We give approximately five minutes notice to Pankgor Marina that we are coming in. Andrew’s on the radio while Leslie is trying to figure out the less than clear channel markers leading into the mouth of the marina. She’s eyeing my depth meter with suspicion. The chart says eleven feet under my keel, but the depth meter is ticking away downward. Leslie slows my engine and we creep forward as the depth drops 9, 8, 7….holding at 7…these areas get silted in with river mud fairly often, so you can’t always trust the charts, especially close to shore. The trick is to find the channel that has been dredged. You would think it would be between the buoy markers, wouldn’t you? Suddenly, the depth meter drops undeniably low. 4! 3! 2!!!!
Leslie pulls my engine into neutral, gets a little over excited about what might happen if we ground ourselves in mud, then slams my gears into reverse and gives Yanmar a growling rev backward. 3…4….5…7…9…20. We all breath a bit lighter. Andrew comes scurrying on deck. “What the hell?”
“We almost ran aground!” Leslie and I say in unison as we all look around for the proper entrance. A ferry comes speeding out of the mouth of the marina, hangs a right and goes nowhere near the channel marker buoys. We watch him speed by then slowly re-create his path. I’m helped into a slip that is apparently where all Valiants seem to go whenever they visit this marina. My neighbors all laugh that the Sister Ship we saw a few anchorages back happened to be the last boat tied up here. I smile. “Yes, we Valiants deserve our own special slip, I think!”
“Oh, get over yourself!” Grin says, tied up and pouting on deck. He’s very disappointed to be back in another marina. I don’t blame him. I don’t love marinas either, but this one has it’s finer qualities. Recommended by all the sailors on the Sail South East Asia forum as one of the best to do boat work, this place is more like a Boat Spa Retreat than a marina. I have no doubt that my Handsome Captain Andrew will be providing me all the sugar scrubs and boat facials I could ask for.
As soon as we are tied up, we are invited to a dock party directly in front of my slip where Andrew and Leslie enjoy potluck accommodations and opportunity for Andrew ponder the endless vortex of boat refit and maintenance. I hover with my bow poked in the middle of the conversation, tapping Leslie’s head with my anchor every now and then, just so she won’t forget I’m here.
Usually, the conversations amongst the sailor crowd revolve around where you started from, how long you’ve been sailing, what area of the world have you sailed so far. Here, though, the questions are different. “What are you working on? How long have you been in the yard? When do you plan to be afloat again?” Being the new kids in town, everyone circulates among us trying to figure out how long we will be at the marina and how they can help us. “We’ll take you here, tomorrow! We’ll take you there, the day after!” Everyone has rented cars, and everyone is more than happy to show Andrew and Leslie the “ropes”.
Andrew makes plans to find a new alternator or at least rebuild the other half of The Frankenator. He removes all my anchor and chain to inspect it, then send it away to be “re-galvanized,” or dipped in molten zinc so that the salt water will eat the zinc and not the chain itself. He also wants to re-build my genoa roller furling, explore the options for revarnishing my teak, change my oil and transmission fluid, refill my propane bottles, clean and polish my hatches and portholes, inspect my rig, and even buy Kitty a spare propeller. I knew he’d get busy quick. He wanders the yard looking at other boats: nice paint job here, good bottom paint there, this guy is rebuilding the entire hull of his boat, another guy has refurbished a 45 year old boat to look exactly new. He meets a Canadian Mechanical Engineer who is painstakingly rebuilding his boat, hand building his own new rudder out of fiberglass resin and mat, etc. Andrew brings me back news after each walk-about.
You’d think this would make me happy, but I start to get an uneasy feeling. “How long have they been here?” I ask, but Andrew starts on about the many different options between Cetol and Varnish available at the paint store. I know he heard me; he’s ignoring me on purpose. As he bounds out again, he calls back: “One of my new friends will be coming over. He wants to see Sonrisa. If he gets here before I get back, offer him a beer!” Leslie and I shrug and agree, turning back to *whatever it is we do* when we aren’t sailing. Pretty soon, we hear a knock on my hull.
Leslie pokes her head up my companion way and the knocker jumps back a few feet. His eyes slide toward the exit side of my dock finger, and he leans away. Leslie, sensing his shyness tries to moderate her response, but to no avail. “Hi! Andrew is just up finishing a quick shower. Can I offer you a beer?” She sounds both shrill and chipper. Our visitor looks as if he might dart. He declines the beer. “Tea?” He accepts the tea. “Feel free to poke around,” Leslie says as she dips below to put on a pot of tea. Our visitor climbs aboard and looks around.
