Liz Cleere discovers a delightfully laid back and remote island in the far north of the Andaman sea that remains untouched and home to a small band of intrepid expats.
The first in a series of articles on Esper’s complete refit in Thailand, originally written for Sailing Today magazine. We are reproducing the original articles on FTB complete with new photographs… Remaining on a pontoon in India for two years, despite basic servicing and upkeep, had led to some general deterioration of our boat. But for SY Esper to stand a chance of completing a passage to South Africa, she needed to be in the best possible shape. So we spent a full season planning, servicing and preparing.
Koh Phayam, a tiny island off Thailand’s Andaman coast, has long been a favourite with intrepid yachties. As we secured our anchorage at the Sun Resort on Buffalo Bay, we quickly discovered why.
It sometimes feels like there are few islands left in Thailand that haven’t been turned into tourist hotspots. Koh Phayam is still one of them, but development is fast bringing it into line with its more famous rivals. There are still no cars, no post and no hotel blocks. Hot water is a luxury and air conditioning is available in only one bungalow resort.
Long term sailor Liz Cleere remembers her best Christmases at sea and reveals how to enjoy the festive season away from home in style
Around-the-world sailors Liz Cleere and Jamie Furlong are noticing dangerous changes in weather patterns on their travels, which is affecting their plans and causing concern
With visitors to Thailand being asked to show more respect while the nation mourns the passing of their King, Liz Cleere ponders on how to travel with sensitivity and understanding.
As Jamie and Liz sail into areas that were devastated by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, they consider their options should the unthinkable happen again.
There were still a few more days before our Thai visas expired, so we took a slow sail south from Phang Nga bay. Ao Chalong sits on the south-eastern corner of Phuket and is the place where sailors and boats go to check in and out of Thailand.
Apart from the deep joy of discovering that our engine has seized, it feels like some kind of nautical episode of ‘Back to the Future’ here on SY Esper
Our regular Sailing Log Diary on YouTube–which out of necessity runs a few months behind real time–shows Jamie sailing alone in Thailand with Liz back in the UK looking after her ailing mum. And yet, right now, Liz has just returned from her >second visit home to tend to Dottie while Jamie has been solo-sailing in Thailand.
In the words of Shirley Bassey and the Propellerheads , “…it’s all just a little bit of history repeating…”
Jamie didn’t like the darkening skies, so he took a look at the forecast to discover some big weather coming in from the west. Fishing vessels, large and small, arrived from deeper water, dropping noisy anchor chain and crowding into the anchorage behind Ko Tarutao’s high hills. He told the others to prepare themselves for some potential big winds.
Sadly, for reasons beyond our control we are both on opposite sides of the globe this year, and can’t enjoy our usual special day. So we thought it would be nice to extend the seasonal tradition of exchanging gifts to include every one of our followtheboat subscribers across the world.
We made our run down the east side of imposing Tarutao, one of Thailand’s largest islands and the country’s first national marine park. Once a penal colony, it was the perfect place to cast away undesirables. With its unforgiving tropical rainforest, strong tidal currents and fierce salt-water crocodiles escape would have been impossible.
We arrived back at beautiful Ko Rok, the same point where we had broken the passage on our way north from Langkawi. It was as serene and scenic as we remembered and this time we were able to quickly find our old mooring buoy and get settled for the night. Within minutes Liz had the fishing line over the side…
While the boys played in 15 metres of water for 45 minutes, following fish, admiring the coral, playing with an eel and finding their lost equipment, Alicia and Liz stayed on the beach. The silk-smooth white sand only appears at low tide and they wanted to make the most of it.
…we received an unexpected call from the officer in charge, who invited Jamie to meet the skipper of the barge that rammed us. So he went back with Alica, leaving Liz and Millie-the-cat to guard Esper. After five cups of coffee Wat the translator arrived…
We started to look on the bright side. We were insured. We were floating. The Portabote–swinging from the new davits–had taken most of the impact, acting like a large fender. If we had been hit anywhere other than the stern, Esper could have just started her life as Phi Phi Don’s new wreck dive.
When the first murmurings of this year’s SW monsoon came rumbling in, we cancelled our plans to meet friends in town and stayed aboard. Squadrons of clouds hurled lightning across the sky at each other for two days, while we sheltered in the cockpit and collected rainwater in buckets.
We came across a number of restaurants and bars, but for once had to pass them by because we needed to shoot as much footage as possible before driving back to Essex. There were marquees packed with everything you never thought you needed in the galley, alongside fantastic bits of gleaming machinery for engines and decks. The atmosphere was buzzy. Exhibitors shiny with anticipation and visitors wide-eyed with the intent to buy.
The archipelago of Ko Rok Nai and Ko Rok Yai is the mother of all those deserted-white-sand-palm-fringed beaches you see in travel brochures and on postcards. The place is a cliché, except that it isn’t. It’s real and golden and joyous and quiet and infused with peace.