Ken and Katie's voyages aboard Sand Dollar

N 08° 03' E 98° 55'

Goodbye Southeast Asia

April 05, 2013

Due to technical difficulties, we’ve moved new blog posts to:


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N 08° 03' E 98° 55'

Tanjung Rhu to Krabi

January 27, 2013

Dear Friends and Family, After five days at Tanjung Rhu we traveled five miles on Thanksgiving morning to pretty Datai Bay with its two five-star resorts sitting among the trees. We strolled the beach where cabana boys ferried drinks and towels to guests on lounge chairs. Thanksgiving dinner on SD was canned roast beef and mashed potatoes (not bad), followed by a night-time fireworks display on the beach, which was doubtless unrelated to Thanksgiving, but made a festive closing to our holiday. The following morning as we lingered over our coffee in the cockpit, we were treated to the sight of a white-bellied sea eagle perched on a nearby rock, enjoying a leisurely breakfast of a freshly caught fish. When all three of us were finished, SD’s crew weighed anchor for the short trip to Telaga Harbor. x

Although we chose to stay in the free anchorage, the harbor also has a large marina, and we had access to such welcome amenities as fuel, ice, showers, WiFi, and fresh water. It was a good venue for our interior re-varnishing project, and we tackled one section each day. This was quite the production in our small cabin, as to clear one area to varnish, everything in the vicinity had to be moved to somewhere else. This effectively put two areas out of commission: one with wet varnish, another with a pile of cushions and what-not. After ten days of this, we needed a break, so we sailed down to Rebak Island Marina, where we spent a couple of days doing laundry, washing the boat, lounging in the pool, and having sundowners at the shady beach bar with some good friends from our Majuro days. When we left Rebak we spent two days anchored off Cenang Beach, a party town where jet skis whizzed around us like wasps all day. Inflatable “banana boats”, each straddled by multiple riders, were towed around the bay by small motor boats, concluding their rides by capsizing all the shrieking passengers into the shallow water. We strolled the beach, hit the duty-free shops, and toured the big aquarium at Underwater World Langkawi. x

With our liquor locker stocked and our cooler full of ice we said goodbye to civilization for a while and spent the next week exploring anchorages at the little islands south of Langkawi. Although an unfortunate fringe of trash lined the edge of the jungle of some beaches, there were no villages and we encountered only two groups of picnic-ers. We caught rain water to fill our tanks, and we burned our trash on an empty beach where a scary-sounding snorting and crashing in the brush turned out later to be a group of wild pigs. On December 17th we sailed to the Kuah Town anchorage in a lively 18-20 knot breeze. Tacking our way up the bay, SD shouldered through the stiff chop, close-hauled under reefed jib and mizzen, with her lee rail buried in the gusts. Once we were “anchor down” a safe distance from the ferry terminal, Ken work on improvements to the mizzen sheet while Katie hung the Christmas lights and decorations in the cabin. x

During our time in Kuah, we continued with the varnishing, tackled some other projects, got some repairs made to our canvas and re-connected with some old friends. Our friend John generously loaned us his motorbike, and Friday afternoons became a standing lunch date with John, Jonno, Nick and Jeff at a terrific fish and chips place on a beautiful beach. Our friend Ray hosted Christmas dinner at her tiny local bar, “Ray’s Place”, where we joined a dozen friends for a wonderful meal that included roast duck, cauliflower casserole, roast pumpkin and mince tarts. x

For New Year’s, we figured that party-hearty Cenang Beach would be a festive venue. Since it lay only seven miles west, Ken decided that a champagne sunset cruise would be just the ticket. We chilled a bottle of champagne on ice we’d scored from our friend Amanda, owner of “Amanda’s Coffee and Tea Shop”, and for once, the weather cooperated with our plans. We were underway by early evening on December 30th, with SD slipping gently toward the setting sun in a light breeze under main and headsail as her crew sipped cold champagne. New Year’s Eve was overcast when we went ashore at Cenang, eventually deteriorating to a steady drizzle. We planned to go back in after dark for some festivities, but in the miserable weather we opted instead to stay home with a movie and another bottle of champagne. At midnight, laughter and shouts from the beach sent us climbing in the cockpit. The rain had stopped, and all along the two-mile beach-front, brilliant fireworks were launching skyward. The pyrotechnics were joined by a hundred little “prayer lanterns”, glowing a soft orange as they floated gently aloft, high into the darkness. x

