Saturday, 29 November 2014

Lake Como

Our long awaited weekend away at Lake Como was finally here. After catching a lunchtime flight from Luton on a glorious clear sky day, 2 hours later we had crossed the rugged snow covered mountain tops of the alps and were heading for Malpensa airport in Milan. We were met by our dear friends Jan and Ross and getting used to the strange feeling of driving on the right hand side of the road, we wound our way through small villages to Lake Como.
Nestled at the base of the Rhatian Alps, it has to be one of the prettiest places we have seen so far on our adventures to the continent. Dropping the backpacks at our apartment, it was a 10 minute stroll down to the lakes edge, dotted along the way with beautiful historic old buildings and cafés everywhere. The sun was just starting to sink, so we found a spot looking out over the lake, ordered beers and a bottle of Prosecco and toasted to catching up with old friends. What a great start to the weekend.

The sun starting to set over Lake Como

Myself and Jan in the old part of Como town

The next morning, we set off in the car along the lakes edge making heading towards Bellagio. Stopping in the small village of Torno, we parked the car and meandered our way down cobbled steps towards the water. At the bottom of the steps we walked right into a film shoot and were quickly approached by someone talking very rapid Italian. At first we thought they wanted us to be 'extras' then realised they just wanted us out of the way so they could continue filming "damn tourists"! We opted to stop and watch  the proceedings whilst enjoying a coffee. We tried to asked for a latte, but it was totally lost in translation - cappuccino they could understand.

Coffee down at the film shoot in the village of Torno
Back on the road and heading for Bellagio for lunch. This little town has such a reputation and we could see why. A lovely tree lined waterfront where the ferries arrive and depart across the lake, a network of stepped and cobbled lanes rising up the hill, full of classy boutiques, cafés and jewellery stores with their famous handmade Murano glass. Whilst the guys lingered over a coffee, Janice and I decided it was time to shop for a souvenir of our trip and couldn't resist the Murano pendants. Thankfully it was not peak season, so it was easy walking amongst the tourists that were there. I can imagine this little town would be inundated in the summer and packed with all nationalities - such a popular destination. You could spend hours walking up and down the lanes, window shopping and just soaking up the atmosphere. And of course hoping for a sighting of George and his new wife - but not this time! Heading for home back along the narrow winding road and the breathtaking views around each bend never stop - mountains and water are such a lovely combination. While in Italy, it had to be Italian for dinner so pizza and of course more Prosecco.
                                                     Looking north towards Bellagio from Torno
Pete meandering down the cobbled steps to the water

Stopping for a breather - its quite a steep climb

Janice enjoying the boutique shops of Bellagio

Sunday we decided to do a leisurely lake cruise zig zagging our way up from Como and making for Menaggio, almost directly across the lake from Bellagio. Taking 2 hours to reach our destination, it was certainly a relaxing way to travel. Once there, we found a beach side cafe looking out across the lake, and settled down for a lunch of risotto and pasta, and of course more Prosecco.   

A lakeside villa along the way

Calling  in at Bellagio, across the lake from Menaggio

The view from our little restaurant looking south

Pete and Ross looking relaxed

How is this for a small car!! A Fiat 500
As we had an evening flight out of Malpensa, we took the faster trip back to Como on the hydrofoil, taking only an hour. A last walk around the town and back to the apartment to pack our bags and say our farewells to Jan and Ross. We caught the train from Como to the airport and it was a very simple trip, one change at Saronno and we were there. Lake Como should be on everyone's bucket list - it is a little piece of heaven. And of course all the better for sharing it with good friends.



    Thursday, 2 October 2014

    A weekend in Budapest

    Friday afternoon and I took the train from our village of Harpenden to Luton airport, only 1 stop and met Pete after work for a late afternoon flight to Budapest. 2 hours flying time and we had arranged for the Airport Shuttle Bus to meet us and transfer us to the Zenit Budapest Hotel located 1 street back from the famous Danube river. Our first impressions of Budapest were really breathtaking. Cities always look nicer at night but this one is really something special. Buda and Pest are linked with spectacular bridges, all very different from each other and even though it was nearly 10.00pm before we reached our hotel, we couldn't resist the urge to meander along the edge of the Danube taking in the views of this magic place. Right next door to our hotel was a quirky little wine bar - DiVin Porcello which stayed open until midnight, so after our walk in the fresh night air, we stopped for a bottle of wine and a platter of local cheeses and ham. Along with the meal came a dialogue of what we were eating and from where it came - a lovely way to start our weekend.

