Weekend wanderings

I hired a car for the weekend so we could explore the island further. Phuket is not a massive island, but takes over an hour to drive from the top to the bottom. Saturday started with a trip to the boat lagoon, on the way we popped into HomePro, a very clean sparkling version of B&Q, / Home Depot. I wanted some little brass/copper nails but despite checking at various hardware stores around, the island has yet to yield up it’s store. HomePro was no better. It’s a bit like the banana thing, we have failed to buy any from a shop so far, in fact when asking for them in shops we generally get a polite giggle in response. Is it because they grow on trees everywhere, is it a bit like going into a greengrocer in the UK and asking for leaves. Anyway the boat lagoon is the centre of the yachting scene here in Phuket, there are two marinas there, plus lots of hardstanding, travels hoists, workshops and chandlers. I didn’t like the place at all, the lagoon itself is a dredged pond, someway inland from the sea and looked very muddy and stagnant. The surrounding buildings where very much of an 80’s style, concrete functional food/yachtie supply orientated. Lots of super-yacht type people paying over the odds for espressos. and a gang of charter companies and their suitcase dragging customers making their way to and from their week in paradise. However the chandleries were a delight, the main one, East Marine was very posh, selling turnbuckles you might use on 3/4 inch wire, and a less posh and cheaper AME marine selling everything at a good price. They welcomed me in when I said I had a long list, they apologised that they couldn’t offer me a coffee as East marine do, but filled my hand with little sweets instead. I think they will get my business. I have a few thousand dollars to spend here, life buoys, danbouys, safety lights, fenders, kedge anchor, chain, rope etc etc.
While I was getting over excited at the range of shackles and hose clamps on offer, Kathy had popped around the corner to the supermarket specialising in stuff only richer yachtie/westerners would buy. She was made up, they had frozen veggie stuff, and marmite and things she hasn’t seen since her last trip to Tesco in Liverpool. I actually found two types of alcohol free beer, both German so I’m not expecting much, but worth a try. I suspect we will be here again.
From Boat Lagoon we headed north to a nature park with a Gibbon rescue centre. This was very interesting, and a young lady volunteer from London explained the horrific story that some of these Gibbons have been through, and how it may seem cute to have your picture taken at the beach with a baby Gibbon clinging to you, but if you knew just how many gibbons were killed to get that one baby you would be very shocked. Also once it stopped being a cute baby, it would meet a horrible end. In the meantime drugs are injected into the little Gibbons to keep them manageable for tourists. Very very sad that trade, and it was wonderful that there is a place here helping them and trying to re-introduce them into the wild. They have become extinct in Phuket due to hunting, and sadly many of the rescue ones are beyond rehabilitation, so will live their days out in the centre here.

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From the Gibbon centre we walked up the path further into the forest where there is a waterfall.

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Harry Potter style trees
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Miniature LED lighting I suspect

Lots of people seem to come here to picnic and cool off in the water. I’m glad we came after there had been lots of rain, I am fed up of waterfalls without water, I’m thinking Nidri and the last one in Malaysia.

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From the nature reserve we headed over to the the beaches on the west side, these are very nice, lovely sand, not too commercial and a decent array of vendors nearby so you won’t starve.

beachWe drove down the coast heading for the fleshpots of Patong, curious to see how bad these places are when the sun sets, and also to stock up at the big C supermarket here. We had a nice Indian/Thai dinner at a beach restaurant, followed by a walk along the beach in the dark. Then back to the car via Bangla Street. I had heard this street was an evil place to visit, but I found it most pleasant. Everybody seemed to be into sport, for just a few baht we could watch a game of table tennis, or ping pong as they seem to call it. Also lots of young ladies were keen for us to have a drink with them, for just 80 Bhat, most reasonable. I did notice a glaring mistake at the end of the street, where the sign for the Hard Rock Cafe seemed to got the words all mixed up, I expect they must feel a bit silly about that.

IMG_3481 Back home to the boat and on Sunday we headed on down to Phuket old town for the street market. Unfortunately I got the times wrong, so we arrived as it was setting up, still it was very pleasant walking around the streets, the place reminded me of Penang in architecture, and it turns out it was founded as a tin mining town in the 19th Century, and the wealthy merchants from Penang setup here to take advantage of this trade, and they brought their ways with them. It seems Penang was almost as easy to work with back then as Bangkok was, but then the borders between Malaysia and Thailand have been quite flexible. One taxi driver I had in Langkawi was Thai, I asked how long he had been there, he said ‘600 years, and don’t get me started’ so I didn’t.

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Penang Style Architecture
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Another Scales shop.

After Phuket old town, we drove north to Sarasin bridge, that links the island to the mainland, there are lots of stalls there and it’s a nice spot to watch the sunset, but we were a bit late for that, still I enjoyed walking around the stalls, and being laughed at when asking for some bananas again.

This week I’m doing boat jobs, the sails are being made now and I need to find a liferaft and get the bowsprit work started.

Kathy has more interesting details to follow soon.

Paul C.

 

Yacht Haven Marina

We’re settling in well to life here in Phuket (need to remember to pronounce it ‘Pooket’).  The first two nights were spent in the marina at Ao Po, some way south of where we are now and a bit closer to the immigration office at Chalong where we needed to check in.  Our arrival at Ao Po proved to be a fitting finale to the passage here when an almighty squall occurred just as we were about to take the sails down outside the harbour. After everything else that had happened on the way, it had been such a relief to see the pontoon only minutes away, that I hadn’t even noticed how dark the sky to our left had gone (a worthy lesson learned in not relaxing until safely tied up).  Luckily Paul spotted it and the ‘super squall’ hit us seconds later. From down below where Paul sent me for safety, I could see the concentration on his face as he battled to keep control.  The flapping and banging noises coming from the sails was alarming, and visibility had lessened considerably.  Feeling helpless, I asked if it would end, and he retorted – shouting above the noise – ‘no, this is the famous never-ending superstorm that only happens in Thailand’- I knew he must have gained control of the situation with a quip like that :).  Some pics below of Ao Po Grand Marina.

