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  • Writer's pictureJennifer

Racha Yai and the Underwater Elephant

Updated: Oct 9, 2020

We received our customs extension at Yacht Haven Marina allowing Skylark to remain in Thailand until January 1, 2021. After a week in the marina, we were in need of some clear water decided to set off for Racha Yai. We enjoyed the air conditioning every night, however, if constant air conditioning was our top priority, we would have bought a house instead of a boat. We were ready to get our sailing and see some new sights, even if that meant being a little hot at night. We fueled with diesel and a healthy breakfast and were ready to go!

We stopped for a night at Naka Noi, to see our friends Op and Boobie (the naughty otter). Boobie was rambunctious as usual and was up to her old tricks of jumping on the table and knocking over glasses. She’s lucky she’s so cute!

After a deja vu rendezvous on Naka Noi, we departed early morning into ideal sailing conditions. It was an extremely euphoric sail through crystal clear water. Chris sported his new Rwenzori swim shorts that our friend Ben Sheriff designed. He has three pair now, and this was the ‘Bali Boats’ edition. Looking fresh, Chris.

Dolphins came to check out Skylark and swam alongside just long enough to snap a few photos.

We arrived to Racha Yai midday and picked up a mooring on the east side. From the boat we appeared super close to the reef, but were still a safe distance. We flew the drone to confirm this and it looked fine. We figured the winds were forecast to be south westerly so ideally we would never be too close. A strong easterly and we would be quite close. If the mooring were to break we would have seconds to react.

It was so spectacular to swim in the clear blue water and not see any jellyfish. We had a few hammock wines and a peaceful bbq of souvlaki and potatoes. These are the days we are grateful to own a boat.

Murphy's Law got us. We woke up at 4am to a strong easterly breeze and thunder and lighting. Literally, "lightning lighting very very frightening." Perhaps Freddie Mercury had a similar experience. At this moment, we were convinced we were going to be the victims of a lightening strike since it felt so incredibly close! Somehow I had in my mind the words “$50,000 lightning strike deductible in South East Asia” and “several months hauled out for repairs.” We were googling what exactly to do to minimize damage during a lightning strike, while I was also trying to find the insurance policy to verify our policy. We put our phones, Iridium, and a handheld VHF radio in the microwave, and I was peeking out the windows at a tall cell tower nearby that would hopefully take the hit instead of us. Unfortunately, the other boats nearby were slightly smaller. I wanted higher masts around us! Sure enough, the storm passed and everything was fine. We didn’t bother going back to sleep. I found the insurance policy and luckily I was wrong about that figure and it was quite a bit less…but still something we do not want to experience!

Despite the beautiful mooring on the east wide, the swell began to shift and it was no longer pleasant. Two of the other boats on the east side had left to the north and we were the last go to over. When we arrived, there was only one mooring left in the middle of the bay. We took that mooring and looked with envy at the Catamaran that had the prime spot towards the front of the beach, then rationalized we were better off where we were since no reefs would be anywhere near us. It ended up being a very lucky spot!

We took the dingy to a nearby beach and did some swimming and shallow scuba diving. I attempted some underwater yoga but with the currents it wasn’t the most zen-like experience. There are no photos of it, but I thought it would be a fun photo to bring the yoga mat to the surface and do a downward facing dog. Yoga mats are very bouyant so I ended up looking like a dog riding a magic carpet. Tree pose will suffice until I can find a lead yoga mat.

We learned there was an underwater elephant statue, so we contacted Aussie Divers, a dive center in Phuket, to ask if they knew the exact location since they had advertised dive trip here. They informed us the elephant was under the mooring in the middle of the bay at about 18-20m. Turns out we had one of the best moorings there!

We went around 10am, when there was sufficient sunlight and also minimal current. We tied a line along the boat from bow to stern incase of any current when we came back to the surface. We used the mooring line as a guide to descend and reached the bottom right at 18m.

Once at the mooring block, we scouted the elephant on its side. Unfortunately, it was not upright, but we were still thrilled to see the elephant.

When we surfaced, we cleaned the gear and set off for Phuket. I messaged Aussie Divers again to thank them and reported the elephant was on its side. They said there was another elephant that should have been upright. We were already departing back to Phuket, so we will have to wait for another time to find this second elephant!

This is definitely a destination worth returning to visit!


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