March 11, 2011

south to north

2011-02_langkawi-surin-similan (129).JPG Sunrise at anchorage on Similan Island numer 8

2011-02_langkawi-surin-similan (116).JPG Charlie and Betty from SY Seventh Heaven volunteering in the Clean up action in Similan Island together with locals.

From Langkawi we sailed far north. Unfortunately we couldn't make official landfalls in India and Myanmar because of visa issues and excessive fees. So we did many cleanups on remote beaches.

2011-02_langkawi-surin-similan (74).JPG

On remote islands in the Andaman Sea we saw most of the coral bleached. There was a record in sea temperature last year. It was reported that the coral was colorful before the sea got over 31 degrees Celsius in 2010.
On Surin and Similan Islands, we saw turtle projects. But during the whole trip northwards we saw no turtles and dolphins. The reason might be the overfishing; - especially in Thai waters, where it is nearly impossible to avoid the many fishing lines and nets at night.

2011-02_langkawi-surin-similan (112).JPG There is no place for Andri to collect trash

2011-02_langkawi-surin-similan (120).JPG Dario absailing Salina, Andri comes next

In the Similan Islands it was very touristy. The tourists arrive normally with speed boats from the main land. We met a Swiss couple at the beach of island number 4 just reading our book and invited them to visit the boat. It turned out that he is a solar expert and we had quite a good discussion.

We did a clean up on Island number 8 and went climbing afterwards at the beautiful granite boulders like we have done in many destinations before.

I was just abseiling Andri from a 40 m rock face when a park ranger was approaching him from the side of the wall and holding him. Then he tried to open the rope on Andri's harness in the middle of the wall. I abseiled immediately on the other end of the rope to safe my son. It was the head park ranger of the island, over reacting and it seemed to me that he was drank. I tried to explain him that what he is doing is extremely dangerous. But I am not speaking Thai and he not English. He became more and more angry, while I was proceeding with Andri to safe grounds. The problem now was that he lost his face in front of the tourists and also his staff and took my rope and Andri's harness. I apologized that we did not know that it is forbidden to climb, because in other parks we were free to do so and explained him that for the safety of my son I couldn't follow his order and open the rope in the middle of the face. Still he did not return the rope and harness. So it was the first time somebody took my rope. It was a very strange moment: Somebody took my most important tool that means so much to me. I am normally always connected to it in my profession as a mountain guide and it saved my life many times. I even used it in the church to rope up Sabine when we got married 10 years ago (10. May 2010 = the same date we expect our forth family member).
The park ranger was quite a character: Several attempts to say sorry were unsuccessful. He was grapping my T-shirt and while I had Noé in my arms he pushed me....
This upset the tourists. Thanks to a tour guide I got the number of the ministry of the environment and natural recourses in Bangkok. Back on the boat I called them and was transferred to the national park authorities explaining that I like to have my rope back, - soon after we had our rope and harness back!
I like to stress that this was the only and first time we made a unpleasant experience in Thailand and have to say that the park ranger we met did a excellent job and supported us always in our clean ups and actions.
After going north we are south bound again for Langkawi and Singapore. Our feeling and decision not to cross the North Indian Ocean towards Africa was right: Last month 4 American sailors on SY Quest, we met in December, were killed by Somali pirates near Oman and they kidnapped 6 people from Denmark on SY Ing also in February.

2011-02_langkawi-surin-similan (29).JPG
2011-01_langkawi (121).JPG Noé is happy soon after

On Pachamama Sabine was quite busy as a nurse in the last weeks: Andri nearly lost a tooth, while falling on a stone and Noé got a scratch. Salina had a tick deep in her ear after a long hike through the rain forest of Tarutao Island to a waterfall in the wilderness.

2011-02_langkawi-surin-similan (11).JPG Fish in a pool in the jungle

Tarutao comes from a Malay word for "old, mysterious and primitive" - an apt description for this densely forested, former penal colony. In 1938, the Thai government chose Tarutao to in carcerate 500 political prisoners as it was fairly remote and infested with crocodiles. The island's history is sketched but, by 1946, the inmates were multinational and running their own anarchic society; some were referred to as pirates. The British army was invited to clean it up in 1946, and the penal colony was disbanded.

Just recently Sabine had her 35th birthday on the 5th of March. It happened that we shared the anchorage with two other boats and like this she had a party with a cake and some small presents.

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Sabine has 2 more months to go. We learned that fish is good for the child's brain; - so we eat fish. The kids can hardly wait till number 4 is born...

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Salina starts reading and is able to tell stories to the younger two; - means some relieve for the parents. The older they get the more independent they are: Noé starts driving the dinghy and the donated kayak from Hildegard give Salina and Andri the autonomy to go on shore alone.

We are looking forward now to be in Langkawi for the cleanup event organized together with the Langkawi Sailing Club on the 26th where Salina and Andri can do some more Optimist sailing.

