Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Happy Happy people on the platform and don't Play Play

December 9, 2009
We heard that phrase at least a hundred times yesterday on the subway from the automated voice messages as the doors open and close. "Don't Play Play" means the people waiting on the platform to board should let the exiting passengers get off before they try to enter the subway cars. "Happy Happy people on the platform" means the exiting passengers should not push or shove those people trying to board the subway cars. In other words, act polite when entering or exiting a subway car. Sort of a cute way of saying it. Play Play and Happy Happy are used on signs and videos on various things all over Singapore; so it must be a commonly used local expression.

Yesterday we made another bus trip from Puteri Harbour Marina to Singapore....just for the day. Had a blast! Considered it my birthday present since the previous day was my birthday. (December 7, a day which will live in infamy (but not because it marks my birth). Not sure exactly why we enjoyed the day so much unless maybe it was just a very relaxed day with beautiful weather and we now knew the routine for clearing in and out both countries. And we did our bit for the economy by shopping for hours at Sim Lim Tower and Sim Lim Square and finally finding a few electronics items to buy.

The EPIRB was ready to be picked battery in place and inspected and recertified for another 5 years. Bill had done some prep work on the internet and had mapped out routes from the MRT (subway) station to NOAH Marine Services out in the industrial section of Singapore (not far from Raffles Marina). Thanks to Google maps and the online bus schedules and route maps that Bill had printed, this was surprisingly easy. Singapore has excellent, excellent public transportation. Bet we wouldn't even want to own a car if we lived in Singapore because a car would be more of a hassle that a benefit. This little island country is probably about the geographic size of metropolitan Houston. Houston needs to take mass-transit lessons from Singapore and get with the times.

While at NOAH we learned that they also sell flares and re-certify fire extinguishers, including fixed-system halon. Now, THAT was good news. Can't get halon in the States anymore. Our watertight engine room has a remotely activated fixed halon fire extinguisher system. Since the boat is nearing 7 year of age, it probably is time for the halon system to be checked and serviced. We will bring the boat over to Singapore at some point before heading toward Phuket next autumn and get fire extinguishers serviced and buy new flares since ours will be expired by then. NOAH also will inspect and recertify our inflatable life vests. So glad we found this place.

After NOAH we returned to the subway and went to Little India. Knew exactly where we were going for a change. We shopped 4 floors of Sim Lim Square looking for a new monitor that had all the various types of video imput like our current monitor, but no joy. Next stop was Sim Lim Tower, where we found a "TV" that has every video imput that Bill could want. This looks exactly like our old flat-panel monitor except larger and with the newer widescreen, but they call it a TV. Not a TV for us because we have no TV signal receiver on our boat, nor do we have cable pre-wired. (Nor is there cable TV service available at the marina so that is a dead issue for now.) This "TV" can be used to watch DVDs played on our DVD player or computer or radio. And if we ever get to a place with television signals, we have the option of then buying a receiver or cable. All that said, to me it is just another monitor. Wanted this replacement before our old one failed since watching DVDs is our major source of onboard entertainment, besides reading.

While in Sim Lim Tower we found a money tree.

Always wanted one of these but have no place to put it on the boat.

Saturday, December 12, 2009
We awoke to the sounds of gunfire this morning. But don't be alarmed, it was just the Malaysian Army having drills. The military range is just north of Puteri Harbour Marina. And the Singapore live ammunition range is just across Johor Strait. The marina staff were joking that maybe the Singapore army and the Malay army were practicing against each other. Guess the F16s will be circling Singapore again all afternoon. Singapore is an awfully tiny island country for those F16s to circle and stay out of Malaysian airspace. Malaysia does not like it when the Singaporian F16s violate Malay airspace......tight circles, guys, tight circles.

Received an email this morning confirming that our friends on S/V FREE SPIRIT have sold their boat. Congratulations to them. We hated to see them sell the boat and become landlubbers again, but this is what they wanted for this point in their lives. Paul and Michele and their kids Merric and Seanna will be moving back to the States. Seanna has never known a land home because they moved aboard and started cruising when she was only 8 months old. I am willing to bet they end up back out cruising again sometime in the future. We will miss you!!!

Tomorrow around noon we will take the marina shuttle to the Gelang Datah bus station and begin our long travels home for the holidays.

All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go!

