Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Good bye APS Phuket

Gordon Fernandes

I decided to drop Asia Pacific Superyachts Phuket services on departure from Phuket 10th January to Langkawi. As an evolution of things it came naturally as I know my way around as well as the Agents does.

So I thought I might as well do the legwork myself as I have the time and means. I also had the pressure from the office to cut running costs of the ship so after looking at my expense sheet it became obvious where the knife is going to cut.

Anyway, I thanked Gordon Fernandes of his services and cleared his invoice. I will gladly do business with him again, if the opportunity arises in the future.

Link to website

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Khuan Kaeng Hot springs in Trang

On this sunday I decided to explore the hot water spring of Trang in Khuan Keang. To get there you drive to the Pak Meng beach and continue along the beach southwards towards Kantang. The road is narrow but beautifully lined by tropical pines. A few resorts line the road and after 10k's or so you will reach the Chao Mai beach nature reserve. After another 24km you will reach the hot water spring. The area is like any other Thai tourist attraction and first you come to a large parking lot.

The entry is free and voluntary guides will show you around. The developed premise is quite small, 3 big open air ponds with different degrees of hot water and the surrounding forests are also designated as nature reserve. The hottest is 70deg and I suppose it is hot enough to boil eggs although the guide told me it is not allowed to try out (I did not have any eggs with me either). The bottom of the 70deg pond looked like a moon scape with sharp and soft lime pillars formed in it with color ranging from white to dark green. The water was so hot that one could only dip the fingers and hand in there. I suppose if you'd be crazy enough one could manage a quick dip.

The 70deg C pond

Further on the water ran the cooler it got and after the 70 deg pond there was a 40 deg pond and there one could sit and dip arthritic legs in te hot water. It took some getting used tot the temperature before I got myself into the water up to my knees. The cooler end of the pond had kids aged 6-7 yrs bathing fully while the edges were lined by people dipping their feet and calves.

Nong Fon dipping her feet

Further there was an elevated walkway that went into the jungle, mostly one could see the volcanic soil with hot water and gnarled trees and plants. At some places the walkway rails had deteriorated badly and it was not such a big rush walking through it.

The elevated jungle walkway

As the last attraction was that there were bathhouses which could be rented by a voluntary sum of money, I rented one for 100THB. Some of the houses had the roof caved in and daylight came so there was no need for extra lighting. The bath was a small round concrete thing lined with mosaic tiles where one could sit on a ledge on the side and put the legs in the middle, it could be filled by 30 or 40 deg water. On the side there was a shower. It was nice to sit and enjoy the water and just sweat out the impurities, just like in a sauna.

After softening up in the hot water I went and took a foot massage and the old ladies there really knew how to knead ones feet.

Foot massage

All in all a nice visit but the place is in dire need of a facelift before somebody has an injury with a falling roof tile or collapsing railing.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Voyage Phuket - Langkawi - Phuket

Departed Phuket on monday afternoon. The day before I did the immigration, Customs and Harbor Master clearance at Ao Chalong. It is an hours drive by car and maybe another hour to jump through all the hoops in the one stop shop. All and all the officials were very friendly and gave good advice of how to go about moving in the Kingdom and about their rules. For Rajaram that was signing off to go and attend to a death in the family I had to process at the Phuket town Immigration Bureau a so called "bonding out" of crew. It has to be followed or the crew in question can be barred entry from Thailand in the future. The Officer will type out a form that is stapled to the passport and at the airport must be presented on exit to the immigration officer and then signed in his presence.

One of Yacht Havens charter boats in the Channel

Weather was fine again when we departed on the 11th and we steamed onwards to Langkawi where we arrived 12th Jan in the morning. Marina wanted me again to moor stern to as the N-S jetty was occupied. So, I did but the anchors came down very poorly due to some twists in the chain and I did not manage to get enough length out. We heaved up the sb anchor and re-lowered it while pulling w/ the tender boat. The result was barely satisfactory and we let it be.

