Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Long Haul (out) - Week 2

The Sick Day
We both woke up feeling so sore and tired. Rene: 'I wish it was raining so we could have a day off!'. I brewed us strong coffee and started getting ready to go on deck with the angle grinder until Rene ordered me to have a 'sick day' due to my ladder-falling injuries from yesterday. I tried to argue that I need to keep working as we've already been here for one week and want to be somewhere nicer but was right, I don't need to worsen my already sore muscles. 

Rene did some more diagnostic tests on the existing paint using the Jotun #17 thinners. He was quite worried about it and emailed the Jotun guy in Penang with example photos showing the problems. It seems that whoever painted Anima last, did a really bad job. The paint is cracked right through the first few layers and in some areas, is really gluggy and not quite hard. He thinks that the past painters didn't mix the hardener correctly and now we're having to deal with the consequences. 
The sanded topsides after being wiped with thinners. See all of the cracks? Very BAD!
The Jotun man said to do a test section of paint over the problem areas - we'd already done that and it was OK so, around midday Rene fired up the orbital sander and angle grinder and set to work again. I had to drill extra holes in all of the sanding disks as they are the wrong type for the sander - but, being Malaysia - it's all they have. 

I busied myself trying to work on the next unit for my TESOL course. It's on the present tense and MY GOSH why did they have to make it so complicated! Ergh! My dreams of finishing the unit off today are long gone - this will take me ages to finish. 

My first batch of Christmas Macaroons.
I got into the Christmas spirit and baked some Macaroons. Rene's mum usually does a huge batch of these and I was really missing them. My attempt are much smaller than hers probably because the eggs here are really strange and runny. They taste good though! If I could find fruit mince, I would also attempt to bake fruit mince pies which my Mum baked today. I'm lucky that I still had the ingredients for Macaroons stashed away in the freezer! 

Rene continued to sand the topsides for hours. 
Rene sanding the portside topside.
The Black Capricorn Day
Today began with some sad news. A friend from an Australian yacht currently in Thailand passed away before he achieved his dream of a circumnavigation. Our thoughts are with Daphne and her family. 
We gathered more advice about the paint (the saga continues) and realised how big this job is becoming. Rene's perfectionist qualities are definitely coming out in force. Today I had to put my foot down when he said that he was going to reorder different paint (again) and paint our topsides with a matt finish until we can afford to sandblast the whole lot (apparently in 5 years). Noooooooo! 
I pointed out that the boat next to us has used the exact same paint as that which we plan to use and he is steel and he looks fine - great even! Rene went and chatted to Sven next door and eventually conceded that it was all OK. Phew! 

He sanded the rest of the port and starboard sides and now just needs to do the stern and awkward bits.. oh and the decks too. I sanded by hand and felt pretty miserable for it. There's just barely any progress to be seen when slowly chipping away at something so large! I had a go with the orbital sander and enjoyed its speed but not its dust. 
After lunch I set to work inside on my TESOL unit - I'm currently tackling present tense and am finding it difficult to remember all of the rules that I usually just apply without even realising!! A storm blew up this afternoon, forcing Rene to finish at 5 for once rather than 7 (when the sun sets here). He was really happy about it! 
Quickly painting Jotamastic 87 over exposed steel patches as stormy clouds threaten from the East!
The Blur of Days
I've lost track now of how many days (between 2-4) that we've just been heads down, bums up (literally). I've been sanding and sanding and mixing Jotamastic 87 and painting - all while looking at the looming clouds which every day have dropped a massive storm upon us! We have made some progress - though not enough to be back in the water anytime soon. The topsides are sanded now and all of the rust spots have been ground back, sanded, gouged, cleaned and painted. The deck is slowly getting done too - though progress is incredibly slow due to the thousands of tiny specks of rust that are embedded into the paintwork and need to be painstakingly removed - one - by - one. I've been using the orbital sander, angle grinder, sand paper by hand, rust buster (acid) and files. 
Rene angle-grinding rust away from the winch holder.
Rust busting the deck. Notice the difference?
For the most part - I've been OK.. today though I had a bit of a tantrum and got too angry and I shouldn't have let the anger get to me like that. I've managed to only cry when I think about home so I'm trying not to so much (but that's really hard). Oh dear - change the subject!! 

