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 - Borneo
Photos 1 to 61 of 61 | Main
Kuchinh water front: Kuching was one of our favorite stops.  A few days after our arrival the city celebrated their cultural diversity with a festival honoring the many different tribes and peoples.   We were told this was the first time in 20 years this festival took place.   The following pictures show some of the man traditional costumes of the tribes
Market shopping: Michelle & Claire searching for good produce.  Claire sails with her husband and 9 year old son.
Linda has been sailing on her boat Saraphin for 18 years
Every parade needs a few pretty girls to please the eye
Next stop was the small city of Miri.  Highlight was a day trip to Nia Caves.  Recently homo sapien remains were found here giving evidence of the area being inhabited 44,000 years ago.  This ferry boat takes us across the river to the trail head.
You can wade across the river,  if you are very brave or foolhardy
The cave today is a tourist attraction as well as a place where birds nests are harvested and sold to make birds nest soup.
The trail goes in for almost 2 kilometers
The locals that collect the nests climb these rickety poles to reach the nests,  not an easy way to make a living
After leaving Miri we stopped at "Turtle Island"   a marine park and protected area.  Thousands of sea turtles come here every year to lay their eggs.  This is the ranger station and the guys were very welcoming.   They fed us lunch and offered lots of beer,  which we don
They told us to return around 6pm and we should see some turtles landing later in the evening.  The captain of Enchantment ( me )  did not allow for the extreme tidal change and in 2 hours our dinghy was 100 yards away from the water.  Extensive rocks and coral prevented us from leaving.  So we had dinner with the rangers who then offered us a place to sleep as the weather had turned rough.  By midnight things got a little better and with their help we pulled the dinghy to a sandy area and got back to Enchantment
After the eggs are laid the rangers have less then 2 hours to collect them and place them in a hatching enclosure.  After that the yolk will tear away from the shell wall and the embryo will die.   After about 28 days the hatchlings are released after dark so the birds do not get them.  They will head for the light of the moon,  or any bright light.   Only 1 in 1000 will survive.   The rangers let us help release them but it was too dark for photo
Ready for a swim
We had a short stay in Brunei,  an oil rich nation and a curious mix of very expensive and very cheap things.  Food was average prices,  sim cards, taxis, marine supplies, accommodations expensive.  Fuel cheap,  health care maximum cost 75 cents US,  even if they need to send you to a major city in another country everything is paid for.  Overseas university expenses heavily subsidized.  Education free.  Crime is rare,  religions of all faiths are protected by law.
Much of the country is comprised of rivers and there are many "water villages",  the largest has a population of over 30,000.  We were invited to a newer village built by the government when their olf village burned down,  400 families live here.
Gongs are a traditional instrument and have a lovely sound
Demonstration of making rice noodles
The local ladies showing how to make shrimp crackers,  a favorite local snack
Concrete pilings and walkways make for solid construction and fire resistance.
Low tide,  when the water is higher the monkeys will swim from the rain forest to rummage through the garbage cans.
Inside the homes are modest but comfortable
Another style home is the "longhouse",  mostly used by the villages far from town.  The front of the building is one long enclosure which serves as a communal area. Along one side are doors leading to individual homes.  This modern longhouse is made of concrete and cinder block.  Most are made of timbers.
The largest mosque in Brunei,  built when the present sultan took office,  about 40 years ago.  He just turned 72,  has 4 wives, a palace with over 1750 rooms,  1000 cars including 500 Rolls Royce
The inside is fabulous
It is good to be sultan,  you have your own escalator.  He is actually pretty down to earth.  He joins locals in  bicycle rallys,  sport events etc.   Every year he opens the palace,  provides food and drink for all,  and you can meet him personally if you stand in line long enough.   Our local host has met him several times and been to the palace for a few events.   As an example if the sultans low key style our host said one day the sultan and the prime minister of Singapore were walking along the  park when a local ran up to him,  handed her purse to the Prime minister and asked for a selfie picture with him.  Bet our secret service won
We stopped by the sultans palace but our invitation got lost so we could only look at the driveway.  For security the palace has a large force of Gurkhas soldiers
The largest water village in Borneo.  The families live here by choice.   Even though they look shabby on the outside they have city water, sewage, electricity, etc.  and comfortable interiors
Fish from  your front porch
Numerous water taxis shuttle you from jetty to jetty,  each house has a unique address
On our way to visit a local home for tea
The inside is well appointed,  neat and clean
kitchen area
Water village Fire Department
And a Jail
After passing the water villages we headed 20 miles up river to virgin rain forest aboard local river boats
The trail eventually leads to the 995 steps you need to climb to reach the top of the observation tower
It is a long climb up
You can see the tower
From this point on the coast of N Borneo is prime smuggler and pirate territory.  Two commercial vessels were boarded while we were in the area.  ESSCOM  ( Eastern Sabah Security Commision ) does patrol the area and since we were a large group we had armed escorts 24/7  for the 2 weeks we transited the area,  and in our anchorages at night.
We were never out of there sight
Note the large machine gun at the bow
The highlight of the whole trip was probably the Kitabatangah River.  We traveled 50 miles up river along near virgin rain forest and protected wild life areas.  Many threatened and endangered species inhabit the forests.  Some are very rare and seldom seen,  such as black panthers, tigers,.  There are also many deadly critters,  mostly venomous snakes and crocodiles to invite you to dinner.

This is a Sun Bear,  the smallest bear in the world, still several feet long
Common Macaque monkey
Proboscis Monkey
And what everyone hopes to see,  Pigmy Elephants.   They are still quite large and dangerous if provoked.
Small crocodile
And for all you guys that think you are getting to old to do this stuff let me introduce you to Ian.  He sails out of Australia,  mostly single handed,  and he is in his LATE 80