Saturday, June 26, 2010

Time for another vacation---Thailand this time!

Last Saturday was the first morning that we had all smiles from all participants for our morning walk. Both kids were actually in a good mood, which is unusual for that early in the morning. When we returned to the boat they updated their journals and worked on study books for math, grammar and reading comprehension while I cooked bacon. Cooking bacon on our boat involves turning off the air-conditioning and opening hatches so that the bacon smell does not permeate everything inside the boat. Our galley has a good vent fan over the stove, but cooking odors still find their way throughout the small confines of a closed boat.

As soon as we open the hatches, the flies start swarming in. Flies are particularly prevalent in Malaysia. And they drive us crazy!!! That is one enormous benefit of having air-conditioning and being able to keep the hatches and companionway closed 99% of the time. I think we could tolerate the heat (albeit very uncomfortably!), but neither Bill nor I could ever get accustomed to these annoying flies.

As I cooked bacon, both Zachary and Elisabeth grabbed fly swatters and started fly patrol. By the time the bacon was cooked and we closed the boat back up, there was only 2 flies left inside; and those were quickly dispatched. I love having the grandkids aboard on bacon-cooking day.

Next on the agenda for Saturday was to attempt dinghy repair again. Bill had applied 2 hypalon patches about 2 years ago and those have held fine until recently. Last week he had used a heat gun and removed the old patches and the old adhesive, and had applied 2 new patches. He let the dinghy sit with very low air pressure for several days to allow the adhesive to set well, as per instructions included in the dinghy hypalon patch kit. Then he inflated it and everything looked perfect........for 2 days. Then it started leaking again. Bill did more research and learned that one is supposed to apply the patch in the shade and the dinghy should remain in the shade for 5 to 7 days afterward to allow the adhesive to set properly. By leaving the dinghy in the full sun, it had been exposed to very high heat and the patches had loosened. The glue will liquefy at 160F and the dock gets every bit of 160F almost daily in full sun. No wonder the patch did not hold properly. Back to square one!

Next step was to again use the heat gun to loosen the newly-applied adhesive and use a flat edged tool to smooth the patch down tight again. Then he removed more air and turned the dinghy upside down to put the patches in the shade. He let it sit in this position for 5 days after the second repair attempt. Today was the day to test how well the patches were holding. Bill flipped the dinghy over and pumped it up and waited 6 hours. Seemed to hold fine so we mounted the outboard and took the kids for a dingy ride. They both enjoyed that a lot. We went out into Johor Strait and let each kid drive for awhile. Zach is an old hand at driving the dinghy but this was the first time Elisabeth tried her hand at it. She did surprisingly well......better than some of my adult friends. There were a bunch of local kids in the marina lagoon in the pedal boats and kayaks that afternoon. Zachary had no problems winding his way through all of them as we returned to our boat.

Unfortunately, the next day it was obvious that one or both of the patches were slowly leaking. Bill has used all our hypalon patches and adhesive so there is nothing we can do about it right now. He ordered more hypalon and our son will bring it when he meets us in Singapore in August, and we continue to search for the correct adhesive. Surely it is available somewhere in Singapore. It is not available in Malaysia.

Sunday was the birthday of Linda on S/V B'Sheret. Michael invited the few cruisers on their boats right now up to the marina cafe for burgers to celebrate Linda's birthday. I baked toll house pan cookies and wrote birthday wishes in icing on one of the pan cookies. I did not have a pastry bag and tips onboard, nor did I have food coloring to tint the icing. I used strawberry extract to tint the icing pink and folded parchment paper into a makeshift pastry bag. It wasn't pretty, but it worked. After the burgers at the cafe we all retired to S/V Estrellita's cockpit for birthday cake, cookies and coffee (with chocolate milk for the kids). Amy on S/V Estrellita had baked a couple of pineapple upside down cakes. Oh, those were so good! It has been years since we have eaten pineapple upside down cake. Zachary loved the cake; Elisabeth preferred the toll house cookies. Little piggy that I am, I enjoyed both.

