Monday, September 24, 2012

Land Ahoy - How we're readjusting to life off Anima

In the weeks leading up to our departure Rene discovered problems with the cockpit roof he built 5 years ago (when we first moved aboard). He worked insanely hard to replace it, making it stronger and better this time around. Because I flew home first, there are no photos of the new cockpit to share but I'm assured it looks even better than the first one.

We bid farewell to Anima, leaving her in 5 star comfort at Rebak Island Marina. Moving off involved sending twelve 20Kg boxes to our family and friends in Australia and taking 40Kg excess luggage each for our flights. My fellow plane travellers found it quite bizarre that I had a sewing machine with me! 

Upon arriving home, I noticed how clean the air is here compared to SE Asia, how little rubbish there is and how many thousands more solar panels there are now!!! In the two years we were away from Brisbane, everyone must have gone solar mad. Almost every second house now has between 8 and 20 solar panels. We also noticed that everyone drives nice cars and has smart phones too. We are a bit behind in this regard as I have been using my old cheap Nokia phone and driving my old trusty (though a little more rusty) car - Boxy. My sister had her for the first year we were away and my brother had her for the second! I love driving and have enjoyed the fast freedom of having 4 wheels again.

We moved in with my best friend in Brisbane, renting her tiny spare room. Jacqui is astounded that we can fit most of our stuff into this small room - for us, it's huge! 
I enjoyed eating lots of fresh dairy though was initially a little confused about the whole 'Permeate Free' campaign that is playing out with various milk brands. Fresh fruit and vegetables also tasted better - especially salad ingredients like Avocados, rocket lettuce and tomatoes. When we arrived it was the middle of winter - a novelty again after having spent the last 24 months in the tropics. I dusted off my warm clothes and had to do some serious self-control to be able to turn off the water in the shower. After not having lived with a shower for SO long, this was probably the most luxurious thing I relished in back on land. Luckily there were no water restrictions or I would have been causing a miniature drought!! 

Pretty quickly the differences became normal and we started working, working, working. Rene jumped right back into his job as a Software Developer, proudly wearing his $100 Thailand suit into the city each day. I have been working as a supply and relief teacher in schools around South Brisbane. Each school is very different and I've (mostly) enjoyed seeing how they run, meeting different colleagues, teaching a variety of subjects and meeting hundreds of students. So far I've taught: English, Maths, Sport, Science, Art, Film & TV, Media, Learning Support, Study of Society, Ancient History, SOSE and Dance.

Working has been better than we'd both been dreading. It's stimulating to feel useful in the world, to be involved with a wider range of people and to be making money rather than spending it for a change! But when things are difficult or stressful, it's easy to reminisce about our cruising days and only remember the good times, not the difficult or stressful ones! 

Fishing in Northern NSW
Readjusting to land life hasn't been too difficult, especially once we accustomed to the high price of petrol and food (no more eating out every day). There was one instance though which I deem story-worthy. I call it 'The Washing Machine Disaster'. This incident reminded me of when we first moved aboard Anima (then Anhinga). Rene was enjoying the view from the top of the mast (unbeknownst to me) while I was doing the washing up inside. The sink hole in our boat is much smaller than in a normal house and it wasn't draining. I used the manual pump to force the grey water (complete with tuna-tin oil and beetroot juice) offboard. Not realising my own strength (or the age of the rubber pump), it burst, flooding the bilge area with both the gross sink water and the brown river water. Yes, the river water was gushing in, quickly filling up the small area. I was calling out to Rene while trying to mop up the water with towels. The water didn't recede, in fact it only increased! I was so green at living onboard that I didn't yet know about seacocks. Rene eventually came down from the mast to a flooding galley and panicked Cerae. He quickly solved the problem by closing the seacock and then we had a long afternoon of cleaning up the smelly, oily, purple-brown mess. If Rene hadn't been onboard, Anima could have sunk! In the recent washing machine version, Rene pulled out the lint cleaning pipes of the front-loading washing machine that we're currently living with. I then put on a load of washing after he'd said it was right to go and went back upstairs only to be shocked when the landlord came knocking on the door saying the whole downstairs area was flooded! The clean-up was easier in this scenario and there was no danger of the house sinking as a result - but the feeling of making a stupid mistake was the same. 

