Let me take you along on our cruise for the past year. At the end of 1996, MARY T was anchored off the village of Kampung Baharu, up the Dindings River from Lumut on the west coast of Malaysia. By July 1997, we sailed to India, the Arabian Peninsula, up the Red Sea, through the Suez Canal and on to Turkey -- more than 5,000 miles.
Winter in Malaysia
We had spent the "Sumatra" storm season there in well protected waters after a tropical winter of cruising the limestone islands of Pharg Na and the beaches of Phuket in Thailand, and the Langkawi Islands of Malaysia. Kwnpung Baharu, which we shared with about fifteen other boats, had become another home port for us. The village muezzin woke us early, and after a pre sunrise walk through rubber plantations and carved wooden houses we settled down to boat work. Once or twice a week we took a bus trip to Sitiawan for groceries, parts, machining, mail, an Indian lunch, taxes and access to a phone line that reached past Penang. The community of cruisers at Kampung Baharu was the most amicable we have encountered. Most of us worked hard on our boats during the day, though sometimes lunch at Mr. Chu's shophouse restaurant in the village stretched into the afternoon. The evenings brought a bathe at the "mandi" bath house ashore and visiting between the boats, and at least once a month we'd find a reason for a potluck dinner on the veranda of the little "G-7 Resort." There we also used the dinghy dock, did large canvas work and dinghy repair projects, and obtained fresh water when there wasn't enough rain. (Lest all this sound too idyllic: although there was less rain than we expected, the humidity was very high, it was hot, and the mosquitoes were numerous and voracious in the evenings.)
When the cruising season resumed, our close knit community
scattered -- some to Thailand, others to Africa, and some, along with us,
across to the Red Sea and on to the Med.
Malaysia to India
Our first stop was in Cochin, India, after a predominantly light-air passage of 13 days. On this crossing of the Bay of Bengal, we cooked a lot, listened to the BBC, and watched the ships and the Hale-Bopp comet go by---our most pleasant passage to date.
In Cochin we were reunited with old friends from Kampung Baharu. Before we had even arrived, Dorothy of Whimbrel had organized a trip. Six of us hired a car and a terrifying driver and traveled east to Tamil Nadu province to visit the huge temple at Madurai and the hill station of Kodaicanal. Back in Cochin, we took a harbor tour to the old Dutch palace, the old spice quarter, the site of Vasco da Gama's initial burial, and the synagogue. We did some boat work, battled mosquitoes that made Kampung Baharu's seem lethargic, and then traveled ashore again. This time we took a train to Calicut, then a bus over the Western Ghats to Mysore and its surrounding Hoysala period temples. On both trips we had a wonderful time, ate great food, and covered far too many miles in just a few days. We both had our adventures in India. Sig went to visit an ashram during a transit strike, and ended up making more of a pilgrimage than he intended-not at all like his very special experience fire-walking at a Chinese Buddhist festival back in Langkawi. And Carol faced the wrong direction when we jumped off our train as it started to move out of the station on our return trip to Cochin from Mysore and Bangalore. She was flung over backwards on the station platform and ended up at Cochin's Emakulum General Hospital at 5:00 a.m. getting six stitches in the back of her head. She was kept overnight for observation in a ward with a young woman dying of bums from a cooking accident and her large, grieving family. In spite of the occasional difficulties of travel in India, we'd like to return by air, with five or six months available to travel more slowly.
India to Aden and the Red Sea
After a strenuous month ashore, we went back to sea. Our time in India had cost us some wind, and we sailed off on March first in a dying northeast monsoon. We had a slow but pleasant crossing of the Arabian Sea, arriving in Mina Raysut, Oman, after 23 days. It was a wonderful re-provisioning stop; the supermarkets had a huge variety of foods, and the vegetable market was a crossroads-the last mangos, the first zucchini, the best yogurt ever, and dates from all over the Arabian peninsula. Treating ourselves to some lean beefsteak-that was so tough we made soup of it in the pressure cooker-we found we'd had really tasty camel soup!
On we sailed to Aden, as poor as Oman is rich, and with equally nice people. In both places we were made very welcome, but needed to head up the Red Sea, which we finally entered in April. We had a reasonably good trip: we were pooped once, encountered two dust storms, had to break out the spare GPS when our primary one failed, were stopped by a gunboat off the Sudanese coast (we were permitted to continue), and shortly after that lost oil pressure and the use of our engine. After Sig removed the propeller and Carol mended the 90% jib, we rendezvoused with Mistral and Kimani, who gave us some extra water and vegetables. We weren't sure how long it would take us to sail from southern Sudan to Safaga, Egypt, a trip most modem yachts do with a combination of motoring and holing up while the strong headwinds blow. We were largely fortunate with the weather. We went out into the middle of the Red Sea, somewhat closer to the Saudi Arabian side, and had a pleasant ten days of light air sailing. Then we had to cross back through the shipping lanes to the Egyptian coast and spent three days beating against thirty knot headwinds to make the last 75 miles into Safaga. When we arrived, we found a lot of our friends, who had been waiting out the strong winds! Millie from Palma arranged for a dive boat to tow us through the coral to the anchorage, Tattie from Iolanthe arrived with fresh tomatoes and cucumbers-and a melon-and Bob Peeley, then crewing aboard Sadko but now aboard his and Ruth's own China Blue, came over the day after we'd cleared in and effected a temporary repair on the engine (with Sig as an enthusiastic assistant). The wind moderated, the fleet sailed away, and we were provisioning to follow them when a beautiful Laurent Giles ketch, Pittulie Pride, arrived. Malcolm and Emily were going the next morning to Luxor, so we joined them. The valleys of the kings and queens, the tombs of the nobles, the temples of Luxor and Karnak were spectacular, but the best of the trip for us was meeting Malcolm and Emily Rose. It seems that the world of cruising has brought us many exceptional friends.