Today I washed all the laundry and packed our duffel bags. After dinner tonight I will defrost the fridge and turn it off. The marina shuttle will take us to the train station in Johor Bahru at 06:30 tomorrow morning, and we will begin our journey to Thailand. The first train goes from Johor Bahru to Butterworth terminal near Penang. We should arrive at Butterworth around 20:00 tomorrow evening, and will take the ferry across to Penang. One night in a hotel in Penang and then back to the Butterworth terminal to catch the train to Bangkok shortly after 2 the next afternoon. This will be an overnight train, and should arrive in Bangkok mid-day Thursday. Stopping in Penang for 1 night and 1/2 day should let us know whether we want to stop there for several days on our return trip. Penang was one of the top 40 places to see according to the New York Times last year. Sailing friends visited there a few months ago and said the water is very dirty and the fast ferries cause too much rolling. They hated being there, so we figure the best way to see Penang might be on land rather than by sailboat. If it looks interesting, we will stop in Penang for a few days on our way back from Thailand.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Another week in Malaysia

It has been a busy time and sometimes a boring time for the kids at the marina in Malaysia.

One day the water was unusually clear and they went swimming off the outer dock, well away from all the berthed boats. Since we did not get into the water with them, they were forced to wear life jackets; but neither complained about that safety precaution. That same day they also played in the pedal boat again. Those pedal boats are pretty popular with the kids. I think they feel very independent pedaling off on their own and leaving us standing on the dock.

Our grandson Damien celebrated his first birthday on this day. Sorry that we could not see him on this special day. Just was not the right time of year for us to make a trip to Houston.

Zach enjoys playing poker as much this summer as he did last year when he visited us in Australia. I am not into playing cards and his grandfather also doesn't play cards often. When Zach cannot talk his Papa into playing poker, he enjoys building card houses.

On Saturday both kids tried their hands at flying kites. We had purchased the kites in Singapore and have been waiting for a day with breeze strong enough to fly them. BeBe's kite zipped all over the place, but Zach's larger kite with the long split tail just stayed in one place. What fun is that! Zachary prefers riding the bike as fast as possible over standing still and flying kites.

Sunday 20 June was pancake day. Sunday mornings usually seem the right day for making pancakes. We told the kids about the cashier in the supermarket in New Zealand that called maple syrup "mapple syrup" (pronounced like apple). So now syrup on our boat is always referred to as mapple. (Truly cannot understand how that woman got that pronunciation out of maple. I thought all English speaking people worldwide knew of maple trees.) Elisabeth decided on jelly-filled taco pancakes rather than maple/mapple (see picture). Of course since we were eating pancakes, Bill had to tell the story of Boom Boom Mancini. Our breakfast discussion then veered off into wondering if astronauts eat pancakes in space and, if so, how. Google helped; they do eat pancakes!

The rest of the day way spent reading on a rainy day.

On Monday we were off bike riding again. Elisabeth is very close to being able to ride on her own. She will go about 25 feet after Bill lets go of the seat; but as soon as she realizes she is riding on her own, those feet go down to stop the bike. Usually Bill will give her several tries on the bike, then he pedals off with Zachary and we girls are left to walk after them. This day we opted not to walk after them and instead we returned to the marina and ordered a banana split. Later Bill and Zachary joined us. Banana splits for lunch; aren't we good grandparents!

On Tuesday we had our first 2-mile morning walk since the kids arrived. I had cut my heel badly and have not been able to wear sneakers or walking shoes for weeks. The wound is still not completely healed, but I can now tolerate my walking shoes if the heel is bandaged properly. Neither Zachary nor Elisabeth wanted to go on this long walk, but they were not given an option. Both finished unwillingly.

That afternoon they attempted the row boat for the first time. First we gave them paddles to try. That was too hard for both of them. Next we gave proper oars and let Zach try his skills at rowing. BeBe said she was just a passenger and wasn't required to row. Bill tied a long line on the row boat so they couldn't get too far from the dock. We had visions of them getting off way in the back of the marina lagoon and then not being able to row all the way back. I don't think they will be asking to play in the row boat again now that they know how much work it is. Then they got in the pedal boat again to wear themselves out.

