Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas in Phuket

This was our first Christmas away from family since 2006.  I was missing family and not expecting much activity that day, just Bill and I alone anchored off a pretty beach. The day turned out much better than we had imagined.  

About 1 1/2 hours before high tide we moved over to the fuel dock at the Royal Phuket Marina and filled the main fuel tank and jerry jugs with as much diesel as we could hold, plus the extra gasoline jerry jug for the dinghy outboard.  We were attempting to use up all the remaining credit from the 30 days we had to pre-pay for the marina slip.  We had to pay for 30 days in order to have a secured reservation, with the agreement that the unused days would be refunded to us if we stayed a minimum of 10 days.  We had been at the marina for 16 days and were ready to move on.  Despite our best efforts, we were unable to take on enough fuel to use up our remaining credit balance.  The marina will refund about 5,000 baht to our credit card.  At 10 minutes before high tide, we left the fuel dock and joined the procession of boats filing out the channel from Royal Phuket Marina and adjacent Boat Lagoon Marina.  We were third in line.

The first boat was a very large catamaran and he skimmed out quickly.  The smaller sloop in front of us churned up mud several times as he attempted to follow the long twisting channel out.   Our draft is supposed to be 2.1 meters.  As heavily loaded as we currently are, the draft must be at least 2.2 meters because the water rises higher on the hull -- almost to the boot stripe right now.  Those 15 cases of beer and 6 cases of wine and all the food I have stocked comprise a lot of extra weight, causing the boat to float lower in the water than optimal.  However, the tide was supposedly 3.2 meters; so all should be well.

We saw 0.0 water depth beneath our keel 3 times as we exited the channel.  But we never churned up any mud so there must have been at least a few inches of water beneath the keel at all times.  I was very relieved to be out of there!  I normally start getting nervous when we are in 10 meters of water.  At least I knew this was just a mud bottom and not coral or boulders, so it wasn't too nerve wracking.  Still, I was very glad to get out of that shallow water.

The anchorage at Ko Rang Yai was lovely on this sunny day.  There were 6 boats already anchored there, none of whom we knew.  Soon S/V ESPIRIT, S/V IMAGINE and S/V TIN SOLDIER arrived and anchored behind us.  As tide changed and boats swung around on their anchors, we soon were behind them.  Tides are very significant in this area and the currents are strong.

TIN SOLDIER and ESPIRIT aboard BeBe                  
Bill and Jane & Mark of S/V IMAGINE      
Bill had understood that the other boats wanted to get together for Christmas celebration and share appetizers, then each family would go their on way for individual dinners.  Somehow he had misunderstood the invitation.  The plan was to gather on one boat for appetizers, on a second boat for the main dinner, and move to a third boat for deserts.   As I was cooking miniature crab cakes, I quickly volunteered our boat for the appetizers.  That eliminated the logistical difficulties of transporting hot food in a dinghy.   The  5 children from the other 3 boats opted not to share appetizers with the adults.  They wisely scooted around the anchorage in a dinghy and enjoyed the beach.  I just love the self-reliant attitude of cruiser kids!  It was hot and sunny, but all 9 adults managed to fit into our cockpit and visit over drinks and assorted appetizers.   In fact, we were all enjoying talking so much that we fell an hour behind the "schedule" of progressing to the next boat.

S/V ESPIRIT had baked a turkey with all the traditional fixings -- bread stuffing, sausage dressing, green salad -- even cranberries.  S/V TIN SOLDIER also baked 2 chickens and a delicious onion & carrot dish.  S/V IMAGINE contributed mashed potatoes, another vegetable and more cranberries, plus champagne and non-alcoholic champagne for the kids.  Since we had not planned to join the group for a big meal, we had nothing prepared to share.  I quickly stir-fried a mixture of various vegetables and that was our only contribution.  I felt a little bad about not cooking much for this large gathering, but there was more than enough food to go around.  Lots of leftovers.  

Later we all moved to S/V IMAGINE for freshly baked pumpkin pie and assorted Christmas cookies.   One of the kids said this was the best progressive Christmas they had ever seen.  And it was great in our opinions also.  Heck, we even received a few small Christmas gifts -- some special coffees from S/V ESPIRIT and 2 small boxes of Belgian chocolates from Sara on S/V MOONSHIER a day earlier (one of which I unashamedly re-gifted to Chay on S/V ESPIRIT for his 60th birthday the next day).  Christmas is always best spent around children.  And, yet again, we were impressed with all these kids.  Cruising children are polite, sociable, well-behaved.  They interact with adults so much that they are often mature beyond their years, yet remain children with age-appropriate behavior when playing with other kids.  Being exposed to so many different cultures affords them a more well-rounded outlook on life than those children reared in a more traditional setting.  I think cruising and home-schooling is a wonderful experience for children.

It was a wonderful Christmas Day in Phuket.

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