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 - Viet Nam
Photos 1 to 84 of 84 | Main
The tomb of Ho Chi Min,  in Hanoi.   What ever we Americans think of him the Vietnamese hold him in high regard and credit him with uniting their country and bringing progress to the nation.
Though Min was the most powerful official in the land  he chose to live in a simple house with plain furnishings even though more lavish settings were available.
The presidential palace.
 Ngoc Son Pagoda and temple on a small island in the middle of lake Hoan Kiem , the old section of Hanoi.
This mosaic depicting the history of Vietnam is   4 km long.  Started in 2007 completed 2010.  It is the largest ceramic mosaic in the world.
The street food in Hanoi was excellent, cheap, and fun to experience.  He we "bar-b-qued" chicken and veggies while people watching.  Our hotel was $18/ngt with breakfast and located in the heart of the old section of Hanoi.
Traffic here is scary bad.  There seems to be no rhyme or reason the where they go.  The main object seems to be
Life and earning money is very hard for much of the population.  One driver we had told us his mother goes to the big city market at 4am to buy the fresh produce she sells in her small street side stall until 9pm.  usually seven days a week.
Motor cycles and scooters are the main form of transportation and cargo haulage.  This guy had at least 800 pounds of concrete mix on his bike.
Guides from the local villages take turns paddling  tourists up the Ky Niem river in Tam Coc.  The money they earn is shared with their community.  They switch between using the hands and their feet to paddle.
Graveyard along the river
Home of a rice farmer
One of several tunnels we passed through
Other villagers are at the turn around point offering fresh fruit and cold drinks.
This gentleman had a classic look to us.
Halong Bay is a big tourist destination outside Hanoi.  Even though there were 20-30 other boats in the area it was still very quiet and peaceful.  We booked an overnight boat trip which was reasonably priced,  great food,  and small but comfortable rooms with balcony.
This was the group seated at our table.  The young couple on the left got engaged the evening of this photo.
Amrita and I trying to make spring rolls.  She is from India and often travels alone while her husband, a physician, works.  She told her travel agent when ever a good deal comes along let her know and if she like it she goes.
Amrita grew up and lives in a very dry part of India.  She cannot swim and had never been in water above her knees.  With lots of encouragement we persuaded her to try the kayaking adventure with us.  We think she had a great time.
Part of the day was spent walking though one of the biggest caves in Viet Nam,  the main rooms were huge.
Our second destination city in Viet Nam was completely flooded with 2 feet of water.  We arrive at 8am by air and the hotel said they were still moving all furniture to the second floor and tourists were being evacuated by boat.  Over 10,000 homes were flooded.  We managed to find a bus to our next city, Hue.  The bus had 18 seats and some how the driver managed to fit in 23 passengers, a motor cycle,  and a large bird cage with bird.  Four hours later we arrived in Hue and this is what we woke up to the next morning.
The Citadel and Imperial Enclosure was the seat of local power and a college for scholars.
Most of the buildings were destroyed by allied bombers but what was not damaged shows the elaborate workmanship.
We booked a day long tour of Royal Emperor tombs and temples along the Perfume River.
We had the boat to ourselves and the trip included a simple but flavorful meal cooked on board.
The Perfume river is still a a major waterway for commerce and trade.
A small palace and tomb were built then buried under 10 feet of dirt to protect this Emperor Tu Duc
The Lagoon.  This burial complex is considered the most impressive of the 4 majot tombs in the area.
Tomb of the "Puppet Emperor" of the French.  Real name Khai Dinh,  he spent most of his people
Main burial vault
The Marble Mountain was mined of it
An example of the many marble items available from local merchants.
Figures carved into the mountain wall
Buddhist temple inside one of the many caves in marble Mountain.
Young monk at prayer
The small city of Hoi An is located in the heart of the rice growing area. It has a quaint old section, a fabulous beach 20 minutes away by bicycle, and inexpensive hotels and food.
This photo and the next show the inside of the oldest house in the old section of Hoi An.  The house is 200 yrs old and originally built by a merchant trader.  It has remained in the same family since built.  Almost every year during the rainy season this area of the city floods and this house has a trap door in the ceiling so they can lift all the furnishings up to the second floor.
These incense cones will last several days.
Street food vendor
This is winter time in Viet Nam and despite the fact that temps are in the 80
Face masks are common and people think they help filter the air they breathe.  I am not so sure.
We took an all day bike ride, about 18 miles, through the rice fields and smaller villages.  Another American couple was in our group along with 2 guides.
Our trip started with a boat ride up river to a large island.  We passed many fishing nets along the way.  The nets are lowered into the water by ropes on shore then later hauled up with hopefully a load of fish
This was the dry season and most of the rice paddies were barren.  During monsoon season water levels can rise 3-4 feet.
Rest break for the old folks
Twice we had to cross small rivers on boats only large enough to carry a few bikes and people at a time.
The locals still use these round boats for fishing.  We have seen them a mile or more off shore.  They are more stable than they look.
Constructed of bamboo, thatch, and rope,  they are then coated with a tree sap concoction, bees wax, and cow dung.  They remain water proof for up to a year before needing a new coating.  They are cheap to construct and it takes about a week to build one.
They are not so easy for a novice to make headway or steer.
A local rice whiskey maker.  They brew it in 3 strengths,  40%, 60%, and 80% alcohol.  I tried a sip of the 40% and it was not bad.
Some batches get soaked with a snake.  I think it is supposed to increase your virility.  It
This woman sits in front of a hot cooker 10-12 hours a day making rice crackers.
Mother and daughter weaving sleeping mats from locally grown reeds.  Each mat is approximately 4 ft by 6 ft.  It takes them 4 hours to make each mat,  which are sold to a trader who then takes them to the city to sell.  The ladies have to buy the reeds from a local grower, and after material costs their profit is $2 per mat.   That works out to 25 cents per hour per person!!
Mom started making mats when she was 10 years old, she is now 90.
This bamboo bridge was built by a local village and there is a small fee to use it.
The surface is uneven, crooked, a little wobbly, and a lot intimidating.
We tried riding along it but quickly chickened out and walked our bikes.
We passed a local wedding and they invited us to join in.  It was only 10am but you could tell the drinking had started early.  They kept asking us to stay and we probably would have been welcome until nightfall.  We begged our leave after half an hour and ventured on.
In Saigon,  now named Ho Chi Min City we took a boat tour along the Mekong river,  stopping at several places along the shore.  This bee farm must have very happy bees because they do not sting as you would expect them to.
A map of the Cu Chi tunnel area.  The Viet Cong dug 150 miles of tunnels in the red area.  An estimated 15,000 people lived in the tunnels,  hiding from American troops and attacking when possible.  During the war my oldest friend was stationed in the blue area just 10-15 miles away on the right.
One type of many pit traps the Viet Cong built.
The tunnels had many levels, areas for sleeping , cooking, ventilation, storage,  waste management, etc.
The entrances were almost impossible to locate if you did not know exactly where they were.
The tunnels were very small.  Even though the stature of the Vietnamese is smaller than westerner
These sections were actually enlarged a little bit so we big people to get through them with not too much difficulty.
After crawling through 30 meters of tunnel we were ready for less cramped space.  We had the option of another 20-30 meters but we used the
A short trip through the swampy area ending our day  and our time in Saigon.  We flew back to Langkawi, Malaysia early the next morning.