Monday, 31 December 2007

Christmas time in the Surins ... Dec 2007

24 - 30 Dec 2007
CLICK ON ANY PHOTO TO ENLARGE ***Very good snorkelling in clear water***Christmas Lunch onboard Largo Starwith Alastair and Vivienne***Mark the Red Nosed Reindeer***Even the Thai Fishing boats look to have Xmas decorations on!!!***

Santa Claus arrives in the Surins, but while trying to find a chimney to enter Balvenie it appears he has broken the watermaker. This is really not a good thing, we are embarking on a huge off shore passage across the Indian Ocean, and then onto the Red Sea travelling through deserts, the ability to make our own fresh water is paramount. So Christmas morning is spent by skipper removing the watermaker and pump and setting all the parts out on the table to inspect them. Now there is one thing fundamentally wrong with this situation, that table is earmarked already – it is to seat 4 for Christmas Lunch!!!!! As the hours pass and the watermaker is in even more pieces Vivienne comes to the rescue and instead of her bringing all their lunch goodies to us they offer to host lunch and we take the Roasted Leg of Lamb and vegetables (with roast pumpkin – yummy) to them. We have an excellent, huge lunch, complete with Christmas crackers and silly hats, complemented by several bottles of fine duty free wine. Eating in the tropics is oh so tiring and we all blob about the rest of the afternoon in the heat onboard Largo Star. Pavlova (it’s amazing what you can find at Carrefours in Patong) and liquors are taken as the sun starts to dip and we are joined onboard Largo Star by a young Thai based couple who were on the 3rd mooring buoy in the bay. Besides the watermaker still in pieces it had been another excellent Christmas while cruising, thanks to Viv and Al or coming to the rescue.
The next 3 days are almost spent at leisure, a large part of the time in the crystal clear waters enjoying the best marine life we have seen in a very long while, many varieties of fish and some excellent live coral. Mark has found the faulty part, the teenyist little o ring in the watermaker pump has fallen apart, luckily we have a spare and there is much celebration when the switch is turned on, all the right noises fill the peace and quiet onboard and desalinated water starts coming out again, yippee. It is so nice to be able to put everything back together again and the saloon no longer looks like a workshop. Skipper adds the Surins to his ever growing list of “Maintenance in Exotic Places”!!!!!
It really is lovely here, each day we have a few tour boats arrive. We seem to be on their favourite mooring buoy as they throw us a line and daisy chain onto the back of Balvenie. At one stage we had 4 boats attached to us!!! Then they disgorge their daytrippers overboard, all adorned with lifejackets, snorkels, masks and flippers for their holiday snorkelling experience. The “Oohs and Ahhs” from these novices remind us of how lucky we are to be able to experience these locations for as long as we want. Long after the tourists leave we cherish the peace and tranquillity over a sundowner or two ashore. There is a great little beach with lovely soft white sand and happy hours and bar-b-ques are the order of the days. Sadly we can’t stay in our new found paradise for ever so we move around to the West Coast anchorage to make our trip to the Andamans just a little shorter.
It’s rollier around this side but we tie up to one of the mooring buoys between the two islands and are comfortable enough for a couple of nights. The National Park headquarters are here so we dinghy ashore, pay our park fees, have a passable meal at the boarding school style cafeteria, and go for a long walk through the jungle around to the bay on the north western shores. On the way back Mark and Alastair somehow get invited by the Thai Navy boys, who are lazing under a shady tree, to join them for a couple of rounds of Thai Whiskey shooters, good thing Vivienne and I are on hand to steer them back to the dinghies or we may never have seen them again. Then we spent an hour or two filling our water jugs, even though the watermaker is operational again we always take the opportunity to fill to overflowing our fresh water supply as you just never know!!!!
Back on board, it’s our last night in Thailand, tomorrow Sunday 30 December 2007 we will point the bow westwards again and resume our circumnavigation. Next stop the Indian governed Andaman Islands.

