their car that I always smiled at: Cannot remember it exactly but the gist was "The difference between misery and adventure is attitude." You guys have got true grit AND mucho attitude correcto! If you do ever decide to settle down, though, remember to check out our particular adventure which is somewhat easier for an more aged body that you guys are currently sporting!
Sun Apr 23 16:34 2017 NZST

April 23 Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

On Saturday afternoons I volunteer with the local branch of a worldwide NGO at their Georgetown office and activity center. As the only native speaker assisting with their children's English Reading Group, it's hard for me to keep my mouth shut and not to apply my own cultural biases to the way the children are being taught. After Navire , for example, sounds out every word to me in a monotone, following her index finger across and down page 24, word by word, I ask her, "Now! Tell me, Navire. What story did you just read to yourself?"

In response, Navire raises her sweet brown black eyes to me in a totally blank stare. And she can 'read' fairly well, if with a bit of a sing song, rattling off the words about Peter and Jane and their dog, Pat, and Daddy and the tree house as if she actually knows what information those words impart. But she does not comprehend the words and it hasn't even occurred to her that there is meaning behind them. Malaysian schools teach strictly by rote. If the child can successfully utter the words printed on the page, the faster the better, the task has been completed successfully. Comprehension? Education? Nah, just a performance!

When it's up to me to create a game, or teach a song, or organize an activity, I try to make English fun for the kids, no mean feat since they range in age from 5 to 13 and have a diverse range of English skills. I've taught them to play My Father Owns a Grocery Store, which they loved, except the father had to own a wet market instead of a grocery store. I had trouble guessing what he sold there. The two-word vegetable beginning with L, for instance, turned out to be lady fingers, which I'd have never guessed. I thought that was okra, and it begins with O.

On the Saturday before Labor Day when our topics were Labor Day and Occupations, I played the alphabet game with them, inviting them to help fill in a blank line on the white board for each letter of the alphabet. "Who can think of an occupation that begins with the letter K?" Somebody shouted out a suggestion, but I declined to accept "killer," insisting that we could find a better K profession than that and another child helpfully suggested "king." Much better. King lead us nicely to an occupation for the dreaded Q and we were off! The game evolved into the stretching up and enthusiastic waving of arms amid cries of "Oooh! Teacher! I have one!" O was problematic so I acted out an O profession for them to guess, or I tried to. My wailing vibrato failed to elicit the occupation of opera singer, but they got a huge kick out of my wandering high note. I have no talent for song, but I am convinced that if you're willing to make an ass of yourself in front of kids, they'll love it and will respond by growing more comfortable and more interested in the lesson.

By the time we'd listed 26 occupations on the board, we had a nice collection of literary careers - writer, author, journalist, poet - and some medical ones as well - doctor, nurse, x-ray technician and radiologist. I admit that radiologist was my contribution after I'd had to reject "rabbit" three times. At least one child did not seem to get the drift of this occupation business.

Having become accustomed through my own travels to a wide variety of English accents, so many that I actually rarely notice them anymore, except for the harsh American "err" in mother, brother, other. We haven't been seeing many Americans lately, and we're now aware of how much the American accent grates on the ears of many other English speakers. I can accept a lot of different English pronunciations, for the letter R, for example. But I hear the kids mimicking strange and new pronunciations exactly as vocalized by their well-intentioned SE Asian teachers and wonder how far they're going to get, with such strong accents, in conversation with a fluent English speaker. I suppose my Spanish is mangled in the very same way, my high school Spanish teacher having been an American man.

I'm studying Portuguese right now using the Michel Thomas CDs, in which a British woman instructs two presumably-British students, and a man from Lisboa, his the unimpeachable example of correct Portuguese diction and inflection, repeats each response after the student. On visits to Portugal in the past Robbie and I found that we could read the newspapers but, to our great surprise, we could understand not a single word of spoken Portuguese, not one! Now I understand. And I'm trying hard to listen carefully and get my 'oo's and 'uush's right so the Portuguese will understand me.

Fri Apr 7 16:34 2017 NZST
Run: 0.4nm (0.7km)

April 7 Straits Quay, Penang, Malaysia

We continue to revel in the people-watching at Straits Quay. Eastern & Oriental Corporation wisely, thoughtfully, constructed a 3km waterfront promenade passing through the marina and along the rest of their Penang development at Tanjung Tokong, still in process after some twenty years of continued development. The lovely walk attracts joggers, early morning walking enthusiasts, lovers, teens taking selfies and families with children learning to ride their bicycles or scooters, skates or Segways.

