Redwings Round the World

Preparing for the King's Cup Regatta, Phuket, Thailand

30 November - 6 December 1997

30 November, Langkawi Malaysia to Phuket Thailand

Aaron - Writing this a two days late and given "today's" (i.e. Dec 2) lengthy entry, will just hit the main points for this today and this tomorrow (?). Left Langkawi reasonably on sked at 0800. The crew got up to help slip the lines and then retired again after a late night as I piloted the boat through Langkawi's many beautiful islands. We cruised by a couple of submarines - symbols of Malaysia's current account woes (what do they need subs for anyway - blowing away palm oil pirates?) and also came very close to a rock which barely broke the surface and was not on the chart - scary. At night we could have been toast and the depth sounder (which does actually work properly now) was reading 18 meters so it must have been a pinnacle. Leisurely cruise toward Phuket with wind building in afternoon to 15 to 20 true. Made great progress close and beam reaching at 6-7 knots. The wind was strong enough for us to sail most of the way.In the mid afternoon we encountered a squall just between the watch handover from Colleen to Kerry. For the first time we adequately prepared - all the "hatches battened down," junk put away, and the genoa furled for the expected strong wind.

1 December, Boat Lagoon, Phuket, Thailand

At 0900 arrived off entrance to Boat Lagoon, where we will be staying to get work done to the boat ahead of the regatta. Time to start motoring in - not. The engine, which has worked like a charm since the boat went back in, will not start. The starter motor starts to move, but won't fully crank. The batteries are fully loaded. The starter motor must be stuck Penny and I surmise. It had a similar problem on the way up from Singapore and we had it reconditioned in Hong Kong.

We called into the Boat Lagoon and Phil Hollywood the harbormaster agrees to come out and tow us in. Glad we didn't try it under sail or in the dark! The route twists and turns through a narrow channel for a couple of miles with the depth averaging only three to six meters even though it is high tide. Towards the end, we find ourselves winding through mangrove swamps and really wonder if perhaps we have been pirated and are being towed to a lair for stripping. Eventually, the gleaming towers and masts of the Boat Lagoon emerge out of the wilderness. There are hundreds of boats here! Wow - a real estate project in Thailand that actually worked and seems to be generating cash flow. What a surprise.

We are berthed at the end of dock "B", at the top of which are the engine and marine electronics fixit-guys shops. Very convenient. This place is nice and decent value at US$12 per night- post devaluation of course...

We get the starter motor out and test it directly on the battery - whirr - it works fine. Must be something else. A discussion with the local gurus reveals that we probably have water in the engine. Not good. I'm tired and will have a real expert come tomorrow to help get it sorted.

2 December, Boat Lagoon, Phuket, Thailand

Today was the worst day of the trip until it was rescued at about 1900.

0800 and the daily "mew mew - feed us feed us" chorus had commenced. But through the blur I hear only one voice and only Sybil comes to walk on me and mew in my face (she's also brought her favorite toy "mousie on a stick" with her in hopes that she can get some play time in before breakfast).

Colleen calls down: "Basil is gone and so is Big Buzzard". Big Buzzard was the boat tied up next to us and it had likely left at midnight to get the three meter tide. Basil was last spotted at about 2200 last night doing his jump on and explore the boats around us thing. He was probably on Buzzard when they left... Lets hope they are compassionate enough not to throw him overboard and we can track them down before they give him away.

No luck on the radio trying to contact Big Buzzard. Andy, who runs Phuket Marine Services and is helping us fix our engine (among other things), indicated that they were going to Ao Chalong (Chalong Beach) which is only about a twenty minute cab ride away. He also said he would call the delivery skipper who took the boat there and ask them about Basil. I was not too worried overall. I figured he was either on a boat somewhere around us or on Buzzard (which won the King's cup last year or the year before - perhaps Basil is tired of a mid-place-finishing cruising class ride) and felt reasonably confident we would recover him.