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Sunday, 30 December 2007

Around Asia - Dec 2006 - Dec 2007

Leaving Malaysia and Thailand ... Nov - Dec 2007

09 Nov - 24 Dec 2007
Malaysia getting ready to leave We have had several runs into town to fill up with spares and supplies, of course people do eat all over the world but you just never know when or if you will find all your little favorite goodies along the way, will two dozen jars of Marmite be enough? will they sell corn tortillas in Yemen? is it true you can't get toilet paper in Eritrea??? The list goes on so we just kept filling up the lockers and watch Balvenie settle deeper and deeper in the water with each new shopping excursion. Then, of course, there is the ever important alcohol. Langkawi is duty free so much much cheaper than Thailand, plus we were heading for Muslim countries, who knows when we would see alcohol again, 2 dozen bottles of Mt Gay Rum, a dozen 4litre casks of wine and now 10 cartons of beer are onboard, the bilges are overflowing, Balvenie will soon sink under the weight!!!

Malaysia to Thailand 09 - 19 Nov 2007
It is time, the monumental day is upon us, 09 Nov 2007 and we are finally leaving Rebak Marina (otherwise known as the RRV - the Rebak Retirement Village). After several farewell parties we really must leave, we have made so many friends here and so few are moving on in our direction this year Our friends and neighbours Theo and Michelle off Dutch yacht Faja Lobi let our lines go, its like cutting the umbilical cord, we have been here 10 months, its home, we feel safe and secure and now we are going back out into the big blue wobbly stuff to start our adventure ever westward, destination this season of Turkey.

It all seems like too bigger task to think of in one go so we will nibble away at it, bit by bit. Just to let ourselves in gently the first nibble is to Telaga around 3 miles away - should be able to cope with that! We meet up with Graham and Val on Silverheels II, more neighbours from Rebak, they are heading for Thailand too so we have company for the first part of the journey. First stop is Ko Lipe and we anchor between the islands in a lovely spot with calm water. It;s great to be out into the clear Thai waters again, one downside of Langkawi is the murky water, its clean enough but it doesn't look too appealing. We stayed 2 nights at Ko Lipe, it's a cute little laid back place with a few backpackers lounging around, and some cheap little cafes, very low key.

From Lipe it was north to Ko Rok Nok for a couple of nights. We had a good sail up and hooked onto one of the courtesy moorings in deep enough water (some of them are in shallow water, as friends last year found out). We stayed two nights and enjoyed walks ashore, snorkeling and happy hours. So far circumnavigating again was going ok! Next it was ontode Ko Kran where again we got a mooring buoy. "Wallies Place" which I'm sure does actually have a more official name is a great spot for lunch if you can find it nestled in the bush slightly inland, there's not much else here. Just before dark the wind picked up which put us on a lee shore with reef behind us, never a good situation to be in, but it settled at around 20 knots for a couple of hours and petered out overnight. We put in a biggie the next day, Silverheels II stopped at some islands after trying out their new cruising chute which looked very impressive. We didn't like the look of the anchorage and decided to press on in light winds north to Phi Phi Le, about 10 miles to go the wind picked up and we flew along close hauled with the odd wave crashing over the bow - welcome back to sailing.

We made Phi Phi Le just before dark and were lucky to pick up the last mooring in the mouth of the bay, it was a little rolly but what magnificent scenery. We hadn't been here before so got up at 6am and dinghyed ashore before the hoards of tourists arrived in the noisy long tail boats. This was the location for the film "The Beach" and has become a very popular spot. It is a tiny National Park area, so no accommodation or cafes, just a beautiful beach in a tiny almost fully enclosed mountainous bay. Sadly many people drowned here during the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2005, because of the sheer cliff face there was no where to run.

By 8am about 20 longtails had already arrived so it was time for us to go and we had a gentle sail across to to Ko Racha Yai and met back up with Silver Heels II. Our evening excursion ashore was very interesting. We picked up Val and Graham and in the one dinghy headed for the long floating dock , quite a swell was coming into the bay which made the dock into a floating rollercoaster instead. Graham, Val and I jumped out and successfully made it ashore on this bucking bronco (only just!) and then waded in the surf to catch Mark in dinghy as he surfed in, sometimes going ashore is really too hard but dinner was great, the company was great and we were out cruising again. Deploying the dinghy again to return home was another saga, it seemed sensible for Mark to get in and get the motor running while I held the dinghy in the surf, then ofcourse I needed to launch it out into the waves and jump in, all of which was done precisely as planned except for the fact I got totally wet, oh well, off to the rollercoaster dock to pick up Val and Graham who basically lurched into the dinghy, water splashing in all directions, still the perfect end to a perfect evening!! Next morning was the short trip up to Ao Chalong where we checked into Thailand and received our 30day visitors visas, just a couple of nights here then straight up to Yacht Haven Marina, we had work to do.

