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 - Indonesia part 1
Photos 1 to 83 of 83 | Main
Our first stop was the town of Debut,  this is main street and our welcome banner
   The Mayor of Debut welcomes the rally boats
“Hey Mister’   take my picture
You can’t take a photo of just one child.  The lady on the left ran as fast as she could to get in the picture.  It’s good to be young at heart
As I was walking around the side streets of Debut this young lady stopped me and invited me into their home to meet her family.  Regina attends college in Jakarta and is studying to work in the department of Tourism.  Her father Joseph is an officer in the local government.  Regina speaks passable English and if we get to Jakarta she has offered to show us around and be our interpreter.  I am learning some Indonesian but not enough to have a conversation yet.
Fresh catch of the night,  squid and small silverlings
More of Michelle’s fan club
In Debut they actually had us parade through the main city.  We were a marching attraction for the locals.  Every few blocks there would be a new group of dancers to entertain us.
More dancing and parading just outside Debut
Main market on the island,  if you can
Scooters and small motor bikes are the most common and affordable mode of transportation.  They probably out number cars 10 to 1
For some reason I expected the Muslim women to be shyer than they are.  These ladies obviously like to ham it up for the camera.  I have really gotten to like the colorful dresses and head wraps the women wear.  I find it a very attractive look.
No such thing as capacity limits on the local ferries
These strange looking craft are squid boats.  They go out after dark and bright lights on the front attract the squid to the surface where they get scooped up in the hanging nets.  It is a very big industry here.
Almost all of the local boats are hand made and powered by a small lawn mower type motor than is connected directly to a long prop shaft out the back.  No gears and no mufflers!!
These kids saw us walking along the beach of a very small island and insisted we come and meet the elders.  They were from another island and here to collect coconuts and palm leaves for making thatched roofs.  This is were we met the elder lady that had never seen a white skinner person.
Water front view of Naira in Banda.  This small group of remote islands are also know as the Spice Islands
Main street in Naira,  Banda,  no traffic jams here
Dutch colonial buildings are prominent in Banda.
The markets are open every date but Saturday is the main market day.
Cheap taxi transportation around town,  although the town is small enough to walk anywhere you may want to go
I was surprised how many handsomely constructed home I found in Banda.  Obviously the spice trade still provides a nice income for some.
Every town and village has at least one mosque,  from simple to beautiful
The local water ferry terminal filled with colorfully dressed ladie
All aboard please
Inter island transportaion around the Banda group.  I felt like we were in a Lonely Planet travelogue
      Michelle riding shotgun on a boat trip to one of the Banda islands.
This is the fruit of the nutmeg tree, first discovered by the Europeans on the small islands of Banda.  This little nut eventually led to the formation of the Dutch East Indies Trade Company,  a monopoly dedicated to making the owners rich through import and trade.  When the Dutch reneged on the trade agreement with the indigenous people the locals retaliated by killing a few of the Dutch colonialist’s.  To show the Indonesians who was the boss the Dutch  slaughtered the islanders,  killing 14,000 people.  Only a 1000 or so survived the massacre.

