Sailing Yacht SEA BUNNY

Thailand and Malaysia 2009-10

The Similins, Surins and boat work

On arriving in Thailand in January Sea Bunny visited the Surin and Similan Islands before going on the hard at Phuket Boat Lagoon for some extensive maintenance and modification lasting some 4 months before returning to Malaysia to be left for our UK visit.  We returned to Thailand for Christmas 20099 before sailing to the Andaman Islands for a month (see separate page) followed by cruising in Phang Nga Bay before heading back to Malaysia to join the Sail Malaysia Passage to the East.

03 -12 January 2009 towards Phuket Thailand

Koh Rok

Having refuelled and checked out from Telaga we managed to sail to Koh Tanga 11nM away and dropped the pick in not very clear water. According to the chart Sea Bunny is on the reef when actually we are in 15 m! This often happens. As the chain is grinding on a rock bottom we move into a more sheltered bay when the fishing boats occupying it move out for a night's fishing.The clocks are set to Thai time UTC +7. Next day we sail until the boat is headed and settle in Ko Rok Nok pass -  brilliantly clear waters and worth several days snorkelling. The same can be said for the next stopping place Ko Racha Yai although, being only 10 nM south of Phuket it is crowded with tourists during the day. On the morning of the 8th Sea Bunny arrives in Ao Chalong the point of entry. The dinghy is beached and we check in to this scruffy looking end of Phuket where the business is boat trips.

On 12th Bianca, a spunky local ex pat from the States, has arranged, courtesy of the Thai Tourist board, coaches to take 17 yacht crew on a tour of the yachting facilities of Phuket. A civilised way to orientate us to the area. It was a shame that the rest of the 60-odd boats whose skippers had told her they would be there had not bothered to tell her that they weren't coming. Lunch at Yacht Haven, grand afternoon tea at Royal Phuket, soft drinks at Ao Po, but not even a tee shirt from Boat Lagoon who will get a large chunk of any work! Full to bursting on return to Ao Chalong there was an enormous feast awaiting us all recorded by Thai TV. Afterwards we were interviewed as to our worst and best moments at sea for the TV channel. R said that the worst part of it was having to jerrican hundreds of litres of diesel out to full Sea Bunny’s tanks and the fear of lightning and S thought the best part was enjoying the adventure together. What an amazing introduction to a country. Next day the best supermarket, since Darwin was descended upon for food supplies (including bacon).

12 – 31 January 2009

Ban Thap Lamu

We have been persuaded by the TP’s to join them and Lorainne and Graham (Katanni 11) another cat up to first the Similians and then the Surin islands 5k from the Myamanar border. This is the month to go weather wise, so will look at boat yards later.  After discussion the plan is changed to coast-hopping to give a day passage to the Suruns and than down to the Similans.

Off we go on another adventure, first digging the pick into the soft sand of one of the very tourist beaches Kamala.

Do we count a thousand sun loungers at 10 baht a day? We are not tempted to stay as it is very rolly.

We catch up with the others, who had set off before us, the next night at Ban Thap Lamu having gone up well beyond the recommended anchorage to be well clear of the naval base and the fishing boat traffic off the town.  We are in thick smoke haze from China and a strong NE wind, so we repair to TP for sundowners. Next day in 30kn winds, we battle our way into Ko Phra Thong and a 20 mile inland passage in good shelter.

Ko Surin

After that it was motoring out into choppy head seas and then an exciting sail straight for the Ko Surin Tai. We stay around the two main islands of ten days. Swimming, snorkelling, walking. The water has some fine green algae over it in places, but some patches of coral are found. The visibility is not good enough for a night snorkel. No other boats here except our three. Then Lex, Joanna and teenager Ali (Malaika) appear and a scrabble competition gets underway. Then Dave and Di (Amoenitis) and Alfred and Rosemary (Iron Horse) appear and it’s a beach boules tournament! Amoenitis are being hauled out for their decks next month and it is suggested that we tag along for a quote.  Unfortunately Richard was on dinghy duty while Susan went snorkelling as he had an ear infection.

Similans main anchorage

On to the Similians, (Malay for nine), back nearer the Thai coast. What a difference cruise ships, dive boats, speed boats make; the beach is like Butlin’s holiday camp! Well it is a world renowned dive site area with crystal clear water. Giant smooth granite rock formations plunge into the sea and form seamounts, rock reefs and dive through.

