Where do I begin? It’s been a while and a lot happened since the last entry.
So after awesome recording sessions and blues jam sessions at the Suoay Vista Club in Hua Hin (should be edited and ready to listen to very soon!), we still had one last pretty exciting thing to do at the boat.
It might sound boring … but it’s not! Scrubbing the shells off the boat keel (the part of the sailing boat that’s deep in the water). It was just so weird; put on some gloves and grab goggles and some sort of a scraper. Then hold your breath and dive underneath the boat. But your face has to be about 30 cm (1 ft) from the boat because the water was not clear at all. Start scrubbing! The whole boat. For some reason it’s a really strange feeling. A little scary at first. Our mechanic, Ae, and one of his buddies helped us though and they were way fast.
That same night we sat down with Ae and his friends, and Ae showed us his trophies that he had won sailing around the Gulf of Thailand and other places. And told us truly touching stories about the tsunami that struck Phuket in 2004. He was there, on his boat, right off the coast. The tsunami took him, his boat, and his crew down. Unlike Ae, hundreds of other boat owners and crew were surprised in their sleep and had no chance of surviving. Fatalities beyond belief. It is truly unbelievable what the people went through there.
Here a big thanks to Ae again. He was one of the few people who worked his butt off and did not care about money at all. Just a good guy.
The day after, our nice Tailor from Bangkok called us up and invited us to come to a family wedding with him. So we changed our plans a little bit and went off to the jungle again. To a small village close to the Burmese border. We were told that about 80-90% of the guests at the wedding had never seen caucasian people before. So when we arrived, literally all eyes were on us for a while, maybe a hundred people there. We ate, drank, sang a lot of karaoke, and danced. Best pineapple of my life! It was a great experience, totally different from european weddings.
(Place your cursor on the pictures to see the descriptions.)
Back in Hua Hin. After two friends, Tan and Noi, helped us with food shopping to last us a little over 2 weeks, we were ready to disembark and head off to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. At least we thought so. But we had to officially check out with the immigration officer. Oh boy. So much paper work, so much talking, waiting, negotiating, paying fees. But we finally managed to get out of that office, after using our Sailing Conductors stamp an excessive amount of times, leaving no ink for future use! We stamped and signed each and every document they had at that place.
GOOD BYE THAILAND. HELLO VIETNAM!
We set sail and everything went well. We had a nice amount of wind in our sails and I felt great, no sea sickness or anything. We left into the setting sun and spent the first night dodging fisher boats, buoys, big tankers, oil rigs, etc.
What we didn’t know was that this trip was actually going to take us 16 days and that we would never make it to our desired destination.
Anyway, we were off to a great start and I got to see some cool stuff, such as bioluminescent (glowing) microorganisms (little critters) all around the boat, swimming snakes, jumping fish, flying fish (that landed on our boat), and an exhausted little swallow actually caught a ride on our boat for a night. I think it was on day 3 that I started feeling a little dizzy. Imagine your room being tilted at a 45° angle all day, shaking sideways, up and down, and forwards and backwards. Occasionally you need to turn the boat, which tilts it to the other side, so everything has to be bolted in it’s place, otherwise books, pots, pans, etc. would fall down on you. And I had a net on one side that held me in my bed, so I actually slept in the net if we were tilted to the left, and on the wall if we were tilted to the right. Walking on the boat is more like climbing than it is walking … just hold on tight! Can you imagine cooking food in these conditions? Smutje Hannes does it all! The waves were constantly changing, going from small to big and from coming from the side to coming head on. I took some motion sickness pills, which basically just knocked me out and put me to sleep. But I tried to manage without them. Not a good idea! For a couple of days I just felt really sick. And some of the time it must have been pretty annoying having a grumpy, sick guy on board. Sorry guys!
The trip was really, really intense. Sailing is a 24-hour job and you can’t pull over to grab some snacks at the gas station or stop the vessel from bouncing over the waves. If you’re sick … deal with it! During the night, someone has to be up to watch out for all sorts of stuff, and when you have big waves, you can’t see very far and thus have to check constantly. But you get to see good stuff … such as a lunar eclipse and shooting stars. Some days were amazing, others just plain horrible. The trip really was a rollercoaster ride. It was bumpy and we had crazy fluctuations of winds and waves which actually caused one of our old sails to tear all the way across the bottom. The guys have an old spare though. The new sails that the kickstarter.com people helped us with should be on the boat very soon! It sometimes just went from huge waves and strong winds (20-30 knots) to virtually no waves and no wind. So all we could do was either use the small motor or just sit there and use the energy from our solar panels to watch movies on a computer. After trying really(!) hard (because we’re no quitters!), we did realize that the winds were against us and we had no choice but to sail back to the island Phu Quoc. So our journey was about 750 nautical miles (1350 km or 850 land miles) and took us through the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea, even though the island was only 280 nm away from our starting point. The trip was against the wind 100% of the time (wind coming from front), even though other winds were mentioned in all forecasts. Going dead on against the wind means the boat is always fully tilted and includes going against the waves. They smack against the boat pretty hard, especially when the boat catches a little air, and the water will come over the railing on the side. Every once in a while a wave will find it’s way into the cockpit (place where you steer). Benni actually told me it were some of the strongest winds and biggest waves they have encountered.
The last days I felt pretty good and tried to be a full crew member, helping where I could. And on the last night, 8 miles away from the island we had no winds, and our motor broke down. But you know us, we still made it the next day! Wind eventually picked up during the night and it started raining hard, which was rough and fun at the same time. And we figured out the motor problem as well.
So we arrived safely, with only 2 cans of baby corn left to eat. Perfect! We were craving pizza so much! The food on the boat is good, but nothing like a good old pizza!
As the Sailing Conductors experience in every country … we went to a couple offices: immigration, port authorities, marina, police, customs, etc. It was (still is) a REAL hassle. And everybody works everywhere. 2 of the guys sitting at the table with us at the immigration office, discussing visa issues, are also restaurant owners, tour guides, servers, taxi drivers, etc. It gets a little confusing at times.
But we’ve been here for a few days now and we’re enjoying the country! The food is delicious, the food sold at the market is fresh and clean, and we’re already used to commuting on scooters and bikes. And in contrast to Thai people, Vietnamese people love to honk their horns. And right now we’re using our tandem bike to get around!
Benni and Hannes are working on the video and audio and I hope to see more material here very soon.
I am extremely happy I got to do this and I’m looking forward to the next trip on “Marianne” already, maybe a little shorter this time. Hope you enjoyed the pics and the post.