Phuket to Ko Lipe - The Long Way - Part 2
In part 1, we (Chris, Nicole and I) began our journey from Phuket to Ko Lipe, which is only about 100 miles from Phuket. We took the scenic route venturing slightly out of the way, stopping at Naka Yai, Ko Panyee, Railey Beach, and then Krabi River. We decided we had enough 'city life' and wanted to be in beautiful Ko Lipe. We expected this to take only a few days, and it ended up taking another two weeks. Two weeks that consisted of 90% rain and high winds!
Before we could leave Krabi, we needed to stock up on a few items. What better way to do this than to go to the local market? In the city center there is a huge market with produce, meat, fish, curries, and more! The prices are all local, and the quality is incredible.
The produce is locally sourced, and it is best to visit early in the morning when it is the freshest. We settled for around 9am, which was still suitable. We filled up a basket with limes, galangal, keffir lime, tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms, chilies, basil, lemongrass and probably more. The prices are very reasonable, and all of these items were less than 300 baht ($10USD) total!
There were many cuts of chickens available. You bag the pieces that you want, and the lady charges you based on weight. We did not buy any chicken today since we already had a lot in our deep freezer from Phuket that we still needed to get through. We tend to eat a lot of vegetarian meals on board and not get through the meat very quickly.
The fresh prawns were only 50 baht($1.60USD)/kg. Amazing. They also have large prawns for 150 baht($4.80USD)/kg as well. Up in Phang Gna Bay, the standard rate for fresh prawns from the fishermen that come straight to your boat is 500 baht($16.10USD)/kg. I can see why they like to sell to us now, since the profit margin is much higher at these prices! Despite the higher price, we will continue to buy from the local fishermen whenever they sell directly to us. The prawns are conveniently delivered straight to Skylark, the fishermen are super friendly, and it is an amazing experience having prawns so fresh they are moving still!
Squid? Fish? Delish!
Green curry, red curry, penang curry, massaman curry...They make the curry paste fresh in the back of the shop and once scooped into the bags they last for up to a month in the fridge!!! A huge bag costs only 10 baht($0.33USD) and will last a few meals. Is curry paste only for making curries? No! We began including it in many other dishes! Try making a salad dressing with a little bit of red curry paste, coconut milk, lime juice and chilies. Another option is to stuff a freshly caught fish with curry paste and onions. The possibilities are endless, and with the variety of curries you could really eat curry every night and not get sick of it!
Sometimes I used to wonder how it was possible for the street vendors to make money with such delicious fresh food prepared at low costs (at least perceived by my western standards). After visiting the market and seeing the fresh and reasonable foods available, I now understand it. I made a spreadsheet to calculate meal costs for a few days out of curiosity, and discovered by cooking local Thai style dishes it was less than 30 baht ($1USD) per person per meal when using ingredients from the market. If the venders are charging 40 baht($1.30USD) they are still making profit, especially when dealing with bulk quantities. Our favorite morning omelettes are less than 50 cents per person! How is this possible? Well, we can buy 30 for 101 baht ($3.25USD) which is about 11 cents per egg, add in a few market veggies and some olive oil for cooking and its around 50 cents. It makes McDonalds breakfast look expensive!
Make sure not to put all 30 eggs in one basket though! It is also possible to buy a dozen eggs for 120 baht ($3.90USD) which is 32 cents per egg, which shows the wide pricing options available. Despite the delicious meals on Skylark and how much we enjoy to cook, we still love going out for meals, whether it be a nice restaurant or a street food stall. There are many delicious food opportunities here in Thailand that we do not want to miss! When we dine somewhere nice we feel better knowing about our 50 cent omelette we had in the morning! Sometimes we go from 50 cent omelette to $50 lunch. It all evens out.