Time to get going on the engine. Andy arranged for a guy to come at about 1100. I watched as he ripped into the engine and popped one of the injectors out. "Now it should turn and we can see if any salt water has ingressed". Turn the key: "ahhhh" same result - won't turn. "oh.. big problem.. pistons all froze already". He takes the rest of the injectors out and is finally able to turn the crankshaft manually - salt water spurts out of the cylinders. Great. Major problem. He already has two other engines half apart on boats also hoping to participate in the King's Cup. He does not think he has time to do what appears to be a two day job for us and will probably involve fixing a leak in the salt water cooling system and or the anti-siphon on the exhaust. He suggested that I remove the heat exchange and exhaust manifold and bring them to his shop so they can check for leaks and, if they can "fix" whatever, they will return it and I can put the engine back together and perhaps make it to the starting line. After about two hours of straining over the engine (all of the bolts to the manifold are way in the back and barely reachable) I was able to get off all of the bolts I though I needed to remove it, but couldn't get it to budge. Andy came and took a look. He suggested that we just try to pump the water out, change the oil, get it running and try to fix the problem later. He suspects that the water has come in over time and or it was a bit of a one off as we sailed for a long time from Langkawi on starboard tack burying the exhaust while we intermittently ran the engine. Perhaps its just a slightly faulty anti-siphon lock on the exhaust and we can keep it running during the King's cup at least. I don't feel comfortable yet putting the engine back together and as help is here, someone else is supposedly coming at 0900 to help. Lets hope we can get it going and are not doing permanent damage to the machine. If we can't fix it soon, no King's Cup for us- boats are not allowed to race without auxiliary power..

While all this was going on, Colleen, Kerry and Laura were working hard cleaning up the inside and outside of the boat. They methodically went over all of the stainless steel with special cleaner trying to get rid of some of the rust that is already starting to creep back. We have not had much of an opportunity to hose the boat off with fresh water since we left Hong Kong and even a lot of the new fittings are starting to rust. They also picked up the "clean" laundry. Yes it was clean, but it was not dried! Hey, its a cleaning service, not a drying or folding service. Ok but.... The clothes were hung around the lifelines and dried quickly in the hot tropical sun (just before a major rain squall blew through).

With a break in the action on the engine front for me, I decided to go to Ao Chalong to try to locate Big Buzzard and hopefully Big Basil. A thirty minute mini-cab and long-tail boat ride later, I was idling up to her graceful white hull. I yelled out to a Thai guy (a deckhand I believe) who I was and that I was looking for a cat. He said there was no cat and I should call "Paul" who had sailed her down. He gave me the number. On return to the Boat Lagoon, I finally got ahold of Paul and he confirmed that there was not cat on board when the boat left last night. Various character references confirm that he is a good and honest guy and would not have chucked Basil over or lied about him being on board.

Sadness starts to set in. I've had 15 or so cats in my life (though all as a kid), but Basil and Sybil are the first that are 100% mine and that I am fully responsible for. I picked them out, brought them up, feed them 95% of the time and clean their box 100% of the time. Basil and I are particularly close. He really considers himself to be my cat (and me his human) and he gets a bit miffed when I give Sybil attention (though she is allowed to give it to anyone else). He frequently sleeps under my arm. Originally, I had "reserved" another kitten (Basil and Sibyl's brother) at the RSPCA when I picked them out, but when I returned to get them two days later, Basil was reaching his paw through the cage at me and mewing so I deiced to take him instead (he obviously decided to take me).

I can't imagine he has run off or far away. At least for the first night somewhere new, he usually sticks close by. I begin to accept that he is probably gone and probably fell in and somehow was unable to find a way back on the boat or dock. I made a bunch of signs with a photocopied picture of him to put around the pontoons in case anybody had spotted him but the "harbor master" would not let me put them up as it was against policy to hang signs around. I thought that was a bit heartless as it would only be for a day or so and there was obviously no commercial interest on my part. What I need to do is get some cute little girl to say she is my daughter and stand in front of the marina office holding the signs and claiming that they won't let her put them up to help find her kitty - that would get them to make an exception. I'm just not cute or pathetic enough I guess (though after reading this many will probably conclude I am pathetic)..... I was too down to do much else so I just walked up and down every dock calling him and all around the marina grounds. I bumped into two other marina cats prowling around (and even followed them to see if they would lead me to some key cat meeting place), but no Basil.

Sybil was acting weird. She was mewing and mewing a lot, but actually seemed very happy and was purring. She either does not know he is gone, is happy he is gone (moving her to dominant kitty slot), or is upset and trying to comfort herself and me. Or perhaps she knows he is not far and is telling me not to worry. She is probably just happy that its cooler today than yesterday and there has been no competition for food. However, two times she stood on her hind legs when she was on top of the dodger and sniffed in the direction of the shore mewing excitedly. Perhaps she smells Basil! I excitedly ran to shore and looked but no big white kitty.

