Rebak Reflections

I can finally breathe a sigh of relief as we leave the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club and head towards the Malacca Strait. The last few days have been hectic, to say the least. Rehua is full to the brim with provisions and we’re ready for our next adventure.

While Seathan is navigating his way through the many fishing nets and the kids take horizontal positions with their kindles, I have some time to ponder the last couple of months. We spent two months in Rebak, a long time to be just in one place and it certainly was frustrating at times. We were on the hard for half that time and that was much longer than originally planned. But, ask any sailor and they will all tell you, you never know what you’ll find once you take your boat out of the water…

Instead of a quick paint job, we ended up doing a complete overhaul and took it all the way back. We then discovered a few repairs were needed too. In Malaysia everything takes time, there’s no rushing things. Add in a few rainy days, the fact that it was Ramadan, parts being held up by Customs in KL, and you end up two months later.

I was very unhappy while we were stuck on the hard, but in hindsight it wasn’t that bad after all. The facilities at Rebak are pretty amazing: a clean yard, a good chandlery, a yachties’ cafe and restaurant, a great swimming pool (part of a luxury resort that yachties are welcome to use) and an entire private island for the kids to roam around on – with beaches, walking tracks, bicycle trails, tennis courts and lots of interesting wildlife. Best of all: other kids to play and hang out with. The mornings were reserved for school, but in the afternoons we usually didn’t see the kids until they got hungry near dinner time. I got to do yoga on land (as opposed to on the foredeck) most afternoons with my friend Kate and go for a cool-down dip afterwards. Friday nights were spent sipping happy hour cocktails in the beach bar, some of us playing the guitar and singing a few songs. Not such a bad life. We made a lot of new friends during our time in Rebak and I’m sure we’ll cross paths again with many of them.

But, I have to admit, it is great to feel the wind in my hair again as we set sail for our first overnight stop in Penang. We’ve got roughly 600NM of busy Malacca Strait and South China Sea to tackle until we reach the Anambas Islands, where we’ve arranged to meet some very dear friends. I know, I know. Never arrange to meet somewhere, in case the weather gods don’t cooperate. Don’t worry, we won’t take any crazy risks and our friends are flexible and prepared to change destination at the last minute, if necessary. Hopefully it won’t be and we can spend some time in turquoise water soon…

Bye bye Rebak Island

Quick stop in Kuah to provision and clear out

Early start and breakfast en route

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Four Years Ago

It all started after a sailing holiday in Croatia, late October 2013. A little taste of cruising life, and what it could be like. We flew back into Heathrow airport and as we circled over London, both Seathan and I questioned what we were getting back to. The daily grind. The long hours in the office. The mortgage payments. The private school fees we were considering. The next step on the career ladder. What was the point of it all? We hardly spent time as a family, the kids were growing up so fast. At four and nine years old, they were the perfect age to take sailing. We had several sailing holidays since they were little, but now it somehow all made perfect sense.

London is a great city – still my favourite city in the world – but, we were ready to kick it all into touch. We put our house on the market and started planning our escape. Four months later, I quit my job, Seathan wrapped up his business and planning was in full progress. It was hard finding the right boat. Seathan flew to Holland and France. We loved the Nordia 55, but felt it might be a bit big to handle on our own. We started looking at cats and liked the idea of the extra space, the shallow draft and the all-round comfortability. Not many catamarans are built for proper offshore sailing, so in the end we felt the only choice was between the Catana 521 and the Antares PDQ 44. The Catana felt too big and the decision was made. There was a three-year waiting list for a new Antares but there were two good second hand options available, one was located in Turkey.

We went to see it and liked it. It was the right boat for us. The last one built in Canada, beautifully finished woodwork inside, solid fixtures and fittings everywhere. She was well looked after by the previous owner who completed his circumnavigation, but she had been sitting on the hard for quite a while, so when we finally moved onboard in June 2014, there was a bit of work to be done to get her ready. We renamed her ‘Rehua’ after a Polynesian god, healer and protecter. The Pacific, after all, was our dream destination.

