Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Voyage Langkawi - Patong - Surin - Yacht haven

So, the stay in Langkawi was coming to an end and I was wrapping up our business in this end. On the 13th I took leave of John Orr and I moved alongside the bunker barge Tuba VII to fuel up and potter onwards to Thailand.
We fueled up with a few hiccups but managed to depart in the evening. We sailed on and the sea was wonderful, the swell was almost non-existent. In the morning we passed Ko Lanta and pressed forward towards Patong beach. In the afternoon 14th I dropped anchor in Patong beach and picked up Gordon to give him our papers. The weather was a bit windy but it did not make our anchorage uncomfortable, furthermore we were so much off the beach that the noise did not reach us. In the evening the guys off duty went ashore to enjoy the smiles of Thailand. In the morning 15th we got up early and hoisted anchor to sunrise and headed off towards the Surin Islands.
Weather was great and swell was just minimal. Sun was shining and abt 2pm we arrived Ko Bon and dived on the NE side of the Island. Kalizma was drifting and we jumped in from the swim platform. Fish was plentiful and some corals too. The visibility in the water was great and we saw plenty of fish, nothing too big but the normal coral reef fish. I also saw plenty of sea anemones and fan corals as well as the brain coral and other soft corals. The dive was ok but not spectacular if you have seen places like Maldives or Borneo. We got to the western point of the Island that according to our divebook was a manta ray cleaning station, unfortunately the mantas were not queueing up as we saw none of them. Maybe one reason might be the time of season and the other that there were already 5 diveboats around the Island as we arrived there. We tried to find the pinnacle the guidebook mentions but with Kalizma's slow maneuvarability we could not manage to locate it. At abt 1530hrs we headed off north towards Surin and by this time the weather was getting really windy and the seas choppy.

When we were passing Ko Tachai the waves were getting high enough to cause us to pitch in the usual rodeo horse fashion Kalizma does, it lasted only abt an hour and we got shelter from Surin Islands, we arrived in the south Bay around 1930hrs and dropped anchor in front of the sea Gypsy village. After this we set up the table aft and had a crew dinner and discussed our future plans among other topics.
Morning 16th we got up early and headed for Richelieau Rock that is touted as the best dive spot in Thailand. We went with tender boat as it was only 8,5' off Surin Is and weather was good. We arrived after 30min to the Rock and at 7am there was already 5-6 boats at the site. Unperturbed we (me, Saini and Dubey) also geared up and plopped in the drink deciding to go around from S to N on the E side and coming around back on the W side. The Rock was not that impressive in my opinion, plenty of fish again but nothing big. Our guidebook mentioned sharkwhales frequent this Rock but I guess they've decided to move on as there was more people in the water than girls on Bangla Road on a friday night. Anyway, we got around the rock in 30 minutes and got on the tender and headed back to Kalizma to pick up more gear and give Kalpana and Rajaram a first dive under the tutelage of Saini.
On our way back the wind started to pick up again despite it was hardly 9am, we arrived back to Kalizma without any incidents and loaded the boat again and after awhile headed off to Ko Chi. Whilst underway we realized the seas were getting way too choppy so we abandoned the idea of diving off Ko Chi and tied up to a dive buoy (Surin Is are littered with divebuoys along the coast) that seemed like a good spot. We all geared up and Saini dived with Rajaram and Kalpu, while I headed a bit deeper with Dubey. This area was more colorful and corals were more plentiful that Richelieau Rock or Ko Bon, it looked more like Maldives. Fish was again plenty, but small and I saw one Moray eel and one big grouper (I think) sleeping under some coral heads. Once up on the surface again we headed back to Kalizma and started maintaining our gear and filling up tanks. In the afternoon some crew went snorkeling and some crew stowed away our dive gear. We decided not to visit the sea Gypsy village as it did not look too inviting and nobody came to offer rides there as well either (as another guide book promised), so I assumed the tourist trade had not started or had ceased altogether.

At 1600hrs we fired up the engines of Kalizma and headed back for Yacht Haven. The seas were abt 1.5m high with swell rolling in from the Indian Ocean, Kalizma took them quite well but my stewardesses did not. The bad seas lasted until Promthep cape where we rounded into the shelter of Phuket at early wee hours of the night. Eventually we arrived in front of yacht haven at 0800hrs in the morning of 17th and I anchored to wait for the high tide at noon. Nick and Zara wanted me to tie up inside the pontoons this time and I backed inside, making sb side fast to Dock A, outer end, without any big difficulties. Nick complemented my maneuvering but I discounted it for the good weather we had and this brought our trip to an end. Now we are busy doing maintenance and getting Kalizma ship shape for the Owners visit plannned in December.
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Monday, 9 November 2009

Outing to Hole-in-the-Wall and Pulau Dayang Bunting

On the 8th we went outing with our crew and headed first for the "Hole-in-the-Wall" at NE end of Langkawi Island, the vistas opening up after each bend was stunning watching the "Geopark" formations. When arriving the hole which was literally carved in the mountain wall it opened into a long fiord that was lined by mangroves, visiting sailing yachts and floating restaurants.

