Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas in Nai Harn

We've spent Christmas off Nai Narn beach, on the South of Phuket, with lots of cruising friends. On Christmas Eve Santa found the kids on the beach and gave out gifts - we lit lanterns when the sun went down and watched them fly away. Christmas Day was spent on the beach and eating a long lunch in a restaurant with 7 other families before swimming the afternoon away.

Since then, there have been rounds of parties and lots of time under the beach umbrellas. We've all had massages - lovely. Seth got a remote control helicopter for Christmas and has been

perfecting his flight skills in the cockpit before launching it on land. Finn spends his days bobbing around in the small surf off the beach and only comes out when we insist that it's time to go home.

We'll be spending the next couple of weeks up the West coast of Thailand exploring the islands and beaches. New Year off Patong sounds like the thing to do. Will post more pictures in the coming days. Hoping that you all had a happy, safe holiday surrounded with the people that you love!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas message

Normally at this time of year we (though let's face it, Seth and I do the actual creating) would be happily making Christmas cards and mailing them out to those that we love. This year we are far from home and not particularly trusting of the postal service so will not be doing a mail out. Instead, our friends will have to manage with the festive wishes and love sent through this blog. A poor imitation of a Christmas card, but well meant. I decided to compile a list of those who would normally receive our cards – see if you can spot your name! Of course, Scott thought this was a very risky undertaking as I'm bound to forget someone, but I know you would forgive me.

So, from all on Anui, we wish you a very happy Christmas and a safe and healthy 2011, with a bit of excitement and challenge thrown in. We will let you know how our festivities go – shared with new friends. Will be thinking of each of you,


June & John; Jo & Guy, Eddie and Mikey; Ev & Ralph; Gay & Norbie; Kev & Paddy; Bev; Kim & Ross, Sabrina, Shane and Dylan; Colleen & Les; Paul & Kerrie, Luke, Todd and Georgia; Gladys, Michael, Rachel, Val and Richard; Rikki & Dodzi, Elliot and Chantal; Susan & Malcom; Miriam; Gina & Clifford; Sarah & Richard, Tia and Libby; Gaby; Aunties Golda and Millie; Anto; Lin and Josh; Mary & Craig, Jeremy, Annabel, Adam and Tobie; Tracy & Bun, Kyra and Soraya; Chris & Zena, Ben and Jenna; Ross & Narelle, Ryan and Adam; Drew & Louise, Blake and Monica; Kate & Steve, Mollie and Grace; Jules; Sue & Pete and Matthew; Lynette & Rudy; Tim & Michelle, Tom, Ella and Dan; Ann & Maria; Emma & Coby, Cooper and Bailey; Rebecca & Caroline; Elaine; Janet; Lynne & Geoff; Petrina & Michael; Crowy & Maria, Marnie and Liam; Leisa & Scott, Matt and Jack; Tracey & Shane, Grace and Preston; Sue & Gary, Tyler and Rhys; John & Jenny; Rob & Syl; Jade and Victor; Claire & Simon; Fifi & Michael and Jaimie; Shaz & Col and Deegan; Ross & Lorraine; Yamba Public School; Jack L and Dylan C and Sebastien K; Yamba Community Preschool; Cathy, Brielle and Shane; Sally & Mark, Bella, Max, Gus and Sienna; Liz & Bo, Summah and Alleah; Bruce & Toni and Remi; Pete & Di; Philippa & Tony, Samantha and Nathan; Lisa & Bill, Aurora and Lennox; Joyce and Sonya; Pucko; Michael and Drew; Ellie & Russ and Sonny; David & Pam; Lexie; Craig & Nel and Wil; Carrie, Joel and Darcy; Dale & Karessa, Jack and Rose; the lovely ladies of the Yamba Book Club; Mira & Ched, Bianca and Oscar; Pete & Carey, Jed & Ricki; Kim & Eric, Rochelle, Carl and Jewel; Gary & Alison, Daniel and Hannah; Jim & Robyn; our lovely yachting friends on Suspense, Red Boomer 2, Imagine, Pegasus, Orono 1, Esprit, Rasa Manis, Spirit of Sobrohan; Tin Soldier and many more.....

