Koh Sri Chang (Chapter 2) - 29 Dec 2003

Sent: Sunday, December 29, 2002 1:29 AM
Subject: Chapter 2

So the story begins again my friends,
I am sitting in a small Internet cafe in downtown Koh Sri Chang. I am barefoot and have just finished a coconut. I need some energy to compose. Down Town Koh Sri Chang is a small four way intersection with lots of three wheelers and motorcycles speeding past but other than this corner, the rest of the town is quite sleepy with narrow roads that meander down to the sea, down to long cement piers packed with squid fishing boats and rack upon rack of calamari drying in the sun.
We were here for Christmas and I believe we will stay for New Years as well. We have met quite a few people and made many interesting friends so I think this place will be the merriest for our New Years Celebration.
I think it might be prudent for those who want to know the sailing plans to get that out of the way first.
We arrived at Koh Sri Chang on Dec 24th and anchored in the small cove on the west side of the island. It is a beautiful little bay and is completely protected from the North East winds this time of year. Today is Dec 29th. I believe we will stay until the 2nd of Jan 2003 and then sail south to Koh Lan and Koh Pai. These islands are both off the coast of Pattaya and are supposed to be quite busy. I don't think we will stay more than a few days in this area. The next major Island south is Koh Krahm, which is more or less a military base off of the coast of Sattahip. We will be passing this island by and heading for Koh Samae San. I am curious about this Island. I have not heard much about it and it seems to have lots of potential. We should be there around the 5th or 6th of Jan.
If these first few islands don't offer much then we will head to Koh Samet and spend some time there. I should be able to write Chapter 3 from there.
The crew is presently comprised of Tony and I. We are expecting my cousin Jeff on Jan 9th to the 12th and then Tony's friend Amanda on the 13th to the 15th of Jan. They both arrive on the first day but I think everyone coming to live on the boat should think about getting over jet lag and adjusting to the heat in Bangkok for one or two days. Air Conditioning is something very important for the comfort and sanity level of most long distance travelers and we don't have any on the boat. It is then easy to catch a bus down the coast to live in primitive paradise on a 35-foot cruising yacht.
We have decided to stay in Koh Sri Chang for more than the friends because we are working through the largest kinks in the boat's systems as well as developing some good sailing and anchoring skills.
We had a slightly scary incident two nights ago. The Western Monsoon wind was blowing for a day or two so we decided to sail to another bay on the southern tip of the island protected from the southwest winds. We practiced some sailing and enjoyed a slow cruise in light winds and then decided to practice anchoring on just sail power. I had the engine running for safety and we turned up wind and then failed to drop because we couldn't come to a complete stop. we circled around and tried again and dropped successfully. I didn't know that in this scenario it is wise to drop the Genoa, (the front sail) before anchoring. I soon discovered why as the sail caught on the spreaders and proceeded to tear with a sickening shredding sound. It took a few seconds to realize we couldn't drop the sail with it caught so I quickly put her (the boat) in gear and motored into the right angle with the wind and Tony skillfully dropped the sail. Then we were off the anchor and had to find out if the anchor was in a decent position. We swung around on the anchor rode and found that we were dug in pretty tight but I backed down with the engine just to make certain.
So we relaxed for a spell and I cooked a pretty decent Thai Curry Dish. We played some chess off this pretty little beach and watch the sun set.
Then at about 9 PM the wind shifted around and started to blow pretty hard from the northwest, which blew right into the bay. It made me a bit nervous but we stayed on to see if the wind would die down. It proceeded to build and the waves steadily increased in size and I became more and more concerned. At about 11:30 PM I decided that it would be better to motor back to the bay we left. It took us about 30 minutes to pull up anchor, Tony is becoming quite skillful, motor back to the bay and set anchor again. It was a good lesson for me. The wind continued to increase and blew very hard all night and into the next day. We were very comfortably nestled in our cove and slept like babies. I should make a point of keeping two opposite facing bays in mind when we are looking for places to stay for a few days.
So, I think I will start writing from more of a beginning. I hope this chapter does not get too long. In reality it should be about 4 chapters. While staying in Bang Bakong we proceeded to make friends with these two girls who we found out were the owners of the Korean Barbee Q restaurant next to the internet cafe we were using. Tony went over there for a beer and the two girls proceeded to practice their English on him and by the time I got there a full blow English lesson was in progress from Tony the Pronunciation Master. It was quite entertaining for all and I learned a bit more Thai in the process.
We went back there the next night and ate a huge dinner and had a great time with more English and Thai. They had a ping pong table and we proceeded to have an intense sweat inducing tournament. Mook, the amazing chef of the restaurant came out the overall winner over the next few days but Tony made a stunning victory that night. I believe the Singha beer was partly responsible for this victory. It was also probably responsible for his later defeat as well. They gave us the dinner free and only charged for the beer. What a great night that was.
Pai, the financial partner of the pair proceeded to invite us to work in their shop; Tony as the Bartender and me as the Handyman. We politely declined but then invited them to sail with us and they accepted, which, in my mind, is quite brave for most Thai people much less two young women. But they are apparently a bit braver than most, which I guess explains why they own and manage two restaurants.
