More Hong Videos

Friday and we left Pan Yi just as the day trippers started arriving around 11 and decided to have lunch at Ko Khai as Kathy believed there was a good hong there. From there we would travel south to Ko Phanak, the island we started this trip around the bay from a few weeks ago.

Above you can see the route we took. Below I have zoomed in on a section not long after we left Pan Yi. You can see the course goes off in a swinging sine wave motion.

This is caused by the Auto-helm throwing a wobbly, It’s been doing this randomly for a while now and I have no idea why. It can be quite unnerving depending on where you are, and very annoying if beating with the sails close hauled and it causes you to tack and back the sails. The only thing that was a clue was the ERROR 67 that flashed on the screen every now and then, this error indicates the rudder feedback is missing. The unit should operate without feedback, just not as well. Anyway, as it was such a calm day, I thought I would investigate, and sure enough the weight of the cable loom in the rudder area had pulled a wire off the sensor connector block. An easy repair, the harness secured better and no more error 67. I also had no more wild course changes, but that may just be a fluke.

With that fixed we arrived at the Ko. It’s only a small island but it turned out to have an exquisite little hong, easy to access by dinghy.

There’s a little video here. Don’t poke fun at me leaving the sail up. For non yachties, it’s a bit like leaving your engine running with the keys in the ignition and the door open on the exit ramp of a multi storey car park, oh, and with an iffy handbrake. What could possibly go wrong. In actual fact there wasn’t a whisper of wind at all for a few hours around then.

Today we had a great trip into a long tunnel at Phanak, we forgot the torches, so that was fun. more on that later. No we are off to the Yacht Haven anchorage, then chilling, restock, and exit via immigration/harbour master early next week.


Paul Collister


A Weekend Ashore

Friday 17th Feb

As usual we were up early, having adapted to the routine common in most hot countries: to rise early in order to make the most of the cooler hours, and rest during the hottest part. Sleeping in would have been impossible anyway as we were in the middle of a busy longtail route and they start ferrying passengers back and forth early! The constant drone of their engines was beginning to get beyond irritating after an hour or so.  It was a relief, therefore when Paul was able to confirm a place at Krabi Boat Lagoon and we moved off immediately so that we would avoid the lowest tide on the route. It was a bit hairy anyway with mudbanks either side of us and the depth monitor showing mostly 3 metres but dropping to 2.8 at times. It only needs 1.5 for us to go aground and although it has happened before and Paul says it’s nothing to be scared of, it’s an unnerving sensation. Anyway we kept to the ‘path’ (mostly – Paul took a bit of a short cut to speed things up a bit) and then all we had to do was identify the entrance to the river.  Spotting things on the horizon at sea, it’s easy to become confused regarding perspective. We could see no way in even with the help of binoculars until we were fairly near. The landscape is a lot flatter in this area and there was a long row of trees forming part of the mangrove swamp at the edge of the marina entrance and they carried on almost all the way to the pontoons.  We were guided to our berth by Ben, the marina manager and once securely tied up we checked in with him at the office. Ben gave us some useful information and maps on the area.  By then it was 1 30 and too hot to do much else than work or read with the fans on in the cabin.  We went for a drink and dinner at the bar later (where they were more than happy to cater for my vegan, and Paul’s non-spicy requirements) and Paul arranged a hire car for the following day.

Noisy longtails at Ao Nang
Looking for the way in to Krabi Boat Lagoon

Boat Lagoon Entrance
Sister Midnight in her berth

Saturday 18th Feb

The early morning chorus of birds here makes you look up (or wake up) and take notice. Their cries are so different to those of the seagulls or wood pigeons back home. One bird’s very loud call sounds exactly like Mr Punch from Punch and Judy. I really thought it was someone on a nearby pontoon practising for that act (in Thai, naturally)! Paul, hearing it just as he was waking up, sleepily asked ‘is that a bird, or a screeching woman’?  The morning after that, Mr Punch’s cry was responded to by an even louder bird call similar to that of a jammed car alarm and this time Paul muttered ‘Crikey, I wouldn’t want to mess with him!’. Try as I might I could not get a glimpse of the birds so I have no idea what they looked like.  Anyway we collected our car on a very hot Saturday morning and drove out on to a village road bordered by lush, jungle-like vegetation. We also passed salt pans, which Paul explained are huge ditches filled with sea water and left to dry so that the salt can be collected and sold.  Further on, I noticed that Krabi Province differs from Phuket in quite a few ways. Tethered cows and bulls are a common sight: they graze in gardens, on roadsides and in fields –  but there are never more than two. The roads are considerably wider and colourful flowers often form part of the verges. Houses and gardens are well-tended, there are fewer shacks and roadside cafes appear smarter. There is an air of affluence here and yet it isn’t as much of a tourist destination as Phuket.

Our first stop was Ao Nong Beach which didn’t impress us much. It was crowded, tacky in places, and felt soulless, or maybe we expected more after observing the smart towns and villages we’d driven through. A little further on, though we found a fantastic café bar on the brilliantly-named TubKeak Beach. The view from the tables was glorious and we sat at one of them for a late lunch of Calamari and fries and a tomato sandwich for me. The guy who served us was a typically friendly Thai gentleman who couldn’t understand why I didn’t want any chicken in my sandwich. It was a lovely location to sit out the hottest part of the afternoon before heading into Krabi Town. Purely by chance we parked outside a gift shop that doubled as a second hand bookshop. It was a real treasure trove full of crime and thriller paperbacks…so Paul went off to look at the river for half an hour or so :).  In the town centre, we had a walk around and caused a bit of entertainment buying bread from a bakery. In quite a few shops and stalls in Thailand there is a system in operation whereby if no one is around or behind the counter, someone will suddenly appear, acknowledge us and then go off to fetch the owner/assistant. Admittedly this time we’d entered the cafe next door instead of the bakery but when we found the correct place, someone had to come and explain to the confused baker that we wanted to buy the big brown loaf we’d pointed at and we didn’t want it sliced. Both the lady baker and her helper thought this was quite amusing and got us to confirm it twice in case it was a joke. All I can think was that it was rather a large loaf for two people and as they don’t really go much for bread in Asia, we had probably stumbled into the bakery that provides for the cafe rather than a shop. Anyway it was very tasty bread.  Next it was on to the market in Krabi Walking Street. I found this much better than Patong’s larger street market, which can get a bit manic. This one reminded me of the kind of stalls and street food found at music festivals. After ambling around for an hour or so we were tired and still had the Tesco shop to do, but luckily we only had a few fresh items and drinks to stock up with so that didn’t take long. We used Google Maps to find our way back to the marina – sometimes it’s quite nice to get lost and come upon interesting places, but we were eager to get back for a rest and to plan where to go on Sunday.

