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Update from Phuket

The boat is currently on the hard in Boat Lagoon, Phuket, Thailand, and we have taken up residence in an apartment at the marina. The air-conditioning is great! We are having the hull striped down to gel coat and CopperCoat bottom paint applied. The cutless bearings on the prop shaft also need replacing.

Since our last posting we made another trip by boat to Langkawi, Malaysia, where we bought our duty-free CopperCoat. From there we took the ferry to Penang for dental work and a four day stay in historic Georgetown with its great food. This place never gets old.

While sailing back to Phuket we were caught unexpectedly by a squall that ripped our spinnaker from head to tack resulting in a sail-overboard drill. The sail is at the sail hospital where it is being nursed back to life.

We flew back to California for the holidays and the birth of our granddaughter Celine Rose Hanner, a perfect little girl. But we are becoming increasingly disenchanted with the congestion and hectic life style of Silicon Valley and it’s nice to return to the boat.

We continue to explore the islands around Phuket. We are shipping the boat to Turkey in April where we will begin a westward sail of the Mediterranean Sea.

 

 

 

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Back to Cruising

The land travel to Vietnam and Cambodia was great but we were happy to return to the boat and head out to the islands around Phuket for a little rest & relaxation. Our first stop was Ko Racha Yai which is reported to be one of Thailand’s best dive sites with clear water fed by the Indian Ocean. Unfortunately, the diving was much less than spectacular and we limited ourselves to snorkeling and exploring the beautiful shoreline by dinghy. The fishing, however, was good and we stocked up on fresh tuna.

Next, we headed back into Andaman Bay and explored the mangrove swamps on Ko Yao Yai. We thoroughly enjoyed sailing through the Koh Hong Archipelago with its many pinnacle islands jutting up from the seabed. We spent several nights in a gorgeous anchorage on the north side of Koh Hong Island beneath vertical cliffs. Although we were the only boat in the anchorage, we were visited daily by tour boats that would arrive at high tide and pass through a narrow split in the cliffs to enter a large lagoon. But once the tourists were gone we had the place to ourselves and we enjoyed our evenings in the cockpit eating fresh tuna that we caught and prawns we purchased from the local fishermen.

We had an exciting moment while motoring when our high-water bilge alarm went off. A hose clamp had failed on our wash-down pump and the bilge was filling with sea water. A few coincidences helped make things more stressful that they should have been; our primary bilge pump failed, our bilge pump alert light failed, and our manual bilge pump failed. Fortunately, the high-water alarm was working fine. We soon had things under control and continued on our way.

We spent our days exploring the islands, doing boat chores, and playing games. Our evenings were spent in the cockpit enjoying a relaxing drink and appreciating our surroundings. We had mellowed considerably when we finally returned to Boat Lagoon. We are planning another excursion to the islands in early October before heading south to Langkawi, Malaysia, for a dentist appointment and to pick up bottom paint.

Ko Racha Yai and Ko Yao Yai

 

Koh Hong Archipelago

 

Vietnam & Cambodia

We’ve spent the last month land traveling Vietnam and Cambodia while waiting for our elusive outboard motor part to arrive. We flew to Bangkok and spent one night before continuing on to Hanoi which became our base of operations while exploring northern Vietnam. Our boutique hotel was in the middle of the Old Quarter and within walking distance of many sites, the weekend market, the water puppet show, and bars and restaurants.  Many Europeans travel in August so the tourist crowds were bigger than expected. The weather, however, was great with only three days of rain for the entire trip. But the rains were torrential!

One activity that we enjoyed that was not in the tourist books was sitting in the park next to the lake where we were always approached by young people wishing to practice their English. We had delightful conversations with two engineering students planning a startup company, four women law students, and an eighth-grade girl planning on a career in fashion design. Everyone was friendly with no hint of animosity from the War, except in the museums which were understandably harsh.

We took an overnight sleeper bus (designed for Asian bodies) to Sapa in the northern highlands. Brian did the 5-km trek to the waterfall in a downpour that threatened to wash people and vehicles into the gorge. The weather cleared the next day and revealed a spectacular view from our hotel room with green mountains and tiered rice paddies. We enjoyed exploring the town but were disappointed with the aggressiveness of the street vendors.

We somewhat reluctantly did an overnight trip on Ha Long Bay thinking that all we needed was another boat trip. But this turned out to be a highlight of the trip with wonderful accommodations and outstanding food. Plus, we were waited on hand-and-foot; something we don’t get aboard Persephone. The towering limestone islands were as spectacular as the brochure’s promise.

