All alone in Malaysia

Kathy is back in Liverpool now and I’m having to endure this relentless heat on my own. Actually, I decided to go crazy now she has left and yesterday I headed off into town for some fun. First stop was the department store where I bought an omelette pan, guess what I’m having for dinner tonight, and a food processor. Next I bought a giant bag of kit-kat chocolate bars, it’s going to be wild back on the boat tonight, I have already ground some coffee beans up that I’ve had since Tim was here and made a very strong cup of coffee. I might even make up a smoothie with all the fruit that’s hanging around (literally) on the boat.

Seriously I have made a list of the chores and tasks to work on. They are:

  1. Work out where our next stop is, somewhere between Africa and America (not the Atlantic side) is as close as I have it now.
  2. Sort out the head waste system, somehow the holding tank is filling up, yet it’s not connected!
  3. Get the engine looked at, it’s like I used to be, smoking and drinking too much
  4. Get a new canopy made, the current ones won’t last much longer
  5. Get the boat hauled out, the hull checked for damage after the grounding, and some new antifoul
  6. Get the water-maker into service
  7. Source some new solar panels, these computers/phones use more power than I thought
  8. Buy a liferaft
  9. Wash the hull and polish, this could wait till the haulout
  10. Fit the WiFi aerial.

There’s quite a few other minor jobs as well, but these are my main tasks I need to complete in the next week or two, certainly before Kathy gets back.

I have uploaded these two videos to accompany Kathy’s blog about the river trip in Tarutao, It doesn’t look as good as it was, honest. I’m still trying to learn what works and what doesn’t, probably should have taken a video making course before I started this trip. Must also remember to keep the lens clean, sorry 🙁

Going in

Heading home

Paul Collister

Royal Langkawi Yacht Club (again)

We are back in the yacht club, it’s not like a real yacht club that we have back home, this is a marina, and now it’s grown to quite a big commercial operation. The office hangs off the end of a large development of apartments/hotel rooms, trendy designer shops and the usual array of franchised food and drink outlets. However, having said that you can see from the header picture I just uploaded, you get some cracking sunsets from Charlie’s bar. The complex is a short walk from a decent shopping mall, and a nice walk a little further into town, but not for the faint hearted when the suns out. I’m ok being an Englishman (mad dogs and all that).
We have had a week here, and haven’t done a lot really, the gang of grey ships we passed through on the way into the harbour were part of a huge military showcase here for the International Maritime and Air Festival, I think that’s the front for what is more honestly known as an arms fair. But we have had fighter jets flying overhead all week, some of them are very noisy. It coincides with school and public holidays, so the whole island has been rammed.
I was very pleased to find my favourite hardware store here stocked the cable I needed for the broken gear stick, so I picked up two, as the throttle cable is the same age, and presumably on its way out. It took the best part of two days to change the cable, as the steering had to come off, the bracket on the engine was seized, on and I had to saw off the connecting rod and fabricate a new one. I took the opportunity, while I was deep in the bowels of the boat to do a few other jobs, like cleaning the raw water filter, and generally cleaning the hull inside. I also managed to identify a couple of jobs to add to the list, like replacing one of the water hoses, that seemed a bit crunchy when squeezed.
I have put a few pictures of the binnacle, which is the thing that has all the engine and steering controls on it, mostly so I can remember how it all works in the future 😉

The new cables waiting to be connected

The gear works well, but I have a problem with tension on the throttle, I have a practical solution, involving a clamp, but it’s abhorrent to me as an engineer, so I’m musing on a better solution, I will probably post to the baba owners group for their wisdom on the matter. Basically a big spring at the engine end is always pushing the throttle back to idle, much like the spring on a car’s accelerator peddle, but unlike a car, you don’t keep your foot on the throttle, you need cruise control, the clamp I took off, basically crushes the cable casing onto the wire inside, that can’t be right.
Still, I have a strong elastic band that works amazingly well for now 🙂

The authorities here threw a maritime parade for the holidaymakers this week, about a dozen big cats, motor boats and old schooners were dressed up with lights and TV screens and paraded around the harbour/bay for a couple of hours, they seemed popular, I can understand that as the Malaysians seem to love their bright LED lights, and these boats were so decorated, that to me they looked like garish fruit machine/one armed bandits, on steroids. One catamaran had the whole side covered in a wall of flat screen tvs displaying flashing lights, 80 style pop video effects and adverts. 

The fireworks at the end were nice, above the giant plastic eagleFinally I managed to upload one of my videos, it’s me and kathy swmming around the boat in Ko Phi Phi. The boat is in about 8 metres of water, so clear.
Let me know if it doesn’t work.

We are hiring a car tomorrow, it’s Kathy’s last day here, so we are going to take a ride to the top of the big hill here in the gondola ‘sky ride’ and also stock up on a few bits and pieces. We will also check out the food festival in Chenang.

Paul Collister



Journey to Koh Lipe

Saturday 11th March   The Stony Magnificence of Koh Pethra

We weren’t in too much of a hurry to move on from Koh Muk this morning, so it was 10 30 before we weighed anchor and began the journey to Pethra. Not far into the journey, however, Paul noticed the instrument panel wasn’t showing any life so we couldn’t monitor the temperature or the engine revs. We had to stop so that he could do checks on it until he fixed the problem (the sealed fuse was intermittent apparently).

It was midday by the time we motored off and by 2 o’clock we were once again able to have all three sails up and no engine. The next three hours were very chilled. Captain Mainwaring, our trusty autohelm performed well with the steering while we watched out for marine traffic and life (no dolphins at all have been seen yet, although they are around apparently).  Pethra from a distance was long and large with high, undulating rocks. We motored around it to locate the most sheltered area.  The steep side of the biggest mountain on the island’s eastern side blocked the sunlight and gave us instant relief from its heat and glare.

Koh Pethra

It was 5 30 by then and we also felt the benefit of a cooling gusty wind. There was only one catamaran in the distance and a couple of longtails moored near a tiny fishing village on the beach further along. The sea swell made it a bit rolly on board but, not unbearably so and it was peaceful enough for an overnight stop. Paul had the rest of his squid for dinner along with some of my homemade veggie burgers. We were able to eat in the cockpit and watch the moon rise.

Pethra’s steep rock faces are home to thousands of sea swallows and it’s a protected island, so it isn’t possible to go ashore. We heard all sorts of different bird calls after the sun had set. With the time, and the silence to actually listen instead of merely ‘hearing’ them in the background, it sounded almost as if they were communicating with each other. It’s nice to think these birds have the island to themselves. Not all the birds of Thailand’s islands have been so lucky. The delicacy known as bird’s nest soup comes from the dried saliva the swallows or swifts use to build their nests and these have been illegally plundered, threatening the birds’ habitat as well as the environment. The nests are mostly commercially produced now but some guide books warn that rangers on protected islands are armed with guns to deter nest thieves.

