Subject: Chapter 12 "Pirate Cove"
Well, Ladies and gentlemen,
I will now absolutely flood your inboxes with a long-ass chapter as well
as too many pictures. I tried to choose ones that Tony has not previously
sent as well as some shots I received from other friends on the trip.
Enjoy the reading. If it is too much, sorry. The next chapter won't be
Last I left off, I had just returned to Had Salat Bay. The name actually
translates to Pirate Cove. Unfortunately we are not in the Caribbean.
I believe it was the 15th of May, because the rest of the crew was at
the pier on the other side of the island. They were sending Jeff off on
the ferry to Koh Samui. From there he would fly to BKK and then back to
the good ol’ US of A.
When I returned some of the crew were back at the Coral Beach Bungalows.
I think John and my father were there. Tony’s brother Rich was also
there. He just recently arrived while I was in Malaysia. Tony was on the
other side, the busy side of Koh Pangan meeting two more friends from
New York City. I came in and sat down in the main dinning area.
The dinning area was a raised balcony that looked out at the bay and the
sea. I could see the Wind Spirit floating peacefully on her anchor. The
balcony was littered with all kinds of head and seat cushions. It was
also ringed in by hammocks. It had four or five small, low tables and
the floor was covered by a soft reed matting. It was comfortable and inviting.
The blue green of the bay was framed in sharp contrast to the dark wood
of the building. I think the best part was all the hammocks. They were
located close enough to the tables that you could participate in whatever
games were going on or just passively watch and enjoy a beer in a hammock.
Yes, purely good things still do exist, as much as the media might try
to dissuade us.
So I joined John and Rich who are good friends from back in San Diego.
I sit down to a nice cold beer and the first thing they tell me is that
the boat went aground. I had the bottle to my mouth about to take a big
swig and they tell me this. The bottle went down to the table and my heart
"The anchor line was cut by another boat."
"What happened?" I tried to be cool and calm.
"We don’t know exactly, no one was here."
"What do you mean no one was here?" "No one was left to
look after the boat?"
"Well, we went to send Jeff off at Had Rin."
I take a big gulp of beer.
"So, tell me what happened, as far as you know." I said trying
to hide my anger.
Jan got a call on his cell phone from Ganda, the proprietor of the Coral
Beach Bungalows. She said the boat was aground on the south side of the
bay. So my dad called Tony and they both rushed back to the boat as fast
Fortunately there were three other kiwis on one of the long-tail boats
trying to fish off the point. One guy named Nathan and two girls whose
names I have forgotten. Actually the girls might have been English. They
noticed the boat drifting just after a dive boat had motored into the
bay. Did the dive boat run over the anchor line? Unfortunately we will
never know. The line was shorn and shredded like it had been through a
prop but I am still not able to distinguish between reef chafe and prop
The boat drifted into the rocks on the south side of the bay and started
bouncing and hitting rocks on it’s port side. I believe it went
in prow first. I found a couple scratches on the front of the keel.
Nathan acted pretty fast and told the guy driving the long-tail to head
over there. He then jumped off the long-tail and swam to my boat and climbed
up the side while the girls watched. He found the door locked and sails
tied down so he jumped back on the long-tail and went over to the dive
boat and told them to come help tow the boat off the rocks. I guess after
a bit of convincing the dive boat captain motored over and towed her off.
Nathan clambered back on her and threw out a rope to the dive boat. Once
out in the middle of the bay the dive boat just threw off the line and
let the boat go. Nathan saw the second anchor on the deck and threw that
out and tied it off.
Thank goodness for his resourcefulness. We found out later that he had
spent some time as crew on a few cruising vessels. He was familiar with
anchoring. I think the thing I was most thankful for was his initiative.
A lot of people watched the boat drift across the bay and sit against
the rocks without doing anything.
The next day I met him. I got his story on what really happened. He hadn’t
been around when the dive boat came into the bay so he couldn’t
say that they cut the line. He just noticed that the boat was drifting
and soon was against the rocks so he told the long-tail driver to get
I also talked to the long-tail driver but his story conflicted so much
with Nathan’s that I found it hard to take the rest of it seriously.
Apparently HE saw the boat drifting into the rocks and decided to drive
over there himself. HE climbed onto the boat and then got the dive boat
to come over and tow her off the rocks. As far as I could tell from Nathan
he was a pretty honest guy and I doubt he and his friends would have fabricated
a story like that. Therefore the long-tail driver’s story was in
What is interesting though is that the long-tail driver said it was definitely
the dive boat that cut the line. He said he watched it drive close to
my boat, circle by it and then anchor across the bay. He also asked for
a reward for his efforts.
Yes, My dad and I agreed to give him a small reward as he did help. After
what Nathan said.
Another aspect is that Nathan said the anchor line was cut just about
20 feet out from the boat. This implies a prop cut as there was about
100 feet of line out and that 20 feet was closest to the surface. It could
also imply that a long-tail prop cut through the line as it was so close
to the surface. But even the large dive boats draw very little depth so
it does not rule them out.
From then on we threw two anchors and every time a long-tail or dive boat
came near I accosted them about the anchor lines. I am not usually like
that but I think if they hear it enough times out of my mouth, word will
go around to stay away from my anchor lines.
Later that day I took the time to thoroughly check the bottom of the boat.
I took a mask and inspected the front of the keel as well as the belly
of the boat. I found a small chip out of the keel right at the bottom.
It was about pinky size and only went about one centimeter deep. I looked
for cracks and any kind of scratches along the entire bottom of the keel
and found nothing else. Oh, the joy of being a Ferro-cement boat owner.
