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  march 2011


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01/03/11  Moved the boat again this morning to another, more suitable mooring.  The last was in water only deep enough during neap tides (which we have at present) so I am happier with a little more water beneath the keel in the event of not being back in Chalong before the spring tides kick in.   We caught a taxi at 4pm and made our way to the bus terminal in Phuket for the 6pm VIP bus to Bangkok and left on time in a very comfortable and quiet, modern coach, to drive through the night.

02/03/11  The coach arrived in Bangkok at 6am and we again jumped in a taxi to our hotel (The Park Hotel).  After booking in, we then made our way to the main shopping area by way of the sky-train and then on to 'sight-see' at the Golden Buddha, a five and a half ton icon of solid gold!

03/03/11  On the list of places to visit today - the Kings Palace and the Emerald Buddha.  We started with a taxi ride to the ferry which would take us to the Palace, but we overshot the intended pier and had to take another ferry back one stop!  The palace is certainly ornate and also contains the Emerald Buddha - much smaller than the huge Golden Buddha - and made of jade.  It is the most respected idol in Thailand.  We also took a trip up the klongs (canals), visiting a snake farm where shows of venom extraction were given.  Travel around the area is relatively easy with taxis, ferries, the underground and the skytrain - a modern elevated railway which 'flies' over the congested streets of central Bangkok.

04/03/11    A fairly early start to the day with a taxi ride (we used the same driver throughout our stay) of some 150 Km to see the infamous Burma - Thailand railway.  Known as the Death Railway for all the lives lost in it's construction during 1942 by prisoners of war under Japanese rule.  We went to Kanchanaburi to visit the war cemetery where just under 7,000 allied troops are buried, the museum and the mock-up p.o.w. camp.  Kanchanaburi is also the site of "The Bridge on the river Kwai" which we walked over. 

05/03/11  Today it was off to Samutprakarn and the  World's largest crocodile farm/zoo after a morning walk around the Sukhumvit area.  An entertaining afternoon of mad Thai's putting their heads into crocodile mouths, elephant shows and photo's taken of Leah feeding tiger cubs.  I don't really like zoo's, or rather the concept of them, and think that all animals should be free.  But I do realise that the human race has removed their natural habitat - not only are we the animal's worst enemy....we're our own as well.  This farm has over 100,000 crocodiles, mostly bred in captivity and including the World's largest croc, an Estuarine/Siamese hybrid named 'Yai', which is 6 metres in length and weighs 1114 Kg.  The photo on the right is the Erawan Museum in Samut Prakan - we drove past but didn't have time to visit.  This huge three headed elephant dominates the skyline, standing some 44 metres high and 39 metres long.  The museum is inside the elephant body and is served by lifts and staircases housed inside the rear legs.  There is a window in the belly which gives views over the surrounding area.

06/03/11  Firstly a visit to the hospital where Roger arranged an operation for Jordan to have his painful big toe nails removed - it had been recommended to have the op here in Bangkok and Roger and Leah will stay a few more days with Jordan whilst he has it. (Astrid and myself will return to the boats tomorrow as planned).  We spent the morning in Damnoen at the floating market, located on the klongs and busy with tourists.  If you have seen the film 'Bangkok Dangerous' with Nicholas Cage, you will  recognise the klongs from the longtail chase scene.  During the afternoon we went to Chatuchak on the skytrain, and the shore based 'weekend' market - a huge covered area packed with stalls and heaving with locals and tourists alike.

07/03/11  After breakfast it was a case of packing and checking out of the hotel.  In the early afternoon, we took a taxi to the Bangkok Hospital to drop off Roger, Jordan and Leah, then on to the airport for our flight back to Phuket.  Boarding had not commenced when take-off time was reached, so we were already late!  We eventually boarded but no sooner was everyone seated and ready to go ........and we were asked to disembark and return to the lounge, change boarding gates and board another aircraft.  Our arrival at Phuket airport was in the dark and the middle of a thunderstorm - the rain coming down in torrents.  An hour taxi ride back to Ao Chalong where we took shelter in our 'local' until the rains stopped and the tide came in sufficiently for us to reach James and Sandy's dinghy for a lift back to our boats.

