CHAPTER 33: March 6th to May 11th: Bali to Singapore — Half Way Around But…Disappointments and Surprising Life-Changing Decisions 
 
March 6th to March 12th 2006:  San Diego to Bali, Indonesia 
Whewwwwwwwwww!   We finally arrived in Bali on March 8th… 3 days after leaving San Diego   -- tired and exhausted as you can imagine–each year the distances we travel home gets longer and longer.  All of our 6 flights were pretty much on time and we had no hassle (after all our worries) with the weights of our bags or the contents (one bag was 100% boat parts), nor with getting through custom/immigration in 4 different countries (Hong Kong, Malaysia, Brunei, and finally Bali).  And although one bag was temporarily "lost," it eventually, a few hours later, caught up to us.  The hardest part was struggling with all 5 of our carry-ons.  We were trying to keep under our -weight limit of check-in bags, so of course that meant our carry-ons were filled with all the heavy stuff. And even though 2 of them had "wheels", that doesn't help with hoisting them in overhead bins on 6 different flights plus many of these 3rd world airports didn't have escalators so that meant also hauling them up and down many flights of stairs.  Even now, 4 days later, my arms and shoulders and neck muscles are quite sore.  So much for all the weight works-outs I did at the gym for our 4 months at home!!!   
 
Then as soon as we arrived at the boat and opened her up (after she was closed up tight for 4 1/2 months in this heat, humidity, and rainy season), we instantly got the smell and then the sight of mildew.  It was everywhere -- so bad that we didn't even want to bring the bags down into the boat-- there was no where to sit or even walk without cleaning the boat first.  So much for our plans to just get on the boat and crash into a coma-like sleep for a day.  So we began cleaning the floors and the settees (boat "sofas") and changing our bed linens so we could at least walk, sit, and sleep.  But that has been my job for the last few days, wiping down with vinegar all the walls, ceilings, floors, etc removing multi colors of green and black mildew!  Joe had a new pair of topsiders (his "dress-up shoes" when he doesn't wear sandals and shorts) that used to be light brown... that had passed the green stage and were now black.  I even had mushroom like growth in my hair cream rinse/conditioner!   We've had some mildew before when we returned in past seasons, but I think this was the worse.   
 
Working in the heat each day (95-98 degrees INSIDE and over 105 degrees outside with greater than 90% humidity) really takes it out of us.  What should be a several hour job turns into days.  We just can't work very hard or long in these conditions and have to drink water and take sit-in-front-of-the-fan stops every few minutes.  So far though, most everything seems to be in good shape and working, which is the good news.  Joe is slowly going through the boat's systems, and little by little we are opening each compartment (looking for what may be damaged, rusty, mildewed or water-logged) and other than mildew and a few minor "surprises," we are pleased with the boat's condition.  Each year we have had some major unpleasant surprises -- so that is almost a given.  
 
We fall into bed each night between 7:30-8:00 PM (really early for us) in sheer exhaustion and sleep usually for 11-12 hours... spread eagle naked with 2 fans blowing on us.  The exhaustion does though help in the hot nights to sleep.  We will eventually adjust (never completely) to the heat and humidity -- but it just takes a while.  I'm always amazed when I look at the locals and they never even seem to have a bead of perspiration on them as I am dripping!   
 
Our new crew person, Chris arrives tonight -- hopefully, as long as he doesn't chicken out and not get on the plane!  We got an email from him a couple of days ago saying how excited he was... and hopefully he will keep his excitement for our whole time together and he will adjust well to the realities of cruising life. 
       
Our plans are to try and get everything done that absolutely has to be done (and can't wait until our next stop, Singapore) in the next 5 days and to hopefully leave here on time this coming Saturday.  But everything needs to be tested... all the motors (main engine, generator, 2 outboards, dive compressor), all the sails need to be raised/un-furled (to be sure they are okay and the lines are all strong), etc... Joe has a whole check list.  Thank goodness he services all the engines (oil changes, checks etc.) prior to us leaving -- so every thing SHOULD be okay.   
 
For me, I am done finally with the cleaning inside top to bottom -- I think all the mildew is gone and now all the interior teak is waxed, stainless steel is polished, etc.  We did some initial provisioning a couple of days ago so we'd at least have breakfast and lunches aboard and some snacks, but today I will take a taxi  (while Joe works on board) to do some grocery shopping.  I also just placed a 50 pound meat/chicken/pork, etc order on the phone to a meat market that said they will deliver which is wonderful news.  Then we will have to go to the market one more time the day before we leave for our 2 week passage to Singapore for last minute fresh fruits/vegetables/bread, etc. 
 
So that's our life so far.  As I said, a bit exhausting, but in general, nothing out of the ordinary and no major disasters.    
 
March 14th: Final preparations for Bali Departure 
Chris, our new crew person did arrive safely and not too tired from his trip from Brisbane Australia.  He had to go all the way to Singapore though first and change planes to double back to Bali... so he had a long day of it -- although he only changed over 2 time zones and of course he is 23 years old -- so youth recovers quickly. 
 
He and Joe got right to work though the next morning (yesterday) and again all day today... so far he's a hard worker.  As I expected, he is a well mannered young guy.  (I could tell as we actually had several email correspondences, not only with him, but with his parents, prior to his arriving... they are a very close family).  But we are all in the get-to-know-you-best-behavior stage right now -- so time and hard work and stress and close quarters will tell all pretty soon.  I'm hoping for the best.   
 
For now though we are all concentrating on getting our chores done.  Unfortunately though things keep popping up that turn out to be broken or filthy or not working properly which are NOT on the must-do-to-do list.  Today they found a large gallon container of engine oil that had gotten a hole in the container and leaked all over an entire compartment... so that meant taking everything out of the compartment and trying to wipe clean the oil off of everything, etc... What a mess! -- A 2 hour job that was not planned into the day.  Yesterday my refrigeration stopped working and it took 3 hours to discover that the problem was a plastic bag in the sea water had plugged up a hole where the cooling water pumps in and out for the refrigeration system.  It took hiring a diver to go into the water to remove the bag (none of us wanted to get in the filthy marina water!)  Great so far that all the problems have been fixable-- but again, just time consuming things that were not budgeted for time-wise-- but obviously needed to be done.   
 
So we are progressing slowly, but still hoping (pending no huge problems) to leave here on Saturday morning.  Usually when we return each year to our boat and get ready for the “cruising season” we plan on having 3-4 weeks to get stuff done but because we only have a 30 day visa for Indonesia this time and we have a 17-18 day trip ahead of us, we just don't have any time to spare.  I'd have loved to have had another few weeks to not only spread the work load out a bit, but also to have more R & R and shopping and beach time in beautiful Bali.  Hopefully this will be a place we will return to again in our lives as I do so love it here.  
 
For the last 2 days I have sweated gallons cooking over my tiny stove in this tropical heat pre-cooking 2 gallons of spaghetti sauce, and multiple portions of chicken curry, chili, hamburgers, etc... then I put them in 3 portion containers and freeze them so I have at least some meals pre-made for the cruises ahead of us. ... That saves me from having to cook so much when we are at sea and at anchor.  I also have filled the freezer with about 20 chicken breasts (hopefully bird-flu-less), 12 fillet mignon steaks and  6 rib eyes, 9 pork chops, 2 pork tenderloins, ---- all easy things to grill outside ---and 12 Australian frozen meat pies (like individual pot pies) to please our crew member.  So I'd say we're set for a while-- which is good as the freezer is filled to the top!  As you can imagine the organization of planning meals and making sure I have everything for 3 meals a day is quite a feat, but I'm getting better at it.  As mentioned above, once we leave here we have about 17 days of being at sea or anchor with no fresh food available (no "civilization" on these islands) -- but this is actually nothing compared to our planning and stocking up when we left Mexico to cross the Pacific... Then we had 24 days without touching or even seeing land, plus there were no grocery stores, per se, for the next 5 more weeks after that traveling through the Marquesas and Tuomotus until we got to Papeete.  So this is not that bad.  I also yesterday had about a months worth of laundry (and we've only been back a week) as many clothes were moldy/mildew-y and with the heat and humidity, we have been sweating through more clothes than normal... so that's done.  It will be a relief to leave here as all the must-do work will be done and when we're cruising from here to Singapore, the only work we have to do is handle the sails and watch for other traffic... but mostly it is not physically strenuous.  It appears though that there will not be much wind so we will probably motor a lot (which means it will still be quite hot -- motor running inside the boat and all portholes closed!)  -- But it will be nice to be at sea again.  Plus–of course, new adventures lie ahead!!! 
 