     Budapest Museum at night
    Chain bridge linking Buda to Pest
    DiVin Porcello - our wine bar for our late night munchies

                 Pete enjoying his wine, ham and cheese   .......  not sure what the background translation is!
    Up early the following morning to start the day at the Central Market Hall, much like the Queen Victoria markets in Melbourne, stall after stall of beautiful fresh produce, cheeses, salamis and meats, paprika in every form and then the souvenirs of embroidered wares and Matryoshka dolls. After a breakfast there of crepes and hot chocolate, we spent the next couple of hours walking up Gellert Hill and the Citadel,  Budapest Museum, Budapest Castle, Heroes Square and the Fisherman's Bastion with its spectacular coloured tiled roofs.
    The city centre is a network of paved roads littered with outdoor cafes and market stalls, hanging baskets of flowers from every street lamp and live entertainment never far away. And with an Indian summer happening, everybody was out and about.
    As they drive on the right hand side of the road, we had to remember to look left before crossing - something that takes some getting used to after being conditioned all our lives to look the other way.
    After lunch, we spent a couple of hours at the Gellert Baths, one of the many thermal baths in Budapest. Ornate ceilings in colourful mosaic tiles, thermal pools ranging from 18 degrees to 40 degrees and saunas up to 70 degrees. On weekends the baths are mixed and swimming costumes compulsory as opposed to weekdays where males and females are separated and costumes are optional. Thank goodness it was Saturday !!!!

                                    The view from the citadel looking south over the Liberty Bridge

                                     Looking north over the Elizabeth Bridge and the Chain Bridge

    The view down the Funicular Rail from the Museum

                                       Impressive coloured tile roof of the Fisherman's Bastion

    A beautiful city to explore on foot
    Sunday morning we headed off to Szimpla Kert markets. Around the turn of the century, old tenement houses and factory buildings that were doomed to destruction were revamped with rejected furniture from old community centres, cinemas and attics giving them a real retro feeling. They were soon called ruinpubs and became very popular with the locals and tourists alike. One of the more famous ones is Szimpla Kert (Simple Garden) and on Sunday mornings it becomes a market of home made wares - jams, marmalades, relishes, cordials, soups, home grown veggies and herbs as well as fresh breads and cheeses. The décor is very eclectic and looks like it has been put together from the selection of a 2nd hand shop selling electronic devices, prehistoric toys, old bikes and even vintage cars. You name it and it has been recycled into usable things - my chair was a singer sewing machine base with a tractor seat on top. A great atmosphere with local music playing and just the place to sit upstairs, have a drink and soak up the atmosphere.

    Szimpla Kert Markets

    After checking out of our hotel, we took the underground to the Szechenyi Baths for the afternoon - probably Budapest most famous baths. It is the largest medicinal bath in Europe and its water is supplied by 2 thermal springs - 74 and 77 degrees Celsius. Set in an acre of land, there are 18 different pools, 3 main outdoor pools and the rest indoor heated pools. We systematically made our way up one wing jumping from 18 degrees all the way up to 40 degree pools, and then sauna and steam rooms the warmest being 70 degrees. An hour outside in the large pools where strong jets would pummel your feet or in another pool a whirlpool is created and you are carried along and quite a good speed and can actually find it hard to exit.
    The famous Szechenyi Baths of Budapest

    Inside one of the many thermal pools

                                    The large outdoor pool with the whirlpool section in the middle

    A late night flight home and crawled into bed some time after midnight but what a wonderful city to explore. "Koszonom" - "thank you" - the only Hungarian word we learnt - 'Koszonom Budapest for an awesome weekend'.


    Monday, 15 September 2014

    Our first weekend away - Tarbert

    We have just returned from our first weekend away and my first flight with EasyJet - a very smooth and easy experience. Luton airport is quite a large hectic hub, flying out to 40 different destinations on the continent. The nice part of being back in the UK is that nothing is very far, and the longest flight is 2 hours, and we are ourselves only 10 minutes from Luton airport. So leaving early on Friday morning, we flew to Glasgow (under an hour) and then drove down to have the weekend with Pete's mum in Tarbert on the west coast of Scotland. We wound our way along Loch Lommond, then up through the rugged mountains of the 'Rest and be Thankful', then down to Inverary and Loch Fyne and finally into Tarbert. A tiny wee village set around a harbour and marina, where nothing much changes from visit to visit - no matter how long it is between. Our last trip there was only 2 years ago but in a different season being November.