Back on the boat, once again trying to get ready to leave Safaga, we came down with an upper respiratory virus that lasted a week. Just as we were getting better, Sig noticed a cracked chain plate, so he ended up replacing all of them. By that time, more boats had arrived, so we had company for snorkeling and tea parties when it was our turn to wait for a favorable wind. The rest of our trip up the Red Sea was great. The anchorage at Endeavor Harbor, where the crew of Pittulie Pride helped Carol celebrate her birthday, was so nice that we were son-y to leave it when the wind died down, and the Gubal Strait area was easier than we expected. Finally, the Gulf of Suez itself, which we had been dreading since we entered the Red Sea back at Bab el Mandeb, gave us light winds, and a southerly breeze that lasted us clear to the Suez Yacht Club. After our short visit to Cairo, the first canal pilot came aboard and we began our two day trip through the desert in the Suez Canal. On the second day, the engine, now with 50 pounds of oil pressure for the first time in years, began leaking oil. Sig spent the rest of the day collecting oil from underneath the engine and pouring it back in the top while Carol stayed on deck with the pilot.
As soon as the pilot was off the boat, we shut down the engine and sailed to Lamaca, Cyprus, where Sig did another interim engine repair that got us through the summer with less oil leakage. Lamaca was our first European city, with movie theaters, Internet cafes and Western products in the supermarkets, but the partitioning of Cyprus is an ever-present fact that colors the mood of the town, and we were happy to sail on to Turkey.
We reached Turkey in July, and slowly cruised the Mediterranean coast from Kemer, just south of Antalya, to Marrnaris. We particularly liked the Kekova Roads area, which is less crowded than the big bay of Skopea Liman between Gocek and Fethiye, where we spent the bulk of our summer. For more than two months we had perfect summer weather, and spent most of our time anchored in deep little coves with a stem line tied to a pine tree or a rock. We painted the masts and painted out the varnish on the cockpit coamings (finally), varnished the hatches, visited with other cruisers, and swam in clear, warm water. When we ran out of food and ice, we returned to Fethiye (less than ten miles), usually sailing to avoid unnecessary oil cleanup and just for fun. Fethiye town is on the edge of a two-mile round natural harbor, backed by pine-covered hills. At night, the Lycian tomb on a central hillside is lighted. The town, even though its summer population swells from 50,000 to 200,000, is low-key and friendly. Many cruisers anchor in the bay for the winter, and we had intended to do so ourselves, but decided that we would be better off in a marina for the Mediterranean winter as we were facing major engine repairs. So, on October 15, we reluctantly entered the 700-slip Netsel Mar-maris Marina. Adjusting to marble-floored rest rooms and hot showers was easy. It took a bit longer to adjust to marina life in general, but we certainly made the right decision, as the winter storms would have made life on the hook pretty difficult and work impossible. Our old friends Millie and Chris from Palma are there, and we've made many new friends, as there are more than a hundred people living on their boats in the marina for the winter. Sig has found the industrial section, can get there on his bicycle, and has found a restaurant with tripe soup; and Marinaris in general is quieter and friendlier in the winter-in the summer it's one of the more frenetic tourist spots in the Med. We expect to return there next winter.
Carol flew to Los Angeles via London. She got to spend a lot of time with her mother, visit some old friends, paint the exterior walls of our old house (still rented to the same friend after ten years), and do some boat and book shopping.
Sig has had the engine re-built, is installing new lifelines, and moving our inner forestay (a wonderful addition of a year ago) further up the mast. He's also taking guitar lessons, reading, and has a busy social life in the marina. Carol expects to leave California March 17, 1999, arriving back in Marrnaris in time to paint the boat bottom at MARY T's annual haul out. We plan to spend this summer cruising the Aegean and up the Adriatic Sea to Croatia, an objective ever since we left San Pedro, then crossing the Aegean again to Turkey, and back to Marmaris.
The cruising life still suits us, though it's getting a little harder as we and MARY T get older. The friends we've made along the way have been the best part.
Carol and Sig