We returned to Telaga for ten days and finished our varnishing before sailing for Thailand on January 11th. Our plan was to day-sail to avoid having to navigate in the dark through the SE Asia mine field of fishing boats, nets, traps, and stakes. Island-hopping northward our first day gave us some perfect spinnaker sailing to Ko Tarutao, where the beach was empty save for a herd (a swarm? a gaggle?) of two dozen pigs. We didn’t go ashore, but continued the next day to charming Bulon Le, with its white sand beach, little resort bungalows, and wonderful Thai food. A narrow shady concrete walkway allegedly crossed the island, winding past tiny bars, restaurants and shops. We strolled along it one evening, but it eventually ended, becoming a dirt path. As darkness fell we found ourselves in the jungle, entering a rubber tree plantation. Reluctant to spend the night lost in the wild with the bugs, we bailed on that exploration and retraced our steps back to the beach. On our departure morning, the ugly teeth of a yacht-eating reef exposed at low tide had us eager to leave. We were in safe water, but the wind had now put us on a lee shore, so we sailed away to Ko Talibong, anchoring off a deserted beach. x

Next stop was Ko Muk, where after a quiet night at anchor, we motored around to the west side to visit the “hong” known as “Emerald Cave”. The hong is a small pristine lagoon about half the size of a football field, and is completely surrounded by towering limestone cliffs. The only way to enter is to swim about 80 yards through a tunnel, which twists through one stretch of total darkness. We wore our headlamps as we swam, and the romantically spooky tunnel reminded us of the pirate cave in the original “Pirates of the Caribbean”. In fact, long ago pirates actually did stash their booty there. We could almost hear them yo-ho-ing as our own voices echoed in the darkness, and we soon emerged to a magical scene. Lush jungle foliage lined the back of the lagoon’s little beach and climbed the soaring cliff walls, and blue sky was visible at the hong’s opening, hundreds of feet overhead. There were about ten other people in the hong, but as we swam back out, we passed two dozen inbound swimmers, and we emerged to find multiple tour boats off-loading hordes more. x

 Grateful to have missed the thundering herd, we sailed for Ko Lanta, fifteen miles distant, and anchored off its east coast at Old Town, where we had an excellent dinner at a tiny patio restaurant over the water. In the morning the wind was “blowing the hair off the dogs” and whitecaps covered the bay, so we re-anchored a half mile east in the lee of little Ko Por. Much better! We took a quiet walk on the island’s shady little road through the jungle and met a young Thai woman who invited us to her home. Accessed by a dirt path through a rubber tree plantation, her lovely home stood on stilts at the edge of the beach, and little rental bungalows sat under some nearby trees. She brought us coffee and a delicious simple dish of potatoes and bananas stewed in coconut milk, and her father knocked down some green coconuts for us to drink. We spent a wonderful hour relaxing in chairs on the shady lawn visiting with her and her family. The next day, that same wind gave us a rowdy thirteen mile sail up Ko Lanta’s west coast with reefs in the sails as SD charged through the whitecaps. We anchored off touristy Klong Dao, packed with shops and bungalows. Even anchored in the bay without her sun awning, the wind gusts were so strong that SD was heeling under bare poles. x

Two days later we had a spectacular 25-mile run to Railey Beach under full sail. The only access to Railey is by sea, as there are no roads, so dozens of the local boats called long-tails roar back and forth across the bay, loaded with tourists. After an hour we’d had about enough of that, and sought relief from the racket by re-anchoring in Ao Nang, the next bay north. The long-tail traffic in our immediate vicinity was marginally better, but when we went ashore we found ourselves in the most touristy town either of us had ever seen. Souvenir shops, restaurants, fruit stands, guest-houses and more are crammed together on the streets, and the shady beach walkway is lined with two dozen cabanas where smiling Thai ladies call out “Massaaaaage?” to every passer-by. Suffering from sensory overload, we stopped for a beer on the patio of a quiet beach resort and noticed a little swimming pool in the small shady courtyard. No one was looking, so we nonchalantly got in and lounged in the heavenly coolness. We were in Ao Nang for two more days, and repeated our successful escapade by crashing the pool each afternoon. One day we rented a motorbike and rode about 15 miles to Krabi town to check into Thailand. While we were in town, we visited the Krabi River Marina, which looked perfectly charming, and we made plans to move SD to the marina the next day. x

On our last day at Ao Nang we took a long stroll on the casuarina-lined promenade that runs along the beach. We stopped for a beer at a tiny cafe, and although the owners spoke very little English, we managed to strike up a conversation. We pulled out a photo of SD to help us describe our journeys and when our hosts realized what we were saying, they were astounded. “America? two people? five years? Ooooh!”. Thereafter, when a customer would enter they’d show SD’s photo and excitedly point to us, exclaiming, “America! two people! five years!”. x

 From Ao Nang it was five miles to the Krabi River sea buoy, and another five miles upriver to the marina, which will be home for us and our little ship for the next week. We will explore Krabi town, take showers with real plumbing (!), wash the boat and most of her contents, eat local food, and generally kick back until we move SD to Krabi Boat Lagoon on February 1st to haul out and paint her bottom. Love, Katie

P.S. We’ve updated our map and posted new photos in our album Contact:

Position: (call sign N4KS)

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N 06° 27' E 99° 49'

Tanjung Rhu

November 20, 2012

Dear Friends and Family,

Our final two weeks at Hole-in-the-Wall were a pleasant combination of work and play. Dozens of boat chores kept us busy, but we found time for several lovely river trips in our dinghy, “Loose Change”.

