Tuesday, 27 December 2016

More in the saga

You won't believe this - any more than we did.
We arrived at the boatyard this morning (27/12) just after 8. There was a discussion about the weather which was forecast to rain at midday. We refused to take the responsibility as we had the least knowledge of local weather. Anyway it was decided to paint and we always had the option of stopping at the aft chainplate should that be necessary.
The painter started painting, then soon after started complaining that the paint was going off excessively quickly. We couldn't understand that as there had never been an issue previously. Then we went into the shed and found that he had poured International Danboline (the bilge paint) into the painting tray instead of International Toplac (the topside paint) - which he had been using already and apart from the name, has a distinctively different label.
So, it was completely incomprehensible. It now means that we have lost yet another day as the affected area (not too big thank God - not the Muslim one!!!) can be quickly dealt with before painting again.
We felt numb - it's like dealing with kindergarten children, but these are adults - at least that's what they look like.
We then had a meeting with the yard owner who leaves the day to day running to his son and he was shocked to hear our tale of woe. Something is going to happen (it needs a large BOMB!!!) and as long as it results in our getting back in the water within another week at the most, we'll be happy to escape.
At least the engine is coming along well and we hope to test run it tomorrow. We have organized a fresh water feed so that we can flush the salt water cooling system and run the engine out of the water. We have insisted on this as we have very little confidence and we don't want to get back in the water, only to find that "Oh dear, there's a problem"!!!
There'll be more in this saga you may be sure!
Lotsaluv from us..........
Jim and Jean  

Monday, 26 December 2016

The saga continues

When we first accepted the quote for hauling out at Limbongan Batu Maung, Penang earlier this year, we felt it was acceptable because the time frame was 20 days. And we had a very competent visit to the boat in Langkawi with acceptable costs subsequently tendered..
Now the reality is that we have been hauled out for 41 days so far and neither the painting, nor the engineering is finished. It is likely that it will be day 49 or 50 before we are launched and we are very much less than impressed.
The main problem was that our boat was ignored for at least 10 days after we arrived and even after that the work was desultory and largely unsupervised. It is still unsupervised.
Now we are doing the supervising and kicking the appropriate ass as required.
However, the frustration has been huge and has impinged on our domestic life as well. We originally rented an apartment for 30 days thinking that would allow enough time but when it became apparent that that wasn't going to work and we asked for an extension of time, the landlord refused. He claimed to have another tenant but we frankly didn't believe him. We cannot imagine the mindset, because there is a serious glut of apartments on Penang - whether to let or to sell.
Anyway, we are now living in another 22nd. floor apartment which is owned by the boatyard owner. We are sharing it with a Moslem woman who also works for the boatyard. It's reasonably comfortable
Then there is our rental car - fortunately we have it at a very reasonable cost (NZD14 per day), but again we rented it for 30days and now here we are!
But all these costs are impinging on us and there is going to be a robust discussion when we finally leave. Watch this space!!!
We had an enjoyable Christmas Day. We visited the boatyard to check on our old girl sitting forlornly on the hard and then (slowly) rove north up the inland road of Penang to Batu Ferringhi, which is on the north coast of Pulau Penang. A very pleasant leafy drive over some rugged country, but no great distance (a bit like the Scenic Drive in Titirangi) and soon we were descending onto the coast road to Batu Ferringhi, which is probably the most sought after area on Penang for expats - and prices to match!!
We found the Magic 1 Restaurant where we had been before and where we had made our Christmas reservation. We were a little early for our repast, so we repaired across the road to the Hard Rock Café and had a delicious entrée of spinach and artichoke puree with Parmesan Cheese and a Latte and an Americano. A great way to spend an hour or so.
Then back to the Magic 1 and a wonderful 4 course meal with roast beef for Jim and Turkey for Jean. All in all with a bottle of Chilean red (excellent) and 2 beers and 2 soda waters MYR389 for both of us. This is equivalent to NZD125 - not bad for Christmas Dinner for 2 and a lovely ambience and friendly staff. We rolled out of the place!
Then we had the encore - an hour and a half drive to get a very short distance back to our apartment midway down the eastern side of the island. The traffic is insane. Of course it was a public holiday (in spite of it being a Christian celebration and the bulk of Malaysia being Muslim), but they never let anything so crass as to get in the way of a day off!   
Tomorrow (27/12) will see the resumption of work hopefully - watch this space.
Cheers and lotsaluv from us....................
Jim and Jean

Friday, 23 December 2016

Fwd: Penang - good and BAD!!!!!

