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.
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.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ll no doubt have heard that we lost Millie overboard. In our latest vlog we cover off the story. We’ve changed things around a bit on the video front. The editing is faster and we’re trying to engage more with our viewers by answering questions and covering off topics that you might find interesting. If you have any questions about being a cruiser, or about anything else for that matter, please do send us a message and we’ll try our best to answer it in a future episode.
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.
How/when/why did we end up living this alternative, slightly crazy life? It will be 10 years in December. Blimey!
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.
Just as we left Langkawi Liz had a call from her brother to say their mum, who was diagnosed with Parkinsons ten years ago, wasn’t doing very well. So Liz helped Jamie take SY Esper a couple of hundred miles north to Ao Chalong before jumping on a plane back to the UK. This could be our last sail together for a long time, so we needed to make it count.
We undertook a complete refit of SY Esper in 2014. We were told it would take three months, BUT we knew it would probably be six months. Pretty soon nine months seemed optimistic, then as we kept adding new jobs we reached a year! In February 2015 we left PSS Shipyard with what was almost a brand new boat. Here’s the whole refit squished down to a couple of minutes.
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.
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 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.