Sunday 12th March  Tarutao National Park

We set off for Tarutao at 8 30 and on the way I read up about it in our out of date (1999) pilot guide. It was described as old, mysterious and primitive with sea turtle nests, a library and a museum. No wonder Paul had told me it would tick all my boxes. The sea was virtually deserted and very calm with diamond-like sparkles on its surface, and watching them was almost hypnotic after a while. At midday Paul pointed out Malaysia coming into view in the form of Langkawi Island and I realised how much I’m looking forward to seeing it again. It was the first place I spent any length of time when I came to Asia last August so it feels a bit like a home environment if that makes sense. Meanwhile, we had western Tarutao to explore. This island was our first port of call back in October when we left Langkawi but we had stopped on the eastern side when the weather had been windy and rainy. This time we picked up a mooring buoy in weather hot and sunny enough to require putting our canopy up for protection.

Koh Tarutao (view from our anchorage)

We pulled up on to the main beach at 4pm so that we could check in at the ranger’s office. Tarutao is a national park so there is a small admission fee (about £5) that goes towards its upkeep. It’s also an eco-tourist destination and is popular with backpackers because the basic accommodation is cheap and tents and sleeping bags can be hired for sleeping on the beach. After a brief chat with the ranger we went for an exploratory walk. The chalet-style accommodation is scattered throughout the wooded area, which also has shower facilities and a restaurant. We came upon the library which contained some intriguing old books, while a few modern paperbacks formed what was probably a book swap facility.

The Library (those books need a bit of sorting out)

There was what looked like it might have been, or about to be, a games room but was full of dusty table-tennis tables, and abandoned bats and balls. Other buildings that might have once been intended as shops or cafes were in a neglected state. Walking down the centre path we saw some guests outside their chalets painting and meditating and a few people were cycling and jogging. It seemed to be an ideal ‘back to nature’, ‘away from it all’, ‘meditative retreat’ resort, it just doesn’t seem to get the amount of visitors it expected.

Sister Midnight at anchor
Tarutao National Park
Monkey on path!

On the beach we saw a group of Buddhist monks sat around a couple of rudimentary tents and a little further down a couple of girls sharing one of the camp’s camouflage style tents. These few people had the whole beautiful seafront to themselves. The long white beach was populated only by sand crabs when we walked along it (signs warned of box jellyfish in the water and of monkeys from the forest who like to pilfer belongings). The tide was coming in, creating warm rivers to paddle in and it was blissfully quiet.

Tarutao Beach with campers in the background
Sister Midnight in the distance

As it was almost sunset we bought a couple of drinks from the mini-mart and sat on a bench to watch it.  We had intended to eat in the restaurant but I didn’t fancy navigating the dinghy over the rocks in the shallow choppy water in the dark, especially as it had proved tricky enough spotting them in daylight!

Monday 13th March   Cruising Through the Mangroves

We had to endure the heat of the hottest part of the day but it was a trip that had to be done! A river wends its way through the lush mangroves and thick forests on Tarutao. We’d seen it when we arrived and knew that it was possible to dinghy through it but the tide needed to be right. 10 o’clock was the best time according to Paul’s research so we slapped on factor 50, donned hats and filled up with fuel for an ‘African Queen’ style trip through the jungle and swamps of Southern Thailand. Ok, that’s a slight exaggeration but as we got further in it did remind me of a jungle heartland. It was fabulous. The pictures show it better than I can describe it, although I can relate that the sounds of birds and monkeys added to the jungle-like atmosphere. I half expected to see crocodiles poking their heads up out of the still, murky water. At times, the tree branches were so low we had to duck but they did at least provide relief from the searing heat of the sun’s rays. We spent two hours enjoying the stunning scenery on that river and we had the whole place to ourselves. Below are quite a few pictures of the trip 🙂

Our next destination was to be Ko Lipe but it would be too long a journey, leaving at 12 as we were, so after slipping our mooring Paul looked for a suitable halfway point. Fifty one islands near to Tarutao form the National Park so there were plenty to choose from. Ko Tanga looked ideal but it turned out to be very deep close to the shore and then went shallow very suddenly so it took a fair bit of negotiating and a few attempts before were secure in 20 metres of water (all good practice). We could see an island called Ko Khai not too far away. This island has an arch which is popular with couples who want to walk under it to prolong their relationship or something. Anyway the island we chose was a lot more peaceful for the lack of any arch (fewer longtails and dinghies racing past).

Koh Kai (the arch can just be seen on the left of the island)
Anchorage at Koh Tanga

Tuesday 14th March Koh Lipe (pronounced Lippy)

Both of us were up in time to see the sunrise this morning, but unfortunately it was blocked by clouds when it rose. We set off For Lipe not long after that so that we’d have more chance of picking up a buoy if there were any available.  Koh Lipe is a picturesque holiday resort and the bay looked crowded with a variety of vessels as we got nearer to it.  Quite a few boats and ferries were already moored or anchored and we took some time to suss out an appropriate spot. We thought we were in luck finally finding a free buoy after we had motored around and decided that it was too deep to anchor in most parts, while some of the free buoys were too near the coral for our boat. The free buoy turned out to be too good to be true because as we were tying to it a guy came over in his dinghy to warn us that it wasn’t safe – his boat had drifted off it the night before. Back to the drawing board then and after one failed attempt to anchor in 23 metres of water, we had just got it set and I was putting the gear into reverse when the gear lever went loose in my hand. I called out this news to Paul, expecting him to say it does that from time to time, and to fix it immediately but when he looked at it he said it was well and truly broken. I wasn’t sure how serious this was and tried not to imagine all kinds of disastrous scenarios. After three hours of investigative work in the midday sun with noisy longtails racing past us, Paul managed to construct a temporary solution in the form of a very rudimentary gearstick made from wire and a bolt! He worked at it in his usual calm, methodical and logical manner. I have to confess that the combination of noise and the sticky heat, as I fetched tools from the cabin and helped to test various parts as he compiled them, stressed me out quite a lot (to put it mildly). A relief then, when just before 5, with all the tools put away, it began to get cooler and we prepared to go ashore.

New gear stick
Approaching Koh Lipe
Anchored at Koh Lipe (the lighter, shallow part near the beach is full of rocks and coral)

No surprise to find there were several longtails and daytripper boats near the shore, and as the water got clearer, lots of jagged rocks came into view and had to be negotiated in the dinghy. Our first impressions of Lipe weren’t very positive. The path we took from the beach trying to locate the shops led us onto a dusty and smelly building site, teeming with flying insects. When we eventually came upon walking street though, it was a vibrant and colourful area, full of backpackers and hostels and shops (including a couple selling second hand books :)). There were pubs and restaurants, Thai massage rooms, tattoo parlours and quirky cafe bars where customers can lie on comfy loungers and watch films. Vendors stand outside their establishments beckoning you inside, and all the time motor bikes roar up and down the crowded streets. We bought a few provisions, browsed some of the shops and then went for a much-needed drink and dinner on the beach.

