Thank you for taking the time to read about our year.
We spent some time with the kids. Here Judy and Mia are cooking.
Later we went camping with Ian, Kellie, Tom and Mia at Pebbly Beach on the South Coast. The birds are very friendly.
Mia with Face Paint, being funny.
From Pebbly Beach we made the traditional visit to Greg and Janise whose land base is near Sussex Inlet, also on the South Coast. A few relaxing days spent there watching the Australian Open tennis.
Claire and Brendan ready for 1st day back at Croydon Public School.
February Judy's 70th and Ian's 40th Birthdays
As we weren't going to be in Sydney for Ian's birthday, we celebrated it early, along with Judy's 70th. Meredith made the lovely cake.
Fun in the pool.
Meridian had been waiting for us in Yacht Haven in Phuket, Thailand. While we were away, we had some work done, including varnishing of the cockpit lockers and stairs. We were delighted to see what had been done. It could only have been done while we were away.
After spending a bit of time in Ao Chalon with various cruising friends, we met Dave and Melinda on "Sassoon". They were heading north to the Surin and Similan Islands, we wanted to go there too, so we teamed up, cruising together. We took our time cruising up the Thailand coast, just doing day-hops with occasional stops along the way. The islands were supposed to be wonderful diving sites, but over the last 2 to 3 years had suffered coral bleaching (elevated temperatures), so weren't too spectacular below the water. The islands themselves were quite attractive. The Similans were particularly popular with campers.
While we were travelling up there, an unusual noise started from somewhere in the transmission - couldn't really track it down, but it didn't sound good. As is typical in these parts of the world, there isn't much wind and we were motoring everywhere. The noise got more noticeable, but didn't appear to have any other ill effects.
We returned to Ao Chalong along with "Sassoon" at the end of March. As we were anchoring, Judy put Meridian into reverse and there was a loud 'Bang!'. I figured that the unusual noise must have been coming from the gearbox, and this bang proved it. The next job was to find a gearbox repairer; this was done fairly easily by asking an Aussie who worked in the area. The repairer sent out his boys to remove the box. While there, I got them to check the front bearing - they discovered that it was loose so tightened it up. This was the probable cause of the noise, but with the box out, it was a case of 'well, we might as well give it checked'. This was done, bearings were replaced and a thorough overhaul completed for about 1/3rd of the cost in Australia.
March - May Langkawi, Malaysia
When we left Thailand and returned to Langkawi, the noise was still there. So I removed the front bearing housing and had new bearings fitted - end of noise.
While in Langkawi we arranged to get an Astro satellite TV subscription so we could watch the Olympics. The antenna dish mounted neatly on the aft deck although getting the cable through to the box was a bit difficult. After that we had BBC, CNN, NatGeo, DIscovery, etc. Mind you, it only worked while we were securely tied up in a marina. The dish has to be very accurately aligned to get the signal, and moving only 2 or 3 inches would lose it.
May - July Tioman, Borneo, Rainforest World Music Festival
Our overall plan was to get to Kuching, Sarawak for the Rainforest World Music Festival in July. It was to be held on the 13 - 15 July, and as the 15th is Paul's and Greg's birthday, we just had to go.
Birthday boys Greg and Paul.
We had been two years earlier, and it was a definite highlight of our time in Malaysia. We convinced our friends Greg, Janise, Peter and Donna to come as well. So we left Langkawi in May passing through Penang (our favourite city in Malaysia), Johor (with a few quick shopping trips to Singapore), and Tioman Island. We arrived about a week before the Festival. As it turned out, quite a few cruisers came for the Festival, so the anchorage at Santubong was quite crowded.
The Festival was great. As before, the workshops in the afternoons were wonderful - we were so close to them. They consisted musicians from various bands, eg guitar players, or percussionists showing their particular instrument and skills. Of all the groups, the Mongolian "Kusugtun" were standout performers with their unusual fiddles and throat singing.
Mongolian group Kusugtun One of the string workshops
After the festival, we explored the Rajang River, travelling inland for about 90 miles. It is a huge river with very strong currents against us at times. It also traverses large areas of logging. We saw huge stockpiles on the river banks, barges and ships to carry it all away. One night we anchored outside a small village and visited their school the next morning. We had collected lots of stationery along the way, so were able to give the grateful headmaster lots of exercise books, pens, pencils, etc.
July - August Miri
From the Rajang River we made for Miri Marina where we had spent much time in 2010. Again we made much use of Simon the taxi driver to get around Miri while having boat, medical and dental work done. Malaysia issues tourist visas for only 90 days so we needed to leave the country for a while to renew our visas. Brunei is a few hours away from Miri by bus, so we went with Greg and Janise to spend a couple of days there. We weren't all that impressed by Daar as Salaam, not much to see. Highlights included the Royal Regalia Museum, and the Grand Mosque.
