|Season 4 Route|
Indonesia to Thailand Sailing
Australia Driving and Sailing
Continue reading "Season 4 Photo Journals"...
|Route from Thailand to Maldives|
Ahhhh. The joys of passage making. The fresh sea air, crystal blue oceans, all the open space, and endless amounts of time. NOT! Try, motion sickness, headaches, never ending noise (either from the waves, winds, rigging, or sails), sleep deprived days, and endless amounts of boredom. I am not a sailor, and after four years of cruising can honestly and accurately state that I will never be one. I endure because it is a means to an end, but that doesn't mean there is an inkling of joy. Because of this it always entertains me to meet true, hearty, love-to-sail, sailors. I don't believe there are many of them, while most of us don't love passages, few hate them as I do, but few also relish in them. On this passage we are traveling with a couple who I believe actually enjoy the passage, even look forward to it. For a few days we were in VHF range with Uhuru, and Rudy (the husband of said couple), would call us occasionally to say hi. He sounded as though he was ready to spout rows of poetry at any minute. Ahhhh, he would say in his thick accent, this is beautiful, so beautiful, we have wind and are sailing, and ahh it is just wonderful. And he would say this as I watched their little 27 foot (yes, two-seven FEET) boat roll from side to side, just watching made me feel like hurling. They have no refrigeration and attempt to keep their boat light, so Chris and I spent much of our time pondering what they eat on passage since we know they hadn't done a major provision like us. When they caught a fish Rudy would call and tell us about the succulent meal they had. And when they caught extra fish, they salted them and set them out to dry. Rudy called as the sun was setting one evening to report, "this was a most magnificent day, I just took a perfect photograph, with freshly salted fish still dripping from the lifelines, dolphins playing beneath, and the white caps of the waves in the background." Then he sighed with what sounded to me like full contentment. While I didn't share his enthusiasm he did make me smile, and I could almost imagine that maybe I too was enjoying myself.
The one thing I can agree with Rudy on is the fishing. Finally, after the fishing drought of Indonesia, we are enjoying catching something other than plastic bags! On our third day out we caught a 1-1.5 meter Mahi Mahi. Fresh fish tacos at last. Then on the evening of the next day, just as the sun was setting, all three lines went - bam, Bam, BAM! We've got three fish, Chris yelled, as I started clearing cushions away. He unhooked the first (a yellowfin tuna) and threw it into our fish bag. He was dropping the line back in the water (to get it out of the way while we pulled in the other two), when BAM another tuna hooked on! The hook was only a few feet from the stern, he hadn't even finished letting the line back out. This was a true feeding frenzy! After that he left the lines piled in the cockpit rather than throwing them back in. We kept two of the four tuna, and I was a happy camper eating sashimi the next day at lunch. We didn't fish for the next couple of days, waiting for room in the freezer to open up, but with three to four days left till we reach the Maldives we are at it again, and I have no doubt Chris will reel in something tasty.
The tuna came in handy for Chris' birthday as well. On the 23rd we had a birthday celebration with heaps of sashimi followed by some warped brownies (brownies don't set too evenly when baked in a moving boat, they come out looking a bit like a topography map of the ocean floor).
And then came probably the most tiring night of the passage. As we came by Sri Lanka (where we didn't stop because of civil unrest), the shipping traffic was amazing. Huge freighters everywhere. We would've preferred to pass the area in the day, but as it was we were in the thick of things around 10pm and through to the morning. I took first watch, with Chris telling me to wake him for anything at all. I should explain that I'm not very good with freighters, especially at night. There is something about their lighting scheme that causes me trouble with figuring out how far away they are, and more importantly whether I'm in their way! Chris had only been down for about 30 minutes when he heard me turn the radar on. He asked if I was okay and I said there was a light that looked close but I couldn't see it on the radar and would he mind looking. One look and he said, That ship? It's miles away! He turned on the computer and the AIS (a very-nice-to-have ship tracking unit) and sure enough it was 12 nautical miles away. But it was sooo bright! As Chris went back to bed he commented, this is going to be a looong night!!! After that I managed okay on my first watch, now having a sense for the distance of all the lights on the horizon.
