Saturday, August 23, 2014

Wednesday, August 20th – Ko Yao Yai to Yacht Haven Marina, Thailand

Ten years ago this day was the day of Magnus’s birth and we were given strict instructions by Stella to get up at five in the morning to hang the Happy Birthday sign she had made for him with paper, tape and pencil, so that it would be there when he woke up.  She also constructed Happy Birthday table settings on the sly and wanted us to set those up, and to also make sure we inflated the balloons and sticky taped them all over the boat.  She had purchased a birthday card for him, bought him a present, and hidden it underneath her pillow so that he wouldn’t find it.  I feel sorry for any future love interest of Magnus’s, as she is undoubtedly going to have to gain Stella’s seal of approval before being allowed near him.  She takes such good care of her big brother.

My magical, internal clock woke me up at precisely 5am so I went out to the back of the boat for a morning pee and, while I was relieving myself, looked over the starboard pontoon and noticed a strange, large oval shaped thing in the water, with little phosphorescents flashing around it.  I actually rubbed my eyes to make sure I wasn’t seeing things, but it was still there.  I heard some movement inside the boat so went back in and found Ana awake, so I called her out to have a look at it.  She came out and we both stood there looking at it, trying to figure out what the hell it was.  Perhaps a big fish or shark?   But because it wasn’t moving that seemed unlikely.  Maybe a jellyfish?  She returned inside to use the bathroom and I went to grab a flashlight.  I brought it outside, turned it on and shined it at the creature.  The moment I did that, it disappeared!  What the hell?  I turned the light off and it suddenly reappeared.  I was standing there dumbfounded when I heard Ana say, “I think I know what the creature is, let me know if it disappears in a second.”  So I watched, and it disappeared.

“It’s gone!” I said.  Then the creature reappeared and I exclaimed, “It’s back!”

Ana appeared on the deck of the boat and said, “It’s a reflection from the bathroom light coming out the oval shaped window on the starboard pontoon.”  Well, at least it wasn’t a monster.

Despite our better judgment, we went back to sleep and were woken out of our grog at 8 am by both the kids.  Magnus was thrilled with his birthday surprise and very, very excited to be ten years old.  After we ate a breakfast of French toast and scrambled eggs, Magnus opened up his presents.  He ripped open Stella’s present first and immediately loved the Wolverine keychain she had carefully chosen for him.  Though he initially wanted to save our present for after lunch, his curiosity got the best of him and he pulled off the tinfoil wrapping paper (it’s the best we could come up with) to reveal the foam nunchuks I bought back in Patong from the weapons vendor.  The spirit of Bruce Lee immediately possessed him, but then I realized it was actually the spirit of Nacho Libre as I watched him twirl the nunchuks furiously then swing one at high speed directly into his crotch, doubling him over in glorious birthday pain.

To be honest, we hadn’t planned much for his birthday.  We actually had quite a bit of water to cover this day as we had to be back in the marina in time to gas up the boat.  As we sat in the cockpit, drinking coffee and watching the numerous jellyfish float by, Ana noticed something walking on the beach.  We weren’t sure exactly what it was, so she grabbed the binoculars and said it was wild monkeys!  We each took a turn with the binoculars and watched at least a dozen monkeys walking around on the rocks, swinging in the trees, and poking around in the sand.  It was quite exciting seeing monkeys in the wild, and a much different experience than the stage monkeys we saw through the crowds on Monkey Beach in Phi Phi.  We decided to go on a dingy mission to see if we could get close so hopped in the dingy and paddled over, trying to be as quiet as possible.  We got quite close to shore, close enough to see there were actually at least 20 or 30 of them, including babies, but as soon as the kids hurled the bananas they brought along the monkeys got spooked and climbed into the safety of the trees.  We paddled around for a while, hoping they would come back down for the bananas, but they remained wary of us, so we fired up the dingy motor and cruised over to the secluded beach.

A secluded beach anywhere in the world has everything you need for hours of entertainment.  We walked up and down the shoreline watching crabs scurrying around, collecting coral pieces and rocks, digging in the sand, finding sea glass, throwing rocks into the ocean, splashing, writing messages in the sand with sticks, finding circular shells and skipping them across the water.  We went for a long swim and floated around in the ocean.  We climbed the nearby rocks and explored the gaps, cracks, crevices, crannies and fissures, finding all sorts of creatures and objects of interest.  We snapped dried twigs from the trees and stuck them in the sand for fun.  The grand finale was a dozen rounds of hermit crab racing with Toddy’s gigantor hermit crab (the largest we’ve found yet) winning every round.  We also found the tiniest little hermit crab, who didn’t win any races, but sure put in a good effort.

Really, there was no reason to leave.  But since we still had a fair sail ahead of us we reluctantly got back into the dingy, motored back to Happy Eva, pulled anchor, said goodbye to our final anchorage and headed south around the island then northwest towards the island of Koh Naka Yai, which would be our last stop before the final run to the marina.

