Phang Nga Bay cruising

Published: January 31st 2015
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Well its been a long absence since my last blog and it’s been a great start to 2015.

After seeing Naomi and Alex off on their long trip to Hobart on the 27th I had two days to myself and pottered around doing boat maintenance and cleaning. For a long time the bilge has been collecting water and it finally gave me a chance to dry it all out and find the source which it turned out was from our salt water galley foot pump. Fortunately we had a spare, it was configured the opposite way around but with some new hose I managed to squeeze her in and enjoy a dry bilge for a while.

On the morning of the 29th my friend Maggie was arriving from the Netherlands and we had been exchanging emails so that she could find the boat in Patong Bay - still anchored off the cruise ship jetty at the northern end. There was a bit of a swell coming in now and all the other boats had moved down the southern end of the bay but I had stayed put to meet Maggie and had found a nearby place that did a buffet breakfast for her first meal in Thailand. When I poked my head out of the cabin that morning, what did I find?… the jetty had been removed!

Knowing that trying to get Maggie and her luggage into the dinghy on what was now a surf beach would be a nightmare I took Luna Ray down to the southern end all by myself (not something I have had to do before).

When I still hadn’t heard from her a couple of hours after she should have landed, I went ashore and found her sat on the beach getting sunburnt in the shade. Unfortunately her phone was not working in Thailand.

We had a few lazy days relaxing on the boat, reading, visiting Patong, enjoying 99bht cocktails, sunbathing on a quieter beach to the south - one day a couple of elephants were brought to take tourists for rides. Along came NYE (more cheap cocktails) and watching the fireworks (so close I could feel my legs vibrate) and watching the thousands of flying lanterns filling the sky (luckily none dropped down onto Luna Ray).

From here Maggie and I made over way down the west coast of Phuket, skipping from one bay to the next. We walked up to the viewpoint on the southern tip to watch a peaceful sunset - along with the crowd of 100s.

Our lazy days were over when we had to get up early to head for Phi Phi, and it started well, close hauled into 18 knots. As the day grew the wind faded, and at times became shifty - sending us into a few accidental tacks which I was forced to bring all the way around - fortunately Maggie slept through most of these embarrassing sailing errors. We finally motored the last 8 miles into Maya Bay (Phi Phi Le (yes, where The Beach was filmed)) and grabbed a mooring just 5m over the reef.

We jumped in the water for a snorkel and saw that one of the 2 official moorings became free so hopped back aboard and grabbed this. The place is simply stunningly beautiful BUT of course very popular with tourists and the many boats them bring them here - fortunately the traffic died down in the evening but this was way after the 4pm promise that the guide book made.

The next day I went for a snorkel into the nearby tiny bay with a small beach and sheer cliffs shooting out of the water all around, and up one side of the rock walls I had never seen so many tiny fish - collectively forming a wafting underwater curtain as I swam though them- quite remarkable.

Back on Luna Ray wasn’t much fun as tour boats went to & fro, rocking us around so we dropped the mooring and headed over to Phi Phi Don. Another beautiful island but again very busy with traffic rocking us around so were quick to go ashore, had lunch and strolled around though the hectic streets full of tourists and backpackers. Its even busier than I remember it pre-tsunami. After a laze about on the beach we realised we hadn’t brought much money so bought a few supplies and spent our last few baht on a cheap dinner with one beer each (total $8).

After another short shopping trip the next morning we headed north on flat seas and stopped off at Bamboo Island - well known for good snorkelling. As I thought we were just going a short distance to the reef I decided we would just paddle the dinghy but all we found was colourless dead coral. We paddled all the way to shore, amongst the throngs of tourists on day trips and still found little underwater life to excite us. Righting it off as a dead loss I towed the boat as I snorkelled (Maggie’s arms couldn’t take much more paddling) and then did come across some good coral and lots of fish. So we both flippered around underwater until we became worried the current might be dragging us away from Luna Ray, so jumped back into the dinghy (well dragged ourselves back into the dinghy) for our last dash back to the boat.

Then it was a lazy motor-cruise in the afternoon working our way up the west side of Koh Yao Yai until twilight arrived and we dropped anchor in a bay that had a couple of resorts. That night a squall came over, blowing from the unprotected NW so we had a bumpy evening until it settled.

The next day we rode the incoming tide north and weaved around the apparently shallow waters of North Phang Nga Bay, passing “James Bond Island” (where parts of “The Man with the Golden Gun” were filmed) - though water depth was never below 4.7 m and many areas shaded on the chart plotter as less than 2m were actually nearer 10. We made our way back down and anchored amongst the towering cliffs of the Koh Hong islands. The limestone islands in this area have chewed out bases making them look ready to topple over, with hanging stalactites, caves and “hongs” (meaning “room”) - another amazing feature - very enclosed bays, often only reached though caves, usually bat infested. Koh Hong has one of the best of these which we dinghied around that afternoon.

We moved on the next morning to Koh Phenak, another jutting monolith striking out of the water, to visit another hong but we had the tide too high to take the dinghy inside. We did circumnavigate the island though, under the ceiling of the cliff cutouts with huge pendulous stalactites, into a secluded hidden bay, stopping at another bay with a cave that lead to lookout over another deserted hong, and at another cave this one huge and open.

It was now time to head to our render vous with Naomi & Alex who would be landing the next morning. So in dead calm we made our way up the channel between North Phuket and the mainland, slowly passing a barge that seemed to carrying parts of a bridge. We dropped anchor south of Yacht Haven Marina just as a guy dinghied over to say we had to move as the same barge would be in this area tomorrow.

We moved to the north of the marina and took the dinghy in, to find some friends of mine from the rally and had dinner with Kerryn & John from SV Esoterica and some of their visiting family.

