Wednesday, January 07, 2009

January 7, 2008 - Singapore

Temple in Little India

We've been kept busy by boatwork these past two days. Sten spent yesterday morning scraping masses of barnacles off of the propeller, shaft, and thruhulls. Meanwhile, I did laundry. Then we headed over to Little India to visit the chandleries. They didn't have what we needed, but one of the employees drew up a little mud map to show us where to go to find hose and fasteners. The shops here tend to be hyper-specialized. The hose shop only carries hose. They stock every kind of hose you could ever possibly want, but that's all they've got. For fittings you have to go to another shop a few blocks away. It is like the polar opposite of shopping at a Home Depot.

I spent this morning, before the sun had risen over the new condo-towers next to the marina, restitching the seam that gave out on the bimini. As soon as I was done, I asked Sten to come help me reattach it. As he pulled one of the zippers, its stitching gave out too. So I repaired that spot. And then another spot let go, so I fixed that one. And another, and another, until the next thing I knew it was well past noon. As soon as I put tension on one part of the bimini, someplace else let go. The Dacron thread has just disintegrated after only two years of exposure to tropical sun.

While I was working on deck, Sten was replacing a hose on the engine with the hose we bought yesterday in Little India. He basically had to destroy the old hose to get it off, which required spending a few hours working at an uncomfortable angle, in a tight spot. As hot and tired as I was by the time I was done on deck, I wouldn't have wanted to trade jobs with him.

Our neighbors in the marina have brought their catamaran down from Langkawi to visit with their son, who is working with one of the Volvo Ocean Race teams. It is always useful to meet people who've already been where we are headed. These guys were full of helpful information about the trip through the Malacca Strait, which they've done several times now, and about Langkawi. Alan even drew us a mud map, showing us where to find the butcher and the best prices on beer and wine.

I love mud maps - these handdrawn charts and sketches that cruisers make for one another to depict good anchoring spots, secret surf breaks, and great fishing spots. The terminology is Australian, and originally referred to maps drawn in the dirt with a stick. While mud maps are often crudely rendered, on whatever piece of paper is available (napkins are a favorite, particularly during sundowners), they are also elegant in their simplicity. Leaving out all the extraneous information that the author thinks the recipient doesn't need, they distill the clutter of a regular map down to the essentials; in this case, marina, beer, hardware, butcher. Mud maps are a visual rendering of someone's understanding of a place, customized to provide the recipient with the best experience of that place. Each mud map is a gift, and a little piece of art.

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