The Hard

The expression “being on the hard” is quite appropriate. It is not a pleasant experience, to say the least. Boats belong in the water. That’s what they’re designed for. But once in a while, they have to come out for some much needed maintenance, a hull inspection, new anti-fouling, …

This is the fourth time in four years that we’ve hauled. I vividly remember our first haul in Grenada. The yard was dusty and dirty and it was stifling hot with no breeze; mosquitoes were breeding in the stream next to the boat and the streetlight next to Rehua would attract them into our cockpit. We ended up waiting for more than three weeks on new parts, suffering the mosquitoes, dust and heat and driving each other mad. But eventually parts arrived, we went back in the water and life was good again. Despite it being a gorgeous lush spice island, Grenada will always bring back those unhappy memories of being on the hard for too long.

The second time was in New Zealand, where the job of anti-fouling ended up taking more than double the estimated time due to the inexperience of the workmen (in one of the top yards near Auckland). Our New Zealand experience was disappointing and very expensive and we were on the hard for over a month. We were very lucky to have some amazing friends with a beautiful house in Auckland who let us stay with them the entire time. Seathan slept on the boat most nights, in order to cut the commute and get an early start, but it made a huge difference that the kids and I weren’t there.

We also had a brief haul-out in the “Wild West” that are the Solomon Islands. Despite it being a less developed country with very little yachting infrastructure, it was probably the most pleasant experience so far. True, we were out of the water for a few days only and ‘all’ we had to do was replace our props. We used a commercial yard that normally only services large local boats. We couldn’t stay onboard (Rehua was on the rails and sitting at an angle) but only a few 100 metres away was a lovely hotel owned by our friends Bob and Yvie. It made the entire experience totally tolerable.

So, two years after New Zealand, Rehua is due another paint job. We’ve been checking out yards for the last six months in Thailand and Malaysia and have finally settled for Rebak Marina in Langkawi. The yards we saw in Thailand had more expertise but were more expensive. Seathan decided to do most of the work himself so after much debate and research we decided Rebak was our best option. Why (and this is going to sound funny): because of the pool. Yep, Rebak has an amazing pool. The marina is situated on a small private island which also boasts a five-star resort. The marina guests have full use of the pool and other facilities. There are nature walks and tracks and the kids can roam around as much as they want. Seriously, when living on the hard, it’s really important to have some good facilities available. You don’t want to spend any time inside the boat unless you have to. Having to climb up and down the ladder each time, battling the heat and mosquitoes, having to keep all the hatches closed all day because of the dust: the kids and I try and stay out most of the day. We do school lessons in the airy shaded communal area that is the yachties’ cafe. We hang out by the pool in the afternoon or play on the beach. In the evening it usually cools down a bit and we can open our hatches and eat on the boat.

The other (probably even more important) reason we chose Rebak is because there are other kid boats around. You can’t imagine how ecstatic the boys were when they heard there would be similar aged boys and girls around. We didn’t see any other kid boats for nearly a year and all of a sudden they pop up all around us. It’s fantastic!

“So how long will we be out of the water for?” I ask Seathan as we are getting ready for our haul-out on the agreed morning.

“One week, maybe two, it’s hard to know until I can check the state of the paint once she’s out,” he says.

“Fair enough, maybe we can be back in the water before the end of the month,” I suggest.

I’m forever the optimist. He’s more cautious and won’t make any promises…

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ready to lift with only a few centimetres each side to spare

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keeping a close check on things

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quick bottom wash

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parking job

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the pool at Rebak, not too shabby!

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not 2, not 3 but 4 kid-boats in town!

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football in the rain

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school in the cafe

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on the hard

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Back again

We’re in Malaysia (again). After trying the main town anchorage in Kuah, and realising it was all mud with very bad holding, we decided to head into the marina. The marina is very affordable and it makes provisioning so much easier. You can just walk down the pontoon with the shopping and load it onto the boat. No dinghy landings and tricky passing of bags involved! And it’s worthwile to do a big top-up here. Langkawi is a duty-free island and that includes fuel, alcohol, electronic goods, boat parts, etc. Even groceries are noticeably cheaper than in Thailand. So, we’ve done a big stock-up which should last us a few months at least.

