Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Phuket ongoing

Hi to all,
So much has happened since our last blog early in December.
The refrigeration problems have been cured (touch wood) and the heat exchanger has been a work in progress. Firstly they appeared to be trying to find a pressure cap to fit but when that seemed too difficult another approach was tried. This involved modifying the top of the heat exchanger to fit the best cap and finally we have something that works.
Then we had an out of the blue surprise when we received an email from a long lost cousin of Jim's (Russell), who lives on the Gold Coast, Queensland. It turned out that he had been staying at a resort at the south end of the island and it was suggested that we meet for lunch in Phuket Town and this we duly did at a renowned Thai restaurant. We had a great catchup with Russell and his wife Carol who we hadn't met until then. They had a car and a driver who waited for them while we had lunch whereas we had hired a car from the marina - about 50 kms to the north!
We were still chasing our windlass switch from Octopus Electrical at Boat Lagoon and had been having fruitless conversations with Mick there. It should have been taking only a week at the most to get here but no sign yet. Boat lagoon is quite a marine complex but we have found that AME Chandlery is the only game in town there. Everything in Phuket is outrageously priced but AME at least has what you want. Anyway, we now understand that the switch is finally in Bangkok and should be here in 3 or 4 day's time.
We had a great Christmas lunch at the Haven Restaurant here at the marina with a buffet Thai lunch. So much food we could hardly stagger out of the place! We enjoyed being with Nick and Erica of "Jepeda IV" who are now on their way to the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal. New Year was very quiet by comparison. There are 4 good restaurants here - a cafe in the marina itself, Haven, Coconuts and Mommas and Poppas. We favour Coconuts because it is relatively inexpensive (av. 150 Baht - NZD6 - for a main course) and because they speak English - and the food is great. The language ability is important for Jean so that she can establish that they don't use the dreaded MSG (Monosodium Glutamate)which causes her so much distress and discomfort. It's endemic in Thailand and we have no idea why, as their food is so well endowed with natural flavours in any case. Why would they use a poison like MSG as a flavour enhancer? We can't fathom it.
We've hired a car on a number of occasions at 1000 Baht per day and have been discovering Phuket slowly but surely as well as shopping for provisions at Makro and Tesco. The former more for cheaper bulk items and the latter for more discerning items such as Carr's watercrackers from the UK!! Alcohol is ludicrously expensive, except that we have found 100 Pipers Scotch at 549 Baht for a 1 litre bottle - NZD22. You can't buy alcohol between 1400 and 1700 - absolute nonsense but it appears to be the Thai way of curbing alcohol consumption. In many instances logic and Thainess are oxymorons!! Finding one's way around Phuket and in particular Phuket Town is a very hit and miss affair and one always feels a great sense of satisfaction when one actually stumbles upon one's target!
Jean had a problem with a dental bridge - one of 4 she had made when living in Hong Kong 25 years ago. We found an excellent dentist almost next door to the Bangkok Hospital. The Phuket Dental Centre - Dr. Prasert Theplaong DDS. Very friendly and professional and an excellent dentist. He was very complimentary of the Hong Kong bridges all those years ago. Apparently the HK dentist was the official Cathay Pacific dentist. And at least only 25% of NZ dental prices.
As we needed to get ourselves and the boat out of Thailand by Jan. 18th. we eventually decided that it was about time we officially cleared out of Thailand at Ao Chalong so decided to drive down there - rather than taking the boat into a crowded and somewhat dubious anchorage. We have never had such a bureaucratic runaround in our lives. Leaves Indonesia for dead. It was all because we had originally cleared into Krabi back in May 2014 which is only 40 miles across Phang Nga Bay from Phuket. The people in Phuket Customs, Harbourmaster and Immigration couldn't get their heads around that simple fact and the fact that it didn't fit their computer registration system made it even worse. After much shuffling back and forwards between the computer registry and the various offices occupied by the denizens of Thai bureaucracy and some shouting we eventually got it done, but what a process!!
That was on the 7th. but now on the 15th. we are still here!! Everyone tells us not to worry about that - hope they're right and Customs doesn't launch a check of all boats still in Phuket Marinas. The reason we're still here is that we did leave on the 10th. and headed to our first anchorage on the way to Langkawi which was Yao Yai. However, when pulling up the anchor on the morning of the 12th. the windlass switch finally totally gave up the ghost and so, rather than have difficult anchor retrievals in 6 other anchorages, we elected to return to Yacht Haven where we now are again. We did have the pleasure of meeting Graham and Lorraine of "Lorrigray" at Yao Yai and enjoying their news. Then we actually managed to sail almost back to YH as the wind was up but it fluctuated between 5 and 15 knots which was frustrating. Still we had all day to sail a relatively short distance and as we were going to arrive at lunchtime with no-one to help us berth we actually slowed down considerably as we came up the narrow channel to YH.
Then this afternoon (14th.) imagine our delighted surprise when Manuela of the German boat "Sternchen" appeared quite out of the blue alongside our boat. She and Georg had just sailed in and we had another fairly hilarious time with Georg's lack of English and our lack of German! Having said that, he speaks much more English than we speak German! They are getting ready to load their yacht onto the Sevenstar ship sailing from here to Mamaris in Turkey in March. It was great to renew our friendship and we hope to see much more of them before we finally part company, which is the great sadness that comes with this lifestyle from time to time.
We hope to be able to leave here no later than the 21st. once the windlass switch is finally here in the fullness of time. Hope no-one in Thai Immigration is watching too closely. Still, as Master of the ship "Tiare Taporo III", it is Jim's prerogative to decide to sail when it is safe to do so and not before. But we don't want to have to explain all this to the Thai bureaucracy with their lack of English.
This sailing lark can be fun at times.
Jean has been enjoying her Ipad with images of Carter James on Facebook and of course she is looking forward with some excitement to being in Miami in April when Peapod # 2 comes onto the scene. Jim meanwhile continues to fire off pithy comments under the pseudonym "Tiare Taporo III" on various NZ Herald articles which interest him - it all fills in the time while we wait for this pesky switch!!
Lots of love to all from us...........
Jim and Jean
s.v. Tiare Taporo III
Yacht Haven Marina

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