As evening fell, I decided to take one last look around the docks for the day. Perhaps he will come out from wherever he is hiding, if he is still alive, when it gets dark as he will feel more secure. I give a loud "here kitty kitty" call to start my search and from behind me and across the water hear a yowling. It sound's like Basil's "I'm not too happy" yowl, but perhaps I'm just hoping its him. Its coming from the pontoons opposite us. Barefoot and barechested, I sprint to the end of our dock, over and down towards the sound. The yowling is still going on (with Sybil answering from our boat) when I get near the boat its coming from I give a quick call and Mr. Basil comes bounding down the Tanaya 55 he is hanging out on into my arms. I am so happy and relieved.

Back on the boat and after a quick mutual bum sniff with Sybil, he is heavy into the food dish. Five minuets later, he's back off the boat and looking back down the dock. I guess he just went roaming and could not locate the right dock. We've got to get collars for them at least with the name of the boat engraved on them so people will know they are pets and where to dump them if they get separated. I'm worried he'll go missing again, but it would be too much of a pain and unfair I think to keep them locked in the cabin all the time.

3 December, Boat Lagoon, Phuket, Thailand

Colleen- We awoke with Basil again AWOL. Yesterday was just too much of an emotional rollercoaster for us too keep getting upset over him. I volunteered to start coffee and breakfast if Aaron would go roam the docks for him (Basil responds best to Aaron's particular intonation of "kitty, kitty, kitty" perfected for dinnertime calls. We did find him - in the same place again.

Our newest "mechanic imposter", Korn arrived promptly at 9:00am. After about an hour or so he had our engine completely apart and concluded that the manifold "might" have a crack letting in water, but that he was far too busy to do another minute of work on it! He told Aaron to remove the part, bring it in for "testing" and put the engine back together!Meanwhile. The interior of the engine is still completely full of water he made no actions towards removing. Even the greenest diesel buff will profess how salt water kept in an engine for even just a couple days is one of the few traumas that can actually destroy one's engine. Replacement would be over $20,000 US all in!

Now poor Aaron is coming up the engine learning curve pretty fast, but the day's work was just too daunting and disturbing- rebuild the engine, and don't worry about the salt water sitting there? He made a go of it though, while the boat slaves, Kerry, Laura, and myself, toiled on deck in the blazing noon sun for hours retying the bottom of the lifeline netting. Don't ask... Aaron came out confused after a couple hours, feeling it couldn't be the manifold because the exhaust was totally full of water and suspected that water just came in that way. He wandered down the dock and literally asked the first couple guys hanging out on a nearby boat if they "knew anything about diesel engines?"

This is where our luck started to change. One of the guys is an Australian boat mechanic on holiday, the other is a local professional "boat fixer". Guys being guys they couldn't resist the opportunity to display their superior knowledge and feel macho. They sent Aaron off with suggestions. Aaron returned to the guys with an update not too much later and the next thing you know they agreed to take "five minutes" to come see the engine and help. When Aaron brought these two Australians to the boat, I was surprised to recognize one of them that I had witnessed in a barroom brawl in Langkawai! The local boat fixer - Stuart. Oddly he looks strikingly similar to the crocodile Dundee actor (really!), but of course considerably much scruffier... He seemed pleased to be led to the legendary boat "Redwings" -home of all women crew- that he said he remembered from Malaysia! He asked my name after looking at the engine, and never even cared to ask Aaron's. The men got deeper and deeper into the engine and started muttering about needing "cold beer" to keep working. We quickly dispatched Laura and Kerry to the grocery store, and Aaron suggested I hang around to "help out" and keep the workers company?

Well miracles do happen. Two hours later our neighbors were in the cockpit guzzling beer and the engine was purring along. They both spoke with horror at the thought of any "mechanic" having left it in the state it was clogged with salt water and taken apart. Stuart claimed he'd "never talk to us again" if we let those bastards near our engine again because they'd ruin it (in fact to add insult to injury they had completely misdiagnosed it and we would have been stuffed had we followed Korn's directions). We agreed to actually employ Stuart after the King's cup to help with further repairs of engine and other nature...

4 December, Boat Lagoon, Phuket, Thailand

Laura- The Harbor Master showed up at Redwings first thing this morning looking for Aaron to tell him that the boat wouldn't be taken out of the water today as planned for bottom scrubbing and prop changing. Funny thing, Aaron was off looking for the Harbor Master to find out what time we'd be getting out of the water. With a few idle moments on his hands, the Harbor Master gave Sybil a scratch behind the ears, which was surprising since he was not particularly helpful during the desperate hours Basil was on the lam. But then again, a man who works out to Frank Sinatra must be full of surprises. (We found this out when Colleen did a little spying around the yacht club's weight room).

