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Welcome to sailing yacht Alishan

Read more about the adventures and boat-projects on board of Alishan

Family in Sebana

We ended our last report in Sebana Cove, with Jaap’s family staying for the New Year holidays. They helped us move into the year 2008, but not after celebrating Hessel’s birthday on Dec. 31st.

We visited a crab farm in the morning and had a real feast, including Loek’s specialty: The Notentaart, which looked a bit under the weather, but tasted good and it had a never ending birthday song candle. Even the fridge couldn’t stop the tune!

Happy Birthday Sister Hessel!

The days were filled with swimming, reading, a few rounds of golf and many games of scrabble or triomino, a triangular kind of domino.

  We rented a van that held the 9 of us, but not very comfortably. The vehicle had natural airco = lots of wholes, specially aft, where the exhaust fumes entered freely, making the passengers in the back seat feel rather sick. Jaap stuffed the holes with lots of plastic bags and that helped, but at the car park the monkeys would take them out again! So we didn’t go on any long trips and just explored Sebana’s surroundings: a few oil palm plantations, this one Chinese temple, and many eateries in Sungai Rengit, the nearest town. The weather was OK; a bit hot, but we had little rain. And we were happy to be together.

Alishan in Sebana

When the family had returned home, Marijke did a quick run to Fukuoka to extend her drivers license and see some friends and then we got Alishan ready to sail on.

Marijke coming back from Fukuoka, with bags of cat nappies and cat food.

Malaysia has a rather interesting culture, with Muslims, Chinese and Indians residing more or less side by side. They all have their different customs, traditions, dress and food. And places of worship. The majority is Muslim and things like pork and ham are rarely found openly in the shops. In some places they are sold at a special corner and often kind of secretly. The 3 groups generally seem to respect each other, though towards the elections (March 2008) there were some rumors of kidnapping and violence, but nothing public and we found the atmosphere at the time peaceful.

The man on the picture on the right is a butcher in Sungai Rengit, who sells chicken and pork! (no beef) from the back of his car.

On the left Jaap is buying fruit like mango and papaya, something that everybody can eat.

Several kinds of fruits have a special meaning in ceremonies, for example during Chinese New Year and Thaipusam. Marijke was lucky to see some of this spectacular event in Singapore, on the way back from Fukuoka.

Thaipusam is an Indian festival were people honor Lord Subramaniam with acts of amazing physical resilience. Some carry kadavi, heavy metal frames with spikes, resting in their flesh. They march and sometimes dance through the streets to the sound of drums.

The man on the left is wearing limes, oranges and little bells on what looks like fish hooks, pierced in the skin of his back. The man on the right is having pierces through his mouth and tongue, as well as the fish hooks in his chest for carrying the enormous kadavi. After a month of fasting, meditating and other ritual preparations the participants get in a kind of trance and don’t feel any discomfort or pain. 

 Their family and friends stay with them for support the whole time and many seemed to enjoy the whole happening. The parade in Singapore had at least 25 members on this last morning of the 3 day festival. In India this practice is now banned.

There were quite a number of yachts in the harbor that had stayed for the X-mas and New Year holidays, but were now taking action, to either leave the boat for land traveling, or like us, sail to the west coast of Malaysia, making use of the prevailing winds in this NE monsoon.

Alishan in Sebana Cove Marina, home for nearly 3 months.

There are some nice places to stop between Sebana and Penang, like Sentosa Island in Singapore and Port Dickson on the Malaysian mainland, from where it is easy to visit Melaka and Kuala Lumpur. We discussed them, but ended up sailing the 400 mile trip non stop. The yacht Lady Ann, with Kari and Aslaug from Iceland had some serious problems with their through hull fittings breaking off, one after the other. They were half sinking and needed a quick haul-out. Kari borrowed Alishan’s emergency plugs and headed for the nearest facility, in Penang. We decided to sail with them, for their safety. This was not bad for us, since arriving early would assure us of a berth in a marina during the busy season of the Chinese New Year which was coming up and would give us time to get ready for huge celebrations on this prominently Chinese island.

Despite Lady Ann’s condition, the departure was delayed one day to celebrate Marijke’s birthday.

Trip Sebana to Penang

Alishan trailing Lady Ann out of Johor, all the way to Penang.