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The marina had a photographic shrine on display in tribute to Thailand’s late King and we were careful to heed advice about dressing conservatively.  It was late and dark by the time we went for a walk to look for somewhere to eat that first night and we came upon a great-looking open-plan restaurant. It had a fish pond lit with fairy lights, water features and tasteful wooden interior decor, including a boat suspended from the ceiling.  The food wasn’t brilliant but nice enough and the service was faultless.  In fact, every person we’ve interacted with since arriving in Phuket has been extremely friendly, polite and helpful.

Both the cost of the meal and the taxi we took into Chalong the following day were more expensive than we’d been used to in Malaysia. The Brexit effect continues to cause financial disadvantages; the pound is 20% down from its value in June apparently.  The 30 minute journey provided an opportunity to check out Phuket’s inner area.  There was a lot to look at on either side of the road.  It’s a lot more verdant than Malaysia and there are no high rise blocks, just lots of ramshackle houses-cum-shops-cum cafes, some of them resemble Swiss-style chalets, others are like wendy houses, and some looked like smaller scale versions of the grand houses found in the American South. Each one is individual and you can’t help but be curious about what they’re like inside.

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The immigration process took about an hour and thankfully presented no huge problems, just the usual form exchanging and questions that happens in any bureaucratic process.  So, now finally legal immigrants we were free to shop for some basic provisions. At the huge Tesco we visited on the main road I was disappointed to discover that there are even fewer products for vegetarians than in Malaysia.  All the more surprising since this is the city that hosts the world’s biggest vegetarian festival each October (we arrived too late to see it this year).  Looks like I’ll have to carry on enjoying more tasty rice and noodle dishes and salads then :).

The short passage to Yacht Haven Marina was blissfully uneventful – it was even rain free! That didn’t last long, however. It poured down for most of the weekend but it’s so much easier to cope with when safely tied to a pontoon, and the climate seems a lot cooler than Malaysia. We’ve even managed without the cumbersome and noisy air conditioning unit so far, making do with opening the windows and hatches and using the small cabin fan.  Anyway it rained most of Saturday night and pretty much all of Sunday. The showers were spectacularly heavy, as Paul showed in the video on his post. Late in the afternoon after the boat was tidied we explored the marina and its vicinity a little.  The resort is vast, with small shops, a pool, laundry, gym and several other facilities scattered over a wide area. For this reason, people carriers (like golf buggies) are employed to offer lifts to destinations.  They’re especially useful when carrying heavy shopping or cumbersome boat equipment, but also when it’s hot and just looking at the steep hill drains your energy. I’d never been on one before so when one of the shops we found was closed, a nearby driver offered us a lift to another – quite a thrilling and exhilarating experience, (if lazy).  Went for our first drink in the bar afterwards and were pleasantly surprised to find it wasn’t as expensive as we’d feared.

Another marina, another cat :)
Another marina, another cat 🙂
View from The Deck Bar
View from The Deck Bar

On Monday, in between showers, we took the sails down in readiness for their trip to Rolly Tasker. There were a few local guys working on the boat opposite, one of whom couldn’t resist watching us quite blatantly.  He was very smiley but according to a chapter on Thai customs and etiquette, people are likely to smile when they’re embarrassed, annoyed or shy, as well as when amused. I think it was amusement in this guy’s case, and when I acknowledged him by smiling back he asked if we wanted some help.  I thought I was folding the huge, thick, stiff, awkward, frustrating sail fairly well and was definitely following Paul’s precise directions but if this guy could do it better I was willing to let him, but Paul replied that we were fine before I had a chance.  He asked if there was any other work he could do, such as varnishing or cleaning.  There have been quite a few guys enquiring if there’s any work going and although Paul prefers to do the jobs himself, he told him he might need someone for guardianage (that’s the correct term apparently) while we’re away in December. He introduced us to his Australian boss later who promised to return with a business card and discuss rates (still waiting four days later).

In the afternoon we went for a walk to nearby Ko-En Village, just to have a look around and to buy some bread and bananas if we found a shop.  All the rain, and the cool breeze meant the lush vegetation smelled like any country village in Autumn. If it hadn’t have been for all the scooters and motor bikes whizzing up and down the road (no helmets on any of the riders or passengers) it could have been part of the Wirral Way.

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Virtually all of the riders shouted greetings to us and waved.  When we got nearer to the village itself, people outside their houses stared at us openly and it made me wonder if many of the other marina users ever passed through much. People here are genuinely friendly and delighted to see us, a few asked where we were from and if we had a boat. Again, the houses are charming and individual, and more than a few doubled as cafes and shops, with living quarters situated at the back.  The main street was busy with people chatting, eating and cooking, and noisy with the sound of all the bikes. Chickens of all colours, shapes and sizes were strutting along the roadside and we saw lots of domestic cats (and kittens) and dogs. Every shop we went in to enquire about bread caused the owner to look puzzled or bewildered, clearly having no idea what we meant and it wasn’t on display anywhere. In fact, most of the shops were reminiscent of the pretend ones you might have set up as a child in someone’s back garden shed: a few products on shelves arranged in a haphazard manner.  Giving up on the bread, we spotted some bananas at a roadside stall so Paul asked the lady if we could buy some and got a response that sounded like ‘no one really buys bananas here’ – she then made a vague gesture down the road and we left empty-handed.  Don’t worry, we did eventually find someone willing to sell us some of her bananas. There was a rather large bunch on display so Paul asked her (through hand gestures) to cut it in half. This she did, and promptly put both halves in the bag so that we ended up with the whole bunch anyway :).