The night train took us from Hanoi to Dong Hoi and the Phong Nha caves. The Paradise Cave is the largest in the world at 31.4 km and its enormous caverns were breathtaking. We then bused down to Dong Ha and the Vinh Moc Tunnels where a village of 400 lived along the coast during the War.

Our next stop was the beautiful city of Hue with the Imperial City and ancient tombs along the banks of the Perfume River. We relaxed in the evenings with delicious food and massage. We skipped Danang and went directly to touristy Hoi An, a charming town with an Old Quarter and river walks. Along the way we visited the breathtaking temple atop Marble Mountain.

Next, we flew to Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon as the locals still call it. It’s just a big city but we enjoyed our self-guided tour of the city and relaxing with drinks and dinner in a section closed to motorized traffic. Our Mekong Delta tour was less spectacular than we’d hoped but the floating market was interesting.

We then flew to Phnom Penh and toured the S-21 prison and the Choeung Ek killing fields. We listened dumbstruck about the historical events that permitted Pol Pot to take control of Cambodia and exterminate a quarter of its population.

On a happier note, we bused to Siem Reap and enjoyed exploring the ruins of Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and a half-dozen other temples, finishing in a rain storm of biblical proportion. Of course, the first movie we watched after returning to the boat was Tomb Raider and were excited to see Lara Croft running through familiar ruins engulfed in huge tree roots.

After nearly a month on the road we decided to skip Laos and return to the boat where it has rained every day since our return. We are hopeful to get the outboard part in the next couple of days then we can head out to the islands and do what we do best; cruise!

Hanoi

 

Sapa

 

Ha Long Bay

 

Dong Hoi and the Phong Nha caves

 

Hue and Marble Mountain

 

Hoi An

 

Saigon & the Mekong Delta

 

Cambodia

 

Islands of Phuket

We checked out of Malaysia and left Langkawi on May 13 anticipating a leisurely cruise to Phuket. Our prop was fouled with 6 weeks of growth so we put into Hole-in-the-Wall on the north end of the island for a cleaning. With terrible Internet, we still received an email from Seven Star yacht transporting telling us that our quote for shipping to the Med had been finalized but that we needed to complete the paperwork and deposit within a week. So much for the leisurely thing…

We did stop at a couple of islands along the way. At Koh Rok Nok the water was clear and we broke out the snorkeling equipment. There wasn’t much new to see but it felt great to get back in the water. There was one curious granddaddy barracuda about 5 feet long that was surrounded by hundreds of small fish that provided great camouflage.  Back at the boat we saw that the receding tide had left only a few feet between our keel and the coral reef. We spent one night at the infamous Phi Phi Don island that is popular among the younger set for wild parties and navel shots. We didn’t go ashore. :<(

We put into the marina at Boat Lagoon and spent the next few days dealing with Seven Seas arranging to have Persephone shipped in March to Turkey. We then left for a leisurely (there’s that word again) cruise of the islands in the Andaman Sea. The islands are quite exceptional in that they jut out of a very shallow sea straight up with sheer cliffs speckled with lush vegetation. It hardly felt real as we passed through these towering monoliths.

Our first stop was Koh Phanak that has hongs (marine caves) on both the east and west sides of the island. The east hong is primarily a land cave that you access from the water and it didn’t seem to be a popular tourist site since we were the only ones there. Never the less, it was beautiful with its stalactites and stalagmites. The west side hong was a much different story. It is strictly a marine cave that small boats can row hundreds of feet into pitch blackness and bats. Unfortunately, we were not alone and it resembled Disneyland’s “It’s a Small World” with bumper-to-bumper boats; a very popular tourist attraction.

We then moved to Koh Hong and explored its open grotto-type hong. While anchored there we met up with Simon and Seda aboard Skimp/Bikini. We knew Skimpy from the South Pacific and we enjoyed catching up.

Our next stop was Koh Deng Yai next to “James Bond Island” where the movie The Man with the Golden Gun was filmed. During the afternoon, a gale came up and flipped over our dinghy, motor and all. It took some effort to right the dingly in 45 mph winds and get the outboard engine aboard Persephone where it could be worked on. We managed to get the outboard working but in the process a part broke that prevented us from using it. We were stranded aboard Persephone with no way to row ashore in the swift currents, so we decided to head back to Boat Lagoon.