With much love from Sarah, Scott, Seth and Finn xxxx

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Leaving Malaysia

A month since our last blog. I have to confess that I've been waiting until we found something in Malaysia that would make the words flow... Probably sailing the Melaka Straits has not allowed us to see the finest sights that Malaysia has to offer. Mostly we've seen towns, concrete, dirty water and have craved quiet anchorages and somewhere to swim.

From the match-stick marina at Melaka, we visited a half-built marina at Port Klang and then motored up to Pangkor (another half-built marina!) where we stayed for a few days. Scott and the boys rode a motorbike around Pangkor Island, where I am sure that full workcover safety practices were followed.

From there we headed North to Penang. Penang's main town, Georgetown, is a fine mix of old and new, with many small Chinese shops selling everything imagineable. We bought a beautiful deep blue tea-set painted with golden dragons (clearly Scott's choice) and visited the Standing Buddha and the equally huge Reclining Buddha. Scott spent a considerable time with the chiropractor as both standing and reclining were proving difficult after months of carrying fuel cans and other unwieldy items.

After Penang we eventually arrived at the islands South of Langkawi, where there is no concrete and the steep limestone cliffs arc up from the dark bays - beautiful. We were finally able to put the kayak into the water and paddled through caves and tunnels (not much freeboard on the kayak with all 4 of us in it!). There was a freshwater lake called The Lake of the Pregnant Maiden which we swam in a few times. The lake is enclosed by high rock walls and separated from the sea by only a few meters of rock. The legend of the pregnant maiden is actually a sad little tale about an elf king and queen which may not have been known by the many couples who came to the lake each day in tourist boats looking hopeful. I managed to be mugged by a monkey whilst out for an early morning run - the cheeky thing stole the dinghy key whilst I was stretching and only returned it after a stern talking to!

So we're about to check out of Malaysia and enter into Thailand. I'm sure Malaysia has many beautiful places that we've missed and we haven't done it justice at all. The islands South of Phuket look wonderful and we're getting ready for Christmas. The duty free shopping here in Langkawi has been incredible. Cases of beer $11!! We made Scott a beer throne......... and above you can see him hugging the beer mountain at the warehouse.

More soon, from our fourth country.
Before Christmas, we promise!

Friday, November 12, 2010

The many lives of Melaka

We've been in Malaysia for two weeks but haven't got very far. We spent 10 days with the other Sail Malaysia rally boats at Johor Bahru, just North of Singapore, stocking up on things and escaping the heat with our beloved air conditioner. Scott had to prise the power lead from my sticky hand when it was time to go. We headed up the Melaka straits for a couple of days. These waters are reknowned for ships and pirates. We encountered many of the former but thankfully none of the latter - apparently they only go for the big ships these days. The wind was not and is still not in our favour so we're now in Melaka waiting for a break in the Northerlies before we head (you guessed it) North to Pangkor, Penang and Langkawi.

Melaka is a fascinating town, thankfully. It has a long history, having been established as a place for trade and commerce as early as the twelfth century. Poor Malaka, part of old Malaya, has been serially colonised - everyone had a go - the Chinese, the Dutch, the Portuguese, the English. Each of these bossy countries left its mark, much to the delight of its tourists. There are ancient Portuguese forts, Dutch buildings, Chinese temples - some buildings date back to 1600. The fabled and lauded Cheng Ho, Chinese explorer by sea, is deified as a god and his statues pop up everywhere. We've had a good time sampling the local Chinese food and visiting the temples.

The rally events have been rather disappointing, so we will probably give them a miss from now on. Scott's idea of hell is being trapped on a bus tour, but the boys and I decided to do the rally tour of Melaka a few days ago. We were taken to a time-share presentation at a posh hotel, a rather sad 'traditional Malay house', in which a bravely smiling family was trying to live and a replica palace. Where did the real palace go? No doubt one of the invading bossy nations carried it off somewhere. Anyway, no more bus tours for us. We'll stick to the wonderfully tacky 'trishaws' with their sound systems and plastic flowers and the ancient 17th century church which happily accommodates buskers and hawkers and allows its visitors to climb on the tombstones. National Trust eat your heart out.

More soon, when we manage to get further North and find water clean enough to swim in.

