Friday, 16 September 2016

1 September Change direction

I ended our last blog post with us leaving Koh Samui and bound for Kuala Terenngganu with stops at the Malaysian islands on the way.  However on the second day of our coastal hop down the Thailand coast I received and email from my sister telling me our Dad was in hospital and very ill, I should come home without delay.
Most fortunately we still had internet connection and as we were sailing and motoring along I was able to book a flight back to England.  Despite the urgency we still stopped and anchored at night.  There are numerous hazards of fishing pots, fishing nets and fishing fleets which make night passages a form of Russian roulette, run over a line and your propeller might be fouled.
Our final night stop was off the smaller of the Perhantian islands, but in order to reach KT in time for my flight we had to leave an hour before mariners dawn. (Mariners dawn is thirty minutes before dawn and is when you see the first lightening of sky in the east.)  In our dark getaway David sat on the bow with a light searching out the fishing buoys.  We had to change direction a couple of times before it was light enough to see without the torch.
Luck was with us today. We made good time to KT and we arrived a t slack water which is necessary for safe docking in the river marina.  Immigration department were on hand to clear me in to Malaysia so I could fly out 4 hours later and I was able to be with my Dad by lunchtime next day.  He was in hospital for two weeks and has now made a good recovery.
sooo good

I came back from UK yesterday to a very warm welcome from David and Polly.  While I was away we Skyped regularly so I kept up with the ongoing boats jobs and Polly's adventures as she makes the most of access to terra firma.  She's being making the most of my absence too; daily grooming sessions by her hairdresser David and sleeping in my spot in the bed.  I left with an empty bag and returned with a bag filled with boat bits, new clothes and shoes for me and some foodie treats which we don't see on our travels.
It was lovely to see my family and to see my Dad better and it's lovely to be home on Jackster once more.

1 August Bophut part 2

We are safely back in Bophut bay in Koh Samui for the last week of our stay in Thailand. We'd timed our return to be a Friday so we could go to the night market at Fisherman's Wharf; food stalls and mobile cocktail bars are a harmonious mix.  From the first we collect sweet corn cobs, chicken satays, prawns and mango salad and take a table at the second and order our drinks; pina colada for David, mango mojito for me.  Our theme for Thailand is food - lots of scrummy food.
On Sunday evening we were at The Frog and Gecko, a British type bar beachside which is convenient to land the dinghy and step off the sand and up the stairs to a table.  Tonight they were showing the Austrian Grand Prix on the big screen.
On Wednesday we were back at the Frog and Gecko for Pub Quiz night.   There are expat teams who come every week and the tourist teams, who like us, are there for one night only.  With just David and me in Team Jackster we are the smallest team.  Going in to the half time break we are in the top three with two large (one team with 10 people) expat groups ahead of us and we are the only team to score 100% in a round.  At the end of the competiton the ten person team have scored highest, but the smallest team scores the highest amongst the tourists. Yes, Team Jackster.  Our prize was a drink on the house.
The following Sunday we were back for another Grand Prix race, this time from Germany and Lewis Hamilton won again.  Is David his lucky mascot?
It's now Monday 1 August and we're cleared out and ready to begin the journey back to Malaysia, destination Kuala Terengganu with stops in Perhentian and Redang islands.

24 July Koh Phangan bike tour

Now David has recovered from his cold we hired a motorbike for the day to explore the rest of the island. Phangan is not large but the topography is hilly meaning the roads are winding and up and down. There are some steep up and downs which require all of David's expertise and care for safe negotiation.
Did you mean to park here?

north beach

north beach art work
On the road into the main town on the south coast  we passed the turning to the bay on the south east corner which is infamous for it's full moon parties.  These attract the young hipsters backpackers, but as oldsters this wasn't on our wish list.
Main town is more functional than attractive with an old naval boat in dry dock as a feature.
A quick stop for a designer coffee and we were back on the road across the centre of the island to the north shore.  It's only 6 miles so we were quickly there.  There was even less to see here on this overcast day; a walk on the beach with stop for a quick swing and then took the coastal road back to the main town.  Parts of this 'road' are a dust track and an accident waiting to happen. Indeed one poor girl had come off her bike and scraped her knee.  Fortunately she was going slowly and wasn't badly hurt and her friends were helping her.
Later in the afternoon we encountered a far less fortunate motorbiker.  We were half way up a steep hill when we were faced by a bike coming too fast down the hill and careering out of control towards us.  Only David's quick reaction saved us.  He quickly read the situation, steered us clear towards the centre of the road and we passed with less than a metre between the two bikes.  Two hundred metres further on at the foot of the hill the young guy came off the bike.  His friend and two passing cars were on the scene immediately to offer assistance.  In any other country we would have gone back, if only for David to berate him for endangering our lives, but given that help was already on hand and we didn't feel we had anything to add, we carried on.  
On reflection, this near miss is probably the closest we have ever been to disaster on our eight year trip.  Nothing on the sea has been as bad as this could have been which leads to the conclusion that sailing is not a risk sport. It's when we come in contact with land that it becomes dangerous.

