Thursday, February 05, 2009

February 2, 2009 - Ko Tarutao, Satun Province, Thailand

Today was an archetypical cruising day. With a mix of sailing, motoring, boat chores, repairs, exploring, and socializing with other cruisers, we experienced the full gamut of the cruising lifestyle today.

We spent last night at the fuel dock in Telaga. We took our time getting off the dock this morning, since there was nobody else lining up to tie up to the broken pumps. Within a few minutes of clearing the harbor, we realized that the acceleration zone we experienced the day before as we came into the harbor was a pretty standard situation on this coast. After a few minutes of blasting along in 30 knots of breeze with one rail in the water, I was really wishing that I'd taken a Sturgeron before we left. But once we rounded the northern tip of Langkawi, the winds became more steady, and the sailing quite nice . . . for about an hour. Then we crossed the border into Thailand and sailed into the shadow of Ko Tarutao. Then the winds swung around to north and went light, and so we had to turn on the engine (either that or really sail upwind, tacking back and forth, and, well, we just don't do that).

After an hour and half of dodging longtail fishing boats and trawlers and the nets set by each, we heard a disconcerting noise coming form the machinery compartment. We both thought it was the engine, so we immediately turned off the main engine. But the noise didn't stop and then we realized that the refrigeration was still on. So we shut that down and immediately the noise stopped. When we arrived at the anchorage, Sten climbed into the hot engine room to figure out what had gone wrong. He quickly diagnosed a belt failure, found a replacement in our vast supply of spare parts, and replaced the failed belt. Occasionally, while taking on provisions for big crossings, I wish that I could store dry goods and cans in some of the spaces that our spares occupy, but every once in a while we really need one of those spares - and it never happens when we are down the road from a chandlery!

While Sten worked in the engine room and assembled the dinghy, I did laundry in the tub. We finished our projects right around the same time and worked together to launch the dinghy from the foredeck. Then, while I heated up some leftover Char Kway Teow for lunch, Sten started up the dinghy engine for the first time in three months. Well, stuff on boats doesn't particularly like to sit unused. It tends to let you know how much it dislikes being neglected. Our 15 hp engine told us off with a wheeze and cough of smoke. She would run, but wasn't happy at anything other than complete idle or full speed.

Coughing, wheezing and trailing a cloud of smoke like an old Frenchman, the protesting engine took us up a mangrove lined river in search of a limestone cavern that we had read that we could navigate for some way in the dinghy. Well, we never found the cave, but we did see some wonderful scenery along the way. But for the mangroves, the granite outcrops and silver trees looked strikingly similar to coastal Maine.

Well, that clears things up!

Sunset found us back at the mouth of the river, by the headquarters of the national park. So we hauled the dinghy up the beach, digging the anchor into the sand just under a pole marking the high water point of the tsunami that devastated this region on December 26, 2004. We couldn't find anyone to take our national park fees, so we wandered down to the canteen, figuring we could help support the park by patronizing the restaurant. At the restaurant we discovered that several other boats had anchored in the bay while we explored the river and that their crews had wasted no time beating a path to the cold beers. Over some wonderful Thai food, we swapped stories about where we had been and where we were going. The other yachties were full of advice about islands to visit between here and Phuket, where we will officially clear into Thailand.
With full bellies we headed back to Mata'irea. We fell asleep to the sound of the squid fleet heading our for a night of fishing. While the day was not perfect, it was an absolutely typical day of cruising, replete with the highs and the lows that this lifestyle offers.

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