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Phuket and Phang Nga Bay

05 February 2013
Photo: Koh Phing Kan, (James Bond Island) rock formation

We left Royal Phuket Marina at 15:00 on a 2.5m high tide, with a pilot on board. We would not have wanted any lower tide; the depth under the keel according to the depth gauge was between 0.00 and 0.2 most of the way out of the channel, which takes 25mins to negotiate at 5knots. With all the revenue generated by the big boat yards in Boat Lagoon and Royal Phuket, you have to wonder why the government and the businesses cannot get together and dredge a proper channel which would allow access at all stages of the tide. We can see a day when the channel silts up so much, no one will be able to get into the area.
We decided not to anchor at the nearby island and motor sailed around to Ao Chalong, anchoring in Panwa Bali bay. Next morning we left Ao Chalong and motor sailed in 15 - 30 knots around to Patong Beach, we looked at other bays on the way but the wind was funneling out, making them look unpleasant. Patong Beach is an interesting place, should be renamed Party Central. We went ashore for the day on Monday, 21st January, the beach must have several thousand deck chairs and sun umbrellas, every body shape and size is visible - all the females in bikinis, with guys in budgies or g-strings, all very red and burnt. Jet skies readily for hire fly around the bay along with the longtails. Walking along the streets there is a Thai massage parlour every 50ms with the girls sitting outside asking everyone who walks past if they want a massage. Bangla Street had dozens of small and large bars with dancing poles; the street is closed to traffic from 6pm each evening, which has the potential to be very messy at night. Taxi and tuk -tuk drivers continually ask if you want a ride, hundreds of shops all selling the same dresses and beach wear line every street, there are Taylors by the dozen offering to make suits, shirts, dresses etc and unlike Phuket Town, most of the people on the streets are European or Western. Each evening sitting in the cockpit; we saw Chinese lanterns taking off from the beach and numerous sets of fireworks. Whilst in Patong we bought our iPads and went ashore most evenings for dinner, enjoying the sights, sounds and local cuisine.
Thursday 24th January, Brian took a taxi into Boat Lagoon to meet with the contractors for the boat work and by the end of the day we had made our decision and started to make the arrangements. The following day we left Patong Beach, which had become quite rolly and motored 9nm south to Nai Harn. It was a lovely night, the following day we motored around to Ao Chalong back in Panwa Bali.
Saturday we took the dinghy ashore to Ao Chalong, to catch a taxi to Boat Lagoon to meet Sharon and Kim "GeorgiaJ". On the way in we spotted "Kerris" anchored in the bay and went over for a chat. Mike and Juanita were looking for someone to celebrate Australia Day with, so over drinks we arranged a BBQ on their boat for later in the day. We left them and went to meet Sharon and Kim to view their condominium in Boat Lagoon, which we have now agreed to rent, when they vacate it, for the period when Dol is out on the hard having the refit. It is very difficult to find accommodation in Boat Lagoon or close by, so we are very fortunate. The trip into Boat Lagoon in the taxi took longer than expected; the traffic on Phuket is unbelievable, not helped by major road works. Still it gave us an opportunity to look at the shop houses that have been prevalent in all the Asian countries we have visited. A shop house is a two storied building, built like terrace houses, where the ground floor is a shop with the living accommodation above. We stopped for groceries on the way back and then enjoyed a very relaxed evening BBQ with Mike, Juanita and Snoopy the cat
The following day we motored 29nm to the Koh Dam Group of islands, anchoring in the gap between Koh Dam Hok and Koh Dam Khwan. This island group is on the Krabbi side of the Phang Nga Bay and we will work our way anti clockwise around the many island anchorages back to Phuket over the next 4 - 6 weeks. There is one other boat in the bay, our friends Wayne and Ally "Blue Heeler". The anchorage is crowded with longtails and day trippers, the beauty for us is that they will all leave early/late afternoon and we will have the place to enjoy ourselves. The islands are typical of the area, large limestone cliffs rising vertical from the sea, day trippers climb rope ladders hung from outcrops and dive or jump into the water. We had sundowners on Dol with Wayne and Ally, then a quiet evening.
