Sent: Saturday, March 01, 2003 3:05 AM
Subject: Chapter 10
Before this begins I think I should introduce some of the
You all have a bit of a feel on my pop.
Tony has been on the trip so long he is also a known. The only addition
I can add about him is that "Tony’s always right." It
usually seems to be the case and even when he’s not we are never
paying attention. So, along with most of my boat rules, is the unwritten
rule that Tony’s always right.
Jeff, my cousin, the fisherman and cocky bastard has left us for a life
stateside. We miss him here and talk about him frequently. He left a few
days after the crossing. I am glad I can still write a few more words
about him. I am glad he stayed with us when we crossed the gulf. It was
comforting to have his talents and companionship during that leg.
The last character for this leg was John. John is one of Tony’s
friends from San Diego. He also knows my sister pretty well. He went to
Coronado High School for two years and then dropped out. His last name
is Sedberry. Juli, you might remember him from high school. He got his
GE after he dropped out and went to community college. He got a fake ID
and started to party hard with a group of friends 6 or 7 years older than
him. A few years later he recognized the future of his present state and
moved to SF and became a bike messenger. How long he did that I am not
sure. He did eventually get a degree in business. How that fits I don’t
know. He has also worked the last few years as a Financial Adviser. I
like that. It adds complexity.
In his early twenties he moved on to the life of an artisan. He took an
apprenticeship with an expert furniture builder and wood carver. He has
a nice wood shop in his loft in San Diego and I must admit that I am incredibly
jealous. I hope someday I will have a "shop," either in the
garage or in a back shed. Maybe even in a room in the house if my wife
He is a carpenter and has skills I can put to use on this boat. He has
done quite a bit of work already.
John is also a musician. He plays guitar very well and knows about 50
more classical pieces than I do. It is wonderful to hear the guitar on
the boat in the afternoons. The classical is calming and adds just a little
more to the scenery and the world we are living in.
John is also a bit intimidating. He is a serious serious man sometimes
and reminds me of "Agent Smith" in the Matrix, a stern looking
man. He is a bit of a lady-killer too. At the same time he seems a bit
afraid to commit to anything. He stays away from the women. He has already
been married and divorced so I can understand where he is coming from.
Tony has also been sending home pictures and stories but since he is not
spending so much time telling the stories he is way ahead of me. Therefore
you might see some of the photos twice. I am trying to catch up.
The morning we were bound to leave one of the main beams that supports
the floorboards cracked and splintered. There were too many large men
running in and out of the boat stocking it up. Tony called it to my attention.
There was a question of "should we stay here on the dock another
day and fix it?" I said "Bloody hell no." "We are
leaving as scheduled."
So we did.
I asked John, our carpenter, to see if he could do anything about it.
He found and explained that it was not serious and he could fix it with
a little work. The beam had split and was sagging. What had to be done
was to prop up the other side of the beam to build it back up to the top
half. That was done fairly simply with a small block of wood. This raised
the split segment back to the original part of wood and then we had full
support again. Now it was two beams of half the size supporting that area.
It was a good solution.
I would like to rebuild the floor completely because it is showing it’s
age and it’s use. Unfortunately that would be a huge task, which
I am not ready to try or pay for. It would involve rebuilding the entire
frame under the floorboards as well as the floorboards themselves and
going under present pieces of furniture and equipment, which are solidly
fixed down. I must let it go for now. I must focus on the more critical
systems, which need work.
We motored from Leam Gnop through sheet glass most of the morning and
got to our coral heaven at around 1 pm. We played in beautiful coral and
clear blue water for a few hours. The water was a deeper blue, yet with
sand below it turned an electric florescent color that I am having trouble
describing. I think Tony’s pictures might do it some justice.
While snorkeling I saw this giant starfish with about 20 legs. It was
crawling over a coral plate and looked like it was eating the coral. I
wasn’t sure if it was actually eating the coral but it looked creepy.
I dove down close to it and stared at it. The colors were surreal, blues
and purples mixed with whites and greens. I touched the sides of its spines
a few times. The spines were soft and movable like plastic. After playing
around with it for a while I asked John if he had any idea what it was.
We puzzled over it a few minutes and then left it behind.
The coral-scapes were amazing. One area had tight canyons winding together
into high plains. It reminded me of a coral version of the Rock Country
in Utah. All the scenes you see in old Clint Eastwood Movies, with little
fish dodging in and out of canyons.
There were little farms of sea anemones. Little clusters of 20 or 30.
They looked dangerous. When we swam over them they got crazy and swished
their spines round and round. I would float over them and agitate the
whole cluster just to get them riled. Usually I try to avoid them but
at the time, I was feeling playful.
