Cruisers again

JJMoon Diary
Barry and Margaret Wilmshurst
Fri 11 Feb 2011 09:21
We are back in Rebak, our SE Asia home, but we had a good little cruise down from Phuket and we feel a bit more like proper cruisers again.
The day after our friends in Troubadour left the end of our pontoon for the Indian Ocean everything fell into place for us; the generator purred, the fridges hummed, the engine ran without leaks and all seemed well with the world.  Even the ship's clock was ticking again.  We wondered, briefly, whether we should have gone with them after all.  It was a foolish thought and with every passing day we are more confident that we took the right decision.  We hung about for several more days tidying up, provisioning, carrying out useful tasks and enjoying the social life of the marina.  Then on January 27 we cast off near the top of the tide at 1600 and wound our way back down the shallow channel.  This time we engaged a pilot, one of the regular marina staff, and arrived at the seaward mark without misadventure.  
We motored over to the palm-fringed island we had visited before and had a comfortable night although the tidal stream runs fairly swiftly through the anchorage, which makes swimming difficult if not dangerous.  Here we were attacked by our first gremlin; the generator would run smoothly but would not charge the batteries.  After some time investigating the problem I realized a circuit breaker had tripped - the sort of thing that can be forgotten after being off the boat for a while.
We decided to take a more scenic route south rather than the shortest route.  This would lead to islands closer to the coast and our next stop was Phi Phi Don, another very touristy island.  Taking our lead from the (out of date) pilot, and thinking we knew better than our informal advisers we made for the large bay at the south reputed to be at the centre of things.  It was awful.  All the best places to anchor were occupied by dive boats on moorings and large and small high speed ferries and speedboats were kicking up a terrific wash as they roared up and down the buoyed channel to the jetty.  We pottered about for a bit, then retreated to look for a quieter anchorage further north.  This we found although as we were motoring in we were called up by a catamaran on the way out letting us know that it was "very noisy until 0200".  We did not find it so - just a raft of eight local speed boats whose two-man crews chatted animatedly but bedded down quietly from about 2100 to 2130 causing very little disturbance.
Koh Muk, a beautiful anchorage
At last an anchorage to our hearts' content.
The following day we sailed to Koh Muk where there is a nice attraction known as the Emerald Cave.  On the way we were assailed by our second gremlin - we were taking in water and could not find the source.  Those circumstances are always worrying and as soon as the anchor had bitten we made a determined, methodical effort.  It took some time, although it should not have done so.  The last place I looked was the stern gland, which I had tightened recently.  When there is any significant volume of water aboard it is difficult to see drips or dribble from the gland.  The leak was soon rectified but again we were glad it had not happened in the middle of the ocean.  The famous cave is worth a visit.  It takes the form of an 80m long pitch black tunnel which opens out into a circular Hong (Thai for "room") about 60m across and open to the sky.  The walls are draped in lush foliage above a sandy beach.  Visitors must swim in or paddle; motors are not allowed because there are bats in the roof of the tunnel.  All quite memorable.  The anchorage nearby is one of the prettiest we have visited for a long time.  We enjoyed it so much we stayed for three nights before sailing off to Tarutao, a Thai island just north of Langkawi.
A peaceful beach having traversed the Emerald caveRefurbished dinghy with entrance to cave behind
The Emerald cave was quite an experience; a very dark tunnel opening out to a tranquil beach.
After one further night we made the short hop to Rebak, arriving in the early afternoon and immediately feeling very much at home.
We had some good sailing on the way south and were able to ensure that the running rigging was working smoothly and the standing rigging properly tensioned.  Most regrettably we do not always sail when we should.  JJ Moon has a relatively large engine and fuel tanks and it is all too easy to rely rather heavily on the old adage "gentlemen do not sail to windward".  We still have some sailing conscience left and feel unreasonably pleased with ourselves when we have harnessed the wind properly and minimized our carbon footprint, as on this occasion we did.
Now another gremlin became apparent: the fridge that was purged and re-gassed in Phuket had ceased to function; something that crept up on us over the course of a week.  This is very inconvenient as friends are due on board and the weather remains very hot.  Another good reason to be thankful that we are not at sea.  As if we needed further reasons.  Recent copy emails indicate some disharmony in the Thailand to Turkey fleet, at least as far as communications go and it has not even left the Maldives.  It may all be a terrible misunderstanding but there is general anxiety about the increasing range of the pirates' reach and the increase in number of attacks.  This has lead to stress and difficulties in the fleet.  Then there is Baccus, which was abandoned south of Sri Lanka in awful weather while trying to join the Vasco de Gama rally leaving Cochin in mid January.  We knew the boat and her skipper from the Sail Indonesia rally and we had bumped into him on Rebak  just before we left for Phuket.  He was suffering at the time having just returned on board to find that one or more of his batteries had blown up spraying acid widely over the accommodation.  His wife was being treated for breast cancer and was unable to join him for the next leg of his round the world voyage so he had two Belgian volunteers as crew.  All three were picked up by a Maersk freighter organised initially by Falmouth MRCC.  We were talking to an Australian couple over supper the other day who were caught in the same weather pattern and after 750 miles, utterly exhausted and nearly out of fuel, turned back to Rebak - another 750 miles.  They are recovering now, thankful that they still have their boat and each other but it was pretty harrowing.
Rebak seems very nice and comfortable, particularly as we purchased a small air-conditioning unit from friends who were off across the ocean.  Currently it sits in the main companionway, a bit of a nuisance to climb over each time but....bliss!
Breaking news:  We learned by email yesterday that several boats on the TTT convoy, including our particular friends have decided to ship their boats back to the Mediterranean on the deck of a freighter.   The risks of piracy are too great this year and now there is serious trouble in Egypt resulting in advice not to proceed through the Suez canal.