Monday, 22 August 2022

Painted, patched and powered up - Pegasos is finally ready to sail again

We had a great time in Bangkok and Vietnam celebrating Robert's 60th, spending time with Kristy and returned to Malaysia with a new 90 day visa on arrival. A lot of the parts on order had arrived while we were away and so we had great hopes of boat repairs moving ahead quickly and getting out there sailing.  As luck would have it, some boat parts turned out to be of inferior quality, most were misleading in advertised specs, incorrect parts were supplied and the usual back and forth and research on Robert's part started all over again. Very time-consuming and frustrating.

Two steps forward and one step back was the daily pattern.  Robert spent all his time fixing, upgrading and installing parts. He gritted his teeth, sweated buckets and got on with it.  It was very slow progress as not much can be done outside in the intense humid heat from about 09h30 to about 16h30 in temperatures ranging from 32 to 35 C.  Robert was the Englishman in "mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun".

One of the major setbacks was that the engine's V-belt pulley wheels had become so rusty that no amount of sanding could make them serviceable, below right, and so we replaced them all with a new and improved system of shiny new blue aluminum wheels and a serpentine belt, expensively imported from USA after a further 3 week wait.   


Replacing the anchor chain:


Replacing wiring:

Replacing bilge pumps:

Replacing fan belts in a very tight space:


Painting the deck:

When spring tides came along, we beached Pegasos on a nearby beach and scraped and re-painted the hulls with anti-fouling paint.  There was roughly a 4 hour usable gap between low and high tide so in three days we got the job done, albeit it not very professionally, it will suffice for another 12 months or so until we get to a proper haul out facility.

On the last day while we were waiting for the tide to lift us up, we noticed a group of people carrying their parrots down to the waters edge and giving the birds a dip in the sea.  Makes a change from taking one's dog to the beach for a swim.

In no time a couple of bedraggled polly's were brought to inspect the boat

 Feeling I just need an eye patch to complete the picture

We settled into our 5th month of marina life. We had found a decent supermarket and a very good dentist that I needed to visit 3 times.  We carried on with our vegetarian meals on board as we still couldn't bring ourselves to buy the revolting looking raw chicken or smelly fish in the shops. Fresh meat was equally off putting. Luckily the fruit and veg are plentiful. Real cheese and butter is often hard to find in these parts and alcohol is mostly beers sold in a separate section of the shop with a supervisor needing to confirm we're not Muslims at check out. We made sure not to run short for our sundowners:

Finally the happy day came when we could take Pegasos out for a test sail in the bay. Such a thrill to hoist the sails again. Everything worked well except the anchor windlass key popped out so that needed a more robust repair again.

Back in the marina Robert received more deliveries of temperature gauges for installation. There were a few more tasks, most important being installing a new membrane in the watermaker.
Finally a visit to the immigration, harbour master and customs for our check out (obligatory at every port in Malaysia) with our bundle of paperwork and dressed in the recommended long  pants and closed shoes.

Our last night in the marina and excited to get moving again. Hope the weather is kind to us as we head down towards Singapore in monsoon season.

The big ships on the horizon reminding us of what's in store in the super hectic Malacca Straits.


Saturday, 28 May 2022

Cruising is just boat maintenance in exotic locations

We’re back!

We left Pegasos in Port Dickson in December 2019 and had planned to be back in Malaysia in May 2020. But then Covid happened and the world changed and all our plans went belly-up. Malaysian borders seemed to take the longest to reopen and when finally it was announced that borders would open on 1 April 2022, we booked a flight from Cape Town for 1 April. It seems the April fool joke was on us as the flight was cancelled for technical problem after a 14 hour wait at Cape Town airport. The next day’s flight was full and we had to wait another 2 days.

Eventually we flew via Singapore to Kuala Lumpur and en route we were so excited to see Admiral Marina below us and to catch a distant glimpse of Pegasos. Yes still floating!

KL was very hot and humid as usual and thankfully the taxi had aircon for the hour’s drive to Admiral Marina in Port Dickson where we stepped out into another blast of hot, sticky air. After check in to the hotel we went to look at Pegasos which seemed fine from a distance.

But once we got closer, the horrors began.

The plastic cover we had left over the dinghy had deteriorated into tiny fragments and the dinghy had acquired a few new holes


The marina’s attempts at repairing the jetty had left steel rods sticking out of the jetty, dangerously close to the boat

The boat had been moved and re-tied to the jetty and the ropes left dangling in the water – now trashed with sea growth.