Yacht Haven Marina 20 Nov - 16 Dec 2007
We know we should have gone to Penang, got a 2 month Visa and given ourselves more time to get everything done we wanted, but we didn't and now we are running around like headless chickens trying to get everything organised and completed within a month. We have had an ongoing problem with our hot water cylinder leaking and could not get the work done in Malaysia so that is top on our list, have a big hole cut in our cabin wall to access the cylinder and replace it. We also want a "stack pack" "boom bag" whatever you want to call it, a mainsail cover that is permanently fixed that you just unzip before raising the sail. With all the day sailing we will be doing up the Red Sea we feel it is a good decision, but now the company we have been talking too may not have enough time to make it, they have told us they can not make the awning we had planned on, even though we had already advised of our arrival - should have got here earlier. I desperately want the galley bench replaced, the old one is cracking up, we contact Mali who has been recommended, he says we will need to do all the work onboard because of the way it has been fitted, no problem they can start tomorrow and it will only be 4 days, things are looking up. Mr Oh arrives and quotes on making the hole in the cabin wall and doing some repairs to the hull, we are happy with the quote and they too can start tomorrow. It is all go!!! Absolute chaos is an understatement of life on Balvenie during the next 3 weeks. Everything is removed from the galley as the bench top is chiselled off, the tap and sink removed and the new hole cut for additional storage, 4 days extends to 12 days with no galley or even water in the galley. Good thing eating out in Thailand is cheap!! Very good cruising friends off "Anon" Brian and his son Taylor arrive to stay a few nights while Sarah is off working in India, unfortunately we can't spend much time with them. The hole is sawed into the aft cabin wall (sawdust everywhere) and the hot water cylinder is removed, we can not source a replacement anywhere in Phuket so our leaking one goes off to hopefully be repaired. Meanwhile outside Mr Oh's boys are working hard each day repairing little dinks in the hull and cutting/polishing the boat, Balvenie is starting to gleam. Somewhere during this time skipper turns 50 and we have an impromptu dinner at Mamas with everyone we know invited, it was a great night. We say our farewells to Brian and Taylor, they will soon fly back to Christchurch (NZ) to live for Taylor to commence secondary school, so their cruising days are numbered for now. The galley bench is finished but the boys dropped a brick they were using as a weight into the newly repolished stainless steel sink and dented it badly, I am not happy so out it comes again to go away to be repaired. The days are flying by, the stress levels increasing by the hour. Meanwhile we are speeding around Phuket getting last minute spares, more groceries, filling the lockers, bilges and freezer to the brim. And did I mention the new microwave and espresso coffee machine to replace our dead applicances, and there was the liferaft that needed servicing which had to be freighted to Bangkok, and all new flares to be purchased, plus we will need more fenders for Med mooring, phew its all go. Somehow I manage a few hours out for a skin check at the excellent Bangkok Phuket Hospital and have a few sun spots zapped and one removed from my face with 14 stitches to sew me back together!! The plastic surgeon did an amazing job all for around $700NZD. We also manage a quick shopping excursion with Sal and John off "Jaraman", who help Mark chose a guitar. I gave him an "IOU a guitar" for his birthday, since we started cruising he has said how he would love to learn the guitar and with the long passages ahead of us this seems like a good time to start. John is an excellent guitar player (and Sal is pretty good too) so they give him some pointers and help choose a guitar, strings, tuner, lesson books etc etc that now make their way onboard as well, where will they go!!!! Finally the sink is repaired, its ok, we are fast running out of time, it will have to do. Mark attaches our sparkling new tap, the internal joins are leaking, off it comes again, bugger. Another days hire car, they don't have another tap at the hardware store - most taps here just have cold water - so eventually they give us a refund and we drive around trying to find an alternative, success. The new tap is fine, the galley is completed and looks great