Lunch at Tubkeak Beach
Our friendly waiter in the background

More browsing heaven
Krabi River
School band in Krabi Walking Street

Sunday 19th February

Before succumbing to sleep, we had looked at a few recommended places on the leaflets we’d been given, and on Trip Advisor and all of them praised a place called Tiger Cave Temple, which doesn’t have any real tigers thankfully, just the footprint of a very large one that is said to have lived in the caves at the top of a very high mountain and it came to be thought of as a sacred place. All recommended the stunning views from the summit and the beautiful golden Buddha statues –  and all warned of the strenuous climb to reach them. There are 1,237 steps to the top but they are very high steps apparently and the monkeys there can be vicious according to one lady on Trip Advisor whose review stated that she saw:

‘two monkeys attacking a lady descending a very steep ladder. We had to stop there as I didn’t want to risk my life’. (!)

Advice for visitors included the caution that the challenging climb is only for the very fit, puts a lot of strain on leg muscles and should definitely not be attempted on very hot days. It was a very hot day, and neither of us could be described as fit in the athletic sense. All the same I was quite tempted by the challenge and the promise of those views…until we contemplated the other place we’d looked at. Ben had urged us to visit Krabi Hot Springs, he had even marked it on a map for us. I had nodded politely at the time because I didn’t really know what a hot spring was. I’m not keen on saunas and hot tubs and assumed it was something like that. Paul explained that it would be relaxing, it had a pool – it even had a bar! Well it was getting a bit late in the day to attempt such a steep climb and as I’d never experienced a hot spring – ok I admit it, I was feeling too hot and lazy to tackle all those steps!

We set off for another brilliantly-named place: The Nattha Waree (not to worry?) Hot Spring Resort. Set in tropical gardens interspersed with nine hot spring pools, it’s a hotel resort and spa but welcomes day visitors for 300 Baht (about £7) each. We were given a towel and a bottle of cold water each when we paid, and once in our swimming gear we were free to roam around the lush gardens all day. It was practically deserted. We only saw two families the whole time we were there. The springs are graded by temperature, going up to 49 degrees and we started with the lowest one which was 39 degrees. Paul went in first and said it was really hot but felt wonderful. He immersed himself straight away and waded through the long pool with the water up to his shoulders. I could tell it was hot from the steam and I couldn’t help but wonder why anyone would want to get into such hot water when it was so very hot anyway, but since it wasn’t fair to deride it without trying it, in I went.  It was like a very hot bath, and it did feel nice but I still felt like I needed cooling off not heating up. We walked into most of the pools but baulked at the hottest one – it felt like boiling water just dipping a toe in.  The highlight for me was the fish therapy pool. I had seen them in shopping centres where people were queuing up to plunge their feet in water for fish to nibble at them and it hadn’t held any appeal. Here, no one else was around and I thought I might as well give it a go. At first I pulled my foot back out because it felt so strange but I gradually got used to it and loved it. It was like having my feet gently brushed with soft bristles and was very relaxing. Paul couldn’t get past the ticklish feeling so he left me there while he went to the pool for a swim. Once I could tear myself away I joined him there and spent a pleasant afternoon reading, swimming, and relaxing. The only thing missing was a massage facility. I think we made the right choice for the day though.  I had a look at some online images of the Tiger Cave Temple when we got back, and they weren’t exaggerating the steepness of those steps!

Before returning to Boat Lagoon we stopped at a tiny fishing village very nearer to the marina and took some pictures of this lovely place in the early evening sun.



Krabi to Ko PanYee or Ko PanYi (via Ko Dam Hok, Ko Hong & Ko Roi)

We left Krabi Boat lagoon (Marina) on Monday morning, the tide was very weird, I thought we would leave an hour later than high water the day before, tides advance by about an hour each day, but was shocked to find High water was about 5 hours later than the previous day. I wish I had time to work out what was going on. There was about ten hours between low and high water, instead of the normal six. The end result was the earliest we could leave was about 16:00 on a not very high tide, I was a little concerned, but the marina manager, Ben, who was most helpful during our stay, was confident we would make it, and it was on a rising tide anyway. So we left, I’m hoping there is a little timelapse of us leaving the pontoon below. The marina was lovely and I’m looking forward to returning one day.

With us only having 2-3 hours before dark, we couldn’t go too far and planned to anchor nearby, but once we cleared the mud flats, we had an hour of daylight left, just enough to reach the small island of Ko Dam Hok, a protective anchorage for all winds, just as the sun would be setting. When we arrived we saw a load of big mooring buoys, so we picked up one and called it  a day.

Tuesday and off to Ko Hong, the Krabi one, there’s another Ko Hong to the west. After a slowish sail we again found another lovely mooring buoy awaited us, here the water was so clear I took the GoPro with me for a swim. You can see the video below I hope, uploads of hundreds of megabytes take a while on a throttled 3g phone connection. You can just see some things, I’m calling them jellyfish, but they are just translucent bubbly alien looking creatures that float past me. I think they might explain some of the stings I have, one quite bad.

Ko Hong has a big hong, we dinghied in easily and then I rowed around, all day scores of day tripper boats had been ferrying holiday makers around, but we waited until later when they had all left. One other yachtie was motoring around in his dinghy, but once he left we had it to ourselves, and it was lovely and peaceful, a big hong, but at the current mid tide it had about 3ft of water in the middle, it was about the size of half a football field. the peace lasted just a moment, when a motor cruiser steamed in, full of screeching people with music blasting out. they anchored, and jumped into the water, screeching, shouting and singing along with the eurotrashy music that was blasting out and echoing around the hong. Kathy and I put on our best BBC “Disgusted of Cheshire” expressions, how very dare they! So we rowed on, our evil stares at them had no effect.
Wednesday we left at a leisurely pace, hoisted the sails and headed back to the middle of the bay. I had wanted to cut through the gap between Ko Yao Noi & Yai, stopping at a village there, but the pilot book recommends we need 2.5 metres of tide and we only had 2, so that plan was scrapped, I went back to the north of the island group and we headed for Ko Roi, which has an amazing Hong, accessible by a small cave like entrance. This Hong was the most amazing so far, massive inside, and populated with a huge bat colony.Kathy loved it and will no doubt write more about it. Pics below.
You can just see the entrance to the hong in the very centre of the picture. The hong is basically the whole of the inside of the island!