A few hours later, about one hour into Chris' watch I woke up and could hear him yelling. I had one ear plug in so I couldn't make out what he was saying, but I also noticed a bright light shining into our boat. I jumped up and rushed out, realizing at the same time that his voice didn't sound stressed, and he was saying, "No, no smokey, sorry". I put on a shirt and asked if everything was alright, yes he said, just a couple of fisherman. They stayed another few minutes asking again, "Smokey-smokey? Beer?", to which we replied no. By now my heart was back to a normal beating pattern and Chris and I had a good laugh over the visit. Probably the only three English words the fisherman know are; Smokey, Beer, and Fish. Throughout Indonesia and on into the area we will be traveling into, fisherman like to scope-out vessels going by. Curiosity, the chance for freebies, and probably boredom, send them buzzing like mosquitoes to a light towards yachts. If you aren't expecting it (and even sometimes when you are) it can be disconcerting; a fast approaching, unlit boat racing at you in the middle of the night. But in the end they tend to be very friendly and full of smiles (even if it is midnight). I think that a lot of the bad press some waters get is from such events. Even a boat ahead of us reported back a couple of weeks ago that they had been approached and had to turn on the engine to, as they put it, get away. Our guess is that it was just a curious fisherman taking a look and that the cruisers didn't 'get away' from anything. But it is hard not to be paranoid when you are out here alone, and perhaps the fisherman would be more successful at getting some freebies if they approached at more appropriate hours!
At about 4am I was back on watch. About an hour into my watch more lights appeared in front of us. I watched them for a bit; I could figure out the general direction they were traveling, but was having trouble (as usual) with the distance. I'm sure it's a good 10 miles out, I thought. But I figured I'd give the radar a look anyway (the lights did look a little bright). Chris, of course, heard the radar go on and asked if I wanted him to look. I told him no, that I thought it was pretty far away and was only double checking. About that time the radar had finished its warm up and I said, "OH, it's closer than I thought, only 2 miles away!" Chris got out of bed, looked out the cockpit and said, "Um, go starboard, now!" We went as far starboard as we could (we were already tight on the wind), and Chris looked at the AIS. About the same time the huge shape of the ship took form in a dark, massive way. Yep, I was just a wee bit too close for comfort. It was no dramas, we missed him, and neither of us panicked, but it puzzles Chris (and myself) how I can't tell the difference between a boat 12 miles away and one only 2 miles away! At that point we decided just to leave the AIS running, and boy did it make my life easier. I told Chris it's a good thing we didn't encounter this much shipping traffic in our first year of cruising, otherwise I might not still be out here! In our first three years of cruising (up until Australia) we hardly ever saw a thing out here, and now, on an hourly basis we see more ships than in all those years of cruising. Anyway, I'm so glad we have the AIS system, I'm guessing it will save us both a few grey hairs!
As I write this it is just after lunch on Friday. We are now close enough (about 410 miles) that I've started working out the math, on how much longer it will take pending various speeds. We've had good wind almost the entire trip, up, of course, until now. Now it is on the nose and quite light. On top of that we have a current against us. Boats last week reported terrific positive currents and so we've been looking forward to them since leaving, but have yet to find this magical current. I was quite excited this morning because all we had to average was 5.4 knots and we could arrive by the end of Sunday. That should be so easy, especially if we have current with us. But, alas, things don't look good, we are now barely making 4 knots, and since we aren't on course (thanks to the crappy wind direction), we are really only making 3.5 knots towards our destination, and are over 12 miles off course (by the way upon waking Saturday morning we were more tha 22 miles off course). At this rate we'll be lucky to arrive by Tuesday afternoon! Ah, yes, the joys of sailing!
Continue reading "Passage Making"...
Current Location: Nai Han Beach, Phuket Island, Thailand
Current Position: 07 46.57 N 98 18.05 E
Next Location: Passage to Maldives (potential start: Jan 17, 2007)
Everyone thinks we've got it easy. That life aboard Billabong is one big vacation. Non-cruisers laugh or give us "the look" when we mention that we had a tough day, or that we have too much "work" to do. Okay, I'll agree that we've got it pretty good, but it's not all strawberries and pink champagne.
We don't write much about our day-to-day chores or mundane tasks. We figure that complaining about how tough life is will only lead to a rolling of the eyes or bore the few dedicated visitors that we have. But on this occasion we bring to you a day at the grocery store, just to give you a taste of the other side of our life!