Well, here we are again only 2 weeks after the last blog. Things have not been going well, but slowly starting to improve.
We had been assured that if we needed to extend our Penang apartment stay beyond the initial 4 week booking, we could do so. When we actually tried to extend because of delays in the boatyard, the Chinese landlord refused. This was extremely concerning because we quickly realized that, although rents are by NZ standards very cheap, they are almost invariably for a term of 12 months or more. However, the owner of the boatyard has come to our rescue and we are now ensconsed in a 26 story tower on the 22nd floor with a delightful Malaysian girl and her boyfriend. However, we must hide any obvious visible signs of the demon drink and we cannot cook any pork products - so no bacon and eggs. She doesn't own the apartment - just rents it herself from the same Chinese owned boatyard where she works. We find all these precious restrictions very hard to accept and are especially irritating as we wouldn't even be here if the yard had been efficient and actually done their job in a timely manner. But this is Malaysia and it is obvious from conversations and just observations, that the place is falling apart under excessive racially based taxation, and creeping Islamisation coupled with rampant corruption and theft - a la 1MDB. A year ago one NZD was buying 2.7 Malaysian Ringgits - now it's 3.15. That's a change of 17% and it's even more pronounced when you compare the Ringgit with the USD.    
Malays consider themselves above any other race - incl. the 10 generations or so southern Chinese (Hokkien, Cantonese, Hakka, etc.) and Indians whose forebears came from Tamil Naidu in SE India many generations ago as well. The Chinese and Indians we talk to are by and large very discontented and in many cases would love to get out but cannot due to affordability, family ties etc. Malaysia is NOT a happy country and sooner or later will erupt in some kind of protest. But it is very difficult at present because the military and the police are firmly in Malay (Bumiputera) control. If you are not Bumiputera, you cannot join either of these organisations. 
Anyway, to get back to our haulout - it is now week no. 6 and we had been assured that everything would be finished by the end of week 3. It is a long way from finished and this sad state of affairs is due to the fact that workers have been pulled off our job for others - in spite of the fact that we had a prior booking. But in this country, if you are competing with a large motor launch whose owner might be an influential Malaysian, you have no show. Add to that extreme incompetence in the painting arena and you could imagine that we are pulling our hair out - it's akin to nailing jelly to the wall.
However, after a series of very fraught meetings we may be gaining some progress. We need to be there every morning to make sure among other things that they are mixing the paint correctly. These so-called painters appear to have no concept of percentages of mixing additives. They are in fact painting cowboys. We've even had to dictate the correct type of painting rollers and various techniques of applying the paint! We may have to do it all ourselves before we are much older. However, the yard has a policy of not allowing owners to work on their own boats, although that requirement would be easily overturned. It's just that at almost 70 we do not relish the knee pain of clambering up on scaffolds and kneeling for long periods.
The engine is almost back on its mounts except that the mounts themselves now have to be replaced. This will happen tomorrow (21st.) after which we should be able to see the engine hooked up again and ready to go. As soon as that happens we will be able to clean the boat and move back on board. It did not happen on the 21st. because they suddenly decided that the engine mounts were not long enough. We thought that they were long enough but possibly at Satun they put the alignment shims in without addressing the issue of the bolt lengths. This has meant that we had to make in the yard's workshop 3 new bolts which has taken a day and a half.
Then there has been the issue of our dripless ceramic stern gland. It seems that in the past, either at Krabi or PSS the seal was fitted back the wrong way around. So there has been excessive wear and we have to replace it. But the shaft is 1.75" in diameter and the seals are available here only in metric measurements. However, we have come to an acceptable compromise and we are confident that the seal will perform with much better integrity than over the past 18 months or so. 
It is great that we are at last getting to the bottom of all these issues in a professional manner, but it's frustrating that it's taken so long due to the fact that the engineers were taken off our job early on.
Today we thought that we could get the final coat of Toplac on the port side but there was a threat of rain on the forecast, which in fact duly happened, albeit 3 hours later. But it would have ruined the paint and then we would have had to sand it all offagain and start all over. We're hoping for tomorrow............................!!! 
Life generally has some frustrations. The Malaysians are very authoritarian when they are in any position of power and that is most evident when dealing with security guards. On this apartment complex there are uniformed guards all over the place.
1) There are at least 5 security guards for this 26 story apartment complex. We are on the 22nd floor. This may be the only way in which they can deal with their own life frustrations, but these useless guys just sit on their fat asses and make life difficult. We have a parking spot in an adjacent parking building but sometimes need to park in a temporary spot to unload things. You have to register if you do that - Jim just tells them we will be gone in 5 - 10 minutes but they get their knickers in a twist and shout in a most obnoxious fashion.
2) Then there was the "reading library". Jim went in there and found a couple of books that looked interesting. In the absence of any instructions to the contrary, he thought that it was like most marinas and you could take books and bring them back, including any that you may have brought from elsewhere. A true lending library. But the security Nazi just started shouting "cannot take" without any other reasonable discussion. So, after a fruitless minute or so Jim just threw the books at him and walked off.   
3) There are the abominable driving "manners". We've had some close calls - notably with a lunatic on a motorcycle who somehow squeezed past us through an impossible gap on our left at 80 kph plus and then lifted one of his legs in our direction in an obscene gesture of defiance and absolute stupidity. Unbelievable. Motorcycles pass left or right on the motorway at high speeds. All it would take is for a vehicle to move left or right and there would be (and is) carnage.  Absolutely arrogant tailgating where you cannot see the front grill of the vehicle behind is another example of why Malaysia kills 6500 of its citizens each year on its roads. But it's not just Malaysia - it's Thailand and Vietnam as well. And mainland Chinese - and the more of these lunatics that we import into NZ, the worse NZ's road toll will be - already on the rise again.
4) Then, the Piece de Resistance - we had seen an ad. for a Christmas dinner at the Penang Club (which was started in 1868) under the auspices of the Penang Expats Society. So, we registered and went along. Jim had even bought a new long pair of trousers as we had read that the club required this minimum level of attire. He had a new pair of Hush Puppy sandals for the occasion as well. You need to bear in mind that yachties do not have the ability to have vast wardrobes at their disposal.
Anyway, these throwbacks of a British colonial mentality wouldn't let us in because the feet were showing bare skin!!! So, we went further west to Batu Ferringhi where we found a delightful restaurant and to which we will almost certainly return for Christmas Dinner. Unbelieveable again that these Neanderthal colonialist attitudes persist in these enlightened times. 
Another astonishing thing - we were at the checkout at the Aeon Supermarket the other day with 4 bottles of wine and some ham. When the operator saw these sinful items, she rang for a non Muslim supervisor (an Infidel like us!!) to actually handle these untouchable items. We feel they are so precious in their attitudes, especially given that Penang is overwhelmingly Chinese and therefore not Muslim! 
Then there is Penang in 2016 compared with 2010 when we first came here. The place is littered with high rises, which are not sold or let. In spite of that it is very difficult to take an apartment for a month. Most want at least 12 months. So, most are empty - surprise surprise. Pollution is also very evident (as it is also in Langkawi) and in these days of the NE monsoon it is Chinese industrial pollution which is causing a distressing lack of visibility. Even looking at Butterworth sometimes on a bad day which is only 2 miles at most across the water, you cannot even see the high rise buildings there.
We really cannot wait to get to Medellin at 5000 feet. But, if the boat doesn't sell we don't quite know what we are going to do. The apartment in Medellin has been completed as far as renovations are concerned - all that is required now is to complete the decoration and furnishing and we'll be in business. We wish we were in a position to move in ourselves.
We feel very frustrated that our lives are on hold until a sale can be negotiated but we just have to accept it. If Tiare doesn't sell we might just have to bite the bullet and ship her to the Mediterranean and maybe sail to Colombia - Cartagena or Santa Marta. But that's a gamble and as always we are not getting any younger. Next month 70 for Jim and the same for Jean in February. Neither of us fancies the voyage across the Indian Ocean to S. Africa and then up the S. Atlantic. 
Still, at the moment our focus is to complete this haulout and then get the old girl back to Langkawi. Then soon after we leave for NZ for 2-3 months and we are looking forward to that to see family and celebrate our joint 70th's. with them.
More on that in due course.
In the meantime all the best to everyone for the festive holiday season - stay safe and we'll look forward to catching up. 
Lotsaluv from us..............
Jim and Jean

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Fwd: Seasons Greetings

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: James Donald <tiare.taporo3@gmail.com>
Date: 23 December 2016 at 11:52
Subject: Seasons Greetings
To: Abbie Kitchen <Abbie.Kitchen@asb.co.nz>

Hi to all our friends and family wherever you may be.
We send our Christmas Greetings as it's that time of the year again. How time flies. We hope that this finds everyone well.
We will be spending the festive season on Penang hopefully finalizing the last boat maintenance issues.
We hope to be back in the water around New Year and then back to Langkawi. At the moment frustrations with painting delays caused by earlier poor technique and now unsettled rainy weather. The engine has been out and now back in place but an issue with the dripless seal on our propeller shaft which hopefully will be resolved soon.
In the meantime we are living in a pleasant apartment on the 22nd floor of the Bayswater Apartments. It's only a 20 minute trip from here to the Limbongan Batu Maung Boatyard so quite handy.
We will be having Christmas lunch at a very pleasant restaurant we discovered the other day at Batu Ferringhi which is on the north coast of Penang, west of Georgetown.
There will be a detailed blog very soon on www.tiaretaporo3.blogspot.com 
Christmas Greetings once again to all................
Lotsaluv from us,
Jim and Jean
Bayswater Apartments

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Penang - good and BAD!!!!!

Well, here we are again only 2 weeks after the last blog. Things are not going well.
1) We had been assured that if we needed to extend our stay beyond 4 weeks that we could do so. When we actually tried to extend, the Chinese landlord refused. This was extremely concerning because we quickly realized that, although rents here are by NZ standards very cheap, they are almost invariably for a term of 12 months or more. However, the owner of the boatyard came to our rescue and we are now ensconsed in a 26 story tower on the 22nd floor with a delightful Malaysian girl and her boyfriend. However, we must hide any visible signs of the demon drink and we cannot cook any pork products - so no bacon and eggs!! She doesn't even own the apartment - just rents herself from the Chinese owned boatyard. We find it very hard to accept and are living in a constant state of extreme irritation - not only because of that, but a myriad of things in this increasingly Islamist society.
Only today we were in a supermarket and had bought 4 bottles of wine and two packets of ham. Quelle horreure!!!!!!! At the checkout the girl handling the till called for a supervisor beause she could not actually touch these evil items. OK to ring them through and take the money though.
A few years ago we had considered living in Malaysia full time under the "Malaysia my 2nd home" scheme, but thank goodness we have opted for Colombia instead. The Ma     

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Langkawi, politics and now Penang

