Friday, December 31, 2010
New Years Eve in Patong
WOW!! The fireworks in Patong Bay on New Years Eve were spectacular! There must have been at least 50,000 rockets bursting in the sky. Along with thousands upon thousands of floating fire lanterns. People started releasing the lanterns around 8 p.m. and the number only increased until well past midnight. The sky was filled with the softly glowing amber lights floating off over our heads to scatter into the Indian Ocean as they burned out. I wish I knew more about the significance of the lighted lanterns. It provided quite the show. And the rocket fireworks were the largest display we have ever seen. The beach area was filled with blasts for about 45 minutes. And the resorts on either side of this large bay also added their fireworks, so we had rockets bursting on 3 sides of our boat. The music from the beach bars was booming! It was plenty loud even as far out as were were. The loudest music I have heard since the Fishermen's Birthday celebration in Grenada.
Rather than anchor up near the town of Patong with the hundreds of other cruising boats, we opted to pick up a mooring ball off one of the outlying resorts. We were moored about 3/4 mile out from the town. We did this because the original intentions were to depart at 0400 Saturday morning, 1 January 2011; and we wanted to be well away from the crowded anchorage for that dark departure. But Bill picked up the latest GRIB files on Friday afternoon and the weather forecast for the Bay of Bengal had changed yet again, and we decided to wait another day before leaving Thailand. The US Navy weather site indicates that the monsoon should pick up in about 3 days. The winds are slightly better now along the coast of Thailand, so we will depart Sunday morning and hope that monsoon really does pick up when we are a couple days out in the ocean.
Still not decided if we will stop in the Similan Islands. It really is not far out of our planned route.
The Similan Islands are a Thai national park. There are buoys all over the place and dive boats often fill the place. The park fee is 100 baht for a visiting permit, plus 400 baht per person for a 5 day visit. We don't have any more Thai baht and are not going ashore to get more. The dinghy is already stowed on the mizzen deck and the outboard stowed for passage. So if we do stop in the Similans, hopefully they will accept US dollars or Euros. If not, then I guess they will tell us to move on.
Our friends Michael and Linda on S/V B'SHERET arrived in Phuket on 27 December. We shared several lunches and dinners with them this week. One day we rented a car and took their sails to Rolly Tasker. Their genoa can be cleaned and is okay, but their mainsail needs replacing. So they will be sitting in Phuket for a couple of weeks waiting on their new sail. Their watermaker also was leaking and that must be repaired. They will be a few weeks late departing Phuket. Maybe we will see them in Cochin, but I kind of doubt it. We will likely already be out of Cochin before they arrive.
At the moment there are several boats en route to either Sri Lanka or Cochin that are checking in twice daily to the Indian Ocean Cruising Net that Bill Betts on S/V ESTRELLITA kindly offered to run. ESTRELLITA, SAPRISTI, ANJOLIE, MADAME and VOYAGER are out there now. Maybe there are more, but those are the only ones we know about. S/V EMMANUELLE and S/V MISS JODY went up to the Andamans. They are on a very tight schedule. I can't wait to hear how their check-in and departure clearances go. We have heard from others who have visited there that it takes freakin' forever to handle clearance formalities in the Andaman Islands. The officials will let you sit in front of them for several hours and then ask why you are there -- after they have already accepted your papers and left them sitting on the desk all that time. It sounds almost like a game they play to show you just who is in charge.
Thursday night we anchored in Hai Nairn. Or Nai Hairn. Or whatever that little bay is called. There is no name on our charts. It is a very pretty bay just around the western corner from huge Ao Chalong Bay. There were hundreds of boats in Ao Chalong; less than 2 dozen in Hai Hairn. Hai Narn is very picturesque, with boulders lining the sides and a long white sand beach at the head of the bay and a smaller beach to the right. Both beaches are completely filled with lounges for tourists. Cruisers are not allowed to land their dinghies anywhere in Hai Narn, so it is pretty much a stay-on-your-boat-and-enjoy-the-scenery kind of place. It is so much nicer than Ao Chalong, but with nothing to do. We liked it.
In observance of leaving Thailand, here are a couple of photos of a local boat that we have admired along the beach at Ao Chalong. Love this boat.
In observance of the New Year I am cooking black-eye peas, ham and cornbread. Those are the things a southerner is supposed to eat on New Year's Day for good luck. Heading out across the Bay of Bengal, then the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Aden, I figure we need all the luck we can garner.