Monday, February 4, 2019

Anyone can do it, but would you want to?

Perry at Ko Adang
There is a common debate on cruising and sailing sites about whether 'anyone' can go cruising. On the one hand are those who say that you should learn as much as you can before you go and that you're just asking for trouble if you simply sail away in a boat. Then there is the camp that says that you don't need a lot of knowledge and experience and that you should just 'go now!'

A beach that's not inundated with tourists (at this moment)

Bumfuzzle is probably the most well-known example of the latter group. We enjoyed their blog as we were still in our boat contemplation days. They sailed around the world without a lot of previous sailing experience and have said that if they could do it, anyone can. While they weren't experienced sailors, and they served up every misstep to an online community that often howled with contempt, Pat Schulte is (from reading between the self-deprecating lines) a pretty smart guy, as well as knowing his way around a diesel engine. 

Can you tell I liked Ko Adang?
After six years of doing this, we haven't found a clear answer to this question. We fell into a middle area: We had some sailing experience (Matt more than I)--mostly Lake Michigan but none in true "blue water". We didn't go through certification courses like some couples did. Matt is smart, handy, and good at figuring things out. So far, so good.

We have met a number of boats that ended up hitting reefs or, in one case, sinking. Some of these situations are just bad luck but many turned out to have been preventable with a bit more knowledge.  Even more likely to scuttle a cruising adventure through monetary or will-power fatigue, is lack of knowledge or preparation in fixing all the many, many things that break on a boat. On most modern cruising boats, you have to be a jack of all trades. Even if you have the money to pay someone to fix your issues, chances are that you will end up someplace where there is no one that can help you.  Some folks just get frustrated with this and decide it's time to get back to land.

All of this begs the question, even if you can 'just go' cruising and figure it out as you go along, would you really want to? Our passage from Phuket (Thailand) to Malaysia illustrates how unlike 'drinking cocktails and watching the sunset' cruising life can be. For three straight days, we sailed pretty much the whole day and then when we finally reached our destination, there would be something for Matt to fix.

Ko Racha Yai

A 'Sh-tty' Day

The first day of our journey was spent motor-sailing upwind and then having to deviate from Ko Phi Phi to Ko Racha Yai because the winds kept pushing us too far off course. No anchoring is allowed in Ko Racha Yai, so you have to pick up a mooring. They provide a half dozen moorings, but when we arrived there were probably 60 boats clogging the bay. Many were rafted up to the few boats on moorings, others were beached, and others stood off while they unloaded passengers. It felt like looking for a parking space by endlessly circling the block in our old neighborhood in Chicago. We motored around for about an hour before we got a mooring from a boat that was leaving.

Eventually almost all the day boats left and the bay was peaceful again. Unfortunately, Matt still had his work cut out for him. Conrad had clogged his toilet that morning and no amount of plunging or rodding out from the outside was working. Matt took apart the output hoses, trying to keep the most-foul-feces-ever off himself and all over the bilge (and mostly succeeding). Conrad kept apologizing as he inhaled whiffs of poop and listened to Matt swearing. As it turned out, the problem was the calcified build-up that forms in the hoses as uric acid and saltwater combine. A horribly stinky stone-like substance narrows the output line and sometimes pieces crack off and block the hose. 

Laurent at Just Catamarans warned us about this six years ago, but we are still not willing to switch to flushing with fresh water (it's just flipping a valve). As we get down to the bottom of our water tank, with the parts needed to fix our water maker sitting in Langkawi, it would be hard to justify flushing that fresh water down the toilet (literally and figuratively).
Even after all that (including my bleach wash down of everything), Matt (who couldn't even have a beer because he was finishing up his antibiotics from the kidney stone removal) was still up for exploring on shore. We found a not-too-expensive restaurant serving decent Thai food and walked along the beach without the hordes of people that were everywhere just hours before.

Ko Rok Nai
The next few days were not quite as 'full', but still included sailing all day followed by fixing things. Conrad's toilet was unclogged but had developed a leak in two places, which Matt was able to fix by disassembling the macerator unit and adding o-rings to a loose fitting joker valve (don't ask). Oh, and the freezer output had to be unclogged twice. These days were followed by not-very-restful nights as we either rocked crazily (visions of Honiara), had mooring balls bouncing into the boat for half the night, or experienced winds so strong that anything loose blew around the cockpit as our boat did circles around the mooring.

Clown fish at Ko Rok Nok

I suppose we need some of these days every now and then (but not too many, please) to help us appreciate those beautiful sunsets. On the plus side, we caught a tuna, which will be sushi for dinner tonight and right now we are next to a beautiful set of beaches. We plan to be in Langkawi within the next few days.

Ko Rok Nok eel

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