Well, it's now well over 2 months since our last blog - that's got to be a record.
We are presently hauled out at the Limbongan Batu Maung Boatyard on the SE corner of Penang just south of the new Penang bridge. So much water has gone under the bridge (no pun intended) since our last blog that it's difficult to string it all together, but here goes.
Langkawi remains much as it ever did with life in the marina proceeding day by day.
We were swimming, cleaning the boat, re-waterproofing our boom tent, discussing the forthcoming haulout with LBM Penang, and generally living life as one does on Langkawi. Graham and Lorraine of "Lorrigray" arrived back from Australia and it was good to see them again. Had the bottom cleaned again prior to our imminent departure to Penang.
The US presidential campaign had become more gripping and Jim, from being ambivalent about both candidates, has now become a reluctant Trump supporter. Jean had always felt that Trump would be the better choice, although with the usual reservations!  Mainly to get rid of the crookedness of the Clintons and their Foundation whose beneficiaries appear to be mainly the Clintons! By comparison, Trump, still with foot in mouth seems to be coming across as the person who will get rid of a lot of Washington sacred cows and turf them out where they belong. Can't be all bad. And TPP is dead in the water - a lucky escape for NZ.
Then came the election and we watched the election results state by state on Charlie's Restaurant's TV at the RLYC. A nail biter and then the absolutely unbelieveable result which meant that Donald Trump was the President-elect. Nobody could believe it obviously, but it was the better result. We can now hopefully look forward to a resurgent America. Did you know that when Obama came to power 8 years ago the national debt stood at 10 trillion US dollars? Now when he's leaving office the debt has doubled and stands at 20 trillion US dollars. That is the most shocking indictment of his presidency. Hopefully Trump can turn things around but it will be a monumental task involving much sacrifice.
A further example of the absolute ineptness of Malaysian governance cropped up just a few weeks before we were due to leave Langkawi. In their wisdom they decided to limit duty free alcohol purchases to 5 bottles (wine or spirits) per person per month. And you had to present your passport when making these sinful purchases. There were to be 2 Customs officers in every shop to make sure of compliance!! In case one of them needed to answer a call of nature!! And it was all linked to the Customs computer system to make sure that no wicked expats could cheat the ludicrous system. However, since being in Penang we have heard that there has been a massive backdown and duty free sales are now back as they were. Still some doubt about this - again typical of Malaysian non communication - mainly because they don't know how to handle the situation we suspect. Typical of the Malay bureaucracy who wouldn't understand or recognize a good (or bad) business decision if it bit them on the nose. We've said it before, but without the Chinese and Indians this country would collapse. We can evidently look forward to 12NZD Scotch whisky again!! Maybe.
We had arrived back in Malaysia from the US in early August and so our 3 month visas were due to expire early November. So, it was necessary to do a visa run to Thailand and instead of just Satun, we decided to go to Hat Yai which is a city only a hour and a half from Satun by mini bus as we'd never been there before. Thai mini buses are not for the faint hearted as they hurtle along with gay abandon. We were staying at the AC Sports Centre Hotel just on the outskirts of the city. It had started life as an indoor tennis centre where national tournaments are held and then only a few months ago the hotel was built and a huge (almost Olympic size) pool was added. There is also a very upmarket gym which we used a few times. The hotel was heavily discounted to attract patronage but we were the only guests for the first days. Unfortunately they haven't a handle on how to care for large pools in the tropics and it soon started going green. This was disappointing because although we'd swum in it just after we arrived, we couldn't continue because it was starting to look more like the goldfish ponds in the Auckland Domain! However, towards the end of our stay there was a contingent of tennis players coming in from all over Thailand for a weekend tournament and so there was a huge effort and they managed to get it into a more or less acceptable condition for swimming again.
There was an absolutely gorgeous woman who served us in the dining room in spite of the lack of an English menu. This was a problem until they produced a menu written in English - written Thai is just so much gobbledegook. Anyway, Jim was sure she was no older than early 20's (tight shorts and all!) but Jean had it sussed. She had noticed some barely noticeable wrinkles on her neck (Jim was looking elsewhere!!) and decided she was in her early 40's. And so it proved. She had some reasonable English and told us her age and the fact that she had 2 daughters who were engaged in tertiary studies. Her husband had been killed in a motor accident some years before and she was literally working 24/7 to fund her daughters' education. She was lovely with such a pleasant demeanour but tragic at the same time. Life is far from easy for some. When we left we tipped her fairly generously and wished that there was far more that we could have done.
Hat Yai is a totally uninteresting city and the only attractions were shopping malls! Some reasonable restaurants but generally we'd give it a miss next time except to stay again at the AC Sports Centre and see our lovely waitress/dining room manager again. One day we went to Songklha which is a town on the east coast only about 30 kms from Hat Yai. Nothing remarkable and not the sort of place one would want to come in to by yacht. 
Of course the Thai King has just recently died and so there were shrines all over the place - on streets as well as in shopping malls. There was an edict that national mourning would last for 12 months and that all Thais had to wear black clothing. All clothing stores were stocking mostly these black boring clothes and the normal Thai bright colours were practically non existent. Many Thais couldn't afford these black clothes and so there was an industry grown up where there was mass dying of clothes and fabrics. Typical of Thailand where the royal family has around USD30 billion of assets and the elite upper class dominate economically absolutely, but the poor people who constitute the majority have to die their clothes to comply with this edict from on high.  
Then back by ferry to Langkawi and legal in Malaysia once more. We've organized the timing so that when we travel to NZ at the end of January, the next 3 month's visa will just about be up again.
Then it was just about time to get ready to leave for Penang for the boat haulout. Our plan was to go to an anchorage right at the southern point of Langkawi and then leave at first light for Penang. We wanted to get to the anchorage between Pulaus Jerejak and Penang and that's almost 70 miles. We made it to the southern Langkawi  anchorage which was quiet and peaceful. A good night's sleep and then the next morning checking fluid levels in the engine, then starting the old girl up. Imagine our consternation to find a fast fuel drip from the secondary fuel filter. We realized that we could not carry on to Penang like that so we returned to the RLYC. We rang Azrin (the Harbourmaster) to organize our berth and he also gave us the number of Kumar who is the resident mechanic of Langkawi since poor old Zainol passed away. We duly berthed and Kumar came on board and then took our Ford filter away. Next morning he was back all smiles with a Perkins filter housing because he said the Ford was hard to get. It worked a treat and then as soon as we had slack water in the marina we set sail again - not far this time; just far enough so that we could get an early start in the morning at first light.
