Chinese New Year 2016

During this trip we sailed from Krabi Boat Lagoon south to Ko Pu, Lanta, and Rok. At Rok we spent our days diving in crystal clear waters and our nights rocking and rolling in the non-stop swell. Upon reading a forecast calling for massive winds, we decided to leave the limited protection at Rok and make our way up to Phi Phi Le. We then enjoyed a swell ride from Phi Phi to Racha, where we spent several days diving, drinking, and dining.

Prior to our arrival at Racha the autopilot had died. This meant we were hand-steering from day 2 of the trip. After repeated attempts to diagnose and repair, the problem revealed itself: a corroded wire! With that wire replaced we once again had autopilot and continued on our way.

From Racha we sailed north to Nai Harn Bay on Phuket. There we spent several days enjoying some of the world's best pizza. We then made our way back to the marina, heading directly into the wind and waves. The first hop of our return trip landed us on Mai Thon for a night. We then made the 15nm jump to Phi Phi Don, which ended up taking 7 hours and saw 30nm pass under our keel. Sailing to windward is a chore.

The last night of the trip was spent partying on Phi Phi Don's aptly named "Party Beach." A quick motor back to the marina in windless conditions marked the final chapter in this epic adventure.

We covered over 200nm, did 8 dives, speared 3 fish, caught 1 (big) fish while trolling, drank countless beers, and suffered only one flesh wound.


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.


September 2014 Sailing

During this trip I went alone to Phuket on a 5 day trip with the intention of replacing the charging system and related wiring. Decided to stay through the end of a Chinese holiday (of which I was unaware when I purchased my plane tickets), resulting in a trip that lasted from September 22nd to October 9th.

Was successful in replacing the charging system using a new kit from Balmar - which included alternator, charge controller, and charge splitter (Duo Charge). While doing this replacement I also installed a boat-wide master fuse, secondary fuse panel (for assorted items that are not switched off by the main battery switch), a new main battery switch, and lots of new wiring. Other minor repairs and upgrades were also made during this time.

Koh Racha Sailing and Diving Trip from American McGee on Vimeo.

The old alternator:

The new fuse panel:

Here's the batteries after re-routing all the wiring through the new fuse panel:

The old alternator, controller, and wiring:

The new alternator:

After getting the new charging system installed I left Yacht Haven Marina and sailed south. First night was spent on Koh Rang with a tentative plan for either Koh Racha or Koh Phi Phi the next day. I hoped to find a dive shop and get my Open Water certification.

On Koh Racha I found Aqua Raya, a nice little dive shop operated by Singh and his family. They helped me get my certification and buy dive equipment for the boat. Now I can dive to check moorings, unwrap fish nets from the prop, and maybe even just to look at fish! The diving on Koh Racha was great - with nice clear water, some interesting wrecks, and some beautiful coral.

There is no ATM on this island (except for some sort of "emergency ATM service"), very little by way of infrastructure; but it's a beautiful little island filled with nice and trusting people. Definitely planning to return there soon.