Once we provisioned, we decided to feed Skylark some diesel for her Sunday brunch. We stopped at nearby Port Takola before a “quick” hop down to Ko Lipe. We already had 650L of fuel on board, however, at Port Takola Marina the fuel prices are reasonable compared to Phuket marinas and their fuel dock is easy to access. It never hurts having a full tank! Unless you are on fire, then a full tank wouldn't help. We topped off our tanks by adding 350L for a total of 900L.
We recently discovered diesel prices can vary more than 30% on a given day in the Phuket area depending on where you go. We previously always fueled at marinas in Phuket since we were concerned about fuel quality. One evening, we were at a bar in Chalong bay, and met a boat captain of a beautiful 85ft yacht who fuels from the fuel barge who told us he never has had any problems with the fuel. We took the dingy to the barge the next day to check it out and the price was 23.5baht/L. I called a nearby marina for their fuel prices and their prices were 33.7 baht/L. I felt some regret since it was the same marina where we put in 800L of fuel back in January. Oops. We ended up going to the barge, and we had no problems with the fuel. It is a bit rustic and cash only, but the price was great and the quality was fine. This is the last time I mention pricing in this post, I promise!
After a quick and easy fueling experience, and filling our water tank, we departed Port Takola. We proceeded slightly northeast and anchored on the west side of Chicken Island for one slightly rough night. It was a bit gloomy out, so we stayed on the boat the whole time.
The following morning we went to the Phi Phi Islands, where we planned to stay for two nights. It ended up turning into 11 nights due to weather.
Nicole had to teach a class, and we were worried the internet wasn’t going to be good at the anchorage we planned in between Ko Phi Phi and Ko Lipe. There was a weather warning for the upcoming weekend since there was a tropical depression in the South China Sea strengthening the southwest monsoon, that was bringing high winds and heavy rain. We planned to go the day after she taught, however, the weather arrived earlier and lasted longer than forecasted. There was storm after storm and we experienced gusts up to 50kts. The holding is very good thankfully.
Our rainy day activities included boat maintenance, cooking, cards, reading, swimming and working on Outside Watch. Nicole was very helpful with editing the blog and giving some great tips. She also teaches digital humanities including creating blogs so it was great to get some feedback!
Another rainy day, another curry!
We also completed our first vlog, and published the website. We were super excited with all the positive responses from our friends and family. If you have not seen the first video yet, check it out below!
We purchased a new flag on Phi Phi, since our courtesy flag was ravaged by the weather. The weather was so windy we nearly lost half of our flag! We replaced our courtesy flag several times since being in Thailand, since we have been here the entire low season and the flags we bought at the chandlery were low quality. Low quality in low season does not last long! We hope our replacement flag will last until we leave to the Maldives in December. The flag below basically sums up the weather we experienced from the previous month.
We continued to monitor the weather, waiting for our chance to continue south. We could see huge waves outside the bay, and the forecast was for 2.5m swell. We saw speedboats coming and going into the rough seas and they were being slammed around. Skylark could surely handle it, but we didn’t want to be slamming into waves and wind for ten plus hours. The journey is important when sailing and we don’t want to put Skylark under any extra unnecessary stress. Phi Phi is not a bad place to hang out. There are spectacular cliffs, on shore provisioning, and the anchorage is protected.
Finally after 9 days at Phi Phi, the forecast was downgraded to 1.5-2m swell, so we decided to give it a try. We took the engine off the dingy, but unfortunately left the dingy on the davits. Our davits are quite high and our dingy is light so we didn’t think it would be an issue. Once we were about 20 minutes into our journey, and in the fully unprotected swell, the waves were the biggest we have ever seen. There were some rogue waves that were spaced quite far apart, but looked like they could be up to 4m. It is difficult to judge wave height, but it looked at least the height of two tall guys. We saw the dingy getting quite close to the waves at times and became a bit nervous. In its current state it was fine, however we feared with the unstable weather, a storm would stir up the sea and a rogue wave would come and swamp our dingy and davits. A cubic meter or water weighs a ton. Literally 1000kg. Our dingy can possibly hold up cubic meter, so if this happened, it is possible for the davits to rip off and then we would be in an unfortunate situation. We read about horror stories of this happening before. The risk was not worth it, so we turned back to Phi Phi and decided to try the following day after strapping the dingy securely on the deck. The forecast was also improving which was a bonus.
