Our Diary Malaysia (2)

Our transition to being land-lubbers again is going smoothly, with a few ups and downs. The big upside is no "boat jobs" however the big downside is the temporary loss of identity. So how do we describe ourselves at the moment? We're trying travellers, adventurers, tourists (heaven forbid!) - or maybe, just us!

The start of the year found us in Thailand. New Year was spent in Krabi where we saw 2015 arrive under the cliffs of Rai Le Bay, a mecca for free rock climbers, with Roz and Kev from Santana and their guests.

For the rest of January we cruised the West coast revisiting some of our favourite spots discovered the previous year. Thailand suffered a political upheaval last year when the "Generals" took control of the government and introduced some anti- corruption policies and other far reaching reforms. The impact was clearly visible. Visitor numbers were down. Beaches had been cleared of "squatter" restaurants and bars - destroying the character of many of these places; some for the better but most for the worse. The number of cruisers was also down. The requirement to have an AIS class B fitted frightened a number of cruisers away (an AIS is a means to track the whereabouts of boats and ships). It transpired that, although there were notices everywhere, the policing of this had been largely ignored by the authorities. After leaving Phuket we were basically on our own.

This lack of "socialising" gave us time to plan the next few years. Christine was keen to leap off and head for Sri Lanka, the first step on our passage back to the UK. I was concerned that there were a few boat jobs that needed attending to before we set off for 12,000 miles journey. Once back in Europe we have a few plans that would take us through to our "official retirement" and Poco Andante didn't seem to fit into these plans. So the big unknown was what should we do about Poco? With this in the back of our minds, our strategy was to get her ready for crossing the Indian Ocean, leaving in January 2016. We also decided to test the market with regards to the possibility selling her in Langkawi at an acceptable price.

Our immediate concern was the age of our rigging (12 years). Within SE Asia there is a shortage of riggers; Phuket had two companies and is a favoured place to have rigging replaced. We also needed some modifications to our canvas work. We had been having problems with our furler and decided to replace our forestay, which is hidden from view, whilst getting the furler looked at. I could replace the rest of the rigging myself. We booked ourselves into Boat Lagoon Marina to get this work done. The entrance to Boat Lagoon is shallow. High water was at 08.30 in the morning. We were advised to call for a pilot from the marina however, unbeknownst to us the marina does not operate before 08.30. We motored up the long and winding approach (and after running aground 4 times!) we tried repeated calls to the marina. Eventually got a reply from another boaty, who finally got the marina office to respond, they then sent out a pilot and pulled us off the mud bank and showed us the way in - we still managed to run aground again as we dodged a catamaran on its way out!

That afternoon we had a beer with our benefactor, Michael. It turned out that he was in the process of setting up a yacht brokerage and delivery service in Phuket. A few days later Michael came over and asked whether he could use us as guinea pigs and check out the "software" (we had mentioned that we were thinking of selling Poco). As a thank you for his help, and having nothing to lose, we said yes, not expecting anything to come of it.

We replaced the forestay and completed the boat chores. The problem with the furler was a few corroded bolts. Rolly Tasker did a good job and replaced all the bolts in the furler, replaced the forestay and checked and serviced the rest of the rigging. I was happy with this.

After a week we left Boat Lagoon (at high water springs!) and decided to meander slowly back to Langkawi. A week or so into our trip we had a call from Michael letting us know that he had a prospective buyer and could we be in Langkawi 10 days hence. He had also made contact with a fellow broker there to help us.

A few days later found us in Rebak Marina, Langkawi. The cleaning materials came out, Christine worked her butt off and Poco Andante was looking good. The prospective purchasers then turned up, prodded and probed - and liked what they saw. A day later the negotiations began and before we knew it a deal was done subject to survey four days later. By then we had to get everything off the boat, find an apartment and sort ourselves out! Thankfully Gill and Aidan on Dunwurkin came to our assistance - they have a 56' yacht with two empty cabins! We berthed alongside them and passed all our worldly goods to their spare cabins - this gave us a breathing space. The previous day we had viewed an apartment and arranged rental for a few months. Poco passed the survey and after that we moved out. Our expectation that it would take 6-12 months to sell was way off the mark - from go to whoa, all done in 4 weeks!

The second major event this year will be the wedding of Emily,Keith's eldest daughter. This was planned for the first week in September on Sark (an island in the Channel Islands off the coast of France). We had already planned to get there overland, however now we would not be returning to Malaysia and would need to ship back to the UK our 3 cubic metres of "stuff" that we have accumulated over the last 12 years. We are looking forward to catching up with friends and family in the UK - at a more leisurely pace!

The trip back to the UK is starting to take shape; the plan is to fly to Beijing (we had considered going overland but the time, costs and logistics made this bit unfeasible). From Beijing we will pick up the Trans Siberian Express to Ulan Bator (UB), Mongolia. Our arrival in UB coincides with the Nadaam Festival (a major sporting and cultural event going back to Genghis Khan's time). From there we will again take the Trans Siberian to Moscow and after a few days there, onward to St. Petersburg, by train to Helsinki, across the Baltic back to Tallinn, Estonia. (There has been a little tension between Estonia and Russia and the train service across the border has been one casualty.) From there to Riga, Latvia then Vilnius, Lithuania, south through Poland, Austria, Italy, westward through France and arriving back in the UK about a week before Emily's wedding. We will try to do regular posts on Facebook during this trip - if you would like to follow us then "friend"us on 'Keith N Christine'. Otherwise send us your Facebook name and we will link up. We have had a lot of interest in this trip and will send a detailed account of obtaining tickets, visas and other logistics later. A newsletter in its own right! So far we have all tickets hotels etc. to take us through to Helsinki (this was one requirement of obtaining visas). After that we will wing it! We owe a big thanks to Swee Lee and Alaga for letting us stay with them in KL while we organised our visas.

So what has it been like being land lubbers again in Langkawi? The transition has been good. Our apartment is very nice with a superb 50m pool on our doorstep. This has allowed us to swim every day, keeping us fit - however this is offset by the cheap beer, wine and restaurant food one finds in Langkawi! We have adopted an open house policy and have had a steady flow of guests. We have also caught up with a few cruisers for meals etc. Then there are the chance meetings that turn into firm friendships. Michelle, Bernie, Lola (13) and Jana (10) from 'Momo' are one such family. They are now in Thailand and this intrepid family are planning to cross the Indian and Atlantic Oceans to Europe then back to New Zealand - a huge undertaking. We do hope to meet them again.

We also have recently met another Jana. Jana and Petr are another great young couple hailing from the Czech Republic - these guys have sailed from Taiwan where they work as translators majoring in Chinese and Czech, but they are cruisers at heart. It is really great to see young people adopt this amazing lifestyle. So although "officially land lubbers", we like to feel that we are still cruisers at heart with a sense of adventure - a smile and a friendly word opening amazing doors - and as Kenneth Grahame wrote:

"Here today, up and off to somewhere else tomorrow! Travel, change, interest, excitement! The whole world before you, and a horizon that's always changing!" -Toad, The Wind in the Willows