SV-Synchronicity
1Mar/160

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.

2Nov/140

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.

2Nov/140

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.

Anchorages

Anchorages

4May/140

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.

Conditions
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!

19Oct/130

Preparing for First Adventure

Next week I'm heading back to Phuket, this time as owner of my own sailboat. In the period since my last visit, I've been busy at work in Shanghai - and the boat has been busy doing all kinds of interesting boat things in Thailand. While I've been working on video games, she's had her bottom scraped, sanded, repaired and anti-fouled; sailed down to Langkawi, Malaysia to check out of Thai waters; sailed back to Thailand; experienced a not-small number of break-downs and failures; and racked up some impressive bills. All according to plan. No surprises... yet.

These days I'm working on a new plan - the plan I'll follow (or try) during the next visit. With 4 days on the ground (and water), I'm hoping to divide the trip into 2 parts. Part #1: preparing, cleaning and repairing things onboard. Part #2: sailing out of sight of the marina to Koh Phanak and anchoring there overnight.

During Part #1 I expect to make lists of what's needed onboard to make the boat a more comfortable and safe floating home. I'm taking with me no less than 43 items (25kg) from Shanghai - including the aforementioned tool kit, along with zip-ties, a collection of "boat clothes," sailing knives, LED headlamps, work gloves, various chargers/solar panels, bathroom supplies, and so on. These are the things I feel can be reasonably brought into Thailand under the guise of "vacation items" (yeah, the tool kit is a bit of a stretch). Another list of items, to be purchased in Thailand, includes stuff like tableware, cleaning supplies, cordless tools, an ice chest, bed sheets - all sorts of things I think would be hard to explain to Thai customs officers. (Then again, I'm arriving on a red-eye flight, and I've never seen customs people actually working at 2AM. Fingers crossed).

Koh Phanak

During Part #2 things get more interesting. I'll weigh anchor (actually, just leave the marina slip), raise the sails and... go somewhere! The plan is to sail towards the nearest island out of sight of the marina, with decent overnight anchoring - that being Koh Phanak (+8º 10' 28.7", +98º 29' 23"). The island itself features opportunities for dinghy exploring under spectacular limestone overhands along the entire west coast - and entrances to caves and hongs (an interior lagoon within the island, accessible from the sea) on the east coast. My goal in sailing to and anchoring at Koh Phanak isn't exploring though, it's to see how well I can sail single-handed to a known location, anchor and care for the boat. If all goes well, after a night on the hook, I'll weigh anchor (for real this time) and head back towards the marina. All in, this is a ~30 mile round-trip.

Once this mini-adventure is over and I'm back at the marina I'll have a chance to create a proper accounting of the boat and its need for improvement. More lists, more items to acquire, repairs to be made ad infinitum - as it is with boats.