Living on land is definitely easier than on the water but we still miss the freedom of cruising. To cope with water-nostalgia, I bought a small kayak when it was on a half-price sale. My dream of owning a kayak, finally came true! 

Our adventures on the water are definately not over yet.
The best part about being home is seeing our family and friends who we'd missed so dearly while away. Our friends who'd had babies just as we were leaving are now chasing around little toddlers! Time passed quickly while we were away.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Detailed Website About Anima

For a detailed explanation (with lots of photos) of Anima, go to www.anima.limorph.com
Rene and I made to showcase her in detail so check it out!

Please note - I have fixed the above link. Thanks to the kind crew from Marianne (currently in Sri Lanka) for alerting me to it!! 

More posts to come regarding settling into life on land after 5 years on a boat. Stay tuned!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Anima For SALE

It's finally official. Anima is on the market and up for sale. She has been a fantastic home and adventure for us both over the past 5 years. 

Don't worry, as our blog has always said We are travellers on a life adventure. Currently sailing on our yacht, Anima, to follow our dreams and make new ones...

We are simply taking a break from cruising to do the 'normal' land-based life for a few years before heading back out on the water again in future.

Please spread the word and help us sell our beloved Anima. Thank you for all of your support!

Follow these links to read her stats and see her inside and out:

Yacht Broker Charters - website / blog

YachtWorld.com

YachtHub.com

Anima berthed at Rebak Marina, Langkawi

Videos of Anima

I finally got around to editing and uploading some of the videos I've taken of Anima throughout our 2 years cruising. Enjoy!! 

Anima sailing with Dolphins. 

Anima under full sail. A lazy, lovely day. 

A montage of Anima sailing/motoring. 

Anima sailing/motoring in moderate weather. 


Thursday, May 31, 2012

Life at Rebak Island Marina, Langkawi


I've been so busy with life lately that I haven't had the time to update sailbirds. I know it's very hard to believe – it's not like I'm working full time or racing around after kids... just busy with the boat and life. I'll tell some of the stories here... oh dear, there's so much to catch up on... where to even begin?
Jane leads the way on our adventurous walk around Rebak.
Anima is now safe and snug in Rebak Island Marina. It's by far the best marina we've ever stayed in - the best part being, yachties have almost free reign of the 5 star resort facilities. The marina is based on a tiny island just off the south of Langkawi island. A small ferry zips back and forth 10 times daily to Langkawi with resort guests, staff and yachties onboard. The only other thing on the island is the aforementioned Taj resort. Consequentially, it's very peaceful over here. We're surrounded by forested hills bursting with local birds, monkeys, monitor lizards and mosquitoes. The latter is controlled by bi-weekly 'fogging' with some kind of petrochemical-based spray which is pumped through the resort, marina and hard-stand. This fog is thick and nasty. Our strategy is lock-down inside the boat – all dorades, hatches and portholes shut tight to minimise exposure to this unknown chemical. It does work to reduce the mosquito population though - perhaps it's a necessary evil.
Mosquito fogging. Pretty scary huh?
It's the south-west monsoon season now, so frequent strong squalls pass by. Being tied up in a protected marina is so nice when the wind howls past, making our rigging sing. It's also nice to be connected to shore power. Laptops, stereo, vacuum cleaner, lights, fridge and the stereo can all stay on for extended periods. Best of all, the hired air-conditioner (only 50RM/month) can cool us down as can the 240V fan. Relief from the extreme humidity is very sweet.
The pool.
There's so much to love about being here. The pool, fringed with flowering frangipani trees and reclining chairs waited on by a happy guy who gives you fresh towels, fruit skewers (sometimes) and magazines! The beach bar where yachties and resort guests meet for happy hour half-price drinks. The games area inside the resort where one can play anything from Scrabble to Carrom (Rene is undefeated so far with the latter). The twisting paths to walk and explore (more on this to come). Best of all, the SY69 building to escape the sun and do yoga every morning. What a place to practice yoga in! Surrounded by water features home to colourful Carp and vibrant tropical plants, I've been able to immerse myself deeper than ever into my Ashtanga yoga Mysore practice.