Singapore shore- and skyline

We left Sebana Cove on January 27th and anchored an hour later at the mouth of the river Sungai Santi to wait for the right tide. The next morning Lady Ann and Alishan rounded Singapore (we vowed to come back one day) and sailed up along the west coast of Malaysia, hugging the border of the shipping line. This was easy, since we now had Maxsea computer navigation system going, after help of friends in Sebana (Thank you, Terry!) and could for the first time see Alishan’s course on the computer. A very common and widely used system amongst yachts nowadays, but new for us! Of course we trust the thing only partly and keep our paper charts at hand. (We have heard of a number of mistakes and near accidents, caused by less accuracy of the electronic charts) On this leg it was nice to have this Maxsea on the side, however our main way of navigating was… Follow the leader Lady Ann!

Keeping in contact by VHF (clearly Jaap is suffering from mild office stress).

There was little wind, and we sailed on and off on flat seas, so Wakame felt safe on top of the dodger.

We arrived in the middle of the 3rd night at the south of the island, right in front of the boatyard where Lady Ann intended to haul out. We dropped the anchor in 7m of mud and slept peacefully. The next morning, after inspecting the facilities at the yard, Kari and Aslaug decided to move on and find another place, more suitable to their size and draft (the entrance to the haul out was only 1.60m deep!) So they continued to Langkawi, (the plugs had proved they could do their job in keeping Lady Ann afloat, so another day at sea didn’t seem a problem) while we sailed further along the coast of Penang, looking for a suitable place to stay a month or so. After one more night on anchor near a small marina next to the big bridge, we decided to move into the main yacht harbor: Tanjung City Marina, in Georgetown.

Chinese New Year

We met up with some friends and started on our projects: New passports, medical checks, hunting for boat essentials and then it was there: the Chinese New Year. It was hard to get information about what was going to happen on what day, what time and the exact location, but we managed to see all the main events.

There was a big party with entertainment and free food for all at Fort Cornwallis, where at least 1000 people gathered in the late afternoon. The grounds were decorated and tables and chairs were set on the lawns. There were many tents and a huge stage with a variety program of music, dance, magic shows and acrobats.

There was the Chew Jetty event, where big tables with offerings, like 15 whole roasted pigs! lined the street.

The big day itself, on Feb 7th people met with their relatives and visited temples to pray for prosperity.

Then there was the big street celebration, on the 15th with street performances on every corner in and around Armenia Street.

   And all those days there were lion dances, fireworks and drum shows and it was all quite noisy.

Very Chinese, so to say.

2 dancers getting ready for their show.

In and Around Penang

Nori and Wakame were quite happy at the marinas. In Sebana we would let them roam the pontoon and inspect other yachts in the early morning and late afternoon. They could walk off the jetty, but did not seem too eager to do so. They could not directly see the way out and we didn’t tell them, of course. We kept them inside in the middle of the days, because we were not always around and it was too hot out in the sun. We had rented a big 240V – 110V transformer for Alishan and could run both aircons any time. What a blessing! How could we ever have considered selling them!

In Penang things were slightly different. The way out was obvious, just a bit of ramp ahead, but there was a lot of noise, mostly traffic coming off the ferries, so they didn’t venture that way. The neighbors had a little dog onboard, and we were happy, thinking it would keep the cats at bay. But however much it yapped, it didn’t get much respect from our furry two. Sydney, who was about half Nori’s size couldn’t even keep them off his foredeck. This marina however did not have a big inverter and the one we have on Alishan is way too small, so that meant NO AIRCON! At sea we had no choice, but here in the harbor, where not even a slight breeze entered the saloon….

3 Hot and sweaty nights later Jaap went shopping. He bought the cheapest and smallest domestic outfit available. It just fit in the cockpit and it’s in the way in a big way, but inside it was COOL again. So crew and cats could sleep happily, all day and all night.

Scenes of Penang: An Indian flower shop and the Chew jetty, where houses are built on stilts.

A rickshaw in front of the Kapitan Mosque. Sunrise over Tanjong City Marina.

Marijke’s favorites: The Blue Mansion (left) and the Khoo Kongsi Chinese clan house (right).

A Hindu temple in Little India, another Chinese clan house and the office of the sheriff, who deals with minor offends.

Our favorite hawker across the street from the marina and Yap at his personal hang out.

