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Mandolin Wind under Spinnaker  

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Martin & Sue

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Thailand Cruising in 2012

 

Arriving back on Mandolin Wind after a few months away was like ‘coming home’. This cruising season we were particularly happy to be back aboard – especially after experiencing health issues in the form of those troublesome blood clots. Although not ‘out of the woods’ just yet (one of the three clots still remained and Sue was still on daily blood thinning injections) the end was in sight.


     

We were pleased that a few of our friends were still in Rebak so on our first night back we headed to the Hard Dock Cafe. As talk turned to why Mandolin Wind had been at Rebak for so long, we filled everyone in on the delays caused by the blood clots. Imagine our discomposure when firstly one friend told us his brother had died at 52 from a blood clot – followed by a second friend who sadly recalled that her 29 yo brother had also died of a similar complication! It was a reminder how lucky Sue was – especially when the clots remained undiagnosed for so long.

     
 
     

Some of the cruising girls had organised their own early morning Yoga classes and Sue had tried it a few times - but swore off it after suffering for several days with sore muscles afterwards! Yoga came to mind a few days later when Martin had occasion to practice the more intimate moves of self discovery whilst fixing a seized turbo on the Port engine. Marine Engine designers must definitely have a degree from ‘Bastards Incorporated’ for the nuts holding the turbo in place were near impossible to get to with a spanner or socket of any description (and you better believe that all were tried!) Then to add salt to the already bloody hand wounds – courtesy of sharp engine protrusions whilst trying to remove the above nut – it was dropped during the re-tightening process. Now, this is where the yoga contortions came into play! Of coarse it was a special shaped nut that we didnt have a spare for !

     
 
     

The offending piece of bastardry was impossible to find despite Martin screwing his body every which way into the smallest of cavities trying to locate it. Mirrors on a stick were tried, magnets on string, pumps, brooms – all to no avail. 3 HOURS later the piece finally allowed itself to be found – in a seemingly obvious spot that had been searched several times (to give us some excuses, it was well camouflaged in grease and dust.) Perhaps it was the sweat running into our eyes that made us blind!
And people ask us how we fill in our time on the boat! It was just as well no one was around to ask that question on that particular afternoon!

     

Coincidentally, whilst chatting with a group of cruisers the next evening (when talk had turned to engines as it somehow always seems to do whenever yachties are gathered together) one largish fellow praised his wife for her prowess at engine maintenance – it turned out it was a question of necessity for he was a big man and could not fit into the tiny spaces inside the engine well. That’s it, Martin – don’t dare put on any weight because in Sue’s eyes engine work is definitely a blue job!

 
   
Above: No room for sleeping Budha's on Mandolin Wind!
     

Before heading out to sail north, we made a quick trip down to Penang (the flight takes about 20 minutes and costs less than $50 return). As well as obtaining our 60 day Thai visas (only 30 days are available on arrival without a pre-issued one ) , Sue was able to organise a Doppler Utlrasound at one of the large modern hospitals. We were thrilled when no sign of any clots could be found. With the ‘all clear’ given,  the daily blood thinning injections could be stopped – although Sue still needs to continue to wear a compression sock on the offending leg for several months to come.

Other than a bit of cleaning and scraping – especially the inch long barnacles off the props – Mandolin Wind was in remarkably good condition and we were soon ready to head for Thailand.

     
 
Above: With Hilary on the speedboat ferry from Langkawi to Rebak
 
Below: Enjoying a buffet breaky at the Rebak Island Resort before we head off cruising
     

Friends Hilary (a friend from Uni days) and Emery flew from Belgium (via a conference in KL) to join us for the trip north to Phuket and we were looking forward to being able to repay their hospitality after our stay with them in Europe. It was Hilary and Emery's French house that we stayed in at the village of Charcenne. We also stayed with them for a week in Belgium where Hilary acted as our interpretor during hospital visits.

     
 
Above: Relaxing in Telaga harbour before setting off
 
Above: Dinner ashore at Telaga
 
With the weather typically calm we enjoyed several days of motor sailing as we showed off the spectacular scenery between Langkawi and Phuket. Of course, we made sure we stopped to show off the Emerald Hong on Koh Muk and to sample a few snorkelling spots along the way.
 
 
Above: Contrary to popular rumour, we do prepare some meals aboard!
 
Above: Hilary enjoyed learning the finer points of helming
 

Coming from winter in Europe, Hil and Em were very happy to be able to dress lightly for meals ashore – in  fact, they quickly learnt that when it comes to going ashore in the dinghy, ‘the less clothing the better’ – for even with minimal surf running the ‘landing’ involved getting at least ones feet and calf muscles wet (but more likely the wet area included a wet bum and maybe even higher up if really unlucky!)

     
 
Above: Our first night back in Thailand
 
Above: Emery discovered coconut shakes and could not get enough of them!
     
 
Above: As a child in France, Emery dreamed of boats - so he was more than happy to be aboard!
 