Naomi & Alex arrived the next day and settled into being back on the boat. We hired a car the next day and took a tour of the island stopping at a national park to see a Gibbon Rehab centre and a short walk to a waterfall. Then to visit a wat with a partially buried budda and next to see the Big Budda at
Naomi returnsNaomi returnsNaomi returns

Yacht Haven Marina
the top of a hill which overlooks half the island. The Big Budda is one of the biggest in the world and the complex is a work in progress. Monks were chanting inside to a small audience - curiously there was a lattice of strings in the ceiling and those preying could unravel some and would wrap some of the string around their head as if they were hooking up to a network to god.

From here we headed into old Phuket Town and its pretty portuguese influenced streets. Many nice looking coffee shops and restaurants, and Maggie found herself a guesthouse to stay in to start off her independent travel. We headed back to the marina stopping at the ‘Lotus’ Tesco mall for pizza dinner and shopping until 10pm.

The next day we took a berth in the marina and for a few days were doing some boat jobs (including repairing the ignition switch), equalising the batteries, another car rental to search for boat parts, enjoying the AC and afternoons at the small swimming pool. On the 15th was the cruisers party at the Haven restaurant and we caught up with some more rally people - the free food and drinks were pretty good too (sponsored by SevenStar transport - a company that ships ships).

The next day we had planned to leave but we had a lots of little jobs and tidying to do, and then when I turned the key to start the engine - nothing! The ignition switch had been temperamental for ages and just recently only engaged the electrics with some pressure on it (we had been using some books and a full 15lt water container). I had found a simple problem - the backing plate had come loose and with a screwdriver and some whacks from a hammer crimped the metal case to hold it in place. However I hadn’t noticed the two extra wires that had come off when I lifted the dash board off. They were short so could only get them back on with the dashboard back in place and approaching through the cabin ceiling. This delay made us stay an extra night.

The next day we left our berth, helped out by a push from a dinghy to turn in the tight corridor of boats. We stopped at the fuel jetty and the current must have picked up as it was a real struggle to get away from it. Then as we put the sails up got flummoxed as the shackle holding the main sheet down came loose sending our boom out of control- must have looked funny for other nearby sailors as we made circles trying to get back under control.

We stopped at Koh Phenak and I took Naomi & Alex on a tour of some of my favourite spots but we couldn’t enter the hong again as this time the tide was too low. Then a pleasant slow sail across to the NW tip of Koh Yao Yai.

This positioned us well to cross the channel between the islands at high tide the next morning (with 3m of tide our lowest depth was 3.7m) and out towards Krabi to meet up with Maggie again. We had another slow sail and the wind shifted sending us off course out to sea. After we flicked on the engine when the wind finally petered out we headed into Nang Bay and then of course a nice wind picked up that could have
Princess cavePrincess cavePrincess cave

Rei Lei Beach
brought us to shore.

We anchored off the pretty beach with long tails zooming around and high limestone rocks off to one side. We joined Maggie at her hotel pool, caught up, had a swim, then some dinner and then brought Maggie back aboard Luna Ray for the last couple of nights of her trip.

The next day we moved down to the neighbouring bay and took the walk ashore around to the well known beautiful Rei Le Beach to visit the Princess Cave - actually there are two caves and they are full of wooden phalluses (or is that phalli?). Funnily enough there was an notice advising people not to leave inappropriate objects in the shrine. Back to the boat took us passed monkeys and the West Rei Le bay which had waves smashing up against the beach wall - I got the timing wrong and got heavily splashed.

We took Luna Ray a few miles south to a couple of islands, one of which has an odd rock formation at its southern tip earning it the name “Chicken Island”. We waited for the tide to drop and expose the sand spit we were anchored behind but then landing the dinghy became difficult as the reef next to it started to become exposed. We had a short walk about and all the beaches were a bit rocky for a nice swim so went to rescue the dinghy before it got trapped by the reef. We tied off to a mooring out in the bay to see how the snorkelling was - pretty good coral and fish but the visibility was only about 3m with lots of particles in the water. All over a bit of a disappointment and as the tide rose over the spit that evening we had a bouncy evening as the waves came through.

The next morning we motored down the island to take a look at the chicken head rock and then back to another small bay which was wonderful. The bay was surrounded by towering cliffs, with a small pretty beach between and clear water full of yellow stripy fish that swam around you. There was a cave to visit and you could try climbing the overhanging rocks with the safety net of the water beneath you. Naomi declared this as her
Naomi's favourite beachNaomi's favourite beachNaomi's favourite beach

Maggie, Naomi & Alex in the shade
favourite beach ever!

Then we had a smooth sail back to Nang Bay to drop off Maggie. The only fly in the ointment, apart from Maggie leaving of course, was that air started leaking around one of the valves on the dinghy.

After seeing her off on the airport bus, we had some McDonalds, bought some bread and milk and then brought Luna Ray back around to Rei Le beach… not to see the penises again but because the bay seemed so calm and free of traffic when we visited… but it wasn’t.

We are at Phi Phi now but I’ll fill the story gap later, there's plenty more photos to see that are not next to the text.


Additional photos below
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31st January 2015

Welcome back
Happy 2015 all, sounds like your having a great time, the photos are amazing, good to have you back, much love to all xx ginny xxxx
3rd February 2015
NYE cocktails

Cruising Thailand
Do you have a favorite island in Thailand?
8th February 2015
NYE cocktails

fave island
That's a tricky one Dave. The Phi Phi's certainly are amazing, with great scenery, huge hongs, good snorkelling and plenty of restaurants if you want them but all this good stuff attracts tourists and makes them busy and therefore spoils our perspective of the place. I guess this follows the same theme of The Beach where the quest seems to be to find somewhere magnificent and yet undiscovered... we are still searching. Luke

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