02 February 2008

Mu Ko Similan National Park

Mooring Ball
Ko Miang (Miang Island)
Mu Ko Similan National Park
Andaman Sea

It is true! We finally pried ourselves away from Kata Beach and have started our way across the Indian Ocean. We have not made it too far yet. We have this one last stop in Thailand where Sandpiper is presently on a mooring buoy, 60 miles off the coast of Phuket, at Ko Miang, one of nine islands in the Mu Ko Similan National Park. The Similan Islands are ranked among the top ten best coral reefs in the world and attracts divers and tourists from all over the world (I stole this blurb out of their National Park Guide).

We left Kata Beach right before sunset on Thursday night to avoid all the fish traps near shore. We motored through a calm, windless night arriving at sunrise Ko Hu Yong, the most southern island in the Similan Island Group. We actually arrived several hours early because we traveled a bit faster than planned. Sandpiper seems a bit faster now with her new bottom paint and properly aligned engine. Being that we did not want to arrive in the dark, we just shut off the engine and drifted offshore in the flat calm seas waiting for sunrise.

Once the sky lightened, up we pulled in and grabbed a mooring ball in clear blue water water. We watched all the reef fish swimming under Sandpiper's hull, off a perfect white sand beach. We were soon in the crystal clear water snorkeling among bright corals and reef fishes. The snorkeling here is the best that we have seen since being at Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Once we were back out of the water, we motored 2 miles north to Ko Miang where we are presently moored in a protected harbor. This is also the National Parks headquarters. All the islands here have mooring balls and anchoring is not allowed to protect the reefs. There are different sized mooring balls for the different sized boats. You just grab whatever mooring ball is free.

There are several other sailboats here. But the majority of the boats here are dive boats that have their customers stay on board for several days while diving throughout the islands. Ashore is a white sand beach. And father inland are several low budget bungalows. For the even lower budget tourist is a tent city where you can rent a tent. There are also free showers, and small restaurant where, surprisingly, an ice cold Chang is the same price as the mainland.

There is a park fee, which we paid, that allows us stay on their mooring buoys. It also lets us use their facilities ashore.

This trip is the second time we have left Kata Beach. We first departed for this same voyage on Sunday night. Ten miles out we noticed that our sea/fresh water cooling pump that we had just had rebuilt was leaking badly through the new seals. We held a quick Team Sandpiper brief in the cockpit and decided to turn around and return to Kata Beach. It will be a very long time till we will see a Volvo mechanic again.

Sandpiper arrived back in the Kata anchorage just before midnight. Actually having to come back was not to hard of a decision as we love Kata Beach so much. And our friends Ben Brown and S/V Sunburn were still there. This gave us more time to visit them before leaving again.

Monday morning I rented a small motorcycle and rode to the other side of Phuket Island to met with Mr. Suwiet, the Volvo mechanic that had rebuilt the pump the first time. He quickly took the pump apart and found a small scratch on the pump's shaft that had torn the new seal. He had the pump rebuilt in a few hours and I was on the road back to Sandpiper.

Riding a motorcycle in Thailand is quite exhilarating as half the traffic in Thailand is motorcycles. You just race along with them, passing cars on the shoulder of the road. You thread through the lanes of traffic at stop lights, then race all the other motorbikes when the light turns green. Since we had the bike for 24 hours, we decided to stay at Kata Beach one more day to get groceries. Amy ride on the back of the motorbike with a big backpack full of goodies on her back.

After saying goodbye to Ben Brown and S/V Sunburn once again, along with all the other boats in the anchorage, Sandpiper left at sunset with all systems running at 100% and with all pumps being drip free. Ben is now back to work off the coast of Australia on a oil seismic ship. S/V Sunburn is returning to Langkawi in Malaysia.

Although we love to sail and save our fuel, it was a good run for Sandpiper to test all of her mechanical systems to make sure everything is running well before we make this next jump to the west. We even made 15 gallons of fresh water using the watermaker.

From where we are presently moored in the Similan Islands we have 1465 nautical mile run to our next stop at Uligan (Uleguma) Island in the Thiladhunmati Group of the Maldive Islands. Then it is an 1100 miles sail to Oman, and then all the way up the Red Sea to the Suez Canal.

Much love to all,


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