Friday, February 17, 2017

Thailand, Koh Tao - part 1

Hi there! Remember us? I know, we haven't been posting much these past months. But living a every-day land-lubber's life is hardly exciting enough for posting. Although, this winter was different from last ones - I managed to convince Captain that we need a holiday somewhere warm.

So on last week in January we flew from Vienna to Bangkok, then further to Koh Samui, where we spent the first night in Thailand. This below was our hotel and on the right is our bungalow. The best things about it were the lush green garden in which it was placed ...



... it was just a few steps away from the beach, that also served as a perfect background for several pina coladas in the evening...



... and there were orchids everywhere.



Late next morning, after having a swim in both the pool and the sea, we continued our journey by ferry to our final destination, island of Koh Tao. The ferry ride was not very pleasant, the sea was quite choppy and lots of people got very sick. It seemed like Chinese tourists, that were in majority, got particularly sensitive stomachs. 

The first impression of Koh Tao was: chaos. The ferry almost had to push away the fishing ships in the port to get to the "main pier", which was a wooden construction that looked like it is going to collapse under the weight of couple of hundreds people, waiting to board. We were unloaded on to the same pier, with all our luggage. From the open waiting room, that looked like a wooden terrace, a lot of locals started shouting, holding up the signs with hotel names, so we dragged our suitcases, avoiding holes in the pier, in their direction. Luckily our driver was also there.

But the adventure wasn't over yet. We hopped into the truck, some people and luggage got up in the back. I was wondering why there were so many Toyota Hillux trucks around, and I soon got an answer. The island is made of many very steep hills, and the roads go straight up the hill and then straight down on the other side. Obviously some time ago somebody bought Toyota Hillux and it had all the 4WD capabilities and it was able to drive over the island's hills, so other people just bought the same model to avoid testing the hill-climbing capability of other brands. On Koh Tao main transportation device is actually a motorbike, and while planning our vacation I thought we would rent one for couple of days and do some island exploring. On our ride to the hotel I decided we are not renting a motorbike, regardless how cheap it was. And I also decided we are not going to do long hikes - island is only 8 x 4 km big, and looking at it on Google Earth the distances really don't look that hard to walk. But once I saw the terrain and the shape the roads were in - one part looked like a dry mountain creek rather than the road, I just hoped there is some really good snorkelling near the hotel.

The Pinnacle Koh Tao hotel is located on the slope of the hill (where else) on the S-W side of the island in June Juea bay. What immediately overwhelmed us was the view - it was stunning. Already from reception, and then also from our bungalow - I think I made 100 photos from our balcony.



The vegetation was full of birds, butterflies and squirrels. I could just sit on the balcony and listen to the birds and watch all the small creatures flying and running by. Unfortunately none of them came close enough to make a good photo.

We only had breakfast in our hotel, from our previous holiday in Thailand that was almost 20 years ago, we remembered that food was great and cheap. And we weren't disappointed. Most of the evenings we ate in Chalok village in the bay of the same name, that was the bay right next to ours to the South. On advice of Google Maps one would need to walk over couple of hills almost to the middle of the island and then back towards the cost to Chalok bay. But there was a sign on the edge of the road under our hotel that said: Chalok bay 10 mins. So we followed the sign. We passed couple of houses and found ourselves on the driveway leading to the reception of a hotel. We passed the reception, walked by several hotel's bungalows and some pretty orchids...


... and along the hotel's beach.


Then we took our shoes off because most of the beach was flooded by high tide. Next we came to a wooden pier that led us to a terrace of the restaurant which we crossed without our shoes, came to concrete pier at the other end of terrace, that ended in the water with a gentle slope and after a couple of steps we were in next resort, through which we finally reached the village. Although we walked through so many establishments everybody was friendly and smiled at us.

Chalok village also looks a bit chaotic. Everybody is on the street - from trucks, motorbikes, people, dogs, cats, chicken, different vendors, but it is a kind of "gentle" chaos - everybody is friendly, even dogs, and nobody gets upset or even hurt.


For the first week we ate curry almost every evening. We just walked into a restaurant on a hunch or we asked locals. Everything we ate was super delicious and even when we ate food from street stalls, we never had any stomach issues. For lunch we usually ate the small local sweet bananas and cookies and tea.

One of the complimentary services of our hotel were also shuttle rides to Mae Haad pier and village and back three times a day. We were glad we didn't need to walk there.

This is the Mae Haad port with the covered ferry pier in the background.


These are Thai long-tail boats, all cheerfully colourful and decorated.



