Monday, July 25, 2011

Meet the Rock, Another Plan'B'

Yacht Haven Marina
We're presently comfortably  back in civilization at Yacht Haven Marina in Phuket.   We like Yacht Haven and 'The Haven' restaurant and bar is a classic yachtie hangout with great Thai food. The past week has been spent exploring around the north western reaches of the Phang nga gulf. 
At anchor off Koh Hong
This area is even more spectacular than the eastern portions and the karst islands are the dominant land/seascape throughout the area. We anchored for several days off Koh Hong (as opposed to the 'other' Ko Hong we were at a couple weeks ago. 
Cave entrance to the Hong
We visited one of the more touristy spots in the gulf, James Bond Island, where part of "The Man with the Golden Gun" was filmed. It's a nice spot but there are several islands in the group which are much more spectacular, they just didn't suit the purposes of the movie.
"James Bond" Island
To quote that well known cruising sailor, ex-marine F18 driver and bon vivant, Roger Hayward, " I hate sand!" Of course Roger was speaking of the finished product. The small granular stuff that gets onto your body and from there into your dinghy and from there onto your nice new teak decks and from there into the boat and into your bunk and into your pants etc, etc. A lot of of cruisers hate sand, we just can't do much about it.  Like death and taxes, there will be sand.
Phang nga Gulf Seascape
Of course what is a rock, especially a large under water rock, but sand in the making. It  may take awhile, but sand it will become. And when a 26000 pound cruising sailboat (OK, closer to 30000 with all the crap we have onboard) hits an underwater rock at about 5-6 knots the rock becomes a little more like sand. At least I sure as hell hope so because I HATE ROCKS!  
After the rock
Our keel now has a couple fist sized dings in the leading edge. I have a nice shiner and abrasion under the left eye where I face planted the turks heads on the wheel when we impacted. Looks like Janet hit me with a hot frying pan. Beyond that the only real damage was to the captain's ego. As in flying, I'm not supposed to make mistakes, ever.
Phang nga anchorage
For anyone who might be coming this way the ROCK is located at: 08.16.264N, 098.29.158E. Right between Koh Deng Yai and Koh Yang on a nice direct line from the south to the anchorage off Koh Deng Yai to the west of James Bond Island. Listed and specially warned on page 48 of the Southeast Asia Pilot but not on the charts, paper or electronic.
The rock lurks nearby
 We hit it at mid tide and the first gash on the keel is only a about four feet below the surface. We passed it at low tide a day later and there is barely a ripple visible on surface if you know where to look. Not marked or buoyed in any way, of course.
Another boring evening scene
So chalk up another one to experience. I'll never do that again, heh, heh. Tomorrow we commence another 'Plan B'. We'll go down to customs and rather than purchase  visa extensions, we'll check out of the country. We plan to leave day after tomorrow for Rebak Marina in Langkawi, Malaysia. We'll leave the boat at Rebak and do the land travel we've been planning and probably come home around early September. 
Sayonara Phang nga
Our house sitter has purchased a home of her own, we want to see family and we've done most of what the season allows in this part of Thailand. So 'Plan B' sounds like the fun thing to do. Next update will be from Langkawi, a place we've enjoyed very much. Please stay in touch.

Bill & Janet
SV Airstream

Friday, July 15, 2011

Bon Voyage, and back.

So with the boat looking pretty good and most of the work done it was time for a little party. We invited some of our favorite Boat Lagoon yachties, Phon and his crew and Natthakit from Kitchen Cultures over for a little bon voyage party. It was a nice evening and a good send off. Next morning we were outta there into the wilds of the Phang Gha gulf.
Bon Voyage party
Well, at least we went a few miles to Ko Rang Yai island and anchored. Less than five miles around here can make an unbelievable difference in the atmosphere. We were the only yacht at the island as we were the next night in the south bay at Koh Yao Yai which was another  ten miles to the southeast. 
Ko Yang Rai
And from there is was another few miles to the northeast to the Hong group north of Krabi and the south anchorage at Ko Hong. A good cruiser chat can always be had over the most "memorable", most "beautiful" , "best", "favorite", etc, etc, anchorage we've ever experienced. 
Ko Hong from the SW
We have both added Ko Hong to our list. The "Hong Group" is a dozen or so small islands which, like most in the gulf, are karst formations. The island  limestone rock terrain is eroded away into vertical or greater than vertical cliffs hundreds of feet high falling directly into the sea. 
South anchorage, Ko Hong
There are white silica sand beaches tucked away in coves and often lagoons or "hongs" completely or nearly completely enclosed within the island. The vegetation is dense and jungle like. Inside the hongs are more shear cliffs with stalactites hanging from the walls like a giant outdoor cave. 
At anchor, Ko Hong
East beach, Ko Hong

