Return to the Wind Spirit - 20 Feb 2003

Sent: Sunday, February 23, 2003 6:54 AM
Subject: Chapter 8 - Demolition and Destruction

It took us another day to get down to the boat because we shopped for more parts in Trad. I picked up another anchor for the boat. I also purchased 350 feet of thick polypropylene rope for the second anchor. I purchased buoys and stainless steel coder pins and looked around for parts for the stays and shrouds.
Jeff and I had a very pleasant late afternoon drinking beer and using the Internet the day before when we arrived in Trad. I had a few questions that needed answering. We asked not the guru on the mountain, not some old salty sea dog, not some sailing store expert but the fantastic blessing of our generation; the internet. It gave us some straight answers and some cryptic ones.
Jeff put in about 2 or 3 hours of his time and pulled out a few great answers. I was planning to go up the mast for some repairs but I didn’t know how to put together a good harness. Jeff found a great web page with step by step directions on how to make a safety harness with pictures and all. We saved it to a disk and now it’s on Tony’s computer.
I wanted to buy a good second anchor and I had seen almost all small Thai vessels with a specific type of anchor. I knew neither the name nor the correct weight to vessel size ratio. Jeff found this as well. We wanted a “Kedge” anchor of at least 12 kgs for good holding power for my boat. I then purchased a Kedge the next day of 15 kgs.
You might ask what I was doing all this time. I was exploring the California DMV website for lost driver’s license information. I managed to leave my license at Koh Samet and was in no big hurry to go find it because I thought it was going to expire in a few months. I found nothing on this bloody web page. I searched it for hours. The DMV’s web page is a nightmare. Later, my mom called the SF DMV and found out that my license does in fact expire in April this year but I have to be in Cali to get a new one. Damn!
I then did a search for Sailing Magazines, which might like to publish what I have been writing. I found a long list but have not yet the guts to send anything anywhere.
My last question was about mounting a VHF radio antenna on a backstay or long pole on the back of the boat instead of the mast. We found lots of information, but none that answered the question exactly. The cryptic answer.
We returned to the boat the next afternoon after shopping. It was a bit of a trip still. We traveled to the port town of Leam Gnop and then got on a ferry that took an hour to cross over to Koh Chang. Then we traveled south along the island by “Song Taow” (Thai truck taxi) for another hour and arrived at dusk. Jeff walked on to a restaurant we had been eating at before we left for BKK and I walked out the long pier to see how the boat was doing. It was low low tide.
First thing I notice was that the mast light was off.
I left it on when we left.
Second thing I noticed was that the dingy was gone. Ahh.
The boat was about 5 meters off the pier with no way to get to her. Where was our dingy? I found the rope. It was shredded. The dingy must have drifted away in the night while we were gone. I slapped myself a few times for not being more careful when we left the boat.
There was a guy staying in the room on the pier. His name was Ralf. He was working for a company, which owned two boats and was doing charters in the Koh Chang area. I guess the company was keeping the boats at Deiter’s pier while they were under repair or not in use.
Ralf kindly lent me a spare dingy and I rowed out to the boat. She looked fine from the outside and the bilge was fairly dry so she wasn’t sinking while I was away. What a relief.
I had forgotten to close the water intake valve for the engine before we left and it was on my mind for most of the trip to Bangkok. Wind Spirit was fine. She was still in one piece and floating high in the water.
I then checked the electrical system and found no juice in the batteries at all. How could one light drain the batteries completely? I left the mast light on figuring that it could not drain 2 140 amp car batteries.
It did.
The batteries were sitting at about 4 volts when they should have been 12 V.
I then tried to start the engine by hand and could not. There was no compression or no fuel in the system.
“The engine is dead.”
“The batteries are dead.”
“The dingy has floated away.”
“Bloody hell!”
At that point I decided it was time to leave my things and go get something to eat.
I had a beer and we ate good food and talked.
We later slept on the boat and then went to work on her the next day. Ralf kindly offered to charge the batteries. After about two days of charging we found that both batteries were shot. That’s 70 dollars right there.
We tried to get the engine going in the morning but still had no luck. Ralf came in and helped us bleed the fuel system but we still could not find the problem. Ralf knew a mechanic that his company used frequently who worked in Trad. He charged 1000 Baht to come down but I was ready to pay the price at that point. We called him up and he said he could come down next week. Neither engine nor electricity for a week. Ah well.