A small vid of the entrance



Inside is the harry potter forest of replicas

Looking out from the entrance


I also have a video clip of the bats here

Thursday we left early, partly because two huge catamarans turned up late last night, full of Russians, they’re not quite as reserved as us Brits, and they were here to party. They also liked to play their music loud, they anchored either side of us, just a little ahead, and spent a lot of time shouting between the two boats, when not jumping into the water. So by 08:30, we were off heading north to the small fishing village of Ko Panyi, this is an interested place, with a fascinating background, but Kathy will cover the detail, from my point of view, I loved how they had built a village on sticks clinging to the side of a big vertical walled island.  We arrived at about 11:30 just as 50 million tourists were brought here by long tail boats to feast on fresh fish, grown (not caught) in lots of fish farm nets all around the village. We are anchored right next to a large one. We went over to the village and waked around, what was once a self sufficient fishing community, has now become a tourist hot spot with many restaurants built onto the waterfront just to service the visitors. It’s been here a long time, and the sticks have mostly been replaced with concrete piles. While we were looking for somewhere to eat, much harder from the village inside than from the waterfront, only accessible by boat, a bit of a squall built up and I worried if we would drag, so we popped back to the boat, crossing a rougher river now.

The village from a distance

The kids here liked my dinghy, Scouse kids would have had a few bob off me by now to ‘look after my boat’ 😉


No land for a footie pitch, not a problem, but a slightly flawed plan if you ask me.

The local barber

Sister Midnight still there.

Tomorrow we head south, should make a fast passage with the wind behind us. Slowly working our way back to the Yacht Haven marina, then to check out of Thailand next week and head back south to Malaysia.

Koh Hopping to Krabi

The names of the various ‘kohs’, or islands we stopped at gradually became indistinguishable the more we visited. With unfamiliar language and a familiar, uninhabited landscape it’s easy to become disorientated when trying to recall events and descriptions. It’s made even more muddled by the fact that maps and charts often have different names and varied spelling for them. For example, Koh Jum is also known as Koh Pu. We began to find ourselves debating what such and such a place was called and when we were there. Or maybe that’s merely an ageing trait ;). Anyway, noting them down on paper helped and on the afternoon of Saturday 11th February, I can state with certainty that we were anchored near to the islands of Koh Kai and Koh Lo Lo. It took a little longer to get the anchor down because the chain was twisted. I was concerned that I hadn’t been flaking it correctly but Paul thinks it’s down to something else because it doesn’t always happen and I don’t vary my technique. After we’d had a bit of a motor around in the dinghy, checking out the three small Hongs around us (getting out for a closer look on one of them), the weather changed and a squall hit us.

Before the squall

There was nothing else for it but to sit in the cabin reading and dozing for the rest of the afternoon. When Paul woke up and checked the forecast he decided we needed to move on because the wind was set to increase in force and we would be too exposed in our current position.  It was indeed blowy during the short journey to a more sheltered spot, and actually felt quite chilly – a rare sensation in these parts. The new area was very remote and felt more so because there were no other boats around, the silence was absolute and the gloomy twilight as it began to get dark created a pleasingly eerie atmosphere (well I thought so anyway). Two specks moving around on the beach opposite were identified as clam collectors with the aid of binoculars. We had dinner, fell asleep on the sofa and woke around midnight when Paul said we had to move again. So we weighed anchor in the dark and motored slowly on to what turned out to be a very shallow part because sometime before dawn we went aground.

Twilight anchorage

Sunday 12th Feb

It wasn’t such a big deal going aground, although I had felt alarmed when Paul told me in the early hours. We’d just tilted a bit to one side and when the tide returned all was fine again. The morning was sunny, bright and still very windy. Koh Yang was our next Koh and we spent all of Sunday there with a couple of nearby Catamarans for company. Despite the strong gusts and a few showers of rain, we dinghied over to a secluded beach and got a bit of a shock when we stepped out and found ourselves ankle-deep in mud! I lost a flip flop and thought I’d seen the last of it but Paul gallantly trudged through the sticky mud to seek it out and reclaim it for me. The tiny island didn’t take long to explore. We returned to Sister Midnight on choppy water with a fine drizzle covering our faces and had the Thai version of pot noodle for dinner when we got back. We thought this would be a quick, filling and tasty meal; easy to prepare in rocky conditions, which it was except that Paul’s non-veggie one was so spicy he could hardly taste anything. We stayed all day Monday so that Paul could work and with the weather still threatening rough conditions we didn’t feel inclined to move. The bonus to sitting out such strong winds was that it tested the anchor well. We hardly moved at all even when the knots of wind reached the high 20s.

Cleaning off the sticky mud
Drizzly conditions

Tuesday 14th Feb

After another rocky and blustery night we discussed when and where to head for next and settled on slowly making our way towards Krabi Province on the east side of Phang Nga Bay. We filled the fuel tank and weighed and flaked the mud-caked anchor and motored off at midday. It was less windy – instead, we enjoyed a warm breeze and the sun on our faces as we skirted over the shallow, choppy water. The sea was calm by the time we arrived at Koh Chong Lat Tai at 2pm. There was no wind and it was very hot. Once we’d anchored and were fed and watered, we went to explore the very attractive-looking beach opposite, and as we approached it I was excited to see a small grey monkey (another lone one) scampering along on the western side of the sand.  It had disappeared by the time we beached the dinghy and I didn’t see any more unfortunately.  The beach was totally deserted but clearly has visitors from time to time. There was an eco-toilet, a few discarded bottles and cans, and evidence of a beach bonfire or barbecue. We guessed it might be used for campers as an ‘away from it all’ destination. It’s certainly a peaceful and serene location, although it’s also host to sand flies. These insects seem to like biting our feet whenever we come across them so we didn’t linger too long.

