Cruising the West Coast of Phuket 2013

With Carol back on board and the last of our guests departed, it was time to do, as it turned out to be, the end of our cruising in Southeast Asia (More on that later).

We had sampled the west coast of Phuket last season, but just for a short period of less than two weeks. Since that time, we had learned a lot more about the west coast and the places to visit. 

There are some things that I should have done before leaving, and I should have known better. There are two things (well, more than that actually) that are critical for extended periods of anchoring. One is a good watermaker in OPERATING CONDITION and the same with the generator. The fact is, I did not test the watermaker prior to leaving port and the generator had shown signs of running a bit hot before we left. I assumed that the watermaker would function. In the past, if there was an issue, it was a stuck valve, clogged seacock or a leak in the system, all that could be remedied on the run. On the generator, it had to be either a bad thermostat, a clogged air cleaner or low coolant, all of which could be fixed after we left the marina. I was wrong all all counts.

The watermaker sprung a leak in the main booster pump and it could not be fixed without a seal kit, which I did not have. Fortunately, Seabird carries about 1000 gallons of water, enough for nearly a month.

 Unfortunately, I only had less than half a tank to start with because we really love to have the purity of reverse osmosis water in the tank and decided not to fill it at the dock. Bad move……. Anyway, we decided to conserve for three weeks and came back to the dock with over 100 gallons to spare. We took short showers, only ran the dishwasher and clothes washer when we had a full load, and did not wash the boat at anchor. Doing the opposite of this, which is what we do normally, seems gluttonous, but being able to do this is one of the advantages and luxuries on board Seabird that many do not have, and we enjoy it. Oh, how we suffer on Seabird…..

The generator was more of a problem. Each time we ran it, the overheating problem became worse until we got to the point that we could only run it for short periods, just enough to keep the batteries charged. I changed all of the things that were obvious like the thermostat and the air cleaner, but it became evident that the culprit was the fresh water coolant pump, which I did not have. Seabird is Keel Cooled, which means that the coolant from the engine circulates through pipes under the hull, exposing them to seawater, which cools the coolant in the pipes as it passes through ( I also cleaned the keel coolers, another obvious potential problem). 

Nothing stops the fun on Seabird

The cruising was just spectacular as it is always in January through March. The wind is coming from the Northeast so the west coast of Phuket is flat calm, even in the open bays. The wind averages 5 knots, there is no swell activity and the nights are a balmy 78 degrees Fahrenheit! Not too shabby!

We started the trip by visiting Nai Harn beach, a cute little harbor on the southwest coast. We had stopped here last season, but it was so rolly that we only stayed one night. This time it was flat calm, at least for Seabird. Our dinghy was another story. Since there was not a dock to raft to on shore, we were forced to use the smaller inflatable, our 9 foot Zodiac with its anemic 2 hp Honda.


Getting ashore required good timing at the end, lest you be caught in a wave that could flip the boat. You kind of just hover about 25 feet from shore and let the waves pass under you, then follow it in with all the grunt (and it is not much with 2hp!) that you can muster, then jumping out of the boat, the two of us picking up the dinghy and carrying it to a safe area on the beach before the next wave hit. We were not always successful…..

Nai Harn has a cute little town with great little restaurants and shops, typical of the Phuket beaches.

 Nai Harn

Our next stop was Ko Similans. We stopped there last season and we remember it fondly. It is a gorgeous national park filled with beautiful rock formations, sandy beaches and clear, blue water.

 Koh Similan

I decided that it was the perfect location to inspect the keel coolers and the rest of the bottom of the boat. I dived down and seeing that everything looked good, I popped up to the surface only to come face to face with a poisonous Sea Snake. He was probably more curious than anything, but being two inches from my facemask, with his head out of the water did its job on my nerves. Carol said that there was a rooster tail behind me as I was swimming to the ladder! Actually, they would only bite if provoked and their mouths are so small that they need to go for the skin between the fingers (or maybe eyelids!). The picture below isn’t the actual guy, but looked just like him up close.