It was a nice afternoon and everyone got their fill in the water. It’s
a gift to be able to crawl up the ladder and have a bit of food and a
nice soft cushion to sleep on. A cruising vessel is one of the best places
I have ever lived.
Later on in the afternoon I was looking at the back section of the Dive
Thailand book we have. It was the dangerous animals section. Low and behold
there was that crazy starfish I was poking at. It is called a Crown-of-Thorns
and I quote from the book "The spines are venomous and can deliver
a painful sting even if the animal has been dead for two or three days.
Seek medical aid. Neglected wounds may produce serious injury." Yikes!
I immediately looked through the rest of the section and then asked everyone
else to take a look at it. It is good to know your local venomous creatures.
At around four we motored over to the calm side of Koh Rang and found
a pleasant strip of sand to anchor in. I didn’t explain how we were
going to anchor to my father and every time, just before Tony was going
to throw the anchor, my dad would ask some question about our methods
and stop the whole procedure. Tony would watch as I explained a bit more
and then we would go around again. I guess I took it for granted the way
Tony and I work together on this boat. We look at each other, realize
we are thinking the same thing, nod and then go about doing it. I told
Tony only two sentences and he was ready to set the anchor at my command.
We were doing a forward set along the reef going north to south and using
our momentum to dig the anchor into the sand.
I had not explained this to my pop and we went around three times before
I realized my mistake. I then explained to him our operation and the fourth
time around we did a good set about 100 meters off the reef.
Well before this event my father and I talked about who should be captain.
My father was gracious and left it to me. It made things easier for me.
We are partners in the ownership of this boat. He sailed this boat for
short periods of time for many years. He has a lot of sailing experience
from that time, as well as growing up sailing in the Puget Sound. At the
same time, I have been cruising this boat for about one and a half months
straight. I have also been repairing and maintaining the boat during that
All this posed the question in my mind of who should be captain. On a
boat there should be only one captain. Also between father and son it
could be difficult. When I asked if he was alright with me being captain
he said "Of course, I don’t mind." That was a nice thing
for him to do.
We enjoyed another great evening and my father and I rowed over to some
fishermen anchored nearby. We wanted to ask about the weather and what
channel to listen to on the radio for forecasts. He told us that he had
just listened to the forecast and it would be calm and clear for at least
the next night and day. We talked a while with the captain and I climbed
around the boats and chatted with the crew. There were a lot of young
Thailand’s neighbors to the east and west have suffered years of
government instability and revolution. Both Cambodia and Burma have pretty
severe unemployment. Each of Thailand’s borders see an inundation
of young men and women coming in search of a decent salary. We have heard
stories that sound so much like the US border stories with Mexico that
it is hard not to draw certain conclusions. Labor will move to higher
paying markets. Money used to be the only economic factor that moved relatively
freely between boarders. This new change should speed up the equilibrium
of markets around the world.
My father and I returned to the boat and we all had a tasty meal prepared
by Jeff. I call him "Short Order" and he more than lived up
to the name. He prepared some excellent meals during our crossing and
spent the most time in front of the stove.
We all crashed pretty early and awoke the next morning to find a gentle
east wind blowing.
I knew that, by my calculations, the trip should take 46 to 50 hours going
at 4 knots. I calculated a low speed for stops and any possible accidents
and in case we decided to sail slowly during the entire trip.
If the trip does take two days then I would like to arrive at our destination
around 8 or 9 am. It is best to arrive during the day rather than night.
I did not want to do any more night navigation. We should also have most
of the day to cruise around the island to find a good place to anchor
or dock up to. Therefore moving backwards two days we should leave at
9 am. We left at 9:30 am on the morning of the 10th of Feb 2003 to cross
the gulf of Thailand on a course of 215 Compass.
motored past most of the rocks and islets around Koh Rang and headed out
into the gulf. We pulled up the sails and killed the engine and made about
3.5 to 4 knots for a few hours. It is very nice to use just sails on the
Wind Spirit. She moves so smoothly across the ocean with a nice breeze.
We didn’t have a stiff breeze but we had enough wind to turn off
the thud thud thud of our little Volvo Penta. It is very relaxing to sail
this boat. Once we set a course and trim the sails, everyone just sits
back and relaxes. There is nothing to be done to get us there faster.
Only one person can concentrate on our course, so everyone else just reads
or talks or sleeps. We had some dancing at one point but that was a bit
The other thing you have is the lapping of the waves and the slight rocking
of the boat. The noises of the ocean and wind seem to set everyone’s
mind at ease. The only smell is the salt on the breeze that washes past
you. Maybe someone is in the galley preparing something tasty or Tony
is chopping up a pineapple for everyone.
