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.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Andamans? Or no Andamans?

We have struggled deciding whether to sail up to the Andaman Islands or not.   Someone we know sailed there 2 years ago and said it was the highlight of their entire circumnavigation.  The Andamans are a pristine environment (one of the very few left if this world).  Flora and fauna supposedly flourish.  The corals are supposed to be vibrant and still alive -- not dead and brown as in so many other parts of the oceans today.  An opportunity to visit the Andaman Islands should not be missed.

As long as you have plenty of time to deal with officialdom.

And we don't 

Bill has decided that any place that requires 2 days or more to clear in, plus 2 days or more to clear out, is not a place he wishes to visit.  And, as much as I would have enjoyed snorkeling in this remote and beautiful place, I must agree with Bill.  If we could be assured of being able to complete clearance formalities in one day and to be able to clear out in a few hours so that we could depart in morning light, then we would sail to the Andaman Islands for the10 days our schedule allows.  But since we have limited time to visit that area, the thought of wasting 2-3 days on the front end and 2-3 days on the exiting end is senseless.  It only makes sense to jump through these hoops if one can say in the Andaman Islands for a full month.

Here is a list of the forms required to visit the Andaman Islands:

India visa (supposed to be a special visa for just the Andamans, but normally a regular visa for Inda will suffice)

Advance Clearance Request  (must submit minimum 48 hours prior to arrival)
Advance Crew List   (must submit minimum 48 hours prior to arrival)
General Declaration Form (Arrival) 
Crew List Form (Arrival) 
Immigration Form (Arrival) 
Customs Appraisal Form (Arrival) 
Itinerary (Arrival) (must provide a list of dates and places you wish to visit)
Customs Clearance Request (Arrival) (and they do want a list of EVERYTHING on the boat, including model and serial numbers)
Customs Inventory & Declaration (Arrival)
Forestry Dept Request Letter (Arrival)
Customs Clearance Request (Departure.)
Harbour Clearance Request (Departure)
Immigration Clearance Request (Departure)
Harbour Fees Form (Departure)
General Declaration Form (Departure) 
Crew List Form (Departure)

Most of these forms must be completed in minimum of triplicate, some as many as 6 copies.  Additionally, each boat is required to report in via VHF or SSB radio twice daily and state their position.  Every movement is monitored.  Only 30 to 40 boats per year visit the Andaman Islands.  India is doing everything possible to limit the impact of outsiders on the environment and the tribal cultures of the Andamans.  

We applaud their efforts, but will pass on the opportunity to visit this special place because of the bureaucracy involved. 

BTW, here are a couple of photos of jellyfish floating by our boat in Ao Chalong Bay.  There is at least one jellyfish every 10 square yards.  These are not small!  We have never seen so many jellyfish in one area as we have seen in the Thai waters.  This is the reason we would never willingly get into the water around here and were looking forward to the more remote (and hopefully less jellyfish filled) waters of the Andamans.  Sorry we will miss it.

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.

And how would you cook this?

This is a label from a food package purchased in Thailand. (Click on the image for a larger view.)  Can you figure out how to cook it?  Can you possibly figure out what it is?  Yeah; that is what I thought.  So, here is a short story of my recent cooking adventures here in the Land of Smiles.

Shortly after we arrived in Phuket I cooked pancakes one Sunday morning, following the long-since memorized recipe from my grandmother's 1932 cookbook handed down to me from my mother since she never used it.  Bill took the first bite and literally spit it back out onto the plate.  Those pancakes tasted utterly disgusting!!!  He was convinced that I must have forgotten the recipe and added wrong ingredients.  I tossed that batch and started over; this time Bill pulled out the cookbook and called out the ingredients and quantities as I mixed the batter.

The second batch tasted just as nasty as the first.  Tossed that mess into the trash and Bill ate toast and cereal instead.  We reviewed where we had purchased each of the ingredients.  The only thing that possibly might have been different was the flour.  We had purchased it in Langkawi and the package was labeled only in Bahassa Malay.  I thought it was the same flour we have been buying during the past year, but maybe I had picked up some kind of seasoned flour intended for seafood or chicken or something.  So we tossed the entire large canister of flour.  During our next shopping trip we purchased Gold Medal flour.  Next time I made pancakes, they tasted fine -- just like normal.

On Christmas Day I made a chocolate pie using the same cookbook.  Nothing weird in the ingredients:  Hershey's semi-sweet baking chocolate, butter, flour, sugar, salt, scalded milk, vanilla and 3 egg yolks.  The mixture took 3 times longer to thicken that stated in the recipe, but it looked normal.  I poured it into the pie shell and then licked the spoon.  BEEE--YUCK!!!!!  That tasted sort of like that nasty pancakes of a few weeks earlier.  I tossed that pie into the trash and decided we didn't really need a desert on Christmas.  (Later, our Christmas plans changed and there were plenty of deserts; but that is another story.)

Fast forward to 28 December when for some reason  I decided that a cup of coffee would be really nice one morning.  We do not normally drink coffee but I do enjoy it every once in a while.  Rather than my normal black coffee, I wanted a "desert" coffee with sugar and Coffeemate.  I settled in the cockpit to enjoy the coffee while reading my latest book; took the first sip and promptly spit it overboard.  HEY!  This tasted about as nasty as those pancakes!  

