Tuesday, March 10, 2009

March 10, 2009 - Andaman Sea

We spent our last two nights in Thailand in the Surin Islands, which, like the Similans, are a national park. But someone in the Surins is clearly fishing - the fish I saw were much smaller and more skittish than in the Similans. The hightlight of my snorkeling in the Surins was spotting some pipefish, which are tiny little members of the seahorse family, and a spotted porcupine fish, which, like a puffer, will inflate itself to defeat predators, but which, unlike a puffer, is covered in spikes. Despite its armour, it was hiding under a ledge.

The Surins are visited by dive boats, but, unlike the Similans, they are not on the daytrip itinerary for tours from Phuket. Most of the visitors to the Surins, who stay in tents or basic bungalows at the park headquarters, appeared to be Thais. We had had a really dreadful lunch at the park headquarters on Koh Miang in the Similans (we were both a little off for two days afterwards), so we were a little hesitant about trying the restaurant at the Surins. But with passage looming, we couldn't resist the opportunity to have someone else cook for us. Our lunch ashore in the Surins was so good that we headed right back in for dinner.

On Sunday morning, with some favorable breeze finally in the forecast, we left the Surins and Thailand. For two days and nights now we've been sailing slowly northwest across the Andaman Sea. We're averaging fewer than 100 miles a day, but they are largely in the right direction. With both the staysail and jib up to help the main, the boat is well-balanced. There is minimal swell. The hatches are all open and the cockpit shades deployed. We've experienced more roll in some anchorages than we have in the Andaman Sea. This the most comfortable upwind sailing we've ever done.

There is absolutely nothing out here - no fishermen, no fish, no ships, hardly any floating trash. It is just us and the dolphins. After months of coastal cruising, where there was always some activity around us, it is somewhat unsettling to be reminded how desert-like the ocean can be.

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