Ok, raise your right hand and repeat after me “I promise to go sailing in Thailand before I kick the bucket”.
The NauticEd team has just completed a familiarization trip in the Phuket Thailand cruising area. The only complaint that we had was the same one we always have – why did we do only 7 days? 10 days I think is a minimum required amount 2 weeks even better.
We chartered a 46 ft catamaran from the Moorings. The 4600 has 4 cabins and 4 heads and thus 8 of us went. It has plenty of room with a huge covered outdoors back deck and dining area and huge front trampoline area. Myself, I’m very partial to catamarans for such an adventure trip as you always have plenty of room to stretch out and find your own space even with 8 people on board. And because the daytime living area is all one upper level, you never have to spend anytime overheating below decks. My opinion, sail a mono hull at home and at your local yacht club, but sail a Catamaran on a vacation. Side note, if you’re intimidated by a Catamaran, no worries, NauticEd has a Catamaran conversion course that will fill you with confidence.
The Phuket area is a real gem cruising ground on this planet and is not to be missed. Of particular note is the distinct Tower Karst type islands. One such was made famous by the James Bond movie “The Man With The Golden Gun”. The island Khao Phing Kan, is part of a small island cluster about 13 nautical miles NNE of The Moorings charter base. Such spectacular island shapes are formed by the dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone. And in fact, the whole area is loaded with these crazy shaped islands. Many islands also have a hollowed out center that you can access by swimming in, by dinghy or by walking through a cave entrance. The hollowed out area is called a Hong and they are truly spectacular to see.
Our itinerary was a quick 7 day sailing trip around the area stopping to document, photograph and report back. Much of our downtime was also spent cooling off in the delightful 88 deg F water and sampling the scrumptious local Thai food.
Check in time at the base on the northeast side of the Phuket island is 4 pm. Thus we elected to leave from our Kata Beach jet lag recovery base in the south of the island at noon in a large taxi van who took us to the Big C Supermarket first where we bought provisions for the boat (Important Note: You can not buy booze between 2pm and 5pm in Thailand so take this into account when shopping).We arrived at the base at 3:30 whereby Jeff, The Moorings Base Manager announced our boat was ready. The crew split into two with half stocking the provisions and the other half doing a local area chart briefing. Jeff then did a boat briefing. Whilst I’m very familiar with the Moorings 4600 catamaran, it is still prudent to take the proper time to go through the boat noting locations of everything like windlass reset switches and water tank switch over valves plus learning any special nuances of this particular boat. (I will never fathom why boat manufacturers hide the windlass rest switch – go figure!)
By the time we were finished, we still had a small amount of time to set off to a nearby island. However, we all elected to not rush ourselves and instead properly set the crew into vacation mode. Too many times on boating trips like this I’ve been in situations whereby things got rushed which usually ended in detrimental results – even if is a slightly stressed attitude artificially created by the need to hurry. Instead, we decide to have a really nice Thai dinner at a local restaurant a few hundred meters from The Moorings base which was a culinary delight. Possibly one of the best Thai meals I’ve ever had actually in a really nice covered open air tastefully decorated restaurant. One thing to note in Thailand, you never have to be concerned with the cost of eating out. Dinners usually cost around $us5-7.
In the morning, we told the crew to have big long showers since it was to be the last long wasteful shower for a week. We then refilled the water tanks and headed out for our visually enlightening adventure.
First stop Koh Hong about 10 miles north. In Thai, Koh means island. So this was an island with a Hong in the middle. We got out and did a little sea Kayak around this.
Next stop “James Bond” island – you go there to get the picture and get out quick because there is literally 500 tourists all on the island at one time. Since James Bond island is at the top of the bay where several rivers drain, the water there is slightly murky from silk. The crystal clear waters which thoughts of Thailand conjure up begin about 20nm further south. Thus, again, get in, get the picture and get out.
Of note also, that when sailing in Thailand you have to be especially aware of the tides. There is a 3.5 meter tide (depending on the moon phase), but no worries, we had the World Tides 2015 App which allowed us to be constantly vigilant of the tide cycle. This level of tidal range means that as Captain you have to know at all times what the tide is doing especially when anchoring and when beaching the dinghy ashore. At James Bond Island, to be safe I snorkel dived the keel to ensure that The Moorings had set the offset on the depth meter accurately. During the boat briefing, they had told me that the offset was set to the bottom of the keel but you never know what the last charterer has done to the electronics, so it is prudent to check. The offset was indeed the keel bottom and so a mental note was made, zero means ZERO.
When anchoring at James Bond island the tide was dropping with about 1 meter in the cycle to go and so we had to anchor about 1 km out and dinghy in. But the stop is worth it at least for the photo and the “I’ve been there” bucket list checkmark
Speaking of tides, what goes with big tides is tidal stream currents. Thus, care needs to be taken when swimming in areas prone to current like close to islands and between islands and shallower areas. Also of note was that navigation is affected by tidal flow. There was a distinct difference at times between COG (Course Over Ground) and Heading.
Once the requisite pic was accomplished we headed southeast for a quick stop at Koh Roi where we randomly discovered a dried hong accessed via walking through a cave hole in the 100m high rock walls. Inside the hong, we discovered a camp of fruit bats (yes “camp” is technically correct when referring to bats) hanging upside down in the trees. This was pretty cool but got slightly eerie when they started getting a little upset at our presence – time to leave them to their uninhabited and peaceful island. What an awesome experience that was.
Inside the hong, we discovered a camp of fruit bats (yes “camp” is technically correct when referring to bats) hanging upside down in the trees. This was pretty cool but got slightly eerie when they started getting a little upset at our presence – time to leave them to their uninhabited and peaceful island. What an awesome experience that was.
Next door is another island called Ko Ku Du Yai where there is a designated overnight anchorage area. The anchorage is in a channel between Ko Ku Du Yai and another close small island. There was a decent amount of current between the islands so initially I was concerned.
I turns out that entire area in the north of the bay has a mud bottom and thus The Moorings base has installed “Bruce” type anchors on their fleet of Thai based boats. Good choice as the Bruce is well suited for mud (see the NauticEd Anchoring a Sailboat course).
One of the competent crew elected to stay aboard to handle any anchor dragging issues due to the current whilst the rest of us dinghied to the island’s hong then did a little circumnavigation where we google eyed all the impressive lime stone stalactites on the cliffs. Right after sunset we were treated by an impressive show of a cloud of thousands of fruit bats coming out to hunt.
For dinner we had fresh (fresh fresh) shrimp that we had expertly caught through out the day (actually purchased from local fishermen who would chase us down in their longtail boats), chicken bbq’d on the back deck grill and a delightful salad.
That was it for Day 1. It was a lot of fun.
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