Yay! One thing less to be paranoid about. I am still SUPER careful though
and depend on my depth gauge like I depend on my mom. That’s a lot!
It turns out there was a lot of traffic in and out of this bay which makes
it somewhat unfavorable even though it is well protected from wind and
afternoon Tony came back with Lisa and Beth, two lovely women from NYC.
They are good friends of Tony’s from his time bartending in New
York. Lisa is a stewardess and she fits the mold almost perfectly. Beautiful,
tall, commanding, in control and prone to giggles. Those giggles were
truly contagious. She would start to laugh about something and it was
hard not to start laughing oneself even though you had no clue what she
was going on about. I must say Lisa was a quality person I am glad I met.
Beth was a restaurant manager with the most guts I have ever seen. She
was a pretty awesome dancer as we all later found out.
Tony had talked a lot about Beth and Lisa coming so I felt I knew them
before they even arrived. It was comfortable the first evening or two
and Lisa got a few bottles of wine and champagne from the airlines. The
Bottles went very fast between the many people in our large group.
My father was still there flirting with both Lisa and Beth. Tony and Rich,
his brother, were now with us. John was still chillin’ and I was
back from Malaysia. It was good to be back around friendly people.
The next day John and I decided to play some guitar together. John was
a little self conscious about playing guitar in front of everyone. We
wanted to play together and get some songs going but had not had the chance
up until then. So we sat down earlier in the afternoon to play and have
a few beers and slowly every one else showed up one by one. It was early
afternoon when we started and everyone was asleep in their bungalows,
avoiding the heat of the day. By late afternoon everyone slowly woke up
and showered and walked over to the dinning area while John and I strummed
away. It was nice.
John is an accomplished classical/Flamenco guitarist and I am a pretty
decent singer that bangs away at chords. It took us a while to work out
a good style together, so when everyone started to show up we decided
to take turns and each play a song. I love his classical pieces but managed
to learn only one. Everyone got to relax and enjoy the flamenco guitar
and then sing a bit with the folk stuff. It was really quite fun and I
think it was one of the first times John enjoyed playing for others on
the trip. I had a great time as usual. It is hard for me to have a bad
time playing guitar.
We ate a delicious dinner. Ganda is the Proprietor of the bungalows we
were residing at. Besides being on top of her bungalow; running it very
well and courteously, she was also a shockingly good cook. Let me say
it again "Shockingly Good." The food was fresh and flavorful
yet really light. She knows her stuff and we ate Thai classics with some
Indian food mixed in. We finished off the meal with two or more plates
of fried bananas and pineapples dipped in sweetened condensed milk.
Oh, talk about paradise. The food was great, the music fun and the beer
was cold and strong. Chang Beer is my personal favorite and it packs something
like 5 or 6 percent. I can’t drink more than two large 22 ouncers
without getting "trollyed."
Lisa was all giggles most of the night and Beth was sweet. Rich was cracking
some pretty sick jokes and Tony joined in later. My father was a continual
source of entertainment and laughter. He is one of the funniest people
I know. He does get a bit much
with his Theories on men and women but that aside he upped the funny factor
by about 5 and Lisa just giggled and giggled.
After a really nice night I rowed back out to the boat. I have to watch
out for her even though everyone else sleeps on land. The next night was
almost a repeat of the night before, a beautiful sunset and then a carnival
evening. There was less guitar the second night though and more beer.
That day we had hiked up to a waterfall with a nice German couple who
had joined us from the bungalows. My
dad entertained himself and the rest of us by dislodging a rock from under
one of the dams holding the water in the main pool. We swam around and
played on the slippery rocks. Rich and Tony wandered off for a brotherly
talk and Lisa and I got to chatting as well. We talked about our past
and our jobs and she said she loved being a stewardess and she could travel
the world for about 15 dollars. Tough life. I said I was a biochemist
who fixed and is sailing around a Ferro-cement yacht. She said that was
awful strange but was glad
she came out here to join us.
Jan departed the next day and we all sent him off at the ferry pier. Yes,
I know, no one was watching the boat. I felt pretty safe with two anchors
out so I was OK with it.
It was an emotional send off and we all laughed and sniveled a little.
I had some serious plans for that afternoon and we returned to the boat
quickly. I wanted to motor over to Ao Chalok Lam, the bay to the north
of us with a pier where I could draw electricity. We needed to get the
spreaders repaired as they were still hanging where I’d left them
on the mast before I departed for Malaysia.
My dad had gone over how to put the bolts, he purchased, through the mast
and put the fittings for the spreaders back on securely, with Tony, John
and Rich about 500 times, so they were all pretty sure of what to do.
I got the lecture only 50 times so I was almost sure.
1) Drill the holes completely though the mast.
2) Insert lubricated bolts and spreader fittings.
3) tighten and then attach spreaders.
4) fix main stays to spreaders and tighten down.
5) task completed, have a beer.
It actually was not so easy. I was the lightest of the group and knew
what I wanted to do so I put on the harness and clip and was pulled up
the mast about 25 feet. I had a rope, which I used to pull up and lower
tools and equipment.
John drilled out the inside ends of the wood spreaders so they would fit
over the new bolt heads. He then handed me the drill with the right bit
on the rope and I pulled it up. I had to wrap my feet around the lower
stays so I could brace myself enough to drill the holes a larger size.
That was not that difficult. Fitting the bolts in was also fairly easy
with the socket set and the lock pliers. Getting the spreaders up was
hard. I had to come down and put one on my shoulder and have them winch
me back up the mast like that. They were loosely attached to the main
stays so I wouldn’t have to do that while up the mast. I had to
come down and do the same with the second one. Then tightening everything
down and reattaching the spreader flood light was difficult. Rich, Tony
and John were totally on task and I was the only limiting factor. That
Lisa and Beth patiently watched and entertained the locals on the pier
with their bathing suits. Two cute ladies in bikinis distracting both
the men and women.