Approaching Koh Chong Lat Tai

Beautiful Chong Lat Tai
Sister Midnight sitting pretty at anchor
Where I spotted the monkey

Wednesday dawned cloudy and overcast with a cool breeze blowing. A fishing boat drew up alongside us in the morning, calling out the now familiar cry offering fish for sale. We looked out to see a man holding up a bunch of prawns, which Paul bought from him after a little bit of bartering over the price. They were bagged up and put in the fridge for him to look up how to cook them later, and we set out to investigate a nearby open Hong. It was fascinating to enter it and come upon the sight of fully grown trees sprouting out of the water. I finally got to see some bats in there (a few glimpses anyway), and some toads hopping on surreal rock formations among the mangroves.

Prawns anyone?

An open Hong

Mangroves inside the Hong

At 2pm we departed for Koh Ku Du Yai (you can see my point about how confusing it gets with all the names), and reached it by 4 o’clock after circling its circumference to find the most suitable spot. The water is very deep there but we managed to set the anchor in 12 metres. Paul did what needed to be done to prepare the prawns (it looked very messy and fiddly to me), cooked them in garlic with mushrooms and potatoes, and declared them delicious.

Thursday 16th Feb

More boats were anchored around us when we emerged into the cockpit in the morning and a few diving school boats were setting up equipment nearby. Fruit bats are said to be prolific in this area but on our dinghy trip we just saw lots of butterflies. The beach we landed on looked like it might have been a Hong once – the sea stacks around it could have been walls that had fallen away. It was nice to sit on the warm white sand taking in the exquisite scenes around us. The crew of a longtail boat whose passengers we’d spotted on a beach further along were on the other end of the shore cooking their lunch on an open fire (fish by the smell of it) while they waited to take their group back. We took a short walk on a narrow path through the dense jungle foliage behind us and when we returned we took the dinghy for a row around the water by the high rocky edges to look for bats.

Koh Ku Du Yai
Paul heading into the undergrowth for our jungle walk
Open Hong, Ku Du Yai

It was time to leave for Krabi at 12 30 so after weighing anchor in a stiff breeze, all three sails went up for the first time. Paul has described the passage in terms of wind speed and sail techniques in his post. My role, at the start, was to steer the boat into the wind when the mainsail was being hoisted – I failed to do it properly at first but got there in the end through trial and error ;). I also took over the helm a few times when we had to come off autopilot and Paul had to tend to other things. Conditions got rougher as we went along and with all the sails out the boat was leaning sharply to starboard. Things down below began to move around so I went below to adjust the stowing accordingly. At one point, a cupboard door flew open, releasing an assortment of toolboxes, tins and books flying onto the floor poltergeist-style. There was only a light shower of rain but the waves were high so all the windows and hatches had to be shut in case of splashes.  The rest of the journey to the anchorage at Ao Nang passed without any hitches but as Paul has stated, it felt strange to look out and see a lively mainland coast opposite us after enjoying the tranquillity of such remote and peaceful regions. We had only been away from that type of scene for just over a week. I can’t imagine how we’ll feel after a long Pacific crossing!  It was too far away to dinghy ashore for dinner so I made a salad with ingredients that were still fresh and tasty so the trip proved to be a good test of the fridge’s efficiency too.  As the evening wore on the shoreline reminded me of when we’d sailed past Benidorm one August night a few years ago.  I don’t mean that in a negative way, it looked like people were having fun at the bars lining the shore…albeit with the booming ‘EuroDisco’ soundtrack :). The firedancers on the beach looked amazing from our vantage point. We went to bed that night looking forward to seeing what Krabi had to offer us for the weekend.

Approaching Krabi Province








So Friday morning arrived and the wind had calmed and it was now a lovely hot morning. The constant buzz of long tails racing back and forth was a bit irritating so I phoned the Krabi boat lagoon to see if they had a berth, and I was advised to be at the entrance at 12:30 in order to get over the sand banks that surround the estuary entrance. So we had a slow breakfast while I worked out a route to get to the marina, however a quick estimate showed me it was 3 hours away and it was already 9. So up with the anchor and off, if we got there too late we would risk going aground. As we left Ao Nang bay, (Ao actually means bay, so that reads bay Nang bay) we hit some headwinds and the sea was still a bit rough, our speed dropped and I had to motor at max revs to get there on time. The marina is located in the mangroves some distance up a river, off another river, but before that there is a very shallow bay/estuary to cross. We had to motor very slowly over the sandbanks, most of the time in 3 metres of water. Once we were in the river it improved to 4 metres and everything was easy then

The marina is very quiet, situated in the mangroves and surrounded by salt pans, just down the road is a little fishing village, village might be overkill, about ten houses and some makeshift jetties, all on wooden sticks.

Once we had settled in we organised a car and went off to explore the area. It’s about 30 minutes drive from here to Krabi town, typically Thai, with markets and stalls. The river is very beautiful, and we drove on to a secluded beach another 30 mins past the main resort area. It’s a strange place, it seems most of the best beaches are only accessible by boat, many have hotels and resort complexes, all supplied by boat.

From a pleasant lunch at the beach we spent the evening in Krabi town, looking at the various stalls and picking up some fresh fruit.

I had to buy some new distance spectacles on account of my advanced forward planning strategy. Basically in the event of an afterlife existing, I figure Davy Jones will be involved, so I have sent a few items on ahead. I’m hoping to be reunited with them later, as I’m not sure if they have opticians, or a spannerworld in the afterlife. I know I’m going to be OK for caps, and now I definitely should be fine for specs after sending my last pair over the side last week!! So it was interesting going to an opticians to get an eye test when she didn’t speak any English. It all went well, I saw her on Saturday afternoon, and collected my new specs on Sunday morning, at a reasonable price too.

After collecting the specs, we went off to a hot water spring spa, that was very pleasant, a series of pools where very hot water cascaded down the hill passing through the various pools, each pool a little cooler, or should I say , less scalding, than the one feeding it. The first pool was stated to be 49deg C, too hot for me. I did like the 39 deg one, and spent some time relaxing in that.

Back on the boat now and we have a new neighbour who arrived while we were out, a Cabo Rico 38, this is a classic boat, very much in the style of a Baba, but a bit more classic looking, with a very fancy bit of scrollwork at the bow.

So Keith, the owner, and I discussed varnish, as you do, then we went for dinner at the marina (me and Kathy, that is)

Tomorrow we cast off our lines and head out back to sea. Ko Yao being our first destination, but because the high water tide is now a couple of hours later than when we arrived, and not as high, we won’t get out of here till after 2 pm and may have to anchor somewhere locally for the night. We want to be back in Phuket, no later than next weekend as our visas expire soon and we have to get sailing south to Malaysia.