The Kilim (“keelim”) River is blessedly devoid of development, save for a few floating fish farms, some with tiny open-air restaurants. But wildlife is plentiful, as sea eagles soar overhead, bright turquoise kingfishers perch in the mangroves, and an occasional monitor lizard lumbers by. A troop of macaque monkeys claimed a tree near our boat for several evenings and provided cocktail hour entertainment. A school of small striped fish took up residence alongside SD’s hull, and one day we fed them some crumbled crackers. After that, they took to spitting water at us when they saw us, presumably demanding more goodies.

One day we took Loose Change an hour or so up the river to our next planned anchorage, a quiet bay near a headland called Tanjung Rhu.(“Tanjung” means “cape” or “headland”.) After a cheap and tasty local lunch we headed home, and, skilled navigators that we are, we managed to get lost. No worries though; we simply waited until a tour boat motored by, and, watching him, we readily saw a small channel that we had missed.

We made a few dinghy trips to nearby Kilim Jetty and caught a cab to Kuah Town for provisions, and we had several visits with our old friend, solo sailor Marie Christine, a French physician. She had us to her yacht one evening for dinner, and we invited her aboard SD for cocktails on Katie’s birthday.

We departed Kilim River on a Saturday morning for the short trip to Tanjung Rhu. We entered the narrow channel to the bay just after dead low tide and promptly ran aground. No big deal though – the tide was rising, the sun was shining, and we simply bobbed around, bouncing gently on the sand bar for twenty minutes while Ken ate a PBJ and we waited for more water. We were soon afloat, and five minutes later we turned to starboard near the buoy that marks a sunken wreck, and dropped our hook in the pretty bay amongst a half dozen other yachts. A couple of fish farms and tiny restaurants attract the same tour boats that use to pass our river mooring, but the traffic is much thinner. The tour concession area up a nearby channel has an excellent buffet-style local lunch, and we’ve become such regulars that the friendly Muslim proprietress smiles and says, “Two iced coffees?” as soon as she sees us.

The bay here is quiet and clean, and the clear green water is so cool and refreshing that we’re in it several times each day. The neighbors are far enough away that many of our swims are au naturel. Our little anchorage is a good place to continue with the odd boat project. One of our auto pilots, “Bob 1” had developed a puzzling tendency to run backward i.e., order “left”, and he’d turn right, and vice versa. But Ken had him sorted out without too much trouble with parts he’d brought back from the USA, and now he’s aces again. In our enthusiasm to have things squared away, we laid our canvas windshield covers on the foredeck to dry after we’d washed them. Alas, while we were off at lunch, the breeze picked up, and we returned to find that one cover had blown away, another sacrifice to King Neptune! Ken is still pretty cranky about that, but at least we have enough fabric aboard for a new one.

Mindful of that shallow entry channel, we’re waiting a tide window for our departure, and plan to travel to our next anchorage, nearby Pulau Datai, in a few days.

We hope to be able to upload photos when we get within range of a broad bandwidth network.

K and K

This report comes to you as a courtesy of the Ham Radio Winlink system (

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N 06° 21' E 99° 40'

Back Aboard

November 02, 2012

Dear Friends and Family,

After spending a very enjoyable five months at our humble abode in northeast Florida, we’re back aboard Sand Dollar. We had moored her on a quiet secluded river on the northeast side of Langkawi Island, Malaysia. The return trip to SD was an ordeal with long layovers in D.C. and Singapore, but thankfully uneventful. While en route, we spent three enjoyable nights in Penang while we acquired Thai visas, did a little sight-seeing and chowed down on yummy local cuisine. On our last night in Penang, we had the pleasant surprise of an email from our cruising friends Nick and Bonnie saying that they were also in Penang. A quick phone call later, we were enjoying a happy reunion over some cold beers at the Hong Kong Bar. The time we were away was the wet season, so we were happy to see SD with only a mild condition of dirt, mildew and green stuff. Even the bottom growth was minimal. We’ve been busy getting her cleaned up and put back in order. However, we were disappointed to see that somebody helped themselves to our mainsheet and one of our halyards. It appears the thief was looking for a particular diameter of rope, because our other larger diameter ropes were left behind.

