Singapura - 2 Oct 2003

Sent: Thursday, October 02, 2003 12:31 AM
Subject: Singapura

Dear Readers,
Today I write about Singapore. What should I say?
I have heard it said that Singapore is the realization of the Confucius State. In so much as I understand Confucius Philosophy I think that I would agree. I think Singapore has elements of a brave new world. Not that I should indict the great city-state. It is ultra efficient, amazingly clean, it’s people are well educated and polite. It’s economy is bustling and it is a very safe place to live.
It is also a very regulated state and in that respect I have run into some problems. I face a few barricades to employment here. First, to hire a foreigner a company must pay a sum of money for the work permit, then every month the company must also pay 3 to 4 hundred Singapore Dollars (SGD), to continue to employ the person. (150 to 200 USD)
The second regulation is that any company, which employs foreigners must employ at least 3 Singaporeans to the one foreigner.
I have spent about three weeks now looking and applying to companies for simple jobs and for Scientific Opportunities. I have had a few interviews but only for the simple promotional jobs and these don’t pay enough for me to live in Singapore and save anything. I was not expecting such regulations and find that in retrospect I should have done some more investigating before I left Thailand.
I was also expecting a little assistance from Caroline’s friends. If you remember, Caroline traveled with us for a while back in Thailand. She informed me she had some friends in Singapore who might give me a hand. I think I had unreal expectations of what her friends might be able to do and was relying too heavily on that expectation.
Unfortunately I got blown off. I learned quickly the standard Singapore blow-off. They ask, “Can I call you back?”
And you say, “Sure” because, really what else is there to say?
(No, I’ll call you)?
They say, “Is this your contact number?”
You say, “Yes”
You can guess what happens. They don’t call you back, and when you call them they know your number and don’t answer.
So what can you do?
I can’t stand harassing people I don’t know, especially for favors. If it is a prospective employer then I will pester and call repeatedly but a friend of a friend I find hard to call over and over again. So I didn’t bust my arse to contact her friends. It left me a bit angry at first. They responded to her request to help me back in July or August and said they’d at least take me out for some beers and get me situated.
After a while I let it go and am not that upset about it.
It has made my search for a job a lot harder and I had to learn about the regulations I mentioned earlier through interviews and discussions over the phone.
This all begs the question of what I am going to do next.
I am going to sail the boat over to a small marina east of here. The marina is located3 nm up a river in Malaysia. The fees are cheep for a mooring ball and I am going to leave the boat for a while and return to Thailand. I still have some money in a bank account in Thailand but I cannot access it down here in JB.
When I arrive in Sebana Cove Marina I am going to do some serious engine work and change the head gaskets and try to work out one of the major leaks. I will also do some serious cleaning and try to leave the boat in the best condition possible.
I know what I need in equipment for the boat and where I can get it but before I can invest and improve the boat, I must make more money. I plan to work for the next 6 to 8 months and return to the boat. I will then do some small repairs and install the new equipment and then sail north or south. I am still undecided about that. I have a few sailing guides now and will do some studying and lay out a route that will tap into the correct winds and currents instead of busting my ass running against wind and current.
If you would like to send me anything, my father’s address will be the best bet:
246/13 Soi 6 Chuan Chern Parkville
Sala Thamasop, Tawee Wattana,
Bangkok, 10170 Thailand
I had a wonderful meal yesterday. It was a simple vegetarian meal, dished out on a banana leaf. It included three vegetable/potato curries, which I could not name, ladled out next to a pile of rice. Most of the people in the restaurant were eating with their hands but it has been such a long time since I have done that (while traveling in India) that I decided to ask for a spoon and fork. The rice was topped off with thick dhal poured all through it. The curries are great in that they have flavors I have never experienced. The combination of spices and herbs was strange, yet delicious. I love new food and to find it quite delicious is even better. They also made really good, piping hot chapatti, but the rice and the three ladles of curry were the best, especially because they were served on a banana leaf plate.
