Friday, December 30, 2016

Koh Naka Yai

We untied from the docks of Ao Po Grand Marina today at 13:30 after getting our fridge fixed yesterday and made our longest passage ever. NOT! We only motored for 15 minutes, more like our shortest passage ever, and anchored on the west side of Koh Naka Yai (N08°02.826' E098°27.468'). Many sea kayaking tourists frequent the east side but we found the lee west to be quiet.

We were in no hurry to return to the agitated scene at Chalong Harbour (Thailand) so we just hung out in peace here for the evening.

No photos as our camera seems to be lost...

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Not cool

Well, as it turned out, we were not able to do any further exploring of the areas of Koh Pan Yi (Thailand), the Muslim fishing village, as we had to rush back towards Phuket.

Our Frigoboat (refrigerator) quit, and as the holiday season was upon us, we were facing a limited availability of service personnel as this day was the only day they were available. We arranged for a repair person from Cirrus Cooling to meet us at Ao Po Grand Marina and booked an overnight berth there. We pulled anchor around 11:15 and motor-sailed the 3 hours south.

By now Chanty was getting used to the sound of the running engine. We think all of these short voyages have helped.

We arrived at the dock (N08°04.155' E098°26.732') around 14:30 and the 2 repair men promptly showed up. They diagnosed such a simple solution, so simple that we had a hard time believing that that could be the real problem.

They ran pressure tests and amperage draws to determine the cause of the compressor overheating. Finally they suggested the keel cool unit in the water might be covered with growth, preventing adequate cooling. Jordan jumped in the water with a scraper while the technician monitored any changes. It seemed to do the trick. Let's hope it stays that way.

This Marina is full of luxury yachts. One of them, Equanimity, is valued at $175 million and apparently is owned by a Malaysian billionaire and is in the top 50 of the world's largest, according to the internet. She is an impressive 91 m long (300 ft) and meticulously maintained sporting regal navy and white colours.

Equanimity (copied from internet)

Anchored offshore, as though in a competitive flaunt, were 2 other larger private mega yachts. The Ocean Victory, at 140 m (460 ft) with 7 decks and 6 pools, carrying up to 50 crew, boasts that it is one of the 10 largest in the world.

Ocean Victory (copied from internet)

That's okay, we are still happy with our Sea Turtle at 10 m (35 ft) with no pools. Ffffftttt!!! Who needs a pool with the ocean at your doorstep!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

James Bond and more

This morning at 09:00, we left our anchorage at Koh Yang Thailand to dinghy to nearby James Bond Island (approximately N08°16.490' E098°29.965'). The official name of this island is Koh Phing Kan but it became a very popular tourist destination after the filming of The Man With the Golden Gun, a 1974 James Bond movie, where the villain supposedly kept his secret lair in this striking setting.  There is an eye-catching pinnacle rock on one side of the Island's beach.

We were lucky to arrive early and beat the scores of tourists who descend on the scene daily by boats from all directions and of all types: longtail boats, speedboats, day cruisers, and junk boats. We paid the required 300 Baht ($10 CAD) fee per person and walked the steps and short trails for a few quick photos to be able to say "bin there, done that" [sic]. Spoiling the setting were countless souvenier stands hawking their cheap trinkets.

Jordan admiring dramatic pinnacle

Iconic scene of James Bond Island

Once back on board Sea Turtle, we hoisted the anchor at 11:45 to continue northwards. Next stop, a Muslim fishing village on Koh Pan Yi. They constructed all their buildings on stilts perched over the shallow water with a backdrop of a towering karst pinnacle. The residents cater to about 3,000 visitors per day for lunch at the number of large open-air restaurants!!

Approaching Koh Pan Yi

We anchored across from the Sea Gypsy Village (N08°20.202' E098°30.391') at 14:00 in the estuary and of course dinghied to one of the many docks of the restaurants.

As we ate at our seaside view table, we watched the mayhem of the many large longtail boats (powered by huge motors perched on the stern) arriving and departing with their numerous hungry or satiated passengers.

Hefty motors

Longtails and Sea Turtle

By around 15:00, as though there were a curfew in effect, all was quiet as everyone returned to whence they came...

For the rest of the day, we jumped in the dinghy and tried to find a tunnel through the Island and a cave with Neanderthal drawings not far away. No luck. Maybe tomorrow we will try again or go with a tour boat.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

3 strikes

13:30 we left Koh Hong (Thailand) heading due north to Khao Phing Kan (James Bond Island). This area is a large bay with a large runoff from northern lands that filter through mangrove swamps and over time has layered the shallow seabed with a sandy/muddy sediment.