All the marinas in Thailand warn that the water from the spigots is non-potable; so we have not been drinking water from our main water tank because it was filled in the marina.  We had filled large jerry jugs with water we had made prior to arriving in the marina.  But for this coffee I had used the water from the tap from our main water tank.  Figured since it was put through the drinking water filter system and then boiled that it should be okay to drink.  Apparently not true!

I made another coffee, using water from our jerry jugs this time.  I added the sugar and Coffeemate; and again sat down to enjoy coffee and reading.  Took a sip and again immediately spit it overboard.  What the heck was going on?  This stuff tasted like seawater.  I convinced Bill to taste it.  He grimaced and said it tasted like salt.

A little memory work ensued.  Sure enough, when I had cooked the last batch of pancakes I had used up the last 1/4 cup of the sugar in the small container that I keep on the spice shelf in the galley.  That was the batch of pancakes that tasted normal.  But the first 2 batches of disgusting pancakes were made using sugar from the large canister kept on a shelf behind the store.  And the chocolate pie was prepared using sugar from that large canister.  Then I had re-filled the small container on the spice shelf from that large canister and used the small container to "sweeten" my coffee. 

That large canister of sugar was really SALT!!
Actually, both the small container and the large canister were now pure salt!

Here in Thailand I had purchased a large bag of what I thought was sugar.  It looked like sugar and was on the supermarket shelf next to the flour, so I thought like an American and assumed it was sugar.  After all, at home the supermarkets usually put the flour and sugar near one another on the shelves.

Glad the mystery was solved before we ruined more food.  I had already thrown out quite a bit of flour, not to mention the pie crust and the chocolate and eggs.  I dug out our "reserve" large bag of sugar that had been vacuum-sealed in March 2008 in Panama.  I poured that excessive quantity of salt into a bag and vacuum-sealed it.  Then washed out the large canister and filled it with azucar -- which I know for certain is Spanish for sugar. 

We now have enough salt on this boat to last us however many years we might decide to continue cruising.  I would never have knowingly bought this much salt.  But we will need to buy more sugar.  And from now on I will taste the salt and taste the sugar before it is placed into our daily use small containers and the large Lock-N-Lock storage canisters.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Decisions! Decisions!!

We are having the most difficult time deciding when to leave Phuket.   Like I wrote earlier, it would be so easy for us to get lost here because we like it so much.

Fellow Americans on a couple of boats have invited us to join them on Christmas Day at a nearby anchorage for visiting and appetizers.   Each boat has children and they want the kids to frolic on the pretty beaches instead of being berthed in a marina on Christmas.  Bill picked up both the TIG welded mixing elbow (now our spare) and the new mixing elbow this morning.  The new one is installed and we can now leave the marina free of worries about the engine.  We are keeping our fingers crossed that a similar problem does not develop with the mixing elbow on the Onan generator.  There is no evidence of rust on it.  But now the potential of a problem will nag at the back of our minds for the next 5,000 miles.

This morning a fellow Amel owner who lives in Phuket brought us his copy of the Andaman Sea Pilot and gave us local knowledge of lots of Thai anchorages.  He urged us to get out and cruise the many islands of this area before setting off towards India.  His advice was to wait until the second or third week of January before crossing to India because the NE monsoon is late this year and won't establish until the barometric pressure in the Himalayan mountains ranges between 1038 and 1042.  When the isobars are around 1040 up there,  then there should be consistent 20 knot winds across the Bay of Bengal.  If we leave too early then there is the possibility of winds switching directions and making our lives unpleasant.   Not dangerous; just unpleasant.

On the other hand, we had hoped to arrive in Cochin on the western coast of India around 20 January.  The Vasco de Gama Rally will depart Cochin around 22 January, and the Blue Water Rally boats should begin arriving in Cochin around 27January.  We wanted to arrive, get into the marina and fill up with diesel before the Blue Water boats crowd us out of the marina and into the anchorage.  The new marina will cater to boats participating in these 2 rallies and we must vacate our reserved berth if a rally boat needs it.  Can't fault the marina management for that decision.  Both rallies will be sailing from Cochin to Salalah, Oman.  We figure that is the best time for us also to be out in that part of the Indian Ocean/Arabian Sea.  More possible targets for the Somali pirates decreases the chances that we would be targeted.  Now, doesn't that sound cold-hearted!   Those who know me know that I am usually practical to a fault.

Today I notified the office that we will leave the marina on 25 December.  Hopefully, we will meet up with the other American boats for several hours.  Then we might sail to some "Ko" and also see the James Bond island where The Man with the Golden Gun was filmed.   There is time for us to visit a few islands before clearing out and setting sail to the Andamans.  And STILL make it to Cochin by 20 January if the weather cooperates.  I see no reason why we can't wait for the good weather in the Andaman Islands just as easily as waiting here in Phuket area.  And that should cut the long passage from 1460 NM down to 1210 miles.

Decisions!  Decisions!!  Why are we vacillating so much with these decisions!  Do we go early next week and possibly arrive in Cochin before the rally boats set sail for Oman?  Or do we wait here several weeks longer and miss sailing in the pirate waters at the same time as the rally boats?  It is almost as bad as when cruisers gather in Tonga and yak back and forth for weeks about setting off on the dreaded passage south to New Zealand.  At some point you have to do just do it.

