Day 75, Year 5: A Few Successes
Date: Saturday, January 9, 2010
Weather: Mostly Sunny; Winds Picking Up
Location: Nai Harn Bay, Phuket Island, Thailand
We really thought today would be low key, but that was just a thought. By 7:45 am we headed to the main beach to pick up the refrigeration repairman. I don’t know if I have written about the skill needed to go ashore on the main beach here, but we needed those skills this morning. The rollers were coming in and crashing hard. That makes landing a dinghy very tricky. We thought we would be smart and would not go all the way in. I would hold on to the swim line that is attached to shore and pull us into shallow water, let Mark out, and then pull myself back out to deeper water. But in doing this, we were crashed by a big roller that filled the dinghy with water. So much for that theory. Soaking wet, we landed the dinghy and Mark went up to the parking area to wait for the repairman while I drained the dinghy. Joe, the repairman, actually found me and I had to go get Mark. We put his equipment in a backpack, timed our departure the best with could between breakers, and made it out to Windbird without anyone getting too wet. Whew! Joe found a leaky connection that had been our refrigeration problem. That was the easy part. Then we had to take him back to shore. We made it in and out without a mishap, but I don’t think I’ll be going into that beach again. We can take the dinghy over to Jungle Beach and walk over the hill to the main beach-much safer.
Mark has been thinking nonstop about the wind generator problem and his latest theory was that there was a bad spot on the shaft that was not allowing the brushes to make contact when the wind came from that particular direction. His theory was that there was grease or dirt or something not allowing the connection in that spot. Since we do not usually have wind coming from behind us, Mark rotated the shaft so that this perceived bad spot was directly aft. Since doing that, the wind generator has been working beautifully. This may not be the answer, but at least at this point it is looking good. It is not solving the problem but working around it.
So now the freezer is not running constantly and we have a wind generator giving us wind power. This is good. We also found an entire chart tube full of detailed charts for South Africa and other places in the Indian Ocean that we had forgotten about. So we now have more charts that we could possibly need. I donned my complete snorkeling gear, body suit and gloves, to get into the water to clean the waterline. There are huge pink jellyfish that hang around the boat and I didn’t want to run into one unprepared. The cleaning was easy but when I examined the prop, I saw that Mark is going to have a little harder time cleaning that. More than a few barnacles have taken up residence and will have to be removed.
Once out of the water, I deserved a good hot shower. One thing leads to another. I didn’t drain the shower water so that I could use the water to do a laundry. And it was a huge laundry. I have done mini-laundries every few days, but things were accumulating. We have been short on water since arriving in Thailand. Since we have been having power problems I have hesitated to run the water maker except when the engine is running. Well, using my shower water, I was able to do three loads of laundry. I had to use fresh water for the rinse cycles, but now we have nothing left in the laundry bag. I never leave on passage with dirty laundry, so now we are one step closer to leaving.
I talked with our son Justin today and found that he flew out of London just hours before the big snowstorm hit. He is home and doing great. Jo and Ziggy will fly home next week. They are expecting more snow where Jo’s parents live this weekend, but all should be well by the time Jo and Ziggy fly out on Wednesday. We are going to try and make video Skype contact with Jo and Ziggy and with Heather, Jed, Sam, and Jonah tomorrow, but if the connection does not work from here; we will have to try once we move to Patong on Tuesday.
We have promised ourselves a day of rest tomorrow. Mark will clean the prop and I will prepare the inside of the boat for passage, but hopefully those will be stress free jobs that won’t take too long. At least that is the hope.
Day 74, Year 5: Trip to Phuket
Date: Friday, January 8, 2010
Weather: Mostly Overcast Day
Location: Nai Harn Bay, Phuket Island, Thailand
It was a good day. I started the morning by talking to my sister and her daughter Jennifer, and then I called and talked to our daughter Heather. My sister told me that England has been covered in snow and then we wondered if our son Justin was able to fly home from London. We still don’t know the answer to that. This fantastic phone card that we bought for $10 US allows us to call the US and talk for hours, but we haven’t figured out how to call other countries. If we stay up late enough we will be able to call Justin if he is back in New Mexico and if not, we will call him in the morning. Hopefully he got home safely or is still in England enjoying the snow.
