Gift Giving: a Boat Story

Merry Christmas 2017 and God’s Blessings to our friends and family wherever you may be!

December 25, 2017

It started the night before the morning we planned to leave Langkawi. We had returned that night late in the evening from a fantastic several days with new life-long friends, the Khoo family, having just visited the beautiful Cameron Highlands (local mountains) and Boh Tea Plantation together.

Left to right: Ling Khoo, Bryce, Trent, Issac, Annabelle, James Khoo, Eric Rigney.

The plan was to install the newly fabricated stainless steel engine exhaust pipe and leave our slip in Pangkor Marina at dawn the next morning for Langkawi Island, where we had haul out reservations to perform some minor repairs on Kandu. The route was set in our ship’s chart plotter navigation system, used by the autohelm to steer the boat. All I had to do was bolt on the exhaust pipe, set the smart phone alarm, and go to sleep. That was my plan… not Kandu’s, or should I say, KanKnot’s.

Preparing the exhaust pipe installation at midnight, I noticed red fluid in the bilge. While we were gone, the transmission had apparently bled all its fluid, a catastrophic transmission leak for sure. I thought, “Must be the seal.” Not wanting the auto-bilge pump to pump the fluid out into marina waters, I proceeded to clean it up. Soaking the automatic transmission fluid up, like blood from some animal sacrifice, I came across a bolt sheared from one of the engine’s four mounts, heavy-duty rubber and stainless steel feet that secure the engine to the boat. Not good. Tomorrow’s departure: a no-go.

Pangkor Marina: Kandu located on middle dock w/ red starboard fender.

The next morning, the marina’s marine mechanic surveyed the situation. After a fifteen-minute discussion, we agreed that, with the rust visible on the metal brackets that support the engine mounts, the engine’s age, and considering our plans to sail to the Red Sea, we would pull the engine. This would require hauling Kandu out of the water and placing her “on the hard,” meaning standing her up on land and doing all the work on land, not in the water at the dock.

Kandu On-the-Hard in Pangkor Marina.

All sailors (and boatyard owners) know that once you haul out, many more “discoveries” will be made, which need immediate attention, taking advantage of being on the hard. Since the investment of hauling out has been made, boat owners typically choose to take advantage of the circumstance to do all the jobs that would be otherwise too difficult or impossible to do while in the water. And since we’d had planned to haul out in Langkawi, we’d just do that work here in Pankgor Marina instead.

Langkawi haul-out list:

  • Check and adjust the folding propeller
  • Add a couple coats of bottom paint
  • Install our new wind generator (purchased and waiting for us in duty-free Langkawi)
  • Install our new anchor chain.
  • Caulk a couple leaky windows.
  • Have a rigger ‘tune’ the mast cables (stays and shrouds)

But what happens all too often, is that the problems discovered along the way of making repairs multiply like Star Trek tribbles, in number and size. It begins to feel like a conspiracy to prevent you from seeing wonderful things while robbing your savings account at the same time. We travel according to seasonal preferences, to avoid rough and/or dangerous weather. These timetables drive our itinerary decisions. The longer we are on the hard, the fewer places we can stop to visit and the shorter the stays in the countries we do visit. These constant “discoveries” wear on me, generating much internal frustration and stress. I become bitter, grumpy, and curt with my crew; all of which serves no one. It’s counterproductive. So what to do? Yesterday on Christmas Eve morning, it came to me (no bright lights, stars, angels, magi, etc., just an idea). What if instead of seeing discoveries as problems, I internally convert my perception, making them “gifts?” The bigger the problem, the greater the gift! Everybody likes gifts and it’s the season of gift giving, why not flop my perception? But how? What’s the gift? The gift is, I get to meet new and wonderful people who I’d otherwise not have the opportunity to meet, people who will help my solve my problem. This is an idea a friend in Raiatea tried to convey to me. Another gift is education and learning. I get to exercise my mind and learn things that instill greater awareness and confidence. And, finally, I get a better, safer boat. Wow, what a concept. So it’s Christmas, let’s take a look at the list of presents Kandu gave us.

Pulling Kandu’s engine out.
It took 5 men, leverage and cleverness to get Kandu’s Yanmar out! Eric – don’t break a seal!


  • New engine mounts and cleaned up/painted brackets (the brackets were in great shape after clean up)
  • New engine and transmission seals (keeps the oils in)
  • New injectors and fuel system inspection
  • 10 other new items that were worn and could easily be replaced
  • New prop shaft and cutlass bearing
  • New engine paint job after thorough removal of rust and cleaning
  • Alternator inspection and subsequent repair
  • Starter inspection (good)
  • Prop inspection (good) and re-greased
Meters of old hose were painstakingly replaced with new.

Discovered “opportunities” while the engine was out:

  • New hoses to replace older hoses easily accessible with engine removed (120 feet)
  • New hoses for the water heater that were about to cause an engine coolant leak.
  • Completely mopped, scoured and repainted white the filthy black bilge.

    Trent Rigney painting first coat of 3 in Kandu’s bilge!
  • Repaired/replaced plywood, insulation, and stainless surrounding the refrigerator and freezer caused by water damage created by a leaky freezer cabinet (didn’t see that coming).

Other discoveries:

  • Aft cabin acrylic window cracked and needed replacing
  • Glass dodger window adhesive repair I implemented in Vanuatu was not holding, need to redo with appropriate adhesive (unavailable in Malaysia).