After spending a week or two here on the river, we will begin another season of cruising around the Langkawi area of Malaysia and the west coast of Thailand.

It feels good to be back!

K and K

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N 06° 21' E 99° 40'

Back Aboard

November 02, 2012

Dear Friends and Family,

After spending a very enjoyable five months at our humble abode in northeast Florida, we’re back aboard Sand Dollar. We had moored her on a quiet secluded river on the northeast side of Langkawi Island, Malaysia. The return trip to SD was an ordeal with long layovers in D.C. and Singapore, but thankfully uneventful. While en route, we spent three enjoyable nights in Penang while we acquired Thai visas, did a little sight-seeing and chowed down on yummy local cuisine. On our last night in Penang, we had the pleasant surprise of an email from our cruising friends Nick and Bonnie saying that they were also in Penang. A quick phone call later, we were enjoying a happy reunion over some cold beers at the Hong Kong Bar. The time we were away was the wet season, so we were happy to see SD with only a mild condition of dirt, mildew and green stuff. Even the bottom growth was minimal. We’ve been busy getting her cleaned up and put back in order. However, we were disappointed to see that somebody helped themselves to our mainsheet and one of our halyards. It appears the thief was looking for a particular diameter of rope, because our other larger diameter ropes were left behind.

After spending a week or two here on the river, we will begin another season of cruising around the Langkawi area of Malaysia and the west coast of Thailand.

It feels good to be back!

K and K

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N 06° 21' E 99° 40'

Phuket - Chapter II

May 07, 2012

Dear Friends and Family,

After enjoying touring the west coast of Phuket Island, we returned to beautiful Chalong Bay in the southeast corner of the island and made it our base of operations. From there we were able to get several items taken care of on Sand Dollar, one of which was having a new awning/rain-catcher made. The girls that made it work in a loft above Rick’s Surf Shop and did an outstanding job at a reasonable price. We also had our engine’s starter and alternator overhauled by a local expert in Phuket Town. It was entertaining to watch him disassemble, clean and replace the worn out parts. We think he could have done it blind-folded.(A picture of his smiling face is included in the recent photos we’ve posted.) One evening Sand Dollar joined the crowd as the majority of boats in the anchorage steamed out and headed seaward, making for deeper water after an earthquake in Indonesia was rumored to have spawned a tsunami, which happily never materialized. We also made a couple of trips to small islands near Ao Chalong. Time passed pleasantly, with us enjoying Thai cuisine, visiting with fellow yachties at the funky Phuket Cruising Yacht Club, and occasionally renting a motorbike from Bei, a friendly and charming local woman, to tour the countryside. After our 60-day visa ran out, we sailed back to Langkawi Island, Malaysia. For the last week or so, we’ve been anchored in lovely Telaga Harbor (zoom in on #72 on the map). Sea-eagles cruise the anchorage, we can hear the hornbills cackling in the jungle, and the other day on shore, a monkey snuck up to a little convenience store and made off with a loaf of bread, with the shop-keeper in hot but futile pursuit. In a couple of days we will sail over to Rebak Island Marina to take advantage of its washing machines and fresh water in order to clean and prepare Sand Dollar for her five month hiatus. During the rainy season, she will be moored on the peaceful Killim river while we’re gone (see #64 on the map). Another season of cruising has come to an end, but we are looking forward to returning to our home base in Florida once again.

Cheers! Ken and Katie

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N 07° 49' E 98° 21'

Back in Ao Chalong

March 27, 2012

After spending a nice couple of weeks sailing the west coast of Phuket, we’re back in Ao Chalong for a while. To see where we are and where we’ve been, click on the “Map” tab.

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N 07° 46' E 98° 18'

(no subject)

March 22, 2012

07,49.42E 098,21.16E

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N 08° 05' E 98° 17'

Phuket - Chapter I

March 13, 2012

Dear Friends and Family,

We cast off our Monkey Beach mooring early on a sunny morning and had a pleasant 22-mile sail to Ao Chalong, reaching along under reefed main and full headsail. Passing the floats of a little pearl farm as we entered Ao Chalong (“ao” means “bay”), we dropped the hook near the yacht Estrellita, whose hailing port is Dunedin, Florida. We had a rendezvous planned with her crew, Bill and Amy, friends of ours from Majuro, but they weren’t aboard now, so we decided to go ashore for a cold drink.

