Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Marina bound for boat work

We departed Chalong Bay (southeast corner of Phuket) for the Boat Lagoon marina complex on May 1st for some overdue boat work. In windless conditions, we motored about a 20-nautical-mile-trip up the inside/east side of Phuket.

The 2.5 nautical mile dredged channel into the Marina has to be done at high tide so we planned our timing for that. We arrived outside before absolute high tide but with the meandering dredged channel well marked with pylons, rather than wait, we continued in slowly through the murky water, only touching the muddy bottom once. That is until we got about 200 metres from the wharves where we became stuck in the soft bottom.

By radio, the Marina was expecting us so the waiting wharf hands saw us stuck and quickly came to the rescue in their skiff. They simply nudged Sea Turtle's nose bow around while we motored off the shallows.

Looking back at shallow entry channel

The Boat Lagoon complex includes a resort hotel so we decided to rent an air conditioned suite to escape the intense heat and where we could see Sea Turtle down below while work was being done by a local crew.

We were having almost all of our interior teak wood refinished including some minor wood work done, so to give the workers free clear work space, we cleared almost everything out. It took us a couple of days in the sweltering heat and many, many trips the short distance and up 36 stairs. So our suite became a combined living and storage area.

In Sea Turtle, the workers covered and/or taped everything that they were not sanding and varnishing, even including the floor, stove, etc. They took our doors, drawers, and tables to be done in their shop.


The to-do list of work included finishing the build-up and installation of 8 new tempered glass windows (the old lexan had become almost impossible to see through). That job was Jordan's.

Taking off old lexan

Fibreglass buildup

Finished product!

I took advantage of this time to do major brass polishing and some sewing jobs. We set up the sewing machine in the room to do this as well as make a new, badly needed, dinghy cover.

Deteriorated chaps...

...new homemade chaps 

A little about Boat Lagoon...at first we were relegated to the working dock but it soon became apparent with each ebbing tide it left Sea Turtle deep in mud. So Jordan arranged to have it moved across to a deeper area.

Our room is above an esplanade of commercial shops, bars, and restaurants/cafes. Chandleries, laundry service, and an American-style supermarket are close walking distance away. We were excited about the king-sized swimming pool too, but we discovered the water was very warm and didn't give us the invigorating respite to the heat we wanted. Website: www.phuketboatlagoon.com

Another task for the crew was deck painting and exterior teak refinishing. But eventually the full effect of the southwest monsoon was felt, and even though it gave some relief to the heat, the downpours delayed exterior work...

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

At the docks

Anchorages and sailing tracks are up to date - click the word HERE (or as shown at the right side of this page under Sea Turtle Links) to see where we are now. And never use for navigation as approximate only.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Phuket

On April 3rd, our last day of sailing for awhile, we had a great downwind spinnaker run west to the island of Phuket as our fixed base for the immediate future for boat work and land travels. (Phuket, being the largest of the country's islands, is no longer labelled as Ko Phuket.) We dropped anchor in the midst of about another 150 boats at the familiar big Chalong Harbour (N07°49.259' E098°21.327') of southern Phuket where we had spent 4 months in 2014.

Flying Thai colours

There have been a few changes. New wharves are almost finished to replace the wrecked and dilapidated ones and a new surrounding breakwater has been added. Dinghies in the meantime have been relegated to some old concrete wharves with a confined approach necessitating one to pull their dinghies up onto the wharf. This landing arrangement has resulted in a chunk out of our dinghy bottom. The few spots where one can just tie up leaves a dinghy vulnerable to rough and ragged edged concrete and metal especially when wind direction exacerbates the problem.

Dingy dinghy dock

After official check in here, our first order of business was to reclaim our motorcycle which had been in storage with friends we had made from our previous visit to Phuket. With the unusually very hot temps here, scooting around is a nice way to get some relief. The rainy southwest monsoon season is still not here so the rare couple of short downpours with the slight cooling effect and the chance to rinse the decks of salt was welcomed.

One morning ashore, we noticed 4 Thai boats along the shore that had burned during the early morning hours. News reports said the event was suspicious and an investigation is underway after rumours that Thai boaters were heard arguing on the shore the night before.

Hot-headed fire?

We've done a little sightseeing since our return to this area. One such night included a carved hefty figure, a detailed wat, and a great gold coloured Buddha located near an upscale restaurant very high up on the terrain.

Scary Buddah mascot

We soon settled into a leisurely pace at daily activities whether short sightseeing jaunts or boat jobs. One job that has been keeping me busy is polishing up all of our brass fixtures and decorations. Note to future boaters: Preferable to not have anything on board that requires constant polishing!

Eventually Jordan began the involved boat job of replacing the deteriorated lexan windows. The old existing lexans were simply caulked and screwed into the slightly curved cabin sides. But the new flat tempered glass requires fibreglass built-up surfaces molded to shape for the glass and the stainless steel frames. At the same time, new interior frames will finish the job nicely.

We leave tomorrow for the Phuket Boat Lagoon marina complex, about 20 nautical miles north, for a month's stay to take advantage of some convenient and economical local help on some more involved refurbishments.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

More new anchorages

Early March 31st, we left Koh Muk to continue island hopping northward. Next stop...the north end of Koh Lanta Yai (N07°37.842' E099°01.443'), a delightful 5-hour downwind sail. This coastal island is a popular backpackers' destination in the Andaman Sea of southern Thailand approximately 70 km south of well-known Krabi Town.

After anchoring in the open roadstead, we launched the dinghy, and picking a spot along the wide beach where the surf was minimal, we made a dry landing. Pulling the dinghy up on shore, we made just a few steps to a beachside cafe for our favourite dish - Pad Thai - washed down with a cold one. We were surprised to find a good-sized town on this approximately 6 km wide and over 30 km long island that is only accessible by 1 or 2 short ferry rides (although that is about to change as a new bridge is just about finished).

