Ken and Katie's voyages aboard Sand Dollar

N 06° 21' E 99° 40'

Kuah Town to Telaga Harbor

February 20, 2012

Dear Friends and Family,

We arrived in Bass Harbor, Kuah on a clear sunny day, after weaving our way among some of the lovely little tree-covered rock islands that make up the Langkawi group. The water was pale green and a few white-bellied sea eagles cruised lazily overhead as we made our way along the south shore of the big island, Pulau Langkawi.

A few miles later, we dropped our hook not far from the dinghy landing near Kuah Town, among more than a dozen other yachts sporting flags from multiple nations. By pure happenstance we had anchored next to another American yacht, “Sunflower”, whose crew, Beth and Al, are fellow SSCA Commodores and have been featured multiple times in Cruising World magazine. They immediately dinghied over for quick welcome and returned later to share delicious home made cookies and tidbits of local knowledge.

We put SD in order, rigged our awning and relaxed a bit, then rowed ashore in the evening, as the afternoon heat subsided. Wandering in search of a cold beer, we were coming up empty when we spotted a Carlsberg sign at an establishment called “Ray’s Place”. Once inside we found a bar, two small inquisitive poodles, a pool table, walls painted with colorful murals, and two fellow yachties sharing a table. The were no other customers, and the proprietress, Ray, was back in the kitchen fixing dinner. The yachties introduced themselves as John and Dave and invited us to sit with them as John fetched us two icy cold beers. We got acquainted and swapped stories as more customers arrived. Eventually we met Ray herself, who greeted us warmly and invited us to share a salad and casserole. It was delicious, home-cooked, and very reasonably priced, and Ray’s Place became our regular watering hole during our time in Kuah. Later, our row back to SD in the dark put us in mind of our days back in Majuro, rowing through the anchorage amongst the twinkling of everyone’s anchor lights.

The following morning we were ashore soon after coffee with multiple missions. We had chat with Erja at her canvas shop about having a new dodger made for SD. We then walked through the shady beachside park toward the ferry terminal to check in, but made a detour when we encountered a McDonald’s enroute. Fortified with burgers and Diet Cokes, we continued on to the harbor master’s office at the terminal. “Jeti Point”, as the terminal is known, is a busy ferry hub, serving multiple ports in Malaysia and Thailand. Langkawi is a popular tourist destination, offering wildlife tours, marine parks, and duty-free shopping.

Our days in Kuah unfolded lazily as we fell into a loose semblance of a routine. We’d share our morning coffee in the cockpit as we watched the harbor wake up. Yachties would zip by in their dinghies on their way to shore, tour boats would roar past, full of passengers in orange life jackets, and the assorted ferries would rumble to life and jockey for position at the ferry piers.

Mid-morning was for Katie’s dinghy-rowing and Ken’s computer time for downloads, updates, weather, and info-gathering. We’d usually head to shore around noon, and there always seems to be something on our to-do list. Different days found us on errands to the chart shop, supermarket, the duty-free store, the yacht chandlery, and the computer shop, where we purchased a replacement for our recently expired printer.

We’d be home by late afternoon, usually having had lunch ashore, and once back on SD, it was chill-out time. We’d read, nap, swim, and wait for the fierce afternoon heat to subside. As the sun finally dipped toward the sea, we’d move to the bow or the cockpit to enjoy the cool of the evening with our sundowners, often listening to one of our podcast radio shows Ken had downloaded to the computer, with “Car Talk” being our favorite!. It’s a rough life, but we try to keep a positive attitude!

Aside from jaunts to shore, there were boat chores to tend to, such as the day Ken rowed out to the little bunker ship to refill our diesel jugs. We’d take turns rowing ashore to fetch fresh water from a little spigot under the casuarina trees on the beach, and we worked on our charts and routes for Thailand. Ken would occasionally grab a mask, snorkel, and brush, and hop in the water to clean SD’s bottom, much to the delight of our resident school of 3-inch fish, who followed him around to snack on the marine growth he dislodged. These two dozen or so little fish were always under the boat, and we could hear them through the hull, making comical little kissing sounds as they nibbled at the algae on the bottom.