This we duly did with no further dramas. The sail across was without incident but as usual we motorsailed so that we could arrive in daylight. The wind was on the port beam and a good strength for a time but then it became much lighter and we were once again reliant on the iron sail. As we approached the northern coast of Penang, the sky darkened considerably behind us and we also struck a northbound tidal current which must have been at least 3 knots at times because our speed at times was down to 3.5 knots over the ground. We were looking over our shoulders at the approaching inky blackness with lightning visible and hoping that we would make the Jerejak anchorage before nightfall. In the event, that wasn't possible and we rounded the southern tip of Jerejak in the dark. Now we had the tide with us and we bounded up between Penang and Jerejak at a fair clip. Once again thank goodness for GPS because there are some considerable sand banks in the channel. Anyway, we at last came to anchor more or less off the Queensbay Mall and we very thankfully consumed a couple of whiskeys and one of Sailor's cottage pies from Langkawi. Slept like the proverbial logs. 
The next day we were in contact with Jason at LBM and left the Jerejak anchorage in time to arrive off the slipway before high water. This was only about 2 miles and entailed passing south under the centre span of the new Penang bridge (9 kms long!). Then it was a matter of waiting for slack water but this doesn't occur until well after high water and by then the worry was that it might be getting too shallow for us. So, after a further conversation with the yard, we raised anchor and crept gingerly in. We had to get the boat between two parallel concrete piers that form the lifting basin where the travelift operates from. Problem was with our long keel we present quite a face to any sideways current and so, despite the best efforts of the main man, we hit the down current side of the basin with quite a thump. Fortunately they had thick collision mats in place, no doubt from previous hard won experience, so no harm done.
We soon had the straps in place and then we had to walk the plank to get off. The boat was lifted out and unusually taken straight to its hardstand without pressure washing. It was almost knock-off time by then so they were going to wash it the next morning  in place. The Northland Regional Council would have a fit!! No sumps for collecting toxic runoff from antifouling here!  By then our rental car had been delivered and we had been in contact with Eunice who had organized our apartment. Incidentally both the apartment and the car have cost us MYR1,300 each for 30 days which at the current rate of exchange equates to NZD98 per week. The car is a 2 yr old Perodua Axia and the 3 BR apartment is on the 5th. floor of a complex that has a great swimming pool. The only downside is that there was almost nothing in the kitchen so we had to bring much of the boat's galley with us. Cleanliness was another issue, and Jean being Jean - well, enough said, but we have addressed that now.
Anyway, we met Eunice at a designated point and followed her in pouring rain, darkness by then and very heavy traffic to the apartment. Then we also met the owner, Sem who showed us the workings and handed over keys etc. By then we were absolutely knackered and we couldn't wait for them to leave so that we could get something to eat (another Sailors pie!) and fall into bed.  
We have fallen into a routine of going to the boatyard by around 8.30 and meeting Jason to discuss latest progress. Nothing happens early in Malaysia. Shops for instance in shopping malls don't all open until some time between 10 and 11 am. We have now lifted the old engine off its beds (after 52 years!) and it is sitting on bearers above the engine compartment so that we can give it a good once over. We have found a very slow oil leak (after all it is an old British engine!) from the front where the crankshaft passes through the timing gear cover. At the time of writing we are trying to locate a replacement and just hoping that we don't have to source it from a specialist supplier of Fordson engine parts in England. We also intend to paint the engine and Ford Blue would have been the preference, but it is unavailable here and another blue is only available in 5 litres. That would be enough to paint at least 10 engines. So it will be black, but we don't think that will be detrimental.
The hull has been sanded above and below the waterline and yesterday we both applied underwater primer to bare areas on the hull. We have a painter lined up for all the donkey work - hope he is good. Today we sanded the forrard ends of the caprails and now have one coat of Sikkens applied. 2 more to go. We have to do these minor jobs ourselves because if we waited for the yard to do it we'd be here till Christmas 2017!
We have been driving around a fair bit to source various things  and also to see a bit more of Penang. The traffic is horrendous except that the route between our apartment at Villa Emas and the boatyard is a piece of cake - only takes 10-15 minutes. The boatyard is situated very near the SE corner of the island and we are living about halfway up the east coast opposite Jerejak Island and very close to the Queensbay Mall and an Aeon Supermarket. So, we have everything pretty much on tap, except for gluten free bread! We are enternally grateful to the internet based GPS in Jean's smart phone. We have a device that enables us to connect with the internet anywhere on the island and so we slavishly follow the verbal instructions. Sometimes they leave a bit to be desired, but generally we find our destinations. Driving here with lack of road signs and one way systems would be a nerve wracking nightmare without it. We are sold, and have decided to buy a stand alone satellite based system (just like the boat's really) which will also serve us well when we get to Colombia. There of course there is the added distraction of driving on the wrong side of the road!
We must comment on how much Penang has changed since we visited in 2010 - driving up from Melacca. The high rises (mostly apartments sparsely sold) and traffic! We noticed today an almost new block nearing completion with another still to come out of the ground right slap bang in the way of their sea view! There is a glut of unsold apartments all over the island and on the mainland as well. And there seems to be only lip service paid to any sensible planning. It's all so corrupt.
Back on the political front - we have in the last couple of days or so received the surprising news (first on the phone to Jenny Hastie - it was her birthday), and second from an immediate and quick perusal of the NZ Herald's website, that John Key, NZ's Prime Minister, will resign on December 12th. Totally unexpected and he simply says he's resigning for "family reasons". But we, ever the conspiracy theorists, don't think so. We believe he is specifically aware of serious headwinds for NZ, and no doubt other countries coming up, and he wants out on his terms before the proverbial hits the fan and the electorate turfs him out. We have disagreed with just about everything he has done and with the absolutely laissez-faire attitude to immigration with all its ramifications, so we are delighted to see him go.
We are trying to get a handle now on when we might be able to launch. A lot will depend on the engine part availability and then there are only some tides (roughly 10 days apart) that allow us to launch as well. We had intended to get back to Langkawi in time for Christmas lunch at the Fat Frog with yachtie friends but that now looks to be in doubt. We should know for sure by about the 9th. One thing for sure is that when we do get back to Langkawi there then will not be much time before we leave for NZ on Feb. 1st. And still lots to do with the boat. Hopefully she might even sell sometime soon!
Hope this finds everyone in the pink...................
Lotsaluv from us,
Jim and Jean
Villa Emas
Bayan Lepas
Pulau Penang