Anyway, before the tea water boiled, it was decided we would have to wait until Friday to go up on the hard. Oops, not so fast. Looks like this afternoon at 3 p.m. Wait, take that back, it's up on Saturday morning and back in the water Saturday afternoon. Tea is ready.

I took the tea to go as Kerry and I had planned for a day away from the Boat Lagoon. So, we toddled off down the road armed with a Thai phrase book, a map and a bus schedule. We got as far as our favorite grocery store and had to buy yogurt shake drinks and water. Gets hot.

Once on the main road I showed the bus schedule, which is conveniently written in Thai and English, to the woman who sells flowers from the roadside stand and she reassured me that the bus we wanted would pass by. Then it was just a matter of making sure we flagged down the right bus, which calls for quick eyes to decipher the Thai alphabet as the bus flies by. Fortunately the flower woman helped out and we must have had "We're tourists headed for the beach so please stop and pick us up and be patient while we figure out how much to pay because even though we use the same numbers on our coins we're still just a little bit confused thank you." The bus stopped and we got on.

The ride to Kanamara beach took about half an hour. Every seat on the bus has a great view of the surrounding countryside since it really is a truck bed with benches in it and a cover overhead. A few times, the spicy smells from people's kitchen's wafted in and made our eyes water, although not as intensely as had a pot of soup at the next table at dinner the night before. So we zipped along and finally, with the kind help of some other passengers, got dropped of at the right beach.

Really, it was quite typical of tropical paradise. Very few people, a couple of nice local doggies sniffing about, tall trees offering shade, clear warm, blue water and a long stretch of white sand. What more could we want? Well, snorkeling of course. After a swim, a read, and a walk, we had exhausted the beach's possibilities and we hit the road on foot.

By this time, it was pretty dang hot and we walked about a mile up a steep winding paved road that ran along the sea. We were the only ones on foot and got some shouts of encouragement and several thumbs up from the locals for actually using our legs. The trek landed us at Leng Seng, a smaller and more crowded beach. We opted not to rent beach chairs and sprawled out in the sand to people watch. Kerry snorkeled way out along some rocks and came back with a report of having seen a school of Dorado, among other fish. I then took a quick turn, but got wimpy about being out there alone and came back to the shallows pretty soon. We had lunch at a joint on the beach and then hit the trail again. Walking on a path up to the road, I began to wonder if there are snakes in Phuket. I looked up and there was my answer: three boys carrying a large boa constrictor were coming down the path in the opposite direction. The snake looked pretty mellow and they offered to let it pose with us for a picture, but we declined and gave them wide berth.

This time, our walking landed us at Surin beach, which had lots of room and sand and was similar to Kalamara. Kerry took off to snorkel again while I watched the bags and read. Pretty soon the obligatory afternoon raindrops were coming down. I made a dash for a small eatery under some trees at the edge of the beach and snagged a table with an umbrella just in time to keep out of one of the hardest rainstorms I have ever seen. Even under the umbrella, we got pretty soaked and cold. The Italians at the table next to us stood up on the benches to keep dry and tried to make an arrangement of several umbrellas that only succeeded in dumping water on their table. One man kept his dead cigarette in his mouth while he stood on his bench for the entire storm. Once he started to sing in Italian, but then stopped to my disappointment. Meanwhile, the clear ocean turned a muddy brown as silt ran off the land with the rain.

Once the rain let up, we hit the highway again and walked for a mile or so in search of a bus until we gave up and took a cab back to the Boat Lagoon. For the first time since I have been here, I was freezing so we hit the sauna and had a couple of the few beers the thirsty mechanics had overlooked the day before. Honestly, I'm not sure how they drank as much Carlsberg as they did since the stuff is like old fizzy dishwater.

Back on the boat awaited a bit of a surprise. Basil was sporting quite a spiffy new red collar. He actually looked a bit stiff, like a boy who isn't used to wearing a necktie. Aaron confessed the collar is actually a trimmed down dog collar. A closer inspection revealed that the collar has little metal studs, which led to some jokes about Basil's newfound interests. What the collar will do for bad old Basil, I'm not exactly sure. If someone put that thing on me I'd definitely run away. I guess the theory is to clearly mark him as someone's pet in case he goes astray. Sybil, who is is the model of good cat behavior, has no collar.

