Heading to Phuket

2 January 2017   Ko Lipe, Thailand
It was a grey day, so we pottered about on the boat, doing a few little jobs.  I sorted out my To-Do-List and my To-Buy-List so that I can hit the ground running when we get to Phuket.  The plan is to spend a couple of weeks finishing jobs, buying spares and stocking up on food before heading off to the Andamans in the middle of January.

The afternoon was even worse with heavy rain, so we hunkered down doing more planning.  I spent hours looking at possible anchorages in the Maldives, so that we have a rough idea of what to expect.  Once we leave Phuket, I know that we will be sticking to a timetable dictated by the seasons, so I want to be well prepared.

Christmas Tree Worm

3 January 2017   Ko Lipe to Rok Nok, Thailand
We set off towards Rok Nok at 06:30 and encountered the usual strong wind as it funnels into the north side of the Ko Lipe channel, but it soon calmed down to 15 knots.  After two overcast days, our batteries were very low, so we motor-sailed for a couple of hours during which we noticed an intermittent “singing” sound from down below, almost like the sound a wineglass makes when you make it resonate by rubbing a wet finger around the top. 

It took me a bit of experimenting to pin it down.  The mysterious sound happened when we were motoring at 6.5 knots, but stopped when I turned the engine off and sailed.  I then tried sailing with the engine running at 1800 rpm, but not in gear - no sound, it only happened when we were motoring forwards. 

I initially suspected the Volvo Stern Gland, which has two rubber lip seals running around the rotating propeller shaft - perhaps they were dry.  I checked that I’d vented all the air out of the seal after we’d launched the boat and squeezed some more grease into the seal - no change.  I then suspected that the new propeller was resonating, but what would cause that?  

I ran the engine again at 1800 rpm, this time with full sails up and doing 7.5 knots - the resonating sound was more continuous.  It’s nothing to do with the engine itself, the stern gland is okay, so it must be either the propeller or the cutlass bearing.  Thinking back, I painted the end of the cutlass bearing with antifoul.  This is a rubber bearing with small grooves in the rubber to let water flow across the rubber - I’ve probably blocked the ends of the grooves and stopped the flow of water, so the cutlass bearing is running nearly dry.

We had a great sail for the rest of the day, hard on the wind, but in 15 knots with a clean bottom, we cracked along at 7 knots.  It took us seven hours to sail the 45 miles to Rok Nok where we picked up a mooring.  I jumped in the water and scraped off the antifouling from around the end of the cutlass bearing.  I also poked a small piece of wire into the ends of the grooves to make sure that they are clear.  We’ll see if the mysterious singing, ringing sound comes back tomorrow. 

Leaving Rok Nok

Rok Nok is a national marine park with scores of power boats bringing punters to lounge on the beach and snorkel, so we waited until they had gone and then went snorkelling.  It’s good to be able to jump into tropical water again.  

The Marine Park Rangers caught us at 17:30 and asked us for 400 Bhat (£8) per person and 100 Bhat (£2) for the boat.  I cheekily asked if the captain was free of charge and they said yes, so I save myself the cost of a good bottle of wine.  The fee covers us for five days at any of the Marine Park Islands, but we’re only stopping one night.

4 January 2017   Rok Nok to Nai Harn Bay, Thailand
Rok Nok lived up to its name last night because we rocked and rolled until dawn when we slipped the mooring.  We navigated between the two islands and motored for 30 minutes to check if our singing, ringing noise had gone.  Unfortunately, it hasn’t so I’m at a loss what to do next - my best guess is that the propeller is resonating like a tuning fork, but why?

The wind gradually picked up from 15 knots to 25 knots as the day progressed, but it was either on the beam or abaft the beam, so we had a cracking sail averaging 6.7 knots over the 58 mile passage.  We had to reef a couple of times and the seas built up to 2 metres, so it was a boisterous trip and we were glad when we arrived in Nai Harn Bay, after 8½ hours of being bounced around.

There are about 20 boats in the anchorage, but there’s plenty of room for more.  The wind is shrieking through the anchorage from the north-east and there’s a big swell from the west, but the swell is widely spaced and it’s not too rolly.  I went over to “Catamini” for a chat and they kindly lent me their phone to book a car.  I can’t get one for tomorrow, but I’ve booked one for the Friday, 6th - we have a lot of errands to run.

5 January 2017   Nai Harn Bay to Ao Chalong, Thailand
Early in the morning, we dropped the genoa and removed the genoa halyard - it’s become very frayed where it’s clamped at the bottom of the mast, so it needs replacing.  We then motored around to Ao Chalong, which is one of our least favourite anchorages in the world.  It’s exposed to wind and waves and can be very bouncy, the holding is okay, but it’s the centre of the Phuket tourist boat industry and there are literally hundreds of tourist, fishing and dive boats on moorings.

We normally anchor a long way from the walled harbour, but this time we found a space much closer - it was tight between various boats on moorings, but we came out pretty central.  After watching our position for an hour to make sure that we weren’t getting too close to other boats, we went to clear in, which was very painless and only took an hour. 

Now legal, we ran some errands - buying SIM cards for our phones; had lunch at a street food hawker; and walked to a nearby shopping mall.  Back at the boat, we seemed to be in a good position, well-spaced between the moorings and the wind was fairly light, so we decided to stay the night.

Another Squall Passes Over

Unfortunately, at 03:00, a huge squall came through - the wind switched 180 degrees and increased to 35 knots within seconds, followed shortly by torrential rain.

I woke up because of the change in motion and rushed onto deck to find that our anchor had dragged and we were very, very close to a big dive boat.  I started the engine, and motored into the wind and rain. By this time, Glenys was in the cockpit (naked like me) and we pulled up the anchor to escape the maze of the mooring field.

While Glenys held us in position with the engine, I grabbed our Samsung tablet to use the Navionics plotter app and found that the Android operating system had decided to upgrade itself and would only show me a humorous little R2D2 look-alike.  Bugger!  I turned on my laptop and left it to boot up while I rushed back onto deck. 

It was a tense ten minutes, with Glenys on the wheel and me on the bow of the boat, shining a torch into the horizontal lashing rain, dodging the moorings and boats and guessing where to head in the pitch black night.  Of course, the stinging rain was hitting parts that needn't be mentioned - it wasn't a pretty sight. Twenty minutes later, we dropped the anchor in an isolated place a mile from any other boats and went back to bed.