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Re: A red letter day

HI Jim and Jean!
As Americans, we're always amazed at the attention and insight others have in the world to the political situation in the US. It's not uncommon to have a more intelligent conversation about US politics with a taxi driver in Malaysia than I can with most people in the US.
I too think the our country, and the world, dodged a bullet with the election of Trump, but not primarily from your perspective. Those of us in the US of the liberal point of of view, myself included, who know Clinton the best, feared her warmongering as the number one issue. The woman has never seen a war or US military intervention that she didn't approve of. She's openly pushed for a no fly zone in Syria putting us on a collision course with Russia interests. She has openly talked about using nuclear weapons against Iran. Frankly, she terrifies me. She may have led the world into WWIII.
Second was her criminality and being able to tell one lie after another is astonishing. I'm in utter amazement that anyone could actually support her based on the valid accusations of her negligent handling of classified information and her non-stop flip-flopping on political issues based on which way the wind happened to be blowing that day. She has been on both sides of every single issue important to the public in this election and in some cases flip flopped repeatedly depending on which type of group she happened to be speaking to at the time.
Third, her ties to big banks, the military industry and the rest of the 1% who control our country would be devastating to what's left of the middle class in our country. Her concerns are only with her friends who wish to take every last penny from hard working Americans. It's not that her taxation positions are the problems, it's the positions of wanting to allow banks to charge exorbitant fees, waste taxpayer dollars on non-essential wars and American interventionist missions abroad. Although she flipped on the TPP trade agreement during the election, the same agreement she regularly referred to as the "gold standard" of trade agreements, all of us knew if elected she would flip back and do anything possible to get that trade agreement passed. Yes, her loss saved NZ and many other countries from the sucking sound of jobs leaving their countries and heading to China.
Now don't get me wrong! I am no Trump fan! Trump has made helped make racism in the US a very serious problem. His victory sends a signal to all of his supporters that violence against minorities is approved. I'm sure many of his supporters now think it is encouraged. The US is different than NZ in that there are large numbers of blacks, Latinos, Muslims and many other minority groups who probably feel their lives are in danger right now. I understand their concern. I truly expect attacks against minorities to increase dramatically with a Trump victory.
I fully agree with you that every country has a right to protect it's borders from illegal immigration. It's relatively easy for NZ. You are an island! I've travelled there and had to clear customs. It's not like you have to worry about illegal emigrants paddling a canoe or jumping a fence to get into your country. The fact of the matter is that undocumented workers from Mexico are essential to the US economy. Without those low cost workers, most of our agricultural crops would never be harvested. Americans simply won't do those jobs for the amount being paid. The US could have taken care of the immigration problem decades ago has they just enforced existing laws and fined the living hell out of companies and corporations they hire undocumented workers, But no one in government will ever do anything to stand in the way of corporate profits.
Sheri and I started our day today with coffee and a quick breakfast and then I made a big batch of Bloody Mary's as we settled in to watch the election results. We both were pretty resign to the fact that Hillary was going to win. As the results came in we were stunned. We're still stunned! We were full on supporters of the "socialist" Bernie Sanders. After Hillary and the DNC cheated him we really didn't care much who won. Trying to pick the lesser of two evils and fully support them is something we simply can't do. Although many are saying that Trump won because his supporters are racists, misogynists and xenophobes, we really don't believe that. The message voters sent to both the republican and democratic parties is that they are sick and tired of the status quo. They are sick and tired of politicians catering to the needs of the wealthy and well connected and completely ignoring those not in their financial bracket. They want there their overseas jobs sent back, they want a secure retirement and like people all over the world, they want a better future for their children than they had themselves.
Interesting times indeed! I'm not sure what is really in store with a Trump presidency but I was fully aware of what of what a Clinton presidency would bring. War, a continuation of benefits to the 1% and more pain and suffering of everyday, hard working Americans. I expect that Trumps rhetoric on deporting Muslims and building walls on our border will ease some and who knows, he may actually turn out to be the populist president people are hoping. Time will tell. But we are relieved that the the criminal, warmonger Hillary Clinton will not be leading our country.
And just so I understand your post fully, by PC I assume you mean politically correct? I have to ask just to make sure I understand. You Kiwi's talk kind of funny! You have sayings like "Put some tinnys in the chilly bin". No one in the US, that hasn't been to NZ, has any idea what that means! LOL!
Feel free to share my thoughts with those on your email distribution list. Some of them might find it interesting!
We'll be headed back up to Thailand at the end of the month and probably be there for 3 months. Hope to see you two soon!
Hugs to both of you!!
Sent: Wednesday, November 09, 2016 8:08 PM
Subject: A red letter day
Hi to all,
Couldn't resist sending this email to commemorate what is probably the end of PC and excessive government meddling together with extortionate taxes in all our lives.
We feel as apprehensive about a Trump presidency as anyone, but we feel that the potential benefits outweigh the risks of having a crooked narcissistic person such as Hillary Clinton in the White House.
There is obviously a huge groundswell of extreme dissatisfaction with the political status quo in the world and the first manifestation of that was Brexit. All governments, including the Key government in NZ should take note, or otherwise at their peril.
All countries are entitled to their national identities, which includes judicious control of immigration. Trump is going to deal with that to protect his country from being swamped with opportunistic economic refugees.
The other major issue for most "western" countries is that of JOBS EXPORT. NZ and America and many other naïve countries have over the past few years exported our jobs to low cost economies. As a result our own economies have suffered, even though you might be able to buy a T-shirt for less than $10.
Trump's plan to place tariffs on imported goods (particularly from China) and to judiciously tear up disadvantageous so-called free trade agreements (including the one-sided TPPA) is inspirational. A lucky escape for NZ.
The Trump victory feels like a breath of fresh air. There is a huge feeling of relief that PC and all the negative propagandist rubbish that surrounds it is on the skids.
Trump's slogan is "America First". We have our own equivalent party in NZ - NZ First. It would be wonderful if NZF and its leader, Winston Peters at least occupied a position of real power after the 2017 election. Then NZ would be once again be for New Zealanders. New Zealand needs to URGENTLY follow Vancouver's lead and impose an at least 15% property tax on all property transactions involving non NZ residents or citizens.
Sorry for this political rant but this is a watershed event and hopefully people all over the world will be awakened.
Much love from us.............
Jim and Jean
s.v. Tiare Taporo III