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beautiful Langkawi

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the anchorage in Telaga, on the Western tip

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being in the marina makes provisioning so much easier!

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loading up

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quick dip in the marina pool

On the way out of Thailand, we stopped in a few more islands. There are plenty of gorgeous anchorages in the Southern Andaman Sea and we chose just a couple more after our brief stop in Ko Phi Phi Lee: Ko Rok Nok and Ko Lipe.

Ko Rok Nok was peaceful and quiet, with good snorkelling, despite the cloud cover. The island also has an ancient shrine where worshippers for centuries used to come and pray for their fertility. There are huge carved penises and some other offerings. Bit weird, but funny.

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the anchorage in Ko Rok Nok and a great beach to run wild on

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the shrine is hidden between these rocks

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strange carvings

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colourful offerings

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obligatory writing in the sand

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lots of colourful fish

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lobster

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some good corals

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colourful nudibranch

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met this cute clownfish family too

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Ko Rok Nok sunset

We also stopped in Ko Ha before reaching Ko Rok Nok and wanted to stop for lunch and do some snorkelling, but were stopped by the Rangers who wanted a disproportionate sum of money for the privilege of anchoring there for a few hours. So we left…

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Ko Ha

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interesting formations

Our last stop in Thailand was in Ko Lipe, a beautiful small island, part of the National Tarutao Marine Park. We didn’t snorkel but had a lovely swim and admired a gorgeous sunset. The next morning we continued to Langkawi which was less than a day-sail away.

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Ko Adang, just north of Ko Lipe

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another gorgeous sunset, we just can’t resist taking one more sunset photo

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and then it turns all pink

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gorgeous colours

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Ko Lipe

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Ko Lipe

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view over the anchorage in the passage between Ko Lipe and Ko Adang

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early morning and we’re off to Langkawi

So where to next? We might explore Langkawi for a bit, we may head back to Thailand for another month. We also like the idea of heading to Sumatra where the surf season soon starts. Other options are to head back towards Singapore and explore the Anambas Islands, Borneo, Brunei,… so many options, not enough time!

 

 

Day-hopping it to Langkawi

It’s been a long slog getting out of Indonesia, and, getting up the Strait of Malacca has been similarly slow. But, as always in sailing, hard times are compensated with good ones and arriving in Langkawi has been very rewarding!

After Port Dickson, near Malacca, it took four more day-sails before we reached Langkawi. In Port Klang, we sailed into the Royal Selangor Yacht Club, where we received a very warm welcome, free t-shirts and a few beers! The last two nights we found relatively calm and protected anchorages en route.

Once we reached Langkawi, we headed into Kuah to catch up with an old friend. We also met another kid-boat with two boys similar ages. It’s incredible how fast boat-kids connect, it literally took less than a minute and the four boys were sharing Star Wars stories, comparing Lego kits and non-stop chatting. They had obviously been deprived…

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We had a few squalls in the Strait of Malacca

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We saw plenty of fishermen

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They often turn around to come and check us out

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Approaching our anchorage at dusk

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another gorgeous Malacca sunset

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fishing boat against the orange sky

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plenty to see on the way

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Port Klang

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huge cranes and much activity

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it kept the kids entertained

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next morning, more cranes on the northern side of Klang

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cranes in the mist

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so where have all the port markers gone?

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after a few more days we reach Langkawi

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nice clouds

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catching up with an old friend

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sunset over the RLYC

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nice to do school off the boat for a change

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the pool at the RLYC

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playing cards with their mates

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in town

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the eagle, symbol of Langkawi

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what do they talk about all day?

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let’s get wet

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local shopping mall

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the anchorage on the west side of Langkawi, in Telaga

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Telaga marina entrance

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anchored under the cable car

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light-sabre fight at dusk

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next stop: Thailand!

 

 

Malacca

We are sailing through the famous Malacca Strait as I write. Even though the wind is mostly on the nose, it’s a good time of the year to go through as the weather is calm, with less chance of violent thunderstorms and Sumatra winds. We’ve had the sails up a few times, but mostly we will be motoring all the way.