All of this is still over half the price of marina's in Australia!
Yoga bliss.
After being here for a month, I decided to explore more of the island by foot. The lovely Jane (from South Africa) was our guide as she had taken one of the more adventurous walks last year. It took her a while to recall where the track started as the jungle seemed inpenetrable and we had to brave a large tribe of monkeys and killer ants! Just as we were about to give up, there it was - marked with arrows. We scaled a slippery track through the jungle, up a hill and down the other side to the beach. Previously Jane had been able to walk along said beach back to the resort. We had judged the tide wrong however and had to tackle the forest once more. It was really fun to walk along, covered in sweat (thanks to the extreme humidity) pushing through, under and around lush jungle. We got lost a few more times, probably due to concentrating on our chats more than the path. Annoyingly I skidded down the bank at the end and twisted my knee but it only took 2 days to heal.
The other side of the island.
Last week I turned 31. Unable to celebrate with family/friends from home, instead I communicated to them online and had a very relaxing day by the pool. The marina staff gave me the most decadent birthday cake I've ever had. Unfortunately Rene was unable to partake in any so I shared it with the other yachties at the weekly Friday night BBQ. 
What an amazing birthday cake! Thanks Rebak!
Friday night BBQ just getting started.
Rene has not been in the best of health. He experienced pains in his stomach for 4 days before having it checked out at a Doctor in Kuah. Initially we thought it was a kidney infection but the blood test results (which we only received 2 weeks after the initial test thanks to a dodgy receptionist) showed Rene had Pancreatitis! He rushed to a medical centre on mainland Malaysia for a CT scan which thankfully showed no damage. Being young and fit probably saved his life. What will continue to do so is a complete change of diet. No more fatty foods or alcohol for Rene! We discovered that Doctors here in Malaysia only issue half-dose, half-strength antibiotics. Supposedly because the people are smaller (not really the case when obesity is a rising issue as is Diabetes).

Anima has sucked most of our spare time (sadly, we barely ever swim in the pool). I've spent days cleaning and scrubbing the decks and topsides. A stubborn oily black substance sticks to our beautiful new paintwork and makes Anima look old and dirty! If a Scientist could invent some kind of preventative measure for this black stuff, they would be rich as currently the only way to prevent it is to cover the boat in canvas, something we can't afford to do right now. 

Anima has also been very thoroughly cleaned and scrubbed inside. All of her walls inside are sparkling clean. All her wooden trim is polished and shining. Everything is clean. More boxes have been packed and sent home and more stuff we don't need has been given away or sold. Rene has cleaned and polished the engine and bilges. He's treated a rust patch that was under the floorboards of the head and some tiny spots that appeared on deck. I prepared and then he painted the remaining mint-green non-skid areas on the foredeck. I cut to size the wood lino and Rene glued them all on for the galley and companionway floorboards. Phew! 

We're gearing up to officially put Anima on the market. This week involves meeting with the Langkawi-based brokers and I've been working on our own sale website too.
The last rusty spot!! Mid-treatment.
Measuring and cutting the new "wood" flooring.
Each week we hire a car, drive across the island to Kuah and try to get all the things on our list. As we get to know the area more, it opens up to us and we find where to get things. The hire cars are complete bombs for 40RM, yesterday however we had to take a 50RM car and what a difference 10 Ringgit makes! We flew along in a shiny, tiny new car with working air-conditioning and gearbox. Each week I take the ferry across to Langasuka where a local Chinese man holds a veggie stall for the yachties. It's a little more expensive than the local markets, but the food is of a far better quality. I've been enjoying Australian Avocados (paying the same price I would back home for them) and big, sweet mangoes among other things.
Rene pushing 60Kg's of our stuff along to send home.
I know there is so much more that has happened and I could write this for many more hours. I'll finish with this cute photo. 
Newlyweds from Indonesia with us.
Rene was working out on the pontoon when he saw these two getting glamour-shots done near the marina for their wedding album. Rene being Rene offered them our boat as a location. They climbed up and stood on the bowsprit and giggled a lot. Her dress was amazing! They wanted this photo and I want the camera that took it!! Anima looks even better now - finally, no stuff on deck.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Langkawi Life

As we will be living in Langkawi for the next few months (unless our plans change) I have decided to blog about the work we do on Anima, the things I see here that are different or interesting and the thoughts I have about life and everything. My writing may not always be in chronological order but will instead highlight the most noteworthy aspects of our lives over here. I guess this is kind of a record of what we're doing and also a way for me to reflect on things. It's just as much for me as it is for anyone who reads it.