The last few months in London were hectic, to say the least. Trying to sell and get rid of stuff in a short time frame was tough, so we ended up putting quite a bit into storage. There were many farewell parties, barbecues and dinners. Saying goodbye is never easy but we were so excited and thrilled to be starting our crazy wonderful adventure and couldn’t wait to get going.

So here we are, four years later. How our lives have changed. To go sailing was the best decision we ever took, no doubt about that. We’ve seen so many amazing countries, experienced so many different cultures, met so many wonderful people. And we did it all together, as a family. It’s a pretty amazing experience. Yes, I miss my family and friends and I’m dying to meet my niece who is 18 months already. But leaving the boat behind or arranging a rendez-vous on the other side of the world isn’t that straightforward. And although it doesn’t fully compensate for that absence, the cruising community is truly amazing. The kids have made many friends along the way. We’ve met other families doing the same thing as us, older couples – who love adopting the kids for a bit, as they usually miss their own grandchildren, ¬†young couples who want to see the world before they settle down, single handers out to explore the world or start a new life. It’s a wonderful bunch.

It hasn’t always been easy, there’s been rough weather and flat calms, frustrating weeks doing boat maintenance or waiting for critical new parts to arrive. Scary moments when we experienced a huge storm sailing from Gibraltar to the Canaries. And another one when we sailed from New Zealand to Fiji. But these moments are easily compensated by all the magic. And we don’t want it to end yet. Our three-year circumnavigation plan has long gone out of the window and we are now looking at how long we can stretch this adventure. We might stop and work somewhere for a few months while living onboard and then keep going. There is still so much to explore.

Tyrii summed it up beautifully when he – as we were eyeball navigating our way through the lagoon in Raroia in the Tuamotus – stated: “The world is full of amazing places, all you have to do is get out there and find them.” He was 10 years old at the time and I was so proud of him.

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Sailing Away, four years ago in Turkey

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“The world is full of amazing places, all you have to do is get out there and find them.” Wise words from Tyrii aged 10 in Raroia, French Polynesia

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Coconut production line. Tuamotus, French Polynesia, 2015

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Kids making new friends in Tahiti, 2015

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Family picture in Bora Bora with Rehua anchored in the background, 2015

Splash ūüí¶

Woohoo ! It’s splash day today! I can’t begin to tell you what a relief that is for us all. Before we head out to sea we have a week of projects and cleaning up jobs to do but we don’t mind that, at least we’re back in the water !

Get me out of here!

I’m hoping that writing a blog will make me feel better, maybe getting it off my chest will lift my spirits. I’m feeling down. Being on the hard for four weeks just does that to a person, ask any other cruiser and they’ll agree.

Up and down the ladder twenty times a day, then carefully moving around the boat, hoping the props will hold it in place. It’s hot, it’s humid, there are lots of mosquitoes, dust everywhere, sanding and grinding, fibreglass, paint,…

One more week and hopefully we can splash, I can’t wait. Any longer and I’m seriously considering selling her and flying out of here! I’m done with the fried food and everything that’s on the menu in the ‘Harddock caf√©’. Done with the pool. Done with the whole private island thing. Done with the monkeys stealing things from under the boat. Done with the never ending public holidays during Ramadan time, where everything stops. Done with the inflexible attitude of the Malaysians, miles apart from the Thai ‘can-do’ approach.

So, there you go, rant over. I feel better already. ‚ėļÔłŹ

The Hard

The expression “being on the hard” is quite appropriate. It is not a pleasant experience, to say the least. Boats belong in the water. That’s what they’re designed for. But once in a while, they have to come out for some much needed maintenance, a hull inspection, new anti-fouling, …

This is the fourth time in four years that we’ve hauled. I vividly remember our first haul in Grenada. The yard was dusty and dirty and it was stifling hot with no breeze; mosquitoes were breeding in the stream next to the boat and the streetlight next to Rehua would attract them into our cockpit. We ended up waiting for more than three weeks on new parts, suffering the mosquitoes, dust and heat and driving each other mad. But eventually parts arrived, we went back in the water and life was good again. Despite it being a gorgeous lush spice island, Grenada will always bring back those unhappy memories of being on the hard for too long.

