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 - Sabang, Indonesia
Photos 1 to 57 of 57 | Main
Our approach to Sabang was wet and gloomy.  It rained almost constantly for the first 4 days we were there.
Sabang lighthouse shows the way in the dark
The first sunny day we had was dedicated to repairs.  After catastrophic failure of our whisker pole the head sail suffered some damage.  Fortunately we have a heavy duty sewing machine to make repairs and a seamstress that knows how to use it.  And an expert micro manager to make sure she is doing it right!!!
The organizers had installed 20 free moorings for the boats to tie up to.  One day a crew came around and added extra weights to the anchors.  Most of the harbor was too deep for yachts to safely anchor themselves.
First stop upon arriving in a country is officialdom.  Sometimes countries can take a full day for all the formalities.  Sabang was a breeze and we finished in under an hour.  This group from the Health Dept were first,  followed by Port Captain, Customs, and Immigration.    When you exit a country you see all the same agencies again.
The rally organizers arranged a welcome dinner and celebration at the mayor
We never think of ourselves as VIP
Most of our free meals were served here,  breakfast lunch and dinner.  They often had a keyboard player and singer in the evenings if nothing else had been planned.
A few of our host
Group photo after our tour of the agricultural research farm
LOOK OUT for the strangler vines
View over the bay: The rally sponsors arranged for the cruisers to visit all the interesting places on the island and kept us as busy as we wanted to be.  One day started at 6:30am and ended after 11:00pm.  They didn
One of several scenic spots we stopped for lunch
Many dished offered for our taste buds to savor.  Silverware is not always provided in local restaurants,  nor napkins.  So pretty much everything is finger food.  When in Rome !!
Sabang is on the island of Weh,  the northern most island of Indonesia.  This monument marks the beginning of official distance measurements,  Mile Zero.
The new cadet training ship for the Indonesian Navy
There were many war ships in the harbor for the celebration as well as an aerial display.  We were most interested in the hospital ship and got a short tour.
One of several ward rooms on board.  There was a surgey going on so we could not see the surgical suites or intensive care areas.  They also have a complete dental clinic.  Staff included @ 150 medical personal and about the same number of crew.  The ship serves the navy as well as being a supplemental health resource for small cities along the Indonesian coast.
Medical choppers always at the ready for air rescue
One afternoon was dedicated to local games for any and all to participate.  They always proved a cover to protect the "old people" from sun and rain.
The sack race was only for the ladies.
The pole climbing was the was entertaining.  Each pole was approximately 40 feet tall and greased with thick axle grease.  Each team had 5 minutes to try to get a man to the top and pick off prize tags,  limit 2 tags per top climber.  You could send up as many climbers as you were able in 5 minutes.  Then teams switched to a different pole until all tags were retrieved.
The mostly cruiser
We were told these localkids practiced this every month.  They were like monkeys they were so fast and made it look easy.  They had developed a technique that worked perfectly.  They often got 2 or 3 men to the top in the 5 minutes they had.
Prizes big and small were awarded for all competitions.  The cruiser
There was a small museum on our tour.  On the grounds was this wedding chair? that we were told is used by local Chinese to get married in.
Across from the museum was a grade school which we visited.  The children of any where we go are always a highlight for us.  They are curious,  overtly friendly, comical, and love to meet stranger from far away places.  And they love to have their pictures taken.
She really has 2 fingers up like a piece sign.
Each boat was assigned a local Indonesian to be a resource person and help with any problems or needs.  The man in the middle is named Douse and even though he was not our official guide he always seemed to be there when we had a question and we got to be friends.  He let us tag along with him and his friend after the rally was officially over.  We rented scooters for 2 days and he showed us several things we had missed before.  He is graduating the School of Tourism soon,  which is on the main island of Sumatra.  It took him 14 hours to get here on his scooter and i
Along our hike to the volcano
Douse had never been on a sailboat before.   If we have made friends with some one locally we always invite them out to the boat if they choose.  So many see us cruisers out in the bay and must wonder what it is like.  To most we are considered very rich,  and by their standards we are.  They are always surprised to see we can cook, have a small refrigerator, 2 bathrooms,2 sleeping cabins, etc.
Near the volcano is a thermal energy plant but I could not find out how much of the electrical needs it supplies.
The slightly precarious foot bridge to the volcano
The volcano has not erupted in many hundreds of years but scalding hot steam vents and boiling mud pools are numerous.
Michelle can never resist the impulse to swim beneath a water fall.
SE Asia Tidal Wave 2004: A highlight of our tours was a trip to Banda Aceh on the main island of Sumatra.  On the morning of Dec 26th, 2004 a large undersea earthquake occured @ 200 miles S of the city.  Scientists estimate the energy released was equivalent to 10,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs.  At sea the resulting tidal wave was only a few inches high and not even noticable.  The force of the waved travelled along the sea at up to 500mph.  This map shows the epicenter,  middle rt,  and red coastal areas effected by the wave.  Twenty minutes after the quake the tidal wave reached Banda Aceh.  As the wave entered shallow water is began to build,  culminating in a deadly wave 100 feet high.  At 0755 am the wave struck the city.  Over 150,000 people were killed in Aceh alone.  Over 200,000 people were killed or missing in  SE Asia
The museum displayed a model of what the area looked like before the wave hit
And after
Just before a tidal wave hits the water in the bay receded for hundreds of meters.  People on the shore ran out to harvest the fish caught in the shallow pools and pockets,  not knowing what was approaching.  A few minutes later the wave came rushing in at an estimated 30-50 mph.
This 2600 ton barge was a floating electrical plant for the city.  It was pushed inland THREE MILES by the force of the water.
The generators have been removed and the barge now serves as a memorial and museum about the disaster.
This memorial gives you an idea of how high the water was three miles inland from the coast.  It looked like 10-12 feet to us.
This model replicates the desolation around one of the many Mosques.  Some how this one survived despite the total destruction of every thing around it.
There was a huge festival going on in concert with the sailing rally.  The entire final night,  3 1/2 hours,  was broadcast on live TV.  To our surprise the cruisers were asked to come up on stage where the local governor presented each of us with a memorial plaque and other gifts in appreciation for our attending the rally and visiting their island.
Goodbye and thank you
The tiny dot near top left is Enchantment