Similans to Phuket and Back, March 20-24

The previous travelog left off with our arrival in Thailand's Similan Islands after the long passage back from the Andamans. We spent a well-deserved rest day enjoying ourselves in a lovely bay on Ko Similan, the largest of the island chain. Unfortunately we weren't the only ones enjoying ourselves there (photo 1) -- the bay was buzzing with a few other sailboats, several large "liveaboard" dive boats, and speedboat after speedboat hauling day-tripping tourists from the mainland (not seen in the photo because they zoom up nearly onto the beach, off the lower-left). We'd spent so much time at isolated anchorages in the Andamans that we didn't mind the crowds for this one day. We snorkeled, did a couple of dives (photos 2 and 3), hiked a bit, played in the surf, and gave Cyrene's galley a rest by patronizing the beachside restaurant.

It was a 10-hour sail from Ko Similan back to Phuket but it's hard to remember any details -- the long sailing days are starting to blend together. We do recall that the hand-steering was getting to be a real chore, but some of the time we could see our destination ahead of us which is a lot easier than steering to a compass heading. Jennifer gave Alex a much-needed haircut, and Emily made bread (photo 4) -- served with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, her fresh-baked bread has become an afternoon favorite for all of us.

We had a long list of chores to take care of in Phuket, several of them involving coordination with the sailboat charter company. In our usual style we tried our best to pack everything into one day so as not to lose valuable cruising time; we succeeded.

In a long, sweaty, and slightly stressful day, we monitored a number of boat repairs (anxiously watching the autopilot technician in particular), cleared both in and out of Thai immigration and customs, purchased some needed boat items, did a huge grocery shopping that should top off our provisions for the remaining 4½ weeks on the boat, hauled the groceries across the beach and out to the boat one dinghy-load at a time (with a thunderstorm looming to keep things exciting), and loaded up on fuel and fresh water. We enjoyed dinners ashore, tapped into the internet, and bid a fond farewell to Jean-Claude who was a great travel companion. (This from a family who's generally vigilant about traveling on our own.) The Phuket beach area where we anchored, Nai Yang, was pleasant and low-key. As seen in photo 5, in our short time there Tim found himself a Thai lady-friend.

Leaving Phuket, we sailed right back for a third stopover at the Similan Islands. (The Similans are northwest of Phuket; one then continues west to the Andaman Islands or north to the Mergui Archipelago.) It was Easter Sunday, so to pass time during the passage we conducted several egg hunts, wearing out our one set of chocolate "eggs" (actually random chocolate candy from the Nai Yang mini-mart). A boat turns out to be an ideal venue for egg hiding and hunting.

The Similans were as beautiful and enjoyable the third time (photo 6) as the first. We stopped at both Ko Miang and Ko Similan, trying out some new dive sites but the same old beachside restaurants. (There's only one restaurant per island so we didn't have a great deal of choice.) As always, boat life wasn't quite problem-free: The dive-tank compressor outdid itself in volume with a new high screech added to the deafening roar. Fortunately we'd purchased a replacement belt in Phuket which, after some installation effort, seems to have alleviated the screeching, at least for now. Fearless Tim decided that diving during the day wasn't interesting enough, so he and Alex did a night dive, staying fairly close to the boat since they had to share the one small light we'd brought along for peeking into crevices -- we certainly hadn't anticipated that either kid would be interested in diving at night.

It seems like long ago, but the kids still talk with great fondness about their scuba diving course, and especially their instructor, Thien. Thien keeps his "dive log" online, and the kids were delighted when entries appeared for their dives with him during the course. Visit Thien's dive log and scroll back to Friday and Saturday February 22 and 23 (you may need to click on "older posts") for some photos and nice commentary.

Next: Finally we'll leave familiar territory, sailing to Thailand's Surin Islands. We'll spend a couple of days there, then angle back towards the coast where we'll stop at one last Thai island (probably Ko Phayam) before crossing into Myanmar.

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