Posted by: catamarantwooceans | December 9, 2012

Until my Crew Comes–continued

Part 1: Sailing with Pain

30.11.12 – Friday – My initial target was Bang Tau bay, intended as a springboard to the Similan Islands. I was motoring and sailing when the wind cooperated and all was well, except for my lower back, which made itself felt from time to time. Normally I pull the mainsail at least to the first reef position; today I had to winch it up almost from the start. Sitting was very uncomfortable and I spent most of the time leaning with my backside against the helmsman seat.

I went looking into the cupboard where I keep my medicine; I used to have a drug called Etopan which contains Etodolac and is good against pain and inflammation; do I still have it? I found out I had nine tablets left, which at two per day should be enough. I should have looked for them yesterday!


Reaching Bang Tau, which is not really a bay but a long, not very attractive beach, I decided to go a few miles further to Laem Sai, which turned out to be much prettier and also saved me a few miles for the next day. Once at anchor, I carefully entered the water, where being weightless brought relief for a while.

1.12.12 – Saturday – I put my alarm clock for 0500 but nature called as early as 0330; after laboriously getting back into bed I thought: "why not go right now?" I started getting out of my bunk and was hit by a series of painful spasms which practically brought me down to the floor. Clearly I was in no condition to sail 48 miles by myself or even sail at all! That day I took the maximum permissible dose, three pills and towards evening felt a bit better; still every once in a while a move my lower back did not like resulted in that dreaded spasm.

I went to bed early, full of optimism; surely tomorrow I’ll be better and would be able to go to Similan.

2.12.12 – Sunday – During the night big swell crept into the bay rolling the boat and adding to my discomfort. At four a.m I got out of bed, actually tried getting out of bed and saw I was still unfit to sail.

I slept until 0650 and carefully and painfully got out of the cabin. I decided I needed to change location and motored just around the corner to Nai Yang bay which is well protected from the south-southwest by the island and from the north by a big sand-bar. A French monohull, "Chenachen" from Concarneau in Brittany was at anchor and I passed by to say hello.

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I have good culinary memories from Concarneau; Gili and I had the most delightful lunch there more than 20 years ago, savoring the local "Cotriade" which is a stew of seafood rivaling Marseilles’ Bouillabaisse; I also remember we had not one but two bottles of white Sancerre…

I spent the day resting, swam a bit and as the hours passed I felt better. Going out of bed tomorrow will be the test!

Part 2 – Sailing with Pleasure

3.12.12 – Monday – I passed the test at 0400, not with top marks but good enough to continue with my sailing plans. We motored most of the 48 miles to Koh Miang, a part of the Similan group which is considered to be a Marine National Park. As such no fishing is allowed less than 5 miles from the islands; I rolled back my line at the designated distance only to see a few commercial fishing buoys less than 2 miles from shore.

Looking at those with my binoculars I had dolphins jump right in my line of sight. Things were getting better by the minute. I entered the channel between the island and the islet on its northwest and took up a mooring near the latter. The islands here are made up of huge boulders, the water translucent turquoise.

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I went snorkeling immediately and was greeted by a lobster with long antennae and then a big moray eel which took me for a tour of his environment.

I’m so glad I came here!

4.12.12 – Tuesday – After a morning swim I went out intending to go west beyond the 5 miles fishing limit and try getting a fish. I passed the northwest corner of the islet I moored by and once again marveled at the beautiful sculpture nature put there.

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Once 5 miles away I sent the lure and sat there waiting. I moved the trolling gear to the starboard stern, closer to the helm, hoping to be able to hear the reel when a fish is caught, a thing that was a problem in the past due to the hearing loss on my port ear.

At a certain moment I heard a low, strange screeching sound and looking back I saw the line going out slowly. Probably a plastic bag, thought I and started reeling it in, feeling no pressure whatsoever. As the lure came closer I saw to my amazement that there was a fish! It was a medium size wahoo which probably advanced with the boat to avoid pain. As it reached the stern I turned to pick up the gaff and that’s when the fish gave a mighty pull and broke away. What was left at the end of the line, the swivel and connector, meant that what broke was the wire leader loop; how could that have happened? I put a new lure but in spite of seeing a big fish jump out of the water a few times in the distance I caught NADA. Define FRUSTRATION…

After completing my un-fishing pattern I turned towards the northwest bay of Similan Island and getting closer the beauty of it was revealed before me. Surely one of the prettiest bays I’ve ever been to!

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The rock left of center is called Sail-Rock and the people on it in the next picture demonstrate its size.