Ummmm... Oh! I booked bus tickets to head outta here just before Christmas. We're going to celebrate with family - Nick and Jan are in Langkawi

The Slow Progress Day
The clouds loomed low and grey all day today causing us to cast nervous glances skyward, hoping the heavens wouldn't drop their load just yet. Rene and I both set to work hand-sanding in the tight, awkward areas of the deck that power tools can't reach. I continued to rust bust but Rene asked me to hold off on that job in case he inadvertently creates more mess to clean up with the angle grinder. After lunch I got to work inside on my verb tenses for the first time in many days.
Hand-sanding is excruciatingly slow!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Long Haul (out)

There's too much to say and most of you are probably not that interested in the exciting details of boat maintenance so I will try to simply summarise each day (well, I'll endeavour to!). 

Out of The Water
Rene spent the morning unbolting the stanchion posts. He accidentally dropped the starboard side traveller overboard and despite diving in the 4.5 metre deep water repeatedly, he couldn't locate it! I discovered the downside to this marina - it's remoteness. Just before booking a taxi, some of our neighbours offered me a lift with them. Trying to locate my short list of groceries within the huge Tesco took hours! By the time I returned, Rene had already taken Anima out of the water! The system they use here is fantastic and really easy. It's like a forklift / boat trailer with airbags along the forks which the boat motors into, and is then lifted up out of the water. Anima was deposited right in the far back corner (we're going to get fit here just walking to the shower block!) because the staff were worried about us angle grinding steel dust over the other boats. The marina staff allowed us to use the water pressure wash to clean our ropes. Their system is quite slow however as the water used to feed the pressure wash comes from a large drum which slowly fills with a hose. The pressure washer inevitably uses water at a faster rate than it being filled and the generator which runs it needs to be turned off at the switchboard. Our dinghy had to be quickly rowed over and pulled up onto land as the leak she developed in Belitung has reformed. We ate out at the local cheap food place and had a terrible meal cooked by two friendly teenagers. Rene enjoyed the dessert of something involving shaved ice, red beans and sugar called 'Cendol'. 
Anima hauled out in Pangkor Island Marina, Malaysia
The First Day Sanding 
We spent more hours cleaning Anima's decks of stuff. It frustrates me how much we seem to carry! Water jerry cans, ropes, fuel, bits of wood and plastic... so much stuff! A heavy rain shower slowed progress for a few hours. I went inside and draped drop sheets over stuff in preparation for the mess of dust that is to come. Rene unbolted the stern railings and lifted the entire structure up about 5 inches using the Mizzen halyards. We have discovered some unwanted guests who have been hiding out in the wood... I first saw them in Townsville and thought they were mites. Now we're worried that they're actually little termites! We're contemplating getting rid of most of the wood in that area in case it's damaged. Need to do more research. The forklift machine thingo eventually let us free but only after the marina staff spent hours welding up metal frames to hold us in place. Rene was humoured and horrified that the large power-line nearby has fallen from its pole and is lying in a puddle. After the rain, it was lying in a very big puddle! The seller from Penang who we've been emailing hundreds of times arrived with our Jotun paint. He was very knowledgeable and friendly and even climbed up on deck to inspect some areas we're worried about. Lunchtime break involved playing Mancala and decorating our little Christmas tree. Everything eventually dried off and we were able to begin sanding. I had the disheartening job of sanding by hand. Progress was hard to see! Rene however, had a go with the angle grinder and was able to sand back a substantial area. We have to remove the entire topcoat of paint. We have a long way to go!
Rene angle-grinding the top layer of paint from our decks.

The Strobe Effect Lightning

A sunny morning greeted us bright and early. We both set to work sanding: Rene on the angle grinder and me on the sander. After about an hour of sweating it with the sander, I looked over to Rene working and watched him clear an area the same size as what I'd just done in about 5 minutes. That's when I decided that the sander wasn't the tool for me and moved to hand sanding again. Sitting on deck in the humidity and hot sunlight, sanding away at paint that didn't seem to budge is not exactly my definition of a good time. However, I persisted at it through the sweat and tears until my hands were hurting and stomach grumbling. 

We took a break together and started a game of Upwords (I bought the set in town for $5AUD and it's a total fake but still mostly works). Rene is insisting that we play a game together every day so that we get to have fun as a couple rather than just working all of the time. Boat ownership means A LOT of work. I reckon way more than house ownership (but I'm not an expert at that just yet). Anyway. After lunch Rene kept at it with the angle grinder and I had the job of finding more sanding disks. Some friendly yachties just happened to drive up to me as I walked through the yard and offered me the use of their hire car to get to the hardware! I was a little apprehensive having not driven in Asia before and having seen how the Malaysians drive (no indicating, changing lanes or simply driving in the middle or wrong lane). But it was totally fine, fun in fact! I love driving! I miss my car! The best part of the trip was driving past a strip of street vendors all selling Durian fruits. Even with all of the windows closed, their awfully sweet and sickly smell seeps in somehow! 