At the end of the report I like to introduce you to Zu. She is the main organizer for the "No plastic" event on the 30th of March, where we start with the goal to get Langkawi Island free of plastic bags. Turtles eat plastic bags and die because they are looking like jellyfish, - their normal food.
Zu is another example of a person in action. Thanks to people like her the future of our planet will be great. We just got her email that the event on the 30th of March at the Night Market in Lankawi will be a success:

"Dear Dario,

I went to the Education Dept to get your letter. They said once you are in Langkawi they would like to meet you. They know you went to schools and were very happy about it. The Head of the Education Dept wants to meet you personally.

Today I went to a few agencies and the Council is very happy about our campaign. They want more impact and have talks, etc. I think it is very protocol where we have to invite certain people, set tents, etc... The Council might want to start the campaign earlier and go to the shopping complex to start the "No Plastic". So our activity is getting support from the council before 30th March. Then they suggest I go to Ministry of Trade since they also have their No Plastic campaign. SO I went to the Ministry of Trade. They gave me the name of the Director and I will write to him. They say I can ask for them to sponsor recycle bags to give away. They will support us by sending all their staff to be there with their uniform. Kelab Amal Wanita (Ladies Charity Club) will support us by having their members to attend the gathering and wearing their club uniform. I have not gone to Tzu Chi and Sai Baba etc yet. I am sure they will support us.

So, overall what we get is a positive response from all quarters. The District Office said to write to them and they will tell their staff to support us. My friend from the radio said she will try to arrange for it to be announced in the radio before the event. Also the Police said no problem for this gathering. Just write to inform them.

So, that's it. Just pray it doesn't rain that day. Ha! Ha! Love, Zu"

See article of TOPtoTOP in swissinfo
See article about SY Quest
Download CIPRA Report "Tourismus im Klimawandel"
Matteo was dismasted crossing the Atlantic Ocean, see his video.

Our daily routine in the last month in the children's view:

1. Breakfast (Andri is always first) 2011-02_langkawi-surin-similan (24).JPG

2. School 2011-02_langkawi-surin-similan (25).JPG

3. Sailing and approach an island 2011-02_langkawi-surin-similan (22).JPG

4. Clean up 2011-02_langkawi-surin-similan (98).JPG

5. Lunch 2011-02_langkawi-surin-similan (44).JPG

6. Action up (climbing) or down (diving) 2011-02_langkawi-surin-similan (140).JPG or 2011-02_langkawi-surin-similan (48).JPG

7. Prepare and have dinner 2011-02_langkawi-surin-similan (53).JPG

8. brush one's teeth and good night 2011-02_langkawi-surin-similan (3).JPG

9. Free time for Mam and Dad (but we think they are still busy) 2011-02_langkawi-surin-similan (27).JPG

Latest news from Zu:

..."Also at ladies luncheon organised by Ladybird Club they allow me to give a talk on the No Plastic day. They all agreed and supported the idea. The committe members are mostly the wives of General Manager of the resorts in Langkawi. So I asked them to whisper to their husbands to send their staff to our gathering. My friend Mark from (look into it) is kind enough to announce it in the gazette.

I went to RTM ( Radio Television Malaysia) Langkawi and they said to write to them. I will send them tomorrow. So far, response is good. Please pray, pray hard it will not rain. It is starting to rain now even though it is not a rainy season.

Of course, some people said just for one day people might forget. Well, if for that one day the event managed to influence,inspire or even open their eyes of 10 people to change their habit to use shopping bag when they shop I believe all the time and energy spent is worth it. It is better than not doing anything and nothing changes.

After this plastic campaign, MNS planned to organise "The most beautiful village competition". So after I talked to the members about No Plastic campaign we discussed ways to get to the people. So they came up with this idea. So,you can see the ripple effect. I hope the local authorities will take note and take the "No Plastic Day" seriously.

I know everywhere I went the response is positive. I hope it stays that way till the event. I hope they are not just being polite. I don't know how many will turn up, but we have done our best. I am sure things will turn out ok...."

Posted by dario at 5:17 PM

March 22, 2011

Collision with submerged log

2011-03_phuket-langkawi (9).JPGon the way South

Yesterday on the 21st of March at 14 h we had a collision with submerged huge log coming South towards Singapore. max. diameter is approx. 400 mm, and the total length is approx. 6000 with a approx. 8000 mm branch going out in a right angle.

2011-03_phuket-langkawi (58).JPGsubmerged log draged at the beach after the collision

2011-03_phuket-langkawi (55).JPGimpact visible on the tree, but not on the boat because of murky water conditions

2011-03_phuket-langkawi (14).JPGNoé, Salina, Andri looking for a leakage in every corner of the boat

Yesterday we sailed approx. 40 nm from Koh Lipeh to Langkawi, Malaysia. We set sail at around 6 a.m. and had scattered weather with some squalls but far winds. Sailing up the channel towards Kuah harbor we run 8.5 kn/h thanks to the current pushing us.