Main street, Ko-En
Main street, Ko-En

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We were warned about an imminent downpour by a lady at one of the stalls, which led us to take shelter in a cafe/shop across the road. This whole delightful experience was described by Paul in his blog post. It really felt like we’d dropped in on the family for an impromptu afternoon tea.  They were so welcoming and hospitable, urging us to sit and wait out the rain shower and even our request for bread culminated in our receiving a delicious banana pancake. The language barrier was got over with the use of smiles, gestures and facial expressions – even if some of the smiles could have been construed as shyness or embarrassment, I’m sure annoyance didn’t come into it :).

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Shelter from the storm

On our way back to the marina we spotted several banana trees bearing green fruit. Paul thinks it’s probably ok to pick them but I’m not so sure. It might explain what the lady meant by saying that no one buys them! Our big provision shop scheduled for the following day with the use of a hire car, we ate in The Deck Bar before returning to the boat (fish for Paul and a veggie sandwich for me with fries to share). The menu is similar to most pub fare and reasonably priced so doubtless we will sample a few more of the meals before we return home.

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Dining at The Deck Bar
Dining at The Deck Bar

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Kathy

 

 

 

 

A day out in Phuket

First off apologies to the little girl twins I had down as boys in the last post. Apparently you can tell their sex just by looking at them, so Kathy says.

Yesterday I hired a car and took the sails down to Rolly Tasker, the sailmaker. Apparently it’s the largest sail loft in the world, not just Asia

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Image from their web site
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my new ‘spare Genoa’
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My new ‘Spare staysail’

We laid out my two headsails and the Genoa was declared “dead on arrival”, no debate, but not a bin job, apparently I can get good money for it here. It seems some of the day trip sails that happen here for tourists, motor out, then a sail is hauled up for a while, even though the operators of the trip know nothing about sailing, they need sails, the sail flaps a bit, usually wears itself out quickly and then they drop it. So I’m informed they will buy my sail off me, Rolly Tasker will put some tape over the rips and away you go.
The Staysail, was inspected, I pointed out my repairs to it, and was told ‘not to give up my day job’ I had hoped for, ‘very well done sir, that’s one of the finer repairs we have seen here’ but at least he was honest. So that’s going to be re-repaired as the cloth is in decent condition, and is good as a spare,we can save cash by having a lightweight UV protection, as it will be in its bag most of the time. A new Genoa and staysail will be ordered, assuming the quotes are reasonable.
Next were the two sails from the v-berth locker. Thanks to Tim for reminding me about them, the spare staysail with hanks, isn’t a full staysail, but a storm sail, which is a small and very strong sail used in a storm. It has never been used by the look of it, however it was designed to be hanked on to the stay, which wont work now as the boat has been converted to furling headsails. The sail is going to have loops with roller balls attached to make it clip over the existing staysail. This seems like a low cost and effective way to go, it’s also simpler, which is what you need in storm conditions. The other sail is a spare Genoa which was declared too baggy for upwind sailing, but with some repairs to the luff and leach would be fine as a downwind sail. We may be several weeks following the trade winds as we sail the pacific, so this type of sail is just fine.

So after the sail business we headed off to explore the Island a little

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The SW coast looking North. Patong Bay just beyond the last headland
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Very lush vegetation

The west side of the island is where most of the tourists go, in particular Patong Bay, the most famous part of Phuket, often for not so great reasons. The west side has some lovely beaches, plus looking west usually gives the best sunsets. It’s very noticeably tourist town here, and although we found a great supermarket selling French breads I was glad to be heading back to the East and North coast. Of course you can’t consider me a western tourist because I hate all that ‘full English Breakfast, with a free pint of Guinness” stuff, so once we had some French sticks in the car, we headed off to Tesco and got some Brie and olives and headed home (english snob might be more applicable) 😉

On the way back, I spotted some more traditional markets inland, selling mostly food and staples for the local people. We had a great time wandering these aisles full of things I have no idea what they are. Kathy found a vendor selling what looked like grubs and locusts, but they were marinated in a lovely looking sauce. I bet if I could get over my cultural conditioning they would taste lovely. They do say it’s the future!

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A more palatable option to Insects

I found a stall selling sheets & pillowcases, which was half the price of the same product in the mall we had visited earlier, and my suspicions that not many non-local people shop there was confirmed when the shopkeeper wanted to take a photograph of me buying the linen.

I had been apprehensive of driving here, but, being a sensible country that drives on the left, it was quite easy, just always assume that there’s a motorbike undertaking you and remember that people drive the wrong way on the hard shoulder if they only need to go a short distance.

Somebody stole my username/password and it’s up for sale along with loads of others on the dark web, I don’t know for sure, but suspect this was part of the yahoo hack. I only use this on non important sites, but I need to go and change my password on scores of sites now, so this has reminded me I was half way through writing a password app, iCloud based for the iPhone. I think I will have a go at that over the next few days while we have some chilling time here in the Yacht Haven.

Paul C.

 

Chilling in Phuket

Today and yesterday have been quite chilled. I’m working through the list of tasks outstanding, and getting an idea of prices before I hit the chandlers. Tomorrow we are hiring a car and we are going to take the headsails down to Rolly Taskers to get them measured for a new set. We got the sails off today, the genoa had a long rip in it I didn’t see, I’m going to ask if they can be patched up to keep as spares, but it may not make any sense if they are that weak. I’ve also decided to buy new awnings for the boat. There’s going to be a lot of money being spent over the next few weeks, but I’m treating it a bit like a trip to the dentist, best get it all over with and move on. I decided on the EPIRB I want, it has a ten year battery life, but it’s not available here, so Im going to buy it in the UK and bring it as carry on baggage when we come back, that’s going to be fun getting it through security.

We went for a walk to the local village today, we were lucky to miss the rain, every day for the last few weeks has been very wet and squally, the same is predicted for the next week.

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Kathy, watch out for the giant dockleaf
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Rubber trees, we did this in geography if I remember correctly, you can see the collecting cups.

At one point it became clear that we were going to get soaked so we jumped into a shack, which was half house, half shop and half restaurant.