'I think it's going to rain Rene, look at those clouds!'. 'No it won't , the wind is coming from the opposite direction'. 'Yeah but the wind changes direction 360 here!'. 'It's not going to rain, you always say it will!'. At 1700 hours Rene finally switched off the angle grinder and we swept the decks again until I started forming blisters! The clouds continued to build and we continued to have the same discussion. 
Rene after many hours of angle grinding
We cleaned the areas of steel exposed by the grinding with Jotun Thinner no.17 and I mixed up the Jotamastic 87 paint. After painting for about 15 minutes, the clouds behind us really started going black and the atmosphere got a little hazy, reminding us of 'the Nothing' from 'Never Ending Story'. Rene finally agreed that it might rain and set up a tarp but then had second thoughts when the sun came out from behind a cloud and took it down again, saying yet again that it was going to remain fine. Three minutes later, he changed his mind again when the wind turned from the direction of 'the Nothing' and thunder started rolling! I kept painting while he rigged up the tarp, anchoring it to the scaffolding. It was getting dark now and the mosquitoes were biting. I downed a beer on the go to keep up the energy levels and we kept going. Rene took over painting the topsides and I quickly threw everything inside that was going to get wet. I couldn't even see Rene, he was swamped by the tarp which was pressed over him in the building winds. He stopped then after getting some paint in his eye and we had to let the mixed paint go to waste. The wind was really building up, lightning and thunder rolled around us in a constant dance and we stood on the ground looking up at Anima, wondering if she'd fall over.
The slipway by night - imagine it being lit with lots of lighting! 
I felt as though we were in a movie as the lightning flashed so often it was like a strobe effect. As the wind whipped about us, we spoke of how this trip has taught us so much about ourselves and of what we value/want from life.

Cleaned of paint using the showers (simple but OK, a shower head in the same cubicle as the toilet), we met with our friends from Narid to catch up and have a meal together. We ate at the little local restaurant set above the sea shore that sells Satay. Ordering was made interesting due to a large language gap but the food was delicious and very cheap (dinner for 4 with drinks cost us $8AUD). The atmosphere there was really fun too as the staff kept giggling and laughing and joking around. Rene ordered us all a 'Tea Tadic' and I delighted at watching them prepare this frothy beverage. They pour milky tea from one container to another in wide, dramatic arcs (the more risky the move, the better reaction) to froth it up into a drink like a tea cappuccino!

The night ended with a late nightcap on board Narid. The rain continued.
Tea Tadic being made
The Rainy Day #1
I started the day by checking online for the weather forecast. It didn't look good. Rain, thunderstorms and showers ahead for the next 7 days. Bummer! Oh well, I needed to take a break from hand-sanding anyway - to avoid further developing the blisters which tried to form on my hands. Instead, I cleaned up a lot inside. There was a lot of dust that had somehow snuck its way inside after yesterday's sand-a-thon. Tools and sails and ropes were shoved all over the place and it took quite a while to set everything straight again. I rang Maxis (our Malaysian Internet provider) to try and sort out the issue we're having with our broadband. It took many attempts to even explain the problem fully as the staff seem to be more keen to pass us off than help. I was hung up on and Rene was told that the system was down! It's still not fixed. In the afternoon I did some more pressure-washing to clean off all our sheet ropes. So much mould, salt and dirt comes out of them that it's actually quite a satisfying job. The other yachties here probably think I'm crazy but I don't mind. The pressure hose is beast that is quite unwieldy. Rene spent the day sanding and preparing for tomorrow when he hopes to borrow a welding kit.
Pressure washing the Spinnaker halyard.
The Welding Experiment
Rene was so excited about getting to practice welding for such a bargain price. To hire the welding kit is 50RM (about $17AUD) for the day. He wanted to weld some steel to the stanchion post supports so they don't wobble so much and he also wanted to weld up a hole in the hull made by removing the broken speed log. It started well and he was having fun melting steel into blobs that he could (somewhat) control. But then things got tricky when he tried to weld up the hole in the hull. It required him to weld upside-down (a complicated procedure even for experienced welders) and he had only welded once before today. It was a low moment for Ren when he discovered that instead of filling the hole, he actually made it bigger! 
Rene hard at work welding
The aftermath of the welding
The welding mistake
I had some pretty low moments too today. The worst of it was while Rene was welding, I had to sit inside the engine room making sure it didn't catch on fire. The room filled with toxic smoke and heat. I donned a safety mask but couldn't bear wearing it for long because the rubber stung my face so badly (and left a nasty rash). I am feeling very over owning a boat. 

