Archive for December 1st, 2009

Pen Marine Boat Yard

Hi Everyone,

  It’s hard to believe it’s December.  There are seasons here, and now we are in the beginning of the Northeast Monsoon which is actually the dry season on the west side of West Malaysia. But no matter that, it’s always summer.  I honestly wouldn’t mind a good dose of winter right now: at least for a day or so, though, actually, it has been more pleasant than blazing hot.

  The Rally is now here in Penang and we did attend a day of events and dinner on Sunday.  The events started at 1:30 pm, ended at 9:30 pm during which time we had 3 meals, each progressively larger!  I’ll do an email about.  The Rally came to our boat yard first and that’s where we joined on.   Then we visited a Batu Maung "gated community" being developed for the uppercrust, the Specialist Hospital in George Town for the uppercrust. and last a George Town gated community for the upper uppercrust.  I enjoyed the hospital visit the most because my sister is a NICU (baby intensive care) RN in Roanoke and lots of her friends are nurses and doctors.  Because it was the Sunday of a holiday weekend, the hospital was very empty.  But all of that will wait for another email. There was a really large dinner last night in town, but we just skipped it since it started at 8 pm and we’d all had a day full of chores.   Since the first tour stop was here at the boat yard I’ve decided to tell you about that first and what it’s like to live here.  I also have stories from a second visit to George Town with Elizabeth.  That day E and I left the yard at 7 am and returned about 6:30 pm.  We had a great day!

Boat Yard Living Pen~Marine Sdn Bhd

Living in this boat yard, “on the hard” is rather “difficult.” Living at the boat yard in China, in the water, was more like just living on the boat since we could use all of our systems, water, power, AC, heads(toilets.) Of course, compared to the way millions of people live around the world, any boat yard living would seem a luxury. And many cruisers don’t have AC, a washing machine or a frig: and they do just fine. But, compared to how most of you live, and how we are usually able to live on Doramac, our lives here at the boat yard are pretty primitive. We have no air conditioning, we only sort of have a toilet, and every time you leave the boat it’s down and up and down and up. The fact that we can use our toilet at all, and our shower if we want, makes our time here easier than many others. It just depends what’s happening under the boat whether you can run water in the sinks, shower, or washing machine. The toilet holding tanks always must be closed with no pump-out possible here as there is at some marinas or dump out as there is at sea: so when it’s full, that’s it! (In the too much information category, like all the other cruisers here on the hard, we have a “chamber pot” bucket with a tight top for the night time or when we’re just too lazy or too tired for one more trip down and up the boat. We can us our rear toilet, but do so very sparingly.) Noise, oddly, isn’t particularly bothersome except for the boat yard industrial sandblaster that was used for several hours a couple of days, and then last night work went on until almost midnight. Aye! Aye! Aye! yelled loud enough to hear over something mechanical is really loud! I recognized the Aye! as coming from our line handling helper who’d had to yell the same thing several times when we had maneuvered into the boat yard. Randal said that last night they were trying to get a really huge fishing boat up out of the water onto skids at the time of highest tides, which was late last night. They had no luck. Don’t know the end of that story other than the boat isn’t here at the yard. I quit trying to sleep and had some tea and finished my book.

The good points are we have power for the frig and water for washing, Elizabeth and Patrick are our neighbors, there is no karaoke, the boat yard canteen is good and cheap, the toilets and showers are kept clean, and the sweetest brown dog just loves us all. And so far it hasn’t rained during the day which would make trips to the “boat yard loo” even more annoying. Hopefully, if we’re lucky, painting the boat’s bottom with anti-fouling paint will be a biannual event and not more often than that. (The exception being that next year we’ll probably have to redo the paint so when we cross the Indian Ocean the boat will be in tip top shape.) Thankfully, most of the time, most boat work can be done with the boat in the water. We need to be in the water to run our AC because it’s cooled with sea water. If you can run the AC you can close up the boat and the boat yard grit doesn’t blow in and get on everything. I had visions of giving the boat a good cleaning while we were here. It will have to wait for the marina in Langkawi!


The foreground boat is Labarque. I climbed up and down their ladder for dinner the other night and realized how lucky we are with the swim platform ladder and the plywood steps the yard provided when they saw that I (and all of the other ladies who are no taller than I am) had a hard time stepping down onto the barrel and then wood block. It was too far from the last rung of the ladder to the top of the barrel. Obviously you do what you have to do; but I’m grateful that I don’t have to do ladders.