Arriving back in Malaysia meant a chance to refill our diesel tank at the incredibly cheap price of 60centsAUD per litre (when I was in Primary school I remember petrol costing that much in Australia. Last time we refilled in Oz it was close to $2AUD per litre!!). It's the cheapest price we've encountered, anywhere. It's only this cheap if you take your jerry cans to the petrol station manually as the marina-style pumps are more expensive. We hired a cheap car and Rene did the fuel run out to one of the petrol stations in Kuah. Last time we had no problems but this time he had to fill each jerry can at a different pump and pay for each one at a time. One of the attendants asked him if he was going to Thailand with all of his cheap fuel (everyone fills up in Malaysia first) but Rene shocked him by saying no, we're staying here and he loves Langkawi (all said in Malaysian). It's always amazing how much the locals appreciate it when you speak their tongue. We've been practicing more with a CD that came with our phrase book. Rene is by far the better Malay speaker than I!

Before we fly home in August we need to send a lot of our belongings there by post. You can do it 20 kilograms at a time for 82.50RM a pop (just under $30AUD) and it takes 3 months to arrive by sea. The post office here requires that boxes be covered in paper and tied up with string! Finding suitable boxes has proved a sometimes difficult endeavour. Some places have asked for payment for the boxes they have sitting in their rubbish waiting to be burnt! Some good boxes we collected were ruined in a tropical downpour while walking back to the boat. Weighing the boxes is also tricky. Bass harbour has been quite unsettled with the frequent south westerly winds blowing up, resulting in boats dragging, waves crashing over our bows and a very rocky boat at times! Our digital scales don't like the movement and give varying weight measurements depending upon which way we're rocking! It worked out fine three times out of four. Rene had to cut open one box to remove an extra 5 kilos!
Navigating incomplete paths with boxes in tow.
Rene has installed LED lights on the stern that were broken. He has also replaced an energy-sucking light in the engine room with a strip of LED's. Most recently, he has been cleaning up the engine, making it shine and maintaining it too.

Initially we started out anchored at Telaga harbour. It's nice over there under the tall cliffs with a view to the ocean. Said ocean brings quite a ground swell into the man-made harbour at this time of year however. We enjoyed catching up with Dale from Freeform here and walking the beach at dusk. 

En-route to Kuah, we stopped at the "Fjord" anchorage which was picturesque as usual. By chance we shared the anchorage with our Indonesia rally friends Freycinet and Our Odyssey. As we are all Australians, we did what Aussies do best and had a BBQ. 
Anima dwarfed by the mountains at the 'Fjord' anchorage, Langkawi.
Rene and I left Anima anchored in the fjord and took the dinghy across to the Dayang Bunting lake. On the way, we beached the dinghy at a point where the rock wall looked quite low. We climbed up amongst what looked to be a run-down viewing platform (only the cement stumps remained) and found ourselves looking down at the lake! It turns out that this point we climbed over is called the 'Miracle Spot' as it is such a small piece of earth stopping the sea from entering the fresh-water lake. Next we went to the rundown jetty which protrudes out from Pulau Dayang Bunting. Ren did a tricky manouvre to tie up the dinghy so it wouldn't get damaged by the prolific oysters and we walked in through the forest to the Lake of the Pregnant Maiden.


'According to a local legend, it began when a male elf named Mat Teja fell in love, at the first sight, with Dayang, a female elf. Mat Tega won her heart, by rubbing a mermaid's tear drop on his face. Their romantic and intimate relationship became complete with Dayang's pregnancy. Dayang then decided to retire at Tasik Dayang Beranak (Maiden Giving Birth Lake). Nine months later, Dayang gave birth to a child but unfortunately, the child died after seven days. Saddened by the event, Dayang decided to bury her baby in the lake. After the incident, the lake was known as Tasik Dayang Bunting (Pregnant Maiden Lake), as a way for the locals to pay their condolences to the couple.'
 
