Blue Heeler is ready; all post-refit jobs completed. The time is here for two Aquarians to sail away from south-east Asia to distant lands. We have an 1100nm voyage passing through the Nicobar Islands in the Andaman Sea and skirting the Bay of Bengal onto Galle in Sri Lanka. Are we prepared? Sure! We’ve done everything possible to keep Blue Heeler ship-shape and us safe. This leg of our voyage should take around 6-10 days in fairly predictable weather. We’re conscious of the overall length of the trip to reach South Africa (some 7000nm+), but from country to country relatively short distances, we can ‘eat the elephant’ as they say.
Since we left Chalong Bay at the south-eastern corner of Phuket, we headed up the west coast of Phuket with a goal of departing Thailand from the Surin Islands, near the border of Myanmar. We didn’t sail this coast last year and there are some lovely anchorages, weather permitting.
We had a pleasant couple of days anchored in the very touristy Nai Harn on the south end of Phuket. The beach is carpeted with bronze bodies and umbrellas. Of course plenty of eateries and cheap food. While anchored, a skipper of another Hallberg Rassy dinghied over to us to ask about our beautiful deck as he was considering having it done. The guy was British and after eyeballing our new davit and transom area, in true Brit style said “My, that certainly is a structure”. In Aussie speak that means “Crikey, that’s bloody huge!”. I took this comment as a compliment.
Further up the west coast we stopped off at Nai Yang near the airport and managed to catch up with Island Sonata, Silvergirl and Recluse for a very enjoyable evening and farewells. Unfortunately the swell made the anchorage very swelly so we only stayed one night before morning north, while the other boats continued south. Our next anchorage beyond Nai Yang was at Ban Thap Lamu, near the naval base. A good all-weather anchorage in an estuary filled with fishing boats and speed boats taking punters on day trips to the Similan Islands. We didn’t venture from the boat that day but lazed around enjoying the sunny weather.
Next day we motor-sailed to Koh Phra Thong and anchored in 4-6m near the southern jetty and close to a wreck of an old warship. We’d had reports that diesel can be sought further up at Koh Phayam, but that entailed lugging jerry cans to and from Ranong by ferry. From the jetty at Koh Phra Thong about 200m are a couple of bowsers where Wayne managed to get another 40 litres of diesel and a few litres of ULP. This was easy to manage and the owner helped Wayne by transporting the jerries with his motorbike to the jetty. The cost for diesel here was also reasonable at around 32THB per litre. Motoring through the estuary we popped out at the top of the island and travelled about 35nm further to the island destination of Koh Phayam. ‘Buffalo Bay’ is the north-western anchorage (09o45.426’N, 098o24.8183’E) and strangely the island isn’t mentioned in the South East Asia Pilot, but is widely known as a great anchorage by many yachties.
When we entered the bay it wasn’t what I expected – palm trees, white sand, you get the picture. The area is quite rocky and scrubby, but once anchored and onshore I understood why it’s such a lovely bay. Simple restaurants and bungalows hidden within the bush with relaxed tourists sunbaking.
The ‘Hippy Bar’ on the northern end of the beach appears to be barely standing and looks like a film set from a spooky movie. Here you’ll find peace and tranquillity. No hoards of tourists, umbrellas like Nai Harn or hundreds of massage tables like at Ao Nang. And certainly no longtail boats! I even haven’t seen those ugsome large jelly fish. This is as close to paradise as you’ll get, apparently like Samui or Phi Phi some 30 years ago. Maybe in time I’ll return with a wooden leg and eye patch saying “Arrr, you should have seen the place 30 years ago”!
Even the tourists here are low key and relaxed. Most appear to be our age upwards, with few children running around. One fellow seems totally relaxed and delights himself most evenings dancing on the beach, which makes me smile. The phrase “dance like no-one is watching” is certainly fitting for this happy chap.
We have some Thai baht to get rid of before we leave so lucky for me we’ve been eating out every night, usually at the very friendly “Mr Gao” restaurant. If you’re planning coming here, there are no banks but money changers only and you can get cash advances on your credit cards. A 20 minute walk into the small village on the other side of the island is worth the walk. Brightly flowering hibiscus and bougainvillea mix with the jungle growth and cashew trees. Pulp from the cashew apple is splattered with the sweetly pungent smell wafting up from the hot road. Apparently the bit at the bottom of the cashew apple is called the ‘drupe’. Can’t wait to use that word in ‘Words With Friends’! Koh Phayam are having a Cashewnut Festival on 22/23 February 2014 if you’re in the area.
The village has simple shops – motorbike rentals and repair; internet; small grocery and tourist clothing; and plenty of cheap eateries. The ferry to Ranong and other places leaves here to. Very relaxing. I bought heaps of fresh veggies to last for the next two weeks and a couple of kilos of freshly frozen chicken and fresh eggs from a grocery store just as you enter the town. We caught motorbike taxis back to the boat for THB50 each. After a swim and final feed at Mr Gao’s tonight, we leave in the morning for the Surin Islands. There’s been plenty of wind in the mornings so we’re hopeful to get a good blow and not use our diesel.
Other yachty friends are already in Sri Lanka and we hope to arrive and see them before they leave. We’re not sailing in company but no doubt will see other yachts sailing the same trip as it’s the time of year to do so. We’ve chosen Windsor Reef as our clearing agents in Sri Lanka. Reports from others are that there’s been no problem with him. I’ll write more about this after we arrive in Galle. Next stop…Sri Lanka!