Oh, did I mention that the small dinghy had a slow leak in the bottom and the big dinghy motor crapped out? The small dinghy leak was not much of an issue and easily fixed, but the big dinghy problem was another that had no easy solution. The primer bulb from the tank had expired from exposure to UV from the sun and I did not have another. I had another, but used it and did not replace it. Fortunately, there was little use for the big dinghy in the places we visited.

Ko Surin

Ko Surin was another stop that we made last season and other than meeting some new friends, an Aussie and his friend from the US, it was uneventful so after a day or so we moved on to our biggest treat…..Ko Phayam.

Koh Phayam

Several friends had mentioned it to us so we decided not to miss it this year. Comments like “it was the best place we cruised in Thailand” and “don’t tell anyone about it!” had urged us to make it a stop. Normally, you try to make the cruise as short a as possible or plot the course “as the crow flies”. Going to Ko Phayam, you cannot do that. Getting to Ko Phayam from Ko Surin in a straight shot would require you to pass through Myanamar (Burma). Even though relations with foreigners have thawed, they still do not want boats cruising there without the proper permits and they are not easy to get. Here is the course we took: The light colored curved line to the left of our course is the Burma border.

We arrived there and were not disappointed. It is one of those places that you stop by for a day and end up staying for a month. I hope the pictures can capture the mood of KP, but I don’t think so. When we arrived, there were 4 boats in the large, protected harbor. In the US, it would be packed. No ones seems to know about it and hopefully it will stay that way. Most of the readers of this blog are not cruising Thailand so I do not feel like a squealer, opening the floodgates for yachters! 

 Sunset on Koh Phayam

First of all, there are no cars on the island, only motor scooters, who also serve as the taxi service. You wave one down, hop on the back and 25 cents later, you end up in the town, a sleepy little village with local family owned shops and restaurants.

When we first got to shore, we found a place to dump the trash and, by recommendation of a local Aussie that we met, headed for town on the back of two scooters to see if we could find someone with a bearing puller to remove the bearing from the shaft of a water pump. We found a local bike shop with just the tool. It was expensive though……I think he charged us $2.60 for his services!

While we were there, we rented a motorscooter, which is the best way to get around on Ko Phayam. It was the first time we had done this since the early 90’s on Block Island, where my brother in law had a bad accident on one. We had never been on one since…….but what the heck! 

 It took me a LONG time to get used to it again. I am much less reckless than I used to be and my reactions are not as quick anymore. Without it, however, you will miss so much of the beauty of this island paradise!

We met up with our good friends Neil and Ley (above) in Koh Phayam and had a great evening at the local hippie bar for drinks. I promise you that you will never see a bar like this one anywhere else!

All good things must come to an end and in this case, we really had to leave after 4 days so we headed back under formal protest from Carol

We had been out for nearly three weeks, I didn’t not want to run out of water and we had a date with SEVENSTAR (who is that, you say???). 

Our next adventure

With a heavy heart, we had made the decision to leave Thailand after two seasons. We love the area, the people we met, local and foreigners, but it was time to move on. We will miss them all and sadly, we may never see them again. That is a truth accepted among the cruising community. When you leave a place, you tend to just say “see you later”, kind of pretending that you will see them soon.

Our goal had always been to travel around the globe on Seabird. So far we have made it halfway. Unfortunately, taking Seabird from Thailand to the Med is fraught with danger, not because of sea conditions, but because of the threat of piracy. In the entire trip, there is only about a 500 mile stretch that is dangerous, but the area is unavoidable and insurance companies at this point will not cover yachts in that area. In addition, it seems personally reckless to risk it for a small cost savings over transporting the boat and for the adventure. There have been several instances of piracy on small vessels that have resulted in the death of the passengers or kidnapping. Not worth it to us.

The other option was to head to South Africa and we really did not want to go to that area as it is a long run to the Med from there.

We decided to put the boat aboard a transport ship along with 16 other smaller and larger boats and ship it to Marmaris, Turkey. The plan was to lift it aboard in Mid March and arrive in Turkey in late March.

Next blog (and soon!), Sevenstar and our ship, the Thorco Svendborg… A sneak preview below


Some more pics of our trip

When you cannot afford even the smallest motor….

Stroll on the beach


Low tide and low energy, sans flip flops







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