Apparently women wishing to conceive visit this lake to bathe and take a sip of the water. Monkeys were everywhere and a health sign said to be extra careful of the water so I definitely didn't drink any. Rene dove right in and swam about like a seal in the dark water. I gathered my courage and swam too, after the monkeys had all climbed nearby trees. It was lovely. We were the only ones there because we'd timed our arrival to be in the late afternoon, after all the tourists had gone. 
Rene swims at the lake of the Pregnant Maiden.
Eventually we made the trip up to Kuah and anchored next to our friends Tasha D.M in Bass Harbour. As usual we had fun times with them :)
Rene used his Mum's recipe to bake Anzac biscuits on Anzac Day. They were perfect and he is now chief Anzac biscuit maker as my last two attempts were dismal. The most recent batch was fed to the fish - they were that bad!

Yummy Anzacs Rene! How very Australian.
I sewed a wind catcher in an attempt to combat the humidity and heat of the tropics by enticing some breeze into our home. Tasha leant me their one for ideas on technique and then I used an old Spinnaker to make my own version.

My hand-made wind scoop made from recycling part of an old Spinnaker.
We hired a car for a day and drove to Rebak, taking the ferry across to the island which houses a resort and marina. Rene looked quite unusual (as usual!) walking around the island - laptop in one hand, wireless internet dongle in the other - looking for good signal. We're contemplating staying here for a bit but need there to be decent internet reception.
Rene searching for wifi hotspots.
I wonder if some people wonder about what it's like to live in a Muslim country as a non-Muslim? To be honest, I often forget that where I am is majority Muslim because we spend so much of our time in our boat. Five times a day we hear the call to prayer floating out over the town. Some people find this annoying. I like it! The sounds are often quite musical and (now that my iPod is broken) I enjoy having some music to listen to, if only for a few minutes at a time. When on land, the call to prayer is louder but contrary to my assumptions, it doesn't change people's behavior in an obvious way. No one suddenly drops to the ground to postulate themselves. People don't close shop to pray. Life continues as per usual. Maybe the locals do what I do when they hear the prayer and use it as a reminder to be mindful. Rather than pray to Allah though, I reflect on being in the moment. I remind myself to live in the present, be grateful for what I have now and concentrate on breathing. It's nice to have such a connection to spirituality in our daily lives. Apart from the prayers, the only other major differences are food and dress. Meat from pigs is not widely available as it's not Halal. Most of the women dress very conservatively, they don't show any skin but for their face (their hair is covered with a veil as is their neck). I try my best to not dress disrespectfully but my gosh it's hard when the temperature is always 30degrees+++ and humidity is near 100. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Tsunami Watch, Songkran and leaving Thailand

The anchorage outside Yacht Haven marina proved very calm and comfortable so we stayed a few days. I finished my TESOL course and Rene finished reading Calculus I by Paul Dawkins (he’s now well into Calculus II).  The wind picked up a little late one afternoon, prompting us to make use of its power and sail out (a quick look on the GRIBS showed this was the only decent wind for days to come). The conditions were lovely as we slowly sailed out, and rather than anchor we decided to make use of the full moon and sail into the night for a few hours in order to make more use of this wind.  With lightning flashing we pulled into Ko Nakha Yai and anchored off the north eastern beach next to two other yachts (08’03.36N 98’28.23E).
Boat improvements.
We sailed out early using a little more wind until it died off by lunchtime allowing us to anchor at Ko Rang Yai (07’57.46N 98’27.18E). After a couple of hours the wind had come up again, from a different direction, as always up here in this season. The wind does a 360’ spin almost every day. So we sailed further south making it just under 10 miles off Chalong before we were forced to use the engine to make it into Panwa Bali beach before sundown. U.S. Warship 102 was anchored off the Phuket port and Rene reminded me of his father, as he gleefully sailed straight towards it, claiming he wanted to see her up close. I knew (from previous experience with warships) that he wouldn’t get too close before they got nervous. Pretty soon a large, smelly army green barge was heading us off, forcing us to change course. It was then (with the binoculars) that I was able to read a sign on the bows of the ship claiming it a prohibited area. Standing above the sign was an armed guard!
Captain Rene
It was a long weekend so we decided to stay at Panwa Bali for a few days before nipping across to the main (much busier) Chalong harbour. We started work on a website (still in progress) to sell Anima and had lunches ashore each day at one of the beachside restaurants. So relaxing! For Easter I baked hot cross buns. Rene had eaten our chocolate supplies days earlier but we did manage to find one small square each stashed at the bottom of the fridge.  I started drawing again and am loving it!