I tried to buy some bread, but something was lost in translation and this nice lady cooked us an egg and banana roti (pancake type thing) and very tasty it was too.  I think she is showing me her grandson here.
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Here is the little ones twin brother.
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The road back to the marina

 

Once back at the marina we settled down for a drink and some dinner at the deck bar yachthaven

Another squall came through, hopefully by November we will be into the NE Monsoon, which is the high season here with lots of hot dry weather.

Paul C.

Telaga to The Islands of Thailand (my week)

After a short trip to Kuah to stock up with provisions for the trip to Thailand, we presented ourselves to the immigration office to check out, show passports and fill out the required forms.  In the afternoon while the rigging was being completed we found time to have a walk on the beach so that Paul could cool down with a swim (sharp rocks underfoot made for a painful walk into the water unfortunately).  The sandcrabs are fascinating to watch – they flee sideways into the sea or down little holes on the beach when anyone gets too near, and the patterns they make in the sand are quite beautiful.

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Paul after hobbling in across the sharp rocks
Paul after hobbling in across the sharp rocks
Two crabs near the water if you look closely
Two crabs near the water if you look closely

 

Sand crab patterns and blossoms on the beach
Sand crab patterns and blossoms on the beach

We left Telaga early in the morning on Friday 14th. The forecast wasn’t great but we’d been used to frequent heavy rain showers and strong gusts of wind, had welcomed them in fact as a refreshing change from the heat and humidity.  The squalls started not long after we left, and the sea state was such that the boat was ‘pitching’ from bow to stern in the waves. This always make me slightly nauseous but I can stave off full-on seasickness as long as I stay up above and keep still.  We had to change our original destination from Koh Lipe and divert to Tarutao due to the current and wind. It took 7 hours to get there, during which time we only saw two other boats, and they were fishing vessels.  We found a nice spot to anchor and I was thrilled to spot dolphins’ fins slicing through the surface as we arrived – the first we’d seen in Asia. They moved a lot slower than the ones in Europe, and instead of leaping energetically out of the water they glided gracefully away before I had a chance to photograph them.

A squall over Taratou
A squall over Tarutao
Approaching our first anchorage in Thai waters
Approaching our first anchorage in Thai waters

 

A swim on arrival
A swim on arrival

Our first night at anchor was very peaceful, and a lot cooler than the last time we slept at anchor. There were a few showers but they were unaccompanied by wind, and I woke fairly refreshed and looking forward to the next leg.  I’d noticed that at some point my phone had updated to Thailand time and we’d gained an hour.  Paul didn’t seem to think this was right, and one of our (admittedly out of date) guide books stated that Thailand was indeed on the same timezone as Malaysia, so for a while we weren’t entirely sure what the time was – not that it really mattered, and we forgot all about it until a few days later when the internet confirmed that my phone was correct.

It was a lovely sunny morning when we left Tarutao. Paul sat in the cockpit sewing the damaged staysail that had fallen down the previous day. He even managed to climb the mast to retrieve the staysail’s broken halyard, something he hadn’t been able to do on Lady Stardust during passage. I kept watch and read in the sunshine – all very relaxing and pleasant.  As the day wore on, the wind gradually strengthened and the waves increased in size, causing us to roll as the sea got more choppy. Soon, things down below began to fall and slide as the boat pitched and tossed and it became increasingly difficult to move around with ease. We began to see more fishing buoys, but again, very few other boats.  Huge, tall rocks appeared on the horizon and as we got nearer, some of them looked remarkably similar to the prehistoric standing stones at Avebury, while some of the islands we saw had interesting shapes.

Halyard retrieval
Halyard retrieval
Sail repair
Sail repair
Shoe-shaped island
Shoe-shaped island

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The autohelm, or Captain Mainwaring as we refer to it, performed well and Paul only took over the steering during the worst of the squalls so that it wasn’t put under any unnecessary strain. It was a relief to reach our destination of Koh Liang early in the evening.  The Liang Group consists of two tall limestone islands which our ‘Sail Thailand’ guidebook informed us, has a Sea Gypsy village on one of them where seafood and coconuts can be exchanged for money or barter. They both looked decidedly uninhabited, however and since the book was published in 2001, they may well have left.  It was very windy and the sea was still fairly choppy even though we were in the lee of the island, but we anchored with no problems. However, we were both unsure whether it was a good idea to stay where we were going to be ‘rocked and rolled’ throughout the night, especially as the squalls were set to continue.  It was a tough call because to move somewhere calmer would mean another hour or so at sea and we’d risk losing the light, and of course there was no guarantee that another place would be any calmer. We were both in need of a rest by then, as sleep tends to be interrupted on passages like this, so we elected to stay.  It wasn’t too bad actually. We both checked that the anchor was secure at various intervals during the night and there were only a few showers.  The island looked quite spooky in the moonlight; a solitary fishing boat showing a red light was moored right beside it and when the wind was howling the effect was beautifully eerie.

We woke early to a lovely clear, sunny Sunday morning and after coffee, prepared to leave for our next destination.  Just as Paul had got the anchor up, a squall hit us.  I was at the helm and was drenched within seconds.  It didn’t last long, but the wind direction and current caused us to make slow progress for most of the morning.  Gradually, conditions changed in our favour. The wind shifted, the sails were set, the engine was turned off and we began to make good speed. Apart from negotiating a ‘forest’ of fishing buoys in one area, we had a straightforward passage to Koh Po, an island just east of Koh Lanta, and anchored for the night at around 6pm. Dinner was pasta with a homemade, pre-prepared tomato and vegetable sauce, a quick and satisfying meal on passages, especially after not having eaten much else during the day, also a manageable one in the rolly conditions we were experiencing.  We both crashed out on the starboard sofa not long after that, only waking to deal with the night’s heavier rain showers (ok, to be honest, Paul was the one who woke to deal with them).

