From the white sands of Koh Samet to the German's Pier on Koh Chang 2 Feb 2003

Sent: Sunday, February 02, 2003 2:18 AM
Subject: Chapter 6 - From the white sands of Koh Samet to the German's Pier on Koh Chang

How should I begin this segment of the story? Where to start when so much has happened. It all gets spun up in a tight yarn in my mind. I find it difficult to pull out one strand and spin the real story. I guess I simply have to choose. I think I will take the first picture we have from that time and start there.
Upon our arrival at Koh Samet Tony and I proceeded to jump off the cabin of the boat in our customary manner. After a long day of sailing and the work of setting the anchor and feeling secure in our set we usually enjoy a dip in the blue waters of the gulf. When we watch it pass under us all day and when we find yet another stunning bay to anchor in it is difficult to resist a swim, a float, in this, our huge swimming pool.
So we were jumping and leaping and cart-wheeling when Tony decided to pull out his camera and catch a specific kind of leap. We call it the “superman”. Tony laid down in the dingy next to the boat and I did my standard flying jump and “voila” we had another priceless shot of the Sailing adventures of Andy and Tony.
We spent the next week in beautiful Koh Samet. White Sand Koh Samet as the locals say. We arrived around 3 pm on the 12th and spent the afternoon playing and swimming. Later on we rowed ashore and Tony and I met a nice Thai on the beach. We anchored on the west side of the Island as the NE winds were blowing quite strong. The bay was called Ao Prao and turned out to be the most expensive beach on the island with two resort style hotels on either end of the crisp white strip of sand. The beach was really rich and I was a bit self-conscious that two poor dirty sailors were dragging up their dingy upon their pristine beach.
Later I realized that no one owns the beach and we can pull up our dingy almost anywhere. Even later I realized what we must appear to most of the people on the beach and the resorts. Intrepid young sailors here to take any beach they choose. I think that was the feeling that most on the beach had. Maybe a little jealously at what must appear grand. I don’t want to be a braggart, I just want to put it out as honestly as I can.
Back to the grand part. I think that the appearance and the reality of the matter are quite different. This is true with many things. To live on a boat, to cruise on a boat from port to port and island to island is one of western cultures most glamorized endeavors. We print it up in all kinds of advertisements for cell phones and laptops and all the jackpots in the world have some kind of trip to the tropics as lures. It is funny to notice, while in Bangkok, all the Thai ads which play on this theme. Jumping off the end of a dock into fantastic emerald blue bath water. I can do that every morning for a bath. But the reality of living on a boat is quite different. Going for days and days without a fresh water shower while the oil builds up on my skin and in my hair. Getting strange rashes from my old wetsuits and the salt buildup on all my clothe. Spending at least a quarter of my time everyday fixing or trying to fix something else that has broken. Spending a few hours in the bilge scooping out oil with a spatula.
This boat looks pretty from afar but up close it is a 26 year old floating heap of wood, fiberglass, cement, and steal with lots of epoxy holding it together. Anyone who has owned an old rotting house can appreciate the level of maintenance required. Anyone who has driven a thrashed beater of a car that is continually in disrepair has an idea what it is like. Just put those two together and that is an old boat.
Unfortunately I find this lifestyle wonderful and challenging and so completely entertaining I don’t know if I will be able to go back.
I digress.
The nice Thai guy was a “beach boy” for one of the resorts and he said “Sure, of course you can pull your dingy up here.” He works for the resort renting out wind surfers sailboats and kayaks. “I’ll look after it if you are not too long.” “Where did you guys sail from?” He is deep brown and well built from working on the beach. “Is that your boat out there or is it chartered” His smile is honest and I feel I have known him for a while already. “It’s yours? . . … really?” “That’s great!” and we talked for a half hour and it turned out our friend has worked on that beach for about 3 years now but is originally from Rayong. He loves the beach lifestyle and has a honey who works in the other resort down the beach. Later he cuts down some coconuts from the trees on the beach and gives us two of them. Yummy. I love coconut. The juice is quite good for you but the meat is loaded with cholesterol. Maybe that is why I love it so.
Later we met an extremely polite and kind Thai gentleman who worked as reception for the Ao Prao Resort on the north side of the beach. He was so sweet and smooth I felt I was being taken care of and welcomed to our own beach resort. We made another friend.
Tony and I were interested in a good lunch so we headed over to the other side of the island. Being poor travelers we were looking for more of a budget meal. We walked to the other side of the island in about 30 minutes and sat down at a nice restaurant with tables in the sand on the beach. I want to say right on the beach but that would not capture it quite right. The restaurant was the beach. We sat at little bamboo tables on the beach under a beautiful pine tree and watched people strolling and laying out. We ate a tasty Thai meal which was very well cooked for the price.
