march 2012 : malaysia / thailand

WARNING: Willow features in 87.5% of the stories and in 81.25% of the photos below…

We sailed from Langkawi to Phuket. We flew to Penang. We flew back to Phuket.


BOAT. It took us four days to prep Zinc to leave port (more than twice as long as it would have taken us without the new crew). One of us played with Willow while the other did boat jobs. Me: chick stuff- cleaning, unpacking and provisioning. Dale: bloke stuff- re-commissioning systems (sails, water, power, engines). For the most part, this boating life operates along gender lines. This is a sweeping generalisation of course. There are women out here who are at the helm so to speak. Perhaps one day Willow will be one of them? (Not-that-she-has-to-be-if-she-does-not-want-to-be. She-may-not-even-like-the-ocean. She-may-want-to-live-in-the-desert-or-on-a-farm-miles-from-the-sea. We are not pushy parents. Promise. Ha!)

LIFE. Willow fell in love with cats…

…learned how to navigate her pram down marina gangways…

and acquired new shoes which were perhaps too blue?


TRAVELS. The trip from Langkawi to Phuket took us 26 hours. For Willow, it was a good precis of travels to come. We sailed, motor-sailed and motored through storms, seas, fair winds, no winds and glass. Willow slept well and ate well but was bored on the second day when we were stretched for ideas to entertain her. We really need to get her watching telly. At 14 months she is a TV virgin. But this parenting thing has become time consuming and too much effort now that she is on the move. Perhaps the answer is to use TV to numb Willow’s mind, get her in a trance and slow her down?

BOAT KID. Zinc is not fully set up for Willow yet. This is one of the things that we are doing in Phuket. So on the passage from Langkawi we implemented temporary measures. When Willow was awake and we needed four hands on deck, we strapped her into the pram, either in the cockpit or on deck; this worked well.

When moving around on deck, we tied a bit of strapping around Willow’s waist and held it like a leash; this did not work well.

BOAT KID. We envisaged that Willow would sleep in the boardroom (i.e., the double room) but ultimately we could not bear to relocate, or to find alternate space for, the toys that live in there (i.e., the nine surfboards, three dive tanks, two sets of dive gear, kiteboarding gear, three fishing rods, two spearguns etc etc). So she is in the second queen room, in her portacot tent, which doubles as a mozzie net; this works well.

LIFE. This is Willow’s latest party trick. When someone asks us how old she is, she holds up one finger. She gets loads of mileage out of this move.


BOAT. Zinc was where she should not be for most of the month. Among other things, parts of her backend were lacerated, bogged, sanded, glassed, painted, sika-flexed. She was hot and filthy, scattered with tools and parts and smeared with dust and dirty footprints. Poor Zinc. We abandoned her for air-conditioned, (relatively) clean abodes on land at Boat Lagoon Marina and at Surin Beach.

LIFE. Willow and I launched into Mummy-land expat island style. This entailed pedicures and massages at the beach, Gymboree music and play & learn classes twice a week, playdates with expat and boat kids and visits to playcenters, beaches, pools, parks, shopping centers, the butterfly farm, the zoo, the street fountain.

Good boat kids in training. Jostling for the broom to clean up the zoo properly.

BOAT KID.Teach Willow to swim. Not just float. Swim. As quickly as you can.” This is the best advice we have been given. It was imparted by a sailor in the know (he raised his daughter (now our age) on his boat) and corroborates our thinking. We like people who think like us. They are wise. Netting, harness, lifejacket, barriers, lifetag; we are implementing all of these measures. But we continue to focus our attention on the swimming. One session a day minimum, usually two, often three. Willow cannot swim a lap of freestyle yet.

DRAMA. Willow locked herself in the room, and me on the veranda, of our hotel at Surin Beach. She succeeded in sliding the bottom latch on the bright blue French doors into the hole while I was outside hanging our beach wear to dry. I had nothing on me but our wet swimmers and towels. Dale was working at the boat and would not be home for a couple of hours. I shook the doors and tried to jimmy them apart with my hands. I jumped across to the veranda of the room next door and tried the same. By this stage, Willow was hysterical. We could see each other, and mirror our hands, through the glass windows on the doors. I was close to hysterical. I climbed the two fire escape ladders to the verandas of the rooms above and tried the same. I banged. I yelled. Nothing. I began to seriously consider jumping onto the corragated iron roof below the veranda and then onto the ground (we were on the first floor) or smashing the glass windows on the doors. I tried the door of the room next door again as it was secured by the top latch only. I shook it hard, the latch slipped and the door opened. I ran downstairs to the ladies on reception. They had a spare key but the front door to our room would only open a crack because I had pulled across the inside latch/lock. We had got into the habit of doing this to stop housekeeping from interrupting Willow’s daytime sleeps. Enter random man. We all ran back out to the veranda through the room next door. The man pulled out a metal rod and a knife, jimmed the door and smashed off the bottom lock. I hugged Willow tightly for a very long time.

BOAT KID. TV training. This is not progressing well. When we sit Willow in front of a screen, she escapes and climbs on something or finds a book and brings it to us to read to her. We engaged three TV watching experts to help us, but the best they could do was to get Willow to focus on the screen for 43 seconds. Our passage to Indonesia will take around five thousand times this long. We are becoming desperate.

LIFE. Willow is helping us to stretch our cruising kitty by acquiring food from strangers: bananas, sausages, chocolate, marshmallows, cake, sweet biscuits, crackers, grapes, juice, water, salted raisins. You can probably guess which of these foods we allow her to enjoy. Additionally, we have an idea for a scheme whereby Willow could help us to top up the kitty. Tourists in Phuket pay for photos with elephants, monkeys, snakes, goannas, birds, fish; why not with a dwarf neanderthal? 100 – 200 baht a photo seems to be the going rate. We have even perfected a crowd pleasing routine at the pool. Willow jumps off the edge to us, in either belly flop or pencil dive style, fully submerges and surfaces laughing. This raises a roar from a crowd and surely could result in a few baht landing in a hat laid out?


TRAVELS. We flew to Penang for two nights. It was a pleasant and productive trip. We came away with the three things that we went there to get – new Thai visas, Indonesian social visas, boat bits. And we had time for a morning on the foreshore, an afternoon at the park, a stroll through Little India and a rickshaw ride. I cannot believe we have become the type of people who ride in rickshaws… my former self cringes. All was well until Willow was apprehended at Phuket international airport trying to enter Thailand with someone else’s luggage.


BOAT KID. Mamy Poko Pants Extra Soft Fit are the best nappies available in Asia. Huggies International should be ashamed to put their name on the nappies they sell in Asia; they are useless.


BOAT KID. A big thank you to the very kind people who gave Willow presents this month. She loves them. It is good that we have put on that extension and Zinc is now 12 meters long (previously 11.6m). We have much more room for toys.

QUESTION/ADVICE REQUESTED. What is this fruit called (in English)?