We have ordered the critical outboard part which will take a couple of weeks to arrive so we have moved up our land travel. Tomorrow we fly to Bangkok and on to Hanoi to explore Vietnam. We don’t have an itinerary or a schedule but will likely be gone 3 or 4 weeks. It’s the rainy season so we will probably have the place to ourselves. When we return we plan to resume our “leisurely” cruise of the Andaman Sea.

Ko Rok Nok

 

Phi Phi Don

 

Koh Phanak

 

Koh Hong

 

Koh Deng Yai

Back to Malaysia

It was with mixed feelings that we left Boat Lagoon in Phuket on May 31 and headed back south to Langkawi, Malaysia. We had spent more than six months there and had made many friends, but we were excited to get cruising again. We enjoyed one day of sailing before being becalmed and having to motor the second day.

We booked a slip at the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club and were only a little surprised to see many of our friends that were still there from our stay in November. Langkawi is a duty-free port and we took advantage of this and ordered new batteries for the boat. We had a week to kill while waiting for the batteries so we toured the island like tourists. One excursion included taking the steepest cable car in the world to the top of the highest mountain on the island. It was a clear day and the views were fantastic.

Once the batteries were installed we slipped our dock lines and enjoyed a week exploring the islands in the Langkawi group. The islands rise sharply out of the water and are completely covered with jungle; absolutely beautiful!

After returning to the yacht club and securing Persephone, we took the ferry 80 miles to the south to the island of Penang. Brian had spent four days there on a visa run but it was Sandie’s first visit. We booked a hotel in historic Georgetown with a rooftop bar overlooking the city. The ostensible reason for the trip was to see the dentist, but we enjoyed a week of rooftop drinks at sunset, eating at hawker stands, massages, and sightseeing. We used the Hop-on-Hop-off bus to visit the Butterfly Museum, temples, and the Clan Jetties where early Chinese clans lived on piers over the water.

We are back in Langkawi awaiting a critical toilet part that is being sent from the States. We spend our evenings swimming in the pool where we can see hornbills, monitor lizards, monkeys, and sea eagles. Afterwards we join the “resident” yachties for happy hour at the club bar. We are now regulars at the curmudgeon table so it is probably time to leave.

We will head back to Thailand once the toilet is fixed. We never had a chance to explore the islands around Phuket while sitting in Boat Lagoon and we are definitely looking forward to it. We will return to Langkawi in 5-6 weeks where we will leave the boat and land travel to Viet Nam and Cambodia. Our long-term plan is to ship Persephone to the Mediterranean Sea next Spring, a big change from our original plan to sail around South Africa.

The sights of Langkawi

 

Cruising Langkawi Islands

 

Penang Island

Catching Up…

We apologize for not having posted in the last six months, but we’ve been working on the boat and that’s a lot less exciting than cruising. The boat has been in Boat Lagoon marina since November when we arrived in Phuket, Thailand. Boat Lagoon is a wonderful place to stay while doing boat projects with its five chandleries, numerous service shops, amazing craftsmen, huge swimming pool, and lots of restaurants all within walking distance.

We made our annual Christmas trip back to Campbell and enjoyed catching up with family and friends. Sandie ended up having her second knee replacement two days after Christmas and spent two months recuperating while Brian returned to Phuket.

The biggest boat project was to design and build a hard dodger and bimini to replace their canvas predecessors. After receiving bids we chose Nai of Phuket Inter Wood Work to manage the project even though she had a two month backlog. She and her team have an outstanding reputation and it was worth the wait. First, she built a foam core mockup of the dodger on the boat and then removed it to her work area where it was fiber glassed, fared, and painted along with the bimini. It took a team of 18 workers to lift each unit over the marina gate and onto our boat for final installation. We have since added rain & shade canvas to the bimini and we are extremely pleased with the final product.

The time here has been well spent and we have accomplished a number of lesser boat projects. The ham radio is fixed, we have resolve the illusive engine problem that plagued us for 6 months, the rigging has been checked, the sails mended, saloon and cockpit cushions re-upholstered, varnish redone, stove rebuilt, and dozens of other nuisances fixed.

Thailand has a restrictive visa policy and it was necessary to make a couple of “visa runs” outside the country.  Brian spent four days in historic Georgetown on Penang Island, Malaysia, while renewing his visa. The beautiful sites and tasty food were as appreciated as the time away from working on the boat. The two of us traveled to Myanmar for a quick turnaround visa stamp.

