19 Jan: 1st day sailing around Boat Lagoon

This morning we left Khao Lak at 7:00 am by taxi in order to arrive at Boat Lagoon Marina in Phuket at 8:30. Today we start our first day of 9 days sailing in a 26 foot MacGregor sailboat. Francis was waiting for us with his boat when we arrived. He is going to spend the first two days sailing with us to teach us the ropes. The morning was taken up by a briefing, so Jenny and the girls quietly sneaked off for a dip th e Marina's pool ! In the afternoon our boat was lifted from the dry dock into the water and off we headed with the motor, out of the Marina for our first sailing lesson. The Marina's channel takes roughly three quarters of an hour to navigate through at 4-5 knots and can only be used at high tide when it's a mere 1.5 - 2 metres deep. Unfortunately there was no wind, so we spent the afternoon practicing manoeuvres in Phang Nga Bay. We anchored on a beautiful beach on the island of Koh Rang Yai and spent a good hour cooling off in the waters. Then back to the marina, a swim in the pool and a Thai meal overlooking the boats in the marina. We all slept like babies on the boat that night.

Our  home for the next 9 days (Macgregor 26 feet sailboat) The dinghy to row to the beach / port

20 Jan: 2nd day sailing around Boat Lagoon

A quick dip in the marina's pool to wake us up and at 9:00 we were ready to start sailing. There's more wind in the morning so we were able to sail from the end of the marina's channel out into Phang Nga Bay. We practiced the basic sail manoeuvres and headed up wind towards Koh Sup (2 rocks). We picnicked on the way and around 12.30 the wind dropped and we finished the journey with the motor... We then indulged in a   refreshing swim around the rocks, which stick out majestically from the bay's waters, before heading back to the marina. Francis kindly dropped us off at a big Tesco supermarket on the outskirts of Phuket, so that we could stock up with food for the week. Many of the islands are uninhabited, but we will try to spend the majority of nights anchored off small islands where there is a local island restaurant. We therefore stocked up with food for picnic lunches and a couple of pasta dinners when required. 

François swimming around Koh Sup rocks

21 Jan: 3rd day sailing to Koh Phanak 

Today we were set loose, just the four of us and our boat for the next 7 days (Shany 2) ! After navigating through the long marina channel, we hosted the sails with the objective of sailing as far north as we could towards Koh Phanak, our target for the night. We zigzagged slowly northwards, avoiding islands and rocks, each cap taking roughly an hour between 2.6 and 4 knots. We are beginning to learn that sailing is a sport which requires a lot of patience !

We managed to sail until 13:45, at which time the wind had dropped completely. The thermal winds seem to win the battle around lunchtime and cancel out the wind completely. The prevailing winds win the upper hand again at about 19:00 for the rest of the evening and night... In other words, we have more wind at night than during the day which is quite frustrating... We stopped on a beach at the north of Ko Yao Yai for a refreshing dip before setting off again with the motor for Koh Phanak. Koh Phanak is a beautiful uninhabited island with four majestic peeks reaching over 100 metres. Its limestone cliffs have stalactites and passages (hongs, as their called locally) in the island to explore by dinghy.

Once we'd anchored, François and the girls jumped in for a swim. Unfortunately the swim was cut short by a jelly fish that stung both Gaelle and Sophie simultaneously. After much screaming we managed to get the girls onboard again and Charlie and Betty, an Australian couple in a boat anchored next to ours, came over with their dinghy with jellyfish first aid materiel (vinegar, ice and sting spray). Thank you very much for your help and kindness. Once the kids had calmed down we decided to postpone the explorations by dinghy to the next day and settled down to a spaghetti bolognaise cooked on the boat, whilst admiring the stars and satellites in the sky.

The girls having a ride in the dinghy ! Swimming at Koh Panak just before the jellyfish attack...