Jeff and I slept on the boat at night and ate at the restaurant during the day. The restaurant was located on a pier farther out toward the mouth of the bay but within rowing distance, and then later swimming distance. It was our swim-through restaurant. After few hours of work on the boat we would swim over to the restaurant, climb up the ladder and have some beers and tasty seafood.
The owner and lord of the house was named “Chaliew” but we called him “Charlie O.” He was a fairly nice guy and an excellent fisherman. So was his son, who was one of those extremely nice guys who always had a smile for us. His name was “Go.”
Charlie O was a good host and made us some delicious seafood dishes. I came to realize that really fresh clams are actually tasty. We had some fantastic Red and White Snapper as well and large shrimp and just about as much squid as we could handle. I’d say Jeff did more of the “handling” as I am still an inexperienced seafood connoisseur. I do understand now that the fishy flavor is a sign of old seafood not the really fresh stuff.
We ate well.
Must I say more?
The best fish we had was a large Red Snapper quickly fried and covered in a lime and Nam Bla sauce with garlic, more garlic, a healthy amount of small green peppers (HOT!) and a pinch of brown sugar. Yummy!
We ate at Charlie O’s shop frequently but it started to add up. I have to watch my money if I want this trip to last.
One night we decide to rely on our own means of food gathering. Jeff had wisely purchased some small crab traps while we were in the Chantaburi area. He had been putting them to use quite a bit and Deiter’s pier was copious.
So one night we suffered.
We ate only crab for dinner. It was pretty hard work cracking shells and claws and Jeff did most of the hard work with a rice-serving spoon and the cutting board. I still managed to cut myself on claws and spines. I noticed I was bleeding when the fresh taste of crab suddenly got warm and salty. We ate crab and crab and more crab. It was pretty tough. The things you have to do on a boat.
The next day after the feast we noticed later in the morning there was a survivor. One of the crabs managed to escape and was packed tight into a corner on the cockpit floor. Amazing.
We rewarded him by throwing him off the boat alive and pinching. We imagined the stories he would tell to his little crab offspring.
“It was a massacre.”
“They threw everyone into a huge pot of boiling water and cooked them alive.” “I heard the screams for help as I managed to escape from the side of the bucket.” “It was horrible.” “I’ll have nightmares for the rest of my life.”
These were the nights.
We played M&M and Ralf the German came out of his room and over to the edge of the dock to rock out. “That’s good stuff,” “Where did you get it” “it’s a good beat”
We danced on the deck.
I have to mention this funny thing. The Thais are not very good with Western names and Ralf confided in me that the Thais always call him Laugh. He just introduces himself that way to the Thais now because no one can ever pronounce his name correctly. I wanted to laugh but I wasn’t sure if he was lamenting it or making a joke.
We had a few nights of quality stargazing and Jeff trained me on the techniques of finding constellations. I now Know 7 more constellations than I knew before. That makes a grand total of 8. By the way, Jeff generously left his book of constellations and stories behind with us here in the boat. Thanks Jeff.
Most nights I slept in the main cabin and Jeff slept on deck. It was restful.
We still had no dingy. I was considering buying one from Deiter or this other guy we met before we left for BKK the first time. His name was Frank. He also worked for the chartering company. He had two dingys he was thinking about selling. I decided that before approaching him, I should do an exploratory questioning down the coast to see if any of the locals had seen it float by.
The first house I went to said they saw it floating along midmorning the day after we left. They said it went all the way up the bay to the river and was surely lost. I moved on to the next house. They said they hadn’t seen anything and didn’t know what I was talking about. They did recommend that I ask at Salak Pet Seafood because it was the major establishment in the lower part of the bay.
I went there next and they said someone went out to retrieve it when it was drifting past. More pieces of the puzzle. They said to head back to the next set of bungalows. I went to the next one over and someone said, “Yes, the place next door picked up a small cream and red dingy just last week. I was getting a bit worried that I was going to get the shuffle and some Thai establishment was going to get a new dingy. I was led to the next place over and the person went into a back room and started talking to someone in hushed and then raised voices. Finally a lady came out and led me to their back patio. There she was, our little lost tender. I thanked the lady and gave her the money that was in my back pocket. It was a wet 1000 Baht note but I felt it was a good gift for saving our dingy and actually giving it back. It was in my back pocket by luck so I thought it was the right thing to do.
I rowed the dingy back to the boat overjoyed.