About 1 nm before the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club we heard a loud "bung" and Pachamama came to a sudden stop. The depth sounder was showing still 9 m. So the cause was not a grounding. The sails produced not sufficient power and I put the engine on with full revs to assist but was only able to get about 0.5 kn/h out of the boat.

So we were in emergency mode and it was a good test that shows that we are still a good team in such circumstances and ready in no time; ... even though Sabine is now coming into the 9th month of her pregnancy!

Sabine prepared the anchor in case we cannot maneuver and handling the fenders and stay sail while I was busy on the helm and trying to get the max from the motor.

We just managed to get to the first peer and were safe.

Dario went diving immediately, but the water was so murky. He couldn't see his hands in front of his face in this water. Diving down to the keel he touched something huge. Mean while Sabine prepared 3 ropes. Dario attached them around the log and Sabine was winching while Dario was pushing. After some exhausting work they managed to free the keel and prop shaft from the log.

We called the marina and they came with a motor boat to drag the log on shore where it became visible at low tide.

We do not know at this moment how much damage this collision with the submerged log caused to Pachamama. It will be difficult to examine because the waters around Langkawi are always murky and because of La Nina we have an early rainy season this year causing even less visibility.

2011-03_phuket-langkawi (23).JPGBest fish so far on Koh Lipeh Island

Just before on the way South we invited Noé's doctor Partiya (Kawasaki desease) on Pachamama in Nai Harn Bay.

120 nm further South we had a 3 days rest on Koh Lipeh Island in Thailand and met Walter Rupp, the father of my friend Aischan who died on the 10th of February 1997 on the descent of Matterhorn after climbing the North Face. We had a very warm welcome and a lot of memories to share.

Dario needed to be operated by Sabine because he stood into a sea urchin. Afterwards Sabine, Salina and Dario enjoyed a Thai massage.

2011-03_phuket-langkawi (18).JPG

Posted by dario at 2:03 AM

March 24, 2011

Clean up and no plastic day



TOPtoTOP likes to invite everybody to take part at the "Clean up Langkawi 2011 Event" on the 26th of March 2011.

Yesterday 10 organizations followed the invitation to do the last minute preparations at the Malaysia Yachting Association side in Langkawi. We are looking forward to have a great clean up on the islands South of Kuah. Approx. 25 both will be available to carry the volunteers to the different beaches. Children participating get a diploma and all get lunch and drinks for free after the event. Please contact Mr. Afendi from the Malaysia Yachting Association if you plan to participate: +60 (0) 19 22 96 316 or email to Mrs. Suraini (

Please check the organizations involved and the detailed program below:
List of organization involved:

Program of the 26th of March
8.30am Briefing
9.00am Starting from Pusat Perahu Layar Kebangsaan to the Island
12.00pm Return from Island
12.05pm Price Giving & Certificates
01.00pm Lunch
02.00pm End Program

Sites where the clean up take place

Malaysian Nature Society Langkawi and Toptotop Foundation from Switzerland will be organizing a campaign to create awareness amongst the people of Langkawi on the negative effect of plastic to the environment, tourism industry and Langkawi Island.

We hope to gather as many people at the Tapak Pasar Ramadhan and they will bring their own shopping bags and food containers or tiffin. After a short briefing they will head to the Kuah night market and do their shopping without taking any plastic bags from the sellers. We will also distribute free recycle bags to the public and tourists.

Below are the details:
Date : 30th March 2011 (Wednesday)
Time : 6.00 pm (Tapak Pasar Ramadhan)

We hope the people of Langkawi will come forward and support us in our good cause for our island. This is our home and we must take care of it and leave it for our future generation.

Posted by dario at 2:29 AM

March 31, 2011

Big success in Langkawi

Watch the movie of FCU Production about the TOPtoTOP actions on Langkawi Island: on youtube or Langkawi Storry!



Both events were a great success! Report and more pictures coming as soon as we make our next landfall in Singapore.
We sail of Langkawi in 1 hour together with our volunteers Dominique and Michael. Heading South Malacca Straight to Singapore. You can reach us by phone +60 134 92 65 42 or off shore 00870 7625 68 933.

Here an important movie to watch!

Latest media article in Malaysia.

Latest radio interview with Radio Malaysia LangkawiFM.

We met Judith Gregory-Smith, an incredible lady who does a wonderful charity program in Myanmar, please read more... and support her project!

Important announcement for Event in Singapore:
Sustainability - a Global Journey (download program)
The TOPtoTOP presentation will be followed by a panel discussion about the potential of Clean Energy Solutions with experts from academia and industry, Thursday, 14 April 2011, 3pm - 5pm, Nanyang Technological University, School of Biological, Sciences (SBS), Level 1, Classroom 1. The conference will be followed by refreshments!

Posted by dario at 3:57 AM