Of course we used our Astro subscription to watch the London Olympics, a great spectacle. We even got up at 2am for some of the Finals.
Miri Marina has become very popular now that the Red Sea is not an option for cruisers. Those people who want to get to the Med now send their yachts on special ships at a cost anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000. Some people who can't afford that are now cruising east to Borneo and the Philippines (those who want to avoid the Red Sea go via South Africa).
Our plan for Christmas was to leave Meridian at Puerto Galera on Mindoro Island, just south of Luzon. As much of our time in Sydney is spent getting medical checks, we decided to make our stay in December while doctors are still working. Everyone goes on holidays in January and its hard to get appointments.
September Haulout in Kudat
September brings a change in the seasons from the Southwest Monsoon to the Northeast. Haulout facilities for yachts are limited in the Philippines so we decided to haul out in Kudat on the northern tip of Borneo. The boatyard is mainly for fishing boats, and is quite rough in parts. We were lucky and were placed on concrete; our friends on Rainbow Gypsy weren't so lucky and were put next to a fishing boat undergoing major renovations, and surrounded by mud whenever it rained.
Our plan of work was to rub back and repaint the antifoulling, remove the drive shaft and replace the bearings, put in a new depth sounder sensor, fit new anodes - work that can only be done while Meridian is out of the water. 'On the hard' we call it. We estimated it would take 10 days - it took 11 days, pretty good as most jobs take three times the initial estimate. When we went back in the water, there were no leaks - that's always a good sign. Our next task was to get our diesel generator working - that could only be done in the water for cooling. We had tried to get someone in Kota Kinabalu to look at it, but no one would come. In the end we got it going, but it took another 3 weeks sending the fuel pump away for checking. So with it finally working, we left Kudat after a month instead of two weeks.
October - November Philippines
It was now early October and the weather was starting to turn. We made fairly quick progress through southern Palawan to Puerto Princesa, a fairly large city with thousands of tricycles. These are motorbikes with sidecar attached. They can carry two maybe three small people in the sidecar with a pillion on the back of the bike and shopping on the back rack of the sidecar. A 10-minute trip costs about 50 pesos or a bit over a dollar. We were able (finally) to get our phones and data sorted in PP. We also enjoyed the company of cruisers at the yacht club. Refuelling was fairly easy with 8 jerry cans fitted into the sidecar while Paul sat on the pillion seat.
Our first impressions of the Philippines was quite favourable, particularly the general cleanliness. OK, there is rubbish to be seen, but compared with the rest of Asia that we have seen, it was pretty good. Philippines is quite a poor country compared with Malaysia but the people seem happy enough. Food particularly is cheap and we can dine out having a good feed and beers for less than $10.
From Puerta Princesa was made our way fairly quickly through Palawan and Busuanga to Puerto Galera, Mindoro. Our last day was one of the worst we have encountered. All was fine until we rounded Cape Calavites into 20-25 knots with wind over tide - it was horrible. Motor-sailed with one reef and a staysail, but even then we were lucky to make 5 knots as we tacked back and forth, sometimes less than 3. Twice we had short, steep seas that buried the bow and green water came over the dodger - never had that before! At some stage one of the waves lifted the anchor locker lid, so lots of water leaked through into the bilges. We have lots of storage under-floor, and every locker had to be emptied, bailed out and cleaned. Not a nice ending to the journey.
Meridian is now on a secure mooring at the Puerto Galera Yacht Club, with one of the Club's boat boys keeping an eye on her every day. The super typhoon Bopha which caused much death and destruction on Mindanao was forming out in the Pacific as we prepared to leave for Sydney. It was unusual coming in December, but the predicted path was south of Mindoro, and with the secure mooring we weren't worried. As Bopha continued westwards it strengthened from Cat 2 to Cat 5. The path continued westerly until it passed well south of Puerto Galera.
We have managed to get nearly all our medical examinations done, and medicines dispensed to take back with us. We are still in pretty good health although there are the aches and pains of advancing age.
When we return to Meridian we will continue travelling through the Philippines to Cebu. There we will have some more work done painting the decks. Hopefully all will be complete by May when we wil venture out into the Pacific via Palau, Marshall Islands, Micronesia. The idea is to make our way through the Solomons to Vanuatu or maybe even Fiji if the weather allows. We will see...
If you'd like to read about some of our other travels in Meridian have a look here. Have a look at our European adventures in France and Holland.