Aaron and Colleen spent a few hours in Phuket Town today trying to make sense of BankBoston, which professes to be a bank, but apparently isn't since it doesn't let it's customers actually do their banking. Multiple phone calls to BankBoston have revealed that efforts to protect customers from fraud means that it is very difficult (if not impossible) for a customer travelling in Asia to actually get their own money. We're considering selling Redwings crew autographs to scrounge up some cash...Just kidding of course.

5 December, Boat Lagoon, Phuket, Thailand

Aaron - A rather uneventful day, but we made good progress at preparing for the regatta. The morning was spent catching up on e-mail and generally cleaning while we waited for the tide to rise a bit ahead of our bit "weight offloading exercise" scheduled for the afternoon. I also worked on installing the line-organizer bags in the cockpit while Kerry and Laura patched up the Redwings name decal on the side of the hull which had been damaged by the travel lift in Hong Kong.

As the tide peaked (and angle up the ramp to the shore lessened) we started to off load weight. Hey, we are getting serious here! We dumped the following: liferaft, spare ground tackle, dodger and bimini, storm sails and staysail, dive tank compressor, bags of ropes, boxes of paints, solar panels, and the wind generator. All in, probably about a ton of weight our about 5% of our total - hey, it won't make a huge difference, but it will make a difference.

Overall, the offloading went smoother than I had expected. We are really lucky to find a good storage space. All of the "official" lockers and areas here at the Boat Lagoon are full. However, I asked a guy "Mario" who runs a time share business called Global Vacation Club if we could use a corner of one of his partially unused offices to dump some stuff and he said ok - for free! So we'll give him a plug here: if you want to buy a time share condo, no better place than Global Vacation Club at the Boat Lagoon. As we were loading stuff in, Mario and his colleague whose name I forget were mesmerized by the "crew" - their charms are worth a lot. Then another colleague Luigi (yes these guys are all Italian) popped in and it turns out he had already tried to "pick up" (offered a ride - don't read anything else into this) Kerry and Laura. We've offered for them to sail with us on Monday if they can make it to Phi Phi Island.

Tomorrow we are due to come out of the water at about 1400, put the two blade prop on and pressure wash the hull, go back in at 1500 (high tide), and split this joint for Nai Harn Bay which is on the Southeastern tip of the island. There we will drop our anchor (which will serve as a mooring during the racing - we won't carry it with us) and hopefully get rid of our dingy and outboard, as well as second spinnaker pole, on Sulawesi - Eddie's boat.

6 December, Boat Lagoon, Phuket, Thailand

Kerry - It is well past our original departure time of "1500." Basil's new persona, now you see me now you don't for 24 hours, not only throws Aaron and Colleen into the depths of despair, but throws us all over the edge as today it meant delaying our departure until the next high tide, 3:00 am. Aaron's theory was that Basil would return in the dark, being too afraid to come out from wherever he was hiding during the day, and his prediction was correct - he showed up at 2000 again on Free Spirit (he answered a "here kitty kitty call with his yowls which helped Aaron and Colleen home in on him) which is slipped at the end of the dock parallel to ours.

Aside from the disappearing cat tricks, Laura suffered all day from food poisoning, and so the delay worked out for the best. It seems the worst is over, and an Australian nurse, Judy, on the dock next to us was very kind to check in and help out as well. So, the day was not what anyone of us expected, though we did succeed in getting the boat of the water. This was a tense time, as the marine workers wanted us to back into a spot where not one of us thought we could - so they took matters into their own hands, and sort of wedged us in by pulling the boat with various lines. It seemed we could be stuck if a couple of inches or two were off, but all went well and Redwings came out of the water 15 minutes later.

Unfortunately for us, 15 minutes later was lunch-time, so we waited an hour for the commencement of the high-pressure wash which cleaned the bottom of various bits of algae and will supposedly make us a nanosecond faster around the King's Cup race courses. After that job was done, Aaron and I changed the prop from the three blade to a two blade which should help us streamline the boat for the race, and should ensure one of the top spots in the finish (we hope). We will probably head straight to Phi-Phi at this point since Eddie is probably not prepared for such an early morning visit from Redwings in Nai Harn Bay where we had hoped to dump additional stuff (dingy etc) on Sulawesi. The rest of our crew is awaiting us in Phi-Phi as well, and we need to make contact with them sooner rather than later. We are all eager to ask of Penny how she felt while being away from us in Krabi, and assuredly the answer will be that she missed us though it was a good experience and it afforded her time to think about many of life's unanswered questions.

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