Langkawi to Phuket

                                                                 Phillip and Ingrid at Phi Phi Lei 


December 1997, January 1998

Langkawi to Phuket, Thailand and back


We were scheduled to meet  our daughter Ingrid and her husband Phillip on 12 December 1997 so set off from Rebak Marina for our first cruise northwards up the Malacca Straits to the Thai island of Phuket , about 120 miles away.


Our first stage was a one day sail to the Butang Island group, Thailand territory, but unoccupied except for a few fishing camps. There we stayed for four days, enjoying the peace, quite and clear water. On our last day a four masted sailing ship, a barquentine, sailed in for the day. Their passengers were taken ashore for a barbeque and the ship sailed out again after sunset with lights strung from the masts, looking like a fairy ship.


The next sail was to Ko Rok Nok. "Ko" means island in Thai.  We sailed half of the forty two miles in a reasonable wind, but this died at midday and we had to motor the rest of the way - a good test for the recently repaired engine.  At Rok Nok we anchored in a channel between two islands in twelve metres of water so clear we could see our anchor and chain on the bottom. Lots of colourful tropical fish swam around us. White beaches lined both islands which were heavily wooded. On one small beach under a large tree the fishermen had established a shrine which was surrounded with offerings of flowers, fruit etc. We stayed here for two days during which several yachts came and went on their way to Phuket or Langkawi.


On Sunday 30 November we left Ko Rok Nok and sailed the thirty five miles to the north end of Ko Lanta Hyai. Here we anchored in among hundreds of fishing buoys in shallow water in a bay well protected from the north east. Just as well, because two hours after anchoring we were treated to a fifty knot rain squall blowing from the shore. Our anchor was well dug in, so we stayed in place. There were no other yachts in the bay when we arrived but we were joined by three others later in the evening and the following day. We noticed that even though there was a good sailing breeze, the yachts all arrived under motor. This we were to see again and again during our time in Thailand and Langkawi. Very few people actually sail. Whether it is because they are too lazy or don't know how we have yet to discover.


After a days rest at Ko Lanta Hyai we sailed to Phi Phi Don, the most popular tourist island in the Phuket area. Bedlam and mayhem !!   Dozens of ferries bringing hundreds of tourists from the mainland; high speed motor boats taking customers out to diving launches and a large barge off which people went parasailing; other motor boats towing long yellow inflatable sausages to which screaming tourists clung; zillions of longtail boats taking tourists everywhere.
A "longtail" is a local wooden narrow boat powered by an industrial small petrol engine to which is connected a long pipe with a propeller at the outer end. This pipe can be dipped into the sea when the longtail wants to move forward. Quite an ingenious idea and the boats have very good sea-kindly hulls - but the engines have had their silencers removed and even one boat makes an incredible noise, especially when the sound bounces off the tall sandstones cliffs. So what with the incredible noise, lumpy water from all of the to-ing and fro-ing and air pollution from petrol and diesel fumes we thought we had sailed straight into the jaws of hell. It was only after tourists started to leave in the late afternoon that we began to realise that Ko Phi Phi Don is really able to live up to its reputation of being one of the three most beautiful islands in the world.


The next day we left early to miss the chaos and sailed the thirty miles to Ao Chalong on the east coast of Phuket. After checking in we spent the next few days sailing up the west coast of Phuket, stopping at - Nai Hairn, where the Kings Cup Regatta was due to take place in a weeks time; Karon Beach - quiet, few tourists, long beach; Ao Patong - the tourist mecca of the west coast - just like Phi Phi Don - but not quite so terrible!  



continued at top of next column...........
Ko Dam Hok  North Island, sand spit ................ 
........ continued from previous column

We halted our northwards progression at Ao Bang Tao (Ao = bay in Thai). This was close enough to the airport for us to meet Ingrid and Phillip.  Here we had the enjoyable experiences of encountering some elephants grazing in a field along the road side when we walked into the nearest village, and also seeing a baby elephant playing on the beach in the afternoons. He had been brought down to the beach by his keeper to play in the waves and entertain the young guests at the hotel and holiday resort.


After collecting Ingrid and Phillip from the airport in a hired minibus, we sailed / motored to Patong, Nai Hairn and Phi Phi Don.  The last to show them how awful it is - why should we be the only ones to suffer?  Then on to Phi Phi Le, where the snorkling was good until I saw a shark.  Ingrid and I broke all swimming records returning to Senta.


We then sailed to Ko Dam Hok, a beautiful anchorage between two islands behind a sand spit. On the second day there, we were joined by a Concepta 65, "Paradise Blue". The skipper’s girlfriend is a South African, so they came over to say hello and invited us on board. A space age yacht, easily sailed single handed. All sail and other controls are push button hydraulic. Below decks are fully air conditioned. The saloon has a complete electronic entertainment centre; surround sound, pull down screen for laser movies, Karaoke! Phillip visualised a group of Japanese businessmen sitting down below doing Karaoke while the skipper sailed the boat on his own through the raging gales ! Five generators, an HP file server, several computers, electronic charts, washing machine, 100 litres / hour water maker and ice maker. Lovely boat but not for us at $ 1,75 million.


After visiting Laem Nang beach west of Krabi, another madness of tourists, longtails and noise, we sailed north to anchor in a quite bay at the north end of Ko Yai Noi.


We spent two days here before taking another two days sailing to Ko Racha Yai, about twenty miles south of Phuket, where we spent Christmas day. Our lunch at three in the afternoon at a small restaurant on the beach consisted of a large grilled fish shared by Pierre and Phillip, an omelette for me and a spicy chicken dish for Ingrid.



          Christmas lunch at Ko Racha


 We then turned north again, stopping at Ao Chalong where we saw John Reed and his yacht, Wind Magic, from Zululand Yacht Club.


Then on to Ko Phanak where we took the dinghy on a scary row through a dark tunnel into an island lagoon; and eventually stopping at the marina of Yacht Haven on the north coast of Phuket.  Here Ingrid and Phillip had a day to relax, wash, pack, and join us in a farewell dinner at the marina restaurant before catching their plane the next day for Bangkok and South Africa.


January 1998


We sailed back to Ao Chalong to check out of Thailand, but had to wait there for a few days as the Thai immigration / customs officers were closed for the new year holidays.


While at anchor there we watched a comedy of errors involving a small Italian yacht, "Geronimo". She had tied up to a buoy in the bay and all of the crew had gone ashore. While they where away, a large fishing boat, whose buoy Geronimo had taken, arrived. The crew of the fishing boat moved Geronimo to a nearby mooring, tied her up and to make sure she was safe, also dropped her anchor. When Geronimo's crew arrived back after a good lunch ashore, they started their motor, untied the rope attached to the buoy and tried to motor away - not realizing that the anchor was down. They went one way and then another, reverse and forward - but no joy - the anchor kept pulling them up short. They peered over the side and transom, to see what the problem was. Eventually the skipper jumped into the water, with mask and snorkel, to check the propeller. Finding no problem there he slowly swam forwards to find that the boat was securely anchored. There was some gesticulation and queries about which fool had dropped the anchor. When no one would own up the skipper called for the anchor to be pulled up. Halfway up the anchor flukes caught in the mooring buoy's chain and wouldn't come any further. There was further shouting and heaving until eventually the anchor came clear, leaped out of the water and nearly took off the skipper’s head.  We  laughed ourselves sick almost rolling on the cockpit floor, especially as the whole episode was accompanied by excited Italian chatting and hand waving.


After leaving Ao Chalong we took ten days sailing back to Langkawi, arriving on 14 January.











 ..........sand spit,  South Island