A red letter day

Hi to all,
Couldn't resist sending this email to commemorate what is probably the end of PC and excessive government meddling together with extortionate taxes in all our lives.
We feel as apprehensive about a Trump presidency as anyone, but we feel that the potential benefits outweigh the risks of having a crooked narcissistic person such as Hillary Clinton in the White House.
There is obviously a huge groundswell of extreme dissatisfaction with the political status quo in the world and the first manifestation of that was Brexit. All governments, including the Key government in NZ should take note, or otherwise at their peril.
All countries are entitled to their national identities, which includes judicious control of immigration. Trump is going to deal with that to protect his country from being swamped with opportunistic economic refugees.
The other major issue for most "western" countries is that of JOBS EXPORT. NZ and America and many other naïve countries have over the past few years exported our jobs to low cost economies. As a result our own economies have suffered, even though you might be able to buy a T-shirt for less than $10.
Trump's plan to place tariffs on imported goods (particularly from China) and to judiciously tear up disadvantageous so-called free trade agreements (including the one-sided TPPA) is inspirational. A lucky escape for NZ.
The Trump victory feels like a breath of fresh air. There is a huge feeling of relief that PC and all the negative propagandist rubbish that surrounds it is on the skids.
Trump's slogan is "America First". We have our own equivalent party in NZ - NZ First. It would be wonderful if NZF and its leader, Winston Peters at least occupied a position of real power after the 2017 election. Then NZ would be once again be for New Zealanders. New Zealand needs to URGENTLY follow Vancouver's lead and impose an at least 15% property tax on all property transactions involving non NZ residents or citizens.
Sorry for this political rant but this is a watershed event and hopefully people all over the world will be awakened.
Much love from us.............
Jim and Jean
s.v. Tiare Taporo III

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Langkawi - the 1st 9 weeks after our sojourn away

Hi to all,
Once again we hope this finds y'all in the pink.
Our lovely old girl was fine when we got back after our 2 months away; maybe a little lonely, but she perked up no end. Makes us feel guilty about abandoning her on the fickle marketplace of secondhand yachts. But we always say that if she is lucky enough to attract a couple 20-30 years younger than us, then she will have an extended lease of life. In fact wooden boats, if they are well maintained (and that's actually not difficult) will last indefinitely - long past fiberglass or metal.
We've cleaned all the mouldy decks and generally got her shipshape again - not that there was much to do with Paul and Sheila looking after her.
Lots to do now with pulling all the loose ends together with the Medellin apartment purchase; this has involved late night phone calls authorizing various payments. It's interesting how the legal processes work in Colombia compared with NZ. In Colombia the purchaser pays all costs such as commissions and extraneous payments authorized by the vendor but they are all credited towards the property purchase, so effectively the vendor pays but a little convoluted compared to the NZ system.Takes a bit of getting used to it but it's all happened. And all this against the backdrop of our NZ bank's bureaucratic procedures surrounding getting funds out of NZ, not to mention that we had to withdraw funds from our offshore investments. These days you can't sneeze, let alone move funds from NZ to the USA to Colombia without answering a plethora of questions. It all gets extremely tiresome and it's worse for us because we have no scanning or printing facilities on the yacht so we have to re-email to the marina to get the necessary done.
It was all made worse because, probably as a result of our not telling the bank of our recent travel plans which resulted in them blocking our credit card briefly in the US, part of our internet banking was disabled, just at a time when we really needed it! Still, it's all been resolved since.
Then we've had computer problems. We had installed Windows 10 while still in Miami because Microsoft had instituted a deadline after which there would be an installation charge. Perry assisted and all was suitably backed up. And everything worked just fine until about 2 weeks after we arrived back in Langkawi. Then it just crashed and wouldn't boot up.So we took it to our friendly computer shop run by a very affable and helpful Chinese called Timothy! He fixed the problem and we are back again on W8.1! He said there was a problem with "firmware" which, although the computer was only about 16 months old, was a problem as, according to him the firmware was not compatible with W10. However, we understood from Perry that Windows always interrogates a computer before proceeding with any upgrades to make sure that there are no systemic problems like that. So, it's all a mystery. 
Then we decided to fly to Penang (only a 35 minute flight) for Jean to have a chest x-ray and to visit the LBM boatyard with a view to hauling out there in November. After we'd landed at Penang, a diminutive Chinese woman who could barely reach the overhead lockers made a wild lunge to get it open and the laptop fell out! After a bit of an issue with getting onto the wifi at our hotel, it started working and we thought all was well, but after arriving back at Langkawi, the same problem arose so we took it back to Timothy who discovered that the wifi adaptor had become unplugged, no doubt when it hit the deck. Lucky no further damage was done. These computer issues all at a time when we really needed internet access to further the Medellin purchase. Anyway, Penang...........
We flew into Penang in the morning and were met at the airport by a representative of Limbongan Batu Maung Boatyard and driven to the yard (close to the airport) where we met 2 young Chinese guys (one the son of one of the owners) and had a fruitful discussion as well as being shown around the yard. All seemed good, except that we will have to be careful of depths when we eventually do haul out. And also cross tidal currents so slack water will be important. Then they drove us to our hotel (the Museum Hotel in George Town). The hotel has been wonderfully restored and seemed to be almost totally original. High ceilings, wooden creaky floors (!), open air area behind columned porticos where breakfast was served and an impressive foyer. And very reasonable - low 60's NZD. On the first full day we went to the Island Hospital where Jean had a consultation with a Thoracic/ENT specialist who, after an x-ray confirmed that Jean has bronchial asthma. Not serious but just needs awareness and the use of a "puffer" from time to time. At least we can be confident now that there is nothing nasty lurking about to strike her later.
We had 3 days altogether in Penang which was longer than we've had in a while. Usually it's in and out to get a 2 + 1 Thai visa from the Thai Consulate there. This time there was no such pressure and we had a very pleasant few days just poking about George Town. Found a new restaurant and visited a Chinese one that we had first been to back in 2010.
Then came time to fly back to Langkawi. Normally this is straightforward, but there had been a substantial deterioration in the weather. Thank goodness we weren't on the ferry; one in fact actually turned back, which is rare. The Air Asia aircraft was very delayed getting into Penang from Langkawi due to the weather, but then we duly took off back to Langkawi again. However, as we were on final approach into Langkawi International (and we'd seen Rebak Is. on the port side), the power suddenly went on and we climbed steeply out of a rain squall. Then we stooged around Langkawi for half an hour or so in a fair amount of turbulence before making another abortive bombing run!! That didn't work and by then we were running low on fuel so we returned to Penang. By now it was getting well into the evening and we were contemplating another night in Penang at Air Asia's expense, but no; Air Asia wasn't wearing that, so off we went again. This time the bombing run was perfect  - no ack ack fire or anything and we were soon on the ground again. So, that ended our latest Penang experience. However, we must make mention of Jean's experience. We were separated on the flight because of Air Asia's peculiar seating allocations but that didn't matter. We see enough of each other as it is on the boat in a fairly cramped environment!!! She was seated next to a Saudi woman in a full black burqua. Only the eyes showing. That time was the height of the Saudi tourist diaspora to Langkawi which occurs every year. Being Jean, she struck up a conversation with the lady who eventually removed her burqua and it turned out she was a maths. and science teacher at a girls school in Saudi. If Jim had been sitting there there would have been NO contact at all. Her brother and his wife were sitting just in front and they were all very pleasant. Jean thoroughly enjoyed the conversations and ignores the physical barriers of the burquas.
An interesting aside - a NZ woman who lived in Saudi Arabia with her husband has written a book about attitudes to women in NZ. She mentions the customary separation of men and women at BBQ's and other gatherings which we're all familiar with no doubt and the pervasive attitude of relegating women to the domestic duties. Although this is improving, there is still this underlying lack of respect. However, in Saudi society, although oppressive to women in our eyes, they do respect their women for their defined roles in Saudi society as mothers and for their intellect in parts of NZ. She told Jean that she removes the burqua and wears jeans and T-shirt when teaching at the girls' school. A subtle distinction maybe, but nevertheless a difference and a significant one. Let's hope NZ continues to develop along the right lines and not as per the Donald in the USA!!! 
We must comment again about Malaysia - so different from vibrant and progressive Colombia. Nothing happens on time and when it does happen it's like the most inefficient process you can imagine. Just like NZ would be if it was run by the northern NZ Maoris (Ngapuhis). Not surprising since this is where they originally came from - we have commented on this before. People will no doubt accuse us of racial bias but right now in Malaysia there is outright and blatant racial and religious discrimination. Chinese/Peranakans and Indians who have been here for generations are frozen out of most government activities and benefits. They can't get places for their children in universities and they pay more than Malay/Bhumiputras in import duties when they buy a new car for example. It's disgraceful and these are but two of the examples of blatant racial discrimination that are commonly practised here on a daily basis. On top of that are the unbelievable disclosures of "financial irregularities" (read outright theft) from the Malaysian Sovereign Wealth Fund known as 1MDB. Enough said about that, except that the governments of the US, Switzerland, and Singapore are right now conducting criminal investigations into funds movements in and out of 1MDB accounts and have indeed frozen several 1MDB bank accounts in those countries. These "irregularities" involve many millions of US dollars. In fact it is now claimed by the US Dept. of Justice no less, that 3.5 BILLION US DOLLARS has been outright stolen from 1MDB and the Malaysian PM and other high ranking politicians are implicated up to their necks.
It's a tragedy for Malaysia and it is ruining its financial reputation abroad and impacting against its disadvantaged citizens at home The Malaysian ringgit is plummeting which of course helps us with drawing funds in NZD and USD. Enough said on that sad and vexed subject - otherwise we could find ourselves imprisoned for daring to criticize the government!! They've said it's disrespectful to criticize the government - otherwise you won't go to Islamist heaven!! We wonder what would be the reaction in NZ if Key & Co. uttered similar platitudes!! 
Apart from all that, we have ben wrestling with our refrigeration (not working thanks to sheer incompetence a few months ago in Thailand). See upcoming advices from us on the Noonsite website. We had been facing sheer intransigence on the part of Cirrus Refrigeration in Phuket and so far have employed a local guy to fix their substandard welds and get the freezer at least operating. The fridge was affected by faulty components or faulty installation and we are still embroiled in a fruitless argument with them for replacement of the components. The cost here is around NZD500. We've told them that their attitude is disingenuous at best and blatantly dishonest at worst. We will never get any work done on the boat in Thailand EVER AGAIN and we will make sure that as many fellow owners as possible are aware of that fact. Our cutlass bearing issue and the costs to  us of that fiasco (140,000 Thai Baht - NZD5,600) are another case in point. We were refunded 30,000 THB (NZD1,200) but that hardly scratched the surface.
We have obtained the refrigeration components from NZ in the end (one third cheaper than Phuket and delivered to Langkawi!). They are due to be re-fitted in 2 day's time and then the fridge needs re-gassing and then, lo and behold, we will have a working fridge and freezer once more - no thanks to the cowboys in Thailand.
We have decided to haul out at Penang (LBM) in November and visited the boatyard recently as above. Compared with the lackadaisical attitude on Langkawi  it is a breath of fresh air. We'll be there early to mid November. Watch this space. 
We have enjoyed being back here though, despite all its frustrations. We are getting around (we hire a car for MYR50 per day which is NZD17) and have met some interesting people. There are Nad and Mila - he is a semi retired French trained doctor and they have had many fascinating adventures. He works part of the year on La Reunion (a French island in the Indian Ocean) and they have many thousands of miles of ocean passage making under their belts - including getting dismasted twice! Then there are Brian (an American from Texas originally) and his Chinese wife Chuan. They were going to settle in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia but have become disillusioned with many things going on here - racial discrimination against Chinese, and the general slide into corrupt government among many others. They are shipping their boat to Florida and going to live in North Carolina; not sure that that's a good idea looking at where America is going. Makes us feel better and better about leaving and going to Colombia. 
We are getting non essential items off the boat in anticipation of a sale (soon?) and have 2 large suitcases (about 30 kgs ea.)  currently in storage here. The yacht has risen up about one inch on her lines!!
Finally there is the issue of the American Presidential elections. Either you are for Trump or against Trump? No mention of Clinton, and we think that's essentially what it comes down to. Certainly we would not want to be voters in the US and faced with that very poor choice.
With lots of love from us.............
Jim and Jean
s.v. Tiare Taporo III

