hanging out with the big boys

Well I was impressed when we pulled up alongside one of Roman Abramovitch’s motor yachts in Dublin City marina some years ago, but today I noticed a mega yacht had arrived in the marina, on the outside pontoon across from us. I looked up on the AIS and found M5 at the correct bearing from us so had a look and discovered It’s called M5, previously known as Mirabella 5.It’s the biggest sloop in the world, and number 6 in the biggest yacht list overall.  We saw her from a distance once in the med where she famously went aground after dragging her anchor. She seems to get around a bit.

Despite being the largest single masted yacht ever made, she only has room for twelve guests, only 6 more than we can handle, however I expect they might have a little more room, and probably a butler or two each.

She was also responsible for saving a crew in the ARC which I think was in 2006 the same year as us, details here and quite an interesting read

Will pop over tomorrow to see if they have any spare sikaflex as I just ran out, I’m sure they will help out 😉

More details here

Paul Collister



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 :).


The sun is shining at last

Wednesday saw the weather change for the better, we have had 2 straight days of sunshine now, it was 36 in the cabin this morning, I put the awnings up and the temp dropped a few degrees. We are taking it easy at the moment, Kathy has started typing up her blog. She has a Laptop running a strange operating system, it has a wavy flag and lots of confusing icons, I accidentally found a way to make it look like an old fashioned windows computer, but it keeps changing back to a weird thing where it has lots of blocky square icons over the screen, none of which seem to be much use. Also whenever you get a program open like the photo-manager, none of the buttons do what you would expect, plus it spends a lot of time throwing up boxes reminding you to update this and that, can’t see how it will ever catch on 😉

The bow sprit was collected on Monday and work is under way to replicate it, Tuesday we headed off for a drive to replenish stores, and also to drop off the mainsail with the sailmakers so that can be replicated too. We popped into Cholomark, a local company that makes RIBs (Rigid bottomed Inflatable Dinghies), our current dinghy is just a bit too small and flimsy. I’m expecting that once we get out into the pacific islands, we will need to be ferrying food, water and fuel to and from the shore to our boat via dinghy, so it’s worth getting something decent.

2.9m Hypalon dinghy

Sadly that means a few thousand pounds flying out the door, plus I think our 2.5hp motor will be too small, so another whack for a 5-8hp replacement.

Today was spent doing small jobs around the boat, not a lot is going to happen now until the bowsprit returns, as we can’t take the boat out without it. So on Monday I baked some bread, which worked out quite well, will do a bit more over the weekend.

On a closing note, you can always hear a snack, crackle and pop sound when in the boat, it’s coming from the hull outside under the water, and can be quite loud at night. I’m not precisely sure what causes it, but I’m sure it’s related to the marine growth on the hull. It’s either the growth growing or the fish nibbling on it, or both. There’s no shortage of nibbling fish here as the video clip below shows.

I am having trouble getting video clips to upload, so I have done this in a roundabout way, hopefully it still works.


Paul Collister


Past and Present

We’ve been back in Phuket almost a week now, and are just about recovering our equilibrium. Today (Wednesday) has been the first hot, dry day since our return. Like much of Thailand, we experienced continual rain for several days, although thankfully we haven’t had the disastrous floods that southern Thailand has been suffering from. The accompanying cooler temperature was a bonus while we were working to get the boat shipshape again, and a welcome contrast to the minus 9&10 temperatures we experienced in Germany.

Paul in Cologne Airport

This first week has been all about unpacking, cleaning, tidying and generally sorting stuff out, as well as shopping for provisions and new equipment for the boat.  We’ll be in Yacht Haven Marina for the next three weeks while the bowsprit is replaced and other essential maintenance tasks are carried out. Our month long Christmas break in the UK and Italy with friends and family was great fun and also provided an opportunity to gather up items such as food and tools that are unobtainable or expensive here. Paul’s luggage consisted of various replacement parts and objects for the boat, while mine held several blocks of Sainsbury’s new range of vegan cheese, packets of veggie sausage and burger mixes, a few lightweight clothes and several (heavier) toiletry items and books. We were both just on the maximum 23kg weight allowance, but apart from the fact that four packets of Alta Rica coffee refills aroused suspicion in the Xray machine at Phuket Airport, we were successful in transporting it all from England, on to Germany and through to Thailand.

