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MM2H Centre in collaboration with MM2H Agents Association (MM2HAA) will organize MM2H 2nd National Workshop 2015 on 15th October 2015 (Thursday) at the Multipurpose Hall, Ministry of Tourism and...
Family outing Print E-mail
Saturday, 11 July 2009 22:15

Sailing is a great way to see the world, provided you have the money and time to spare. The Huxtables are having a great time exploring our country by participating in the Sail Malaysia Passage to the East rally.

In the still air and searing heat, two little arms belonging to a blond boy waved frenziedly at our boat.

“Hello! Hello!” the child screamed as we inched closer. “Are you gonna stay with us?” he asked. I nodded, “Only for a while.”

He squealed in delight as our vessels met in the middle of the sea. Greg Huxtable held out his hand and I hopped onboard Keshi, his catamaran cum home for the next few months.

Huxtable, 61, his wife Leanne Abas, 41, and their son Jack, three, were among sailors from Australia, the Netherlands, the UK, Canada, Germany, the US, Belgium, Sweden, France, Denmark and New Zealand cruising around Malaysian waters in the second Sail Malaysia Passage to the East rally. What a great way to explore the country when you have time and money to spare.

Sailing family (L-R) Leanne, Jack and Greg.-— REVATHI MURUGAPPAN

The number of yachts taking part increased from 10 in 2008 to 47 this year. Yachts grouped in Penang in May and will sail around Malaysia, ending in Kota Kinabalu on Aug 2. Event organiser PassionAsia Sdn Bhd attributed the increase to word of mouth by last year’s participants.

“We want to promote Malaysia as a destination to sailors as we noticed the average stay for a yacht here is one to two years. If they participate in this rally, they will add another year or two and this would help boost our tourism,’’ said managing director Sazli Kamal Basha.

“This marine tourism could be another version of Malaysia My Second Home programme. Furthermore, our east coast states have not been fully discovered although they have a lot to offer,’’ he added.

However, he said not all yachts might reach the last stop as some yachters may take a liking to a certain place and discontinue the rally, preferring to spend time discovering the area instead. Either way, it augurs well for our tourism. At each stop, the host (or state government) will sponsor a dinner and one excursion to enable participants to experience the local culture.

Last month, the media was invited to have a taste of Sail Malaysia. We were randomly “dropped off” on different yachts in Pulau Kapas, off Terengganu, to sail along with participants until the next stop at Pulau Duyong. I spent a few hours getting to know the Huxtables.

Leanne, who grew up in Johor Baru until she was 13, is a doctor, while Huxtable is semi-retired and runs an import business. At every stop, he makes phone calls and checks e-mails to keep himself updated on business operations.

Huxtable has sailed professionally for most of his life and finds it is a nice way to travel and see the world.

Jack is always connected to a safety line whenever he’s out of his cabin.-REVATHI MURUGAPPAN

“It’s not something Asians do but sailing is big in Australia, just like travelling in caravans. You’re always with like-minded people,” he said.

This also meant he saw very little of his kids from his first marriage, which eventually crumbled.

When Huxtable married Leanne, she had never sailed before. He showed her the ropes and she got hooked.

“I find it peaceful to be in the water. I enjoy the breeze — it’s soothing. Now, when I go to the mall, after two hours I want to get out because there are just too many people!” she chuckled.

Huxtable started to build his 40ft catamaran when Jack was four months old. It’s compact but has three cabins (bedroom), a bathroom, a kitchen and a living room. Once construction was completed, he got the travel itch. They sold their house in Donnybrook, a town south of Perth, Australia, and decided to travel the world with the baby. They spend four or five months sailing and the rest of the time in Australia.

“We have to earn some money, too!” said Leanne, who does locum work while Huxtable minds Jack when they’re home.

A young captain in the making.-— REVATHI MURUGAPPAN

“We’ve also recently bought a new country house which is being renovated so we need to check on it.”

How does Jack cope?

“Very well, actually,” said Huxtable. “We’ve been sailing since he was eight months old and only recently, we moved him to his own cabin. He’s generally a happy kid and is learning to be independent. Fatherhood the second time around is fabulous but he can be trying at times.”

Just then, Jack brought out his Dr Seuss books and made me read to him. The youngster then demonstrated his boat manoeuvring skills and showed me various buttons while sitting on the captain’s chair, much to his parents’ pride. If someone falls off the boat, the warning sign “Man Overboard” flashes.

When it comes to safety issues, Leanne pointed out, there was no compromise and touch wood, there has been no major accident except for minor scrapes and bruises.

PassionAsia Sdn Bhd managing director Sazli Kamal Basha. — REVATHI MURUGAPPAN

She explained, “We’re both safety-conscious and make sure Jack is attached to a safety line whenever he’s out of the cabin. He knows the line has to be hooked and he listens. In fact, it’s safer here than in my mum’s house. Once we were all seated in front of the house and somehow, nobody noticed Jack running out through the back door to the main road. Luckily, there was no accident.”

The Huxtables intend to spend a few weeks in Kuala Terengganu before sailing on to Thailand where they will berth their catamaran and fly home.

At most, they sail for four continuous days before disembarking to refuel, stock up the refrigerator and of course, capture the sights and sounds of the city they’re in. So far, they’ve had no health problems except for stomach disorders from eating local fare in Indonesia. Being a doctor, Leanne has all kinds of medication on standby.

“This is my first time to Malaysia and I’m really enjoying it because the infrastructure is excellent,” praised Huxtable. “One of the hazards in Asian waters is the abundant fish traps so we have to look out for them.”

Jack loves to eat roti canai and nasi goreng so they try to eat out and take a break from the kitchen.

Christopher Cross’ song Sailing rings true for them — sailing takes me away to where I’ve always heard it could be, just a dream and the wind to carry me, and soon I will be free.

“If we can afford it, we’ll continue sailing for the rest of our lives and homeschool Jack. That’ll be wonderful,” said Leanne.

After three hours, the waves and winds finally glided us into the Ri-yaz Heritage Marina in Pulau Duyong, the site for the Monsoon Cup, which will take place from Dec 2-Dec 6 this year. The event is the final race in the 10-leg tour series of the World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) where the top teams in the world will battle for the coveted trophy and cash prize.


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