The 3 of us did quit work yesterday by mid-afternoon and took a break going into the tourist part of town, called Kuta.   I mostly went to do some DVD shopping (only 70 cents) in which I stocked up on 102 new (mostly new-release) ones... so we will have some entertainment for our evenings!  Then we all went to a nice restaurant on the beach and ate fresh barbecued fish and calamari and the boys swished it down with some Bintangs (local Bali Beer).  So it was a nice evening.  Chris is renting a motorcycle this afternoon so he can do some exploring on his own (this is his first trip to Bali).  It is great that he is independent and adventurous enough to go out and make the best of his limited time here.   
 
March 18th:  A Sad Farewell to Bali 
Last night after  all work was done (on the must do list/ as trust me — the work is never DONE), Joe checked one final time (he’s been checking every day) the internet weather for all the marine forecasts to make sure there were no storms and hopefully winds from the right direction for our take off today.  Actually the prediction is that there will be very little (0-3 knots) of wind for the next 5 days -- not great news but we had been expecting to motor a lot so the weather prediction was not unexpected.  Our first leg of our planned trip is 150 miles so an overnight (1- 1/2 days) trip.  Although, as mentioned above, we have a 17 day trip planned to get to the straits of Singapore, we have planned 2-3 small island stops, where depending on weather we plan to stop for 1-3 days each.  (Otherwise we could make the trip in about 8-10 days).  We plan to go into a marina just south of Singapore (still in Indonesia) on an island called Batam.  It is a "resort" island that a lot of the Singaporeans visit and is supposed to have a nice marina, so we thought we'd stop there for 3-7 days depending on how much we like it-- prior to crossing over to Singapore as our last Indonesian stop 
 
So this morning, we left Bali enroute for Singapore with tears and sad farewells to the Bali Marina staff that had taken such good care of us.  Bali, as you can tell from my last chapter in this journal will always hold a special place in my heart — and of all of our destinations so far, it is one I hope we will return to. 
 
Under sunny skies, we carefully maneuvered our way out of shallows, sandbars, and the boat-eating reefs of the Benoa Harbour area that had been the home to Mi Gitana for 7 months.   There is a very high current on the easy coast of Bali (our route out of here) and for us it is a crap-shot to guess what the speed and direction of the current will be.  There must be some sort of voodoo formula that only the locals know how to calculate so we were just praying we would have current with us for most of way on our 12 hour planned northerly trip up the East Coast of Bali… of course knowing from all the boats ahead of us that the usual current is southerly, i.e. against us.    After an hour or two of motoring, we were rewarded with being able to turn the engine off and have only the jib sail up and still traveling 7 ½ knots… very fast for us — especially since we had only about 8-9 knots of wind… what was wrong w/ that picture?  We DID have a nice current pushing us north--which meant it was also too good to be true, as it didn’t last long and by mid afternoon we had not only a 3-4 knot current pushing us backwards, but we also had wind on the nose.  Not good.  We were struggling with the engine at full RPMs to make just 2-3 knots in a forward direction.   
 
Eventually we even slowed down more to only about 1 knot and so were forced to go off of our intended course and now start a tacking course (for you non-sailors, that means zigging back and forth in directions we really don’t want to go in order to go at least a few miles each hour forward).  This, plus we still had to keep the engine going… so sadly we were watching our precious fuel consumption on a sharp rise.  We knew we did not have enough fuel to motor the whole 1000 mile trip (and going in zig zags instead of a direct line, that also means more distance to cover) so we are already devising plans B and C.  For sure we cannot sail in the intended course to our first planned stop… so we will just have to look up some other possibilities as we see what tomorrow brings. 
 
March 19th: Very Slow Progress 
How depressing we have traveled only 90 miles traveled in our first 24 hours… an almost all time low for us.   And now things are getting even worse.  The winds have been increasing steadily from the North West… that is the direction we are heading and the black clouds are growing.  We are tacking back and forth and not making much headway (at times only 1 knot!) with these winds.  Hopefully this is just a passing squall/front and things will get better as we are still burning up a lot of fuel. 
 
March 20th: From Bad to Worse 
Yesterday Things went from bad to worse.  By nightfall last night, we had 25-30 "heat" lightning flashes per minute and the winds were up to 20 knots steady–still on the nose.  We were tacking back and forth and in 12 hours we had only gone 10 miles forward in our course of intended travel (so now LESS than 1 mile/hour).  Our main concern was fuel consumption -- plus no hope of getting anywhere towards where we needed to go without continuing to use fuel ... and of course no certain way to reach anywhere where we could get more fuel EXCEPT to turn back (some small islands IF they are populated may have fuel, but no way to be sure if they have diesel).  Then the final deciding factor was the furler on our jib (the mechanism that brings our forward largest sail in and out) broke (probably a wire fouled at the top of the mast).  Joe tried for over an hour in huge bouncing storm seas lying down on the bow sprit (the forward part of the boat that has a small platform sticking out over the water) to fix the fouled furler to no avail.  This problem meant that  we could not get the sail out at all–our main powerhouse sail that is needed for speed–so with much dismay and sadness, the decision was made to return back to Bali and that is where we are heading now.  For the rest of last night we had squalls almost the entire night (Chris got a good indoctrination in foul weather gear and heavy weather sailing!) with active lightning and thunder-- but at least once we turned around, the seas and wind were behind us so we were not pounding so hard into them.  
 
March 21st: A White Knuckle Return to Bali Marina 
After 3 days at sea, (and a very uncomfortable and wet trip with lots of wind and rain) we are back in Bali from where we started-- very disappointing and anti-climactic to all the mental and physical "readiness" we went through to get out of here "on time."  Without the use of the jib we still had to use the motor (with other sails up) for our return trip... so 2 days and 10 hours later at 8:30 PM we limped back into Benoa Harbor and returned to our same slip at the Bali Marina.  We had used our cell phone to call them and several of their workers stayed late to help us in.  We had our track on the computer to follow our course back in but it was still scary at night.  We didn’t think there would be any traffic at that time, but we had 1 huge cruise ship returning to port that stayed --it seemed-- just a few feet off our stern honking their horns, shining and blinking spotlights at us wanting us to move over we guessed.  We tried to hail them on the radio but they would not answer us.  This trip back into the marina is a VERY narrow passage with sand bars and reefs on both sides of us, which of course at night we couldn't see -- so following our track on the computer was the only "safe" way for us to enter at night.   I moved over as much as I felt safe, but that wasn’t enough for the big cruise ship and he was in a hurry.   (We kept thinking about a sail boat we knew while we were here last fall that in broad daylight just strayed out of the harbor slightly out of the channel and ended up on the reefs and lost both masts).  Anyway that added to the stress of trying to get in.  Then finally he passed us, but 2 of the returning party (sunset cruise/dinner/dance) boats also got on our butts, unfortunately also going to the same place we were heading!  Needless to say we had white knuckles and some huge sighs of relief when we made it safely to our slip.  Just when we were securing the last dock line a rain squall went through so we were at least relieved that it had missed our entry time as that would have added to more unwanted excitement.  So although we were all very disappointed that we had to return here, we were also relieved that we had made it back to safety.  After 2 nights and 3 days at sea, we all fell into sleep instantly and slept for almost 11 hours! 
 