Happy Easter!
Panwa Bali beach, Phuket
 We decided to check out of Thailand a couple of days prior to their 4-day Songkran (Thailand New Years) holiday. Before doing so we hired a hot pink scooter and used it to do shopping trips to Phuket town for groceries and sarongs. We also had some fun touring around looking for Spirit Houses for me to photograph. The Thai’s believe that helpful spirits will be attracted to the small spirit house which they almost all have in their yard/property. 
 



















Large trees are adorned with multi-coloured fabric. So beautiful.

I had a fantastic Ashtanga yoga practice at Ganesha Yoga. It has been nearly 9 months since my last class and I soaked it up, having a really deep and amazing time. The teacher, Julie, helped me do my first headstand and I did all of the back bends without pain or tightness for once. I pretty much floated out of the class. I can’t wait to be able to attend a regular class again. I LOVE IT!

Check out the oar - how ingenious!
On the 11th we zipped in to shore with the sole purpose of checking out early in order to have enough daylight to sail to Phi Phi Don. Fate had other plans. Rene had to wait for May, the woman who hired us the scooter. Because of this, I wandered down the street taking more photos when Dale from Freeform saw me and started chatting. We all ended up sitting in a cafĂ© chatting for hours so by the time we went to check out, they had shut for lunch! Going with the flow, we used the hour to buy another 6 drums of drinking water (as usual, using much gesturing to communicate our request) which Rene zipped out to Anima while I took more photos and tried on dresses at a cute second-hand store. Eventually we were able to check out and sail out of Chalong (checking out cost 500Baht) in the afternoon. The wind was good so instead of anchoring at our usual Panwa Beach, we headed out thinking we’d anchor off the nearby island of Ko Mai Thon.
The long dinghy trip to the jetty in Chalong.
Tying up the dinghy at Chalong.
We never made it there however as a Tsunami warning was issued at around 16:15 due to an 8.7 earthquake off Banda Aceh, near Sumatra.

My worst fear. Coming true.

My recurring nightmare. Becoming reality.  

Luckily we were already sailing in deep water but we changed course and sailed to an even deeper area of 40+ metres to be safer. With images and stories from the 2004 tsunami playing in our minds, we quickly readied ourselves and our boat for the impending disaster. Everything was lashed on deck, all hatches and windows shut tight. Life jackets and safety lines on. Everything secured below. Extra life jackets out to throw to drowning people after the wave. Grab bag (containing passports, a hard drive of photos, a torch, hats and medical gear) packed in a waterproof bag.


Sailbirds ready for the tsunami that wasn't.
My heart was beating in my ears, making it difficult to think beyond getting ready. My hands were shaking and I couldn’t hold a conversation or thought beyond the fear of a massive tidal wave wreaking destruction. The radio reports were few a far between, and mostly from yachties calling one another with information from text messages they were receiving from abroad. Our phone remained silent but my panic-stricken FaceBook update received good luck messages from friends/family around the globe. Looking behind us I could see dozens of local fishing and cargo boats all doing what we were – getting the hell out of shallow Chalong! The repeated message was to get out of shallow water into somewhere at least 12 metres deep. There was only one SAY-CURE-E-TAY message from the Thai authorities – though much radio content was in Thai which we can’t understand beyond a few simple phrases. I found the International Tsunami watch website and used it for my information, finding that the impact time for Phuket was forecast to be 18:12.
Looking out for the tsunami.
Nothing happened.

