Bluer Pastures... Doing it Good... and doing it Hard
Quoll II cruising
the Andaman Sea by Trish Hawkins
Doing it Easy...
Our home from home this year has been the
Andaman Sea, flitting between Langkawi , an island of NW Malaysia
and Phuket, SW Thailand. Both islands are about the size of Singapore
and there are hundreds of smaller islands between the two. Lying
between Latitudes 6 and 8, the climate has been divine both in
the wet and the dry seasons for us sun lovers.
Telaga Harbour has been our chief refuge in Langkawi. Our favourite
spot here is a fantastic waterfall nearby, known as The 7 Wells.
Here Tim and I and the boys have had loads of fun playing on
nature's own waterslide and ending up in a whirlpool at the bottom,
clambouring over rocks to get out and up again. Macaque monkeys
are in abundance in Lang. and are usually enjoying the morning
sun having a bite to eat on the power lines as you walk to the
w'fall.. One day I saw them playing in one of the pools, swinging
from overhanging trees and pushing each other in. Just like us,
really. Not so common is the spectacled monkey. There is one
tree along the way where we often see them. The big white rings
around the eyes give them their name. They're very timid and
disappear if you hang around too long. Lang. also has prolific
bird life. Sea Eagles, Brahminy kites, hornbills abound and not
so common is a beautiful golden orange kingfisher. Phuket birdlife
is almost non existent around the coast except for the Bare Breasted
Booby Bird, prolific on the beaches of the SE corner!
There are more freshwater playgrounds that have kept us amused,
a science centre for the boys, a cable car, many wonderful eateries
and of course the beaches of the anchorage.
Sailing. That is a hobby we used to have.
I seem to recall averaging 10 knots in the SE trades, cruising
up the Q coast. These days it's motoring at 5 knots. The sail
is there for decoration and to give you something to panic about
when you see a thunderstorm blowing across the hills into Phang
Nga Bay at a rapid rate of knots! The wet season has produced
a bit more breeze and we had a few good sailing days. When the
distance between anchorages isn't far and you have to run the
motor to charge the batteries to run the fridge and the computer,
motoring isn't so bad. The other joy is fish traps and nets.
Sailing at 10 knots, keeping a good watch and avoiding the 'invisible'
flags around the fishing nets is a trap best avoided.
Phang Nga Bay and its islands, hongs,
caves and rock ledge overhangs continue to enthrall us. (See
photo top of page) Taking a torch and clambouring through
a musty bat cave and reaching a hong or cavern at the end is
a thrill. My favourite is the hong at Rai Lai Beach at Krabi
on the mainland side of Phang Nga Bay. It's a challenging climb
up the hill and down the inside. In a local magazine the vegetation
was compared to something out of Jurassic Park. There are woven
webs and ropes to help you climb down some of the steeper sections.
Needless to say that the boys are down the bottom of each climb
before I've gingerly moved my feet from the first foothold and
asked for directions to the next.
We've made a very good friend in Phuket. On the road between
Kata and Nai Harn is Charlie's Bar. Charlie is a gibbon who was
rescued from 'slavery' as a wee fella. Now he roams freely on
a property and comes into the bar for happy hour. He's not allowed
drinks I don't know whether that's in the interests of his health
or the drinks of the patrons. The attraction here is that Charlie
does what he wants to do. Sometimes he gives you a cuddle like
a long lost friend or he sits on the bar in front of you while
you preen him. It may be your turn to be his best friend or someone
else's. The boys have had the occasional bite when they've pushed
the friendship too far.
It's a very low key bar. Drinks are
cheap, unlike any of the other bars for miles around. There is
no entrance fee or performance, and you make a donation for a
bunch of bananas to feed the elephants. The boys have been out
on the elephants a few times but walking behind them on a short
jungle trek is also good fun.
One day, Matthew almost didn't stop when
the elephant stopped to do a dropping. I grabbed him by the scruff
of the neck. He looked up and watched it all come out, one step
in front of him. Great entertainment!