    The heather was still in bloom giving the hills a pinkish tinge, and the autumn colours more advanced than in England. On our arrival, the sun was shining on the little white houses and the views across the harbour stunning. lots of lovely scenic walks up to the castle ruins looking back down over the marina. All along the roadside, bramble bushes flourish and we helped ourselves to the sweet black fruit (much like mulberries but smaller).The big talk in the village was all about the referendum this coming week, whether Scotland should become independent from England and the people seem to be divided. Big banners of 'Yes' or 'No Thanks' are displayed in paddocks, smaller signs attached to street poles and plastered to kitchen windows. An interesting few days ahead.

                                   From Tarbert Castle ruins looking back over the village

                                         Looking across Loch Fyne to Portavadie in the distance

                                                                          Sweet brambles

           Tarbert harbour and marina. Pete's mums house 'Rockfield' can be seen on the point R hand side

    Never seen such large fuschias - the size of a tennis ball

    We're back !!

    After what seems like a life time ago, we are back to blogging - though the next 12 months will be land based rather than on sea based on Kittani. We are finally both back together in the UK after a somewhat tenuous start to our year back in the work force. Whilst  Kittani was being worked on in Satun boat yard, Pete was approached by his boss from Amex days and coaxed out of retirement for a 12 month contract with EasyJet at Luton airport, UK. It would give us the opportunity to see a lot more of family in London and Scotland, as well as staff travel to the continent to places we hadn't been, so we decided it was too good to pass up. With Kittani safely stored away on the hard at Pangkor, we headed to the UK only to face some unexpected issues.

    In a nutshell, I was refused entry as I hadn't pre arranged a visa to stay for such a long period. After 6 hours of detention, interviews, photos and fingerprints, I was put on a plane and sent back to Oz, leaving Pete to start our new adventure on his own. I then had to start the lengthy process of obtaining a 'Spousal Settlement Visa' and after having the spent the last 9 months hopping in and out of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore where they hardly bat an eyelid at you - UK immigration was a whole different ball game. After putting our life under a microscope and jumping through numerous hoops, I was finally granted a visa to come and go as I like, so after 3 months back in Oz, I have arrived.

    We are set up in an small apartment (though after living the last 4 years on Kittani - it is huge!) in the little village of Harpenden, about 10 mins drive south of Luton. A very pretty quintessential English village set around the common, lovely gardens and pretty hedged lane ways. There is no shortage of pubs and they all look inviting, so on our next rainy cold weekend, we will have to start trying them out. I completely missed the Summer, which I believe was quite a good one, but there is always next year. The trees are just starting to change colour and the next few weeks should quite spectacular. So for now I am just sussing out my new environment, finding out where things are and getting used to the pounds and pence.

    Two of our local pubs - looking forward to sitting in front of an open fire on a cold and rainy day.

    Harpenden - Our home for the next 12 months.


    Thursday, 22 May 2014

    Back in the water

    The day had come to relaunch, whether we were ready or not. After spending the last night in the yard and working till nearly midnight reattaching pieces here and there, we just needed to get going. We had to wait until late morning for the tide to rise enough and then the strong current nearly swept us sideways onto a ferry wreck, but full throttle saw us head out into the river and finally on our way.

    A short few hours later saw us arriving into Telaga harbour at Langkawi and checking back into Malaysia. It was great to catch up with our dear friends from Totem, but sad to think that this would most likely be the last time our sailing paths would cross. There were also some familiar faces from our Sail Indonesia rally - Adagio, Kularoo and Alleycat and always so good to see them again. Drinks on the beach that evening and great fun catching up on their news. Our second night there saw our son Chris fly in to help us sail Kittani down to Pangkor and ready her for the years storage. Always so good to have him around. Leaving Telaga, we headed down to the fiords at the bottom of Langkawi for our first night. Then a days trip south to Penang where we stopped at the southern end, and our third day was the long haul into Pangkor marina.