22 Jan: 4th day - Koh Hong and Paradise Resort

Farewell to our Australian friends and we set off northwards to the island of Koh Hong where there are spectacular passages (hongs) and inside lagoons to visit by dinghy. We rowed in the little dinghy through a small cave opening filled with limestone stalactites, before emerging inside the group of Hong islands. The scenery is breathtaking scenery and we embraced the peace and solitude. There are other small cave openings   that lead to inside lagoons. And guess who we bumped into in their dinghy - our Australian friends ! Speedboats starting arriving with their day trip passengers around 10:00 and at 10:30, when we were departing the number of speedboats and canoes they set free was frightening. Fortunately we arrived early enough to explore the islands in peace. Then we set our cap northwards to by pass Koh Na Knac before hosting the sails to sail to the north of Koh Yai Noi and the Paradise Island Resort for a decent evening meal and shower! After 15 minutes of sailing, we abandoned as the wind had vanished and we motored to a deserted golden beach on Koh Batang for a dip. We spent the rest of the afternoon at Paradise Island Resort, after a close miss with the coral reef in the bay. After a dip in the lovely pool the kids did their homework on the beach. After dinner in the resorts restaurant w e had to row in the dinghy back to the boat in the pitch black - quite a feat with a strong wind ! Fortunately we'd left the light on the mast to pick put our boat in the bay.

Rowing through the small cave entrance to the lagoon in Koh Hong The sailboat from inside the lagoon Paradise Island Resort restaurant on the beach

23 Jan: 5th day Koh Pak Bia and Ko Hong Krabi

We had asked for some ice at the restaurant yesterday evening for the cooler box in the boat (the makeshift fridge), so François and the girls returned to the resort in the dinghy to pick it up. Unfortunately all they had to offer us was a small bag of ice cubes. Better than nothing, but it won't keep the cool box contents cold for long...

We set off with the sails for Kho Pak Bia. We're not having much luck with the wind; there are gusts around the islands and nothing in between, very little wind during the day and quite strong wind at night ! We started off with a respectable 3.8 knots and after 15 minutes we were drifting with the current... So down came the sails and we started up the motor ! The beach on Koh Pak Bia crosses the island from SW to NE and is only 15 meters wide. It's a well known snorkelling spot, so we weren't alone - there were at least 40 other snorkelers on the beach. The coral was nearly all dead and there weren't many fish. It was nothing special. For the afternoon we headed to Ko Hong, another famous island with a beautiful bay on the SE for snorkelling and a big hong (lagoon) on the north side. We managed to sail most of the way - yippee, clocking up a maximum speed of 5.6 knots !! As a local restaurant is indicated to be on the bay, we planned to eat dinner there. However, we were disappointed to find only a drinks stall and an empty ranger's station, but lots of tourists on day-trips, plus another sail boat and a catamaran moored in the bay. The beach is lovely; fine white sands with a forest and limestone cliff backdrop. The wind of course picked up again and was strangely easterly so our little sail boat started to rock about quite a bit on its buoy. Rowing back to the boat will be fun with the choppy sea. Fingers crossed we'll be able to cook some pasta for dinner and get some sleep !

Jenny sailing the boat ! Koh Pak Bia

24 Jan: 6th day Chicken Island and Ao Nang

Have you ever wondered what is must be like to be a pairs of socks in a washing machine ? Our night in the sail boat must be about the closest you can get ! We were rocked and rolled all night, until about 1:00 in the morning when the waves calmed slightly and we were able to get a few hours sleep. E ven the portable toilet on the boat  was rocked off its base ! The Macgregor is like a cork tossing and turning on the waves; we watched the bigger sail boats and catamarans with envy as they rocked gently with the waves...

Next morning the wind and waves had dropped completely... The weather is teasing us...! We motored to the lagoon in Koh Hong and set off to explore it in the dinghy at 9:00 in the morning. It's only accessible at high tide, is between 2 0cm and 1 metre deep, has lots of limestone stalactites hanging off the sheer cliff walls, mangrove trees, beautiful blue birds, trees with huge hanging beans and even a couple of box fish.

We then set off for Chicken Island with the sails for the first 20 minutes, then by motor... We weren't alone. It's a popular day trip from Krabi by longtail boat. There were lots of large purple jellyfish washed up on the sands - probably victims of the rough sea during the night - which made the girls hysterical and there was no way of persuading them to swim... François enjoyed the snorkelling; the only coral reef he'd seen since the Similan Islands and the girls collected tiny shells on the beach - 1-5mm in size !!!