By the way, I had two articles published this week in Australian 'Multihull World' !

Also, for those of you that didn't get this last time, you can track us by logging on to the following address :

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Neptune comes to call

We are at the end of our three months in Indonesia, and today arrived in Singapore for a few days before we head into Malaysia. Clearing in was an interesting experience. We had to cross an 8-lane shipping channel and then anchor at the Quarantine anchorage and await Immigration. They fired towards us in their orange metal boat and held out a fishing net for us to drop our passports and paperwork into! We're at the One 15 Marina - very flash indeed - pool, club-house, gym, steam room, games room, playground and many restaurants that we can't afford. We'll go into the city tomorrow and see what there is to see. The air-con is cranking away - first time we've used it in 5 months.

We travelled to Belitung after Kumai and had a lovely few days there, swimming and eating. The local people had put on a festival in honour of the rally and there were great services for us – dinghy 'boys' ready and willing to drag the dinghy out of the water and watch it for us, free transport into town with helpful guides to accompany us and translate and the friendliest people yet. I'm sure I've said that before. Every time we went down to the beach we were accompanied by hundreds of locals who wanted to have their photos taken with us or just talk.

We had our last overnighter from Belitung to the upper islands of Nangka, Bangka and Lingah, all of which are close to the coast of Sumatra. A couple of days ago we crossed the equator for the first time and were visited by the strange apparition of King Neptune, wearing a sarong and silver crown. Something about him was vaguely familiar. Young princes Seth and Finn, also crowned, were waiting for their initiation ceremony, which consisted of loud incantations and being covered in a foul mixture of porridge and soy sauce. Neptune seemed satisfied with these offerings and disappeared to his watery home. Our friend Gary on 'Spirit of Sabroan', who were sailing close to us as we entered the Northern hemisphere, jumped over the side for a hasty dip but was quick to jump out as the current dragged him away. That night we had an equator party on the beach with all the other boats.

We've been looking back on our months in Indonesia and talking about the high and low lights. It's a country of contrasts – Bali with its predatory traders and sunburnt Westerners, its rice fields and lush hills; the cities – chaotic, filthy, overwhelming; the amazing friendliness of the people; the poverty of people on the islands and in the fishing villages; the lack of any clear infrastructure; the minefield of floating rafts, stilted huts and invisible nets that make night sailing such an invigorating experience. We've had some wonderful anchorages – spotting komodo dragons, monkeys and deer, swimming in clear water, snorkelling with the kids. We've made some lovely friends that we know will stay in our lives. We've also had lots of little things go wrong – disappointing anchorages, rocks and coral to snag the anchor, various boat bits breaking and needing replacement. Not enough to stop us having had an amazing first few months. We've got by with our very limited Bahasa, in places where nobody speaks a word of English (and why should they?!) and Seth has become very adept at understanding the figures thrown around in the market place and elsewhere. We've all become confident bargainers and have had fun haggling over prices.

Wonder how Malaysia will compare.We love knowing that our friends are with us, reading the blog and letting us know that they have.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Kumai River - Seth's blog

On the 8th of October 2010 me and my family went on the experience of a lifetime visiting and living among the Orangutans, the great apes of Indonesia.

We left my boat at about 9:00 am with 13 other people including Jeremy, Natalie, Indigo, Shae and Tanzi all from a boat named Suspence. Our other friends on Red Boomer 2, owned by Bill and his large merry crew of Jane and Andrew and their sons Connor and Troy. Andrew’s sister Yvette and her husband Ole and their new crew member Mark whose girlfriend we know from years back in the marina in Sydney.

We boarded the Klotok from my boat and set off for the national park known as Tanjung Puting. When us kids got onto the boat we were amazed by the space. There were 4 bunk beds and 2 single beds. There was also plenty of space for luggage. We had a look and were impressed by the amount of space. There was a decent sized kitchen and flushing toilet. The upstairs area was a plain green floor and next to it was the captains quarters and then a back area with benches and seats and a ladder down to the kitchen and bathroom.

The time that we were not on shore was playing games and making cubby out of the mattresses and blankets. The first few hours were spent playing downstairs and getting used to the boat.