Above: Our visitors were particular taken with our 'backyard'
     

We arrived at Nai Harn beach in time for Australia Day. Evening celebrations were aboard ‘Seventh Heaven’ – owned by Betty and Charlie from Queensland. Our visitors enjoyed meeting a selection of cruisers from both Aus and NZ . Charlie kindly gave them a tour of ‘Seventh Heaven’. Upon learning that the boat had a water maker (desalinator) Hilary innocently asked us why we did not have one. On hearing that we did, in fact, have a water maker, she elicited hoots of laughter by innocently asking, ‘Then why do we have to watch how much water we use on board?’ A fair enough question!! A chorus of “It takes a lot of power to convert salt water to drinking water – and power is something a boat can never have enough of” ensued – as did lots more laughter and ribald comments! Needless to say it was rather a late night and a lot of fun.


Sue loves having visitors on board as it gives her an excuse to go shopping and have massages on the beach! So Martin 'manned the boat' while the rest of the crew hit the market stalls and finished with a thai massage and pedicure! Oh, but we did allow him to come ashore for dinner!  
Below and Right: Lunch at the quirky 'Natural' Restaurant
   
 
     
Below and Right: some of the funny things to be seen at the 'Natural' Restaurant
 
Below: An old TV converted into a fish tank - which explains why the cat is so fascinated!
 

     
All too soon, it was time for Hil and Em to fly off to Jakarta for yet another conference. We anchored at Airport beach so it was convenient for their early morning flight. Unluckily, after so long with perfect sunny conditions, the rain decided to arrive that morning at 5.30 am just as we were ferrying the luggage ashore. Luckily the bags only got slightly damp!
     

Mandolin Wind’s mini makeover was now on the agenda and we needed to relocate to Yacht Haven Marina which is located at the top of Phuket Island and, as the crow flies, only a few kms from where we were anchored at Nai Yang or Airport Beach.


     
Below: an eerily still evening in Yacht Haven Marina. The colours are natural !!
   
 

However, despite its proximity, the trip took us all day (10 hours) for we could not take the direct route around the top of Phuket in a clockwise direction because of a low bridge– but had to travel all the way down south and around the bottom of Phuket. Very good planning on behalf of the Thai engineers!  

See Mini Makeover for more details on our stay at Yacht Haven marina and the mini boat makeover.

     

All that we will mention here is that we were at the marina for nearly 4 weeks and during that time, whilst Martin worked around the contracting team to try and do a major serviceon the engines, Sue was very luckily able to do some online IT contracting. Fortunately we had rented an air conditioned unit so she was able to earn money whilst sitting in comfort and admiring the view of the boats floating on the water (plus she avoided slogging it out in the engine rooms in the sweltering heat!)

 

The other thing that filled in our time was that Sue visited the Bangkok Phuket Hospital to have her teeth checked as the previous season she had had extensive dental work done (for a fraction of the price of dental work in Aus). The crowns and implants were all in excellent order so the 85 injections and many hours in the chair last year were worth it!

 

 

Luckily most of our boat work was completed in time for our next visitors to arrive.

Once again, we were very much looking forward to paying back Mike and Robyn for their wonderful hospitality provided whilst Sue was working in Melbourne -so we did not want to waste any time sitting in a hot marina. After a day or so spent doing some shopping (ie prescription glasses, visiting tailors etc) we headed straight out to Phang Nga Bay to explore.

After visiting a few Hongs we headed for the floating Sea Gypsy village where we had the most amazing meal of prawns and squid at ridiculously cheap prices.

 
 
Above:Lunch at the floating village
 
Above:a feast of prawns and squid - and this is only lunch
 

Although it was tempting to hang around and partake of more fantastic seafood for dinner as well, we resisted the temptation and headed east towards Krabi. With the weather exceptionally hot and still, we were looking forward to finding some golden beaches with clear water so that we could cool off (you can't really swim near the Sea Gypsy village due to the murky colour of the water - courtesy of the runoff from several rivers that feed into the bay in the vicinity).

Well, although we found the beaches and the crystal clear water, unfortunately we also found hundreds of small jellyfish with long tentacles making it inadvisable to swim from the boat. We knew the Jellyfish had a nasty sting because poor Robyn was stung from some tentacles just by scooping up a bucket of water to swab the decks. Fortunately, the Jellyfish did not seem to frequent the shore so we were at least able to go ashore to swim.

     
Below: Mike posing as Cleopatra as he prays for a cool breeze!
 
Below: Luckily swimming from the shore seemed to be safe from Jelly fish
 
     
Below: Although people on charter yachts were swimming we were not so keen to jump in the water when we could see hundreds of these nasty looking jelly fish
 
Below: We noticed that this charter yacht was in a very shallow area when we passed by and later were not surprised when the area dried out and the boat ended up on its side. Someone should tell them about tides!
 
 
Below: Mike and Robyn enjoying a ride in Big Bertha the Dinghy
 
Below: Although we couldn't swim from the boat, we could still enjoy cool drinks at sundown.
 
 

After a few days we headed back towards Phuket and over to the west coast where we were able to chill out in jellyfish free water and make the most of the market stalls (more of that shopping!), the massages ("you want massage, madammme...") and the cheap restaurants ashore.

