Friday, 4 December 2009
Jyothi and Kalpana guided the kids down to the saloon where I wished them welcome onboard and explained how they were going to be divided into 2 groups and showed around the yacht and after that I would tell them a bit of thehistory of Kalizma and answer any questions. Off the kids went with accompanied exclamations "ooh", "aah", "Oh my God", "so nice", "cool", etc.
Children were shown guest rooms, tour of the outer deck, galley, crew messroom, bridge and the dining room. On the bridge Saini was explaing and demonstrating the navigation equipment. Once finished the tour, the groups ended up at the dining table, which was laden with cookies, softdrinks and chips. I admire how well disciplined they were as they kept their fingers to themselves until I gave them the "go ahead" for the goodies. Before this I told them about when and where Kalizma was built, her participation in both WW's, how Richard Burton gave her to Elizabeth Taylor and finally how she ended up with the current Owner and his measures in preserving this Classic yacht.
I also ended up teaching them marine vocabulary for galley, bulkhead, deck, porthole, capstan and windlass as well as how much is nautical mile (1.852km). Finally there were not so many questions, one recurring question was how much Kalizma was worth. I reckoned one had to give my Boss an offer he could not refuse but assured that their weekly allowance would not cover it. One girl asked "Why is she so nice?". Oh well, because the Owner likes nice and we're paid to keep her nice. Another wanted to know from where I was, Finland that is. One boy wanted to know how fast she is, well she is not fast at all, only 10 knots compared to todays modern container behemoths that race over the Oceans with 25kts speeds. One wanted to know if I been in bad weather with Kalizma, not really, I try avoiding bad weather.
Tuesday, 1 December 2009
Wednesday, 18 November 2009
At 1600hrs we fired up the engines of Kalizma and headed back for Yacht Haven. The seas were abt 1.5m high with swell rolling in from the Indian Ocean, Kalizma took them quite well but my stewardesses did not. The bad seas lasted until Promthep cape where we rounded into the shelter of Phuket at early wee hours of the night. Eventually we arrived in front of yacht haven at 0800hrs in the morning of 17th and I anchored to wait for the high tide at noon. Nick and Zara wanted me to tie up inside the pontoons this time and I backed inside, making sb side fast to Dock A, outer end, without any big difficulties. Nick complemented my maneuvering but I discounted it for the good weather we had and this brought our trip to an end. Now we are busy doing maintenance and getting Kalizma ship shape for the Owners visit plannned in December.
Monday, 9 November 2009
Monday, 2 November 2009
Sunday, 1 November 2009
1st October we are sailing towards Phuket, finally being released from the Lumut Shipyard. John Orr is being put on vacation as he is just plain sick of the last months pressure.
Weather is getting choppy after Penang Island so I decide to scurry north and sail between Langkawi and mainland as well as Ko Tarutao and mainland, the weather is sunny but windy. I get good cover from land, but once I emerge to open seas after Tarutao Island I get same old rodeo ride as before but it only lasts a few hours until Phi Phi Island. We have avoided the worst area and also no damages are sustained as we have secured everything to the hilt due to the forecasts we got from local weatherman.
During the passage my port radar decides once again to give up, same as our both echosounders, no news on that front, seems to be usual Nobeltec quality in play again despite no obvious problems.
I sail into the "Monk's channel" (Chong Pak Phra)to Yacht Haven on radar observation and anchor at 2 am in front of the marina. After a short nap and daybreak I heave up the anchor and move alongside with the highwater.
In afternoon I get ashore and do some serious shopping for provision and a new TV to the crew messroom that broke down in Lumut.
Next day 3rd starts in earnest to prepare for our MCA survey and various maintenance works.
6th Oct I send Saini to pick up our MCA surveyor Alf Cashmore and Naval Architect Mishraji while I move the yacht to in front of Phuket commercial port. The pier itself is occupied by Star Cruises m/v Superstar Virgo, a 75000GT behemoth. Later Mr. Cashmore and Mishraji join us onboard to survey the inclination arrangements that we have arranged same as last March.
We need to change the thread of the pendulums to metal wire so while sending both distinguished gentlemen ashore we race to a local hardware store to secure some piano wire.