We arrived and station 2 and stopped there for lunch and then continued on to station 3. When we got to station 3 we got off and went for the first walk to the orangutan feeding place where we sat and watched the orangutans. On the way there an orangutan got Connor’s bag and opened it and Connor had all of his Pokemon cards sucked on and chucked in a puddle and then started reading his comic and put his undies on its head and then when it lost interest it walked over and grabbed onto my mum’s leg. After that experience we proceeded to the feeding place.

When we got to the feeding place we found that there was a platform covered in bananas. When we got there we saw about 10 orangutans surrounding us and they were just walking among us and holding onto your hand.

We saw 3 orangutans with babies and 2 grown men, 3 kids about my age and 2 fully grown ladies. Personally I liked the babies the best.

We left to go back to the boat and then we went back to station 2 and had dinner there and stayed the night there.

In the morning we had a nice wake up from 2 orangutan kids about 6 years old and we got onto the wharf and managed to get it to come closer and fed both of them and Finn fed the first orangutans and I managed to feed 1 of the orangutans 4 bananas and the other orangutan I fed it 3. After that we had a really nice breakfast of banana pancakes and pineapple and then went onshore for station 2.

We got to the end of the track and saw the king of the orangutans hanging from a branch above us with cheeks like plates, he was massive.

I fed 3 different orangutans and fed them 7 bananas each. When all the orangutans left we started to head back to the boat. We headed off and then on the way to station 1 we had lunch and watched for orangutans. When we got to station 1 it was raining so we could not go onshore at station 1 which was a shame so we set off again back home.

Even though we didn’t go to station 1 it was by far the best experience for all of us!

Written by Seth Armstrong

Photos by Seth, Sarah and Scott Armstrong

PS. Comment from Sarah

Great blog Seth.
We are currently in Belitung on the last leg of our Indonesian voyage. In just over a week we'll be in Batam, on the Indo side of Singapore and after that will enter Malaysia and have a week or two at a marina there to wash everything on the boat and enjoy the delights of air con for a little while. Did I mention that it's hot??

This unspoilt end of the archipelago is so friendly and welcoming - every time we land on the beach there are 100 people waiting to take photos and shake our hands. I think Scott is getting the idea that he is a rock star. Ah well, must be the news of the sarong has spread.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Temples and Monkeys

We were in Bali for a week but have now escaped t the much cleaner Nusa Lembongan. Good to be back in clear water! In Bali, we moored in the smelly, windy but convenient Serangan on the South of the island. We did the obligatory trip to Kuta and were surrounded by traders the second we got out of the cab. Scott hasn't been to Bali for more than 20 years and recognised virtually nothing. The laneways are still there, crowded with shops and dangerously over-run with motorbikes. Shopping is fun, if you're into serious hard-core bargaining. We didn't really need anything but picked up some clothes and then headed to the beach, where Scott and Seth both had massages. I had a foot massage and bought handfuls of cheap bracelets whilst I was a captive in the massage chair. Scott started chatting to a wood carver named Made who was carrying , and trying to sell the huge head of laughing Buddha. Somehow their discussion about the mahogany and the time to carve it turned into bidding, with Scott carrying the beautiful Buddha away for a seventh of the asking price. It turned out that Made was keen to sell as he had a cock-fight to go to that night and wanted to have money to burn.

Cock-fighting is a very popular male passtime here, with it being taken very seriously and the source of large numbers of rupiah changing hands. We were looking into having some laundry done a few days ago and the man of the house took us into his yard and showed us his roosters that are almost ready to fight. They were stunning birds – huge, glossy, muscular. It seemed a shame to think of what they might look like if they came off worst on the night.

We had a couple of days off the boat exploring Ubud, a beautiful town and centre for Balinese arts, set up in the hills an hour North. We hired a driver with our friends Jane, Andrew and their two boys and headed off. We easily found accommodation with a couple of tiled rooms in a lush garden just off the main street. The boys loved the outdoor shower and the pool and we had lots of breaks on the verandah in between outings. The market was fantastic – colourful, vibrant and noisy, with silks, sarongs, wooden carvings, silver jewellery all piled up. We were very restrained. We walked through the Sacred Monkey Forest and Scott was the brave volunteer who had a monkey sitting on his head.

