Phuket to Ko Lipe - The Long Way - Part 1
Updated: Nov 6, 2020
Ko Lipe is one of our favorite islands in Thailand. There is beautiful clear water, amazing bars and restaurants, a great yoga studio, and diving. Our friend Nicole was in Chang Mai, and planning to go to Ko Lipe as well, so we invited her to join us on a sailing trip south to Ko Lipe. Nicole is an online english professor at an American university, giving her the ability to work remotely. She teaches classes for two hours on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. This meant that while she was on board, we must anchor somewhere that had suitable 4g and not be in transit between the hours of 7pm-9pm on those nights.
Before Nicole arrived to Phuket, Chris and I were at Phuket Boat Lagoon arranging our visa extension and completing some maintenance on Skylark. Boat maintenance is a never ending story. We spent one week in Boat Lagoon and overhauled our lpg system and fixed our countertop fridge/freezer (installed a new compressor so now we have three available, so there’s never an excuse for warm beer), the aft air conditioning (faulty capacitor), and washing machine (faulty mains filter).
Fixing the washing machine was a proud moment for us. The previous week during the spin cycle we heard a loud boom and a slight burning smell, so shut it off immediately. We researched the potential causes and discovered it was likely the mains filter. The washing machine was quite a challenge to remove from its place in the forward head. We followed all of the recommended steps by other Amel owners, which required unscrewing bolts in the linen cabinet to disconnect the towel rack in the head, accessing a panel in the forward cabin to remove the screws holding the washing machine in place, and then lifting an awkwardly shaped 63kg machine and transporting it to the lower bunk for inspection. The doorway is very narrow and surrounded by wood making it very difficult to avoid damage.
Upon investigation, we noticed the mains filter was leaking fluid. Chris used a multimeter to check the electrical outputs and the readouts were inconsistent with the rating. This was a relief since we were confident we found the source of the issue and only needed to replace the part.
The washing machine is ten years old, so we considered ordering a new machine to prevent hassles down the road. Unfortunately the dimensions are very specific, and the current Bosch model we have is discontinued. There is a Beko 6kg model that was recommended by other Amel 54 owners, however, the smallest model Beko Thailand carries is 7kg. The unit itself only costs 199 euros in Spain, however, shipping a washing machine to Thailand even during normal times would be expensive and time consuming. Finding a replacement part was our best option.
I searched for the part online, and contacted the Bosch dealer in Bangkok who had the part in stock for 700 baht ($23) and sent it to us via DHL arriving only two days later.
When the part arrived, Chris installed it within minutes and we were ready to lift back into the bathroom, this time with our friend Pauls help. We did a test run and thankfully it worked! The problem was solved, and we no longer felt like we were living in a construction zone. We hope the washing machine works until we get somewhere with a suitable replacement!
Nicole arrived in time for everything to be fully functional, and for our final night in Boat Lagoon. The first night on board at a marina meant cold air-conditioning, a luxury we don’t utilize while at anchor because of the heavy generator usage and potential fire hazard. Thankfully Nicole had spent many nights in Thailand in rooms without air conditioning so was in no way put off by this.
Nicole didn’t have any firm deadlines but she was hoping to arrive in Ko Lipe by mid October since she had many papers to grade around this time. Mid October? That seemed like ages away since it was only September 22nd, and Ko Lipe is only 100 miles from Phuket. But then again, time melts away while cruising around beautiful Thailand. We also weren’t expecting multiple weeks of horrendous weather to get in the way.
We departed Phuket Boat Lagoon and proceeded north, the exact opposite direction of Ko Lipe. We wanted to show Nicole some of our favorite anchorages in the area, and Phang Nga Bay is surely spectacular with its dramatic cliffs and mysterious vibes. We stopped at Naka Island for a couple of nights and then continued north to Ko Panyee, a floating gypsy village. This village was built on stilts by Malay fishermen, and is home to more than 360 families descending from two muslim families from Java in the 18th century. When the settlement was first created, it was forbidden for foreigners to own land, so they built homes on stilts. Over time they gained wealth and the laws changed so they were able to build a mosque and a freshwater well on the connected land. They became a huge tourist attraction and were packed daily with international tourists before Covid. Chris and I visited the first time in 2013 on a speedboat tour from Patong. Back on that visit, Chris was wearing a Chang singlet and I was in some dress purchased from a market. This time, the village was far less crowded with tourists, and Chris and I dressed slightly more appropriately, and arrived from our yacht. Times have certainly changed. Is this the “new normal”?
