December 2014 Sailing

Trip made between December 12th and 21st to celebrate my 42nd birthday. We sailed from 15th until 19th between Yacht Haven Marina and Koh Racha. Had lots of good wind, fast sailing, fun diving, and mechanical excitement. During this trip I installed two new 270 watt solar panels on the boat's arch. And installed an MPPT charge controller to compliment the new panels. So much power!

Route 1 (green dots) was the first day out of Yacht Haven Marina (YHM). Our planned destination was Ko Mai Thon, but we didn't make it quite that far. Towards the end of the track, you'll notice a sudden turn to the east, with an overnight stop at the south of Ko Yao Yai. This was the result of a mechanical emergency. Seems someone forgot to "burp" the PSS seal on the prop shaft. As a result, the prop shaft and surrounding hardware became overheated, started making unhappy metal friction sounds, and was on the way to a complete meltdown. Fortunately, I heard the sounds and stopped the engine before things got terrible.

Solved this problem by burping the seal, a process I'd not yet taught myself. Further evidence in my theory that "the thing you don't yet understand will be the next thing to break." Also further evidence that the guys responsible for managing the boat when I'm not around (and burping the PPS seal when bringing the boat out of the service yard) cannot be trusted. In future I will be more diligent about checking their work and also inspecting major systems before leaving the marina.

Route 2 (yellow dots) was the route on day 2, this time heading to Ko Racha (Raya). We had favorable winds from the northeast of 10-15kts, allowing for average sailing speeds of 5~6kts.

Route 3 (purple dots) was the first leg of the trip back to YHM from Racha. Winds and waves from the northwest at 15~20kts made a direct sail impossible, so the day was spent on several long tacks towards Ko Mai Thon. We left Racha at around 11am and arrived on Mai Thon around 5pm, with average sailing speeds of 5~6kts.

Route 4 (orange dots) was the last leg of the trip, heading back to YHM from Mai Thon on day 4. At this point in the trip I discovered a serious misalignment issue with the alternator belt (which I had replaced at anchor on Racha) - meaning that the belt was being "chewed" severely. Tried to sail as much as possible, but the winds shifted from the northeast to almost entirely northerly, leaving no option but to motor back. The belt survived the abusive motoring - props to belt-maker "Bando" - and we made it back to the marina by 3pm.

These tracks were recorded by my newly purchased Delorme InReach, which performed great while out on the water. It was able to send and receive text messages wherever we happened to be - and kept excellent track of our progress for friends back home to see.

If you care to send messages or keep tabs on the next trip, check out the Current Location page.

Koh Yao Yai - South Bay
Rolly anchorage. Open to the south, making it suitable for both northeast and southwest monsoon season. I've stopped here overnight in both seasons. Every time I've anchored here it's required the use of a 2nd (stern) anchor to reduce rolling. Seems there's always swell coming from the south into this bay, regardless of the prevailing wind direction. There are no shore-side facilities or tourist beaches, making it a nice, secluded anchorage. Mud bottom, easy holding. I always anchor in 5~10m here.

Racha - West Bay
Anchorage is open to the west, making it suitable only for use during the northeast monsoon season. We initially dropped anchor on the south side of the bay, but moved after I went for an inspection swim and found the seafloor littered with coral heads (AKA "bommies" if you're an Aussie). Re-anchored on the north side only to find the anchor unwilling to set. After it finally set I swam to check it and discovered it had become lodged under a "farm" of cement cubes. Required a dive to free it from these cubes on the morning of our departure.

This anchorage gets a lot of traffic from water taxis bringing tourists from Phuket, fishing boats (both local and tourist), and dive boats. There were also a large number of private/charter sailing vessels in the anchorage, making it one of the more crowded places I've visited (rivaled only Phi Phi's Tong Sai Bay). Still, this is one of my favorite islands in the area, and my (current) favorite place to dive, so the traffic and crowd were acceptable.

Coral, sand, and rock bottom. Difficult to get anchor set. High potential for anchor to get fouled on something. There is a single public mooring buoy, but it was occupied the entire time we were here.

Ko Mai Thon - West Bay
We tied to a private mooring and I took a swim to check the condition of the attachment. This is a small, beautiful little bay, which offers wonderful protection from the NE monsoon winds and waves. Water at the mooring was 5~8m in depth and crystal clear. Lots of fish and coral to be seen, which probably makes it a popular spot for snorkel boats during the daytime. Would be difficult to moor or anchor in this spot if more than two other boats were already present. There's a beach inside the bay, with access to trails leading to the east side of the island. Will return here someday to explore those trails and the other side of the island (where there's a 5-star resort).

Sand and coral on the bottom. Didn't try to anchor, but would be concerned about getting fouled. Hope to dive here next time and get a better understanding of the bottom conditions.