11/03/11  Since returning to Ao Chalong, the weather has been 'unusual' with daily rains, high winds and a lot of rolling around which has prevented me from completing the wheel pilot installation (it's difficult to run wiring or drill holes when you have to hang on with one hand!).  Roger, Jordan and Leah returned last night and I collected them from the pier around 8pm.  Moody Time have returned to Rebak Marina in Langkawi, ending their cruising as they return to the UK and the boat up for sale - we all wish Colin and Trish the very best for the future.   Marco and Francesca are in the bay onboard Easy 'n Free.    This afternoon, I received a phone call from Joy in Turkey and an e-mail from Dhanya in India, warning me (us) of the earthquake off Japan and the subsequent tsunami warnings.  I am hoping that we will be ok here as the direct path to Japan is blocked by Cambodia, Vietnam and Malaysia.

12/03/11  This morning's on-line papers are full of pictures of the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami off the Japanese coast.  Although we had all initially been a little worried about it here in Phuket, Colonel Somsak of the Thai Natural Disaster Centre had stated there would be no impact on Thailand and that no-one should panic.  My thanks to Joy in Marmaris for the constant text updates of the unfolding disaster yesterday.

17/03/11  Several days of frustration with the wheel pilot wiring!  Cutting out the old wiring resulted in the engine refusing to start, giving me a couple of hours of fault chasing - discovering that the pratt who called himself an electrician in Marmaris, had wired the engine ignition relay earth wire into the earth wire of the wheel pilot.  I had to run a new earth cable from the relay to the ve- bus bar......which is what he should have done in the first place!  With most of the wiring in place, it only remained to connect the nmea input and outputs to the GPS, and that's where the real problems started because the old Simrad instruments do not talk the same nmea language as the new Raymarine pilot - they use Corus talk converted from nmea0183.  However, late this afternoon I managed to get the control head to display the bearings and distances to waypoints although I am convinced that the wiring is still wrong because of the indicated cross-track error.

19/03/11  Because of on-going problems with my wiring of the nmea leads to and from the new wheel pilot, I was unable to sail today as planned, so it was with great sorrow that I said farewell to Storm Dodger as they sailed out of the bay to head for the Similan Islands.  Visa time constraints now make it almost impossible for me to go there and so I will probably return to Langkawi in the next few days. 

21/03/11  Woo hoo!  I now have the correct cross-track error showing on the wheel pilot control head!  Sandy of Swordfish went home to the UK today for some months, so I teamed up with James for a run ashore and a few beers after the usual evening thunderstorm.

22/03/11  Assisting James this morning to move Swordfish to the fuel and water barge was not without incident - an engine squeal indicated a slipping alternator belt which, when investigated, showed the alternator to be seized and the belt on fire.  A hurried re-anchoring followed!  After the smoke had cleared and we had filled the water tanks (running the engine on the second alternator only), James came onboard Rhumb Do and we went out into the bay to carry out the fluxgate compass calibration (swinging and aligning), then returned to my mooring.

23/03/11  Feeling a bit trapped onboard now - my outboard motor will currently not start and is in need of a service, so I am a bit dependent on James for running me ashore.  He came over late this afternoon with his Scuba gear and went down to clean my prop of barnacles.  Obviously, the lanolin I applied in Satun did not work as the dreaded barnies had taken a good hold of it.

24/03/11  Sad news that screen legend Elizabeth Taylor has died aged 79.  A blustery, choppy day so I am unable to strip down the outboard motor for repair today.  Cooking gas is a problem again, one bottle being nearly empty (and I know I can't get any in Langkawi) but it's too expensive to hire a car and drive up to Boat Lagoon just for that.  I have been uploading some of the photo's from recent months but there are still more to be sorted and put in my Photo Album

25/03/11  Went ashore with James to get some bits for my outboard motor and ran into Roger and Astrid who are back in the bay having aborted the Similan Island trip and returned from Patong.  We all stayed ashore for the evening and had a few beers.

