Before I Die…

Yana de Lys anchored in Phang Nga Bay. It only took 20+ years for the first of my sailing trips to happen.
Yana de Lys anchored in Phang Nga Bay. It only took 20+ years to make it happen.

I daydreamed of sailing trips in the tropics for more than 20 years before my dreams finally came true. A lot of life got in the way before I started cruising.

After we bought Yana de Lys  we spent a few years fixing her up in Langkawi, then heading back to Australia to make more money to continue fixing her up, then doing short sailing trips around the 99 islands of Langkawi, then going home to Australia to make more money. Repeat. Rinse. Repeat again. You get the picture Yogi Berra.
Not all of the things we fixed worked out as we would have hoped as we discovered sailing from Langkawi to Phuket.
If you’ve been following my sailing trips in the Stranded in Paradise series, this is the epilogue. If not, you can read the story so far in:

  1. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
  2. Stranded in Paradise
  3. Still Stranded in Paradise
  4. I had my eye on a Monet but settled for a Van Gogh instead


Dreaming of a sailing trip when nothing goes wrong

When I first heard of Candy Chang’s Before I Die projects all I wanted to achieve before I shuffled off this mortal coil was sail Yana de Lys to a destination with no significant gear failure.
Well yay. It’s happened. And it feels goooood.

Yacht Haven. The first of our sailing trips from Boat Lagoon to here was trouble free.
Yacht Haven. We had a trouble free sail here from Boat Lagoon. Yay!

Dreams do come true in Yacht Haven

After spending eight months in Boat Lagoon Marina replacing the perished, seriously leaking teak decks and fixing all the things that broke on our way over from Langkawi we sailed up to Yacht Haven on the north east of Phuket.
Yacht Haven is as beautiful as its name make it sound. Perfect for sitting out the wet season and hanging out until we’re ready for our next move. And it’s just round the corner from our new playground: Phang Nga Bay.

We visited Koh Phanak in Phang Nga Bay on one of our sailing trips.
Koh Phanak in Phang Nga Bay.

Phang Nga Bay

Phang Nga Bay became famous when they shot scenes for the 1974 James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun. The towering limestone cliffs are breathtaking, other worldly. The sea caves are like weird natural cathedrals with beaches.

The sea caves are like weird natural cathedrals with beaches. Click To Tweet
Sea cave entrance. Sea caves were a highlight of our sailing trips in Thailand
Sea cave entrance. Inside the cave is a sublime spiritual experience.

So far we have stayed at anchorages off Koh Wai Noi, Koh Phanak and Koh Hong. We haven’t covered any vast distances (one day we made a major passage of 3.8 NM LOL) but everything that matters on Yana has worked just fine.

Koh Wai Noi in Phang Nga Bay as seen from Yana de Lys on one of our sailing trips
Koh Wai Noi in Phang Nga Bay

Okay there’s one tick off my bucket list. My next goal before I die is to figure out how to set up my financial feng shui so there is always more money flowing in than out. I’ve learnt you can’t survive on spectacular scenery and seawater. Any ideas?


What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

100 Plastic Water Bottles to the Rescue

Candy Chang: Before I die I want to…

I had my eye on a Monet but settled for a Van Gogh instead

View from our anchorage on Ko Phi Phi, Thailand with coral close to the surface
View from our anchorage on Ko Phi Phi, Thailand. Coral as far as they eye could see inviting us to dive in for a snorkel.

Ten grueling hours after leaving our safe haven on the east coast of Ko Lanta we finally arrived in Tonsai Bay at Ko Phi Phi, Thailand.  It’s only 30 NM (nautical miles).

Wondering why our trip took so long? Check out the story so far: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?Stranded in Paradise and Still Stranded in Paradise.

Were we going to make it to Ko Phi Phi Thailand?

The drive shaft was wobbling dangerously the whole way.  I concentrated on steering while the Other Captain kept an eye on the drive shaft down below, appearing white faced and chain smoking after each engine room check, a prophet of gloom telling me how bad it looked, providing an extensive litany of the serious structural damage we could be causing to Yana de Lys, saying he’s going to need a tropical holiday after this leg. (How about a holiday on Ko Phi Phi Thailand I wondered?)

How about a holiday on Ko Phi Phi I wondered? Click To Tweet

The whole situation felt scary and wrong.  Our average speed was just three knots (about 5.5 kmph) with the wind and choppy swell coming from the direction in which we were headed. Sailing wasn’t an option. We had to use the engine despite our profound misgivings.

To make things worse, we were towing our new super size Queen Mary dinghy, slowing us down by at least one knot. However we had managed to wrangle Thumper (the outboard) onto the deck, so that helped a bit I guess.