As usual I was met on the jetty by John Orr, our agent, and I gave him our arrival documents for processing as I was a bit busy with the anchor. After getting port clearance done I headed for Penang with Jira and arrived back 2 days later.

Once onboard again I checked what was pending and seeing all was more or less done I asked John to clear us out so we could get back to Phuket and get on with our pending jobs.

Before leaving I tied again alongside bunker barge Tuba VI and bunkered up fuel. I managed to have a chat with John and once all set we dropped John off at the jetty and set our heading for Phuket. The weather was bad due to a low pressure in the Gulf of Thailand so we were hugging the coast in order to get some sleep. Next morning we arrived outside Phuket town where I tried to anchor, and I did, but the seas were just too rough to stay there.

I landed ashore at the Rassada fishing port and picked up my hire car from the B2M guys and headed for the Ao Chalong one stop immigration shop with Jira. Meanwhile Saini heaved up anchor and started towards Yacht Haven. We did not have a berth available there so I decided to anchor there for the couple of days until the berth was supposed to be free. Luckily Zara called me and told that I could come alongside next morning so I was happy not needing to sit at anchor for the 3 days that she had told me earlier.

Once at the immigration he wanted to se us all but I explained that the boat was sailing for Yacht Haven so I could only bring everybody here next morning, that was ok. Then in turn was the Custom clearance and while I was sitting in front of him his mobile phone rang and I could hear that Jo-Jo from APS Phuket was asking him not to clear us in. The Officer replied to her that "Jo-Jo, Captain has all papers in order, I can't do what you ask for". Well, so much for mafia antics in Phuket as we managed to clear in with no pain at all. All the praise for the officials refusing to act corrupt and advancing the Thai tourism industry.

Next day we made a beeline to Ao Chalong again and did our face checks in 5minutes and were done. In the afternoon we hoisted anchor and moved alongside A-dock as usual. All is well onboard.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Sojourn to Penang

When the port clearance was done I left with Jira for Penang (or Georgetown) with all passports to apply Thai visas for everyone. The ferry took 3 hrs to arrive. The trip was uneventful as the weather was fine. The ferry stopped by Pulau Payar to drop or pick up passengers and then we continued. Last time I had been to Penang was in 1998 with Superstar Sagittarius and boy had the place changed. The terminal was new and gone was all the shabby colonial buildings (well, most of them or they had been restored).

We checked in the Malaysia Hotel at Jalan Penang and after settling in went for search of some dinner. I found a local Thai restaurant and there we got our chili fix for the day. For rest of evening we walked around Jalan Penang to the shopping centres in Komtar and did not see anything worth mentioning except they had an excellent bookstore in there. Jira found herself a dress that she was very happy to buy. After awhile we took a rickshaw back to the hotel and retired for the night.

The Penang Clocktower

Next morning I took a taxi to the Thai embassy and of course I discovered that I'd left all my photocopies onboard so I had to go via the photocopier. Once arrived to the embassy I filled in my form and tried to submit all my passports and was informed they do not process Indian passports. I was perplexed and asked for more information why they could not issue visas for my crew that were all legitimate? I even had my Thai bankbook with me to show that I could provide for them all. After some time they produced me a circular from the Thai Foreign Ministry that stated that for so and so nationalities they cannot apply for visas in Malaysia unless they got permanent resident status in Malaysia. Well, that explained it all so I just applied for a visa for myself that I could come and pick up the same afternoon.

The reclining Buddha at the Wat Chaiya Mangalaram temple (built 1845)

So for the rest of the morning and early afternoon I spent sightseeing going first to a Coffeeshop and Batik shop that were next to each other. Not being a great fan of coffee since I stopped smoking I sampled the coffees that were on sale and must say that their coconut coffee was excellent so I bought a bag of it for Jira. They also sold different kind of chocolate candies and I settled for a sugarfree chocolate candy (only the fat was left, he-he). Next door I was given a short demonstration of how batik is done and yet again Jira found a wraparound pants to buy. I could not buy anything that was so colorful that every time I would wear it I would get a headache seeing myself in the mirror.