After lunch we explored the rest of the north part of the island in search of a cheep motorcycle. We finally found a pretty good deal in the town at the north end of the island. I left my drivers license as guarantee that the bike would be returned. By this time it was dark and we had a bit of a trek back. I let Tony drive because he is more capable at learning quickly. It was a riotous drive back. The roads were all washed out and incredibly rutted and there was not a single light as the road wound through the woods.
It was a hairy ride to say the least. At one point going uphill my feet were off the pedals and just about as high up as Tony’s head. I thought, I am going to fly off the back of the bike and kill myself. We hit another large bump and I returned to the seat but my legs were still flying.
We continued uphill with my legs swinging and my arse bouncing for another hundred yards before I got Tony to stop. The rest of the ride was mellower and with my feet actually on the pedals it was not as frightening. We made it home safe and sound with a motorcycle to ride the next two days. It was a mellow night and we hung out on the boat and I played guitar.
The next morning bright and early Amanda called. She was already at Ban Phe, the port where you catch the ferry across to Koh Samet. She was ahead of the schedule we expected. A pleasant surprise as I could tell Tony was a bit excited. Much more than his usual state of stoicism. It was easy to see that Amanda was a pretty special person to him. The ONE, I am not sure but pretty wonderful. She was sweet and fun and incredibly smart as well. She managed to dominate most of our games on movies and puzzles and cards. Even though Tony is an avid movie viewer and future film maker Amanda’s memory was a bit too savvy. As you might guess, the captain was left far behind in most of these games. That type of intelligence in not one of my strong suits. I did well on the Janga set so that helped my pride a little.
Tony went to meet Amanda on the beach and I am sure it was a pretty heartfelt reunion. They were by each other’s side most of the rest of the trip.
We were sitting on the steps of one of the resorts talking in the late afternoon just after sunset. A guest from the resort came down and invited “the Captain” up for a drink. He said his friend wants to meet you. “It’s her birthday” “Would you care to join us for a drink?” Since I don’t much hesitate to throw myself into any kind of situation, since I haven’t had a glass of wine in months, since I want to see what kind of girl wants to meet me, I said “I would love to.”
In that way I met Caroline and her circle of friends at the retreat she was enrolled in. I received the standard 20 questions about the boat, my life, my friends on the boat and everything else in between. It wasn’t so bad but I got the impression they thought it was a little much. It was not nearly as much as I get from the Thais. At this point Tony and Amanda came up and said they wanted to head back to the boat. I agreed to paddle them back and return for more of the delicious white wine. I returned as promised and they were again surprised. I should mention they were English so maybe they were just being tactful and polite. Sometimes I miss that sort of thing.
I did notice the way they all slipped away while Caroline and I chatted. She was part of this creative writing course at the resort and proceeded to capture my interest. As you all know I would like to write. We talked for a bit on this topic and got along really well. I should explain that she was enrolled in a program that takes people to exotic locations and gives them options on writing, diving, psychotherapy, message etc, etc. They were in their last week and it was her birthday coming up in two days. We talked about a lot of things and somehow the topic of a fresh water shower arose. She invited me up for one and I think I will leave the rest to your imagination.
Needless to say sleep was not on the menu. I left in the morning as I had to run into Ban Phe to buy supplies and rope for buoys and a long single piece for a better anchor line. I ran into one of the lads from the night before and we got to talking. He was heading in to Ban Phe on another errand and we talked most of the way over. He was a similar sort of person in his need for adventure. He was taking a full advanced dive course and we got to talking about navigation. One of his next classes was on underwater navigation and we moved on to discussing the challenges and difficulties. I must say I find the English quite a pleasant lot. I even seem to be picking up their colloquiums. We had a great talk but I did not mention the night before.
In Ban Phe I found a fantastic hardware store and proceeded to wander around it for about 3 hours. I am starting to love hardware stores. I used to find them a somewhat intimidating but now I get a bit obsessed when I find a good one. I get all giggly and squeal when I find exactly what I need for a good repair on the boat.
After the hardware store I found the market and went about buying what I needed to cook “Tom Ka Gai” one of my favorite Thai dishes. It is a lemon coconut chicken soup which is a fantastic combination of flavors. I had been trying to learn the ingredients for a while and finally some nice lady at a restaurant cooked it for me and showed me how. When I returned on the ferry I met one of the guides for the Ao Prao Resort where Caroline was staying and he asked about my bag of food. It turned out he loves to cook and he proceeded to spell out the fine “ins and outs” of cooking Tam Ka Gai as well as five other dishes. It was a great surprise and his enthusiasm was hard not to catch. We talked about food the whole way back. He grew up in a restaurant and his mother taught him how to cook really well along with his brothers and sisters. This did not seem so strange to me at the time but it did later. His wife was Australian and they were divorced quite a few years back and his only son was growing up in Australia with her. He lived alone but cooked for friends and other Resort workers pretty frequently. So I made another friend.