Not all the repairs were finished before we left on the morning of the 24th, but we left anyways. My father, Jan, managed to show up after days and days of running around on a hectic schedule. He was instrumental in getting my piloting license from the murky depths of Thai plutocracy, a feat worthy of praise.
I was a little worried he had too much on his plate to make it on the maiden voyage of 2002 but he managed to arrive quite punctually with Alex, my stepbrother, by his side. Alex proved himself quite a savvy sailor this trip, as well as very helpful. I think he has some well-developed sailing skills over the years of sailing little lasers and Hobbie Cats. It was nice to have another crewmember who was comfortable on the boat, besides my father of course.
Pai and Mook graciously did the early morning shopping at the 5 am market and showed up with heaps of food for many yummy Thai dishes. Over the next few days they proceeded to teach me about 5 new dishes, which are relatively easy and even fun. I am becoming increasingly proficient with the wok and spatula and enjoy the speed of Thai cooking.
We left the Royal Lakeside Marine with a bit of an incident. They would not let us sail out of the locks until they were paid in full. I managed to do this at 7 pm the night before which is a whole ‘nother story. Lets just say I handled it skillfully for a modest Thai speaker.
As for the motoring and sailing, it was peaceful and pleasant and we even saw a few white dolphins at the mouth of the river. It took us a languid 4 hours to cruise down to Koh Sri Chang wing on wing. Life seems to slow down on a sailboat. There is nothing to do but relax and enjoy the wind and the company. Everyone had a chance to sail which was lucky as a wing on wing, a down wind tack is not that easy to maintain.
We anchored and Jan gave Tony the thick and thin of good anchoring which has shown very effective. It is a good feeling to know we can anchor well.
We have spent the last five days on Koh Sri Chang. I have about fifty stories just from this segment. But I will be brief. Alex and Jan left the next morning for other obligations but Pai and Mook stayed on for another day and a half during which we cooked, fished and cooked some more and swam and enjoyed life on a boat in a sheltered bay.
Sadly, after only a total of six days knowing Mook and Pai, they had to go back and open their restaurant for the new years bustle. The intensity of time spent together on a boat made me feel our good month-long sailing friends and cooking instructors we leaving us. It was a bit melancholy but life moves on and we have quite a few new friends once again.
I managed to kick a large white jellyfish about 1.5 feet in diameter and 2 feet long. It scared the piss out of me and I proceeded to scream like a banshee, which scared the shit out of Tony and he quickly climbed out of the water. It turned out to not hurt very much. Just a slow burn for about an hour. Unfortunately it is quite annoying now, as it has itched for the last 3 days like a nasty rash of mosquito bites. Ah the joys of cruising. It turns out I am very lucky. The orange and red ones of this type are extremely dangerous and are know to produce third degree burns on contact. We have a healthy fear of large jellyfish now and are always careful to look around for them when we jump off the boat. Good thing to look before you jump.
I will send this segment now and write a little about our new friends on Sri Chang in the next letter. I am only able to send 3 photos a letter so I will be sending about five letters in total for this chapter.
There is so much to write so I will try to be brief.
As for the boat and equipment we are making better oar rings for a comfortable row to shore. The Genoa has been repaired nicely and is sitting next to me right now. Yesterday I took a quick trip into Sri Racha, the town on the mainland facing Koh Sri Chang and picked up two new batteries which are smaller and have more amps than the first battery I purchased about one year ago. We were having trouble starting the engine and draining the battery to quickly. I set up the two new batteries in parallel so now we have 240 amps at 12 volts and the engine starts incredibly easy now. What a blessing that is. My old electrical system was one battery of 100 amps. We are much better set as far as power goes now.
We met a Dutch gentleman who has lived on the island for about 15 years and spends all his time building Ferro - Cement Boats and rebuilding classic motorcycles. His name is Andre and he is quite a character. His English comes across as almost a continual mutter but he has so many great stories to tell, I think both Tony and I are getting quite fluent in Andre-lish. He is a wellspring of information about electronics, ferro-cement boats, sailing, life in Thailand, etc, etc. He is a master craftsman and self taught engineer of sorts, and has built something like 15 boats in his life, 14 of which have been ferro-cement. He is now 72 years old and fit as a fiddle and works four-hour days on another boat ordered by a rich and slightly crazy American with lots of money.
Talking to him is totally entertaining. Once he starts, he is like an endless fountain of useful information. He is a gentleman as well as a character.
He is just one of the interesting people we have met here on Sri Chang.
There is one more idea I would like to convey to you all. Koh Sri Chang is a strange and beautiful dichotomous island. The east side is a bustling fishing village with a massive industrial port on the mainland across from her. You can see about 20 to 30 gargantuan freighters from the higher hills on this side of the island. There are barges everywhere. Literal cities of barges with a family on each individual one. They anchor in rows and become a floating village.
The other side of Koh Sri Chang is a steep cliff with natural meadows and woods and one or two little sand strewn bays. It is beautiful and peaceful and the Thai tourists like to visit this side and relax and then return to the little sea village off and on. That is what Tony and I have been doing and it is continuously entertaining.
There is a beautiful cliff at the north end of our bay, which is about 35 to 40 feet and I want to explore the bottom and see if we can jump off it this afternoon. Don't worry, we will be careful and not take any risks.
Take care everyone,