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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,