A Taste of the East Page 2

You know you are in for a different kind of cruising experience when a) the guide book says: “Do not go ashore onto either of the Koh Liang islands. They are sites for the collection of swallow’s nests to make bird’s nest soup. They are patrolled by local Thais armed with automatic weapons;” and b) the charter base manager (ours was Andy Middleton, who runs the Sunsail base in Langkawi, Malaysia)
Author:
Updated:
Original:

There is a considerable amount of protected water around the island of Langkawi. However, instead of exploring this area, we opted the next morning to head out into the Andaman Sea. Our destination was the Butang island group, some 20 miles distant. Already, with peaks as high as 2,300 feet, they were clearly visible on the horizon.

We found a spectacular anchorage tucked in among some rocky islets with not another boat in sight. In fact, during our entire charter we only once shared an anchorage with another boat, and we rarely saw any non-native boats at sea. We’d been told the Butangs are the place to go snorkeling, so the minute the anchor was set, we donned fins and face masks and jumped in the water. What we found was the healthiest and most beautiful reef we have ever seen, teeming with Pacific and Indian Ocean fish. In contrast to almost every Caribbean reef we have explored, there was little or no visible damage—a truly stunning sight that has forever ruined us for snorkeling elsewhere.

The reef colors in the Andaman Sea are much more vibrant than in the Caribbean (the bright blue coral and anemones look like someone spilled a can of paint), the fish are wonderful (we loved the clown fish), and giant clams with Technicolor lips are everywhere. There’s also a wide array of fascinating poisonous creatures, including box jellyfish, sea snakes and numerous fish with nasty spines. The lionfish have to be seen to be believed. The water is several degrees warmer than in the Caribbean, so we stayed in for hours at a time without getting chilly.

Low tide uncovered empty yellow sand beaches on all sides, interspersed with rocky headlands. The vegetation ashore was equatorial jungle. There was also the ever-present backdrop of islands rising steeply 2,000 feet out of the sea, and the constant passage of the colorful local “long-tail” fishing boats, many of which have now been pressed into tourist service.

All the photo opportunities! And yet the following morning we found the batteries were dead in all our cameras, and without an inverter on board we had no means of recharging them. Fortunately, or unfortunately, this area is also home to a massive tourist industry that is slowly spreading its tentacles out from Phuket. So we headed to a “porn resort” (which turned out to be pretty tame) seven miles away on a neighboring island to find shorepower, anchoring off for the night while recharging our batteries. The young members of our crew appreciated the opportunity to hit the beach and have a beer.

Unfortunately, they also found a local fruit called durian. Pippin, Paul and Jonah have been studying in Indonesia where they acquired a taste for this “delicacy,” which has such a disgusting smell that it is banned in many public places in this part of the world, including the airport at Langkawi. As soon as they brought it back to the boat, it was duly confined to a downwind area on deck.

Another day and another open-water passage in light winds and seas to Ko Rok Nok, a couple of islands surrounded by relatively deep water. These islands are just far enough offshore to be out of reach of the speedboats emanating from Phuket. As a result they have so far escaped the onslaught of tourist boats we saw during the rest of our cruise.

The snorkeling here was the best yet. We followed a large moray eel (the first we have seen in the open), tracked a giant puffer fish, watched a huge iridescent-blue jellyfish capture a large crab, came across hundreds of parrot fish in a feeding frenzy and saw a host of other wonderful sights. Once again, the lionfish stole the show.

Related

FB-BHM-1024

SAIL Black History Month Series: James Forten

James Forten was born on September 2, 1766 in Philadelphia to free Black parents Thomas and Margaret Forten. Forten attended a Quaker school as a young child, then went to work with his father who was a sailmaker. His father died when he was still young, and Forten worked ...read more

sailme-app_ SAIL

5 Ways Sail.me Helps You Monetize Your Boat

Ready to earn some extra funds by renting out your boat or yacht? Sail.me is an interactive service that allows you to monetize your boat in a secure, safe, and easy way. A user-friendly app and website will help you manage reservations, add-ons, and set customized routes to ...read more

VendeePromo

2020-21 Vendée Timeline

As a spectator event, France’s Vendée Globe never disappoints, and the 2020-21 edition of the quadrennial round-the-world race was no exception. From equipment failures to climactic rescues, heartbreaking abandonments and a breathtakingly close finish, this edition, which ...read more

valleytrunk3

BVI Chartering in the Pandemic

The week before I flew out to the British Virgin Islands for a bareboat charter, I was having a few second thoughts. The islands had broken out of their Covid-enforced tourism hiatus in December, but the conditions of entry seemed a little stringent: a negative Covid test within ...read more

01-LEAD-windfarm

Sailing Amid Offshore Wind Farms

Here in Europe, the general feeling about green energy from offshore wind turbines has moved on after an initial surge of general skepticism. Concerns raised over cost, threats to seabirds, wind interference and the rest have to some extent been answered, and it’s hard to argue ...read more

LunaRossaPrada

VIDEO: Luna Rossa Wins the Prada Cup

The show has gone on despite last week's Covid panic in Auckland, and the "underdog" Italians are victorious. After being bested by INEOS Team UK in the round robin section, they seemed to have an uphill battle ahead of them going into the finals. However, the Italians have been ...read more

FB-BHM-Cuffe-2048x

SAIL Black History Month Series: Paul Cuffe

Paul Cuffe was born on Cuttyhunk Island, Massachusetts, in 1759. His mother was a Native American woman named Ruth Moses, and his father was Kofi Slocum, a formerly enslaved man from the Ashanti Empire, located in modern-day Ghana. They had 10 children including Paul. His ...read more

Ryan-Finn

Point of SAIL: Ryan Finn on Solo-sailing a Proa Round Cape Horn

In this episode of Point of SAIL, Principal Editor Adam Cort talks with solo-sailor Ryan Finn, a veteran bluewater passagemaker looking to re-create the famed New York-to-San Francisco clipper aboard the 36ft proa, Jzerro. Although Finn was forced to abandon his first attempt ...read more