Spider - Similans

Some good walks on shore.  Here we can eat ashore at camper level, adequate. In Ko Kiang, to get a stunning view with Stuart we climbed up to the peak using rope ladders for the near vertical cliff face. All too soon it was time to return to the main land after nearly three magical weeks in good off shore conditions.

1-14 February towards going on the hard at Boat Lagoon

 

 After a 59nM passage from the Similans we settle in Patong, the hyperactive tourist beach, and our senses are assailed by the noise and smoke! But a visit to a Carrefour to stock up is on the cards.  Ripped off by the taxi cartel operating there - 500 m from the supermarket to the jetty is the same as half way across the island. 

We day hopped back around the coast via Ao Chalong and "Prawn Bay" to Royal Phuket Marina, as it is easier to find a berth there than Boat Lagoon, to invite Mrs Nai (Phuket Inter Woodwork) to quote for the replacement of our teak decks. To our surprise, there had been a cancellation and we could lift the following week. Gift horse and mouth come to mind, we jumped at it! As we had not made any definite land travel plans there could be a large free window from now until we go to the UK for S’s Mum’s 100th birthday at the end of July in which to do a major refit.

There followed a couple of days of intensive work to get electrics disconnected fro the mast ot come down, photograph all the deck fittings and ensure we had access below to release them.

14 February – 27 June On the Hard at Boat Lagoon Marina Phuket

Mast coming down

Copious arrangements were made with Boat Lagoon, haul out manager, service men, crane, site, tent etc. Our fall back, Mrs Nai was always there to rescue if our language fell short, which was not infrequent. Thai is a very complex tonal language. First confusion was getting the mast down.  We had not realised that the travellifts at Boat Lagoon do not have auxiliary mast cranes and tried to negotiate with the yard manager, whose skills appeared excellent but whose English was not for it to be done as we lifted.  In the end Mrs Nai organised the necessary crane for the next day. Actually an efficient way of working in a large yard. Second confusion was as we approached the travellift.  As we headed in bows first most of the workers shouted at us to turn round.  R pointed to the poles at the stern but they insisted.  We turned in the confined space available and were backing in when the haul-out manager asked how high the poles were.  We turned again! 

This must be the best place in the world to have such dirty work done. Here in the midst of a resort complex. We were able to rent an air conditioned room overlooking both the yard and marina. So for the next few months we dug ourselves a hole. Up,shower, breakfast, work on boat, shower, lunch, work on boat, drinks for boys, shower, eat, shower, flop into bed. It felt as if every nut and bolt had been removed from Sea Bunny and everything that could be physically removed for cleaning had been. On the hard and supporting us out are Neil and Ley (Crystal Blues) Ken and Judy (Windbird) and Elizabeth and Gerhard (Baloo II).

Boat lagoon slideshow

See the work as it progressed

The action went like this. Clear decks, all deck fitting off photo’d, stowed. With a cast of what felt like thousands from down below; the deck is ripped off. This area was cleared, sealed and rebattened. Then the Burmese teak started to be curved and laid, the pattern of the yard emerging. A fish bone running the whole length of the deck down the centre, with scrolls around the hatches, quite an art. There are no screws this time, only glue. The capping rails were large pieces, as each plank individually curved and laid. When the cockpit pattern was complete it was time for the whole deck to be sikaflexed (caulked). After time to dry it was sanded for three days, what dust.

In the middle of the work, we cannot get a visa extension in Phuket; so fly to KL (Kaula Lumpur) for it. Why we have to spend money in another country in order to get an extension; does not make economic sense!
Now the other contractors can start, like the welders for the stainless steel gantry which would eventually take all the antenna, large solar panels, two wind generators plus the dinghy davits. While doing this, two seats were put inside the push pit and holders made for danbuoys and things. At the same time the deck fittings were being replaced under supervision and the bathing platform and ladders were off the stern for refurbishment. The damaged stern will not be painted until all the welding is complete. It was timely to have the log damage repaired, the stern bearing is now fibre glassed into the boat before it is antifouled and the top sided cleaned and polished. All this work is done under the tent but not if it rains or the humidity is too high.