And let’s add the list of woodwork we’d planned to do in Thailand since we have the opportunity:

  • Re-varnish handrails
  • cockpit combing
  • stairway
  • repairing teak veneer on table and chain plate covers

….Oh, and reinstalling the galley counter that I’m going to remove tomorrow so we can address the leaking fridge issues.

Bryce Rigney is un-installing the border of the galley countertop to access the refrigerator water leaks and repair/replace the damaged insulation and wood..


-Strengthen an already excellent relationship with James Khoo, marina manager.

James Khoo’s motto: Let’s Go!

-Taxi driver: Krishna, check your fuel injection system whenever you pull your diesel engine.

Krishna – our ever ready taxi driver!

-Engine: Anas, Zamin, his wife Annie and sons, and the mechanic’s “boys” (young men who do the mechanical grunt work). Philosophies: Go slowly. Rushing causes injuries. Investigate carefully and wait for results of investigation before developing next steps saves time and money.

Anas and his crew are Pangkor Marina’s fabulous mechanics!

-Stainless: Chye, great stainless fabricator – fast, inexpensive and high quality!

-Wood: Islam, excellent advice on how to approach problems: Take at least two full minutes to sit and think before taking any action. Go slowly, take small steps. Work deliberately and with caution. Take your time. Discover and repair what caused the problem before repairing the damage done. On a boat, small problems become big, so address the small problems as soon as possible. Try not to create them.

Islam – our handy dandy Pangkor marina carpenter!

-Refrigeration: Ryan, take things one-step at a time. Don’t make decisions until all the facts are understood. Don’t shy away from the hard work necessary to get to the point where you can properly assess the problem (apply Islam’s advice for this part). Several options available, but need to pick the best one for the circumstance, which can only be done once we know the whole picture.

-Church: Wesley Methodist Chinese Church; love and appreciate our family, especially Leslie’s singing and the boys’ participation in their youth program. Thus we get immersed in the wonderful Malaysian Chinese culture.

And on and on . . .

Kandu Lessons and Benefits:

I partially dismantled a diesel engine and about to dismantle a galley counter top, both skills new to me. I learned a lot about constructive problem solving approaches. The boys are learning a lot about boat maintenance and repair, and patience. At the end of this, we’re going to have a stronger more dependable boat to get us the rest of the way home, providing greater confidence over and understanding of our floating, moving home, especially whilst passing by some potentially hostile nations along the way.

So you see, this has been a great Christmas, sooooo many gifts!

Merry Christmas,


We Kandu X-mas 2017

Don’t miss the recent newspaper article published about RigneysKandu found in the Christmas Issue, December 2017 of the West Los Angeles Argonaut.

PDF version: Argonaut_12-21-2017

9 thoughts on “Gift Giving: a Boat Story”

  1. Excellent posting. Valuable lessons. Yes, our family too has had many “tragedies” that a few more months’ time turned into wonderful victories. Like with Kandu, when I ask God for help, and the first thing that happens is a “tragedy”, God reminds me, “Quiet, son, I’ve only begun to answer your prayer! I have to get rid of the bad stuff before I can give you the good stuff.”

    1. Jim, I was asked to speak at a Chinese Methodist church last Sunday, describing a lesson learned at sea and how my relationship with God helped me overcome a significant challenge. I described the incident prior to our arrival in the Galapagos, “Sail the wind you have, not the wind you want.” The presentation complete with photos, translated into Mandarin as I went along, was well received. Several suggested I seriously consider becoming a pastor. I do enjoy passing on the lessons I receive, hoping others won’t have to go through so much in order to get the same lesson, and hoping it helps them with whatever challenges they face, now or in the future. But pastor? Nah. Guest speaker? My pleasure.

  2. Quite a masterpiece, Eric. Your posts just kleep getting better and better. We can “see” into your mind with these problems/new friends/and solutions. Thank you for sharing
    these thoughts. I think they apply “on the hard” as well ason the seas.
    Xox, betsyandgary

    1. I’ve come to appreciate that my writing preference is to open myself up and let people inside my thoughts, processes, and feelings; as honestly and authentically as I can. The hope is always to provide others a glimpse into the not-so-glamorous side of striving to achieve an ambitious goal. Romanticizing will likely naturally occur when I return. But in the moment, it’s a bit more “blood, sweat, and tears.” At the same time, I don’t wish to come across as poor me, as I feel blessed for the opportunity, the experience, and the relationships. I think now that circumnavigating may not have my idea after all, but rather God’s–to wear me into submission, to force me to learn valuable lessons I wouldn’t have, had I remained comfortable. I’m glad for the lessons, but wonder if there might have been an easier less expensive way, filled with more “fun” adventures instead of “life” experiences. Changing the subject a bit, lately, I’ve noticed a shift in Trent. This layover has transformed him into an excellent worker, having all the jobs we’ve had to address. As a dad, this is gratifying. He continues to excel at getting things done, and his workmanship improves each week. I’m impressed. Cheers.

  3. Hi Eric and Family,

    I just love your stories and the courage you all display in the face of (potential) adversarial conditions and Mother Nature’s way of keeping us all on our toes! Happy Holidays and great sailing!

  4. Wow!! That was a lot of work. I didn’t realize until now, just how much you had to do. So glad to know it’s done though. Feeling more comfortable for all of you. Good of you to reflect on the situation and see the good in it. Love the “on the hard” verbiage. Gonna work it in somehow.

    Much love

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