17 July Koh Phangan

We've been anchored in Thong Nai Noi bay on the north east coast for a week.  It's a wide bay with good holding and on shore many hotels and a 'walking street' lined with lots of restaurants, clothes shops and­­ ATMs to access our money to spend in the shops and bars.
Mr Dollar at Jip's bar

Long beach bay

Polly goes for a boat ride
My cough and cold have cleared but David is now suffering and seems to be more affected than I was.  Despite this, or because of it, we've been having a relaxing holiday; wonderful Thai massages, delicious meals and for me, kayaking around the bay.
 The owner of our favourite restaurant, Jip, has a collection of pets which live in the restaurant; a mynah bird and a baby rabbit called Mr Dollar.  Mr Dollar is a star performer in a different outfit each day.  Here he's hopping from table to table enjoying a lettuce leaf and the occasional sip of beer.

Monday, 18 July 2016

10 July Koh Samui week 2

It had been our intention to move north to Koh Phangan after our first week in Samui but on the day we were due to leave we checked the weather and the forecast was for strong winds beginning two days later and lasting through the weekend.  As we are not in a particular hurry we opted to remain in the well protected Bo Phut day for another week.  My eyes were now back to health but I'd developed a nasty cough and cold and didn't feel too sparkling and needed to rest.  Our days were quiet on board and out for dinner in the evening.
Friday's in Bo Phut is market night; a host of stalls selling everything from tourist collectibles to food stalls and cocktail bars springs up in a large car park from 5 o'clock until late with a party atmosphere.  This market rotates around the island in a different venue on each night of the week.  We passed the T shirts in favour of chicken kebabs, satay and spring rolls with a cheeky cocktail on the side.  All good fun.
a cheeky Pina Colada
beautiful beach of Samui
And tonight, Sunday 10 July, was the prime reason to be in town with access to a big screen - the British Grand Prix with local lad Hamilton in pole position and Wimbledon men's final with another Brit playing.  I think we should call this a 'night of indulgence', something we rarely get the chance to enjoy, dinner in front of the TV and watching two major home wins in one day.
Tomorrow we'll head off for the quieter Koh Phangan....

3 July Koh Samui week 1

Go straight to hospital. Do not pass GO.  Within an hour of anchoring in Bo Phut bay we'd hired a motorbike and I was in the capable hands of the Emergency unit at the international hospital.  My eyes were so sore but at last I could start receiving treatment.  The doctor suggested staying overnight so they could administer intravenous antibiotics as well as hourly eye drops of more antibiotics and anti inflammatory eye drops.  It all worked because and I was discharged next morning with a bag full of more antibiotics and more eye drops.
Back on the road once more on the motorbike it was too late in the day to go into the main town and complete arrival formalities, but not too late for a quick trip to Tesco on the way back to the boat to buy a new SIM card for the phone.
With the phone now working we called the Harbour master in Na Thon to make an appointment to see him. He's busy and spends a lot of his time on other islands or checking in cargo boats.  Na Thon is on the western, windy side of the island, not a comfortable spot to anchor,  but an easy 25 minutes by motorbike. First stop was immigration to request a 30 day visa. No problem. Welcome to Thailand.  Then Customs who we surmise don't have many visits from yachts; they had to clear lunch from a table for us to complete the forms, but the ladies did offer us tastes of their fruit while we were waiting.  Now across the road to the Harbout Master office to find he wasn't there and they had no electricity.  A quick phone call and HM arrived to advise he couldn't do clearance because there was no power to run the computer.  We'd have to come back tomorrow, Friday. On Friday HM had power but was out of the office until late, but we could email copies of our paperwork to begin the process and collect our papers on Monday which we did.  If we'd been relying on taxis to run us backwards and forwards it would have been a costly exercise. However, hiring a motorbike was quick, cheap and we used the extra time for island exploration.
Maenam beach

