22 December 2007

Ao Chalong, Phuket

Anchored at Ao Chalong (Chalong Bay)
Phuket Province
Andaman Sea

Its official. We are in Thailand!

Team Sandpiper got an intentional late start from our anchorage at Koh Lipe at 10am after a night of cold beers on the beach and a late paddle back to Sandpiper. We motored through the islands of Butang, which is part of a Thai national park, for 2 hours. Once clear of the islands, we set sail. That's right! We shook all the dust off Sandpipers sails and sailed the whole way to where we are currently anchored!! Its a miracle! We are now officially in the NE Monsoon zone and the winds should be a bit more predictable now we are farther north of the equator.

We had a great 100 mile overnight sail with the moon overhead. Just like the ones Jimmy Buffet sings about. These trips do not happen often. It was nice to not burn fuel and sail to where we were going, like a sailboat is supposed to.

We dropped the hook amongst a large group of other boats. Some are other cruisers. But the majority of the boats anchored here are charter boats and speed boats that run tourists out to the nearby islands.

Karma is weird. It caught up to us once we anchored. We anchored early and hoped to get ashore early to check in with customs. But other forces in the universe decided that they would delay us a bit. I must digress a bit here to explain...

We have not used our outboard motor and dinghy since being anchored in Belitung, Indonesia because we have been in marinas in Malaysia. After all, it was so cheap to tie up every night. On our last day anchored in Belitung I needed to go ashore, before we left, in order to return all the empty plastic Bintang beer crates that we had on board. We had stowed all the beer bottles wherever we could find an empty space on board.

Also, we had lost the fuel-tank cap to the outboard. The fuel tank sits on the top of the engine. Because it is such a small motor, only 2hp, the fuel tank is part of the engine. As a temporary fix, we wrapped some aluminum foil over the hole where the cap should go.

So I loaded the dinghy with all the empty beer crates and started motoring towards the beach. When I looked back at Sandpiper, where Amy had stayed aboard, I saw a huge storm cloud with lightning bolts zapping out all over the place. It was a really ugly cloud. But I figured that I had enough time to get to the beach to dump off all the crates. But I figured wrong.

When I got to the beach, the storm was just off the Sandpiper. The smart thing to do would have been for me to stay at the beach and wait for the storm to pass. About half way back to the Sandpiper was hit by the big storm with winds over 30 knots. It hit the Sandpiper and Amy first. Then it hit me in the dinghy.

Immediately the aluminum foil cover was blown off the fuel tank. Waves started coming over the bow of the dingy. I had to put my hand over the fuel tank fill hole in order to keep the sea water out. Somehow I made it back to Sandpiper without the engine stalling and me being blown out to sea.

So why am I telling you this story now? Just after we anchored here in Ao Chalong, we inflated up the dinghy, tossed it into the water, and mounted the outboard motor on it. As we did this the wind picked up a bit. But since it was blowing towards shore it would be OK since we would be motoring downwind. Then just as we pulled away from Sandpiper, our new outboard motor (that we bought back in Australia) stalled.

Since the wind was blowing hard, we decided that we needed to get back to Sandpiper before we were blown across the anchorage. It took us about 20 minutes of vigorous paddling to get back. For a short time were just paddling like crazy not making any forward progress.

We finally made it back to Sandpiper and pulled the motor back on board so we could work on it. We took off the fuel tank and the carburetor and discovered that the tank still had sea water in it from Indonesia when I got caught in the 'perfect storm'. So we cleaned everything out. We also decided that not only was there water in the fuel tank. But that the outboard fuel we had on board was so old that it was no longer any good. We also had a brand new fuel tank cap that Amy's dad mailed to us in Langkawi. So we could get rid of the leaky aluminum foil lid that we had fabricated.

So this left us stuck on Sandpiper unable able to get ashore because we did not want to row in such windy conditions. So Amy sprung into action. She put a call out on the VHF radio channel 16 asking if there were other boats in the anchorage that could help us to get to shore. The boat that called us back was just anchoring and they would be right over to tow our dinghy ashore so we could buy some clean fuel.

The boat that came over to tow us was a the same couple that was having trouble with their dinghy's motor back in Kupang, Indonesia a few months ago. We had towed from the beach back to their boat in the middle of the night. So karma caught up to us and now we are even! It is quite bizarre that the first boat to call us back was someone we had helped before. Small world!

We got checked into immigration, customs, and the port captain with no problems. And Sandpiper's dinghy motor is running like a champ with new, clean fuel protected from the elements by Bob Sherman's fuel cap.

Speaking of small world: S/V Ohana Kai, whom we had not seen since Tonga (September 2006), is anchored right next to us. They are headed up the Red Sea the same time we are. They also helped us out and told us where to go to get items repaired that need to be fixed before we sail across the Indian Ocean. We need to have our jib sail mended, the Bimini Top patched up, stainless fabricated for our boom that has been broken since before Bali. And seat cushions made up to replace the cushions below that are boat's 1976 originals.

Our plans are to pull off the jib sail and Bimini cover first thing in the morning. Then we will drop them off at a surf shop that also does sewing oddly enough. We are then heading out 12 miles to meet up with our Norwegian friends on the S/V Uterus for Christmas and New Years.

If you did not see our previous entry about needing a used laptop to get us back home safely , then click here.

Also we have a new Thai mobile phone number. So if you want to call and wish us a Merry Christmas, the number is +66-856-412-900.

Tom and Amy

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