We met a lot of backpackers in Mae Haad and saw that most of the hotels were meant for them. Our hotel was of a bit higher standard, and since we're not 25 any more, were glad that we had air conditioning, warm water, power all day, wi-fi and beach towels.

There was also a pool in our hotel, but with the sea like that who needs a pool.


This is how we usually spent the hottest hours of the day - on our balcony.


Our bay was a great place for snorkelling and I spent hours and hours in water. Captain usually joined me, but sometimes swam back before I was done.

This is a Christmas tree worm, here they came in many bright colours. There were plenty of them  also in Caribbeans, but I met them already before on my trips to Maldives. There were many similarities between what I saw in Koh Tao and what I already knew from Maldives, after all both are in Indian ocean.


There were many pretty Mushroom corals.



What was most surprising was the abundance of fish of all kinds, especially considering how many fishing ships we saw out at sea every evening.


Fish of all kinds...


This one I haven't seen before, it must be some kind of Butterflyfish.


Also Giant clams came in many bright colours.


The Giant top shell snail really deserves its name - this one was about 15 cm large.


These lovely Groupers were always sitting on a corals and tried to remain unnoticed, but they would turn their big eyes to see if I was coming too close.


This is a Needlefish, some were quite big.


And here is the nudibranch section - this one is probably Phyllidia nigra ...


... and this one is Phyllidia varicosa (I got the names from seaslugforum.net ).


Gobies were rather nervous, this one was surprisingly patient with me.


Another Grouper, striped this time


Afternoon in Chalok village with mango smoothie ...


... and young coconut.


Sunset from our balcony


Friday, December 30, 2016

Happy New Year!

We wish you all the best in 2017 and a great party getting there!
Lili & Tomaz

Two faces of winter - our house a couple of years ago...



... and a Christmas tree in Bequia (Caribbean), also a couple of years ago.


Friday, August 19, 2016

Sailing holiday - part 2 - the wild part

We woke to a nice sunny, but fresh morning. In the night Burja (strong N-E wind) cooled down the air and sea also, and I wasn't really tempted to go snorkelling. The bay where we were anchored - Uvala Vela Galbočica - was very serene and pretty, with fragrant shrubs and low trees growing all around the bay, and there were only two other boats anchored all the way inside the bay. While we were having a long lazy breakfast, a deer came out of the woods, walked along the shore for couple of seconds and then disappeared in the woods again. Wow! I was so happy that I wasn't in the water and was able to see it.

We set our sails right after breakfast, our destination for the day was bay Sveta Fumija W of town Rab, we were meeting some friends there. It is not such a terrible distance from Cres to there, but we knew we were going to sail almost against the wind. To our luck wind was more from the N, so sailing was not bad.

Next day we sailed to Vela luka on S-E side of Krk. On the way we made a stop for swimming on S side of Havaji on island Rab. The water was still rather fresh from all the wind, but I figured this might be my last chance to go snorkelling for a while. The visibility wasn't the best, since the water was mixed with lots of sand because of the wind.

First I checked the rocky edge of the bay and under the rocks and ledges I saw plenty of Tunicates (Rožnatih plaščarjev).



There were some cliffs at the beginning of the bay and there were many sea gulls there.



I swam back in a bit deeper water over sandy bottom and I saw this Slender goby (Peščeni glavač)...



... and this Weever (Navadni morski zmaj). It is first time I saw it swimming and was surprised that it was so pretty and colourful...



... usually I get to see this side of it. Which is also not bad.



In the evening we anchored in Vela luka. After a small dispute with Italian skipper that wanted to anchor his sailboat 10m from ours - luckily his crew convinced him to move the boat further away, my "bitch-wings" and reasoning didn't suffice, we went to shore with the dinghy to have dinner with friends in a local restaurant. 



There were plenty of sheep there, as always. This one was probably expecting some money or at least food from me for taking a photo of her.



Next morning we sailed towards Klimno. Our original plan was to stop at Luka Srščica for swimming, but with weather forecast promising showers and thunderstorms we decided to sail further and make a stop at the entrance into Klimno lagoon. Before we made it there, lots of clouds appeared in the sky and even some drops of rain, so we figured we better sail all the way into the lagoon and tie the boat to buoys before weather gets nasty. But we didn't make it. When we were right at the beginning of the channel that leads to the lagoon, a big black cloud came from the West and it started to rain heavily. We were wet in seconds. I still had the time to get my camera and make some photos - of captain dripping wet with rain..



... of shoreline through the rain ...



... and shoreline disappearing in the rain.