We took the local bus to Phuket town today and followed the instructions given to us by Al and Beth on Sunflower for finding a place to have large scale charts copied. We borrowed the charts from Scot Free II and the Sunflower’s directions were perfect. We paid the bus driver less than an extra US $1 to take us to the area we needed to go to do the copying. Not a bad service. We got the copying done and then walked back to the center of town. On the way, Rob and Sharon on Frenzy II called us and arranged a lunchtime meeting with us. Rob had asked on the IO Net if anyone had a copy of MaxSea that he could get. We did and so we met for lunch to give him the CD. We bought $100 US dollars worth of New Zealand cheese and 20 pounds of white flour to complement the whole wheat flour we bought a couple of days ago, and then we hopped back on a bus to Nai Harn. On the way back there was a motor bike behind the bus with a side wagon. There was a little boy, probably three or four, sound asleep in the side wagon surrounded by presents. It must have been his birthday and it was such a perfectly Thai photo. We hope the photo we took was a good one and we will post with this log if it is.
When we got back to Windbird, Ed and Lynne of Constance invited us over for sundowners on their boat. They also invited George and Ellen of Wind Dancer and Jeff and Cathy of Mirage. What a great group of cruisers! George and Ellen are headed back to the US for family celebrations and will probably meet up with us in Maurtius in late August as they head toward South Africa. Jeff and Cathy are going to the Chagos and will be there while we are there. They will then return to Thailand. It was a great chance to meet people that we will be seeing more of during this sailing season. And I am so excited that Ellen of Wind Dancer has sweet basil seeds and fish fertilizer that she can give to me so I can have fresh pesto in the Chagos.
The other great news we got today is that our Air Breeze wind generator can be sent to a service center in Mumbai (Bombay), India. If we don’t figure out the problem before we reach India, we can then ship the wind generator to the service center and get it back before we leave there. This was very good news.
The refrigeration repair guy comes to Windbird early in the morning and hopefully he will be able to assure us that all is really well with the refrigeration. So things are happening and unless something unexpected comes along, we will be checking out of the country on Monday, moving to Patong to do our last fresh food provisioning, and heading for India sometime late next week.
Day 73, Year 5: Early Morning Squall
Date: Thursday, January 7, 2010
Weather: Totally Overcast; Squall with Heavy Rain in Early Morning
Location: Nai Harn Bay, Phuket Island, Thailand
What a surprise we all had this morning. We’ve had some rain the past couple of days, but this morning we had an unexpected all-out squall from the southwest. And of course, this anchorage is open to the southwest. I was writing an email when I realized we were healing at anchor and possibly sliding sideways. It was a powerful gust that hit us and when things settled a little, we did have to re-anchor as we were way too close to one boat. The bay had good sized waves rolling in from the southwest and had all of us rocking and rolling. Ed and Lynne on Constance had headed to Ao Chalong on a motorbike for an early morning dentist appointment and when they returned they found Lynne’s beautiful pots of basil turned upside down on the cockpit floor and things thrown out of unlatched cabinets below. This was Mother Nature’s way of letting us all know that SHE rules.
We spent the rest of the day stowing away massive amounts of food that we have been buying. This requires vacuum packing things like rice and flour and turning the boat upside down to get into obscure cabinets. It was also a granola making day and that process is still going on as I write. We picked up six 5-gallon jugs of drinking water from Jungle Beach and put those into our water tanks to give the watermaker a little help and I did laundry with the buckets of water we caught during the squall. So it was a busy day on Windbird.
Wildcard and Shirena are still making progress, but Shirena’s single-side band radio is just not working right. They used their Sat phone to email us to ask us to contact a boat that has been stuck in Oman since this time last year due to boat problems. The boat’s name is Quo Vadis and they got back to us immediately with information for Shirena. There are no sailmakers in Salalah, but there is a canvas man who can repair sails. And anything and everything that you could ever want is only an overnight from Dubai. So Quo Vadis thinks Shirena will easily get a new radio, if that is needed, when they arrive in Salalah.