The sails are pretty full and we can feel the main and Genoa pulling the
boat forward towards our destination.
We turned the engine back on after 2 or 3 hours, but then turned it off
again. The wind was a gentle easterly which didn’t want to pick
up anymore than about 6 or 7 knots. It was out of the perfect direction
for us though and we took full advantage of that. We sailed a beam reach
straight across the gulf. We were headed southwest and the wind was blowing
out of the east-southeast. We couldn’t have asked for a much easier
wind to sail with. If we had had a northeast wind, which was more common
for this time of year we would have had a slow downwind run most of the
trip. The week before there was a strong northeast wind and there were
wave warnings in the Samui area. If the wind has a long fetch, or distance,
to blow, then the waves get larger and larger as the fetch increases.
That is why the largest waves come out of the largest oceans. They have
room for the wind to blow hard for long distances.
I was a bit worried that if we had another strong Northeast wind we might
have some serious waves to deal with when we got to the other side of
the gulf. This did not happen.
I was also worried that if we had a wind coming out of the southwest we
would be running right into the wind and might have to fall off and head
directly west instead. That would delay reaching Koh Samui for at least
two days. We would have to sail or motor down the west coast of the gulf.
These were concerns I had about the sailing, but I knew that the engine
was running well so we could always motor where we wanted to go.
The other major concern I had was the shifts we would all have to keep.
We would be sailing and motoring the entire time so we needed at least
two people on watch for each period. I have heard 2 hour shifts recommend
by quite a few people but a few of the world cruising books I read explained
that 2 hours was way too short. The best recommendation I had was 6 hours.
After talking to Jeff about his time in the Navy, it seemed clear that
6 hour shifts were the best. We all talked about it because I like to
have everyone’s opinion and input. I also feel that everyone is
more willing to work with the result when everyone has some input and
can express their ideas. I have been trying to run this boat more like
a commune or a team of volunteers. I think it works best when I am not
exercising my position. I have made it clear that when I do exercise my
authority that everyone must act without question, but I have only used
that a few times in the last two months.
The consensus was 6 hour shifts so 6 hour shifts it was. I took the first
night shift with John. Jeff ended up taking the shift with me instead
but it worked out well. I took over the helm at 6 pm. We were motoring
at the time because the wind was too light. As the sun set just off the
starboard bow, the moon rose right behind us. It was a half moon going
on full and it lit up most of the night. Jeff and I were just a tad disappointed
because we were looking forward to more constellation finding. The moon
was blindingly bright. It lit up the waves and the horizon like a cool
white fluorescent light. It was comforting and I was not ungrateful. We
talked well into the night and I became more and more tired. I was nodding
off for a while as Jeff napped on two and a half cushions.
Once out into the open sea there are no islands or mountains to take a
mark on, so you just sail by compass. I know my compass has a considerable
amount of deviation so we set a course using the charts and then the GPS.
Once we have a course, we then correct the bulkhead compass, the one we
use to steer the boat, to the right heading and then steer that course
the next few hours. I checked this course heading every 6 hours to make
sure our course was good and to account for tides and currents. We sailed
and motored a fairly straight line across the gulf but had to adjust a
bit as we approached Koh Pangan.
It was strange for us to sail by just compass, because we had never really
done that before. We had sailed many many jumps down the east coast but
were never really out of sight of land.
Sailing by compass alone means focusing on the compass and then taking
looks around for freighters and other ships. We have no autopilot so the
person piloting must pay attention most of their shift. I left it up to
the pair of crew to decide how they wanted to divide their piloting time
during the 6 hours they had to be up and awake.
We motored through the night.
One of the disadvantages of a beam reach wind is that the waves also come
onto the side of the boat and this tends to set it rocking pretty badly.
If there are large waves it is best to hit them head on or at a 45-degree
angle. In this case they were not large enough to deviate from course
but large enough to rock the boat considerably. We were rolling from 25
to 30 degrees on the port to about 25 to 30 degrees on the starboard.
That was a 50 to 60 degree change. I had previously asked that all gear
be stowed and all lockers closed. I was glad I asked that as the boat
rolled back and forth furiously, most of the night. The motor was on and
we kept on cruising. Most parties slept on deck as the wind was comforting
and the engine was not so loud outside.