And after that it was the end of photos, visibility was almost less than 30m because of rain and the wind also started to get stronger and stronger and we had all our hands full. And if it wasn't enough, the hail started to fall, luckily it wasn't particularly big and didn't do any damage to the boat, sails or even bimini or sprayhood, bit it was quite unpleasant when it was hitting captain and me.

I was only wishing no boat was coming towards us in that narrow and flat channel. We had radar on, but there would be very little we could do in such a weather, especially with our draught. So we had our eyes peeled and our fingers crossed. Few moments later there was a lightning and almost immediately after it a loud thunder. At the same time all our depth gauges and some other instruments went dead. Oh no! Navigating a narrow flat channel and lagoon without the depth gauge is not good! Luckily, our chart plotter with GPS seemed to still work, so we could navigate on chart and according to our previous routes. Luckily we were there so many times before and we also knew the area very well.

Once in the lagoon we wanted to anchor the boat to wait out the storm, the bottom there is muddy and it holds well. We prepared for anchoring, turned the boat into the wind and captain ran to the anchor winch to throw the hook. We figured wind will push the boat backwards and the anchor will bite into the ground and there was nothing I needed to do on the engine. But a moment after the anchor was in the water, a very strong wind gust came from behind, from 180 deg different direction than few seconds ago, and pushed the boat over the chain. I jumped to the engine, put into reverse, but only with all the RPM's we got I managed to move the boat backwards. I'm not sure how strong the wind was,  our wind instrument was also not working, but I would guess 40 to 50 knots, gusts probably more. 

Few moments later we were anchored with ample of chain and we relaxed a bit. And so did the weather - the blackest part of the cloud with most rain and lightnings moved towards East to mainland. It was still raining and there was plenty of chilly wind, but nothing like before. Talking about being at the wrong place at the wrong time! 

In about half an hour almost all was over. We checked the boat to see if there was any damage. Luckily hail didn't make any and we also didn't see any damage on the boat from anchor chain. We reset the instruments several time and eventually they all came to life, even the depth gauge that was resisting the most. The engine ignition was also working fine. We were very happy to just get the fright but no damage.

An hour later we were tied to the buoys and after cleaning the boat a bit and a lunch we drove back home.

But we were back already the next evening. Captain had his own plans for next couple of days and I stayed on Heron. Next day, on Saturday, new crew joined me - Captain's cousin with his girlfriend and her son. Plan was to sail around the Krk and Rab a bit and pick Captain in Punat on Wednesday evening. It was my first time being a Captain (or is it Captainess?) on Heron, or any boat, but I was expecting a nice weather and easy crew, so I was just a little nervous.

On Sunday we sailed to Uvala Petrina first and made a stop for swimming. Then we sailed on to Vela luka for the night. Weather forecast was again promising some unstable weather, with lots of rain in the night and strong Burja (N-E wind) in the morning, that would grow stronger during the day. To get out of Vela luka we had to sail through Senj strait, where the wind is usually the strongest. So we decided to leave Vela luka as early as possible and sail with the wind through Senj strait and then in a broad reach towards Rab, where we could hide in any of the bays on S-W side.

Rain started at around 5 in the morning and that was the end of sleep for me. Rain was accompanied by strong wind gusts from all directions, so Heron was pushed around the anchor violently. This went on until 8.30, when the rain stopped and wind became more steady. After a quick but gentle breakfast we sailed off. My crew were non-sailors, so I tried to explain what is waiting for us when we get out of the bay, we could already see the white caps of waves from the anchorage. When we reached the bay entrance there were 1 to 1,5 m waves and Burja at around 40 knots. We pointed the boat to S-W and pulled out our small jib. The motion was not pleasant because of the waves from behind, but we were doing 8 to 9 knots. And I knew once we came behind island of Grgur, the waves would almost disappear and the ride would be calmer. We got some rain, but it wasn't too bad, and after a while we could see the island Rab in the distance. But what worried me was the wall of dark clouds, reaching all the way down to the sea on the West in direction of island Cres. I thought, maybe this was the rain that Burja blew back to the West, but after couple of minutes I realised it was a new front coming straight at us. First the wind changed direction, then it started to gain strength, so we reefed the sail first and then when wind was getting towards 50 knots, we rolled it in and turned on the engine. Heavy rain followed the wind and we were soaked in seconds, because of waves we were all in cockpit, I didn't want anyone to get seasick. For the next two hours we were washed by one shower after another and rocked by one wind gust after another. I was only happy that my crew took it so well, nobody was sick or panicked, I'm not sure if I would have time and energy to deal with anything more than the boat. 