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I climbed it later in the afternoon and enjoyed the fantastic view of the bay and the nearby Koh bangu.

I approached a diving boat that was moored near me and arranged to dive with them tomorrow. I hope the underwater views will be on par with the ones on the surface!

The Park inflatable came by and when they heard I was by myself on the boat decided not to collect the park fee; they gave me the valuable information that there was a restaurant on the beach; that’s good, because I had already decided that due to my fishing achievements I will just eat some leftovers I had in the fridge.

5.12.12 – Wednesday – I went diving with Amarpon Divers’ boat; All the divers were German, the instructors were an Italian by the name of Alberto and a Thai guy named Guy. They speak a lot about the possibility of meeting mantas and whale sharks but it turned out that their season is later in January to March. Anyway, the diving was nice, quite a lot of fish and some areas of newly grown soft coral, replacing what was destroyed in the last Tsunami.

Another character on board was a Swiss girl named Mel, who is buying the boat and is establishing her own diving company, that will operate mostly in the Similan area.

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                                  Mel and Alberto

I promised I’ll put her web site in my blog:

6.12.12 – Thursday – What do I do today? One option was go out and do a fishing pattern and come back to Similan; I chose to go to Koh Tachai, 26 miles to the north-northeast and do the fishing on the way.

As was the case on the last days, we had light wind from 20 degrees to starboard so again it was motor-sailing. When the wind rose to 10 knots I did the "Tack of the day" and for two hours sailed with no engine, at 25 degrees to port of the bearing to destination, at a speed of 4 knots…

Alberto told me there were moorings in Koh Tachai; as I got closer I saw a big dive-boat on one that was quite far from shore. My alternative according to the guide was anchoring in 15 meters, which is too deep to my liking. As I turned the eastern point of the island towards the anchorage, a red dot beckoned in the distance. A mooring! That was a relief! The island seems to be a tourist destination and people are coming from the mainland on high-speed motorboats to take it easy on the beach and snorkel the reef.

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Oh, I almost forgot – NO FISH! This evening I will eat the last chicken breast I have in the freezer and will have to become a vegetarian if I don’t catch one.

The afternoon was dedicated to engines oil and oil filters change. As much as I tried to be careful, I spilt some black oil right in the cockpit. Yuk! After cleaning the stuff I jumped into the water; a lot of reef heads but not in a very good condition. The Park people came along and again, seeing I was single, left without taking the fee.

7.12.12 – Friday – Back to Similan, mostly sailing in spite of light wind from the stern and ridiculous speeds; I was in no hurry. As I came into the bay I saw that all the moorings were taken; just before I turned to go to Koh Bangu a motorboat vacated "my" mooring and I was quick to grab it.

Since I had my regular fishing success, I went to the beach for dinner. For some of the dishes they have three rates, depending on the size. I took the medium chicken in green curry and was unable to finish; eight drumsticks plus veg and rice, too much! By the way, I was not the only one eating there; there are quite a few people, young and not so young, camping on the island.

8.12.12 – Saturday – Another unsuccessful fishing pattern which I ended in the southernmost island of the group – Koh Huyong. The guide book says nothing about this island, perhaps because it is open to the northeast. I took up the only mooring near shore; the wind is light so I’m not worried about being on a lee shore. There is a Park ranger’s station on the island and a park’s inflatable was moored close to the beach, but they didn’t bother with me. They had a meeting with a fishing boat that came by and quickly went away.

I swam to shore and walked around a bit. From afar it looks great, but close up the picture is different. It is sad that the people visiting the islands have no regard to cleanliness. The sandy shore which could and should have been pristine was littered by plastic refuse of all kinds, old sandals, bottles, empty engine oil containers and snack wrappers; somebody arranged a line of gas lighters, thinking perhaps he was decorating the place.

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                                Huyong beach from afar

I noticed a windsock right by the tree line and sure enough there was a helicopter pad near it. What is this for?

9.12.12 – Sunday – At 0300 I was awakened by the tapping of the mooring ball on the boat; this is what happens when wind and tide disagree, each pulling in opposition to the other. If I am awake, why not go now? The sickle of the moon gave good light so I started one engine, released the mooring line and we were on our way. As usual a lot of motoring with some pure sailing thrown in between and at 1340 I was anchored in Nai Yang bay, finally having cellular communication and internet!

Sailing to and in Similan Islands was a real vacation for me; beautiful scenery, clear water and a lot of fish to look at but not to touch…

Tomorrow I’ll go back to Au Chalong and wait for Sven to come on the 11th.


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