It was pretty funny. It was a fisherman’s pier with a lot of boats
unloading and uploading and downloading almost solely squid, the entire
time we were there. Tons and tons of squid. Yummy. Anyways, what was funny
was the crowd that gathered to watch me go up the mast. It was a crowd
of about 20 fishermen, 18 locals, 13 old ladies, and 11 or so townspeople,
plus 5 really loud people who wouldn’t stop talking and tried to
talk to Lisa and Beth and then Tony and John all to no avail. Maybe about
60 people all told, swarming the pier.
Well, maybe not swarming but it was a healthy crowd. They laughed and
squawked and made jokes about me as I was winched up the ladder. About
10 minutes into it though, most of them left. Only the quiet, interested
ones stayed and they are always nice to talk to.
It was a pretty calm afternoon and the bay is well protected so I didn’t
have too much swaying on the mast and the job was done by early evening.
We then headed out of the bay as the sun was setting. It felt good to
have completed the job and done it well. Thanks to my pop for going over
it 50 times and to John, Tony and Rich for being spot on with the work
One thing that I love on this boat is that when you fix it on your own,
which is what we’ve done almost the entire trip, you feel an immense
sense of pride and accomplishment that is right there in your face to
enjoy. What we did allows us to sail where we please now. The fruits of
our labor are very visible and this is pride inducing especially when
I have no experience with any of this and everyone else has even less.
Unfortunately I let this good felling get to my head and I was not so
very careful leaving the bay. There was little wind so we motored out.
At first it was very shallow so I was extremely careful. It then leveled
out to about 24 feet so I was motoring at about 5 knots. I was watching
the depth gauge for a while but was having such a nice time I got distracted.
Someone handed me an ice-cold beer and we were rolling.
I had heard that there was a reef in the bay but was not sure where. We
had come in over a fairly shallow sandbar at high tide so we couldn’t
leave that way as the tide was low and getting lower. I had also asked
what the best way out of the bay was. I was told to stay near the orange
channel ball on the east side of the bay. I was doing just that when Tony
started to mention the depth. It had just gone from 24 to 16 to 12 to
8 feet in about 5 seconds and there was little I could do because the
next second it went to 4 feet and the boat lurched big-time like we had
just hit a serious speed bump. I had just killed the engine before we
hit the reef. The boat bounced up about 3 feet into the air on the port
side and about 2 feet on the starboard side. We were still moving pretty
fast so we bounced some more and then slowly scraped off the rest of the
I was horrified. I told Tony to go below and look for leaks. He reported
no leaks whatsoever so we continued on much more cautiously. The depth
increased and turned sandy again. We were past the reef. We motored out
of the bay and south to Had Salad as twilight lowered around us. It took
me a while to relax from the speed bump but after a quick inspection with
nothing found I felt better.
We motored past brilliantly lit squid fishing boats and into the darkness.
Once outside our bay and well away from the fishing boats we killed the
engine and went swimming. It was a lovely evening going from balmy to
cool. Everyone jumped in and swam around for a while and then Beth and
I started doing an acrobatic duo off the prow of the boat. She would front
flip and I would back flip. The first try our timing was great but when
I had to do the front flip I stuffed it. It was pretty funny. Beth had
no fear and continued to conquer the prow diving platform with lithe skill.
We had put on some music. It was David Gray and was loud enough on the
deck of the boat for everyone to enjoy. After drying off we all sat around
as twilight fell into night and watched the stars come out and listened
to beautiful music. There is one song on that album that will always remind
me of that evening now. It is called Babylon and after it was played once,
John went to the stereo and played it again. It was beautiful and the
moment was beautiful and they fit together so sweetly.
We lounged around for a while and decided to head back home to our bay.
We all managed to get ashore even though some of us had to swim. Rich
was always keen on that. I found it difficult. The reef was shallow and
the channel was hard to find. But since our dingy sucks I went in that
I can’t remember what we did that night. It is starting to fade
into a blur. A blur of sweet sunsets and cold beer. I think I crashed
in the hammock and we played Connect Four. It was almost a madness, that
game. John, Tony, Rich and I played it obsessively. Then we met this really
nice German couple and the girl,
Anika, annihilated us at the game. I played her boyfriend, Christoff,
at some chess and held my own. They joined us for a few of the nights
and then I asked them if they wanted to go for a sail in the next few
days. They said they very much wanted to, so we were on. I had been planning
to take everyone out for a day trip somewhere nice as the mast was in
order but we hadn’t gotten around to it.
The next day part of the group went back up to the waterfall for a hike
around the mountain. There were supposed to be two sets of viewpoints
on a circular path that ran by the waterfall. They left early in the morning
for the hike and as usual some of us were too tired so we slept in.
I can’t remember what came up in the afternoon but I was planning
on not going out for a sail because it was already early in the afternoon.
I was mentioning it to someone in our group and they said they wanted
I said, "you really want to sail?" and they said
"Yes, very much so, and didn’t you invite Anika and Christoff
to go with us? They are waiting for you to say something."
I then asked everyone if they wanted to go for a sail. We were all lounging
around the dinning area. I was a bit tired and thought the rest of us
were not all that interested. I received a resounding YES, YES, yes! Apparently
they were waiting around for me to say something and I was thinking that
no one really wanted to go.
We rushed out to the boat with gear and sun block and a whole lot of people.
