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Mandolin Wind under Spinnaker  

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Martin & Sue

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Xmas / New Year 2011 in Phuket

 

 It had been a busy five month break – but after buying and renovating a house in Brisbane, we were well and truly ready to return to Mandolin Wind and the Cruising Life.

 

   
 
     
Above: Luckily we had the foresight to install a new roof before the summer rains arrived in Brisbane   Above: Sporting a new roof!
     
 
     
Above: The upstairs bathroom before the renovations   Above: ...and afterwards
     
 

As I lounged back and enjoyed the space in Air Asia’s premium economy (which by a freak of timing had worked out cheaper than economy class for this flight so close to xmas)  I pictured Mandolin Wind with polished topsides and newly antifouled hulls. You might wonder how our ship could possibly look so clean after sitting for nearly six months in a marina gathering barnacles and mould? Well, cunningly I had sent Martin back a week early to haul out and perform such a miracle!

Above: last minute goodbye phone calls at the Gold Coast Airport   Below left and right: Mandolin Wind on the Hard at Rebak marina (where care must be taken to lock the boat up at all times otherwise the monkeys cause havoc inside!
     
 
     

Well, I can happily report that the ‘blue smurf’ (so named by fellow boaties because of the blue anti-foul covering his clothes, hair and beard) had performed just such a miracle and Mandolin Wind – although still on the hardstand – was looking very slick and polished.

 
     
Below: the throne takes pride of place in the cockpit during repairs!  

Above: our Malaysian courtesy flag is looking a little worse for wear after surviving a wet season!

     
  As is typically the case after leaving a boat for that length of time, we had quite a few ‘maintenance’ issues to deal with – including a fridge that refused to start and a head (toilet) that had developed a dodgy maserator pump (lucky we have two heads!) – but after a mad rush to get the critical issues sorted, we managed to checkout of Malaysia on the 22nd of December and headed our bows towards Thailand.
     
Below: Very happy, thankyou! Trying out the new Bose earbuds - a birthday gift from Sue & Nyree   Below: Splash out for the birthday dinner - buffet at the Rebak Resort
     
 
     

.After not having sailed for such a long time, we were not too happy to be confronted with 20 knots on the nose – but Mandolin Wind appeared delighted to have the wind in her sails again so we veered off the wind and had a speedy (but bouncy) eight hour sail to our midway stop at Koh Kodan.  Typically, the next day was dead calm so we motored the remaining distance – arriving in Nai Harn beach on the southern tip of Phuket around 4pm.

     
  The bay – a popular xmas spot for cruisers – was crowded with over 100 yachts but being a large bay there was plenty of room for one more. We were welcomed by many friends we had made during the previous year and that night joined many of them aboard ‘Two Up’ to swap tall stories and yarns.
     

First light on Xmas eve revealed a white sandy beach literally covered in wooden deck chairs. Our first thought was ‘Where can we put our dinghy?’ but this was quickly followed by more sober  reflections as we watched body boarders ride the breaking waves as they rolled into shore! Oops – looks like it is too dangerous to go ashore so it will be a quiet day on the boat today (which was sitting amazingly stable given the size of the swell)!

Our next thought was related to the fickleness of weather as we spied the remains of 13 metre Privilege Catamaran washed up on the rocks west of the beach. Apparently, with nobody aboard to save it, she had dragged anchor during a recent storm and despite frantic efforts by fellow boaties to rescue her, she had pounded herself to death on the rocks.  The ironic part of the terrible saga was that a deposit had been taken on the sale of the boat and, confident of a sale, the owners had let the insurance lapse.

     
 
     
Above: Bah Humbug - not another xmas celebration!   Above: Sue getting into the spirit with Donna from Two Up and Lucy from Soul
     

That evening there was a get together at a local restaurant (fortunately situated at a more protected stretch of sand to the west of the main beach) and after donning our good gear and xmas hats we collected friends from neighbouring boats and headed ashore to enjoy an amazing buffet of cold meats (including turkey) along with several very tasty Thai dishes.

     

Unfortunately, we had only just finished eating and were onto dessert (which sadly consisted of Thai sweets with no plum pudding in sight!) when the heavens opened. Given that the open air restaurant did not usually cater for 200 guests, it was not surprising that the makeshift plastic awnings did not survive the deluge and we were soon huddled together under the verandah trying to escape the seriously bucketing rain. 

