Plans, the little white cruising lie

Jamie up the mast

It’s a standing joke among the cruising community that “plan” is a four letter word. Any cruiser can tell you stories about the plans made and then revised… again, and again, and again. We do better committing to a general intention than anything specific. It makes it harder to have visitors, but is a practical reality. We can’t plan for days locked down and waiting for a weather window, or anticipate the perfect bay that claims us for a couple of weeks instead of a couple of days. It’s certainly not so we can rush headlong on to the next place because it was what we laid out in a “plan.”

Perhaps it’s just as well that we had a very loose idea our transit up the west side of the Malay peninsula, because any plan would have been superseded by the request for help from our friends on Tahina. They told us about their lightning strike shortly before we came west across the Singapore Strait, and we met up in Johor Baru’s Puteri Harbour to see if there was anything we could do.

As it turned out, Jamie was able to help quite a bit. Before we left the US, he had a distribution business, but he has a history as a boating industry professional, and is one of the lucky owners of Mechanical Genes. You know the type, right? He’s got it. I wish I did…that’s another story.

Tahina had a significant amount of gear fried by lightning. Replacing just one is a big deal. Replacing multiple systems that have interdependencies gets complicated quickly. Replacing it with gear that will have to come entirely from outside of Malaysia, from different sources, and get it all on time and without missing bits (because you can’t exactly run down the street for a cable that’s three feet longer) is a huge task. Frank and Karen are planning an Indian Ocean transit in the coming months, a timeframe compressed with planned travel home to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with their family.

Frank and Jamie worked together most of the day, every day, for weeks. First, a thorough evaluation of what was (and wasn’t) working was needed. Then, they had to work out the replacement equipment: everything from GPS and navigation systems to VHF. Getting it ordered, and crossing their fingers that nothing would be delayed or hung up in customs. Meanwhile, the failed gear had to be removed. This is actually almost as consuming a task as doing the installation. Tahina is a 50’ catamaran, and there are some very long distances and curvy paths that some of the wiring must take. Finally, there’s installing and testing the new gear once it arrives.

Equipment shipments: Christmas comes early to Tahina!

Much of the work was done at the dock, but for the final week, Tahina was on the hard: some work simply can’t be done with the boat in the water. The haulout, and a secure place for equipment to be shipped, ended up setting our schedule. The diagnosis was in Puteri, but we worked up the coast to Port Dickson to continue the work at a sweet marina that had the added bonus of a full-on cruising kid posse. Once there was a delivery date for shipments at the Pangkor marina, we moved up there.

Hauling out Tahina

Tahina generally stayed at our hip during these hops up the coast. Their interim navigation “system” was a smartphone with Navionics, since the usual devices were out of commission: no depth sounder, no chartplotter, no AIS, etc. Oh, and they got to handsteer the whole way because the autopilot was out. We loaned them a handheld VHF so we could talk between boats: about traffic ahead, nets in the water, or just to gawk at some of the other ships.

Up the peninsula

Plans, if we’d had them, would have been out the window. Is this how we envisioned our transit up the Malay peninsula? Not exactly! But we’re really not fussed that it ended up looking very different than what we had expected. This worked out really well for us, and for Frank, and we liked spending the time with them. The one hard date we had was to get to Langkawi by October 19th, when my parents fly in from the US for their very first visit to Totem since we left in 2008. Needless to say, that’s one date we most definitely plan around!

With a lot of hard work, great cooperation from suppliers and manufacturers (like the very helpful customer care manager at Navico- thanks Darren!), and a little luck- Frank and Jamie finished the installation, and much of the testing, with one day to spare before we needed to depart for Langkawi. Like Frank says- it was a lightning fast recovery.

So here we are. October 18, newly arrived in Langkawi, and ready to motor the last few miles to Rebak, and greet my parents when they arrive tomorrow.

2 Responses

  1. What a tale! How fabulous that the cruiser community spirit prevailed, of course. And how exciting that your parents are paying their first visit! It makes me all excited to see a St.F cruising with you… someday our ragtag boat will get out there too.

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