First imagine YOUR day at the grocery store. Nobody loves going, but it's not that bad; hop in the car, drive to the nice, big, air conditioned, one-stop grocery store, buy everything you need, roll it out to the car, drive it home, and carry it the few steps from the garage to the kitchen, where there is ample cupboard space awaiting. Fairly simple, definitely straight forward, and no big dramas. Alright then, let's see how our day went.
We were lucky enough to score a rental car. This being the high-season, most cars were rented out, but prices were high (for Thailand anyway). We arranged a truck with a covered back (as we needed to drop of our settee cushions for repair) to be delivered to Nai Han Beach between 8:30 and 9:00am. While I waited with the heaps of stuff we had brought in Chris went to meet the guy bringing the car. We couldn't believe our luck. Most of the rentals we had been in or seen in Thailand were barely running pieces of crap. The truck we ended up with was in premium condition, had a terrific air conditioner, and a working radio to boot. On top of that, the guy was actually on time and had arranged his own ride back so we didn't have to drop him off anywhere. Our day was off to a good start.
We were happy to have a truck for the extra protection and safety for driving around Phuket. We have driven is some crazy places, but nowhere has been as bad as Thailand. There are no rules. Cars and scooters will drive in any lane they want, change lanes without looking, and even drive against the traffic on the wrong side of the road. You have to be aggressive and confident, otherwise you'll find yourself stuck at a turn for hours waiting for a chance to enter the flow of traffic. Road signs and traffic lights are only suggestions, not requirements. Red light? No worries, just zoom on through if you can make it without getting creamed! We almost took out one scooter when he passed us on the right while Chris was making a right hand turn … Chris had done everything right; slowly braked, moved to the right edge of the lane (leaving room for cars and scooters to go around us on the left), turned on his right blinker and then began making the right turn, and still this guy tries to zoom by us on the right! Luckily Chris saw the scooter out of the corner of his eye and braked just in time.
The first thing you have to know when provisioning in smaller foreign countries is that there is no such thing as running to 'the' store. Not if you want the majority of items on your list. On average we visit at least three stores when doing a major provision. Our fist stop was Super Cheap. A huge warehouse-like store where all the locals shop. Super Cheap is great because since it's a "local" store the prices haven't been marked up. On the downside, it's not as clean as Farang (white-person/tourist) stores, has no air-conditioning, and is contaminated with a ripe fishy smell from the meat section. The most difficult thing though is that there is no English to be seen or heard. Most the time it's not a big deal, I can recognize the brand, or figure out the contents by looking at the picture on the can. But it does take longer, and many times it's hard to be 100% sure that you really are buying what you think you're buying. The one item I finally gave up on was dark soy sauce. The soy sauce isle was huge. At least 20-30 different brands with about 10 different types per brand, and here's a product that truly doesn't have any pictures or English to help out. I found the white soy and the normal soy, but couldn't figure out which one might be dark soy. One of the workers kept smiling at me as I went from bottle to bottle, but in the end the best he could do to help was to tell me "Soy-a-sauce" … yeah I got that. Finally I figured it wasn't worth saving 50 Baht for … I'd just buy it at a Farang store where there would be some English. The one upside about shopping in foreign countries is that you get really excited when you find the EXACT thing you are looking for. When Chris came back to the cart he had 15 packages of the coffee we like with him - I gave him a huge smile and shouted out "You Scored!". I never recall getting so excited when grocery shopping in America.
We checked out, loaded up the car (it was nice to have rented a car and not have to lug everything onto a bus), and then were off to the next store. Our next stop was Macro. Another warehouse type store (where everything is individually packaged, but then sold in large quantities). Macro is a much more pleasant experience than Super Cheap in that it doesn't smell, is cleaner, and has a wee bit of air-con. While a lot of locals shop at Macro it also caters to Farangs, so there is some written English and a few of the workers speak a bit of English. They didn't have as much as we'd thought they'd have, so we realized that we would be adding a fourth stop to our plan.
Tops was third our list. A real Farang shop, in a high-end Farang Mall – with horrible parking. It took us about 30 minutes to find a spot - round and round the lot we drove, avoiding people and cars who didn't bother to look. Luckily it was Monday, we'd heard that the weekends are even worse. Double parking is allowed - there are signs in Thai and English that even give the rules for double parking; leave the wheels straight, the parking brake off, and the car in neutral. Then when a person needs to get out, they just push your car forward or backwards so that they can back out! Because the Central Mall and Tops cater mostly to Farangs it is fully air conditioned and quite clean. In Tops all the tags are in both Thai and English. The mall itself contains common American stores (like Gap, Bebe, Warner Brothers, etc). The huge downside is that everything is marked up. Even identical products cost more here than they do at Super Cheap or Macro … but hey, at least you know that you are indeed buying tuna and not mackerel or some other meat concoction!