 

 

    Above: One of the staff members vainly trying to stem the flow of water from the makeshift plastic roof!
     

One of the less attractive side-effects of cruising is that your mind is never really free from worrying about the safety of the boat – and in the present wet and thundery conditions all but the most drunken sailors were decidedly uncomfortable about being ashore. Eventually, during a slight break in the deluge, we decided to make a dash for it – and we ‘almost’ made it! Picture, if you will, six forlorn figures loaded into a chugging dinghy (we only have a 6hp outboard) hunched over in a vain attempt to protect ourselves from the driving, stinging rain and flinching everytime the lightening cracked overhead. Ah well, at least it wasn’t cold! Luckily all was well aboard and – wouldn’t you know it – the storm passed by minutes after we were back on board.  

 

Xmas morning was celebrated aboard Mandolin Wind with the crew of Two Up (with the several courses of champagne, bacon and eggs and mince tarts interspersed between jumps over board to cool off). This was followed by an impromptu ‘pot luck’ picnic lunch ashore with several other boats.

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately the surf was still up and as we floated well off shore assessing the situation I remembered that the first rule of dinghy landing was to ‘always look behind!’  My yells of, ‘Quick, there are some big ones coming’ were timed just right for Martin to gun our underpowered outboard, turn back to sea, and take the waves head on. Although we copped a bit of a drenching, all was well and we decided that the safest option was for Martin to drop us off at a rocky outcrop further along the beach that was free from surf (and then tie the dinghy to a float well outside the breaking surf line before swimming ashore).

As we headed off to execute this plan another dinghy rushed by us and despite our calls for caution they obviously decided they would have better luck than us. We watched with interest as they zoomed in – and for a while it looked like their gamble had paid off – but we knew their fate was sealed when we saw the dinghy flip over just as it reached the sand line. When we finally caught up with them at the picnic site, they were trying to dry out their phones and cameras (which reminded me of the second rule of dinghy landing – always put your valuables in a dry bag!)

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Above: Did Santa make it to our xmas lunch or is that an ole salty sea dog beard??

  Above: Jim displaying his damaged outboard

 

After a very enjoyable casual lunch, the fun started all over again. As we walked along the sand towards where some of the ’ lucky’ dinghy’s had made it safely ashore, one of our friends from the Aussie catamaran, Bach and Byte, noticed that his dinghy was in danger of being swamped by a large incoming wave. Despite Jim’s last minute mad dash, by the time he reached the dinghy it had overturned and the waterlogged outboard engine was sporting a broken housing. Certainly a xmas day with a difference!

 

  The next day we managed to make it ashore safely and purchase sim cards for both voice and data. On checking our emails we were surprised to learn that our daughter Nyree and her boyfriend Alan had been caught up in a 7.8 magnitude earthquake during their holiday in Vanuatu but very fortunately they were safe and well – lucky we hadn’t heard about the quake beforehand otherwise we would have spent a very sleepless night! While ashore, we also hired a motorbike and headed over to Ao Chalong Bay to check in to Thailand.

 

 

 

Above: Cards anyone? A restful way to recover from Xmas festivities    
     

En route we stopped off at a cafe for breakfast and whilst perusing an English language newspaper we came across the following interesting statistic – during the 8 days between the 28th December 2009 and the 5th January 2010, 8 people PER DAY were killed in traffic accidents on Phuket Island alone! Remember, this is on an island with a permanent population of only 300,000! A sobering snippet that made us doubly cautious as we puttered along on our 125cc fully automatic Honda being passed by kamikaze tourists wearing skimpy bikinis, boardshorts and thongs!  As an interesting aside, whilst waiting for my dental appointment at the Bangkok Phuket Hospital, I observed several white, middle aged males sporting leg and arm bandages and could not help concluding that they were part of the ‘unseen’ road injury statistics.

It was on our return dinghy trip that we noticed that our trusty ten year old Aqua pro dinghy had finally succumbed to the stresses of the tropical sun and was literally coming apart at the seams. Given the antics associated with exciting surf landings – plus the absolute necessity to have a safe means of getting to and from the shore  -  we made arrangements to have the dinghy totally refurbished with new hypalon tubes and a full refurbishment. At $3800 the cost is a lot cheaper than it would be in Aus. ( about 1/2 ) We did consider purchasing a totally new dinghy but decided against this mainly because the current dinghy sits very snugly between our hulls when raised on the davits thus making it very stable during passage making. The good news was that the repair yard were able to loan us a dinghy to use during the repairs – but the very bad news was that the borrowed dinghy had black sides that caused havoc with our newly polished boat sides. So take note of dinghy rule no. 3 – never get a dinghy with a black cover or handles!

