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 - North Thailand Trip
Photos 1 to 100 of 100 | Main
On our last snorkel trip before our N Thailand trip we came across these giant cuttlefish matting.  video link below

First stop before we headed to n Thailand,  Bangkok Smile dental clinic.  Dr Sun,  on the right,  as been our main dentist for 5 years.  She specialized in dental implants but always sees us when we go to the clinic.  She has one of the most warm and welcoming personalities we have ever met.  How often has your dentist given you a hug when you come for  surprise visit.
We visited a new to us walking street in Bangkok along one of the many canals in the city.  The main draw is the high quality street art along the two blocks of street vendors
We were having a big plate of Paella at the huge weekend market in Bangkok when I noticed this young girl dancing up a storm to the rock music playing in the vendors stall.  With no fear of strangers she came up next to,  put her hand on my shoulder,  and watched what I was doing on my phone.  She never spoke a word.

Here is a link to a short video Michelle took.
I thought these ladies looked like a fun group to be a part of.  They happily posed for me.
The newest and largest shopping mall in Bangkok decorated for Christmas.  I
nine stories of things you cannot live without
First stop North was Chiang Mai.  The wall surrounding the old city was built in 1296 AD,  much of the wall still exists.

Hotel $17 USD/night
While roaming around the city we came across a arts fair where they showed Michelle how to make a small craft box using crushed egg shells for decoration.
Pigeons never get enough food
Michelle gave the rest of the bird food to this young boy who was delighted until the birds started landing on him,  scared him until he screamed
Bhubing Palace is one of the Kings many getaway places throughout the country.  The royal family commands respect and you will see his photograph display every where.
You area allowed to drive through when the king is not around.  THe grounds were well tended by large numbers of staff,  and many gun toting security guards
One of many waterfalls in the region
And another
A must stop for Michelle was the Erotic Tea Garden.
The owner has a remarkable fascination with erotic art and has dedicated her home and garden to erotic art of all kinds.  She sees erotic objects in assorted flowers, plants,  and pretty much everything.
did you see the breasts
We began the drive along the Mae Hong Son Loop,  about 360 miles of mostly very narrow winding roads  They claim over 1800 curves but I think the missed a few.  The loop travels through more remote parts of Thailand at higher altitudes.  Where night time temps in Phuket rarely drop into the 70
The town of Pia,  population 2300.  Our budget "hotel" was on a small river,  a 5 minte walk to the main street.
There are hundreds of bamboo bridges crossing rivers and streams in Thailand.  There are cheaply built and with occasional maintenance last a long time
Until they don
This is the longest bamboo bridge in Tahiland
800 meters long it was built to allow the monks to walk from the village to the temple on the other side of the rice paddies.  During growing season the paddies are flooded with water for many months at a time.
Our room,  spartan but a comfortable king bed and pillow.  2 thick covers ( no Heat ),  a hot shower, private toilet, small table,  free coffee at office, a porch overlooking the river,  and that was about it.  But is was very comfortable and a 3 night stay cost a total of $21 USD
At the nighty street market were many people from small villages hopping their entertaining might bring in donations for their schools
The town of Mae Hong Son,  population 7100,  is centered around a small lake where many locals come to enjoy the view and aroma of street foods being cooked.
We were happy to discover that our first night here was the last night of a large heritage festival a short walk from our hotel,  $17 USD/night.
The cultural center grounds were brightly decorated with many local craftsman and musicians
Normal clothing for many of the hill tribes in the North
There had to be a hundred street food vendors tempting your taste buds.
The cultural center also arranged for different ethnic groups to cook some of their favorite traditional dishes and provide free samples to the fair goers.  Fair was free admission.
If none of the food suited your appetite there were various bugs for sale.  They actually do a pretty good business
A short drive from town is Ban Hau Seau Thao Village,  home to one group of the seven main several hill tribes.  The Hill Tribes migrated from Burma,China, and Tibet over the last few hundred years to escape persecution.  Mostly farmers they preferred the higher cooler mountains to the lowlands.  Each tribe has their own cultural beliefs and languages.  They have no legal standing in Thailand but the government generally leaves them in peace.  Officials estimate there are hundreds of hill tribe villages in the mountains.
The Karen tribe is one of the larger ones,  also known as the "long Necks"  The women begin wearing the neck rings around age five and they are never removed.  Contrary to belief the rings do not stretch the neck,  but the weight does tend to push down the collar bones,  making the neck appear longer.  By adulthood the neck muscles are so weak from lack of use that they cannot support the head anymore.  Removing them could cause severe injury.
Every few years a few more rings are added
Doi Inthanon National Park has two large pagodas.  Named the Great Holy Relics Pagodas and the highest peak in Thailand at 8415 feet
I always seem fascinated at the sight of Buddhist monks,  that I imagine as devout disciples of Buddha using modern phones and junk food.  Seems incongruent to my minds eye
The elevation brings regular waves of mist across the park.
A  brief rest along a 3km hiking trail near the peak.  The peak was so cloud covered in a picture would show nothing but white.
The famous clock tower in Chiang Rai,  our next stop.
Michelle always picks the best locations for our hotel accommodations.
We both had a craving for a good burger, not a fast food burger.  Heaven Burger restaurant was just right.
One of the main attraction in Chiang Rai is the White Temple.  It was built by a local artist and his students.  Partly a Buddhist temple but more a showcase for his artistic tastes.  He is skilled in sculpture,  painting, and medallions.
The place is pretty awesome in stark white.
This area reminded us both of a scene from Dante
One of several strange alien creature looking sculptures.
Michelle flirting with the artist
And as soon as I turn my back,  and she is a grandma
On the flip side is the Black House.  Built by another local artist whose taste is much darker.  He seems fascinated by bull horns and phallic art.
All the art and construction has a gloomy feeling to it.  Maybe even foreboding.
An egg shaped building
Not even sure what this is,  LSD inspired ??
And the Blue Temple,  no one is quite sure why it was built in blue but it is very pretty
The inside is phenomenal
Colors of Doi Tung Festival runs every weekend during December  an hour or so drive from Chain Rai.
colorful clothes of a group of the hill tribe children
free hammocks for you weary bones.  The festival featured many food vendors, artisans, a few entertainers.
I had them check my blood pressure as old age has given me high bp,  All was better than expected.
The home of the "Queen Mother"  who was the mother of the former and current king.  She died of old age many years ago.  She as born a commoner and her future husband of royal blood had to give ten written reasons to his parents why she would  a suitable wife.  She was a women of the people and did many things to help ordinary citizens improve their lives.  She used to weave scarves for the soldiers to keep the chill off during cold nights.  She was also an avid reader and writer of letters.
Her back porch overlooked an expansive garden.
The orchid house
A real live stuffed dinosaur,  honest
We took a quick trip to the "Golden Triangle",  the juncture of the national borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar ( now Burma )  It