It’s not the thunderstorms, nor the pirates (they’ve been mostly scared away since the government took action a few years ago), nor the busy traffic of huge tankers that worries us. It’s the fishermen. And not the fishermen themselves, but the kilometres-long unmarked and unlit nets they put out. It makes sailing at night nigh on impossible.

We’ve made a stop in Pulau Pisang (aka Banana Island) and Pulau Bessar. The latter is part of the Water Islands, named so because of the fresh water wells. In the olden days, ships used to stop here to re-victual. Today it’s a place of pilgrimage for muslims who come and visit the ancient graves of Sultans and other historical leaders that were buried here. There’s a resort and golf course too.

Our next stop was Port Dickson, where we took a few days rest and the opportunity to visit the ancient town of Malacca (also know as Melaka).

One day really wasn’t enough to do this fascinating historical place justice. The long colonial history (Portuguese, then Dutch, then British) is visible all through town and the historic centre has been classified a UNESCO world heritage site. But, most visible is the rich Chinese heritage which started long before the first Europeans arrived, when the daughter of the Chinese Emperor married the first Sultan and brought 500 ‘attendants’ with her, who all married and mixed with the local Malay. The famous mariner, explorer and diplomat Cheng Ho (1371-1438) stopped in Malacca five times during his seven legendary voyages. He was instrumental in getting Malacca on the map as a major trading hub and port. At one point, this port could accommodate 2000 ships. Right now there’s isn’t even anywhere to anchor Rehua! It’s all been silted up.

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Lots of traffic in the Malacca Strait

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glad to have AIS

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a fisherman and his kilometres-long nets, at least this one is marked with tiny white buoys

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sails up, but not for long, as we mostly have wind on the nose

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approaching Pulau Bessar, place of pilgrimage for muslims

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sailing past the town of Malacca, nowhere to anchor here

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so into Port Dickson instead, just north of Malacca

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a marina with a swimming pool. Yay!

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day-trip to the historic town of Malacca, a UNESCO world heritage site

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Queen Victoria’s fountain

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local transport awaits

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very colourful and tempting, but we prefer to walk

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in the red square, built by the Dutch

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‘Stadthuys’, the old town-hall

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and of course …the token windmill, left behind by the Dutch?

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Jonker Walk, the historic area in town, small streets with lots of quaint shops and restaurants

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lots of colourful decorations for the upcoming Chinese New Year

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plenty of Chinese heritage visible everywhere

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quaint little shops

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interesting antiques

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local art gallery

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‘chicken in a bun’; not an alive one, we assume?

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an old fort, always a favourite with the boys

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replica of the Portuguese galleon ‘Flor de la Mar’ with a museum inside

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imagine being on this ship …

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at the naval museum

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Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, practicing the three doctrinal systems of Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism. It’s the oldest functioning temple in Malaysia, built in 1645.

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beautifully decorated inside

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lighting a candle

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offerings on the table inside the temple

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colourful houses along the canals

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plenty of opportunity to stop for a rest

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late afternoon, overlooking the Dutch square

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Dinner before we head back; we found this delightful Tapas bar called ‘The Curly Tail’, serving pork-belly, jamon iberico, patatas bravas, calamares, yum yum yum …

3 countries in 1 day

Breakfast in Indonesia, lunch in Singapore and dinner in Malaysia. Must be a personal record for Rehua? Our 3-day sail from Belitung was (thankfully) pretty uneventful in terms of squalls. We saw a few very threatening ones but didn’t get hit as badly as we did in our last two passages. And we crossed the equator (again); Seathan was the only one awake at the time and I think he just had a quiet one-to-one with King Neptune.

The last day kept us very busy. We had stopped at night, just before entering the straits of Singapore, to get a few hours sleep on the hook. We happened to be right in front of a petroleum plant which as it happened put on the biggest all nighter “Roman Candle” the boys had ever seen. It was dark when we arrived and we carefully navigated our way in, using satellite images. As soon as we dropped the hook, a security boat came over to see what we were up to, no English, no Indonesian, roll forward thirty minutes queue the same boat with an orange suited petroleum worker who had excellent English:

“Why you stopping here?”

“Mate…. Ive been steering for three days and I’m knackered, we’ll be gone by 5 in the morning.”