March 22nd: Trying to Get Ready to Go Again 
Today the "boys" are out working on fixing get the jib sail off the furler.  It will probably require a trip up the mast also (something we did not want to do underway or even at an anchorage).   
 
The marina manager said that on Saturday (the day we departed Bali) it was on the news here of a big "unexpected, unpredicted" storm coming this way -- and unfortunately... well that happens.  Just too bad it happened to us.  But we ARE safe.  Besides the anticlimactic feelings of having to start over again and to depart, we are all really disappointed as now (with our visa running out) it means we will not be able to make any of our planned nice snorkeling island stops and also will have to cancel our planned week stop in Batam (Nongsa Point Marina) — the resort location in Indonesia right across from Singapore.  So as soon as we can get everything fixed and this storm goes away (it is still -several days later- stormy outside), we will have to then leave to go straight to Singapore -- more than likely.   
 
So our crew person, Chris, is getting a view of what cruising life is really like–Very disappointing but part of cruising -- especially if you have a schedule... and with our visas running out -- we for sure have a "schedule" and need to depart.  Now we also have to re-check in with the port captains/immigration officials, etc... and then re-do our check-out (more expense but not much hassle as I am just having the marina do it all). 
 
So that's our latest tale of woe...As above, I had a tearful goodbye to Bali when we left here before as I really love this island... so now I will have to go through it again.  I said when we left that I prayed we would be able to come back some day -- but maybe I should have made my prayer more specific time-wise... I mean, I didn't mean I wanted to return 3 days later! 
 
March 24th: Friday — All Set and Ready to Go — a 2nd time!  
We are still on schedule to leave here tomorrow morning.  It is still a crap-shot as to what the weather will be doing, but the skies are clear (storm is gone) and at least here in the marina, the winds are blowing from the right direction (and all our broken things that we need to sail with are fixed now.) Part of the problem is that there really are no good marine weather services in this part of the world.  We had lots of different sources in Australia and even in the South Pacific but the ones we get from here read something like: "Winds from 0 to 30 knots from the South or the West or the North".... that is useless.  IF we knew we would have 30 knots from the NW, well there is no way we could go (as we need to travel in NW direction most of way to Singapore)... But if we have 0 knots we can motor... and if the wind is from the South, well that would be great.  But a report like that is basically telling us it is a big guess and we won't find out what the winds are doing until we get all the way around Bali which is about 14-16 hours AFTER we leave here.  
 
March 25th: Day 1 of 2nd Attempt to Go to Singapore 
It is now 1 week exactly later — even departing at about the same time–and we are leaving Bali for the 2nd time with  more repeat goodbyes from the staff on the dock as they assisted us out of our slip.  The winds were predicted to be light and “variable” — and for us the wind DID vary… As we headed east out of the Harbor, the winds were from the east (i.e. right on the nose), and as we turned NE, the winds were then switched to from the NE.  And guess what happened when we continued to follow the coast around Bali now heading North, -- you got it… the winds then shifted to the north.  Now it has been 12 hours and we are finally heading past the top of Bali’s east coast heading NW and the winds again have shifted to the NW.  We have put sails out 5 or 6 times today thinking, finally now that we have turned directions we will be able to sail… only to 5 -10 minutes later have the winds shift again so sailing has been impossible.  That plus we pretty much had the North-to-South current against us also all day… So we’ve been motoring (at a very slow speed of mostly less than 4 knots) all day … and man is it hot in the cabin.  95 degrees inside and I’m sure the humidity is close to raining in here! Hard to believe that we are still 8 degrees below the equator and heading TOWARDS the equator which is supposed to be even hotter! But we ARE progressing along the same route and tonight on my watch the stars are out and the barometer is steady, plus as a real treat at sunset earlier tonight we had miles and miles of dolphins all around us as far as we could see. 
 
March 26th: 2nd Day of Passage–still Very Slow 
This has been another VERY slow progress day, with the engine going all day and still we only were able to go mostly 3-4 knots.  Now on my night shift we are going at full engine speed and only going 2.5 knots.  We still have the wind on our nose and now probably a little current also slowing us down from our already earlier snails pace.  Hopefully the winds will shift sometime soon.  We have had the motor running straight now for 37 hours with no hopes of it turning off any time soon.  We will divert to an island that “cruiser rumor” has it — MIGHT have and be willing to sell us fuel.  We will definitely need it to make it to Singapore.  However this island is still 2 days and 2 nights away.   
 
March 27th: 3rd Day/Night of Passage 
I’ m on my night watch again.  It is a beautiful dark cloudless, moonless night with thousands of stars.  It is comforting to see Southern Cross again and my favorite Orion constellations.  Before long after 3 years of being south of the equator, we will be going north of it again and we will eventually lose our view of the Southern Cross. All day today, we have continued to go, as yesterday, very slowly… only 94 miles in last 24 hours… still motoring at slow speeds and mostly that is because the wind (although not strong) is mostly still on the nose — i.e. from a NON-sailable direction… but we are progressing.  We hope to stop at an island called Bawean by tomorrow afternoon.  We desperately need fuel and hope they not only have it, but will be willing to sell us some.  
 
Chris caught a fairly large (3 ½ ft) barracuda today on our hand line.  We haven’t put out any of the regular fishing poles out as we have not been serious about catching a fish as we have no room yet in the freezer.  So he brought it in and then released it. .. It will get a 2nd chance in life, but Chris, at least now has a photo of his fish! 
 
March 28th: Day 4--More Storms 
It has been stormy and rainy most of day, and again we are still motoring.  The waves have gotten progressively bigger and coming from multiple directions–washing machine like, which has not agreed with Chris’s stomach so he has been sick most of the day.  The wind has increased in strength and is still from the NW — the wrong direction for us to be able to sail and is also causing us to slow down even more, so it looks like our hopes of making Bawean prior to sunset will not happen.  This also means since we do not want to go into an anchorage we’ve never been into before (with poor charts for this area) in the dark, we will have to slow down (that’s a change from our constant attempts to go faster!) so we arrive at first daybreak. What charts we do have show many rocks and reefs in the bay, so will need daylight to enter safely. 
 
March 29th: Safe Arrival at Bawean Island, Indonesia 
We all had a terrible night last night with lots (seemingly hundreds) of fishing boats on radar surrounding us — playing dodge ball with us… and also squalls all night on Chris’s shift, as we tried to keep boat beneath 2 knots so we could time our sunrise entrance into the port/bay at south end of Bawean.   But in the end, all went well for our arrival.  Our charts did not indicate it, but there was what appeared to be a new and large concrete dock, which upon our arrival, had  a large supply ship tied up to it with plenty of room on both sides of it for our boat also.  We tied up fairly easily, as within a few minutes of our arrival, we had a gaggle of people on the dock watching us tie up and some with efforts to assist us.  Our hopes were to refuel, rest for the day and leave the next day.   
 