Al and Beth of sy Sunflower left their boat in Langkawi for a few days and came to Penang, where we rejoined after many years. Together we visited the Kek Lok Si temple, which was overly decorated for the New Year celebrations. Bright, colorful and again, very Chinese.

Thousands of lanterns and fairy lights.

Whether this is your taste or not, it sure was a spectacular sight at night.

 We donated a tile for a new roof and had our names written on the back – in Japanese, not Chinese. The man doing the writing knew the strokes perfectly.

 Start of the “Walk for Life” event that got us raising funds for a Malay cancer foundation. We seem to run into them every now and then.

   Penang Hill, and the train upwards.

The beautiful butterflies of Malaysia are everywhere, easily captured ( "on film") at the Butterfly Farm.

Penang, an Island we liked much, except for the running. There were so many cars and motorbikes and the sidewalks were always broken up just about everywhere. Even the sports field of the park at the Kota Lama was lumpy. Marijke’s knees and ankle joints had a hard time, but we ran. Marijke before sunrise, Jaap a bit later, every other day for about one hour. The doctors in Lam Wah Yee Hospital were content and in Marijke’s case even impressed with our health at our general medical check-ups.

Marijke’s skin showed a bit more bcc though, (1st stage of early skin carcinoma) so now she covers up in long sleeves etc even more.

   The day we left Penang we had new passports and a clean wardrobe. The passports came 3 weeks after application at the Dutch consulate which required three visits and two photo sessions. I’m glad we didn’t have to go to Kuala Lumpur for this! The clean clothes, sheets and towels came from the brand new washing machine that was installed at the Marina the day before our departure. Marijke had the honor of The First Wash.


It took only 1 day to reach Langkawi, the group of islands in the north west of Malaysia, close to Thailand. As expected there wasn’t much wind, but for an hour or so it seemed we were getting some air from the south and we even had the spinnaker up. It was the first time since that trip from Tsushima to Fukuoka in 2005, when everything on Alishan still seemed big, compared to Jan Haring. Now we were surprised how easy it was to set this sail with just the 2 of us, finding it even a bit smallish. Our norms had adjusted to the sizes of the Taswell 43.

Approaching the islands of Langkawi

  Just out of Langkawi, before dropping the anchor.

After a roly poly night at the “Fjord Anchorage” we sailed to Kuah, the main town. Our friends on Sunflower were waiting to take us ashore, show us around and introduce us to some other old salt yachties. Thus we got to renew contacts of 15 years before, cruisers we used to talk to on the HF radio in times when that was the main way to share information, way before email and cell phone.

Kuah is a small, lovely town. Very different from Georgetown on Penang. The mixture of the 3 cultures here is more Muslim, (many headscarves), but quite tolerant to the average western tourist, walking around town in shorts and tank tops, blissfully ignoring the requests of dress code.

We anchored near the plastic floating dinghy dock midway the town and the ferry terminal. From there it was just a few minutes walk to anywhere.

 Nori, playing on top of the sun awning of Alishan on the left, had to have his yearly shot. There is a government-run animal clinic in town and we walked over after making an appointment. There was no veterinarian; a seemingly competent assistant did the job. Nori didn’t even have to leave his carry-bag. Sure less stressful on him, but we’d have liked a bit of a health check.

 We both upgraded our means of transportation: An 8hp Yamaha outboard for Jaap (the little Suzuki was playing up again) and a brand-new, made in China Oscar mountain bike for Marijke.

What a big bird: The brown eagle, or Brahmini kite after which Langkawi is named.

Apart from this huge concrete specimen at the waterfront there are quite a few of the air born type around. Not as big as this one, but of a fair size. We were also interested in some other funny birds, ones that don’t fly as high in the sky and thus are a bit more photographable: the hornbills.

Don’t they look weird? Malaysia has at least 9 kinds of these rhino ducks.

It felt good to be on anchor again, even though we had to live in temperatures of quite a few over 30 degrees. With the generator we can run our internal aircons, but we did this only on a few times for one hour at night to make sleep a bit more comfortable. The mornings always seemed cool. During the day there was usually a breeze. Nori and Wakame could now stay on deck more often. With no way to leave the boat (they can swim, but aren’t too keen) we didn’t have to lock them up whenever we left. They enjoyed being outside a lot, Nori still using the bimini top as a trampoline. I wonder how much longer this will last…

We got together with Lady Ann again. Their problems were fixed and they had just left Rebak’s boat yard after a successful haul-out. Soon we had a running course set out. Kuah sports a great waterfront park and some low hills nearby. Wonderful! Labarque, who was with us in Sebana as well as Penang, showed up too and one day we all hiked to the top of a hill.