When we arrived at Ao Prao beach he entered the resort and I stayed on the beach. He asked, as we parted, if I was going to be around this week, so we could talk again. I said we were going to stay another couple of days. He smiled. I went down to the beach to talk to “Pun” the beach boy to find out where Amanda and Tony were. Pun also noticed the bag of food and asked if I wasn’t embarrassed carrying it around. I asked him why I should be, as I felt quite proud to be ready to try to cook one of my favorite Thai meals. He proceeded to explain that Thai men don’t cook. “That’s women’s work.” I was quite surprised but then that put into light my earlier friend’s enthusiasm to find another man who likes to cook. I proceeded to explain that cooking is a great skill to have and that some of the world’s best cooks are men. He listened and smiled. I realized I wasn’t going to change his mind in five minutes so I bid him good afternoon.
I still wanted to find Amanda and Tony. I wanted to make sure they knew I was going to cook a good dinner. I couldn’t find them but I found Caroline and I invited her out to the boat for a Thai meal cooked by the captain. My plan was to invite her for a romantic meal but I thought it would be great to have everyone on board for our first meal together so I opted for the crowd. It was a good call. Caroline agreed to come and I returned to the boat.
Not much time passed before I got a call from Jeff. My long lost cousin. We had been talking over the internet for at least five months about him coming over to sail with me. I was not too sure if he would make it but I found out a few weeks before that he was bound for Thailand on the 9th or 10th of Jan.
He called and told me he was on Koh Samet and would be at the boat in a short time. Wow! We were going from a stripped down crew of two to a full house pretty fast.
I should explain a bit about Jeff and I. I could remember the last time I saw him. I was in 3rd or 4th grade and he was just heading off to college. We played Frisbee together and got along pretty well. I thought he was the shit, being an older kid willing to play with me. His family lives on the east coast. His mother is my mother’s older sister. They both love each other very much. Why Jeff and I never met up again I am not sure. But while I was in California I received an e-mail from him and we proceeded to talk. I invited him to sail with me and he jumped on the offer. He is a mean fishing machine so I knew he would be interested in fishing in Thailand. He is also a bit overweight but the pounds now seem to be sliding off.
All these things considered I was not sure he would make it. We took the time recently to figure out how long it had really been. We had not seen each other in 20 years. So when he called from the beach I was pretty stoked he did actually come.
I rowed to the beach and I saw him strolling across the sand. One big man with a cardboard box full of fishing poles and a huge military bag. We met on the beach like men and I felt proud that he made it half way around the world to sail with me. My cousin, “Right on!”
We proceeded to entertain the beach goers and resort loungers beyond our grand reunion. I rowed his gear out to the boat first because our dingy is quite small and has a very low water line. I came back and I decided we should center Jeff in the dingy so he had to row. This dingy is small with a low water line and on top of that the oarlocks were not placed well so it is also difficult to row. Jeff had the task of rowing while I held his last small case. We made it out to about neck deep when Jeff slipped off the seat into my lap. I was in the front of the boat and the nose went under. As gallons of water poured into the dingy I tried to get Jeff back up but it was hopeless. The nose went under, Jeff went heels over head and I went off the sinking front with his suitcase in hand. It was just about the funniest thing that had happened to us on our entire journey and we laughed for quite a while. I managed to keep his bag mostly out of the water and we stood up and laughed some more. That has pretty much set the tone of our relationship this trip. I am glad I was not at all bothered by putting on a show for everyone on the beach. Later the next day I received many compliments on our “Show.” We apparently managed to entertain quite a few people. I even felt happy we could entertain and have something great to laugh about. It was good fun.
So Jeff was on board. Tony and Amanda showed up about an hour later and then Caroline was rowed to the boat. It was strange to have people on the boat again. It had been a few weeks. To have the boat full was rich. It was good to hear laughter from the cockpit and chatter coming from the fore cabin. It was great fun to cook for a group. We played good music and danced around and jumped off the cabin some more. It was a wonderful afternoon. The food was “pretty” good in my opinion but I got some good reviews form the rest of the “crew. “
Yes, they did all become crew. I invited Caroline for a week of cruising. Her ticket was scheduled for 9 days later, so she jumped on the offer of being whisked away on a bloody red sailboat. We restocked the boat on Thursday and waited till Friday to take Caroline from her coarse.