Slugs that we are, Robbie and I sit in the cockpit early in the morning staring, as others burn off calories on their daily constitutionals. There's the exercise guy who makes a daily stop in front of Mersoleil to perform twenty each of dozens of creative moves. He kicks back into the air behind his butt, shadow boxes, swings his arms in many different directions, marches in place, and more, and we remark upon what great ideas he has, we'd have never thought of that one, as we continue to sit unmoving but for chinning our coffee mugs.

There's the cute beagle whose passage by Mersoleil inspires Robbie to announce daily that he wants a dog, a beagle. He, the beagle, is always quiet and adorable early in the morning, but this does not fool me. (Well, so is Robbie, and neither does that.) I know he's just not awake yet. And every Wednesday we hear the approaching drone of a far off gas-powered fogging machine that pollutes the air with pesticide, protects us from malaria and Dengue fever, and instantly induces in me childhood memories of my dad fogging the yard with our lawn mower before we held outdoor parties.

We flee indoors early on Wednesdays as his fog begins to roll across the marina.

"Clapping guy" was initially the only person who clapped his hands as he walked along, swinging both arms in time to his brisk step, first before him, clap, then behind, clap, then forward again. This clapping business must have been featured on the good-for-your-health spot on the morning news or something, because in our brief tenure at berth S7 we have observed not only clapping guy, a white-haired Chinese gentleman, tall and lanky for his race, but also a young dark-haired clapping guy who has elected to clap only in front, and a few clapping ladies whose aerobic behavior is less devoted. They only clap sporadically when they are not busy chatting with their friends. Unmoved be their exuberance, we only sit and sip, sit and sip, and revisit each morning the question of whether to sail next year through the Red Sea or around the Cape of Good Hope.

Mon Mar 20 17:34 2017 NZDT
Run: 926.2nm (1676.4km)
Avg: 5.5knts
24hr: 133.1nm

March 20 Straits Quay, Penang, Malaysia (Pulau Pinang to the locals, Beetle nut island.)

Chickens seem to provide us a source of endless amusement. Years ago we wondered why thighs and legs were available everywhere in Tonga, huge bags of them, frozen and fresh, but whole chickens were hard to come by and chicken breasts nowhere to be found. We'd observed the same in French Polynesia, and Fiji and Vanuatu. Despite supposing that the breasts were sold at higher profit to first world countries like New Zealand, that being the only plausible explanation we could imagine, we joked that there must be a lot of breastless chickens running around the South Pacific.

Soraya, my favourite taxi driver in Phuket, drives me from Phuket Yacht Haven to the Tesco supermarket where, rather than waiting for me in the car park or grabbing another fare while I shop, she comes into the store with me, helps me find the items on my list, interprets labels that I cannot read and asks dumb questions on my behalf in fluent Thai, thus improving my chances of obtaining an answer.

Standing next to me as I stared one afternoon at an industrial-sized bin of pink and yellow chicken feet on ice, Soraya said to me, "You know, sometimes they sell the heads and feet together. We call those walkie talkies."

Every once in a while I ask Robbie if he wants walkie talkies for dinner.So far, no orders.

Not to be outdone by the Thai walkie talkies, I've noticed that my preferred market in Malaysia sells Bishop's noses. Bishop's noses. These were altogether new to me. I took a picture of them with my phone and, per subsequent Internet research, learned that they are that thing that I feared they might be, the thing that I always throw away, that hangs down.... Well, your research will provide you, too, with more than you need to know.

Bishop's noses, or Pope's noses as they are sometimes known in higher ecclesiastical circles, are not going on the menu any time soon, certainly not before walkie talkies, anyway.

Bishop's Noses! Good Lord, what next?
Mon Mar 13 18:34 2017 NZDT
Run: 926.3nm (1676.6km)

March 13, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Founded in 1296 as the ruling center of the Lanna Kingdom, Chiang Mai, grew to become the religious and artistic capital of Thailand's Northern mountains, enjoying a deep sense of its unique 700 year old identity. Still isolated today by its distance from Bangkok, Chiang Mai proudly maintains her rich cultural heritage and, at 1,000 feet above sea level, the town offers a refreshing escape from the tropical heat of the coasts and the central plains. We flew there with Chris Collins for several days, leaving Mersoleil at Phuket.