However nothing is ever easy.   Refueling was a half day project.  Despite the size of the huge pier and the supply boats, there was no fuel for sale or available on the pier.  But a couple of entrepreneurial locals said they could take the captain (Joe) to where he could buy some.  Joe thinking they would just be walking to the end of the dock was surprised when the local man told him to jump on the back of his motorcycle.  (Note not much English is spoken so LOTS was lost in translation!)  The town was actually a few miles away and his adventure began.  The local man told Joe he would have to negotiate for the price of diesel and took him to several individual people’s houses and then to a few “mini-mart” type stores and the bargaining began.  Joe would say a price and his “friend” on the motorcycle who could speak a few words of English would interpret.  Then it got down to holding fingers up for the numeric amount.   Naturally the price of diesel was double what the price was in Bali, but eventually a price was negotiated (we were desperate, so we paid what we had to pay!).  Unfortunately this was not the end of the process.  The motorcycle “friend” then told Joe he had to go to the police station to get permission to “transport” the fuel and then hire a truck to take it to the dock.  While Chris and I are holding down the fort aboard Mi Gitana, having no idea what is taking Joe so long, about 2 hours later, Joe finally returns with HALF of our needed fuel supply.  We had burned over 350 liters (over 85 gallons) on our 300 mile trip to Bawean.  It took the next 2 hours to get the fuel transported via a maze of different hoses and containers into our tanks and to get the other half of the fuel we needed.  Then Joe and his “friend” repeated their trip back to town on the motorcycle to go to money changers and back to the person who sold us the diesel to pay him for it.  So it was a 5 hour process… but we were very relieved to have our tanks filled again.  None of us had had much sleep the night before due to the squalls and all of us up (all hands on deck!) prior to sunrise to make the entry, so Joe and I spent most of the rest of the day sleeping.  However Chris, with his youth, took off on the back of one of the local’s motorcycles with an invitation to see the area. 
 
Our trip here was our all time slowest trip since we started cruising — with us averaging around 3.4 knots … we usually maintain between 4.5-5 knots on a trip and have had even one multi-day passage where we averaged over 6 knots… so this was our all time LOW.  And never once during the 4 days did we turn the motor off.  We had sails up usually each day, but they did very little to help our progress as we were mostly heading right into the wind.  They do help somewhat with stability though during the swells. 
 
March 30th: A Day of Rest 
Joe decided we all (him in particular) needed another day of rest before starting off again.  We would have at least 700 miles in front of us with no planned stops and we though we could afford this one more day visa-wise.  I could not get off the boat if I wanted as the dock is built for big ships and is 6 feet above the sides of our boat.  I’m not agile or strong enough to climb up the dock pulling myself up a rope, but that’s okay.  I’ve had my share of Indonesian islands and sightseeing and I do not mind a day of avoiding the heat and reading a good book.  We also are catching up on good meals last night and tonight as I do not cook big multi-course/ multi- dish meals while we are at sea especially when it has been as stormy as it was on this past trip.   
 
Our boat and we being here is causing quite a stir on Bawean.  From early morning sunrise until after midnight, the townspeople have been gathering on the dock around our boat just staring at us — some staying for hours just looking.  Most of them do not speak a word of English, so they just squat down and stare… without communicating, although some will yell out "hello"…  one time a flat bed truck filled with about 15 Muslim women and children (ages 2 to 70+) came out during a rainstorm.  They all piled off the truck, and like the masses before them, just stared at us with occasional smiles, none of them speaking any English, and then about 15 minutes later, they piled back in the truck and drove away 
 
There were a small few who knew a little English came down and spent hours just wanting to practice their English and asking us questions.  Many came with cameras to take our pictures and to their delight we brought out our cameras and took their pictures back.  However after a while, it was an uncomfortable feeling with all the stares, so I retreated for most of the day inside the cabin, but the people persisted in still trying to look down the hatches and in port holes to see us! 
 
It was good we did not try and leave today as it has been stormy off and on for most of the day with some winds topping 27 mph and hard downpours of rain for long periods.  Our dock lines attaching us to the concrete dock are almost chafed through due to the pull on the boat with the winds and we have already put on extra chaffing gear and extra lines for reinforcement.  We are also scraping off some of our newly refurbished teak varnish on the sides of the boat from the chafe, and we’re not sure the boat can stand another day/night on this dock.  We are hoping the weather improves so we can safely leave Bawean tomorrow morning.  There is no way to check the upcoming weather (NOT that our weather reports even when we COULD check it did us much good), as there is no internet on this island… so we’ll have to do it the old fashioned way–hold a finger up in the air, look at the clouds and sky, check the barometer and just GUESS! 
 
March 31st: Departure from Bawean 
We got up with plans to be on our way to Singapore today but within 30 minutes of us getting up, the sky turned black and our radar showed a whole line of squalls coming this way.  4 hours later it was still raining and we’ve again had winds up to 27-28 knots just tied up here dockside.  We will continue to wait and see what happens. 
 
Finally around 2 pm the rains stopped, the wind stopped and it almost looked like the sun was going to come out with even a few patches of blue.  So we tossed our dock lines (no problems with all the lookie-loos on the dock to get help with the lines)… and we were off.  Of course as soon as we got from behind the protection of the bay, we were met with large swells leftover from the storm and of course, mostly wind “on the nose” again, but with full tanks we will motor at least through the remainder of the day and night and hopefully put up sails tomorrow and turn the motor off.  Although we are full up on the tanks, we still do not have enough fuel to motor all the way to Singapore, especially at a slow speed, so sailing at least part of the way will be essential. 
 
Just before we left the port captain of the bay/town/village, came by and said to Chris, “be sure and call me if you have any problems with pirates…”  Encouraging words, but funnier yet is the port captain’s office has no radios and of course there is no way to call (even if he HAD given us a contact phone number) from our cell phones once we leave the island!   
 
April 1st and 2nd: Could things get any worse??? 
As above, we left Bawean yesterday and our optimism about the weather soon disappeared --After almost a day of motoring now and barely going at a rate of 1 -2 knots per hour, we knew we would have to make the best of our sails or we would never get to Singapore, so we raised our sails and changed directions to a sailable course.  Within an hour we were hit by a sudden squall and we raced to lower the main sail and reef the other sails.  However, afterwards, when Joe went below decks, he noticed that our ceiling and walls (bulkhead) INside the boat under where the main mast is located (overhead) was cracked and it appears that the post inside the boat that is bolted to the mast on the outside (called a compression post) is somehow failing.  (The area is covered with teak panels that we cannot remove to look inside so we are not exactly sure what the problem is —but we DO know that the situation is VERY dangerous with the possibility of the mast coming down completely!  [Note: There are metal wires--called shrouds-- holding the mast up outside the boat also but this post is the main support for it.]  We immediately took down all our sails to relieve the pressure on the mast and turned the boat so the huge swells and waves were at our stern to keep us from bouncing and jolting the boat when we hit the waves.  Our decision was that #1) We could NOT make it to Singapore with the amount of fuel we carry if we had to motor all the way and not use our sails. #2) and most important, at any time the mast could come down and cause great injury to our boat (put a hole in it) or if it fell on one of us, it could injure or kill us.  For a while we thought we could possibly continue onwards, motoring without the sails-- but we continued to have squall after squall, with large accompanying swells on the nose with which we could hear the mast below creak and seemingly move around with each wave jolt.  So the decision was made to turn around and head back to Bawean and try to arrange for a tug boat to tow us the 700 miles we need to get to Singapore.  We cannot return to Bali or even go forward to Jakarta as our visas will expire in 4 days and mostly we know they do not have the repair facilities that it will take to remove our mast and repair the problem… not to mention that we are not sure the boat could even make it safely to either of those ports.   
So that is what we did —headed back to Bawean-- arriving back here Sunday morning.  It was good to feel "safe" again and to be out of the weather.   
 
April 3rd: Back in Bawean 
We made it back to Bawean (05-51.3 S and 112-38.5E) and are now safely at anchor.  It was a little touch and go with the waves and winds and the loud creaking and cracking sounds inside the boat like the mast was continuing to move around...and our ceiling and bulkhead has sunk a bit more... but we made it and at least for now feel "safe" and we are even seeing the sun for the first time in over a week.  
 