We anchored in thick mud, and during our first anchor attempt we dragged slightly. I brought up the anchor and saw thick mud and rock that had an interesting consistency. Moving through the water would not get this large sticky chunk off our anchor, and we wanted a clean anchor before trying again. We tried to push the mud off with the boat hook, and also with an old toothbrush that I had used for cleaning earlier. I am fairly confident this thick mud may also be mixed with some sort other “mud” that is surely produced and entering the bay from the village by the thousands of residents and day visitors. We anchored a second time with good holding. Hopefully we don't mistake that toothbrush for our own!
We ventured to the village late afternoon for a walk. We entered the soccer field, home to the Panyee youth soccer team, who are known for being quite successful in the Thai football scene.
Back on Skylark it was wine and cheese night. We had completed a last minute trip to Villa Market at Boat Lagoon and purchased some dreamy creamy french cheese and wine. We forgot to buy crackers, so I made some. My parents mentioned how easy they are to make and how they never buy crackers again. They are correct. All you need to do is blend 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour, 1tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar, 2 tsp herbs of choice, 2 tbsp olive oil and 1/2 cold water. Afterwards, knead the dough until smooth then separate into four pieces, roll them flat then bake in the oven for about 5 minutes per side. Our boat oven doesn’t have a temperature gauge so I turned them over once I saw them getting brown on the bottom. The result is incredible.
We heard a soccer game broadcasted over a loud speaker and hoped it was a soccer game on the floating field! We took the dingy over to check it out, and it was a soccer game, but unfortunately not at the floating field. The game was further inland and we could not see it from our dingy. It was a beautiful evening and we motored off to check out the mangroves and find paintings we saw on a previous visit by long tail. We could not find the paintings again, but enjoyed a peaceful sunset cruise amidst the beautiful scenery.
We returned to Skylark, to resume wine and cheese night, and fried up some gnocchi. We had a little dance party on Skylark to work off some of the cheese. We danced while doing dishes then moved up to the bow to dance some more. Its debatable whether we danced off two wheels of cheese and gnocchi and several bottles of wine but we certainly had fun.
After a couple of days in Ko Panyee, we set sail south to Railay making progress towards Ko Lipe. The conditions were beautiful initially, then got a little bit rough from some wind fighting the current. On the east side of Railay, it was calm and protected. There were a few moorings, but we anchored since we trust our anchor. We told Nicole how amazing our anchor is and that we have never had any problems, and that it is an expensive anchor but is one of the best, and blah blah blah. There was a squall approaching so we decided to wait to go to shore until the squall passed since we did not want to get soaked. We showed Nicole how the anchor alarm works, and told her we have never dragged on Skylark once the anchor was set. I am serious when I say, that within 5 minutes of this conversation a squall came through and we began dragging. The winds were quite high and we were positioned strangely side onto the wind. Chris pulled up the anchor map and saw we were actively penetrating the alarm ring radius. We went into the cockpit and started the engine and motored into the wind to stop moving backwards.
We brought up the anchor and went to one of the moorings in the meantime. The holding was evidently not very good, and we regret not testing it with a higher RPM in reverse. We spent the evening at the mooring with a close eye on the anchor watch, and watched a movie and sipped cocktails reminiscing on the experiences and trying not to think about “what if we were on shore when that happened”.
Dragging the anchor was a good lesson to experience while on the boat and awake, since we were able to see the boats dragging characteristics, how the anchor alarm reacts (or doesn’t react when the bluetooth connects to the stereo system and the alarm doesn’t sound), and what we can do in the situation.
What we can improve so this won't happen again:
1. Don't anchor where the holding is poor.
2. Put more chain out. We had 30 meters of chain out, it was also quite shallow (4m total), but maybe we should have put out more given the storms in the area.
3. Reverse with a higher RPM to ensure no dragging.
4. Ensure the Ipad anchor alarm is not connected to the bluetooth stereo.
5. Send the anchor alarm links to other devices so everyone hears the alert.
The following day we left Railay for Krabi River. We had no interest to go on shore now and the weather was stormy. We arrived in Krabi River during high tide and anchored across from the marina. We anchored there previously and trusted the holding, and ensured we backed in the anchor firmly. It is also super protected so we felt a lot more comfortable being there compared to Railay.