Friday, December 4, 2009

A weekly update

The day after Thanksgiving both of us began to feel sore throats and general aches and pains. Miracle of all miracles.....I was better within 2 days. Usually upper respiratory things turn into infections and I am sick for a couple of months. This time it was Bill who had trouble kicking it. He is finally feeling better but still not 100%.

On November 3 we had left our EPIRB in Singapore for routine maintenance check and battery replacement. We would have preferred to take the EPIRB back to Houston since we will be there a month and have it serviced there, but it has a lithium battery and cannot be transported on a passenger plane. There is a newer model that has a "safe" battery, but ours is an ACR 406 and that model has the "dangerous" lithium battery. The dealership in Singapore did not have a battery in stock for our model and had to order one. They tried to talk us into purchasing the newer model with the safe battery but we were not interested in spending the additional money unnecessarily. After all, why spend $1500 Singapore dollars when we could replace the battery in our perfectly good 4-year-old EPIRB for only $550 SGD. The new battery will be good for another 5 years and technology night change again by then. We were supposed to pick up the EPIRB this week but Bill has not felt well enough to make the trip. We must go to Singapore next week and collect our EPIRB because on Sunday December 13 we will begin our month-long vist home to Texas. Certainly cannot expect the service center to hold onto our EPIRB until mid-January.

Bill needs to go up the mast and remove the wind instrument. He planned to do that today but it is raining yet again. It is always a good idea to remove the anemometer any time a boat is berthed in a marina or in a boatyard for a long period of time. It is also a good idea to remove it periodically for thorough maintenance inspection. Bill noticed during our basically windless passages from Darwin to Singapore that our anemometer sometimes did not turn during very low winds. Once the wind is up to at least 5 knots then it begins to spin. I would probably never have noticed this as I don't spend a lot of time looking at the top of the mast. Bill contacted the B&G service center in the USA and thinks he knows which little part is beginning to fail. That replacement part is waiting for us at our son's home in Houston. Bill needs to disassemble the anemometer to make sure there are no other parts that need replacing.

There are very few people left in this marina and we are getting bored already. There are a lot of boats, but very few people. This is a popular place to leave a boat while traveling home or doing land travel in SE Asia. Earlier this week I planned a trip to Cambodia for us in early in February. Travel on Air Asia is so inexpensive that we have decided to make several round-trips to the various countries rather than flying to one country and continuing onward from there. It makes much more sense for us to do a one or two week round-trip to Cambodia one month; come back to the marina and get bored again; then maybe round-trip to Vietnam the next month; and repeat this process until we have visited all the places we are interested in seeing. That will be much easier than packing and being gone for months. That isn't for us. Might work well for others but we would get homesick and want to return to check on the boat. Doing separate trips will work much better for us, especially since we will be in the area for almost an entire year. Why cram all that travel into just a couple of months when we can leisurely spread it out over many months at no additional expense.

Unfortunately, the Air Asia website is programmed incorrectly at this moment. We cannot purchase tickets online because their website will not process any of our credit cards. We contacted our bank after the card was declined online and learned that the problem is on the Air Asia website. Our bank said the charge is not even being submitted to the bank; it is being declined strictly on the Air Asia website. We have talked with Australians and they have no problems using credit cards on the Air Asia website that are issued by Australian banks; but our credit cards issued by USA banks are not processed. How annoying!! It had taken me over a week to get a hotel reservation for agreeable dates for the trip to Cambodia, and now we couldn't purchase the airline tickets!

But Puteri Harbour Marina saved the day. I asked the front desk if they could take us to Danga Bay so we could personally visit an Air Asia ticket office. The next morning we had a fast boat ride up to Danga Bay. The boat driver walked with us to the Air Asia office, then walked with us to find an ATM, and back to the Air Asia office and waited while we purchased the tickets. All for no fee and he also refused to accept a tip. Cannot say enough compliments for the staff at Puteri Harbour Marina. They really go out of their way to help the cruisers in any way needed. We probably could have taken our dinghy to Danga Bay, but the current in the Johor Strait runs very strong and it is not somewhere we would feel comfortable traveling in an inflatable dinghy. Hopefully Air Asia will correct the programming problem soon so we can book future trips. I am so ready to start planning trips to Vietnam, Thailand, Maccau/Hong Kong and China.