After a few weeks we sailed about 15 miles up the east coast and into the Kilim river. A little side creek there is home to “Hole in the Wall”, a fish farm, restaurant, and yacht mooring facility. We’re considering possibilities for leaving SD for the summer, and wanted to check this place in person. The area is tranquil, protected, and quiet, except for the dozens of little tour boats whizzing to and fro like a swarm of water bugs. We spent one night near Hole in the Wall, but moved the next day to a charming, secluded anchorage between two islands, off the tour boat route. The following morning we lounged around, waiting for the tide to turn and give us a fair current back to Bass Harbor. Suddenly we realized, seasoned mariners that we are, that we had calculated the tides backwards (!), but we happily realized our error in time to catch the tail end of our favorable current. As we rounded the final turn approaching Bass Harbor, we were startled to see half a dozen rafts headed seaward. Each individual raft was constructed of three kayaks lashed together, and was manned by nine Muslim women, all of them wearing sunglasses, black hijab, and bright orange life jackets. It was an unforgettable, albeit mysterious, sight.

By the time we’d been in Bass Harbor for three weeks, it was time start getting ready for Thailand. We weighed anchor and sailed nine miles west. We had a delightful downwind sail all the way, a refreshing change from the many miles of motoring we’d done up the Malacca Straits. We love our engine, but we’re sailors, and the quiet snap of a well-trimmed sail is music to our ears. We anchored for two nights under the forested limestone cliffs of a group of small islands before heading north for the three-mile run to Rebak Island Marina.

Our good friends from Majuro, Americans Nick and Bonnie on “Rise and Shine”, are berthed at Rebak busily engaged in some extensive boat work. We hadn’t seen them since 2009 but we’d bumped into each other one day at the supermarket in Kuah, so they knew we were planning a stop at Rebak. Nick took our bow lines as Ken eased SD smoothly into her berth, then said he would see us later at the pool.

We went through the usual “arrival” routine: square away the boat, check in at the office, wash the decks, rig the awning, and then we did indeed made a bee-line for the pool.

Rebak is a resort, so its grounds boast lush tropical landscaping and upscale amenities. The pool sits surrounded by palms and casuarinas, with the resort on one side and the sandy beach on the other. The exotic cocktails offered at the pool bar were not in our budget, but the pool was deliciously refreshing and the cabana boy gave us fluffy towels for our lounge chairs.

We made the most of our three days at Rebak; the marina has self-service washers, so we were able to catch up on our laundry, hanging it all in the rigging to dry in the hot sun. We also had an opportunity to re-unite with our old friends Mike and Jan, who have their yacht “Don Henry” on the hard while Mike makes osmosis repairs on her hull. The little “Harbor Store” on the premises carried ice, so we treated ourselves to iced sundowners on Valentine’s Day. We lounged in the shade on SD’s bow, with nibbles of apples and cheese, watching the magnificent hornbills that flew between the palm trees.

On our third and final evening, we joined Nick and Bonnie for dinner at the Hard Dock Cafe. The hours flew by and the rum disappeared as we swapped cruising tips and sea stories, and we didn’t say goodnight until almost 10 pm.

The following morning we “released the ducklings” at 11:30, bound four miles north for Telaga Harbor. We dropped our hook in the anchorage outside the marina, and dinghied to the beach for a look-see. We found that we were just offshore of an elegant five-star resort, which is incongruously situated right beside an unfenced field where a bunch of cows lazily nibble at what’s left of the grass. Beyond the resort and the cows lies the marina, chock full of expensive-looking yachts.

One morning the cows opted for a morning stroll along the resort’s beach, prompting a staff member to employ a slingshot to hurry them on their bovine way. Another day, in a likewise entertaining “Animal Planet”-type moment, we saw a monkey atop the tiled front door overhang of a souvenir shop. Standing upright on his hind legs, he placed his front paws on the sill of a second-story window and peered in, looking for all the world like a hairy Peeping Tom.

As our Malaysia visas are now expiring, we’ll be on our way to Thailand, the land of 100,000 smiles. Sparkling waters, lovely islands, legendary food, and new adventures are looming large on our horizon!

All the best, K and K

“Already we are boldly launched upon the deep; but soon we shall be lost in its unshored, harborless immensities.” – H. Melville, 1851

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