Koh Lipe Beach
Beach Bar Selfie 🙂



JUM, LANTA AND MUK (Not a law firm from a Dickens novel)

Monday 6th March Koh Jum

I had intended to get up in time to see the sunrise and have another look at the deserted beach in the morning light, but was disappointed on both counts. It was too cloudy to see the sun in all its glory, and boats had already begun to arrive by the time I woke up at 6 o’clock. I made a coffee and sat in the cockpit watching longtails head for the shore one by one, much as I had watched them depart the evening before. We didn’t linger long after Paul woke up because we were both keen to move on, so at 8am we slipped our mooring and motored off.  As we passed slowly by the rest of Phi Phi Lee’s coastline we remarked on how much more attractive its other beaches looked – and they are probably a lot more peaceful too.

Another day at ‘The Beach’ begins
Just round the corner from Leo’s beach

They will have to wait until we visit these parts again, however, because we were steering towards our next destination – Koh Jum.

A tropical paradise

We’d heard lots of good things about this island, mainly from the sailing vlog ‘Follow The Boat’ we’ve been following on the internet but also from a couple of people who have been there. That it is beautiful and well worth seeing was confirmed from a bit of online research. Praiseworthy descriptions like the ones below from Travelfish and Rough Guide were the norm on several other independent travel sites (I guess ‘thin’ in the second description refers to the amount of people rather than their size, but who knows!):

Jum is a favourite with guitar-strumming beach bums and families looking to side step the party crowd.

 Jum strikes an ideal balance of great beaches, thin crowds and ultra-relaxing atmosphere. 

So enchanting is Ko Jum that we’ll go out on a limb to call it one of our favourite Thai islands. 

Jum is the sort of laidback spot that people come to for a couple of days, then can’t bring themselves to leave.

The morning was overcast but hot – we refreshed ourselves with a breakfast of fresh pineapple that had been sun-ripened in the cockpit.  On a very calm sea, all we saw for almost the whole way were a few fishing buoys and one or two other yachts.  As we got nearer to Jum at about midday it looked a lot bigger than I had expected, and was also a lot flatter than the towering islands we’ve been used to seeing. Covered in a forest of varying shades of green, we could see tiny chalet-like buildings nestling among the trees and the shore was lined with long white beaches. No other yachts were at anchor so we had the pick of the spots in this peaceful location: so far so paradisiacal then.

First view of Koh Jum
A resort almost hidden from view

It wasn’t until we went ashore in the dinghy that the stunning beauty of the place really hit me. It’s high on the list of one of the most gorgeous places I’ve seen anywhere in Asia (I wonder how any more times I will state that – lots I hope). The afternoon light only enhanced its appeal, creating a clear contrast between all the colours on show: turquoise sea, green forest, blue sky and white sand. Again, I’m not sure that any pictures I took will do the scene justice. Not many people were around, just a few sunbathers and swimmers – very serene, and very hot, so we climbed up some steps to the first beach bar we saw. It was called Mr Boy Bar and the guy who served us (who may well have been Mr Boy himself) was chatty and friendly, although most Thai people are so it’s not that noteworthy. He told us the wine he had in stock was not good enough (!), so I had a gin and tonic instead; well it seemed rude not to in such a setting :). We spent an hour there taking in our surroundings and it struck me that it would be pretty hard for anyone not to feel relaxed in this tranquil environment.

View from the bar

Sister Midnight at anchor in the distance

Mr Boy, who turned out to be from Bangkok and had been in Jum for 12 years, told us the season had been notably quiet this year. This isn’t such a bad thing in terms of ambience for visitors like us, but not so good for the bars and resorts in the area who rely on tourism. We decided we would stay for two nights to make the most of the place. We chose to have dinner sitting at a table on the beach very near to the water’s edge (see pic below) and ordering it was an amusing interchange both for the young waiters and us as we all tried to make ourselves understood. I was proud that I managed to get a vegan green Thai curry and Paul had the catch of the day (Barracuda – the waiter’s arm gestures indicated that it was a very big fish :)). Little white sand crabs scuttled past us – fascinating to watch them, though I felt sorry for them when a couple of cats began pouncing on them, seemingly just for sport.

Beachside restaurant
Our table 🙂

Tuesday 7th March

It was nice to have a leisurely morning instead of preparing to move on. In fact most of the day was spent in a leisurely manner because of the heat. Some days I find it more physically draining than others and my energy is sapped (it feels almost like being put ‘on hold’ until cool enough to move again) so while Paul got in the dinghy and cleaned around the hull, all I could muster the strength to do was soak some clothes ready for washing and type up a bit of the blog. When it had cooled down a bit, we went through some safety procedures, such as ‘man overboard’ with the lifebelt and new dan buoy Paul had bought (hopefully we’ll never need to use them!!).

Man Overboard!

After I’d summoned enough steam to rinse out the washing, we went ashore, walked the length of the beach and ended up at another bar, strangely enough. This one overlooked a more rugged terrain that reminded me of the Cornish coast – huge rocks, rock pools and waves crashing onto the shore instead of gently lapping on it. In keeping with the overall surroundings, though the music was ambient – some reggae, some instrumental, no ‘muzak’ – and to complete the perfection a lovely black dog joined us and allowed me to fuss him for a while.


A welcome visitor

Paul had forgotten to put the boat lights on, so while he went back to do that in the dinghy I waited on the sand watching the sand crabs scurrying around and darting into their holes. We went for dinner in a nearby restaurant that was part of one of the resorts. It was high up, lit with fairy lights and had a great view over the bay (shame that my pineapple rice had bits of chicken in it though).

Sunset on Koh Jum

Wednesday 8th March Koh Lanta

An early getaway (8 30) to make the most of the cooler hours. There were lots of fisherman in one particular area so we had to watch out for their buoys and net markers for a while.  Within an hour the wind had got up and we were able to put the sails up and turn the engine off. For two hours we enjoyed peace without the noise of the engine and made good progress with the sails. The coast of Lanta looked empty of people as we drew closer, but it was full of resorts similar to those in Jum. The island is very long and we were heading for the far end of it, so it was a good opportunity to see the whole of its southern coastline.  A small fold-out map we’d been given advertised a plethora of clubs, bars, restaurants and beach party venues, complete with fire dancers! It’s a popular spot for young holidaymakers but we knew it wouldn’t be as manic as the hotspots of Ibiza or Cyprus – Thailand generally winds things up at 1am – or 2am if it’s a full moon party. We dropped our anchor at 3pm in Kantiang Bay among quite a few other yachts and catamarans.

Approaching Koh Lanta
Beachside massage, Koh Lanta

When we went ashore at 5 we were met at the shore by two guys who turned out to be Glaswegian and they offered to help us carry the dinghy up the beach. They were just off fishing for their dinner they told us, in the cheerful manner that is the norm on these islands: everyone is so happy!  Sometimes it’s like we’ve been transported to the island from that old TV series, Fantasy Island, or Shangri-La maybe…nice though ;). My initial impression as we walked along was that it had a Mediterranean feel. It was clean, with a café and bar-laden prom offering everything from crepes to cocktails. Families and couples on the beach were either lounging in deckchairs or paddling and swimming. We headed for a bar with the apt name of ‘The Why Not Bar’ for a drink before walking along the shore as the sun was getting lower in the sky.