Our OpenCPN electronic charts are lacking detail for this area so we would consult the depth sounder occasionally as we went. Evidently "occasionally" wasn't diligent enough.

Strike 1: Hard aground in the clutches of the soft bottom on an ebbing tide rendered us stubbornly stuck around 15:00 at N08°15.445' E098°29.928'. Jordan tried to power and push and pull Sea Turtle out with the dinghy but to no avail and we resigned ourselves to a couple of hours wait for a rising tide to come to the rescue. With Sea Turtle listing to starboard, Jordan decided to scrape off a few barnacles that were now exposed.

Aground in paradise

With the depth sounder saying "Give it a try" and with the assistance of a north breeze, Jordan furled out the head sail. Then with me at the helm giving a good burst of engine power and Jordan giving Sea Turtle a boot in the rear with the dinghy, we were finally released from the surly bonds of the muddy bottom.

The electronic charts seemed to indicate a deeper area a short distance to the west and in fact, a sailboat was anchored there as though to say "Come on over here."

Strike 2: We only went a few hundred metres and we were aground again! (N08°15.513' E098°29.550') So close and yet so far - we could see our desired anchorage. A bit of time passed while the tide was still rising and Jordan was getting worried, afraid the tide would max and then ebb leaving us aground overnight. But that wasn't the only excitement of the hour. All of a sudden he noticed...

Strike 3: ...our dinghy was adrift! It had been tied to a slider cleat on the newly extended toe rail track and the wind had pulled her right off the end of the track. It was pretty close and as Sea Turtle was still aground, he dove in and swam to it, bringing it back to Sea Turtle and tying it up to a secure cleat.

Now back at the ranch, Jordan was still worried. This called for some new efforts. So Jordan, in the dinghy, paid out a long line from a halyard off the top of the mast and pulled Sea Turtle smartly over to starboard while I, again at the helm, gunned it and broke free of the mud's grip on her keel. Free again!

This time we made it to our anchorage at Koh Yang (N08°15.907' E098°29.212') at 18:00, much later than originally planned, dropping the hook under an impressive sentinel peak and in the lea of the island.

Sea Turtle and picturesque karsk

As an afterthought, we rummaged through our paper chart inventory and found one for this area with much more detail; so needless to say, we kept it out for the remainder of cruising in this area.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Koh Hong karstness

Today we left the island of Koh Phanak in Phang Nga Bay (Thailand) at 11:00 and 15 minutes later we picked a protected and scenic anchorage at Koh Hong (N08°13.493' E098°30.174').

Towering limestone cliffs (karsts) were everywhere and shared the sky with soaring eagles cavorting in the wind and gave residency to sporadic tropical greenery that somehow found root in the crags of these monoliths.

The lure here is the enchanting caves, tunnels, and lagoons that nature has sculpted. We explored by paddling our dinghy through the passages and into the lagoons that stretched our necks to see the sky.

We again had to share the magical moments with numerous daytrippers paddling through in the blow-up kayaks. However later in the day after all had left, we had the arena to ourselves.

Exploring caves and lagoons

Itinerant fisherman with impeccable timing pulled up with fresh prawns to answer our question "What's for dinner?"

Just in time

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Koh Rang Yai & Phanak

Finally after almost 3 weeks, with boat projects all under our belt, it was time for some pleasure sailing to some sights that we haven't seen around here. So we pulled anchor from Chalong Harbour of Phuket Thailand on December 24th at 11:30.

Under a steady breeze we were hoping to do the 20 nautical miles under sail. But after a little over an hour of tacking against a tide and a dying breeze, we relented and turned on the Beta motor.

We arrived about 4 hours later at peaceful Koh Rang Yai, a small but pretty island with a 1-km stretch of beach (N07°56.942' E098°26.866'). So of course, the tourist boats bring their throngs here in the afternoon to swim and turn bright red on the beach. And perhaps to spend a lot of money at the pearl farm's shop!

The next morning we took our cat Chanty ashore and she experienced her first nervous ride in the dinghy. Surprisingly she was also nervous once ashore, as she listened to the waves crash in, another scary first for her. (She didn't know what she signed on for with us!) But once back at anchor, she quickly adjusted to being a typical cat.