However now we are faced with more problems.  Our plan was to try and get the port captain here in this small island (VERY 3rd world) to call to Jakarta or another island and to arrange to get us a tug.  So we tried finding someone who could speak Indonesian to interpret what we needed him to do for us.  This was an all morning affair of bringing him out to our boat and showing him the damage and trying to explain the dangers of us proceeding on our own... We gave up on trying to pantomime what we needed him to do and finally called the Marina facility in Singapore where we were headed to who gave us another phone number of a person who spoke Indonesian and English and we called him to interpret our desires to the Port Captain.  He finally did an "a-hah!" and said he would make the calls for us to Java.  Joe sat with him in the port office and the price came back from the tug boat operator of over $40,000 US dollars.  Joe kept thinking they must have made a mistake with the "0's" and meant 4,000$, but no.  We were flabbergasted. (Remember fuel costs in Indonesia are about 1 US$/gallon and the average income here is about $1 US/day…)   We immediately thought this was an outrageous price because we are foreigners…  So Joe and the port Captain are NOW trying to find a local big-engined fishing boat that could and would be willing to tow us for half of that amount but we don't have a price back yet.  Whatever the price turns out to be, is what we will have to go with -- however ridiculous it turns out to be.  We do not seem to have any other choices. 
 
But now that brings us to more problems.  This island is so backwards that they do not even have any internet.  They do have a bank that Joe went into today to change $100 US (in 20's) and that took over an hour as they were afraid our money was counterfeit and every official in the bank had to inspect each bill before they okayed it — and about half of the bills were rejected.  They do not even know what a credit card advance is, nor do they cash Traveler’s Checks, and we know for a fact that our bank, Bank of America will not do an international wire transfer unless we were IN the bank (Bank of America) IN person (due to all the new identity theft rules).  So once we negotiate a price with a local person for this towing fee, we are not sure how in the world we will pay the person.   
 
And our 3rd major problem is that our Indonesian visas expire in just a few days.  The port captain asked to see our visas the first time we came through Bawean, but has not re-asked to see them, so we are hoping he will forget that we don’t have much more time… That may really complicate things as no extensions are possible without flying OUT of Indonesia and then back in again — getting an instant 30 day renewal. 
 
For the last 2 years, Joe has been lamenting that this is not fun anymore and that we should "give up" and sell the boat...I have been the one who has pushed for us to keep going.  But it really gave me some serious thoughts to join in with his way of thinking, as it was very scary out there in a storm with the thoughts that our boat may be falling apart and -- what if this had happened next year with our plans to cross the Indian Ocean and we were too far away to "turn back."  Any way we will reconsider our cruising life plans once we and our boat is safe in Singapore.  Hopefully once we are safe again and enjoying life aboard, we will change our minds. 
 
April 4th: WAITING 
Another 24 hours have gone and still we are no further along.  We got a call first thing this morning from Singapore from a salvage tow company who said they would get back to us later on today regarding setting things up -- and we waited all day by the phone and now it is 7PM and still no more word from them.  We are hoping since they are a big company we can pay them via credit card deposit with remaining paid upon our reaching Singapore (when we can access our money).  But until tomorrow when they are open again, we are still "on hold."  The waiting part is very frustrating.  
 
Even though we are now at anchor and not quite so visible for the around-the- clock locals that were looking at our boat from the pier, we still have all the fishing boats coming and going-- that insist on coming within almost reach-out-and -touch-distance from us... with all their crew aboard staring, whistling, and waving as they return or depart for their fishing expeditions.  The boats here are wooden, larger than ones we have seen in other Indonesian islands and very brightly colored/painted.  
 
April 5th: STILL WAITING  
ANOTHER day of waiting and waiting and waiting -- we have 3 different people in 3 different places working on getting us a tug and all yesterday said they would have an answer today... we have been making more and more follow-up calls and I'm sure these people "helping" us are getting sick of our phone calls but so far again it is after business hours and still no answers... still no prices, still no-one on the way to help us.  It is very frustrating and nerve wracking.  Besides being anxious to get this resolved, we continue to worry about our Indonesian visas which expire tomorrow.  We are not bringing this to anyone's attention, but if the officials here find out, we may have other problems --despite the fact that we are stranded, there are more penalties.  We are trying to put that at the bottom of our "worry" list... but it does add to the problems we face. 
 
April 7th: They Have Got to be Kidding! 
It has been a very painfully frustrating week -- just sitting on the boat and staring at the phone waiting for it to ring with good new that never came.  We still have no definitive plan.  However, we have NOW finally gotten back the towing quotes and they have gone from unbelievable to inconceivable… 4 different sources have given us quotes from $40K -- $65,000.  So we are now again after a wasted week re-pursuing the idea of using a local fishing trawler/small supply type boat.  He wants around 22,000$, which at first sounded outrageous and possibly even a little dangerous (as he is not a professional tower, has no radar, no real transom for towing us, etc.) — but as the week has gone by and the towing prices have gone UP, he is sounding better.  Now we just have to find him and hope he is still available.   
 
It has been so frustrating that I told Joe, let's buy extra fuel cans, load up, and go ahead and take the chance-- and try to make it to Singapore motoring on our own without a tug.  But Joe -- the conservative captain that he is, still feels there is a chance that if we left and tried to motor on our own that we could injure ourselves or sink the boat — and the idea of sitting in a life raft is a scary thought to all of us.  
 
April 9th: Still in Bawean 
I have gone 13 days without touching foot on land and think I am going stir crazy.  We don't leave the boat as we don't trust the attention our lone sailboat has brought to this town... and feel that would be the icing on the cake -- if we were also to be robbed while we left our boat here.  They are not used to foreign visitors here and we have caused quite a stir as I wrote above.  [Chris DOES go into town via the dinghy almost daily, and has become quite a celebrity here with locals befriending him and calling him on his cell phone day and night.]  
 
So anyway, we just sit here day after day and to add to the misery it is REALLY hot.  With all fans running, still all we are doing is moving around 98 degree air with a drowning humidity.  We barely manage to move on the boat-- we just get in a reading position with fans blowing on us and try to stay still to conserve our fluids. All last week we would make calls to those "helping" us and wait and wait for their return calls -- most of which never came when they said they would call.  Now that we have exhausted all our resources, we are just waiting for the bank to re-open on Tuesday so we can again start the process of trying to get money wired here.  My parents have wonderfully agreed to wire money from their bank funds to help us out until we can get to civilized Singapore to repay them. 
 
April 11th:  Highway Robbery of a Deal 
We finally worked out a deal with the local large trawler/small supply type boat here and with the Port Captain. (I think they’re in cahoots with the port captain getting a kickback!)  We have hired him to take us 600 of the 700 miles we need to go — up to a small group of islands south of Singapore.  He did not want to take us all the way anyway, and we feel these islands are pretty protected from the prevailing winds so we should be safe doing it ourselves the last 100 miles.  Plus it saves us a bit of money (though not much!)   Unfortunately, now that we have waited so long to get the deal worked out, he (the boat owner) already has another job lined up for which he is departing tomorrow (delivering some supplies to an island about 85 miles south of us) and will be gone for 6-8 days... so he picked a day 10 days from now to depart with us--(around the 20-21st)... so we are STILL stuck here for at least that time.  There was absolutely NO negotiating with these people here regarding price... regarding details, etc.  They even insisted on 100% of the money up front (as we tried to get them to accept 50% up front and the other 50% in cash once we arrived at our destination... NO deal.)  So for all we know, they might take the money and never take us anywhere -- but as we say in America, they really have us by the balls!  On top of that, talk about another leap of faith, the only way to have money wired here is to have a bank account, but foreigners cannot open bank accounts.  So the young bank teller lady that was helping us in the bank said we could have the money wired to HER account and then she would give it to us.  Talk about taking a chance… but again we have no other choices available! 
 
