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27 April 2018 - Pangkor and Penang, Malaysia

We took another quick trip up to Penang for a couple of days. The excuse was that we needed our life raft serviced and wanted to personally check on its current state. There is a place nearby in Lumut that does service life rafts, but they handle the Navy and big ship equipment, so our little 4-man life raft won’t get the same attention as it did at Ocean Success in Penang.

In Penang, we went to the well known Thai Buddhist Temple, Wat Chaiyamangkalaram - originally given its site by Queen Victoria in 1845. The Temple is surrounded by a small ethnic Siamese community, and serves as a focal point for the annual Songkran and Loi Krathong celebrations in George Town. That’s not our car parked in the first photo. We took a GRAB taxi to get there.

The Temple contains a Phra Chaiya Mongkol reclining Buddha statue measuring 33 m in length (108 ft) from end to end - making it the third longest reclining Buddha statue in the world. 

Several smaller statues of the Buddha in various poses, as well as the Devas, can also be found throughout the temple, particularly adorning the main prayer hall. You can clearly see the prayer/kneeling mats laid out on the floor in front of the statues.

This statue also serves as a columbarium, in which the urns of the cremated are housed. In the wall behind the reclining Buddha, I observed that hundreds of urns dating back over a hundred years are stored in reverence.

Not surprising - I found a swastika symbol, corrupted by the Nazis during WWII. I recall also seeing this symbol associated with the Hindu celebration of Dwali (or Divali) when we were in Trinidad and Tobago five years ago. It was in use with Hindus and Buddhists centuries before the Nazis started using it.

Right across the street from the Thai Buddhist Temple is the Burmese Buddhist Temple, or Dhammikarama Burmese. This Temple is the sole Burmese Buddhist temple in the State of Penang, Malaysia. Built in 1803, it is also the oldest Buddhist temple on Penang Island.

Established as a monastery, Dhammikarama Buddhist Temple serves as a retreat for Buddhist devotee, with a monks' quarters, a preceptees' lodge and a library within the temple grounds. Numerous statues of the Buddha and mythical creatures are scattered within the temple, including a pair of winged chimeras known as 'Panca Rupa' and a huge mural depicting the Renunciation of the Buddha.


Our last stop on the “Temple Tour” was to visit the Snake Temple, perhaps the only temple of its kind in the world. We actually visited this Temple on the way out of Penang, just before picking up our life raft two days later.

This temple is filled with the smoke of burning incense and a variety of pit vipers. The vipers are believed to be rendered harmless by the sacred smoke, but as a safety precaution, the snakes have also been de-venomed but still have their fangs intact. There wasn’t even the hint of smoke when we were there. Visitors are warned against picking up the reptiles and placing them on their bodies to take pictures, for obvious reasons. Local devotees believe the temple's snake population comes there of its own accord.

This temple was built in about 1850 to honour the memory of Chor Soo Kong. Chor Soo Kong lived in China during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). He was serious about seeking spiritual attainment and was ordained at an early age. According to legend, Chor Soo Kong was also a healer and sometimes gave shelter to the snakes of jungle. When he died at the age 65 after a lifetime of good deeds, he was awarded the honorific title Chor Soo, that of an eminent figure revered generation after generation. After the construction of this temple, snakes reportedly appeared by themselves, coming out of the surrounding jungle. Believers from as far away as Singapore and Taiwan come to pray in the temple on Chor Soo Kong's birthday (the sixth day of the first lunar month). Another bit of trivia is that this temple was featured during the 8th leg of The Amazing Race 16. Some of the Trip Advisor comments give this Snake Temple a pretty lame review, but I thought it was pretty cool. There were several snakes in the main temple area of the alter, and out back - in the garden area, there were a lot more vipers (at least a dozen - all in the trees).

One night, we ate dinner at a little restaurant that specializes in “laksa”. We were so pleased with the mild coconut curry flavour of this dish, that I had to report on it. The dish is called “Nyonya Laksa Lemak with Prawn Crackers” - apparently a Penang favourite. We had two orders of this dish, two orders of spring rolls, a shared dessert and two drinks (Coke and Iced Tea), all for RM41, or about $14CDN. This was inside a small, clean air conditioned restaurant. I think they even had wifi. 

Of course, the “main event” was to deal with our life raft. This sequence of photos shows the life raft being removed from its canister and inflated with a separate air source. Its a bad idea to use the emergency cylinder that is part of the system, because then this means we’ll have to replace it, at some cost. All we had to do at this stage was to get it inflated, and have them change batteries and flares and repack it all, so that it will work in the event of an emergency. Of course, we also like to see that the life raft holds its air for at least 24 hours as well. Our thought is that if we have to, we will deploy the life raft with a separately hand carried “ditch bag”, and this augments the life raft system itself. The containment bag was a bit dirty and mouldy, but the life raft did inflate and hold air, and it is in good shape, should it be required in the coming years.






On the way back from Penang, I couldn’t resist stopping at Wendy’s for a burger. The meal was cheap, probably a third the cost of the same meal in Canada, but the taste was somehow strange and a bit of a letdown. Here is a photo of the menu, showing items like porridge, rice, mashed potatoes instead of baked potatoes with chives, and chicken hot dogs (no pork here). 