Next day 7th Oct we start early, I heave up anchor at 5am and move alongside Phuket commercial pier that is now vacant. It is low water. We start marking the zero point and then moving the weights (1600kg in 4 piles). As we have minimized the personnel onboard we all get a decent morning exercise by moving the weights first from p to sb, the sb to p and as the reading were not that sure we moved another time p to sb and back. By that time it was 10 am and Alf and Mishraji were content with the results and we can relax for a few hours before pulling off in order to reach the high water in Yacht Haven. It is now raining heavily.
We leave in good order but encounter bad seas and rain squalls even in the close proximity while passing Phuket Bay, Ao Tha Lua and more north. We arrive well for the HW in Yacht Haven and make fast with no hassles at our usual place at the outer corner of Dock B.
Same evening I have dinner with both gentlemen in Phuket town and hurry back onboard to get some shuteye and give Saini instructions of next days "taxi" service.
8th Oct we finish our safety survey and I do the UKLAP exam with Alf, I pass after some gruesome instruction into the mechanics of the Empire and am finally eligible for a UK CeC. At end of day Saini sends Alf back tot the hotel and onwards to the airport, this years survey is complete. Now as we are nearing fulfilment of the commercial yacht status I can see our paperwork has tenfolded and surveys increased to annual instead of every 5 yrs. That is the price of safety.
But the pressure does not stop here, on the 9th I receive onboard our Company auditor, Mr. Ashoke Roy, he comes onboard scheduled to check out our accounts and inventories. By the 11th Ashoke has gone through a years worth of accounts and even found some obvious mistakes I've made but not to my benefit, ha-ha. At noon I drive Ashoke around Phuket for some last minute sightseeing and shopping before sending him away to the airport.
By this time I have my contractors working full ahead for MCA outstanding items as well as preparing for receiving Boss in December.
Not to keep me sitting on my laurels Cmde Mongia arrived on the 14th to inspect some plots for sale as well as meet with Nick Coombes from APS Langkawi in regards of the docking disaster in Lumut.
16th we meet with Nick and come to a mutual agreement (which I suppose you read earlier) and I send the Cmde back to India on his scheduled return flight.
Thereafter follows Diwali weekend and me and Saini & Kalpu drive away on 16th with our BBQ set to Trang to meet with Jira. Vivek and Raja Ram will follow next day as they got job 2 do.
Next week was rather uneventful, we were all back onboard working full ahead and maintaining Kalizma to her splendour. On 22nd I headed off to Thap Lamu to inspect the port as an option to moor at in case we would head up north along the coast.
Thap Lamu is a naval base but also has a fishing pier available. The pier is a 90 degree contraption from shore (about 50m long), quite high and offers no fancy shore connections or fresh water as in yacht marinas. E.g. Kalizma could not land a gangway at this pier. At the end is a staircase to the waterlevel, which I think caters well for tender boats. My idea is that I will anchor off the pier and use tender for any passenger/ crew transfers.
On the 23rd Oct was Toby Koehler's 40th Birthday. He invited whole crew (among all other yacht crews too) to participate in the festivities at Nai yang beach at the Beach Club. We all came with gusto (see other post).
On 24th we take down our tender boat and discover it is not working properly despite repair works earlier. We change boats and head for Phangnga Bay for sightseeing James Bond Island etc. Whole afternoon is spent driving from Is to Is with our tender and we see very photographic vistas and views. We can only "ooh" and "aah" at the spectacular views we are presented after every turn.
Same evening I go down to Sapan Hin to look at the grande finale of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival, I tell you it was a lot of rockets and crackers...
Rest of the month goes in terms of work. On the 27th Sunil Sharma comes back from his long wanderings in the UK bureaucracy and Vivek prepares to leave for his tour of vacation in order to renew his CoC.
On the 31st we cast off and depart for Langkawi to see our old agent John Orr and Nick Coombes, and what happened then, I will let you know...
Saturday, 31 October 2009
I attempted to use Supercheap's delivery service and end up going to Supercheap more times a week than I would like. Below is pasted an email I sent them after my experience:
Dear Sirs, good day,
I'm writing this email to inform you that the delivery service that you have is not working - at all.
