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The year 2008 was another interesting year as we combined cruising, land travel and an extended visit to family and friends in the USA. We started in Phuket, Thailand, where we left "Arctracer" for a three week land tour of Northern Thailand and Laos. Then we worked our way down the Straits of Malacca past Singapore and left the boat in a marina while flying to the USA for a two month visit. We then crossed the South China Sea to Sarawak (Malaysian Borneo) and spent two months there before returning to the eastern side of the Malay Peninsula and Tioman Island. Finally we sailed back around Singapore and up the west side of Malaysia to Penang. We continued to work on our website, so you can see photos and read detailed letters of our travels by clicking on links on our web pages. Here is a summary of our year:
January - We celebrated New Year's at rowdy Patong Beach on the west side of Phuket Island, Thailand, where celebrants fired off thousands of fireworks and launched hundreds of little hot air balloons into the night sky. Then we anchored in Ao Chalong Bay and took a three week land tour (mainly via buses) to Bangkok, the old Thai capitals Ayuthaya and Sukothai, Chiang Mai, Doi Inthanon (Thailand's highest mountain), a one-day longtail ride down the Kok River to Chiang Rai, into Laos from Chiang Khong, two days on a boat down the Mekong River to Luang Prabang, then to Vang Vieng and Vientiane and finally back into Thailand for our return to "Arctracer." This was a massive dose of ancient and foreign culture, but we enjoyed seeing and learning about all these new places.
February - Recovery from our land tour took several days in Ao Chalong where we also started selecting photos and writing an account of that tour for our website. We visited friends at Yacht Haven Marina, watched locals get big pink jellyfish (deliberately!) in nets and talked to our children using Skype. We had our boat rigging readjusted, and departed Thailand south towards Malaysia.
March - It was a leisurely trip to Langkawi, with several stops for snorkeling. In Kuah we made reservations for our upcoming trip to the USA, bought a new alternator, and got one of Jerry's teeth refilled. We had good times with cruising friends at both Rebak Marina and Telaga Harbour, and enjoyed quiet anchorages by ourselves.
April - On April Fool's Day we started south from Langkawi. In Penang we found a canvas worker who replaced our cockpit windshield zippers. We stopped for a day's visit to the old town of Melaka, one of the most important ports in the world before taken over by Europeans in 1511. All the way down the Malacca Straits we had to work against light and fickle winds, tidal currents and occasional squalls. We anchored every night in the muddy shallows to avoid tangling with large numbers of fishing nets and traps. We tried to avoid motoring, but still consumed a lot of diesel fuel. We motored carefully past the fleets of enormous ships around Singapore, and arrived in Sebana Cove Marina on the 21st. We took a ferry to Singapore to get a piece of plexiglass to replace a broken hatch window. On the 27th we left our boat in the marina and took a bus to Kuala Lumpur. China Air stopped for a day in Taiwan, so we toured the pottery village of Yingge and an old Chinese Temple. We crossed the Pacific to Anchorage, Alaska, and continued on to Kennedy Airport in New York City, arriving at daughter Hilary's apartment in Brooklyn at 3am. Jet lag was a problem for a day or two.
May - We took Amtrak from Penn Station to White River Junction, Vermont for extended visits with our parents. Nephew Greg married Michelle on the 3rd, so we saw most of Nina's family at that celebration. Jerry's mother's family had a nice reunion in Hanover, NH. Nina spent considerable time at daughter Jennifer's home in Weare, NH with her 5-year-old grandson.
June - We spent most of the month in Vermont and New Hampshire, including good visits with old friends in Burlington and High School classmates from both Hanover and Hartford. We drove to Virginia for niece Erin's wedding to Danny - another occasion for celebration. Then we visited daughter Dorothy in Washington, DC. Son Ben flew in from Tuscon, Arizona to complete our family reunions. We returned to New Hampshire for grandson Nico's High School Graduation. On the 29th we flew from New York back to Taipei and Malaysia.
