A Day in the Life and Jellies - 30 Aug 2003
Sent: Sunday, August 31,
2003 8:15 PM
I feel I have portrayed two rather frightful experiences I had in the last few weeks. Maybe I described them a little too well. I have not really talked about my everyday life on the boat and I think that last letter would be rather incomplete without a short description of the normal days. Therefore I have decided to talk about today as it was quiet and pleasant and probably a good contrast to the last two rather violent experiences. But before I get started there is one thing I learned today which made me feel like less of a puss. I took a long walk over to the main town and down to customs and had a chat with the Harbor Master. I had to hand over my port clearance and ask about what was necessary before I departed. We got to talking about the weather and how it had been pretty harsh the last few days. He asked how it was over in Juara bay, where I am moored, and I explained that there was a fairly constant southeast wind that blew into the bay and provided me with plenty of rocking waves. He proceeded to tell me that in the last week two good-sized motorboats were lost. They were both sunk one night in a serious squall. I stopped short. “When was that squall?” I asked“Why, it was two nights ago, around 2 in the morning.” He explained.I told him my story, in a much abbreviated version and he said,“Yes, one of the boats that sank went down in that bay.”It is hard to describe my feelings when he said this. I felt frightened, yet proud that I had survived a pretty vicious squall. I later learned that such squalls are notorious enough to have their own name. They are called “Sumatras,” and are not to be taken lightly in the known sailing world. I felt nervous about going further down the coast and finding adequate protection. There was even an element of relief in that I am not such a puss, describing a little, harmless squall as some intense experience. Anyways,On to mellower things.I awoke this morning at about 5:30 am and stumbled out onto my back porch. I watched as the horizon in the east turned a soft blue that merged slowly into light orange as the planet spun to face the sun once more. The air was crisp and cool. There were cumulus clouds floating by, orange and yellow. The sea was a little choppy but not really rough. It was beautiful. After a few minutes of yawning and foggy headedness, I decided to crawl back through my screen door and dive into bed. I snatched the army blanket over me and went back to sleep. I slept soundly until about 9:30. I rolled around in bed for a while slowly waking up and tried to decide what to make for breakfast. I decided on Oatmeal and stumbled outside for a piss off the back porch. The boat was rocking a bit more then last night so I went to check the line to the front mooring. It was rubbed pretty severely and looked like someone had taken a lighter to one sided of the ropes. I looked around at all the mooring balls close by and decided I would add another rope to my 4 lines. I grabbed my mask and snorkel and pulled out my longest deck line. I tied it to the main starboard cleat and leapt off the front of the boat into the sea. That is one of my favorite parts of the day; the leap into the crystal blue water. I found a ball in the correct direction to effectively pull the boat towards the wind and dragged it over to the boat. I looped the line through it and the length was just a little short. I clambered up the bowsprit pirate style. All I needed was a knife in the mouth. Instead I had a rope in the hand. I pulled in the line until it just took some of the pressure off the other bowline. I tied it off and thought some more about the other chaffing line. I dug around one of my lockers and pulled out a length of plastic tubing and cut it up. I wrapped it around the rope where it was chaffing and tied it tight with extra rope. Good Chafe-Guard.I whipped up a batch of yummy oatmeal: milk, oats, raisins, and a thick coating of cinnamon and brown sugar. I made Thai tea, but since it was already getting hot outside I pulled a block of ice from one of my little coolers and poured the tea over it. Thai Iced Tea. I went out to my back porch/cockpit and had a nice breakfast. I read as well. I am now on “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” by Louis de Bernieres. I heard it got horrible reviews for the Hollywood version but I can assure you that the book is great. A laugh out loud kind, where you don’t realize until you’ve brayed like a donkey for a few seconds and then you look around to make sure no one heard or saw you. I was reading a particularly funny section about blowing up an old Turkish sea mine when I laughed so hard I choked on some oatmeal and had to drink some ice tea. After breakfast I did some epoxy work with the depth gauge. The wire has been pulling out of the transducer (the unit that sends and receives the sonar pulse) while I motor at higher speeds and there is no way to