    The lift out at Pangkor was by far the easiest lift we have ever done. It was a matter of minutes and we were up and out of the water, such a smooth procedure. Then the hard work started - it took us 2 full days to detach, de-rig, store everything away, get the tarps up, wipe everything down with diluted oil of clove to stave of mould and feel that we had done everything in our power to keep her safe and sound in our absence. So now she is snug in her new home and we are off to Kuala Lumpur in the morning by train via Ipoh and one last evening to enjoy the delights of KL with Chris before he flies back to Oz and we head to the UK for our next adventure.

                                         Heading onto the SeaLift at Pangkor Marina - Malaysia
    Out of the water and off to her new lodging for 12 months

    Satun Boat Yard 3 ( PSS Boat Yard)

    Having been In the yard for about 2 months, people searching for details may find this of benefit.

    Cheap labour. Two types, 
    one is hired via the yard and you pay between 600  - 1200 per day depending on what they do. Eg general is 600, light sanding is 800, heavy sanding is 1200. The worker (usually Burmese) still gets the same pay, about 330 per day and the yard collects the difference for the tools and elec used. Bit mean I think. 
    The other is contracted....carpenters and painters. Bit more skilled than the yard workers. You pay a "boss" 1200 per day for these guys, sometimes 1500 if team leader. You will pay commission.
    You can also hire carpenters / painters via the yard. Obviously you don't pay the commission, but the quality and urgency of their work can sometimes be questionable. Some are good some aren't.

     I employed a guy called Un who project manages multiple boats. He charges about 3000 per week and is indispensable for translating and getting the workers going. He gives you about 1 hour per day and as required. His number is Thailand 085 078 1959. Email is.

    Yard shop...has a good range of what would be needed. I didn't bring anything from Langkawi and haven't had a problem. Un can source just about anything if you need it. Be aware that the bills from here mount up quickly.. Keep a close watch if you don't want surprises. The yard bills fortnightly but can do weekly if requested.
    Good little "restaurant" just out of the yard. Open 6 days and good value..about 30 baht per meal
    Tent hire for serious painting or deck work, I would suggest this is a must. The yard is busy, dusty and hot and getting wetter as the rainy season gets going.
    Container hire - great for storing the treasures you will find when clearing out and getting ready to start work
    The Burmese workers are the most hardworking I have ever seem. I have used 2
    Mr Wen ....used for heavy sanding. 
    Mr Zor....young guy with small daughter and wife who works in the yard. Fantastic worker. If you can get him, keep him. Switch him on in the morning and he goes all day. I have used him for general work, sanding, polishing,helping me re rig etc. because of the pay and his great attitude, I paid him a bonus at the end of each week.

    Yard management.....they screw you down for everything. Like charging you for heavy sanding when light, light for when general. Highly recommend you keep a daily log of who you have and what they are doing and don't sign anything until you have x referenced. The other issue is use of compressor.. Make sure you check daily what they are charging you. They have charged me 8 days rental for 22 hours discussions with yard mgt!! 
    Also charge a live aboard of about thb50 per person per day. Not publicised. Also charge for water when washing down the boat
    Painters....whilst they do a terrific job they are as slow as a wet week. 
    The yard is dirty and in the dry season very dusty.

    Local engineering shop....not very good. I asked them to polish a whole lot of s/steel parts and had to send it back 3 times. Sim issues with another yacht getting some work done on his exhaust manifold....3 or 4 times back to get it done right. However, their welding, reputably, is good. There is another group of welders used by the motor boat. They are excellent and can fabricate almost anything, but pricey.

    I rented a 1 room apt with air, ensuite and not much else for 7000 thb per month...bit less if for 2 month rental. This is in Satun town , about 15 mins away. Place is called Living@home.
    Locally there is a shop just out of the yard that has a room for rent. Not sure of cost, quality though. Was rented by a French couple and they didn't seem to have any issues.
    Car...few hours use, you can rent from shop owner...Uns mum..bit expensive at 500 - 600 for half a day. They also hire scooters for 100 for a few hours or 200 per day, 1200 pw I went the scooter route as the roads are quiet.

    Would I do it agai?n..yes.

    Wednesday, 21 May 2014

    Satun Boat Yard 2

    Now into week 7 on the hard. This includes the 2 weeks we had in Australia, so actually 5 weeks of work to date.

    What has been accomplished?