July - Aboard again, we did a quick cleanup of the mold and mildew accumulation, filled up with fuel (our all-time most expensive price) and groceries, and left the marina on the 5th. We fought the currents and crossed the busy shipping lanes east of Singapore, then sailed east across the South China Sea. The winds were fair at first, then died entirely so we motored for a full day to reach the Santubong River near Kuching in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo. From an anchorage in the river we commuted to the three-day "13th Rainforest World Music Festival" at the Sarawak Cultural Center. This was a fun event where we enjoyed a great variety of performances by an international collection of musicians. Granddaughter Sara arrived with a friend on the 15th. We hiked in Guning Gading National Park to see the world's largest blossom on the Rafflesia Flower, then sailed to Bako National Park to see Proboscis Monkeys, Bearded Pigs, Pitcher Plants and several different ecosystems on walks. At Pulau Satang Besar we visited a turtle sanctuary and released some hatchlings (Green and Hawksbill) one evening. All Sea Turtles are endangered species throughout the world, and efforts like this may help to postpone their extinction. We visited the Bidayuh Longhouse, a traditional Sarawak structure consisting of two long rows of joined houses facing each other across a common platform. Longhouses are still fairly common in parts of Sarawak, and now often include electricity, running water and other modern conveniences. We tasted local food, shopped in open-air markets, saw Orangutans and visited the Cat Museum. Sara and Nina made a valiant climb up Mt. Santubong but started too late in the day to reach the top.
August - Kuching celebrated Sarawak's 45th Anniversary as part of Malaysia with a parade, street festival and a three-day Regatta. Sara had great fun paddling in one of the races. We took a fast ferry from Pending to Sibu on the Rejang River. The river was big and fast-flowing with many ships and barges of all sizes. Tremendous amounts of logs and other forest products are exported via this river, and it is a hazardous place for yachts. From Sibu we took buses to Niah where caves have ancient paintings and human remains believed to be 40,000 years old, the oldest found in Southeast Asia. The caves were wonderful, and we liked seeing bats and swifts eating insects on alternating shifts, and hearing the rainforest frogs. We bused back to Kuching and Sara left on the 10th. We stayed in Santubong until the 19th, when we began meandering slowly west, stopping at small islands off the Borneo coast for the first few nights. The sail across the South China Sea was slow due to light winds, and we had to motor part of the way. We anchored at Tinggi Island on the 25th to begin a leisurely cruise among the islands off the east side of the Malay Peninsula.
September - This was a month of much snorkeling and relaxing with no worry about schedules. It felt like a real vacation. We spent most of the time at Tioman Island on moorings in Tekek Bay. We anchored some weeks in Juara Bay where waves frequently rolled us uncomfortably from side to side. We hiked across the island from Juara to Tekek and back one day, tiring but worthwhile for seeing rainforest trees and animals. We mostly patronized less-touristy restaurants, though did have some relatively expensive good dinners ashore with cruising friends. Tekek had good Internet service so we kept in touch with friends and family via email. There was excellent snorkeling, usually in clear waters with many fish. We renewed our Malaysian visas by going to Singapore via ferry and bus, staying a few nights in that country's "Little India" during Deepavali celebrations, buying a new GPS and then returning to Tioman.
October - We became friends with New Zealanders visiting Tioman for a big international wedding, and saw their fancy resort. We watched thunderstorms over the mainland on many days, but received so little rain that we ran out of water and had to enter the new marina to fill our tanks. We finally left Tioman on the 9th, and wandered slowly south through the islands, snorkeling at several, and finally reaching Sebana Cove Marina at the very bottom of the Malay Peninsula on the 31st.
November - We were in Sebana Cove for just two days to pick up forwarded mail and fill up with diesel, water and groceries. The marina was quite busy since many boats arrived in the annual "Sail Indonesia" rally. We motored around Singapore on the 2nd, and were happy to get into the quiet estuary on the west side of that island. We anchored in Danga Bay on the Malaysian side for several weeks. We used buses to go into Singapore a few times, trying (unsuccessfully) to get a fully functional GPS and visiting "Chinatown." Jerry bought a new laptop and installed the Ubuntu version of Linux instead of Microsoft's Windows. The installation was relatively trouble-free, and he has been happily using it ever since. We spent hours at the "Cowboy Cafe" using a wi-fi broadband Internet connection, drinking tea and eating inexpensive roti canai and curry. We finally left that anchorage on the 29th and started up the Malacca Straits.
December - There were mostly light winds south of Penang, but enough on some days to let us make good progress. We had to motor some too, as we moved up the coast in short day hops. We reached Pulau Rimu at the south end of Penang on the 8th. Two days later we were tied to the dock in Tanjong Municipal Marina in downtown Georgetown, Penang. Jerry took advantage of the relatively inexpensive and excellent medical facilities here to get a thorough physical examination, and the doctors found he was healthy. We did some website work, some boat work, some shopping and enjoyed some excellent Indian meals in "Little India." Our total boat miles for the year was 2425.
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