I have been shoppping in Supercheap for more than a year now re: all my provisions and housekeeping materials are bought from your good store. Recently I heard that you also have a delivery service so I decided to try and use it and I duly applied for a membership card. In order to save my time I decided to order via the delivery service and faxed an order to you (Both in Thai and English).
A few hours later a person calls me and says my membership card is only for wet stuff so I come down to your good shop for applying another card and I re-send my fax order.
An hour later a person calls me and says again there is a problem. I ask how many cards do I need to process my order? Reply comes that order will be processed.
Next day I receive half of the stores ordered, only food items. I also get delivered chicken feet instead of legs (drumsticks).
I drive down to Supercheap again and ask if I can change the chicken feet and why not the whole order was delivered? I get reply that balance will be delivered today although I say I could go and pick up all items myself as I'm already at your shop. Reply is, "no need, we will send it to you".
An hour later I'm called and told that delivery today is not possible. I ask that why did you promise delivery when it is not happening? Now I need to get into my car again and drive down to Supercheap to pick up the remaining items.
Another hour later I get another call from you and a person is telling me that items are being delivered. Rightly so I get another delivery but the whole order is not there, so I have to rush down Supercheap again to buy my remaining items (worth 7000THB).
In conclusion instead of one weekly trip to buy my housekeeping and provisions (this week worth 14000THB) I had to come down to Supercheap 3 times as I was hoping to get my order delivered with no visits at all.
Do you call this Customer service?
Oh well, I received no reply and suspect I will never receive any. I can only conclude that I can only order basic stuff but nothing elaborate - they will never deliver it even if I have written it down in Thai for the people to easily understand. I just wonder how the hotels and resorts deal with this, I suppose they just send stooges to do the shopping.
For me it is a bit different as I can't trust a service that don't deliver stuff when and what I want when I am working on a deadline or with pax onboard.
It might be Supercheap but definitely delivery service is not Supergood...
Tuesday, 27 October 2009
Time went by slowly but the spectators were lined up in rows, both local and foreign. Finally the first possessed came by wagging his head and went to pay his respects at the altar. One by one more followed and they all gathered around the cauldron. They were speaking all the time but I was too far away to see or hear what they were saying and I presume they were mostly speaking Chinese anyways. Soon enough all mediums were given yellow rags and they started dipping them into the cauldron and the lashing themselves over their bare backs with it. I could not see anybody getting burns on their skins. After awhile these rags was shredded and thrown to the audience, needless to say there was a scuffle where the rag landed. Later on the assistants bottled the boiled oil and sold it against a donation for the temple. At this stage we left the scene and went for a vegetarian late dinner.
Next day went busy working but on Monday 26th is the grande finale at Sapan Hin in Phuket Town for the veg fest so me and Saini decide to go. When we arrive and find some parking after long searching we are emerging to a warzone. There is a continuous thump coming down form a car stereo show, rockets and bangers being fired all the time. The air is thick from cordite smell and smoke. We walk around the car stereo show and gape at the sound systems installed in the cars, just incredible show pieces. After that we wander down to the beach and see the Chinese temple and people lined up sitting and waiting. We also see construction of several bonfires. Rockets and other incendiaries are fired off continuously. We walk around and finally decide to sit down near one of the unlit bonfires.
We sit and chat and wonder about all the action, Saini confirms it is more fireworks than during Diwali in India and soon enough the people gets more and more. The whole field in forn tof the Chinese temple gets filled up and one can hear fireworks going off like machine guns and the smoke is gettig more dense, soon enough one can't see the sky. The noise is deafening. Pall bearers emerge from the smoke carrying effigies of Chinese Gods on chairs, carrying them to the waters edge. They are all like demons from the underworld coming from a barrage of crackers beings thrown at their feet. Everybody is covered in rags from head to toe.
Eventually I can see there is a lull in the activity and some kind of ceremony is underway in the middle of the field, I can't see it, just a huge parasol is held up at the centre of activities. Finally it starts moving and the parasol heads for the sea. People gather around the pyre with burning torches, guards go around and wards off anybody trying to light the pyre too early. Finally the parasol reaches the waterfront and the pyre is set on fire. It quickly gathers momentum and the heat is incredible, me and people around me retreats back. This seems to be the highlight of the proceedings so after this me and Saini head back for the car and the ship.