Entrance to "hole-in-the-wall"

We passed all this and followed a river through the mangroves and ended up to a mountain that had a tunnel through and while passing this we realized we were heading back the same way we came so it was a dead end when we had thought it would go through the mangroves to the North of Langkawi Island. Once seen this we headed back south and passed E of Pulau Tuba and SE of Pulau Dayang Bunting where we made landing to go see the "Pregnant Maiden's Lake". Legend has it that drinking the water would help female fertility.

This fresh water Lake is separated from the sea only by a narrow ledge and you can stand on it looking at both sides at the same time. We dropped Saini off here to see if there is a path going to the actual landing area. He shouted "yes" after awhile and disappeared so I took off and headed for the landing. This is at the other end of the lake and one has to trek a short distance from shore to reach the lake. At the lake is the usual tourist stalls selling their stuff on floating pontoons as well as one can rent paddle boats to go around the lake. At the pontoons are many catfish and if you are courageous enough you can stick your feet in water and the fish will come and tickle them. This is not like the skin eating fish that are sometimes offered at various spa's nowadays. The fish is just curious and looking for bread crumbs, but boy are there a lot of them.

About reachng the lake we met Saini who had been trekking on land to reach us from the ledge. He told us the wood walkway was in a poor condition and actually closed for tourists. Me and Richard decided to brave the warnings and headed off the walkway. At times we had to get off it as it was collapsed and just climb over rocks, nothing to bad. When we reached the final 50meter to the ledge which was on a floating pontoon we saw the bridge connecting the pontoon to land had collapsed and the jump was a bit too much for us ordinary John's.

I decided to climb the cliff and Richard said he'd wait there. Little did I know where I was going as the cliff started going straight up and di not show any signs f leveling off. The outcrops were loose stones and very sharp edges. It woud have been impossible to climb barefeet, so sharp were the edges. At one stage I dropped one of my slippers as they got stuck on a sharp edge and at same time a bramble whipped off my cap. Luckily I managed to get my slipper back as it had snagged on another outcrop a bit lower down and on I went upwards. Finally I reached the top and started to descend towards the ledge. It was almost more dangerous going down than upwards.

After a short while I reached the coveted ledge and too a few snapshots while catching my breath, I was not interested in going back the same way I came and was able to jump onto the pontoon as the gap was only abt a meter wide from shore and started walking along it to go back to the others. Once I reached the end I found that the cliff had some very small outcrops where one could hang onto and climb to shore instead of risking a jump over the collapsed bridge. I felt rather stupid having taken all the effort and risk climbing over the cliff when I could have gone so much easier. Oh well, at least it was done and I headed back to the tourist area.

Once there we all gathered and headed back for the tender boat as it was getting late. We headed off towards Kuah town in the channel between main Island and Pulau Dayang Bunting with the sun's last rays warming our backs...
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Monday, 2 November 2009

Voyage Phuket - Langkawi

Our time in the Kingdom of Smiles was up again and it was time to exit the country. Once again we were on the way to Langkawi as we also had some unfinished business to take care of.

Ko Ha Yai

On the way we had marvelous weather, hardly any wind nor swell. While passing the Ko Ha group we stopped and did a quick dive with Saini. Only later did I learn that the Island which in front we were diving was hollow and was accessible underwater. Otherwise the diving itself was not bad, lot of stone columns and nooks and crannies to explore, fish was there but quite small. At least I have an excuse to come back and do another dive inside the hollow Island. The Islands themselves look like they are put together by a bricklayer on LSD.

Kalizma at sunset

Next day we arrived early morning and I was met by Nick Coombes on the docks (having been alerted by John peering out of his crows nest) and I made stern to next to m/y Tai-Pan and m/y Amnesia. After usual procedures we settled down and started looking up contractors.

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Sunday, 1 November 2009

Captain's blog October 2009

As many you may have read my previous posts, I will just cursorily go through what we did in October (which was not much) but still in hindsight seems to me like a lot of things.

1st October we are sailing towards Phuket, finally being released from the Lumut Shipyard. John Orr is being put on vacation as he is just plain sick of the last months pressure.

Weather is getting choppy after Penang Island so I decide to scurry north and sail between Langkawi and mainland as well as Ko Tarutao and mainland, the weather is sunny but windy. I get good cover from land, but once I emerge to open seas after Tarutao Island I get same old rodeo ride as before but it only lasts a few hours until Phi Phi Island. We have avoided the worst area and also no damages are sustained as we have secured everything to the hilt due to the forecasts we got from local weatherman.

During the passage my port radar decides once again to give up, same as our both echosounders, no news on that front, seems to be usual Nobeltec quality in play again despite no obvious problems.

