Raja Muda and Phuket

Thursday, February 28th, 2008
The last 2 months have been both packed and varied. Many hours of fixing (and refixing) electronics in Singapore after our lightening strike in Indonesia followed by a week of racing in Malaysia in a regatta that had more parties than races – our kind of thing! Some great cruising, including fishing, snorkeling and stunning anchorages, and meeting up with many friends, both of the yachtie and non-yachtie variety, have all made a special couple of months.    

The Raja Muda, a regatta consisting of 3 overnight races up the coast of Malaysia and a couple of “round the cans”, was superb. A more relaxed regatta than most – Alex did notice that by the time we had done 2 races we had already gone to 4 parties! Starting in Port Klang, not far from Kuala Lumpur, we sailed out of the murky industrial waters on our way up to beautiful cruising grounds in Langkawi, stopping in Pangkor and Penang on the way. Rod Rhys Jones (fondly named “fishing Rod” by the kids), Jon’s first ever boss from London, was on board, Chris, editor from Fragrant Harbour magazine, joined us from Penang to Langkawi and Suzanne Downes crewed with us for the short races, giving us a 3rd in our division out of 8 boats. Not bad for a liveaboard! The children amused everyone by sleeping normal hours of 8pm to 7am during the races, one night sleeping through a squall of 38 knots with thunder and lightening all around, not to mention the noise the crew were making!  
In Penang, apart from a dinner in an old Chinese courtyard with wonderfully elaborate buildings and temples, the race committee organized a tri-shaw race. In a competing pair, the passenger had to down a beer, leap aboard the tri-shaw, temporarily borrowed from amused (on the whole) local tri-shaw riders, and the rider had to cycle 3 times round a circuit, as it happened in the pouring rain. The technique, it seemed, was for passengers to lean hard into the corner to help the tri-shaw get round the bends. Jon entered with the girls (who were allowed to down half a coke each rather than beer) under the name of Beast and the Beauties. They didn’t win, but Nicky looked adorable dressed up in full fairy regalia, complete with purple plastic shoes, a crown and beaded handbag(!) and proceeded to win the best dressed competition. No one else had dressed up, but Nicky and the stage have powerful magnetic-like attraction and she was not in the least deterred. She also proved a massive hit on the dance floor, dancing until the early hours with anyone and everyone – wonder who she gets that from?  
On our way out to the last race in Langkawi we started to experience some “engine problems” with a loud metal-grinding-against-metal sound happening with anything above about 1000 revs. A friendly fellow racer gave us a tow out to the start and then after the race we started to investigate. It appeared the noise was coming from behind the engine and gear box (big relief!) and so first the rope cutter, which sits on the prop shaft just forward of the prop, was suspected, quickly replaced as prime suspect by the anodes on the prop shaft which had worked themselves loose. Jon’s lung capacity and juggling skills were challenged as he swam under the boat many times to take off the old anodes and replace them with new. He did confess to dropping an Alan key when a large batfish popped its head round the rudder to say hello. Unfortunately, after all Jon’s hard work, we set sail for “Hole in the Wall” to the north of Langkawi, only to have the sound happen again. A quick change of plan and direction took us to Rebak Marina for a haul out, rope cutter removal and drop back in the water, after which we set sail free of grinding and rattling, but with rather fewer days to get ourselves to Phuket to drop off Rod in time for his flight.  
From Langkawi to Phuket we visited some old favourites again, including Koh Turatao, Koh Muk and Koh Racha. The 20-25 knot NE winds were superb resulting in some exciting sailing. We even seemed to be going at the right speed for the fish and hauled in a large Spanish Mackerel and a Barracuda which was unusual on this coast due to intense fishing. In Phuket we anchored in Nai Harn and met up with old friends from last season, the Hawkins on Quoll 2 and the Bentleys on Shayile. Beautiful beaches, fabulous food and a buzzing yachtie social life for us and the kids made for a very relaxed couple of weeks. Nicky celebrated her 6th birthday on Ao Sane beach and there were 12 other kids to share it with her (quite a crowd for a yachtie party!). Jon was games master and organized everything from Wheelbarrow races to Limbo Dancing to British Bulldogs to Pass the Balloon using your knees. Everyone had a great time, adults included.  
During December we sailed to the Similan islands again, 60 miles NW of Phuket and a Thai National Park, with our great friends Rob, B, Daniel and Jenna on Shayile. Superb beaches, snorkeling, sleepovers for the kids and spending time with friends made it a very special week, though we then had to sadly say goodbye as we continue in Thailand and they head south and east to Borneo and eventually Australia. Heartfelt tears from Nicky and Jenna nearly set us all off…  
Just before Christmas we pulled into Royal Phuket Marina and got quotes for some work which needs to be done on Tui Tai, optimistically thinking that in this Buddhist country they would happily work through Christmas while we were off the boat. However, this is Thailand, cruising capital of Asia, and the boatyards have more work than they can handle, so unfortunately although we got quotes, we will need to come back some other time to spend our money!While the boat was in the marina we enjoyed catching up with friends – Eric and Cora whose house in Boat Lagoon is now really a home after all their hard work; Michael, Narissara, Sammie and JonJon March, who have built a fabulous villa to the north of Phuket on a glorious beach; Matt, Janine, Sam and Josh Canham with whom we spent Christmas Day at Phil and Lisa James’ restaurant right on Bangtao beach; and then a week after Christmas with great Hong Kong friends Richard, Mary, Isabella and Raf Nieto and Lorence, YanYan, Brendan and Kyra Johnston in our favourite low key small hotel – Friendship Beach. It has been wonderful to see you all – thank you all for your great friendship and hospitality!  
Looking forward we will be setting off for the Andamans in the next few days, back to Phuket in February, and are still hoping to get to Burma in March before our final trip down to Singapore.  

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