More of The Nine Emperor Gods Festival
Saturday, 24 October 2009
After sitting down it was beer time and I was looking around, slowly also people I knew started to turn up, Gordon Fernandes, Toby's boss arrived. I also saw Nick Wyatt and Zara Tremlett from the Yacht Have marina. Further on I saw Peter from Queen of Andaman and Ted from Yanneke Too.
I met Michael Bosch too that last year was on a dinner party onboard, he still recalled vividly the Whyte and Mackay we consumed that time. I also assume the other guests, including Toby, remembers our fun night.
Later on I also bumped into Nick "the Greek", a Cypriot that used to work for Gordon but is now doing something else for rich people, lovely guy and I got to use my Greek language skills too.
At one point Toby demonstrated his drumming skills and performed with a bongo drum and ankle maracas. Really good beat.
After this the party started going with dancing and stuff. A bit later we had to go home as Richard had had enough.
Sunday, 18 October 2009
After dark we built up a fire from the drift wood on the beach so one could see what one was eating. The menu was squid, shrimp, fish and chicken with spicy Thai dipping sauce and beer of course. This time we had no Kingfisher as we had depleted our stock in the Lumut drydock.
Saini was busy guiding Vivek as he tended to get lost on the Thai highway, eventually he found the way and arrived after dark with Rajaram. They also brought the ghetto blaster so after that it was Indie pop time.
Everybody was enjoying until Saini fired off a volley of rockets. It did not take many minutes for the park wardens to come around and tell us to put out the fire and stop shooting rockets off. Oh well, we put on the car lights and slowly winded down the BBQ and headed for home.
Friday, 16 October 2009
Fortunately Cmde S.K.Mongia was also visiting Phuket at this time so I could coordinate to have a mutual meeting and saving a lot of emailing afterwards.
We met on the 16th at 10am onboard and went through the events of the DD and came to our grievances that eventualy boiled down to a discount of the final DD invoice.
To cut the story short I have the deepest respect for Nick by assuming responsibility of his bad business decision and granted us a considerable discount on his Company's expense.
The only party coming out of this mess "unscathed" is the main culprit "Grade One Marine Shipyard", they must've been laughing all the way to the bank.
Oh well, I'm sure they will now be missing many Yacht repair contracts as I'm sure APS Langkawi won't be promoting them as the place to haul out in SE Asia.
In case anyone asks me for a reference I'll give one too - a negative one. I have no positive thoughts whatsoever for this "run-by-night" establishment. In fact I have reported their disgusting antics to the Malaysian yacht and Shipyard associations.
Friday, 2 October 2009
Years ago on m/v Columbus Caravelle where we once spent an annual docking in Guangzhou for 2 humid weeks I thought that was bad. Then in 2003 when I was working on Project m/y Turama I thought I’d seen it all. Last year in Langkawi Wavemaster I thought I had hit rock bottom but I was once again proven wrong this year in Lumut by Grade One Marine Shipyard that set records in shafting the Client.
Lifted up after more than 24hrs of wrangling
As you may have glimpsed in my previous blogs that our drydocking has not gone quite as smoothly as anticipated I am not exaggerating this. It is usual that there are always some squabbles that are then solved by giving a bit and taking a bit after some discussions. Not so with Grade One Marine Shipyard.
Weight dials on the shiplift put us on abt 350mt displacement
Asia Pacific Superyachts of Langkawi had recommended this yard as they had successfully lifted there abt 10 boats. I visited the facility in May and they visited us in Langkawi in order to work out a quote. The facility is new and seemed promising in my eyes. Once I left Langkawi again there was not much movement on the quote despite emails back and forth. It seemed yard only moved for us when John Orr went down to Lumut to chase them.
Furthermore, APS put themselves as a go between as agents and so in effect we were the client of APS and APS the client of the yard. My management expressed their dismay to such an arrangement and warned APS that they are putting themselves in a precarious position in case problems arise. We were told this is the only way yard wants to deal with yachts, via APS Langkawi, so we digressed. APS assured that there will not be any problems and floating will go smoothly. Well, as it happened all went to hell and relationship between vessel and APS Langkawi is discontinued indefinitely.
