About our Sail from Langkawi to Phuket, Diving in Ko Ha, in the G&T Boatyard in Thalang and our round trip with Micke and Lucka through the Phang Nga Bay to Ko Phi Phi, Ko Lanta, Ko Muk (Emerald Cave), Ko Ha, Ko Pu and Ko Roi
From Kuah in Langkawi we engine around the corner and pass the West coast of Langkawi. Ko Tarutao, the next island 3.5 miles north is already Thai and the fishing boats again look completely different.
We drop our anchor in the bay in the north of the island, just in time to let the afternoon squall roll over us.
The next morning at 6 am we start to Ko Rok, get another heavy squall on the way and safely attach to a mooring.
Shortly before a beautiful sunset the Park rangers come with their dinghy alongside, we are here in a National park. We have to pay 400 Bath per person and 100 Bath for the boat, a total of USD 30.-. This is not exactly cheap, but at least it is valid for 5 days and also for our next stop, the group of islands Ko Ha.
In the morning we check out a dive spot snorkeling, but we are not very impressed, so we move on directly.
Only 17 miles further north we attach at one of the moorings in the central group of Ko Ha. I check out the rock next to us with the snorkel and less than an hour later we drop into the water to do a dive directy from the boat.
We don’t think it is spectacular as Raja Ampat and Komodo are still well in our memories, but there is quite a bit of sea life and a few but impressive corals to check out.
We do another 3 dives on each of the 3 islands and the Eastern and Western islands both have some interesting caves and swim throughs, which I have to pass since I am towing the dinghy..
At noon the rangers come to collect the park fee. I wave the tickets from Ko Rok „we already paid!!“. „yes, but you have to 200 Bath per person for diving in addition, per day!!“ is the answer in broken English….Wearing our wetsuits and having the dive bottles in the dinghy we don‘t have any arguments.
Spectacular Haulout in the G&T Boatyard in Thalang, Phuket
Via Ko Phi Phi where we spend a night on a mooring in front of monkey beach we continue further to the Northeast coast of Phuket. We have an appointment for the haul out at 1 am in the morning.
Slightly nervous we visit the boatyard in the afternoon with the dinghy. Toi, the owner of the boatyard, calm us down „I will be there and we make light, so you know where to go.“
Of course we can hardly sleep – we are about todo our first beaching and that in the middle of te night… At 1 am we slowly move over to the ramp of the boatyard, but we don’t see anyone. Only after a while we see some men with torches, but no Toi.
Carefully we move up to the ramp but 30 meter before we are stuck in the mud and the depth sounder shows only 1.2 meter (while SHE SAN has 1.3 meters or more)
After a bi back and forth one of the men asks us if he can tow us with the machine of the trailer. „Hmm, the alternative is to hang around in this spot for the next 7 days until the tide gets high again“ we consider and quickly tell him „ yes, please, get it fast.
15 minutes later our SHE SAN stands 20 meters further up the beach. We pray that the keels didn’t take any damage and drown a big beer to calm down our nerves before going back to sleep.
The next morning everything goes smoothly. The trailer goes under the boat, Reto patiently shows again and again the points where SHE SAN can be picked up and a few minutes later she is positioned at a beautiful spot right at the beach. The only disadvantage – the spot is also right across the street from the mosque, so less than 50 meters from the loudspeakers to the hull where we sleep.
The next 12 nights our neighbor wakes us every morning before 5 am, but at least he only sings half as long as his colleagues in Indonesia and Malaysia. Only once we don‘t wake up because he is singing, but because he is not singing. „Today he forgot“ Reto says sometime in the morning. „Yes, I also didn‘t hear him“ but nevertheless I am wide awake…
Also there is a small restaurant next to the mosque and the friendly Thai lady supplies us with delicious and cheap Tom Yam Goong, Squid with basil leaves, Pad Thai and other great stuff.
I am happy because I love the Thai food anyway, have an almost empty fridge and not much time as well.