Rich jumped in the water and started swimming out about 30 seconds after
we agree to go. We rowed a few trips in and out transporting everyone
to the boat. All told we had Tony, John, Rich, Lisa, Beth, Anika and Christoff.
It was a good crowd again and we motored out of the bay and headed south
to a pair of islands that were supposed to have some good coral surrounding
them. Everyone lounged on the deck and on top of the cabin. I was a bit
concerned that they would all get too much sun and then heat stroke. But
it was late enough in the afternoon, so there were no complaints. I guess
people wanted to get tans. I have been working so hard to avoid too much
sun, while on the boat, that I forget that sunbathing is something people
It took about an hour and a half at about 5 knots. We had a little sprinkle
of rain which turned the water to textured glass and we spotted a strange
oil slick that was about 3 to 4 hundred yards long. The oil slick was
not that obvious until it started to rain and then the rain drops were
muffled on the oil, creating a distinctive line between it and the regular
It cleared up and the wind started to blow a bit more. We were almost
to the island so I didn’t want to put up sails. We motored around
this pillar of stone about 50 yards tall and 10 yards in diameter that
sank into pretty deep water. My charts were not detailed enough for this
area so I was operating by sight and depth gauge. The currents were strong
around the little pillar and I could see nothing. It was right behind
the main island so I was going to circle around it and park near a nice
beach. I couldn’t get around as it got really shallow really fast
so I turned around and headed for the space between the rock and the island.
It was way too deep too close to shore so we couldn’t anchor well.
About 100 yards from shore it was 45 to 50 feet deep. Too much contrast
for a safe anchoring and the current running through the channel was quite
strong. The small pillar and the beautiful beach looked perfectly inviting
but the current was blowing through the channel at 2 to 3 knots.
I was getting pretty frustrated because we had to move and try again.
We motored around the corner of the island, sheltered from
the wind, and then at about 45 feet we dropped anchor and I did a strong
forward set away from the island. We ended up about 2 to 3 hundred yards
off the island on a set that I felt comfortable with but wouldn’t
have left the boat on.
My dad picked up some more detailed charts of the island recently and
I now know the best places to anchor and we were far from them. It was
OK though because I just asked that we have one person on the boat during
the afternoon. Once we were set, people jumped off the boat and Rich and
Beth decided to try and swim around to the beach on the side of the island.
They got about one third the way there when they noticed the current.
It was pulling them there very fast. They decided to turn around. They
found that they were getting nowhere swimming against the current. They
were not too far away so they shouted to us. John thought fast and jumped
into the dingy. He rowed over to save them. He saved Beth and John managed
to make it back holding onto the back of the dingy. That current was pretty
potent. I felt a little bad that I had not warned them but it wasn’t
a big deal because they were safe and we were all watching out for each
That was a nice thing I really appreciated. Tony and John were pretty
sure about boat procedures and the possible dangers and they were always
paying attention to the safety of our group. It took a little off my shoulders.
The current was too strong and the water too murky for snorkeling. We
were far off the island with no sandy beach to explore. I was feeling
disappointed in my touring ability. I suppose I wanted to show everyone
a good time. I think I was also hungry and when I am hungry it is usually
easy to feel grumpy. I climbed inside the boat and pulled out 8 cups of
ramen, (one of the things we always have stocked on the boat), two cans
of tuna and some bread. I then poured 8 cups of coke and then boiled the
water for the soup while eating tuna and bread sandwiches. By the second
sandwich I was already feeling better.
Everyone ate and we lounged around for a while. I noticed two bamboo structures
nestled up on the side of the cliff. They were houses and I had the suspicion
that they were used by sparrow’s nest harvesters. This chain of
Limestone mountains runs south into the Andaman sea on the Indian Ocean
side of the peninsula. I have spent a lot of time in that area and know
that the caves are full of sparrows. The Chinese are big on bird nest
soup to increase their virility. It is therefore a very expensive commodity
and the Thais harvest it with bamboo ladders and ropes running into deep
corners of these caves and crevices. These limestone mountains in the
sea are very susceptible to erosion by rainfall. The rainwater carves
the rock into Swiss cheese and the sea cuts deep into their sides, all
creating a fantastic backdrop for pristine beaches.
I am digressing again.
These two islands were both limestone and I suspected they had some profitable
caves. I swam over to the cliff edge. There was a large ladder that went
up to one of the buildings. I took off my fins and mask and climbed up
the ladder. I found a nice young Thai guy lounging in the house. It looked
pretty comfortable and I looked out the window of his house up on the
cliff and saw a beautiful red boat. It had a few people hanging out on
it. I waved for my friends to come over and join me.
The house was on bamboo stilts of varying heights so it could stand on
one main bolder and other smaller parts of the cliff. It was tied down
by thick metal wire, with a bit of rope and twine here and there. The
house was built mostly of bamboo and the metal wire. There was some regular
wood on doors and to floor the sleeping area but that was about it. The
roof was thatched but looked pretty thick. The house was very much open
to the air with many walls missing but looked like it could be battened
down if necessary. I asked him what it was like during storms and he said
it was dry but a little breezy.
We talked for a while and I found out he lived here 8 months at a time
and then went home for about 6 weeks and then came back out here. They
harvested the sparrow’s nests year round. I asked him if it was
lonely and too quiet living that type of lifestyle and he said he liked
it. Besides he had some company up in the other house. There was a total
of 6 or 7 houses around the island, all with the same working crew. They
rotated around the different houses and had parties every couple of days.
Ah, the Thais always manage to be social even in the most isolated of
We clambered along the cliff to the other house over makeshift ladders
and planks across 30 foot gorges. I should say he bounded along like a
billy goat and I almost crawled. The top of the rock was razor sharp,
because of the way it erodes. I had no shoes on but neither did he. It
was tricky and I felt like a decrepit old man compared to this guy. I
know I am pretty agile but this kid made me look silly.