Yard has following muppets to show: Operations Manager Fuad bin Rasol, slick prick that promises even the moon from the sky in order to get you to his yard. Seems to have poor conception of reality and hence does not know what his labor is doing or perhaps just pretends to be that way. Haji Nasir, senior costing officer, promises that anything can be done in a blink of an eye, next day goes back on his word. Costing stooge Mahat, Nasirs right hand man, hopeless blabber and interrupts anyone who starts to give him facts or question his facts. Project Manager Azlan is as useless as tits on a donkey, unfortunately he was appointed to us. Shiplift supervisor Captain Ahmad, formerly known in Rebak, Langkawi as Mr. 10%, proud person, cannot take advice.
View through our rudder pintles
The only persons that really earned recognition for good work and ability to problem solve was Mr. Saeran and Mr. Teoh, the first is in charge of mechanical issues and did our rudder and props, the latter is underwater hull supervisor from cleaning to painting. Especially Mr. Teoh never vacillated on any job at hand, he just did it.
Project Manager Yin was the only PM that seemed to know what he was doing, he was appointed to do all the other government ships that was being overhauled, when at times PM Azlan lost his only marble the yard sent Yin over for few days and this kept on going during whole yard stay.
As a conclusion of our visit I can say that we have been had totally by APS Langkawi and Grade One Marine Shipyard and I am thoroughly disgusted by their antics. It was not probably the brightest idea to come and do a drydocking in a muslim country during their fasting month but we were assured that it would not affect productivity as they also employ staff from other religions. I initially planned arrival 1st August but it was changed for budgetary reasons. Seeing that the yards clients mostly consists on government vessels from the marine police, coastguard and navy I assume they just do a shoddy job, charge it triple or quadruple and get paid for it, no adjustments are never asked for as it is a government job and bureaucrats just sign whatever is put in front of them.
Finally on the way to be floated
Needless to say we will never ever visit this yard again, one can only take so much of being overcharged, held for ransom and being blackmailed.
Thursday, 1 October 2009
Having spent over a month in Lumut I have gotten to know the area a bit. Obviously the biggest attraction here is the Pangkor Island resorts and Pangkor Laut where movie stars visit. I did not visit there as I am not that keen on such places, seen one beach, seen ‘em all…
Lumut itself is more like a thoroughfare for tourists on their way to Pangkor although there are numerous hotels and restaurants in the area. The town itself has only one main road that passes in front of the ferry terminal for Pangkor. The road is lined with souvenir shops and stalls, at end of the road or edge of the town is a big Nasi Kandar where you can get a cheap Indian or Malay fare.
This restaurant was often frequented by my crew. Behind this Nasi Kandar (you need to go behind the stalls) is a side road that leads to a restaurant called Rockefelle, it has a nice and fairly cheap menu that caters for foreigners, on Sundays they do a BBQ. Staff is friendly, mixed Thai and Malay.
Towards the other direction from the Nasi Kandar you can see Jook’s Joint Bistro that also sports a foreign menu and a very active Malay staff that tends to your needs. I recommend the chili con carne with nachos that is not featured on the menu. Pizzas here are also very tasty.
Behind Jook’s joint is an Italian restaurant called Capri, although the food is excellent (at least the pizzas) it is quite expensive, for this reason I ate there only twice.
North of the International Lumut Marina are 3 restaurants that are managed by an Italian Owner, Massimo, and his Singaporean wife Judy. Only the Italian restaurant is open and staff is from Myanmar. The pizza topping was great but the crust was made of wrong kind of wheat flour and not so tasty compared to Jook’s or Capri.
Front of Lumut International Yacht marina
Coming down south next to Massimo’s is the Marina and after them is Lumut Country Resort where I stayed during the visit. The resort is really basic and a bit run down but the ambience is nice and you get warm shower and aircon as well as a breakfast with the daily paper. Rooms went for 105 RM a night. They also have a swimming pool if you fancy that.
Going further south from the resort is Jook’s Joint Bar, the only place in town where expats go for beers and demi-mondaines. Almost opposite Jook’s is The Green Door.
