Saturday, July 15, 2017

July 12 – Krabi and Chicken Islands

Last night there was all sorts of activity on Toy Boy. There were multiple downpours throughout the night, and each time the hatches had to be closed, and then reopened to get air blowing through the boat, so various crew members were up doing that. Angela was up at 1 am again doing the Zombie walk. We had left the kayak in the water tied to the boat, but it kept banging against the hull with the wind bursts and swell so Tony somehow managed to wrestled it up onto the deck all by himself without injury or falling into the ocean. At one point we heard a huge crash and Ana went up to the main salon to find that the convertible bed had collapsed when Tony tried to roll out and he ended up on the floor. I will admit that most of this information on the nocturnal drama is third hand as I am completely adjusted to the time difference and have been sleeping like a rock.

In the morning I looked to see where the tide was at and it appeared higher than yesterday, so I took the kayak by myself and paddled into the island to see if I could get into the hong. Fortunately, there was just enough water to float in, and what I found was magical. Although the hong was completely dry when we arrived yesterday, the tidal water was now gushing back into the space with zeal, but there was still plenty of sand exposed. I could see the water level slowly inching up and the exposed sand slowly disappearing. It was very quiet, except for the calls coming from the insects in the trees, which sounded like Cicada bugs. In the water I could see many fish, including a box fish that was cruising around on its own, perhaps lost and trying to figure out where it was. I didn’t have a camera, but it would not have been possible to capture that moment anyway, as everything within my current 36o degrees was astounding, and large, and had so much depth. At that moment I wished my family was there to enjoy it with me, but I also was happy to be alone and to greedily consume it all for myself.

I paddled back through the entrance against the tidal current and got a great workout. I returned to the boat and convinced Ana and Magnus to return with me, so we squeezed three into the two-person kayak and paddled in. By the time we arrived all of the previously exposed sand was underwater and it was continuing to fill. We saw thousands of minnows swimming around and sometimes leaping out of the water in unison, like synchronized swimmers, when they were spooked by the kayak. We got out of the kayak and walked around in the water, enjoying the soft, sandy bottom. I still could not believe that this huge area had been completely dry just an hour before this, and now it was full of fresh ocean water and thousands of fishes. After having a good look around we paddled back to the boat, but I would have yet a third trip into the hong as Mackenzie and Stella wanted to go so we grabbed our snorkeling gear, jumped in the dingy and motored back in. We had a nice swim in the hong until Stella spotted a jellyfish, which scared Mackenzie and he jumped back into the dingy. The kids have been petrified of jellyfish and have been avoiding the water when they see one, even though their parents have been swimming constantly with no issues. I don’t even know if the larger ones sting, but I will probably find out the first time I dive face first into one, then I can report back to the others. If it does, I’m sure I’ll still tell them they don’t sting, and find another explanation for my blotchy, red, irritated face.

We had breakfast and I was awarded with a half bowl of Stella’s uneaten, soggy cereal that she couldn’t finish. I can’t stand wasting food so I dutifully consumed it like a good, cheap dad. Once again the day was heating up so we untied from the mooring ball and set sail for Krabi, which is a popular tourist area on the mainland and as far east on Phang Nga Bay as you can go. The sail was nice at first, but the closer and closer we got to Krabi, which was taking the full force of the southwest winds, the rougher it got and we started getting some spew from the crew. During our boat briefing Mellissa had told us about a place we could anchor and then dingy into town, but it either wasn’t where she said it was, or we wrote down incorrect information, because we cruised the whole bay of Krabi looking for a place to get in or anchor but there was nothing but exposed, rough water. It would be a perfect anchorage in the northwest season, as it was a huge, sandy, beautiful bay, but at this time of year it was simply rough as hell. We used the binoculars to scan the shoreline and all I could see was large waves crashing in and the total absence of boats, which is always a sure sign you should not be going there. So as we were trying to decide what to do, things were getting pretty tense on the boat. The pukers wanted to get off and onto dry land and go and see something besides the inside of this boat. I just did not think it was safe to try and dingy in so I spoke with Tony and he agreed so we pulled up anchor and set a course for the nearby Chicken Islands, which would offer a nice, protected anchorage. There was a bit of unhappiness and complaining, but hey, that’s sailing folks; you have to roll with the punches and just consider the failures an integral part of the adventure.