The restocking was an event in itself as we had not previously docked next to a pier. It went well with Tony as first mate and Jeff and Amanda helping out. We got food, about 45 gallons of water, a few large blocks of ice for the cooler and lots of beer. The docking process turned out to be quite easy and I learned a tremendous amount in a mater of 15 minutes. Docking is quite stressful for a sailboat as many docks are cement and cement is not a forgiving material when you run into it or get bashed into it by waves and current. It went off well and I am much more comfortable with docking now.
This whole time I was not getting much sleep and I got chilled a few times and came down with a real smacker of a cold. It got into my lungs and I got a sick cough as well. I was not able to get a good nights rest for the next week so I suffered this cold for quite a while and am now still trying to get it out of my lungs. Boy, life is tough.
I thought that this trip, living and cruising on a boat would get a bit boring or tiresome after a while. The only thing that is tiresome is the perpetual repairing. Everything else just gets better and better. The islands get more and more beautiful as we head south. The people get more and more friendly. The crew gets more and more comfortable with each other and happier. I just wondered when it would stop getting better. It has now stopped getting better but I must save that for chapter 8.
We left beautiful Koh Samet behind in the early morning of the 18th . Again we had a stiff northeast wind coming off the land blowing down the coast. Unfortunately as we got farther and farther away from Koh Samet we headed more and more out to sea. The waves got bigger and bigger and pretty soon they were slowing us down as we crashed from one swell to the next. Our course was for Koh Chang but the boat was pitching and rolling pretty bad. Most of our crew was sick. It was their first day of sailing and they got hit square between the eyes with sickly bouts nausea. No one hurled but no one could go inside the cabin either. We were cruising pretty well in the early morning but by noon we were plodding along through more and more waves. Koh Chang was still about 35 nautical miles away. We had traveled about 20. It was finally decided that we should turn north to shore and find a soft place to anchor protected from the wind. We motored for an hour or two and then Tony threw out the idea of stopping the boat a good ways from our destination. The idea was to get into the ocean and swim and relax after a hard bit of sailing. I was a bit wary as I have read enough stories of being left behind by your boat. I said OK but one person has to be on the boat at all times and everyone has to pay close attention to everyone else. We killed the engine and when we slowed down to a few knots my crew went careening off the side of the boat like fish escaping the land. It was really refreshing to swim with the boat. It was also quite enlightening to realize that the boat keeps moving for a long time. After a half hour she was still moving and I realized she was sailing off the rigging at about 1.2 knots.
We left no one behind when we started up the engine. We motored for another 30 minutes behind this steep cliff by the sea. We headed for a small beach but found that the water was quite shallow a long ways from shore. But that didn’t matter because we had lots of good food, some cold beers and good company. We anchored far from anything in about 12 feet of water. I pulled out my guitar and played for about an hour. The moon rose beautifully right in front of us. It climbed up above the ridge at about 4:30 pm. The Sun proceeded to dazzle us from behind and it was hard to decide where to look. Everyone snapped off a couple of photos because it was just too bloody good. I played guitar and there you have one of the pictures called “G sessions”
The “Jesus Rays” shot is also from the beach at Koh Samet. Quite a glamour shot, that one. You can see Amanda and Jeff in one shot. At some point in the journey someone called Amanda Amander and it sort of stuck. Well, it stuck until she got the name “one who floats a lot.”
Every time I stuck my head out the cabin in the morning there Amanda would be getting in her morning float. Sometimes Jeff would be along side her and sometimes Tony was swimming around her but she was always in the water in the morning. She would just float. If I could float I think I would probably be as inclined to it as she was. The water is so blue it just calls to you. It says, “jump in, swim around in me.” It is also about 76 degrees so who can resist.
I was trying to sleep in the next morning when I heard all this Thai chatter. My crew were calling me and I stuck my matted and creased head out the back cabin door to find two long tail fishing boats pulled up next to us. As I learned later, when they came up to find out what we were all about Jeff tossed them a line and they went crazy with chatter. Maybe excited that these “Farang” from nowhere were inviting them to rock up next to them. Anyways it turned out great and we chatted most of the morning. We had some mutual equipment and a mutual love of the sea and that is about all it took. I was surprised to find they had better depth gauge equipment than me.
