February 2006


Phang Na Bay, Krabi Province, Phuket………. Thailand.

ear your mind and think of a bright blue sky, made lovelier by whisps of white cloud,
a calm blue-green sea sparkling with sunshine.  Then add a sheer monolithic rounded
mountain of sunbleached limestone towering above that shimmering sea and clad with
rich dark green forest, then add another one and still another one, hazy in the distance.  
Feel the warm moist gentle air on your face……….

Welcome to Phang Na Bay, Krabi Province, Phuket………. Thailand.

We had the pleasure of being guests aboard old friends’ boat “Rusalka” a lovely 43 ft
Oyster and a veteran of the Asia sailing circuit.  Their invitation was to join them at their
new home in the south of Phuket Island for a night before moving aboard the yacht to
participate in the annual 50-boat Phang Na Bay regatta:  
Our friends have a lovely new bungalow with an external guest room, with a pool as the
centerpiece.  A day provisioning at local markets for the 4 day regatta was followed by
cocktails and a great dinner beachside in Phuket – a relaxed reminder of how lovely
the scalloped west coast of that island is.  We moved aboard the good ship Rusalka at
the Royal Phuket Marina and met our crew mate for the regatta, one “Jimmy” a cultured
gentleman and a keen sailor.  Thus started what was a demanding schedule of parties!

All yacht regattas have parties, but the ones in Asia are without doubt, the best in the
world!  Our 2000 Baht (about $50 USD) per person entry fee included no less than 5
parties – in fact – given that the regatta only covered 100 miles in the whole four days,
we concluded that the sailing was merely the means by which one got from one party to

The Royal Phuket Marina had just opened and the start of the regatta was their chance
to showcase the place with a view to selling the apartments and letting the berths.  
They turned on a super show with fire-eaters, Polynesian dancers, a live band,
dancing, great food and plenty of drinks.  One GT over-imbibed and after “rescuing” a
large display of orchids from the banquet table to deposit on the boat, was found
sleeping fully clothed on the foredeck.  Needless to say the next morning’s start was a
little slow.

The first day’s sailing was hampered most of the day by light or no wind, resulting in
most of the fleet being stuck “in a hole” and causing most of us to drop anchor to stop
drifting backwards as the tide changed.  But what a stunning place to be stalled in!  
High limestone “lumps” with lush green vegetation dot the sea-scape.  We were quite
close to one – close enough to see a couple of long-tail boats - the hallmark of the local
fishermen – nestled in the shady crevice between the sea surface and the vertical wall
of the mountain – a niche all around the karst that has been carved by wave erosion.  
When we eventually did get the boat moving with a light breeze, alas, we were unable
to cross the finish line of the race in the time allocated, so we skulked away with a DNF
(did not finish)….eased somewhat by the application of some beer.

Subsequent day’s sailing was better with more wind and we were able to finish 2nd in
our class in one of the races, with some credible placings in others and were very
happy to take away 3rd prize in our class for the whole regatta!

Each day’s racing was followed up by cold “tinnies”, some wonderful food that Sheila
had organized and a swim off the boat.  Aside from galley “work” the girls were the
official “sewer men” – packing the spinnaker below decks during races.  There were a
couple of days where we had more than one spinnaker set/drop so we were busy with
the hot sweaty work of packing the huge piece of fabric so that it launched faultlessly
each time.

The racing was uneventfully delightful for the most part, the days hot and clear, the air
fresh and the company interesting.  We met crews & owners of several other boats,
socialized at anchor, ate drank and made merry.  One particular night the intoxicated
crew of Sea Glass descended on Rusalka and we must have had 16 people in and
around the cockpit – truly a gathering of drunken sailors!

Subsequent parties were held on the beach at the Krabi Paradise resort, the Sheraton
Krabi and Phi Phi’s “Hippie Hut”.  The Sheraton put on a bountiful spread, once again
with dance floor, live music, 5-star food.  The system with the parties was thus: at the
beginning of the regatta one got issued with a plastic credit-card sized tag that was
worn around the neck. At each party, it was marked off in exchange for 5 “raffle
tickets”.  These tickets were vouchers for one drink, entitling each person to 5 drinks
during the evening or one bottle of wine.  What actually happened was that at most of
the parties, the bar servers were also imbibing, so eventually the ticket system got
merrily waived and it was pretty much a free-flow!

