31/03/2015, Nai Harn Bay
The sea stacks of Ko Ha Yai are not high but present a spectacular sight upon approach. The pancake-layered limestone is heavily undercut at sea level creating caves and an excellent swim through tunnel. The water clarity was 25m but there was very little coral. We saw a turtle and a stone fish whilst snorkelling. Soon, however, battalions of divers arrived on day boats and the place became rather too busy. We motored on in the flat calm, passing a dozy manta ray on the surface. Ko Phi Phi Le is an extremely rugged island with vertiginous cliffs, fiords, caves and was the setting for Leo Di Caprio's film, The Beach, which we have not seen. (After Wolf of Wall Street, I would no longer recommend any of his films.) The island is again the target of many tourist boats out from its larger neighbour Ko Phi Phi Don. The latter is an overwrought hub of backpacker/mass tourism and was not really the sort of place we wanted to go. However, its relatively non-commercial western side offered peace and quiet for the night. The cliff line is enormous, vertical or overhanging and up to about 370m straight out of the water. It is equipped with highly improbable bamboo ladders and platforms for the purposes of gathering swallows nests, for the bird's nest soup market presumably. We met up with two other Aussie boats in our anchorage and enjoyed their tales of cruising in the Kimberley including the rescue of a couple who had been stranded ashore for five days after a salty ate their RIB dinghy.
From Phi Phi Don, it was due west to Ko Phuket, that home of Russian tourism. Diomedea rounded the cape and anchored in the remarkably pleasant Nai Harn bay, on the very southwestern tip of the Phuket island. Granite slabs roll into the water and the beach is a sensual yellow white arc of sand. A seasonal dinghy dock makes landing simple despite the low swell rolling into the bay. The "yacht club" has two good restaurants. A jeepney ride into the port of Au Chalong on the eastern side was required for us to clear customs and do some shopping at the well-stocked but expensive expat supermarket, "Villa Market". Many signs and notices are subtitled in English and Russian. French and German also are widely represented, at least in food brands. We bought long life Australian milk, French cheese, Spanish ham, and Thai quark!
Best of all however was our reunion with former members of the Indonesia rally fleet, Almacantar, Stormvogel and Elonnisa. We had not seen them since end of October last year so we had a wonderful celebration.
20/03/2015, Ko Rok Nok
Ko Lipe was a nice place to start but the profusion of the "longtails" and their unmuffled Yanmars driving massive "mix-master" propellors made the port less than appealing. Diomedea drove westward to the unspoilt granite islands of the Butang group to find peace and quiet, only to be joined by the entire squadron of longtails and their punter cargoes. Fortunately the boats moved on so that we could once again enjoy remarkably pristine wilderness. The Butangs are in a declared National Park and there is no development at all. We had two pleasant nights at Ko Rawi (06 32.5'N:99 11.35'E) on moorings of uncertain quality. Wild dogs howled despite the absent moon.
Daybreak saw us steaming out of the channel between Rawi and Adang islands, heading NNW to Ko Rok Nok, 40 miles away. Cumulus, lush and heavy clung to the Rawi peaks. A light head wind and adverse tide slowed us but the breeze and sea soon fell to their accustomed nothingness. With the ebb tide we picked up pace. Diomedea sashayed around endless barrages of fishing nets and dodged trawlers trying to unload their bad fish karma onto us. (The trawler will frequently speed up to cross right in front of the other vessel at close quarters to achieve this desired spiritual effect. Thus, one must never try and remain the "stand on" vessel. Much safer to cross behind the apparently homicidal/suicidal trawler. ) A manta ray, sunning itself on the surface took flight on our approach, as did newly resurgent schools of flying fish. We had not seen these species since Komodo, Indonesia. Sooty terns also appeared.
The Rok Noks rise dramatically from 50 metre depths to more than 280 metres height and are split by an uncharted channel. Diomedea tip-toed in from the western side and found 8m or more depth in her transit of this short passage. Stunning blues gave us the depth information that was needed. Bommies and fringing reefs were clearly visible, leading up to the bone white sands of the undeveloped islands. A few moorings were available and we chose one in preference to the hazards of anchoring amongst the coral bommies. Snorkelling was a pleasant way to wash off the day's heat but the sea temp was still 32C. A kite hunted overhead, its russet wings holding the bird in attack mode as it patrolled the sea for its next meal. The sunset was a magenta wash of molasses across the western horizon.
19/03/2015, Ko Lipe
If you are reading this Adam and Rachel, we did not forget you. Thank you.