I am voting for going to the Andaman Islands and hoping weather is perfect for setting sail to Cochin by 11 January.

I am also voting for miniature crab cakes as my contribution to the group gathering on Christmas Day.  Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Things are trying to delay our departure

Yesterday afternoon we consulted the calendar and realized that we should check out of this marina on Sunday 26 December and depart from Patong on 27 December.  Then Bill read something on the Amel Owners Group online about boats the same age as BeBe having rusting problems with the mixing elbow on the main engine.  After all, this boat is almost 8 years old now and it is time for routine things to start needing repair and/or replacement.  And with the difficult Red Sea and Gulf of Aden passages coming soon, the engine MUST be reliable.

This information sent Bill down inside the engine room, where he quickly removed the mixing elbow and brought it topsides for closer inspection.  In a crevice there appeared to be some rust; not too much.  Bill cleaned the rust off and we could not see any holes.  But there must be some very tiny holes or the rust should not have formed there.  Actually, it was more like a crusty salt build-up than rust.  Moisture vapor must have leaked through holes too tiny for us to see even with our highest-power magnifying glass.  The photo shows what it looked like after Bill wire brushed it.

Yanmar Mixing Elbow       

First thing this morning Bill walked to Boat Lagoon in search of a TIG welder and a Yanmar parts shop.  He found both.  The welder was not in yet, so Bill left the elbow.  We will know tomorrow whether or not the TIG welding is possible.  The Yanmar parts shop was a bonanza!  It is just a small satellite shop.  They did not have the part, but the main shop had one and couriered it right over to the satellite location while Bill waited.  Unfortunately, it was missing a washer and the drain plug.  Not a problem.  They will fabricate those 2 missing pieces and it will be ready tomorrow.   We are delighted because we thought the part would have to be shipped in from Singapore and that would delay our departure next week.  Hopefully tomorrow we will have both the new elbow and the welded elbow to use as a spare.  BTW, these elbows are not cheap -- $1,000 USD plus taxes.   Ouch!!   Wasn't expecting that!

The Ka-Ka-Girls shop owner emailed a price quote for the 2 additional shade awnings we wanted to have made.  He wanted roughly $1200 USD and we felt that was a couple hundred dollars too much.  So instead of new shade awnings, we will be the proud owners of a new mixing elbow.  As Bill pointed out, we really won't be using shade awnings until we get back to the Caribbean and we can have them made there.  Might cost a little more, but maybe not.  Then again, there is always Turkey next year.  We hear great things about available boat-related work in Turkey.  Possibly shade awnings can be manufactured there at a reasonable cost.

This afternoon we decided to do a couple loads of laundry aboard BeBe.  The marina rules state no gray water discharge and I was hesitant to run the washing machine.  But what the heck!  They don't mind people washing boats and all those cleaning products drain directly into the water.  My laundry detergent can't be as detrimental to the environment as those boat cleaners.  An hour later I was dragging soaked clothes out of the washing machine because it would not pump out the water and spin dry.  Oh crap!!!  When it rains it pours sometimes.  First the $1,000 for the mixing elbow and now we might have to buy a new washing machine?

Bill wasn't ready to give up quite so easily.  He was sure it could be repaired.  After all, a washing machine is a pretty basic appliance.  It probably just needed a new water pump.  I was a bit more negative and figured we were going to end up buying a new machine.  Again, this boat is now almost 8 years old.  I'm sort of surprised we haven't had a problem with the washing machine before now.  What I was really dreading was trying to figure out how to get the washing machine out of the mahogany cabinetry.  Turns out I was worrying about nothing.

Henri Amel thought of everything.  It was so, so, so simple to remove the washing machine from the cabinetry.  Bill unscrewed the 2 ultra-long bolts that hold the machine stationary and the tongue-in-groove cabinet fell apart like a finely machined clam shell.  One L-shaped side was easily removed from the other fixed L-shaped side.  The "Ls" joined together with fine cabinetry tongue-in-groove.  Putting it back together was just as easy.  Except we then learned that there were built in guides for the 25-inch or so long bolts.  Just guide in the bolt and it aligned perfectly.

The machine slid out easily.  We tilted it so Bill could access the pump-out water pump.  He found the clean-out access for that pump and cleaned it out with the shop vac.  It looked like a large hair ball had been blocking the outflowing water and causing the pump not to work.  Because the water was not pumping out, the machine would not spin dry.  While everything was apart, Bill took this opportunity to coat all contacts with Corrosion X.  (Truly cannot recommend this product more highly!!)

We put it all back together and ran another load of laundry.  All worked just as it should.  What a relief!  And to look on the bright side -- I was finally able to clean the floor inside that cabinet.