It turned out the wind was too strong for them to fish so they came over to find out about us. I don’t think the coast of Chantaburi sees too many wandering yachts. They invited us to their house around the point. Jeff wanted to buy some crab traps as he had started crabbing in the states and found it fairly easy. He was also keen on catching something because we hadn’t had much success with rod and reel. The first thing Jeff caught with his new crab traps was this fantastic pale blue octopus. It was quite a large catch; about football size. Possibly knowing it was on the menu for the evening, it skillfully slipped out of it’s container, off the side of the boat, while we were doing 6 knots, and, I have no doubt, waved “See Ya’ Suckers” as it sunk to the murky depths.
I am running ahead again. These strands are hard to slowly untangle.
We towed one of the fishing boats around the point because their engine was giving them trouble. We anchored off the beach and came ashore. We were then heartily greeted and then tossed in the back of a truck with the one other local “Farang” and taken to the market for food. We shopped for an hour and then came back and they found a couple of ice blocks for us and then sold Jeff 6 crab traps for 50 Baht a piece. That is about 1 dollar each. They then went back to the boat with us and helped us load up all our food and ice and crab traps.
The “Girls” bravely plunged head first into a horribly foul smelling cooler. They bleached it and scrubbed it and sloshed it with salt water until it smelled sweetly of bleach and the sea. We then loaded it with ice and stocked our food. All the fishermen hung around while this was being done and chattered away and laughed. It made me laugh that they got such a kick out of our boat and hanging around on it. Absolutely nothing was stolen and they left slowly and reluctantly. I was really getting quite tired from talking all morning. It is not obvious when I tell the story but I am the only one that speaks Thai fluently. Tony comes in second but is quite far behind. He is doing great for two months but it is hard to hold much of a conversation unless through sign language. Despite a pretty bad cold and fever I talked for about 7 hours straight; translating, explaining and describing. I was ready for sleep. I took a nap while Amanda cooked a tasty omelet.
About an hour later I realized that the tide was dropping and knew that we had anchored in water that was too shallow for the tidal change. I asked Tony to check the depth gauge and he found it to be about 7 to 8 feet deep. The boat sits about 6 feet in the water so it was time to move. I left it to Tony and Jeff and they handled it well. They motored out and anchored at a good depth.
Just about half an hour later the fishermen returned with their two boats to pick up Tony and Jeff. I retired into the forcabin for more sleep and Tony and Jeff hopped onto each boat. They motored to “Large Breast Island” and pulled up on the small beach. At first Tony and Jeff had no idea what they were doing. Then one of the younger guys shimmied straight up a palm tree with nothing but his arms and legs and proceeded to kick down a whole bunch of coconuts. Yummy. They had to wave Tony away because one or two almost landed on his head. They ate coconut for a late lunch and then started to fish. Tony and Jeff would be better at explaining this but I will try even though I was not there. The father stood on the prow and watched for many small fish breaking the surface in schools. It took a few minutes but when they did spot them they were on the pack quite fast. They started dropping their nets in a wide ark and every ten minutes they would hit the water with this strange PVC contraption. It was made of a few different parts and when it was used to strike the water it created this popping sound which would frighten the fish and heard them into the net. They continued circling into this spiral that got smaller and smaller until finally they were ready to pull. They then followed the net and pulled up hundreds of fish per meter. “It was pretty cool” Jeff explained later. The fishermen told me later that they had a particularly good catch. Tony estimated about 200,000 fish and Jeff guessed in the millions. The fish were only about 2 to 3 inches long but still that was a lot of fish. The of the pictures we have in this segment are of the afternoon fishing session Tony and Jeff had with our friends. The “PVC pop” is a good action shot of the strange tonal instrument. Tony said they spent a good 30 to 45 minutes just hauling in. Pretty strong chaps. They returned to our boat a bit after dark with tired yet excited smiles. The fishermen left us with the two small barracuda and the few squid they also caught in the nets.
Jeff prepared the barracuda after I cooked up a little “Pak Boong.” They were so fresh he just gave them a light fry in oil, salt and pepper and we ate them right out of the pan. They were fantastic. So incredibly fresh. The flavor was perfect and they were not over cooked at all.
There is something I must explain. In America, I don’t much like fish. It always tastes fishy and I am not much of a fan of the fishy flavor. I now realize that fresh fresh seafood, right out of the sea, is wonderful. I love eating fish in Thailand. I even like squid, clams and octopus. When the food is really fresh the flavors are subtle and complex. Not at all overpoweringly fishy. There isn’t even a hint of that nasty fishiness. I now understand that that fishy flavor is a sign of not very fresh seafood.
The barracuda was delicious. It’s spine was a crazy emerald blue. We quickly finished the meat and cleaned the bones thoroughly. About 2 hours out of the water. Yummy!