At The Why Not Bar
Evening beach walk, Koh Lanta

When we reached the spot opposite Sister Midnight we noticed there were comfy-looking loungers on the sand and thought it might be nice to lie on those and have a drink in the dusky light. Despite the bar associated with the loungers proclaiming that it was ‘happy hour’, the offer being ‘buy one get one free’, the cost of a glass of wine was around £9, so not caring that we might be thought cheapskates we had a glass of diet coke each (one being free) and were happy with that.

Waiting for sunset
Sunset, Koh Lanta

When we got to the dinghy to return to the boat, the two Glaswegians reappeared as if by magic to help us carry it to the water. They proudly showed us their catch of the day – an impressive bunch of squid. Paul is still having a run of bad luck in his attempts to catch his dinner so a tin of tuna had to suffice for him that evening.

Thursday 9th March Passage to Muk

There had been strong gusts of wind all through the night – not enough to make it rocky but Paul let more chain out on the anchor to be on the safe side. It was still gusting in the morning when we decided to go to Ko Muk, which had been described as another ‘must see’ destination, with the added attraction of a Hong that you have to swim through a dark tunnel to access. I told Paul I’d look forward to seeing the pictures he took of it! Before all that, however, we had a more pressing problem to deal with.  The anchor had been pulled tight due to the wind and in order to free ourselves I had to manoeuvre the boat a little bit at a time while Paul gave hand signals from the bow to indicate where to steer and when to stop and start until the chain pulled free. There was also the need to flake the chain so he had to come down to the anchor locker a couple of times to do that too. It sounds more complicated than it actually was and we managed it well, motoring off into 20 knot winds at 10am. It could have turned into a rocky ride so I stayed below to check on the stowing while Paul put sails up to utilise the wind.  We reached Ko Muk at 3pm and anchored in another lovely sheltered spot. Not long after we got there, a fisherman drew up with fish to sell (squid to be precise) and Paul bought some from him.  He then asked if he could come on board and look at the boat – he seemed suitably impressed with it. For the next hour Paul was on deck preparing the squid for cooking later – I didn’t know so much dark inky fluid could come out of one small creature, and Paul had several!

All these for 300 Baht (£7)
Getting the innards out!

It was 5 30 by the time we went ashore, and still very hot. We went to the place where all the kayaks had had been gathered earlier in the day. Only one was left and the owner was nowhere in sight. A sign in front of the rocks informed us that this was ‘Emerald Cave’, which is what we had come to look at. The tide was too high to attempt an entry in the dinghy (well I thought so anyway). I suggested Paul could swim through and I’d wait but he said we’d try in the dinghy the next day after he’d checked the tides. We headed for the little beach opposite our anchorage and passed the last kayak leaving it, so we had the place to ourselves. It was gorgeous, and warm enough to have a swim in the clear water. I never tire of looking at the intricate patterns the sand crabs make. They remind me of the crop circles that were in the news several years ago.

Sunset swim
Sand crab art


Friday March 10th  Koh Muk and the Emerald Cave

The little beach opposite us looked particularly charming with the early morning rays of sunlight shining on it. However, because we hadn’t yet seen the ‘must see’ Emerald Cave we needed to move so that we could be near to it for our 3pm visit when the tide would hopefully allow us to go through in the dinghy.  It seemed a good opportunity to circle round the whole of Muk slowly so that we could look at its coastline in full, especially as it was such a clear and breezy morning.  The palm-fringed beaches on the opposite coast were lined with resort buildings that appeared to be deserted. Empty sun loungers were arranged neatly on the sand which was smooth and undisturbed. It will be a shame if these places go bust, but I suppose there are so many islands with similar holiday complexes there is insufficient demand for them. When we reached the spot near the cave we had a bit of trouble anchoring because the sea bed was strewn with rocks, and twice we had to pull it up and start again. The third attempt found a space for the anchor to dig in and then we just had to wait until the time was right. We set out on a choppy sea at 4 30, guessing that all the visitors who were part of excursion tours would have left by then. There were only a few kayaks and dinghies from private boats when we got to the cave, which looked a lot more accessible than the day before. Two of them were just leaving so Paul asked if it was ok for dinghies in the tunnel. We were reassured it was fine, as long as we had a torch (which we’d remembered this time) so in we went. It was easy to see why it had the name ‘Emerald’ in its name. The combination of the water and the reflection of the colour of the roof of the cave produced a vivid green colour. We had no trouble entering and I positioned myself at the bow with the torch to light the way as it got darker. I shone it on the roof to see if any of the bats the guide book had reported might be in residence, but there were none.  I definitely wouldn’t have swum the length of the tunnel, even though it was a relatively short dinghy trip it would have been a long dark swim with plenty of unseen marine life for company. It was a little like being in a fairground ghost train, with the light that emerged when we rounded a corner indicating the exit was ahead. A couple of kayaks and a dinghy were on the small beach when we got there so we added ours to them and looked at the glorious scene that was gradually revealing itself to us.

The little beach just before sunrise
Waiting to enter the Emerald Cave
The tunnel entrance
The tunnel exit

Paul had been concerned that we wouldn’t get the full benefit of the light at the time of day we were there. As it turned out, however, the late afternoon light lit up some parts of the cylindrical scene and left others in the gloom, which created a very atmospheric landscape. Then there was the silence! Half a dozen other people and ourselves, all talking in normal tones, yet it was so still and quiet, it was akin to the interior of a church. The steep sides were lined with plants and trees, some of them quite rare according to an information sign, which also revealed that it was once a storage place for smugglers’ contraband. I thought it was an incredible place and Paul liked it, but said it wasn’t as ‘awe-inspiring’ as the description in ‘The Hong Notes’ had led him to believe. I know what he means but I’m wary of becoming complacent when confronted with beautiful scenes every day as we have been. I like to ‘see’ them as if it’s the first lovely place of the trip.

Inside the Hong

On the way out!

Back on the boat we freshened up a bit and dinghied over to the main beach. There was a laid-back atmosphere prevailing when we got there, and we sat at a charming little bar at the end of the beach, looking out at Sister Midnight bobbing on the anchor. We had dinner in a restaurant we’d picked out as soon as we arrived. It was set fairly high up overlooking the bay. The view was predictably wonderful and I enjoyed my spicy papaya salad but the service was a bit slow and grumpy (actually it was quite refreshing after so much smiley niceness ;)). By the time we left, it had got dark and the lights were coming on in the bars and restaurants, but it was still warm enough for people to be enjoying an evening swim in the sea. Pics below of Koh Muk Beach in the evening.