The second time was in New Zealand, where the job of anti-fouling ended up taking more than double the estimated time due to the inexperience of the workmen (in one of the top yards near Auckland). Our New Zealand experience was disappointing and very expensive and we were on the hard for over a month. We were very lucky to have some amazing friends with a beautiful house in Auckland who let us stay with them the entire time. Seathan slept on the boat most nights, in order to cut the commute and get an early start, but it made a huge difference that the kids and I weren’t there.

We also had a brief haul-out in the “Wild West” that are the Solomon Islands. Despite it being a less developed country with very little yachting infrastructure, it was probably the most pleasant experience so far. True, we were out of the water for a few days only and ‘all’ we had to do was replace our props. We used a commercial yard that normally only services large local boats. We couldn’t stay onboard (Rehua was on the rails and sitting at an angle) but only a few 100 metres away was a lovely hotel owned by our friends Bob and Yvie. It made the entire experience totally tolerable.

So, two years after New Zealand, Rehua is due another paint job. We’ve been checking out yards for the last six months in Thailand and Malaysia and have finally settled for Rebak Marina in Langkawi. The yards we saw in Thailand had more expertise but were more expensive. Seathan decided to do most of the work himself so after much debate and research we decided Rebak was our best option. Why (and this is going to sound funny): because of the pool. Yep, Rebak has an amazing pool. The marina is situated on a small private island which also boasts a five-star resort. The marina guests have full use of the pool and other facilities. There are nature walks and tracks and the kids can roam around as much as they want. Seriously, when living on the hard, it’s really important to have some good facilities available. You don’t want to spend any time inside the boat unless you have to. Having to climb up and down the ladder each time, battling the heat and mosquitoes, having to keep all the hatches closed all day because of the dust: the kids and I try and stay out most of the day. We do school lessons in the airy shaded communal area that is the yachties’ cafe. We hang out by the pool in the afternoon or play on the beach. In the evening it usually cools down a bit and we can open our hatches and eat on the boat.

The other (probably even more important) reason we chose Rebak is because there are other kid boats around. You can’t imagine how ecstatic the boys were when they heard there would be similar aged boys and girls around. We didn’t see any other kid boats for nearly a year and all of a sudden they pop up all around us. It’s fantastic!

“So how long will we be out of the water for?” I ask Seathan as we are getting ready for our haul-out on the agreed morning.

“One week, maybe two, it’s hard to know until I can check the state of the paint once she’s out,” he says.

“Fair enough, maybe we can be back in the water before the end of the month,” I suggest.

I’m forever the optimist. He’s more cautious and won’t make any promises…

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ready to lift with only a few centimetres each side to spare

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keeping a close check on things

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quick bottom wash

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parking job

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the pool at Rebak, not too shabby!

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not 2, not 3 but 4 kid-boats in town!

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football in the rain

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school in the cafe

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on the hard

Ko Lipe, Southern Thailand

I was on Ko Lipe 22 years ago, in 1996, on a sailing holiday with my parents, and I can’t describe to you how much the place has changed. There was no tourism back then. Just a few yachts and a few backpacker-type places. Just a couple of shacks on the beach offering simple but delicious Thai food. Just one path through the jungle and one village school.

Now, the island is all¬†‘hippy-chique-ecofriendly-trendy-relaxed’. There are several resorts and a busy main street called ‘Walking Street’ with plenty of cool restaurants, coffee shops, bars, tattoo places, massage salons, etc. But… it is still a lovely small island, only reachable by yacht or by ferry. And it has some of the best corals and fish we’ve seen in Thailand.

