We arrived back in Phuket on the day after Thanksgiving. When you travel East to West for this distance, you cross the Date Line and actually lose a day. Unfortunately, the day we lost was Thanksgiving! We actually celebrated it a week later when Carol’s brother Tom joined us for a few days on the boat.
We ended up staying in a hotel for the first 5 nights because the Air Conditioning on the boat was not working. Its working fine now but we need a new pump, which was ordered.
Shortly after arriving, I was rudely reminded that there are the 4 rules to follow when driving in Phuket:
- All traffic laws are merely suggestions
- Follow the 10 second rule at traffic lights….you have 10 seconds after the light turns red to stop and you can start 10 seconds before the light turns green. It gets very interesting if all follow the rule at an intersection, as you can imagine.
- You are required to learn the fine art of tailgating. . Lets say you are traveling south on rte 402, the main 4 lane road here. In the US, you are supposed to stay one car length away from the guy in front of you for each 10 mph you are traveling. Here, if you are even more than ONE car length away, someone will cut in front of you, occupying that space If you are travelling at 60mph and allow 6 car lengths, six people will cut in front of you. If you let them do that, and back off, it will happen again and again. Theoretically you will never reach your destination, at least not before bedtime. I have therefore found myself doing what they do, which scares the heck out of passengers (like Carol). I just have to remember to change modes when I get back to the states.
- Don’t hit these guys!
Its always “fun” to come back to the boat after you have left her for a few months under the care of someone else. Generally, the arrival is full of unpleasant surprises. Fortunately for us, the boat was clean and in good order.
We were particularly concerned about the interior as we had a new electric TV lift installed to house our new TV. We contracted Phuket Inter Wood Working once again (they painted our boat and did some other work inside prior to this). Once again, they did a spectacular job!
We were pleasantly surprised at how nice the interior was. There was not a speck of dust anywhere, which is surprising because of the amount of woodwork that was done.
Notice how they removed the old refrigerator and made identical copies of the two left hand cabinets. It is a very cool installation as with a push of a button, the tv now disappears into the cabinet below.
One of the first things I noticed was that a bilge pump light was going on frequently so I lifted the hatch in the bow compartment and found a hose dripping into the bilge. Unfortunately, the leak did not originate at that hose, but in a fitting in the bottom of the anchor compartment, which was all but impossible for me to reach. I contacted a local firm to help. One of the workers, a local Thai named Bao, was small enough to fit into the compartment.
We ended up completely rerouting the hoses to the sink and shower in that area as we could not service the hose fitting where they were.
I commented earlier as to the deteriorating condition of the batteries because they had not been maintained while we were away while in Hong Kong. Recently, we had been adding water on a twice weekly basis and turning the charger on and off frequently to prevent over charging. The batteries were 12 years old and it was time to change them. The big issue with that is we were going to change to “maintenance free” AGM batteries from the Wet Cell ones that we had. They will not last as long, but they are easier to live with. The bad news is that we had to have a new rack manufactured to accommodate the new batteries.
Old Battery removal
We used a local company called Octopus Electronics to do the job and the installation was very neat and clean. Getting the old batteries out was a major project. They are very heavy and we ended up having to use our dinghy davit to lift them out.
New Stainless Racks prior to assembly
Assembling the racks (new batteries to the left)
First Cruise of the Season
We took the opportunity while Tom was here to do a shakedown cruise for overnight at one of the local islands called Koh Hong. The cruise was beautiful and the anchorage, as usual, was gorgeous.
The only “event” was when we went to pull up the anchor. During the summer months, we took the opportunity to have the anchor chain re galvanized, which is a metallic coating you have put on the chain to prevent corrosion. I think they may have “overgalvanized” because when we pulled up the chain, it kept getting stuck on the chain stripper (see photo below).
See the arrow pointing to the $9 chain stripper
The purpose of the stripper is to keep the chain from winding around the drum . you can see it is like a thin metal finger sticking up into the chain wheel. Also, I think when I installed it after putting the chain back aboard, I may not have tightened it enough as it bent in half and broke. It is a very sturdy piece of steel and it took a lot to break it. To replace it from the manufacturer, Maxwell, would have been $60 plus $50 in freight for one. Here in Phuket, I had THREE of them made for $27 total!
The real cruising season begins here in late December. The plan was to start cruising right away after the workers left, but Carol and I had to go back to the US in late December to tend to a family member who was ill. I ended up coming back alone for a few weeks because we had our friends Don and Sharry from Seattle were arriving for a pre-planned cruise with the CCA (Cruising Club of America). The cruise started on January 18th with a duration of about 7 days. Don and Sharry have cruised all over the world on their boat, a 75 foot Northern Marine “Starr” (www.starrvoyage.com), but had never cruised in Phuket. We only had about a week and it was difficult to choose the places to go, as there are so many. I decided to focus on the Eastern side of Phuket as the distances are short between destinations and you certainly get a flavor for the area doing this.
