Two Weeks at Sea
I've just returned from sailing up and down the Thai Andaman islands – stunning! More students this time, so at Phuket Mark, Jimmy and I heaved over to Aeolus, a 35' Beneteau Bahamian sloop. Aeolus is the god of wind, as featured in da Odyssey – a bestseller from way, way back. Along with Chris, the owner and instructor-in-training, and Skip, the instructor. We sailed up in the Kay Sira, and in tandem with her back down, dropping anchor at some beautiful uninhabited islands as well as a few tourist hot spots. Sailing up, we had very light and poor winds, but coming back down the seasonal North Easterlies kick in with a thump! We had great sailing back down, almost 7 knots at one point.
I can now handle a crew, plan and pilot passages, plot position by GPS and dead reckoning, plot Course to Steer vis a vis leeway and tidal stream, moor, identify buoyage and lights, identify horn and bell signals, etc. Next week we begin the Yachtmaster theory portion – lots of complex tidal work, navigation, and a painfully thorough drilling of the IRPCS (International Regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea).
Am told there are lots of summer jobs in the Med and Aegean skippering charter and flotilla boats. Hmmmm. I'll be qualified for that, if I don't fuck up.
Wally is an American who lives on a tiny Thai island and runs a barebones resort. It's the stuff of novels: diesel generator held together with twine and soldered coathangars. Wally is a self proclaimed 'Fat Old Fart' who is beloved by Yachties who drop anchor there for a home-cooked meal and cold beer. He is famous in these parts for his Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts, which book up months in advance.
Ao Nang – En Route to Phuket
Arrived Tuesday late at the stunningly beautiful Ao Nang in Krabi province. Finished up off the beach with some Man Overboard exercises under sail, then anchored 500m off the beach. Since the boat is named Kay Sira, apparently it's logical to name the dinghy 'Doris'. The immediate area boasts some of the most picturesque geology on the Thai coast – huge monolithic towers jutting up from the sea. The town is a jumping off point to many popular spots, such as Ko Pi Pi, as well as what some call the most beautiful rock climbing in the world. I'm writing at 6:45 AM while sitting on a bench above the beach, and have a 7:30 rendezvous with Barry and Doris. The entire crew met up early last night after Barry and Lynette had moto'd into Krabi Town to find roof tiles for their Langkawi house. Sourcing good quality building materials in SE Asia isn't that much of a problem, but finding any kind of aesthetic variety is often quite a challenge. Upon meeting up the sky decided to grace us with a healthy downpour, and since an open dinghy in the rain is not much fun, short beers became long, and the rounds added up. We basically got trashed, waiting for the rain to stop.
I used to like Thailand, and might still, if I keep to my word never to stay in Phuket/Patong again. It really is the worst of SE Asia. To add insult to injury, prices for tourist services all along the West coast of Thailand are fixed. A Thai Massage is Bt200 an hour, no matter where you go, no matter which island. From island X, there are a gazillion longtail boats that will take you to island Y. But you know what? They all charge the same inflated rate. In Patong, our Australian hostel-keeper mentioned that a taxi driver was shot to death in front of his business (22 times) for undercutting the local price structure. It's really off-putting that Thailand is putting the big squeeze on tourists. That's why I like Malaysia.
Did I mention that Langkawi Island is entirely tax and duty-free? A 1-liter bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin costs about $12.50 US. My room at this little hostel costs about $8.50 a night. This place has Fandango written all over it.
Farewell for now, friends, I'm meeting my crew in a bit for dinner on the beach.