This morning while Bill was on the mixing elbow quest, I cleaned the carpets.  And they look fabulous!  This is a chore best done while docked and one has shore power for the shop vac.  I brought all the carpets into the cockpit.  I stood beneath the shade awning with the big fan blowing right on me as I worked.  The cockpit table is the perfect height for this type work.  The process involved first vacuuming each carpet piece; then using the water hose to thoroughly soak one carpet piece at a time.  Next I scrubbed each piece with a stiff brush and finished by vacuuming very well with the shop vac.  The resulting muddy water inside the shop vac was disgusting, so I know this method cleaned the carpets very well.  The last time the carpets were cleaned was in New Zealand when we rented a steam-cleaning machine.  Ever since then I have felt that there was still cleanser residue left in the carpets.  So today I used just plain water and the results speak volumes.  The carpets haven't looked this good since we have owned the boat.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Photos and Observations

Deadwood in Phuket    
 When in Patong last Friday we found Deadwood in Phuket.  Only Americans will understand that comment.   This sign was in the bar off the sidewalk at the entrance to the Tiger Hotel.  Lots of pretty girls sitting around to join you as you enjoy that "Fucking Cold Beer."  All for a fee, of course.  Patong has all the most sought-after entertainment of Phuket Island.  Tourists crowd the place day and night.  There are lots of specialty bars, such as the lady boys.  Why tourists want to see bars filled with transvestites is beyond my understanding.  So these men like to dress as women.  So what!  Who cares.  The Tiger Hotel is right next to the Bangla Boxing Center, and their girls are quite definitely not lady boys.

Yesterday we rented a car, not sharing with other friends this time.  That is because our friends have cleared out of Thailand and moved on to the Similan Islands to await increasing winds to send them on their way to Sri Lanka.  The Similan Islands are a national park of Thailand about 65 miles away from Phuket.  We also probably will head there soon.  Other friends are currently en route from Langkawi to Phuket but likely will not arrive until after Christmas.  So we had a rent car all to ourselves yesterday.  And what was the first thing we did?  Well, of course, pick up another cruising couple walking in the heat on the very long entrance road from the marina.

I have already forgotten their names, but they are Brits from Guernsey who are participating in the Blue Water Rally round-the-world.   Turned out we had planned to go to several of the same places they wanted to go, so they rode along with us for a couple of hours as we visited various chandleries in search of certain brands and models of oil filters and impellers and other such boat candy.  And during this process Bill and I learned a bit about Guernsey and Jersey.  Guernsey is actually separate from the UK, with their own government and currency and not members of the EU.  Enjoyed talking with these folks.  They related several problems that members of the BWR encountered in Kupang and Bali.  Indonesia turned out to be very expensive for the rally members, well more than $1,000 more than we paid in various Indonesian fees.  I think this world renown rally was ripped off royally while in Indonesia.

We dropped them back at Royal Phuket Marina and then visited the Central Festival mall, where we found the nicest and most expensive supermarket on Phuket Island.  We went to this mall in search of a replacement battery for my watch.  But apparently Rado watches are not sold anywhere on Phuket Island; so when my watch stops I will do without.  The nice supermarket had the best-looking cuts of "organic" meats and chicken.  We loaded up on as many chicken breast tenders as I thought might fit in our fridge and freezer, plus wonderful thick steaks that we will grill for Christmas dinner.  It is too hot to even think about roasting or baking anything normal for Christmas dinner.  We will do a tropical yuletide celebration.

Rolly Tasker was not finished cleaning our fore ballooner sail.  Somehow the sail bag had been mistakenly placed in the completed section and the work was overlooked.  They said they would do it immediately and we could pick it up at closing time at 17:00, which we did.  The sail loft could not believe that our sails are almost 8 years old and used for more than half a circumnavigation.  Our sails were manufactured by Demi Voile in France and are really good sails.  They cost more, but worth the additional cost.   Rolly Tasker told us that most sails only last 4 -5 years and that ours look like they should last another 4 or 5 years from now.   That was very good news to our ears!   All sails are now inspected and in very good condition and back in place on the boat.

Then we dropped off one of our shade awning panels with the Ka-Ka Girls for a zipper replacement.  I had noticed that one of the zippers was getting very brittle and teeth are about ready to break off.  It must have gotten more direct sun than the other zippers.  Figured there was no better time or place than getting it replaced here and now.  I also talked with the shop owner about making 2 more shade awnings.  He said if we could draw out the specs and email to him that they should be able to finish within only a few days.  BTW, almost all the businesses here are open on Christmas Day; but they close for 4 days for New Years.

This morning we measured and sketched diagrams for the proposed fore and aft shade awnings.  Bill is emailing the specs to the Ka-Ka Girls shop as I type this blog.  If their price quote is anywhere near reasonable then we should have new awnings next week.  Then we should be on our way to the Similans and then the Andaman Islands.  We learned from the guy in charge of the marina in Cochin that it is possible to visit the Andamans and then go directly to mainland India without waiting the mandatory 2 months between entries.  He said the trick is to request a "Domestic Exit" stamp to our visas when we depart the Andaman Islands; and to request a "Domestic Entry" stamp to our visas when we arrive in Cochin.  This supposedly allows us to visit both places without being forced to adhere to the 2 month limit between entries.  The catch is that one cannot stop anywhere else between the Andaman Islands and mainland India -- that would constitute an International Entry when arriving in Cochin and THAT invalidates the Domestic Exit from the Andaman Islands.  Are you confused yet?  We did not plan to stop in Sri Lanka or the Maldives before arriving at Cochin, so this is not a problem for us at all.  We are delighted to now have the opportunity to visit the Andaman Islands.  Given a choice between Sri Lanka or Maldives or Andamans, we would chose the more exotic and less frequented Andaman Islands.