This part of the bay, away from the main anchorage, is pretty quiet, but we found a few little open-air pavilion-type restaurants on the beach. A cold beer and a spicy green papaya salad hit the spot before we returned to the boat. By evening, there was still no sign of Bill and Amy, so we opted to go back to the beach for dinner. However, the tide was out, and when we were still 50 yards from shore, the dinghy began scraping the reef. In the dark we were unable to see it, and the slack water offered no wavelets to mark its presence, but it was just inches below the surface, and it certainly made itself known when the oars clunked against it. Ken managed to maneuver Loose Change free from the clutches of the reef, and that was the end of our dinner plans!

The next morning we made contact with Bill on the VHF radio, and agreed to meet ashore later for lunch. We weighed anchor and motored in to the main Ao Chalong anchorage, where more than two dozen boats floated, with hailing ports from Guam, Liverpool, L.A., Papeete, Australia, of course, and a host of others. We dinghied to the pier and walked the short distance to the port offices, where Customs, Immigration, and Port Control are all conveniently housed in the same building. Having taken advantage of Phuket’s new on-line check in process, we breezed through the process and were officially cleared into Thailand. We made our way down the beach to the Phuket Cruising Yacht Club, and made arrangements with the friendly Aussie owner, Brent, for a mooring. PCYC is home to a rather rustic little beach bar, and it also offers a shower, a nice menu, assorted yachtie services (including water), a dinghy-landing beach, and a nice shady thatch-roofed porch where one can sit and gaze at the bay while relaxing with a coldie.

We took a stroll down the little jetty road to a canvas shop where we left our beloved big sun awning. It was in serious need of several significant repairs, and we hoped that the little Thai seamstress understood our English enough to handle our job. We ran a few more errands, but still hadn’t seen Bill and Amy, so we decided to go ahead and have lunch. The Anchor Inn’s tropical decor was cool and breezy, with lattice-work and a delicate stand of bamboo shading its open front, and it served up an incredible Thai green curry with prawns, and the best fresh fruit yoghurt shakes we’ve ever tasted.

Happily stuffed, we began our stroll homeward and were halfway down the block when we finally ran into Bill and Amy, and Amy’s dad, Dave. They were on their way to a little beach bar, and we joined them and spent a wonderful hour swapping stories and getting caught up on each others’ past adventures and future plans. Estrellita and her crew were headed south the following day, to Malaysia, Singapore, and eventually around South Africa, and we sincerely wished them a safe voyage. As we left the bar, Bill offered to tow us back to Sand Dollar, and we gratefully accepted, with the five of us riding in Estrellita’s big inflatable while Loose Change skipped along behind us on her painter. When we arrived at SD, we swapped some DVD’s and said our good-byes, then hauled up our anchor and moved to our mooring.

We went ashore daily during our time in Ao Chalong, eating, exploring, and running assorted errands. We took on a new crew member in the “person” of a three-horsepower outboard motor for our dinghy. No more will the skipper have to battle foul currents or long distances just to row himself and his crew ashore for a cold beer!

We got to know our way around Ao Chalong pretty quickly and found it to be a lively place, full of smiling people. Thailand itself is known for its smiles and for its rich culture. The Thai people embrace a philosophy of “chai yen” (“cool heart”) and “sanuk” (“life is a pleasure!”). Because of this attitude, Thais exhibit a lovely sense of serenity, courtesy, humor, and well-being. Buddhism is Thailand’s dominant faith, and there are dozens of magnificent glittering temples and Buddha shrines throughout the country. In addition, private homes, businesses, and even malls often have smaller temples or spirit houses at their entrances, usually seen with offerings of rice, fruit, or incense in front to honor and appease the spirits and deities. (At the Anchor Inn, irreverent mynah birds would occasionally help themselves to the rice offering!)

Ao Chalong’s streets are fairly representative of what we saw in other areas: lots of little open-front bars, souvenir shops, restaurants, craft stalls, street-side grills, tour operators, tailors (?), noodle shops, and salons offering massages and facials. We rented a motorbike one day and rode to Phuket town, the “big city”. Ken did a marvelous job of not getting us killed, and Katie did a good job of not getting us lost. We weren’t particularly impressed with Phuket town, but we had a nice lunch at a tiny local restaurant, where almost no English was spoken. (That “nice lunch” came back to haunt us 12 hours later when we both came down with food poisoning, our first ever episode in SE Asia. It was thankfully brief, although we did feel pretty washed out the following day.)