The Green Door is a Chinese restaurant run by Ah Pau (look for sign that says “Restoran Kepala Kari Ikan”) where you get a delicious fare. Pork is also on the menu, pricing is a bit over the top in my opinion. These are my recollections of any note worthy restaurants in Lumut, I tried a few others too but the food was bad.
Now going out of Lumut towards Sitiawan you will arrive to a crossing with a KFC on your left side (this is the ecenter of Sitiawan), turn right and continue for abt 1km, keep your eyes focused on left side for a restaurant called Bei King (I suppose it means Peking), the food is excellent and reasonably priced.
Near the Grade One yard, at the first light crossing towards Lumut, is a restaurant called Hai Lam Village, we got most of our lunches there, very affordable and good food. Eat inside as outside is a lot of flies coming from neighboring chicken farms.
Furthermore for shopping drive towards Sitiawan or Ipoh and you will many supermarkets where everything is available. For technical stuff you can’t find near Lumut - go to Ipoh (60minutes drive). Same applies for sightseeing more of Perak.
Monday, 28 September 2009
Map of the Sembilans
As Chan went there already on Saturday for camping I came out with Ah Pok on Tuna II that went fishing with some other guys. At 7am Ah Pok picked me up and we went via the morning market to stockup on food and drink. We left early Sunday morning to one of the bigger Pulau Saga that had a fresh water stream too. On the way I got dejavu experience as we hit a heavy rainstorm but after that the weather turned partly overcast with sunshine.
The camp was rigged up as a big tarp in an inverted “V” to cover a raised dais where people lined up like sardines to sleep. I met Chan and was immediately thrust an Anchor in hand and as people had had breakfast we loaded onto the boat and headed for our divesites.
Beach at Pulau Lalang
Our first site was “Black Rock”, a cliff just barely jutting out of the sea with a rusty marker to warn seafarers of the navigational danger. Chan warned me of getting close to the rocks as the swell would grind me to corned beef against the barnacles and whatnot. Without saying I could see what he meant. We geared up and plopped into the drink and down I went.
The Black Rock
The 1st 10m visibility was no more than 2-3m and when going deeper it improved a bit to perhaps 5-6m, current was zero. I could hear spear guns going off like rapid fire and thought that the fishing must be good. Chan had loaned me an underwater camera so I could entertain myself while diving. Having a visibility of only 5-6m the photography was limited to close up shots only but it kept me busy. At 25m depth everything looked to be only different shades of green but whenever the flash would go off I could see the real color of every plant and organism I shot. The bottom was very rocky and had nice nooks and crannies for the fish to hide in, the corals were not that plentiful but there were loads of oysters the size of palm of my hand. I think Chan had speared the most fish during the 1st round, at least there was a queen fish, a barracuda, a bat fish and a golden grouper.
Link to my underwater pics
Ah Chan and in between dive brew
Our next dive we shifted to “White Rock”, a much bigger rock islet with a white light house on it. Ah Pok was dispatched to go onto the Island to look for birds nest. Chan told me that if they found something it was of very good quality. Unfortunately after a few minutes Ah Pok came back empty handed – somebody had looted the Island before us.
Ah Pok looking for birds nest
We got back to our diving business and geared up, Chan just told me to follow the Island nothing special to look out for. I went down again with same visibility as on White Rock, only addition was that I could feel the swell at times pushing me around even at 20m depth. I glimpsed some big fish swimming around me as well as loads of smaller tropical fish. Here was same amount of soft corals and sea urchins as well as the rope like grass thingies growing up from the seabed. I was shooting away on my camera and admiring the steep cliff walls and crevices that was present here too. Sadly, the visibility did not allow for any large scale pictures.
The White Rock
When coming up it was again Anchor time and soon enough the guys were gearing up for the 3rd and last dive, same venue. As our decompression had been so short I stayed at abt 12m depth and prowled the cliffs for something to look at. After awhile I stumbled upon a small ray-fish sleeping under a rock. It was the 1st to see in these waters although I had seen plenty of them in the Maldives before. Other than that I can’t say that the dive was that eventful, same poor visibility and swell pushing me around. In good visibility I bet the view would be marvelous. I came up and it was time for late lunch at the base camp.