Tony had not been on the boat much in the last week and so I think he
lost his sea legs. He got pretty seasick the first night and proceeded
to hurl over the port side and onto the empty gas cans on that side. He
hurled for about 20 minutes and then came back feeling much better. I
think he hurled up most of what he ate during the day until it was just
dry heaves. He then recovered. Considering how much we were rolling I
was surprised no one else did the same. I think everyone was feeling it
but holding it in. I would feel a tickle in my belly when I went into
I have found the best thing for seasickness is a stiff breeze blowing
on the face and staring at the horizon. Sometimes it helps to be piloting
the boat because you get both of these things.
At 12 midnight my pop and Tony came to relieve us. It was a good thing
because I was just about asleep when they came around. It would not have
been a catastrophe but we would have sailed off course for a while. Not
quite like falling asleep at the wheel of a car, but certainly not good,
either. We were crossing the gulf though and there really isn’t
much to hit.
We motored through the night and Jeff and I tried to sleep. Little luck
as the engine ground on. It was comforting to me in a way. To feel sure
enough about the engine to run it all day and all night is a great thing.
I slept some in the wee hours of the morning but I don’t know about
I think the 12 midnight shift was pretty hard and I am glad my dad and
Tony had it the first night. I wanted the 6 to 12 pm shift so that I could
deal with any developments as the sun set and night really came upon us.
There was nothing to deal with accept to steer. Great!
I awoke to the engine and a stunning morning in the middle of the Gulf
of Thailand. There is something great about the sun coming up. When the
world seems a bit too intense at night everything seems to relax in the
morning. The sun rose behind us, and the wind started to pick up. There
were a lot of clouds around us and I was again worried that we might have
a squall or some kind of storm system behind us. My father mentioned Thailand’s
worst hurricane a few times and that just agitated me some more.
Apparently the wind was out of the east just like this when the largest
storm in Thailand’s recent history blew away a couple hundred fishing
boats in southern Thailand. We watched the squalls for a while and could
see the rain coming down into the sea off in the distance. We were going
to take a swim in the morning to celebrate reaching the midpoint of our
journey but Tony looked so absolutely exhausted I wanted to put it off.
I also wanted to watch the weather a little longer to see if anything
The squalls did not look rough. There were no walls of white or any whitecaps
we could see through the binoculars. It looked just like mellow rain so
we decided to raise the sails. The wind was picking up gently. We wanted
to tap into it.
We raised the sails but kept the engine on. Tony and Jeff were still sleeping
inside and it was just my father, John and I. We put up the Genoa and
then the main sail. We sailed for about half an hour when the wind started
to pick up. I was not very worried because it did not seem like much of
John and I watched as this wall of rain moved toward us. It was a perfectly
defined wall. It was 100 yards off, then 50 yards off, then 20 yards off,
and then it was a few feet away. It was no more than a few feet away,
yet still there was not a single drop of water. John and I sat there mesmerized
as it came on us. I was amazed and just waited for it to hit us.
When it did it was just rain. Hard cool rain coming down on our heads.
It felt good. No, it felt great. I think we were all in need of some fresh
The boat healed over about 20 degrees as both sails took in the wind.
It was not that strong so I was not concerned until the base clip on the
Genoa snapped clean off and the sail flew away. It didn’t actually
fly away but out of sight. I was in the cockpit and the sail pulled off
its base clip and flew up to the top of the forestay. I could no longer
see it and it was quite a shock.
Tony and Jeff came stumbling out of the cabin wondering what was going
on. John was steering and my father was barking commands so I took over.
I put the engine to work and headed up into the wind so we could take
down the Genoa. My father and then Tony completed the task pretty efficiently.
The specialized clip was easily replaced by a "D" clip.
Before we raised the sails again I decided it was time for a "Tony
I think it is very refreshing to jump into the ocean partway through voyages
so that is exactly what we did. I must give Tony credit though. He was
the originator of that excellent idea. We stopped the boat and Jeff graciously
volunteered to stay on board for the first segment, while we leaped off
the side of the boat. I love that feeling. We tied a rope to the side
of the boat and hung off it as the boat continued to sail on it’s
rigging. It was wonderful. We had no masks on but were holding on as the
boat pulled us through clear electric blue water. It was about 90 to 100
feet deep. I clambered to the front of the boat and played on the prow
for a while. I drifted back and then I noticed a large brown/gray form
I freaked out and jumped into the dingy and proceeded to scare everyone
else as well. A few of us crawled back into the boat. John was savvy enough
to pull out some masks and pass them around.
I knew it was not a shark as it seemed round and I saw the sides flapping.
It was large though and it still freaked me out. I would say it was about
5 to 7 feet across and 4 to 5 feet long. I put on the mask and jumped
back into the water and tried to find it. It was gone.