Entrance to Burmese temple

Next stop was the Thai and Burmese temple. They both semed very prosperous with so many decorations and gold leaf that they would put some of their counterparts in respective country to shame. We made our offerings and donations and admired the premises. Especially the Burmese temple had similar kind of wood carvings as the Shwedagon in Yangon. Just amazing woodwork.

Cannonball tree at Botanical Gardens

After this we headed for the Botanical Gardens that were somewhat a disapponting affair. Well kept lawns and walkways were there but the botanical aspect was a bit less if you compare to the Botanical Garden in Kandy, Sri Lanka. Entrance was lined with cannonball trees and some monkeys were around. Other than that there was not much to mention as most of the special plant houses were closed. The most interesting was the house were they sold plants, a nice selection of green plants, cactuses and orchids was on display. I liked most the orchid that smelled like chocolate. Around the garden and surrounding estates there were signs of trespassers will be shot...

Guan Yin at Kek Lok Si temple

Then as a last piece the resistance we headed for the Kek Lok Si Chinese temple. It was perched on a hill facing the sea and from the top you could see all of Gerogetown. The path started with steps up and up to different halls with Chinese God's and Goddesses displayed, in between there were souvenir stalls that sold religious paraphernalia like amulets, semi-precious stones protecting for all sort of stuff and music CD's for Chinese New Year, roof tiles with your name on it (for the temple) and so on. The highlight of the temple is to take the horizontal elevator up the platform where a huge bronze statue of Avalokiteshvara (or Kuan Yin) is erected. Kuan Yin is the Bodhisattva of compassion or "The Lord that looks down", she sure looks down at Kek Lok Si. Those who wants to know more about this deity can click this link . In addition there was yet another souvenir shop and a hall housing a Buddha with entrance lined with all the animals in the Chinese horoscope. After having enough of religion for the day we headed back down and headed for the Thai embassy to pick up my passport.

Kek Lok Si in the distance

Sri Tirupati temple in Mumbai, same deity as Kuan Yin, different name.

After having my passport well in hand it was time for a late lunch, the driver took us to the seaside and we lunched at the Ocean Green seafood restaurant. The place was empty as all the lunch people had left and the dinner guests were yet to arrive. Food was delicious and soon after we headed to the ferry terminal to buy tickets for next morning to go back to Langkawi.

Next morning was again an early rise and we had our breakfast at the hotel and from there we went to the ferry. This time it was a monohull as we had come with a catamaran. The weather was getting choppy and beside us was a French girl that was ululating as a stuck pig as she was feeling nauseous. At times she was breathing in a plastic bag and at times she was whining her seasickness. I must say she managed to keep her guts in control as she never heaved up. When an hour from arrival the boat suddenly stopped engines and after awhile they started going again, at slow speed, I suspect they lost one engine for some reason. Nevertheless, we arrived safely and were glad to be onboard.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Diving Ko Ha Yai

As I had learned that Ko Ha Yai had some marvelous underwater caves to discover I stopped enroute to Langkawi and did 2 dives at the group to experience these sights so much touted.


The best dive is supposed to be on the Northernmost Island at the NW corner where there is a vertical funnel of 5-6m, so we decided that we'll do the goodies first. We, that is me, Saini and Dubey, dove down abt S of the Islet where there was a dive buoy. I was trying out my new dive housing for some underwater photography. Down below we found huge boulders with nice corals and sea anemones littering the view. Deep crevasses and overhangs gave the area a nice look. From there we scoured the bottom towards west between 10-20m and after awhile we found the funnel. I was there first and when I peeked in the funnel there was a huge, maybe around 20kg, grouper hiding there. He was probably as surprised to see me as I was to see him as he slunk away fast as lightning in one of the side tunnels in the funnel. So much for asking us in for a brew. Anyway, I gathered the funnel is big enough to let me through and so I went in. The ascent went for abt 5-6m and I reached the upper mouth of the funnel and I discovered I could not get through the hole. My tank was jamming me. The space could have probably allowed me to turn back but was a bit cramped so I just took off my dive gear, shoved it through the hole and went myself after. At this time my air was down to surfacing levels so that was it. I went up with Dubey that also had his air finished. Saini followed us shortly.