Ko Lipe is only a short hop away from Langkawi (25 nautical miles) and great for a quick visa-run if necessary.¬†Southern Thailand has a lot to offer: plenty of gorgeous islands, clear turquoise water, great snorkelling, lovely beaches, … The wet season hasn’t yet arrived but the tourist stream has slowed down so it’s just the perfect time to visit.

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Welcome to Ko Lipe!

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View towards Pattaya beach from Walking Street

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Walking Street

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yummy Thai food

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Sunrise beach and some very turquoise water

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no filter!

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dinghy ride

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Our water-maker broke and it’s not fixable until we get new parts, so we’ve had to fill up with 20x 20L jugs. We’re lucky the island has cheap filtered drinking water available!

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loading up the dinghy

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and into the tanks, it’s a team effort

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the boys with their friends from s/v Ellida

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art class on Rehua

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the parking lot on sunset beach

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kids’ table

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and the adults

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all together, and smile!

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sunset view from the restaurant

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movie star kids, they’re used to this after Indo

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getting ready for a drift-snorkel

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view from the cockpit, we’ve been treated to the most amazing sunsets¬†

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Back again

We’re in Malaysia (again). After trying the main town anchorage in Kuah, and realising it was all mud with very bad holding, we decided to head into the marina. The marina is very affordable and it makes provisioning so much easier. You can just walk down the pontoon with the shopping and load it onto the boat. No dinghy landings and tricky passing of bags involved! And it’s worthwile to do a big top-up here. Langkawi is a duty-free island and that includes fuel, alcohol, electronic goods, boat parts, etc. Even groceries are noticeably cheaper than in Thailand. So, we’ve done a big stock-up which should last us a few months at least.

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beautiful Langkawi

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the anchorage in Telaga, on the Western tip

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being in the marina makes provisioning so much easier!

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loading up

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quick dip in the marina pool

On the way out of Thailand, we stopped in a few more islands. There are plenty of gorgeous anchorages in the Southern Andaman Sea and we chose just a couple more after our brief stop in Ko Phi Phi Lee: Ko Rok Nok and Ko Lipe.

Ko Rok Nok was peaceful and quiet, with good snorkelling, despite the cloud cover. The island also has an ancient shrine where worshippers for centuries used to come and pray for their fertility. There are huge carved penises and some other offerings. Bit weird, but funny.

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the anchorage in Ko Rok Nok and a great beach to run wild on

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the shrine is hidden between these rocks

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strange carvings

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colourful offerings

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obligatory writing in the sand

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lots of colourful fish

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lobster

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some good corals

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colourful nudibranch

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met this cute clownfish family too

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Ko Rok Nok sunset

We also stopped in Ko Ha before reaching Ko Rok Nok and wanted to stop for lunch and do some snorkelling, but were stopped by the Rangers who wanted a disproportionate sum of money for the privilege of anchoring there for a few hours. So we left…

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Ko Ha

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interesting formations

Our last stop in Thailand was in Ko Lipe, a beautiful small island, part of the National Tarutao Marine Park. We didn’t snorkel but had a lovely swim and admired a gorgeous sunset. The next morning we continued to Langkawi which was less than a day-sail away.

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Ko Adang, just north of Ko Lipe

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another gorgeous sunset, we just can’t resist taking one more sunset photo

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and then it turns all pink

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gorgeous colours

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Ko Lipe

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Ko Lipe

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view over the anchorage in the passage between Ko Lipe and Ko Adang

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early morning and we’re off to Langkawi

So where to next? We might explore Langkawi for a bit, we may head back to Thailand for another month. We also like the idea of heading to Sumatra where the surf season soon starts. Other options are to head back towards Singapore and explore the Anambas Islands, Borneo, Brunei,… so many options, not enough time!

 

 

Take me to the Beach!

