Sunday, January 25, 2009

January 23, 2009 - Penang, Malaysia

Diet Coke - check, canned carrots - check, mountain of junk food - check, check, check. Okay, we're ready to cross the Indian Ocean.
Penang has been one of our favorite stops on this trip. Walking down the streets here, smelling the enticing aroma of stir fried noodles wafting out of the coffee shops, listening to the latest Bollywood hit blaring out of a DVD shop in Little India, we couldn't help but feel that we were someplace really exotic. We were so enamored with Georgetown's ethnic neighborhoods that we never made it out of the old city. Thanks to the combination of accessibility and rock bottom prices, this has also been a great place for us to get things done, including the bulk of our Indian Ocean provisioning. Unfortunately, the marina in Georgetown leaves a lot to be desired, which causes a lot of cruisers to skip Penang on their way north to Thailand.

Before we left Singapore we were warned by another boat that had stopped in Penang several times that passing ferries generate wakes that cause boats docked at Tanjung City Marina to rock from "gunwale to gunwale." The morning we arrived at the marina, the first question that the skipper off the boat next to us asked us was "have you heard about the roll?" He pointed to the popped fender hanging from the side of his boat and muttered, "lost that one last night." Then he pointed to the rubber bumper hanging off the side of the dock "but not before doing that," he said. Luckily, we weren't sharing a slip with anyone, so we ran an line to the far side of the slip, both to keep the boat from relying too much on our fenders and to reduce the roll somewhat.

One afternoon, several days after we arrived, a wave moved through the marina that caused two boats on A dock to roll violently, smashing their masts together. We could see bits of lights and instruments breaking off the tops of their masts and falling into the water. The marina staff will put any two boats together in a slip, regardless of their size, hull shapes or how small the resulting gap is between the two boats. Therefore, guests at the marina need to make certain that their masts don't line up with those of the boat next to them. Marina guests shouldn't stand for any marginal berthing arrangements. The marina staff will move you if you don't like your berth, but you need to speak up.

There is little that the marina can do to ameliorate the roll outside of building a true breakwall, which would be a huge expense. However, the section of perimeter dock closest to the ferry terminal is broken, allowing substantial ferry wash and wind waves to make their way into the marina. Repairing that portion of the dock would improve things and should be a priority for the marina.

Ironically, the thing that causes cruising boats to move on from Penang quickly is not the motion in the marina, it is the noise from the all-night disco next door. Several nights a week, the pounding music causes cruisers to stuff their ears with earplugs, turn on their fans, and pop their sleeping pills and try to sleep through the pounding beat accentuated by the commentary of one very annoying DJ. We would have stayed in Penang through Chinese New Year, but after too many nights of crappy sleep and waking up with bruises under our eyes that made us look like we'd been throwing punches at each other, we decided to head north to Langkawi. If the owners of Tanjung City Marina value their key constituents - their marina customers - they would be wise to not renew the disco's lease.

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