There was no one at the other house but we milled around there and I naturally
looked for a place to jump off into the ocean. There were a lot of rocks
just off the shore that were shallow so nothing looked inviting.
We scampered back to the other house and I looked around some more. He
asked me what I was looking for and I told him. He led me around the house
to his own spot and proceeded to jump off. I laughed and crawled around
to the spot. He explained that I had to jump between these two rocks that
were only 5 feet under water but between them it was about 13 feet deep.
The space was about 8 feet wide so I thought it wouldn’t be too
hard. I climbed up to a spot about 6 feet above his and jumped off.
By this time Tony and Rich had swum over and they climbed the cliff as
well. Tony jumped off and then Rich climbed well above the house a full
20 feet higher than where I had jumped from. Tony and I stood on the two
opposing rocks and marked where he had to jump. He leaped with the experience
of years of cliff jumping behind him and landed just a little on Tony’s
side of the gap. Almost dead center though, which was impressive from
at least 35 feet up.
Lisa and Beth came over to join us and Beth decided to jump as well. I
was becoming a bit nervous at this point because I didn’t want to
send anyone home with a broken leg, much less take them to the hospital.
I have learned in the last few months how to be responsible for others
and at this point I was trying to learn how to absolve myself of that
responsibility. I figured as long as the interested parties knew how I
felt about the situation then I could let go of my concern a little. Beth
asked me if she should jump because she saw the concern on my face. I
told her that if she wanted to she should.
She did and it was pretty cool. I was impressed.
We leaped off a few more times.
I watched more than participated but it seems once you get something started
it is impossible to stop until everyone has had their chance. Thank goodness
Lisa was completely disinterested. I think she was playing more of the
mother hen then I was.
At about four pm I decided it was time to head back to our bay. We picked
up anchor and with a mellow afternoon wind we raised both sail and heeled
over a bit. We headed back at about 4 knots on a nice beam reach and watched
the sun set over a small rock outcropping. It was a gorgeous afternoon
sail and at one point everyone pulled out their cameras to snap off a
few shots. Attempts to preserve the moment. Trying to save that precious
gold on film. Trying to save the moment, the breeze on our faces, the
soft orange of the sun as it sets, the rustle of the water as it parts
under the prow, the curve of the sails under a solid breeze, the smell
of the salt and quiet fragrances of the island to the east, the companionship
and mellow discussions on the prow of the boat, standing above the un-parted
sea. These pleasures seem impossible to me to capture on film. But I suppose
the effort we make, the photos that partially capture the evening do have
a power in themselves. They shift and uproot the smells and sounds stored
in our minds eye and we can see it again, if only as
a dimmer vision of what it really was.
It was a moment to remember and reading it now on paper does stir my heart.
We had a wonderful late afternoon sail and again watched the stars come
As we approached Had Salad I flipped on the deck flood-light. We were
getting used to this early evening anchoring process and Tony, Rich and
John were on it. I seem to remember it being a little harder than usual
but our anchor was set and we headed in. Some people swam and others rowed.
I know you can guess who was the first in the water. Yes, it was Rich
and he beat us all in. He even came back out later to help others get
past the reef.
In retrospect the sail to the island was not what I had expected and even
what I had been planning for. It was quiet the opposite, but ended up
being a wonderful afternoon and everyone spoke fondly of it the rest of
the time we were together. It was fulfilling and Anika and Christoff thanked
me about 5 times for such a nice trip. I was surprised when that happened
but now writing about it I can understand.
I think I would like to talk now about an element of our stay that I have
not mentioned thus far. Tony and I got into renting motorcycles as a way
to explore the islands that we arrived on. It was a fun and efficient
means of transportation. Maybe more fun than efficient. I can remember
a few times riding home in the dark with my feet flying off the back pegs
into the air, roaring over bumps and ridges on dusty unpaved roads.
When we arrived on Koh Pangan we rented motorcycles. There were three
or four options, from scooters to off-road scooters to 125s (which would
roar and whine), to 225 four strokes which would purr and roar. You could
rent a scooter for 4 dollars a day and a 225 for about 6.50 a day, if
you committed to a few days. I have ridden motorcycles in Thailand with
my father enough times that I find the motor cross bikes hard to resist.
I got a 125 for a while but the power band is in the high end of a gear
so you really have to have the engine at high RPMs to get the juice you
need to go up steep hills and such. It was frustrating having John or
Tony purr past me going uphill on a 225.
Koh Pangan is a hilly island with a few peaks as tall as 700 meters. Some
of the roads are paved and some are dirt with ravines and ruts big enough
to eat your front tire. The paved roads are curvy and a bit hilly making
for extremely pleasurable street riding. Cruising down slow curving hills,
pulling in the clutch and letting her coast. Listening to the wheels create
a low whine as they increase their rotational velocity. Feeling the weight
of your bodies and the bike propelling you forward over black pavement,
through dense green forest, littered with palm groves and thick brush.
With smells coming out of the woods like burning coal and dark woods,
fried foods and sugar loaded candies, sweet floral pungencies and dark
musty rot, along with manure and smells of burning trash. These smells
swiftly waif past you as you roar along at 40 or 50 clicks.
It is a hedonistic pleasure and sometimes the fear of getting mauled by
a Song Taow / Taxi coming around a sharp corner, makes me wonder how long
we can play that way before someone gets seriously hurt. I had a rule
that I tried to enforce for a while. I told everyone that when they ride
on motorcycles they should wear closed toe shoes and long pants. My rule
didn’t last long, but some of us paid the consequences later.