We finally and eventually managed to extract ourselves from Phuket and found ourselves spending a night in Maya Bay, Ko Phi Phi Lee. The place became famous after the movie ‘The Beach” with Leonardo Di Caprio was filmed here. We had passed this busy bay on the way up but hadn’t stopped. It was too early in the afternoon that time and we literally couldn’t get through the traffic, so we had continued to Ko Phi Phi Don (the next island) instead, that time. But now we had timed it more careful¬†and arrived around 5pm, just as the last sets of tourists were getting ready to leave. There was one other yacht inside and, guess what, we knew them! It was great to see our friends on Impetuous Too. They had been to Langkawi and were on their way back to Krabi. One more yacht arrived and picked up one of the moorings and then the sun set and all went quiet. Apart from a bit of a short swell that made us roll around in the early evening, we had a pretty comfortable night. No lie-ins were to be had though (except for Aeneas, who sleeps through anything); as soon as it became light the first noisy local long-tails turned up and not much after that the first fast ferries. I had a quick snorkel and was surprised to see there were still so many fish, despite the noise and crowds. We didn’t stay and left, still sipping our morning coffees. Off to somewhere quieter!

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approaching Ko Phi Phi Lee

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Ko Phi Phi Don, the next island, where the hotels, shops and restaurants are 

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Ko Phi Phi Lee is uninhabited

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this yacht is on its way to Maya bay too, we met them later on

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soaking it all up

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with The Beach in the background

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tourists are leaving at the end of the afternoon

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admiring the sunset

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red sky at night, sailor’s delight

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early morning and they’re back

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bye bye, we’re off to somewhere quieter!

 

Old Friends!

I love it when friends happen to turn up exactly when we are in the area, totally by coincidence. And not just one but¬†two sets of friends turned up in the last week. We had a lot of fun going for a day-sail, hanging on and around the boat and lazing by the pool in their resort whilst catching up on the last few years since we saw each other. I can definitely recommend the beautiful resort our friends Dan and Naz were staying at (Anantara Layan) as it was absolutely gorgeous, peaceful and super-stylish with an amazing upscale Thai restaurant (dinner was an experience!). We will miss Phuket and our friends… we’ll be back!

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playing the ukelele while sailing along the coast

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lunch at sea

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We gave Patong a miss

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Bangtao is much nicer!

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sunset photos on the foredeck

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sunset glow

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catching up with Matt, Wendy and Ellie

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2 northerners and 1 Scott, oh oh

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obligatory foredeck selfie

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morning coffee with Dan and Naz

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kids loved the pool

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the gorgeous and quiet Anantara resort at Layan beach

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ready for Songkran, Thai New Year, this buddhist festival traditionally turns into a giant water-fight, nobody is spared!

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water-fight in the pool

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Aeneas got hold of the hose…

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We had an amazing dinner. This little amuse-gueule definitely got our taste buds going; you had to make a tiny basket out of the beetle leave and fill it up with nuts, chillies, ginger,  pickled lime, shallots, dried seabass and coconut jam and then put the entire thing in your mouth. Spectacular.

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Cheers!

Good Times

We just love Thailand. Comfortable anchorages with lovely sandy beaches make for a great daily routine, starting off with a swim or a SUP to the beach early morning, followed by school, lunch and then another trip to the beach in the afternoon. It’s just perfect. The locals are friendly, the food is great (and cheap) and you can have a super-duper 1-hour massage on the beach for 250 baht (¬£5/$8). The weather’s been dry and breezy although the first squalls started appearing in the last few days. Perhaps it’s a sign that the seasons will be changing soon?

Thailand has also been great to get some key items ticked off our to-do list. We installed a new chart plotter (thanks Paul!) and a new VHF radio (the old one was unfixable) and upgraded our cockpit with new cushions and newly upholstered helmseats. We had our rigging inspected (all good) and finally also installed new trampolines. Not a bad set of achievements!

We could easily stay here longer but unfortunately our visas are running out soon. So, it’s back to Langkawi (with a few islands stops on the way) and then we’ll see where the wind takes us next. But first, we still have a very important birthday to celebrate…

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early morning SUP to the beach

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daily swim

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fitting the new trampolines

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final tweaking 

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our ‘new’ cockpit

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very luxurious!

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new helmseat