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Friday, November 20, 2009

Nov. 20, 2009-The Far Side of Taratoa

On Thursday we were beating south in a boisterous fresh breeze with a reefed main and a small jib. Wings sailed well in the conditions and we worked the waves and held high aiming for the far side of Taratoa; the windward side.

We could have taken the more direct route to Lankawi; it is a straight line from Phetra passing to leeward of Taratoa. Instead we chose the windward path. The decision was based on the desire to see the unseen. Why does the man climb the mountain? Because it is there.

So is the far side of Taratoa.

It required one tack to clear the northeastern cape and another to break out of the island string which runs along that side of Taratoa then we sailed down the windward coast looking at surf beating on the dark shores, at deep forested hills and small patches of golden sand beaches trying to see something to validate the island’s reputation for mystery. It was a prison camp in the 30’s but the prisoners somehow took over and it became a pirate’s den in the 40’s, then the Brits came in the late 40’s and cleaned it up, they claimed, and the King made it into a national park.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Sailing on the Far Side of Taratoa

What we saw as they sailed past on Thursday were mountains disappearing into the low clouds and impenetrable jungle. Hawks with rust colored wings circled overhead riding the updraft of the island’s peaks.

At 17:00 we tucked in behind one of the small offshore islands and dropped anchor. A squall blew through with pouring rain and the waves were choppy even behind the small island. Taratao was lost in the mist. It got dark.

There have been rumors of skirmishes between pirates and the park rangers, and other unexplained encounters, but the rumors are just that, rumors, and morning dawned uneventfully. After breakfast the Hawks dove on a meat scrap thrown overboard then fought over it.

Some fish jumped.

We inflated the dingy and went ashore. There was a road and a ranger station. The rangers were painting furniture. A pair of Germans cycling around the island stopped to take some photos. Otherwise nothing moved and the day was still.

A short walk in the jungle revealed little more than what we could see from the yacht. Taratao is an island which holds its secrets.

We stayed for two days and on Saturday set out for Langkawi.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Taratoa

PS, We've gotten some shots of this place, click here for a few. We'll post more of them as soon as we get some solid, high speed, Internet.

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