We were lucky enough to be in Ubud during a festival celebrating literacy and education, so there was a great deal of activity in the streets and particularly around the many temples. Women carried elaborate golden baskets of fruit and flowers on their heads and men carried large platters of rice and other offerings. Our driver took us home the slow way, through rice fields terraced on the hills and to the magnificent Gunung Kawi temple. It was pouring with rain, but we descended the hundreds of steps into the valley, where the temple is cut into the hills. There were young men praying and leaving their offerings of fruit, flowers and incense, all dressed in white.

We'll stay here in Nusa Lembongan for a couple of days before heading North to Kalimantan (Borneo), where we'll go up the Kumai River for a couple of days in search of orangutans. Not sure when we'll next have internet access but watch this space.

Monday, September 20, 2010

For Annabel

Today's blog entry is dedicated to my young friend Annabel, who is a devoted Anui blog follower and so deserves special mention. Hi Annabel!!

We are in Bali now and it is quite a contrast to beautiful clean Gili Air. We haven't been into Kuta yet but went en masse to stop up at the giant Carrefour supermarket. Oh the thrill! It may not be very exciting for you land-lubbers but to have fresh milk and apples and chocolate (Scott bought his own supply as he says that I am too stingy, but I say that is why it has lasted two months!) is excitement aplenty. Tomorrow we will head to Kuta to have a look and find some bargains. In Gili Air, I became rather good at the bartering and had to be dragged away so that I wouldn't practise any more.

Something rather troubling has occurred – Scott has taken to wearing a sarong. I can see the allure of a cool cotton skirt on a hot day but I have been telling him that sarong-wearing, like any skirt, has a certain etiquette – namely, when wearing a loose piece of material, wear it long or keep your knees together! The Armstrong family have been getting rather unexpected sightings and I'm considering hiding the thing or sending him to an Indonesian sarong instructor.

We broke with Motor Indonesia tradition yesterday and actually sailed! We have barely used the sails for weeks because the wind has refused to blow. Across the strait from Lombok to Bali yesterday, however, we flew at 12+ knots and the swell was pretty large. Entering Serangan Harbour there is a narrow passage between the surf, which is a little unnerving with a big sea behind. We will stay a couple of days and then head North to Lovina, where we need to collect our passports with their shiny new visas . We are still considering going inland on Bali to visit Ubud and see the terraced rice fields and monkey forest.

Seth has finished his Term 3 work and will have a few days off before we bring out the next stack. He and Finn swam endlessly with their mates on Gili Air but the water here is not at all inviting. On our last night at Gili on Saturday we had 14 kids from the rally all playing together – they ranged between 4 and 14 and all looked so happy.

Hope you enjoyed this blog entry, Annabel. I am sure mum skipped over the bit about Scott in the sarong......

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hanging in Gili Air

13 September 2010

We last wrote from Labuan Bajo, just prior to heading into Komodo on our hunt for dragons. We went to the island of Rincha, and spotted a dragon before we'd even anchored the boat! They are funny creatures, as you'll see from the highly professional photo – they walk slowly and flip their feet out sideways and don't look as if they could break into a sprint. They are, however, capable of running at speed for a short period and their bite is deadly. With our friends from Suspence and Red Boomer II we spent two afternoons sitting very quietly (not easy with 7 children) waiting for the dragons to appear. There were also monkeys and deer. The anchorage was beautiful and quiet, being one of the few spots where there is no village. We all did plenty of hill walking and kayaking – perfect. From then we went to a fantastic spot called Gili Lawa ('gili' means 'island') where we anchored in the clearest water I have ever seen. The snorkelling was fantastic, walking excellent and we had several fires on the beach, including a late Fathers' Day party for the 7 fathers in the anchorage at that time. It was very hard to drag ourselves away.

After Gili Lawa, at the top of Komodo, we had four days of heading West along the top of Sumbawa before getting to our present stop at Gili Aer, just off Lombok. Sumbawa is an unknown territory, being not on the cruising or tourist schedule. It is a large, somewhat bleak island, and we only stopped for overnight stays. There has been hardly any wind and we've had to motor for most of the time – not our favourite means of travel. It will be the same throughout much of Malaysia and Thailand, so we'd better get used to it. Buying diesel over here is an interesting exercise. The guys who arrive on local boats in every anchorage fetch diesel, water, beer, eggs – anything you need, really. Since the start of the Komodo region they also sell wooden carvings, pearls and sarongs and are fierce businessmen.