While they were finishing up their time in the pedal boat, Amy from S/V Estrellita and Linda from S/V B'Sheret walked over and wanted to play Mexican Train dominoes. We settled into the air-conditioned comfort of our boat and spent several hours playing a game. It has been a very, very long time since we have played dominoes.....the last time was back in New Zealand.

We finished dominoes just in time to leave in the marina shuttle for Night Market in Gelang Patah. I wish we had brought a camera that night. We first walked down to the Chinese food vendor section a block away from the night market vendors. We each ate a small order of roasted pork and split an order of Thai pineapple rice. Elisabeth drank watermelon juice. No one complained even once about this meal. Both kids are now quite proficient eating with chopsticks. In Malaysia people normally eat with a large spoon and a fork; a knife is never provided except in restaurants frequented by westerners. But in the Chinese food vendor section in the small town, chopsticks are the norm. Both kids were glad they had been practicing eating with chopsticks on the boat.

Then we walked over to the night market area and bought produce and wandered through the stalls. The kids bought a cup of corn kernels to eat. There was nothing else in that place that either of them would touch. Both of them thought it was dirty, smelly and crowded. Neither was impressed with night market. I explained several times that this is just the way people live here. It is so different from what they experience at home. Wish I had a photo of Elisabeth's face when she saw the chicken feet stacked for sale and all the very unappetizing meats with flies buzzing around. The next week when we asked if they wanted to go back to the night market, both kids said no. When we inquired why, they each said it was too dirty and smelly and crowded. Too bad; we returned the next week anyway.

The next morning we walked our normal 2 miles again; Elisabeth dragging along behind us the whole way. For the last few blocks Bill made up silly songs and she decided she would join us and participate. She is slowing coming to the realization that complaining doesn't work with her grandparents. Better to just do it and get it over with and be done with it. Shortly after finishing our walk, the clouds rolled in. Soon there were flashes of lightning and rivers of rain pouring from the sky.

We stayed tucked inside the boat the rest of the day and watched the new Karate Kid movie remake. It was not nearly as good as the original. The angles of filming were terrible. The effect was to make viewers think they saw things that they really did not see. Several times we stopped the DVD and asked the kids what they had just seen. We explained that they really had not seen those things at all and would replay in slow motion. Believe me, playing the karate scenes in slow motion is absolutely hilarious. This is NOT a good movie.

Yesterday we made the weekly shopping trip to the mall. Both kids enjoyed a Chinese chicken meal in the food court. They are expert at chopsticks now. The supermarket had nice large fresh shrimp and Bill hand-picked through the display case for the biggest ones. He bought twice the amount that he thought we might eat. It has been forever since we have eaten fried shrimp, so that is what I cooked for dinner last night. There were no leftovers; and we were wishing we had another dozen shrimp. All 4 of us love fried shrimp. We will be buying more when available.

Today was a rainy morning so we skipped the forced walk, to the delight of both kids. They declared it Pajama Day again. I taught Zach how to make pancakes from scratch. His pancakes turned out almost as good as mine and he wants to cook for his parents when he returns home. It was still raining and fairly cool inside the boat with the a/c running, so it seemed like the perfect day for one of them to learn how to bake a cake from scratch. Elisabeth was playing with her DS, so Zachary was chosen for a cake baking lesson. It smelled so good coming out of the oven that we each ate a piece while it was still warm. Zachary now realizes why cakes are so fattening. He was surprised by how much butter and sugar are required to bake a cake. He agreed with me that the cake was so good that it did not need frosting and add all those extra fat calories. He wants my recipe to take home with him so he can bake a cake for his mom on her birthday.

After the baking lesson, Bill gave Zachary a lesson in electricity while BeBe had her first sewing lesson with me. We have a thermal cotton blanket that is too wide for our bed and I wanted to take off a foot in width. This seemed like the perfect job for a first sewing lesson. I marked a line and Elisabeth stitched over that line, so the blanket would not ravel when cut. I helped her cut off the unwanted excess. Then I showed her how to fold over the edge twice to form a hem. Then she sewed the hem. That stitching was somewhat crooked, so I had her try it again. This time she aligned the edge of the blanket on the metal guide beside the sewing machine foot and was able to sew a perfect 1/2" stitching down the hem. She did a very good job. She wants to try to make something if we can find fabric and patterns somewhere.