John was starting his little 125 with sandals and smacked his toe right
into the top of the break pedal. All the pedals on the motor cross bikes
are spiked for good traction with regular ridding boots but these metal
spikes are brutal on naked toes and heals. He split his big toe and nail
open and was bleeding profusely. He looked so mad and in enough pain that
I worried if I asked him if he was OK that he would punch me out. I didn’t
say anything but sympathized until he seemed a little better.
He took really good care of his toe and with nurse Tony’s help and
my suggestions, it took only a week or two to heal. He was out of the
riding for a little while.
Tony had a bitchin’ First Aid Kit and he never hesitated to pull
it out. I remember Beth had some reef stuck in her foot and with skill
and precision Tony pulled it out, cleaned the wound and bandaged her foot,
all in about 10 minutes. I was slightly jealous. Of Beth or Tony, I am
not exactly sure. When Tony departed he took his world class First Aid
Kit with him. I have been meaning to ask him what it’s contents
were but I’m afraid he has patented it and won’t reveal his
Back to bikes.
We roared around the island like madmen for a few days. I had the urge
to really cut loose, do doughnuts, and go squealing around sharp turns
into fishtails. It was an urge that John shared and we went tearing off
one morning. It was before his toe accident. We ripped around dirt lots
spinning rooster tails and speeding along narrow trails between tall grass
and palm trees. We found a waterfall and cooled off for about half an
hour but I was still pining for speed and dirt. We blew around the island
to Had Rin and chugged around there for a short while.
Usually the cars and other vehicles are the challenge to avoid but in
had Rin it is the drunk and silly farang, particularly the ones who don’t
see you until they walk into you. When I am on foot I don’t mind
but on a bike I worry that they’ll hurt themselves.
I wanted to check out a pier at the far end of the beach. It was more
of a channel but looked pretty good for parking a boat of my size. I asked
for the owner of the pier and he wandered out to talk to me.
He was a puzzle to me. He seemed friendly enough but cold at the same
time. He was willing to listen to me and talk about the pier and his boats
but as I talked about my boat he grew colder and colder. Maybe he has
had a bad experience with sailboats from the Pattaya area but I couldn’t
understand. I asked him straight forward if I could park the boat at his
pier and draw electricity. I also made it clear that if he didn’t
want me to, he could freely say so right then and there and I would not
be offended. I made that clear in as friendly of a manner as I possibly
He responded in his same indifferent but not disinterested manner. He
did say that around the full moon parties the channel got too crowded
and if I docked there I would have to leave during these periods. This
seemed a good sign but I have talked to him two more time and he seems
more distant and indifferent each time. I do not want to park at his pier
and have to deal with someone who doesn’t want me there because
it would be a tremendous hassle. I know that when Thais want to send a
message that you are not welcome the polite thing to do is to just ignore
I had concluded, after two more interactions with him, that I would not
and will not use his pier.
Living on Koh Pangan is interesting because there is a large perpetual
tourist crowd, a substantial semi-permanent crowd of farang and a modest,
yet large for Thailand, crowd of permanent residents. This increases the
Farang-Thai interaction substantially. The tourist crowd is the most damaging
to Thai’s expectations of foreigners. They don’t care much
about what they do to others because they don’t expect to be here
long or return again. They perpetuate an image of irresponsible, unfriendly
and particularly impolite foreigners. The Semi residents are interested
in Thailand and usually have more positive interactions with the locals,
absorbing the culture and learning the language. These people create a
better image but still there is great potential for cross-cultural misunderstandings
like the one I explained earlier about money. Finally there are the long-term
residents. They have the ability to create long lasting, rich friendships
and when they do the borders between nations becomes unnecessary.
Long-term residents also have the ability to create enemies and resentments
but they go beyond borders and have only to do with characters. Everywhere
a person goes they will meet people who like and dislike them and in that
respect it is no longer about the country they are from but about the
personalities. That is fine, as long as people realize that. I suppose
the point is that the more people we have living in different counties
the less the world will suffer from indiscriminate hatred, fundamentalism
and nationalism. In the interactions I have with ordinary Thais, a large
portion of their interest is to see what kind of person I am. The other
things that always comes up is the question of my nationality. I sometimes
wonder if the Thais keep a tally and add it up later. I know in my own
interactions I am not so curious where the person I meet is from but how
they think. But maybe people need to see it to believe it and that is
a good reason for me to be out here.
That and having a bloody good time.
Back to motorcycles and dirt roads.
Tony, Rich and I decided to take a long trip through the island to this
fabled beach called Had Naay Paan. It involved an 8 kilometer drive through
winding dirt roads, up and down steep hills and around sharp corners.
The sharp corners scared the shit out of me because the Thais drive their
taxis like barbarians. They take up the whole road and come careening
around the corners as if there is only one lane. This always makes for
a heart stopper and I almost got mowed down twice before I realized I
should approach all corners with mortal caution. At one point I slammed
on my breaks and slid directly toward the oncoming truck and realized
there was little I could do at this point to avoid him. I could not pull
out of the slide nor get off because I was moving too fast. About 3 seconds
before I ran into his front fender he swerved hard to my left and whipped
around me. He waved and smiled as if nothing serious had occurred. As
I watched him drive away my heart began to beat again. F---in’ SHIT!