We did see two suckerfish though. They were large and were circling around
under the boat for a while. The visibility was really good so we could
see quite a distance. While at the prow of the boat, I could clearly see
Jeff at the back of the dingy, trailing 15 feet behind the boat. That
makes a total of about 50 feet. I think the visibility was about that,
if not farther. It was stunning.
Unfortunately we saw nothing else. I now think it was a large manta ray
tailing the boat. Sea creatures seem to do that frequently. I have heard
of it many times in sailing books and magazines. Unfortunately I will
After about 30 minutes of flowing through the water everyone got tired
of it accept John and I. I was still looking for Mister Manta Ray and
I think John was just enjoying himself thoroughly.
Finally I gave up and crawled up the rope ladder and John followed soon
I wish I had had a little more composure and not freaked out. It would
have been great to calmly point out a huge manta ray swimming along with
the boat. Ah well, live and learn.
We continued to motor for a while and were well past our midway point
when the engine died. Shit! I knew what the problem was right away. I
had planned to change over from the 60 liter tank to the 80 liter tank
halfway through our crossing. I had completely forgotten. The reward I
received was to spend 30 minutes bleeding the fuel system. Diesel engines
need to be bled if there is a clog or water in the system. They also need
to be bled if there is an air bubble. This was the same problem we ran
into in Salak Pet and we had learned how to deal with the problem. Apparently
though, I hadn’t learned my lesson not to run the tank dry and pull
all the water and gunk from the tank into the engine.
Lesson learned; never run your tanks dry and always top them off when
you have the opportunity. We first switched to the new tank and then I
bled the fuel through each bleed point. My father came down and told me
to use the bleed valves, which were much easier. We then got the fuel
running through the entire line and then the engine started just like
Back in motion, we were. Yah!
I closed the floorboards back up and we motored for a while longer.
As the day wore on the wind picked up.
Soon we turned off the engine and by 2 or 3 pm we were just sailing. Wonderful.
I think everyone wanted to sleep at this point but we had our shifts.
Tony decided it was time for his "Penang Curry." I love to learn
to cook, but I think I love it even more when others take on the challenge.
Tony had it hard to start with because he had to cook for 5 hungry men.
He made a large pot of coconut milk and then I think he added too much
curry paste. We have had a lot of trouble with curry paste. We always
buy it in the port towns we re-supply at. Unfortunately most of these
towns are out of the way. They are small towns.
My father has explained many times to me that as you get farther out into
the countryside, the locals add more peppers and the food gets spicier.
As a result most of the curry paste we buy is mother F---in’ spicy
stuff. I learned to cooked a red as well as a green curry but have shied
away from cooking them because I always seem to make it too spicy. It’s
either too bloody hot or bland. I cannot seem to find the perfect amount.
I am explaining all this so that Tony’s Penang Curry has some context.
He was cooking in fairly large waves as well and that is also credit to
his ability. Well, maybe a credit to his bravery. He Proceeded to make
it really spicy hot by adding, quite easily, too much curry paste. He
then tried to dilute it. Unfortunately the pot was not large enough and
eventually he had to transfer to another pot. At one point my father tried
to help him with the pots and ended up burning himself. The stove is gimbal-mounted
so it is safer to let it swing. My father saw it swinging and tried to
stop it. He got burned and Tony told him to stay away.
Tony managed to transfer his curry to a larger pot but lost about one
third of it onto the floor. The boat smelled like Tony’s Penang
Curry for about a week. It wasn’t so bad because his Penang Curry
smelled and tasted pretty bloody good. About 30 minutes before he was
ready to serve it, this fantastic odor was wafting out of the cabin. Everyone
was watering at the mouth. I think we were all tired and quite hungry
so Tony was in for a good crew for his Curry. He served us up right. We
started chowing but found it was really hot. I don’t want to make
out that Tony is a bad cook because I know he is quite the opposite. In
this case though it was almost too hot. Everyone ate on, as did I, but
it was a bit painful. I remembered a super spicy curry I made a few weeks
back and felt bad. We all ate as much as we could and left the rest. I
know that when he makes that dish again it will be perfect. He had all
the right ingredients and it was delicious. It was just a bit too hot.
I was not worried about the spill on the floor because it was hot enough
to kill most bacteria and it sort of added a nice curry smell to the cabin.
I helped clean up after dinner and then went to sleep. I nodded off for
a while but didn’t sleep much most of the night. In retrospect I
am not sure why. The engine was off at this point and we were healed over
a little. It was ideal for sleeping. I guess my body was not ready to
sleep so I just didn’t. It was still very relaxing though and I
felt at peace.
A while before midnight, I awoke. I went up to find my father and John
talking about life and people and the meaning of it all. I was not ready
for such a discussion so I disappeared back into the cabin.