We sat together in the cockpit staring out to sea but nothing came. I concentrated on breathing to quell my fears. News came of an aftershock so we stayed hove to in deep water waiting and hoping that nothing would happen.

It didn’t.
I could relax again.

By now it was dark and the wind was still up so we sailed in to anchor off Ko Racha Yai (07’36.34N 98’22.69E) in 20 metres, just in case. Soon after anchoring the tsunami alarm echoed out over the small island, followed by a message repeated in many different languages, the gist of which was – it’s now safe to return to lower ground.

That night was a stormy one, resulting in us getting up frequently to check on the anchor and make adjustments. Due to lack of sleep and the build up to the non-tsunami we were both pretty exhausted. We ended up setting out PhiPhiLe much later in the day than we wanted to. It meant that we had to approach an unfamiliar anchorage at night, with only the frequent flashes of lightning and our feeble torch beams to show us in. Luckily we also had a track on OpenCpn to follow (thanks S.Y. Narid!) and we collected a mooring without any real trouble (07’40.78N 98’45.79E). 
Sunset views at sea near Phi Phi Le.
This island was made very famous in 2000 when Leonardo DiCaprio starred in The Beach which was filmed here. It is pretty nice but the film makers certainly worked their magic making this small bay look like a large lagoon. Due to its fame, this island is swamped with thousands of tourists daily so we woke early and ventured ashore with our cups of tea in the dinghy. By the time we left at 8am, there were over a dozen longtail boats along the once-isolated beach. Next stop was Tonsai on PhiPhi Don, just a few miles north. We anchored pretty far out because the bay is so full of tourist boats on moorings (07’43.73N 98’46.26E). Today was the first day of Songkran and we hoped to see some of the action. We saw a lot more than we’d even dreamed of! 
Anima anchored at 'The Beach' on Phi Phi Le

Phi Phi Le
The greeting cat on Phi Phi Don.
Songkran was traditionally celebrated by gently pouring water over Buddha statues and visiting elders to pay respects. These days it has become a day of water fights. Within minutes of arriving ashore, we were both completely drenched thanks to a large group of Thai guys with a hose, some buckets and water guns. Our walk through the small town resulted in more soakings and Rene started getting in on the action too. He used our two small water bottles to throw water at people wielding water guns or buckets and hoses. In addition to having water poured/shot at/thrown over us, some Thai’s took pleasure in wiping white paste (made from talcum powder mixed with water) over our cheeks and faces. After an hour of so of this, we walked back to where our dinghy was moored to recollect ourselves and get a bite to eat.
Songkran victims.
Rene gathered more artillery, finding a stash of used 1.5litre water bottles behind the beachside restaurant. I grabbed my waterproof camera and tried (in vain) to coax the water from my ears. We ventured back in and this time found a massive street party complete with pumping music and everyone spraying water over everyone else! A middle-aged Thai man took great pleasure in repeatedly pouring buckets of water over my head while I danced to the beats and tentatively threw in some of my own water over the crowds. Rene was loving it. I let him continue on and retreated to a nearby bar to sip a coconut and watch the action, dripping in my seat. I was a little concerned by the amount of alcohol being consumed and by the drunken state of a lot of the partying people. One man came up to me while I was standing under my sun umbrella, using it as a bit of a water shield, and spoke to me with such a drunken slur that I couldn’t make sense of him at all. Another man dropped his beer bottle so it smashed – pretty stupid when most of the crowd are dancing bare feet. Apart from a few minor incidences like these, the festival was amazing. Everyone was going off! We ended up on the beach where Rene continued to have impromptu water fights with passers by before playing a very civilised game of chess at a bar with some English lads. 
Rene loving Songkran.
Looking out at the Tonsai anchorage on Phi Phi Don.