We did find time to have some fun in Phuket. We visited the Sunday market, celebrated Chinese New Year, had an enchanting wedding anniversary dinner, and whooped it up during the Songkran festival for the Thai new year. Songkran is also known as the “water festival” because people spend the entire day soaking each other with ice water. We celebrated Songkran with a crazy day on Bangla Road, Patong Beach, which is famous for beer bars and escorts. There was as much alcohol flowing as ice water. We were soaking wet in the first few minutes and pruny by the end of the day.

We spend every afternoon at the pool, every Friday night eating free hamburgers with friends at the Lagoon Saloon, and the marina hosts a monthly “Beats & Bites” event with food venders and entertainment along the boardwalk. We have made many new friends and caught up with a few old ones so we do have a bit of a social life.

The marina is undergoing an upgrade to be able to handle mega-yachts up to 120 tons.  We have been listening to the sound of jack hammers, pile drivers, and dredges for the last two months. That we will not miss!

The last of our projects are winding down and we hope to leave Boat Lagoon next week.  We will head down to Langkawi, Malaysia, where we will leave the boat and do some much-deserved land travel to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.

Boat Lagoon Marina

 

Hard Dodger/Bimini Project

 

Activities

 

Visa Runs to Penang & Myanmar

Meeting Up with Jennifer in Nepal

We left Kumai and its amazing orangutans in late September and headed for Belitung where we checked out of Indonesia. We were hoping for favorable SE winds to take us 700 nm up the Malacca Straits but we were sadly disappointed. The winds were continuously on the nose, sometimes exceeding 40 kts, and we were often fighting tidal currents up to 2 kts. Our engine was still giving us problems and would die forcing us to tack up the Straits. We would sail for 6 hours when the tide was favorable and then anchor and sleep for 6 hours when the tide was against us. We woke from one of these brief rest stops to find Persephone wrapped in a half-mile long drift net that had to be cut loose.

On October 18, we finally docked at the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club in northern Malaysia. We had our fuel tank cleaned and our diesel fuel polished and sea trials indicate that we may have solved the engine problem, but we will soon see as we head into Thailand.

With the boat safely docked in the Marina we flew to Nepal to meet up with our daughter Jennifer who was hiking the Annapurna Circuit in the Himalayas. After a night in Kathmandu we took a scary 8-hour bus ride to Pokhara where we spent a couple of days relaxing along the shores of Phewa Lake while Jenn completed her trek. We arrived at the beginning of the Diwali festival and enjoyed street entertainment each night. Brian did a half-day hike to the top of Sarangkot that more than satisfied his trekking desires.

It was a joyous occasion when Jenn arrived with her 6 fellow trekkers, 7 assistants (aka Sherpas), and two guides. The trekkers were thrilled to have completed the arduous 18-day journey that included 17,769 foot Thorung La pass, but all swore that they would never do it again. Check off one bucket-list item.

We spent the next five days sightseeing around Pokhara and Kathmandu before the three of us flew to Bhutan, the last Shangri-La! Bhutan is truly a magical place high in the Himalayan mountains with a mixture of old and new buildings adhering to their cultural architecture. The hotels were heavenly and our guide and driver excellent. The highlight was our hike to Taksang Palphug Monastery, or the “Tiger’s Nest”, that hangs on the cliffs at an elevation of 10,240 feet. Sandie enlisted the services of a pony that took her half way up the mountain before the trail became too dangerous and she had to walk. What an incredible view of the Paro valley 3,000 feet below.

We flew back to Kathmandu for three more days of casual sightseeing. The damage from last year’s devastating earthquake was very visible and sadly a number of World Heritage sites were destroyed. We then said good-bye to Jenn and went our separate ways. It was a wonderful trip made better by our time with Jenn.

We are back on Persephone preparing to check out of Malaysia and head for Phuket, Thailand, where we will leave the boat and fly to California to be with family and friends at Christmas. We have decided to spend another year in Southeast Asia working on boat projects and doing some extensive land travel to Viet Nam, Cambodia, Laos, and even some more exploring in Thailand and Malaysia.

Rough going from Belitung to Langkawi

 

Quaint, picturesque, Pokhara

 

Brian’s trek up to Sarangkot

 

Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan

 

Tiger’s Nest

 

Kathmandu