Don’t worry, I had a coke along with the meal and have yet to suffer any kind of indigestion from the food I have been eating in Malaysia. It is a great change of pace to Thai food. I am ready to return though. Not that I will be there for that long.
I have some plans, which I need to investigate and I would rather not divulge anything about them until I successfully find employment. Actually, now that this part of the sailing saga is over I think I might take a break from the letters. Sometimes it is unnerving bearing all, to everyone.
Sebana Cove Marina is about 25 NM from here and will take me a day to reach. I will spend a few days there and then catch a bus back to Thailand and eventually to BKK.
I had a challenging day today. I finally received a small Oil Seal for the transmission drive shaft. It was rather entertaining when the old seal started to come out. For the second time, oil leaked out of the transmission box onto the drive shaft and since the drive shaft was rotating at a very high speed this sprayed jet black engine oil all over the inside of the engine area. Bloody Hell! I located the problem but couldn’t do that much about it until I ordered a new seal.
Today I took the Transmission out again. It is quite a lot of work for just one little oil seal. I dripped oil everywhere and then started to take it apart. I got as far as I needed to get the old seal off and put in the new one. I then put the transmission back together and found that it was not shifting correctly. It would not set in neutral and reverse gear was not engaging correctly. I took a deep breath and took the transmission apart even further until the major gearbox. I went through the possible problems and then put it back together again. It still didn’t work and I had a small pin that was way out of whack. I then decided there was nothing left to do but take it apart completely. This I did. I found that the gear farthest inside the box had slid forward and was stuck up against the shifter resulting in no neutral and a stunted reverse. I had to lightly hammer the gear back into its seat. This worries me because if that gear is able to slip out of place it will instantly lock me in forward or reverse gear with no neutral. Ideally I would buy a new gear and put it into place with a press in a machine shop. But, the bloody engine has been discontinued by Volvo Penta and getting parts for it is nearly impossible. I know I will not be able to get that specific part and even if I could they would probably only sell the entire transmission for 8 or 9 hundred dollars. But I think it is in pretty solidly and have tested it pretty well today.
I don’t tell these stories about the repairs and engine work to scare anyone. I just relate them because they seem entertaining to me. But, let me restate that I would not take the boat into dangerous waters if I felt she were not running well. I always test her and run her pretty hard before I depart on any longer voyages.
Since there was oil everywhere I spent the later part of the day cleaning and cleaning and cleaning a bit more. I will try to clean the bilge tomorrow and then in the afternoon I will check out of JB.
If I had a few thousand to spend I would go ape shit over the electronics in Singapore. They had great laptops for dirt cheep, all kinds of digital cameras, video-cams, PDAs, GPSs, CD, MP3 and MD players, DVD players, Amps, TVs and satellite cell phones. I could go on and on. Unfortunately none of this equipment is critical for my future voyages so I had to hold off.
Someday when I live in one place I will get myself a solid desktop, DVD player and super speakers. Add a scanner and a burner and I would be a happy camper. Ah well. It’s nice to have those kinds of things to look forward to. That and a Labrador that loves the water.
I have met a lot of cruisers here in JB. About five times more then I met in all our travels around Thailand and my journey down the coast of Malaysia. One of them is a crazy Swiss guy. He is Swiss French and has been teaching me French while I teach him English. He makes me laugh all the time. We always talk about Police Academy, one of his favorite movies. I call him “Stoolman” or “Proctor” and he calls me “Sweetchuck.” We have spent a lot of time together. He also likes to eat out and we have wandered around searching out busy restaurants and voting on the quality of the food. I should mention his name. It is François.
His boat is sick. It reminds me of a car out of Mad Max. It is marine ply with a special type of perfected epoxy coating. It is very boxy and the bottom is almost flat and rests on the water. It is a design, which is used for racing and when the boat is empty of gear and food it is actually able to plain on the surface of the water when the wind is around 20 knots or more. The fastest speed was actually recorded around 18 knots. My boat goes about 6 knots at max speed with a stiff wind blowing. François’ boat is loaded down for cruising so it doesn’t actually plain but still he averages 6 knots for long periods of time, reaching 10 knots in higher winds, while I average 4 knots and sometimes reach 6 knots with stronger gusts.