Queen Mary and Thumper on the beach at Ko Phi Phi in the foreground, a sunken longtail behind them and Yana de Lys, still floating in the background
Queen Mary and Thumper in the foreground, a sunken longtail behind them and Yana de Lys, still floating (yay!) in the background

Hordes of daytrippers

So, in between bouts of the Chief Engineer sweating it out in the engine room, trying to figure out how to fix the latest problems, we took a holiday on Ko Phi Phi Thailand.

We were told by lots of people before we arrived that Ko Phi Phi’s a rat race.  And compared to the serenity of Ko Muk and the laid back peace of Ko Lanta, Ko Phi Phi was swarming with tourists.

Every day hordes of young backpackers in bikinis and bare chests came in on the ferries. We could hardly move on the narrow walking streets, or in the shops and restaurants. And this was the quiet season.

By around four in the afternoon, the day trippers vanished leaving room to move but still plenty of action.

Stranded in paradise again

Another sunken boat in Tonsai Bay, Ko Phi Phi Thailand
Another sunken boat to haunt us in Tonsai Bay
Budget accommodation? In Tonsai Bay Ko Phi Phi Thailand
Budget accommodation in Tonsai Bay? Check out the crystal clear water.

We played at being tourists for ten days – snorkeling, drinking cocktails and even shopping.

There was a stall selling dresses printed with famous Impressionist paintings.  I had my eye on Monet’s Water Lillies, but they didn’t have my size (too big of course) so I settled for a Van Gogh instead.

I had my eye on Monet's Water Lillies, but they didn't have my size so I settled for a Van Gogh instead. Click To Tweet
Monet's Water Lillies printed on a dress for sale, Ko Phi Ph Thailand
Monet’s Water Lillies was too big for me

We were anchored in about 12 meters of clear as clear turquoise water. We could swim over to where the tour operators take the punters for snorkeling trips.  The water was a perfect temperature with outstanding visibility. There were more fish in our face than we could poke a stick at, although the coral was sadly degraded.

The weather was glorious and sunny for the whole time.  I suppose you could call it a voluntary stranding in paradise. Ko Phi Phi Thailand is certainly a tourist paradise.

... a voluntary stranding in paradise. Click To Tweet

Phuket at last!

The Chief Engineer (AKA the Other Captain) discovered and replaced a second broken engine mount. We discovered later our mechanic in Langkawi had tried to save us money by supplying non-marine engine mounts.

We set off for a last overnight anchorage at Ko Yao Yai before heading in to Boat Lagoon at Phuket once the Chief Engineer managed to reduce the drive shaft wobble, after endless hours of trial and error in the engine room.

This leg was an uneventful 16 miles, again at an average of three knots, but with very little swell.

We towed both the Queen Mary and Thumper, sacrificing even more speed. We figured it’s such a drama manhandling the 47 kg Thumper outboard engine on and off Yana de Lys, we’d probably be in terminal danger before we could use the tender as an tow vessel if we ended up in trouble again…

The final leg of 13 miles to the entrance of Boat Lagoon was even easier – no swell whatsoever, totally benign conditions.  We parked Yana in the mud at Boat Lagoon Marina.  Finally.


What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Stranded in Paradise

Still Stranded in Paradise

Still Stranded in Paradise

We were nervous as turkeys at Christmas during our trip from Ko Muk to the very safe anchorage on the east side of Ko Lanta Yai.

Wondering why we were so worried? Check out the story so far: What Could Possibly Go Wrong? and Stranded in Paradise.

Ko Lanta Old Town at high tide, seen from our anchorage
Ko Lanta Old Town at high tide, seen from our anchorage


Wrecking rocks on the way to Ko Lanta

Our trip started with very light wind in the exact direction we were heading, so sailing wasn’t an option. There were yacht wrecking rocks on our lee side. And when we used Perky, our engine, the recently replaced drive shaft was overheating alarmingly on account of the shonky engine mount bolts.  Yep we were nervous sailors.

But we ended up happy sailors when we altered course and the wind picked up. The last two hours turned out to be perfect sailing, averaging around six knots exactly in the direction I wanted to head.

My second road trip to Phuket

We needed to replace the wobbling engine mounts, the root cause of our broken drive shaft.

With Yana de Lys safely anchored on the east side of Ko Lanta, we  hired a car and the Other Captain and I set off on a road trip to Phuket.

How do you do a road trip between islands? Via two car ferries then a bridge.