Down below we have gutted and repaired all the head linings which are taken off for recovering, (dare one say in this amount of dust), in white. So we make good the ceilings but the head linings cannot be fitted until all the deck fittings are in place – talk about an above, below puzzle. At this point, with tempers not entirely frayed, a seacock (that allows water to come through the hull), literally breaks in R’s hand. So out with the bronze, and in with the plastic from Australia and New Zealand. All eleven fittings R either changes or reroutes. Might as well stay a little longer and do it all together while we are on the hard.
The above were the major jobs and do not refer to the joblets (one hundred of these equals one job), that we did on Sea Bunny. Intertwined with all this, are the smiley, cheerful workers; the new friends we made or old ones who come to give their five penny worth and go out to lunch with us! We were very glad of our bikes and rode out most evenings to meet Dave and Di (Amoenitas) from Royal Phuket Marina next door; who are actually living on their boat while their decks are done. We park our bikes then brave the main dual carriage way to eat at the shack cafe across the road. Good fun, good prices. As Judy (Windbird) and S’s birthday’s are a day a part, we combined celebrations by going to the Lady Boy ‘Simone Show’. Ladies with large adam’s apple’s and hands are a taste that is well tolerated here.

Three very tragic deaths to sailing friends occurred during this time

Ali, aged sixteen, (Malaika), died after injuries received from a large flying dock cleat at Yacht Haven. The super yacht, watched by a crowd, berthed; but the gear had then been knocked into forward, popping a row of dock cleats.

Ken (Ken B), had been mowing his lawn in Canada, without a surge breaker, and suffered a severe stroke from the shock resulting in death.

Malcolm (Mr Bean), was murdered and his body thrown overboard by Myanmar illegal immigrants who had been sold to, then escaped from working in slavery on a Thai fishing boat. They had swam to Mr Bean looking for food and possibly the dinghy to get away in when it all went horribly wrong. At the same time as his wife Lindy and family were at his funeral in UK; a group of us went up the big Buddha near Phuket town for a remembrance time.

By 28th May with the rainy season just starting it was a testing time for the new decks – did they leak? Answer only in three places – not bad considering the amount of hardware that has been put on.

20 June – 07 July Slipped and back to Palau Rebak Malaysia

Launch day and no major traumas, the mast goes up. Sea Bunny goes up in the hoist and down into the water. We took a berth and sat in the mud for a week repacking/unpacking from the room.

The new gantry

On 27th the narrow channel is expertly negotiated by the skipper and we feel free! Dear friends Stuart and Nanette TP were waiting at Ko Rang Yai with a lunch of fresh prawns, rye bread and white wine – civilised.

We anchored at Ao Chalong, Koh Racha Yai, Kok Rok Nok and Kok Lean E before entering Rebak. At each place we vainly admired aspects of the work that we had just had done and realised that we had learnt a lot from the exercise while feeling relieved that the bill had been no higher. In Rebak we will rest and put Sea Bunny to bed for our six week visit to the UK, the highlight of which will be Susan's mother's 100'th birthday.

11-20 October – Telaga

Summer palace

After the UK trip there are various things being delivered to Langkawi and it is easier for us to pop 5kn up the coast to Telarga to collect them. First the RIB arrives in torrential rain. As there is no trolley we manhandle it off the van down the ramp and along the jetty to the pontoon. Several boats remember us doing this, eh! eh! Poor fools in the rain. Fortunately there is sunshine when the large bolt of fabric arrives from Gloucestershire. Finally Paul brings the large solar panels on a trolley and dumps these on the deck. Then it is, oh joy, installation time again! The crew of one boat here  tell us of the floating headless body they saw near the Thai/malaysian border. They have been advised not to report this because of bureaucracy. This makes us not so keen to look in the water for a few days.

20 October to 10 November Rebak

Designer bat

The installation continues to be carried out here too. The daily routine is S to Pilates then bike ride and back to boat for ‘the joblets of the day’. If the sky is clear in the afternoon then there is time for a late swim. In the pool several of our crowd meet for a chat and help session.

Halloween comes with a party at the resort. The staff spend two days decorating SY69 for the occasion which is won by yours truly. R went as a vicar dispensing exorcisms, so many ten ringgit for the bilge, twenty ringgit for the engine. He was very popular with the yachties. S as a designer bat with her face browned and her brown beach wrap as wings. The prize was a night at the resort, king size bed - here we come! Although the whole of the aft cabin is a big bed it is fun to get off the boat into a bigger one - very luxurious. George and Eve (Frans Too) whose boat had been on the hard since 2002 are here and it is good to see them again.

