Wednesday, February 04, 2009

February 1, 2009 - Telaga Harbor, Langkawi, Malaysia

We woke up with the dawn this morning. As Sten brewed coffee and dished up some breakfast, I made myself presentable enough to go deal with the local officials. An hour later, after visiting the harbor master, customs, and immigration, we were cleared out of the country. I used the last of our local currency to pay the marina bill, putting the overage on a credit card. By the time I got back to the boat, Sten had everything stowed for passage.

Our exit from the tight marina slip that we were sharing with a beamy Oyster 55 did not go as smoothly as our arrival. There was some shoving off of the Oyster, and for a moment we were tangled up with the big dinghy hanging off of their davits, but no harm was done and we got away cleanly. That was the end of our good luck.

We spent the next three hours motoring across the south side of Langkawi. During our week at the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club, we hadn't seen a single boat use the fuel dock. The fuel tanks there have been contaminated before, so rather than risk it and on the advice of another cruiser, we decided to fuel at Telaga Harbor, about 16 miles away on the west coast of Langkawi.

When we pulled into Telaga, the gas station sent down someone over on a motorscooter to turn on the pumps at the fuel dock. About six ringgits worth ($1.50) of fuel trickled out before the pump stopped working altogether. After a short conversation on his mobile phone, the gas station employee turned to us and said that the pumps were broken and that we should go back to Kuah to fuel. I replied that we'd just come from there and weren't going back, but that Sten could fix anything, if they would let him have a go at it. So he and Sten headed off together, only to discover that the problem was with the computerized control system, rather than a mechanical problem. Well, that's a bit beyond Sten's purview, so we went off to have some lunch at a tourist cafe (we had no local currency left so we had to go someplace that accepted Visa).

Over lunch we debated whether to a) head back to Kuah, b) spend the day exploring the area around Telaga in the hope that the technician coming on the morning ferry from Penang could fix the problem quickly, or c) spend the afternoon lugging fuel from the gas station in jerry cans. Figuring that there was no guarantee that the technician would be able to fix the pumps and that the round trip to Kuah and back would take as long as jerrying it, we decided to go ahead and fill our virtually empty tanks with jerries. So, after an overpriced lunch and a fortifying almond croissant, we tucked into the task.

Utilizing our two old diesel jerries, which hold 22.5 liters each, and the two new jerries that Sten bought last week to carry extra gasonline to Chagos for the dinghy, which hold 30 liters each, we did 6 round trips to the gas station. It wasn't that far away, but it was far enough that the employees rode mopeds to get to the fuel dock. We were lucky enough to find two hand carts, which made the task much easier, and Sten was chivalrous enough to take charge of the 30 liter jerries, but even so, after 5 hours of hauling diesel and decanting 635 liters (168 gallons) of it into our tanks, I was completely covered with diesel and exhausted. I was so relieved when both tanks were full.

Sten learned an ingenious method of siphoning fuel from the local guys in Indo that we put to good use todayy. First, run a long hose from a jerry can to the fuel tank. Then, take a short hose and insert it into the top of the jerry can. Seal the opening of the jerry with a piece of cloth. Finally, blow into the short hose. The pressure from the air blown into the jerry will force the diesel into the long hose and gravity does the rest. This method, which if done correctly will not result in a mouthful of diesel, is a whole lot better than the traditional method of sucking on the tank end of the long hose.

By siphoning diesel into the forward tank while we poured it via a funnel into the aft tank, we were able to fill both tanks simultaneously, speeding up the whole process. But even so, it was 8:30 and dark by the time we were done settling the bill at the gas station and cleaning the diesel off the side decks. The only redeeming thing about the whole experience is that we saved some money by getting our diesel directly from the gas station, rather than the pumps at the fuel dock, which charge a premium. However the savings breaks down to a measly $4.45 an hour. The last time either of us worked for $4.45 an hour was in high school.

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