open it up and deal with the loose wire internally. So I epoxyed the whole area where the signal wire enters the top of the transducer as well as epoxying the wire to another segment of the attachment unit so that the water passing by cannot pull the wire out of the transducer. I used the slow-setting kind of epoxy as it has a much longer life. I will put the whole unit back together tomorrow and test it out. I have a backup unit but would rather milk the life out of this one before I change over to the new one and then have no backup. I let the transducer sit in the shade and proceeded to clean the boat a little. I swept inside, dusted and cleaned my bed and changed the sheets again. I then doused the whole cockpit with seawater. It was getting pretty dirty with a coating of these flying ants, which come out in droves just before it rains. I am not sure how I wasted away another few hours but I do remember jumping off the side of the boat whenever I was feeling hot or sweaty. At about 2 pm I got my shit together and slipped into the dingy and rowed to the large pier. It is a nice, well protected, and hardly used pier. I tied my dingy up to the main walkway area away from where the larger boats dock. I feel pretty safe with it there. I realized, this afternoon, a mistake I had made a long time ago. When I came in and tied to the pier, it was mid to high tide. When I returned from Tekek bay it was low tide and the dingy was hanging from the pier with the rope pulled taught over the edge. The rope was holding the dingy up to the high tide level and I think if there had been a lot of sea action under the pier then the line could have chafed through. I remember when Jeff and I left the dingy on Dieter’s pier to return to Bangkok for Christina’s wedding, months and months ago. I believe it was high tide when we left and I tied the dingy pretty tightly to the pier. That was probably part of the reason she was gone when we returned a week later. I should watch that mistake. It’s good to realize things like that. I walked down the pier and took a left and then a right on these funny little 4 feet wide cement paths. There are no cars on this side of the island, only motorbikes and pedestrians. The path gives this place a nice small village feel and everyone has heaps of potted plants and flowers all over their yards. It might just be the flowering season but I get the feeling there is some competition and peoples yards and houses are well tended. It seems almost too proper for a place that is very much out of the way and quiet. There are not many bungalows. There are a lot more homes. I don’t know how people here are employed but it doesn’t seem like they get everything from tourists. Granted, over on the other side of the island there are a bundle of big resorts which contain everything their customers need, precluding any necessity to wander further than the rear lobby. Those kinds of places don’t cater to small time tourists. This side seems to, but it is fairly empty and I feel like I am the only white guy around. So I walked from Juara Bay to Tekek Bay. It was described as a 1 and a half hour walk through modestly thick jungle. It was much more than “modestly” thick. I think most people would walk it in 2 to 2 and a half hours but the locals move pretty fast. I have a pretty speedy hiking pace but I got worn out fast. It was a long and fascinating hike through the thickest jungle I have ever been in. The only places I can compare it to is the rain forest in the panhandle of Alaska, not far north of Vancouver, or the jungles of southeast Java. The first half was a cement pathway that wound up the mountainside at a moderate rate. A few motorcycles blew by me traveling down the hill and I had to step off the path to give them room. They were locals and were zipping down the hill with a speed that showed their repetition of traveling this path. I watched as they whipped by, hair flying and smiling. I smiled and waved and they grinned. The jungle was kept at bay and the path well tended on the way up, but as the jungle grew thicker around the path and overhead, so the tending must have been too much work. The jungle was darkly green and lush. There were ferns and huge palms with single fronds 30 to 40 feet in length. They reminded me of the forests in old dinosaur books. There were all kinds of huge trees rising 4 hundred feet up to the canopy far above. The smells were pungent and sweet. It smelled like thick moss, like dirt after an afternoon rain, like stank rot under the layers and layers of brown and yellow leaves on the floor of the path. It smelled like water and mist and dark green leaves collecting pools of water, which drip down to black earth. The walk took me 1 hour and 25 minutes and at one point I was picked up by a nice guy with intensely thick glasses and a big grin. I am not sure if he had all the cards in his deck, but he was competent enough to ride a motorcycle and run important errands. He drove me the last 200 yards of the flat cement path and then I noticed a bunch of motorcycles with small 2 by 6 foot sheets of corrugated roofing laid on top of them. The guy who picked me up grabbed a piece from the side of the path and put it on top of his. I asked him why he was doing that and he said, “Zim.”