We arrived at the northern tip of Phuket Island, Thailand late in the afternoon of December 5th and are tied up at the dock at Yacht Haven Marina at the north end of Phuket Island. We left Rebak Marina in Langkawi, Malaysia on November 28th, and only about 10 miles later entered the waters of Thailand. The whole week we moved north slowly, sometimes sailing just a few miles a day, trying to stop at many of the lovely anchorages that are along the way. We were able to do a lot of swimming and snorkeling for the first time since we left Indonesia more than a year ago. We didn’t swim in the ocean at all when we were in Malaysia as they have lots of nasty jellyfish there – some of them deadly poisonous and some of them just big and ugly and able to inflict quite a nasty sting. But since we entered Thai waters, the scenery and the water both changed dramatically (see photos). The weather was good the whole week and we loved being back at sea again – sleeping with the hatches open and the sea-breeze coming through (well, a bit of a breeze, anyways, it is still bloody hot). It is generally pretty windless here, but on the two days when we had to do 40 mile trips we got very lucky and had both the right wind and the right current to move us along quickly and we had lovely, fast sails, going an average of 8 to 9 knots on our best day.
Our first night at anchor was marred a bit by two events. We had finished inflating our dinghy so that we could go to shore at the first Thai Island (Koh Lipe) and then were trying to move the dinghy engine onto the dinghy when we found that something had seized up in the engine mount so that it could not swivel. It is not really possible to steer a dinghy unless you can swivel the engine, so Mark spent quite a bit of time trying to fix it, but to no avail. We had friends nearby (Rob and Mieke from the Dutch boat Stomper), who offered to take us to shore, but we decided to just stay on the boat and enjoy the lovely views. At about midnight, our quiet, peaceful anchorage suddenly erupted in loud, booming music and we discovered that we had anchored just across from a very late night disco on shore. The very bad and very loud music continued till after dawn! First thing in the morning our friends dinghied to shore to buy Thai sim cards for both of us and then we both sailed just 6 miles away to a very beautiful, deserted anchorage where we knew we would have peace and quiet. It was delightful and they invited us for dinner on their boat, picking us up in their dinghy.
There are many beautiful and famous islands here in Thailand, but perhaps the most popular one with tourists is called Phi Phi Don (that’s pronounced Pee Pee by the way). It is incredibly beautiful, but its beauty has been seriously marred by the vast number of tourists and tour boats that now flood the place. Ton Sai Bay, which is the largest and most protected bay on the island, is just filled with tourist boats of all shapes and sizes, all taking the multitudes out on day trips to snorkel or dive, or just sightsee. We spent one evening in the bay and were amazed by the volume of boat traffic in the small harbor. Our boat was constantly being rocked back and forth by the large wakes created by the boats speeding by us. Many of the boats came within a few feet of our boat at full speed. There are also a lot of people chartering sailboats. Most of the charterers are not very experienced and we always worry that their boats will drag during the night because they don’t set their anchors carefully. At any event, we really wanted to get off the bouncing boat and go into town as it is quite famous for its restaurants and shops and we weren’t sure how we were going to arrange this without a dinghy. Luckily for us, we were once again anchored next to friends, this time an Australian boat named Spirit of Sobraon whom we had met in Malaysia. Garry and Wendy came over in their dinghy and took us to shore and we had a wonderful evening wandering around town, enjoying the shops, eating our first Thai restaurant meal (delicious of course), and just being amazed by the number of tourists that were there. People from everywhere imaginable, including a large number of Russians, Israelis, Australians, Japanese, Koreans and Chinese. It is very disturbing to think of what happened here during the tsunami that hit S.E. Asia in 2004….. there were a vast number of casualties when the huge December tsunami hit the coast here. Since that time, when pretty much everything was destroyed here, the place has been re-built and has since become one of the top tourist destinations in S.E. Asia.
The most beautiful anchorage of all was the one we went to the next night. It is called Phi Phi Le and it is truly magnificent. It is a beautiful lagoon, surrounded by soaring limestone cliffs with a beach which was made somewhat famous by a Leonardo DiCaprio movie called The Beach and all the tourists want to see it. It really is beautiful, but if you go there between 8: 00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. the place is just filled to capacity with loud tour boats (loud engines) coming in and out constantly and hundreds of tourists on the beach and in the water. After 4:30, however, the place pretty much empties out and that is the time for sailors like us to come over. We got there at 4:30 and had only one other sailboat there with us and a couple of small tour boats. By 6:00 p.m. it was just us and the other sailboat and we had the most magnificent evening. The sound of the waves breaking on cliffs behind the boat was really something special and we sat outside until long after dark. By 8:00 the next morning there were at least 10 boats in the anchorage and more coming every minute so we untied ourselves from the mooring ball and headed out to our next spot. Having your own sailboat in these places is really the best possible way to travel.
Now we are once again in a marina. We would prefer not to be, but we have lots of repairs that need to be made. Our water maker is still not working, our generator is leaking water when it Is on (so we can’t run it), our dinghy engine does not work, our bimini (which gives us protection from the sun in the cockpit) is completely worn out and needs to be replaced, and the wood on the companionway door is all peeling off, making the door difficult to use and ugly to look at. Thailand has a good reputation for being a place to make boat repairs and we hope that this will turn out to be true. We rented a car for the month and have already found it to be really helpful as our marina is on the northern tip of Phuket and it will give us the flexibility we need to get around the island.
Lots of good food to try here. We have already discovered that the fruit is abundant, inexpensive and delicious, so we are quite happy.