It rained all night. Things were beginning to feel (and smell) damp and musty. The hatch over the V berth had dripped rain over the covers despite my best efforts to prevent it.  Clothes and items that were hung up to dry in the cabin, had received fresh drips and dribbles overnight . We’d tried to balance it so that there was enough air coming in to keep us cool but not opened up enough to let too much rain in.  Anyone who’s been camping knows how quickly things get-and stay-wet in heavy downpours.  The forecast predicted rough conditions for the day ahead and Paul considered staying another night at anchor but we were both keen to get going, confident that we’d cope with whatever came our way. We set off at 8am and motored for about an hour with no wind. By 9 0’clock the wind had got up to 23 knots and from then on things went from bad to worse.  I jotted down things as I remembered them but at the time it was all I could do to stay in one place as we were tossed around. Drama Queen reflections follow ;):

The waves were huge and soaked me a few times, I felt nauseous and cold; visibility was bad; things were falling around down below; it was hard to move without falling over and the rain fell relentlessly…so much rain; strong winds forced us over at (to me) such a frightening angle the sea was rushing in to the cockpit, the guard rails were in the sea and I felt panic setting in.  Paul said this was how it often is for sailors who race and it was nothing to worry about. Then a squall hit us and he asked me to steer – I had to get it exactly on course while he dealt with the flapping sails, he instructed, or else we would capsize. That did it for me – I burst into tears as thoughts of being hurled into the water entered my mind, yet I still managed to take the helm and I kept us on course! I really did think we would tip right over though and it took me ages to stop shaking and sobbing.  It seems I need to learn more about how the wind direction and speed affect the sails, but I felt that it really wasn’t the ideal time to receive such a lesson.  It was dark by the time we reached Koh Phi Phi Don in torrential rain, and we had to take care while anchoring not to disturb any coral or get mooring ropes tangled in the propellor. The relief once we were secure was so tremendous, I just had to have another good cry to celebrate ;). I felt much better after that and a few glasses of wine!

 

Paul battling the storm
Paul battling the storm
Anchorage at Phi Phi Don
Anchorage at Phi Phi Don

We spent two days at Phi Phi Don, which Paul has described in his blog post. I don’t have too much to add to that apart from relating the fact that Paul had a mocktail when we went ashore that he is convinced was in fact a cocktail.  The ingredients listed on the menu didn’t include alcohol but when he got up from his seat he said he felt sloshed, to put it politely.  He went on to analyse the feeling as walked through the town, concluding that he had no wish to go back to drinking, and couldn’t understand what people got out of it.  Anyone seen the Father Ted episode where Mrs Doyle presses alcohol on a priest who’d not had a drink for years, rediscovers his taste for it, and goes on a drunken rampage?  I felt sure that wasn’t going to happen (!). Thankfully, the feeling had worn off by the time we had to get the dinghy for the ride back to the boat.  The dinghy journey is precarious enough, especially as Paul wasn’t convinced the outboard would last for the duration and we might have to row.  It’s a shame we couldn’t risk taking our phones ashore in case they got wet.  It’s a lovely island – but we’ll be returning to it for a longer stay in due course anyway. We arrived in Phuket on Thursday afternoon after a journey with only one dramatic episode, but I’ll save that for another time.

We’re in Yacht Haven Marina now and it’s great.  I can hardly wait to see The Soi Dog Foundation. Meanwhile, there’s a nice new marina to check out.

Kathy.

 

 

 

Yacht Haven Marina

After a couple of nights in the lovely Ao Po Grand marina, we paid the bill of £50 and motored off to our final destination this year, the yacht Haven marina.

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D’deck bar at Ao Po
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Leaving Ao Po

We have 6 weeks before we head home for Christmas on the 5th of December, obviously I don’t mean Christmas is on the 5th, but I expect we will have to go shopping and stuff. We plan to spend the 6 weeks touring around Phuket, and possibly further north into Thailand. Phuket is the centre of sailing around these parts, at Ao Po there were scores of Sunsail and Moorings charter yachts, mostly big cats, which makes sense as the water’s quite shallow round here. Theres a stack of chandleries here so I can stock up on all the bits I need, also there is a large sail loft, the biggest in Asia, Rolly Taskers, where I can look at new headsails. I also will source a liferaft, and maybe a new dinghy. Plus I can look at getting a new bowsprit and anchor platform made here.
Once the squally weather ends, which hopefully will be in the next couple of weeks, we might make a few daysails around Phang Nga bay, I wont be happy until I catch a fish here and get to grill it outside on the barbecue.

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Phang Nga Bay, looking a bit grey

So at 14:30 today we motored out of the marina, and over to the fuel dock. I took the opportunity to work out how to get the stern to tuck into the pontoon as we came along side the fuel dock. I didn’t do too bad, but again I couldn’t see what was going on, the bow line went ashore and was cleated, and I tried to power into that to get the stern across, but looked up to see the dock guy had undone the rope and was pulling hard to stop me going ahead. Anyway we filled up, 115 Litres, which make my consumption based on logged engine hours at 4ltrs/hour, which is a lot, much of the time the engine was only ticking over to charge the battery while we sailed. I need to investigate more.
At 5 knots, we should cover the 10 mile trip and arrive at the marina at 16:30, but we couldn’t make 5 knots into a 20 knot headwind, only 4.5, so that was going to put us there around 5pm, this is 2 hours after high water, when we have slack water. This matters a lot and was worrying me because the marina is located in the narrow strait that separates Phuket from the mainland. currents can flow fast and the Marina advise not to try to enter when this is the case, we are also on big fast tides right now (Springs) so even more worrying, also with a 15-20 knot wind on our side it could have been tricky. IMG_3319

Anyway in a big anticlimactic way, Kathy motored us into the marina, at slack water, and I took us into the berth, the stern was being dragged off the pontoon but I did some more practice, and this time managed to kick it in, once we got the bowline attached. It was even easier, as there was a nice man in a rib from the marina ready to push the boat into place if needed.