Lunch at camp
At the camp I took advantage of the freshwater spring and showered the salt off. It was time for another Anchor and some roasted duck on rice. As usual food always tastes great in the great outdoors and with good company. The conversation was going in rapid fire Cantonese and I could not understand a thing, but it did not matter, Chan translated the best bits.
After the meal people started packing up the camp and I went for a stroll along the beach. The sand was clear but at the HW mark there was the usual human debris, old peieces of rope, empty bottles, slippers and so on. Abt 100m along the beach I came to a shrine that fishermen use to make offerings for a good catch. There was 9 chinese Gods in the shrine so it ought to make a strong case for a good catch. A bit further along the beach I stumbled upon a 1m long monitor lizard running into the thicket, probably as surprised by me as I of it.
The fishermens shrine
Finally the beach ended into a small rock formation that I did not want to scale as it was soon time to go back. I noticed at the water edge was sem submerged rocks that was covered in 15cm long sea limpets, they looked like armored sponges and they sure stuck to the stone like superglue. Anyway, it was time and I turned back walking along the beach to the boat just in time. We headed back to Lumut and everybody was sort of nodding off after such a heavy weekend.
The superglued organism
On the way back, Pa Ling Tau in front
Once arrived to Lumut I discovered I had forgotten my footwear on Tuna II so I was going barefeet. The boat was hauled up, emptied of gear and washed with fresh water, the loot was cleaned out and divvied up. Finally Ah Pok gave me a ride back to my hotel where I collapsed onto my bed until John called me to join him for dinner.
Monday, 14 September 2009
I left my hotel early in the morning lugging my dive gear. I was picked up by Mr. Chan, my newest acquaintance here in Lumut, we went to a local eatery and got some noodles for breakfast and then we headed for the marina opposite Grade 1 shipyard. We arrived soon enough and I saw the diveboat on a trolley being stocked up with divegear, food, fuel and whatnot. The boat was a abt 12m open monohull, same shape as they use in Maldives except that in Maldives they use mostly covered boats. Astern was fitted 2x200HP 4-stroke Yamaha outboards.
Soon also other participants started to arrive and at last the crowd was abt 12 guys, all cheerily chatting in Cantonese with the phrase "tiu lei" splattered everywhere. Finally, the boat was set to go and the marina tractor floated us down the slipway and we started off towards Pulau Jarak.
Pottering out to sea along the Lumut waterfront
The weather was fine and I sat with Mr. Chan at the fwd bench chatting and I was thrust a can of cold "Anchor" beer into my hand. It was abt 9am so the day was starting fine. The boat "Tuna II" was making 25kts in calm seas, but after we've passed Pulau Pangkor and headed out for open seas the waves started to grow higher. After some time we started to get overspray on the bow and I changed my wet T-shirt for my rashie. All the time the Cantonese discussion was raging as guys were changing opinions or whatever so I could not help myself asking Chan what "tiu lei" means as it was repeated so often and I could not recall it from my years in Hong Kong. The reply cannot be typed in here...
Our happy pilot
By this time large dark clouds were looming in the horizon and we we're headed straight towards them. It did not take long for the waves to grow up to 2m and we started getting torrential rain over us. We all huddled in the stern where there was at least some shelter. This is the bad point of having an open boat...
Finally we arrived at Pulau Jarak after some 2hrs drive (~40'). Pulau Jarak is a forested small Island that on the Chart of Straits of Malacca looks like a button in the middle of the channel. The Malaysian Military has posted a small outpost and garrison on it to control piracy in the area. The shores were lined with boulders of different sizes and the jungle came straight to shoreline. It looked pretty impenetrable, at least not with bare hands, so dense is the brush.
The rain and wind had stopped as we had passed through the weather front, the waves were still pretty high though so it was decided to dive at the inner reef first. We all geared up, some of the guys had spearguns and Mr. Chan told me how the Eastern inner reef is formed so I could get some bearings and then said this is all solo diving. No problem, a mans gotta do what a mans gotta do. I jumped in after Chan and he quickly disappeared in search of prey.
