Posted by: catamarantwooceans | August 22, 2012

Sailing the Butang group (or with Gili–part 3)

16.8.12 – Thursday – Today our destination is the Butang group about which the guide says: "the clearest waters and most beautiful coral gardens in the area". The first one we want to visit is Bitsy island but on  the way, slightly to port, there is another alluring island called Tanga so why not stop there for lunch? As we get close we can enjoy the beauty of the place.

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But putting beauty aside – where can we anchor? Out of the reef line it was too deep, 17 – 20 meters; there were some turquoise patches closer to shore; I approached one and anchored in 3.7 meters. We jumped in and had a big disappointment; the reef was in a terrible shape and the marine life poor.

we left Tanga to go to Bitsy and the anchoring problem repeated itself. Here, too, it was too deep outside the reef line. On we went to the southeast anchorage of Koh Adang, found a mooring and tied up. The waters were clear all right but where are the coral gardens? We found an area with some small reef clusters but apart of a spotted yellow moray eel there was nothing of interest.

From our mooring we can see Koh Lipe and it seems to be full of resorts; we’ll go there tomorrow in  search of some necessities.

17.8.12 – Friday – During the night some big clouds went by bringing strong winds; I woke up to see 27 knots. That’s a time you appreciate being on a good mooring.

In the morning we motored to Koh Lipe with the intention of shopping and finding a place for internet. Should we go to the bay on the south or the one on the east? The first is called "popular" in the guide and the latter is not mentioned at all although we could see a lot of long-tail boats, speed boats and buildings over there. We decided to go to the popular, found a good mooring and dinghied ashore right towards a sign saying "Walking street".

The time was 0930, very early according to resort standards so we were not surprised to see practically all businesses closed. We came into the "Pooh bar"  whose WiFi internet we received faintly in the anchorage.

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A man met us; "we are not open yet". "What time do you open?" "Sometime in October" was the answer. They did agree that we use the internet for a fee, which was fine and also directed us to the place we could buy fruit and veg. As we walked the streets of Lipe we saw that the whole place is gearing up towards the season opening in October or even November. A bench in one of the places we passed sprouted orange mushrooms!

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Having acquired most of the things we needed, we returned to the beach to find that waves were breaking on it. Going out was wet and bouncy but we got back to the boat without any damage to our groceries. I was eager to leave, which pissed Gili off. She wanted to stay and have lunch first.

Wind was on the nose and in compliance with Gili’s rules of the sea I had both engines running and aimed straight to the channel between Butang and Rawi islands, where we planned to spend the night. The guide’s recommended point on the south coast of Rawi seemed to be open to the wind while near the Butang I could see some local fishing vessels. They probably know something I don’t so I turned to that place and following the shore spotted a red mooring buoy, tucked very close to the reef in an perfectly calm corner. (6 31.68 N 99 10.491 E, not recommended for yachts over 40 feet unless you use an anchor to keep the stern away from the reef) This is where we found the promised "clearest waters and most beautiful coral gardens".

After we snorkeled for about 40 minutes, we sat and watched the jungle on the island. A brown fish catching eagle was being attacked by a bigger black and white one (I’ve got to learn their proper names!) and forced to release its catch. What a spectacle! After the defeated one retired to a dead tree I took his picture. This is with a very big magnification but you can see its brownish color, the black tips of the wings and the white cape-like of the head and neck.

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Gili said: "All I need to make this perfect is that a monkey will show up". I am sitting on the helmsman seat reading; something makes me look towards the sandy shore and there, strolling on all four, tail brushing the ground is the MONKEY!

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She has this power, you see. The Mahi Mahi, the spanish mackerel and now this! Seeing wild animals or birds in their natural, free element is very special, adding spice to the cruising life.

18.8.12 – Saturday – First thing in the morning – snorkeling. After breakfast we leave the mooring to look around the bay. We found the bay opposite the park HQ and there was a red buoy we tried to tie to but the depth was too low considering the tide so we left. I saw on the Thai chart of the area a clear bay on the south of Butang, encircled by reefs and a few small islands.

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We rounded Koh Lokoi and found another mooring, perfectly located. (6 31.141 N 99 11.017 E) Those red moorings are probably the doing of the Parks Ministry and in my experience are good. Of course you have to check them to make sure. We jumped right in and stayed in the water for three quarters of an hour.  It’s a pleasure seeing a healthy reef; we saw a lot of anemones with clown fish, big colorful clams, a moray eel and that black and white polka dot fish that I like so much; it was beautiful!

In the afternoon there was a change in the weather; clouds were moving in from the west and it started to rain. A sudden thunder made us both jump. Anticipating the rain, I had the rain catchment system in place; we could do with some additional water. The rain went away after a while but the southeasterly wind, though not strong, built some unpleasant chop in the bay. I thought our previous location might be better so we motored over. Just after sundown some black, frightening clouds rolled in; It rained again and for the first time we had to have dinner inside the cabin.

19.8.12 – Sunday – I woke up at 0600 to see a clear new morning with no threatening clouds; we planned to leave the Butangs this morning. Looking at the beach I saw that the monkey tribe sent in a bigger contingent as if to say goodbye; I counted 8 of them. Shall I wake Gili up? I thought I heard some vital signs from her direction, went over to give her the news and we both sat in the cockpit, watching the action on shore. I suggested that before we leave we’ll go snorkeling. Gili remembered the bag of organic waste, veg and fruit peelings, that we had ready for disposal; "This might be good food for the monkeys, can we put it on the beach for them?"

I took the bag and swam ashore with Gili following behind. Even before the food was presented, the monkeys came forward, led by a big alpha male. I put the stuff on the sand and retreated to the water. The alpha male took position and started checking and tasting the food. More monkeys came out of the woods and some wanted to partake in the meal; the big male kept chasing them away with others sneaking from behind his back, snatching morsels and devouring them.

We sat about 10 feet away watching the show; I counted some 20 monkeys, including a few little babies. After about 15 minutes we decided to go snorkeling; the reef was good but the tide brought over an incredible amount of plastic refuse, marring the whole experience. The bay is frequented by fishing vessels who have moorings there; unfortunately the fishermen are not sensitive to environmental issues, throwing all sort of stuff overboard, which is a pity. Hopefully the tide will clean the bay as it goes out.

The brown eagle also came to fare us well.

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On our way to Koh Bulon Le we motored out through the pass between Rawi and Adang, finding and taking the co-ordinates of some red buoys on the southeast and east of Rawi. Surely we’ll come back in November and stay some more.

Koh Bulon Le was our choice for two reasons; first, it is a good day-sailing distance away, 28 miles; secondly – there are supposed to be a few resorts over there. The word "resort" conjures visions of a restaurant meal, of internet WiFi and perhaps some shopping for groceries we need. Anchoring in front of one of those and scanning the shore it became clear that the place is in hibernation. Waiting for the season!

On shore, the only people we could see, were foraging for clams on rocks made accessible by the falling tide. Walking through the deserted resort the only life form we saw were huge lizards, about 50 centimeters long, which slithered away as we approached; some of them were climbing the trees, perhaps in search of bird nests. I saw a bird buzz one of them a few times. I must remember to take my camera ashore at all times! Gili’s I Phone could not discern the lizard from the tree.

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