We opened up the boat and stepped in. Mould everywhere! On the floors, ceilings, sides, every surface, every nook and cranny. We had left several containers of moisture absorbing chemical which works for a couple of months, not a couple of years in tihis climate.

There was rainwater partly filling the engine compartment and in all the bilges

Metal fittings were corroded


 and signs of wood rot in a few places



 The wood under the mainsail traveller track was soft and broke up on touch

The sails had been stored away in the side hulls and all the sails have big rusty water stains.

The gas bottles were corroded.



Thick sea growth under the hulls was to be expected

Some items had simply melted in the closed up interior heat like this sticky tape roll


Over the next few days Robert would come across so much more that needed replacing or repair, including pumps, watermaker parts, engine parts, 3 outboard motors and the generator had corroded, a water tank leaked, the fridge no longer worked, most electrics were corroded, the gearbox leaked oil, the anchor chain was rusted, etc.

All the battieries had died -  a good time to get a new DIY lithium battery pack, adding four more solar panels and a bunch of chargers and controllers

Once again we learned that things that seem too good to be true usually are. A water pump impeller from China was extraordinarily cheap and advertised as identical to the Yanmar original. One should always have a few spare. Robert ordered three from the same supplier. They weren't even identical to each other.

We sourced parts from hole-in-the wall local hardware stores and ordered parts from all over Malaysia and imported parts from China, America, Australia and even Trinidad (!) 

There is no chandlery anywhere in Port Dickson so most items have to be ordered online and some orders were cancelled as suppliers unable to supply (especially those from China which was so frustrating as they say they can deliver, take the payment and then cancel about 10 days later and refund). Each evening Robert had a list of more items to order and eventually the parts started trickling in slowly.

We began scrubbing and Robert got stuck into repairs to everything, replacing parts, washing and mending sails, patching the dinghy, opening up wood rot, fibre-glassing, fixing the engine and so much more. Opening up any feature was opening a can of worms. It was very slow progress in the hot humid environment with slow delivery of parts.

 A small crack in the deck ........

 ...... turned out to be so rotten underneath and Robert ended up cutting away a large hole to repair......


We had arrived at the start of Ramadan so there wasn't much activity during the day. After sunset the marina restaurant got busy with patrons breaking their fast. Lavish Ramadan buffets were on offer but we looked too scruffy after a day working on the boat.

Admiral Marina has a fabulous big pool and we mostly had it all to ourselves during Ramadan. After the first week we rented an apartment next to the marina which also has a fabulous big pool to ourselves – the best way to cool off


Then there’s the aptly named marina pub: 


We got Grab to deliver groceries and occasionally took a Grab taxi to a nearby shopping area for fresh produce and hardware items.


Delicious rambutans sold on their stalks looking like a bunch of flowers

So far it's been 2 months of fixing the boat and we anticipate another month or so. In a few days time we plan to do our visa run to Vietnam to coincide with Robert's birthday - can't be all work and no play for the captain.

A yacht in a tropical marina is not all swanning about in sarongs while sipping cocktails (I wish just once), it’s hot and sweaty while working away in tight corners. We’re getting there and soon we’ll hoist the sail (actually no - lack of wind here means crank up the engine) and get going again on real adventures.

Friday, 13 December 2019

The last leg for 2019 – see you next year Pegasos

We left Malacca knowing that we will spend more time when we next visit the lovely city and moved on to Port Dickson with enough wind for some sailing early in the morning. The wind died off after a few hours and we motored through a busy big ships’ anchorage near an oil refinery loading dock.

Shortly after lunch we reached Port Dickson and dropped anchor close to Admiral Marina near the beach. It was a lovely calm spot.

Most of the boats had booked berths in the marina and when we dinghied in we saw they were crowded together in hot pens without much breeze. Thank goodness for the shady big pool at Admiral Marina and we lost no time in cooling off.

Many boats stayed on at Admiral Marina to go on a tour to Kuala Lumpur but Robert had made contact with an agent for the faulty radar and we wanted to get closer to Kuala Lumpur to deliver it. Port Klang has a marina and easy access to Kuala Lumpur so it seemed a good plan.

We set off early in the morning and initially the current was with us but it soon turned and we had current against us the rest of the way. As soon as we got closer to Port Klang the area became very busy with big ships. It is the main port of Malaysia and the 11th largest port in the world. Non-stop action with loading and unloading 24/7 at 3 different ports within the muddy delta.

We crossed the busy Port Klang shipping lane and anchored in a calm mangrove lined channel just off the shipping lane. There was a very strong current through the channel but it was peaceful and if not for the big ships passing in the distance it would have seemed remote.