So that is the latest.  We are holding up okay most of the time.  Somehow despite the heat I am cooking some good evening meals, although this morning for breakfast, I tried baking some muffins and they turned out like rubber hockey pucks and after one bite we threw the dozen of them away.  (It was an old box mix from Australia that must have lost its oomph and was stale, plus the boat was rocking quite badly when they were baking.) 
 
The only time I step out of the interior of the boat (due to the daytime heat) is at about sunset when we sit in the cockpit for dinner and try to absorb some bits of a cooler breeze as the sun goes down.  I feel like a gopher occasionally sticking my head out to look at the weather, but otherwise staying hidden below.  (Even in the evening, with daytime temperatures 95-98 inside and over 110 degrees outside, our night-time "Cooler" terminology is a relative phrase!).   
 
We have all read a lot of books -- I've gone through about 1 every 1-2 days... and Joe and I have also played a few games of our Baja Rummy card game on a few afternoons.  We tried to watch one of our newly purchased (100+ DVD's) one afternoon, but did not have enough battery power to finish it until we ran the generator at night and then it was difficult to hear with the generator noise.   
 
So life goes on -- We just pray that this bank wire goes through... as that is now our current worry.  Hopefully we'll know more tomorrow after I call back to Florida.  [We have been using our crew, Chris's global phone to make the business calls and at around $4.50 per minute, we are probably hundreds or even a thousand dollars MORE in debt.  We have ALWAYS for the last 5 years had on board our "global" cell phone from the US but we have never used it, so I suggested to Joe that we suspend it's service this time while we were away -- and wouldn't you know it -- the one time we need it, well goes to show you-- I don't always have good ideas!] 
 
April 19th: Joe and Michele’s Anniversary 
I had envisioned an exotic meal in a beautiful Singapore classy restaurant for our wedding anniversary — not stuck in this hot hell-hole.  For sure we'll have a belated celebration, as sitting here at anchor and cooking on a hot boat on our special day is not my idea of a "celebration."  Even our attempts at getting some local lobster failed (as they wanted mafia prices for some dead bugs), and we are going to have pizza instead.  This will be our 8th year of marriage and 9th year together -- and we haven't killed each other yet, by some miracle–and that in particular says a lot, in our close living conditions on a boat! 
 
Our towboat is due to arrive in today and we are scheduled to depart on our tow trip tomorrow.  However it is late and still no sign of Mr. Sulaiman’s boat! 
 
April 21st: Finally … 3 weeks later… Departing Bawean for the 2nd Time 
A day later than promised, but with Mr. Sulaiman’s pockets filled with our money (actually my parent’s money), his boat pulled up next to ours in the bay and they tossed us the tow line.  We left at sunset, which was our first beautiful one in a while (? A good omen ???) — however there were still plenty of storm clouds surrounding us.  At first the boat did not let out enough tow (barely a boat lengths) lines as we were so close behind them, if they spit, it would have landed on our decks.  Finally they let out a little more line and our ride inside the boat became smooth with calm seas and no wind. 
 
I forgot to mention that one of our attempts to negotiate with the tow boat owner, Mr. Sulaiman, was that we insisted on having an English speaking person aboard his boat so we would somehow be able to communicate if we had problems.  So their answer to that was to have our crew person, Chris, come aboard their boat.  Equipped with a backpack of food, sleeping bag, and hand held walkie talkies, he jumped aboard their boat and is now sleeping with the Indonesian crew (as well as a cow, a bull, chickens, etc!) and eating fish heads and rice!  For him it is a new adventure!  
 
April 22nd: Day 2 by Tow 
Today we now have 100% cloud cover, and the winds have steadily increased to over 20 knots and seas subsequently have been rising.  We’ve had lots of rain, squalls, and big rolling waves and with each really big smashing wave on the bow, we can hear the area inside around the mast cracking and creaking inside the salon, but it doesn’t appear to be falling any more.  However our Rigging (shrouds) though are looser than when we started, so more than likely, the mast is slowly sinking into our deck.  We will hope for smoother seas tomorrow.  Joe’s nerves are on edge with each crashing wave and he will sleep in the salon tonight “just in case” -- although if the mast falls down, I’m not sure how sleeping under it inside will “help.”  The tow boat is perhaps struggling a bit also as he has slowed down a knot.  Still we averaged around 6 knots our first 24 hours (around 140 miles).  So far we are glad we are not making this trip alone as we would have been barely able to go 1-2 knots in these winds, squalls, etc., if we were doing it on our own without sails. 
 
April 23rd: Day 3 by Tow 
What a change — today we have a bright sunny day, the seas have flattened, and it’s a smooth comfortable ride.  But of course that means it is a lot hotter.  We still have another 3 ½ degrees to reach the equator, where we should be in about 3 days.  The tow days seem to go by a lot slower than when we are sailing — as then, we always have things to do — sleeping between our watches but otherwise always on alert, watching outside and on radar for other ships, bad weather, wind shifts, etc… plus of course sail changes and always watching our charts and navigating our course.  Now we just read and eat and read some more.  But I am not complaining — we are just so glad to be on day 3 of our journey. 
 
April 25th: Days 4 and 5 (final day) of Tow Trip 
For the last 2 days, we have mostly lucked out with almost completely glassy seas and just an occasional squall.  However we just as we were approaching the equator this late afternoon, we had a terrible storm 35 knots of sustained winds that lasted for over an hour with gusts to 40 -- and with that one our mast overhead creaked quite a bit and we bit our nails a bit worrying.   
 
At 1535 today, we crossed equator for the 2nd time… this time going north of the line for the first time in 3 years.  We threw some coins to Neptune — but no champagne celebration this time.  Neptune has not deserved the blessing this year! 
 
At around 8:30 PM we got alongside our tow boat, retrieved Chris back aboard safely, and dropped the tow lines of our companion boat.  We were relieved to have gotten safely to our destination and that Mr. Sulaiman kept his word (despite our hesitations of paying him 100% up front).  Chris filled us in with lots of tales about his adventure.  We then took off on our own for our last 100 miles to Singapore, slowly motoring through the night up in the Riau Island group, Indonesia south of Singapore. 
 
April 26th: Last day in Indonesia 
We travelled all night on our own and luckily had no storms-- we were even rewarded with glassy seas making it easy and smooth for our motoring.  We travelled up the straits between 2 large Indonesian islands (Bintan and Batam) all day and then emptied out into Singapore straits this afternoon. Since it is a full day trip from here (northern Batam Island) to Singapore, we have anchored in a bay for the night.  We dropped anchor just before (thank god) a huge thunder storm hit us.  We plan to depart at sunrise tomorrow morning so we can navigate across the busiest waterway in the world… We can already see the shipping lanes full of Tankers, super tankers, and cargo ships galore going in both directions with a controller somewhere in Singapore watching everything on radar just like an air traffic controller to monitor the ships.  Crossing these lanes tomorrow will be our next huge challenge! 
 
April 27th: Crossing the Singapore Straits… Our Last Challenge for a While 
We got up before the sun rose to raise the anchor and to make our way across the Singapore Straits.  And I say ”across”  in that that is exactly what we needed to do — to cross all these shipping lanes at a 90 degree angle… attempting to time our movements so we got right behind one ship crossing it’s lane before the ship behind him hit us.   [Picture a small kitty cat or puppy trying to cross an 8 lane freeway at rush hour without being hit!]   It was rumoured that these ships are lined up so that there are supposedly 12 minutes between each ship separating them [Note: lots of cruisers before us have written their harrowing tales of doing exactly what we were attempting to do — some of the ”tales” with helpful information and others that would scare you to death!–so all in all not sure how helpful it is reading about this in advance!] … however we soon found this 12 minute-rule not to be true.  We could see (as well as hear on the radio) that the ships are all going at different speeds and more frequently than not, one is passing another… so they do not stay in their supposed straight ”lines.” And besides being fast (especially in comparison to Mi Gitana) they are like floating islands.  To add to the excitement, the currents in the strait are impressive — up to 6 knots… and on the morning we chose to make this trip, the skies were black with thunderstorms all around us! 
 
