Sunday, 16 June 2013

When Stainless Steel Isn't

On any sea going boat corrosion is a constant companion, but a dangerous one.  Like a sore tooth, it will flare up sometimes with no warning.  We use grade 316 stainless steel fasteners whenever we can, to reduce the impact of corrosion, however every now and then we are reminded how even the 316 has its problems - namely crevice corrosion.

When removing the old Onan generator a while back, we found one bolt head sheared completely (a real knuckle skinner !) as it was loosened. On bolts like this the thread is usually roll formed, while the head is forged, a process called "rolling and heading". Its a cold formed process, and it can clearly lead to problems, specially if sea water collects where the metal is deformed and stressed.  316L stainless steel in an oxygen deprived environment can and will corrode.  Fortunately this bolt didn't cost a lot to replace, but in the past we've had to replace an entire propeller shaft due to crevice corrosion.

The Hidden Cost Of Piracy

The Admiral is busy planning our crossing of the Indian Ocean as I write this - she's counting and calculating everything from courtesy flags to bread flour, from tissue boxes to lube oil, so we have plenty of provisions on board.  But it's the southern Indian Ocean we're looking at, not the easier northern route that would have lead us through the Red Sea to the Med.  Piracy is still a real problem in the northern areas, so we need to head south and travel via the Cape Of Good Hope into the southern Atlantic. That's an extra 5000 miles of sailing to reach Gibraltar.

MV Sea Bird Fitting Slings For Loading
For others, the option of shipping the boat to the Med is proving attractive.  Many yachts travel as deck cargo on ships, transiting the piracy zone quickly and in relative safety at 20 knots or so.  Our good friends Steve and Carol on MV Sea Bird shipped to Turkey back in March on-board the transport ship MV Thorco Svendborg, and are now enjoying the delights of the Turkish coast.  Rates for shipping from Phuket to Turkey start at around US$1,000.00 per foot, and this year there were three ships loading yachts and motor vessels in Phuket for the trip west.  It is big business, and it is a hidden cost of piracy.  Five thousand miles or fifty thousand dollars ?

Sea Bird Lifting
Ley (the Admiral) and I have spent several years here in Asia, hoping the piracy would diminish - but it is not safe yet.  Some are saying there hasn't been a yacht taken in the past year, but then again no yachtsman with any common sense would enter the northern Indian Ocean or the Arabian Sea at the moment.  Further, the military folks charged with policing the "bad zone" are saying that yachts are more at risk right now, because the shipping is better protected and the pirates are looking for targets of opportunity.  See the information provided by the Ocean Cruising Club here.
Sea Bird Joins The Cargo On Deck

Consequently, this year around 40 boats sail from Asia via the Cape and South Africa, commiting to that extra 5000 nautical miles.  We estimate another 50 or so will book places aboard the several ships that are offering to carry smaller vessels through the troubled area.

What ever path you choose, it is now costing much more to travel from Asia to Europe and beyond.

Information on the voyage of  Sea Bird is on their blog here.

For more information you should review the information provided by the Ocean Cruising Club.  That page also includes a number of other useful links, plus details of some shipping schedules for next year.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Penang - Its All About The Food

We arrived in Penang just over two weeks ago, with plans to complete our new generator installation before moving on south towards Singapore.  Here we found our good friends Dana and Susan onboard Villa-G.  A few days later Larry and Peggy arrived on Blue Star, so the gang was complete.

Food, Glorious Food

There are many reasons to visit Penang, stunning Buddhists temples to photograph, a cable car to ride, Botanic Gardens, World Heritage restored buildings, art galleries and many cultural events and religious celebrations....but for us, Penang is all about food.

The crews of Villa G and Blue Star enjoying the flavours of Penang.               

Indian roti canai and mango lassi or fluffy, soft pau filled with char sew pork for breakfast, Indian Biryani platter for lunch topped off with dim sum for dinner?  Then there is our favourite Buddhist vegetarian lunch stalls and the fabulous seafood from the Shade Tree Restaurant on Weld Quay and ever so much more.

If you would like to visit any of our favourite local restaurants click here to download our Georgetown food map.

Tanjong City Marina
Sad remnants of Tanjong City Marina

Over the past seven years we have spent quite a bit of time exploring Penang.  For us, the demise of the Tanjong City Marina is a very sad affair. This marina was within walking distance of Little India and China Town, covering many of our favourite restaurants and the old buildings that have made Penang a World Heritage Town.

The marina started to deteriorate just after it was built in 2005.  Through lack of maintenance, storms and ferry wash all that remains today are a few poles and a walkway that leads to the murky, muddy shallows....though there is talk that it will be rebuilt!

Straits Quay Marina

Crystal Blues along side the service dock and sea wall at Straits Quay
Fortunately for cruisers a new marina in Penang has been built, with a solid sea-wall protecting the 40 floating pontoon berths. Straits Quay Marina is professionally run by John and his magnificent team.

The berths, power supply, amenities and cruiser's room are managed on world best practice for marinas, so don't miss visiting here, though you certainly need to book ahead as spare berths are very scarce.

There is a large shopping mall with Tesco as its main tenant, and access to public transport all within walking distance, it is a delight to stay here.