I will let Bill and Zachary explain the electricity lesson. Elisabeth participated in that experiment also.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Back to Malaysia again

On Friday morning we cleared out of Singapore and departed One Degree 15 Marina. We motored the short distance to the Western Quarantine Anchorage and drifted until the Immigration officials arrived to stamp our passports outbound. They arrived after only a 10 minute wait, and we were soon on our way. The official small boat hovered nearby and the documents were passed in a net on the end of a pole. This works very efficiently except when it is raining or seas are rough. They are pretty good at doing this and almost never hit against your boat. Today was one of those calm days.

True to predictions, the weather was perfect.......a bit too hot and still, but tolerable with the breeze generated by motoring at 6-7 knots.

Both Zachary and Elisabeth take to this boat life like naturals. I let each of them drive the boat for a short time. There is just enough room for Elisabeth to stand in front while I sit in the helm seat so I can grab the helm if needed or help her make course adjustments. After all, the waters of Singapore are very busy with all the shipping traffic and one must stay extra vigilant here. She did very well. Her only shortcoming was that her attention is easily diverted. When Bill brought up PB&J sandwiches for lunch, she dropped her hands and walked away from the helm without a second thought about who was going to continue driving the boat. Of course I was sitting right there and grabbed the helm, but we kidded her about this for the rest of the trip.

Zachary is much too big to stand in front of the helm seat with anyone sitting there, so I sat sideways next to the helm while he drove. He did just fine, even when an cargo ship weighed anchor and went well in front of us and when another cargo ship motored right across our route in the not-too-far distance.

Soon we had turned the corner are were headed up the Johor Strait between Singapore and Malaysia. As we approached the Tuas Bridge (Second Link Bridge), we let the kids walk out to the bow and then lie down on the deck to watch the top of the mast as we went beneath the bridge. The highest clearance beneath the bridge is 25 meters. Our mast is 60 meters with about 1 meter of various antennas mounted on top. So there is no doubt we can clear beneath the bridge at even the highest tides. But it always looks much closer than it is!! Lying on the deck and looking up at the mast top as it goes beneath the bridge always gives the appearance that the mast will hit the bridge. Zachary took photos with his camera, but we don't have the cable for that camera to download to our computer. So, no photos of this optical illusion.

We arrived mid-afternoon after a total distance traveled of 31 NM. The staff at the marina were setting up an enormous projection TV screen for the World Cup starting that night, so there was no one available to drive us the very long distance to the port authorities for inbound clearance. Our clearance was delayed until Saturday morning.

Friday afternoon we were sitting near the cafe and Bill was chatting with the man in charge of the entire development. He said there were bikes for the kids to ride and we explained that all of the bikes were too large for the kids. He immediately called over the marina project manager and told him to go buy some bicycles for children. Wow!! We never expected that!

Saturday morning the marina shuttle van took us to clear in. Sure enough, no problems with the officials for not clearing in the previous afternoon. Nice for us that they were so amenable.

Saturday afternoon Bill put one of the pedal boats into the water and let Zachary and Elisabeth pedal themselves until worn out. This marina has a very, very large enclosed area that is totally calm and protected. They have plenty of room to ride in the pedal boats or kayaks or rowing dinghy, with no worries of them getting caught in the currents of the strait outside the marina entrance.

Saturday night we met several other people at the marina cafe to socialize and watch the World Cup. Not that any of us cared one whit about Algeria and Slovenia playing soccer. While we chatted and snacked, the kid met another cruising boy whose mother is from Japan and father from New Zealand. Zachary discovered one of the new bicycles and the kids had fun riding around together. Elisabeth does not yet know how to ride a bike well, so she just ran after the 2 boys. Oh, to have the energy of a child again!