Galeria Perdana

As well as the weekly runs ashore one day we head to Galeria Perdana, the lavish museum on the other side of Langkawi built to house the gifts given to Dr Mahathir Mohamed while he was prime minister.  It was refreshing to see them all on view.

 Then up to Gunung Raya to watch the sun set.

The timing of the Thai visas is so that Mr Peh to deal with our bolt of cloth and we will spend Christmas with Truest Passion.

10 November to 23 December - In and out of Phang Nga Bay

We tootle back round to Ao Chalong, via our two favourite stops of Ko Rok and Ko Racha. Meet the TP’s for dinner, then time the tide right up to Yacht Haven where we stay until 27th.

In Yacht Haven we have arranged to come in three to four times over the next three weeks to deliver and retrieve various cushions to the upholsterer Mr Peh. He has been charged with changing the interior of Sea Bunny from terra cotta and gold to eau de nil and the cockpit from navy to white. About twenty large pieces of foam will be passed back and forth during this period, hope it does not rain. His workmanship is very good and like true Thais he will come back and back until the job is complete. We just have to remember that, in this culture, laughter is supposed to offer comfort in an embarrassing situation.

The setting of the restaurant here is ideal over the water and we share some lovely times.. Of course the TP’s; Roger and Elaine (Crabbie), David and Kris (Taipan),. Lex and Joanna sold Malaika after Ali’s death, purchased Tramontana and changed their sailing plans; these friends all spend time with us.

After 18 months on the hard Crystal Blues is being relaunched back at Boat Lagoon with all Buddhist blessings so we share a car down with Tramontana. There is quite a crowd, quite a feast and a very shiny boat.

James Bond Island James Bond Island tourists

Now to the hidden delights of Phang Nga Bay which are noted, so the guide book says, ‘for its classical karst scenery, created by mainland fault movements that pushed massive limestone blocks into geometric patterns’. At sea these form forty islands with huge vertical cliffs like Ko Tapu, the one in the James Bond movie .

Hong

Several of them have large "hongs" - collapsed caves with either a narrow channel or a cave giving access. Firstly we sail north towards the bay for some days, return, then go east towards the western coast of Krabi, return, then go south to Ao Po Marina. Because of the many tributaries flowing in at the head of the bay, the water is not clear at all. This enables us to see some stunning, stunning scenery (if it wasn’t for the tourists) and get the upholstery done.

At Ao Po we meet up with Barry (ex Coco du Mer, now Melabel) now living in Phuket and we enjoy a trip on his motor cruiser for the day and the skills of Nut his accomplished partner and boat captain. It's a bit different cruising at 30 knots compared with Sea Bunny's 6-7. Nut is expecting her first grandchild the same time as we will have our fourth, Catharine’s second. The marina here has the only potable water in the area so a fill up is essential. It also has the best access to the bay as the other marinas on the east coast are very tidal and Yacht Haven is a long way up the channel between Phuket and the mainland. As location is everything in ten years it may be developed but for now there are only pontoons and a restaurant and a not very substantial breakwater.

From there we go to Ao Chalong to laundrette, shop and collect laundry before anchoring opposite in Panwa Bali as Ao Chalong was so, so rolly.

23 December to 11 January – Christmas 2009 and New Year 2010

Christmas Eve spectacle

 An informal meeting, us and TP’s, concluded that the food for Christmas would mainly be a seafood affair of some duration. We shall all share in the preparation and cooking which will make it more enjoyable. Stuart is good with prawns and R with brandy butter so the scene is set and the ingredients foraged for. On 24th we take the boats round to Nia Harn bay for last minute things like R designing and printing a menu in French! In the evening all the yachties go for a meal at a local good beach restaurant – it was a slap up do with a reggae band. Gerry (Scott Free 11) brought us all snazzy specs, these made both our eyes water and dazzled us at the same time, great fun.

Christmas party-goers

On Christmas Day Gerry and Donna (Scott Free 11), Ken and Judy (Windbird), Robert and Chris (Shirina), came over to TP to sample Sea Bunny’s Pimm’s. As some of the men are rather deaf, Stuart was teased about his forthcoming hearing aid. It would be au revoir to Windbird leaving for South Africa and Sirina going to the Mediterranean in January. Lunch was sublime and lasted five hours, small courses and lots of chat. Then an old fashioned movie and digestifs rounded off the day.