We had another nice night of beer and talking but headed to bed a little earlier as we were leaving Chantaburi the next morning.
We awoke and I found Amanda, Tony and Jeff all floating in the morning sun shimmering up from the water. What a great way to live. I took my morning leap off the cabin top and swam around until we pulled up anchor. I managed to leave without turning on the engine. As usual we had a stiff morning Northeaster and I raised the jib and we swung around and took off down the coast. We raised the main and hit about 7 knots with the boat heeled over quite a bit. Today no one was seasick. Everyone was wearing that stupid happy smile that I guess I must have been wearing as well. I love the feeling of the mast and sails pulling the boat along at a brisk 7 knots.
We sailed all morning and at about 11 am koh Chang’s tall mountains loomed in the distance. I managed to cook “Pat Saiew Moo” with the boat heeled over 15 degrees. I was lucky to have the competent assistance of “One whole floats.” She is even good at cooking. That’s her degree of course. A food studies major.
At the time Caroline was piloting. Damn, they could sail away without us men. I like women like that.
Lunch was good and we continued on. After lunch Jeff volunteered to wash up before anyone else could say “go.” That is what I mean by a great crew. Everyone was on their tasks before I could say anything. That is any captain’s dream. I got to thinking about safety and realized that we had not yet practiced any type of man overboard drill. I figured everyone had enough exposure to sailing to be able to help. I gathered everyone and discussed the procedure as I learned it in my Coastal Navigation class. We needed to practice turning around first and what to do if they could not sail back. I decided that was a good idea and so Tony was at the helm and Jeff and Caroline manned the sails. They managed to tack very smoothly a few times and set a coarse and then I had them jibe once or twice. Jeff was quite good with sheeting in the main quickly before it could really rip across. They did perfectly well. I then discussed one more time the steps to follow if a man goes overboard. Someone has to be spotter and keep an eye on the person. Our life preserver needs to be tossed. The coarse needs to be noted and reversed by adding or subtracting 180. The boat must be turned around and when picking up the person the pilot has to be couscous not to run them over or pass them by.
After I felt they were competent I walked up to the front of the boat and tossed myself overboard. I also wanted to teach a lesson in how fast the boat moves past a person in the water and how hard it is to spot someone at sea with even small waves. They were ready for the lesson and they all performed quite well. I must compliment Tony’s leadership and Caroline and Jeff’s speed at resetting the sails. I had only a few moments of that fear that I know every sailor gets as they watch the back of their boat sail away without them. It was a bit creepy being in deep water but when they turned around and were slowly pulling up next to me in less than three minutes I couldn’t help but feel proud.
We anchored that afternoon off a tiny island on the west coast of Koh Chang. The reef rose up quite fast from a very flat sand bottom of 40 to 45 feet. It was too difficult to get close to the beach so we decided to take advantage of our fairly long anchor rode, 210 feet in length. When anchoring we usually work with a 1 to 5 theory. In 40 feet of water we should set 200 feet of line. This gives us quite a diameter to swing but we were fairly far from the island so I felt safe.
On the island there was a tiny picturesque beach with swings and coral and soft white sand. Just one more beautiful beach. Jeff proceeded to set his crab traps here and there and I swam in to the beach to have a look around. We met and witnessed an orange red oil painting of a sunset with all kinds of yellows, deep purples and 6 different violets. Just 300 yards off the beach was this beautiful red boat blending into the blood red, purple water and sky. I could feel my heart swell a little.
That night we drank more beer and someone cooked. I can’t remember. We laughed and chattered and talked about how shitty it was to be living on a boat, cruising the gulf of Thailand. Maybe I shouldn’t rub it in. It was actually a choppy night and the boat rocked steadily until late morning. I was a little nervous as it was the deepest we have ever anchored. It turned out well and our trusty CQR anchor proved it’s holding power once again.
The next day Amanda and Tony wanted to hike so we made for one of the main beaches on Koh Chang and headed inland. Everyone was interested in a “vice” run; Cigarettes and beer. We needed banks and internets as well so we came ashore. We rented a trio of motorcycles and cruised around the island. With Caroline holding onto me it was difficult not to keep going forever.
We headed for one of the larger waterfalls on the island in the afternoon. I had actually been there before but it was still quite a sight. The water was ink black liquid and in the pool with the falls it went down very deep. The gash where the pool sat went down about 40 feet from what I have heard but I had no goggles and wasn’t about to dive down there. Jeff and Tony jumped in and I followed. At one point we asked Tony to see how deep it was so we could jump or dive in. As we watched him swim down he started to fade into the inky black in such a creepy way that we all started shouting for him to come back up. He managed to go down about 15 to 20 feet before he started to vanish.