The Chicken Islands were only about 6 miles away, making it an hour long ride so the crew settled in, and even started having a bit of fun when they realized that lying in the trampoline netting at the front of the boat would reward them with a giant refreshing splash each time we hammered through a large wave. Magnus was really starting to come back to life and the effects of the prior days food issues were clearly dissipating as he and Stella were goofing around, laughing, playing games and basically back to their usual selves. Stella always gets sad when her brother is sick or otherwise not around to entertain her, so it was such a relief to see them having fun again.

As we approached the islands we could see they were simply stunning – beautiful white sand beaches, a long stretch of coral, and dozens of tourist boats all packed in with snorkelers everywhere. We sailed to the most southern anchorage and got anchored just off the coral reef. It became clear where the name of the islands came from as a huge rock structure resembling a long chicken neck with a chicken head atop burst forth prominently from the far south end of the island. Every single crew member jumped in the water, happy to be off the boat and mesmerized by the clarity of the water. The change in water quality in this bay is incredible; in the north, the water is green and full of organic matter with very limited visibility. Once you move south, perhaps around Krabi, the water clears and changes to a beautiful aqua marine color with 50 feet of visibility. The snorkeling in this particular location was great, as there were plenty of fish and coral around, although most of the coral was completely dead, as it is in all of the busy, accessible snorkeling spots in this busy region where the tourist boats love throwing their anchors down right on top of the coral. Let me tell you folks, in the long run that coral is worth a lot more money to you alive than dead.

We ate some lunch on the boat and then a big dance party erupted on the back deck when Stella put some of her pop hits on the stereo. As we were standing around, having drinks, looking at the long line of boats anchored along the reef, enjoying the hot sun, cold drinks and great company, Ana announced, “This is just like Pottahawk! I can’t believe we travelled 36 hours to go to Pottahawk!”

“Sure, but this boat is way better,” I added. But she was right. Here we were on a boat, surrounded by friends, having fun, and enjoying life on a beautiful day in a stunning location. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, there is simply nothing better.

We spent hours doing just that. We took the dingy out past the tourist area and snorkeled around some coral that was actually alive. Ana spotted an octopus. We found some giant clams. Back on the boat we tossed bread in the water and raised an army of hundreds of little black and yellow fish. It was even funnier when we threw bread on Magnus and Mackenzie, who were snorkeling in the water, and watched them get swarmed. When we got tired of the water, we played some games on the deck table - cockroach poker, spoons, and heads up. By this time, everybody seemed to be feeling much better.

At some point we started getting hungry, so we prepared a simple meal of pasta and meat sauce that was well received by the crew. Noticing that the tourists were now all gone, and there was only us and one other boat remaining in the area, we decided it was time to go to the beach for a sundowner. We gathered some drinks and Tony, Angela, Ana, Magnus, Stella and I overloaded the dingy and headed to the beach. The tide was now extremely low, and we couldn’t find a good place to get into the beach. I ended up running the motor into a rock so we quickly pulled it up, and fortunately did not damage anything. From here we decided to try to walk into the beach, across the coral. As he was getting ready to pull up his shorts and jump into the water Magnus announced, “I have to warn you guys, I’m a little pasty above the knees!” We looked over to see him with the legs of his shorts yanked up to his groin, exposing his two brilliantly white, skinny upper quads. Everybody laughed uncontrollably.

Magnus and I made it to the beach, but the low tide made the walk difficult and the beach was a little smelly from all the exposed sea organisms. We were forced to call off the sundowner, but not before I snapped a few cool pictures of us walking across the rocks.

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