Okay, why stop here? To answer that would have involved a multi faceted answer; because you have ten meters of water with sand and mud, because your out of the swell, because its 360 degrees shelter, but Seathan opted for “You have a beautiful beach……” He was a happy man….if only a little perplexed, there is no beach or sand for thirty miles!

Sailing across the Singapore Straits is not for the faint of heart. It’s one of the busiest ports in the world. This is what the chart looked like at one point:

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And on the chart plotter, things looked pretty busy too: Got to love the vectors on AIS at this point. Anybody else remember the game “Asteroids”

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Somehow we had to get across all that lot. Seathan didn’t seem very phased by it, “no worse than than Sydney Harbour on a quiet afternoon,” he said. I, on the other hand, was very happy to give up my watch and stick to galley duties for the day 😉

The boys loved checking out all those tankers from so close by. We certainly didn’t get bored. On top of that, we got treated to a full-on flight show (one F18 and two F16s). They kept doing crazy loops and tricks and did a few fly-overs over Rehua. Very nice welcome to Singapore.

We passed Singapore and kept going to Malaysia, just across the other side of the straits, we went under a bridge and then into a marina. It’s the first time since Auckland, 2 years ago, that we’ve been in a marina and it feels strange, being tied onto the dock.

Clearing into Malaysia was SUPER easy. A complete contrast with Indonesia. It took a total of 10 minutes only (and I’m not exaggerating), no complicated forms, just some fingerprints and, bam!, our passports were stamped and we’re good to stay for 90 days. Customs didn’t even visit the boat, neither did Quarantine.

The marina itself is brand new, much cheaper than anywhere in Singapore, the staff are friendly, the showers are clean, there are laundry machines, … The harbour is surrounded by many restaurants,  including a Belgian one with mussels and fries, a great selection of beers and other homely treats. And Legoland is just a few kilometres away. Looks like we’re getting our Christmas treats after all!

Some photos from the passage:

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Beautiful calm seas as we sail along without a care in the world!!!!

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Even calmer and still carefree as an albatross in the Southern Ocean

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Not going to rain today, I promise!

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time to hoist the “can’t be upside down flag”

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The Singapore Straits, busy with tankers, as opposed to tizzy with bankers further ahead!!!

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Spot the rooftop garden “strung out and lazy” over three rooftops!

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We argued….she said cloud………… I begged to differ.

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Same garden just closer, Oh look someone lost their bicycle wheel!

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Anyone seen MY CHOPPER?

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Back in the cheap seats further south.

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Thomas the tug boat lives on, and he knows he can do it!

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Just finished the boys new paper darts, GOOSE!

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Raffles lighthouse, not even close to the Hotel. otherwise…

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Darts doin’ loops

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Darts begging to differ at the bottom of the loop……

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Darts doing barrels whilst chasing an F18 with a very bad paint job.

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meanwhile……….. after sixteen voyeuristic airshow beers on the water….Auds driving of course!

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many huge tankers around

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lil too close there tiger back off

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all good

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these guys are still at it……… and of course so am I

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whoops, that’s close……….. reeeeverse!

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Weeeeeee……….. thatsh a fasht one!

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Kids did you call the thunderbirds???

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Glasgow Express, wanna meet the Flying Scotsman?

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sailing past Raffles Marina, shame the tide was out……..

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yes we’re going under that bridge,  air draught WTF, stay calm, by this stage I was having difficulty calculating 25 metres into  (hic) feet! Very, Very long airshow…. troops!

 

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Looking really tight,62 foots, divides by 8sh multiply by 5sh, no no, its 305mm to the footsies so therefore 25 x 305 =12/36 all shquared to give yardsh, we don’t have yardshies, shit, then volume of the hypotenuse, f*+k what’s the height in feet, no not the keel the bridge!

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But I knew all along it was going to be just about fine until…………

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Safely tucked up in Puteri Harbour……………………….minus 2 mtrs of mast (JUST KIDDING!! There was plenty of space for us under that bridge)

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Puteri Harbour with Singapore in the background, ……………………………………yes hello hello,  I need a number for Selden Singapore 🙂