But this friendship with the Japanese boy was not to last long. On Monday after Zachary finished riding the new bicycle, he handed it over to the Japanese boy. That kid immediately took the bike back to his boat to keep it there solely for his use. Nice kid, huh? The marina allows people to take bikes to their boats and keep them on the dock. I think this is a bad practice and submitted a note to their suggestion box. Having bikes on the dock causes clutter and are hazards for tripping. Most marinas do not allow bicycles to be parked on the docks for this reason. Zachary was not happy because the only bike left that was the right size for him was the new pink one. No 9-yr-old American boy wants to ride a pink bicycle!! I explained to him that the pink-girl and blue-boy color thing was just for Americans. The Malaysians do not associate pink with girls. He wasn't happy about it, but if that was his only choice then he would ride a pink bike. He was convinced that the pink bike did not go as fast as the red bike (even though they are the same model bicycle). Boys!!

This went on for a couple of days and then Bill went to the Japanese boat and explained to the father that the marina bicycles are meant to be shared by everyone and that he hoped that the bike would be returned to the marina bike parking area so the other kids could use it also. I was somewhat annoyed by the whole deal because this little boy is much too small to be riding this bicycle in the first place. A child should be able to sit on the seat and place both feet on the ground; if his feet do not touch the ground while he is sitting on the seat, then the bike is too large. Being able to ride it by jumping on and pedaling but not being able to sit on the seat is not safe. At any rate, the father did return the bike to the marina parking area the following day. Now the kids are back to sharing time riding that specific bike. But I don't think they will be friends again.

We went to Night Market in Gelang Patah on Tuesday night. Both kids liked the roasted pork and the Thai pineapple rice we bought in the Chinese section across the street from the market. (We have learned that the food is much better from the Chinese vendors than from the Malaysian vendors.) Neither Zach nor BeBe were impressed with the small town. Elisabeth said it looked like a dirty dump place where people throw things away. I explained that this is their town and that is just the way they live. Pretty buildings and landscaping are not as important to them; functionality takes priority. Looking at the foods for sale in the Night Market must have impressed upon her that what I am serving her on the is the best she is going to find in Malaysia, because she suddenly switched from"I don't like that" and "I'm not eating that" to eating everything on her plate with no complaints whatsoever. She still refuses to eat white cheese. Like most American children, she thinks cheddar should be yellow. She refuses to believe that the only difference is yellow food coloring, even though it is the same brand as she eats at home. Zachary eats whatever is prepared for him. He wants to lose a few pounds this summer. In an effort to help him with that goal, he is eating each meal with chopsticks. This causes him to eat more slowly. He is getting very good at handling chopsticks. Elisabeth is also learning to eat with chopsticks, although not as a weight-control measure.

Yesterday it rained all day and the kids declared it to be Pajama Day. Both of them stayed in their pajamas all day long. Several times I heard one or the other say, " Pajama Day rocks!!" They loved lounging around reading, playing DS games and watching movies. It was nice to do nothing all day except read or whatever we wanted.

Today the sultan's boat is back in the marina. Neither kid was impressed by the presence of a sultan. They were more impressed with his orange Lamborghini Diablo parked in front of the marina office and with the camouflaged blue-on-blue police boat that goes 45 knots.

Friday, June 11, 2010

2 of the grandchildren arrive for the summer

We motored over to One Degree 15 Marina in Singapore a day early so we could be all settled before our guests arrived. Very glad we made that trip on a bright and sunny Friday because Saturday it rained all day. There went my plans for getting a haircut and highlights before everyone arrived. We didn't budge off the boat until 21:15 Saturday night when it was time to catch the bus from Sentosa Cove (at the marina) to Vivo City where the Harbourfront MRT station is located. The MRT (subway) is the easiest method of transportation to Changi Airport. Unfortunately, the subway does not run all night. Our daughter-in-law, Lynn, and our 8-year-old granddaughter Elisabeth (a/k/a BeBe) were scheduled to arrive near midnight. Their flight was right on time and we chatted away during the taxi ride back to the marina. Lynn and BeBe got settled in and Bill and I grabbed a few hours sleep before meeting the taxi driver again at 04:45 for the second trip of the night back to the airport. Zachary, our 9-year-old grandson, arrived around 06:00. The taxi driver waited and brought us on the return trip to the marina. We hoped everyone might sleep in for a few hours, but that didn't happen.

