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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Dec 31, 2007- Passing Hin Daeng Rock

wingssail image-fredrick roswold
Sailing alone in the night

The wind filled in as we cleared the Butang Islands just before sunset and we set sail on our return trip bound for Phuket, Thailand. By 10:30 the wind was solid and steady and under #1 genoa we held a good course on port tack right up the rhumb line. Good sailing.

We'd spent a few days in Langkawi, got our passports stamped so we could go back to Thailand with a new visa, bought some duty free, saw the sights; mission accomplished.

Now just a short overnight sail, 120 miles, and we would be back in Thailand.

No moon; a black night.

I don't know when we first saw the rock on the chart called Hin Daeng. At first neither of us said anything but around midnight we could no longer ignore it; we could see that our course was trending towards it. It was drawing us like a magnet. It was my watch and I told Judy not to worry, I'd take care of missing it. She went to bed, which I took for either a vote of confidence or resignation.

I thought we might be able to clear it to weather and I hardened up. Sheet on the genoa, trim the main, adjust the wind vane, and we went into point mode; as close as Wings could sail to the wind even at the expense of some speed. I wanted to get some room between our course and the rock. I watched on the chart plotter and saw our course carve slightly to windward, away from Hin Daeng. Nice. It seemed now like we would clear it by ¾ of a mile, probably enough but it the black night it still made me nervous.

Now I was peering to leeward with the binoculars into the dark night looking for Hin Daeng which I knew had to be out there somewhere. I hoped it was to leeward, not directly in front of us. The chart showed we'd clear it after I'd pointed up the last half hour as hard as we could make Wings go, but charts can be wrong, and on a moonless night it could be anywhere even right on our bow.

I saw nothing.

I turned on the depth alarm and set it to 60 feet, then changed it to 100. If the alarm went off it would mean we were getting close to Hin Deang.

The depth alarm remained silent.

When the chart showed us abeam of it I looked again and against the lights of a distant fishing boat I saw a black bump moving on the horizon. Its bearing changed rapidly and I knew it was Hin Daeng. We passed it safely. Now it was astern.

Then the wind came up; too much for the #1. We changed to the #4.

And the wind shifted: it went from west to north-east. I looked on the chart; we had almost turned a circle around Hin Daeng. What a shift; we were headed back to Langkawi!

We tacked and then we were still well below our course on starboard tack. The wind went light. I didn't feel like changing back to the #1. I eased the sheets to keep us moving in the light wind and leftover chop. It could be a long night.

We sailed on.

But the wind was good to us. During Candace's watch it increased and lifted us back to the rhumb line. I went on deck and again sheeted in. We sailed higher and still made good time through the night. Daylight saw us within sight of Phuket Island.

We were back in familiar waters, where we'd sailed during the King's Cup, and Patong Bay lay just ahead.

We'd be there by noon.

Our trip to Langkawi had been successful and now we were having a good sail back.

That's the way we like it.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Phuket Thailand

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