There we were, our four visitors from Australia (one who had flown in from Ghana) plus luggage, aboard Bali Hai, ready to sail from Boat Haven Marina on Phuket Island, Thailand to Koh Yao Noi, a charming island just a few hours pleasant sail away.
We had requested a pilot to bring us in the complicated and extremely shallow, meandering entry to the marina but had thrown caution to the wind and decided we could manage the exit on our own. After all, we had a precise line to follow on our chart plotter, we had watched the pilot’s entry very carefully and we were going out on a high tide. What could possibly go wrong? Well, plenty it seems.
Puttering along slowly through the steamy mangrove fringed creek leading to the open sea, following to the last detail the route we had entered on and keeping a sharp eye out for anything unexpected, we were doing really well. But a moment’s distraction, a slight nudge of the wheel and suddenly that strange feeling you get when your boat has run aground.
Now they do say that there are three kinds of skipper: those who run aground, those who will run aground and those that have but won’t admit it. We are of the first variety and have at least a couple of hilarious stories of high jinks in Moreton Bay late at night floating ourselves off unmarked and uncharted sandbanks at the dead of night! So we had experience on our side.
After some nifty use of our bow thruster and with the help of the rising tide we gently bumped off the muddy bottom. What a relief and a timely warning that you can never be too careful or watchful, how ever many nautical miles you have sailed. We vowed never to enter or exit this marina by ourselves again – lesson learnt, always use the pilot, especially as this service is included in your marina fee.
Once out on the water we had a fine little breeze and were able to hoist the sails and have a good sail all the way to the southern end of Koh Yao Noi. It was a great feeling having our buddies on board.
Of course, what takes the inter island speed boat a little over half an hour to go from Phuket to Koh Yao Noi, in a sailboat with a light breeze took around four hours (we did go the long way round to avoid a shallow area as the tide was low and once bitten, twice shy).
The sun was getting low by the time we arrived and we were anxious to get in touch with the resort that our friends had sensibly booked in case of inclement weather or inability to tolerate our boat life for too long. Our skipper calls up the resort, “This is Bali Hai, we contacted you previously about a boat to collect our guests, is there one there that can pick them up?” It’s a bad line so he tries again, and….. again.After repeating the question several times the answer came “Yes.” “Sooo can you pick them up once we are anchored?” Crackle crackle goes the line and a tentative “ummm”. Then the receptionist responded “Do you have a dinghy? After some minutes of fruitless to-ing and fro-ing our exasperated skipper said “There is only two possible answers to this question,Do you have a boat available to pick up our passengers – Yes or No. Which is it?” Pause….”No.”
Dusk was falling and although we thought we knew which resort we needed to get to, it was hard to tell where to head for. The resort more than made up for the lack of marine transport by supplying a posse of staff to greet us on the beach, all waving madly so we would know we were in the right place.
Four or so trips to the beach later after taking guests in two at a time, luggage and ourselves to the beach, we were all happily settled, drink in hand in one of the beautifully appointed beach bungalows, listening to the sounds of the night and the gentle lapping of the sea on the beach of Koh Yao Noi.
This rendezvous had been long in the planning and we could hardly believe we were all there, sharing a cold beer in Thailand together.
With thanks to our friend Peter for supplying additional photos for this, the 100th edition of my blog Salty Tales from Bali Hai