In the 6 weeks since we left KBL and before our return from Langkawi, the seasons changed. There are daily squalls or thunder and lightning events, some very spectacular, lighting up creamy towers of cumulo-nimbus clouds from the inside and spectacular forks streaking across the sky. On the way south they were distant and quietly glowed; occasional rumbles were heard. But as the weeks progressed they became more persistent and we had the occasional squalls lasting anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours...rain at last! Now they are regular events on a daily basis, with spectacular light shows and strong wind as the storm front hits.
We tried to be in the best place when these storms hit, usually at night and from wildly variable directions, on our way north. Pantai Kok on Langkawi island was sheltered from all directions because it was surrounded on all sides. As long as the other anchored boats stayed put we had little to worry about. But on our passage back to KBL it was a different story. . .
We sailed away from Langkawi island after checking out at Telaga Harbour on a beautiful day with the sun shining and a welcome breeze. We hoisted the sails as we left the anchorage and headed for Thailand not that far away.
Our first anchorage was on the island of Tarutao near the northern tip on the western side. It was picturesque and sheltered from the north east by high hills. After a good day, a swim in the clean water we had a lovely dinner and were relaxing before bed when the wind suddenly picked up. The storm that hit that night came from the west...the fetch, several hundred miles wide, from Sumatra was causing the wind waves to be rather large and uncomfortable. It was not good to be on a lee shore with reef between us and the beach and rocky shore. We were being tossed about too by the building wind waves but fortunately, this time there was little rain. We were about 5 miles from the top of the island and knew there was a spot on the other side which might offer some shelter, so after considering our options, we lifted the anchor and moved. Fortunately everything worked perfectly and we exited the bay in the middle of the night in an awesomely spectacular light show. By the time we were half way to the top the wind had eased but the lightning still had not abated and it was very close. It was one of the most spectacular light shows we had ever seen! Many branched forks streaking across the sky or sheets that lit up the whole environment. Gradually it moved away and by the time we turned the corner at the top of the island it was eerily still and quiet. There we found several local fishing boats. We ghosted along at slow speed between the main island, rocks and a smaller island less than half a mile from the larger one, their steep sides promising a night of tranquillity. We anchored in the shallowest spot 10m deep and had a cuppa to reflect on the evenings events at 1 am. It was beautifully calm here and we rocked gently to sleep, not entirely sure what we would see the next day.
The next morning the skies were grey and ominous, the boat had been moving through the water very sluggishly so we decided to don diving gear and investigate. There was an incredible crop of barnacles growing on every surface of the bottom of the boat. After scraping them off we hoped our passage through the water would be more efficient for the rest of the journey north.
Exhausted after the effort it took to de barnacle the boat and the late night adventures we decided to stay another night and relax. The anchorage was stunningly beautiful with tall limestone walls of the 2 islands and thick rainforest vegetation, just recovering from the dry season with lush new growth in shades from dark russet brown to vivid lime green. Sea eagles and brahminy kites soared above us and bright orange and turquoise kingfishers dipped into the water. It was calm, peaceful and restful and we were ready for an early start the next morning for a long day’s passage.
We would have loved to stay another day but we had to move on and our next anchorage on the island of Koh Muk was sheltered from the south west. After a great sail up the northern parts of the Malacca strait we sailed straight in to where we had anchored before.
It looks like the season had changed already. There was a large westerly swell rolling under us all day and into the islands, smashing onto the towering cliffs in plumes of spray, so anywhere on the western sides of the islands was not going to be comfortable. Clouds were building up over the mainland and they looked rather ominous, but most of the storms we had encountered were from the west so we thought that our usual spot just inside the southern tip of Koh Muk would be ok. It was out of the swell. We were having such a good time sailing we sailed right up to where we dropped the anchor, something we had not done for many years, and after we were satisfied we were hooked we hopped in the dinghy and went to the village ashore for dinner. Tourist season was obviously over... very few bewildered tourists were dining or strolling around in the dusk, but there were plenty of the local people enjoying the balmy evening.
As we returned to the beach a cool wind started to whip up the sand and it was stinging our legs. By the time we got to the beach it was very dark and there were large rollers breaking. A longtail which had just arrived was shining a bright light at the shore to see where to park his boat. This did not help us to be able to see our way out from the beach and as we launched the dinghy it was filling up with sea water. We gradually got out to deeper water and saw Lupi’s anchor light, a dim glimmer in the dark distance. At times the whole world was lit up from the dazzling lightning. It did not look very pretty and the waves looked enormous. Half way across the bay, and already drenched with hot sea water from the waves smashing into the dinghy, there was a different wetness, that of rain, heavy stinging rain. It was much cooler than the hot sea water; it felt so strange! Finally, soaking wet, vexed and very relieved we arrived at the mother ship. This storm had come in from the east and blew at us in our “protected” anchorage. It lasted for over an hour but gradually petered out into gently falling rain, buckets of it. In the morning everything had been washed clean of saltiness.
So now we are unsure about where to anchor...hopefully this was just an inconsistency brought about by the change in season not being fully resolved. Hopefully it will settle into a more predictable south west pattern before our last journey south from Thailand.
The final day from Koh Muk was a lovely day. We motor-sailed for most of it and, after the sea breeze stabilized in the mid afternoon, we turned off the engine and sailed to the first waypoint for the entrance channel to Krabi boat lagoon. The clouds were again building over the mainland and as we drove up the channel they were getting darker and more sinister. Would we make it into the marina before this one arrived? Or would we have to wait it out?
As we turned the last corner the wind picked up and we anchored in the river just outside the marina as the first raindrops fell. It poured for over an hour and then stopped as suddenly as it had started. The river returned to calm and peacefuness . Early the next morning, on the high tide, we tied up at the marina and headed into town to check in. It was Thursday and tomorrow was a public holiday so nowhere would be open till Monday.
Monday was the day we had booked to go up on the slip to do the antifoul and install a new hatch to replace the old one in the bedroom. It was a lovely morning and we were out of the slings, hosed down and on the hard before midday. Then the rain started and it rained for a week without stop which is quite rare for here. In 10 days we have had only 1 full day of no rain. Plan A changed to Plan B and then back to plan A after a short break in the weather, before changing finally to Plan B. Instead of the hatch being installed (the weather is too unreliable to have a large hole in the boat for many days) we stripped the bedroom and painted and insulated all the walls. The hull has been stripped of all old and flaking antifoul and one side has a coat of primer on the bare metal patches which were revealed. We are living in hope for more days like yesterday so we can get the rest done and back in the water to start our return journey to Australia.
It will happen. Other jobs are getting done. The rain is continuing. @ @
We now have paint on the boat, one coat of primer and a coat of undercoat. now we are ready tro put a coat of antifoul on...we might make it before our visas run out.