A low moment on this journey

A lovely couple from Tasha D.M let us carpool with them in their hired car. We bought more tools and stuff from various hardware stores and I bought more food with them from Tesco's. There was so much traffic along the main road that I couldn't cross it by foot to buy bananas from a local stall holder without risking death. 
Porthole window all covered up

The Depressed Day
Today I cried a lot. I've been really struggling with homesickness lately and big salty tears just swell up and fall from my eyes as soon as I start thinking about anything from home (I even cried one day when I cracked open an egg and it was really runny and gross, I remembered how nice eggs are back home and it set me off). I'm really missing all of the wonderful Christmas foods and all of the fun holiday times with family and friends. It doesn't help that we're doing hard physical work here in Malaysia with only a few people to talk to, a crap Internet connection and locals who drive by really slowly staring at me (like I'm in a zoo!). Rene worked at grinding back the areas he welded on the port side and I worked at sanding back the dorade vents ready for re-painting. 
An example of how old & sun-damaged the dorade vents are!
Some of the Dorade vents with their first coat of new paint
We found out that Rene didn't get the Sydney job. We both felt pretty rejected about that as we'd been getting excited about the idea of moving back to Australia. We had more big discussions about what our options are and made a few more beginnings of decisions. 

We had drinks under another boat with two other couples who've been here a while. They are both fitting new engines into their yachts and had plenty of tales to tell. It was really good to get away from Anima and all the work and decisions she involves to have a few drinks and eat Malaysian snacks.

The New Job Offers and The Welding
I started today feeling better and then even better when I checked my email and saw that I had a potential job offer working in Singapore as a preschool teacher. I rang the school and had a very informal interview at the conclusion of which, I was offered a job! I went back to my email and saw that I had one from Education QLD asking me to give them my return date to work! Suddenly I was met with yet another decision!! To accept the Singapore job or to work back in QLD? I'm pretty terrible at making decisions, so I put it out there on Facebook and got some great advice from friends and family which helped a lot. My decision at the moment is to accept the Singapore job if it pays well. 
Local welders under Anima 
Extraction hose to help reduce toxic fumes from the welding.
We hired some local welders to fix up the hole. Three guys cut away more steel and tacked a replacement sheet of metal in place. They took the whole day to fix Rene's welding hole with much driving off in motorbikes/trucks to fetch bits and pieces. The welding they did seems really good and we had them weld it from inside as well as out so it's very strong and won't ever leak. While they worked, I busied myself taping up the windows and portholes some more and also sanded back more dorade vents. 

Rene started sanding the top sides by hand, using a hand sander in each palm. After 3 hours of this, I asked him how long he thought the job would take. He thought for a few minutes and then said '3 weeks sanding at this rate and I will have done the top sides'. After a few more hours, he went out shopping to buy an orbital sander but came back with a borrowed one instead. It was much faster and he sanded for hours more until it was dark and the mosquitos started biting. We ate out again at the Satay place - so cheap and yummy (and no doubt loaded with saturated fats!). 
Satay = YUM!
One Week Here Today
We set the alarm for 6am but it was still dark until nearly 7! We both got out on deck to sand back the starboard side welds before they develop rust. It put me in a bit of a grumpy mood to be in the sun, hand-sanding for hours! Ren went on a mission to buy his own orbital sander and some other hardware things while I stayed and finished off the sanding, cleaning and painting. In addition to the welds, I also painted over some steel exposed on the topsides, the keel and two more dorade boxes. Such a sweaty job! 

The afternoon involved making a big healthy tabouli salad and cooling down a little when the paint dried enough for me to turn on the air-conditioner again! Yet again, I had to clean up - organising and putting away almost all of the tools which were scattered around the place. I have been feeding Rene up on lots of snack foods which are quite cheap here and sometimes interesting to experiment with. The packaging for some biscuits ('Calcium Crackers') made me laugh in its explanation of Whole Grain Cereal (see pic below). 
Worrying packaging - my food contains 'Endosperm And Germ'!!! 
I didn't laugh when, on my way down the rickety wooden ladder, I fell and landed on my shoulder and head! I'm OK and didn't break anything but have some big bruises and scrapes on my leg (which much have tried to grape onto the ladder as I fell) and a really sore shoulder. I asked for a better (metal) ladder and the marina staff delivered one almost immediately. It is much more sturdy! 
The rickety wooden ladder
Despite my injuries, I pushed on until late today. I pressure-washed more ropes, sanded more dorade vents and taped up more windows. Rene used his new orbital sander to sand back about 2 metres of the topsides. We're both exhausted. One week here already and so much more still to do! At the moment it feels as though we'll be stuck here forever. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Leaving Dirty Danga for Peaceful Pangkor

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry... or something like that!
I'd carefully planned our departure from Danga Bay to coincide with the slack tide. I'd written lists of everything to organise and check before leaving and I thought it was all under control. 