Tomorrow we will take the local bus into Phuket town to get charts copied and buy some white flour to supplement the whole wheat we bought yesterday in Ao Chalong. That should be just about it for our provisioning runs except for fresh produce and eggs. We will move around to Patong early next week, buy those things there, and be ready for take-off.
Captain’s Note About Our Wind Generator Problem: When we returned to Windbird from the US we brought an upgrade for the Air-X wind generator, called a “Breeze.”. Ever since it has been installed it has braked itself periodically, sometimes every few seconds and other times there are long periods between braking). Braking is normal in two situations: if the batteries are fully charged it should stop so as not to overcharge them; and if the wind gets too strong it should brake so as to keep from damaging the unit. An indicator light flashes differently depending on which of these situations is causing the braking. Ours appears to be caused by the wind generator sensing a battery voltage that indicates it is fully charged. However, that is not the case. We have written to Southwest Windpower about the problem and they suggested several tests. Having done the tests, the generator passed them all. That left the support person stymied. She could only suggest that I go ahead and use it (it does generate electricity between braking episodes) until we get someplace where there is a service facility. That may be South Africa in about a year, or it may be back in the USA in 18 months! Since braking can be caused intentionally by a switch that disconnects the unit from the batteries and then crosses the positive and negative leads, there is a possibility that this may be happening inside the unit by a loose wire. I now plan to take the unit down again and open it up to see if I can see any suspect connections. More on this later.
Day 72, Year 5: Riding the Local Bus
Date: Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Weather: Mostly Sunny Day, Winds NE 10-15
Location: Nai Harn Bay, Phuket Island, Thailand
Believe it or not, after being here in Thailand last year and this, we had our first experience riding on a local bus today. And after the harrowing experience of driving in a rental car here in the crazy traffic with motorbikes popping up everywhere, riding the slow bus was wonderful. There are car taxis here and tuk-tuks. Tuk-tuks are pick-up trucks with a roof over the back and benches to sit on. They charge 200 Baht (about $6 plus US dollars) to take you to town. The local busses look exactly the same except just a little bigger and often the driver is open air, not in a cab. They charge 40 Baht (about $1.30 US, but they do go soooooooo sloooooooow. Oh well, I liked the change of pace. We were not going all the way to Phuket town today, but just to Ao Chalong where we were hoping to finally get our money transfer to the Bank of Scotland to allow us to anchor in the Chagos islands, buy some whole wheat flour, get some fishing supplies, and have lunch with Gerry and Donna of Scot Free II. We think, we hope, that we were successful with the bank transfer this time, but we will not know for sure for three to five days. That is how long the transfer takes, so says the bank here. We did get the whole wheat flour and fishing supplies and then Donna and Gerry surprised us by picking us up in their little rental car. They were supposed to return it at 1 o’clock, but at the last minute they decided to keep it for another day. They graciously drove us back to Nai Harn after we stopped for a mid-afternoon lunch. We drove from Ao Chalong to Nai Harn and Gerry just stopped at one of the many restaurants along the way. His choice was superb. It was a little place called The Banana. The menu was written only in Thai and French, but Gerry is our French expert and we had some of the best food either of us have had at very low Thai prices.
Gerry and Donna delivered us to Ao Sane, the little resort on Jungle Beach where we had our Christmas Eve dinner. We had decided to take the dinghy in there today instead of the main beach because when we headed toward the main beach we heard the breakers rolling in hard. The change to Jungle Beach meant we didn’t have to brave the breaking waves, but it was near low tide and we had to drag our dinghy far up the beach in very soft sand. The wheels would do us no good, so we just had to pull. The pulling was tough and Mark pulled something in his back this time. So now we both need to watch those backs carefully for the next few days. We are starting to wonder about the sanity of buying such a heavy motor to add to an already heavy dinghy. Normally we can handle it, but today we actually had to enlist the help of a couple of other cruisers. This anchorage is lovely but the challenge of getting ashore has been tough for us.