Sai Kaew beach restauants

Boxing Day saw us with the ritual phone call to our children, never a hat trick. Following the 2005 tsunami our friend Barry built a house here and started, along with his then partner, Christianne, various local charities. The main one is for education and this next year would see the first university graduates from the local village. It only seems like five minutes ago that he emailed us at Reit’s in New Zealand to tell us the they and their boat were all right. Today we and TP take a taxi for lunch with him and friends to one of the local beach restaurants’ he helped to  re-establish. Today it is the 5th anniversary of the tsunami; the meal is free to all as the family are so grateful to Barry and so pleased to see us all. The meal is gargantuan, the company delightful, the setting at Sai Kaew beach (near the bridge to the mainland) is relaxing. The eskies (cool boxes) are out, so what better way to spend the afternoon.

New year neighbours

To walk of these excesses off the next day the four of us dinghy in and walk to the top of Cape Promthep, the southern most point of Phuket. At the top the view down to the yachts is clear and the sea aquamarine.We now hop round the coast northwards so as to be at Patong, the epicentre of the tourist invasion for three months of the year, as late on 31st as possible to get a swinging circle. Fruit and veg are purchased on the way at the market in Kata. The idea is to keep as far away from the bedlam that will erupt on the beach, while seeing all the action. For this we adjourn to a catamaran we know near the shore, TP, for a late roast lamb before the sky darkens. The colourful fireworks and streams of wishing lanterns are not coordinated yet are continuous around the whole bay from dusk at 1900 to around 0200. We enjoyed it so much that the next day we have sore necks and go over to Naka Lay Bay where there are not so many jet skiers to upset our home.

02 – 11 January 2010

 

Barry had invited us to a party on 5th at his house near Bang Tao Beach so we day hop up the northern tourist beaches towards Bang Tao where we will leave Sea Bunny while we party. At Surin we run up the beach and meet Wendy in a cafe with our mail drop, hopefully some Christmas cards. At Bang Tao we practice the run in with the dinghy over the breakers - so far so good. Next we go for the main event in, pull dinghy up the beach, into a toilet to change, then taxi to Barry’s. Super party, met lots of ex pats and old sailing chums. Nut and her family did all the catering which, as always, was excellent. Lift back to the beach, having changed out of our glad rags. Just at the final run through the waves, the outboard does not start, the boat is flipped and S trapped underneath. She remembers what she did on Seraidi beach, gets down in the water and slowly crawls up the steep beach much to R’s relief. Exhausted, we decided to stay in an hotel for the night and safely drag the dinghy (wheels won’t go down) up beyond the high tide mark to leave it. Then we run the gauntlet of the security dogs at a beach cafe to the nearest hotel. At reception we stand, not at pretty sight at 0100 hrs dripping sand and water, asking for a room from the Thai night staff. With no credit cards and with only enough cash for a taxi we don't have the means of providing any security. S has earrings in the dry bag but these will not count. At a room rate of a pound a minute S asks if we can hire one for an hour for a shower but no. After a hot shower S realised that she must have mild hypothermia, else in this heat she would have had a cold one. We cuddle in thick robes for the remainder of the night. Given the hierarchy of hotel management it is a couple of hours the next morning before we get to see the young Australian manager. He thinks it is a hoot that a couple walked in off the beach so we go back thro the gentle surf to Sea Bunny, then phone him back with our credit card details. The next day, we lick our financial wounds and take it easy.

Now we day hop back to Nai Hain to replenish supplies before setting off for the Andamen Islands. The visas for India,for which we had had to supply photographs taken against a blue background, are ready for collection. We shall meet up with TP’s half way through our visit as they are waiting for Stuart's son Richard and his wife Irene to arrive. We tow the yacht Increscent Moon into Kamala Bay, and we stand by for a capsised hoby cat, on the way. At the second attempt the anchor takes but we move later as we are too close to another boat if the wind changes direction.

Back to the Similans

Having revictualed, done laundry, done deck check and secured everything we leave Nai Harn Bay on 11th. Ko Miang, Similians is where we wait for the wind to the Andaman Islands. It is very sloppy, wind over tide and Sea Bunny lies stern to the waves. It is here that we hear the very good news that Catharine has had a second baby boy at home with Steve and Archie. Young Maximillian Arthur weighted in at over 9lbs and all is well. This set of grandparents are relieved and very pleased and proud. Harry and Ellen (Zwerver), also waiting for the wind, come on board for bubbly.

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Last Updated from Durban Marina on 15 December 2015

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