Day 77, Year 5: Nothing’s Easy
Date: Monday, January 11, 2010
Weather: Mostly Sunny; NE then NW Winds
Location: Nai Harn Bay, Phuket Island, Thailand

I can hear the words, “I beg your pardon. I never promised you a rose garden.” Of course, even a rose garden has thorns, and we have more than a few thorny issues lately. Everything seems harder than in the previous years of Windbird’s voyage. One issue is the language barrier here in southern Thailand. Tourism is the number one business, but there is no common language. Very few Thai’s here speak English and everyone else is speaking every language in the world imaginable. So trying to find anything is very difficult. The other big issue is that stores are so spread out and almost impossible to get to without renting a car and cars are expensive, so we’ve been trying to do things using public transportation. And that takes forever. Our friends Jean-Pierre and Collette of Safina arrived here in Nai Harn today. They have just sailed up from Malaysia for the first time, so they had lots of questions about how to do this and that. By the time we were finished answering their questions, all they could say is that Thailand doesn’t seem like an easy place to be. We love it here, but it is much easier to be here when you don’t have a specific mission. Or if you do, you hire someone who can speak English to get it done for you. Our departure from here is being delayed by a couple of days because we can’t locate some of the things we must have before leaving. So hang on, we’ll get out of here one of these days.

On the brighter side, we did have a somewhat better Skype video connection with Heather, Jed, Sam, and Jonah early this morning. It wasn’t perfect as we kept losing our signal and the call would disconnect. We would click a few buttons and reconnect, but we were on long enough to see Jonah taking a nap on Jed’s lap and then wake up to look curiously at us on the computer monitor. Sam did some more fancy tricks with his fire truck and firemen and then he decided he wanted to play the violin for us. He gave quite a concert, we all clapped and cheered, and he bowed gracefully. We also got to talk to my brother Dickie and his wife Conda, my sister Patsy and her husband Joe, and their daughter Jennifer. They were just sitting down to eat dinner when they saw that we were online (6:15 am for us, 6:15 pm for them), so Jennifer made a quick call so we could all connect. So our day started off on a positive note.

But then we went to shore to the ‘safe’ beach where the surf doesn’t roll in quite so violently but doing that means we had to walk over the hill to get to the main beach and the public bus. We got there but had to wait more than 30 minutes for the bus and then ride for another 40 minutes to get to Ao Chalong. We went directly to the bank to check to see if our money transfer for our BIOT permit had gone through and all they could tell us was that they had heard nothing contrary. It would be at least two more days before they will get final confirmation. Another delay. We then went to the harbor to check out and arrived just in time for their lunch break. The door says they are open from 9 to 3, but doesn’t mention that they also close for an hour for lunch. So we went to lunch and called Gerry and Donna of Scot Free II who were just returning to Ao Chalong. We were hoping to meet up with them and return the charts they loaned us. We also called Kat and Todd, the young couple we had met in the Villa Market a few days ago who were desperate for Sri Lanka and Red Sea charts. We connected them with Scot Free II who has charts so Kat came to where we were having lunch to get our Sri Lanka charts and waited for Donna and Gerry who were bringing the Red Sea charts. She and Todd will get them copied and then return them. But during all of this we found out that it was Kat’s birthday and that Todd was out searching for a birthday present and a current copy of Cruising World. His first article is in the recent addition. I think the title is the ‘Saga of Salmonberry.’ He didn’t find a Cruising World, but if any of you read it, let us know what you think. Kat and Todd sail without an engine and the article is about that. Yikes! The Red Sea could be a very long trip! But they are young and bright-eyed and I’m sure they will make it just fine.

We searched Ao Chalong for potting soil for my newly acquired seeds and for 134A gas for recharging our refrigeration system. We found pots for the soil and every kind of chemical fertilizer in the world that we didn’t want, but no soil. We couldn’t get anyone to understand what the gas was that we were looking for. Mark kept thinking auto repair shops might be able to help us since they use 134A to recharge car air conditioners, and that made me think that the place in Ao Chalong where we had rented a car earlier might be able to help us. The man is French but speaks good English and his wife is Thai and speaks good English as well. And sure enough, they called the person who comes to recharge the air conditioners in their rental cars and he said he could deliver a 4 kilo tank tomorrow at 11 am. That means another trip to Ao Chalong and another delay in leaving Nai Harn, but if we get the 134A it will be worth it.

Our searching for today was over and we were ready to get back to Nai Harn to meet up with Jean-Pierre and Collette, but we must have missed the bus by just a couple of minutes as it was another hour before the next one came. We got back to Windbird about 5:15 pm and then started another search. We were determined to try and call BIOT to see if they could confirm whether or not they had received our payment. We checked emails and had nothing from them in response to an email sent in the morning. We used the last of our wi-fi time that would support Skype to call someone in a BIOT office somewhere who just told us she could tell us nothing. We went to dinner and came back and tried again using our cell phone with our CAT card that has given us so much time talking to people back in the US. We weren’t sure it would work in calling the UK, but it did and all we got were messages that people were on vacation until January 4. We finally gave up and then Mark checked email. UNBELIEVABLE. The BIOT permit was there. The email actually said that BIOT permits can take weeks to process and people should plan accordingly. But then there was another email with our BIOT permit attached!!!!! This is definitely the biggest success of today. We can now leave Thailand knowing that our money is not floating out there somewhere never to be found. So we have a parking permit in the Chagos for two months.

It has been a day of ups and downs, but in the end we think we have our 134A refrigerant, we have our BIOT permit, we had a great reunion with our friends on Safina, and we will now probably be leaving Thailand on Saturday instead of Thursday. We could leave on Friday, but I’m too superstitious for that. Sailors are warned never to leave on passage on Friday and since this upcoming passage could be a tricky one, I want to have only good luck on our side.

Our friends Robert and Tina on Shirena were almost next to Fatty and Carolyn on Wild Card this morning when they checked into the net. Robert wrote an email that we received this evening outlining their last 24 hours. They went right through the Sri Lankan fishing fleet last night, passing over two nets without getting caught and then finally were stopped by a fishing boat that helped redirect them. The fishermen wanted cigarettes but when Robert told them they had none, they just laughed and sent them on their way. Then they had a too close encounter with a cargo ship due to an AIS misreading, but avoided a collision and made it through the night unscathed.

100111 Day 77 Thailand–Shopping, Shopping