Yesterday we visited the dentist who had been highly recommended by other friends.  But to do any of the elective work we were thinking about would take longer than we want to stay here.  Phuket is an excellent place for any dental work (and also for other medical needs).  Many Australians fly here for dental work because the quality is excellent and the prices superb.  Prices are about one-fourth those in the USA.  Average price for a crown (cap) for a molar is $200-$225 USD.   In Houston last month a dentist quoted $1200-$1400 for the same work.  Bill has some fillings that are literally 50 years old, and we thought those should be replaced.  Unfortunately, there just isn't time because the dentist said it would take 2 to 3 weeks and we are not willing to be tied down here that long.  Sure wish we had known about this dentist when we first arrived in Phuket.  BTW, it is within walking distance of Ao Chalong Bay so it is very convenient for boats at anchor.  After clearing in with Immigration and Customs, walk down the nearest perpendicular street to the roundabout; turn right and the 32 Dental Clinic is about 1000 meters on the right hand side of the road.  Directly across the street is a bank and an inflatable dinghy repair shop.  All newly arriving cruisers need to know about this place.  There are dental facilities all over the place, but this convenient one comes highly recommended by other cruisers.

This morning we noticed that a newly arrived boat docked 2 slips down from our boat is someone we met way back in Queensland area of Australia.  Their son Jaime entertained our grandson Zachary for several days during our sail from Mackay to Cairns.  What a surprise to run into them again!  They are also headed to the Red Sea and we will talk further with them about our respective sailing plans for the pirate areas.

Now for a few observations.

When shopping around the island we have seen colored eggs that always get my attention.  Several stores have had pink eggs for sale.  But one shop had green eggs.  (Should insert a Doctor Seuss joke here, if I knew one).  These appear to be regular chicken eggs except they are colored.  The eggs do not appear to be dyed.  Something different that I do not understand.  We have seen black eggs in Malaysia and are familiar with the speckled eggs found locally.  But these pink and green eggs elude me.

Security guards around the island stand at attention and salute people as they drive or walk by their duty stations.  Some of them click their heels as they salute, and it always makes me want to say "Achtung" to them as we pass by.  Bill, on the other hand, always want to return their salute.  He says an un-returned salute is an empty salute.  In Patong even the Burger King advertisement shows a guy saluting.  We have not seen a Burger King here yet.  Maybe they have a guard at the door who salutes customers as they arrive

Recently we utilized the marina laundry service.  Every single garment and item was returned to us with twisted colored yarn attached.  Apparently this is how they mark which items belong to a particular customer when large loads are washed together from several customers.  Our colors were orange, blue and green.  And every single item had been ironed -- sheets, bath towels, tee-shirts, cotton knit tank tops, shorts -- everything except socks.  All for the "hefty" price of about $8 USD per load.  To be fair, that is a very high price locally for laundry.  But it seemed cheap to us.  It has been a long time since we have slept on ironed sheets.  I reminded Bill not to get spoiled because he won't be getting that again anytime soon.

Final observation is about the fuel stations for motorcycles.  All through Indonesia and in some parts of Malaysia we have seen roadside stands holding glass containers of gasoline intended for purchase for motorcycles.  This is really convenient -- and very dangerous to our western ideas.  In fact, we saw the same throughout SE Asia during our travels over the past year.  But Phuket has something better.  They have very tiny gas stations (petrol stations for our Brit friends).  These stations are all over the place and are set just back from the sidewalks.  You insert cash and pump the gas.

One day we walked over to Boat Lagoon (the best marina and books up a year in advance).  While walking back past the corner 7-Eleven store and gas station, we walked within a few feet of a policeman in the process of arresting a young man on a motorcycle.   It was obvious that this young man had attempted to drive away from the gas pump without paying.  An undercover cop jumped out of his pick-up truck and yelled at the uniformed cop near the corner.  They instantly pulled the young man off that motorcycle and had him spread-eagle on the sidewalk with 2 large guns pointed to the back of his head.  Stealing gasoline is obviously taken very seriously here. 

Driving around Phuket is interesting and keeps you alert.  The outside lane on all busy roads and streets are meant to be used by motorcycles.  These lanes are narrower than normal car lanes.  These lanes are also often used for parked cars.  All this seems very logical.  Except for the fact that the motorcycles sometimes go in both directions in the narrow outside lanes.  It is obvious that traffic is supposed to flow only in one direction, but the motorcycle drivers just go the wrong way when that is more convenient to them.  Every time one parks a car on the side of a road or street, one must look both directions before opening the car door.  You expect the traffic to be approaching from the rear of the car, but you might just get hit by the motorcycle coming from the other direction.

When uploading photos from Bill's cell phone I found these 2 from our recent trip to Houston.  This first one is what we called a nanny cab.  The nannies working in West University (the town within the city of Houston where our eldest son lives and almost everyone has a nanny, even the stay-at-home moms) are provided these bicycles with enclosed trailers attached.  These are used to deliver and pick up the kids from the local elementary school.  I felt sorry for those nannies having to pedal in the cold rain while the precious darlings were zipped up warm inside.  Why can't they just walk?  It is only a few blocks and would be safer that this contraption in city traffic.

And this final photo was taken on Thanksgiving at Theo's house.  Our grandson Damien discovered the decorative wooden rocking horse near the fireplace and climbed on.