I was down on a rocky bottom with corals here and there and could see huge boulders lined with corals and attached to them was clams of various species, lots of them. I also saw loads of fish in various sizes. While slowly swimming along the reef watching the action I found a lead weight and a meat chopper on the seabed. I collected them to throw away. Intermittently I could hear the "thwack" of the speargun when other guys were pursuing their prey. After abt 40min I ran out of air and had to surface, not a spectacular dive but the boulder scenery was nice.
Between dives relax
After up on the boat and having changed a fresh tank to my gear I was gain offered a cold "Anchor", it went down with the other guys while watching them hauling onboard their catch which was promptly chucked in a huge icebox. The waves had come down so it was decided to go and dive the outer reef. It is located abt 200m N of the Island, we dropped anchor and geared up. Instructions were to follow the anchor line down. There was a slight current at surface but at the bottom abt 20m was ok, I could again see the big boulder formations with plenty of corals et al. Some rocks were heavily draped in torn fishing nets, this area is also popular with the trawlers. Once down I searched around slowly and saw a big crab hiding in a crevice. I started swimming along the rock wall observing big funnel and fan corals, there was also long rope like plants growing up from the bottom as well as tree like green corals. In abt 30min my air was out so I had to surface, I had also picked up a few oysters to contribute to the loot.
My handpicked oyster
Same routine happened again with the "Anchor" amid shouts of "Tiu lei". Chan told me they always competed who gets the biggest fish and he had to prove himself on the last dive. We drove around the Island to the Western side and anchored for lunch.
Lunch was beer, roast duck and rice with dried fish and Chinese croissants. Very taste after 2 dives. After a short rest we geared up again and dove off. Here the reef is very close to shore and has cliff like drop offs with huge boulders sprayed around. Swimming around them was like entering a maze. Again I could hear the thudding of spear guns and I saw actually 2 guys off 10m from when I saw a big Coral Grouper under a rock, I took my knife and banged my tank to get their attention and pointed under the rock, it was actually Chan that came and he speared the fish in no-time.
By the time he had secured the fish on his BCD and loaded the spear gun again a school of Queen fish had approached us, so Chan just hoisted the gun and speared the closest one, the other fish swam in consternation around us and disappeared, Chan's prey was not giving up but tried to swim off too, Chan had his hands full not to loose his grip on the gun handle. Chan quickly pulled the gun to himself and then the line attached to the spear and forced the fish on the sea bottom while threading it on his BCD while removing the spear.
I swam on and while coming around to the Northern side of the reef I was hit by a strong oncoming current so I decided to back track and just explore the small area I had just been scouring. Rest of the dive was pretty same as before and I was anyway short of air soon so I surfaced after 20min underwater. I swam back to the boat and waited for the other guys to arrive. It did not take long as the whole bunch was onboard and the anchor was hoisted, it was getting time to get back home.
We rounded to the South of the Island and I saw an Army Garrison placed there. A few guys came out of the huts and on a small beach outcrop I could see an armed sentry in a watch tower. The hutments more like resembled chalets of a resort, the soldiers on the Island really had a peaceful place for themselves (I bet they did not appreciate it that much after one month rotations). We approached the jetty and handed over a 10kg ikan bakar or something that looked like a tuna. Chan told me the soldiers only get rations to live on and I could not even see a dinghy that they could use for fishing. I guess the army does not encourage such activities when they should be looking for pirates. We waved the boys goodbye and headed back for the mainland.
Another happy diver
By this time it was partly overcast so the ride was smooth. One guy started to carve up a Rainbow Runner fish into sushi. Soon enough we were washing down raw fish dipped in Wasabi and soya sauce with beer. Everybody was happy and in happy spirits. After an uneventful trip back (we finished last drops of beer just in the channel) to the marina the boat was hauled up and the laboring part began.
Elvis carving up sushi
The boat was emptied of all dive gear, the fish was laid out and gutted, engines were flushed with fresh water. Finally after everything was stowed and fish divvied up we left back for home. Those who have been diving knows how much it exhausts one. I came to my hotel, dragged my gear in the middle of the floor and passed out on bed.
Our diveboat and loot
What a lovely way to spend a sunday...