Well actually, not all of our meals were so economical. As a treat, we ‘played’ at being normal tourists and booked into Sunday brunch at the flash ‘Indigo Pearl’ resort (where villas with personal plunge pools go for $1000 a night). For $70 a head (including free flowing wine, champers and Spirits) we spent 3 long and enjoyable hours pigging out on all the foods we could not normally find or afford in Thailand - fresh cray, sushi, Australian beef and lamb (cooked  before our eyes over a flaming grill), cheeses and salami and desserts to die for.


     
 
Below: Do you think we have eaten too much?
   
 

 

 

For the last few days of their stay in Thailand, Mike and Robyn treated themselves and booked into a 5 star resort. No, it wasn't the Indigo Pearl but a much more realistically price resort. After so many hot days on the boat we were very happy to help them enjoy their own private plunge pool!

However, one afternoon the clouds turned black and Martin had to make a dash for the boat to ensure it was safe during the approaching storm, which passed directly overhead. The thunder was deafening and from the resort the rest of us worried as we watch the lightening strike the water. Martin later told us that there were several strikes to the sea within 500 metres of our boat - but fortunately we were not hit.


 
 
 

Luckily on the next evening, Mike and Rob's final one before returning home, the evening was clear and we were even able to launch our own Prayer Lantern - a small hot air balloon traditionally designed to send a message to the gods and to bring good luck.

 

 
After a great 2 week visit we reluctantly said goodbye to Mike and Robyn and started our preparations to leave Phuket and head back down to Langkawi for a haulout and antifoul. Before checking out, however, we made a quick trip back to Yacht Haven marina to have a final coat of varnish on our floor. This necessitated us moving off the boat for one night so we treated ourselves and booked into a resort for the night (after our visit to Mike and Robyn's resort we were hooked!). The accommodation was rather flasher than we expected!
 

 
Above and Right: Makes a change from the boat life... the pool was our private one ! As well as the living area above, there was a separate bedroom pavillion also overlooking the pool.
     

However, despite the luxury this was still Thailand and during the night when Sue reached over to switch on the bedside lamp there was a flash and a loud cracking noise, followed by darkness! Given that we had just read in the local paper about a Russian tourist who had been electrocuted at a luxury resort when he touched the bridge over the pool we were not totally surprised to find that the lamp connection was totally loose and that bare wires were sticking out of the switch! Thank goodness for circuit breakers!

 
 

Finally we were ready to head south again – and with our freezer loaded to the rim with 12 kgs of large tiger prawns (purchased at the local market for $5.50 a kg) and several packs of Pork and Bacon (remember we are heading to a Muslim country!) we depart Phuket.

     
During our trip along the top of Phuket Island we passed a ship being loaded with yachts bound for the Med. This is an option a lot of our friends have taken given the pirate situation in the Red Sea. It is expensive (between $30,000 - $60,000 depending on the size) but the best solution for those yachts determined to make it through without going via South Africa and the Cape..  
     
 
 
     
On the first night out we anchored on the west side of Koh Lanta. The winds were predicted to be light easterlies and when we returned from dinner ashore the seas were flat and the skies were clear.  
   
Above: view of Mandolin Wind while we are having dinner at Koh Lantra. Notice the calm conditions.
     

What followed was one of the worst nights we had ever spent at anchor. Within an hour of dusk the wind swung to a strong westerly at 15-20kts and the seas rose to 1.5 - 2 metres making the conditions aboard extremely uncomfortable. Despite the darkness we considered moving around to the other side of the island – however, after weighing up the dangers associated with travelling in an unknown anchorage at night – plus considering the number of unlit fishing pots that were everywhere- we decided it was safer to stay put and suffer the rocking.

With the anchor alarm set, we tried to rest on the saloon seats only to be disturbed a short time later when we were hit by a massive storm. So much for the clear skies! We were still up at 1.30am, watching with trepidation as the lightning struck all around us and the rain pelted down and although we were very confident in our anchor we did not like the gusts of 25 knots blasting us. At least it came from the east so we weren't on a lee shore and the pelting rain flattened the seas somewhat !

Ahh the joys of boating and the beauty of Thai weather forecasts.

     

 

The next day, tired and somewhat anxious, for it appeared that the season was certainly changing into the transition time and we knew we could expect serious thunderstorms every night from now on, we continued our journey South.

During the day we caught our first ever fish in Thai waters! It is a 1 metre barracuda and looks like good eating – until we read that anything over 1 metre should not be eaten due to the danger of ciguatera (toxin build up that is fatal to humans). So much for our first fish!

Above: On our last night in Thailand we anchor off this lovely resort on Koh Muk
   


     

And so the sun goes down on our third season in Thailand - this time probably our last. We now plan to make our way down through the Malacca Straits towards Singapore and then around to the East coast of Malaysia before heading across to Sarawak and Sabah.

We have thoroughly enjoyed cruising in this area but it is time for a change and we are looking forward to new adventures in new cruising grounds.