Finally, after running a few other errands, we were ready to tackle our fourth market … Testco. Testco is in another mall and caters to a mix of Thais and Farangs, so most things are tagged in both languages, and prices aren't marked up as much as Tops (but still higher then 'local' markets). We loaded up on the final items that we couldn't find elsewhere, and were finally ready to call it a day. It can be a little depressing when you look at your shopping list and notice that about 25% of the items still aren't marked off. This, however, is normal. When I make the list I put down everything I WISH we could buy (within some realms of reason), of course it's all a pipe dream as there isn't a country we've been to where I've managed to find everything. And now that I have favorite food items from a variety of countries I have a feeling that even back home there will be items I won't be finding!
We've now spent a whole day grocery shopping, moving from one crowded store to the next, attempting to decipher foreign labeled foods, and dealing with crazy Thai driving in between. We are both exhausted and I can think of nothing better than sitting back with a cold drink. But we still aren't even close to being finished. I long for a garage where I could leave the groceries in the car till the next morning … or maybe even on the kitchen floor. Instead we return to Nai Han Beach, where at least we are lucky enough to have been able to tie the dinghy up to a floating dock (much easier then launching a full dinghy through the surf from the beach). First we unload the zillions of bags worth of food from the car to the top of the steps leading down to the dock. Next we go back and forth, back and forth, lugging bag after bag from the steps down the dock. Then Chris gets in the dinghy and I hand the bags over to him. With every transfer we try to remember which bags have the heavy squash-able items and which backs contain the bread, eggs, and other items you wish to get to the boat in a somewhat familiar shape. We are impressed that we've managed to fit everything into the dinghy for one trip (we thought for sure that this would be a two or three dinghy trip grocery run) – mind you, the dinghy is nearly sinking and bags are stacked quite high. I climb over everything and off we go. With all the weight every little ripple in the bay sends some spray into the dinghy and we can only hope that nothing is getting wet that can't handle it. Finally we are back to Billabong. I hop off and stand at the stern while Chris hands up the bags and I place them in the cockpit (what, are we on transfer #5 now?). Then, almost done, it's me down below, with Chris handing bags down from the cockpit. At long last everything is aboard. Unfortunately because we are at anchor, and especially because this anchorage has been known to get rolly, I can not just leave the bags and boxes for tomorrow. But there are no roomy cupboards awaiting -- just small spaces that have to manipulated and pieced together like a puzzle in order for everything to fit (and not break underway). I spend a few hours unpacking and packing, moving, shifting, storing, cleaning and organizing, before I'm just too beat to finish. I figure I've put away all the breakable items and have placed the other stuff in canvas bags under the table, so even if a swell comes in or there is some emergency where we have to move the boat, things are stored well enough and out of the way. At last I can enjoy that cold drink!!! Of course it is also well past dinner time and we are both starving, but one of the additional errands we ran was filling the propane tanks, so the bottle is not currently hooked up, and anyway, I'm to beat to cook. Croissants and Nutella it is!!!
It takes me another almost full day to get everything stored. The most amazing thing is that everything actually fit. Chris always comments that he can't believe how much stuff I can squeeze in!
So now you know that it's not an endless vacation out here, but I'll tell you what we do have – a terrific trade-off. It might take us two full days to grocery shop, and sure we don't get everything we'd love to have, but there is no question that in return we get one hell of a good time!!!
|Our route around Thailand|
|New Years at Patong|
|Dec 27th Ao-Chalong|
|Dec 26 Koh Hong|
|Dec 26 James Bond Area|
|Dec 24 Tham Phra Nang Krabi|
|Dec 24 Koh Dam Hok|
|Dec 24 Koh Dam Khwan|
|Dec 23 Phi Phi Don|
|Dec 23 Phi Phi Le Coral Garden|
|Dec 22 Phi Phi Le|
|Dec 20 Koh Muk|
|Dec 19 Koh Phetra|
|Dec 18 Ao Pante|