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Lovely lush vegetation here, noticeably different from Malaysia

 

The marina is lovely, plus the wifi seems really fast so we might watch some UK Tv tonight, like “have I got news for you” if it’s on?
Both Thai marinas so far have been lovely, the staff here seem very keen to help. I think we are going to have a great time here.

Paul C.

 

 

Phuket at last

At last we have arrived, it took a few days longer than expected due to a very active monsoon season. The Malaysian and Thai official weather sites said we should keep off the sea until next Wednesday, however their forecasts are for the high seas, and looking at the GRIB files I get, which show the expected wind, it didn’t look that bad inshore. However when we left yesterday morning, and cleared the headland we where being tossed all over the place and only able to make about 2 knots into the wind and waves, we could have hoisted the sails, but there were squalls all along the horizon, so we just did a U-turn and had a quiet day on the boat back at anchor. Big squalls blew through all day making me feel better about our decision to stay
Here is a track of our movements at anchor, you can see from the scale we need a good 200ft around us, but we don’t get that luxury, boats pile in all around and if they don’t swing the same as us, then we get quite close.anchor-track

So this morning we checked the weather, the Thai forecast was a bit less doom-laden, and the sun was shining. I also realised we don’t need to go to the south of the island which is where you have to check in, I could go to the north and then get a taxi down south with the boats papers and get us checked in. This is the job first thing tomorrow so we can get visas and custom clearance. This fact made it easier to plot a course, with the wind going from the west to more southerly we could make Ao Po Grand Marina in one tack, close hauled. Also I knew the weather was going to improve and the sea state calm as we entered into Ao Phang Nga bay, which protects us from the big waves coming in from the storms out in the Andaman sea. So if we could get out of Phi Phi ok then ‘Things can only get better’. And so it was. Track belowto-phuket-ge to-phuket-plainThanks to Marine traffic for the track, the points were generated by my iPhone sending AIS updates in, you can see the bit where the battery went flat 🙁  I did have the track on the Navionics app, but that keeps crashing and losing the track. Considering this is my main chart plotter, that’s a little concerning. However it’s not that accurate anyway, paper charts are rubbish here so I use google earth overlays in OpenCPN, along with Navionics and the chart in the cockpit plotter, which came with the boat. It’s important to keep a good lookout anyway.
So with a reef in the main, and 75% Yankee, and 99%Staysail up, we romped along close hauled making between 5 and 7 knots all the way, which for those of you who don’t sail, is quite fast for a big heavy boat like this. With each hour the sea calmed more and the sky got sunnier. No rain all the way until the last minute as we approached the marina. I had furled up the staysail, and we were on a reach heading N between the two islands you can see on the map belowsquallThe gap isn’t big here, also a good chunk of the coast on the left island has a large construction, like a fish farm, or possible foundations for a new marina. Anyway a massive squall popped over the coast on our left, there was no warning and it was one of the worst I have seen, 0 – 35 knts in seconds, I had no time to reduce sail and I knew I was going to be overpowered with the main and the headsail out and the wind from behind I worried I would be driven into one of the two islands, a few seconds later I was drenched, and visibility dropped. I tried to run with the wind, but it was too much so I was able to spill some wind by steering up to the fish farm, letting the main flap a lot and that slowed me down enough to steer safely, then dropping back into the squall for a minute and then heading up again. I quite enjoyed it actually, it’s much more fun than back home, where if this sort of wind starts in the Irish sea, it could be like that and get worse for hours,maybe days, plus it’s usually bloody cold there. Here I knew this would be over in minutes so just had to make the most of it. Sure enough the whole show only lasted 5 minutes, before the wind dropped a lot, but the rain increased and I lost all visibility. This is where the binnacle compass comes into it’s own. I just steered 20 deg knowing that would get me clear of land. A few minutes later and it’s very calm. so we put the fenders out, brought a mooring line I had just setup back on board, started the engine, dropped the sails and into the marina.

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Kathy checking out the pool and bar area

This is a lovely spot, and now we have power I have been able to get my macbook charged back up, hence this blog post, although it took a while, the boat was tripping the marina supply, this is down to the second AC outlet circuit on the boat. I presume somewhere water got into the sockets, which wont be hard to find, but it’s worrying that water is getting in at all.

Kathy will no doubt write a much more interesting blog shortly. In the meantime here’s some pics.

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The view from the boat at anchor in Phi Phi
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Phuket ahead

 

Paul C

Trip from langkawi to Koh Phi Phi Don

Thursday 13 th

Today we checked out with customs and immigration in Telaga harbour. All very easy. However Chris informed us that the swaged fitting on the headsail stay was the wrong size for the furling gear, we could wait a few weeks to get a new one sent out from the USA, or pick one up later in the year on our way through, or get one swaged locally later that day, which meant missing our departure. I went for the latter option, and as it turned out we were able to use the stay we had, with a modification to the furling gear. This still meant a delayed departure, so for one evening, we were illegals.
Also I found that the dinghy stayed inflated, except for the floor, which isn’t essential. I can have a go at gluing that myself. Still I do fancy a nice new, bigger dinghy.
Another nice thing, or sad, depending on how nostalgic you are, is that contracts and money changed hands today for Lady Stardust, so she has a new owner. He bought her on spec and hasn’t even seen her yet.