We ordered fresh water from Ao Sane on Jungle Beach and will go pick that up tomorrow at 11:30 am. I will stay in the water with the dinghy and Mark will carry the jugs out so we don’t have to fight pulling the dinghy up on the beach again. Once we have the water in our tanks, we will have most everything we need before taking off for India. We still need to buy fresh food, but other supplies seem to be in control. Of course, as soon as I say that, I’m sure I’ll find something that we are missing.
Our friends Robert and Tina of Shirena were able to check into the net today with a relay from Fatty on Wild Card. Later in the day we got an email from Robert on Shirena saying that he and Fatty now have a daily radio schedule and that will help them to not feel so alone. Shirena is still experiencing little problems here and there, but it seems the weather has settled a bit. If it settles too much and they have to motor, they might have to divert to the port of Galle in Sri Lanka to get fuel. They are hoping not, but the winds will make the decision.
I’ll end this log with news from other good friends. Eric and Patsy Decker are friends of ours from the time we lived in Salisbury, Maryland. This morning when Mark was online checking email, he got a Skype text message from Patsy. She and Eric are down at the bottom of the world in Ushuaia on Tierra del Fuego, the southern-most city in the world, waiting for their ship to leave for Antarctica. The amazing thing was the technology involved in this little Skype text messaging session. We are sitting in a bay in Thailand using a device that looks like a memory stick that allows us to connect to the internet. Patsy and Eric are half way around the world in one of the far southern outposts of civilization getting ready to depart for Antarctica and we can just text chat via Skype. I guess it really is 2010.
Day 71, Year 5: Paying for Yesterday
Date: Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Weather: Rain Last Night; Beautiful Day; Rain Late Afternoon
Location: Nai Harn Bay, Phuket Island, Thailand
We’re just not as young as we used to be, so I paid for yesterday’s long, hard day by throwing my back for a little loop this morning. Mark paid for it by having gastric disorders throughout the night. But we are both fine now. I think we both just carried too much. Those five gallon jerry cans filled with diesel are heavy and we had to lug them long distances down to the beach. I felt fine last night, but this morning it was obvious that my back was just not happy. This morning the deck was still wet from last night’s rain, so I wanted to take advantage of the water by going out and wiping down the deck. I simply bent over the wrong way, and there was that twinge in the lower back that I dread. We’re both okay, however. I’m just a little stiff and having to take it a little easy. But we still had to go to town this morning to try and get the bank transfer sent for our BIOT permit for staying in the Chagos. The first bank transfer didn’t go through because we didn’t have an address for BIOT, and I’m not sure they have an address. So this time we used the address for the Bank of Scotland where the money was to be sent as the BIOT address. Not good enough. Cruisers we know did this in Malaysia, but the banks here in Thailand are not as easy going. So we gave up for today, returned the rental car, fought the breaking waves coming to shore to get the dinghy off the beach, got soaking wet, and came back to email BIOT in hopes of getting some sort of address that will satisfy the bank. We hope to hear from them by morning and then we will take the bus to Ao Chalong and try once again. What a pain!
This was a laundry day for me and another day of working on the wind generator for Mark. Last night he talked to Southwest Wind Power that sold us our brand new upgrade to our AirX that is not working. It brakes constantly. Mark talked to a young woman who was very helpful, but we tried all of her suggestions today, and we still have a wind generator that runs and brakes, runs and brakes. When it is running, we are getting a great charge. But it stops every five minutes. We’ll talk to them again tonight and see what the next suggestions might be. We are also still wondering if our refrig and freezer are running properly. It is very hot in the boat, always in the low 90’s, and our system is air cooled. So it could run all the time just because it is so hot. But we have been in hot weather for quite some time now and have never had this issue before. So this afternoon we called Siam Refrigeration and we think Stephane (French) will be coming out to check things on Saturday. So we are making steps, although they seem like baby steps, toward getting ready to leave.