Elisabeth and Zachary are cousins. Even though they live in the same city, they rarely see one another. So there was lots to catch up on by those 2 as well as with their grandparents. Everyone was too excited to sleep. Bill unpacked luggage and it was like Christmas in June with all the boat parts and odds and ends the kids had delivered to us. None of us ever made it back to bed that day, but we didn't venture out of the marina. Plus, it was Bill's 63rd birthday. His birthday present was seeing both grandkids and their delivery of a new saltwater pump for our air-conditioning system. The old pump is on its last legs and expected to fail beyond repair any day. And facing this climate without air-conditioning would be intolerable!!

Monday we initiated everyone on the MRT. Singapore has such a wonderful mass transit system. It makes getting around this island-country so very easy. We visited the Bugis market area, where Lynn and Elisabeth shopped and visited a nearby small Buddhist temple while I got one of the worst haircuts imaginable. Bill and Zachary visited Sim Lim Tower to purchase electronic things. Then we all met for a late lunch at one of the many food vendor areas adjacent to Bugis markets. Elisabeth is going to have a difficult time finding foods acceptable to her discerning palate during this summer. But she will adjust once she realizes that the foods she normally enjoys are not available here. That is what international traveling is all about -- experiencing different cultures. I'm not worried about it. She won't starve.

A quick hop on the subway and a good walk through the rain brought us to the Singapore Flyer. Bill and I had seen this many times but had waited until the kids were here to ride it. The Singapore Flyer is like an extremely slow Ferris wheel. Each gondola holds more than a dozen people and you can walk around inside the gondola as it completes the circle. One can even eat dinner inside a gondola but we weren't interested in doing that. The Flyer reaches 165 meters height (536 feet) and provides a good overview of Singapore. Since it was raining our views were not quite as spectacular as they would have been on a clear sunny day. But the rain also made the walking cooler and I will take the cooler temperature over a pretty skyline view any day.

There was one 'building' that caught the kids eyes. It actually was 3 tall buildings with what resembled a long boat on top connecting all 3 buildings. It looked like there was a park on top of the boat, as we could see lots of palm trees up there. We learned at the Flyer that we could go up on top of the boat if we felt like walking across the bridge in the rain. There is a casino up there. This general area is called the Marina District, although that does not connote the normal definition of marina as there will never be a place for docking boats here. Much later, we learned that the 'boat' on top of the 3 skyscrapers is the Sands casino. When the new city of Nusujaya in Malaysia is completed (where Puteri Harbour Marina is located) there will be a ferry operating between Puteri in Malaysia and the Marina District in Singapore. That will be really convenient. Singapore is focusing more on entertainment for adults (casinos) and Nusajaya is focusing on family-oriented entertainment. Having a high-speed ferry between the 2 locations will allow families to visit both places easily during their vacations.

We took the subway back to Vivo City and leisurely strolled around this large shopping mall. Anything for air-conditioning. This 'shopping' through the huge food courts also further reinforced to Elisabeth that she was not going to find orange chicken in Singapore so she might as well give in and eat what is available.

Tuesday the kids discovered the marina swimming pool. I don't remember what else we did that day. This is also the day the kids discovered the 2 peacocks that freely roam the marina area

Wednesday Lynn and I took the kids to see temples while Bill worked in the engine room. We visited Chinatown and saw a small Hindu temple and a small Buddhist temple. At the Hindu temple there was a ceremony in progress for 2 small boys. They and their family all lined up and presented offerings which were then burned. Two men nearby played very loud music during this ceremony. We had no idea what this ceremony was for, but I told the kids that maybe it was like a confirmation for the 2 young boys. This temple was quite colorful and totally different from the ancient large stone temples that Bill and I were familiar with in Bali and Cambodia.