Back in Kuah

We checked into the Harbour Master, Immigration and Customs this morning, then we upped anchor and went to get fuel, however they didn’t have any. This was the main reason I went to Telaga yesterday, Oh well, we left at 12:00 and motored straight to Kuah, passed through a very large convoy of grey ships and their support vessels on the way, I wondered what the protocol was and if I would be asked to change course, but they didn’t care. Last night 4 fighter jets flew over us, in extremley close formation, very impressive. Kathy said ‘What’s Trump done now?’ which was kind of funny, and kind of worrying too. We managed to sail for the last hour went the wind changed from ahead to astern.
Now we are tied up in the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club. It’s nice to on a pontoon, plugged in to mains again. I can catch up on some of the jobs here. Mainly fixing the gear shift cable. we have good wifi here so hopefully I can upload some of the videos we took over our time in Thailand.

Todays 4 hour trip

Paul Collister

Sorry no pictures, Imagine it’s the radio

So I’m writing this as we arrive in Malaysian waters, I don’t have a signal on my phone yet, so I don’t know if that’s because my PAYG contract has expired, or if I’m still too far away from land.

It’s been an interesting few days. We have spent the last 5 days cruising around the Butang islands. On Thursday morning we anchored off a lovely little island, maybe only a few hundred metres long, but surrounded by a stunning coral reef with lots of fish to look at. I have a lot of video waiting to be edited .

We didn’t actually anchor, the National park service here provides buoys, some more reliable than others, and we picked the first of the two there and spent the night swinging on that. The only real problem we had was the swell from the south built up overnight, there must have been some anomaly in the weather down in the Malacca straights that sent the swell our way, and by breakfast on Friday morning 8AM, it was so bad we had to hold on to things while brewing the coffee. I decided to head around the side of the island to pickup the other mooring buoy, protected from the swell. I checked on the chart, and we were well clear of the rocks/coral and should have 6 metres of water below us. Off we went, maybe doing 3-4 knots, and after just a few minutes CRUNCH, it was a very shocking moment, the whole boat stopped dead in its tracks, there was no doubt, we had hit a rock.

To put this event into context, it’s one of the worst things that can happen to a yacht. The result, depending on many factors, can range from, no damage, just minor scratching, to complete loss of the boat and loss of life. So that noise we heard, sent shivers down my spine. Fortunately it was clear we were in no personal danger, worst case, we could swim to the shore in lovely calm(ish) waters easily. Also the boat is very tough, unlike many yachts built today, ours uses a different style of construction. The keel is part of the hull, very thick and solid and won’t snap off, this would have been a real worry on a modern production boat. After a collision, it’s imperative to get the keels checked on these boats. So all I had to do really was get the boat off the rock.

Usually it should be possible to reverse and that’s it. however we were properly stuck on. No amount of reversing had any effect. Then the swell came and said hello, the boat was lifted a foot or so by a large rise in the sea level, then dropped back onto the rock. BANG, now that sent another shiver down my spine. It actually sounds and feels a lot worse than it is, but it does help focus ones thoughts to the task at hand. In a big sea, we have been thrown onto waves by the sea, and that makes a bigger bang.

The propellor seems more efficient going forward, but it’s counter intuitive to motor onto rocks, so I didn’t want to try that, going back didn’t work so I was a bit stuck. So I launch plan A, , to kedge myself off backwards, sounds rude, but basically it requires me to put my little anchor I keep at the stern of the boat in the water, say 50metres astern, and winch myself back towards it. I have done this on Oracle once in Greece, but we were in sand, it was very calm and we had all day to mess around. Now I had to move fast as the swell had us bumping again, though thankfully the first bump was the worst. Now this is were the plan turns to farce.

I untied the kedge anchor, and tried to hang it over the stern enough so I could get it into the dinghy which thankfully was tied up below, however the chain in the locker must have been snagging, or more likely had fallen on itself after I stowed it last year. I was tugging the chain like crazy to get it out when Kathy shouted out something about rocks from the bow were she was peering over. I left the anchor hanging over the pushpit (the rail around the stern of the boat) to see what she was saying, she was shouting out that she couldn’t see any rocks, so I had to investigate, possibly it was all a dream and I might wake up after seeing a spaceship rise from the water and Captain Kirk offer some help. Maybe not. I ran to the bow, and looking down to starboard I could see we had at least 5 metres of clear water below us, over the bow was clear as well, looking to port made me realise we were on the very edge of a large granite boulder. Now one of the things about Sister Midnight is that the propeller produces a large amount of prop walk, and it’s all to starboard when going ahead, this means that if I give it a surge of power ahead, from stationary, the boat instead of moving forwards, tries to swing hard to the right. This has got to be worth a try I thought. So back to the wheel, Hard to starboard, mucho revving, no revving, mucho revving, no revving, then WOW, we are off the rock. and moving away from it slowly. So where’s the farce you ask? Well just as we clear the rock, my kedge anchor cleared itself and went screaming over the stern and anchored itself to the very rock we were escaping! Bugger, I tried to grab the  chain/rope as it was shooting over the stern, but it was going too fast, and I didn’t want to slow my exit from the rock so I let it go. I could see the mooring buoy we had left, maybe 100 metres ahead of us, so I figured I should try to get back to that and work things out from there, however, would I have 100 metres of rope on the kedge, I couldn’t remember, and 100m seems a lot.

I shouted to Kathy to bring me large quantities of rope and a knife, plus a fender. I thought ‘plan A’ would be to cut the anchor warp, tie a fender to it as a buoy, and come back for it later, ‘plan B’, cut the line, tie more rope to it and keep going to the mooring until I ran out of rope. As it turned out, I had loads of rope on the warp, and we picked up our mooring buoy while still anchored by the stern to the rock. A kind of weird ‘med style’ mooring.

Next I jumped in the dinghy, and headed back to the rock and retrieved the kedge anchor and all was back to normal. As luck would have it, the water there was crystal clear, so I dived on the hull with my snorkel and could see deep scratches, possibly gouges in the surface of the keel along the bottom edge, I couldn’t see right under the keel, but expect the gelcoat to be cracked there. However that was all, above the bottom edge of the keel there was no damage I could see. I’m hauling out sometime in the next few months to refresh the antifoul, so will sort that out then.

I have since checked on the chart, I have my track recorded, onto and off the rock, and I can see that it’s meant to be safe water there, so I have learnt a valuable lesson about trusting charts close up to reefs.

That night we picked up another buoy, further north, protected from the swell opposite a monkey beach, where Kathy got quite freaked out when a few monkeys took over our dinghy and started going through the storage pockets playing with our sun tan and Deet, I had to shoo them away, but not before the Dad monkey tried to shoo me away.

