Saturday, July 15, 2017

July 10 – The Holriques Meet Toy Boy

It was time to say goodbye to Bangtao. The driver picked us up at 9 am and as we were driving away I asked Ana when she thought we’d be back. She said she never imagined we would have returned so quickly after our previous visit.

Our idea for the trip was to spend a couple of days getting over the time difference before beginning our boat charter. So far, results have been mixed. Most of the crew has been having trouble sleeping through the night. In fact I think only Magnus and Stella are completely on track with their sleep. Angela has been living through Zombie Hour every night, starting at 1 am and the rest of us to a lesser extent. I have been doing quite well, better than last time I think. But still, it makes me wonder how all those people that do shift work, flipping back and forth between day and night shifts, manage to adjust to the hours. It is certainly not for me.

The man in the van drove us to the Tesco Lotus supermarket, which is just as large and well stocked as a Superstore or Loblaws back home. The ladies took the lead with the shopping list we constructed the night before, making adjustments as required. One cool item they found was this huge platter that contained all the ingredients needed for a stir fry – veggies, sauces, tofu, and even a bit of chicken, but not nearly enough to satisfy the standard meat content of a typical Canadian meal so we supplemented with a couple of bags of chicken pieces. While the ladies were doing that, Tony I went to scope out the alcohol section. With horror, we discovered that the entire section had been roped off, and there was a sign hanging there advising us that the Buddhist prohibition policy was indeed over, but they did not allow alcohol sales until 11 am. That meant an hour and a half to wait. We tried talking to a few staff to see if they could make an exception for clueless foreigners, but all they did was point to the sign. In the end, it didn’t really matter as the grocery shopping lasted until 10:30 anyway. But man, did we feel deprived, and I’m sure we looked real dumb too standing there in front of the roped-off booze with puppy dog eyes.

We loaded the supplies in the van, and the man in the van drove us to the marina. Along the way Magnus announced that our new team name was the “Holriques”, a combination of the family surnames. The suggestion was met with warm approval.

While the others began loading up the dock buggies I walked up to the Elite Yachting office, met with Mellissa whom we knew from our last charter, and got the paperwork and briefing done, alongside an English couple who were chartering a monohulled sailboat as part of their honeymoon. Tony and I then went down to the catamaran for a full review of the boat systems while the rest of the gang had lunch at the marina restaurant. By 2pm we were all on the boat and I was at the helm taking Toy Boy out of the marina and out to sea. It was quite a feeling being at the controls of such a magnificent vessel.

Toy Boy was a 40’ Lagoon catamaran, with four bedrooms, two full bathrooms with separate showers, an electricity generator, water maker, two refrigerators, bbq, range, oven, a dingy with outboard motor, a two-person sea kayak, and plenty of space, so we weren’t hurting for much. Mellissa had told us the owner of this boat was a fine looking Spanish lady, who couldn’t seem to find the right man in her life, though she went through plenty. She decided to buy a boat to fill this void in her life, hence the name.

We put out the sails shortly after leaving the marina and she sailed just fine, but it was going to take a while to get used to her and figure out all the boat systems. We sailed for about two hours to reach the north-east side of Ko Phanak, where Mellissa had told us we’d find an interesting cave. There were several tourist boats anchored just off the beach already, so we got anchored and then did two trips with the dingy to transport the crew to the beach. Using the flashlight we grabbed off the boat we entered the dark cave. We started making our way through the cave but the flashlight was either undercharged, or simply a piece of junk as it was hardly throwing any light. Fortunately there was a tourist group near us so we took advantage of their light and walked through, at least some of us did – the others got a little freaked out and headed back. As we shuffled through the darkness of the cave, the Thai guides that we met on their way out would whisper “Anaconda!” or “Crocodile!” as they pointed to the dark water ahead that we were wading through. That was more than sufficient to send Magnus scurrying for the entrance.

The cave was probably 50 metres in length, and at the end it opened up into an unbelievable hong, which is the name for the hollowed out centres of many of the islands here. Because we were at low tide it was completely drained of water, leaving a sandy surface that you could walk on. Looking up, you saw blue sky but it felt as if you were in the middle of a volcano shaft as the limestone walls shot straight up, perfectly vertical, with trees and plants clinging to their edges. It was beyond stunning, and got even more interesting when Ana spotted little walking fish slithering around in the muddy parts, amidst the crazy mangrove trees. It was nearly impossible to believe that within six hours there would be over seven feet of water filling the cave and hong. But that is indeed how ocean tides work.

We walked back through the cave with our junky flashlight and I managed to smash my head into one of the very low parts of the cave roof when I didn’t duck enough, drawing blood – the first of the trip I believe. As I was clutching my head, Angela, who was at the front of the pack, suddenly began frantically waving her hands around and screaming. Now when you are in a dark cave and once person starts screaming, you better believe everybody around them is sure to join in, so there we were screaming like a bunch of school girls, but not knowing exactly why. Someone shrieked, “What is it??”

Angela said, “A bat!” Well that didn’t do much to calm anybody down.

We made it back out to the beach alive and dingy’d back to the boat to grab a few iPhones flashlights, so that the rest of the group could go in and have a look. We kept the bat incident a secret so as not to scare them away from experiencing the beauty of the hong.

From here we sailed the mile and a half over to our first anchorage for the night – Hong Island. It is a stunning spot between two islands with the vertical rock walls shooting up, giving you the feeling you are completely enclosed. Most of us went for a swim, and the current was very strong due to the tide rushing out. Fortunately, there was a great deal of leftovers from lunch, so we ate those for dinner, saving ourselves having to prepare much of anything.

As darkness fell we went for another swim, but this time whenever one of us jumped in or splashed, the water would light up briefly with blue sparkles from the phosphorescents in the ocean, creating quite the show. Magnus also added to the effect by flashing his laser pointer on the vertical rock wall creating some interesting green patterns and making us guess the words he was writing on the rock with the pointer.

By 9 pm everybody was shattered, so we all headed off to our bunks and readied ourselves for our first night on the water.

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