Boat work in the Boatyard
In the meantime we are quite efficient at the usual routine works on the hulls and props and since we got rid of the thick layer of antifouling the last two boatyards in Grenada and New Zealand this time here is really easy work.
In addition we have to exchange the sealings of the sail drives, refit the emergency hatch, repair the dinghy and build the construction of the dinghy wheels.
Oh yes, and since we are short of time and the last time my shoulder got upset we delegate the polishing of the Gelcoat to the guys in the boatyard.
But like always when we are giving a work away it is physically a relief but mentally not exactly.
Right after the 4 workers (I had agreed on two, but no 4) have started I see that one of them is thickly polishing the nose of bird shit that just was placed on the thoroughly cleaned hulls. Of course with all the polish in it is almost impossible to afterwards get the bird shit off again.
Next I see how the white gelcoat turns blue. The reason is that they polish too far down into the fresh blue antifouling and take it up to massage it into the gelcoat. I send Reto in the shop to talk to Toi about this.
With the result that she storms out, yells something at her people, then yells at Reto that he should have put the masking tape to protect that this doesn‘t happen as it was asked by the workers. Quite puzzled Reto immediately puts the tape to correct „our mistake“.
We had been warned by other sailors that here in Thailand there is a difference in the mentality of the people that doesn‘t allow them to accept that a mistake has been made.
Therefore we learn that it doesn‘t make any sense to point out a mistake to someone. This is not easy for us to learn and we are not yet sure if we manage.
But we try. When the gelcoat man after 2.5 days work for a little surface on the stern asks Reto if he likes it Reto looks at the side where he polished our old gelcoat down so the fiberglass looks out. He then tells Reto „no, not this side, look at the other side“ and Reto doesn‘t say a word. But At least he learns from his mistake and pays more attention with the port side.
Of course also with the final bill we have the one or the other question, especially as we never got an official quote but only answers on WhatsApp. We do want to understand the bill and question, especially for the work done by the men. Next Toi runs out of the shop and yells „oh pay how much you want“ and we patiently wait that she comes back, so we can finish our discussion. She doesn’t so we make a compromise in her favor because after all we want to get our boat safely back into the water.
Visa extension with difficulties
On the last day in the boatyard we take our time and go with our Austrian neighbor Hubert to Phuket town to the Immigration. We have to get a third month because otherwise our visa would run out while my parents are here.
The officer checking the papers already tells us, put in a Hotel name here in the address in Thailand field. We cannot believe it and give the address of the G&T boatyard where our boat is really standing after all.
The next officer only briefly looks at me „On a boat? No, that‘s not possible…“ He gives me a piece of paper explaining how to get a confirmation of residence and disappointed and angry we all go leave the office.
After checking with the South East Asia Facebook Group we find out that we are not he only ones. Alternatives to Phuket town seem to be the Airport and Patong.
We try Patong and our hotel address is not a problem. „But your visa only run out in 5 weeks time. You have to come back one week before“ the friendly officer shocks us nevertheless. We swallow hard, the brain is running hot. „But we want to travel“ Reto explains and knowing that you have to extend in the province that you checked in adds „to Krabi and Ko Lanta“ (which are other provinces).
„But when do you want to travel?“, the officer wants to know. „Well as soon as this is done here“ Reto is wise to say and we finally get his ok to get our visa extended. The rest is formality, 1400 Bath per person, pictures and finger prints and the stamp goes in the passport. 5 minutes later we are back on the road and really relieved….
Adventurous launch in G&T Boatyard
Then we are ready, SHE SAN should go back into the water. Of course at the agreed time a super heavy thunderstorm goes over Phuket, we pray that it stops before it gets dark. We are lucky, at 4 pm it is only drizzling and the guys start to load SHE SAN onto the trailer.
And immediately we move towards the ramp. „When ist the time to paint the keel“ Reto asks Toi. „Now“ is her answer, so while the trailer is moving SHE SAN through the boatyard Reto is painting the keels. From a safety and environment point of view not a very good situation, because he has to pass several times between the moving vehicle and is constantly dripping antifouling paint on the gravel of the yard.