How do you do a road trip between islands? Via two car ferries then a bridge. Click To Tweet

We needed to find new engine mounts for Perky and to replace Yana Banana, our dinghy.

Yana Banana, an itty bitty inflatable, was taking in water and letting out air at an alarming rate. Her outboard wasn’t working either after going for a swim during one of her low inflation high sea water content moments.

Ko Lanta to Phuket road trip
Road trip from Ko Lanta

What else could possibly go wrong?

I guess this was the point when I started wondering when things would start going right.

I guess this was the point when I started wondering when things would start going right. Click To Tweet
  • I got a miserable brain numbing cold
  • My computer was stolen by sea gypsies. I hadn’t done a back up since Langkawi because we didn’t have enough AC power because of our engine problems.  But I had transferred all my current photos onto the stolen computer and deleted them from the camera
  • We ended up with a monster four stroke outboard, and a dinghy way too big for our needs. We called the outboard Thumper and the tender the Queen Mary. The guys in Phuket delivered the wrong models, but agreed we could change them when we got to Phuket in Yana
  • The monsoon influencing the weather created two weeks of impossible conditions for sailing on to Phuket. (I’d told my employer I was taking a two week break. I ended up losing my job)
  • The engine still wobbled like crazy with the new engine mounts

Stranded in paradise again

But Old Town on the east coast of Ko Lanta is a charming place to stranded.

Old Lanta Town is all character, sensationally delicious honest Thai food and relaxed friendly locals.

Old Town Ko Lanta
Old Town Ko Lanta – the “front side”

The restaurant staff lead you from the street-facing tables and chairs through the kitchen to the restaurant’s “back side” where the rest of the tables and chairs are over the water (at high tide).

Back side restaurant, Old Town, Ko Lanta
“Back side”

I terrorised the locals with my attempts at their language from my Thai phrase book. They would respond by either correcting my pronunciation, staring at me blankly or smiling encouragement.
The community comprises a lot of Chinese and Muslim Thais.  Their calls to prayer were much more musical and less mournful than in Langkawi.  As I was riding past a mosque on our scooter there was a dog howling along with the call to prayer.
The weather was wild for about a week. Even the local fishing boats came into the safe anchorage.

There were two days when it was so rough we couldn’t get to shore, even with Thumper and the Queen Mary.  We got cabin fever and felt like prisoners in paradise until the forecasts improved.

When there was a break in the weather we continued on our way to Phuket. With an unscheduled ten day stay at Ko Phi Phi. Find out why in the next episode of Stranded in Paradise.


What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

I had my eye on a Monet but settled for a Van Gogh

Before I die…


Stranded in Paradise


We were anchored off the Sivalai Resort, Ko Muk
We were anchored off the Sivalai Resort

Ko Muk is the epitome of a dream tropical island.  Palm trees, white sandy beaches, friendly locals. There are plenty of worse place to get stuck with major boat maintenance issues.

...the epitome of a dream tropical island. Palm trees, white sandy beaches, friendly locals. Click To Tweet

If you want to know why we were stranded on Yana de Lys, at Ko Muk in Thailand, check out the story so far in What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Ko Muk’s Boatman to the rescue

The drive shaft  (which makes the engine turn the propeller which makes the boat move, to dumb it down if you don’t think like an engineer, dear), was kaput. We were at the wrong end of the sailing season so couldn’t rely on the wind to get us to our destination of Phuket.

We had to replace the drive shaft. A major job normally done when boats are out of the water. Not an option on the tiny paradise island of Ko Muk. What to do?

Boatman runs a longtail shuttle and charter service for the Sivalai five star resort. His friend Chai, came with him to look at our drive shaft to see if they could help fix it (it was always terminal) and decided we could take the drive shaft out, in the water, and get a replacement made in one day over on the mainland at Kantang.

Our much loved interpreter

We negotiated through one of the receptionists at the resort. (“Just call me Tammy, it’ll be easier for you than my Thai name”).  Boatman insisted Tammy join us on Yana when he checked things out because he speaks no English.  Tammy, now our much loved interpreter, told her manager she needed to spend the afternoon on our boat.  (“These people come from the sea, we have to help them”).  She is the ultimate compassionate Buddhist.

Stranded in Paradise Click To Tweet

Success number one

So Boatman and Chai freedived on Yana and took the shaft out that afternoon. Not exactly easy, but all done with lovely light humour and a lot of struggling on Tammy’s part to translate the names of the tools they were asking for during cigarette breaks between dives.

We ended up with wooden bungs in place of the of the broken drive shaft. Success number one.

The next day Boatman took me in his longtail to the pier on the mainland and Chai and I hired a driver to take us to Kantang, then Trang.  It seemed we could get the replacement drive shaft made in Kantang.