On our way home from Phuket, we took the turn-off for the road leading to “the Big Buddha”. Set on a hilltop and visible from almost half the island, the statue, dressed in tiles of Burmese alabaster, is over 100 feet tall. Most of the winding six-kilometer drive was through pretty jungle, with occasional glimpses of glittering Ao Chalong far below. We passed several juice stands and little restaurants, and two concessions where several elephants restlessly waved their trunks, all saddled up to take tourists for a ride. Finally we arrived at the big Buddha, and found that he is, indeed, a BIG Buddha. Shining brilliantly white in the glaring sun, he gazes serenely down at the dozens of tourists and the collection of souvenir shops at his feet, and at Ao Chalong in the distance, sparkling blue and dotted with boats. We climbed a short path to get beyond the crowded areas, and sipped the cool water from a fresh coconut while we admired the Buddha and his view from a quiet grove under a shady tree with little prayer bells tinkling musically in its branches.

After a week in Ao Chalong, we’d retrieved our awning, expertly repaired, and on a clear Tuesday morning we dropped our mooring and headed for Phuket’s west coast. As we rounded the southern tip of the big island and turned north, the pale jade green of Chalong Bay gave way to a dark clear sapphire blue as we entered the deeper waters of the Andaman Sea. Our target that day was Hat Kata (“hat” means “beach”), a short distance up the coast.

It looked pretty touristy, and the little handful of jet-skis zipping around (Ken calls them “water maggots”) prompted us to continue northward a little further. A little bay called “Relax Bay” sounded just right, and when we poked our nose in there, we found a small pretty little beach and a five star resort tucked among the trees. Seemed fine, except for a bit of a swell. We ate lunch on board, didn’t go ashore at all, and as the afternoon wore on, the swell increased from uncomfortable to miserable. At the rather late hour of 1745, we decided we’d had about enough of that, and we sure didn’t want to spend the night rolling around, so we weighed anchor and headed four miles further north to Patong Beach, arriving just at sunset. There was a swell there, too, but quite tolerable, and we were glad we’d moved.

Patong is the “sin city” of Phuket; bright lights, bars a-plenty, sexy good-time girls, a big mall, souvenir shops, a lively gay sector for the “lady boys”, as they’re called, restaurants and street vendors everywhere. One establishment, the “Fisho Spa”, offered the novel service of exfoliation by little “doctor fish” (garra rufa). Patrons sat by the sidewalk with their legs dangling in clear tanks of water, while little fish nibbled away at their legs and feet. It’s touted as painless, but it must tickle, as the patrons were all giggling.You can buy anything from a Starbuck’s coffee and a custom-tailored suit to a elegant dinner or a female “companion” for the evening. It is the prime tourist destination on Phuket island, much more so than Phuket town itself. The initial reason for its popularity was its lovely crescent white-sand beach, which is still beautiful, with pale green water in the pretty bay. However, the beach is now wall-to-wall umbrellas and lounge chairs for “all of those tourists covered in oil”, and jet skis and parasailers zip across the bay. It’s tacky but funky, a blend of Key West, Las Vegas, and Fort Lauderdale beach, and ought to be experienced at least once if one is in the neighborhood.

Well, we were in the neighborhood, so the next morning we went ashore to check it out. As full of people as the beach was, it was still a pretty sight, and a little walkway on the beach itself wound its shady way among the casuarina trees, passing juice stands, hair braiding/beading stalls, and lounges under the trees where massages were offered. We bought big Diet Cokes in McDonald’s, sitting in their A/C to cool off, and then ventured forth in search of lunch. We finally found, among the tourist joints, a little street-side grill with great prices, great food, and Thai iced coffee, which was almost indescribably delicious. Ken had fried ginger with chicken, corn, cashews, & spices; Katie had pad thai, which is thin noodles with tofu, egg, chicken, chilies, ground peanuts, and spices.

We wandered all day, bought a few things, and finished up with a beer at a beach bar. As we relaxed with our drinks, we were approached by a pleasant young Thai hawking sunglasses from a fanny pack. He politely pointed out the amazing features of his wares, gently placed them on our faces, and exclaimed over the flattering look they gave us, handing us a mirror so we could admire the effect. Although we politely declined, he offered us two pair for the bargain price of 3500 THB (about $115 USD). We wouldn’t bite, so he repeated his spiel and lowered the price to 3000 THB. Still no sale, so this went on for about 15 minutes, with the price getting lower and lower. This guy was nothing if not persistent! Finally, when the price had fallen to 100 THB (about $3.30 USD for two pair!), we took pity on the guy and bought the glasses. What a way to make a living! Looking like movie stars in our new purchases, we headed home.