We arrived in Gili Air yesterday and are having a lovely time. It is a perfect holiday island, with little restaurants on the beach, dive boats and a laid-back feel. In every other place there have been motor bikes and small trucks but here there are bicycles and horses and carts. There are lots of Western tourists so nobody takes any notice of our entourage, much to the kids' relief. On our first day here yesterday we went in for lunch with our friends and were gone all day. The island has many people offering pearls and jewellery for sale at ridiculous prices. Scott bought me a lovely necklace of offset pearls and we worked out later that it had cost $16 !! Every time we've eaten out up to now we've had nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice) and fish or chicken, but here there are many Western-style foods too and all very affordable. Great pineapples and watermelons too, so both the boys are happy. Today we sat on cushions under a bamboo hut drinking passable coffee whilst the kids swam in front of us. Not too hard to take.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Into dragon country

We've arrived in Labuan Bajo, on the Western tip of Flores, the start of Komodo country. We've almost run out of vegetables again and so need to head to the markets to re-stock. There are rumours of watermelons and mangoes... When I last wrote, we were in Wangi Wangi for Indonesian Independence Day. That didn't work out so well for the rally, with a small amount of 'social unrest' resulting in the celebrations being cancelled and the rally visitors being escorted back to their dinghies by armed guard! We had decided not to go, luckily. Nobody is quite sure what the protest was about but it appears to have had something to do with the local government having decided to host the event during Ramadam and before sunset – the local Muslim population were upset at food being served to Westerners and possibly also at government cash being spent on our entertainment rather than health and educational services for the local area. A fair point, really. Anyway, it left rather a sour taste and we all exited rather rapidly the next day. Nothing like an armed guard to dampen the holiday spirit.

The last couple of weeks internet access has been non-existent, though strangely our Indonesian phone seems to work almost everywhere. For a country not big on infrastructure, Indonesia is very good at building mobile phone towers! We've been to some beautiful islands – with our last few days on Gili Bodo being probably at the top of the list. Gili Bodo has crystal clear water, good snorkelling, a white sandy beach and no inhabitants! Perfection. We were there with our friends from Red Boomer II and Suspence – 9 adults and 7 kids altogether – so had a fine run of fires on the beach, snorkelling parties, spear-fishing expeditions and sun-downers that continued long after the sun had gone. The kids kayaked and swam between each other's boats and Finn could not be kept out of the water – at last! We saw our first monkeys on the beach, but luckily they were small and shy ones.

In case that all sounds a bit too idyllic, remember that we still have to fight over schoolwork, do the washing, cook the meals.... oh, and the bracket in the alternator broke again. Scott had to manufacture a new one, which he managed to do using alloy donated by helpful friends and the ancient tool bench of a large rock and hammer.

We spent some days in the very pretty Inca village, which is split into two smaller settlements – one Muslim and one Catholic. The two belief systems seem to get on very well together and the people were, as everywhere, warm and friendly. We ate coconuts on the steps of the huge Catholic church and invited our nice guide and his friends over for coffee. It's strange, but in some villages we are constantly harassed by local boats to buy and donate – in a village called Lingeh recently the demands were so relentless that we eventually stayed inside until dark so that they would all go away! Mostly, though, people paddle their dug-out canoes to have a look at the boat and shout 'hello mister!' and are happy to chat and smile. The kids are generally happy with t-shirts and some school books or pens and they like capsizing their canoes and swimming near us. When we go into a village I carry lolly-pops and balloons in my bag for kids that we meet in the streets. We are always having babies thrust into our arms and our oohs and aahs are much appreciated.

Here in Labuan we will look into the merits of the various Komodo and Rincha anchorages so that we can see some Komodo dragons and decide where to go next. Apparently there are some expectations about paying fees to even step onto the beach but we shall seek some local knowledge about where to go. Hopefully we won't be eaten. We have to be in Bali by the middle of September to renew our visas so that is our main deadline. In the meantime, we'll look for dragons and hope to see them for free and at a safe distance!