We had hoped to leave the marina day after tomorrow (Thursday 23 Dec)  to anchor somewhere.  Bill said he wanted to spend Christmas at "Ko" Somewhere, at a picturesque beach anchorage---not in a marina.  The marina office changed our minds.  Due to pro-rata rates of daily vs. monthly, it does not make sense for us to leave the marina until Sunday 26 December.  So that is what we will do. 

Unless someone invites us to join them for Christmas at anchor, and then plans change yet again. 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

"The Pearl of the Andaman Sea"

Phuket is the largest island belonging to Thailand.  The island has an area of 540 square kilometers, or 208.5 square miles, roughly the size of Singapore.   To give friends and family back home a basis for comparison, the city of Houston is 601.7 square miles; and the Houston city statistical area is 12,476 square miles.  We all know how far out those suburbs go.  Surely everyone knows how to pronounce Phuket.  The "ph" has the hard "p" sound.  And the "u" has the "oo" sound.  Poo-KET is the correct pronunciation.

This island has all the attributes one might want in a tropical vacation destination:  rocky mountains, limestone cliffs, more than 10 gorgeous white powdery beaches on the main island and many more on the dozens of surrounding tiny islands, tranquil broad bays, and tropical in-land forests.  Plus monkeys, tropical birds and even a few elephants at a few resorts just to remind tourists that they are indeed in Thailand.

Most geologists believe that the area known today as Phuket was once a cape on mainland Thailand that extended into the Andaman Sea.  Geographical formations gradually changed the cape's location, finally detaching it from the mainland.  Call it global warming over the past couple thousand years that has caused very shallow waters to separate Phuket into the island that it is today.  The water depth on the northern end of this island is not navigable 99% of the time because it is so shallow.  Even small motor boats have difficulty in those shallow areas.

Claudius Ptolemy, the famous Greek philosopher with the Roman and Egyptian name, mentioned the cape in a book he authored in the year 157 A.D.  The cape was locally referred to as Jung Ceylon, located between latitudes 6 North and 8 North (the present site of Phuket Island).   Natives called the place "Cha Lang," which evolved to "Tha Lang."  Thalang is now the name of the main town at the north end of the island.  This area was first mentioned in Malaysian literature in 1200 A.D.  Phuket has had an interesting history with influences from both East and West. 

Jung Ceylon was the perfect stopover, sheltering trader ships from monsoons on either side depending on which monsoon was in effect at any given time of the year.  The monsoon blows from the southwest from May through September and from the northeast from December through March.  Traditionally, the months of April/May and October/November are considered transitional weather.  However, the northeast monsoon usually does not become fully established these days until early-to-mid January.  That is why we are waiting here in Thailand for the northeast monsoon to become reliable----to help blow us westward towards India.  Each week the winds become more stable from the northeast, but the monsoon is still not fully established yet this year.   We don't want to head off too soon and then be caught with winds on our nose before we complete the 1460 miles to our destination.

Jung Ceylon welcomed merchants from India, Persia, Arabia, Burma, China and Siam.  During the 16th century, the island was also a popular trading port for tin with the Portuguese, Dutch, English and French.  These traders contributed to the development of mining in the area.  Chinese businessmen and miners later migrated to Phuket to enjoy the thriving tin mining business.  During the past hundred years, Phuket has also established its economic importance with both the tin mining and also the growing of rubber.  The trees with the little pots attached to their trunks are visible as one drives around the island.  One of the tour companies takes you out to collect your own rubber, but we will pass on that experience; or "give it a miss" as our British friends say.

In 1785 a five-week invasion by the Burmese was repulsed thanks to the ingenuity of two sisters, Chan and Mook.  Realizing the population of Phuket capable of fighting was outnumbered by the invading Burmese, the two sisters persuaded all the island's women to dress up as men, thus fooling the Burmese into believing that the island was too well defended.  In fact, the island's governor had just died and the local Thai's were leaderless.   The ploy worked; the Burmese left; and the two sisters were celebrated.  Today there is a monument  in the center of a traffic round-about on the northeast side of Phuket island that honors the heroines.  

Today it is obvious that tourism is the biggest business going.  The number of tourists is astounding.  Wonder when Americans are going to catch onto this great place.  Phuket is one of those places where we truly could get lost, as it appears so many Brits have already.  Everything we might want can be found here.  The climate is very much to our liking -- humid, warm-to-hot (but never cold), beautiful white sand beaches, beautiful rock islands, green/blue waters, very friendly people and great food.  We easily could enjoy living here for many years.

Yesterday we shared a rent car with friends for the day.  The major accomplishment of the day was to get new foam for our cockpit cushions.  The shop in New Zealand was supposed to recover the old foam in these cushions with our new fabric.  But they did us a favor and gave us new foam instead.  And I have hated those cushions every since.  The NZ foam was awful stuff.  The foam we bought yesterday is still not exactly what we want.  I figure we will have new cushions made when we get to France if we can find another fabric we like.  The original cockpit cushions were made in France and were great.  I want those duplicated again.  We looked at fabrics when we were in Houston, but the only fabric I liked was $82 per yard; and that is out of the question.  What we have now (with the new heavier foam) will work until we get to the Amel service yard in France in a couple of years.

We were supposed to go to the kick boxing tournament last night; but Bill had a short-lived Crohn's attack, so we had to cancel at the last minute.   Bill had a lot of pain off and on all afternoon yesterday, but today is back to feeling just fine.  Our friends drove all the way across the island to drop us off at our marina, and then had to drive all the way back across the island so they could watch the boxing starting at 21:00 last night.  Hope they enjoyed their evening.  Sorry we missed it.   Here are a couple of photos they took during the 10 fights last evening.

