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Sunday, July 19, 2009

July 19, 2009-Sailing Past Koh Phanak

At 300 meters Koh Phanak casts a sizable wind shadow and our course took us to leeward of it. We stood off but still the edge of that wind shadow reached out to us and we had to keep sailing away. Despite our efforts the wind got light and Wings stood upright and we slowed. We considered dropping the sails and starting the motor but we waited, hoping for some breeze to climb over Phanak’s crest and drop down to our small boat sailing up its east coast; wishing for just enough to keep us moving.

The long tail with two men in it was converging and one of them held up something pink which could have been prawns and I motioned them over thinking they could come alongside as we sailed but their small air cooled engine couldn’t keep pace with us. I cast off the main and jib sheets and in the light breeze the sails waved gently off to leeward undulating like giant flags and without the drive of the sails Wings coasted to a stop.

They came up to our starboard side and I grabbed their short painter and tied it off forward on a stanchion then I sat down on deck to fend with my feet as they showed me their catch. The man in the blue shirt holding us off aft had a stub of cigarette hanging out the corner of his mouth and I noticed that the paper was brown and that it wasn’t lit. The skipper wore a checkered blue head scarf but I didn’t know it that meant he was a Muslim man, or just needed protection from the sun. They had a few fish and some small crabs and a few hundred grams of fresh prawns over which we bargained briefly and then I bought them all for THB 200 and I might have gotten them down but I didn’t have the stomach for grinding these poor fishermen down to their last satang. They seemed happy and anyhow it was a good price.

When they shoved off and restarted their engine I looked aloft and saw that there was a bit more breeze. I sheeted in and Wings started to move.

Now the breeze was coming around the north end of Koh Phanak in light puffs and shifts and we came up onto a close reach and started to heel over in the puffs. The next island was Koh Nok Khuan and I asked Judy which side we had to pass it on. She dropped down the main hatch to check the chart.

“Either side of this one but we need to go to weather of the next one”, she said.

Our course was taking us to leeward of them both.

I headed up and we wound in the sheets.

Now we were closed hauled and the puffs came stronger and the breeze lifted us. Judy watched to leeward and she said we might clear Koh Nok Khuan and the other island if I could just stay high. I wondered if I might have to tack. But the puffs continued lift us and some were strong enough to make us heel sharply and accelerate. I let the boat carve to weather and it felt good to be alive.

I saw the long tail off to the side and watching us. Maybe they didn’t see too many boats sailing to windward around here.

We easily cleared both islands and then the wind freed enough for me to put the autopilot on and we started to think about the anchorage we had picked out just up ahead.

An hour later we were anchored at Koh Hong and were cleaning prawns.

Oh, we had a cold beer too; it was good.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Koh Hong

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