"Arctracer" Letters

Taxes, Engines, Computers and Relaxing, Mar-May 2007

We're at the end of another three month stay in Langkawi and are about to head to Thailand, so here's a summary of what we've been doing since our last letter. We spent a few days anchored near Phuket's Yachthaven Marina, and helped Randy of "Pollen Path" celebrate his 50th birthday with a big party on the beach. Then we checked out of Thailand and sailed slowly south. We anchored for a couple days off the northern tip of Ko Lanta where a lovely long beach is backed by big tourist resorts. Then we sailed to Ko Rok Nok and enjoyed good snorkeling at three different locations near that island. Further south in the Butang Group we had wonderful snorkeling at one place, but were frustrated by currents and lack of good moorings at some other places. We checked back into Malaysia on March 7.

We spent a week anchored near the Telaga Harbour Marina, resting, doing email, and updating our website using a wireless network. Then we sailed to Kuah and anchored off the town. We picked up a big bundle of mail at Poste Restante which included Christmas cards and the stuff we needed for the annual time-consuming nuisance of Federal Income Tax forms. We were shocked to receive a letter from the New Hampshire tax bureaucracy too. We believed that New Hampshire had no income tax, but this is not correct. New Hampshire does not tax wages but it does tax interest and dividend income. We had to fill out all the forms and pay all the taxes plus substantial interest and penalties for all the years since our marriage. This will certainly be our largest expenditure this year, far exceeding the costs of new sails, new rigging and a new boom. If you hear anyone saying that New Hampshire has no income tax, please correct them so they do not get a nasty surprise like ours.

We advanced money for our new boom to the rigger in Phuket, and the boom has been made in Australia. We are waiting for it to be delivered to Phuket where it will be installed. In the meantime we have done other boat projects, including replacing burner caps on our stove, obtaining a comprehensive book for identification of tropical fish, rewiring an inverter for more efficiency in powering Jerry's laptop, ordering additional solar panels and regulator, mending our awnings, patching cracked fiberglass, repairing the stern running light, and repainting oars. These were all in addition to the little jobs which we always have to do, such as cleaning house, washing clothes, shopping, baking bread, cooking (Nina's excellent Tom Yum soup is just one example which takes a long time), getting gas bottles refilled and changing engine oil. We never run out of things to do.

We tackled the nagging problems of our starboard engine. Jerry took the cooling system apart as much as possible, and determined that an accumulation of small particles was partially blocking the water flow. He extracted some by reaching in, and later blasted more out with pressurized water. After a long struggle, this problem seems solved. We diagnosed another problem as bad thrust bearings which didn't stop the propeller from pushing against the back of the boat and didn't allow us to go in forward gear. The solution to this was complicated when new bearings didn't seem to be sufficient. We found an experienced machinist, (Yoke at York Machinery 012-498-9787) and he not only made new parts but came to the boat to install them and was very reasonable in cost. With the help of this very competent and nice man, it is working again. This engine's old alternator wasn't developing high enough voltages, so we got that fixed too. We ordered new solenoid switches for both engine starter motors, and they now start more quickly. Jerry is gradually becoming a better mechanic with all this practice, but still doesn't consider himself very proficient.

We spent some pleasant times socializing. One of our seven sister ships was in the area, so we got to meet Bruce and Alison of Fastback 43 "Muscat" from Australia and compared the fittings and facilities of our boats. Our Swiss friends Stefan and Sabina aboard "Samira" caught up to us after two years for several enjoyable eating and storytelling sessions including their experiences in remote places in PNG. Rita and Werner of "Quorsum" proudly showed off many big improvements to their catamaran, and we spent considerable time with them and their friend Linda visiting from England. We joined them at the Rebak Marina, enjoyed the marina's swimming pool several afternoons and saw the resident Hornbills. Nina surprised Rita with a magnificent feast on her birthday, and learned to make "Toad in the hole," a traditional Yorkshire pudding. We dined in Kuah with Ed and Lynne of "Constance" and Jeff and Cathy of "Mirage." We met Jack and Chrissi of "Naga," a very fast Dick Newick trimaran which won the "Route du Rhum" race among other triumphs, and Chrissi sewed new sun protection material on our roller-furling jib.

Nina was using the laptop we bought in New Zealand several years ago which is now inadequate. For example, it only has a 4GB hard disk which cannot hold all our photos, our website, and her other files. Computer technology and competition has progressed so much that we were able to buy a new Toshiba laptop with 100GB hard disk, wi-fi, CD/DVD read/write, and other good features for much less than the original cost of her old machine. Of course we then were required to spend days of hard work moving everything to the new machine and adding new software and files. To connect our old printer to her new machine we had to buy a USB-Parallel adapter. After a month she is working pretty comfortably and enjoying the substantial increase in speed and capabilities.

Development is progressing rapidly on Langkawi. New resorts and shopping centers are going up and highways and utilities are being extended. However, there is still much wildlife and most of the small islands nearby are undeveloped. We anchored near some small islands for a few days and watched a baby White-Bellied Sea Eagle on its nest. We saw Kites and Eagles every day, and also had a few sightings of Racquet-Tailed Drongos, Orioles, Kingfishers and other interesting birds. Long-Tailed Macaques are common, and there are Dusky Langurs too. A big Water Monitor swam near our anchored boat, and another swam right into Rebak Marina near our slip.

We are still enjoying Malaysia, especially its honest and friendly people. A few taxi drivers try to get extra money from foreigners, but that seems to happen everywhere. Nina has learned where to shop, and with repeated visits has become friendly with some shopkeepers. We have seen many examples of trust and honesty. Nina bought several things at a fabric shop one day, then left some ribbon on the counter. It only cost a few dollars, but when she went back to the shop the next day the saleslady immediately handed over the ribbon with a friendly smile. It would have been easy for her to put it back on the shelf for resale, but she was too honest. We still close and lock our door when we go ashore, but generally leave our big hatches unlocked. For one of the poor fishermen passing our unattended boat to come aboard and take things is almost inconceivable. Corruption at higher levels may exist, and some large development projects apparently make capital disappear at an exceptional rate. The loudspeakers broadcasting prayers to Allah five times every day and the women going about their business in colorful long robes and headscarves remind us that this is a predominantly Muslim country. The Chinese and Indians are not allowed to own shops or restaurants, even after several generations of living in Malaysia. However, there are no violent protests and many successful businesses operate on leased properties. Langkawi is peaceful and pleasant.