Thanks to the efforts of 90,000 13th century labourers, Chiang Mai's old town is still enclosed today by thick sepia brown brick walls with imposing city gates. Inside one finds shops, restaurants, temples, museums, homes, parks and all, much of it very very old.

We were lucky enough to reserve a week's stay at an AirBnB just a stone's throw from the North Gate, from whence we could explore the City and its dozens of carved wood temples, museums, government buildings, markets and hawker stalls with ease. Lucky not only because the house was comfortable and well-located, but because the owners are amoung the most charming people we've ever met, they have become dear friends and we're looking forward to visiting them again at their 'real home' before we leave SE Asia next year.

"Apple" and "Jack" prepared meals for us, arranged private tours to visit the gardens of the Northern Thai Royal Palace and steep mountainside villages of the hill tribes, and reserved a private Thai cooking class for me at an organic rice farm some thirty minutes by train outside of Chiang Mai. They feted us at their own favourite local restaurant, introduced us to the best street food in town, told me about - nay delivered me to a market stall where the luscious silk shawls I wanted were available in twice the colours at half the price I'd seen elsewhere, and they most genially invited us to call them Apple and Jack rather than Patcharaporn Yawong and Suranjith Ariyapperuma, names which I still cannot utter fluently. Our expectations were so far exceeded on this delightful field trip inland that we can't imagine how the next excursion could possibly measure up to our March visit to Chiang Mai.

Robbieand Chris together again!
Beatiful Chiang Mai on a Saturday night
Bev, the Thai Chef
Mon Feb 27 18:34 2017 NZDT

February 27 Phuket, Thailand We sailed back up to Thailand in late February to meet son, Chris Collins, who came from America with his friend Nick to see Thailand and, we like to think, to visit us. We took a quick tour of scenic Phang Nga Bay's most stunning karst islands, and after two islands, Chris confided that he wanted to see Thailand, "after all I've come all this way to see Thailand, I really ought to see Thailand." Of course, what he meant was, "take me to the touristy places where I can meet girls from all over the world." We complied, resisting the urge to say, "but this IS Thailand!" How much we change in the years between thirty and seventy....

It was a pleasure to spend time with Chris. He's fun and interesting, things you often fail to notice in your kid until he grows up and you have finally accepted him as an adult, and he's involved in a really fascinating profession. As a marine biologist, Chris accompanies Alaskan fishing boats for months at a time, doing research on their catch and logging statistical data on fishing practices and fish populations. Great stories.

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
Fri Jan 6 1:57 2017 NZDT
No position sent.
Weather: 5knts SE, slight seas, no clouds, 1022 baro