July 2014 Sailing

During this trip I traveled with my business partner and his wife from Shanghai to Hong Kong to Phuket. From Phuket we sailed south towards Phi Phi, with a few days spent at different anchorages in between Yacht Haven Marina and Phi Phi.

Shanghai, Hong Kong, Phuket Trip from American McGee on Vimeo.

During this trip we anchored at a number of locations including:
Koh Yao Yai @ The Paradise Resort
Koh Phi Phi @ north east bay
Koh Yao Yai @ a bay just south of Paradise Resort
Koh Phanak @ a spot on the south east

During the southwest monsoon season all these anchorages are on eastern shores to avoid wind and waves. We avoided those things at all anchorages except on Koh Phanak, where the swell still managed to wrap around the southern end of the island.

Several nights were spent at the anchorage on Phi Phi, where we used long tails to access nearby snorkeling sites and to make a 'grocery run' to Tong Sai bay.




Railay and Krabi Sailing

Sailing Trip - March 28th to April 6th, 2014

Arrived from Shanghai Saturday morning (3AM). Spent Saturday and Sunday getting the boat ready, buying supplies, and planning the trip. From Monday to Saturday we'd be out sailing - then flying out of Phuket late Saturday (Sunday morning, 2AM). With three people onboard (myself + 2 guests) and lots of distance to cover, this was one of the more involved trips I've undertaken in terms of prep and planning.

Throughout the trip winds were very light (3~10kts). Late day sea breezes made sailing possible from around 3PM until sunset. Thunderstorms on the last day of sailing (Saturday) brought 15~20kts winds, which made sailing back to the marina fast and exciting - at least until we needed to turn West into the bay where the marina is located, and had our nose directly into the wind. Cloudy weather later in the trip made the 30~34c daytime temperatures more bearable.

The Trip
Day 1: Yacht Haven Marina to Ko Yao Noi - 24nm
Ko Yao is a group of islands between Phuket and Krabi in the middle of Phang Nga Bay. The two biggest islands are Yao Noi and Yao Yai. "Yao" means "long" in Thai, while "Noi" and "Yai" are "little" and "big" respectively: Little Long Island, Big Long Island. The other Long Island (with a population of 7.7 million) is the most populated island in the US, while the Long Island group in Phang Nga Bay has a population of less than 10k people.

You can read more about Ko Yao's history and details HERE.

Ko Yao is a convenient place to stop overnight when heading from Yacht Haven to places like Phi Phi or Krabi. As this trip was taken during the Southwest Monsoon season (May to October) we anchored on the East side of Ko Yao Noi to avoid the onshore winds and swell coming from the West.

From Yacht Haven during this season the nearest anchorages are found at the Northeastern end of Kao Yao Noi (the Northernmost of the two big islands). It's about 24nm from start to stop - and care must be taken to sail well North of the island group to avoid the large, shallow sandbank that extends well into the bay.

Paradise Beach on Yao Noi

Paradise Beach on Yao Noi

Tucked away inside the first large sheltered bay, and with moorings for a handful of yachts, Paradise Koh Yao Boutique Beach Resort & Spa makes for a good stop on the first night out from Yacht Haven.

The water here is murky and the beach (beyond the sandy area near the hotel) is a massive expanse of mud/rock during low tide. That shelf of mud extends out from the beach for a significant distance, so approach anchoring here with caution. We anchored in about 6~7 meters, just inside of the line of mooring buoys. Both times we stopped here I anchored instead of using the moorings, but I will consider using the moorings if I visit again.

Getting ashore in the dinghy is a bit tricky. There's a narrow channel cut through the mudbank leading to a wooden pier near the hotel. Skinny logs rise out of the water (or mud, depending on tide) and mark the Northern edge of the channel (the right side when heading towards shore). From the moorings you want to swing out wide (northeast) away from the first channel marker, then head straight in. Trying to cut the corner at low tide will result a prop vs. mud fight. I've marked the route and overall mudbank on the map below. View this location with Google Maps.

Paradise Anchorage & Dinghy Route

Paradise Anchorage & Dinghy Route

During our first stop at Paradise the bar/hotel staff were a bit standoffish (bordering on rude) towards us. When we returned a few nights later and rented a room they were (of course) much more welcoming. Since the only way to get to this hotel is via water taxi (or your own boat), the room prices are cheap, but the consumables (beer, food, etc) are relatively expensive. Captive customers can't complain.

Day 2: Yao Noi to Krabi via Koh Hong - 15nm
Headed South towards Krabi and stopped at Koh Hong along the way. "Hong" means "room" in Thai and Koh Hong is a prime example of this famous geographic feature commonly found throughout the islands of Phang Nga Bay. Characterized by a small inner lagoon accessible by dinghy or canoe, Hongs are spectacularly beautiful. We anchored in 10~15m of water just off the North entrance to the Hong. View this location with Google Earth.