Buddha presides
We explored the food stuff in the cash and carry emporium and Tesco's, visited a vet clinic and bought a rabies injection for Polly and checked out the Big Buddha.  Samui caters to the tastes of foreigners and thus a good place to find the Western produce we don't find so readily in Malaysia such as a brand of pickle called Branston, plus wonderful fruit and vegetables.  Polly visited the vet in Terengganu for her annual inoculations last month but they didn't have stock of the rabies vaccine which is required for her international travels.  Then we were able to take her in her travel box in a car.  This time she'd be travelling ashore by dinghy and then onwards on the bike which would be distressing.  We asked the vet and she agreed to give us the vaccine and needles to do it ourselves.  All we needed was a way to transport the vaccine refrigerated.  A small thermos flask filled with ice chips fulfilled this requirement and having watched a YouTube video on how to inject a cat David and I became vet for  an afternoon.
On our island tour we visited the big Buddha which presides over the next bay and then on around the headlands to C(h)aweng beach, reputed to be the best beach on the island except you can't see it for the mass development of hotels between it and the road.
Bo Phut beach is also much developed, but it's smaller and seems to have a greater diversity from the smart hotels, through bijoux hotels to the budget end of the scale enabling us to pick and choose as it suits our mood.  An English run bar called the Gecko and Frog has big screen sports and our timing coincided with the Austrian Grand Prix (David hasn't seen a live GP for a long time) and Wimbledon tennis.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

25 to 28 June Passage to Koh Samui

The four day three night passage to Koh Samui, Thailand is memorable for the wrong reasons; first a lack of protected anchorages and, second, I picked up an infection on day three.
The coastline on the eastern seaboard of Thailand is one long sweep of beach.  It lacks offshore islands and headlands where one can duck into to avoid the regular swell rolling in from the China Sea to our east.  Only at Songkhla town are there two islands of sufficient size which can provide a welcome shelter; the smaller is Koh Meao (cat island) and the larger, Koh Nu (rat island) so named for their respective profiles.  Rat island was our choice and we enjoyed a roll free night tucked away from potential hazard of moving boats.  The nights either side were spent in what are commonly called 'open roadstead' anchorages, where you simply turn in towards the coast until you find a comfortable depth to drop the hook.   On the last night we were more than a mile off the beach in less than 4m of water.
After our night at Songkhla I awoke with eyes feeling sore. A check in the mirror showed one to be bloodshot.  During the next two days the infection worsened with the whites of both eyes inflammed and David pushing on as fast as we could to reach Koh Samui and medical attention.

24 June Pulau Perhantians

Visible from Pulau Redang and a mere morning hop north are two islands, one big, one smaller which make up the Perhentians.  On the morning we crossed there was a sudden onset of a squall with strong northerly winds so we changed plans and we joined two Malaysian Maritime boats in the southern bay of the small island
Long beach

West side of island

View from the top
.   With Jackster settled we went ashore for an excellent prawn lunch at one of the many cafes.
Next day the prevalent south westerly winds re-established and we decided to move to out next spot.  Motoring through the channel between the two islandds we emerged in to the northern side and almost a different island with more resorts, more people, more boat traffic.  Looking for protection from the SW wind we picked a spot off Long  Beach in 5m of water with sand bottom.  There are lots of restaurants here. However, it is Ramadan and many weren't serving until after the daytime fast was broken and staff had had their meal, ie 8 o'clock.
Big island isn't so big and has walking tracks, but no roads connecting the bays - boats and walking are the way to get around.  We walked over to a couple of beachs on the other side and along the ride to the wind generator and solar panel installation at the highest point.  Both were installed about five years ago and worked for one year. Until during the off season enterprising thieves stole the copper cables and rendered the installation useless.  They have never been repaired.
We stayed in the Perhentians until we could find out the result of the UK Brexit vote on Friday, 24th and then knowing the fate we departed for Thailand next morning.

19 June Pulau Redang

We've been in Redang for five days and it's been a most enjoyable time.  Redang island is U shaped and we opted for the southern end of the big bay on the north side of the island.  There is a five star resort, clear water, a handful of dive sites and friendly hawksbill and green turtles in the vicinity.

Swimming off the boat in the clear and warm water we floated around watching the turtles grazing on sea grass but when a boat load of tourists arrive the turtles forego grass for a tastier meal, squid, which the tour guides bring to hand feed them.  We had small and medium sized animals swimming all around us, close enough to touch, searching fingers for food.  One cheeky animal nipped my finger with her beak.  My fault for not keeping out of her way.  I was fortunate it was only a nip which broke the skin as I understand a full bite would be strong enough to inflict considerable pain.
We've done threee dives.  The first was along the rock and coral cliff with two caves where we found plenty of nudibranchs.  The second dive was the wreck of a ferry boat, sunk by the resort to be a dive site and our third dive, around a headland.  The visibilty is the best was more than 20m and the water 30c which has led to bleaching of the large pore corals.  There are fish here, but interestingly no shrimps about, and definitely no lobsters because we looked.
David dived in shorts and t shirt. I chose to wear my Australian stinger suit but with the hood down.  Perhaps if I'd had the hood up I woundn't have been stung by hydrozoa floating  on the surface when we surfaced from the last dive.  Next day my neck was a mass of red and itching spots.   They continued to be uncomfortable for the next two weeks.  David was lucky to avoid being stung as we learned later there has been an outbreak of these stingers in the area.