We left there on Saturday and went back to Ko Lipe for our final night in Thailand, unfortunately it was a very noisy night at anchorage there, it’s a party beach with house music banging out. We anchored in 23 metres of water, and although the anchor seemed very secure, and the weather was very calm, I was woken about 2AM to the boat swaying and strong winds, on going above I found the wind to be very strong 20-30 knots and all the boats around me were swinging around a lot. Checking our anchor rode, of which we had all 110 metres out, I could see it was very taut, and this would be testing our anchor. I spent the next hour closely watching all the other boats and repeatedly taking bearings of objects on the shore and our relation to other boats, however when you have a swinging circle off 200+ mtrs in diameter, you can never be sure which way you are dragging, or if you are just swinging. After an hour or two, we hadn’t moved, our GPS was backing this up, another hour passed and about 5AM the wind passed on, leaving a very calm bay, I went to bed and slept well, only to be woken a few hours later by a bang. “Shit” was the first word I could think of saying as I flew from the bed, we had hit something, I knew that, I was just hoping it wasn’t land, that bay is fringed with very sharp jagged coral. I hoped it was another boat we hit. I’ve hit loads of them, never a big deal. Actually I t-boned a firefly dinghy with a big heavy clincker boat when I was about 13 in the sea cadets, that was a big deal 😉 As I came out into the cockpit, there was no mistaking the back of the Langkawi ferry that had moored right behind us at about midnight last night. He was on a fixed mooring, so it was safe to assume it was us who dragged, we had bumped against a big metal frame he had on his stern, I don’t know what it did, but it was a flat surface and hadn’t marked us at all. A few tugs on our anchor warp and we were away from him. It was now 7AM and Kathy was up, I asked her to flake the chain down, and I hauled in the anchor and we left. By now the crew on the ferry must have wondered what was going on and was walking around the ship looking for a problem.

I fail to understand how we stayed in position all night in the wind, then once it’s calm we dragged , maybe 150ft to the ferry. I suspect the current was strong when we dragged. On my new super powered boat computer system, all these elements, parameters and variables will be logged, providing real time playback analysis, until then, I’m going to practise anchoring 😉

We are now anchored in a little manmade lagoon area at Telaga, in Langkawi, Malaysia, I don’t have any 3g or phone service here, but I have managed to borrow some wifi data from the local hotel across the bay. It’s nice to be back in Malaysia, but we were greeted by thunder and lightning. We will sneak ashore tonight and have a meal to celebrate our arrival, in the morning, we check into the country officially, get fuel and head down to the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club marina, where I can fix the gearstick problem. Kathy returns to the UK a week tomorrow for a month.

Paul Collister

Rocks, collisions and more

Just a very quick update to say we are about to leave Thai waters (and Thai 3g data range) and enter Malaysian territory. I’m not sure if my 3g will work on the old Malaysian phone SIM, so a quick post to say we may be quiet for a day or two.

However when back, I promise to post about our encounter with a very big rock that wasn’t where it should be, followed by our collision with a ferry this morning, It was exactly where it should be, our mistake there. All sounds much worse than it was, but I know Bob likes a good story, so stay tuned in.

Paul Collister


Phuket and The Phi Phis

It’s not all plain sailing and experiencing gorgeous tropical paradises. There are complicated tasks and more mundane pleasures involved in this nautical way of life. Time spent in marinas allow us to use their facilities and to prepare for the next stages of our travels, as the following few entries show.

Monday 27th Feb

Woke up to another sweltering morning, so we concentrated on maintenance tasks and cleaning jobs in the cabin. Paul created a rota for things that need to be done on a regular basis (see pic below) which helps us remember what needs doing and when (although my brain took a while to figure out how the dates and letters work – see pic below). It’s not a rigid set of rules and obviously there’s room for flexibility concerning frequency, but with so much to remember it’s a useful aide-memoir.  The two fans we have in the cabin have proved to be sufficient for keeping us cool, even when doing strenuous chores. The somewhat cumbersome air-conditioning system that Paul had in operation when I first arrived in Asia is very heavy and it was a faff to get it in and out of lockers and on to the deck whenever we moved on. I found it a bit too cold anyway, and I didn’t like the fact that we had to keep all the windows and the hatch closed while it was on; it’s now stowed away until we decide what to do with it. Today, the fridge got defrosted, cleaned and sorted and I washed all the mud splashes around the anchor locker in the V-berth, along with a few other chores. It had clouded over by the afternoon and then came the rain – lots of it, for a few hours. During one break in the downpours we walked to a small local shop to get some drinks, and then holed up in the cabin for the rest of the day listening to the radio and poring over our laptops.

Jobs Rota

Tuesday 28th Feb

More work today. Paul programmed, I cleaned and tidied, read, wrote and typed. It’s made life easier having a laptop of my own to work with because I don’t have to rush to finish things so that Paul can get back to work. It’s not so easy when Microsoft ‘crashes’, ‘malfunctions’ or ‘gets confused’ (insert any one of those terms) and Paul reminds me how he never thought he’d have the displeasure of having to work with Windows again ;). We both needed a breath of air and to stretch our legs by the afternoon so we went for a walk into Ban Koh En. The air turned out to be hot and humid as opposed to refreshing but by 4 30 at least we can be certain that it won’t last long. The sun starts to lose its intensity by 5 and sets at 6 45 so during that time there’s often a breeze and the dazzling glare fades. After buying some bread and collecting the laundry we went for another meal at Mama Papa’s by which time the breeze had got strong and cool and was as invigorating as having a cold shower after a long walk in the heat.

Wednesday 1st March

We’re planning to leave the marina on Friday to begin the protracted journey south towards Malaysia where I will be getting a plane from Kuala Lumpur at the end of March to spend a month in the UK. Today we did a bit more preparation for the journey. I filled the water tanks, made lists for provisions and we both spent some time staring at computer screens to make the most of the marina’s strong internet. After dinner, my laptop kept losing the wifi signal just as I wanted to upload and post some pictures on the blog. Sorting all that out took time we’ll never get back that’s for sure! It also made for a very late night and more about how Apple technology would never cause as much hassle and stress 😉

Thursday 2nd March

Collected the car mid-morning and followed our usual routine with it: Boat Lagoon, Rolly Tasker (to collect Paul’s sail – unfortunately still unrepaired despite being in there for 5 months!) and on to the supermarkets to shop for provisions.  We also needed to go to Ao Chalong for the checking out process. This took longer than expected because there was only one guy on duty in the immigration office and he was having to sort out a confusing situation for the man in front of us. We sat for almost an hour waiting patiently (good thing I have books to read on my phone). Drove to Patong afterwards and shopped in the ‘Big C’ supermarket in the mall there. Neither of us felt like another walk down Bangla Road so after a quick look round a night market (see pic below), we had a drink and some fries in Wine Connection inside the plush, cool indoor area of the mall before heading home to unload and stow (thankfully without the added drama of impromptu swims this time).

Anyone tempted by fish maw or pork blood soup?