He doesn’t say anything for a while until he asks the worst thing I could think of. “Is that an air conditioner?”
I scowl. “Yeah, that’s temporary. It’s just for these hot marina days.” Leslie says.
I grumble and whisper “I thought you said no one could see it!” Leslie shooshes me.
Andrew arrives back, and together, he and our guest drop down below. Leslie passes out mugs of hot tea that steam in the just slightly cool air created by the air conditioner that can barely keep up. Our guest surveys my living quarters and asks questions. Usually, I love being the center of attention, but this guy has a critical eye. And he’s so quiet, what could he be thinking? Leslie has to lean forward to hear what he has to say.
Andrew is doing that thing he does with all sailors, peeling apart the layers of their brain to find out what they might know that he doesn’t know. It’s tedious. Leslie stands aside and listens while she slurps her too-hot-tea. Today’s topic: the improved stress loading calculations for silicon bronze v. stainless steel, procedures for building your own G10 (a strong plastic) platform to support a mast, depth finders, fish finders, and the erroneous ways of sailors who have too many through-hulls (holes in the sailboat below the waterline used for various mechanical purposes). We spend hours on this.
There is an overabundance of other sailors for Andrew to query here.
Leslie starts to panic. She starts tearing apart all my storage cubbies: “Just rearranging!” she says, as she tosses this and that in to my garbage can.
This makes Andrew nervous, “What are you throwing away? Don’t throw that away!” He digs around to pull things out.
We celebrate Leslie’s 37th birthday at the steak and potato salad buffet bar. Andrew brings her flowers and bestows her gift acquired in Melaka: her Chinese Pigweed Stamp. The whole crew sings her “Happy Birthday.”
Leslie starts reading escape fiction to avoid thinking about the time we are languishing here and overstuffed cubbies. She picks fights. Andrew starts offering criticisms veiled as compliments.
Leslie is attacked by a Cubby-Gremlin.
The combination of complimentary-criticisms and Cubby-Gremlins throws her over the edge toward a nervous breakdown. Andrew takes control over cleaning the cubbies. Andrew and Leslie have several discussions considering the pros and cons of complimentary-criticisms.
Leslie starts surveying the number of sailors in this yard whose wives/girlfriends have departed due to a lack of tolerance for the noise, dust, and Captains’ tendencies to root down and spend the rest of their lives beautifying their True Loves. (Yes, I mean their boats, of course!)
I get annoyed. There is all sorts of bad energy going on here, and that is not how I want my spa experience to go. I start picking fights. “Leslie, you’re walking a thin line.” I say. “You know if you pit me against you, I’ll win every time.”
“Hush, Sonrisa. I know that. I know. I’m not competing with you. What makes you think I don’t love you, too? I contribute at least 50% of every dollar and every night watch we spend on you. You should appreciate me, too.” Leslie huffs and loads another book.
Great. Now, she and I are in a fight, too.
They attend another sailor potluck with singing, ukulele tunes, and debates about the high-mindedness of an “old school” anchor style paired with proper anchoring technique versus the laziness of sailors toting new style anchors and insufficient chain rhode.
In a fury the next morning, Leslie makes reservations for a single individual to stay a mid-week night in Cameron Highlands’ historic hotel built during the days of British control. Andrew notes the “error” on the email confirmation, and Leslie says: “I haven’t decided, yet, if you are invited. You best behave over the weekend….and YOU…” she points at me “had better leave me alone, too.”
My eyes grow wide, then I scowl. Fine. Fair enough. We’re all antsy. We would just cast off and leave, but Andrew sent my anchor chain to be galvanized and that means I have nothing with which to anchor. We are at the mercy of the chain galvanizer’s schedule.
So, over the weekend, Andrew shapes up and takes Leslie on “romantic walks” to the Coconut Shake Shack, which they discover offers rather delicious fare. He ups his cocktail making game, and he gives her complimentary-compliments to make up for the complementary-criticisms of which she is no fan. He designs a plan to capture and kill all Cubby-Gremlins.
With She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed pleased, Leslie relents and invites Andrew to join her road trip. I wave them off hoping like hell my chain will be back by the time they return. Good riddance!