Pulau Redang, a pretty and sheltered anchorage which we look forward to visiting again on our way south in about six weeks.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

13 June Terengganu

It's been a week since we arrived at the marina in Terengganu.  No problem with finding a space - the place is less than half full, and of those boats, at the end of our visit, we were one of only two boats with crew on board.  The remainder were locked up and here on a long term basis.
Terengganu has gained recent wealth from offshore oil fields and from providing services to those fields. All along this coast there are newly built sea defences paid for from oil income.  Terengganu itself is going through a building boom with new multi storey edifices towering over the original two storeys and a new swing bridge being built over the entrance to the river harbour.  How that will work with the high volume of boat traffic and high volume of car traffic will be interesting.  The river is busy with incoming and out going fishing fleet and a steady flow of ferries from the islands, plus dredgers bringing in building sand for land reclamation projects.
construction of a swing bridge underway
Ramadan began last week which means the mullahs chant from the spires five times a day. The first call begins an hour before dawn and the last begins at sunset.   During the month of Ramadan no Muslim is supposed to eat or drink while the sun is above the horizon.  Luckily a significant Chinese population ensure there are plenty of restuarants open and serving food all day.  We quickly established a favourite spot - The Golden Dragon - in the heart of China town, close to the temple and I think they established us as their favourite clients.  Lady owner, Shuey, ensured there was a table whenever we appeared and sent over a complimentary dish each time.  First there was pineapple, next night a few frogs legs from a large plate ordered by a Chinese family and hardly touched, which came our way and then more fruit after dinner.  One lovely lady waitresses fell completely in love with David's baby blue eyes.  Eng must have been 50ish, spoke no English but giggled and blushed when he smiled at her.  She asked her friend to take photos of us and, call me suspicious, I'd swear the camera was angled to miss me from the frame!
Although we are in a marina we still have to use our dinghy to cross the river to reach the town which is on the opposite bank.  Terengganu marina is part of a large resort on Duyong island.  Your choice is either a 2 mile road trip or a 2 minute dinghy ride with a perfect placed jetty to safely tie to and right by the main market.  We took the dinghy every time.
the art of coffee
On our first visit to town  we went straight to the post office to establish contact for prompt delivery of much awaited parcels.  Pos Malaysia put the Service in Customer Service. At one point we had five assistants helping us to track it on their computers and phone calls to Customs in Kuala Lumpur. Not there today, but one of the lovely ladies phoned an hour later to advise delivery would be in four days time.  Two days later and we receive a text to say our parcel is here and we can go to the post office to collect it which is when we  discover there is another offce, the sorting office which is a taxi ride away.  The lady helping us goes more than out of her way to write down the street address and apologises for not being able to drive us there herself, but as we can see, as we are now outside the building looking for a taxi, her car has been blocked in by another car.
It was a quick taxi ride and as we walk in we are at the back of four lines of customers.  However, the staff must have been advised we were coming because as soon as they spotted our foreign faces, big smiles and we were beckoned forward.  'Here's your package, please sign and thank you for using Post Malaysia.' Back on the road and taxis have become as rare as a correct weather forecast and big, dark rain clouds are gathering and coming to our rescue, a very kind man with a smart SUV offers us a lift back to the town centre.  He's on his way to the mosque for prayers and it's really not out of his way.
We found the people of Terengganu to be universally friendly and welcoming.  The two stories of the restaurant and Post Office are only two of the many kindnesses we received during the week we were here. In addition to the thoughtfulness of strangers we were also able to complete the lists of wants and needs we always jot down before coming in to a big town.  We found the right parts for boat jobs at reasonable cost, had our international gas bottled filled without having to do handstands and leap through hoops, Polly visited the vet and had her annual innoculations for the fraction of the cost if we'd been in UK. Between them two large supermarkets stocked all the items on my list, except for a particular brand of mayonnaise we prefer, and we were able to fill up with diesel ahead of our trip up to Thailand.
Our last but one task to do before leaving was to visit harbour master, Customs and Immigration to clear out from Malaysia, bound for Koh Samui.  The final task to settle our account for the marina and then it was time to throw off the lines, say au revoir Terengganu (we'll be back in August) and begin the next journey.