Leaving Malaysia

The magic day finally arrives, November 9th, clear skies and we are finally leaving Rebak! After four + months sitting in the marina, both Ariel and Derek are ready for something else. We agreed to bring a dinghy up to Phuket for a friend and after lashing it to the foredeck we were ready to roll.

Even though there are other things we should do in Langkawi we are heading out. We will take our time going up to Phuket, Thailand. It is only 130 miles away but there are many beautiful islands in between here and there and we hope to see a few. Our first day is basically motoring as there is no wind. In fact, most of the trip turned out to be motoring. It felt like we drove up to Thailand.

We have an easy 25 mile day and enjoy our first anchorage in Thailand, behind Terutao Island, a national park. The scenery is LUSH with bright green jungle dripping off every rock. As we drop the hook we are welcomed by a dolphin which swims around our boat. This is a very good omen.

That night we had six more of his friends visit us. You can hear them approaching as the blow hole sound they make when they continuously surface is very distinct. Our next stop, Koh Petra, was interesting as well.

This island, typical of the karst formations for which this area of the world is famous, soars out of the sea straight up to a height of 350 feet. The sheer limestone walls and in particular the caves that pockmark this type of rock make ideal homes for swallows. If you ever wondered where bird’s nest soup comes from – it’s here.

Wiry brown Thais climb up bamboo and vine scaffolding a hundred feet up or more (no safety equipment) inside these large caves and harvest the nests. Swallows nests are made out of basically bird spit so don’t expect Campbells to pick this up as a new flavor.

It is very popular with Asians though and is one of the most expensive Chinese dishes, costing over $100 a nest. I’ve had it and like I said, bird spit. But at a hundred bucks a bowl these little nests are literally worth more than their weight in gold and the caves are fiercely protected.

Koh Petra, although beautiful, is a major harvesting site and we were warned by several different yachties not to anchor too close to the island and not to go ashore. The few Thais on the island have guns and will shoot at the occasional yacht if it gets too close. Well, it didn’t sound too inviting but we figured if we followed the rules then it would be fine, and it was.

However, just after we arrived three other yachts dropped the hook as well and then took out their dinghies to go explore the island! Sure enough, the workers (all three of them) on the island started shouting at the people in the dinghies and waving their arms.

The yachties ignored them. The Thais fired their shotgun a few times in the air and were ignored. They finally hopped in their boat and chased after them and were still ignored! I felt like shooting the yachties myself. Here you can anchor in paradise and have terrific freedoms if you respect local rules.

These idiots felt they were above the law and just make it harder for those who come after them. They were finally persuaded to turn back, which they did for five minutes and then dinghied over to the other side of the island. Like I said, idiots.

One of the highlights of the trip up was Koh Phi Phi, probably the most famous of all these islands. I have visited Phi Phi as a backpacker about four or five times over the last dozen years or so and could not believe the change the little island has undergone. Ariel and I even came here two years ago on a quick trip and she hardly recognized it.

Phi Phi has gone from a sleepy beautiful tropical paradise with awesome scenery to the next techno stop on the Ibiza circuit. The place is FULL of young Europeans coming over for the party. It seemed there were two major discos that competed on sound alone and we, at anchor in the bay, got to enjoy the music until 3 AM every night. Two nights of being sleepless in Phi Phi were enough and we moved on to Phuket after that.

Phi Phi was fun to see again, though, the scenery above the hotels and hordes was still spectacular and we did a little snorkeling. It was also kind of cool to reminisce about past trips with the backpack, scratching bedbugs in some no name bungalow and now we are lucky enough to sail into here (and more importantly to sail out!) on our own boat.

Phuket Boat Lagoon is just that, a hot lagoon full of big boats now. Before, it was swampy lowland where a lot of tin mining occurred. The owner of the mines bought a big powerboat, a Grand Banks which now belongs to a friend of ours in Rebak, “Mr. Charlie.” Anyway, the Thai mine owner needed a place to put his boat so he dredged the little muddy creek that went into the lagoon and thus began the whole history of yachting in this part of the Kingdom.

The creek, or canal, is still shallow. We draw just over two meters (6’6″) and had to anchor outside for the night to wait for high tide at first light. The canal is marked by cement posts every 150 feet or so and snakes around for about a mile through the mangroves until you come around the corner and WHAM there’s a big marina right in your face.

We did all of that, just as we were supposed to and ran aground three different times! I was a bit concerned this would happen as we were coming in at the highest part of the tide which was just deep enough for us and we didn’t have a whole lot of time to fart around before the tide would start to go out again.

We also don’t have a kedge anchor yet (an anchor ready to go off the back of the boat which you set if you run aground to haul yourself off whatever you ran into). The canal is just mud so as long as we didn’t get stuck too hard we would be OK. We managed to back off each time and continue on our merry way.

It was great and now we have a very clean keel. We arrived after a nice one week trip up the emerald coastline of SW Thailand where we got to enjoy the boat after months of work. Now we are back in a marina for more work. But this time we have a car (monthly rental for $285) and are racing around getting things done.