One very special location on the regatta course was Phi Phi Island.  GT first sailed in
there about 15 years ago and was a frequent yacht-board visitor during the Kings Cup
regattas in the 1990’s. Phi Phi is a stunningly beautiful island, almost an “H” shape with
two deep bay indentations.  So it was particularly heart-wrenching to drop anchor there
and see the devastation on the thin isthmus, caused by the Tsunami.  The thick belt of
tropical vegetation had gone and was replaced by a thin line of new planted palm trees
each supported by a wooden strut.  Phi Phi got hit not once, but twice.  The first wave
came in through Ton Sai Bay on the south, swept across the low isthmus between the
two high points and careened on its devastating path, however, the wave curled around
both northern points of the island and crashed back in through the north bay onto the
low isthmus again with a disastrous effect.  2000 people died here.  It was very difficult
not to look at this battered paradise without having tears well up.  It was heartening,
though, to see that in the 13 months since this awful tragedy, how the remaining locals
have tried so hard to pull their lives back together, to rebuild what the sea took away, to
get their fishing boats replaced and to re-launch their main source of income –
tourism.    Unfortunately we did not have time to climb to the high point on the island
where the tsunami memorial is but we will make a point to do that on our next visit.

After a wonderful evening on the beach, we started the final home-bound race next
morning.  Ton Sai bay is guarded on the west side by a towering hill.   As experienced
sailors we all know never to get into the wind shadow of a mountain.  After an
outstanding start – we crossed the line first with a shout of “great start Rusalka!” from
the committee boat – we completely stalled in the lee of the mountain.  What were we
thinking!  Between the 5 of us we must have at least 100 collective years of sailing
experience!!  It must have been the culmination of all those “raffle tickets”…we
obviously weren’t thinking strategically, and that 15 minute stall cost us the race.  
Nevertheless it was a great day, with the best wind of the regatta experienced during
the scenic 25 mile race back into Phuket.  We dropped anchor in the gentle waters of
Nai Harn bay and immediately had visitors – good friends from yacht Turmalin…who
joined us for our now well-established ritual of beers and food before preening for the
final prize-giving party at the Mangosteen Resort www.mangosteen-phuket.com/
Once again, a sumptuous banquet surrounding the pool, a great live band, good
Aussie vino – what a culmination to a wonderful 4 days!

A trip back to the airport with GT having a 3 hr turnaround before heading off to Sydney
on biz, jolted us back into reality.

But, not long before we were back to boats!  This time in Singapore on small 20 foot
outboard powered runabouts!  We’re in the midst of attaining our Singapore boat
licenses and thus need to take boating lessons!  Singapore is one of the busiest ports
in the world, along with Shanghai, Hong Kong and Rotterdam, so they’re diligent about
ensuring you have a local license to drive….  7 hrs with a bunch of (nice) amateurs
found us on man overboard drills, boat berthing (ramming speed !!! damn the
torpedos!!) and various other manoevres, off the southern tip of Singapore dodging
ships, ferries and sailboats.
Our practical exam will be in April, hopefully we’ll pass.

We’re currently in planning mode to bring DreamCatcher up to Singapore:  she’ll
depart Brisbane June 1st (weather dependent), cruise up the Barrier Reef to
Townsville, over the top of Australia, in to Darwin for provisioning/paperwork for a
week, will then join the Darwin/Kupang rally, and from Kupang straight to Singapore.   
Our (delivery) skipper is an experienced circumnavigator, as is his wife.  They’re
looking for couple or single person, preferably male, blue water experienced, to crew
for the 6-8 week trip.  John needs two crew from Brisbane to Townsville and then only
one (or two) from Townsville through to Kupang, where we’ll join John & Lynette to
DreamCatcher her the last 900 miles into Singapore.
Interested, anyone?

Whilst we’re not in the habit of posting advertising on the
DreamCatcher website, we’re going to make an exception for very
close, trustworthy friends who have recently launched a business
called In Town 2…  on the worldwide web:
check it out….it’s a fun site and has particular appeal to quality folks
with a traveling habit….. are you in town too ????   Besides, some
of the DreamCatcher photos will be posted here, and they said they’
d buy us a beer if we helped publicise the site, and as sailors, who
are we to turn down a beer ?????
Click on link to view   PHOTOS FOR JOURNAL 24
Location and Sail Plan