Off to Sumatra 2

Thursday Feb 22

A brilliant sail with a 15kt Easterly, broad reaching with full main and screecher. Just 7Nm from our waypoint at Koh Lipe I looked up to check the sail trim and noticed the seam just below the first reef point was coming apart. The split hadn’t gone all the way through but deamination of the taffeta and mylar left the area hanging by the carbon/technora threads.

No choice but to return to Langkawi and seek repairs. We put in the first reef to take the pressure off and motorsailed back toward Kuah. As soon as we were back in phone range I got onto Jon and Sue on Ocelot as I knew they had a sailmaker onboard today fitting there new sails. I sent pictures to them and Phil from Zoom Sails kindly had a look. He referred me to Yachtworx and Hanni there was very helpful and agreed to help arrange pick up of the sail tomorrow morning from Telaga Harbour. So we diverted to Telaga. Rang the marina but they were full so we anchored outside and set about demounting and packing up the Main once again. We are getting good at it and all went well.

Posted our disappointment on FB and our Sailmaker back in Pangkor messaged us to say he would drive up tomorrow, catch the ferry out to Langkawi and fix the sail for us. Au Wei had worked on the sail and advised us that early signs of deamination were starting to show. However, the area that failed was not related to work he had done.

We also learnt later that James Khoo from Pangkor Marina also saw Lea’s FB post and immediately rang Mr Teh to see if any assistance could be offered. Mr Teh had great delight in telling James that he had already been to the loft, loaded his ute with the necessary repair fabrics and was ready to depart first thing in the morning. We agreed to meet at Langkawi Yacht Club and informed Yachworx to thank them for their offer of assistance and cancel the morning offload.

Friday Feb 23

Off before first light to catch the tide to Kuah. Arrived just after 9.00am and contacted Langkawi Yacht Club. They fitted us in straight away and we tied up near Psycho Puss for an unexpected early reunion.

Au Wei and his assistant duly arrived  and our sail was repaired at a very modest price. Unbelievable service! Au Wei used sticky back material after pulling off all the delaminated outer material. The first layer was a reinforced mylar sheet followed by a heavy tight weave cloth. He didn’t think anyone else would have that material and believed stitching in a Dacron panel would fail immediately.

It was a long hot afternoon on the dock for the boys.

We also thank James Khoo of Pangkor Marina Malaysia who also responded to Lea’s post with an offer of assistance.  We can’t thank these people enough for the level of commitment, service and friendship we have experienced.

As an aside,  our sails are Quantum Fusion M Carbon Technora commissioned back in 2012. We went against the advise of many in selecting these sails and those detractors  have proved correct in regards longevity of these sails especially in a cruising and tropical environment. However, these sails have given us 6 years of stunning performance and beautiful shape, its just a shame the membrane breaks down in this environment. At least they will die doing what they do best, driving Gemini Lady forward fast. To any others considering new sails that won’t end up bags pushing them sideways (that means all variations of Dacron) our next sails will be Tri radial cut design with off the roll Carbon Technora Cruising laminate.  They should give us at least 10 years, be easier to repair, and lighter.

We were and are a bit humbled by the care, concern and great service offered by our friends here in Malaysia.

A few beers with Au Wei before he went off for a shower and to catch the ferry before a long drive home.

The main was on the coach house roof ready to rig with battens in when the heavens opened and it bucketed down for a few hours. It had all settled by 8.00pm so we put the Main back on in the dark. We really are getting good at it.

Saturday Feb 24

A good morning run up the hill again but pushing it hard this time. Felt good! Met Jon and Sue on the way down. They have been doing the walk every day. Back at the marina we checked out. 147MYR plus 18MYR for water and power. Big price jump since last time. Re anchored near Ocelot and enjoyed a bonus sundowners with them.

Dinghied back to Charlies Bar at the Yacht Club for dinner. It was a bit of a Sail Indo 2015 reunion with Heather and Neal off Tiki, James and Cindy off You You, Heather and Rod off Psycho Puss plus Jan and Rich off Slipaway and Martin and Ivy who had joined PP for our Sumatra trip and a few others we didn’t know. Great night talking all thing cruising.

Sunday Feb 25

Anchor lifted at first light with a favourable tide and nice NE breeze. Once clear of the channel the spinnaker was up for 8 hours of easy sailing while PP was having the usual issues running dead down wind with the main blanketing the screecher. Motorsailed after dropping the kite at dusk until the breeze freshened about 4.00am.

Monday Feb 26

On daylight we popped the kite again and had a great run all day clocking over 102Nm in 12 hours. Ship traffic was much better this time with only one tanker in our path. Negotiated settlement saw us luffing slightly to pass Port to Port. PP wanted to go the other way to hold his goose winged screecher so the poor captain had to thread the needle between the 2 cats.

We had a visit from a small fishing boat a long way offshore. They gestured for food and drink so we dropped over an inflated plastic bag with some goodies in it. We were doing around 9 kts under kite so it was a bit hard to slow down. Hopefully they got it all ok.

Broke the rule and kept the spinnaker up after dark to within 3Nm of Sabang. Well, we figured light from the full moon counted. Took a mile to get the spinnaker doused and put away. Motored into Sabang Harbour and picked up a mooring. all settled by 10.00pm. We had covered 269Nm in 39 hours with only 8 hours of motorsailing from anchorage to anchorage. PP arrived a couple of hours later.

Monday Feb 27

We were woken by the Harbourmaster at 1.00am calling us on the radio. It took a while for us to realise he was calling us. He just wanted to confirm that we would stay on our boats until we were boarded tomorrow for formalities.