Of course Jeff wasn’t afraid at all and laughed at my silliness. We swam to the far end and he found a great seat right in the falls. Tony climbed up two opposing walls that were only 6 or 7 feet apart and bracing himself sideways got up about 5 feet and held it for a picture or two before he fell. Caroline joined us and then Tony and Jeff left. It was romantic but I couldn’t stop thinking of the standard horror film scenario.
Amanda, “one who floats” was found “doing what” you might ask? Floating in the lower pool as seen in the photo “Freshwater”We joined her, Tony and Jeff and I ate tart mangoes that Jeff purchased and drank some beer Singha which Tony smuggled up in his bag.
After about half an hour I felt really light and cool and almost airy. I was wondering why I felt that way when it dawned on me that this was the first fresh water we had been in in almost a week. It was completely refreshing and I felt like silk. Ahhhh. We all walked a little lighter back to the boat.
We found a big fish restaurant and ordered cocktails from the bar. Most of the drinks we pretty bad and the Long Island Ice Tea was completely rejected by Jeff. Actually I did the rejecting and he did the feeling guilty. But we proceeded to rack up a large bill with fresh fish and all kinds of drinks. I was introduced to a “Real” Kamakazi when we ordered the parts ourselves and had the bartender mix it in the right proportions. Tart!
This story has gotten rather long. I am sorry if it is too much for some of you. I am testing my ability to really capture in appropriate language our experience. But I am starting to think just parts and snippets and short segments would be quite enough.
We motored around the southern point to the southeastern bay on the island. We stopped again and just swam with the boat for another 30 minutes. I love that sort of floating. Tony climbed up his ladder to the spreaders and jumped off. We had done this before but I don’t like to do it as I have again heard of the dangers. I climbed up to do it too, like an ass. I jumped and I felt the spreader bend sideways. I made it into the water fine but I knew in my heart that I was going to be repairing that spreader right soon. It turned out that it is one of those things that can go a few weeks before repair.
Tony and I had met an entertaining German in Bang Pakong when we were working on the boat in November and December. The German’s name was Deiter. After we met he went on a bit of a sociopolitical tirade about the western world, the middle east, Oil politics and finished off with George Bush being a “Damn Cowboy.” Tony and I tactfully responded but sort of let him go on for about 30 minutes until he himself realized he was getting a bit crazy about politics and that we were just two nice guys who like to drink beer. He came over later and we drank beer and talked about boats and had a very nice time. He explained to us that he was building a pier in the southern bay of Koh Chang and if we make it down there we should dock on his pier.
This was just about 40 days ago. We were rounding the point of the bay and I felt a great sense of accomplishment. I called Deiter with my cell phone and he told us to pull up and we could talk. We pulled up to find that he really was building, or should I say in the process of building a pier. It is mostly a skeleton with loose planks and cement here and there. We anchored and pulled up two lines off the rear of the boat and sat about 5 meters from the pier. The depth is great but the access sucks. Ah well, beggars can’t be choosers.
Deiter was about to run back up to Bang Pakong to work on his boat some more but he had a little time to talk and said we were free to stay and take power if we needed it. I seem to run into a lot of these characters. I think they see the young poor adventurer and they give and help and explain and charge nothing. I guess they know they have my gratitude and I think when they see us sailing away they are proud or happy or satisfied. I can’t seem to put a finger on it. Maybe later.
We spent a wonderful next day off a beautiful pair of islands joined by a walking bridge. The snorkeling was good and Jeff caught a kite. I am not sure exactly what a Kite is but it looked like a stingray to me. It tasted pretty good as well. We had Mook and Pai, our friends from the Korean Barbee Q restaurant on board as well as a nice tour guide/ local who knew where to anchor and where to fish. It was a lovely afternoon and Caroline and I explored the two islands and snorkeled most of the day. We returned to fresh fish and Kite and I fired up a “Pat Pak Luam Mit” which is basically fried veggies in oyster sauce. It was a good if not slim meal as we had 8 people on the boat. The most we’ve had to date. It was fun and I found that there was still room to move around and enjoy the boat. If we are on a day cruise I think even ten people would be comfortable. Sleeping over night is another story.
We dropped Mook and Pai off in the afternoon and then cruised to our last beach. Time was running out for Amanda and Caroline. Jeff mixed a few “drinks” with his favorite Thai Whiskey “SongSam.” It was delicious. I let Tony pilot us to the beach we had seen just outside the bay. I decided to sit on the top bar of the bow sprit and enjoy the breeze and my cocktail. It was a beautiful afternoon and I sat there the whole ride out. I could see Caroline and Amanda chatting and laughing on the deck and Tony and Jeff sitting in the cockpit talking away. It was just about as close to heaven as I think I have been. To have a drink in hand, good friends close by and laughter in the air as we cruise around to another deserted beach on a boat I rebuilt. Oh Boy.
