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 - China
Photos 1 to 99 of 99 | Main
Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing,  capital city of China.  Covering 109 acres it is one of the largest squares in the world.

Beijing, previously called Peking,  was the place to finally try the famous "Peking Duck" for dinner.  Our guide recommended the best place to go.  The food was excellent but I
Chairman Mao is still held in high regards by the populace
The Forbidden City: The Forbidden City is the largest imperial palace in the world, home to 24 emperors in the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) Dynasties. It was built in 1420, about 70 years before Columbus discovered America and 144 years before the birth of William Shakespeare
The city floor is mad of many layers of bricks several feet thick to discourage invaders or assassins from digging into the compound.  There were also no trees inside,  minimizing cover for enemies trying to sneek in .
Never make the emporess mad.
A few of the ancient astrological instruments at the Royal Observatory in Beijing.
The Great Wall of China: This was one of the main reasons I wanted to visit China,  the Great Wall.  Extending 8-10,000 miles along the border it is the longest structure in the world.  Built over the centuries to keep out the Mongol invaders it is an awesome sight.  We hiked 12 km along a remote section far from the tourist areas.  We only saw a few dozen other hikers while the wall sections nearer Beijing there will be many hundreds crowded into short sections of the wall.
The photo
Guard towers every 100 meters or so were spaced so that archers arrows could cover every foot of approach.
The following photo
From Beijing we took one of China
Over 6000 soldiers have been uncovered so far.
The work of uncovering them is slow and delicate.  The original wooden beams holding up the earthen roofs rotted and collapsed long ago,  burrying the figures for 2000 years.
They say that no two soldiers are alike.  Along with the warriors were horses, carriages, servants,  and other items an Emporer would need in the after life.  The warriors were to guard him in the afterworld.  Their weapons were mostly made of wood and none survived the centuries beneath the ground.
This is the only figure recovered fully intact
Emperor Qin had all the craftsmen put their names on the weapons the made.  If any were found defective the maker could be easily found,  penalty for substandard work was death,  no unions here.
Qin also standardized specifications of weapons.  Tolerances were within a few millimeters so everything would be easily interchangeable and universally compatable.
Administrators and high officials often had many titles and a seal to go with it.  This man had 14 different job titles and each seal represented an affirmation of legal authority.  The penalty for forging a royal seal as death.
The Muslim section of Xian is a lively place in the evening.  This week they were celebrating some Muslin holiday and many lambs suffered an ill fate.
Street food is always interesting to see,  and often hard to guess what it is.
We visited the home of a family that taught us how to make dumplings,  one of our favorite Chinese foods.
What we would call a condo the people in this part of the world call a house.  What we call a single family house they call a villa.

This is the living room of a company built complex of houses.  The company sells these to workers for labout 1/3 the price a non employee would pay.  As long as the employee stay with the company 10 years or longer the deal is permanent.
Next stop was the city of Zhangjiajie,  home of the Hallelujah Mountains,  the inspiration and filming location for the "Floating Mountain" scenes in the movie Avatar.  This high speed elevator whisks you to the top.
Every where we went in China there was a persistant haze in the area.  The guide try to say it was mist or fog but it was too consistent to be anything but air polution.  Even though the government is spending a lot of money of solar and wind powered energy they are still building coal fired power plants at an increasing rate.
The cable car up to Tianmen Mountain is claimed to be the longest continuous cable car ride in the world,  it is 7.5 km long and takes 30 minutes to get to near the top.
A popular spot is the glass walkway clinging to the side of the mountain, a thousand feet above the ground.
The national park is an amazing  series of paths and walkways along side the mountain wall and through the interior.  You could easily spend an entire day up here enjoying the views.
Prayer ribbons are a popular way to implore the gods for favors.
Once I hit my 60
Six long escalator rides inside the mountain brought us down to the hole in the mountain at the top of the photo.  This hole is large enough that three fighter jets flew through it in formation during a national celebration.

