Saturday, July 15, 2017

July 13 – Phi Phi Island

Last night there was a terrific lightning strike that hit something very close to us. The resulting thunder rattled the boat and must have woken everybody up, at least for a few seconds. After first light, I went out onto the deck of the boat to see if the lightning had blasted the head off the rock chicken, but there it stood, craned neck and head fully intact.

We started breakfast early and Ana sliced into this delicious looking papaya only to find that it was the wrong colour inside and wasn’t actually a papaya. I tried a piece of the white flesh and found it to be quite tasteless, but with an excellent crunch, so we decided to save it and use it later in a pasta salad. I also cooked half of the bacon, or rather pork bellies, we bought but it didn’t come out with the bacon colour you would expect – instead it was rather greyish but still tasted pretty good, although I’m the only one who ate more than half a piece of it.

Because it was a longer sail to Ko Phi Phi island – our target for the day, we got on the water early, and it was damn hot outside. We sailed for a few hours and then stopped and anchored at the Bamboo Islands, just a few miles north of Phi Phi, for a cool down swim and to do some snorkeling. The water here was incredibly clear, incredibly blue and unbelievably warm. The only problem was that there were legions of little jellyfish floating around, so pretty much everybody got stung a little bit, which of course freaked out the kiddies. The only thing of interest I saw while snorkeling was a little stingray, flying around on the sandy bottom.

Toy Boy continued sailing south and worked our way all the way down the east coast of Phi Phi, passing several lovely beaches and dozens of tourist boats. We took the opportunity to crack out the mini cigars I had picked up at the Manila airport and Tony, Angela and I sat on the pontoon aft steps with feet dangling in the water and puffed away. Although I don’t often like flavoured cigars, these were slightly vanilla tinted and excellent.

We reached the south end of the island and turned to enter Ton Sai bay, a place for which we have unfond anchoring memories. This is an extremely busy bay, full of Thai longboats, dive boats, huge ferry boats, barges, snorkelers, dingys, paddleboarders, and every other sort of floatable water craft you could imagine. We had noticed our water supply running dangerously low so we needed to get water, and we knew there was a place to do that here, but weren’t sure where it was. We motored right into the chaos near the main terminal and yelled over at this salty old sailor dude sitting on the back of his sailboat, and asked him where to get water. He pointed to a flimsy, floating dock and yelled, “Pontoon!” I slowly maneuvered Toy Boy close to the floating dock but just couldn’t believe this was the place to get water, because the dock was not connected to the shoreline. I decided to try anyway so we pulled up slowly and Tony jumped off onto the black dock, which was scorching hot, and I think he left a couple footprints of skin where he landed. While he was doing his hotfoot dance I screamed for somebody to grab him some shoes, and Stella managed to find mine which we threw down to him, relieving him of the misery, but depriving us of the comedy of his funny foot pain dance. I hope somebody got a video of that. As we were tying up the boat, sure enough a little Thai man appeared with a water hose and a paddleboard and paddled out to the floating dock, where he handed me the hose and asked us to hand him 1500 baht, which is about sixty bucks for a water fill. Seemed a bit steep, but when you have no other options, supply side rules. We did have a water maker on the boat, but either it wasn’t working very well or perhaps the captain neglected to brief the crew on the importance of conserving water on a sailboat.

We pulled away and navigated though a mess of boats, looking for a decent spot to anchor. The entire area was filled with private mooring balls owned by the tourist boat companies so we had to go way out to find a place where a few other private vessels had anchored. Ana and I had a brief domestic dispute about where to anchor, which is normal as anchoring is the greatest test of a marriage. If you can successfully anchor a sailboat with your wife, without any violence, four letter words or murder threats, then your marriage is ROCK SOLID.

After getting the anchor set and boat secured I did two dingy runs to get everybody ashore. Both Magnus and Tony nearly dumped it while transferring from boat to dingy, but they somehow clung on and made it. We pulled the dingy up on the beach as far as we could and then locked it to a big thick rope that was protruding from the sand, which looked secure.