Also this time the trailer puts us on top of a few pieces of wood into the „mud“ and we wait until midnight to get the water high enough to float again. We are not yet sure if it really works out as we sit higher up on the ramp and on the wood, but also the water should be 20 cm more than when we came in.
But finally at 11 pm our SHE SAN swims again, we back out and go anchoring a few hundert meters outside and are super relieved.
Family visit from Lucka and Micke on Board
The next morning we move to anchor in front of the Yacht Haven Marina, since we expect family visit in a few days time. Only 2 machines of washing, stocking up on food and we are „ready“.
The next morning we sail south Ko Yao Yai, the new paddle boards are tested and Micke checks her dive equipment, but the visibility so far up the Phang Nga bay is still not good.
Ko Phi Phi
The next stop is Ko Phi Phi where we attach to a well maintained mooring in the absolutely beautiful Nui bay surrounded by high cliffs and rocks.
The setting is absolutely perfect, like a dream, if there weren’t the thousands of tourists and boats during the day who also like it here :-).
We enjoy the place nevertheless, but especially in the morning and in the late afternoon when we are here almost by ourselves.
Via a short path over the hill and an easy climb at mid tide we reach the neighboring Lana bay where a few fishermen families are living. We admire their gear made out of a lot of plastic garbage- recycling so to say, but where will it end up afterwards??
From here we walk through a really nice tourist village, a few peaceful but probably rather expensive hotel compounds and at the end we climb the hill through a mosquito loaded forest until we reach the viewpoint where Reto and I already have been 7 years ago.
The view is the same but at that time it was just a few rocks whereas today there is a platform with an entrance fee per person of 20 Bath (60 cents) and a restaurant attached.
The view over the spectacular cliffs shaping the Ko Phi Phi rough western peninsula down to the Ton Sai „tourist city“ is more than worth the hike as well as the 60 cents :-). In addition we enjoy a few young coconuts that give a boost for the further walk.
A few kilometers further we dive into the touristic ghetto of Ton Sai, the center of Ko Phi Phi.
We find some veggies and fruits, eat a delicious chicken soup and find ourselves set for the hike back via the Loh Dalum bay until the Lana bay.
Is Thai massage good for your body?
After at least 11 kilometer of walking in the tropical heat we pass the tourist village at Lana beach and find that we have earned a Thai massage now. For only 350 Bath (USD 11.-) each one of us gets pampered, or at least we think so…
„Strong, strong“ Lucka encourages her masseuse, but with mine I don‘t have to do so. Pretty often I cannot hold my teeth together and a sound of pain comes out. We do have a lot of fun in the process but what stays in my case is a nasty pain in the back where she overstretched me far too much.
In a first checking out SUP round I find that there are a lot of local people on the beach collecting something. One closer look and my heart makes a jump- they collect Pipis (as our dear friend Sarah from New Zealand would call them in Fulaga in Fiji). So I rush back home to the boat and call the girls “Girls, we go and collect clams!!!”
15 minutes later we sit in the beach and squeak from time to time each one of us because these “pipis” here literally jump at us (they really do, of course after the first scare we put them into the bucket anyway.
Then the next step is watering with sea water a few times, then cooking and taking each one out of their shell.
In the meantime we do prefer to get fed in one of the restaurants on the back of the beach front, the food is excellent and its half the price than at the beach ;-).
Lost in Ban Saladan, Ko Lanta
The next day we go shopping but I prefer to check out the markets on the street while the girls want to walk the beach. Of course, the agreed meeting point doesn’t work out as planned.
I ask Chin, a lady who lives next to the tower we wanted to meet to tell the girls that I look for them on the street. But instead Chin sends her husband to fetch gasoline for the scooter, orders me to get on the scooter between her husband and herself (since he has to drive and she is the translator) and we go looking for the girls. And indeed, after driving around for 10 minutes we find them just mounting a tuctuc and just get there before they leave.
We all walk back to Chin’s house where I have my shopping bags and backpack. The moment Chin see Lucka she is somehow stunned and immediately starts to tell her lives story. We understand that she has lost her Swiss husband and his parents in the 2004 tsunami and only could save herself and her 14 days old son.
