Monthly Archives: December 2018

Resorting to Christmas

Jack and I started the day with a modest breakfast in anticipation of the big brunch at noon, then, in a repeat of our solitary New Zealand Christmas Day three years ago, we walked a nature trail across the island on legs still wobbly from not nearly enough exercise these past months. Once we were clear of the boatyard we came across hornbills too quick to photograph and young long tailed macaques who didn’t mind posing until some elders determined we were too close and warned us off loudly.

Further up the road a gang of delinquents asserted their dominance and blocked the road until we took a side path to avoid them. That path lead to a shaky crossing over a stream so we turned back and waited patiently for the Sharks and the Jets to swagger past.

The path ended on the far side of the resort island at an isolated and beautiful gazebo, a spot we may take advantage of some evening with a bottle of wine and a nibble.

The Christmas brunch offered up by the resort was — please excuse the word choice — awesome. Many meters of long buffets featured seafood and sushi; salads from basic greens to tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella to Waldorf salad to hummus and other Turkish and Syrian dips; cheeses and fresh fruit; a turkey carving station; grilled, roasted and stewed meats of all kinds; a tandoori station; a pasta station; a vast array of Malaysian, European and Indian dishes; baskets of breads and spreads; and of course desserts. I’d met with the chef a few days before to be sure there’d be enough vegetarian dishes to justify the cost for me and when we arrived he kindly walked me through the whole presentation pointing out what was and wasn’t veg friendly. There were more options for me than I’m used to and I shared the intel with another vegetarian I know.

We dug in again and again, plate after plate, washed down with glasses of free-flowing bubbly, wishing we had more capacity or more time and suggesting to the staff that they do this once a week. It was worth every precious ringgit!

Santa made an appearance and passed out candies, and after a few hours of eating and visiting table to table, we waddled back to Escape Velocity to put our feet up and recover from our gluttony.

We finished the day with a refreshing dip in the pool, and later some streaming Netflix thanks to my sister and the marina wifi. All in all, it was a pretty good day. We hope yours was too.


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Peace on earth

It’s an hour before dawn on Christmas Day and Escape Velocity floats perfectly still at a dock at Rebak Marina in Langkawi, Malaysia. The marina is part of a resort, and even this early the whine of an electric cart and the rumble of luggage wheels on the dock ramp tells me there are guests boarding the little private ferry to the big island for an early flight. In a few minutes the ferry will motor past D-dock into the channel and all will be peaceful again.

We came into the marina because we needed to be in a more social environment for the holidays. A downside to our chosen life is that certain times of the year remind us of what we miss of “home.” Thanksgiving is a big one for me because it always involved a wintry road trip to reconnect with family we hadn’t seen since the last Thanksgiving. And since we’ve been cruising the extended holiday season of December often leaves me feeling more empty than joyful as I think of what we’re missing. I miss the general atmosphere of anticipation as we prepared for entertaining; I miss the aromas of roasting vegetables, spicy samosa filling, sweet cinnamon buns. I miss the last-minute run to the Strip District and taking a number at the cheese counter at Penn Mac and seeing that I’m at least 100 numbers away from being served but not stressing because that gives me time to wriggle my basket through the press of spirited shoppers and find the other exotic items on my list. I miss our traditional Cassidy Christmas Eve curry dinner, where everyone is relaxed except our hostess Mary, and getting her to sit down, enjoy the amazing meal she presents and take her kudos is a yearly challenge.

Mostly I miss the time to be with the people I love, to share their troubles and celebrate their joys. I’m so grateful to be cruising in this era of global communications and particularly social media because I feel connected to most of my friends and family in a way that was unimaginable when we first started to plan for this life. I love every photo of new babies, grandkids, cats and dogs, every rant and praise, every sad joke, every plate of food. These small moments are the things we miss when we’re no longer living next door or across town. I think that the people who pooh-pooh social media because it can be mundane and inane are missing the point. Yes, we would prefer to meet for breakfast in person. But when that’s impossible we sure love seeing a friend’s post of our favorite breakfast place and some yummy-looking pancakes. We love the views from the back porch of the latest snowfall, the hike you took this morning, what you’re cooking at home.