We sailed past the small island of Koh Khai Nai, which was packed full of tourist speedboats, people on beach chairs and had Sea Doos skimming across the water in every direction.  The island itself was little more than a giant beach with just enough land for a small grove of trees and a resort, and we read in the pilot guide that this was a very popular stopover for all the tourist boats doing tours in the area.  At this point in the trip, we just weren’t into being around a bunch of people again, so we cruised on by and continued up past another island called Koh Lipi, then turned towards our target.  Ahead we could see a big storm blowing in, but we sailed on and soon found ourselves in it.  It wasn’t as severe as the storm the previous day, but it did pack a fair bit of wind, rain and we watched the temperature again drop six degrees in a matter of minutes.

We reached the sheltered anchorage just off the huge beach on the east side of Koh Khai Nai, and dropped anchor, not far from a majestic 80 foot sailboat which was similarly waiting out the storm.  Ana had been working on lunch as we sailed so we sat down and enjoyed a nice meal of pasta and sandwiches as we waited for the storm to pass.

Though we had planned to do a bit of snorkeling at this spot, by the time the storm had cleared, it really didn’t leave us a lot of time to get back to the marina, and we were not sure exactly how long it would cover the remaining 13 miles, so we agreed to haul anchor and motor back.  The kids weren’t too disappointed as Magnus was keeping himself very busy swinging his new nunchuks around and Stella was busy with her books and iPhone.  Also, once we were underway I gave the controls to Toddy and went inside the salon to play several games of cards with the kids.

Before we knew it we had reached the marina.  As this was my first time docking a catamaran I was decidedly a little nervous, especially as there was a strong breeze and a slight current.  I motored slowly up to the gas dock, eased up on the engines, and glided in, the only problem being that we hadn’t lowered one of the fenders enough so we touched the dock a bit, but there were two staff there to push off the boat so no harm done.  The Happy Eva drank up only a hundred bucks worth of diesel, and the dingy took about twenty bucks worth of gas so we were pleasantly surprised, as we had done quite a bit of motoring during the previous five days.

One of the marina staff then directed us to follow him in his dingy to our assigned slip, which was the same one we left from – a difficult corner slip where you had to squeeze in tightly between two other catamarans.  But I was ready.  I felt I had done enough close quarter motoring to have a pretty good feel for the boat, and I already knew what the wind and current were doing from the gas dock.  So I motored in through the main channel, which was a bit of a tight squeeze in itself, and made it to the area where our slip was.  I approached slowly, then as we were getting close, I rotated the boat a bit, then reversed a bit, then when we were twenty feet from the dock, I cut the engines completely, hoping the wind would slowly and gently slide us into the slip.  And it did!  Ana even complimented me on a perfect docking, and said it was a sign that we are definitely destined to own a catamaran one day.

After the marina staff tied us up and we all had a chance to freshen up a bit, we took the birthday boy to the marina parking lot so he could do some serious nunchuk training.  He was scared of doing it on the dock as he feared he might accidently launch them into the lake on a miscalculated move.  So the big kids all grabbed a drink and we followed him out there.  I showed him a couple moves I remembered from the old Bruce Lee movies, including the one where he slowly removes the nunchuks from the back of his pants, holds them in front of himself, looks at his opponents, and then strikes a menacing pose, before proceeding to beat the crap out of everybody in the room (I didn’t show him how to do that part).  Magnus and Stella took turns striking poses and practicing their moves while we enjoyed a most memorable happy hour.  Toddy even took a turn with the nunchuks, but deployed such speed and force that one of the foam handles flew off and landed in the bush.  Magnus re-assembled the weapon and banned Toddy from future training.

We scraped up all the remaining food we had onboard and wound up with just enough for a delicious, final meal.  As for alcohol, we were left with four tall cans and enough wine for dinner so we had paced ourselves perfectly.  Ana even had dessert – three packs of Euro cakes, which were these delicious sponge cakes with cream filling inside, sort of like a Twinkie.  But I wasn’t quick enough – by the time I thought to eat one, Toddy had already devoured them and all that remained were three ripped up foil packages lying in the cockpit.  After dessert we sat in the cockpit, talked about the trip and reminisced about all the other countries where Ana, Todd and I have met up in over the years, which included England, Canada, Bahamas, Spain, Netherlands and Portugal (several times!)  Stella and Magnus were there and they started developing a plan to meet up with all the Olson cousins sometime in the future.  Stella even started putting a budget together and estimated that each of the cousins would need four grand to ensure a sufficiently lavish adventure.  So I guess they all better start saving.

For the first time, I was the last one up on the boat.  The marina was so incredibly quiet on this, our final night on Happy Eva.  The wind had died completely so when I peered over the side of the boat I could see the reflection of the marina lights in the water.  The temperature was perfect, there were no bugs and even the stars and moon were out.  I sat there enjoying the quiet, which was broken only once, by a South African sailor (seemingly the only other person in the marina) who stopped by for a quick chat and told me of some of his adventures him and his partner had experienced thus far in their voyage around the world.

I called it a night and went to bed, happy in the knowledge that we had successfully navigated this magnificent vessel around the stunning waters of Thailand.  I hoped to return here someday.

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