Heavy rain fell for hours the evening prior to our departure which changed the behaviour of the tide. At 6.30am, the water (filled with rubbish) was already rushing out! We left in a hurry and used ropes to control our movement so as not to bump into the expensive 'Wapiti' moored alongside. Safely out of the berth, our navigation software decided not to work! Our GPS also decided it didn't want to communicate with the laptop and I had a few panicky moments (we had to navigate our way through a shallow passage). Rene however, remained calm and in control. He astounds me with his ability to always remain calm!! He never panics, which is good because I do enough of that for the both of us. 
Ren sporting his busted lip as we motor up Johor Strait.
We motored out of the Johor Strait through floating rubbish, fishing nets and smog. After passing Raffles Marina, Rene went inside to sleep, leaving me on watch. I went OK until the autopilot, MeesteRay, didn't react in the way I needed him to. I had to hand steer to avoid hitting a fishing hut in the middle of the channel. Then I couldn't reset the autopilot, the AIS had dropped out and then the GPS froze. We were heading right into the big ships anchorage of the Singapore Strait and I panicked again. Ren came to the rescue and fixed up everything but it took time so we slowly motored through the huge container ships with me steering. How can I learn not to panic when things don't go the way I planned? 

We then fell into a rhythm of four-hourly watches. It was so refreshing to be out of dirty Danga Bay and into the Straits of Malacca (which are still polluted but more dispersed). With the sun shining and the breeze up, we even managed to turn off the engine and sail for most of the afternoon and night.
Sunset at sea - pretty special moment!
We eventually turned down the radio after midnight, after trying unsuccessfully to sleep through the continual noise, animal sounds, songs and chatter on VHF 16 (meant to be the emergency channel!) I turned it right down. Anima was accompanied by lots of container ships for the entire night but held a course right on the edge of the shipping lane, we were totally safe from having any collisions. We were however worried about pirates due to hearing stories of their increasing activity in the Singapore and Malacca Straits! These pirates are more likely to simply rob us of our electrics and cash than to kidnap us like in Africa but we still felt nervous a couple of times when a particularly ugly/fast boat came nearby. The trip took 3 days and 2 nights. After that first 24 hours of favourable conditions, the next 50 or so hours were not so good! The wind turned around to be on our nose and our speed slowed from 5-6 knots to 3! Boo! Anima slowly motored forward, making her way towards our destination. My morale dropped when our E.T.A (shown on our GPS) disappeared into another day away. Bugger! What was cool on this trip is that we had an internet connection for about half of it! We both are guilty of Facebooking during our watch. Though I did also manage to fix up my resume and apply for another job!

The second night was pretty dismal due to the increased wind strength from exactly the direction we needed to go! Rene hoisted the main and we tacked back and forth between ship wrecks, sand banks and local fishing boats in the darkness. This strong wind eventually eased off and we were able to head back on course, arriving in Pangkor Island Marina in the afternoon of our third day out from Danga Bay.

What a stark contrast to Danga it is! No floating rubbish, a helpful, friendly and genuinely nice marina manager, living fish swimming near the boats, quiet... the list goes on. We're glad we left Danga - it's so much nicer here!
Pretty Pangkor Marina