The optional stairway down is names The 999 Steps and it is truly 999 steps,  at least it was down and not up.
The bus ride from the steps down to base level has 99 hairpin turns.  The number 9 is considered lucky and in ancient times only the Emperor has things with the number 9 associated with them.
Another view,  the fast ride down was almost as much fun as a roller coaster.
We then took a train to join out 5 day cruise up the Yantze River.  This is what they call a soft sleeper car,  4 berths in a cabin.  Our 6 hour ride was mid day so sharing the room with 3 other adults 2 children and an infant was not a problem.  We soon started sharing snacks and the kids enjoyed a few videos on Michelle
Our cruise ship docked at a city mid cruise.
Along many of the side rivers flowing into the Yantze are cliff coffins.  Some placed there 2000 yrs ago,  the durable wood survived the ages.  No one is quite sure how they got them up there.
Often several skeletal remains were housed in a smaller coffin.
Bapan Village is a small village of Bama County located in the northwest of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China. With 7 out of the total population of 515 people living healthily beyond the age of 100 years old, Bapan Village is a world renowned “Village of Longevity”.  There are many others in their 80
Our cruise passed many "small cities" of only a million or so people.
At first I thought these were a strange humming bird but they are called
Three Gorges Dam is the largest hydro electric plant in the world.  Not only in generating capacity but in total length of 1.4 miles.  I was hoping to tour the inner workings as things like that fascinate me, but armed military guards suggested otherwise.  

The dam was highly controversial for environmental concerns,  the hundreds of thousands of people displaced by rising water.  and hints of corruption during construction,  and finally safety concerns about catastrophic dam failure.   The dam has stopped frequent devastating floods which had killed tens of thousands of people in the past.

I can
The 3 Gorges locks
It is a very tight fit.  The trip up the locks took 3 1/2 hours.
The river guide taught us a basic mahjong game.  The ship had one or two daily land excursions and nightly entertainment.  Food was excellent and they served a wide variety of local and western dishes.

The crew sign on for 9 month tours of duty,  7 days a week.  They do get some shore time but not much and not long enough to return home to see their families.
Of the 185 passengers this is our small group of Westerner
When the river guide found out I was a licensed ship captain he got me an invitation to view the bridge ( pilot house ).  I was surprised how simple it was but I guess a river boat may not need all the sophisticated equipment an ocean going vessel would require.
Before the advent of motorized boats the only way to go upriver was manual labor.  Gangs of
The boat tracks are just above the high water mark.
After our Yangtze cruise we flew to Guilan.  The area is a big tourist destination for the Chinese.  We only had one short day and night and would like to go back.  We ate our first roast goose meal here and it was excellent.  To my taste much better than duck.  There is a long winding lagoon in the city center where locals and tourists congregate. The walkway must run for miles and hosts many street vendors and performers,  small cafes, and locals dancing in harmony to traditional music.  We have seen people , mostly women, dancing in many parks we visited in China.  It is a form of socializing and relaxing with your friends,  new and old.
From Guilan we took a day cruise up the Li River.  It is very touristy and when we arrive there were at least 50 boats and many hundreds of people.  I thought this will not be a good day but it was excellent.  Each boat only takes about 50 people each with assigned tables and seats,  air conditioning inside.  Lunch and snacks were included and the guides gave running commentary in English and Mandarin.

Once we left the dock the boats were spread out and the scenery became expansive.  The river winds through miles of mountainous terrain,  past small villages, and locals working the river.  The trip lasted about 4 hours and was worth the modest cost.
These  mountain peaks were the model for the design of the 20 Dong note
These guys would tie up alongside our moving boat hoping to sell us a few items.
The Li river trip ended in Yangshuo where we took a 2 hour bike trip through the countryside then a cooking class with a local school.  Our local guide and cooking instructor first walked us to the local market to show us what was available,  what it was used for,  general cooking instructions.   We had previously selected what dishes we wanted to learn and they had obtained the ingredients earlier.
She warned us that food options were included non traditional foods and gave us the option of bypassing part of the market.  But we are adventurous and forged ahead.   Every imaginable edible item was available...
From frogs
To dogs !!  and lots in between
We picked chicken.  I
 Last stop was short stay in Shanghai,  the most modern city in China.  Our guise
 The Shanghai Pearl Tower is the visual center of the thriving city.
The Chinese love their glass walkways
Located in the basement of the tower is one of the best museums we have visited.  Mostly life size reconstructions of early life in the city predominate.  I could have spent many hours here but time was limited.
The Empress would be carried along in this highly decorated conveyance by her servants.  We never could find any opening or door that would allow entry.  It must have been very hot and claustrophobic inside.
 The Peoples Great Hall in the back ground.

These few photo