We left the next day in overcast, and actually had some nice sailing for a while, but the overcast deteriorated to downright miserable, with occasional downpours, heavy dark clouds, and a stiff choppy sea. We aimed for Nai Yang Bay, where there is a national park, and saw four other yachts anchored as we sailed in. We got our anchor down just in time, as the skies opened in a white-out of a torrential rain. The heavy rain dampened the chop, but there was no help for the ugly swell that was plaguing us again. Ken got into the dinghy at a break in the rain to set a second anchor for security as we were on a lee shore, but first he had to bail out about eight gallons of rainwater. The swell was so bad that at times the dinghy, alongside SD, rode up so that her gunwale was ABOVE SD’s toe rail, when it’s supposed to be about two feet below the toe rail.

Anyway, we had a pretty wild night, but the next day was a big improvement, and each following day even better, as the annoying swell died off, the days turned hot and sunny, and were at last able to go ashore. Nai Yang is also a tourist beach area, but much smaller; no jet skis, no frenzied honky-tonk atmosphere, no high-rises. One little dirt road runs through the heart of the tiny beach community, and it’s got a charming tropical/rustic atmosphere. Little restaurants have their tables right on the sand, many in the shade of the towering causarinas, lush island palms, and pandanus trees. There’s a bunch of tiny bars, some souvenir stalls, and an ice cream shop. A little mini-mart sells fresh fruit, cold champagne, and imported cheeses. The national park, up at the north end, has just a couple of hawker stalls, and we bought lunch there our first day; grilled chicken and spicy green papaya salad. The chicken included a chicken foot, which Katie tried to eat because her chef nephew Johnny said she had to. However, it was too tough to even bite into, so we passed it to a timid, skinny little dog who’d been hanging nearby. He was still chewing on it when we left!

With no current and no jellyfish, swimming is a delight, and it’s a short row to the beach. We’ll hang out here for a spell, enjoying the tropical ambience and the incredible food!

Cheers! K and k

To see where we are and where we’ve been, click on the “Map” tab. We’ve posted some new pictures at the “Photos” tab. We can be reached at:

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N 07° 44' E 98° 45'

Langkawi to Phuket - day 6

February 26, 2012

Dear Friends and Family,

We were awakened at 0730 on our first morning at Ko Rok Nok by the annoying banging of the big mooring ball against the boarding ladder. Since we had to get up to get that squared away, we went ahead and made coffee and settled in the cockpit with some of our favorite Chinese cookies to greet the day. We noted that the “Survivors” had survived their night on the beach and were wandering along the edge of the reef.

The Ko Rok group of islands is managed by the park service, and they maintain the handful of moorings in the area. Irresponsible anchoring is fatal to the reef, and the fine for damaging the coral is $1000.00 US, so the officials have wisely sunk a collection of moorings to protect the reef from anchor damage. At mid-morning a park service dinghy came alongside our mooring, and two divers jumped in to inspect it. We walked up to the bow to say hello, and were told that our mooring looked in good shape. Before they left, the divers also volunteered the information that water was available onshore at Ko Rok Nai, just across the channel.

That sounded tempting, so we moved to a mooring closer to Ko Rok Nai, and Katie dinghied ashore for some reconnaissance. This island turned out to be a campground, complete with ranger station, a tsunami warning tower, tiny restaurant, restrooms, lots of tents, a few guest cottages and a sugar sand beach, full of people. There were also, blessedly, a water faucet and and an outdoor shower. After filling a five-gallon water jug and enjoying a drenching in the shower, it was back to the boat to strap on some snorkel gear.

We had a splendid snorkel over the reef, with lots to see. Fish in pastel and neon colors, yellow-and-black striped Moorish idols, parrot fish in a patchwork of pastel blue, green, and lavender, and other fish in dull camouflage patterns. There were lots of big scallop-edged clams in startling shades of blue, purple, and orange wedged in the coral waiting for lunch to swim by. The most unusual thing we saw was an eight-armed bright blue starfish-looking guy, as big as a trash-can lid.

After more than an hour, we swam home against a lively current to find that about six more yachts had arrived, where we once were the only one. As they jockeyed for position near us and dropped their anchors (one of which bounced off of a couple of coral heads!), we opted to escape the crowd, so we returned to our previous mooring, where we were all alone; even the “survivors” had departed.

We were underway at 0800 the following morning, bound 32 NM north to the Phi Phi group of islands. A little pre-dawn lightning and thunder had accompanied a light rain, giving us a nice boat wash, and the morning was clear and dry. We had a pleasant morning sail, reaching along in a fair wind, until, as usual, the wind petered out at mid-day, with what little remained being right on the nose. We arrived at Phi Phi Le at 1430 and motored into the little lagoon. This beach gained international fame as the site for the filming a few years ago of the movie “The Beach”, with Leonardo DiCaprio. The beach is still as lovely as it looked in the movie, but it’s no longer a quiet paradise. Hordes of people crowded the beach, and a dozen tour boats bobbed in the water. It looked like Spring Break in Ft. Lauderdale, so we

didn’t even bother to stop, but just turned around and motored out the channel.

