May 2, 1998 - Andaman Sea
by Saigon Charlie
Departed the bay where the old Phuket Yacht Club still is. It is called Ao Chalung, Ao meaning "bay". Headed for Malaysia in a 38 foot Bruce Robert's design, hand built in New Zealand. We are headed south by southeast on a heading of 147 degrees. Ko Rok Nok and using the chart "Phuket to Kantang".
Cut the engine. Finally under full sail. Have the main sail up and a 140 jib making headway at an estimated 5 knots. Hull speed is 7.8 knots so we have a long way to go before we get there. Draft is 6'6". Weather is hazy and visibility approximately 8-10 miles.
Plan on sailing through the night reaching our destination around 13:00 tomorrow. Lots of Thai trawlers out. Some anchored in water as deep as 40 meters.
This boat is well designed. Excellent in its' use of space as well as utility and function. Has 2.5 tons of ballast which is 40 percent of its' total weight. Water tanks are in the keel as well, what a smart idea!
Butang Group - Langkawi - Andaman Sea
17:00 Day 3 - Wednesday May 5, 1998
Just passing the northwest side of Langkawi. It is a huge island, far larger than I ever imagined. Like Greta said, it could be its own country and the way it is being built up, it wouldn't surprise me if someday it becomes one.
We entered the duty free port in the late afternoon, dropping anchor on the left side on the anchorage near an old wreck called the Jimca Princess. Had to wait an hour or so before the tide came in as there wasn't enough water to dingy in. Once we did get in however, we went and exchanged money getting 935 for each 1000 baht. Still unsure what we got in relation to the US dollar.
Never did clear customs or immigration. Greta had sent her passport on with a Frenchman who was suppose to clear it through Thai immigration but somehow that process and us meeting up with him never happened.
The primary reason for Hartmut's reasons for the this trip are to pick up wine and spirits as well as a dingy and engine for someone in Thailand. Langawaki is a duty free port and the prices on the wine and liquor are significantly cheaper than anything I've ever seen in Thailand.
Managed to pick up a case (12 bottles) of Chilean Merlot and Cabaret for 15 RG a bottle. Got 2 bottles of Absolute for 22 RG each and 2 bottles of Dewars for 28 RG each. Hartmut bought 3 cases of wine and 5 cases of Smirnoff for friends in Phuket.
Also had a few beers and met other sailors at a portside "restaurant" called Jimmy's. Don't confuse this "Jimmy's" with the one in Hong Kong however. Ha! This Jimmy's is nothing more than a few tables selling noodles and beer on the street facing the waterfront and the main anchorage. It is however an interesting place to say the least and where all the sailors meet to share gossip and lies. Bars as we think of them don't seem to exist here.
The weather has been somewhat calm with winds light and steady. We have motored quite a bit but really didn't need to most of the way. Vaka-Lele (Hartmut's sloop) has an Italian built 20hp diesel that only burns 1 liter of fuel an hour which gets us about 4 knots.
Everything about the boat screams efficiency and convenience. Obviously am man who was trained as a mechanical engineer from a German university, everything perfect!
Tonight looks like ti might be a bit interesting. Although there has been haze all day, I feel we might see some rain. Last night we had a very light drizzle for a while as well as an incredible light show of heat lightning dancing and swirling all over the sky.
It is really important that night passages be monitored by someone on watch. The Thai trawlers that work in pairs throughout the night cross constantly the waters and they come from all directions. Their ability to maneuver is very limited due to the nets they are dragging below and behind them.
Our heading since we turned at the deep water pier has been constant at 334 degrees. There doesn't appear to be any magnetic deviation lines here so our compass course is the same as true. Although we aren't using a depth meter, we have a fish finder giving us depth and it is constant at 40 meters through this part of the voyage.
The wine we picked up is "Santa Rita" Merlot 1996-Valle Del Rapel from Chile. Very nice and smooth. Not too heavy or dry. Each bottle has a "Malaysian Duty not Paid" sticker on it. Oh well.
Day 4 - 09:30 Ko Rok Nai and Ko Rok Nok
Pulled anchor and left the twin islands. We sailed all night constantly watchful for the massive Thai fishing fleet. We managed a steady 6 knots with a slightly reefed mainsail and a 120 Genoa. Towards 4-5 in the morning we came across another line of trawlers doing fish netting and moving back and forth with an incredible amount of lights and noise.
Presently we are on a heading of 328 degrees.
09:15 Malaysian Waters - 6 June 1998
26 hours at sea. Left yesterday AM from Phuket at 07:00 aboard Hartmut's 38' custom sloop which he built in New Zealand, named the "Vaka-LeLe".
Hartmut and his wife Fabienne have two children at the new school in Phuket and Hartmut makes the runs to Langawai sometimes to offset his expenses. Really a beautifully outfitted yacht, every detail looked after and as he is a German mechanical engineer by training, it is easy to see his love and attention to detail in his creation.
The weather has been mixed and varied. Went through a squaw line lasting about a half hour during the night with winds hitting 30 knots and seas quickly building to 3-5 feet. Rained hard for a good hour, calming down as the hours went by and daylight approached.
As I awoke from a night of ups and downs, taking turns watching our course, the helm and avoiding the Thai shrimp boating fleet, we have finally made Malay waters. Hot and muggy as usual.
This is now my 5th or 6th time back to Malaysia and since I have no fondness for the place, it is just another trip. Want to get back to Thailand as soon as we make our visas and pick up our "supplies".
Wanted to mention that I saw my first Thai diesel submarine (I think Thai...) yesterday. Didn't know the Thai navy even had any subs. Although I didn't alter course to see who it belonged to, it was floating off of the Thai Navy's 3rd Fleet HQ in Phuket. Amazing what you see in these waters.
My mind is racing with the thoughts of our upcoming trips to the Eastern Med.; Athens, Istanbul, Rhodes, Cyprus, Cairo, Alexandria, etc. What a dream come true and what an adventure that will be. Hope the new camera's first roll of film develops successfully.
Making down the final waterway leading to Langawaki's port. It is extremely hazy and hot. Hills on both sides of this wide channel are steep and rough. I guess the plan is once we anchor, Hartmut and Greta will go take care of the "visa issues".
7 June 1998 - Langawai, Malaysia
Setting here waiting to depart. Light breeze blowing. Hartmut has gone ashore without us due to a misunderstanding about Greta's passport. Oh well, not like we are anchored in Tahiti.
We made it here in 28 1/2 hours, very good time considering a normal run is 30-32 hours. The distance here was 131 nm and we pretty much tried to stay on the charted heading of 145 degrees out of Phuket. Hopefully the trip back to Phuket had comfortable winds and a good running.
Visibility is CAVU (clear and visibility unlimited). Amazing change from the past few days. Broken clouds. Suppose to be the height of the monsoon season but the weather is exceptionally good.
We spend 6,000 baht yesterday on clothing, liquor, film, etc., about $150 USD with the exchange rate being 9.1 Baht to the 1 RG.
18:00 - 100 nm left - Langkawi Sound
Sunset is beautiful with light, low, puffy clouds as we make our way north through the Langkawi Sound, east of the island of Terutao.
8 June , 1998
08:45 Andaman Sea
Showered, coffeed, fed,....ready to go!! Spent a good chunk of the night riding out a lightning/rain storm that hit us from behind. Never in my life have I seen a sky so angry with lightning, not even in Tampa, the lightning capital of the world. There was enough energy to light a dozen large cities.
This morning the seas are calm. Light breeze. Puffy clouds about. Not sure of our position right now, but I think we will be in Phuket by dark.