This was the kids' first exposure to different religions. I think they both found the Buddhist more interesting than the Hindu. Zachary bought a book about the wisdoms of truth according to Buddha. Zachary and I were impressed with the walls of tiny Buddhas on the third floor of the Buddhist temple. Zach counted the columns and rows and the number of wall panels. Each Buddha statue was inside a plastic cube that measured approximately 3 inches on each side, and each had a name and number written on the front of its case. On the fourth floor we saw a sign that offered these tiny Buddha displays at $1800 for 5 for 'remembrance.' When we returned to the boat that day we calculated how many Buddhas were lining the walls on the third floor and how much money the temple had collected by selling these displays at 5 for $1800. The temple had collected $3,033,000. And we didn't even count the displays lining floor-to-ceiling inside the prayer wheel room on the third floor! Got to hand it to the Chinese. They have figured out a way to collect far more money per square inch of temple or church space than the Catholics do by having 'sponsors' of stained glass windows. The photo on the right shows the kids bathing the Buddha statue. We don't know why one pours water over the statue, but why not?

Chinatown did not really impress either of them with all those sidewalk shops selling tourist goods that none of us were interested in buying.

Next was Little India for lunch. Elisabeth managed to eat 3 small steamed dumplings, but she shunned the accompanying pork and noodles, as well as the lime juice drinks. Zachary loved his Thai pineapple rice. Lynn and I had the more spicy chicken biryani, Both kids loved the waffles filled with chocolate. Finally found something local that Elisabeth really likes and it is a junk food that she won't have the opportunity to eat again except possibly when we make day trips back to Singapore from the marina in Malaysia. We will be taking the boat back to Malaysia as soon as her mom flies home at the end of this week.

We returned to the marina. Planned to take the kids to one of the beaches on Sentosa island; but we missed the bus and none of us felt like waiting 35 minutes in the heat for the next one, so back to the marina swimming pool. I love this pool. One long side of the pool is a solid piece of glass. It is more than 4-inches thick and water constantly flows over it. When someone is in the water, from the outside it appears that their body and head are in different places. Appears very funny. In the photo on the left Lynn's body appears past Elisabeth's head. The bodies are all well away from their owners' heads. Notice in the photo on the right how Elisabeth's head appears to be following a couple of feet behind her body as she approaches the glass wall. Just an optical illusion. Zachary appears normal because he is right against the wall.

I could spend half of every day sitting at this swimming pool......especially late afternoon when it is shaded from the sun by the tall buildings.

Thursday was another rainy day, so we all went to the Science Center and Snow City. The Science Center is very large and has many things to entertain children of all ages. But the big hit of the day was Snow City. Kids and adults can slide down a hill sitting on inner tubes. This was a blast! I couldn't do it because I had recently cut my heel deeply and could not wear regular shoes or boots. The complex provides parkas, boots and gloves to make certain that everyone is properly attired for the very cold experience, but I was barefoot in sandals because of my heel injury. It really wasn't bad until a little boy decided that he needed to kick snow to cover my feet. Bill rode down the hill with both kids. After that, the kids were ready to do it on their own. We stayed inside until Elisabeth's face was bright red from the cold. Cameras are not allowed inside Snow City because they want to sell photos that they take. But I did slide my camera out and hold it under my parka to catch a short video of Bill and the kids sliding down the hill.

There were lots of interesting things in the Science Center (or Science Centre as the Singaporeans call it due to their prior British influence).

There even was a Tesla coil in the Science Center. We watched a demonstration of the Tesla coil. The visual electricity was quite dramatic. They used the energy to pop balloons and also demonstrated the effective safety of a Faraday Cage.

Part of the Science Center is a large Eco-Garden. In the garden there was a large tree house for the kids to climb and play. There also is a Pixar Studio section and Imax theater. But the Imax was showing a film about beavers that that did not seem too interesting; and Pixar was showing Toy Story I and 2, both of which the kids had seen far too many times already. We decided to skip that part of the complex. Maybe we can return later this summer if they start showing the new Toy Story 3.