with its new black benchtop and stainless steel appliances, the water cylinder is repaired although he warns us it is on its last legs, it will have to do for now, Mr Oh does a great job of finishing off around the cut out piece and it all looks like it was meant to be. Everything is stowed, the clock is ticking, we are ready to leave, but where is the new sail cover? It arrives the next afternoon, the slugs are the wrong size and it can not be attached, this is not looking good. He is back the following morning with the correct slugs and it goes on, the reefing lines holes have been put in the wrong place but we will work around that, it is finally attached and zipped up, the zipper end comes off in his hand, and it really is not big enough and not fully covering the sail at both ends and the top, this is going from bad to worse. Had we had more time I would have sent it back to be remade and the zipper replaced, we had run out of time, a quickfix was done on the zipper and I will have to try and extend it at some point to cover the sail fully. We are not happy customers having spent over $1,000NZD on the cover, still moral of the story is "give yourself plenty of time", we have learnt the hard way!
Yacht Haven to Surins 17 - 23 Dec 2007
First stop is Nai Harn Bay where we met up with very good Kiwi friends Chris and Hilary off "Moon River" who have come through on this years 'Sail Asia Rally' from Darwin. Although we had managed to spend time with them when we were all back in Auckland last March, we last saw them at sea in the Louisiades so great to have a quick catch up. Its Hilarys' 60th birthday so party time on Moon River, the farewells in cruising are just dreadful but boy the reunions are great fun. Next day it is truly the last provision run. We will be cruising in company with more good friends Alastair and Vivienne, also Kiwis (there are actually very few of us floating around out here) off "Largo Star", up the Thai coast, out to the Surins for Christmas then onto the Andamans. Of course Vivienne and I need to get all the Christmas Dinner provisions, Leg of Lamb, vegetables for roasting, Pavlova and all kiwi trimmings, the boys moan and groan but they wont when they get to eat it. Off by tuktuk to Carrefour and the excellent Patong Deli in Patong, the boys decide they need more fishing tackle, Mark needs more "guitar stuff", Balvenie bulges at the seams. Nai Harn Bay is famous in Phuket for the place yachties gather to spend Christmas, it is getting busier by the day, we keep seeing old friends arrive and catch up as much as we can. Then its time to go get my stitches out, off to Ao Chalong to check out and we have our last night ashore at the Jungle Bar with about 20 friends, this is truly the last farewell. 21Dec, time to go. Why is it when everyone is waiting to wave goodbye things start to go wrong. First the engine wouldn't start, after some time Mark has that up and running, then alas the windlass won't go. A loose connection is the culprit of both, everything retightened and at last we pull out of Nai Harn for the last time. Circumnavigating again - wow. We have an interesting sail up the coast to Nai Yang, wind bullets coming across the hills, lulls across the bays, they all kept us on our toes. We anchor in a sheltered spot and had a lovely dinner ashore at this cute little beach with the restaurants virtually on the sand. Next day was a great sail north with a light nor-easter and flat seas, we practiced our tacking and enjoyed the day, tucking up for the night in the river at Ban Tap Lamu and going ashore again for dinner. This is a navy base and the local cafe was run by the navy wives, rather interesting. Another day and further north we go to Ko Phra Thong, there is more wind today but still a good sail and we anchor inside the entrance to this large waterway, and go ashore for a big walk along the beach. We don't have time to further explore the waterways as we really want to be in the Surin Islands for Christmas and it is the 23rd. Christmas Eve we jump off from the Thai mainland out to the Surin Islands, how come all the way up the coast we sail to windwind and now we head west and we are still sailing to windward? Still the wind is good so no motoring, we make good time and arrive in the Surins on the East Coast Bay and pick up a courtesy mooring buoy. The water is so clear and the reef so close that we feel in the middle of an aquarium, Largo Star have the buoy next to us and we are all settled ready for Santa Claus to arrive.

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