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.


Sailing Away, four years ago in Turkey


“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


Coconut production line. Tuamotus, French Polynesia, 2015


Kids making new friends in Tahiti, 2015


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

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…


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


keeping a close check on things


quick bottom wash


parking job


the pool at Rebak, not too shabby!


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


football in the rain


school in the cafe


on the hard

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.


beautiful Langkawi


the anchorage in Telaga, on the Western tip


being in the marina makes provisioning so much easier!


loading up


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.


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


the shrine is hidden between these rocks


strange carvings


colourful offerings


obligatory writing in the sand


lots of colourful fish




some good corals


colourful nudibranch


met this cute clownfish family too


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…


Ko Ha


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.


Ko Adang, just north of Ko Lipe


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


and then it turns all pink


gorgeous colours


Ko Lipe


Ko Lipe


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


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…


We had a few squalls in the Strait of Malacca


We saw plenty of fishermen


They often turn around to come and check us out


Approaching our anchorage at dusk


another gorgeous Malacca sunset


fishing boat against the orange sky


plenty to see on the way


Port Klang


huge cranes and much activity


it kept the kids entertained


next morning, more cranes on the northern side of Klang


cranes in the mist


so where have all the port markers gone?


after a few more days we reach Langkawi


nice clouds


catching up with an old friend


sunset over the RLYC


nice to do school off the boat for a change


the pool at the RLYC


playing cards with their mates


in town


the eagle, symbol of Langkawi


what do they talk about all day?


let’s get wet


local shopping mall


the anchorage on the west side of Langkawi, in Telaga


Telaga marina entrance


anchored under the cable car

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light-sabre fight at dusk


next stop: Thailand!




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.


Lots of traffic in the Malacca Strait


glad to have AIS


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


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


approaching Pulau Bessar, place of pilgrimage for muslims


sailing past the town of Malacca, nowhere to anchor here


so into Port Dickson instead, just north of Malacca


a marina with a swimming pool. Yay!


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


Queen Victoria’s fountain


local transport awaits


very colourful and tempting, but we prefer to walk


in the red square, built by the Dutch


‘Stadthuys’, the old town-hall


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


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


lots of colourful decorations for the upcoming Chinese New Year


plenty of Chinese heritage visible everywhere


quaint little shops


interesting antiques


local art gallery


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


an old fort, always a favourite with the boys


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


imagine being on this ship …


at the naval museum


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.


beautifully decorated inside


lighting a candle


offerings on the table inside the temple


colourful houses along the canals


plenty of opportunity to stop for a rest


late afternoon, overlooking the Dutch square


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:


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”


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:


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


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


Not going to rain today, I promise!


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


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


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


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


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


Anyone seen MY CHOPPER?


Back in the cheap seats further south.


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


Just finished the boys new paper darts, GOOSE!


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


Darts doin’ loops


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


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


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


many huge tankers around


lil too close there tiger back off


all good


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


whoops, that’s close……….. reeeeverse!


Weeeeeee……….. thatsh a fasht one!


Kids did you call the thunderbirds???


Glasgow Express, wanna meet the Flying Scotsman?


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


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!



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!


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


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


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