“Zim?” I said,“Zim – Zim,” he said again and then turned and sped away up the path. I have yet to find out what zim means and why they put corrugated roofing over their bikes. Could it be rain? Or Monkeys? Or monkey shit? I forgot to ask the one nice girl I met who spoke royal English in Tekek Bay. Anyways, there were plenty of monkeys jumping around in the trees eyeing us, and all kinds of beautiful birds cooing and squawking and singing away as if we weren’t even there. There were crickets and insects and mosquitoes as well as strange rodent-looking squirrels and agile bats. My friend, the slightly deranged guy knew about 5 words in “Engriss” but pronounced them so well that I thought he could speak a lot more. It took me 10 minutes to realize he didn’t understand a word I was saying. He kept repeating things in Malaysian under his breath. He sped along the path and I huffed and puffed along behind him. After the motorcycle parking lot the path became a “real” path through dense, vibrant jungle. It seemed intent on closing the path with branches, weeds and incredibly thick growth. I started to wonder how often this path was used. It must have been used quite frequently, especially since it was a weekday and I saw about 15 motorbikes whipping by me going down the hill. If even 20 people made the trip daily it should be a nice wide path but instead it was a thin trail which at times I had to turn sideways to slip through. I pestered my companion continually with all these questions and he kept repeating the same thing in Malaysian. After about 45 minutes he seemed to be getting agitated so I continued my questions and observations silently, to myself. I saw so many thick-trunked, toweringly ancient trees that I have no doubt a logging company would jizz their pants at the sight. I wondered at all the different types of wood and thought about all the woodshop classes I had in high school and hoped I hadn’t been responsible for too much slaughter of exotic woods. When I started the trip it was 2 pm and intensely hot at the bottom of the path. When the jungle turned into a tunnel it cooled down a lot and when we were on the thin dirt path it felt cool and almost minty. I laughed at the gigantic leaves that would occasionally fall from the trees and the monkeys that would shriek and bound away from limb to limb. After another 20 minutes we started seeing scattered cement staircases and my friend flittered down them like he was in training. We were on the downhill by now and moving pretty fast. I didn’t understand why my companion was in a hurry until I finally reached Tekek Bay. It was a bloody long walk and I was enjoyably distracted by the intensity of the jungle, but when I got to the town I was tired and my feet hurt. I looked at the sign and laughed. The English side said 4 km. and the Malaysian side said 7 km. My feet told me it was most definitely 7 and I thought about going back in only a few hours. Blimey! 14 km is a lot of hiking especial going up a huge mountain and then down again.The cement stairs increased until they were continuous for about 5 minutes and then I was ejected out into the town. On this side of the mountain the path was neglected and the cement walkway went continuously for maybe 200 yards, up the slope. I had passed my companion as he stopped to piss on the side of the path. I continued along and only saw him later when I return to Juara Bay. At Tekek I wandered around looking for tourists and tourist places only to find small local shops and restaurants and plenty of small houses by the seaside. I found out that down the path, about 3 km, was where most of the resorts were located. I stopped by the KASTAMS house and had a nice chat with the Harbor Master. He told me to come over anytime with my boat to check out and he would give me my port clearance. I said at the time that it might be a few days but now I am having second thoughts. While I was there another pretty fierce storm blew out of the southwest and throttled a lot of the boats at anchor in the three visible bays. There was even enough swell to surf. If I had a long board I would have amazed and shocked the locals with my “wave-walking” abilities. I thought about my baby over in Juara Bay and decided that she was probably pretty safe with the wind coming out of the southwest. Still there has been a consistently large swell running and tonight the Wind Spirit is rocking away like she just don’t care. I wonder if I will ever get used to my house rocking up and down 5 feet in either direction. I don’t feel that uncomfortable but I do worry about the effect it has on my mooring lines and the mooring itself. Ah well, can’t worry about everything.