Another call in the morning had us scurrying around with 5 minutes to spare before the officials came. it took us a while to realise that we hadn’t turned our clocks back an hour for Indo time and there was no rush after all.

Our clearance into Indonesia commenced at 9.00am. We picked up Jack the Quarantine Officer first. He went through the boat and commandeered a beer for himself that evening. He also wanted to try out open bottle of red wine in the fridge. It was a very average red and he didn’t like it either. Paperwork in triplicate, inspection of the boat and medical supply box, all went well. Then he asked for our “Green Book”. We had received one back in Kupang in 2015. It is part of the old Indonesian Quarantine Red Tape that we thought had been abolished. We have not been asked for it since 2015. So we dug out our old “Green Book” and all was good again, Jack was happy.

Heather off PP picked up Jack and we went to pick up the next load of officials. This time with the help ofHeather and PP’s dinghy we had 6 aboard consisting of Harbourmaster, Customs and Immigration. Same, same checked everything and expressions of shock about how much alcohol we had. We knew the drill and assured them it would not go ashore (as if). The sky was turning black and the weather closing in. Formalities can’t be rushed, so we were going to be stuck with these guys for some time.

The rain came in a deluge together with strong wing gusts, thunder and lightning. A half hour with 6 blokes and limited communication is a long time. A break in the weather and we got them shipped over to PP. PP ended up hosting them for a couple of hours as a major tropical storm moved in and hovered right above us. Cost them a few beers too. Our Battery BMS tripped twice so we went dark ship, disconnecting and isolating everything we could and putting all portable electronics in the microwave. An hour or 2 later all was peaceful again.

Then it was into town to get our stamped “Green Book” at Quarantine. I got quite testy here when the lovely young lady doing our paperwork indicated that we needed to show our “Green Book” at every stop. Quarantine charged 60000 Rupiah ($6.00AUD) for the privilege. Immigration was next to retrieve our passports. Lots more photos and selfies but no problem. Customs kept us for a long time as we accessed their “Yachters” online system to enter our route plan. That all then had to be printed out on official non standard size A4 paper that doesn’t fit our paperwork wallets.

By now it is 1800 hours and we still haven’t visited the Harbourmaster. We have no conscience since he woke us up at 0100 in the morning asking for our clear out papers. An hour and a half later we are done.

Officially cleared into Indonesia and cleared out of Sabang to move on tomorrow. Only took 10 hours but we did sort out SIM cards and Internet access as well. (For a fraction of the price in Australia)

If I seem a bit snarky about it all I am. During the Sail Sabang Rally we were asked what could the Government do to encourage more yachts to visit. The obvious answer is to get rid of the red tape and streamline the clearing in and visa process. Since we first arrived in Indonesia much progress has been made in this direction and we appreciate that. I also must say the every official we have dealt with has been courteous, polite and genuinely friendly and competent. (With the glaring exception of the staff of the Melbourne, Australia Consulate). While we accept a home invasion for a thorough search at checkin procedure on entry,  that is enough for our time in Indonesia.

Our long suffering Sponsor and Agent Raymond works tirelessly to remove the bureaucracy impediments that make life difficult for us. He has advised us that the Quarantine Office in Sabang, via his Government contacts in Jakarta,  has been given instructions to forget about the “Green Book”.

At 19.30 we were all starving and thirsty. Found a local Warung for some Ayam Mee Goring.

Wednesday Feb 28

A perfect day dawned and we were off to the market to stock up with fresh produce. Had to look hard but we found a few gems. Parsley, kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass and a huge hand of small bananas. Great pineapples and Honeydew melons. plenty of tomatoes and the abundant fish looked fresh and popular. A savvy local caught our attention and sold us on his omelettes. Enjoyed a good  breakfast with local sweet coffee.

We dropped our mooring mid morning and headed over to Palau Rubiah. Safe, deep water entrance with great visibility. We picked up a spare mooring on the Ibioh side that looked brand new. Lots of blue tailed fish swimming near the water surface. Crystal clear water marred only by the large amounts of plastic rubbish.

Apart from the rubbish the fish life was great. We took the dinghy over to Rubiah Island and had a look around. Then went for a snorkel in the partitioned off area. Here we found a training ground fo new divers with motorbikes and swing sets underwater for fun. The coral was poor but the fish life abundant.

PP arrived lat in the afternoon after a motorbike ride around the Island. We went aboard for sundowners and met Christian a Danish travel guide holidaying here and who just happened to swim out to PP.

Thursday March 1

Georgeous place to wake up. Calm and pretty, albeit with an over zealous call to prayer in the early hours. All adds to the flavour of International Cruising. Internet hour just caused frustration as it is so slow. Walked over to the eastern side of Palau Rubia for a snorkel in the “Sea Garden”. Coral was either damaged or bleached but the fish life was good. Water clarity was awesome clearly revealing the numerous bags and bits of plastic waste.

Ashore for lunch in Ibioh with Kansa, a local tour guide, who chatted to us about Sumatra. Lea enjoyed the restaurant cats as usual.

Sundowners on Gemini Lady and we invited over Isobal and Guillermo from Tin Tin. Long term cruisers from Spain; they have just spent a month cruising the nearby Islands. While Isobel spoke good English it was hard for Guillermo. However, he managed to give me an education on the ITCZ which has such an influence on the weather in this area and the west side of Sumatra.

He now sends me a daily email with the latest map of the ITCZ. This gives us some idea about the probability of nasty storms, wherever we are in Sumatra in particular. He also gave us some good anchoring info in the nearby islands.

The plan tomorrow is to begin our journey down the West Coast of Sumatra.

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