Sea Anemone

Next dive was a shallow dive where we were going to explore the caves on the southernmost Island and were commonly referred to as the "Cathedral". We went to the southernmost Island which by the way sported a very teeny tiny bay that wouldbe perfect for smaller boats staying the night. We tied up again at a dive buoy S of the Island and down we went, this time also followed by Kalpu as this was not going to be a deep dive. The Cathedral was not that impressive but we saw plenty of fish and experienced the wave surge. All in all a fun dive. By the time we surfaced the sun was setting so it was time to get back onboard and continue our voyage.

Link to Photo album

Monday, 4 January 2010

Captain's Blog December 2009

As December has gone and we have ushered in the New Year of 2010 I would like to take the opportunity and wish all readers a Happy and Prosperous New Year. I hope your year will be full of positive development and happenings.

First sunset of the Year

For us December was quite hectic as we sacrificed even sundays for work, getting Kalizma ready for the Boss and guests.

The bridge teak renewal was ongoing. The teak has been removed and the filler has been applied (after all holes were plugged). The bare aluminium had quite severe pitting at places but luckily no holes from pitting. However, we found some holes that had not been plugged and 2 seams that were not welded, which eventually were our biggest headaches during rainy weather.

I interviewed Olaf Zajewski as Chef for the guests. Eventually I ended up employing him. Olaf is a charming German gentleman from Berlin that has made Thailand his home more or less for the past 10 years. He is very talented and the goodies that he churned out from the galley made my mouth just water. Furthermore he came along very well with Richard and they worked as an excellent team in our small galley.

Olaf's shopping, 100% full car

Other service was also done: jetskis, tenders. Jyothi had to replenish her stores and we spent one day burning money, the car was so full that I could not have fitted another parcel in it. I had to arrange for wines, some of it ordered from Bangkok as it was not available in Phuket. Olaf did his shopping too, again the car was filled up 100%, including the shotgun seat. I had to rent an extra cooler chest to store all the items. Saini got an inflatable kayak for the guest enjoyment. Brass had to be polished. Finally flowers had to be arranged and exterior washed down.

On 16th I made some time to meet up with my friend Frank from Australia who was holidaying in Phuket. We worked earlier together on project Silver in 2007 at the Hanseatic shipyard in Fremantle.

Me and Frank Telo

Owner called on 22nd and announced his arrival. On 23rd I moved in front of Amanpuri and was ready to receive. Then from the 25th we are cruising, anchorage in fron of Amanpuri, Phanga Bay to Ko Phanak, Ko Rang Yai, Ko Yao Yai, Patong Beach, New Year in front of Amanpuri, Phi Phi Island, Ko Racha Yai and finally Amanpuri.

New Year in front of Amanpuri

New Year we were anchored in front of Amanpuri and the resorts put on a great fire work display. One resort had a huge disco (The Chedi?) and lights illuminating the palmtrees on the slopes that gave a cool effect. Anyway, the noise was deafening even onboard.

Olaf taking a lunch break, while guests ashore

The visit to Ko Racha Yai was interesting as we anchored in front of "The Racha" resort, it has a small bay, almost a fiord. The anchorage is not easy as the Bay is narrow and rather steep. I had to heave up anchor after 1st attempt as I was swinging too close for comfort to another anchored diveboat. Second time true I managed to ease myself in and find us a spot. It was my luck that I was out in the early morning because a couple of hours later I was "cocooned" by dozens of other diveboats and sailboats that had decided to visit Ko Racha for a day trip. The boats vanished with the sunshine and abt 3.30pm my "cocoon" was gone. The waters at Ko Racha are crystal clear, I could see down 15m to the bottom of the seabed.

3rd of January we were safely back in Yacht Haven and when we were safely tied up I let the crew get a rest...