Paul Collister






Great sailing today

This morning we woke in Ko Ku Do Yai and explored an old hong that had collapsed in several places and was easy to access from the sea. There were some lovely beaches within, and a little path that led to another nice beach.

This island is home to a lot of bats, but I only saw butterflies. Back to the boat and off into a darkening sky with a rising wind, The wind was from the East, and we were heading mostly South East, so I was hoping to get the new sails up and see how they worked. It would have been a three hour trip by motoring at 5.5 knots and we had 6 hours, so I figured we should take advantage of the flattish seas and a 10 knot rising wind to see how she handles.

As we headed out into the bay, we noticed lots of yachts heading down from the north, later we could see that they were all anchoring at the Paradise resort on Ko Yao, it turns out this was the 20th Bay Regatta, and looks like a great event. Perhaps we could enter this next year.

I was able to get all the new sails flying fairly quickly, the staysail wouldn’t fully unfurl, and a trip to the bow showed me the furling line had bunched up on the drum and looking closer I could see the frame around the drum was egg shaped, must have been bashed at some point. Not a big deal to sort anyway.
So straight away I could feel the difference, we picked up speed quickly and where making  great speed, quite close to the wind. Adjusting the sail trim, I found we could get very close to the wind, much better than before. The wind continued to pick up, and by the time we reached Krabi, we had 20 knots on the nose, and quite big waves, the wind had backed a bit so I had to tack for the last leg, this was great, I went further than I needed to on the first leg as I wasn’t sure what angle the boat would tack through, before it was about 120 degrees, but now it was more like 80 degrees, I need to do more work, but you can see how we easily manage 90 degrees on the track above.
I have found that my wireless wind meter on the masthead is a bit rubbish, I can’t rely on it at all, it was reading 10 knots the other night, when it was howling and the boat was tipping over at anchor, my handheld meter was registering 20-25 knots. Today I had full sail up, too much really for the conditions by the end of the day.
Arriving at Krabi was weird, seeing a road with cars on it was slightly unnerving, we haven’t seen any roads, power cables, vehicles or buildings for ten days now.  We have only seen a sprinkling of people as well, but now it seems like we are in Disney land, we can hear dance/house music blasting from a long shoreline, backlit with hotels and restaurants, fire-eaters are illuminating the beach with their dance routines and we are surrounded by long-tails whizzing around ferrying tourists to the various islands off the coast here.
We have had to anchor some distance from the shore as it is too shallow up close, and as it’s now raining, windy and the sea is a bit choppy, we haven’t ventured ashore. Tomorrow maybe. I would like to see if we can get a berth in the marina here so we can travel into the town and check out the area.

Paul Collister


More of the same really

We stayed an extra day tucked behind Ko Yang as the wind was quite strong and gusty from the north, It was a nice enough spot and the anchor was holding well against 20-30 knot gusts.
I have a system I’m using with the anchor now, it seems to work very well, but it still needs refinement. We have a problem that here the currents tend to run quite strong 2-3 knots most of the time, and I think that the long keel shape of our hull dictates that we always face into the current, no matter how windy it gets. So we often find ourselves pointing one way, say east, because thats where the tidal flow comes from, yet the wind from the west pushes us to the length of our anchor chain. This puts the anchor chain under the hull of the boat, this is worst case, more often it’s somewhere between, and the anchor chain is shooting of to the side of the boat, when it’s going to the port side , it rubs on the bobstay and makes a most unsettling noise.
The solution I’m testing, is a line of rope from the fitting at the bottom of the bobstay which goes to a hook on the anchor chain. I might have mentioned this on a previous post, This rope is nylon, about ten metres long and does several things, 1) It acts like a snubber, putting some elasticity into the system, so we don’t see any shock loads. 2) It keeps the chain away from the bobstay so we don’t get any chafing or scraping there. 3) It lowers the angle of the anchor rode to the sea bed effectively increasing the ‘scope’ of the anchor. The scope is all about the angle between the anchor rope and the sea bed, the lower the better. In 5 metres of water, we would want 25 metres of chain for a 5:1 scope, when you add another 2 metres from the water surface to the bowsprit platform, you are effectively reducing the scope to less than 4:1. Anchors work best when the pull is horizontal along the seabed, and worst when the pull is upwards. So far this works well, my only concern is that when the rope is rubbing against the hull it must be chafing on the sharp barnacles there. It doesn’t matter if it snaps, as the slack chain is still there to take up the strain.

On Sunday there was a break in the wind so we left, the forecast was for the wind to stay strong, so our visit to a muslim fishing village was called off, looking at the chart, there didn’t seem much shelter there. We headed over to Ko Yang where we had better shelter, we dinghied around a bit and I finished off the software and installed it on a server back in the UK. I love the idea of working on my two servers, one in Utah and the other in the UK from a cosy anchorage here. The time zones work out well to, I can do my work early before anyone is up back home, do some sailing through the day, then come tea time, take calls and answer emails.
We were joined in this little sheltered cove by several other ‘sunsail’ and ‘Moorings’ charter yachts, 4 boats in total, this is the most crowded spot we have been in so far!

Tuesday was still not great weather, but we decided to race across to the far side of the bay, this is in the region called Krabi, with a town of the same name. We went to the top of the area and found a lovely secluded bay on the SW corner of Ko Chong Lat Tai, where we went ashore. Most of these bays are on uninhabited islands with only access by sea, so very unspoilt, other than debris washed up. Kathy spotted a monkey strolling along the beach. I spotted that we had a deflating tube on the dinghy, that didn’t take long! I have searched for a leak and can’t find one, now I have pumped it up again, it has stayed ok. I’m trying to convince myself that the act of searching for the leak, somehow gained me brownie Karma points with the dinghy and it has self healed, I know it’s a long shot, but what else can I do.

This is a lovely island, we dinghied around the various mini islands that are littered everywhere, we motored into what was probably once a hong, but one side had collapsed exposing it to the sea, we just managed to get the dinghy in over a very shallow rocky entrance, and had a lovely paddle around. Kathy has some good pics.

The next morning (Today, Wednesday) we were approached by local fishermen offering their wares, I bought some big prawns, dinner for tonight. They aren’t that cheap, £5 for 1/2 kg, but they will make a lovely meal, and I don’t begrudge the locals some business at all. It’s not everyday you get to eat prawns that freshly caught.