Today the three islands of Banda still produce copious amounts of spice.  The locals sweeten and sun dry the yellow outer layer to make a confectionary similar to dried apricots.  The red and black  portion is a spice called mace and this covers the nutmeg nut at the center.
Certainly a tedious job to hull all these nutmeg fruits for a living
Michelle learning to remove the mace covering off the nutmeg.  All the harvesting and processing of the nutmeg is done by hand
Mace, nutmeg,  and more mace
Mace, from the nutmeg fruit, drying in the sun
Almost everyone in this Banda village were sun drying some spice in the front of their house.  These were cloves
After our tour of the nutmeg plantation and pearl farm we were invited to lunch of traditional foods by a local famil
Our lunch,  much better tasting than it looks
This Banda shop owner is the one that turned us on to the nutmeg candy and syrup
Michelle extracting  pearl from an oyster when we visiting a pearl farm in Banda.  She did  not get to keep it
The Cilu Bintang hotel on Banda was surprising elegant for such an out of the way place.  They offered cooking lessons of local dishes and the cost barely covered the price of ingredients
The finished lunch from cooking class.  Tuna ball soup,  peanut sauce, Banda salad, gadu-gadu,  and fried noodle
No OSHA here on Banda.  They were transferring gasoline from 55 gal drums aboard a cargo boat to the only gas station on the island.  The pump was driven by a gas powered motor.   The top of it’s gas tank was cut open and you could see the gasoline splashing around.  We stayed a long distance away.  No one else seemed to worry about it
Every where we have anchored the children paddle out to meet the ‘strangers’ and ask for pens and note books for school.  We have a supply but it is dwindling quickly.  It is very hard to say no to these cute, happy faces.
31 rally boats attended the festivities in Namrole
The water front of Namrole village on the island of Buru. .  We were the first cruisers to ever visit.  The island had been off limits to foreign boats until recently.  They hosted three days of huge meals,  island tours,  and nightly music.  This village is about half Muslim,  half Christian,  and they have learned to live together and respect each other’s beliefs.  Our guide told us that when a new church or mosque is being built it is common for members of the other religion to help.  Community spirit as it should be.
With tides averaging 5-6 feet dragging your dinghy above the high water mark is important,  and a lot of work when it weighs 150 lbs or more.
The Regent for this area of South Buru welcomes us with a speech and even sang a song in  English to us.  The Regent answers directing to the country’s Prime Minister
Our welcoming  ceremony in Namrole
It looked like the whole town turned out to see us.  I imagine our arrival could have been the most exciting thing of the year for the locals.
Just a few of over 50 different dishes prepared for us in Namrole.
A few of the ladies in Namrole that prepared our lunch banquet
A gentleman from one of the traditional villages shows the effects of long term betel nut chewing.  Red stained mouth and rotting teeth.  Apparently the betel nut may give you a mild ‘high’ but it does become habit forming for some.
Even the small remote villages celebrated our visit
Almost every scheduled rally stop was highlighted by a traditional dance performance
Welcome to our village
I was surprised how many handsomely constructed home I found in Banda.  Obviously the spice trade still provides a nice income for some.
We are definitely and oddity here and everyone wantys to mingle with us and have their photo taken.
Even us grandfather age dudes have fans
The remote villages rarely if ever get foreign visitors which I guess is why we are treated almost like royalty
More food than we can possibly eat
Can’t find a prettier spot for lunch.  We met Brian & Sandy in New Zealand 2 years ago and have become good friends.  We have shared many anchorages and good times together

The river raft guides preparing to take us down stream to a path leading to a remote village.
A picture perfect spot for lunch.
Another feast on the beach,  compliments of the village
This small traditional village only less than 100 people.  The homes all had thatched roofs, rough wood walls, and dirt floors.  Even though they lived only a few hundred yards from a river they did not eat fish
Another home
Typical cooking center in a traditional house.  This man’s home has wood floors,  many are nothing but compacted dirt.
Another kitchen in a traditional home,  this one with dirt floors,  but as you can see,  everything is kept neat and tidy.  Notice the future pork chops on the lower right.
The main ‘sitting room’  with a baby swing in the middle
Michelle the intrepid explorer testing stability of a bamboo bridge
Three Colored Lakes is a National Park on the island of Torres.  They are three dormant volcano craters filled with different colored water caused by varying mineral content.  Torres has a total of 14 volcanoes on an island
A Macaque monkey greeted us on the hike up to Three Colored Lake.  Michelle is still very afraid of monkeys after she had been viciously attacked by one in Panama.  The leg wound took 3 months to heal
Rice is a major food crop on Florres and we saw fields every where
This has to be back breaking work as you get older.  You can see how the different tiers have openings to let the water flow to lower sections,  keeping everything wet.  We were told it takes about three months from planting to harvest size.
The workers don’t leave the rice paddies for lunch,  it is brought to them
From our anchorage in Kroko Atoll we could see three active volcanoes that constantly billowed smoke.  The water was usually very clear and the snorkeling was excellent.

The nearby Torres Island has 14 volcanoes along it
A new type of sea urchin we have never seen before
These urchins practically glow in the dark.   Unfortunately the reefs in many areas have been over fished to destruction.  Despite being illegal many fisherman still use explosives or poisons to kill the fish for easy harvesting.  This also kills the non food fish and the coral reefs,  which can take decades to recover,  if they ever do.
The blue spotted ray is highly venomous and occasionally the sting proves fatal.  Fortunately they are shy and not the least aggressive.
Not a rock,  it’s called a Doris Nudibranch.  One of many species found along the reefs