While we were cruising from Leam Gnop, my father decided we should share
about our lives. We should explain the most powerful moments of our lives.
The times that changed us, and our way of thinking. I don’t think
I’ve changed much since high school. I am still seeking adventure
and going out on a limb. I still love the ocean and value my friends.
I was having trouble thinking of what to say for this question.
On the other hand, Tony had a serious emotional time with this question.
I think he made us all cry a bit. He told us of his brother’s death.
John Vernetti had Hodgkin’s disease and worked through a few years
of the cancer before it took his life. John was a young man at the time
and very much loved by family and friends. It was a really hard blow to
Tony’s family. The way he talks about it, I know I cannot understand.
I can empathize and I can feel some of the pain but I cannot really understand.
He started to cry and then we all started to cry. It was a painful yet
powerful moment. I think we all felt a small part of what it must have
been like. John died about 10 years ago and still the pain is there.
I had no such moment and I was trying not to get annoyed by the obligation
to talk about it. I had a hard time in Japan while I was working there
as a teacher so I talked about that. It was good enough and by that time
I think everyone was tired of the whole thing.
I don’t want to say that it was a bad idea though. It is nice to
share our life’s experiences and often it is the spark for great
conversations and exchanges of ideas.
When John talked about history and why he was fundamentally interested
in reading about it, it launched us into a very interesting conversation
about the present state of world politics and some parts of history, which
led us to this point. It was intriguing and ate up about 3 or 4 hours
of our cruising time down to Koh Rang.
I am glad that I know Tony and John and can call them friends.
It was also interesting to listen to Jeff talk about his life as it mirrored
mine in a lot of ways. Our mothers have been good friends most of their
lives and I can easily see the parallels between my life and Jeff’s.
I also see that cockiness in myself as well as that powerful interest
in solving life’s mysteries through reading. Jeff is an avid reader
and I love that about him. I think he is better read than I. He knows
his movies too, which I am also envious of.
Maybe I should get back to the story at hand.
The moon was out something mighty powerful. It was as bright as could
be but was setting in front of us. The shadows of the moon were all over
the boat when I finally took over. It was fantastically beautiful. The
ocean was rolling and our sails were up and full. We were capturing the
wind and speeding across the sea towards our island destination.
I think part of the richness of sailing at night is just the pull of the
sails on the boat. Looking up to see curved white surfaces bulging from
the press of the wind. We could feel the water passing below us as the
waves parted for our prow. The waves were no longer our masters as we
sliced through them. They still passed us by, but we had the power of
the wind now. We were mobile in a wholly different sense. We were moving
through the water at a pace of our own and the world 40 feet above us
was filled with taut canvas. The whiteness of the sails and the moon on
them created light and shadow in graceful arcs.
The noise wind makes as it passes over sails; a soft ruffling, reminds
me of bed-sheets at night, soft cotton rustling in the wind.
The whole world seems at peace when you are sailing a gentle breeze at
night. It was actually stronger than a gentle breeze. It was moving us
at a good pace but was not frightening, despite all the moon shadows across
We were sailing the same course as the night before but with the sails
up we were healed over comfortably. We were rocking only 10 to 20 degrees,
which was much much better. It made me wonder if we shouldn’t have
raised the sails last night and motored as well. The sails seamed to balance
The moon finally set.
We had the universe above us to stare at. It was an unfamiliar sky. It
was the 4-in-the-morning sky. We did find Ursa Major and a few of her
neighbors. I love being able to map out the sky. Thank you Jeff for that.
He taught me the techniques and now I can do it well myself. I have in
turn taught John about 5 of Orion’s neighbors.
We had an ETA of 6 to 7 am.
I must admit that I did rely on our GPS most of the trip. I am not able
to navigate by the stars, (yet) and once we are away from land that is
the only means besides GPS. I have 3 GPS Units on the boat. One is our
main unit and the second is backup. The third is Tony’s but that
will return to the states with him.
Our GPS was giving us an ETA of 6 or 7 am. I had programmed a location
about two or three nautical miles north of Koh Pangan. I was planning
on circling the island to the west side. The east side of the island was
a lee shore so I didn’t want to go there. I wanted to find the most
wind coverage possible. The original north GPS position was set so that
I could come to a decision about what bays to explore. It was a starting
point and ending point. It was the end of our straight haul across the
gulf and the beginning of our search for a safe, comfortable bay to rest
and relax in.
That point was our ETA point. We had about 2 or 3 hours. The horizon behind
us began to glow. It was filled with more clouds and small squall lines.
All of a sudden I realized we were heading toward this huge shape. It
was Koh Pangan. We had had a visual of it for a few hours but hadn’t
looked. We thought it would be flatter and harder to spot.