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Moving On

(Some) decisions made, we began actively working toward achieving them. As always after having been in safe harbour for a while (6 long weeks in JB) our yacht had become more like a tiny apartment. Operation re-yacht-ify involves such fun activities as putting away everything, tying up anything that may shake loose, turning off almost everything (when disconnecting from the shore power), buying supplies and remembering all of the things that we were going to fix last time we sailed but forgot about as soon as reaching land. 
Ren working at fixing the Aries WindVane.
We had time to catch up with our local friend Josephine one last time. She took us along to her favourite Chinese hawkers market in Johor Bahru. Rene took the opportunity to eat beef stomach soup while I simply stuck to the beef. We ate well that night as Josephine wanted to show us all of the local foods. In addition to the soup, we had satay, Chinese bread sticks, fresh apple juice and legume-based desserts. Sadly, something I ate this night didn't agree with me... MSG?
Ren samples Beef stomach soup.
Chinese Hawker markets in Johor Bahru.
One unforeseen problem we've had while travelling long-term overseas is accessing our savings. Our bank slaps a huge fee onto us every time we withdraw cash from ATM's not in Australia. In JB, we were normally charged $10-15AUD per transaction depending on size. Ouch! Ren rang the bank and ordered an overseas cash card with Singaporean currency on it (they didn't offer Malaysian Ringgit). The card then took ages to arrive and we'd actually given up hope of it getting to us at all! But then, on the very day we'd planned to go across to Singapore anyway, we had word from our friend Jodie (who's address we used as Danga Bay was not reliable) that the card had landed! Our planned one-day shopping trip in Singapore became a little three day holiday away from Anima. Jodie very generously gave up her bedroom for us travellers and we enjoyed sleeping on a large bed, in quiet air-conditioning, having real, long, hot showers and being safe and dry on land while it rained outside. It's amazing how such simple pleasures that most people take for granted are high on our pleasure list! 
Chinatown by night
We met up with Jodie and Sarah in Chinatown for an excellent night. The Tiger beer flowed freely and things became quite merry! Jodie not only gave us the cash card but my pay from the supply teaching I'd done last month! Sarah kindly took pity on me and gave me a small Christmas tree that she just happened to have in her bag. I was getting all teary while talking about how much I missed home and wasn't able to fly home for Christmas this year. She said that the first year is the worst (from experience). We ate amazing Vietnamese Hawkers market food and stayed up until the early hours of the next morning! 
Sarah and Jodie with the gift of Christmas!
Walking home from Jodie's MRT stop was an adventure in itself! We encountered mice, cockroaches and the biggest snails I've ever seen! There were so many other people still out and about so late at night. Singapore really is a city/country that never sleeps. 
Local fauna in Singapore!
HUGE coffee much needed the next day :)
I ventured back to Chinatown the following day to buy a new camera. My Olympus uTough 8010 has been getting worse. It's only good for underwater photography really. Mum and Dad said they'd chip in for Christmas and I researched what I wanted for a new camera. I decided upon the Canon SX230. It is the best point and shoot Canon available at the moment and has a great zoom of x14!! I'd decided upon this camera before shopping and had found the best price online to be $200USD. The shops in Chinatown all thought I was mad to offer them such a low price. I went to five camera stores (all minutes from one another) and had varying degrees of customer satisfaction. Most of the camera salesmen seemed very over their jobs. They were tired and cynical and not willing to joke around or be friendly. They must see hundreds of tourists each week. One shop did offer cheap prices but the longer I stayed in his shop, asking questions and asking for information, the more agitated he became. He kept telling me how god the Nikon was compared to the Canon I was interested in. He showed me a Canon SX230 with no GPS included but then when I wanted to look at it a second time he said I'd looked already, that he didn't allow customers to look at all the cameras. He became quite angry, despite my best efforts at making light of the situation and explaining myself calmly and assertively. I ended up leaving and found out from other sellers that he'd most probably tried a selling technique on me and had angered when it didn't work out. I began to question myself and my choices... did I really want this Nikon? or a digital SLR? Maybe I didn't do enough research? After hours of chatting to various salesmen, I finally bought the camera I'd set out to get for 444SGD (345 USD) (including an 8 Gig card, case and 1 year warranty). 

The first photo with my new camera!
Ren spent the day shopping for boat stuff (exciting things like fans, lights and electronics).
My first go at the new camera in Chinatown.
Acala - protector of those of us born under the rooster birth sign
On our last day in Singapore, I went into work with Jodie where I did another day of supply teaching - this time as the replacement music teacher. The music room was a mess of Christmas-related decorations and stuff. I was handed a couple of CD's to play with the students but instead I spied a DVD on the bottom shelf entitled 'Hip Hop Dancing for Kids'. Keen to use the interactive whiteboard and to get the kids active, I settled on this as my key activity with some extra things thrown in like learning Beat Boxing and playing rhythm games. 

On our last night in JB, Rene went out with our other local friend, Chee Heng, to the local Wing Chun Kung Fu club. Rene: The Sifu spoke only Chinese, and everything was written only in Chinese, so Chee Heng came more to help me with language and a mild interest, rather than to participate. We explained that because I was travelling, I didn't often get an opportunity to practice with other people. This club is actually part Jeet Kun Do (Bruce Lee's style) and part Wing Chun, but is the only Wing Chun club in Johor Bahru. So they asked me a little about how long I've been doing it (11 years, seemed long to them, not long to me, looking up to the grandmaster at 86), how often I practice (20 mins/ day ) and so on, and then the Chi-Sau (like sparring) began.

