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'Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.' Jacques-Yves Cousteau
14/04/2015, Ao Po Grand Marina
Lonely. Diomedea was the last yacht to clear the Surins/Similans as the season closed down and we tracked south by ourselves. Thus it should have been no surprise to come into Nai Harn bay to find it completely devoid of yachts. Moorings were vacated and the dinghy dock at the little restaurant was gone. Sob. Just us. We still dinghied ashore to the beach for laundry and an evening meal but the writing was on the wall for the west coast of Phuket.
We pottered around the cape and the big golden Buddha into Ao Von, just east of Ao Chalong harbour for a very comfortable night before heading across to the coast near the city of Krabi, on the east side of Phang Nga bay. Our destination was the small but towering island of Ko Dam Hok. We anchored in 14m of sand and met up with Robbie and Jo from Southern Star who we had not seen in months. Lamb roast was enjoyed on board SS that evening, thanks to Jojo's superb cooking. The next morning brought high drama. SS's anchor would not come up. It was firmly attached to something on the seabed. In the end, Robbie had to put on scuba gear to inspect the anchor. He found the anchor chain firmly wedged under an uncharted shipwreck! He surfaced and we developed a plan whereby we would motor forward, thus releasing load on the chain and allowing Robbie to manually extricate the anchor chain from the wreck. Communication was achieved by pulls on a piece of cord linking Robbie to us. After several attempts the chain was freed and the anchor came up as the wind pushed SS onto the lee shore. We then had to find Robbie who had surfaced and was himself drifting into the beach. He was retrieved with the RIB. All in all, several hours of excitement - the most difficult up anchoring I have ever attended.
The respective crews needed to decompress so we headed over to the stunning limestone pinnacles of Rai Le beach, only a few miles east, and had an excellent lunch at one of the beachside restos. The 250m pinnacle overhanging the beach provides an unparalleled climbing venue and some rock climbers were taking advantage of this. Great entertainment. One group seemed to remain on the cliff overnight as evidenced by a small light seen on the crag.
Diomedea explored another climbing venue on a nearby island. A boating business provides "Deep Water Solo Climbing" whereby one is taken to the base of the cliff which rises straight out of the deep water. You swim over to a manky ladder which gives access to the cliff and then you climb up without any rope protection. At your chosen high point or failure point, you simply jump off. Unfortunately all the islands are attractions for the mass tourism market. The islands are visited by hundreds of longtail boats and large speed boats each day. These boats are driven by lunatics who seem to revel in how close they can approach anchored or moving yachts. The water is relentlessly churned up by criss-crossing wakes. It is difficult to get away from this. Water clarity is generally poor and rubbish remains a significant issue.
Moving up the channel we anchored at a bay populated by various resorts, near to the King's summer residence. That evening we had our first cold front followed by thunderstorms. From there is up to Ko Hong to inspect the flooded collapsed limestone cavern which is about 400m across. We found another at Ko Roi, further north in Phang Nga bay, before turning south to arrive at Ao Po Marina. Peak sea water temperature seen was 33.3 C! Air temp is constantly at least 30 C day and night
With the SW monsoon coming, this period is quite volatile weatherwise. The days become excessively hot and thunderstorms develop in the afternoons. We had 45 knots and heavy rain through the marina with one. Lots of ripped awnings and distressed vessels.
We are beginning to prepare Diomedea for her next "voyage" which will be to Turkey. Can't wait to move on.
07/04/2015, Ko Somewhere
05/04/2015, Ko Surin Nua
45 nm to the north of Similan lie the remote Surin group and these islands provided our furthest northing in Thailand. Only another 50 miles and we would be in Burma/Myanmar.
Ko Surin Nua and Ko Surin Tai are separated by a narrow and shallow channel of tide worn coral and sand. Strong currents flow around the group but we found an excellent mooring in the eastern bay, near the National Park HQ. Anchoring in the group generally would be quite difficult due to the steep-to walls of coral. NW breeze predominated for our stay. The beaches were stunning of course and the impenetrable jungle came down to the high water mark from the 300+ metre peaks.