A couple hours later, at 1:06PM, we were in good 4g coverage and safely at the anchorage. We checked checked the radar and saw a huge storm near Ko Lanta. We were very happy to be at Phi Phi and not rounding the corner at Ko Lanta which is usually quite rough during normal times.
Fortunately in Phi Phi, we had one of our most fun evenings in a while. We went to Karaoke and sang a couple of songs with some new friends. We sang our usual ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ by Oasis and ‘Shallow’ from ‘A Star is Born’. With every beer that we drank, we sounded better and better. Amazing how that works.
The next day we had a beautiful sail from Phi Phi to Ko Ngai. We had a consistent 20kts from the north allowing us to sail on a broad reach at 7.5kts. As we approached Ko Ngai, the wind began to weaken and we started the motor. Close to the island, the current and swell were opposing, forming steep waves behind us. They were almost as high as our davits and we were happy to be going downwind and have the dingy on the deck.
We anchored in the exact same spot we visited a few months prior, and had an uneventful relaxing evening. The following day, more weather warnings were in effect so we decided to stay another night. In the morning, we were teased with a little bit of sunshine. We took advantage of this and completed a load of laundry and hung it out to dry. An hour later, Chris announced a storm was coming, and we should all bring the laundry inside quickly. Within 5 minutes, a gale force storm and heavy rain approached and gave us 30 kts of sustained wind and gusts to 40 kts. Unfortunately we dragged anchor slightly once again. The anchorage was now unusable with 1m waves and an unprotected wind direction. There were no suitable anchorages to the south, so we elected to go north to ko Lanta that was only 7NM away.
We were concerned we would see the same large waves from the previous day, only this time more unsettled due to the gale force winds. We waited for the squall to pass, checked the radar one last time and then went to check it out. Thankfully the dingy was still on the deck from the previous day. Fortunately, it was no worse than the previous day, and we made it safely to Ko Telibung, that is tucked up in Ko Lanta Bay. The anchorage was very protected and calm. We set the anchor and dug it in at 1900rpm with 50m of chain out in 7m of water. We were in.
The new weather warnings remained in effect, and there were reports of 3m waves in the direction towards Ko Lipe. We decided to stay protected in Lanta Bay for a few more days.
We spent two nights in Ko Telibung and then went to Ko Lanta old town to provision and dine at some restaurants. We were cooking a lot on the boat and a restaurant was a welcome change. Rain and wind were becoming a daily part of our lives and we desperately looked forward to sunshine. When we wanted to go to shore, the radar would show storm after storm with high winds and heavy rain. We managed to go on shore a couple of times, but spent most of the time on board Skylark. There were no beautiful sunsets to be had!
Finally the day came, when we had nearly continuous sunshine and calm seas and decided to sail 70 miles from Ko Lanta to Ko Lipe. We woke up at 5am to get an early start to the day. We watched a beautiful sunrise and motored into the calm seas. We consumed a simple breakfast, since we had no eggs left, and had an iced Nespresso.
The wind began to gently fill in and we managed to sail at 5kts on a beam reach for a short while before the wind died to zero again. A big change from our previous two weeks!
We arrived at Ko Lipe at 4pm and the sun was shining! Finally! A long journey with lots of lessons along the way, but it was still a successful journey.
Chris and I went for a celebratory drink on shore at the Zodiac bar. Nicole had to teach a class, so she could not join us, but we all had a beer on Skylark afterwards.
Nicole left Skylark the following morning and checked into a bungalow on Ko Lipe where she could begin grading the numerous papers from her course, and resume land life. We will miss her cheerful presence on board and I am a little worried now that I don't have an English Phd to help proofread.
Chris and I are thankful to be back on amazing Ko Lipe! Time for beach strolls, fishing, yoga diving, swimming, and more!