After a while we understand that Lucka looks similar to Chins passed away mother in law which explains her reaction when she saw her first. She invites us to cook for us a fried rice and since we feel that it is really important to her we are happy to help and watch.
Ko Muk – Emerald Cave
Via the South of Ko Lanta we sail to Ko Muk where we find real highlight from nature, the Emerald Cave.
We happily attach at an official park mooring in front of the entrance to the cave, but it is not for long.
While we are having lunch a tourist boat comes up in front and places himself directly in front of the cave.
Without telling us a word they attach a line to the mooring we are on with the result the line is scraping our freshly applied antifouling off this anyway sensitive part of the hull.
We are more than angry, Reto moves the rope up to one of our cleats, then the even bigger mother ship comes by as well. Luckily in that moment I manage to persuade my normally peaceful skipper that we are better the smarter ones and better leave ourselves.
A few hours later the tourists are gone and we have the cave to ourselves. The 80 meter tunnel we prefer to take in the dinghy and paddleboard, then we enter the large “hong” cave which is open to the sky and really wild romantic like in the movies
Als der Rummel sich gelegt hat und die Touristen wieder zu ihren Ressorts zurückgebracht wurden, besuchen wir die Höhle und haben sie ganz für uns alleine ;-). Ein unvergessliches Erlebnis sind wir uns alle einig.
Shaky night in Ko Ha
On Sunday the wind is less – That’s at least what the weather forecast already tells us for a week. So on Sunday morning we hurry up and do a fast beam reach sail on the 25 miles from Ko Muk to Ko Ha.
When we arrive at noon it is still pretty windy so we wait for a mooring and first snorkel the Western rocks which are better diving than snorkeling though.
Afterwards it really calms down a bit, so we move over to the central group and enjoy two more hours in the water with several schools of fish, moray eals and even a really sweet turtle that seems in no hurry to get away.
Only during the night we get the down side of the plan- even though we stand protected from the wind the waves go around the corner and shake us through like never before. The girls are wide awake at 1 am, Reto and I at 3 am and with the first light we are happy to leave as quickly as possible.
Ko Pu / Ko Jum
With the second reef in main and genoa we sail with 7 to 8 knots in a few hours to Ko Pu which is also called Ko Jum.
The anchorage here is great, a lot closer to the beach than in north Ko Lanta, it is even more quiet but there is also a little village Ban Ko Jum where we find some fresh supplies.
When the supply boat arrives, though I am pretty surprised by the bags with meat and chicken which are there in the sun on the little freighter. I am pretty sure that here the proper cooling chain is not respected…
To the „Sheraton Beach“ Klong Muang
We pass the two beautiful islands of Ko Dam because of too much wind exposure and find a quiet place in the bay with a long sandy beach in Klong Muang a bit west of Ao Nang.
The place is full with restaurants of all prices and is great for early morning jogging.
We again try out the Thai Massage, but again the lady turns my back too much, I am angry at myself that I let her do so.
In the bat cave of Ko Roi
Than we continue to the North of the Phang Nga bay, where we find behind Ko Roi a more or less quiet anchorage. Only one tourist boat anchors right in front f us, so that their guests almost jump onto our hulls, but is gone again after half an hour.
A swiss neighbor tell us though that in two weeks time at high season there are 6 to 8 yachts here and several big ones with loud music up front as well…
Skipping the cave in Ko Phanak and on to Ko Yao Yai
With gusts of 30 knots and more we sail with the 3rd reef in the genoa to Ko Phanak, where we don’t believe our eyes. Up to 5 boats unload up to 100 kayaks each to paddle their tourists into the cave. We all agree that this is not ours and go 10 miles further south to the quiet Ko Yao Yai where we enjoy the paddle boarding even though the gusts sometimes reach into the bay.
Then their vacation is over, we have to drop Lucka and Micke at the airport again, stock up on food and enjoy a few days of break until my parents arrive just before Christmas.
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