The last thing I wanted to do was cause trouble, so tried as hard as I could to control my force. When my hands fell through naturally due to a gap, I was able to pull it completely and just place my hand on the target (eg, throat). But because I made the landing so soft, these ones were mostly ignored (back home, we'd stop if there is contact on centerline backed up by solid stance), but it suits me fine as I can learn more about countering. Unfortunatly, it's impossible to make all of the strikes this soft - the ones that happen as a direct consequence of the other player attempting to take a strike that isn't available have more force, as they naturally reflect the other player's energy back on themselves (like a spring). At one point I accidentally poked a man in the eye due to this effect and felt bad, but he seemed to recover fairly quickly.

I got hit a number of times also - sometimes on the centerline. One of the most interesting Chi Saus for me was with a smaller guy, probably late teens, who really gave it everything he had, and was quite a lot stronger than he looked. He somehow slipped through and got his elbow against my neck - twice! Despite the quite agressive style, I walked away with no real injuries other than a blood lip, I feel like I've learnt a couple of things - and this is a good reflection on their club. However, I did come the closest I've been to over exertion.

In Kung-Fu world, you have to pretend that you are completely invincible - and when you go into a club like this, you have to Chi-Sau with everyone in the room, and pretend that you're not getting tired. Each new person you Chi-Sau with is coming in with an abundance of fresh external energy. After a few really intense rounds with no real break in between, it can get very hard - I succummed to a bottle of water to replenish the fluids, but other than that managed to stay on until they were all done. So later, after they've had the class some students are asking me about how I train, and I foolishly mention 'the internal pushup'. It is an extremely gruelling training method, courtesy of my esteemed Sifu Gordon Shellshear, that involves holding a single pushup for 10 minues (30 minutes is the current known max, also courtesy of Sifu Gordon). At home I had been reaching 14 minutes and breathing easy, but it one thing to do when you have had a relaxing day, and quite another after unrelaxing boat work followed by Chi Sau with everyone in the club. I very much did not want to do it, but didn't really have a choice - I had told them that I do 10 minutes every day, and they were most curious to see how it could be done. Plus I'm in Kung-Fu world, feigning invincibility! Just so they could understand a little of what suffering was involved, I made sure some of them started along side me. By the time I got to 8 minutes I still appeared to be doing fine on the outside - I had controlled my breathing, I could talk steady, but inside I felt a sensation I had never really felt before, kind of like little bits of pins and needles, some here, some there. Plus my arms felt a like they could be approaching melt down. My Sifu always says 'train to the point of injury, but no further' and I'm not sure what is going to happen next, so at this point I had to hop up, and explain - only 8 minutes tonight, sorry!

Ren with the Johor Bahru Wing Chun / Jeet Kun Do club
Back to Cerae: And so, after 6 weeks of staying in dirty Danga Bay, we're finally leaving. This place has been good as a cheap spot to sit and try to figure out what to do next but we're so glad to be leaving. It's run by an Australian guy who has a very large (often offensive) personality who rubs most people up the wrong way. It's really dirty and there are no amenities. The mosquito's never left us alone - they swarmed in our cockpit, waiting for any chance to eat us!

The giant crustacean of Danga Bay (funny cause Ren's allergic)
Local resident of Danga Bay unsuccessfully attempting to hitch a ride in our porthole

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Two Decisions Made...

Number 1. 
I have paid for and started an online TESOL course to learn how to Teach English to Speakers of Other Languages. I enjoy learning and wanted to be stronger at teaching (and understanding) grammar. The skills will be useful regardless of where we end up. My sister (who is a total grammar Nazi) has already started testing me and giving me pointers of what to expect. There's so much I take for granted being a native speaker!! 

Number 2. 
Regardless of whether or not Rene is successful in his Sydney job, we know that Anima requires some work on the hardstand. She is due for another anti foul and in desperate need of a makeover for her topsides. There are a few spots of minor rust on deck that we want to get on top of and we want her to look pretty too. The big question is, should we keep the green? We could just go white all over or have a stripe in a different colour... 