A tuk tuk ride took us to the end of town, the epicenter of offloaded visitors where small waterfront bars, cafes, and rooms lined the shore.

We soon made our escape in the dinghy, following the red setting sun back to our floating home.

Contemplative Jordan

Next day...

April 1st, again getting lucky with a nice east wind, we sailed 4.5 hours north finding a really nice anchorage setting between the 2 craggy islands of Koh Dam Khwan and Koh Dam Hok. Approaching Dam Khwan, we could see the striking feature of what the cruising guide suggested looked like a chicken figure in the rocks...

Chicken? Or maybe a turkey!

We anchored close to the coral reef (N07°57.555' E098°48.482') by Dam Khwan, but just far enough from the midday hoards of longtails and their interlopers wading in the sandy shallows.

Longtails and tourists in front of nearby no-name rock island, sand bar stretching out to the right...


We wiled away the afternoon snorkelling with an abundance of colourful life such as a sea snake, puffers, coral, and numerous unknown bright fish. And even a group of 5 razor fish that swim vertically - but darn it anyway, by this time, our underwater camera battery had gone dead.

Cool coral

To close the daylight hours off, we packed some munchies and headed over to the now vacant sand bar (with the exception of some semi-permanent park workers who stay on the island). After the daily migration of tourists back to the mainland (returning the islands to their natural tranquility) we witnessed another, more impressive daily migration. The island's caves and cavities exhaled thousands of fruit bats. Like whiffs of dark clouds drifting to the mainland, they made their routine nocturnal flight.

Sand bar stretching out to the left from Koh Dam Khwan, cabin on right where we had picnic lunch after longtails were gone...


On April 2nd, we hung out at Dam Khwan until 14:15 and then pulled the anchor for a 1-hour motor to another new island, Tham Phra Nang (N08°00.187' E098°50.293'), a coastal tourist hot spot close to Krabi where we dropped our hook amongst the impressive towering limestone karsts and in the midst of the ubiquitous longtails and tourists.


We read about several caves in the area but found nothing significant. One cave we visited onshore was just a wide opening in the cliffs at beach level with a "goddess" (a dressed-up mannequin) and many, many wooden phallic carvings. These penises along with the goddess were believed to be good luck for fertility - family planning Thai style!

Fertility goddess behind Jordan

We took the dinghy over to the next overrun beach area called Rai Le Beach. We searched around for more caves but couldn't find any that we wished to explore. So after a cursory beach stroll before sunset, we called it a night.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Koh Muk

Before leaving Koh Phetra (Thailand) on the morning of March 29th, there was an important boat job for Jordan. During yesterday's sail, we kept hearing an odd sporadic "whirring" noise in the boat coming on in short spells. At first, he thought it might be the autopilot motor but that possibility was eliminated by turning it off to find out the noise still came on. He couldn't identify it for quite a bit.

Finally he figured it was the windlass, and upon investigating, Jordan found that the remote switch that's kept in the forward outside anchor locker had gotten seawater in it and it was shorting the internal contact as though the switch button was pressed to make the windlass go on.

So temporarily we switched off the windlass breaker but then, before we raised the hook on the 29th, a fix was necessary. (We don't need the windlass to drop anchor but it sure is nice for raising the heavy anchor!) The disassembled switch was easily rinsed and cleaned with dialectic oil and was good to go. So it wasn't until 09:00 that we pulled up and made tracks from Koh Phetra.

Our destination was another island new to us, named Koh Muk, a pleasant 5.5-hour beam reach sail away. Tucking in close to a cute beach flanked by towering limestone sentinels made for a splendid anchorage setting (N07°22.503' E099°17.187') in spite of the occasional noisy longtails with daytrippers from the mainland.

A Koh Muk moment

The main attraction here is Emerald Cave (aka Crystal Cave) which the cruising guide described as being accessed by a cave passage at sea level, 80 metres long most of which was in pitch blackness. The passage is punctuated at a small sandy, grey silica beach in an ethereal cave open to sky.

We decided to explore it the next morning before the tourists infested the contemplative nature of it all. But this first day, once the gawkers evaporated later that afternoon, we launched the dinghy to simply identify where the waterline cave entrance was which we easily found.

Shutting off the motor, we paddled just inside but without a flashlight, the interior passage quickly turned into a foreboding inky blackness stopping us short.

However on our retreat, a couple of other late yachtie arrivals in dinghies were coming in and invited us to follow with one of their extra flashlights. Paddling along through this surreal natural passage with the faint light showing eerie outlines of stalactites in the cavities above and other dead-end passages emanating ghostly whooshes conjured up images of a spooky Disneyland event. Motoring your dinghy in apparently is not allowed as it supposedly disturbs the bat population of the Cave. I guess someone motored in before us because we didn't see any evidence of bats which is too bad because that would have been the only thing missing to make it an all round creepy experience!

The end of the cave passage opened up in an ethereal setting of an inner cylindrical chamber a mere 60 metres in diameter completely surrounded by tall vertical limestone walls. Standing on the small sandy beach where even the few spoken words took on an otherworldly resonance, our sights were drawn up, up along vertical rock face laced with verdant lush growth to the late day's sky high above.

Inside Emerald Cave

(Flashlights can be seen in the dark passage above as more dinghies arrive.)

Even though we did the Cave thing the day of arrival, we decided to stay another day in this idyllic setting. Another boat job was needed (bleed some air out of the hydraulic steering ram) so Jordan did it this morning. Then the rest of the day we circumnavigated Koh Muk with the dinghy through some choppy waters at times and then did a lazy snorkel in the shadow of the cliffs' relatively clear and warm waters.