 

 

New Years Eve saw us anchored off Patong Beach. With us on board were old friends (from Uni days) Andy and Helen who had stopped over on their way home from a three year stint in England. Despite serious reservations about coping with the numerous jet skis that usually buzz the boats at Patong Beach we had decided it was worth the harassment in order to be in the best position to view the supposedly legendary fireworks.

Luckily, despite still being used as a ‘mark of the course’ by several jet skis, it was not as bad as we remembered it from our previous visit. We wondered if the riders had been told to slow down by nervous operators after a Chinese honeymoon couple had killed themselves the previous week after riding full speed into the side of an anchored catamaran.

 

   

The fireworks did not disappoint and they were supplemented by thousands upon thousands of prayer lanterns (mini hot air balloons made of paper and a kerosene style burner) and along with Two Up (who joined us for dinner and champagne) we had a spectacular view from the front deck.

Several boats also let off presumably out-of-date parachute flares - very naughty of them but this is Thailand after all!

 

 

 
     
Andy and Helen were with us for two weeks and during that time we took the opportunity to explore some of the areas of Phang Nga Bay that we had missed during the previous season. As we headed east towards Krabi and the mainland of Thailand, we discovered some very pretty islands with reasonable snorkelling (although the coral was decidedly unspectacular and only the fish made it worth the effort).
     
 

 

Above: The sea cave marking the entrance to the hong   Above: The boats lined up to spew out their tourist outside the sea cave. Lucky we could wait until after they had departed before entering the cave
     
We also discovered several more hongs (remember – these are inland lakes that are only accessible via sea caves) – many of which we could not enter until low tide.
     
 
     
Above: Exiting the tunnel   Above: Another cave, this time one open to the sea
     

Similar to last year, we were often approached by fishermen selling ( still kicking ) king prawns for about $8 / kg. We sometimes had to make the difficult choice between garlic prawns or barbequed pork loins ( from the supermarket ) of which we had ample supply after discovering we could buy good quality pieces for only $3 a kilo!

 

 

 

   
Above: The beach at Koh Hong in PhangNga Bay   Above: Koh Hong is doing its best for recycling!
     

During this time, Nyree kept us up to date with the worsening flood crisis in Brisbane. Since our house is only 3 kms from Brisbane city centre, we were more than pleased that we had avoided the low lying areas and purchased a place on top of a hill. This did not stop us feeling for the people whose houses were flooded during this (hopefully) once in lifetime flood. We were also very grateful that the downstairs flat stayed dry during the relentless rain – a testimony to the hard work Martin had put in fixing the previously non-existent storm water drainage system.


     
 
     
Above: Whilst cruising Phang Nga bay, we happened upon a Bollywood film crew who took over the beach once the crowds had departed. As the Indian music belted out, we wonder where the serenity had gone!   Above: Andy & Helen ready to head to the Phuket Airport. An early morning start
     

It was great to have visitors aboard but now we are once again on our own and busy preparing Mandolin Wind for her trip to the Andaman Islands. Unfortunately this has included a lot of extra repairs as we are only now discovering the direct results of the electromagnetic pulse we received when Two Up were hit by lightening ( 40m behind us in April - just before we left ). We knew all of the mast lights had blown and had replaced them, but it now looks like some of our solid state smart regulators and splitters ( between the house and the start batteries ) have gone to a better place. This was confirmed by a few quick emails to the manufacturers in the States regarding the symptoms. It appears as if they have internally shorted. In typical fashion we were advised that they have also upgraded the regulators to a newer model but that it is now not compatable with another piece of equipment we have in the charging circuits to balance the two alternators, so that will have to be replaced as well. Typical !

I am also busy visiting the dentist to have the pre-work done ready for the completion of my extensive dental work (scheduled for when we return from the Andamans). Luckily for my waistline, especially after the xmas splurge,  this has involved having incisions made into my gums to insert the posts associated with my dental implants – which in turn has ‘forced’ me into a liquid diet for the next few days. Luckily for all on board that Champagne and Baileys still qualifies under this liquid diet criteria!