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Gajean out to lunch in Miami with Perry...........

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Return to Langkawi and our lovely old girl. Days 63 - 71 29th. July - 6th. August

Hi to all,
Well, our long sojourn to Turkey, USA (Miami) and Colombia is over and we are now back on the boat on Langkawi. We arrived on Saturday (06/08) and then spent most of the day waiting for our cleaned aircon which was continually promised hour by hour. We had already emailed them twice to remind them of our return date. We were getting anxious because we didn't want to spend a night without it; however, it finally turned up about 5.
We had spent the last 4 days in Miami (since the last blog) in some sort of hiatus emailing Colombia re details of the purchase and generally sorting through the finer issues. One thing which annoyed us somewhat was that apparently it is common practice to agree on a figure and then put the transaction through at a lesser value. This is so the vendor can avoid a certain amount of capital gains tax (10%) and this was not explained to us. It came out of the blue. The tax on this at 10% would amount to around USD1300. We expressed great concern at this non disclosure and eventually the agent generously offered to compensate us through their own commission. With our faith completely restored, we will use the offer to create the servery from the kitchen to the dining area, so all's well that ends well!
We've been swimming in Perry's pool which is a good swimmable length and very pretty under the coconut palms. Perry has had the gardening contractors to take away excess coconuts because if they fell on anyone's head (particularly the small Peapods) or indeed either of the cars the result would not be pretty. It's by no means unknown for people to be killed by falling coconuts - they are quite dangerous.
Jean went to more swimming lessons with the Peapods twice and Jim swam every day in the pool. Otherwise trips to Wholefoods and/or HomePro to get things for the new house. There have been rats or Raccoons in the ceiling and so off we went again to get some wire netting to block up suspected entry points.
It's all worked out rather well because Perry's start date with Microsoft has been put back to the 8th. August when he flies to Atlanta for signing on/inductions, etc. So the timing couldn't have been better all round. It's given him time to sort much of the house and also time with us and Jean in particular. Tracie continues in her job with Brightstar and Rosa remains her exuberant self, in spite of a badly sprained ankle not long before our return. Jim decided to try cooking some Brussels Sprouts in the same way that he had had them at Wynwood before we went to Colombia and so plenty of orange juice and zest of orange. Tolerably good but still not up to that standard. However, we now have some idea and will work on refinements over time.
We didn't get back to Wynwood due to other things happening but maybe it was just as well as the first homegrown outbreak of Zika virus in the continental US has occurred in that neighbourhood. Apparently, and not far from Perry and Tracie's new home either. However, we feel very sceptical about the whole thing and suspect that it's another scare developed to keep the population at large in fearful thrall, just like chicken flu and a host of other scare tactics in recent times. If you have the inclination read www.articles.mercola.com and you will not be happy!!
All too soon, the sad day for departure (02/08) arrived. Our flight was not due to leave until 2100 so we had all day to pack and we taped up the carton we had bought to transport all the goodies for the boat and anything else that wouldn't fit into our small cases. Chain, shower drain water pump, and solar powered vent as well as bronze screws and an electronic flare supposed to render obsolete the necessity to carry conventional flares which expire beyond their use by date, and which are fiendishly expensive to replace.
We arrived at Miami International courtesy of Perry and accompanied by Carter who unfortunately was having a "terrible twos" episode! Checked in and all was well, said another sad goodbye to Perry and Carter and went through to the departure area where we had a tolerably good meal for USD73! That's NZD104!
At this point we must have a final comment about American food - or what passes for it. With the notable exception of the meal in Wynwood before we went to Colombia, the food ranged from awful to just OK. Even macaroni cheese at the upmarket supermarket of Wholefoods was tasteless and STODGY. It's one of Jim's favourites and he was remembering the same dish in El Poblado in Medellin which was arguably the best macaroni cheese he'd ever had. And the Colombian empanadas compared to the Miami variety - 'nough said. Sorry Perry and Tracie; we don't mean to be super critical and the meals we cooked at home were great, but American food is largely overpriced and definitely underwhelming. Wynwood is an isolated gem by contrast and well worth braving the Zika virus to experience again.
We then made our way to the gate for boarding only to be told that the flight was delayed due to weather conditions. Certainly there was a thunder and lightning storm raging. In the end the flight was delayed 3 hours to midnight but we weren't overly concerned as we were to have had 10 hours on the ground at Istanbul and so this was reduced to only 7! The flight was pretty much full but we had bulkhead seats which made it more tolerable.
There were only a few bullets flying around at Istanbul and one or two explosions but we just kept our heads down and survived. ONLY JOKING. You wouldn't have known there was anything untoward although we never left the airport as we were in transit. We had an excellent and reasonably priced meal which made us again wish we were staying a few days. We will definitely come back to Turkey (maybe on the boat if we ship her next year), and a visit to coastal areas in the Sea of Marmaris or the Black Sea coast would be highlights. Anyway, we needed to get back to the boat so we pressed on. The Istanbul - Kuala Lumpur leg was about the same length (11 hours) but was on an Airbus 330 which is a better aircraft than the 777. More legroom and more comfortable seats and the food - obviously loaded at Istanbul was way better than the rubbish out of Miami - which wouldn't be hard! Thick cloud over northern India so didn't see a thing and then ran into turbulence over the Bay of Bengal. Not too severe though, so no worries! Jim doesn't like turbulence; keeps thinking the wings might come off.
Then it was finally back in Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur International seems designed to frustrate, even though there appeared to be almost no aircraft or people there compared with Ataturk Istanbul. First you deplane and walk miles keeping expecting to come to the Immigration counters. Then inexplicably you arrive at a train station with obscure signage which seems to indicate that you need to board the train to get to Immigration, Customs and baggage claim. In another terminal altogether. And so it proved. We headed to an area of "foreign passports" which had lesser queues but were peremptorily waved to the other side with ridiculous queues and then told to go back whence we had come, only to observe the same nitwit waving us back again! We took no notice. Took an age to get through Immigration; like most of Malaysia it seemed to be mired in its own inertia.
Anyway, we were finally through and very relieved to find that our box (carefully packed and addressed) had arrived also. Grabbed it off the carousel and soon got a taxi to take us to the hotel. It was the Vistana in KL and was very pleasant. We went across the road to a Chinese restaurant which the hotel recommended and had a paasable meal, but nowhere near up to the same standard as Wonderland in Langkawi. We were exhausted by now having travelled nonstop (including time on the ground) for 36 hours, and so were very glad to have a welcome shower and get to bed.
We had been contacted by Angela and Leonard, the very pleasant young couple we had met on Langkawi some time previously and they very kindly invited us to dinner the next night with Angela's parents as well. They had come down to KL from their home in Taiping for a wedding that weekend. They took us to an outdoor Malaysian restaurant where there were all sorts of eateries and we had a great time talking to them and enjoying the food. Then it was back to the hotel and another fitful sleep as we had to be up early for our 0955 flight to Langkawi. All went well and soon we were landing at Langkawi after the 1 hour flight from KL. A final comment on local inefficiency - in the baggage claim area there was an electronic sign proclaiming that baggage from the KL flight would be coming through on carousel no. 2. There are only 2 carousels there. But lo and behold it came through on no. 1! Not at all serious or even inconvenient, but one can only shrug one's shoulders and laugh hysterically!
Then a taxi to the RLYC marina and "Tiare Taporo III". She's a bit mouldy on deck but that was expected but down below everything was fine and we were soon unpacked and feeling exhausted again. It will be about a week probably before our body clocks are fully programmed to Malaysia time. The freezer needs re-gassing again ahead of a proper fix under warranty so we have more or less no food on board and went to Wonderland for dinner where we were greeted as long lost old customers and Jean fell asleep at the table! The restaurant was as busy as we've ever seen it with 99% Chinese locals and tourist groups. We estimate somewhere between 200 and 300 diners. It was an entertainment just watching the staff who are amazingly efficient in a seemingly chaotic environment.
Then back to the boat courtesy of an elderly family member of the family that owns the restaurant. Only charged us 10 ringgits and then finally to bed - our long sojourn finally over.
Now the agenda is cleaning the boat and completing the property purchase in Medellin. Then to lease it until we are able to return and start a new chapter in our lives.
Con mucho amor desde nostros.............
Jim and Jean
s.v. Tiare Taporo III
Royal Langkawi Yacht Club
Pulau Langkawi

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Friday, 29 July 2016

More photos

P7240138 - entrance to our apartment building
P7240139 - swimming pool
P7240142 - balcony
P7240146 - kitchen
P7240147 - living room - kitchen on the right
P7240149 - one of the 2.5 bathrooms
P7240151 - master bedroom
Difficult to visualise as the apartment is vacant but it is over 1100 sq. ft.

More photos

P7100070 - Tango dancing at the Museo de Antioquia - a wonderful afternoon
P7100072 - sculptures at the Museo de Antioquia
P7120076 - a view of Medellin from Pueblito Paisa showing the preponderance of red brick
P7120079 - interior of the church Pueblito Paisa, Medellin
P7140083 - the church at Guatape in the main square of the town
P7140085 - the square Guatape
P7140086 - our room Guatape - 1st. floor
P7140089 - Lake Guatape from the water
P7140098 - the drug lord - Pablo Escobar's bombed out house at Guatape after the Colombian Airforce had finished with it! Circa late 1990's.
P7140109 - town square Guatape from our balcony
P7150110 - Guatape street scene with brightly decorated shop fronts
P7150112 - Our bus Guatape to Medellin
P7160113 - strawberries for sale El Poblado, Medellin - beautiful and typical of the produce generally
P7160115 - street scene El Poblado
P7170120 - fresh fruit and vegetable market Sunday morning in El Poblado

More photos!

P7010027 - Gajean with the electric car - again! Couldn't keep her away from it.
P7010029 - Nana Rosa with Carter
P7020034 - wildlife in the back yard
P7050035 - Carter, Nash and one of the neighbours' children
P7050039 - Perry and Jean at Government Cut - the ship entrance to Port Miami
P7050040 - Jean and the Old Man of the Sea at Government Cut
P7050043 - Southern end of the famous Miami Beach with 20 million dollar plus penthouses in the background
P7050044 - ship entering Government Cut
P7060050 - the famous murals of Wynwood where we had a delicious Brussels sprouts meal!
P7060053 - and again
P7060055 - and again
P7060054 - sculpture at Wynwood
P7060060 - restaurant where Jim had the famous Brussels Sprouts!
P7060062 - not sure which is the more georgeous - the XK120 or Jean??!!!!
P7060061 - another shot of the 1949  RHD XK120 sans Jean

Some photos of our recent travels:
P6260006 - young Nash on a picnic at a beach on Biscayne Bay
P6260007 - ditto for Nash's older brother Carter
P6260008 - front lawn of old house with inflatable pool
P6270011 - Gajean disporting herself in the pool with Nash
P6270014 - as above!
P6280016 - Jim and Perry on our jetboat outing on Biscayne Bay
P6280018 - Jean on the jetski!
More to come!

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Days 52 - 61 July 18th. - July 27th.