I did my best at talking them into making a “copy” which I wanted, not a “fix” which they also talked about. I knew I definitely didn’t want a fix. (Think potential for broken welding as in the premise of The Finest Hours movie.)

Not that I know much about these things, I just took the calipers so I would look like I knew what was going on. (Pretend to look like an engineer, dear.) Unfortunately there was no stainless 30mm rod to be found. Anywhere. Not even the larger town of Trang. Verdict: only available in Phuket.

Success number two

Meanwhile the Chief Engineer (AKA The Other Captain) was manning the bilge pump, not letting Yana out of sight.

I was resigned to taking the six hour bus ride to Phuket the next day, perhaps staying overnight, when another of Boatman’s friends, Braxsir (“Just call me Sir”) offered to drive me to Phuket, pick up the “spare part” and be back on Ko Muk in one day.  Stuff the 6000 baht ($200) expense I thought, and yes I said – pick me up at 6:00 am and we’ll do it.

Now that road trip was an adventure in itself, and it was success number two. I talked a manufacturing operation into selling me the stainless steel bar we needed. Yay.

The Chief Engineer spent the day working the bilge pump, not letting Yana out of sight.

Success number three

I set off again in the longtail with my new driver to pick up the drive shaft “copy” in Kantang the next afternoon.  Success number three!  The Chief Engineer was getting a bit stir crazy by then, what with me off gallivanting all over the country with the Thai boys, and him getting rather bored with the bilge pump.

Anyway, the new shaft was installed. It didn’t leak and appeared to work fine.  It cost 4000 baht for the stainless steel rod and precision engineering. I spent another 13,000 in transport to get it to Ko Muk, go figure.

Boatman absolutely refused payment. He said, through Tammy, he’d never worked on a boat like ours and did it for curiosity and pleasure. We plied him with gifts of cigarettes, whiskey, stainless steel bolts and simple heartfelt gratitude.

The Chief Engineer was delighted not to be manning the bilge pump anymore.

We celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary with cocktails and the most expensive item on the menu for dinner at the Sivalai Resort.  Our TripAdvisor review might have gone something like “Strange Pina Coladas, Weird Barracuda”.  But we were still thrilled to be leaving the next day.

Then we discovered why the drive shaft had failed in the first place: a broken engine mount bolt.

Read how our adventure continued in Still Stranded in Paradise.


What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Still Stranded in Paradise

I had my eye on a Monet but settled for a Van Gogh

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Finally we left Langkawi in Malaysia after working on Yana de Lys for two years. It was kinda late in the sailing season for a sailing trip to Thailand. Were we too impatient? Was Yana ready? What could possibly go wrong?

Stranded in paradise on our sailing trip: the view from our anchorage at Ko Muk
Stranded in paradise: the view from our anchorage at Ko Muk

Sailing to Phuket in easy stages

We were going to sail to Phuket in easy stages, with safe anchorages planned along the way in case the weather hit the fan.

Well it wasn’t the weather which hit the fan it was the drive shaft.

After two nights of blissful anchorages, I was thinking this is why we have a boat. That two years of hard work was worth it after all. Perky the engine was purring and I felt I could trust her to motor all 120 NM (nautical miles) if we ended up with no wind to help us.

When a sailing trip goes wrong, it can go very, very wrong

Then  at around 9 am on Day 3 of our tropical island sailing trip, 20 NM north of Taratao Island the drive shaft  snapped, right at the end where it meets the gearbox. No way we could jury rig a fix on board, alone in the water.

This is where the drive shaft broke on our sailing trip
Drive shaft before the disaster

Sailing into the wind

We started sailing north in about 3 knots of wind (from the north!). We tacked for three or four hours between Ko Phetra and Ko Tului Noi making less one than mile progress.  Then the wind picked up but it was still pretty well in the direction we wanted to go until we began heading for Ko Talebong.

Passing rocky outcrops in the dark

It was hairy passing those rocky outcrops at the SW end of Ko Talebong, close hauled in the moonless dark. But we finally made it to a safe anchorage at Ko Muk by 11 pm, despite the fact the only night sailing we’d ever done was in our TAFE Yachtmaster courses and we’d never anchored without using the engine before.

What is it they say about cruising sailing trips being 99% boredom and 1% panic? Click To Tweet

You can read more about how this sailing trip got better, then got worse, and how we finally made it to Phuket six weeks later, in the Stranded in Paradise blogs.


Stranded in Paradise

Still Stranded in Paradise

I had my eye on a Monet but settled for a Van Gogh