Tomorrow is National Day so everyone is riding around on their motorcycles and bicycles with huge flags tied to poles, tied to the back of their bikes. There is a contest to see who has the most outrageous set of flags and decorations and the Harbor Master is the judge. I hung around for a while checking out all the elaborate poles and posts hanging off the bikes. I took a few photos and a lot of the kids clambered into the picture. After a while I decided I had better get to one of the internet cafes to do some writing. I asked around and found there were two in the building behind me. I went over there and found both were closed. Ah, frustration. I decided to wander down the road to see what I found. I saw three Australian kids with bags full of beer. They exclaimed to me, “it’s the cheapest place on the island,” and wave their cans at me and then behind them at a building and then say “cheers.” I go into the place they came out of and find it is a duty free store and the southern quarter is dedicated to liquor. Nice liquor, quality liquor and I am tempted. Cognac, Dry English Gin, Kalua, Smirnoff, Spiced Rum of a name I can’t remember and plenty more. I was tempted. But since I still have a couple of bottles of Beer Chang on the boat, which I haven’t touched, I figured it would probably be a waste at this time and place.As I departed the duty free shop I ran across a whole lot of Singaporeans and Chinese and some rich looking Indians. It is a different crowd than I am used to. They seemed part of big tour groups and a few vans drove by which said “Such and Such Hotel Local Transport,” filled with pale, soft looking faces. I wandered along a little further and ran into a small local supermarket. It had some fresh fruit and bread and lots of canned goods. I wandered around a bit and one of the older ladies, probably the owner of the shop, asked me what I was looking for and offered peanut-butter or jam or canned tuna or frozen vegetables. I didn’t know what to say. I was not sure, then I though "meat." “Meat would be nice,” I said“What?” she asked. She craned her neck and looked at me.“Meat,” I repeated and then ventured on “Chicken or beef or . . .”“Mutton?” a clear voice offered. I turned around to see huge dark brown eyes set in a tiny white face with the expression of complete shock and amazement. I looked up a foot and found the speaker. She was a nice Muslim lady with a perfect English accent. She was helpful and asked me all kind of questions. She even asked me about my last job at GenStar and what the main product was. I explained it as well as I could and went into some of the problems the company was having with the initial tests and she intelligently responded, “The FDA has pretty severe regulations and tests, don’t they? I said yes and the company had to take that into consideration when organizing it’s own testing scheme. I was astounded by her English and was very pleased to find someone to chat with. We went on for a while. I asked if she was married and she said that this was her baby. I said he had huge eyes and asked how to say “huge” and “eyes” in Malaysian. She laughed and told me but I have already forgotten. I told her about the boat and my plans and she said, “Oh, you must be very rich.” And I said “No, just without personal property or financial obligation.” “Lucky,” she said.“Maybe,” I returned. “Hum,” she said.I looked at her wide-eyed son and said, “you look lucky.”And she said. “Yes, very lucky.”I said I had best be going if I wanted to get through the jungle before dark and she agreed. I saw her husband pull up on a motorcycle with another “little one” who was even younger and I thought, someday. I walked back to the turn in the road and stopped at a local shop and purchased a liter carton of mango juice. I poured it down my gullet before I got started. I needed some "go" juice.The jungle was beautiful and I will remember this place vividly just for that. When I sailed up to this island I looked at the stunning peaks and thought I would like to climb those. I asked around about a trail and was told to contact a guy named Sahak. I couldn’t find him the first day so my plans went uninvestigated. On my way back I started to think about what it would be like hiking a trail through this jungle that has been used three times a year. I imagined hacking through underbrush and thick gripping vines and started to think twice about such ambitious ideas. I think this boat is enough to keep me strapped to the whipping board. Jungles are cool and fantastic at noon to 2 pm, but by 6 pm they start to get a little creepy. I think a good jungle wouldn’t be a good jungle unless it got creepy at night. The noise level increased as afternoon crept in under the giant canopy. I heard more squawks and monkeys bounding through the trees. All the multitudinous insects started flittering around and buzzing and making all kinds of strange ticks and spickles and tiny flapping noises. As it got darker, small bats started to buzz my head. I was afraid they were after my bananas but soon realized they were probably going after all the bugs in the air above my head. A few times I could have sworn I had lost the path because it got so narrow. I thought I had not paid enough attention and gotten sidetracked on another smaller trail. I then remember that there were no other side trails the entire length of the crossing of that jungle ridden ridge. So I continued on and felt nervous and acutely aware that the path was getting narrower as the light faded. I approached the top and I notice a thin, cool mist had settled on the ridge and slipped down to the jungle floor. It was soft and glowed purple with the fading light and reminded me of a cloud that decided to come down and hang out on the jungle floor with me. It was pacifying and I relaxed a bit. Besides, there was still twilight left before I reached Juara Bay. I strolled along and watched and enjoyed the hike. My feet hurt a little but I knew I had