I guess it is customary to bring a gift for the host of the trip (me). Don himself is sort of a techno geek like me when it comes to boats and we bored Sharry to death talking about boat gear and such. She was VERY happy when Carol finally arrived!
Anyway, Don brought with him the latest and greatest as far as electrical connectors go. Anyone who owns a boat finds it frustrating to deal with the Hubbell style dock and boat connectors. You have to look inside the connector and match the prongs with the proper ones on the other side. If it is dark out, it takes several tries.
A local Seattle firm, Smart Plug (www.smartplug.com) came up with a novel approach. It is a new style plug and you cannot miss on the first attempt. It was easy to install with the tools they provide and it plugs and unplugs very easily.
In doing the installation, we removed the old Hubbell connector from the boat only to find that one of the wires completely loose and was falling out of the plug. It is a dangerous situation and I have learned that now those things have to be checked periodically.
Finally, after a short while, the task was complete. I am impressed at the way it works. I think that I will replace the other 240v connector and the 110v connector soon.
The first stop was Ko Hong. Its where we take everyone because it is Phuket cruising in a nutshell. It has emerald green water, towering cliffs and a Hong (Thai for room). It is basically a cutout in the center of the island with one or two entrances. When the tide goes out, there is no water at all, but when it comes in, there is a few feet, good enough to go in and explore.
Invariably, when you first arrive there, a Longtail boat will approach you to try to sell you fish. If you are lucky enough, as we were, they have fresh Prawn…mmmmmmmmmmmm.
Because we are Farangs, they believe we are all rich and therefore charge high prices. Know what? Its okay and its worth it for the experience alone. By the way, I may have drawn attention to the boats in a previous blog, but I do so again because they are so unique. They are built of old wood and nails, are never painted and the propulsion is whatever old engine they can find attached to a long tube with a propeller on the end. Very cool and some are very fast too!
Needless to say, I am happy to report that Don and Sharry enjoyed themselves very much. They especially enjoyed the Thai food, although, for some reason, everyone gets the Thai Plague usually once. You can just imagine what it is like, but it only lasts for a day or so. Sorry Don and Sharry………
Don and Sharry (Center) with two CCA friends
After Ko Hong, we left for Paradise Resort and anchored there for the night. It is a cute little resort tucked away on one of the islands. It is a good stopover with a nice restaurant. Early the next morning we headed for Rai Le Beach, which is in Krabi, about 30 miles east of Phuket. It is a beach resort community with no automobiles. Access is by Longtail boat only. It is also the home of a large community of Rock Climbers and you see them with their gear everywhere. These guys are in REALLY good shape and they need to be! The cliffs are nearly straight up!
Long Tail boat
Rai Le Beach
I don’t think anyone is ever ready for Phi Phi (pronounced Pee Pee), which was our next stop. It was the place chosen by CCA for the mid cruise rendezvous and a huge party! When we got to the secluded, quiet harbor, I could see that Don and Sharry were kind of thinking “whats the big deal here, it is just dead quiet?” Okay, I said, lets take a boat ride to the “other” harbor”. We took our small Nautica inflatable to the main harbor, where it all became very clear: MAYHEM! Several dozen motorboats of all sizes running at full speed coming in and out of the harbor, crossing your path and providing the excitement of near misses and swampings for your entertainment. When we finally got to shore, we tied to a barge and did the tour of the town, which is thousands of food and clothing businesses, tour agencies and massage parlors. And don’t forget the kids….thousands of them under the age of 25. At night, the place really comes alive. The bars serve these drinks called “buckets”, which are large containers of mixed liquor with who knows what else inside. Its not pretty…..and you can imagine what the morning brings…..
The party that night was what you would expect from CCA…spectacular. Lots of food, drink and fun. They are truly a great group.
Seabird was the only boat on the trip that was not a charter boat, so you can imagine how poorly equipped the group was. One of the women slipped and fell, creating a couple of nasty gashes which needed more than a band aid. Seabird to the rescue. Since we cruise in remote places , Seabird is a virtual floating hospital and can handle almost any situation as we have scalpels, surgical staplers etc. We didn’t need to use those, but the nurse who came on board to get what she needed was impressed. She said that we were better equipped than many clinics in Phuket!
Carol finally arrived at the end of the cruise and was able to enjoy a few days with our guests.
Next Blog: Our trip to the west coast of Phuket…..
Our adopted beach doggie “Blackie” with her new family (actually there are 9 of em)
Don after a rough day at sea
Fellow CCA cruisers