Tales of Enchantment

also known as "Michelle and Vern's Excellent Adventure"

19 January 2021
11 November 2020 | Phuket, Thailand
08 August 2020
01 March 2020
17 November 2019
13 November 2018
29 August 2018
12 January 2016
27 December 2015
15 September 2015
25 June 2015
26 March 2014

Thailand bits and pieces

07 May 2021
Vern Noren
We have been "stuck" in Thailand for just over a year now. There are worse places to be stuck for sure. Phuket went 3 months without a new local case of Covid, then suddenly went from zero to 250+ in a matter of two weeks. The rest of the country is under severe restrictions in an effort to contain it again. Officials believe it all started with large groups of partying youths and other "socially entitled" in and around Bangkok. I just read the Thailand ranks 124th in the world for vaccine distribution.
It has not been boring. Since our last update several months ago we have become better friends with many of the locals, had $6,000 in damage to our boat, had our diesel engine commit suicide, and revisited my hippy days.
The photo gallery has many new pictures with no rhyme or reason to the assortment.

North Thailand

19 January 2021
Vern Noren
We took a 3 week trip to N Thailand to a region I have never been to before. Michelle toured parts of it several years ago when our son & grandson came to visit. The region is mountainous and mostly remote with many small towns and villages.

Many different ethnic groups live in the highlands, many with their own languages, customs, and beliefs. The weather is pleasantly cooler than down in Phuket, and things are a lot cheaper. Our most expensive hotel was $25/ night, most under $20, and the cheapest was $7/night with a balcony on the river.

Thailand Tales

11 November 2020 | Phuket, Thailand
Vern Noren
It has been a while since our last update and a lot has happened. We returned to the marina for a month to have some boat work completed and repairs made, then returned to Phi Phi for two weeks. There was a big festival starting in Phuket which we did not want to miss so we sailed back to Chalong Harbor and anchored for a week.
We were in a gray area with immigration, we never got visa’s when we arrived last March, just crew papers that said we could stay legally for 30 day, NO renewal, No possibility to get visa’s. We spent two months talking to immigration officials, visa agent’s, other cruisers, with no solutions. Complicating the situation the harbor masters were instructed not to clear out any yachts to leave the country until borders opened up. So one agency says you cannot stay, another says your boat/home cannot leave. Immigration policy changes every few weeks here so everyone remains confused. Eventually it got sorted out after many, many trips to immigration. Every 30 days we have to return to the main office and they will stamp us in for another 30 days until borders open, which could be mid 2021, no one knows. At least our stress is greatly reduced.
To make things interesting the following is how we spent the second night in Chalong.

After living on board 16 years, and cruising full time the last 11 years we had a new first. We have been anchored in Chalong Bay, Thailand for the last few days. Big anchor, 200 ft chain on a mostly mud bottom, 10-1 scope. We always back down at full throttle and our reversing prop give us almost full thrust. Around midnight, as another of many short squalls barreled through the anchorage Michelle went out to check wind speed and our position. All good. Ten minutes later the wind picked up again and when she checked this time we were less than 10 meters from a catamaran that used to be 100+ meters away.
For the first time ever we had dragged our anchor but this was not the time to celebrate. I took the wheel as she tried to get the anchor up. The chain jumped out of the bow roller toward the middle so now she is pulling it up across the teak front lip. As I struggled to gain some control and keep us off the other boat the anchor winch breaker kept tripping from the strain of the pull. Too noisy from the howling wind and rain communication was impossible and I could only guess which direction the chain was leading. Complicating the situation was the full awnings we had up. They hindered visibility forward and acted like sails, pushing us around with great force.
We finally got the anchor up and headed down wind behind all the other boats and dropped all 250 feet of chain, the 55lb Delta anchor, large snubber, and a prayer. We wrestled the awnings down, the wind dropped to about 20 kts, and we were happy again.
In hindsight I think the new awnings were the main factor in our dragging since it had never happened before and we have used this anchorage many times.
When we finally settled back down to finish a movie we had been watching my wife gave me a kiss and said we did that whole thing without yelling at each other, like that has ever happened.
Start to finish of our adventure was one hour. Since we did not damage anyone else, worked together smoothly, it was all sort of fun in a demented kind of way.