I sail into the "Monk's channel" (Chong Pak Phra)to Yacht Haven on radar observation and anchor at 2 am in front of the marina. After a short nap and daybreak I heave up the anchor and move alongside with the highwater.

In afternoon I get ashore and do some serious shopping for provision and a new TV to the crew messroom that broke down in Lumut.

Next day 3rd starts in earnest to prepare for our MCA survey and various maintenance works.

6th Oct I send Saini to pick up our MCA surveyor Alf Cashmore and Naval Architect Mishraji while I move the yacht to in front of Phuket commercial port. The pier itself is occupied by Star Cruises m/v Superstar Virgo, a 75000GT behemoth. Later Mr. Cashmore and Mishraji join us onboard to survey the inclination arrangements that we have arranged same as last March.

We need to change the thread of the pendulums to metal wire so while sending both distinguished gentlemen ashore we race to a local hardware store to secure some piano wire.

Next day 7th Oct we start early, I heave up anchor at 5am and move alongside Phuket commercial pier that is now vacant. It is low water. We start marking the zero point and then moving the weights (1600kg in 4 piles). As we have minimized the personnel onboard we all get a decent morning exercise by moving the weights first from p to sb, the sb to p and as the reading were not that sure we moved another time p to sb and back. By that time it was 10 am and Alf and Mishraji were content with the results and we can relax for a few hours before pulling off in order to reach the high water in Yacht Haven. It is now raining heavily.

We leave in good order but encounter bad seas and rain squalls even in the close proximity while passing Phuket Bay, Ao Tha Lua and more north. We arrive well for the HW in Yacht Haven and make fast with no hassles at our usual place at the outer corner of Dock B.

Same evening I have dinner with both gentlemen in Phuket town and hurry back onboard to get some shuteye and give Saini instructions of next days "taxi" service.

8th Oct we finish our safety survey and I do the UKLAP exam with Alf, I pass after some gruesome instruction into the mechanics of the Empire and am finally eligible for a UK CeC. At end of day Saini sends Alf back tot the hotel and onwards to the airport, this years survey is complete. Now as we are nearing fulfilment of the commercial yacht status I can see our paperwork has tenfolded and surveys increased to annual instead of every 5 yrs. That is the price of safety.

But the pressure does not stop here, on the 9th I receive onboard our Company auditor, Mr. Ashoke Roy, he comes onboard scheduled to check out our accounts and inventories. By the 11th Ashoke has gone through a years worth of accounts and even found some obvious mistakes I've made but not to my benefit, ha-ha. At noon I drive Ashoke around Phuket for some last minute sightseeing and shopping before sending him away to the airport.

By this time I have my contractors working full ahead for MCA outstanding items as well as preparing for receiving Boss in December.

Not to keep me sitting on my laurels Cmde Mongia arrived on the 14th to inspect some plots for sale as well as meet with Nick Coombes from APS Langkawi in regards of the docking disaster in Lumut.

16th we meet with Nick and come to a mutual agreement (which I suppose you read earlier) and I send the Cmde back to India on his scheduled return flight.

Thereafter follows Diwali weekend and me and Saini & Kalpu drive away on 16th with our BBQ set to Trang to meet with Jira. Vivek and Raja Ram will follow next day as they got job 2 do.

Next week was rather uneventful, we were all back onboard working full ahead and maintaining Kalizma to her splendour. On 22nd I headed off to Thap Lamu to inspect the port as an option to moor at in case we would head up north along the coast.

Thap Lamu is a naval base but also has a fishing pier available. The pier is a 90 degree contraption from shore (about 50m long), quite high and offers no fancy shore connections or fresh water as in yacht marinas. E.g. Kalizma could not land a gangway at this pier. At the end is a staircase to the waterlevel, which I think caters well for tender boats. My idea is that I will anchor off the pier and use tender for any passenger/ crew transfers.

On the 23rd Oct was Toby Koehler's 40th Birthday. He invited whole crew (among all other yacht crews too) to participate in the festivities at Nai yang beach at the Beach Club. We all came with gusto (see other post).

On 24th we take down our tender boat and discover it is not working properly despite repair works earlier. We change boats and head for Phangnga Bay for sightseeing James Bond Island etc. Whole afternoon is spent driving from Is to Is with our tender and we see very photographic vistas and views. We can only "ooh" and "aah" at the spectacular views we are presented after every turn.

A brackish water steam on an uninhabited Island

The famous "James Bond" Island

Views in Phangnga Bay

Lime stone erosion at the waterline

Same evening I go down to Sapan Hin to look at the grande finale of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival, I tell you it was a lot of rockets and crackers...

Rest of the month goes in terms of work. On the 27th Sunil Sharma comes back from his long wanderings in the UK bureaucracy and Vivek prepares to leave for his tour of vacation in order to renew his CoC.

On the 31st we cast off and depart for Langkawi to see our old agent John Orr and Nick Coombes, and what happened then, I will let you know...
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