I explained what happened to Tony and Rich and they both agreed that the
corners were where the serious danger lay. We grew more cautious as our
adventure progressed but found out where we could cut loose and where
The hills were pretty fun. They would last for about half a click up and
half a click down. On the way down I would continually downshift and fishtail
the back wheel out. What fun. On the way up I would continually have to
downshift because the little 125 I was ridding had no kick at all. I had
to hold it at the screaming high end of a gear to make it up a hill and
if I dropped out of that high end I would have to downshift at least twice
and I would watch both Tony and Rich roar by on their 225s. Sort of annoying.
I would usually be crawling up the last part of the hill in first or second
gear with the engine screaming like a banshee. I got tired of the little
125s pretty fast on that trip.
About the second hour into the trip we found the waterfall we were looking
for and stopped the bikes and went for a little trek. The falls were not
far from the road and were pleasant but a little small. I found the largest
falls area and slipped and slid my way under it. Ah, cool mountain water
flooding over my shoulders and body. It was pretty powerful and it was
kneading my back and ribs like a vicious masseuse. It was funny for a
while and then painful after a few minutes so I got out.
Tony and Rich had gotten in and then climbed out. They were having a brotherly
chat about work and the friendships you make there. It was specifically
about what happens when you start your own business. I think Rich was
feeling the vacuum of those relationships but also feeling the stoke of
his own business. I didn’t want to intrude so I scrambled off to
find other falls. I ran into a funny couple from Japan. They joined me
for a while but then got tired of the rock scrambling. I found a few more
falls in the area but none as good as the first. I made my way back and
played around for a while longer and eventually made my way back to Tony
It was getting later so we picked up our stuff and walked out. We got
on our bikes and rode or another 15 minutes and arrived at the beautiful
bay of Had Naay Paan. It was stunning with two deep crescent bays joining
at a small outcropping in the middle. It looked like a beautiful place
to come and anchor for a day or two. The beach was wide with soft white
sand gently slopping down to the water. It looked all but perfect accept
for the brutal trip to get out there. Definitely a bay to anchor in at
a later date.
We drove around for a short while checking out the bays but the light
was disappearing and I know none of us found the trip back in the dark
very appealing. We had a cool and uneventful drive back in the late afternoon.
As we approached the last large hill we could look out over the southern
end of the island and see the sun. It was a soft orange ball about 20
minutes from the horizon. The crickets were starting to screatch their
mating calls through the jungle. The air was cool and the world was painted
in light orange pastel. We could smell the late afternoon fires and the
food being prepared down in town. Time to head home to Had Salad.
There is one other adventure on the bikes I would like to talk about.
I believe that the bikes were probably the most dangerous aspect of all
our travels here in Thailand. I will have to keep that in mind when other
friends come to visit and want to ride bikes.
The last story on the bikes also involved Tony, Rich and I. We were scrambling
around a coconut farm up a thin path and down ruts and across small streams.
It was challenging and as the path got too steep and difficult I suggested
we head back. I was a little worried about the oil leaking out of my engine.
I wanted to have it checked in town. We turned around and headed out.
Rich was in the lead and then Tony and I. As we were swerving around the
coconut trees I caught a glimpse of a small wire running about head high
and just managed to duck in time to watch a barbed wire go past. Yikes!
I immediately slowed down and swerved back towards the main path and dodged
another barbed wire. I then came out on the main road and Tony was waiting
there for me. Rich was not there. We thought he must have already taken
off, so we raced down the road to find him. I was still shuddering a little
from visions of catching my face on a wire. We didn’t find him and
then thought that maybe he was behind us. We turned around and headed
back and just then he came barreling around a turn towards us.
I was relieved.
We stopped or a while and he told us what happened. He had taken another
path out towards the road and just as he was about 20 feet from the pavement
he spotted the barbed wire. He slammed on the brakes and slid into it
with his neck. He was leaning back trying to avoid it and just as he came
to a stop it pressed up against his jugular. He was in between barbs.
I had horrid, lurid visions of him gashing open his jugular and gushing
"deep red Rich-juice" right there in the dirt until he was dead.
I didn’t say anything to either of them but I think they could see
that my face was sheet-white. Tony had given me the spiel about how when
people are off the boat you are not responsible for their safety about
5 times now and I could see that he could see what I was thinking. The
argument I hold up in response to that statement is that I will have to
deal with the consequences because I speak Thai best and I know my way
around the best. I will naturally be the one to take anyone to the hospital
and to deal with whatever comes up afterwards and probably to deal with
the parents of whoever is in trouble. The knowledge that I will have to
deal with those consequences makes me a bit more paranoid about everyone’s
safety. I could see it annoyed the hell out of Tony but it was difficult
for me to get it out of my head.
It took some time but I think I am better at things like that now. I always
try to give my friends fair warning to prepare them mentally for the possible
dangers. Then once I have made those dangers clear and expressed my concern
for their safety, I let them go and don’t worry about it. Ultimately
Tony is right that once people are off the boat they are their own caretakers.
All I can do is try to prepare them well.
I try to speak well of Tony as much as possible in these stories because
I really like him. I respect him in a lot of ways and I want to play up
the things I admire. On the other hand I did want to kill him at some
points and I am sure he wanted to strangle me as well.
I could go on and on with this chapter but I would like to send it off
sometime and I don’t want my readers to feel too flooded when they
The last segment of the story is, what else, but the full-moon party.
The Full-Moon Party.
rode our bikes into Thong Sala with our friends Anika and Christoff. Beth
was with me, Lisa was with Tony, Anika was with Rich on his 225 and Christoff
led the way on his scooter. We were a true road gang, well, sort of. Our
front man was on a scooter. It was a fun, mellow ride around the island.
We didn’t want to drive over to Had Rin because the road was slightly
treacherous and we had heard stories about drunks on motorcycles getting
mauled by, what else but, taxis. Since it was the biggest single drinking
night on the island we decided to play it safe and park in Thong Sala.