The Usual.
So. With two decisions made, suddenly our lives whirred into action! Jobs that we kept putting off got ticked off the lists and longer lists were written. Rene changed the engine oil (Anima's engine has done over 300 hours since last change in Townsville). We finally bought more diesel (the seller visits the marina twice weekly at around 3pm we were always too early or too late before) and filled up our tank and jerry cans.
We spent ages online trying to find the most affordable method of buying Jotun anti foul paint and enamel topside paint. Rene had the joy of trying to communicate by phone to various sellers who didn't really speak English at all. I got lucky and only ever spoke to people who could communicate quite well! It has taken many phone calls and emails but I think we've ended up with the best deal. I tried to pressure wash all of our sheets (ropes) which are going green in the humidity here but the borrowed machine just refused to work for me. I continued to chuck out more stuff and wrote endless lists.

Interestingly, once we'd made the decision to leave Danga Bay I started to enjoy it more! The town of Johor Bahru seemed more exciting and the marina seemed less dead. We've spoken a little about the possibility of putting Anima on the market if we need to move off her in order to work for a long period. This prospect has also influenced me in a similar manner: I'm finding it more exciting and less of a drag. Paradoxically, I seem to get stuck in the now (funny when I'm also stuck in the future too), thinking that it will always be like this and not satisfied with that prospect. So my blog post from a couple of weeks ago about living life as an adventure is really the attitude that creates the most enjoyment for me. Now, if only I could remember to always have this philosophy!!

The Sultan of Johore had his birthday and on the public holiday a huge free party was held for him at a nearby sports ground. We went along (spur of the moment) and had a different experience. It wasn't exactly amazing. It was crowded, confusing, hot and the thousands of locals were all there just for the free food! Watching women stuff piles of free cake, fried chicken, satay and roti's into their bags was a bit much. Rene gallantly fought through massive crowds, having to fend off gangs of people pressing into him, just to get a cup of red liquid that might have had some water in amongst the sugar. 
Local family. The little girl wanted my earrings.
Local newspaper journalists who interviewed me.
I was interviewed by a local journalist by Gidi and her friend and spoke my mind about the event (will I be thrown out of the country?). We saw a few dances, watched on by armed guards with binoculars and guns. Some of the locals were also watching and I met a nice family because their four year old daughter kept trying to touch my earrings. Mostly, the locals were there for the free food. It was like a pig feeding trough - I guess it's the same in most countries.
The Sultan and his wife. Their photograph is in nearly every building here.
The new Sultan of Johor
Sultan's birthday celebrations. Can you see the armed guards on the clock tower?

In amongst the organisation of getting ready to leave Danga Bay to haul out of the water, we worked at applying for more jobs. Rene put in many hours to making the best application possible for his dream job in Sydney. I put in minimal hours to apply for a couple of positions in Singapore that I doubt I'll get because I'm not a Singaporean. The jobs were pretty cool though: one was an internship at MTV-Asia in the film production area and another was as a curriculum writer/developer for the Health Promotion Board.

I also put on my brave face and visited a local dentist here in JB. I went to UDental in Jalan Indah because it was on the list of suggested businesses the marina gave us.
For the record - my teeth!
We continued to be harassed by mosquitoes much to our frustration. We've tried almost everything and they still manage to get in!! One day I came home to Rene locked inside Anima with FOUR mosquito coils burning, inside! The place looked like it was on fire. Our latest tactic is to string up a mosquito net at our companionway and lock all other windows and hatches (luckily we've got aircon). Somehow they are still making their way inside - the bastards! 
Swathed in mosquito protection.
Malaysian Moments captured on film
The signs that surround the Museum and Sultan's palace are worth noting for the seriousness of the message they portray. Coming from a peaceful country, I'm still not used to seeing armed guards at normal places like shopping centres or public events.
Don't enter or you will be shot in the back of the head!!!
I've already mentioned a few times how sugar seems to be added to almost everything here, especially drinks. Last night at a local Arab restaurant, Rene's drink (Rose flavoured) was so sugary that I had to capture it. 
SUGAR hit anyone?
Locals fishing off a pier were made all the more interesting for the woman's attire. She wore heels a short skirt and handbag. Not exactly the typical fishing gear!
Locals fishing in Johor Bahru.
(please note: slightly negative rant follows)
Johor Bahru (JB) is a strange, busy place. It is very car centred. Last year there was a high incidence of bag-snatching (often resulting in injury to the snatchee) and so almost everyone here drives around with their car doors (automatically) locked. Motorbike riders wear their jackets and bags over their front and barely anyone walks or rides bicycles.
There are usually no footpaths and if walking, the pedestrian is forced to walk along the busy road, jumping up onto the edge of deep, mostly uncovered drains to dodge large vehicles. I never really feel totally safe in JB. When walking to various shops/markets/bus stops etc. I feel vulnerable - an obvious easy target. Due to my ravishing Australian/Irish/English looks, I tend to stand out in Asia!!