Friday 14th
So with all shiny new rigging, we left Telaga. The plan was to go west to the group of islands with Koh Lipe at the southernmost tip. However it was hard going, the south west monsoon was mostly from WNW, so we had to tack upwind, this is not this boats strongest point of sail, and after the second tack it was obvious we weren’t going to get far. I had a reef in the main and the headsail half furled and the staysail all out. Some of the squalls were quite strong, 20-25 knots, and 2-3 m waves. Also it was worse on one tack than the other. I think this is because the mast isn’t tuned yet, in fact I think it’s leaning to starboard, like the boat itself.
Somewhere along this journey Kathy shouted out that the Genoa (headsail/jib) was in the sea. This perplexed me, as it’s quite difficult to achieve this. I was hoping she meant the sheets, but a quick look and sure enough the staysail is in the water not on its furling gear. You can’t actually see the sail easily from the cockpit as it hides behind the mainsail when beating upwind. So up to the bow to investigate.
First I had to get the sail back onto boat, as I was hauling it onboard I remembered watching Dame Ellen MacArthur doing a similar operation on the TV, however she was in tears, and took all day. I had mine back on board in a few minutes. Mind you she was in the Antarctic doing 40 odd knots, and her sail was the size of a small cricket pitch, whereas I’m having a pleasant time in the tropics, with a hankerchief size of a staysail, even so….
Anyway, back on board I could see the head attachment had ripped off, and the sail split down the luff behind the luff rope for a couple of metres. The sail had then lowered itself down the furler, popped out the bottom and over the side. No point in worrying now, I grabbed some rope and lashed it down to the deck to worry about later. I don’t have any spare sails on this boat, unlike stardust that had 3 of everything. Still with the stress on the rig so far, I know everything has been tightened up. I also found out why the swim ladder was removed, or at least another reason, with it lifted up out of the water, the headsail sheets can catch it and rip it off it’s mount, which they tried to do several times.
Soon after this I gave up trying for Koh Lipe and swung her around to sail off the wind over to the Lee side of Koh Tarutao, this isn’t very far north of langkawi, but was going to have to do for the day, we were relieved to get into calm waters and found a lovely spot near a jetti to anchor.
Lost my cap at some point today, so went for my spare, got two spares so all is ok.
I’m not sure if I have been in the med too long without tides, or I have a terrible memory, but I was surprised at how much this boat doesn’t care about the wind. Or should I say, how she doesn’t like to lie at anchor to the wind, and the current flowing has a massive effect. Consequently, a lot of the time the anchor chain is running under the bow, and making hideous sounds as it grinds away at the bob stay. I now run a long bit of nylon rode to an anchor hook I lower over the anchor roller, this takes the strain from below the water line.

Saturday
We make an early departure for Liang, in the rain and squalls, I had hoped to go further today, perhaps to Koh Rok , but I decide to be less ambitious. Again heavy weather, but I spend the morning in the cockpit repairing the broken sail. I manage a reasonable repair, but the weather is to heavy to think of putting it back on the furling gear, and I don’t want my delicate stiching to be flapping like crazy in the wind. The plan is to keep a turn on the furler all the time so as not to stress my repair.
We arrive at Liang late afternoon, anchored off a lovely beach, but rolly and still getting hit by squalls, but anchor worked well. I paid a lot for this anchor, but already I’m pleased at how it sets first time and doesn’t seem to budge once it’s in.
Lost my cap at some point today, so went for my spare, got a spare so all is ok.
Sunday 16th
Up early, need to push on and find somewhere sheltered to mop up and get my staysail back on. I love this staysail in heavy weather, it’s quite powerful, and with it being close to the mast it doesn’t have such ability to destabilise the boat as the big Yankee headsail can. In fact the Yankee headsail is more like a high cut Genoa, I like that too, it’s very powerful but difficult to furl in a blow for me with my knackered shoulder.
So Kathy takes the helm as I raise the anchor, a bit blowy but ok, then out of nowhere , or rather from around the headland, comes a mini squall of 30 knot winds with pelting hard rain, I can see Kathy working hard at the wheel trying to keep the boat moving forward while I raise the anchor, but within seconds she is drenched through, not a great start to the day. I don’t remember ordering such weather.
Again tacking into the wind is hard, normally I would hope to tack when my target is on the beam, but no chance as things stand, plus we make lots of leeway. I understand this boat class has won racing trophies, would like to know how, perhaps when it’s tuned and new sails are on it will point better.
Now it’s Kathy’s turn to mention the other thing I’m not mad on hearing, that water is coming into the boat, the way she says it makes me a little worried, it seems to be getting in from under the bunk at the side.
A difficult place to work as the water tank takes up this space, but I suspect it’s probably the water tank that’s the culprit, so I taste the water and sure enough it’s fresh. So next I have to dismantle the woodwork that somebody has added over the tank to make extra storage, they did a bad job and it’s on my list to fix one day. Then I can see that the water level gauge sensor is leaking, as the water sloshes around in the tank it’s squirting out the side of the sensor mounting flange, no big deal, I tighten it a bit, but suspect the gasket is shot. It can wait, we have loads of water and a second tank anyway.
So two long tacks and we arrive in a bay protected by Koh lanta. We anchor in 3 metres of water some way from the shore of Koh Po, nice and calm here, but grey and little squalls still pass through, but they just keep everything nice and damp 😒

Monday 17th
Up early, I get the repaired staysail onto the furler while it’s calm. Then off to Koh Phi Phi and guess what, the weather is awful again. Loads of squalls, 20-25 knots of wind and rough seas. I tack out on starboard, heading away from phi phi towards Koh Rok as that’s the best I can manage in the headwind, then after several hours, maybe 5, I tack and head for phi phi. It was so calm at the start I didn’t bother with the reef in the main I had had so far, I was curious if the main would point higher without the reef, I also got both the headsails out and was pleased my repair is holding out. Of course that was the cue for Poseidon and his mates to have a go, 30 knots of wind, and a building sea and boy was that fun, I wondered how far we would heel, I also wondered if every stage in the new rigging had been tested and inspected. I’m afraid it rather bothered Kathy, who worried about me shouting to take the helm while I tried to quickly reduce the sail area out there. It took about ten minutes but it was all back under control and we were belting along. So far we have been doing about 7 knots close hauled at best, but generally about 6. We had to travel nearly twice the distance the crow flies and ended up arriving in the dark, another first for me with this boat.
The bay at Phi Phi Don is sheltered from the sea, but not the wind, it’s very deep and near the shore at 12m depth it is coral all the way to the beach. The trick is to anchor in mud just after the coral which can only be seen in daylight. We found a shallow bit some way from the shore, near the middle of the bay where all the work boats here race up and down, but by now they had finished for the day, so we dropped the hook in 13m of water, put out 60m of chain and called it a day!
Along the way, the waves and gusts took their toll, both lifelines snapped, port and starboard, the port signal halyard snapped, some diesel spilled from a Jerry can and washed along the deck into the cockpit, only a tablespoon or two, but that’s enough to make a right stink. The anchor locker door in the v berth flew open and ripped itself off the hinges, and the oil lamp unscrewed itself from the spot above the sink and spread itself around the boat in bits. Thank goodness it had no oil in it.
Oh and I lost my cap in one of the squalls, hope they sell caps in Thailand.