Friday 3rd March Koh Yao Yai

Up early and out of our berth by 10am, we had a trouble-free departure even though I (with a bit of help from the bow thruster) motored us out. There was a good wind so the mainsail went up within 30 minutes of leaving and by 11 we had the engine off and the yankee sail out, doing just over 5 knots. Unfortunately the wind stopped suddenly not long afterwards and never returned, so on went the engine all the way to Koh Yao Yai, where we dropped anchor at 3 o’clock. Ao Labu is a lovely sheltered spot which, as the pilot guide informed us, has ‘a long sandy beach fringed with casuarina and other tropical trees’. It also stated that further in the northern corner of the bay there’s a small settlement where coconut and rubber are cultivated. We never go far enough in to see these industries in action; I suspect there are quite a few tucked away behind the pretty front views of the islands that we haven’t been aware of.  Two other yachts anchored near us late in the afternoon just as it began to get very gusty but the bay was sheltered enough, so the strength of the wind caused no concern. We sat in the cockpit and watched lights on the shore come on to gradually reveal objects and dwellings we hadn’t seen in the daylight.

Anchorage at Ko Yao Yai
On the way to Phi Phi Don

Saturday 4th March Ko Phi Phi Don

There had been just enough gentle rocking on the waves to ensure a restful sleep. Our destination for the day was Phi Phi Don, an island we’d visited on the way up to Thailand in October. This time we went northwest of our previous stop and ended up on the opposite side of the isthmus. It looked extremely busy with the usual longtails, diveboats and speedboats but we managed to pick up a free mooring buoy at Monkey Beach (no prizes for guessing why it’s called that). We were quite far from the beach but could see there were lots of people on it.  As it was getting on for 5 by then, we guessed they’d start leaving soon so we dinghied over to take a look. The monkeys came into view pretty quickly. It did look rather as if they were taunting the visitors instead of the other way around. I could see them running up to ‘tag’ them, or snatch something perhaps and then run away if anyone responded to them.  Reaching the beach, we parked the dinghy, intending to go for a swim and snorkel but I became distracted by events involving a group of young visitors and a couple of monkeys a few metres away from us. This time, the people were running towards the monkeys, jeering and laughing about something and the monkeys were running away. One of the monkeys had a tiny baby clutched to her tummy. I couldn’t see any overt cruelty but something made me feel uncomfortable about the interaction. I wanted to keep watching anyway and the little monkey family ran right past us closely followed by the band of people. When they’d almost reached the other end of the beach one of the men started throwing clumps of sand or something at one of them and that’s when I set off to intervene. Paul thought that maybe the monkey had pinched a camera or a phone or something. Anyway, the monkeys ran off out of the way in to the foliage and the visitors had to board their boat back. It made me smile when they reappeared a bit later (probably having stashed their loot away safely somewhere). A few pics of them are below.

We didn’t linger on Monkey Beach for a swim, deciding instead to explore a short stretch of the coastline in the dinghy. We passed by the spot we’d anchored at in October because I was having trouble recalling it (well with so many other islands we’ve seen…) and then Paul took me back to Sister Midnight while he took the dinghy to swim and snorkel near some caves opposite to us and to practise filming with the GoPro.  The beach was more or less empty by evening but the neighbouring boats livened up, as did the shore of Phi Phi Don. Screams and shrieks of delight filled the air from passengers on pleasure boats enjoying the fun of water activities. They were being dragged and bounced along at high speed on rubber sofas and chairs or sliding down inflatable slides hanging from the boats’ sterns and splashing into the water. Meanwhile, people on the big catamarans around us lit up their decks, put music on and partied – long into the early hours according to Paul. Phi Phi Don was also brightly lit and playing music. It’s high season here and we’d expected the popular destinations to be ‘buzzing’ but in fact the nightlife hasn’t been as lively as we thought it would be. It seems reports of a dip in the number of visitors and bookings this year is a fact.

Paul ready to snorkel
Fun boats at Phi Phi Don

Sunday 5th March Phi Phi Lee

Phi Phi Lee is only a short distance from Phi Phi Don. Our previous visit to the area had been in bad weather and we’d glimpsed the famous movie location island through a sheet of drizzle and cloudy greyness. Leaving our anchorage at 11am after a lovely long sleep, the weather couldn’t have been more different. It was a clear, sunny, blistering hot day, and in the hour it took to get there we knew we would not be enjoying anything like the solitude and peace of previous anchorages.  The sheer volume of marine traffic and the accompanying noise was no real surprise but the fact that we managed to pick up a mooring buoy was. This location was popular long before it rose to prominence as the location for ‘The Beach’. The diving school boats and the plethora of divers around them confirmed that it’s an area where sea turtles and three types of shark can be seen (Black tip reef, Leopard and Whale sharks apparently. That large ‘fish’ I saw in the clear water when I was bending to hook the mooring buoy could well have been one of those.

Approaching Phi Phi Lee
The Beach from a distance

Once secure, we sat back and gazed at the lively scenes before us. We didn’t intend going ashore until most of the visitors had left anyway so we watched divers, snorkelers, swimmers, and an increasing number of tipsy visitors arriving on longtails. There seemed to be a required celebratory dance that no one had told us about, which involves standing near the front of the boat and swaying around with your arms up in the air while crying out something…unintelligible. Lots of people did it on arriving but we hadn’t – hope that wasn’t a faux pas ;). The beach itself was packed with sunbathers and walkers and of course lots of longtail boats. We debated whether to stay – I know Paul wasn’t keen on the fact that it was such a hyped-up ‘naff’ location. My desire to see it came not from being a Leonardo fan, although I do enjoy his films. It was more that I saw that film so long ago and remembered looking at the idyllic scenes and imagining what it must be like to walk on those sands in such a place. I never thought I would actually get to see it! So yes, I felt an unashamed thrill at being within touching distance of it. Having decided to stay, we had a swim to cool down and then put snorkels on to check out the sea life around the boat. We saw sea urchins, tiger fish and what might have been small sharks but no sea turtles unfortunately.

At 4 30 we went across to a small beach to have a look at the interesting flat-pebble structures on the edges of the sand. I’ve seen a few similar ones since then on other beaches. I don’t know what they signify, if anything – maybe it’s something like the padlocks on bridges craze that cropped up everywhere for a while.

On ‘Pebble Beach’
Paul on Pebble Beach

After a quick row around to see if we could spot any turtles, off to The Beach we went. It’s proper name is Maya Bay, and in pre film days I’m sure it was more like the beautiful unspoilt ones we’ve seen on our travels around Thailand. The first thing I noticed as we drew closer was a line of signs plonked unceremoniously at the back of the sand. There was also a garish blue platform made from pontoon segments that served no purpose at all (or so it seemed to us). Quite a few of the longtails had left by then but it was still quite crowded. We found a spot to beach the dinghy on the left side of the sand and stepped over the legs of sunbathers waiting for their boats to collect them. The signs I’d spotted had intrigued me and I was keen to see what was on them. Surprisingly, none of them advertised the fact that this was the location for the film. One, rather alarmingly, told of the risk of stings from creatures known as Portuguese man o’ war (NOT a jellyfish I’ll have you know-it’s a siphonophore!) and how to treat them – I might not have gone snorkelling if I’d seen that first!.  Another sign simply said ‘No Drones!’. Apparently, these are banned due to their irritating buzz, yet that would be nothing compared to the constant drone of the longtail engines. Another sign, and this only highlights a few of them, warned that bringing polystyrene food containers onto the island would result in hefty fines.

