We were disappointed that we were not able to sail to the Mediterranean this season, so we needed this trip to restore our spirits. We had recently traveled to India by air/land, and we really enjoyed it, so now we looked forward to sailing to India’s Andaman Islands. These islands are more than 700 miles east of mainland India, and they are more than 400 miles northwest of Phuket.
Sailing from Thailand to India
We had been staying in the Yacht Haven Marina in Phuket, Thailand. This marina is at the northern end of Phang Nga Bay. So to leave Phuket, one must sail south the distance of the island before clearing the point and heading northwest to the Andaman Islands.
We left Yacht Haven on December 19, 2009 and headed south. We stopped for the night at the familiar island Ko Rang Yai, then we sailed in to Ao Chalong where we would check out of Thailand. We enjoy Chalong, and we wanted to do some minor provisioning while there, so we stayed two nights. We left Ao Chalong December 22.
We went only 17 miles to another familiar anchorage – Patong – on the west shore of Phuket. We spent only one night there and sailed 57 miles to Ko Miang – also known as Similan #5. It was Christmas Eve, and we had caught a small fish during the day, so we had fish and rice for our holiday dinner. We wonder if maybe we have been in Asia too long…
We had previously visited a few of the Similan Islands further north, but this was our first stop as far south as Number 5 (they are numbered 1 through 9 from the south to the north). It was a bit busy, but it was very pretty. The water was bright blue and crystal clear. Consequently, there were lots of live-aboard dive boats out there. Despite the small crowd, it was a very nice place, and we look forward to visiting it again. We left the island on Christmas day and headed for Port Blair in the Andaman Islands – approximately 350 miles to the northwest.
The wind was a bit light (2.5 – 7.5 knots) our first day out. We sailed with our full main, #2 jib, and staysail, and we still had to motorsail much of the day. We did, however, catch one fish, and we had large numbers of bottlenose dolphins swimming with us for a few hours. But the seas got choppy at night, and it was somewhat unpleasant going.
The wind improved (10 - 13 knots) on our second day, and we were able to sail. But we were sailing through choppy seas, and we were not particularly enjoying ourselves.
The wind remained decent (9 – 12 knots) on our third day, and the seas calmed. We caught a nice yellow-fin tuna and approached Port Blair as the sun was setting. The port control did not object to us entering after dark, so we chose to get in, get an anchor down, and get some sleep.
We spent a month in the Andaman Islands. We said ‘goodbye’ to many friends as they left to cross the Indian Ocean and transit the Red Sea to the Mediterranean. We sailed back to Thailand.
From India to Thailand
Boats are allowed to stay in the Andaman Islands for only 30 days, and that is exactly how long we stayed. We left on the last day of our visa – January 26, 2010.
Our sail back was not a pleasant trip. For two days we had bumpy seas and squalls, and on the second day our prop was fouled by a large tangle of floating line. The collection of line was large enough that is was causing noticeable drag and slowing us down. It was too rough to get in the water to remove it, so we used a boat hook to lift what we could and cut off the large tail we were dragging. The prop was still fouled, but at least we had lessened the drag.
We later got the prop free, and we motorsailed through more squalls. Then on day 3, shortly after passing the southern Similan Islands, our prop was fouled again! We had only six knots of wind, so we set our spinnaker and sailed toward the coast of Phuket where we hoped to sort out our latest tangle.
The wind angle would not let us sail the rhumbline toward the nearest shore, so we had to fall off to the south. We cursed and jibed and cursed some more, and we finally sailed our way back to Patong late at night on January 29.
We cut the line from our prop the next morning. We went around to Ao Chalong and got checked back in to Thailand. As we were leaving Ao Chalong, we saw five or six navy ships that were quickly identified as US Navy, and we sailed by the USS Nimitz – not something we expected to see in Thai waters. We headed further north and experienced a delightful detour.
Our dear friends on Sonrisa, Greg and Debra, had left for the Indian Ocean, and problems on another boat caused Sonrisa to accompany them back to Phuket. Sonrisa experienced some damage on the return trip, and they had been in a boat yard in Phuket. They were just getting out of the yard, so we met them on Ko Yao Yai – a delightful little island a few miles east of Yacht Haven. Two local fishermen on Ko Yao Yai, Peyat and Annut, sold us lots of shrimp, so we made dinner for the two tired Sonrisers when they arrived. We spent two nice days there with them before they again left for the Indian Ocean. These were ‘bonus’ days because we did not expect to see them again until who knows when. Then they left for the Indian Ocean, and we returned to the marina.
We were back in Yacht Haven Marina on March 5. This is definitely not where we had planned to be in March of 2010 (we should be diving in the Red Sea), but we will make the best of it.
Return to Thailand