Immediately north of Phi Phi Le is Phi Phi Don, with big Ton Sai Bay on the south side, and we headed up there to look for a stopping place. We were surprised to see dozens of boats of every variety zooming to and fro across the water, hauling the tourists out to the reefs or in to the beach. The most amazing were the big ferries, whose multiple decks were so packed with tourists that they looked rather overloaded. We’re sure the US Coast Guard would not have been amused. We threaded our way through the assorted moored dive boats and found a vacant mooring away from the worst of the traffic. We picked it up and sat back to watch the show while we waited to see if anyone came along to kick us off the mooring. By the time the sun fell behind the big limestone cliff beside us, we had been unchallenged, so we decided to head for shore.

Beaching the dinghy well above the wrack line, we walked down a sandy paved beachside path to check out the village. We found ourselves in a maze of little walkways, crammed with bars, souvenir shops, open-front restaurants, dive shops, massage salons, tattoo and piercing parlors, and small markets. There were people everywhere, most of them twenty-something, and everyone looked hippie-casual in camisoles, shorts, sarongs, and bathing suits. It was an amazing tapestry of colors, sights, sounds, and smells. Lots of booze for sale, specialty cocktails everywhere, and it seemed to be a mix of Daytona Bike Week and Key West Fantasy Fest. It was delightful!!

We found a reasonably priced restaurant called “Lemongrass” serving local food, got a table right at the front, and ordered some Thai cold beers while we watched the carnival of people passing by. Several male diners were shirtless, and no one seemed to care, so Ken followed suit on this hot night (“when in Rome”….), hanging his shirt on his chair. However, when a quartet of pretty young American girls arrived at the restaurant, he decided to “get dressed up for them” and put his shirt back on. We had an amazing dinner of fresh whole snapper fried with “three-spice seasoning”, and an unbelievably good green curry with vegetables, lime, chicken, and a side of rice. It was outstanding, and Ken pronounced it the best curry he’s ever had.

After dinner we strolled the walkways, bought some limes and a mango, and basically people-watched. After half an hour or so, we discovered to our surprise that we had walked across a little isthmus to the beach on the opposite side of the island. Re-tracing our steps, we finally ended up back at the dinghy and headed for home. We hadn’t gotten any tattoos or piercings, but we’d had a great meal and a lot of fun!

The following morning the tour boats and ferries began coming to life at around 0900, and we decided that we’d had enough of the speedboats and tourist shops for a while. We dropped our mooring at noon and motored four miles around to Ao Lo Dalam, the bay on the north side of Phi Phi Don. Here the reef dries out to over 400 meters at low tide, so it’s no-go to take a dinghy ashore, except for a very brief period at high water. We picked up a mooring in a little pocket bay just inside the channel, where there is a small “do-able” beach, and although there are a few tour boats with snorkelers, it’s way more quiet than Ao Ton Sai (“ao” means “bay”). The area is called “monkey beach”, and indeed, there is a sign on our tiny beach saying “Beware Monkeys!” After years of being fed by tourists, the little guys can be kind of aggressive.

We dinghied in to the beach, dodging a handful of swimmers and snorkelers, and pulled the boat up under the trees. Everyone here is in swimsuits, and it’s a real treat to be able to go ashore without wearing street clothes. With the heat and humidity, we can go in wearing bathing suits, and just wade into the water when we want to cool off. There were a few dozen people on the beach feeding and photographing a bunch of the ever-present monkeys. As we landed the dinghy, the monkeys had a heated disagreement over some morsel of food, and began screeching and snarling and tumbling together, as the people shouted, “Monkey fight!”. One of the boat drivers threw sand at them (the monkeys, that is) to break it up, and they scattered as the small crowd of people hurried to get out of the way.

We bought a sandwich and a luscious coffee smoothie from the little juice stand under the trees, and sat in the shade watching the show as tourists snapped photos and fed the monkeys, sometimes from their hands, and the monkeys did amusing monkey things for photo-ops. Occasionally another monkey argument would break out, and folks would yell, “monkey fight!”, and a local lady with a slingshot would fire little stones at the scufflers. As Thai longtail boats and speedboats arrived and departed with their boatloads of tourists, the scene would repeat itself. All in all, it was great free entertainment.

We finally decided we were monkeyed out, and returned to SD for a shower and a snooze before happy hour. Tomorrow we sail about 23 NM for Ao Chalong, at the southern end of Phuket, where we’ll officially check into Thailand.

Cheers! K and K

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