When we anchored I pulled out the guitar and proceeded to howl. After a few drinks everyone else started to howl as well. Caroline actually sang very well and showed us her talent. Amanda was a perfect audience and Tony a great drummer. We sang into the late evening. The stunning sunset photo was taken by Tony at some point during the evening. I drank until I was “Trollied” but played on. We ended the night on “Rocky Raccoon” with Jeff, Tony and I howling like mad dogs over and over again until we gave up trying to remember all the words. It was fun.
I managed to drink enough to worship our little porcelain toilet bowl for about half an hour and then dragged myself off to sleep. I awoke and looked out the cabin to see . . . . .I know you can fill in the blank. I dove in and we swam and explored and played for most of the early morning.
Finally it was time for a little work after so much play and pleasure. I wanted to clean and repair the wind spirit before everyone took off. The crew was keen and agreed easily to my request. We scrubbed and washed with buckets and buckets of seawater. We rewired and soldered. We wrapped and cut rope. We packed up all our personal belongings. Caroline did a masochistic job on the kitchen. I couldn’t have asked for better from any person. Amanda scrubbed half the deck and then proceeded to scrub most of the main cabin floor. I took the best job. I crawled into the bilge and scooped oil with a spatula. We have an oil leak in the water intake system that needs a few O-rings which are impossible to find for a 26 year old engine. I am presently working on that task and I will let you know when I conquer the problem.
I got most of the oil out and we flushed the bilge with dish soap and buckets of salt water. We then pumped it all out and came out with a very clean bilge. I was surprised to find that dish soap is a great emulsifier of oil, for anyone who wants to know.
We labored for about 3 or 4 hours until my list was completely crossed off. No one complained and everyone put in 100 percent. I did have to hassle Jeff to get his shit off the deck and stowed but after a bit of cursing he complied. Jeff’s bedroom has been the deck and top of the cabin for most of this trip so I shouldn’t give him too much of a hard time. I guess he loves that fresh breeze and sleeping under the stars.
We motored back to Salak Pet Bay and the girls jumped off and found a nice expensive place to stay. We spent the night on land with fresh water showers and aircon. What a change.
We had a huge goodbye dinner and Amanda ordered the Jungle Curry. I had no idea how spicy Thai food could get. It was pretty much inedible, even by my standards. The rest of the meal was pretty tasty. We ate crab and Red Snapper and fresh vegetables. It was a great meal but the crew was subdued. Saddened by thoughts of tomorrow’s departure. Tony, Amanda and Caroline hopped on a Songtaew, Thai truck/bus, and sped away at 7:30 am the next morning. I didn’t want to say too many goodbyes so Jeff and I stayed behind a day to look after the boat. I was worried about leaving her for the next 4 or 5 days to go up to Bangkok for my younger sister’s Thai style wedding. I was justified in my concern as I returned to a host of problems and mistakes.
That’s for the next story though.
Tony wanted to spend the last night he could with Amanda in Bangkok and then he wanted to do some solo traveling up North away from the sea. I could understand and just asked that he be back around the 2nd or 3rd of February before we leave for Koh Samui.
Jeff and I spent the day working on the boat and I tried to keep Caroline off my mind. We slept on the boat that night. The next day Jeff and I ran for the morning ferry and Jeff plummeted through the wood pier. The wood was thin and not very wide and it took a bit too much weight with Jeff’s bag and himself and we went right through the floor and down 8 feet to the water. Luckily there was about 3 feet of water between him and the reef so he didn’t hit it too hard. He sliced up his feet and hands and bashed a huge bruise on the inside of his arm by trying to catch himself on the way down. He still managed to walk up to the beach and make it to where the Songtaew was to pick us up.
Meanwhile I was on the boat wrapping things up. I had to swim for the dingy to get her back to the boat and as I was pulling myself on the dingy I gashed both my hands on the base of the oarlocks. They were bleeding profusely as I tried to get ready to leave for the Songtaew. What a mess!
We missed the Songtaew completely but got a ride with another guy going into Trad. Jeff took a shower at the nice hotel we stayed at the night before and cleaned up his cuts and I washed mine with Betadine.
It was a bad way to start a trip into Bangkok but we made it to my father’s house safe and sound.
That wraps it up I believe. I could write another ten pages easily but I feel that is enough.
I send my love to those at home,
Captain Andy