26/03/11  Happy Birthday to my 'big' Bro.  Slipped the mooring at 1015 with the intention of heading straight out of the bay and on to Langkawi, but Roger who was anchored across the bay off Panwa Bali beach, was having trouble with an alternator belt and was not ready to leave.  I motored over and rafted up alongside Storm Dodger until the problem was fixed.  At 1400, with a forecast of westerly 15knt winds throughout the night, we set off under a grey sky and drizzling rain. (photo right).   The winds, as expected were somewhat more than forecast, but we bowled along nicely on a broad reach under genoa and engine at a steady six knots until 2130 - then the s**t hit the fan!!  With no moon or stars, it was impossible to see the squall coming as the seas became very rough and the winds increased to over 30 knots.  I was dressed in full oilskins, lifejacket on and harnessed to the cockpit as I tried to furl or reef the genoa.....but not in time to prevent the sail ripping across the protective UV strip.  I managed to furl the sail to just beyond the rip and continued on course into the blackness with minimal headsail flying.

27/03/11   Around midnight, or just after, we were hit by winds of 55 knots and it became very scary!!  Anyone who has been in a small boat in bad weather and in total darkness and says they were not scared, is a liar!  I prepared two warps to trail behind to slow the boat down if we had to run with the storm.  The new wheel pilot was working overtime to maintain our course of 140 degrees but was so far managing to do so.  The seas were black with only the reflection of my stern light showing the maelstrom of white foam as each wave crashed over the boat and into the cockpit to mix with the torrential rain, the bow navigation lights an eerie red and green ahead of me.  The bimini top was ripped from the sprayhood and hung over the port side of the boat until I was able to secure it with temporary lashings.  Wind whipped frothy spume off the top of each wave, lashing my face like hailstones, and I lost sight of Storm Dodger in the ensuing mayhem.  There was little to do as I sat, strapped into my corner, waist deep in water, except console myself that I had been in worse weather than this before and that it would eventually pass.  The storm eased a little around 0200 but the seas remained big and threatening for the rest of the night.  I sure was glad to see daylight at 0600!   Both boats continued to roll badly as we made our way southeast toward the island of Langkawi, turning into the entrance of Bass Harbour about 1300.....and settling into calmer waters.  At 1430, with great relief, I anchored off Kuah town, a short distance from Storm Dodger, had a late breakfast and fell into bed for a few hours.   (photo right - my almost new Thai courtesy flag, shredded in the storm)

28/03/11  I took down the genoa and went ashore with it to the sailmaker for repair - but she's on holiday for two weeks and will not be back until the 10th April - that's a big problem for me now.  With constant heavy rain all day, we (Rog & family) had little to do other than sit in the shelter of various eateries and coffee shops for the rest of the day, all buying yet more umbrellas to make the trip back in the dinghy to our boats.

29/03/11  At 1am, along with the never ending rain, we now had strong winds and a steel boat (Cockatoo) dragged anchor and almost hit me, it's crew finally moving the boat to another anchoring area.  Once more I had full party gear on in preparation for moving should the conditions deteriorate further.  On getting up again at daylight, the rains were still pounding down with no sign of any breaks in the ten tenths of dark grey skies.  Spent the evening onboard Storm Dodger along with Franz and Sylvia of Moet, watching a film.......and the rains continue..............

30/03/11  Still raining but we all went ashore during the evening and visited the night market, wandering around in yellow capes like a bunch of bananas.  Power on the boat is now a problem.  Without sunshine, the solar panels do not produce any wrigglies and I am having to run the engine for a couple of hours a day to keep the batteries from becoming completely flat.

31/03/11  Enough is enough!  Both Roger and I weighed anchor at 0930 and moved into the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club marina.  Being 'trapped' onboard in continual rain isn't much fun.  At least when tied up alongside we can get an umbrella out and walk up to the bar, or taxi into town, which is what Astrid and I did this afternoon to look for some electrical parts.  At least we are not the only ones getting a soaking - Thailand is suffering as well with floods and mud slides, tourists are being evacuated by the Thai navy from some of the islands and at least three airports are closed because of flooding.

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