Friday, 23 March 2007

Thailand (or maintenance in exotic locations)

The goal is not to sail the boat, but rather to help the boat sail herself - John Rousmaniere
A funny thing happened on the way to Ao Chalong...this was to be another eventful 'maintenance' trip. For some reason, Tientos does not like to be idle for long and throws tantrums, so for a few days it was a plethora of hiccups. Little did we know that 2007 would see most of Tientos' major systems overhauled.
Calm before the maintenance 'storms'

Anchoring at Koh Koi Noi for celebratory champagne to toast our refit, we discovered the shower wasn't pumping out, the head wasn't operating and the wind generator wasn't generating. The shower required a new sump hose; the head was a fuse; and the generator was a broken wire. All fixed! Yeah??? Keith also decided this was a good time to fit the boom vang he had purchased in Langkawi. 
Boom vang installed
The following morning heading for Koh Phetra, I noticed neutral on the gear box was playing up (along with Keith's back). A calm overnighter in 8.6m (luckily) saw the morning anchor weighing difficult. Our Borg-Warner Velvet Drive gear box was not operating in either neutral or reverse! So, weighing anchor had to be undertaken without the motor and without taking too long. We decided to find our next two anchorages in open shallow (for us) water. This meant we could not visit Koh Rok which would require all gears to manoeuvre in the narrow channel and deep water. So off to Koh Lanta (8.9m) for our second night and Ko Mai Thon (8.6m) for the third.
An omen or just a blood moon?
After clearing into Ao Chalong early on 9th March, the first order of the day was to find a 'gear box' specialist. Chamnan Machinery were the guys recommended by locals; they came aboard and determined the pressure plate was history! Well it was now decision time; we had crew arriving on the 12th for a two week visit. So it was decided we could live without a gear box until we returned. It was not the first time we had been without 'engine' power and we were comfortable with our limited options.
Ao Chalong anchorage
The yacht club for gear box information
The next couple of days meant shopping, food, catching up with friends and getting stung by a jelly fish! This is when we also discovered the HF Radio was not working.  Mmmmm, is that number three of things running in threes??
Stephen arrives looking the part
The next two weeks passed in a blur as we cruised Phang Nga Bay clockwise. We selected our anchorages carefully knowing we had neither neutral nor reverse and, on occasion, managed to score a Phinisi mooring, courtesy of the owner. Lots of 'drifting' to anchor. The 'Andaman Sea Pilot' is a fantastic reference for this area. 
Nothing but stunning views
Even at sunset
The Bay in a nutshell: Koh Rang Yai is a small uninhabited island with a spectacular beach and made for a relaxing start to the journey.
Stephen hits the water

Private Paradise
At Koh Phanak, a densely forested island riddled with caves and 'hongs', the intended menu went out the door as long tails arrived selling prawns and lobsters.
Meals on long tails?
Lobster dinner please
Koh Hong is a favourite tourist destination for both Thai and foreigners. As with most of the anchorages, it is wonderfully tranquil once the hordes have departed back to tourist land. 
Come on in...
A large tour boat arrived, disgorging kayakers in all directions. Enjoying a quiet wine after they had departed, lo and behold, two kayaks come around the corner - the tour boat had left a couple behind! They declined our invitation (or rather the male did) to come aboard until the boat returned and we weren't exactly sure that was going to happen. But return they did about an hour later; the number of kayaks didn't match up: so to hell with the passengers; let's count the kayaks. 
Remember count the kayaks; forget the tourists
Tientos from the Hong
Stephen wanted to visit 'James Bond Island'. We passed on this 'exciting' read 'way too busy' tourist adventure, so anchored at Koh Yang and dropped him off in the dinghy. He would return via long tail. 
The ethereal 'Clipper' appears from behind an island
After another visit back to Koh Hong, we headed for Ao Nang. This is a resort, read backpacker, town in the Krabi Province. Famous for its beaches, limestone islands and rock climbing. It was also a fabulous place for food.
Food choices on the beach

And on the water
There is a noticeable appreciation of phallic symbols in Thailand...

Doing the dinghy run around, we notice a dismasted yacht in the next bay; this was 'Devotion' that we had seen at Koh Hong. Their chain plates had all given way under sail. So we relocated to Ao Nam Mao to give them a hand to clear the mess.It is always so tragic to see this happen to a yacht.
Devotion dismasted

To the rescue

Next it was off to Koh Dam Kwan (also known as the 'chicken islands); so many 'koh's', it was difficult to keep track.
Chicken Islands for a reason

And a great anchorage

At Phi Phi Don, given my lack of patience, Keith towed me behind the dinghy so I could snorkel the 'fish highway' in a hurry. This gave ideas to the numerous Russian and Chinese tourists who all wanted to hire the dinghy to do the same superficial practice!  Naturally, we declined. Keith also had to rescue a broken down long tail to return him to his friends for a working bee on the motor.
Tourist central
A working bee while the tourists roast
We returned to Ko Mai Thon and anchored off the resort, deciding to go ashore in the dinghy to see if we could perhaps attend for a meal. No sooner were we close than the Manager waded out, up to his knees, encouraging us. The resorts were still suffering after the 2004 tsunami and were desperate for clientele. Apart from one in-house couple, we enjoyed wonderful food and first class service.  
Deserted resort and anchorage

After a wonderful fortnight around the bay, it was back to Phuket to say goodbye to Stephen and get the gearbox and pressure plate overhauled. This was ready a week later, installed by two mechanics (one chronically seasick) all for the heady sum of $AUD800. We were over the moon! 
Durian ice-cream in Phuket is a MUST!

We caught up with old friends in this area and would like to have stayed but it was time for a planned trip back to Indonesia before returning North again for Merdeka in Penang.  
We will be back!

May all your bars be wooden and well-stocked!


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