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 - Highlights of NE Indonesia
Photos 1 to 79 of 79 | Main
typical taxi ride in Tolitoli
Michelle is always popular with the kids as she hands out candy
The gilr on the left is Seli,  one of our guides in Tolitoli and a teacher in this school we visited.  The man on the right is our other guide Faldi,  a teacher at another school.  We became very attached to them.
In remote towns the locals are surprised to see light skinned visitors.  They pretend to be shy ut they love their picture taken.
Picking out a shirt for me.
This remote village hosted lunch and traditional dances for us.
local home
Typical village home
The houses in this remote area have opening roofs to let in fresh air,   sun light.  This is the only area in Indonesia where homes are built this way
The mayor presented all the cruisers with mementos of our visit.  Locally I am known as a Swahmi ( husband )
Cruisers, dancers, and musicians
The mayor hosted us in his home for lunch.
They still use blow guns with poison darts to hunt food.  The animals have no fear of me hitting them.
Michhel learning how to make a local style broom
Coconut husks are used for fire to cook the sago palm sap into palm sugar
Families enjoying a picnic,  young people flirting, children laughing.  Take away the hijabs and you would think you were at a middle America town festival.   We were invited may times to join with families and sample m the food the brought.  As I walked around thoroughly enjoying the experience I had to wonder if donald trump even knows any Muslim
I kept telling her to behave but she is extremely stubborn
On a trip to a local farm we were invited to try corn chowder from the owners wife. I never thought of corn being grown in the tropics but it is a huge crop industry.   They use corn in main dishes,  chowders, soupd, drinks, desserts.
Our guides Seli and Faldi,  we look forward to seeing them again in a few days when we retunr to Tolitoli
The island of Saronde was where an  annual festival is held.  Talent competions,  music,  and boat races highlight the 2 day.
Festival dance group
Partnerstalent and skills competitions,  winners get a chance to work in the tourist department.  English is a prerquisite
It is very easy to meet loacl officials in the places we have been,  from mayors to provincial heads ( like a governor )   Try walking up to one of those in the States just to say hello.
Race boat at Saronde Festival
Raja Ampat snorkeling spot
Saronde beach
Lunch time for the cruisers
Festival competition
Center stage,  Amand is often
Michell swimmng with a whale shark.  Despite being 30 to 40 feet long they are very docile and non aggressive.   They eat mainly small fish or squid.
Michelle always likes to experience everything new
 Eti and Erfinna,  our guides in Bitung.  We stopped again  in Bitung on our way back toward Malaysia.  We had just got the anchor set when I got a phone call from Erfinna welcoming us back and telling us they  would be out in a short while with the forms we needed for a visa extension.  The next day they chauffeured us any place we needed to go with a smile and extra effort to find some difficult items.   There is no fee for any of this,  the government pays all the expenses
Eti,  one of our guides in Bitung is also an excellent singer.  She surprised us with several songs while we ate lunch.   She also coaches an adult choir that has competed internationally.  They took first place at a competition in Vienn a few years ago.
Bitung water taxi dock.  The area is bustling early and late afternoon with commuters and shoppers heading home.  We have seen as many as a dozen motor bikes on top,  along with much cargo and passengers.  You start thinking about the headlines " Overcrowded ferry capsizes in *** "  We took them on a daily basis to get from our anchorage to town.
Zoomba dance leader
Zoomba dancing every Friday morning on the main road in Bitung.
Even the mayor and his wife join in
Too cute to be camera shy
Traditional dancers at the zoomba dancing on Fridays
Shirly our guide and helper in Waisai.  Every where we stopped in Indonesia had a contact person to help in any way needed.  All thanks to Mr Raymond Lesmana who arranges these boat rallys in and arouind Indonesia.  The goverment expends a lot of time, effort, and money to attract cruisers,  and visiotrs in general.
Bitung Festival
Bitung Festival
Some peolpe nee3dtheir daily fix of heroin, cocaine, booze.  Michelle needs her daily fix of ice cream !!!
Festival booth for the marine park authority
Bitung Festival
Traditional dancers at Waisai Festival
Raja Ampat: Raja Ampat covers thousands of square kilometers and all of it is a marine protected area.  Raja Ampat is divided by the Equator.

Below taken fro Wikipedia

Marine biodiversity of Raja Ampat

According to Conservation International, marine surveys suggest that the marine life diversity in the Raja Ampat area is the highest recorded on Earth.  Diversity is considerably greater than any other area sampled in the Coral Triangle composed of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and East Timor. The Coral Triangle is the heart of the world
This is a nudabranche,  about 2 inches long.  The frilly things on top are it
Green frog fish
Look m closely and you can spot an anenome shrimp in the tentacles.  The body is almost invisble
Yours truly down 60 feet sying hello to a frog fish
We saw dozens of turtles,  always a delight
Nemo and friends
Me lazing along at 70 feet down
Mud Shark,  also known as a Wobbegong.  pretty ugly
Upside down jellyfish
Another type of nudabranche
Another type of nudabranche
Sea cucumber
Box fish
Typical seaside village
Cuttlefish,  they look similar to squid and are a popular sea food in SE Asia.
The most unique nudabranche we saw,  1 1/2 inches long