Our first stop was the first place with full AC which happened to be a Quick-E-Mart or however you spell it. Well that AC was pure nut-numbing, nipple-protruding joy and the whole crew browsed through that convenience store at half speed or less to prolong the chilly experience. We bought a few drinks and ice creams and were on our way, feeling very refreshed.

The next stop was for lunch, and we found a place that looked decent so we requested a table for eight and sat down and perused the menu. This was our first (and, as it happens, last) meal outside of the boat so it was quite the novelty. Tony and I ordered up large Chang beers to start and they came out in two giant bottles. We poured half the beer into our large, frozen mugs and had a sip. After the sip, we looked at each other in utter shock. We simultaneously agreed in an immediate, non-verbal way that this could indeed be the coldest and most delicious beer we’d ever consumed in our lives. That Chang beer was so cold, it seemed impossible that it was not frozen, and our faces were similarly frozen with delight.

We were not the only ones delighted with the restaurant. The server immediately offered up the wifi password, and shortly after that everybody’s head was down, eyes glued on phones, except for Tony, me and Magnus, who was wishing he had brought his phone.

The lunch was okay, but after the magical beers and free wifi, they could simply do no wrong. Our next move was to split up, Scooby-Doo style. Half went shopping while Stella, Tony, Angela and I went for manicures and foot massages and let me tell you, those shoppers made a bad choice. For 400 baht Stella got a full manicure and I got a foot and leg rub, and we both had genuine Thai ladyboys taking care of us, which made it extra special.

After the afternoon massage we walked back to the Quick-E-Mart and picked up ice and more water, met up with the others, and then launched the dingy and headed back to the boat. The water was calmer now and most of the tourist boats had gone out for the day, making for a much less perilous experience. We pulled anchor and motored a short way over to Monkey Beach and picked up a mooring ball. Since I had visited this place the last time we were here, I opted to stay on the boat in case the owner of the mooring returned and wanted it back. The rest of the gang piled into the dingy and the kayak and went in to see the monkeys. This particular beach has a troupe of monkeys that basically live off all the food that the tourists and tourist boat operators feed to them, but this has made them rather unpredictable and aggressive. I started cleaning up the boat and was thinking of doing some reading but in no time they were on their way back. Seems the monkey visit didn’t go particularly well. As they reached the beach the monkeys jumped on the kayak and dingy, expecting handouts, but finding none. Of course Magnus had shoved a banana in his pocket so they could probably smell that. From what they told me, the visit ended with Ana hitting one of the monkeys in the face with a paddle to get him off the boat, which seemed to work. Please tell me somebody got a video of that.

Satisfied with our short visit to Phi Phi, we motored back around to the east side of the island and got hit with a ripper of a storm that came out of nowhere. We did have time to close all the hatches and windows before getting hammered with rain, but I noticed that somewhere along the way our wind and depth gauges and autopilot had stopped working. We continued sailing slowly until we reached a beach with a place called Relax Beach Bar, which Mellissa the charter operator had told us about. The original plan was to dingy in for sundowner drinks, but the storm didn’t relent and instead we had a perfectly fine sundowner on the back of Toy Boy, complete with fresh, stove popped popcorn.

We made a big dinner of grilled pork tenderloin, Asian stir fry, rice, corn, and plenty of white wine. I’ve always found that food just tastes so good on boats. And everybody was now feeling good and able to enjoy the meal. The kids actually got into a great conversation about their elementary school, as Mackenzie and Maddy had gone to the same one as our kids. The kids really hadn’t yet connected much this trip, so we were very happy to see that. While they were laughing and telling stories on the back deck the adult folks sat inside and had our own enjoyable conversation, focusing in on germs and how germophobes probably wouldn’t enjoy this boat trip much, due to the pervasive sharing, communal everything, community masks and snorkels and, best of all, the electric flush toilets that eject the bowl contents directly into the ocean, strangely, right by the swim ladder. Fortunately, throughout this trip none of us were in the water when the “brown clouds” appeared, but I sure enjoyed the idea of inviting a germophobe boatmate to go for a little swim right before I was heading down for a deuce.

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