Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Arrived in Phuket

The passage from Rebak Marina at Langkawi, Malaysia, to the anchorage of Ao Chalong in Thailand involved only 3 overnight anchorages. We would have loved to have taken a week for this short passage in order to fully enjoy the beauty of the many small islands that dot that part of the coastline. But our visas required that we officially clear into Thailand no later than December 6. We did manage to have lunch at the marina café with fellow Amel owners Don and Anne on S/V HARMONIE and catch up on their travels since we last saw them in Opua, New Zealand. Enjoyed seeing them again.

The marina was very calm at time of our departure. As we exited the channel the winds became stronger, and as we turned northward up the western side of the island there were 25 knot winds right on our nose, gusting to 30. We decided to head farther offshore to a small group of islands about 30 miles away and get away from the gusting land effect on the winds. On the way out towards those islands the wind seemed to die down so we switched back to our original destination. We ended up changing destinations 4 times that afternoon, ultimately ending up anchoring just around the tip of the island where we had originally planned to anchor. Our planned 15.8 mile trip turned into 31.6 miles, even though we were anchored less than a mile from the originally planned anchorage. It was a gusty night but really comfortable, anchored at latitude 06.32.755N longitude 098.38.052E on the western side of Ko Tarutao – the southernmost island of Thailand.

Wind and sea conditions were still pretty rough the next day, allowing us to sail 50% of the distance and motor-sail the remainder. Really a pretty good day on the water. Again we changed intended destinations 3 times. The wind was coming pretty strong from the NE and our originally planned anchorage would have been too exposed. Finally we decided to stop on the western side of Ko Lanta Yai, dropping the anchor at latitude 07.29.545N longitude 099.04.313E. Mileage covered on day 2 was 67 nautical miles.

Just as we were almost to the lee of the island, it sounded like a gunshot directly over our heads. Scared the living bee-Jesus out of us for a second!! Then the mainsail started flapping about and we realized that the outlhaul line was hanging loose. Obviously something had broken. Sea conditions were too rough to deal with it right then; best to deal with this in a calm anchorage. Luckily we were able to furl the sail back into the mast without it jamming. We motored to the anchorage and picked the farthest outside location to drop our hook. It was still far too windy to deal with a sail, so we enjoyed our second night at anchor in Thailand and delayed the repair until conditions were more favorable. The outhaul line had not broken; the whipping twine had simply failed due to UV damage. We had replaced the outhaul line in Grenada in June 2007. It is amazing how much damage the sun can cause.

Whipping mainsail outhaul on calm seas.
Winds were down substantially the next morning and the seas had completely flattened out. It was a positively glorious sail for the entire day. Since we were sailing flat with only the genoa and the mizzen sail, Bill was able to stand on the deck and replace the whipping twine. He decided this was the perfect opportunity to also replace the outhaul car and shackle with the spares that we had ordered from the Amel factory last summer. The entire repair was complete in less than 45 minutes and we were back to sailing with our normal 3 sails on a beautiful beam reach. The air temperature was only 83F, which is cool to us. This was the most perfect day of sailing that we have enjoyed in a long, long time.

Sections of the islands along this part of the coast of Thailand resemble the islands of Halong Bay in north Vietnam, except on a very minute scale.  It is like someone took a tiny pinch of the Halong Bay islands and dropped them into the coastal waters of southwestern Thailand ---- as if Halong Bay were stretched out at least 1000%.  

The smaller island on the right in this close-up photo looked like a sheep sitting down.  I could make out the eyes and nose/mouth of an animal.  The shape of the body resembled a sheep or lamb.  Instead of imagining images in clouds, I was imagining images in the island rock formations.   Those are good-sized tour boats moored next to the islands, so you can see the scale of the height of these stark rock islands.

Around 16:00 we arrived in Ao Chalong Bay (Phuket) and dropped anchor near Bill and Amy on S/V ESTRELLITA, at latitude 07.49.101N longitude 098.21.554E. Distance sailed this day was 58 nautical miles. Our dinghy was still inverted on the mizzen deck, so they popped over for a beer and to visit a bit. Then they treated us to dinner ashore and showed us around town a bit.

This was the first dinghy beach landing that we had done since the Marquesas in June 2008! I bet we are the only cruising couple who can make that statement. And that also was the last time either of us has been swimming in the ocean. We certainly will not be getting into the water here either, as there are large jellyfish everywhere.
Monday morning Bill and Amy picked us up in their dinghy and again took us ashore. The plan was to share a rental car for the day. First order of business for us was to get cleared into Thailand. The King's birthday was on Sunday, December 5 (and Happy Birthday to my very old friend Cordelia on that day also, if she is reading this), but the day was celebrated as a holiday by officials on Monday, December 6. So we had to pay overtime fees to clear in – 600 baht to Customs and 300 baht to Immigration. The Harbour Master did not hit us up for any fees. Bet that will happen when we clear out. 900 baht sounds like a lot, but that is less than $30 USD. We have paid a lot more than that to clear into some countries on regular days, so these were not exorbitant overtime fees.

Driving around the area proved that Phuket is much larger and more heavily populated than we had imagined. We stopped at the Royal Phuket Yacht Club where we will be berthed for awhile during our stay in this area. It is way too swank for me to enjoy -- not a cruiser type marina at all. We booked this marina based on advice from an Australian in Malaysia, and had to prepay for a full month. We advised the marina at the time we prepaid that we might want to stay only 10 days, and they agreed to refund any unused days after the initial 10 day period. So we are committed to stay there for at least 10 days if we want a refund for the other 20 days we have prepaid. After seeing this place, I am not at all happy about this situation; but it is what it is. So we will be moving to the marina in a few days.

So far we both really like this part of Thailand. There certainly is no dress code. This is a very touristy place, mostly for Europeans for some reason; and the clothing is skimpy and ultra casual. What a relief to be able to wear shorts and tank tops again without insulting anyone. I like Thailand!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like more great posts are to come ... looking forward to them!


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