called long-tails because of their propellers attached to about three
metres of shaft on the stern, ferry the punters around the different
beaches and dive sites. As you can see, they are all beautifully
Having waded, or dinghied,
through the tunnel one reached a little beach from which a circle of
rocky walls stretched implacably up to the sky. Countless numbers of
tourist boats come here every day to disgorge their cargoes,
protected by safety jackets, to sing and shout their way through the water
and total darkness to the interior and then out again. The noise was
literally stunning, reverberating and bouncing off the rock walls.
We hired a car one day and
drove over to the mainland where there is a turtle-protected beach and
research station. The beach was a lovely sweep of sand fringed by deep
blue sea and we worked off some of our exercise needs with a long
We had decided to join the
Blue Water Rally for the safety they would provide in going past the
pirates on the Horn of Africa, off Somalia. Most of the yachts had been
sailing together for the almost two year circumnavigation which they
organise and we were to meet them at Yacht Haven Marina in the north
of Phuket. The sunrises there were particularly beautiful, with Thailand's
mainland behind in the distance.
We spent Christmas Day with
old friends, David and Valerie. They had an Oyster a little larger
than ours and, together, we sailed from Bora Bora, through the Cook
Islands, Niue, and Tonga on to New Zealand in 2001. They had recently
decided to build their permanent home in Phuket, which was having the
final touches being completed despite it being Christmas Day! The
house was designed by the two of them and built around an inner pool with
glass walls looking out onto the water, so that the inner and outer house
The Christmas Day crew:
Chris and Cheri Kingsley Smith, whom we had met sailing in the Pacific in
2001, Chris and myself and David. David's feet are covered in bandages
because he had been badly burnt in a barbecue accident six months
previously. Only the skills and devotion of his Thai surgeon (the
hospitals there are quite superb) saved his life and he was able to leave
hospital just before Christmas. You can see Valerie in the mirror!
Well, they're not really
islands, mainly interestingly shaped lumps of rock...
We were able to stop off at
a few Thai islands between Malaysia and Phuket, some were lovely wild
lumps of rock with jungle-clad slopes and deserted beaches, while
others heaved with tourist shops, hotels and restaurants.
One of the islands had a
tunnel, carved by nature, from the exterior to a khong inside the rocky
We had a favourite beach where we used to eat a delicious lunch for
about £6 including our drinks. This is one of the many little shops that
lined that beach road, Surprisingly, very few Thai in the tourist business
are able to communicate more than minimally in English, and it was
refreshing to see this acknowledged so amusingly.
We were allowed to wander around the research station which is
studying giant clams and turtles. It is difficult to photograph these
creatures through water, but I think that one can see the beauty of these
clams quite well. They come in all sorts of different colours...
There were several different species of turtles at different stages
of their lives.I felt sorry for them incarcerated in tanks instead of
swimming free in the lovely seas of the Far East, but if the research
helps to protect and encourage their survival, I guess it's probably a
Chris and I exchanged our Christmas Day presents on Carelbi. Jade had
given me some wild sheep-face slippers for him to wear on the boat, which
he is showing off on the aft deck...
Christmas Day always feels odd when one is in a hot country, for
Europeans it doesn't feel right without frost or snow, and cold, cold
weather. Despite a temperature of around 32 degrees Centigrade, we feasted
on turkey, roast potatoes, bread sauce and all the trimmings.
Luckily turkeys never cook themselves on time so we were all very
hungry when it finally arrived on the table and were able to do justice to
a meal that might have otherwise been quite difficult to eat in the
Chris and I had not done much sailing since arriving in Yacht Haven
Marina, so we took Carelbi out on Boxing Day to the islands around
Neither Valerie nor David had been sailing since long before his
accident, so they were really excited to come out with us on the day after
Boxing Day. Kanaloa, their Oyster is down in Australia and they had not
been on her since the building of their house in Phuket had started.
Unfortunately my back and knee problems mean that I am no longer
able to do the longer passages, so, shortly after this trip Chris set off
for Sri Lanka with an old friend of ours from New Zealand, Stephen St Paul
who had crewed with us from Western Samoa to Australia in 2007 and I flew
out there to join my sister, Jeanie for a holiday while we waited for
Carelbi to arrive.