We had such a good time on PhiPhi Don. So good that we ended up staying for a few more days. We walked around the little village enjoying the vibe. There are no cars or motorbikes – only bicycles and feet. We went out dancing and were amazed at the insane fire-twirling they do every night here. So much fun :) 
Rene dancing the night away
Amazing fire-twirling displays on Phi Phi Don.
Eventually we had to leave Phi Phi Don. We set sail (and motor) for Ko Rok Nok (07’12.87N 99’04.04E). It was an uneventful trip until we approached the moorings between Rok Nok and Rok Rai. All of the moorings in deep water were already taken so we went to investigate some that were over shallower water (obvious due to the colour of the water). They turned out to be too shallow however! We had to do the old fast-as-possible reverse seconds before hitting a shallow bommie. We anchored in 10 metres on sand instead. Rok Nok is very pretty and also sports an interesting shrine full of carved phallus'. One of the things I love about visiting remote islands is adding to the shrines, rock towers or object collections. This was no exception. On Phi Phi Don Rene had found a rock floating (yes - floating!) and had picked it up. I used this rock to carve a phallus which we added to the shrine. Ah, the crazy things we do!
Phallus shrine on Rok Nok.
We stayed here for a couple of days to enjoy the serenity and natural beauty. Unlike some travellers I know, I cannot help but to notice when things aren't right (environmentally). One afternoon we went exploring by dinghy - just a little farther than the main white-sandy beach. It looked like an untouched rocky shoreline until Rene noticed that the large black rocks weren't in fact rocks at all. (Please note, environmental rant follows):
Ah. What a lovely clean, untouched island....
The large rocks were in fact dozens of large black garbage bags. Each full of rubbish. How did they get all the way out here? This island is miles from any major civilisation. The explanation we settled upon was that a tour boat must have dumped them either directly on the shore or out at sea for them to wash up here. We'd seen a tour boat overflowing with bags exactly like this collected from Phi Phi Le. It lay on a mooring (stinking the area) on Phi Phi Don for days. We hoped it was going to be taken to a land burial site but now we think they probably just dump it at sea.

Until you look closer. Why do people throw their rubbish into the sea???
Thailand is fantastic. The people are lovely. The environment is stunning. But - if things continue this way, will it affect their tourism? They rely upon tourists for their economy. I hope they sort out something soon. It breaks my heart to see pollution on a daily basis. 
Burning rubbish - plastic included. sigh.
The other problem we've seen far too often is the burning of plastics. It happens everywhere (right through Indonesia, Malaysia and here in Thailand). Often the deadly smoke is so thick that it's inescapable. 
Fresh rain-water anyone? Maybe not!
 I'll finish off my environmental rant with a little story about water. The tap water in Thailand is undrinkable (even the locals don't drink it) so we decided to try catching some of the frequent tropical storm rain water. The water is caught on our cockpit roof and is fed down to either a bucket or the boat's water tanks with a food-grade hose. We filled a large white bucket one night and thought that the water looked a little odd by torch light. The next morning we could see that the water was black. Stained with diesel particulates and pollution. We left the bucket on deck for a week or two, hoping that the particulates would gradually settle and form a slick at the bottom of the bucket, allowing us to use the clear water for laundry. The water didn't clear. It actually stained the bucket! We now filter the rain water before drinking it and try to avoid the areas where the rain is black. I wonder what this is doing to the environment? How is it affecting the soil? The sea? The ecosystem?
 
Our final stop in Thailand was at Ko Phetra (07’02.27N 99’28.25E). We stopped here because Rene recalled someone telling him it was worth a visit. It was OK but not the most amazing anchorage, though a small pod of dolphins did greet us as we arrived (not a common sight around here). We did our laundry here using the rainwater we'd collected in the morning storms (it was clear of pollution!). By dinghy we explored the whole western coast of the island finding many interesting crooks and nooks and caves which were inaccessible. The swell was rolling in and bouncing off the rocks. We were most amazed by an electricity cable which was visible high along the cliff face, strung up with bits of rope from trees far above. Following the cable, we found a tiny house all alone made on the rocks. This island is the biggest Swallow nest collection point in the area and so this house must belong to the swallow nest people. What a life!
Swallow house on Ko Phetra.
After a terrible night's sleep on a lee shore, we set out for Langkawi at dawn. The wind was (of course) almost always on our nose so we motored for most of the 44 miles in an uncomfortable sea. The past two months have been truly amazing for us. We're so grateful for being able to have experienced this. To have been able to live. More adventures await!

Sailing towards the rainbow!
Watching rain fall as we leave Thailand.