The Serendipity of a Special Harbor
When Wild Card is delayed in Malaysia due to vagaries of the weather, a year's layover there proves to be a recharging experience for her crew. "On Watch" from our April 2010 issue
As low as prices are, we wouldn't have stayed merely because of the delightful economics. It was the friendly, welcoming people who enthralled us.
It's no surprise that with all these advantages, Langkawi is popular as a cruising destination. Many Aussies use it as their northernmost home base. Many elderly world cruisers swallow the hook here not by moving ashore but by living aboard with no plans to leave. Example: Charlie Thomas, the 78-years-young former CEO of Jensen Marine, just carried his lovely bride over the companionway of the 65-foot Bravado.
This is also the easternmost staging area for the Chagos crowd, the crews of a dozen or so hearty vessels that spend half the year in Langkawi and the other half in those lovely and peopleless atolls in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
I write this from our breezy cockpit, within easy sight of Tigger, Aku Ankka, Brumby, Tramontana, Mariposa, and the other boats that will be, once again, heading for Chagos within the month.
Kiwi Phil is always building or rebuilding boats here, when he's not doing the same in the Caribbean. Paul the Brit is a notorious wood butcher, too. Canadian Glen helped a lot of the tsunami-battered boaters to get back on their keels and return to the water. Aussie Noel watches over dozens of boats by day and charters out of a major resort at night for lovely light-air moonlight sails. Nobody is getting rich, but everyone is having fun and replenishing the cruising kitty.
My current best friend in the harbor is Nashville songwriter Gene Nelson, who sails a C&C 48, Emelia. Gene and his brother wrote Kathy Mattea's "Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses" and several other country hits.
We sing and play our dueling guitars together almost nightly at Amanda's, a local waterfront coffee shop. The crowds might not be as large as he's used to in Vegas, but the vibe is good, and there's no dollar signs in anyone's eyes.
Amanda, a local Malay who attended college in the States, is the unofficial harbor den mother. If you need to borrow a car, have an old battery recycled, or require a translator, she's generous to a fault. Her eyes always light up when a group of us sea gypsies sail into her shop and chorus, "Where's Amanda, the Coffee Queen of Kuah?"
Her coffee shop is every bit as warm and wonderful as she is. It has both free WiFi and an in-house snake charmer; only in Malaysia would such a combo be totally unremarkable.
So we've just spent two delightful, adventure-filled years in Southeast Asia while sailing out of Malaysia. Wild Card gleams, fresh from the shipyard. Our bank accounts are bulging, and we have more friends ashore and afloat than we ever dreamed was possible. We're tentatively headed for the Med via the Red Sea, Somali pirates permitting. As we hoist our barnacle-encrusted anchors, we know only one thing for sure: Someday we'll return to lovely, lazy Langkawi.
To catch up with the Sea Gypsies, don't miss the latest installment of Cap'n Fatty and Carolyn Goodlander's video series, "Dealing the Wild Card," at CW's website (www.cruisingworld.com