The breeze got up during the night but didn't make it uncomfortable, the following day we motored 4nm across to Laem Nang and anchored in Rai Le Beach. We went ashore for drinks and dinner, what a great atmosphere Rai Le Beach has. The only access to the resorts is via boat, mainly longtails; you don't want to arrive at low tide as the wheels on today's suitcases do not work very well on sand. A bar, several restaurants and a few tourist shops are located along the beach front. The main attraction for the bay is rock climbing, there are some spectacular rock formations and Tham Phra Nang, the next bay, is a world renowned rock climbing location. Tuesday morning we took the dinghy to Tham Phra Nang (about a mile away) and watched the spiderman and women rock climbers climb the cliffs. The bay has an exclusive resort and a lovely sandy beach with food boats anchored in the shallows offering ice creams, pancakes and Thai food, yummy.
Wednesday the breeze was up and more from the east, time to move. We upped anchor, rolled out the genoa and sailed 18nm to Koh Roi, very picturesque and calm. Our friends, Stuart and Sheila "Imagine" were in the bay. We took the dinghy ashore and walked through the cave entrance to the "Hong" - room, the islands in Phang Nga bay have many Hongs but this is the first island we have visited with one. Inside the rock walls are huge, no photograph can show just how large they are and the echo is great. We had sundowners on "Imagine", it is great to be in a bay with no tourist boats or longtails, in fact the following morning as the other 3 boats in the bay left, and we had the bay to ourselves. It's great sitting listening to the sound of the cicadas and birds. We stayed the day at Koh Roi and left the following day, Friday 1st February, and motored 7nm to Koh Chong Lat - northern channel. (Koh is island in Thai).
Koh Chong Lat - Northern anchorage, is almost fully enclosed by the high sandstone rock cliffs, very sheltered and peaceful. There is a fishing village in one of the coves, but far enough away from the anchorage to not be noticed. We sat and watched the fishermen in their longtails with landing nets netting large jelly fish; we'd seen this before, apparently in the same bay the night before about 25 longtails had been netting them, and wondered what they did with them. Later as we had sundowners on Dol with Stuart and Sheila "Imagine" we discussed what they did with the jellyfish. We thought they exported them to China and Japan where they are a delicacy.
The upper end of Phang Nga bay has many shallows, the following morning we picked our way around them to Koh Yang. We had the anchorage at Koh Yang to ourselves for most of the day; a charter catamaran came in just on dark. In the afternoon we took the dinghy across to Koh Phing Kan, known locally as James Bond Island as it was used in the filming of 'Man with the golden gun'. The island is part of the Phang Nga national park and there was a nominal fee to go ashore. It was teeming with tourists, but did have some nice cave formations.
The following day we left early to beat the crowds to a couple of nearby hongs. The first was at Koh Hong, as it was low tide we left the dinghy at the entrance and walked inside. There were towering cliffs and echoes, but little water; we may come back another day when the tide is higher. On our way back to the boat, we spotted a monitor lizard on the rocks, very well camouflaged. From Koh Hong we motored 3nm to Koh Phanak which has two hongs. As our dinghy is considered large, we were unable to take it inside the hong as this one had a tunnel entrance, we played tourist and hired one of the many sea kayaks, with local guide, who took us through the tunnel into the first lagoon and then round to the second lagoon. Inside were several families of monkeys, all after bananas which the kayak guides carried with them. This is the one place we wished we had our kayaks with us and not left them at home in the garage. With the breeze in the North West we decided to motor back to Ao Chalong for a few days to catch up on emails and supplies.
At Ao Chalong we caught up with Grant and Sue "Obsession 2" and enjoyed sundowners and dinner on the beach at Panwa Bali, a lovely evening.
Vessel Name: Dol'Selene
Vessel Make/Model: Warwick 47 cutter, built in three skins of New Zealand heart kauri timber, glassed over.
Hailing Port: Auckland, New Zealand
Crew: Brian & Gail Jolliffe
About: Brian and Gail have retired, at least for now, to enjoy the opportunity to cruise further afield than has been possible in recent years.
Current cruising plans are not too well advanced but we are inspired by Mark Twain’s quote “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your [...]
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