Signs Galore

There was a strong smell of fuel coming from some of the longtails with dodgy engines, and I was very disappointed to see so much litter: food wrappers, plastic bottles, cigarette ends and fag cartons (even though smoking is prohibited) were strewn everywhere. I’m sure rangers have a clean-up system in place, but I’ll never understand why people think it’s ok to drop or leave rubbish where they feel like it. I thought back to an interview I’d read when the film came out, in which Leonardo, a keen environmentalist, had stated that when filming was over he’d been adamant that the beach should be left exactly as they’d found it with not a scrap of litter to spoil its beauty. I think he would be dismayed to see it now. We walked along the length of the beach and back, had a look at some rocks and caves, took some photos and then headed back to the boat.

On The Beach
A rare smooth bit of sand

I was interested to see how deserted the place would become as the evening wore on. We sat on deck watching the boats leave one by one; it was just before sunset when they had finally all gone. Apart from one dinghy and a couple of people (rangers maybe) in the wooded area, the beach was empty. This is possibly the only pocket of time in the day when it’s a clear white stretch of sand with no people or boats at the water’s edge. The wooden signs appeared even more incongruous when unobscured by people though.


“Paul, the gearstick isn’t working!”

Alternate titles:
“Don’t Panic”
“If something’s going to break, then it will wait for the worst time”
“I really should have sorted that out earlier”

Yes we had a bit of a problem today, while Kathy was reversing on the anchor rode, to get it to really dig in, the morse cable snapped on the transmission meaning we were stuck in reverse, with not much we could do about it. But more on that later.

We spent Sunday and Monday on Ko Tarutao, a large island, which makes up the largest National park, and the first in Thailand, back in the 80’s I think. It’s a very beautiful spot, but unfortunately the wind has been unseasonal again, it’s meant to be from the NE but in fact has been blowing a steady 10 Knots from the West most of the time, this made our mooring very rolly and we couldn’t stop as long as we would have liked, so we took the dinghy up a large winding river inland and explored a very pretty river / creeks. I made a couple of videos, but until I get a proper wifi, they won’t get uploaded.

From Tarutao, we headed west into the wind and to a lovely little island called Ko Tanga, I think this is part of the Butang group, we were heading for Ko Lipe, a popular holiday island at the southern end of the Butangs, from here we can see Malaysia. All of the islands on the Butangs suffer from the same problem, the beaches are lovely, but go from very shallow to very deep in no time at all. In a boats length it can go from 8 meters deep to 20 metres deep. This make anchoring very difficult. So at Ko Tanga, we had to drop our anchor in 21 metres of water, This meant I had to lay out 60 metres of chain, then another 50 metres of rope, I haven’t done this before and was rather nervous, the previous night we were being rocked a lot, and although we were on a national park mooring I had fretted over how much the rope chaffed (rubbed) on the bobstay and fittings. Now the rope could chafe and if it snapped, not only do we get washed onto the very rocky shore, but I also lose a very expensive anchor.
Anyway, the wind was very light and all was fine, with no chafe to worry about. I am going to put a plastic tube on the bobstay now to help, I didn’t want to, as they look so ugly, but I need to sleep at night.

Ko Tanga, has this arch on one of its islets, you are meant to walk through it with your partner to ensure everlasting something or other, people were actually doing it too! (Eat your heart out Malta)

We left Tanga early, it’s lovely and cool at 7am and the 2-3 hour trip to Lipe was easy into a headwind of about 5 knots. However when we arrived we found the same problem with a very deep shoreline, no chance of getting close in as the day tripper boats had laid moorings everywhere decent. We spotted a national parks mooring buoy, and tied to that, we were just getting the ropes tidied up and about to turn the engine off when a dinghy came speeding to us, it was an Australian skipper who was keen to point out that there was no connection between the mooring buoy and the sea bed, just a rope catching in the rocks, and that he had almost ran aground yesterday when he tied to it. We were very lucky, as it looked great when we tied to it, we might well have gone below for a drink and not realised we were dragging to the shore! You learn something every day in this game. So off we trekked again, looking for somewhere not too deep to anchor, eventually we had to settle on a spot 23 metres deep, this is getting serious, we anchored, let out 110 metres of chain and rope, but by the time the anchor had set (got stuck in to the ground) we were too close to another boat, so we had to pull it all back in and start again. Second time we seemed to be doing well, the anchor was holding, we seemed to be in a good spot when Kathy declared the gearstick was flopping around doing nothing. I waggled it and it seemed to be disconnected, so either it had come lose at one end or the other, or it had snapped. These cables are like big versions of the brake cable on a bike, they often fail, and just a few days ago I noticed the gearstick was quite stiff and I was wondering whether it had always been stiff, or if it might be getting old. I have had very bad luck with these cables breaking on me, so I was thinking I really need to sort them out, or at least carry a spare. So a quick ripping apart of the steering binacle, were the gear and throttle controls live and the cable is attached to the gearstick lever, so into the engine, upside down, head first, as Kathy waggles the gearstick, no sign of life, noise, twitching or anything in fact, so that means cable broken. We are now swinging on 110 metres of cable, in a 10 knot wind, not 100% sure we are dug in properly. I like to reverse with a lot of revs for a few seconds to make sure the anchor is fully set, and I’m wondering what the correct procedure is for such a situation. We can’t go anywhere, but I have a few more anchors I could throw over, I could force it into ahead on the gearbox, and we could motor out, I think. By the time I have gone through all these thought, I realise we are holding well, the forecast is for the wind to drop now for a couple of days, so I decide to stay put and try to fix the problem. So apart comes the binacle, fully, the throttle cable has to come off now, that makes my means of escape harder, but when I realise I also have to take the steering chain off the wheel to get access to the broken cable, I sit down and have another think. No steering, gear or throttle, in a crowded anchorage! I fit the emergency tiller, and realise I can control the throttle with a pair of pliers once the cable is out, so off we go. 3 Hours later, I have it all back together, minus the gearstick cable, which now sticks out of a locker, and has a new control lever. Pic below.

Kathy wants the old control back, I quite like the new one, but it’s going to make the marina entrance more interesting. I’m hoping I will be able to pick up the cable in Langkawi when we get there. Kathy likes it here so much she wants to stay for a few days. They have lots of shops, bars, bakeries and book shops!

It’s bed time now, we had a lovely dinner ashore, the boat stayed just where we left it, but I have just been up and checked everything, the tide has turned and of course with 100 metres of anchor warp out, we have moved 200 metres to the other side of the bay, unfortunately, the guy next to us, has a much shorter warp out so didn’t move away that much, if he gets much closer I will be able to step aboard his boat and wake him. However his short warp might mean he drags away from me anyway.

Just a couple more years and I might get the hang of this boating thing.

Paul Collister