The idea for Escape Velocity’s “view from the back porch” emerged many years ago when Jack was a cameraman on a small cruise ship in the Caribbean for a couple of weeks and cell phones (for us) were new. Every morning he sent a photo of where he was to share the trip with me. Since we both traveled often for work it became a thing from then on and it’s the same now with our friends and family on social media. Those shares — however mundane — allow us to continue to be a part of your lives even while we’re far away. Keep ’em coming, folks!

The sky is beginning to lighten. Resort staff are chattering noisily as they arrive on the tiny ferry. Unlike other years I have no early morning cooking or baking to do because the resort is hosting a massive Christmas brunch and all our boater friends will be there. This is our family now, the ever-evolving community of long-distance sailors who are also missing their loved ones and who share their troubles and joys with each other.

We’re lucky to be in Malaysia this holiday season because, as one of our Grab Car (think Uber) drivers said, when I asked why there were so many Christmas decorations in a Muslim country, “We celebrate everything!” And they do. We have rarely seen such over-the-top excess as we did in Kuala Lumpur a few weeks ago. It’s funny to see holiday displays featuring snow scenes in a climate where we’ll be spending our afternoon taking refuge from the oppressive heat in a refrigerated pool.

Even though the largest percentage of Malaysians are Muslim, this is a truly multicultural and tolerant country and we’re enjoying being part of it.

The sun is up. Jack has lit a mosquito coil to keep the nasties at bay, and I think a cup of coffee is in my future. We both wish you all peace in your mind, joy in your soul, and love in your heart every day of your life.


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Happy holidays!

The view from the back porch on Christmas Eve, Rebak Island Marina, Langkawi, Malaysia.


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No one in sight

For the first time in many months we’re anchored in a deserted bay and as the sun comes up I’m awakened by the sound of the teakettle whistling. Jack is sleeping beside me and I go up to the kitchen to turn off the kettle but find the sound is coming from ashore and is apparently cicada-like insects greeting the day. As the sky lightens the sound fades and birds begin their morning songs. The water laps against the hulls as we rock to the breeze coming through the gap in the mountains we’ve anchored behind for shelter.

We came in late last night after a tiring three-day plod from Pangkor to Langkawi, mostly motoring in the fluky up and down wind that, when it did materialize, was on the nose. Jack spent the days at the helm, as he likes to do, and called me out for assistance whenever he spotted a flag or buoy that may be marking a fishing net. I take the binoculars and sit on the bow pulpit seat spotting which way the net is oriented and relay with hand signals how to avoid it. This has been our routine as we make our way up the Malacca Strait. It’s the least fun you can have while traveling by boat, but the destinations are mostly worth it.

A new bird has begun a cheerful welcome and two sea eagles are carving lazy circles overhead. The wind is gusting, williwaws coming down the steep mountain slopes, and Escape Velocity swings sharply for a moment, then gently drifts back with a final dip of the stern steps.

Our water tank is full and the weight of 100 gallons of water coupled with the dinghy and its outboard motor hanging off the back makes EV a little sternheavy and dips our bottom steps in the sea as we rock in the slight swell. We could stand to offload a ton or so of excess weight if I could convince my packrat husband to part with anything. We notice this with other cruisers. Those who still have a land based home have far less excess weight onboard than those of us who carry everything we own. A catamaran is much less forgiving of excess weight than a heavy displacement monohull and we really should address it. But that’s a chore for another time.

Jack is up, still sniffling from his recent cold. He brings coffee to the cockpit and in a few minutes we’ll look at the weather reports and plan our day. It’s probably going to remain overcast and we will have rain later, maybe a thunderstorm. It’s about ten miles to the main anchorage where we know people and where there are shops and cafes and a new town to explore. But for now we’ll enjoy this peaceful place and the solitude we realize we’ve missed all these months.


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