Robert had worked out tides and currents and the next morning we left at what we thought was the optimum time to our advantage. But the current seemed to be a bit against us so we slowly trundled past the long South Port and its line of ships and cranes, grateful that we had a gap without a big ship heading our way.

We motored further up the wide river and eventually found Royal Selangor Yacht Club. We had considered leaving Pegasos at RSYC for about 5 months until our return next year but we immediately noticed the vast amount of rubbish moving downstream. Much of the rubbish collects between the boats and the jetties resulting in smelly piles of refuse jammed between the boats and the jetties.

In addition to the endless stream of rubbish moving back and forth with the tides, RSYC has a channel between its mooring jetties which is used by big trawlers, smaller fishing boats, power boats and just about every other speeding craft which sends big wakes crashing against the boats tied to the jetties. We quickly decided this wasn’t a good place to leave Pegasos.

The advantage of RSYC is their big swimming pool and even bigger restaurant with an extensive menu.

Robert made further contact with the agent for the faulty radar and much to our surprise one of their guys came to collect it from us at the marina saving us a trip into Kuala Lumpur. Their technician is away for a couple of weeks so we wait and see what transpires – repair or replace as it is still under warranty.

We were keen to get out of Port Klang as quickly as possible but the complex tidal system in the delta meant that we could only leave in the afternoon. And so we set off under a black cloud – which is often the case in the afternoons as it rains daily. We hadn’t got far when the thunderstorm broke and it started raining heavily, probably the heaviest rain we’ve had so far. Visibility was very poor and we’re in a busy shipping channel. We kept the spray dodger down to see better but we got horribly drenched in the cockpit. We got as far as the North Port loading docks and decided we had enough so we moved over to the edge of the channel where it is too shallow for any big ships and dropped the anchor next to mangroves. Robert closed up the tent covers and I had a warm shower and it turned out to be a peaceful anchorage although it rained for hours.

We caught the morning tide early and set off with the current, motoring along at over 7 knots for the first few hours. We passed a bizarre sight of hundreds of people standing in the ocean – what it turned out to be is a sandbank in the strait which dries out at certain high tides and lots of little boats ferrying people from the shore to the sandbank to experience the phenomenon of “standing on the sea” with boats passing around.

The whole area is very busy with trawlers and smaller fishing boats. Some of the trawlers had AIS but many did not and so it was a constant look out, especially for nets strung out from the smaller fishing boats. The trawlers move under 3 knots when they drag their nets but can move exceptionally fast when heading out to sea. We saw a trawler coming closer from slightly behind our starboard side heading towards us. We kept an eye on it and got worried when it didn’t change direction and was moving much faster than us. Through binoculars I could see no one above deck! In the end we did a full 360 deg turn to avoid being hit by the trawler. At the last moment a few heads popped up on it looking surprised. They clearly hadn’t seen us. One of the other rally boats was not so lucky in the same area and got hit by a trawler in the front with enough damage to its crossbeam and its mast fell over.

We also received several SART alerts on our AIS which is a signal from a Search and Rescue Transponder intended for emergency use at sea and is used to locate a vessel in distress. Normally closest boats would respond to save lives. However these alerts were originating from close to the shoreline and we had read that the local fishermen in this area use these transponders to locate their fishing nets! Insane behaviour. It’s a wonder that the Malaysian authorities don’t do anything to stop it.

By lunchtime we no longer had the current with us and the wind was in the front so the afternoon was a bumpy and swelly ride. Very tedious 11 hours to cover 62 miles. Entering the river mouth of Sungai Bernam is a bit tricky as it is extremely shallow in places. We crept along watching the depth and two trawlers overtook us, clearly following their waypoints. Good enough for us so we sat behind one of the trawlers following it. We moved off to the side of the wide mouth and anchored in only 1 metre! We had heard lots of stories about fishing boats crashing into anchored yachts in this area so we put on all the nav lights, dangled a flashing light and kept an inside light on.

Nothing hit us during the night and the next morning we set off for our most northerly anchorage in this leg – Pangkor Marina. It was a pleasant motor sail dodging a few trawlers along the way. The marina was fully booked with rally boats so we joined a few anchored on the outside of the marina. Luckily we have a shallow draft so we anchored as close as possible and ended up just outside the entrance within paddling distance of the bar – convenient! A catamaran tried the same area but it was too shallow for them and they backed off. As Robert later told them it’s a trimaran puddle.

