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Friday, July 18, 2008

July 19, 2008-Laem Phrao

Muslim Kids

The Muslim village of Laem Phrao is near the marina and we walk up the hill to it sometimes.

Today we went there looking for chili peppers and while we were there we thought maybe we'd have a bite to eat.

We found both the hot chili's we needed and some good Thai food, plus we were again enchanted by the peacefulness of this small town and the open friendliness of the people.

Click here for another photo of Laem Phrao

Fred & Judy, S/V Wings, Phuket


Friday, July 04, 2008

July 1, 2008-An Ordinary Day on the Water

Day One:

wingssail image-judy jensen
Getting Ready

We put the sails on, started the engine, went out, found no wind, motored to a place which looked nice on the chart, and we anchored.

(Click here to see the photos)

Should be nothing special about that when you’ve done it a thousand times.

But even after a thousand times, 10,000 times, each day on the water is a thing special, a day important, a day which restores life into a sailor.

We must have it.

Or we die.

We die anyway.

But at least this way when we eventually come to our end we will have followed a compass of our own devising; the only compass which we know how to follow.

The call of the sea is our own individual majestic useless obsession and we are drawn to it and powerless to resist and it serves no purpose and to stay on this path we must neglect our own comfort and convenience, but we do it, and we do it without even any real understanding why.

Or caring.

It is enough that the sea is there and it can take us but until it takes us it gives us life and we are drawn to it and we embrace it.

And it is our identity: sailors.

But today we did no sailing. We dragged the sails out on deck and the neighbours noted our labours and observed that it looked like a big project.

“No, no big project, just putting sails on, we might be able to sail today.”

Sailing has always been hard work. When we are too old to do this we’ll stop.

Meanwhile, we do not care that it is a bit of work or that there was no wind. We are at sea on our boat.

That is enough and it is right.

This afternoon as we lay at anchor in Phang Nga Bay surrounded by the limestone monoliths for which that location is justifiably famous absorbing the satisfaction of just being there, and…

the wind came up.

A nice breeze.

Now we make plans for tomorrow in case a similar breeze fills in.

Being on the sea is good…

but sailing on it is better.

Day two: We want to sail today.

wingssail image-judy jensen

The wind came up early but it was light; a northerly which we knew wouldn’t last so we waited.

Movements in Phang Nga Bay need to be planned. Tide and distance and shallow areas must be studied.

We had considered the timing of our move down the coast today to Koh Payu where we planned to spend the night: Two hours sailing to Koh Payu; the tide is ebbing in the afternoon; favorable. So an afternoon departure is planned.

After lunch the wind is blowing from the SW, the right direction but it is fitful.

Just need to be there by dinner time, that’s all, so we can wait a little longer.

15:00, a nice breeze; let's go.

The usual negotiation about how soon after we weighed would we put up the sail. I like to do it immediately but to do so we need to motor into the wind. Judy points out that we are already close to shallow water upwind of us. Better to motor away for a while then turn back upwind to raise the main. Agreed.

Weigh, wash the anchor, go down wind, turn, hoist the main, bear away. 10,000 times.

But like I said, doing this makes the world right again. It is what we do, what we are supposed to do, what we must do. We hoist the genoa sail and go about the routine on the boat: punch in the autopilot, set the backstay, adjust the main sheet, the outhaul, the jib car. These things we can do blindfolded. Doing them brings comfort. We tidy up and we are happy.

The wind backs and what we expected to be a broad reach turns into a close reach. Then a further back and we must go close hauled just to clear the island. This is not the spinnaker weather I imagined it would be, but it is perfect for the genoa.

We settle down to a pleasant sail; eight miles nearly due south along the coast of Koh Phanak but we can't carry it and soon we have to tack away from the island. Only a short tack on port is posible though because the deep water channel next to the island is narrow. Then back onto starboard.

We pass a couple of boats coming in. Charters. They too are enjoying the day’s sail.

After we cleared Phanak and we approach the islands near Koh Payu the wind lifts us but we can’t take the lift: there are reefs to windward. Instead we hold a compass course and crack the sheets. The speed goes up.

Now the wind hits 13 knots; a bit much for this jib. Should we change?

No, we don’t believe that this wind strength will hold. To take the pressure off the sail we come up as much as we dare and feather a bit, but we must watch out for the reefs. This is a fine line we are taking between the reefs to weather and sailing off which loads up the light sail. We wait for the wind to ease. It doesn’t.

Now an island is in the way. We need to get beyond it before we tack back onto port and into the patch where we will anchor. We check the chart; can we go close to windward of the island?

Yes, 15 feet of water there, but there is no detail on the chart. We don’t know if anything is there under the surface, hiding, waiting for us. This needs some caution and luck. I pay close attention to the tell tales trying to work the boat clear of this island. We are on full alert; we eye both island and the depth sounder, judging our situation. At the first sign of shallow water we will tack.

As we near the island the wind comes down to just 10 knots and this allows us to feel like we can sheet in hard and go into point mode and that permits us sail well above the island which is soon safe to leeward and the depth never went below 22 ft. Good. We look ahead to the next challenge; there is always another one.

In 10 minutes we can tack towards the anchorage which is two miles away in a dead end of deep water surrounded by reefs and islands except for the one opening through which we will pass to get in.

We tack. On port and reaching again the wind becomes puffy. When the gusts hit we heel sharply and accelerate. I would normally love this kind of sailing but at this time we feel some stress as we are not exactly sure where the boundaries are of this area of deep water. In the murky Phang Nga Bay water the reefs are not visible. How much do we trust the charting system? Not that much.

Still, we keep sailing.

Judy wants to drop the sails but I say we carry on a bit further.

I say, "We’ve been here before and we found no hazards."


Finally we reach the spot where I think we can anchor and down comes the jib and main.

Under power we nose further in behind Koh Payu until we see 15ft on the depth sounder. We drop the hook sheltered from the afternoon wind.

It’s time to breathe a sigh of relief and think about things for a moment before we put the sails away. It was tense but being on the edge tells us we are alive.

Later, checking the log book against the GPS we see that we have judged well; it is almost exactly the same position as last time, two months ago. We know this is a safe place.

In the morning we will motor to Yacht Haven and that will signal the end of this trip.

It’s been good.

Click here to look again at all the photos from this trip.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Phuket

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