The crew of Diomedea swam, snorkelled, and inspected the park campground on the NW side of the island. Tents and bedding are supplied for the tourists but how the bedding was cleaned was not obvious. "Aired" was all we saw. High speed day boats brought new tourists from the mainland every day. Nearby is the so-called sea gypsy village owned by locals. It was difficult not to be cynical about the existence of such things. The only activity seen in relation to the village was the noisy clatter of a dozen long tails coming out each day to take loads of punters for snorkelling trips around the bay. Otherwise these gypsies did nothing - no fishing or distance voyaging or gypsying about. We did not visit the village but were told by others that it was touristy with trinkets for sale etc. We suspect the only folk living in the village were the boat drivers themselves plus a few women to sell the trinkets to the captive tourists.
Living in Buddhist lands one does sometimes lose track of one's own Christian heritage. No Easter eggs for sale anywhere in Thailand is a good example! And so it was that Good Friday came as a surprise, upon Diomedea. It was only for Andrea's smart phone reminders that we twigged. We did not eat fish but swam amongst the many species, including a remarkably large moray eel (The moray being rather more scary than usual as we had just watched the nasty scene in The Borgias when the ruler of Naples is eviscerated by flesh-eating lamprey eels in the pool stocked by Seneca!!) In the evening the sky was clear as the full moon rose, leaving its silvery track off our starboard quarter. Later Orion held his protective sword overhead.
The grand finale occurred the following evening, the 4th with a lunar eclipse lasting some hours as the moon rose in the east. Very auspicious. Time for us to head south.
Although we dallied in Nai Harn bay, it was hard to get a sense of Phuket. Rampant and unchecked development has far outstripped the infrastructure of the area and it seemed to us that the island was just one endless strip mall. Similar to those seen in many US towns, only longer. Roads were of much inferior quality of course and footpaths more or less non-existent. Walking was quite hazardous, dodging scooters, cars, open and foul-smelling drains, rubbish, and other assorted obstacles. Like much of Asia, Phuket does not handle waste disposal at all well and dumping of garbage is widespread. The water is contaminated with plastic but not to the degree seen in Indonesia. Electrical wiring overhead on the streets was akin to the kite-string tangles depicted in Charlie Brown comics back in the day. Sufficient I am sure to give a sparky nightmares for all eternity. Local culture was very hard to identify as it had been subsumed by the drive for the development/tourist dollar. There was a run down temple at Nai Harn on the edge of a small lake but it seemed to be home to packs of dogs more than spiritual elements. The lake provided a 2km circuit for pelotons of road cyclists in the mornings. A favourable easterly blew Diomedea up the coast, NW towards the Similan group, about 60nm away. Sailing at last. Well, until midday, when it was back to the diesel after a very brief interlude with the asymmetric kite. Our anchorage was at Ko Miang on its eastern side where there are good moorings provided by the National Park. Water visibility was outstanding and fish life good. Sadly coral seemed non-existent. We remained puzzled about the legions of scuba divers being dropped into the depths. Have no idea what they were looking at, if anything. Day tourist boats turned the anchorage into a washing machine as they roared in with the three 225HP outboards on the transom going at full throttle. Now, you dear reader may well remember our seemingly endless dilemmas with heat exchangers, first coming around East Cape in NZ and then across the Coral Sea. This time it was the genset heat exchanger which had been repaired in NZ. I suppose we did well to get a year out of the repair but it started leaking again. Fortunately we had a brand new spare so half a day later it was fitted and we were up and charging once more. Diomedea chugged the short hop up to Ko Similan for two glorious nights in the northern anchorage in company with Mojo from Sth Africa ( and a lot of dive boats). We moored in gin clear water over white sand, coral rubble and granite boulders. The outstanding Sail Rock loomed overhead and provided an excellent view of the bay upon its ascent.