Koh Lipe (I resist the temptation to add the word island, since Koh already says that) exceeded our hopes and there we remained for three nights, checking into the country at the beachfront Customs and Immigration office and finding beach landings with Doggie1 not too onerous if one plans for the tides and doesn’t end up with 400 lbs. of small boat and outboard motor high and dry a long haul from water’s edge.
Waiting till late afternoon diminished the heat of the sun, we went ashore yesterday, strolling down the ‘walking street,’ its blue and white painted pavement friendly to bare feet and scattered with powdery sand tracked up from the beach by the hundreds of visitors enjoying the island this week. Packed with shops, restaurants, bars, tourist information kiosks, money changers and travel agents, the walking street was an event unto itself, barely a mile long, but crowded with people from all over the world and filled with just about anything they might wish to eat, drink, smear on their sunburn or take home to family. Even with all this retail splendor, the businesses named above were all outshone in number and probably in sales as well, by the Thai Massage shops, each strategically located within 20 meters of the next, so that the call of a woman’s voice, often two or even three at once, hawking ”mah saaaahhj?” seemed to set the beat for the music of the island.
Robbie and I wandered up and down enjoying the people watching as much as the menus and colorful stores till we paused at a place where the call “massage?” was heard at the same time from both sides of the street and he said to me, “You should have a foot massage.” What a great idea, I thought! “Where?” And he guided me to the shop on our right open to the street, decorated with a small garden, the relaxing sounds of water dribbling over stones and where two knock-off Eames lounge chairs with ottomans sat on a platform facing the street. One chair was occupied by a lady having a pedicure and, in my opinion, wasting her time on the Internet with her hand phone, and I was invited after washing the beach sand off my feet to take the other. I discovered happily that the chair reclined and as I pressed it back, the proprietor placed a sarong over me, covering me from neck to knee. To keep me warm, I wondered? Lord knows I didn’t need that. But I accepted the courtesy, figured there must be some reason for it, and just allowed things to go along as they may.
After only a few minutes massaging my right foot, the therapist, a tiny skinny brown woman with the strongest hands in the universe, moved to my left and I thought with some disappointment, ‘Gee, this isn’t going to last very long.’ Not so. She spent so much time on my left foot, stroking, kneading, pressing, squeezing and smoothing ounce after ounce of tea tree oil into the skin of that foot that I feared I would walk lopsided for the remained of my life. It seemed like an hour. Then she oiled and massaged my calf, and I began to wonder if this therapist knew that I was having only a foot massage because nowhere else have my feet gone all the way up to my hips. After giving my entire left leg a thorough going over, she moved back to the right, allayed my fears that it was going to be neglected, and gave another lengthy full leg massage, using the sarong to cover me and to protect my own skirt from her oils and creams. Oooh! It was wonderful and I stopped worrying whether she knew I had asked only for the foot massage, figuring I’d be delighted to pay whatever they asked at the end.
But that was not the end. It was at least another thirty minutes before she’d fully softened all the muscles in my hands, arms, shoulders, neck, upper back and my skull and toweled away some of the oils, leaving me slippery, wobbly and seriously relaxed. Was that a two hour foot massage that went all the way up to my skull? How soon can I go to this woman again? Or maybe I should try a different shop and see what they do there. Yes, I could begin to collect Thai massages, that’s it, having one every day while we’re in Thailand. It was heavenly.
Robbie stepped up to the little reception table, ready to fork over vast sums for the amazing service I’d received and was told the cost for the foot massage was THB300, exactly as originally promised on the signboard in front. We’re having difficulty getting our minds around the Thai baht, but we believe the charge was about ten dollars US. I am completely hooked. In other places we have visited I have searched devotedly for the perfect Negroni, or the perfect Margharita pizza, or the best goat curry. I shall make it my business in Thailand to sample the skills of every massage therapist I can find. Lucky me.
Dinner at the King Crab, our first restaurant meal in Thailand, was fantastic. My spicy green vegetable curry was one of the best I’ve ever tasted, and Robbie spoke lovingly of his spicy red curry pork. I was distracted throughout dinner by the fact that I couldn’t keep my legs comfortably crossed, one leg still saturated with creams and oils repeatedly slipping off the opposite knee. But I bore that hardship bravely and we had a marvelous evening, even getting Doggie back into the water and motoring away into the night without embarrassing incident.
Up early this morning in the still dark, we dropped the mooring at Koh Lipe and sailed 52nm to Koh Rok Nok, closing half the distance to Phuket where we expect to arrive tomorrow. It was a fantastic sail, easy and quiet with both sails up. The idea that sailing back to Penang late this month could be accomplished in a single two-day-two-night passage was banished by the presence of twenty-one, we counted, FADs or fish traps on our course between Koh Lipe and Rok Nok. We were already hoping to extend our stay in Thailand as long as possible while still making Penang in time for Chinese New Year.
Robbie and I are not inclined to love at first sight with the countries we visit and, as mentioned before, it’s beastly hot here, but the Thai people have a sweet and gentle vibration, their country is stunning, the food incredible, the massage out of this world, and he asked me in the cockpit this afternoon, ”Do you think we could live here?” I’d been resisting the temptation to say that very thing to him.
Have you seen The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel with Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Judy Dench and others? We watched and loved it a few nights ago.
I do not expect to learn to speak much Thai. I’ll try, but we learned today that tone in the Thai language is as important as pronunciation, each word being able to be spoken at a low, medium, high, ascending or descending tone – and meaning five completely different things depending upon the tone in which it is uttered. I’m not sure the tone thing is in my skill set. Maybe an app on my phone will help. I’ll need to find time for that, but definitely not while I’m having a massage. Bev

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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