Koh Hong from Above

Koh Hong from Above

From Koh Hong we made our way to Krabi and Railay beach. Railay is accessible only by boat due to the high limestone cliffs that separate the peninsula from the rest of the mainland. Our first anchorage was off the beach dominated by the famous (and expensive!) Rajavadee resort. These guys wouldn't even allow us to buy a drink at their bar, so I moved to a different anchorage while my guests went on foot to find more affordable accommodation for the night. Read more about Railay Beach on Wikipedia. View the western anchorage on Google Maps. View the eastern anchorage on Google Maps.

This time of year the swell coming in from the West is pretty severe, and it's difficult to find an anchorage with sufficient shelter from the endless procession of waves. I eventually anchored off the eastern side of the peninsula, around the middle of the bay. Better than the western bay, but the rolling was uncomfortable enough that I dropped a kedge and swung the bow around to face the waves. Using a kedge is becoming routine and I'm considering the purchase of an anchor specifically for this use - wrestling with either of the two massive storm anchors for this use is no fun!

Getting shore inside this bay is made difficult by a mudflat extending several hundred meters from the beach and which is complete exposed at low tide. That means securing your dinghy at the edge of the water and walking to shore across the hard-packed mud. The beaches on western side of the peninsula are all sand and provide easier access at low tide, but you'll find anchoring depth is much further away from shore.

Like many beaches in Thailand, the east bay beach at Railay is lined with bars and clubs. At night these guys crank up the flames, music, and lasers; anchor too close and sleep will be difficult.

My guests found comfortable and affordable rooms available at the Railay Bay Resort & Spa. They reported no uncomfortable waves in their room.

One thing to keep in mind about all the anchorages around Railay is the constant boat traffic. Taxi boats zoom in and out from these popular beaches from sunrise to sunset, making life onboard very roly-poly.

Day 3-4: Koh Poda - 2.5nm

Koh Poda and Koh Kai (AKA Chicken Head Island) are a short distance (2.5nm) from Railay Beach and offer beautiful white sand beaches along with some of the best snorkeling in the area.

I anchored at Koh Poda two times in as many days and could have spent many days here enjoying the seclusion and quiet.

Tourists fill the beaches on both islands during the day. Having a dinghy makes exploration of snorkeling areas away from the tourists possible. Uncertain what facilities are available on the islands as I never went ashore.

Koh Poda Sunset

Koh Poda Sunset

I anchored in two different locations near Koh Poda - the first time in-between Poda and the small islet to the north. This makes an excellent location for dinghy exploring and provides swimming access to snorkeling. Second time I anchored east of that islet in an attempt to avoid wind and waves (mostly successful on both counts). At the 2nd anchorage I did drag anchor (in the middle of the night!) and ended up putting out more chain, which solved the problem. Uncertain if the bottom here isn't as sticky or if I simply didn't have enough chain out in the first place. The tidal currents around these islands are pretty strong.

View the anchorage off Koh Poda on Google Maps.

Remaining days were spent getting back to Yacht Haven, with an overnight stop at Paradise resort. Basically the first two days in reverse.

Note: GPS positions were selected from Google Maps (while sitting safely on my sofa at home in Shanghai) and only represent a rough approximation of anchorage position. Use caution and common sense when approaching and selecting your anchorage.

During this trip I fixed or installed the following items:
Tightened alternator belt, adjusted head door (to keep it from swinging open/close while under way), installed another fan in the aft cabin, general cleaning, removed ugly green garden hose from lifelines (was there to prevent chaffing of spinnaker lines - but I'm not using a spinnaker, so...), bought and prepped a new dinghy, marked lockers (with label maker).

During this trip the following things broke or died:
Alternator (bad diode), fresh water faucet in galley (slow leak while water pump is on), jib furler jammed at top of mast (required climbing the mast at anchor to repair), alternator belt required replacing (result of overcharging), killed a house 12v battery (overcharging), shower sump water pump died (replaced with spare while under way).

Resolved issues and improvements:
Electrical issues have been solved since my return to Shanghai. Swim steps and wooden window frame covers have been fabricated and installed. Leak over nav station has been found and fixed. Wooden block being fabricated to fit into forward deck cleat - this cleat frequently catches the jib sheets when tacking, often causing a failed tack. An image of this "cleat cover" design is below.

Cleat Cover

Cleat Cover

After an exciting (and tiring) trip up the mast to fix the jammed jib furler, I purchased a sturdy climbing "work harness" and ascender/descender devices (along with climbing rope, helmet, gloves, etc - the whole kit). Using these I'll be able to ascend (and descend) the mast solo and in relative comfort.

No video from this trip as I was too busy sailing, cooking, cleaning, repairing, and having fun to get out the GoPro!