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 - Strange Times
Photos 1 to 73 of 73 | Main
Chalong Pier is where  all yachts clear in and out of the country in Phuket.  All the officials are next to us but it is a 1/3 mile walk to the end of the pier,  where town begins.  At the top of the hill you can see "Big Buddha"  Buddhism is the main religion of Thailand.
On rare occasion we like to go to a fancy restaurant and treat ourselves to a nice dinner.  Kan Eang at the  Pier is one of the best seafood restaurants in Phuket,  right next to Chalong Pier
We splurged and ordered a seafood platter,  Lobster, oysters, clams, shrimp, cockles, squid, crab,  yum.
We know about chocolate mousse,  but never fish mousse,  steamed in banana leaf.  Sounded horrible but actually a very tasty appetizer
This is more our style,  and budget.  A hole in the wall noodle bowl soup shop,  rated one of the best local eateries in Old Phuket Town.   Noodles, shrimp,  chicken, wantons in a flavorful broth.  Lunch for two including drinks,  160 baht = $4.75 USD
Early each morning the monks walk the streets accepting offerings of food or money from, and conferring blessing on, the worshipers.  Females are forbidden to touch a monk or hand them any offerings.
	  THE THAI VEGETARIAN FESTIVAL, also known as the Nine Emperor Gods Festival, is a nine-day celebration that occurs on the eve of the ninth month of the Chinese lunar calendar. The festival is celebrated throughout Thailand by people both with and without Chinese ancestry, with the largest celebrations taking place in Phuket. The festival feels more carnival than convent, and is a lively, thunderous, surreal celebration.
     Even though Vegetarian is in the title of the festival, it’s actually a vegan festival and food is prepared both without the traditional meats, but also all animal products — which includes eggs, dairy, honey, fish sauce, oyster sauce, and shrimp paste. Some even leave out particularly strong ingredients like garlic and onion. It leaves a very flavorful cuisine a bit more bland for these days when participants intend to cleanse their body, mind, and spirits.
      Although the festival is Chinese in origin, the Thai people have their own extraordinary religious rituals that, to be honest, might turn your stomach. Participants acting as masong (mediums for the gods) enter a trance state and undergo ritualized mutilation that includes impaling their skin — from cheeks, arms, and faces to legs, backs, and tongues — with objects of varying size. Everything from needles and machetes to handguns and bull horns are used. Other practices include slashing their tongues with swords and knives, climbing ladders made of blades, firewalking, and standing up close to exploding fireworks.
     It’s believed that while the masong are possessed, they won’t feel any pain. What’s amazing is that scarring and stitches are uncommon, and most return to work shortly after they complete their ritual. Tourists are invited to attend the festival, take part in the processions, and snap photos. But even if it appears to be an insane festival to the outsider, it is a deeply religious celebration to the Thai Chinese people
Bang Neow Shrine is the first temple we went to.  You have to arrive by 6:30 am if you want to see the piercing being done.  Normally the crowds are huge but Covid has prevented tourist from entering the country so we had easy access.
There are  shrines all over Phuket,  and Thailand.  From simple altars to massive temples.  Each highly decorated and colorful
We arrive at Bang Neow  shrine in time to watch the piercings,  more like being impaled
Jui Tui is the largest shrine in Phuket and this is probably the biggest street procession
The procession last for several hours and travels through out the neighborhoods.  The smoke is from thousands of fire crackers exploding around you.
They don
I was impressed this big guy was able to walk to distance
Sticky buns are Michelle
With hundreds of street food stalls and few tourists most had few if any customers.  This booth sold
Removing the piercings looked as painful as putting them in
For the nine days of the festival the Jui Tui shrine feeds the hungry.  The economy in Phuket has been devastated by covid.  Most of the economy ran on tourist dollars which have disappeared.  Many people are starving.
After the festival we made a quick trip back to Phi Phi to visit Koh Phi Phi Lei,
We charted a long tail boat to take us there.  It is only 3 miles from our anchorage but too far to take the dinghy if the weather gets rough.
ODD was our guide and he spoke good English
Viking cave penetrated from one side to the other.
This cave structure is a protected bird sanctuary,  but the care takers also harvest the birds nests for bird nest soup.  Apparently a very lucrative business.
The workers climb up these bamboo poles to reach the nests,  looks impossible but they do it.
Pileh Laggon is a national park that extends into the island for almost a mile.  Very shallow with clear water an lots of fish but few coal
From a long way off my eagle eyes spotted this group of lovelies cavorting on the beach and posing and goofing off for photo