about 20 more minutes to go. I started to think about swarms of mosquitoes. They come out at just about this time. I imagined them coming in droves and small squadrons and sucking me dry. I lengthened my pace and cruised down the path to the sea. The waves were rolling and crashing by the pier and I noticed that they were large enough to ride with a short-board. I rowed out to my boat and went about cooking Andy’s Famous Spaghetti. It was as good as I anticipated and I drank one of my “Beer Chang”s, while dicing tomatoes and garlic. Lots and lots of garlic. I love garlic fried up in olive oil with a hint of thyme and basil mixed in. Then come the onions and some brown sugar. I best stop before I give away my secrets. After dinner I sat down to write this letter but got half way and started to fall asleep. I am finishing it now, the second day after my jungle hike. The waves are a bit larger and I think I might depart from this place sooner than later. I think the monsoon season is starting and I am getting tired of the difficult weather all the time. Two more funny things happened today that I thought would be good stories.My foot-pump for seawater got clogged last night and I couldn’t wash any dishes. It is a pain using just the fresh water so I decided to wait until this morning and take the pump apart. I decided to do a step by step elimination of probable causes and first dove off the side of the boat with my mask and snorkel. I also took a spoon in case anything needed to be unclogged. The first thing I saw in the hole was this little brown fish. These fish are always hanging out on the mooring lines and after a while I think they make my boat their home. They are always scurrying around to the other side when I swim around her. So, this little fish refused to leave the hole. I poked at it with my spoon and it dove deeper into the hole. I stuck the spoon in and dug around and finally it zipped out of the hole and down the side of the hull. I watched it go and didn’t think much of it. I dug around the inside of the hole with the back end of the spoon and found nothing. I decided that this end of the line was clear. I then go up and pulled out the foot pump and tested it. It is functioning perfectly and so the problem must be in the lines. I returned to the inside of the through hull fitting and took off the hose attached to the fitting. And what did I see but the tiny tail of one of these fish. It had clogged the tube completely with its body and was obviously stuck. It was not moving at all so I assumed it must be dead. I grab at its tail and tried to pull it out to no avail. It was definitely stuck. I took out a pair of lock pliers from my toolbox and grabbed the tail and pulled. It was very stiff but finally it came popping out with a nasty fishy smell. I looked at it and the head was gone. “Blast!” The head was still in the fitting clogging the line. I threw the little fish body into the sea for it’s little mates to eat and decided that I would have to take the fitting apart. It had a base and a nozzle so I took a large wrench to the nozzle and it came off fairly easily. Inside the nozzle I saw the fish-head staring back at me wide eyed. I thought of that old Fish Heads Song and hummed it to myself. I felt a little sorry for the critter though. He must have been in the exterior of the hole when I decided to wash some dishes and got sucked into the vortex and jammed tight in the interior of the hole. I put the pump back together and everything worked fine, but I worry I will suck up and kill another of my little fishy companions. Ah well, hopefully they will learn to avoid the hole with the death vortex. The second thing, which was quite entertaining was taking the dingy for a little surf. The waves were a solid two feet and I decided to row over to the pier where I saw a nice right-hander. The first wave I caught, the nose of the dingy turned viciously to port as we reached the bottom of the wave and I went flying into the front section as she slid along sideways in the whitewater. She didn’t fill up with water though and I took her out for another turn. The second time she almost turned over and got completely flooded. I dragged her to shore and tilted all the seawater out. I still couldn’t figure that turn out. When we got to the bottom she went violently left and I couldn’t control it.The third time I stuck the starboard oar into the water to keep her going straight and we did a doughnut and the oar stuck into the ground and popped out of its lock. I swam around looking for it and found it had been bent about 15 degrees. I decided that it wouldn’t be too cool to be stuck here because I demolished my dingy, so I give up the dingy-surfing and did some bodysurfing. After half an hour I got tired and headed back to the beach and my dingy. I managed to bend the oar back to shape and it is working fairly well. This bay is intensely beautiful and I find it hard to leave even though there is a large swell running tonight. The cliffs are steep with thick jungle and palm trees lace the seaside with beautiful little homes in the margin and all kinds of gorgeous flowers. I can see why they filmed “South Pacific” here. It is neither the south nor the Pacific but has that same powerful, mesmerizing beauty. I will go in tomorrow and write heaps of e-mails and then come back out and do some more work on the depth gauge and take a good look at the engine and give it some loving. Then I would like to do some serious snorkeling for a day and then head over to the other side of the island and brave another night squall before I head on to Pulau “AUR” and Singapore. I thought Tioman would be more developed but there is little here and I can get no diesel, only a little fresh water. Ice is also hard to come by. Makes me think it might be wise to depart sooner than later. Hope all is well at home and that Jan B. and Galyani are having a nice time in the States. Mom, I will write a personal letter to you tomorrow.