Tuesday, wake to survey what is supposed to be the third most beautiful island in the world, not impressed. Rammed with day tripper boats and long tails, these are boats used as taxis and general work/fishing boats. They look like they have an auto engine mounted on the rear on a frame up in the air, with a prop shaft about 20ft long sticking out the back, the whole thing pivots and that’s how they steer, a bit like an alternate design for an outboard. Will post pictures later.
I could see we were lucky coming in as local boats have mooring for the day trippers they use when dropping them off to snorkel on the coral. These moorings consist of a length of polypropylene rope floating on the surface which they get with a boat hook and tie to. Presumably they go down to an old engine block or something just as heavy, anyway we may have motored past or over a few in the dark, that could have been fun. Later we popped ashore in the dinghy, which worked out well, the outboard was reluctant to start and stay running, but got into it after a while. It’s on my list to give it a service. It’s actually a very lovely place and we will come back and spend more time here.

Wednesday 19th
Tried to leave, but the sea was very rough and 10 knots of wind on the nose quickly became 20. After 40 minutes and not much distance, I turned her around and headed back.image

This is a pain, the forecast from the Thai government service gives us 25-30 knt winds from the west with 3.5m seas, but other sources say this is only for offshore areas, and here it is 10-15 from the Sw which would be great. Anyway, it seems the gov forecast was more true when we went out. Also we have had some tremendous squalls blow through here in the anchorage, had to start the engine for fear of hitting other boats as every one swung in very different directions.image

I’m not sure when things will improve, we may have to wait a few more days.

Will try to upload pictures later, but my MacBook has flat batteries and I haven’t got round to fixing up a charger on the boat yet, so it’s difficult to do from my iPad, will try some anyway.

Paul C

Weather worries

Just a quick update. We are in Thailand now, but yet to check in at our port of entry, which is Phuket. We are anchoring at various islands/rocks en route. It’s taking a long time to get there as we can’t sail at night, there are far to many unlit fishing boats and nets, and the weather is against us, so we do 25 mile hops each day. Now we are in Koh Phi Phi , Koh means Island, and phi is pronounced pee, better know as the location of the file “the beach” with some guy called Leandro de capricious starring.

We did plan to leave tomorrow for Phuket but I just saw a forecast on the navtex saying small boats should stay ashore! The forcast I was working to, based on grib data from the GFS model made it look like a nice passage. So I need to do more research.

No pictures as data or wifi is difficult here, but we took some great pictures the last few days.

The boat is working well, we have been in some quite heavy weather and I now have a lot of confidence in our new rigging which is holding the mast up, I also know how she handles in big 30+ knot gusts with full sail up, which is surprisingly well. But I don’t want to experience that again.

Had to deal with Kathy shouting the headsail is in the water and that water is coming into the boat during the big blows, but it all worked out fine in the end. Graphic details to follow 😀

Paul C

Almost rigged

Just a quick post, we had a few hiccups with the rigging, the eye for the bobstay was just a little to wide to go in the fitting on the boats stem, so had to be taken away and ground down a few thou. The staysail furling gear would not come apart easy to give access to the turnbuckle that needed to be loosened to get it down. The rigger used an angle grinder to cut through the turnbuckle in the end. I’m not sure he quite realised how much tension was in the rig because it split with a lot of force and the mast vibrated so strongly and a twang shook the boat, that down below Kathy thought someone had fallen off the mast!

So now we have everything except the forestay and the backstay done. This needs to be done in the morning and early, as I have checked us out of the harbour with the port police. this was remarkably easy, hats off to the Malaysian harbour master who handled the change of ownership, and change of boat name/registration very smoothly and quickly. Now I have an exit paper for Malaysia with my name and the boats name on it, the rest should be plain sailing (no pun intended). Just need to do customs and immigration. This is a great port to do it in, as I may well be the only customer they have tomorrow, it’s so sleepy here, I had worried I would need to go to Kuah and join all the ferry passengers in a long queue.
The only real shock was that you have to pay light dues for every day in the country. He said the last 3 days in Langkawi would cost 8MYR (about £1.50) but I also owed for the last 3 years since the previous owner had brought it here. I was thinking quick, 50p a day, 1000 days, £500 Crikey! I was very relieved when he told me the total came to 100MYR, or £20. I didn’t hang around for an explanation of the maths just handed over the money pronto.

So the blog may go quiet for a few days, I don’t know when we will reach Phuket, the plan is to sail there, so the wind needs to go more to the west, right now it’s either calm or mad squalls from the NW, not the best, but there’s plenty of islands to hide behind. If the rigging completes tomorrow, we will rush over to Koh Lipe, or Koh Tarutao, then Friday to Ko Lanta, or Koh Kok, then Saturday to Phi Phi, then Sunday or Monday into Phuket.  or something like that, there’s plenty of options available. However I don’t know how we will fair for wifi/3g coverage, and I have no way to charge the MacBook, so I guess Kathy can post to the facebook page where ever we get some 3g coverage.

Childish humour follows…

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One for Asta
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And one for Tim, Is this imperialism by the back door?

 

Paul C