Another project I took on was to change the batteries in our EPIRB. An EPIRB is an Emergency Position and Indicating Reporting Beacon - which might be used in dire emergency, a MAYDAY. 406 MHz EPIRBs work with the Cospas-Sarsat polar orbiting satellite system, giving true global coverage. The satellite can determine the position of an EPIRB to within 5km (3 miles). The EPIRB sends out a uniquely coded message identifying the exact vessel to which the EPIRB is registered and this information allows the rescue services to eliminate false alerts and launch an appropriate rescue. Our GPS-enabled EPIRB additionally has a built-in transceiver which will typically alert the rescue services within 3 minutes with a positional accuracy of +/- 50 metres (updated every 20 minutes) as long as there is a clear view skywards.

When we left Canada 9 years ago, we bought and registered a new ACR RLB-36 EPIRB, Global Fix, GPS enabled. It had a “shelf-life” of 5 years, and we decided while in New Zealand two years ago to simply replace it, rather than change the battery. Although we did “hold onto it”. It still tested OK, but with a 9 year old battery, I don’t think it would have lasted very long if we had to use it. These are photos of my EPIRB with the battery pack removed.

This begs a question, why must I replace the beacon’s battery at the 5 year point when it has an 11 year lifetime (according to many Lithium battery manufacturers). I’ve read that the battery pack does not have an eleven year “useful” life; it has an eleven year SHELF life. Once you install a battery in an EPIRB or PLB, current is being drawn when you self test the unit during the 5 year “replacement” life (the manufacturer recommends this test be done monthly). There is also a minute current (in the micro amp range) being drained from the battery, in the “rest state” of an EPIRB or PLB , during the full 5 year period of the battery’s stated life. The battery is guaranteed to last the full specified period of 24 to 48 hours if activated in an emergency, any time during the 5 year replacement life. When the “replacement due date” is past, the activation period of an EPIRB will start to decline and cannot be guaranteed to last. To address this issue, users have two options, either send it back to an authorized repair centre ($249US plus shipping costs, each way) or do it yourself (highly discouraged by the manufacturer). I have estimated the shipping costs to be about $90USD each way from our present location in Malaysia. Therefore, the total cost to have the battery changed by an authorized service centre is $429USD (approximately $536 CDN). Its no wonder most people opt to buy a new one, rather than have the battery changed, since its nearly the same price!  

A few weeks ago, I just changed the batteries myself on this EPIRB, and it actually cost me RM63.60 for 12 X Lithium 3V camera batteries and RM132 for the spot welding of tabs and soldered connections. My total cost was RM195.60 or approximately $65CDN. I figure this compares quite favourably with $536CDN to have it done by a repair centre in the US.

These are the 12 Lithium batteries that I bought, epoxied together in groups of 3.

This is the completed battery pack after the tabs have been spot welded to the batteries and the wires soldered in place.

This is the completed job, good until 2024 at about 10% of the regular cost.




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SV Joana is listed for sale at this site with Our boat and home, is always "for sale", and we are always open to new "opportunities". The price is substantially below the actual built cost (over $500K for materials alone, not including any labour cost) in recognition of the fact that the hull and systems are getting dated - although well maintained. We've had many inquiries, and a few "lookers" but we probably won't sell until we get back to the North American market.

Countries Visited since we left our home, Canada in May 2009, and detailed in the Log:         

(35 countries by boat - to date)

Antigua: May 2011
Australia: November 2016 - July 2017

Bermuda: June - August 2009
Bonaire: February - April 2014

Bahamas: December 2009 - March 2010, December 2010 - February 2011

Barbados: March 2012
British Virgin Islands: May 2011
Colombia: October 2014 - December 2014

Cuba: March - May 2010
Curaçao: May 2014 - September 2014

Dominica: May 2011, April 2013

Dominican Republic: March - April 2011
Fiji: September/October 2015
French Polynesia (Marquesas, Tuamotos, Tahiti and the Society Islands): April-July 2015
Galapagos: March 2015
Grenada: June-November 2011
Guadeloupe: March 2013
Indonesia: July 2017 - October 2017
Malaysia: October 2017 - 
Martinique: March 2012, March 2013
New Zealand: November 2015 - November 2016
Niue: July/August 2015
Panama: December 2014 (San Blas Islands), (Portobello and Canal) January/February 2015

Puerto Rico: April 2011
Singapore: October 2017

St Lucia: May-June 2011, December 2011 - February 2012, December 2012 - February 2013

St Martin /Netherlands Antilles: May 2011

St Vincent and the Grenadines: June 2011, February 2012, December 2012, April-May 2013

Tobago: March-May 2012
Tonga: August 2015
Trinidad: May - December 2012, June - November 2013
USA: August - November 2009, June - November 2010
US Virgin Islands: May 2011
Venezuela: November 2013 - February 2014
Vietnam: January 2018

Before we went cruising, we also "had a life" and did our fair share of visiting (or living in) other countries.
We've also been to a few other countries, but just not with our boat.  (36 countries so far)

Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Bosnia Herzogevinia, Bulgaria, Canary Islands, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway,

Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Syria, Switzerland, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland), Vatican City.


SV Joana HomepageBuilding Milestones The CrewBoat specsWhere is Joana?FAQ2017 Ships Log2018 Ships Log