Before we left in early December, we enjoyed a fabulous ten-day trip exploring the Similan Islands, a group of eleven small islands in The Andaman Sea (part of the Phang Nga Province).  Paul described it in his blog entries, along with some pics of the beautiful places we visited. My intention was to publish my blog and pics once I got back to the UK, naively assuming I would have time to do it in between the shopping, planning and preparation associated with Christmas (not to mention the socialising ;)).  So since there is nothing much to report on here at the moment as we relax in the luxury of Yacht Haven Marina, I’m going to go back to last year for my next few blogs and describe my impressions of the picturesque Similan Islands.

Monday 21st November                                                     We left the marina on a beautifully clear, calm and sunny morning which made departing from the berth extremely easy. The downside of course was that there was no wind, so we motored out and used the engine for the whole journey to Koh Lon. It was a very relaxing six hours: no squalls, not many other boats, a calm sea and a warm sun. We were able to doze and read for pretty much the whole way. Paul put a line out after spotting several fishing buoys in the area but still had no takers.  Koh Lon, seen in the pics below, provided a nice anchorage. We sat in the cockpit watching darkness fall and several fishing boats motoring in and out of the island’s small beaches, before eating dinner and turning in for the night.

Getting ready to inspect the anchor
Sunset at Koh Lon
Breakfast fruit in the cockpit





What a productive day, up at 6:30, just as it was light, but feeling tired I decided I could sleep another hour, but I quickly checked the weather grib for today. It showed me that we could expect 20 knt winds for several days, and that right now we are in the middle of a depression. That meant I needed to take advantage of the current calm wind, so up and out I went.
First off I needed to get the headsail off, I pulled the sail out, let go of the halyard, and it shot down, just a little too quickly, I think it might have been better to leave the pulpit on for this, as some of the luff shot over the side and just dipped into the sea. Still it was raining anyway, so no big deal. I rolled up the sail on the pontoon, I hadn’t realised that the wet teak pontoon would leave marks on the sail, I’m hoping they will wash out.
Next up I needed to haul the mainsail up so I could check the boom angle for the sailmaker. I also wanted some pictures of it. That went very well and I could haul the sail nearly all the way up without the winch. I think my shoulder is healing well now.

Down with the mainsail and flaked ready to slide out of the boom bag and into a sail bag. Next was the bit I dreaded, getting the furling gear/stays off. I slackened the backstay and rear intermediaries (the ones that support the staysail stay), Then I took the spinnaker halyard and tied it to the end of the bowsprit and winched it very tight. Then the forestay was slack enough to remove from the cranse iron (The metal thing at the front of the bowsprit where all the stays connect). The furler was carefully moved along side the boat and secured.

The Staysail stay/furler was next and this was even easier. I tied this on the other side of the boat. Next the whisker and bobstays all came off. I tied them all together with a bit of rope which I brought back to the Samson post, just to keep the stays out of the water. Now all we had left was the metal plate holding the sprit down, this came off a relatively easily, but did require Kathy to go into the chain locker and hold a spanner on the nuts underneath. Together we managed to undo all 4 bolts, I had to tape the spanner to a length of wood so Kathy could reach the nuts, and a couple of the nuts are somewhere amongst the rope and chain in the locker, and need retrieving later.
Finally the sprit was free to come out, however I expected it to be glued down to the deck with the 3M sealant used liberally on these boats during production. I increased the tension on the spinnaker halyard and was amazed to see the sprit lift clear of the deck.  Jumping ashore I was able to wiggle the sprit out of the Samson post, I did try to lift it ashore but got half way there and realised it was too heavy, this was the only awkward point, I’m holding the bowsprit on the dock, it’s no longer connect to the boat and I’m struggling to stop it sliding into the sea. I had attached a line to it just in case it fell over. Over the years, with the help of Davey Jones, I have learnt to tie a line to anything I value when working on the boat. Despite this, I have lost two split pins and a small spanner to the aforesaid mans locker since yesterday.

I managed to push the bowsprit back onto the boat and then I could lower it onto the pontoon over the side.

Next was the moment of truth, how bad was the rot, I expected it to be worse underneath, which had previously been hidden. Flipping the sprit over I could see that all the soft wood was rotted, I haven’t inspected it too closely, as it was now pouring down, but I could see enough damage to satisfy me that this exercise was worth it.

I suspect the sprit might have been strong enough for some time, but I will sell this boat one day and will need to have the sprit replaced before then, so while here, it seems sensible to get it sorted now. It’s now 4PM and I have cleaned up, washed the sprit and the deck down and called the carpenter to make sure they come early to take the sprit away.
Most of all I’m very pleased at how easy it all went, I’m reminded that even the most daunting tasks are quite manageable if you take a bit of time planning and thinking it all through.