Later Jeff and I wrote a great song in a simple blues key. It was titled “The Lost Tender Blues” and Jeff wrote some pretty cool lyrics. We howled it out a few nights and got it down smooth. Ralf didn’t come out to the edge of the pier those nights but it was fine with me. We had a blast playing it.
The very next day I was rowing to the restaurant and stopped by at Ralf’s boat to ask some questions and managed to lose one of the oars. Aaaah!
We dove all morning for it the next day and found nothing. Jeff did find the bottom of Ralf’s boat with his head though and was not too happy about it. He bravely continued to search for the oar anyway.
Good luck, bad luck who can tell.
During the days we worked hard.
I was growing concerned with a problem with the stays and shrouds on the boat. They were cranked all the way down and were still very loose. In fact they seemed to be getting looser. I now believe that Galvanized Stays have a tendency to unwind and therefore stretch. The Forestay and the Back-stays were very loose and I was concerned with the safety of the mast in strong winds. After five other ideas were discussed we finally decided to have shortened plates made for the backstays. The backstays were already measured incorrectly years ago and two small 18 centimeter, stainless steal plates were made to get to the correct length.
We needed to pull up slack so I had a middle, (for back-up) and very short set of plates made. We reduced the length by 10 centimeters, which turned out to be perfect.
The first time Jeff pulled me up the mast I was quite frightened. I was nervous about the strength of the mast and the base of the winch, which Jeff was using to pull me up with. I could not get the main pin out the first time so I came back down. The second time I got the pin out and we effectively took down both backstays. We were using the main halyard to secure the mast in place of the backstays. I had attached it and cranked it down with the winch really tight. That was the one thing I felt safe about during the whole operation.
After the third time, Jeff and I were a well greased machine. We planned out the procedure before hand and walked through it just like the astronauts at NASA. It was very helpful in dealing with problems that arose. When I knew the procedure cold it allowed me to direct my energies effectively to the unexpected problems. It was also very helpful in keeping my head cool. A most critical benefit.
The new length was just right and we still have a bit of room to tighten if necessary. The mast is raked back just a bit more but that is not a problem. It is a benefit to have a little bit of rake backwards because when the sails are up they pull the mast forward to a more vertical position when they are full of wind.
Jeff also cleaned and sewed a small patch on the Genoa. We now have three patches in that sail. Problems. He did a nice job and it is much stronger in that location now.
He also taught me about the switchboard, what goes to what exactly and why. I was not really clear on it before. Jeff also rewired everything and relabeled it. We grouped some switches and eliminated others. It was a very productive morning. Even though the Switch Board is ancient and ugly I now understand how it works and can always rebuild it if I have to. I have done further refinements since Jeff left which have all come out well. Yes.
I installed a good gas detector in the bilge, which we also wired to the switchboard. Now we can check for gas in the bilge, which increases the safety of this vessel greatly.
I also measured out and labeled the length of the new polypropylene anchor rope (rode, in sailing lingua) and then spliced a loop in it with a metal ring and attached it to the new kedge anchor. I then fixed the line in the anchor rode closet. We were then set with a decent second anchor with a whole heck of a lot of line, 355 feet to be exact. That means with a 5 to 1 ratio we can anchor fairly safely in 70 feet of water. Great!
Jeff and I proceeded to use this second anchor most of the next week to really test it out and get a feel for how it compared to our trusty plow anchor.
One of the days we decided to take a hike.
It started out quite innocently but 4 kilometers turned into 10 and then into 14. Jeff and I joked about it later but suffered at the time. “Let’s go on a hike to a waterfall with no water. It’s only four t#$%^@*n kilometers down the road.”
We left at 1 pm and walked and walked and walked. Someone in the village, Charlie O, I think, told me it was just a few kilometers up the road.
“Sure, you can walk,” he said.
Later I found out he’d never even been there.
We walked and talked about roads and paths and journeys and books and a little about life. It was great.
At one point a Thai guy on a motorcycle came by going the opposite direction. He looked at us, then he laughed at us and shouted “ Too Far ” as he blew by. That was at about 3 pm. We arrived at the base of the waterfall at about 4 pm. There was one pool with about 2 feet of water in it. What a disappointment.
We sat and ate a mango and decided to make the best of it and climb up to the higher levels of the waterfall.
It took us another hour to get to levels two, three and four. Two was also pointless but three was interesting and slightly creepy. It had three deep pools with rock overhangs and roots hanging off the rock and growing into the pools. Some frog was croaking periodically at 4 in the afternoon and there were spiders and webs all around the falls. I shouldn’t say falls because they were really just trickles.