There's always a new adventure and a new playground waiting for
us somewhere. Right now the season has swung and it's time to
move round the other side to the beaches once more.
Next... Doing it Hard!
Slipping our catamaran, Quoll II, at
Fremantle was simple. Someone on the grapevine had a jinker we
could borrow. We hitched it behind my little Subaru and out she
came. We stayed on board, the kids went home to grandparents.
Everything was easy. We've slipped the boat three times since,
twice at Gladstone, and just recently at Phuket. Avoiding the
cost of a lift out was a crucial factor in finding a haul out
facility. The creature comforts available in the yard and nearby,
came a close second. Any degree of comfort is desirable when
living aboard on the hardstand. Limited shower and toilet facilities
exist at most yards but it is nice to escape the puddles of antifoul,
dust and grime and really get cleaned up. The extensive parklands
and BBQ's at Gladstone allows one to totally escape the boat
yard and enjoy the evening meal ( A few thousand mosquitoes and
sandflies also enjoyed their evening meal) Hauling out at Boat
Lagoon, Phuket just doesn't cater for the plebs amongst us who
live aboard and do our own work.
Here in Phuket, we have three boat
yards to choose from. Again with creature comforts being a key
factor to consider after price, we chose Boat Lagoon. It has
a swimming pool, ideal for occupying the two boys and stopping
them from 'floating boats' or riding their scooters through puddles
of antifouling and other choice debris freshly scraped off the
hulls of world travelled hulls. Boat Lagoon is a Luxury Resort
as well as a boat yard. Hence the reason the boat yard is alongside
manicured gardens a large lagoon swimming pool and high rise
Having lived aboard whenever we've
done maintenance or antifouling to Quoll, I'm well aware that
hardstand ablution facilities are not quite 5 star. I'm also
used to having to pick up the sander or sandpaper and doing it
myself. So what's the problem? One problem is jealousy!
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's goods.
I think that's the rule I'm breaking. 'Everyone else' is employing
workmen (known as little brown people in not so politically correct
circles) to refit the boat, antifoul and maybe add a little more
stainless. To add insult to injury, they've walked away from
their boat, flown abroad on holiday, or rented a unit for the
duration! Even worse, those living in units on the premises could
be seen strolling to the pool (keeping an eye on my children,
I hope) taking long leisurely lunches or hiring cars to go wandering
around the island. Meanwhile, we're doing it hot and hard. Oh
to be part of the idle rich!
But the problem doesn't stop there.
I just happened to acquire a dose of Thai Tummy,
a close cousin of Bali Belly. There is never a convenient time
to get a dose of the runs, but working on the hard and having
to run a few hundred metres to the toilet makes it a particularly
inconvenient problem. Even more of a problem is that I did not
always get a toilet when I got there. The Thai workmen didn't
acknowledge that the first toilet they came to was the female
ablution facility. On several occasions a male was occupying
my toilet when I needed it!
But my problems didn't stop there either. The yard toilets are
squat toilets, known amongst more athletic circles as starting
blocks. You have to squat on the sides of the toilet bowl to
do your business. It's also necessary to make sure you're positioned
correctly or there's a chance there'll be more mess outside than
in! Speaking of messes, toilet paper is a luxury found only in
the resort where the real toilets are. At the yard toilets, there
is a tub of water and a plastic container to sluice yourself.
Yuk! Standing in a squat position on a wet toilet bowl, trying
to clean yourself with a bowl of water is a skill I have no desire
to master. BYO takes on a whole new meaning. Forget the grog,
bring your own toilet paper!
When I grow up, I
want to be part of the idle rich. I don't want to do it hard.
Sometimes, in a fit of desperation, I ran the gauntlet and tried
to make it across the yard, through the units, round the pool
and downstairs to the pool toilets. At the best of times this
requires speeds akin to the 4 minute mile. With a Thai tummy,
I was ready to train for the Olympics!
Between starting blocks and resorts and fly away friends, the
crew of Quoll have been undergoing hard times on the hardstand