Posted by: catamarantwooceans | January 3, 2013

Sailing Similan and Surin

14.12.12 – Friday – The cell phone alarm woke me up at 0355. We decided that I’ll let Sven nurse his jet-lag and go out by myself so as to get to the Similans in the early afternoon. He did pay me a short visit before sunrise and later joined around eight o’clock. We had to motor at first but then the wind came up and we had great sailing conditions all the way to Koh Miang. As we approached the island a big rain cloud chased us from behind. We came into the mooring area and were lucky to have a tourist boat vacate one of the good red mooring balls which we were quick to grab.

We had lunch in the saloon while it rained outside, took a nap and then an hour long snorkeling. The sky was gray but the underwater scene was rich and interesting as ever; I saw moray eels, a big barracuda and a lot of snappers, groupers and other reef fish.

15.12.12 – Saturday – The desire to catch a fish determined our plan for today. We went to the west to get away from the "No Fishing" zone of the park and then started trolling. In contrast to what we experienced in the last days, the wind blew up to 17 knots; we were sailing a little too fast for fishing so we reefed the main to the second reef and the jib to first.

It didn’t take long for the wind to go back to less than 10 knots and the sails were opened once more. When the new red and white rapala lure did not bring any fish we changed to one with tiger stripes; no joy with that one either. After lunch we turned to Similan and had to start an engine in order to get there in a reasonable time.

We found the last free red mooring on the north side of the bay near some big boulders and tied to it. A different angle to the rocks on shore compared to the last time I came here.

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Going into the water to snorkel, I checked the mooring and found out that its rope chaffed and lost a third of its diameter. I reinforced it with one of our ropes and went on to the boulders, where a big variety of fish was waiting; big barracuda and groupers I would have been happy to catch.

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These are the boulders we snorkeled by; the dot on the left is Sven’s head.

At 1630 we took the dinghy to the island but couldn’t get there; it was low water, a line of rocks blocked the way to the beach and made dragging the dinghy ashore impossible. We returned to the boat and changed into swimsuits; went back, tied the dinghy to a rope well offshore and waded to dry land. We climbed sail-rock, where Sven posed for the next picture.

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Clouds were rolling in from the east and rain started falling. We returned to the boat and rigged the rain-catcher. We cancelled the plan to go for dinner ashore and had spaghetti alio olio with the house red wine – Two Oceans of course!

16.12.12 – Sunday – 0445 wakeup for both of us;  we had 46 miles to go and we wanted to reach Surin around 1500. The track to Surin was 018 degrees, so guess where the wind came from – north-northeast at 8 knots. That of course meant motoring but we could see the light at the end of the tunnel – we will soon sail west-northwest to Andaman and have the wind on our quarter. There are a few anchoring bays in Surin and I was hoping to find a dive-boat which I would be able to join for a diving trip to Richelieu Rock, a world famous dive site.

Approaching the island I was amazed by the lush vegetation on it and the enormous boulders on shore.

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We checked the one on the southwest; no moorings or dive boats to be seen. We proceeded along the rocky coast to the bay designated "B" in the guide, where we were led to believe there were moorings and a restaurant on shore.

When we came in we saw a Danish traditional steel ketch at anchor, two big yellow mooring balls, one occupied by a local fishing boat. We took the next one, hoping that no big boat will come and claim it. A dive boat came and anchored; we were quick to take the dinghy and ask whether they were going to Richelieu the next day. Their skipper said they did not and sent us to the bay on the east, to which there was a shallow pass. This was the bay we should have gone to! Beautiful scenery, moorings and a dinghy dock near the restaurant. We approached a dive boat on a mooring there but nobody was on it.

We had to go back quickly before the water receded and the pass closed. Two more fishing boats joined the one on the mooring.

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As evening fell, more and more boats came in, filling the bay with engine noise. Our attention was diverted to the west, where the sun set in spectacular fashion.

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I think we’ll go to the east bay first thing in the morning.

17.12.12 – Monday – Go to the east bay we did, starting out at 0600 in the hope of finding a dive-boat going to Richelieu rock. We entered the bay and headed up to a red mooring ball which seemed inviting. Further deep into the bay a big dive-boat and a motor boat belonging to the Forestry ministry were moored too, giving the impression that the way to "our" mooring was clear. At a certain moment I saw that the color of the water became darker, sensed that there was a reef ahead and slowed down. Sven stood on the bow looking ahead when suddenly I heard the dreaded crunch and felt the port hull tilt up as we hit the reef. One moment the depth showed 12.5 meters and the next we were aground!

Instinctively I put the engines in reverse but the boat did not budge. I went into the water to check our situation. The white section of the following picture is our side deck; you can see the reef just below the waterline, close to the hull.

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                                                                             pic by Sven

I found out that the bottom of the boat in front of the keel sat on a protrusion in the reef. We immediately deployed a kedge anchor to keep the boat from moving into the reef which would have damaged the hull. We were lucky in that it was absolute low water and the tide was coming in; it didn’t take long for "Two Oceans" to float free from that dangerous snare. Checking the bottom I found quite a lot of scratches on the paint and only one point that needed epoxy filler. Lucky once again; I should exercise much more caution when going into bays on which there is no good information. But why did they put that red buoy in there?

Once free we saw that the only safe mooring was a big yellow one far from shore so we went back to the bay on the west and took a red mooring that was in deep water. We took the dinghy to the Park’s visitor center, where there were bungalows and tents and also a co-op restaurant in which we had a nice lunch. Talking to the girl in the office I understood that I had to cancel my diving plans; never mind! We may do some diving in the Andamans to which we shall set sail tomorrow morning.

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                                       Surin Beach

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