View from the pilot house as I type. Very faintly on the left you can see George Town off in the distance.


The boat yard offices and canteen which is not far from where the car is driving down the hill. It’s about a 3 minute walk from our boat. You can see the mountain behind the yard. There are enough mountains here to remind me of Roanoke. We are further to the left, not visible in this photo. I think that’s Nicholas’ sailboat.


The path to the showers and “loo.” Well worn! Elizabeth saw a large monitor lizard once but I’ve only heard him so far. Small butterflies and birds are more likely to be seen. And dog, cats and rooster.  Local eagles are roost up in the trees on the mountain.


“Sit down” toilets on the ends and showers in the middle. The water is cool but it feels good with the heat. Attractive, no: functional, yes and pretty clean too. The rooster sleeps on the partial roofing that is just in front of those stacked barrels.


Boat work is being done all around the yard. These are at the far end of the complex.  Photogenic wooden fishing boats are here too.

There had been a very large, 60 ton Polis boat next to us. Repairs/repainting completed, it left and has been replaced by a pretty blue and orange fishing boat which thankfully does not smell.


Just beyond the far gate is a small fishing complex of tiny wooden buildings and lots of small boats.


One of those wooden boat being repaired just across the way from us on the water side.


This is Little Brown Dog or LBD as she is called. So incredibly sweet and patient with children. So horribly jealous and mean to the other boat yard dogs. I bought some rawhide chew toys for her at Jusco and she gets one a day. Cruising friends of E and P who had also spent time here brought a big bowl of left-overs from the rally dinner last Sunday night. I noticed Helen collecting left over bits from all of the plates at our table and thought she had a dog. But, no, it was for LBD. I also give LBD crackers every morning and ear rubs any time that I see her. She sleeps under the boats so has blotches of orange anti-fouling paint on her coat. The rooster also gets morning crackers or old bread but he still is too shy to eat from my hand. I might be too leery of being pecked so not really keen on it anyway.

What do you do after a full 10 hours of boat work?


Frisbee anyone?

One of the boats here is owned by a family with two children: a 6 yr old girl and an 8 yr old boy. They are on school vacation and come here in the evenings with their parents. I gave them each a frisbee and after about 5 minutes they were pros. Of course that meant I had to play too. Yesterday Randal took these photos of Patrick who by all rights shouldn’t even have been able to stand upright after boat work all day.

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In this photo both are looking up at me on our boat…


I’m throwing it back which is much easier than chasing after one.


Patrick, on the other hand, had lots to contend with.

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Patrick looks as if he can hardly bend down, but he had spent about all day sanding his boat.

I think next we will try hopscotch! Because the cruisers are older adults, these children, just like the children in China,  call us “auntie” and “uncle” which I find charming.


Randal had first blocked with tape and then painted the water line with white paint. The water line lets you know if the boat is listing to one side and if it is sitting too low in the water. You can see our shiny green paint is still shiny green and reflecting the boat next to us.

Mostly Randal stays at the yard to work or keep an eye on the work being done. Patrick always stays at the yard since he and E are doing all of their work themselves and want to be done by Christmas. Luckily Elizabeth has time to go into George Town, partly to guide me and partly to get boat supplies or check about boat supplies. Several times each week she and I walk the 45 minutes into the Batu Maung morning market. Today, after shopping and our cup the local thick dark coffee, we saw the 307 bus passing by the market.  We flagged him down and asked to be dropped at the intersection at the foot of our hill. When we asked the driver how much for the fare, he smiled and just waved us to sit down. Since we were going such a short way, he didn’t charge us. He was very kind and it made a huge difference since we were both loaded up with shopping and saved us 30 minutes of walking.

Randal made his own trip to town by bike to pick up our large exhaust pipe that had been repaired at one of the local stainless steel shops. Randal, the large pipe and his bike were driven back to the yard in the company van.

Tonight we are going to dinner on LaBarque. E is a wonderful cook and is trying a new curry, pineapple chicken recipe. It involves lots of good things like freshly (as you watch) ground coconut, mint leaves, cilantro: I could tell you exactly since I have the same small chicken cookbook. I, however, only cook with garlic and onions because that’s what we always have and I know how to use them.



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Ruth and Randal

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