The marina arranged a tour to Pangkor Island for the rally participants. We all crossed the gap by ferry and piled into pink taxis.

We visited the ruins of a Dutch fort build in 1670.

As well as Fu Lin Kong Temple, a decorative Taoist temple built over a 100 years ago with lovely gardens and ponds with terrapins.

Less appealing was a visit to a factory outlet that makes the fishy smelling dry snacks so beloved by Malaysians.

Lunch was the highlight in an exquisite beach setting in Nipah Bay. Tables and chairs were set up under large shady trees and a great lunch was served by Nipah Deli. We swam after lunch in the very warm calm water. We could have stayed there for days and earmarked the bay as an anchorage for next year.
Lots of beers were provided for the thirsty crowd.

The next day we had to clear in at Immigration, Port Authority and Customs – as usual all 3 are not in the same street, not even in the same district and we had to hire a scooter and buzz around from one to the other filling in forms and having bits of papers stamped. Although we checked into Malaysia at Puteri Harbour, all ports in Malaysia have check in/check out requirements for boats – a pain in the rear but at least the paperwork is processed with far less hassle than in Indonesia and the various offices made their own photocopies.

We found Aeon shopping centre, the big attraction as always being the aircon. We stocked up on a few provisions but mainly enjoyed the aircon and food court. On one of our scooter outings, we found a buddhist temple - Tua Pek Kong Temple in the nearby Manjung district. It started off about 100 years ago but has seen much more recent construction and now covers a wide area. The statues are absolutely enormous!

Giant size statues compared to me standing in the foreground.

We treated ourselves to a 3 day tour of the Cameron Highlands staying at a 4 star hotel. The luxury bus, accommodation and guide was arranged by the Sail Malaysia organisors, the cost for ourselves. A bit pricey but an opportunity that we probably wouldn’t do again and a nice way to end off this leg of our furthermost north sail to date. 22 of us set off on a long windy road heading inland and upwards.

The Cameron Highlands is a high mountainous area first surveyed by the British geologist William Cameron in 1885. It was further developed in the 1930’s as people saw the opportunity to escape from the heat as the Cameron Highlands is high enough for a cool climate. In fact for the first time in many months we wore long sleeves and coats! The area is famous for its tea estates and farmlands and very scenic countryside.

Our guide took us on tours of tea estates, strawberry farms, flower gardens, butterfly park, “honey farm” (yes it’s really just hives) and a waterfall.

The scenery was spectacular, beautiful cultivated hillsides and mist swirling around mountain tops in the morning.

It’s also crowded with tourists and some of the attractions felt rather contrived. In some places the ratio of vendors to product was overwhelming, everyone selling the same tourist tat (made in China). The fresh fruit and vegetable markets were of excellent quality and we came back with bags of fresh produce.

Big Rajah Brooke butterflies

What to do with your old wellies

Blue orchids

Slipper orchids

All in all the Cameron Highlands was a great experience, interesting and fun with our fellow travellers.
On our return to Pangkor we were happy to see Pegasos hadn't moved in our 3 day absence. We had decided to leave Pegasos at Admiral Marina in Port Dickson while we go home to SA so we needed to go back south again taking a few days to get there.

When we got to Port Klang and contacted the radar agent, we learned that the Australian B&G agent would send a replacement at our cost for freight and duties! And not only that, we have to pay the freight return costs for the faulty radar too! What a cheek to pay international freight costs for something which will be discarded anyway. This is actually the second faulty radar from B&G the first one was faulty on arrival and we paid the return costs at the time. Not a satisfactory outcome for a radar that worked for only a few days but B&G have us by the short and curlies.

We carried on back south until we reached Port Dickson and anchored off the beach near the town. We had to do the usual clearing in at Immigration, Customs and Port Authority. A young man was the only official at Port Authority and at the end of our form filling and stamping session he said the cost is MYR50. For what we asked. He hedged and mumbled something about port charges. We dug our heels in. He got irritated at our refusal to pay unless the reason was clearly stated and waved us off with some comments. He's not good with extortion.

The next day we motored into Admiral Marina and tied up. This will be Pegasos' home for the next 5 months while we fly back to SA for summer.

We've come a long way on this trip: 1600 Nautical Miles from Lombok, Indonesia to Port Dickson, Malaysia.

It's been a jam-packed busy trip - the highlight was definitely the orangutan tour in Borneo but there were many other great times especially with the rally crowd. Next year we hope to sail the east coast of Malaysia at our own pace with Pegasos. Have a good rest Pegasos, see you in May 2020.