So we weighed anchor and headed south, we are aiming to be in Krabi town area in a few days time, we may go into the marina there for a day, just to restock on water and fuel. We have two stops on the way, tonight we are at Ko Ku Du YaiOne other yacht just arrived but it’s very quiet here, we are wedged into a very small channel between the two islands. There is easy access to some hongs here, which we will explore tomorrow before heading of to the other famous hong that’s called Ko Hong, not to be confused the hong at Ko Hong (west). I’m getting the hang of the hongs now (groan).

Paul Collister






Hanging Out At The Hongs

Wednesday 8th Feb Koh Phanak

The high-pitched whine of mosquitoes disturbed my sleep during the latter part of Tuesday night, and in the end I put the fan on next to the bed to drown out their noise, thus giving them free rein to feast on me. It’s always amazed me that such a tiny insect can create such a loud noise. The result of their attacks on my skin finally led me to get up to apply some calamine lotion to relieve the itchiness. We generally rub deet-based repellent on ourselves in the evening but thought we’d be mosquito free so far from land: apparently not! In the cockpit having coffee later in the morning, we sat looking out at the vista around us. The sea was flat calm and in the distance two men on paddle boards could be seen heading our way. It was quite a surreal sight, especially because from so far away the paddle boards weren’t visible so it looked as though they were floating on the water.  Paul was busy working on a computer programme so we stayed put and had a very relaxing day.

Thursday 9th Feb

When it was time to weigh anchor and move on, I got into position to carry out my role as anchor flaker. This involves getting my head and shoulders in the anchor locker to grab the chain as it comes in and then layer it to prevent it from getting tangled, twisted or stacking up too high. Paul washes the mud off (most of it) so it comes down wet, dirty and smelling slightly of fish – rubber gloves are essential! Before heading out to a different part of the bay we motored around the whole of Phanak Island to look at its stunning geography, which seemed almost lunar in places. The geographical features of The Hongs are fascinating to look at even for people not into geology. The whole of the Phang Nga Bay area is ideal for seeing the effect water and nature have on the coastal landscape – the caves, strata, stalactites and stalagmites, on and around the cliff faces create remarkable images, such rocks looking like candlewax which has dripped and hardened into huge lumpy dribbles. The most obvious feature is that of a Hong itself. They were discovered relatively recently by pilots during World War Two who spotted the hollowed out islands from the air. Without going into intricate detail about how it’s formed, a Hong, to quote from the Pharrell Williams song is basically ‘a room without a roof’ – a very tall, often circular, room with beautiful flora and fauna adorning its walls.


Friday 10th Feb

We’d hoped to beat the day tripper boats by setting out in the dinghy at 8am, but one had already pulled up on the beach as we were getting in. A group of about 12 people could be seen wading through the water to access a cave leading to the Hong. ‘I can do that’ I thought. Beaching the dinghy proved easy – we’ve been experimenting with various ways of launching, lifting and carrying it and are growing more competent each time we do it. The captain of the adventure boat advised us to pull it up as far as possible and warned us that it was very dark in the cave. ‘Ok’, I thought, ‘well we have a torch – it’ll be fine.’  The last few people on the tour were guided round the corner, ducking down to avoid the stalactites above their heads (all had helmets on so it seems health and safety operates in some areas). Making sure the dinghy was secure we began to wade into the water and I felt a stirring of misgiving. The water was a bit murky and came almost to the top of my legs. I had my iPhone in a waterproof bag around my neck because since Paul’s got ruined we use mine for photos but I was worried about stumbling and damaging it. As we rounded the corner the water got shallower and I could see the cave and the tunnel ahead. It looked very dark and narrow and there was no sign of the people who’d gone in before us. I had more misgivings. We walked on and I began to feel things sticking to my legs, which in all probability, were leaves or twigs but my imagination turned them into leeches or jellyfish. I bent to bat them off but didn’t want to hold on to the slimy walls to keep my balance, and by now we were having to bend down because the cave roof was low. I couldn’t see an exit ahead, the entrance was getting further behind us, it was dark and I could feel panic setting in. That’s when I knew I couldn’t go any further, especially if I wanted to get out quickly. Paul was enjoying the whole thing and I didn’t want to spoil the experience for him, so after a short ‘discussion’ about what to do we agreed that I should return and he should carry on. I gave my phone to him and hurried back towards the light. Another tour group was making their way in as I exited, so two boats were now parked on the beach when I got back. The crew smiled at me when I told them I didn’t like it. The ten minutes I spent on the tiny beach waiting for Paul were very pleasant. I sat by the dinghy and listened to the guys chatting to each other while they had their breakfast, thinking about what a wuss I’m becoming as I get older. At least I gave it a try. Apparently I only needed to go another 50 yards to have seen the beautiful Hong Paul described in his post but I have no regrets. Below are a few of the shots Paul took.


Our next jaunt in the dinghy, a couple of hours later was much more to my liking. We went slowly round the north coast of Phanak, stopping to take pictures and to take a closer look at the lush vegetation. Always on the lookout for wildlife, I was delighted to see a huge lizard basking in the sun on a ledge high up on the cliff side, and then a solitary monkey who seemed to take an interest in us from its position up in the trees. The light was perfect for this type of trip and I was captivated by the beauty of it all, especially as the dinghy is so comfortable to sit and gaze in. I took lots of pictures in an attempt to capture the picturesque scenes passing before me.


We reached our next destination later that afternoon. Koh Yai proved to be a bit of a tricky place to anchor in because there were lots of shallow parts and during our first attempt, Paul bent over the guard rail to adjust a rope and his last good pair of glasses fell off his T shirt straight into the water. He’s now attached makeshift lanyards to his remaining pairs. At least no caps have been lost overboard this time.