The fact that I am writing this now, of course, tells you that we made it safely — however our 45 mile/ 9 hour trip from Batam, Indonesia to Raffles Marina on the western part of Singapore was one of the most white-knuckled experiences of our cruising lives.  The visibility at times was terrible and the radar was solid with not only storms and squalls but literally hundreds of “contacts” (big humongous ships!).  It was a real adrenaline flow with all 3 of us on deck, me at the wheel and Joe and Chris with binoculars (although with these huge ships, binoculars were really not needed!), playing dodge ball with the super tankers.  Once we got to the other side of all the traffic lanes (on the Singapore side of the channel), we still had another 7 hours to go of ships all around us.  We were wishing they had turn signals on them so we could figure out if they were going to cut in front of us or just getting close to us for fun!  They also on the sides of the channels had several hundred tankers/freighters at anchor waiting their turns to be loaded or unloaded–so even the sidelines were crowded.   
 
Oh and to give one more challenge to the ordeal, Singapore is trying to make more land for it’s tiny island so it has been heavily involved in land reclamation… the process of putting dirt in what was once the ocean to make more land.  So even the latest charts are not accurate for land contours, or channel markers/ buoys, etc.  Now there are large land masses with huge industrial and port developments where charts show navigable water… Fortunately of course, the massive development is easily seen, plus there were always lots of ships to follow.   
 
All in all — we did well.  We did hit a heavy current and some larger storm waves at one point and diverted our course a bit to get out of it… and we managed to not hit nor be hit by any other vessels… and for the most part, even though there were storms all around us, we stayed mostly dry — But I can tell you that pulling into Raffles Marina (after nearly 6 weeks of trying to get there — on what should have been an 8-10 day trip) and having the staff there waiting for us was one of the biggest relief’s of our sailing years.   
 
I had been communicating to the manager at Raffles Marina, Phil Blake, since before leaving Bali–and in particular while we were stuck in Bawean.  He made many calls on our behalf trying to help us with obtaining tugs… and has been in telephone or email contact with us every few days since our ordeal started.  So within minutes of us arriving, Phil, arrived with a beautiful exotic fruit basket in hands and extended us hugs/ welcome/congratulation handshakes, etc.  On top of that, he offered us a free night of rest in the marina owned 5 star hotel — so we could have a good nights sleep, air conditioning, room service, etc.  We without hesitation accepted the offer.  It had been almost 5 weeks since any of us had had a hot shower, let alone a long shower — so after tying up, that and a welcome free drink in the bar were foremost on our agenda. And for me, after that long of a time with having to cook 3 meals a day without an eating-out break… having a nice restaurant meal was to follow the shower and drink!  
 
Although we know we have a lot of problems ahead of us with arranging boat repairs, for now our thoughts are mostly of relief and getting some rest.  We will start with our new set of ”worries” on another day.  We’re a little over half way around the world now from where we started from.  We set out planning a 5 year circumnavigation, but we are half way around now and already on year 5! 
 
May 4th: 1st Week in Singapore–and some Life Changing News from US 
Raffles marina is certainly one of the nicest marinas we have stayed at in our travels and deserves its 5 star rating.  Besides just a nice dock facility, as a “guest” here, we are entitled to use the beautiful lagoon-type pool, the gym, the bowling alley, and it has several restaurants, bars, a great marine supply store, and even a free shuttle to a large shopping mall and the hub of their transportation system (the MRT–trains to and through the island and center of the city).  They even deliver a newspaper (English language one) right to our boat cockpit every morning!  (That’s a first for us!)  Right next to the marina proper where we are berthed is the haul out/boatyard facility… which also makes getting the repairs we need convenient. 
 
I should entitle this section as ”1st week at Raffles” rather that”…in Singapore” as although we’ve been here a week, other than a quick trip to get some sodas and bread and veggies, we have really seen nothing at all of the area.  Mostly it is because we have been busy cleaning the boat inside and out, 8 loads of laundry,  (6 weeks with no fresh water to clean or wash the boat or clothes means EVERYTHING was filthy!),  applying a new coat of stain to our teak, waxing the hull, etc… plus the normal boat chores and maintenance.  We have also been having several boat repair people from the boat repair facility here looking at our boat.  We were supposed to get an estimate by now, but there have been several holidays in the last week and since they can not even fit in our repair job for another couple of weeks, we are not high on their priority.  We had hoped to get started on the repairs to the mast/compression post right away, but not only is there a 2 week backlog for the yard to be able to take us, but they also estimate that it may take up to a month to do the repairs.  So that means we are not going anywhere by boat for a very long time. 
 
Also Joe has hurt his back again somehow.  Not sure how this time.  Just one day he started having shooting pains down his calf and it hurts for him to walk… making it impossible to do any Singapore sightseeing for now.  Hopefully it will improve with some rest (now that most of the hard work has been done) in a few days. 
 
Since it is obvious we are not going to be able to travel to our planned cruising destinations in Malaysia, while the boat is being repaired (since they do not want us living aboard while the repairs are being done as we would be in their way — plus it will be a real mess inside the boat!), we plan to take off by bus or train to do some land travels in Malaysia.  From the marina here we can actually see Malaysia just across a bridge from us… so we are really close!  We also have already paid for and planned a 10 day tourist trip to Vietnam (starting with Hanoi in the north with several stops enroute to Saigon in the south) in mid June.  We were supposed to meet up with our cruising buddy boat friends (that we sailed with last season), Lois and Gunter aboard Pacific Bliss, on the island of Langkawi in Malaysia and fly out from there to Vietnam and back… so somehow we will still meet up with them and still plan on making our trip — just not by boat.   
 
And here comes the surprise to most of you now reading my journal here...  Joe and I have decided to quit cruising and sell the boat.  Joe has been talking about it off and on for the last couple of seasons… mostly when things go wrong or something that shouldn’t breaks down.  His statement of “I hate this _ _ _ _ ing boat” seems to come more and more frequently — he has truly had a love/hate relationship with the boat, and with the difficulties of cruising life.  On top of that, it has been getting harder and harder on him physically every year… mostly with his knee (which needs a replacement, but with our limited time at home — has not been able to be done), and more lately with lower back pains.  For this reason mostly for the past 2 seasons we have taken on a crew person to help him — and for the most part, that HAS helped him physically a lot.  But having crew aboard brings on other stressors and decreases what little privacy there is on a boat.  Anyway, I don’t want to blame this on Joe as what has come about now is a joint decision.  It has mostly been me that has insisted that we keep going.  I felt Joe had got to cruise for 2 years in his first choice of cruising destinations — the South Pacific… and now that we were ALMOST to where MY first choice was… the Med… that we had to keep going.  But in actuality, neither of us wanted to cross the Indian Ocean nor especially the Red Sea… and we even looked into having the boat shipped to the Med or even delivered by a delivery crew–none of which after investigation became good options.  So we accepted that to get to the Med, it would have to be with us aboard, and up until the events of the last 6 weeks, I think we were prepared to do it… departing for there as our plans were in January of 2007 — in just 7 months time.   
 
But the recent events have caused me also to join in with Joe and say enough is enough — We have prided ourselves in having a back-up system for almost everything on board and having thousands of pounds worth of spare parts for almost every possible thing that could break on board.  But we did not carry and extra mast… and the results were we were helpless.  I kept thinking what if this happened when we were half way across the Indian Ocean… what would we have done then?  I’m sure we would have survived and somehow been rescued and gotten help — but we looked at how hard it was for us and how extremely stressful (not to mention how expensive) it was for us in this recent situation. 
 