It's a sea cat's life

In the windless afternoon, we motored north for a couple hours up into Phang Nga Bay to a long stretch of an island called Koh Phanak (N08°11.368' E098°29.190'). The Bay is an area where huge fairytale vertical limestone rock isles protrude out of the sea, many with caves and passageways eroded throughout.

Heading up to the magical Phang Nga Bay isles

Once anchored, we hopped in the dinghy and went exploring. At first, there were many daytrippers spilling out of the tour boats and into blow-up kayaks also exploring. We dinghied in through a tunnel about 150 m (500 ft) long, at times in total darkness (but we had a flashlight) with wee bats hanging all over the ceiling. We came out to an interior lagoon open to the sky, completely encircled with vertical cliffs stretching to the sky.

Not quite the Tunnel of Love

These interior openings in the mountain are called hongs which is Thai for room. We couldn't stay long so we had to return through one spot that was narrowing and low from a rising tide.

Can we make it!

After exiting the tunnel, we headed out and around towards the north end of the island where we next found a cave-type opening about 2 m above water level. We tied the dinghy to the jagged rock face and hoisted ourselves up to the cave and walked along through the inside corridors coming out to a ledge, looking right into another interior lagoon or hong, again surrounded completely by steep verdant cliffs and open to the sky.

We returned to Sea Turtle wondering how many more yet to be discovered hongs were hidden away in these enchanting mountain islands.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Busy in Chalong

During our stay at hectic Chalong Harbour (Thailand), our cat Chanty slowly got used to the noise and waves of dinghy and speed boats and loud tour boats as they roared past our anchorage. At first she would run from the deck to down below, but now she just watches them go speeding by. Ho hum.

We had a list of boat jobs (never run out of boat jobs!) that we needed to get done before the first of the year and before our next major passage coming up. Such as installing extensions to the tracks for sliding sheet blocks up the toe rail - the tracks we have been carrying since leaving Canada!

Another job was adding a solar panel. We were amazed to find how the price of these has come down. We bought an 80-watt monocrystalline for about $100 CAD. We paid 7 times that for each of the 2 we have had since leaving home in 2009. The third one has really made a big difference in pumping lots of amps for our hungry batteries. Other jobs were also attended to like a repair to the head sail to make it last to the Mediterranean.

More power!

We discovered that our HF (Ham) radio was kaput so began an interesting search for a replacement. It turns out that Thailand import restrictions make it almost impossible to not only own or operate one in the country but ordering one sent in is essentially restricted. So we are now trying to get one sent to Langkawi Malaysia with the possibility of getting it on a yacht coming this way (HF radios coming in on yachts are overlooked by Thai Customs).

We had been wondering how Chanty would handle swimming in the event she fell in. Well one day she was in the dinghy with Jordan checking it out and got nervous when the dinghy started to drift away a bit from Sea Turtle. Unfortunately, she misjudged the leap (flexible dinghy pontoons are not a good solid base to spring from) and came up short. Splash into the water she went!

It was interesting to see that she started to swim in a circle around the boat and stayed very close to it, looking for a way up. When Jordan caught up to her in the dinghy, she frantically climbed into it on her own. Next was a quick freshwater shower which she also hated!

Now we have a plastic mesh hanging off the stern of Sea Turtle and into the water that she can climb up if she is ever overboard again.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Goodbye Malaysia

With the new Beta 43 engine installed, we left the dock of Langkawi Malaysia under the new power and took Sea Turtle out for a test run on December 1st. All seemed well except for the need of a hose strap to avoid vibration chafe and the need to bleed air from the hydraulic steering system

The only other issue was Chanty's apparent stress (Chanty is our new feline permanent crew member). Even though for most of her short life as a stray she has been hanging out on docks and other boats until we adopted her, she had yet been on a boat that moved, let alone made a menacing growl from that mechanical thing deep in the hull.

She was panting which is a sign of stress. She wandered all over trying to figure out where the dock went and why the ocean was moving past the boat instead of staying in one place. But we knew in time she would become accustomed to the engine, the moving sea, and the motion of the boat.

On December 5th, we cleared from the Harbour Master, Malaysia Customs, and Immigration at 13:00, making our final checkout from this country.