Late that night Lynn headed off to the airport for her long flights back to Houston. She had originally planned to spend 2 weeks with us but her job duties intervened. She had to work several nights during her visit to Singapore and had an executive meeting scheduled for shortly after her return to Houston. It had to be hard on her physically to fly 24 hours each way to deliver Elisabeth to us for this summer visit. Elisabeth's dad, our son Aaron, will fly here in August to pick her up. Aaron will be staying with us for 2 weeks in August, assuming his job doesn't also interfere with that scheduled time off. Zachary flew as an unaccompanied minor on Singapore Airlines and will return home the same way.

Friday morning we cleared out of Singapore and motored back to Puteri Harbour Marina in Malaysia. The marina was setting up a large projection screen to show the opening game for the World Cup, and there was no one available to drive us to clear in with customs and immigration late this afternoon; so we are scheduled to go clear in tomorrow morning. It is a very long drive to the official port offices. Hope that delay in clearance will be okay with the Malaysian officials.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

This and That

I learned this afternoon from Barbara on S/V Destiny that the volcano on Tanna Island, Vanuatu has had a major eruption. Google search provided news that the officials are considering evacuating the 6,000 inhabitants. There was a 7.2 magnitude earthquake on 31 May 2010. A tsunami warning was issued, but apparently nothing developed because I don't find any news about it on the internet. Barbara and Frank had hoped to sail from Fiji to Tanna Island in a few weeks and do the popular tour around the volcano crater, but doesn't look like they will be doing that now.

Mt. Yasur volcano has been unusually active for the past 3 months. Now there is an ash plume/cloud almost 2 kilometers high spewing up from the volcano and the local water supply is contaminated by ash. Our thoughts go out for the villagers on that tiny island. We visited the top of Mr. Yasur last May. Thankfully the 'old man was asleep' on the night we visited the crater...........meaning that the century-old continuous eruption was very slight. And that was active enough for us! As I said at the time, walking around the crater of an active volcano was not the most intelligent thing we have ever done -- but I sure am glad we had the experience. We hope the 'old man' goes back to sleep very soon and the lives of the jungle inhabitants are not too disrupted by this latest display of the Ring of Fire.

It appears that we will be taking the grandchildren to Thailand after all. The recent political protests by the Red Shirts is apparently over, so it should be safe in Bangkok least as safe as any large city normally is. This afternoon I sent email inquiries to the appropriate offices about purchasing the train tickets. Our plans take us on an all-day train from Johor Bahru to the Butterworth station at Penang; spend one night in Penang; and the next afternoon board the overnight train to Bangkok. This should be an adventure for our two 9-yr-old grandchildren. We will spend 4 nights in Bangkok before taking a daytime express train to the northern city of Chaing Mai. After 5 nights in Chaing Mai we take an overnight train (hopefully with private sleeping compartments) to Bangkok. That is as far as we are willing to commit to at this point. We have also reserved the Bangkok hotel for an additional 3 nights on the return trip, but we will see how much we enjoy Bangkok before finalizing that portion of this trip.

Bill and I are each over the age of 60 so we qualify for the senior ticket price on trains in Malaysia, which is the same price as a child's ticket. Unbelievable to us, the total price for all 4 of us to take the trains from Johor Bahru to Bangkok (about 1250 miles) is a whopping $165 USD!! And that is in the top class of service available on each train. Malaysian trains and Thai trains are not of the same class or new age of the trains we rode in China, but the grandkids should enjoy the novelty. They are both from Texas and trains are not a normal mode of travel in their world.

Less than 2 days until we move the boat from Malaysia back over to Singapore! I am so excited about this. Seems rather silly to be excited about motoring only 22 miles to another marina, but we have been docked here since Nov 3 and it will be wonderful to be out on the water again for a few hours..........even just motoring along the coast to One Degree 15 Marina in Singapore.

Looking forward to seeing granddaughter Elisabeth (a/k/a BeBe) and her mother Lynn at the airport around midnight Saturday. And then meeting grandson Zachary at the airport at 05:45 Sunday morning. He is flying as an unaccompanied minor and is routed through Moscow. Do hope he stays awake during that portion of his flight so he can see Moscow from the air.