Some hongs are accessible by dinghy at high tides over shallow inlets and some are only reached by low tide cave passages into the completely enclosed lagoon. They are spectacularly beautiful places. This time of year (off season) Ko Hong gets a few tourist boats during mid day but we had the place to ourselves almost entirely. We dinked around and enjoyed the scene for two days.
Janet at east beach, Ko Hong
Being the season of the southwest monsoon it's supposed to be rainy. We had beautiful weather and the winds in the gulf in the lee of the island of Phuket take a direction more from the north. Conditions were good for a little sail twenty miles down to Ko Phi Phi Don which is probably the most famous tourist destination in the gulf. Had a great sail starting out as a deep reach in flat water and fifteen knots and ending up close reaching in twenty knots and a few feet of swell as we got south of the lee of Phuket and the wind backed to the southwest. We knew what was waiting for us in the main bay of Ko Phi Phi Do so we spent the first night off the east side of the island anchored near the Holiday Inn Resort at Hat Laem Thong. 
long tails, the front end
This was a nice, reasonably quiet, spot and we had a good Thai dinner ashore at a beach restaurant. Next day it was into the maul of the beast and we went down to the main bay, Ao Ton Sai,  and anchored along the cliffs on the west side. Ko Phi Phi Don is another karst island and it is a very beautiful place. Ko Phi Phi Lee, just to the SW is even more beautiful but is so rugged it's uninhabited. Ko Phi Phi lee was the setting for the movie "The beach". The two islands have a cult like draw for the back packer tourist and the main village on Ko Phi Phi Don is the epitome of the cheesy, low rent, international tropical tourist scene. 
"Street scene", Ko Phi Phi Don
That said, there is a certain excitement about the place and the people watching can be interesting. I'm sure in the height of the season it must be quite the party place. There's a huge fleet of tourist boats and long tails constantly on the move, day and night. The anchorage is crowded with moored tourist boats and the wake from larger, inter-island ferries is always a factor. It's not a yachtie kind of place but it is a place you kind of have to go just to know you've been there and we did have fun, kind of.
Gibbon and friend, Ko Phi Phi Don
The village was pretty much wiped out in the 2004 tsunami with many, many deaths but despite hopes it might be rebuilt a little more in tune with the surroundings,  it came back just as it was. Oh well. Two nights at Ao Ton Sai was enough and we headed back up to Ko Rang Yai for a night and then caught the morning's big spring tide back into the entrance to Royal Phuket Marina. Only ran aground once. 
Ao Son Tai, Ko Phi Phi Don
So now we're back at Boat Lagoon. It's Bastille Day, better known as Janet's birthday,  and we're relaxing in a real hotel room. The boat projects are few. We'll have a decent dinner with friends tonight. We'll be back at it in a couple days. Next stop, the northwest Phang Gha gulf complete with villages on stilts and James Bond Island. Stay tuned please!

Love to all,
Bill & Janet

Friday, July 1, 2011

Outta Here Soon

The boat is done. Ok, Ok, anyone who knows boats knows that's not an accurate statement. A boat is never 'done'. However, the major jobs I had planned when this process began, plus a few more, have been completed. Everything looks great.
SV Airstream at Royal Phuket Marina,  July 2011. 

Although I spent a lot more than I had planned, we did a lot more and when I think of the cost I immediately think of the costs if I had done this work in the western world. That feels much better!  My rough estimate is that the costs here were about twenty per cent of what I would have paid at, for instance, KKMI. And although KKMI is my standard for a good yard I have my doubts the deck work could have been done as well there. And the deck work costs were probably about ten percent of what it might have cost in the USA. The only problem was with the first installation of the galley counter tops. That work was redone without argument and the finished product is very nice.
New settee upholstery
New galley counter tops.
New sink fixtures
So we're about ready to go cruising around the Phang gra gulf. We'd be gone already but  we have this nice air conditioned room rented until the eighth. We decided to hang around until then. We've rented a car, Janet was tired of the daily dance with death on the motorcycle, and have actually done some sight seeing. Air conditioned comfort again! We've found a couple restaurants that  break up the boat yard 'eat street'  monotony.
Eat Street lunch
Nellie, a favorite 'eat street' companion.
We've started to provision the boat. We may have friends coming down from Bangkok for a couple days. If so we'll take them out on a little over night shake down voyage. If not, we'll shake it down ourselves on the way out.
Phuket west coast scene.
So our experience with yard work here has been very good. There have been frustrations of course and communications is the biggest problem. Nothing is quite so foolish as to assume the Thai you're dealing with understands exactly what you mean in English. If there's any question it better be translated by someone you know understands what is desired. Most people here talk about having a good experience but it's certainly not universal. There is at least one ongoing horror story.
Phuket wat
We've been very lucky in our choice of Phon Carpentering for the deck work and incidental varnishing and carpentry we've had done. I've said plenty about Phon and his crew and we've become kind of close, a little like family, over the past few months. Phon took everybody out to dinner last night, including us about twenty people, and we had a very good time at a Thai barbeque place. An evening like that will not be forgotten.
Dinner with Phon and crew.
Pram, Phon, Bill, Choi and Nuie
For any yachties coming this way I recommend Phon Carpentering without reservation for  wood work, varnishing or any non-steel fabrication. Don't hesitate to ask us for contact information if you're interested.
The river scene behind Boat Lagoon
With a little thought we'll be able  to remember how to sail the boat. We had the dinghy out today motoring around the estuary. It started right up and ran very well. Boat systems seem to be working. Wish us luck!

Love to all,
Bill and Janet