Patrick and Elizabeth of Labarque on the left and Aslaug and Kari of Lady Ann on the right.

View from the hill overlooking yachts on anchor at Kuah.

Alain, a French runner of the kind that does 260 km in 24 hours, took us up and down hills a couple of times. Luckily, before our injuries set in, we left Kuah. After Lady Ann it was now our turn to hurry to Rebak for a haul-out. The antifouling, a Japanese brand that everybody in Hong Kong was using, did not agree with the International Paint layer from Fukuoka. It had partly fallen off and left some nice growth on Alishan’s belly. We had already tried to remove some a week or 2 before, when snorkeling in the “Fjord Anchorage”. It was too big a big job. And we could not let it wait.

We moved to Rebak Marina, Langkawi’s boat yard on the 20th of March. It is only 15 miles from Kuah and we took our time, sailing slowly but at leisure in light winds, till about halfway, when the wind died completely. The weather had been mostly fine during the day, with occasional rain showers in the early evenings. By now the rainy season was starting and the rain showers and thunderstorms would increase. We wanted to haul out soon. 5 Days later there was room for us on the hard stand and Alishan went up on the land. 15 Ton she was, no problem for the Rebak travel lift. The staff seemed to know what they were doing and didn’t take any risk. A diver checked the positioning of the straps and decided to move them, so they wouldn’t cover any through holes. Very professional.

Alishan in the slings at Rebak Marina.

Now the work could start. We were promised some labor to help us, 3 men in total. But we didn’t see anybody the 1st day, and also not the 2nd. We had to work ourselves!!! The work was a lot harder than we anticipated. The paint that was so willing to fall of before, now stuck firmly to the under layer. We couldn’t use grinders or sanders, but had to scrape everything off by hand. In 37 degrees Celsius!

Luckily, on the 3rd day someone must have felt sorry for us. At 11:00 in the morning 2 boys showed up and at 5:00 in the evening 3 more for 2 hours. Little by little we were getting there.

   Marijke scraping away, followed by the Rebak workers after 5:00 pm.

So the 3rd month of the year ends with us sweating and groaning, dreaming of the beautiful clear waters that still lie ahead, but now seem so far off.


 Aslaug and Kari of sy Lady Ann, always in for a few miles with a smile.

Check out their website:

Al and Beth of sy Sunflower

 See also their stories at:

At Shibaraku: Papa-rin, Mama-rin and Kyoshi

Bebe Nobuko, looking cool, cooler, coolest.

New kumiai members, Miku with Mama Makiko and Daito with Mama Emi and Granny Etsuko.

Noriko sensei,

thank you so much for ALL YOUR PRESENTS FOR NORI AND WAKAME and the big bag you lend me to carry it back to Malaysia.

How did I ever get it through customs….?

 Always going strong, just 4 days after Nanohana Marathon, the worst ever, as some said.

   Miyoko and Matsumoto san in front of the kumiai office. Miyoko, thank you for your hospitality!

A pizza night with the Hong Kong team of the kumiai.

From left to right: Miyoko, Fukuyo (who didn’t go to HK) Tomoyo, Michiko, Yoshiko, Shigeko.


Going Left…

And Going Right

Big and Small meet at Singapore Straits

And in all sort of shapes.

Workers of the sea. Here in Malaysia painted bright pink.

LONGTAIL drives, what a way to go, go, go…though a bit noisy.


If anyone knows what this sign with the umbrella is all about, please tell us.

What’s this guy with the trolley doing?

Correct. Buying fuel.

He’s got the right papers = permit from office XYZ. Now he can get 200 liter heavily subsidized diesel @ US$0.50/liter. Cruising is an easy (?) and cheap lifestyle.

On board the train that’s going up Penang Hill.

A steep ride indeed. Even the seats are a challenge…

as is posting the note on the window….

By times we take some grass for Nori and Wakame. They need it to clear their stomachs of hairballs. See here Miss Wakame, munching like a wild cow on that delicious green stuff AND Marijke’s fingers.