He started in France and this is year 7 he has been cruising and living aboard. He spent a lot of time in the Caribbean and then an even longer time in the south pacific and New Zealand. He is heading to Thailand for an extended stay so hopefully we will meet up again. He keeps trying to get me to go along with him up the coast to Thailand but I don’t have enough money or food for that. I also might start my travels by heading south from here so I am not sure.
There have been a lot of other people in the anchorage who have given me programs and copies of charts and tide tables, and even world cruising guides on CDs in Acrobat format. I have also asked question after question and feel much more ready for longer trips. Between the time I have spent here and the time I cruised down the coast alone I have learned a tremendous amount. I know what improvements I will make when I have the money and how much I need to do to be safely prepared for some ocean crossings.
There are a lot of other things I could mention from my time here in Johor Bahru, but they are more about the generality of living on a boat. It is nice at times and a struggle at others so I will leave it at that.
I decided to pull up some photos from earlier. I still have not developed my last role of film. I will develop it in Thailand and send a few photos then. For now, I picked out a few shots, which were not sent before. Everyone seems to really enjoy the photos so I will just mention some things about then and leave this letter at that.
“Gap” was taken by Alex, or my father from Shark Island just off the east coast of Koh Tao. It looks almost like New England, accept for the color of the water. The winds were good that day.
I love the shot “Cockpit View.” I think I took it way back in March or April while cruising the limestone area of Ang Thong. I love the clutter of the ropes and the visibility of the bottom of the sails and the boom. Also being able to see the water and the islands from the slight tilt of the boat to port. It almost captures the feeling of an afternoon sail.
"Le Navigator," was taken by Tony off of Koh Samea San way back at the beginning of our trip. I am wearing a hat on which I had my coastal navigation badge sewn. I really like the framing of the boat in the background.
“Brothers” is from the short time both Alex and Jan were on the boat with me. I particularly like the colors in this shot and the shadows on the Genoa Sail and the cushion make the photo look almost unreal. Alex is balancing on the rail with me in front of him.
“Orsinis” captures the rushed time at a bus station food stall and makes it look relaxed and casual. Funny how pictures do that. Dad had just helped me square things away with Customs, the Harbor Department and Immigration in Songkhla for my departure from Thailand and they were both rushing back to BKK to prepare to travel to the States. We were all a little short tempered and spastic from long traveling days but the picture captures none of that. Dad is on the right, Alex in the middle and me on the left.
“Wind Spirit” is a good shot of the boat a few days before I was to leave from Koh Pangan for Songkhla and then Malaysia. I was still in that small channel full of fishing boats. A funny thing happened a few days before I was going to leave.
You can see in “Blocked Channel” that I was stuck. For almost four days a strong Westerly blew and stormed, destroying many mooring posts and putting a few large boats onto the reef. It also swept a large amount of sand into the entrance of the small channel I was docked in. The entrance was already way too small and shallow as it was, but after the storm blew out, it was 8 feet across and 3 feet deep at high tide. If things stayed like that I was not going anywhere. I blew it off and tried to focus on other preparations. I knew there were enough fishing boats in the channel to warrant some kind of official action so I decided to wait and see. The next day, two earth-movers were brought from the town and the channel was dug clear over the next two days. I still waited for high tide before I left.
"Yours Truly" is me, just before leaving Koh Pangan. I can’t believe I was smiling. I was so overwhelmed with preparations and the stocking of the boat I had little time to relax those last few days. I must admit I miss that place a lot. I made some really good friends there.
I hope everyone enjoys the photos. I will send some more when I get the film developed.
Here ends the Adventures of Captain Andy and the Wind Spirit, for now.
Take care and much love to friends and family,
Yours Truly,
Captain Andy