Still alive after Covid

08 August 2020
Vern Noren
After a long period of laziness I am updating our blog. The short story is about our Covid challenge. In mid March we sailed 200 miles across the Mallaca Straits and Andaman Sea to Northern Sumatra. Our intention was to join a group of other cruisers for an organized rally down the West coast. The day the rally officially began the Mayor of Sabang , our starting point, said he did not want us there because of the Covid scare. The next day there were guards at the port gates to keep us in. The following day the organizer told us the next rally stop told him not to come, and the one after that was still deciding.
Things were going downhill so we decided to drop out and went through formalities to clear out of Indonesia. Our new plan was to get to Langkawi, Malaysia as quickly as we could, 200 miles away. By the time we finished preparing to leave, Malaysia announced the closing of all borders. Our only other option was Phuket, Thailand, also 200 miles away. We were just hoping they would still be open. Thailand closed it's borders a week after we arrived. A week after that Phuket shut down the airport and were shutting down movement between provinces, with highway check points to assure compliance. Along with other shut downs of pretty much every thing.
We decided to go into a marina we have stayed at before so we would have easy access to a grocery store, boat supplies, ability to walk on land, plus see a few friends again. Shortly after that the marinas were banning all new arrivals. We were very lucky to make the right decisions. We know of many other boats that were stuck in anchorages and not allowed ashore. Arrangements were made to bring them food and supplies. The boats that continued with the rally were chased out of many harbors by police boats and scared locals. They were rumored to be carriers and few towns were willing to let them stop. Cruisers all over this part of the world were at sea when borders were closed. One family friend of ours has been stuck on their boat in Sri Lanka for 4 months now. Several other couples went up the Red Sea to the Med and were never allowed off their boat the whole passage, two months. Then a 14 day quarantine in the Med.

So any way, we are good. We spent 4 months in the marina which killed our budget. It is very expensive but at least we had unlimited fresh water and electricity. We got spoiled by being able to run our air conditioner. After the first 8 weeks the authorities started open things up slowly so we could move around Phuket. Despite the cost we were there long enough to make some new friends and felt like we were becoming a part of the local community.

Thailand did a great job containing the virus. Stay at home orders, mandatory masks, crack downs on big groups, contact tracing, temperature checks every where, and still continue. Alcohol was banned for 2 months. Thailand has not had any new local cases in 9 weeks. They just tested several thousand people would attended a crowded event, most not wearing masks despite the law. None of those tested had the virus.