We anchored off Ao Nang, a small town. It took 12 minutes to row to shore - ouff ! We were able to buy bread, read our mails in a WIFI café, get some ice cubes and dine before retreating back to our boat for the night. The grown ups watched the film "The Island" on the Archos under the stars, with the lights of Ao Nang in the distance and the longtail boats motoring back and forth in the bay...

Exploring the lagoon in Ko Hong Krabi Chicken Head on Chicken Island

25 Jan: 7th day Koh Phi Phi

We left directly Ao Nang, direction the famous island of Koh Phi Phi. 17 nautical miles and we managed to sail almost all of the way. Yes ! We moored in the bay at the west tip of Ton Sai for a swim. We were surprised to see monkeys on the beach, Crab-eating macaques.  Because of  the monkeys the small beach was a stop off for longtail boat excursions from the village at Ton Sai Bay. The tourists came with bottles of fresh water and fruit to feed the monkeys and many left their plastic bottles lying on the golden sands.

Then we moved north to moor for the night on a buoy in Ton Sai Bay; a fairly crowded bay, full of speed boats, longtail boats, dive boats and only a few sail boats. We found a buoy close to the shore in 13 metres of water and set off to explore the village and stock up on water and ice. It took us a good 20 minutes going from mini-market to dive shop to supermarket to find somewhere that sells ice cubes. As an aside, if we ever hire a sail boat again, it'll have a fridge ! A cool box is not practical for a week's sailing...

The entire village has been rebuilt since the Tsunami of 26th December 2004. There are only low story hotels, shops, restaurants and bungalows, but everything was hastily rebuilt and a lot of the village looks more like a shanty town than a prime holiday destination...

Navigating to Koh Phi Phi

26 Jan: 8th day Koh Phi Phi Le and return to Koh Rang Yai

We set off for the small Phi Phi island of Koh Phi Phi Le. The 1999 blockbuster film "The Beach" was filmed in Maya Bay on the island. It's a spectacularly scenic lagoon, surrounded by soaring limestone cliffs and harbouring 3 sandy beaches. We didn't expect to be alone on the beach as it's a prime day trip destination, but we weren't quite prepared for the number of boats and tourists we encountered. The bay was almost completely taken over by speedboats on one side and longtail boats on the other with a small area in the middle reserved for swimming. We managed to moor out in the bay on a buoy with dive boats and small ferries for company. François' first reaction was to flee, but the scenery is so beautiful that we managed to persuade him to row to shore.

We weren't disappointed, the lagoon is beautiful. Clear, transparent turquoise waters with a stunning backdrop of soaring cliffs - we don't know if islands like this are unique to Thailand, but we certainly haven't seen such islands before. We carefully inspected the swimming waters for jellyfish and were relieved to see none. The girls once reassured , took to the waters and had a whale of a time. We walked via a path in the mangrove to Loh Samah bay on the south of the island and picnicked back on the beach in Maya Bay.

Then at 13:30 we left the Phi Phi islands direction Phuket to stay the night moored off Koh Rang Yai. A journey of 25 nautical miles with the motor, as there's no wind...

At the resort restaurant in the evening we were literally attacked by flying ants and had to hastily retreat from the beach setting. The Thai green curry that night was too hot for even Jenny, even though we'd requested not spicy ! 

In Maya Bay (Koh Phi Phi Le) Longtail boat in the bay

27 Jan: 9th day Koh Rang Yai

We sailed a bit around Koh Rang Yai in the morning, before returning back to the beach on Koh Rang Yai for a picnic lunch. Then back to the marina at high tide to meet Francis, the boat owner. Once the boat had been taken out of the water, inspected and left on the tarmac in it's cradle we headed off to the marina's pool for a much needed dip ! It took a good few hours to update our internet pages offline by the side of the pool - it takes quite a lot of time especially as the number of days had accumulated whilst we were sailing as we had had little access to the mains or the internet... Then we bought a WIFI access card and uploaded the pages on the net and checked our mails.

We spent the night on the sail boat on dry land. At least we won't get rocked and rolled tonight ! Francis will kindly pick us up at 8:15 tomorrow morning to take us to the airport.