Saturday 11th Feb

Another early start to check out a Hong that promised to be less claustrophobic than the first one. It wasn’t surprising to see a tour boat unloading its passengers into kayaks as we neared the entrance. Kayaks or canoes are ideal for going into the narrow, low-roofed tunnels and we were asked several times if we wanted to hire one as we passed the tour companies. During the tour, the guide sits at the back with two passengers in front of him and relates information about the formation, wildlife and vegetation etc. of the Hong. We hung back and watched intending to wait until all the kayaks had entered before venturing in. Each guide who passed us delivered a warning that was either about the dinghy being too wide, the state of the tide, or the fact that we must wait until after their tour boats had gone in. It might have been all three of those, but as the last one went in he turned and gave us a beaming smile and beckoned us to follow him. I felt more secure in the dinghy despite the fact that the tunnel was narrow and low. I did wonder if we would fit through the narrower parts but by holding on to the (dry) walls and pushing ourselves along we navigated it through to the exit. We emerged into a beautiful lagoon with high sides, covered with lush green foliage and creepers; it was easy to imagine that a roof once covered the top. The tour boats were moving onto a narrower tunnel that was definitely too small for us so we rowed around the lagoon, took a few pictures and prepared to go back, just as a second lot of kayaks came through. One of the rowers looked very concerned when he saw us and gestured that the tide was rising, then another urged us to get going quickly. There followed a bit of a ‘boat jam’ where we tried to keep out of the way of the kayaks entering while pushing back along the walls as fast as we could. Paul thought they were being a bit over cautious and that they wanted us to hire one of their kayaks. The water hadn’t risen to an alarming level but it was good to back in the open anyway. There were lots of birds around and we had the binoculars so spent a bit of time rowing around scanning the trees and cliff sides for other signs of wildlife. The eagles were magnificent – soaring so gracefully above the highest of the treetops. We startled several herons and I recognised swallows but couldn’t name any of the other birds we saw.  I’m hoping we’ll see bats in some of the sea caves we visit next week. More pics of the Hong experience below.

Entrance to a Hong
One of the tour boats inside the Hong
There is an Eagle up there somewhere
The exit in sight
Inside the tunnel


We’re a “Stuck in the mud”

Not really, but we dried out last night and sunk into the mud a foot or so. No big deal, should have read the notes I later found that said the tidal range here is a metre higher than the tide tables say. Also the charts are not very accurate in this area.

So Friday morning, up early and a dinghy ride over to our first hong. We beached the dinghy, pulled it up the beech, and failing to find anything to tie it too, I dug an anchor into the shell like sand, better than nothing. The tide was rising and the beech itself would be gone in a couple of hours, so I felt I ought to make an effort.

The entrance to this hong is through a long tunnel, the water was up to our knees, but would be closer to our heads at high water. It wasn’t a long tunnel, but very dark and my torch wasn’t really up to the job. It was a lot better though once I took off my sunglasses Duh. we got half way in, it was very disorientating, as it twisted and turned, all the time the water got deeper. Kathy decided to go back, she’s not mad about walking in water in the dark towards an uncertain future. I waited until I could see her leave the tunnel and proceeded, it was only another 50 meters and I emerged into a lovely grotto like world. An inside out island, basically a cylinder cutout from the island with a small lagoon in the middle, prehistoric and quite enchanting.

Then we had a motor around the island in the dinghy, getting close to the overhanging stalactites. Back to The boat and off to Ko Hang, or Ko Hong as it’s sometimes called.

Here is a hong everyone visits, Kayaks constantly pour into and out of the caves, you can get in by dinghy, but it’s not recommended unless near low water, but what the hell, I gave it a go. It was close getting back, as we only just fitted into the tunnel, with the rising tide. You can see the gap below, thats just about the width of the dinghy and the only way out until the tide goes out in 6 hours time.

Above we returned to a lovely lagoon where we could see Sister Midnight happy at anchor in the distance.

From Phanak, we went up towards James Bond Island, as it has become known since it starred in “The man with the golden gun”, I can only vaguely remember the film, and have no great desire to go to the island, unlike half of the tourists who visit Phuket and Krabi, the day trip boats are constantly arriving here to drop people off.

By now, Saturday, the weather had got worse, the wind was gusting 20-25 knots from the north, and we had a few rainy squalls blow through. We took shelter that night behind an island that should have protected us from the north round to the east. The wind is meant to be in the east, but the wind backed to NNW so the wind blew hard on us, We dragged our anchor, which was fine, as these things will happen, and I thought it good practice to reset it in the dark at midnight with the wind blowing hard. There was a big rock in the water behind us, but I reckoned the wind would take us past it if the worst came to the worst then we had a good mile before the shallows. We re-anchored fine, except I went a little too close to the shore, and was woken at 5am by the distinct feeling I was going to roll off the bed, we had about a 20 deg list to starboard. I checked we hadn’t moved too much, and went to back to bed wondering how 5m minus 2m can equal 1.3m, still all was fine, when I woke up we were floating again. I cooked Sunday breakfast of poached eggs, and we then headed off to the North East for our next destination, near a fishing village built on sticks, but the wind was very strong, the sea a bit rough and there was no guarantee of any great shelter there, so we swung around and came back to anchor just behind a little island called Ko Yang, which is a lovely spot. However the wind is still strong, and little blasts keep hitting us and tipping the boat around. Not enough to spill any of Kathy’s wine fortunately.
By the way, it might seem like paradise out here, but you try finding a plumber in paradise who can come out to the boat and unblock the system! The problem is the usual calcification of the pipes and fittings, blockage removed, and all is good again, but there’s a bigger job there for sometime in the future.
We are going to stay here until this bad patch of weather passes, we will dinghy ashore in a moment to explore this lovely little island and take some pics.

Paul Collister


From The Big Buddha to The King of the Hongs

On Monday (6th Feb) we set off early to collect the hire car. An early start was needed in order to carry out the series of tasks on the ‘to do’ list so that we’d be ready to depart the following morning.  The priority, and therefore first task on the agenda, was to get Paul’s stitches out. We were expecting to be in the hospital for some time, especially when we arrived there and saw how busy it was. Yet after presenting himself at reception with the medical card he’d been given the week before, he seemed to get ‘fast-tracked’ through to the treatment room. It looked to us like he’d jumped the queue because lots of people were seated in the waiting area outside the treatment room but his name was called over the tannoy before he even had a chance to join them. Paul had experienced this type of preferential treatment in Afghanistan and wasn’t comfortable with it but we couldn’t be certain that was the case and whatever the reason for such a speedy service, it meant we were out of there within 20 minutes. The next stop was a Post Office for Paul to get his damaged iPhone weighed and posted back to the UK for the insurance claim. Unfortunately, mobile phones – even those with no batteries in – are on the list of prohibited items for posting, along with live animals, drugs, pornographic material and Buddhas! On we went to Boat Lagoon to collect the penultimate item on Paul’s list of essentials to buy for the boat: a Danbuoy, a good thing to have as part of lifesaving equipment. The last item to buy is a life-raft which we’ll get nearer the time we’re due to hit the big wide ocean. Rolly Tasker Sailmakers was next so that Paul could re-buy the rope that ended up in the marina during his accident. With all that done we were free to take in some of the sights we hadn’t managed to fit in before we left for the Christmas holiday.

