November 2016 (Bang Tao and Ban Thap Lamu)

Waking up in the cockpit at Koh Lon early in the morning of the 22nd November was a delightful experience.  It was cool, and the silence was only broken by the calls coming from birds in the tall trees on the island, and by the ‘plopping’ of fish breaking the surface of the water in their attempts to escape predators. I watched the sunrise at 6 30 as I drank my coffee, and then a few ‘longtail’ fishing boats emerged from the beaches, chugging noisily out for the early morning catch.  The outboard engines they use on the stern of these boats are particularly noisy due to the fact they are uncased and are mostly old car, or even tractor engines.  They tend to look a bit incongruous perched on the back of the otherwise elegant-looking boats.

Sunrise at Koh Lon

Once Paul was up we prepared to move on. We were both at the bow – Paul was showing me how to weigh anchor – when we heard a loud thud from the back of the boat.  It created quite a jolt and we thought something must have hit us or we’d gone aground.  Close investigation revealed nothing untoward, however so we concluded it must have been a heavy sea creature bumping into the hull (shame we didn’t see it).  Back at the anchor, we had the job of washing off the thick mud that had accumulated on the chain as it came up from the seabed.  Normally the electric water pump (the deckwash) would make this job easier but as it’s currently out of action we made do with a broom and buckets of sea water. At 8am we motored off and once on course, the autohelm took over the steering which allowed us to enjoy a breakfast of the fresh pineapple we’d brought with us. We only intended to have a few slices but it was so sweet and refreshing we finished the whole fruit.

Our destination was a place called Bang Tao, a large open bay on the northwest side of Phuket and the site of one of its longest beaches.  We arrived there around 1:30, and the first thing Paul did after we safely anchored was to swim around the boat with the snorkel on to check for any damage from the morning’s jolt (none thankfully). The rest of the day was lazy and relaxing.  Paul put up the handmade hammocks we’d bought from a roadside vendor a few days before to test the best location for them.  They will be put to good use during our travels around the Pacific Islands.

One of Phuket’s longest beaches in the background

We had skipped lunch so for an early dinner we had veggie sausages with broccoli, carrots, potatoes, fried onions and a peanut sauce I’d bought in Malaysia.  After sunset we spotted lightning flickering in the sky but although the sea was a bit choppy, no storm occurred to disturb us during the night.

Wednesday 23rd November                                                                                 This morning’s dawn chorus came from the bow of the boat where a line of small black and white birds were perched on the bowsprit, unaware that I was fairly close to them as I watched through the hatch in the V berth.  I have no idea what they were. I think I need to brush up on my knowledge of bird breeds (and on other sea life for that matter).  By 7am we were up and ready to go.  It was a cool, fresh morning; cloudy but pleasant.  I helped get the anchor up, which wasn’t clogged with mud this time but it did have several small crabs dropping from the chain links onto the deck of the bow, so I quickly pushed them back overboard.  The cooler weather was accompanied by wind at long last, so Paul put the sails up in the hope that it would increase enough to use them.  At 10am we had reached the opposite side of the Sarasin Bridge, the very spot we’d set off from! It’s not possible to go underneath the bridge as it’s not high enough so we had to do almost a complete circumnavigation of Phuket to get to the other side. The wind picked up at lunchtime and the sails worked well for a couple of hours. Paul took them down when it became clear that bad weather was on the way and by the time we motored up the river into Ban Thap Lamu it was raining so hard it was difficult to spot the marker buoys.  Ban Thap Lamu isn’t the most picturesque of places, especially on a grey drizzly afternoon. The Thai Navy Base is situated in the north of the estuary and a bit further down from  it, the public jetty was very busy with sea traffic: longtail fishing boats, speedboats and diving excursion crafts were all jostling for space. We didn’t fancy going ashore, choosing instead to anchor opposite the jetty and watch the activity going on there while the rain fell and lightning flashed. When it got dark, and the shoreline was lit up with twinkling lights and the rain stopped, it looked a lot more appealing :).