We were heading north up to Phuket Thailand, a 24-hour run. At first, at the consternation of Chanty, we motored for 3 or 4 hours in a confused sea state. But the wind finally filled in and became a constant 15+ knots on the beam, making for a great overnight sail and a nice average of 5.5 knots all the way to our destination. It took Chanty awhile to settle down, this being her first sea voyage, and accept what was going on.

She has decided on 2 favourite spots: the quiet part of the boat which is up front, either under the dingy on the foredeck or inside behind the lee cloth in the forward pullman berth.

Chanty's secure sea berth

On December 6th, we anchored in Chalong Harbour of south Phuket at 13:00 (N07°49.123' E098°21.308').

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Dream come true

Sea Turtle's Perkins motor was running okay, but as with all Perkins, it constantly leaked oil in the bilge. What a mess it would leave. It was also starting to get pretty old. Jordan has dreamed of having a new motor and a clean bilge so he finally ordered a Beta 43 from the United Kingdom - and Langkawi Malaysia, a duty free port, was the perfect place to have it delivered.

The Beta 43's main component is a diesel motor made by Kubota, a Japanese equipment manufacturer. Beta Marine, an English marine engine company, buys them and then makes them marine-ready with all the systems necessary for boats and then resells as a complete unit including transmission.

It was waiting for us in storage when we returned from our South Africa trip.

Jordan labouriously totally dismantled the Perkins (the only way it could be extracted through the small companionway). To prepare for the new motor, he then completely cleaned the engine compartment and bilge and refurbished the bilge pump and hoses.

The oily beast

To accept the new motor, Sea Turtle was moved over to the shear sided seawall. There, a crane lowered the delivered motor in, but not before certain appendages were removed in order to squeeze it through the opening.

Down she goes

Now it was time to start the major part of the installation work.

In she goes

Big smiles - oil free and clean

Working for days on end, Jordan had to make several adjustments and changes to make it adapt it the uniqueness of our particular boat. An adapter to extend the prop shaft had to be machined, an exhaust high rise had to be fabricated, motor mounts had to be designed and built with almost perfect dimension for accurate alignment to the prop shaft, etc. etc. He also removed a lot of redundant wiring associated with the old motor controls.

Motor mounts - plywood mock-ups

Motor mounts - finished product

The day finally arrived to start the new red installed motor. On November 23rd, with fingers crossed, Jordan turned the key, and she purred beautifully, and running much quieter than the old noisy Perkins. A dream come true of a clean bilge!

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Permanent crew member

After a grrreat South Africa safari and touring the country by car with Jordan's mom, Jordan and I arrived back to Sea Turtle October 2nd in Langkawi Malaysia. Now the work starts!

But first, we need to tell you about a kitty that was hanging out on our boat. She was a stray, about 8 months old, and had been taken to a vet to be spayed by a woman sailor who seems to take care of all the strays around the marina. We left on our holiday, and when we returned, the kitty came to our boat right away to visit again! We were told that when we left she had waited in the cockpit for us for 4 days.

Can I pleeease come in?

She didn't seem to want to leave, and well, we couldn't help but fall in love with her. So 3 days later we adopted her, or should I say, she adopted us. We named her Chanty (pronounced shantee, just like sailors' sea songs) as she is very talkative with her soft meows. Unless she is hungry at which time her meows get much louder and more insistent.

Our new crew member

We would describe her as follows: she is black and white with a black heart on the tip of her pink nose, very lean and long with a tiny crook at the end of her tail, loves to play (and play and play), is very inquisitive and snoopy, likes to lead while going for walks on her leash, is very appreciative of hugs and cuddles, and she LOVES fish - give her a fresh fish and she will love you forever! A perfect boat cat - how could we not adopt her!

From my heart to yours

Hey wait - I wasn't ready!

Can I help?

Yes, we said we would never have a pet until we returned to having land under our feet, but exceptions can always be made in the right circumstances!

Friday, September 30, 2016

More Drakensberg

Jordan, Jordan's mom (Gramma Judy), and I noticed a lot of road construction and bits of rural life throughout our road travels of South Africa. This flag girl in Drakensberg caught our attention and she chatted with us for a few minutes as she allowed us to snap her photo.

Embellished flagger (courtesy of Gramma Judy)

Hut in the hills

When we arrived at Cathedral Peak, an area popular for hiking and mountaineering, we stopped for coffee at the resort to take in the views and then continued on our return journey towards Johannesburg.

Cathedral Peak ahead

At the resort, Jordan watched workers atop a thatched roof as they precariously moved about, using boards to shift from point to point...