The first of these was The Big Buddha. This huge white marble statue sits on top of the wonderfully-named Nakkerd Hills near Chalong. We’d seen it from several vantage points during our drives around Phuket, and although a visit to it had been recommended by Giles, I thought seeing it up close wouldn’t be worth such a steep hike up there in the heat.  Anyway we were fairly near to it, and since it appears in Phuket’s Top 10 sights to see, we decided to pay a visit. Luckily we were able to drive all the way on a winding coast road which was very picturesque – although I was a bit perturbed by the sight of elephants chained and tethered in tiny enclosures outside houses or cafes on the roadside. One contained a mum and baby with a sign advertising rides on the baby elephant for children. This sort of ‘attraction’ will be banned completely one day I’m sure – I hope so anyway.

The Big Buddha

A Golden Buddha

Some Wise Monkeys

We were pleasantly surprised to discover that visiting the Big Buddha was totally free: no admission fee or parking charges. There was even a free hot vegetarian buffet near the entrance – we weren’t ready to eat at that point otherwise we would have taken advantage of it. It turned out to be well worth the visit despite the intense heat. There was plenty of information about its construction, history and Buddhism itself, along with accounts from famous devotees and how it has influenced people’s thinking. Interesting to discover that to have tattoos of the Buddha’s image is disrespectful and that you should never buy a souvenir or picture that is just of the Buddha’s head – it has to show his whole body.  We had a leisurely walk round, taking pictures and looking at the statues. Renovation and ongoing improvements are taking place and discretely placed donation boxes invite contributions towards the upkeep.  Buying souvenirs from the shop also helps so I did the shop while Paul opted for the donation box ;).

Our second sight to see was Siray Island on the east coast of Phuket.  You’d hardly know it was an island except for the road bridge you cross to get to it. One website describes it as ‘Phuket 20 years ago’ and it definitely has a completely different feel to it than the Phuket we’ve become used to. It’s a lot less touristy and parts of the leafy coastal road reminded me of Mediterranean Europe. We passed luxury villas, resorts, rustic farmhouses and exclusive private dwellings. It seems Siray is the wealthy part of Phuket. Before we saw all that though, the place that caught our attention just as we drove over the bridge, was the monkey viewing platform overlooking the mangrove swamp where they live. Locals and visitors can buy or bring bananas and peanuts to feed them. They come right up to you and take food from your hand – not aggressively, just a bit ‘snatchy’ and they are extremely quick. I wasn’t brave enough to do it but other people were and it was fascinating to stand and watch – both the feeding frenzy on the platform and the antics of the monkeys in the swamp. Good also to watch them in their natural environment, especially after seeing the plight of the elephants earlier in the day.

Entrance to Monkey Hill
Paul makes a new friend

Back on the coast road, we stopped the car at one high point to get out and photograph the breathtaking view over Phang Nga Bay. Just as we stood wondering about an unfinished road and a plot of land that had been cleared for some purpose, a motorbike drew up and the driver came up to wish us good afternoon. He was a local man and stopped to have a chat with us. The area we were looking at, he told us, was going to have a hotel built on it. Apparently, Chinese business men had commissioned it but the deal fell through due to corruption according to him. He supposed we would be going to see James Bond Island in Phang Nga Bay and was surprised when we said probably not. He in turn surprised me, since he’d lived all his life here, when he complained about how hot it was that day – much too hot he said.

Paul on the plot of land a hotel was to be built on

We had one more place to see before a planned late lunch/early dinner at Yanui Beach. Cape Promthep is a popular spot to see the sun set, and has stunning views across the bay. There were steps to climb and it was still baking hot but once again it was worth it when we reached the top. The breeze up there was wonderful and people were making the most of it by standing on the walls and letting the wind catch their scarves and shawls to create flowing, model-like poses. We didn’t do that ;).

Cape Phromthep

At Yanui Beach we chose the restaurant we’d eaten at on our first beach tour in October. The food and service wasn’t as good this time but the setting was as charming as ever, and it was enough to sustain us during the last supermarket shop we’d do for a month or so. We didn’t get back as late as the previous week and thankfully had no mishaps getting it all on to the boat.

We left Yacht Haven as planned, late in the morning of Tuesday 7th February. Paul arranged for a marina dinghy to assist us out of the berth in case the propeller had gathered up growth in the time it’s been sitting there which would have made make it tricky to manoeuvre out. Our journey was to be a very short one anyway and the weather was calm enough for us to take our time in order to check things were performing as they should.  The prop did need scraping and when we anchored at 1pm for lunch, Paul combined his cooling off swim with carrying out that task. There wasn’t enough wind to try out all the new sails but the Yankee sail was up for a while and the sheets which had proved tough to move, were now easier to furl. Setting off after lunch provided an opportunity to use the new deck wash pump to clean the mud off the anchor chain, which is a great aid. There is a slight problem with the trip switch being underrated, which means it cuts out when it overheats but as long as it’s not running for too long it works fine and it beats scrubbing the chain with a broom and a bucket of sea water.

It was a beautiful afternoon –  very hot and sunny, so even the slight breeze was most welcome when it came at around 4 o’clock, just as we chose our first anchorage in Phang Nga Bay.  Koh Phanak loomed in front of us – a stunning sea mountain coloured different shades of green due to all the trees growing out of its rockface. The turquoise water surrounding us was mill pond calm and it was so peaceful: a beautiful location to begin our tour of the area. Anchoring was a doddle and all we had to deal with then was the oppressive heat. A cold shower soon sorted that out and as the sun began to lose its power we sat up above until it set. Lights from the coast of Phuket twinkled in the distance but Phanak Island, towering over us on the other side was totally dark, and seemed to be a lot closer in the twilight. We could hear birds chattering in the trees but apart from that, and the odd longtail fishing boat motoring by, it was completely quiet. That state, especially after the heat of the day made us feel drowsy and after we’d had a dinner of salad in the cockpit we didn’t see much more of the evening. Phanak is described as King of The Hongs in a guide that Jack from the marina gave us before we left, and I was looking forward to seeing if it lived up to that reputation.

Sunset at Koh Phanak