8 days of doings...........
Well, again so much has happened it's again difficult to know where to start, especially trying to recall detail of the previous week! We are starting to get into apartment viewing in earnest. The concept of living in an apartment in a high rise building not so long ago was one that we would have rejected out of hand, but here in Medellin it constitutes the majority of residential dwellings, and while it might be nice to buy a hacienda on a bit of land outside the city, we have both done that in the past and we are definitely past all that at our age! In 2012 Medellin was voted the Most Innovative City in the World and it has a great public transport system. There is an above ground Metro which runs from the northern outskirts to the southern with a few branch lines east and west. There is a cable car system and a moving escalator to some of the poorer communas high on the hillsides above the city. We haven't used any of these facillities on this trip as our time seems to have been taken up with activities in the city and immediate environs. There is a relatively new southern suburb called Sabaneta which is up and coming in the apartment market so we decided that it also must be on our to do list.
We went there on the 20th. which is Colombia's Independence Day and of course a national holiday. Sabaneta was jumping with city visitors and new high rise apartment buildings are sprouting everywhere. Mostly up fairly steep hillsides which are not really our scene because walking as we get older would probably become somewhat of a challenge. However, we found one new development which was not even started, but had a sales office and a mockup apartment. Called "Bangkok" which we found somewhat ironic! An impressive design but there was open farmland next to the site and we could envisage in a fairly short time other blocks being built which would definitely spoil the rural views. We had read about a well known restaurant called El Doctora and after a bit of a walk and a search we found it up a small rise and around a few corners! It was great and we had grilled local caught trout and a bottle of Argentinian Rose. Wonderful and we had finally seen Sabaneta.
We found ourselves getting more and more serious about the idea of permanent living in Medellin as time went on. We were glad we had rented an apartment for our stay because it gave us much more insight into everything involved with living there. One thing that has made an impression and that's the absolute necessity for us to become reasonably proficient in Spanish. There are a few universities and colleges which offer Spanish courses for expats and that is probably how we'd tackle it. That combined with being immersed in the language through living there, should have us fluent in no time!
We made great use of the local taxis because as we've said before they are so cheap. One can go across the city for less than USD5. You couldn't drive a car for that and there are no parking hassles. Then you just hail another.
We have opened an account with a financial broker to facilitate bringing funds into Colombia and notifying the Colombian Central Bank of same. This has to be done correctly otherwise they start asking awkward questions about origin of the funds and endless queries about the use of the funds and all in Spanish which we are not sufficiently proficient in yet. We have made contact with a very good estate agent and a solicitor and we've even given the solicitor a Power of Attorney so she can act for us on our instructions without the necessity for us being there.
Medellin is in a valley which runs north and south. The Medellin River also runs in the same direction and bisects the city. We were staying in Belem/Fatima which is to the NW of the city but still in the valley. We wouldn't want to buy there though because, although pleasantly leafy, it's not sufficiently close to the life of the city - restaurants, cafes etc. Just to the north is Laureles which is an older suburb and does have some life. However, the apartment buidings are typically 20 or so years old and while we saw 2 apartments we could consider, they don't usually have pools or gyms or usually any parking underground or anywhere. A pool and gym we feel are essential for continuing fitness at our time of life - or indeed any time for that matter. However, Laureles is flat which is an advantage for walking. Then on the other side of the river (east side) is the Parnhell of Medellin - El Poblado. Lovely, leafy and full of fabulous eateries and again not expensive by our standards. But it's hilly which would become a problem and the real estate is also expensive by Medellin standards. Usually a starting price of USD250,000 (750,000,000 Colombian Pesos!) for a pretty good 3 bedroom apartment in a newish building with pool, gym, underground parking etc. Armed concierge onsite 24/7!
However, immediately to the south of El Poblado lies the equally leafy suburb of Envigado which is a little undulating but much less than Poblado and also within easy walking distance of a universidad (university) for Spanish lessons, supermarkets (supermercados) and restaurants/cafes. You can see how many words are similar to English which often helps to understand the gist of things, and also French (which Jim has a knowledge of) is often very similar. Not sure yet whether that's a hindrance or asset in learning Spanish! But we digress - again!
We looked at quite a few apartments in Envigado and finally found a 3 bedroom (2.5 bathrooms) in an 8 year old building - Jardines de la Maria. Substantially cheaper than El Poblado prices. The building has a good swimmable pool and a gym. The apartment has a good sized balcony. No heating or air conditioning because in Medellin at 5,000' and at only 6 degrees north of the Equator you need neither. Hence much lower utility bills. In fact windows and French doors stay open all day and night and it's beautiful ambient temperature. The typical temperature pattern is around 16-17C until about 9am when it starts going up to about 27C in the early evening - then starts reducing again throughout the night. And NO mozzies or midges. Again we digress - heavens above!!
The apartment is vacant and in impeccable condition. Just over 1,000 sq. ft. The only physical alteration we would need to make is to remove the upper half of the wall between the kitchen and living room to open the kitchen to that room and create a sit up bar and/or serving counter. The balcony is off the living room. We would stay on the boat until she sold but in the meantime we can let the apartment at (even allowing for a 70% occupancy) a better rate than generally available through conventional investments. Of course, compared with other investments, property is illiquid which is its Achilles heel. And with more risk because of exposure to the Colombian Peso which is largely driven by the oil price as petroleum accounts for 45% of Colombia's exports at present. But, from all that you read, it seems that the overall trend for oil is up.
But the bottom line is that ultimately one needs somewhere to live. And, having come from New Zealand, we should be well used to exchange rate fluctuations - the Kiwi has been as low as 32 US cents in the early 2000's to 88 US cents about 18 months ago! And no-one in NZ ever seems to think of the value of their own properties in global (USD) terms, so why should we in Colombia?
One slightly negative comment we must make about Medellin is the preponderance of red brick. 90% of buildings - public and private - are built of this material and it also often comprises paved areas as well. The effect is, in spite of any innovative architecture, a cloying effect where one can feel visually surrounded. It became a standing joke between us and our estate agent and Jim was often heard muttering about getting a paintbrush and a very long ladder to paint these 30 story buildings! At least we're well versed with paint brushes, living on a classic wooden yacht as we do. However, it was refreshing to note that "our" apartment building is relieved of too much brick with interspersed plastered panels.
While all this was going on we very regretfully had to finally pack our bags and leave Medellin to return back to Miami. We had an early flight (0730) out of Medellin on July 25th. so we arranged for a taxi to collect us from Zojo Gardens at 0400! In practical terms this meant that we hardly had any sleep the night before but we both felt quite good. The weather had suddenly turned quite cold and it was lightly raining. For the first time this trip we needed our Kathmandu jackets bought in Whangarei all those years ago before we left NZ in 2011. The airport is about 45 kms from the city and involves a steep climb for another 1,000' or so. Ears popping all the way and our driver was a bit too gung ho around the rain slicked bends for our liking! But we got there - that was the main thing. All very smooth, except that as usual we had asked for exit row seats for the extra legroom. However, when it came time to board, Avianca would not let us sit there as we didn't speak Spanish! No doubt in case we had to open the doors and deploy the chutes. Never mind, the legroom was OK as it happened. We had one stop at Baranquilla which is a city on the Colombian Caribbean coast. We saw more beautiful farmland on the way (only about 1 hour). Landed and then had to go through security again but this time had to remove shoes and belts and be cross-examined re our visa waivers (ESTA'S) for the US. Not worth Avianca's while to have to deport us back to Columbia! Had 2 hours on the ground at Baranquilla and then took off for the 2 hour flight to Miami. US EST is 1 hour ahead of Colombia. We flew over Jamaica and Cuba which we were able to see quite clearly and then out near the Bahamas before approaching Miami from seawards. Saw some familiar waters around Miami as we came in at just after 1430. Perry picked us up and soon we were in the new house. Definitely an improvement on the previous one and also on a canal. And a swimming pool. By then we were feeling somewhat jaded so after an early BBQ dinner it was bed time. Great to see everyone and the children, Carter and Nash.
Next day a quiet day but there was a trip to Wholefoods where we stocked up on some wine and food. Apart from that we sent some time emailing our Medellin agent and generally working on the detail of the property purchase - now confirmed.
The boys here have their moments as under 3's are wont to do, but generally they are delightful as always and Granny Jean is in her element. Carter can't quite get his tongue around Granny Jean so calls her "Gajean". Perry is busy organising shelves here and there and erecting the fence along the canal and around the pool - very necessary with the young gentlemen around!
And now it's today. Received the momentous news that the apartment was a done deal. BREAKING NEWS - Only a few hours ago from writing this we had confirmation that our offer for the apartment at Jardines de la Maria had been accepted. Albeit at a slightly higher price than our offer. Suffice it to say that the price is less than the equivalent of USD150,000 at current exchange rates. We felt that this was acceptable in comparing all that we had seen. So, the start of a big change for us, but nothing will of course change in a practical sense until our lovely old lady is sold. We will simply lease the apartment in the meantime.
Hope all is well with everyone - lotsaluv from us............
Con mucho amor desde nostros
Jim and Jean

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