It was large and black in the night. The stars hid behind it in purple
darkness. It was misted over with clouds and shadow. It looked beautiful.
Jeff and I watched as we realized our journey was coming to an end.
The sun slowly rose behind puffs of mellow cumulous and what looked like
soft rain. People started crawling out of bed to see the sun come up.
My dad and John popped up, then Tony. We were all looking at our island
and the sun and the clouds and the colors and talking and laughing. We
made it! We had a super easy crossing. Some things broke on the way but
we had no horribly strong wind. We had no frighteningly large waves. We
had a perfect gentle breeze almost the entire journey. What a great trip!
Everyone was happy and proud. I was definitely proud of us all, and of
the boat. She made it across. She carried us across just fine. The sun
rose behind us.
I really like having crew on this boat. I sometimes wonder if I will be
able to cruise alone. Not because of ability but from loneliness. It is
nice to have good people onboard. It is great to have my father sailing
with us. It is great listening to my father make everyone laugh. What
a skill he has.
At about 3 or 4 am Jeff noticed that the starboard side spreader was off
its hinge. We had had some trouble with this before but I was not able
to come up with a reasonable solution to repair it. The spreader was loose
from Tony and I jumping off it many weeks back. I was actually the one
who broke it. It was screwed in with two bolts. The threading had worked
lose on one bolt from my jump.
I guess as we sailed most of the second day and night all the rolling
probably worked the other screw loose.
It fell out of its brace and was hanging on just the side shroud. Scary.
The inherent danger was that if we put any stress on that side, the aluminum
mast could bend in half. It is designed to carry large loads when supported
by the stays and shrouds. When not supported it could easily bend and
break, just like that.
Fortunately we were sailing on the other side with the wind coming across
our port side so the port side shrouds and stays were supporting the mast
and the sails.
After sunrise we identified the problem, decided to drop the sails and
We would definitely have to deal with this problem ASAP as the boat was
crippled without sails.
After lowering the sails Jeff was at the helm. He tried to put it in gear
and nothing happened. The gear shifter was stripped again. We had had
this problem way back at the beginning of our journey. Tony had done a
good repair job but apparently it was now broken.
That meant one of us had to shift from right behind the engine at the
top of the transmission. I jumped down and pulled out some floorboards
and put us in gear. We motored for a few hours and watch beautiful bay
after beautiful bay pass by.
This was a really stunning island. The whole thing was covered in jungle
and palm groves. Each bay had some bungalows but they were not that exposed.
In some parts there were really expensive looking places on hillsides
and a few resort style looking complexes but it was not Pattaya with its
huge hotels. It was not Koh Samui either.
We motored around to the southern end and the wind started to pick up
again. I decided to turn around and head for a deep bay I saw earlier.
All the fishing boats were anchored far outside that bay. They were all
near it though and that gave me the feel that it was one of the most protected
bays from the present wind.
My father wanted to go south to the main pier at Thong Sala, which is
the large town on the island. I was worried because I have been on enough
busy piers to know we don’t need more agitation and difficult times.
We also knew nothing about the channel or the pier. I made a miscalculation
and didn’t buy detailed charts of the main docks and places to tie
up. I had been getting around this problem by pulling into a deeper bay
and anchoring well. Then we would explore the main town, it’s pier
and asking all the necessary questions about depth and times it is busy.
Then I could sail around and tie up for supplies or repairs a day or two
My dad felt comfortable just heading into the pier so we could take care
of repairs right there in Thong Sala. We talked about it for a long time
and eventually he agreed to do things from our safe bay. It would mean
more work shopping and exploring but it would also mean everyone could
get off the boat and relax and rest.
I felt extremely exhausted and was not interested in more challenges.
We anchored in a bay called "Had Salat." "Had," means
beach or bay and "Salat" is short for "Joan Salat"
which means pirate. So, we were anchored safely in Pirate Bay. Great!
It was beautiful enough to deserve such a name.
We set the plow anchor at a central location in the bay and then I proceeded
to put on the harness. Someone had to get winched up the mast to take
down the hinges for the spreaders. I was the lightest and had the most
experience thus far. They pulled me up and I took off the hinges in about
45 minutes. It was not very easy and my legs kept falling asleep. The
harness was well tied and wide enough but I was resting on it for long
periods of time so it was pinching my femoral artery. Good stuff.
I got both hinges off and tied the spreaders across the mast so they would
not hang on the main shrouds. While I was up there my father talked this
long-tail fisherman, motoring by, into picking us up in about an hour
and taking us to shore.
