Carelbi in Thailand

Tue 14 Apr 2009 16:48

                                    CARELBI IN THAILAND December 2008 



Boats, 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 decorated.



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 walk.











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 flowed together.




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 interior.  

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 good thing.
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 heat!
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 Phuket...
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.