The Ka-Ka Girls

 Females in Thailand end many sentences with "ka" and males end sentences with "krup" or "krap."  They also intersperse these sounds within sentences.  Some people do this a lot; others who deal with foreigners in more formal business relationships do not say ka or krup as often.  We have no idea of the meanings of ka or krup.

Our friend Bill on S/V ESTRELLITA shared his story of visiting a local shop in Ao Chalong.  He had some canvas work done the previous week and wanted some adjustments made to a few items.  The English-speaking shop manager, a woman called Dum (pronounced just like dumb in English, but she certainly isn't), was not in; so Bill had to deal directly with a couple of female shop workers who spoke not a word of English.  This is about how the conversation went:

Bill:  See these seams?
Girls:  Ka

Bill:  I want these seams to be this way.
Girls:  Ka-a-a

Bill:  Can you do?
Girls: Ka

Bill:  And these turnbuckles on the end are too hard to work (as he screwed his face into a grimace and motioned twisting with difficulty).
Girls:  Ka-a-a

Bill:  Want these with grommets so can tie like the other piece.
Girls:  Ka-a-a-a (giggle; giggle with hands over mouths) Ka-a-a-a

Bill:  Can you do?
Girls: Ka

Bill:  This piece is too long.
Girls: Ka-a-a

Bill:  Can you make the same length as this other piece?
Girls:  Ka. Ka

Bill:  Can be ready tomorrow?
Girls:  Ka-a-a-a-a

Bill:  Everything all be ready tomorrow?
Girls:  Ka-a. Ka-a

Here was a fairly technical conversation involving several alterations on multiple sections of canvas awning.  And the girls understood everything he wanted done without understanding a word of his language.  And the only sounds the girls uttered was "ka" with various tonal inflections.  And, guess what!  They did all the work correctly and it was ready the following morning.  Gotta love it!

Then this week we called the same shop to see if our awning was repaired and ready for pick-up.  We did not want to waste a drive to Ao Chalong from our isolated marina unless the work was completed. 

Me:  This is Judy on boat BeBe.
Girl:  Ka

Me:  Are you finished working on our awning?
Girl:  Ka

Me:  Can we pick it up in an hour?  Will you be there in the shop?
Girl:  Ka.  Ka.

Me:  How much do we owe you?
Girl:  4,250 Baht-ka.

Me:  Thank you.  We will be there within an hour.  Goodbye.
Girl:  Bye-bye-ka.

And this was Dum, English-speaking shop manager, with whom I was conversing.

We now refer to this shop as the Ka-Ka Girls.  That is a lot shorter than the real name of the shop, which is 4 words we can never remember.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Our first few days in Phuket

Big Buddha on top of hill.
After finishing the officialdom dance and being properly cleared in, we spent our first full day in Phuket sharing a rental car with Bill & Amy on S/V ESTRELLITA. That is when we learned that Phuket is much larger, more heavily populated and more built up than we had imagined. The population of this island is around 660,000. Boats arrive and clear in at Ao Chalong Bay on the southeastern tip of the island.  Visible on the hillside nearby is a large Buddha.  We have seen enough Buddhas and are not likely to drive up there.

Ao Chalong is a huge bay, much of it shoal or too shallow for keel boats. The large section of the bay adjacent to the town of Ao Chalong is filled with moorings so we anchored well away from shore. It was quite a long dinghy ride to shore. Dinghies can be tied up at the very long and very high pier, but that is really a long walk to shore. Plus there is the 3 meter tide to consider when tying off a dinghy to a pier that does not float. Tie it too short during high tide and it will be dangling in the air later. Tie it too short during low tide and it will be perpendicular in the water later. A hassle that is easily avoided by instead landing on the beach and dragging the dinghy up the beach. There is a nice sturdy fence along the sidewalk to tie off the dinghy and lock a cable for security.

On the island of Phuket boaters can find just about anything their little hearts desire. We have not seen so many marine related shops and services since New Zealand. In fact, I think there is more here than in NZ. And supermarkets are far better stocked here than anywhere in Malaysia. The prices are higher, but not exorbitant by any means. We will rent a car just before leaving for India and stock up again. In the Carrefour we found the French Bolognese pasta sauce that we like so much. Haven't seen that brand since the island of Guadaloupe in the French West Indies of the Caribbean.

The best stop of the day was Rolly Tasker Sails. What an enormous sail loft!!! We have never seen a sail loft so huge. Rolly Tasker specializes in sailmaking, masts & rigging, rope making, marine hardware and general chandlery. The assortment of stainless steel gidgets and gadgets is amazing. What a delight to see so much of things we have missed for so long! We didn't need anything right now since we had just returned from the visit back to the States. Had we known about Rolly Tasker and what awaited us in Phuket then we would have delayed purchasing things until we arrived here.

