Esper rammed and an American comes to the rescue!

Peaceful Ko Yai was a welcome break from hectic Ao Chalong. But we couldn’t stay long, we were returning to Phi Phi Don to hook up with our very first Patreon friend, American McGee.

And yes, that is his name. “American McGee”, a name to conjure with. Was he going to be a cross between the Star-Spangled Banner and Mr Magoo? It’s not the type of name you tend to get much in the UK. “English Simpson” doesn’t have the same sort of ring (or maybe it does). To be honest, at first we weren’t sure if it was a wind-up.

We set off on a short hop across the bay towards our meeting point, with just enough time for me to scrub off the dirty footprints on our nice, new white deck. Fishermen pulled up fish traps from the shallows, the sun shone, a gentle wind blew and we quickly found just the spot to anchor.

The thing about Phi Phi Don is that we didn’t like it at all when we first dropped the hook there. We had struggled to find somewhere suitable to stay in hectic Ton Sai bay. But American assured us that the anchorage to which we were heading, on the north east tip, was altogether a quieter and prettier place.

We arrived and agreed that it looked beautiful.

We settled in, then I went below to have a chat with Millie and do something on the internet, while Jamie remained in the cockpit with a cup of coffee admiring the view. All was quiet. The wavelets lapped against the hull. Longtail boats came and went from the beach. Holidaymakers walked along the shore. American was right, this was a whole lot better than Ton Sai bay.

Thwack! Thud! Crash, bang, wallop! Millie and I jumped up.

What in hell’s name was that? I thought.

We raced on deck to find an old steel boat the size of a house backing away from Esper’s stern. The pile of rust had HIT us!

The offending barge

The offending barge

What the feck?

Jamie was speechless with rage, incredulity, I-don’t-know-what emotion. I ran around like a headless chicken.

Why? Why? WHY?

DSC06082“We’ve just spent over a fucking year in the boatyard and this happens?!”

But it happened. All it had taken was a skipper not paying attention for our davits, swimming platform, Portabote, guard rail and God knows what else, to be crushed.

The tears wouldn’t come; the anger stopped them.

Needless to say, we didn’t get the incident on film, but we did get plenty of stills and footage of the offending vessel.

Then American’s voice came over the VHF. He was on his way. And you know what? It was the sound of his voice, and the thought that we had someone to share this horror with that calmed us both down.

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.

American was shocked by what he found on arrival and immediately suggested he come over with booze. We immediately agreed. So he and his old friend Alicia made their way across where we welcomed them on board and got stuck in. And in one instant we knew we had new friends for life.

Sailboat gets rammed by a barge

Portabote dinghy takes the biggest hit in the accident


The next day

The original plan had been to stay for a night then for each boat to head off to a new anchorage. But that wasn’t going to happen. With no dinghy to get to shore, we were stuck with hailing longtail boats at around $500 a minute. Luckily, it turned out that American was in no hurry to leave, so he kindly acted as taxi-driver.

Alicia Henry, American's guest, gets ready for the longtail ride

Alicia Henry, American’s guest, gets ready for the longtail ride

Jamie went to the police station to report the accident with Alicia. Not wishing to leave either boat unattended, American stayed on Synchronicity and I stayed on Esper.

Alicia Henry

After a spectacular journey by local boat, Alicia and Jamie arrived at the police station where the guitar-playing policeman was persuaded to leave the veranda and take a statement. Jamie told our tale, but didn’t hold out much hope. Neither did the myriad yachties on our social media channels, all of whom advised us that we may as well write off the damage as we would never see the police, the captain or the owner again. Hey ho, another one chalked up to experience.

Down at the local nic with a couple of coppers

Down at the local nic with a couple of coppers

As usual, Jia of PSS Shipyard pulled out all the stops to try and help. He offered to send people up to Phi Phi (which was kind, but unnecessary) spoke to the police to smooth Jamie’s path, and said we would go straight to the top of the queue for a place in the boat yard.

Alicia is a keen film photographer

Alicia is a keen film photographer

That evening we all went ashore to put our troubles behind us at a beach bar. But not before stopping aboard Synchronicity for sundowners.

American of s/y Synchronicity comes to pick us up

American of s/y Synchronicity comes to pick us up

Sunset over the north-east corner of Phiphi

Sunset over the north-east corner of Phiphi

It was a great chance for us to get to know American and Alicia better. Although Synchronicity is 7ft shorter than Esper her cockpit seemed designed specifically for entertaining: it is wide, with plenty of room to spread out; it is deep, so no chance of toppling backwards after a few shots, and there are plenty of surfaces to cover with drinks and snacks.

As we relaxed in the cockpit, we were treated to an exceptional sunset that evening on the north east corner of Phi Phi.

Despite the accident, it was wonderful to be able to make new friends and discover kindred spirits. One of the greatest joys of this alternative lifestyle is the people you meet, both those on land and those on other cruising boats.

Cheers Jia! Cheers American!

If you can’t view the embedded video, you can catch it here.

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4 Comments on “Esper rammed and an American comes to the rescue!”

  1. You were opposite the huge resorts at that NE corner, right?
    We anchored there about a fortnight ago. About an hour later this friggin huge ferry arrived and disgorged a couple of hundred tourists into a flotilla of long tail boats then anchored about 50m away. Ok I thought, a bit close for comfort but should be Ok. I checked a couple of times during the evening and his swing brought him to about 30m away. So I decided to sleep in the cockpit just in case. Woke up about 2am and his stern was what 5m off my bow and right over my anchor chain.

    No amount of yelling or cursing woke anyone up m board but he then swung just far enough away for me to get my anchor up and I was able to move well and truly away.
    A disaster just avoided.

    1. Hi Ian, great to hear from you. There are a couple of anchorages in that corner, I’m not sure if it was the same one… here are the co-ordinates: 7°46′.75N 98°45′.97E There were a few resort complexes on the beach.
      Your story sounds horrendous! We too saw ferry boats dropping off holidaymakers, and they didn’t seem to care where they anchored either. For us it was a lesson to not anchor anywhere near the local boats, if we can help it! So glad you and your boat lived to tell the tale. Fair winds! [Liz]

  2. What a captivating article! Read every word. Helped that your story is interspersed with beautifully captivating images of your trip to PPD.

    THanks for sharing Liz

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