We finally got an email from Robert and Tina on Shirena this morning. Their radio is not working and that is why we haven’t heard them on the Net. They have had four days with all kinds of weather, have been a bit seasick, and have had to replace their headsail with a backup as the new one got torn in a squall. But they are fine and seem upbeat about things. Today they were becalmed, and they were saying that the trip to the northern Maldives might take much longer than they had thought. I read in Jimmy Cornell’s World Cruising Routes (page 459) that, “The favorable season for a passage across the North Indian Ocean is during the NE monsoon, when almost perfect sailing conditions can be expected. Although this season lasts from December to March . . .”-Well, no one we know last year or the year before, and certainly not anyone we know this year is experiencing perfect sailing conditions. Maybe global warming is causing the problem, but whatever the reason, people we know have either had way too much or no wind at all, or a combination of the two with nothing in between. We are prepared for that, but we can still hope for those perfect sailing conditions!
Day 70, Year 5: Another Marathon Shopping Day
Date: Monday, January 4, 2010
Weather: Thin Layer of Clouds Overhead; NE Winds 10-15
Location: Nai Harn Bay, Phuket Island, Thailand
The cost of renting a car here is about $30 US a day, so when we rent one we feel like we have to use it to its fullest. So that means twelve hour days shopping and making multiple trips back to home base so we can schlep bags and boxes down to the beach, into the dinghy, out to Windbird, and then go back and start again. The trunk of small cars will only hold so much, so that is the reason for the multiple trips in and out. Ed and Lynne picked us up at 8 am and off to shore we went.
We made a stop in Ao Chalong to buy extra jerry jugs for dinghy fuel that we will need in the Chagos and then we went to Makro. This is like a Costco and neither of us had been there before. We found some good buys on a few staples and were glad that we had made the stop. There were some items on our list that they didn’t have, however, so we knew we needed to make another super market stop sometime during the day. Next stop was Farang Foods to pick up the last 11 kilos of rolled oats for our granola. That’s 22 pounds and we already have that much onboard, but that’s how much it will take for ten months. We can run out of many things, but granola is not one of them. We picked up Ed and Lynne’s India visa and drove into downtown Phuket to the Siam Bank to check on the status of the money transfer we made to the British Indian Ocean Territories just before Christmas. We still have not heard from BIOT, so we knew we needed to check. Good thing. When the young women we dealt with us saw us walking to her desk, she nodded her head and got an envelope out of a drawer to hand to us. It was our money as the transfer never went through. There was one section of the form that asked for an address for BIOT, but there is no address, so we just put UK. Well, that wasn’t good enough, so we left with our money, knowing we would need to return once we have the information needed.
By this time it was noon, our trunk was full, and we needed to get back to Nai Harn to load the dinghy with the morning’s haul, get that out to our boats, and then get all of our empty jerry cans and take them back to shore to start the runs to the petrol station to fill the cans with diesel. The petrol station is not close, so it was 3:30 by the time Mark and Ed got back with the first load of filled jerry cans. That didn’t give us enough time for the second run and still get to Phuket town to get to the bank. So we changed the plans. Ed and Lynne really didn’t need to go back to town, so Mark and I took off in our dinghy. The plan wasn’t quite perfect because the bank was closed by the time we got there, but we did get the remainder of our food shopping completed, found a few obscure items we have been searching for, and got another round of fuel. We got back to the beach after dark and at dead low tide which is the hardest for hauling things down the beach, but we got back to Windbird safe and sound. We checked with the car rental company and they will let us keep the car until 10:30 in the morning at no additional cost. That will give us the chance to run back into town to the bank and try once again to get the BIOT money transfer successfully completed. This pays for the privilege of anchoring in the Chagos for two months, so we hope this next attempt works out.
There was no word from Shirena on the Net this morning but we are assuming they are just in a skip zone and that we will hear from them in a day or so. Wild Card came through, but so faintly that someone almost to the Maldives had to relay. We got an email from our friends Jean and Ken on Renaissance 2000 and they have reached Cape Town. They did a very fast run from Richard’s Bay to Cape Town in four 24-hour days plus nine hours. They were racing to beat bad weather and they made it, but the other boat that left when they did battled ugly weather for eight hours before reaching the destination. We know that Piet Hein and Tory on Double Dutch made it to Cape Town on December 31. So now we just need to hear from Mata’irea. I’m still having a hard time believing that it is going to be a full year before we get there, but I think I’d better get used to the idea. You can’t battle with Mother Nature and win, so we’ll just have to enjoy the year waiting for that good weather.