19/03/2015, Ko Lipe
The sun crested the Gunung Raya peak of Langkawi as Diomedea slipped quietly out of the Telaga bay into a nice 10 kt NE breeze for the sail to Thailand. Flat seas and recent antifouling made for good pace until the wind faltered at the halfway point and then it was back to the diesel. The new shaft seal is much better than the old one but still slight water spray coming from it.
Rounding the point into the Ko Lipe harbour, Pattaya beach, we were greeted by an excellent arc of bone white sand, clear water and coral reef in good condition. The beach of course is home to a thriving tourist industry but as it is now shoulder season, the numbers are low.
We anchored in 20m and then dinghied ashore to find the Immigration office. Really just a shed slightly above the high water mark we were able to have our passports stamped and officially enter the country after about 10 min of paper work. Outstanding.
The island has a street called "Walking Street" which is home to all the shopfronts, restaurants, Thai massage venues, bars, dive shops etc etc. The pharmacy had a good range of antibiotics for those in need but more importantly for us it sold Sim cards for the Dtac telco in Thailand. So another 10 minutes and we were back in the world.
Finally it was off to lunch at the Bella Vista restaurant on the beach. The glare of the sand was actually astonishing and we were amazed to see Europeans frying themselves in this, the anvil of the sun. Lunch was very spicy beef salad and papaya salad of course. Washed down with fresh coconut and Chang beer. Tonight the sun has set in a blaze over the low hills of the island. We sleep in the master cabin which we have renamed "The Fan Club" on account of the three fans which point directly at us whilst we are in bed.
16/03/2015, Rebak Island, Langkawi
In need of some time away from boating the crew of Diomedea laid her up for a few months in Rebak whilst they returned to Sydney to visit family and friends. And also to do some work in our chosen fields. We were treated very generously by everyone but perhaps most so by Jen and Charles, without whom our residential status would have been dire indeed. A big thank you to Al and Barbara, Rob and Marion, Peter and Vicki, Suze and Libby, Ingrid and Kel, Brett and Debbie. Sorry if we have forgotten anyone. I apologise, I forgot our close friends Adam and Rachel. Thanks for all your support and friendship.
No sooner where we back in Rebak than our daughter Hannah and boyfriend Eddie came aboard for an all too brief stay and short cruise. We had a look at the islands on the south side of Langkawi and enjoyed a sail with the new main.
After a tearful farewell at the airport it was back to the humdrum of boat maintenance. We made the decision to haul out and antifoul at Rebak and spent 10 long days on the baking pan that is the hardstand in the marina. Little wind penetrates the area and the tiles reflect heat up onto the hull, as well as the sun beating down from above. Cabin temps of 37 were not uncommon and made the boat unbearable. We wisely chose to stay off the boat at the small and bargain priced Senari Bay Resort ($45 per night for a nice room with ensuite). A multitude of repairs such as prop shaft bearing, prop shaft seal, rudder bottom bracket, engine alignment, painting, polishing, hull ding repairs etc were carried out and Diomedea returned to the water looking almost like she had just come out of the shed at Newcastle in 2009. She was a tribute to the work of Mark, Din, Rachel and the team at Seaspray Marine. We highly recommend their services to yachts in the region. For meals we ate in Pantai Cenang which is quite the tourist mecca with its white sand beach. Orchid Ria was our favourite and will be remembered by team Fujin.
During our stay we met many of the cruisers in Rebak and enjoyed Friday night jam sessions with those possessing musical talents. These were followed by dancing with the resort singers. Most ordinary evenings were initiated by a dip in the pool to wash away the day's blood, sweat and tears. David developed a passion for the frozen slurpee strawberry daiquiri which was sold at half price. Andrea preferred the Chi Chi. A firm friendship was established with Gary and Tina from "Dragon", a gorgeous and very sexy catamaran. They joined Diomedea for an overnight cruise to Singha Besar island for a beach BBQ and jam session led by Freddie from Lara Pinta.(Freddie runs a SS fabrication business and made an excellent mounting bracket for a new saltwater filter for Diomedea's diesel)
During this period the air space over Langkawi became rather noisy as teams of acrobatic fighter jet planes practiced their manoeuvres for the LIMA exposition (Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace). We were treated to incredible displays of flying at extraordinary speeds, often remarkably close to the ground. The practice sessions also included bombing runs in which exploding smoke bombs were dropped causing what sounded like sonic booms. A fleet of naval vessels including a submarine also appeared. Apparently the show is all about ASEAN's plan to spend US$80 billion in the not too distant future on defence. Yes it is a trade fair for weapons.
The time came to move on to Thailand. We had a busy morning, clearing customs and immigration before shopping for food and wine. Then it was off to Telaga Harbour for the night in preparation for the hop across the border to Ko Lipe, only 22nm away to the west.
05/12/2014, Rebak Marina