On another note, I’m shocked at how quickly things rust out here. I think perhaps the reduced ventilation while we have been away may have helped, but for example, just look at our oven lighter after just 4 weeks

We need to go shopping today, meals so far have been comprised mainly of a loaf we bought in Cologne airport, a healthy branny thing that was hard as rocks when we bought it, and hasn’t changed much since ;-), just need the rain to abate a little.

Paul Collister


Back in rainy Phuket

We left the UK on Thursday afternoon, took a cheap EuroWings (Lufthansa’s version of Easyjet), to Cologne, spent the night there and then took a Eurowings non-stop 11 hour flight to Phuket, where a taxi was waiting to take us to the Marina and Sister Midnight. All in all quite a pleasant trip. I did lug a bag over with 23Kg of tools, spares, bearings, Epirb, tubes of special grease etc, and was gutted to see a load of customs guys turn up just 2 minutes before my bag came off the carousel, they decided to xray every single bag leaving the airport. Of course mine was picked out for a closer inspection. It seems the thing that made him suspicious was Kathy’s 4 bags of Alta Rica instant coffee, he had a good rummage and sent me on my way with a smile. I do like the people here.

It’s always a bit of a worry returning to the boat after a few weeks/months break, but I’m getting better at it now. It’s always possible to return to a mast sticking out of the water and no sign of the boat, I think it’s much worse if you can see the boat on the mud at the bottom of the marina. More likely you return to an infestation of mice, roaches or flies. I will never forget as a child turning up to our caravan which my parents kept on a farm near Ruthin in North Wales to find millions of dead flies covering every surface inside. Dad should have left the skylight open for them to escape, instead there must have been a mass breeding program in place. I worry as I don’t leave anything open on the baba as I don’t want any cockroaches, crawling or flying this way.
As it turned out the boat seems free of infestations and all was well. The batteries looked to be holding a decent voltage, but in fact there was a problem, but that could wait. The main thing is the bowsprit, I think I may have spent more time with this bowsprit than my children over the last year.
The problem is that I have rot in the sprit and I have arranged to have it taken away on Monday and to be replaced, with a new, very expensive teak copy. I have agreed for them to collect it on Monday and they have put two weeks aside to do the job. I have also decided use this period to get the mainsail replaced, with another estimate of 2-3 weeks for the new sail to be made.

So if everything goes to plan we will be completed and ready to sail at the end of January. The plan then is to take advantage of the NE Monsoon season and explore Phang Na bay while making our way south to Singapore. From there at the end of March we will most likely head north when the NE monsoon season ends and the winds move to the SW. We are either going to Japan, via Hong Kong and Taiwan, and then onto Alaska/Vancouver Island, or we will spend another year in this area, exploring the east side of Malaysia, the gulf of Thailand and Vietnam/Cambodia with trips to Brunei, Sabah & Sarawak on the Island of Borneo.

I have never removed a bowsprit before. Taking the sprit off means removing the wires that play a part in holding the mast up. Also the windlass (Anchor motor) has to come off. The bow platform and pulpit too. I got stuck in as soon as we had unpacked. Even though it was about 4 AM by my body clock I made good progress, Windlass disconnected, pulpit removed and anchor platform unbolted ready to go.

Tomorrow I’m hoping the wind will drop so I can remove the Yankee headsail before I disconnect the two furler stays, bobstay and whisker stays. I also need to get the mainsail down before the stays come off as I need to hoist it to check on some dimensions before it heads off to Rolly Taskers.
The crappy weather was actually a great help, it was relatively cool and the drizzle was refreshing.

Back to the batteries and I realised that the charger wasn’t keeping up now I had the fridge and other 12V devices powered up. On inspection the battery charger looked dead, and the power had been coming from the solar panels only. Not bad really, they had been enough to keep the boat happy while away. The battery charger was soon fixed, A corroded connecter in the mains supply panel was responsible. This was disappointing, I wonder how many other connections are like that. However As I explained to Kathy, these mains supply issues don’t really matter as they are only relevant when we are tied up and plugged in.

So I expect with the jet lag I will be up very early, which suits me, first light I want to get the bow sprit sorted, then I can relax.

I have lots of new toys to play with, the GoPro camera might provide some better videos, I have some radio toys (Pactor) to setup, and a new system to run the barbecue. So all good fun.

Paul Collister