Rebak Reflections

I can finally breathe a sigh of relief as we leave the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club and head towards the Malacca Strait. The last few days have been hectic, to say the least. Rehua is full to the brim with provisions and we’re ready for our next adventure.

While Seathan is navigating his way through the many fishing nets and the kids take horizontal positions with their kindles, I have some time to ponder the last couple of months. We spent two months in Rebak, a long time to be just in one place and it certainly was frustrating at times. We were on the hard for half that time and that was much longer than originally planned. But, ask any sailor and they will all tell you, you never know what you’ll find once you take your boat out of the water…

Instead of a quick paint job, we ended up doing a complete overhaul and took it all the way back. We then discovered a few repairs were needed too. In Malaysia everything takes time, there’s no rushing things. Add in a few rainy days, the fact that it was Ramadan, parts being held up by Customs in KL, and you end up two months later.

I was very unhappy while we were stuck on the hard, but in hindsight it wasn’t that bad after all. The facilities at Rebak are pretty amazing: a clean yard, a good chandlery, a yachties’ cafe and restaurant, a great swimming pool (part of a luxury resort that yachties are welcome to use) and an entire private island for the kids to roam around on – with beaches, walking tracks, bicycle trails, tennis courts and lots of interesting wildlife. Best of all: other kids to play and hang out with. The mornings were reserved for school, but in the afternoons we usually didn’t see the kids until they got hungry near dinner time. I got to do yoga on land (as opposed to on the foredeck) most afternoons with my friend Kate and go for a cool-down dip afterwards. Friday nights were spent sipping happy hour cocktails in the beach bar, some of us playing the guitar and singing a few songs. Not such a bad life. We made a lot of new friends during our time in Rebak and I’m sure we’ll cross paths again with many of them.

But, I have to admit, it is great to feel the wind in my hair again as we set sail for our first overnight stop in Penang. We’ve got roughly 600NM of busy Malacca Strait and South China Sea to tackle until we reach the Anambas Islands, where we’ve arranged to meet some very dear friends. I know, I know. Never arrange to meet somewhere, in case the weather gods don’t cooperate. Don’t worry, we won’t take any crazy risks and our friends are flexible and prepared to change destination at the last minute, if necessary. Hopefully it won’t be and we can spend some time in turquoise water soon…

Bye bye Rebak Island

Quick stop in Kuah to provision and clear out

Early start and breakfast en route

Four Years Ago

It all started after a sailing holiday in Croatia, late October 2013. A little taste of cruising life, and what it could be like. We flew back into Heathrow airport and as we circled over London, both Seathan and I questioned what we were getting back to. The daily grind. The long hours in the office. The mortgage payments. The private school fees we were considering. The next step on the career ladder. What was the point of it all? We hardly spent time as a family, the kids were growing up so fast. At four and nine years old, they were the perfect age to take sailing. We had several sailing holidays since they were little, but now it somehow all made perfect sense.

London is a great city – still my favourite city in the world – but, we were ready to kick it all into touch. We put our house on the market and started planning our escape. Four months later, I quit my job, Seathan wrapped up his business and planning was in full progress. It was hard finding the right boat. Seathan flew to Holland and France. We loved the Nordia 55, but felt it might be a bit big to handle on our own. We started looking at cats and liked the idea of the extra space, the shallow draft and the all-round comfortability. Not many catamarans are built for proper offshore sailing, so in the end we felt the only choice was between the Catana 521 and the Antares PDQ 44. The Catana felt too big and the decision was made. There was a three-year waiting list for a new Antares but there were two good second hand options available, one was located in Turkey.

We went to see it and liked it. It was the right boat for us. The last one built in Canada, beautifully finished woodwork inside, solid fixtures and fittings everywhere. She was well looked after by the previous owner who completed his circumnavigation, but she had been sitting on the hard for quite a while, so when we finally moved onboard in June 2014, there was a bit of work to be done to get her ready. We renamed her ‘Rehua’ after a Polynesian god, healer and protecter. The Pacific, after all, was our dream destination.

The last few months in London were hectic, to say the least. Trying to sell and get rid of stuff in a short time frame was tough, so we ended up putting quite a bit into storage. There were many farewell parties, barbecues and dinners. Saying goodbye is never easy but we were so excited and thrilled to be starting our crazy wonderful adventure and couldn’t wait to get going.

So here we are, four years later. How our lives have changed. To go sailing was the best decision we ever took, no doubt about that. We’ve seen so many amazing countries, experienced so many different cultures, met so many wonderful people. And we did it all together, as a family. It’s a pretty amazing experience. Yes, I miss my family and friends and I’m dying to meet my niece who is 18 months already. But leaving the boat behind or arranging a rendez-vous on the other side of the world isn’t that straightforward. And although it doesn’t fully compensate for that absence, the cruising community is truly amazing. The kids have made many friends along the way. We’ve met other families doing the same thing as us, older couples – who love adopting the kids for a bit, as they usually miss their own grandchildren,  young couples who want to see the world before they settle down, single handers out to explore the world or start a new life. It’s a wonderful bunch.

It hasn’t always been easy, there’s been rough weather and flat calms, frustrating weeks doing boat maintenance or waiting for critical new parts to arrive. Scary moments when we experienced a huge storm sailing from Gibraltar to the Canaries. And another one when we sailed from New Zealand to Fiji. But these moments are easily compensated by all the magic. And we don’t want it to end yet. Our three-year circumnavigation plan has long gone out of the window and we are now looking at how long we can stretch this adventure. We might stop and work somewhere for a while and then continue. There is still so much to explore.

Tyrii summed it up beautifully when he – as we were eyeball navigating our way through the lagoon in Raroia in the Tuamotus – stated: “The world is full of amazing places, all you have to do is get out there and find them.” He was 10 years old at the time and I was so proud of him.

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Sailing Away, four years ago in Turkey

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“The world is full of amazing places, all you have to do is get out there and find them.” Wise words from Tyrii aged 10 in Raroia, French Polynesia

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Coconut production line. Tuamotus, French Polynesia, 2015

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Kids making new friends in Tahiti, 2015

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Family picture in Bora Bora with Rehua anchored in the background, 2015