Part of the problem for me personally now is that when we left Puerto Vallarta 3 years ago to cross the largest and most storm ridden ocean in the world — the Pacific–I guess I didn’t know what all was ahead of me…I felt safe and even secure … sure a little apprehensive of leaving the sight of land for 24 days… but I don’t remember feeling frightened of the unknown.  Now we have had more experiences and I dread another ocean crossing of what storm is lurking around the corner… of the dangers ahead in the Red Sea.  Plus Joe dreads each day of waiting for something unexpected to break… and he is physically worn out.  So it is time to quit… 
 
We do not feel like we are giving up our dream — as someone recently commented to us.  Instead we feel we have been lucky enough to have been able to live our dream… to make it a reality instead of a ”dream”… We have known so many other sailors and boaters who ”dream” and even plan to take off and cruise the 7 seas… but 99% of them never let go of their lines — never take off for more than a weekend or a few day trip to a nearby destination.  We at least got half way around the world with memories that will go to our graves with us of wonderful people, places, cultures, and experiences that most people only see in travel magazines or on the travel/discovery TV shows.  We set off on an originally planned 5 year circumnavigation and are now on year 5.  Unfortunately (or perhaps, ”fortunately”) we spend longer times in places we liked and our 5 years only got us half way around!   
 
We are also not giving up on travelling — I think for both Joe and I, it is in our blood.  Although we have both travelled extensively in our military careers and lived in many different locations around the world, we both feel we have so much more to see and experience.  Joe calculated that we spend an average of around $40,000 a year on the boat and our cruising life for our 7 months average a year we are on the boat.  (Of course that does not include this year with the recent fiasco of having the boat towed and the upcoming expenses of repairs.)  We have now decided that with that kind of a budget to work with, we can rent a villa in a coastal town in Italy, France, Greece, Spain, etc for 4-5 months of the year every year, and even charter boats should we desire, but for the most part, do our travels by land.  So we will still have a great life ”after cruising” to continue building more memories of more wonderful people, places, cultures, and experiences to our already grand collection. 
 
So we have met with the local boat brokers here at the marina.  They have offices all over Asia (Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, etc.) and seem to be interested in listing our boat.  Of course we will not sell it (or even show) it until after all the repairs are done to the mast compression post and aesthetically everything is back to its beautiful state.  (The boat yard here has a great reputation of being one of the best — and we are being assured that the boat will even be stronger after the repairs than it ever was originally.) 
It is still a sad subject to me — selling the boat… and I think I will be crying the day when we walk away from Mi Gitana, but at this time I am not having any 2nd thoughts.  She (the boat) has a lot of good years left in her and whomever buys her will be getting a wonderful, wonderful boat… fully equipped and ready to cross more oceans and seas.  It is only her current owners that are a little bit worn out! 
 
Chris our crew member — with all our cruising plans stopped now, has left us and joined another sailboat that is leaving in a day or two off to Thailand.  He has been a big help to us, but his main reason for joining us this season was to increase his sailing experience — and that he has not gotten much of.  We will miss him. 
 
May 11th: More Bad Happenings -- 
One would have thought that in the last 6-7 weeks we have had more than our share of bad things happen to us and to Mi Gitana.  But I guess we haven’t had our fill yet. 
 
As I mentioned above, last week Joe’s back started hurting.  Well actually it was more of a hip pain (sciatic nerve) with shooting pains in his calf.  As the week progressed, he also got some numbness (but not numb enough to make him not feel the pains!) in his calf/lower leg and also on top of his foot and toes.  He stayed in bed for a couple of days and I treated him with muscle relaxants and also Motrin (anti-inflammatory) but he still could hardly move.  So by Monday (5 days ago) we got the name of a few doctors to see.  Joe was insistent that we find an ”instant” quick cure and wanted to go to a chiropractor or even an acupuncture specialist (very popular in this part of the world!).  We got a referral to an American trained chiropractor that has been in business here for over 30 years and were told somehow she would fit us in that day. 
 
We saw her and she didn’t want to do any manipulations until Joe got an MRI, so she sent us to the MRI facility.  (In the US it probably would have taken us a few weeks to get an appointment for that so we were amazed at the expediency — as well as the efficiency–of medical care here.)  Anyway we were able to get the procedure done and take the film series back to the chiropractor.   She looked at the films and then consulted again with the radiologist who read the MRI’s and told us Joe’s problem was serious and he needed to be seen by an orthopedic doctor/back specialist.  (First thing that doctor told us was that obviously things were bad when a chiropractor admits they cannot fix a back problem!)  Anyway, somehow, she got us in (and after 5PM by now… so makes it even more amazing) to see the supposedly best orthopedic surgeon/back specialist around even after office hours that afternoon.  (Again in the US… we would have waited at least a week for MRI results and probably even more weeks for this ortho appointment!)  He took a look at Joe’s MRI results plus examined his back/ lower leg (now there was not only numbness/pain in the leg and foot, but Joe had lost movement and strength in his toes) and said he needed immediate surgery to decompress the nerves in his lower spine… layman’s terms he had a very large slipped disc and the nerves were being pinched and causing damage that could soon become permanent. (Actually Joe’s spine showed quite a bit of damage to most of the lower back — deterioration of the disc spaces — but most of that could be attributed to ”old age”, arthritis, etc.--but those problems he will just have to live with.)  Anyway, the doctor gave Joe a choice of being admitted right away into the hospital that night or going home and coming back the next day for the surgery.  We elected for the latter.  It was all happening so quick — and very unexpected.  He was hurting, but a few hours previously had thought just a simple ”manipulation” and he would walk out of the chiropractors office and be ”healed”.  So having major surgery on his spinal cord/area was quite a shock.  And secondarily, we had to ask the question, how much is all this going to cost?  Although it was a shocking amount, we surmised that out of pocket without insurance in the USA the price tag would have probably been double… and it didn’t appear that we had a choice. ( …Lets just put it that it will be a cost that will give us enough for a round trip plane ticket to somewhere exotic with the frequent flyer miles we will get from the medical charges!) 
 
Anyway, tired and mentally drained we went back to the boat (The marina provided Joe with golf-cart shuttle service from the taxi stand to our boat, as by now he couldn’t walk at all), after a long day of medical consults/appointments and took a few deep breaths… plus, of course, we had a drink.  You have all heard of ”sympathy pains” before… but Joe’s joke now is that first the compression post on the boat goes bad — and now his body’s ”compression post” has gone bad! Ha! Ha! Not really very funny! 
 
The next day (Tuesday), Joe went NPO (nothing to eat/drink), packed his bag and we headed back to the ortho doctor’s office (which was attached to the private hospital where the surgery would be performed), and then he was admitted to the hospital.  He didn’t go into the operating room until early evening (as they again were accommodating us by fitting Joe into the already busy operating room schedule) and he came out almost 4 hours later.  Of course I was worried sick — especially since I was told it would be a 2 hour surgery! But Joe did well (and hopefully the doctor REALLY did well!).  He remained in the hospital for 2 nights/3 days and was discharged to “home” (the boat) yesterday.  He is obviously quite stiff and in a lot of pain but he is recovering well and we are optimistic that he will be his regular self (only hopefully without the back pain) in a few weeks.  We will see the doctor again in a few days and hopefully (it takes a few days for the nerves to settle, and even longer to heal) we will know more about the success of the surgery.  But for now we are hopeful. 
 
So this recent episode will put a delay on our boat repairs and travel plans until Joe is stronger and his ”compression post” is healed up!    
 
I usually begin each chapter of my journals when we arrive at a new destination writing ABOUT that place, country, brief history, and culture… however we’ve seen hardly anything of Singapore (except the marina and Joe’s hospital)… plus this is already a lot to read in one setting … so I will commit to write more about where we are and hopefully more upbeat news when I next update the website.  
 
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