Another pleasant surprise to come across was a schoolyard full of colourfully dressed kids. We stopped and asked the teacher if we could come into the schoolyard for a visit. The students were dressed up to celebrate Zulu Heritage Days. They were wearing hand-beaded outfits that included neck, head, and/or body adornments. Some also wore head wraps made from the back fringe of a Kudu pelt (a type of African antelope).

The students seemed quite thrilled to see us and their teacher had them perform for us with their traditional song and dance. With gleeful pride, they would take turns in the center of a circle showing us how high they could kick to the chants and clapping of the others. The height of some of the kickers was unbelievable!

Upward extension

2 with Kudu head wraps

When Gramma Judy joined them, they refused to kick high as they knew that she wouldn't be able to!

Before leaving to show appreciation of our visit, the students all chorused into a warming Thank You song.

Back in Johannesburg on September 30th, 2 weeks since we left Langkawi Malaysia, Jordan and I parted ways with Gramma Judy. We flew back to Sea Turtle at Malaysia and Gramma Judy flew in the opposite direction back to Canada.

This South African journey, I think the 3 of us would agree, has been an adventurer's prize!

Thursday, September 29, 2016


Continuing our road trip through South Africa with Jordan's mom (Gramma Judy), we had arrived at the breathtaking scenery of Drakensberg, a World Heritage site of 243,000 hectares with fern-carpeted forests back-dropped by miles of colossal escarpments compounded with cascading waterfalls.

Drakensberg scenery

Our first night in the untouched beauty of Drakensberg, we stayed at a quaint wooden cottage facing a small lake where the vibrant peacocks made their home in the serene landscape. Beautiful!

Wandering (courtesy of Gramma Judy)

Working the curved rural roads in the rolling hills one day, Jordan spotted out of the corner of his eye a vintage Morgan poking out the open door of a barn. Being a car buff of such, he wheeled in to check it out. What we saw was unexpected - a barn full of very collectable cars.

We met an older couple who invited us in for tea and a look at their private collection that included a Jaguar E-Type, Porsche 930 Turbo, Healy, Ford GT40, Lamborghini Countach, 3 different Lotus, 69 Mustang Fastback, etc. He was a self-admitted addict.

Car crazy (a Lamborghini Countach)

Another serendipitous roadside encounter was the 2 women carrying a load of heavy sticks or poles on their heads across a field. We pulled over to talk with them and Gramma Judy tried to lift the poles - but it was an impossible feat as they were so heavy.

Muscle mania

Striking a pose (courtesy of Gramma Judy)

Their faces too were coated with some sort of cream to help prevent sunburn as we have seen previously on other folks.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Along the way

We awoke to a bright and sunny day and continued our road trip along the east coast of South Africa heading towards Port St. Johns. The road to this sleepy port was very scenic, winding through some impressive canyons.

The little town center was bustling with women carrying babies on their backs, women carrying products on their heads, young kids and teens having fun, and many vendors. We have never seen cabbages so big!

Big cabbages...

...and big smiles

Along certain parts of our journey, we observed a more indigent populous though no less happy it seemed. Flamboyant colours are possible their expression of their gaiety!

Definitely flamboyant!

Bright houses

Flashy African dresses

Vibrant youngsters

Monday, September 26, 2016

Continued journey

Any items on your bucket list to fulfill? One of Gramma Judy's (Jordan's mom) was to visit Africa. Of course Kruger National Park was a highlight but there was much more of South Africa to see as we continued travelling by car all around...

At the very south on a blustery day, we found a monument on the shore that showed we were at a junction where two great seas meet, the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. Off that point, we saw two large freighters on their journey just like so many ships that have passed here since long ago.

Meeting of the seas

Here the immense Agulhas Lighthouse serves as a safe beacon for sea-goers as it has for many decades. We climbed the flights of stairs to the top of the lighthouse tower for a quick peek at the amazing view in the strong oceanic breeze.

Agulhas Lighthouse

The Dutch have a long history in South Africa and we could see some of the white-washed architecture that reflected that heritage.

17th century architecture

As evening approached, so did the storms packing a gritty wind emphasized by bolts of lightning. We were trying to find a place to stay but the power was out and no street lights. Try to find a place in inky darkness in a large, strange city! We finally saw a big hotel with generator power to decided to stay in the City of Mthatha even though it was a bit expensive...too dark and tempestuous to scout around for another place.

A moody night