Thong Sala was the main town and was a short taxi ride over to Had Rin.
In that respect we decided to play it safe but in other ways we decided
not too. I was riding back from Had Rin a few days earlier and got to
talking to these two British kids about the full moon party. They told
me a rumor about the full moon party in December, two months ago. The
Had Rin area is a popular spot for young Israeli travelers. It was a surprise
to me because I hadn’t met too many Israelis on Koh Pangan. I found
out that they tend to hang out mostly in Had Rin.
Apparently the Israeli Government warned the Thai Government that there
could be attacks on the Full Moon Party that month. There was a large
amount of C4 explosives stolen from a Thai Military base the month before
and apparently the Israeli Government saw it as enough of a threat to
warn the Thai Government. The Thais had two large military vessels out
to the islands and one large destroyer was parked off the beach at Had
Rin. As the British lads told the story the crowd was less than usual,
but not by much. They still went and had a great time. Nothing occurred
that month but it was still on people’s minds and lips as the next
full moon came around. It was more so this month because the US was maneuvering
for war with Iraq and the Islamic world was warning of retaliatory strikes.
So what did I do after I heard this? The day before the full-moon, when
we were all hanging out, eating a late lunch, I brought up what I had
heard. We all discussed it and everyone came to their own personal conclusion.
I had already decided that I was going. I was not going to be scared away
from the normal choices I would make because some fundamentalists want
to frighten Westerners. That is their objective and I refuse to be afraid.
I will rationally access the possible dangers and make my decisions but
I will not allow their tactics to frighten me. Most of the travelers I
meet have not put it in so many words and I don’t think it is such
a conscious choice for most of them. I think
they simply understand the risks and decide that traveling is worth it.
We all decided to go and have a good time. I don’t know what everyone
else was thinking but I was happy that we could all come and get tanked
and dance the night away. We were singing songs about getting blown up
on the taxi ride over. It was slightly sadistic yet entertaining. I wish
I could remember the songs now. When we rode back at around seven the
next morning some kid in our taxi was singing the same song and we laughed
our asses off, both in relief and at the coincidence.
There were a lot of drugs at the party but I just stuck to beer. It is
a drug I can more easily control. We bought some 22s of beer Chang and
strolled onto the beach. It was already about nine or ten so things were
well on their way. Thousands of drunk, horny kids
dancing and running around like they were on fire. There were fire twirlers
and crazy locals and visiting Thais and foreigners all over the place.
The tide was fairly low and in front of the main 5 bars the crowd went
right down to the water. Dancing around in shallow water to thumping techno
or pop/club music. Most of the bars were insanely packed and so we stayed
away from them. At one point I found my way inside one and it must have
been over one hundred degrees, with sweet dripping off faces and backs
and exposed thighs. It was "Too Hot, Too Hot, Too Hot Lady, Gotta
Run For Shelter, Gotta Raaan for Shade!"
I forced my way out the front and down to the beach again. I found and
lost and found and lost the others about 3 times. John was developing
his patented jig but was not that into the groove. I was later to see
that jig develop into a full sex machine grind but at that time it was
still in it’s infancy.
Rich was having a great time running around howling at the moon and we
all joined it from time to time. I later heard that Tony and Lisa stripped
down completely naked and ran out into the ocean. It was getting a little
nuts at that point. Christoff was dancing like a Samurai Warrior and every
time I did a karate chop hand gesture he would leap into a wild Samurai
dance making all kinds of strange noises. This would usually lead to me
falling over on the ground laughing. Anika would give me a look like "Stop
encouraging him" and turn away and dance with Lisa or Beth.
Lisa was a really good dancer. So was Anika, but I must say Beth was awesome.
She had the hip thing going like crazy and it was great to follow her
around and dance. She had spent some time in the Caribbean, I can’t
remember which island, taking dancing lessons and it showed
clear and tantalizing. It was great fun and we all ran around from bar
to bar along a long stretch of beach dancing like wild animals. I got
pretty tanked and eventually lost most of them. I was double fisting it
for a while because everyone else kept buying beers and I couldn’t
keep up. Light weight.
I must say, I have not partied as hard as I have these last few months,
since back in college. Tony, John, Rich, my cousin Jeff, Caroline, Lisa
and Beth, they have all helped me along and I must thank them for more
fun than I can remember.
We all danced until five or six am. I returned by Taxi at around seven.
The sun was up and burning holes in my brain, through my eye sockets.
We all crashed in the bungalows at Coral Beach and slept for hours. I
took a good look at my baby before going to bed and felt safe that she
was floating around on her two anchors safe and sound.
We awoke later in the afternoon and Lisa and Beth were packing up. They
catch the afternoon ferry. It was a bit depressing and Lisa and Tony had
some time alone while we hung out in the dinning area.
Rich, Tony, John and I sent them off in the afternoon and I felt sad to
see them go. They were sweet girls and I knew their company would be missed.
We did a cowboy lasso salute to them as their boat pulled away. That is
one of the pictures I will include.
I think that is a good place to end this segment of our travels. The trip
changed a lot when it was just the boys and we headed off to more dangerous
I must explain that this all took place almost two months ago, so the
details are starting to fade and if it is not all exactly the way things
took place then I must ask for writer’s privilege. I have been trying
to keep up, but living it all and then finding the time to write about
it all is difficult.
I hope this chapter was not too long and tickles my readers in a pleasantly
PS, We are still on Koh Pangan but the boat is parked in a small channel
and I have been doing major repairs and engine work for the last week
or so. It will probably be another week before we get out but I will let
you know before we depart. Much love.