We ventured to shore for a seaside lunch, where we could keep a close eye on Skylark. Nicole needed to do some classwork, so Chris took her back to the boat, and I stayed on shore and went for a walk. It is not often I go for a walk by myself anymore, since Chris and I usually go to shore together. I felt like I was back on a work layover and strolling around.
It was a school night for Nicole and she needed to teach at 7pm. We went for an early dinner on shore at our favorite riverside street food market. There is a dock for long tail boats that seemed be fine to leave our dingy at in front of the market. We had a green curry, pad thai, some satay and an ice cold Leo.
We rushed back to Skylark around 6:45. Chris and I watched a couple of documentaries about the Maldives while Nicole taught her students. So studious on Skylark!
We visited Tiger Cave Temple on the most beautiful morning. Nicole suggested we take a songthaew. A songthaew has two bench seats along the back of the truck.
We ended up being the only people on board, and it was a cool experience. Our journey costed only 100 baht/person($3) roundtrip for our journey. Last time when Chris and I were in Krabi we took a taxi to the tiger temple and paid 800 baht($22) return, and the temple ended up being closed do to Covid. It is nice to have a new experience and save some money along the way. Thanks Nicole!
The Tiger Cave temple is perched on a mountain, accessible by climbing 1257 steep steps. The first few steps were quite shallow and I made the mistake of commenting on how easy it was. Then they progressively became steeper and some required large movements. Every 20 steps or so there was a painted number showing which step number you are on to show progress or lack of progress. Thankfully the path was primarily covered by trees giving us shade on a hot sunny day. We saw a troop of monkeys, and were a bit concerned with the lack of tourists that they may be extra curious and hungry. Nicole led the way in single file and walked past them with confidence. Chris was behind me wearing a backpack and one monkey jumped on his backpack and rode on it for a few steps before losing interest. Luckily we had no food with us.
We reached the top after being on the never-ending stair master and were treated to beautiful views. Only one other person, a Thai man, was at the top so it was very peaceful. During normal times, this is a popular tourist attraction and I can imagine the experience is much different.
The walk down was much quicker, but we knew that sore legs were going to be inevitable a couple of days later. We were correct about that.
We hopped on the bus back to Krabi town and feasted on dim sum after a solid morning of exercise.
We spent a week in Krabi, mostly eating delicious food, drinking and strolling around. Chris and I visited the dentist and are happy to report no cavities! We were in the dental chair for less than ten minutes, which is a record for teeth cleaning for us, and the price was only 900 baht (30$). I am fairly certain if I went to a dentist back in America I would have been told I have several cavities that need to be filled immediately and it would cost considerably more.
Our final day in Krabi, we ventured in the dingy to Koh Klang Seafood, a floating restaurant amidst the mangroves. They offered us their set menu, that is normally for eight people minimum, and cost 380 baht/person ($13). Since we were only three people, they would make us the same meal but for 400 baht/person ($14) . The had four set menus to choose from and told us we could mix and match from our favorites.
Red curry mud crab with coconut milk
Sea bass spicy & sour clear soup
Stir fried squid with salted egg
Deep fried prawn with tamarind sauce
Spicy seafood salad
Stir fried clams with roasted chili paste
While we were waiting for the feast to be prepared, they gave us a tour around the fish farm. They had massive grouper, oysters, snapper and more! We were able to feed the fish and see some of the cool tricks they were capable of. One fish would spit if you hovered your finger out of the water.
Finally our feast arrived, and it could have served 8 easily. Over the course of 2 hours, we picked away at impossibly delicious Thai style seafood. We left absolutely stuffed and thankful the dingy didn't sink on the way back with all of the extra new weight!
We were expecting it to be good, however, we were blown away by the ambiance, quality and quantity of the food and service. I highly recommend you visit here if you are in Krabi by either your dingy or taking a long tail from Krabi Town.
We spent a couple more days enjoying the city and then continued our journey south, planning to arrive in Ko Lipe only a few days later….It ended up taking over two more weeks!!! In part two, we continue to Ko Lipe after experiencing the worst stretch of weather we have ever had in Thailand!