    Hull stripped back to the gel coat.
    This took 12 days of heavy sanding due to, roughly, 14 coats of  antifoul and what appeared to be a layer of copper coat. Tough work and the yard worker - Wen - just kept on going day after day.
    Once sanded, 3 layers of Jotamastic epoxy have been applied as a barrier coat. This would normally have a bonding coat to ensure antifoul sticks to it, but because Kittani will only be in the water for about a week before going back on the hard in Pangkor for a year, I am opting not to put anything on until we return from the UK.

    Masts stripped back to bare metal.
    Both main and mizzen sanded and then wet n dry sanded. A two pack etch primer applied followed by a coat of Penguard Hi build. Then two coats of International Interthane 990. After 6 years of looking at very sad masts, these will be lovely.



    Top sides
    Old gel coat was sanded and then long boarded, removing most of the wear and tear of probably 35 years. Even at this stage it was an improvement. To show up any imperfections, the hull was lightly sprayed with a can of black paint. Looked more like graffiti to me. More sanding. Fill was applied to any dents, scratches etc and then another graffiti attack and then sanded. A coat of hi build applied and then more graffiti . At this stage I was prowling the boat looking for this supposed artist, but never saw him doing it. Turn away and there it was.
    Once sanded again, a coat of Awlgrip 545 primer applied. Looked great! You guessed it, the graffiti attack again. Finally, they got the 600 grit sanding completed ready for the final coats. Even now, it is almost good enough to leave. Top coats still to go. (The black paint is to identify areas still to be sanded. Very easy to miss if all is white)

    All of the verticals bulkhead veneer has been stripped off and replaced with 4mm ply with a reconstituted teak machine pressed onto it. This is a much lighter colour than what was there before so will lighten the interior considerably.
    New teak floor in the forward cabin
    In addition, the carpet that was on the hull (very late 1970 style) has also been replaced with the same veneer together with new Vetus portholes. The latter have taken a bit of thought as to how to get them to fit. The exterior is a great fit being attached to an extrusion running down he hull. The interior was a bit more difficult and required some fibreglass grinding  and filling to make a good internal fit. Still work in progress.
    All of the new surfaces will be covered with a two pack polyeurathane to keep it as light as possible and give it a hard surface.
    Don't mention the dust..gets everywhere.

    Fridge n freezer
    Both have been causing issues with constant compressor cycling. A few cuts into the fibreglass lining uncovered water in the foam on the base of both. The floor from both was cut out, all the old foam removed and then replaced with a two pack foaming product. Good fun using this stuff. It mixes at a ratio of 50:50, a quick stir to mix and then pour quickly. Boy does it expand quickly and if too much mixed, goes everywhere. I compressed each pouring to ensure it stayed reasonably compact, but still oozes out any hole. I was contemplating taking out and replacing both boxes, but with all the internal work going on, thought I'd try his option first. We'll see how it goes.

    Toe rail replacement
    The aft toerail (port and starboard) had some rot. These were removed and replacements bedded down.

    Pilot house timbers sanded and oiled. Using up the last of my Sikkens
    Original solid teak inside cabins sanded and then coated with polyeurathane
    Stainless steel fittings polished ( started this before agreeing to posting to UK). We'll see how it stands up to 12 months in a boatyard

    Using 28.5 baht to AUD
    HAULOUT  ฿      12,245  $        429.65
    HARDSTAND  ฿      48,060  $     1,686.32
    LABOUR  ฿   402,428  $  14,120.28
    PARTS  ฿   201,736  $    7,078.44
    CONTAINER  ฿      10,000  $        350.88
    LIVE ABOARD  ฿        1,550  $          54.39
    TENT  ฿      15,600  $        547.37
    CRANE HIRE  ฿        5,288  $        185.54
    ACCOMMODATION  ฿      10,100  $        354.39
       ฿   707,007  $  24,807.25

    HULL ฿        21,600  $          757.89
    INTERNAL ฿     113,000  $       3,964.91
    PAINTING ฿     144,500  $       5,070.18
    COMMISSION ฿        28,548  $       1,001.68
    PROJECT MGT ฿        19,950  $          700.00
    MAST ฿          8,600  $          301.75
    POLISHING ฿          6,500  $          228.07
    BONUS ฿        21,980  $          771.23
    TOERAIL ฿          8,500  $          298.25
    GENERAL ฿        29,250  $       1,044.64
      ฿     402,428  $    14,372.43