Jeff still jumped in. Fearless Bastard!
I love waterfalls but they sometimes give me the willies.
We then climbed another vertical 100 meters to levels five, and six.
At the base of the falls it said 100 meters to the next few levels. We took this to mean a 100-meter walk. Unfortunately it meant 100 vertical meters up sheer rock and roots, through virgin jungle on a disappearing trail. Jeff must have been a monkey in his last life because he went up and down almost as fast I could.
At one point I scouted ahead about 50 meters. About 8 minutes after I told him to come up, I changed my mind and told him it wasn’t worthwhile. He was most of the way up and shouted back that I should have said that about 8 minutes ago. He almost kicked my arse for that one.
We saw levels 5 and 6 and concluded that they were getting smaller and the path was getting thinner and the forest was getting darker. I was worried about the virgin jungle part. Koh Chang still had Malaria warnings and we were about 5 or 6 hundred meters up on a mountainside in the jungle at about dusk.
Time to leave.
We slid and swung and stumbled our way down.
We made it to the road and everything was closed so we walked out to the main road. That was about 4 kilometers. We sat down and drank the rest of the water and ate our last mango. We waited for the Song Taow. It didn’t come. Many Thai guys rode by on their motorbikes and stared at us. We were slumped on the side of the road looking at them hopefully. None of them stopped to help.
At about 6:30 pm we got up to walk again. We stumbled along for another 2 hours until we finally reached Charlie O’s pier where dinner was awaiting us. I let Charlie O have it but he sort of let it slip off him and I was too tired anyways. Jeff let me have it the rest of our trip and we laughed frequently about the fourt@#^&%^n kilometers.
Two days later I decided to go into Trad on another shopping mission. We also needed our propane gas tank refilled. The trip was long and not that eventful. It was rather funny that I spent about 500 baht for the trip, one way, to have it only cost 75 baht to fill up our tank. We purchased a small “picnic” style tank that holds 4 kg of gas. It lasts a long time, but it turns out that they are harder to find in the small towns in the middle of nowhere. That means going into larger towns to trade it in or get it filled.
The afternoon I came back from Trad the mechanic also came to the boat. He arrived before I returned, bled the fuel line at a location we missed and then started the engine as easy as that.
Ralf and Jeff decided to call it the 1000 baht bolt. Funny. Too bad I was the one paying.
It wasn’t much money though and the information proved valuable as we used it about two weeks later in the middle of the gulf of Thailand.
The engine was running. Running quite well at that. I learned that you should never run your tanks dry as rust and water collect through condensation inside the tanks. This water and rust will clog the fuel pump in a second.
We decided it was time to move.
The next morning at about 8 am we were off. We motored up the coast and arrived at Leam Gnop the main pier for Koh Chang Islands at around 2 pm.
I pulled out the starter, which had burned out when we were trying to start the engine earlier in the week. I took it into Trad, again, along with our fried batteries and made yet another shopping run. I got fresh batteries at a price of 3000 Baht and had the alternator cleaned, greased and checked for 100 Baht. I love good tradesmen. They are always the most honest and generous. This guy really knew his stuff. His name was “Chang Moo.” Chang means tradesman in Thai and Moo means Pig. He was a very nice guy and we hit it off and talked quite a bit while he worked. He spoke English pretty well but I could tell he could speak very well. Fluent. He had two sons in the states studying Engineering and architecture. It was obvious he was an intelligent man. After a thorough cleaning and greasing the tests proved that the starter was working fine. I got his phone number, thanked him and headed back to the pier.
Jeff had done the food shopping and I installed the batteries. We had refilled the water tanks and the cooler with ice and were ready to roll.
Ready to Rock and Roll. What a feeling that is. When you know you can leave the civilized world behind for a few days and you have plenty of food and water and a sure and safe vessel to carry you wherever you please.
We ate a late lunch and talked about staying at the pier over night or just blowing off it right then and there. I had a good destination in mind. A safe bay, which was well protected from most winds and was just about the right depth. The only problem was that it was about 5 hours away and it was 4:30 in the afternoon.
Jeff raised the issue of sailing at night. It was something we had not done before. My navigating skills have sharpened considerably but we had yet to try the night navigation. I thought it was about time as we were looking at crossing the Gulf of Thailand soon and that would mean at least two nights of sailing.
We agreed and the adventure began again.

I will end there for now.
Much love,
Captain Andy