There was another issue for me. In all my calculations to cross the gulf
and the time frames we had, I completely forgot that I had to leave the
country on the 10th of Feb. We arrived the morning of the 12th on Koh
Pangan. I was already two days late. It is not a huge deal to leave the
country late, but if you do it two or three times, immigration starts
taking off the kid gloves. Everyday one overstays one has to pay 200 Baht.
That is not much money really, but it starts to add up fast.
With this in mind I had decided to run down to the boarder of Malaysia
on our arrival in the Koh Samui area. That is the area we are in now.
Koh Pangan is one island in this area.
The trip down to the Malaysian Border should be fairly easy from the Samui
area so I had planned on doing that about two weeks before. It slipped
my mind with all our preparations, and with the business of getting other
people where they needed to be, on time. Tony’s friends and brother
were also arriving on Koh Pangan in a few days.
I was going to get off the boat and leave my father as captain and Tony
as first mate. I felt comfortable enough with their judgment to trust
the boat to them. It was also nice to run away from all the problems on
the boat. Everything was broken. Even my watch had broken on the journey.
Thinking back we were pretty lucky to have all that equipment go when
we arrived on Koh Pangan instead of midway or worse yet, when we started
the crossing. I know we could have dealt with the problems as they arose
but it was nice to be lucky.
took apart the gear shifter while I was up in the rafters and found out
that his jimmy repair had held but the other shifter had broken. That’s
points to Tony. Good repair work. They took out the parts that needed
repair and put them in my Dad’s bag. He would be heading into town
to get things fixed.
Before we left for the crossing our fabulous stainless steel ladder also
came apart. It didn’t break completely but started to crack along
the joint that took the most strain as people climbed in and out of the
boat. It was cracking on both sides so we stopped using it. We used a
small rope ladder during the crossing which was much more difficult to
climb. Anyone who has climbed a rope ladder before will know how hard
We also loaded our beautiful ladder up for repairs in Thong Sala.
I had made one other promise before we crossed the gulf. I had promised
to myself that if we made it across safely I would shave
off my beard. It was the longest and thickest I have ever worn a beard,
almost a month of not shaving. It was itching some and the whole "food
in the beard" thing was not making me happy.
While my father showered and got ready to go, I shaved and shaved and
shaved. It came off pretty easy once I used John’s triple razor.
It was strange to see a clean shaven Andy in the mirror. I think I lost
5 years in the 15 minutes it took to shave.
Once I was clean-shaven and everyone else was ready to leave, we motored
ashore. Jeff faithfully offered to watch the boat. I am still very thankful
for those times. When everyone wants to go ashore I still like to have
someone on board taking care of things and keeping an eye on her. Jeff,
for whatever reasons, was always quick to volunteer. Thanks Jeff.
We got a ride from a couple of people who worked at a bungalow in front
of where the boat was parked. Everyone ended up renting huts there the
next couple of days and falling in love with the place. It was called
the Coral Beach Bungalows and the owner and cook was super good to us.
She also cooked some excellent Thai food.
We went into Thong Sala and I got a ticket on a ferry to the mainland.
We went to an Internet cafe? while my father ran around finding shops
to do the repairs we needed. He loves to do that stuff and I understand
more and more nowadays why. It’s lots of fun talking with people
and getting work done and finding the parts you need.
I left it to him though and sent the letter letting everyone know we were
safe and sound. We had successfully crossed the gulf in fair weather and
I left Koh Pangan on a ferry headed for Surat Thani at four pm. That is
where this chapter ends and the next begins. With little sleep I was headed
for the Malaysian border as Tony, Jeff, John and my father stayed on Koh
Pangan and went to work or just went about relaxing.
was also leaving soon. We got him across the gulf well within time to
catch his flight from the airport at Koh Samui to BKK. I was headed south
though and I knew it would take a few days. We were parting ways.
All we had was a brief, hard handshake and a smile. It was good enough
though. In fact, it was the way goodbyes aught to be. Short, heartfelt
and then done. I miss Jeff. I miss his company and the nights we stargazed
together. I miss his crab trapping adventures. He caught just about everything
in those traps.
I know he is going to read this and laugh and smile and probably he’ll
say at some point, "That’s not the way it was!" but that
is for him to know.
You are welcome on the boat anytime, Jeff.
I think that wraps up chapter 10.
Much love those at home.
We are safe and healthy.
PS. We are presently anchored in the southern bay of Koh Tao. We are actually
on a mooring ball so I feel pretty safe about her position. I swam down
to check the tie-off point of the rope and found it is tied tight to a
large bolt that goes right through a “house” size coral head.
We are debating where to go next but will let everyone know before we