Hey Ann Rowe Pramis, I can't find your email address

Check out the 2 new video links in FAVOITES section

02 March 2020
Vern Noren

We are still alive

01 March 2020
Vern Noren
Not much has happened since our last post but we thought we should update our blog anyway. Next weekend we start a new adventure. It starts with a sail from Phuket, Thailand to Sabang, Indonesia. We will sail down the Western coast of Sumatra, then up to Borneo. After a few months in Borneo we will join a small group to sail to NE Indonesia and work our way back to the S Pacific. We should each the Solomon Islands around Feb of next year.
Vessel Name: Enchantment
Vessel Make/Model: Island Packet 40
Hailing Port: Chicago
Crew: Vern & Michelle
Vern, originally from Chicago, has lived in New Orleans and the Nashville, Tn area. I have been sailing for almost 40 years, have logged over 15,000 offshore miles and hold a 100 ton masters license. I also work as a critical care nurse. [...]
Extra: We are currently finishing with upgrades and improvements to Enchantment in preparation for a 3-4 year cruise from Baltimore to New Zealand. Our cruising kitty will be fully funded and our departure date is set for Oct 2010 with a transit of the Panama Canal late February 2011
Enchantment's Photos - The Galapagos Archipelago
Photos 1 to 67 of 67 | Main
Proof we crossed the Equator to the Southern Hemisphere
Our first site of land in 27 days, San Cristabol, Galapagos
Wreck Bay, San Cristabol
Main Street, Puerto Mereno
Our first dinner ashore with crews from, Spruce, Enchantment, Somerset, and Mystic Moon
The sea lions have taken posession of the dock steps
And the benches
So cute you want to pet them,  and probably get a nasty bite
They sleep anywhere,  and like to leave you little poopy presents before they go
Carol & Jimm from Somerset
Kicker Rock,  our first dive site,  water temp in the low 60s
Black tipped reef shark
The sea lions love to buzz you underwater and are very playful
Galapagos ray
Another reef shark
In the distance are 2 Manta rays,  they frow to over 20 feet across,  these were abou 10
Playful and curious
Marine Iquana,  exclusive to the Galapagos
This sea turtle was 4 feet across and oblivious to us swimmers
A spotted eagle ray
Marine iguana
The captains daughter came with us snorkeling
While the dive master and boat crew made us lunch of just caught yellow fin tuna ceviche
Hiking through the park to a favorite swimming spot
The snorkelling was excellent and we saw dozens of sea turtles here
Next Island,  and the most built up and touristy,   Santa Cruz,  populatioin about 16,000
The water taxi dock  they run 24/7.  60 cents during the day,  $1 after 6pm
Many  paved hiking paths begin near the center of town
Every eveing there was a volley ball game going on
A small park surrounds the water taxi dock
The fresh sea food market always has hungry customers
Waiting for scraps
Colorful cars
colorful women
Fresh market  Saturday morning.  The farmers bring in their goods from the highlands to sell and very cheap prices
Not USDA approved
Restaurant row,  you can get a dinner of soup, rice, meat or fish, and a juice for $5
Some of the graves are very colorful as well.  Many families place photo
The parents of this 4 year old boys placed some of his toys at the head of his tomb
Lava tunnels were formed as the lava cooled while flowing beneath the surface
A tight fit
This species of tortoise is exclusive to the Galapagos.  One numbering in the hundreds of thousands they were almost wiped out by sailors capturing them for food and predation by introduce animals such as cats, dogs, cattle, rats.  They can live for several  months without food or waater so sailors stored them in the bilge for fresh meat
They can live up to 150 years and grow to many hundreds of pounds.
Now all the islands raise them from eggs to 2 years old,  when they are large enough to fend for themselves.  A difference of 2 degrees temperature while incubating determines if the hatchking will be male or female
Marine iguana posing for us
The blue footed boobie is a skilled hunter.  When he spots a fish he dives from the sky like a fighter jet and can go as deep as 60 feet below the surface
The last island we visited was Isabela,   the largest, and least developed,  population about 1200.  The West coast is barren and prehistoric looking.
Numerous volcsnic craters dot the landscape
The rare Galapagos penquin is the second smallest in the world
Look out point along the path to the Wall of Tears
100 meters, by 30 meters high and wide,  it kept the prisoners too tired to escape.  The guards were as brutal as the prisoners the jailed.
We took a long hike up into the volcanic fields,  behind us is the largest active volcanic crater in the world.  Approximately 30 kilometers in circumference it last  erupted in 2005
Another view of the crater
Need fresh fruits or veggies.  Just gather a group and go to a local farm.  Ask for a pineapple that will be ready in 4 days and he will pick out the right one for you.
Gathering papaya off the tree,  doesn
Musician at the rodeo
Downtown Port Villamil on Islaq Isabela, a weekend long festival was in progress.  Here the crowds wait for the horse races to start.
On your mark, get set
GO,  one rider fell off his horse,  another ran over a poor dog which wqas killed.  They also had several bicycle races for kids and adults.
Food and craft stands at the rodea
Always need a rodeo clown
Inside the catholic church,  the main religion in the Galapagos.  Simple, tasteful, most of the statues are carved from wood by  local artists