Forget what I wrote earlier about buying courtesy flags in Langkawi. Rolly Tasker makes very heavy-duty courtesy flags out of sailcloth. These flags are larger and will last just about forever. These are much higher quality than what is sold in Langkawi. And Rolly Tasker charges only 300 baht per flag -- less than $10 USD. What a bargain!! We already have all the flags we should need all the way through the Red Sea and Mediterranean to Morocco.  But we bought another flag for France since we have gone through 3 French flags over the past 4 1/2 years.  Hopefully this one will last a long time.  And we bought a flag for Israel.  We have no plans to visit Israel, but people keep telling us that we simply must go there.  So now we have a flag in case someone convinces us that we really should visit this trouble-ridden country.

Bill and I had recently talked about wanting to have our mizzen asymmetrical sail (Amel calls this a mizzen ballooner) installed into a sock like our fore asymmetrical sail.  We think having it inside a sock would make hoisting and dousing this sail much simpler.  The easier it is, the more likely we will use the sail more frequently.  I really love the mizzen asymmetrical but we rarely fly it because it is such a hassle to fold it back up for storage.  A sock will simply both usage and storage.  Rolly Tasker to the rescue.  We talked to the men in charge and made arrangements for them to pick up this sail once we were berthed at Royal Phuket Marina.  Later we decided it would be a good idea to have all our sails checked out.  After all, the Red Sea is supposed to be the hardest weather we should encounter on the entire circumnavigation.  Best to have sails in perfect condition.

Tuesday we met with folks from another 2 boats who have similar ideas, similar speed boats and similar schedules for transiting the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden (Somali pirate territory).   I don't want to post anything specific on any website regarding our passage plans for this dangerous area.  But it looks like we might have the makings of a small group of like-minded individuals who can travel somewhat loosely together.  Participating in a tight-formation convoy of 25 boats and sailing right along the Yemeni coast does not appeal to any of us.  Neither does sailing alone.  Hopefully, our little group will work out.

Tuesday was also my 62nd birthday.  Guess I should file the application and get those little monthly social security checks started.

Anchored all alone, our private beach on Ko Rang Yai
Wednesday we dropped off our sun shade awning for a zipper repair.  Couldn't believe it when they called and it was ready to be picked up first thing the next day.  As soon as we picked up the repaired shade awning, we weighed anchor and motored northward up the eastern side of Phuket to anchor behind the small island of Ko Rang Yai.  BTW, in Thailand the work "Ko" means island, just like the word "Pulau" means island in Malaysia or Indonesia.  Ko Rang Yai is a convenient spot to anchor before entering either Royal Phuket Marina or the Boat Lagoon Marina.  The entrance to these 2 marinas dries to mud during low tide, and is only navigable during high tide.  So all egress happens during the 1 hour of daylight high tide each day.  We were staging at Ko Rang Yai Thursday night so that we would be ready at high tide on Friday to enter the marina.

Leave concrete posts close to port upon entry
At 11:30 Friday morning we weighed anchor and called the marina.  High tide was noon to 13:00 this particular day.  The pilot was to meet us at 12:05 at the entrance waypoint.  At precisely 12:05 he met us at the assigned spot and jumped aboard.  The pilot took the helm and drove us to the marina entrance.  There are unlighted tall concrete posts marking the long twisting entrance channel.  This is definitely not a place to enter after dark.  I was nervously watching the depth gauge.  Most of the channel was .3 meters depth beneath our 2.1 meter keel; but once the pilot had to move ever-so-slightly to the right to pas an outbound boat and the depth dropped to 0 meters beneath our keel.  I switched the gauge to feet and watched it drop from 3 to 1 to 0.  But we were still moving forward at 4 knots.  The gauge then began to register .8 feet.   That meant there was only about 7 inches of water beneath our boat!!!!  And I get nervous when it is anything less than 20 feet!  What a relief when the gauge quickly began to register higher numbers and we were soon back to .6 meters.  I really do not like such shallow water.

Leave concrete posts to port upon entry to marina
We arrived without incident and docked easily.  The pilot jumped off and went on his way.  We were met at the slip by 3 men to tie off our dock lines, plus a woman holding a tray with chilled fragrant ice-cold face cloths.  She handed us a welcome packet and asked us to visit the marina office at our leisure to register.  This was by far the nicest welcome we have ever received at any marina.  The day was so hot and humid that those ice-cold face cloths were like heaven.

Later we dropped the genoa, mainsail and mizzen.  Got them all flaked and rolled into their sail bags.  Then dug the mizzen asymmetrical and the fore ballooner out of the forward deck sail locker.  We stacked all 5 sail bags on the finger pier beside our boat and covered all with our dinghy cover in an effort to keep them as dry as possible.  It was a very hot and humid afternoon and this activity wore us out.  We were really appreciating being in a marina with air-conditioning to cool off afterward.

The first thing this morning Bill removed the lower line on our life rail.  There is a vinyl coated lifeline beneath the stainless life rail.  There are several nicks in the vinyl coating and Bill wants it all replaced.  We figure it must be cheaper here in Thailand than it will be anywhere in the Med or the Caribbean, so now is the time to do it.  Around noon the truck for Rolly Tasker arrived and picked up the 5 sails and the vinyl coated lifeline.  They will install a sock on the mizzen asymmetrical and inspect and repair anything found on the other 4 sails.  We are so thankful to Bill & Amy for bringing us to this wonderful sail loft.

It is rainy, hot and humid.  Royal Phuket Marina is pretty isolated.  So we will be spending a lot of time sitting inside the boat for at least the next 10 days.  To do anything from here will require renting a car.