As soon as we reached island Rab, we turned into Supetarska Draga and anchored between the islands of Havaji. I figured that this was the only place nearby where we would be protected from the wind from any direction. Already as we were anchoring, the wind turned from West to Burja (N-E) again. Luckily there was enough space there - there were only three other sailboats and a motorboat there - so I was able to anchor well despite the strong wind, but I put a remote control for anchor winch on my wish list.

We stayed there for the rest of the day, that actually wasn't too bad. In early afternoon sun came out, wind calmed down a bit, so I could even roll the jib out and in again, it was rolled way to tightly, but you can't help it in such a wind. And I even went for a quick swim a couple of times. In the evening we had a nice meal, tortillas filled with sauteed beef, salsa, sour cream and lots of veggies. And beer and wine. It looks like this has become a classic for this anchorage.

In the evening the Burja became stronger again, but we were anchored well and had a good and long night sleep. Next morning I even did some snorkelling, but the visibility was rather poor, because the wind stirred the water up. This Cuttlefish (Sipa) was the most interesting thing I saw.



In the afternoon we sailed on to bay Sveta Fumija near town of Rab.  The wind was gentle, just right for sailing on just a jib. Once there, my crew took the dinghy and rowed to the shore and walked to the town, and I had a quiet evening on the boat.

The sunset that evening was particularly  pretty.



Next day, on Wednesday, we sailed or rather motored toward North. Only when we reached the West end of Senj strait there was still enough Burja so we could sail with 4 knots. Once we reached Krk we made a stop for swimming and lunch, and in the evening we sailed into Punat lagoon and anchored near the marina. Later in the evening we picked the Captain up from Punat marina and brought him to Heron. Phew! I was glad I wasn't the Captain any more.

The relief was even bigger the next day when we saw weather forecast - on Friday evening a new storm was coming, with even stronger Burja on Saturday and Sunday than what we already had. Oh no! Well, that didn't leave us much choice for our sailing plans - we wanted to be in Klimno tied to the buoys by early afternoon on Friday. We stopped in town Krk, where crew went ashore. Later we sailed towards North and anchored in Malinska bay. Next morning we sailed further North and under Krk bridge and into Klimno lagoon. In early afternoon, after a bit of fiddling with the buoys and the lines, we got Heron tied and on early evening we were having a nice meal in Oleander restaurant. In the evening we were watching a loud thunderstorm passing to the South of us, but in the night we also receivied our portion of heavy rain and in strong wind. In the morning the rain stopped but wind got even stronger. In early afternoon Captain brought the crew to Krk airport, but their plane couldn't land because of strong wind, so they were transported to Pula, from where they flew home. Later we thoroughly cleaned the boat and left Klimno in the evening. The Krk bridge was still closed for buses, trucks, motorcycles, mobile homes and any vehicle taller than a car. So we were lucky and were allowed to pass, and got home at 10 in the evening, both very tired.

And when are we returning to our boat? Don't know about the Captain, but I'm not going until somebody promises me good weather. Or at least no storms. Is that too much to ask?

Monday, August 15, 2016

Sailing holiday - part 1

In summer we usually don't have much wind in Adria, so summer sailing trips are usually relaxed, with lots of swimming, BBQing, and lots of beer and gin&tonics. That's why I'm calling such trips holiday rather than sailing trips. Well, this summer weather made sure it was difficult to find appropriate name for it. 

But it all started rather nice and summery - on 18th of July in the evening me and my two girlfriends drove to Klimno for 10 days of sailing holiday. Captain was already there and was waiting for us with Heron tied to the pier. We loaded all the food and luggage, filled the water tanks and sailed for couple hundreds of meters to anchor the boat on the North side of the lagoon. Night was calm and warm and we slept long. After a big breakfast and some swimming we sailed North under the Krk bridge, there was more NE wind forecast for next two days, so we stayed away from Senj strait (Senjska vrata) on S-E of Krk, where the wind is the strongest. In early evening we anchored in Njivice bay on West side of island, where we spent the night. Next morning I made my first snorkelling trip along S-W edge of the bay. There wasn't much there, some of the usual suspects, but I made a good portrait of Tompot Blenny (Velike babice), I think it's my best photo of this cute fish, and I took many.



Later that day we sailed towards Cres and had an afternoon stop for swimming. After dinner we sailed in direction Rab, it was full moon and we figured a nice night sailing would be fun to do. When we started it was still day, but as the sun went down the wind also weakened. We swam in the middle of Kvarnerić, and after wind died completely, we started the engine. But even motoring under full moon was not bad. Around midnight we reached Rab, first tried few other bays, and ended anchoring in Uvala Planka. There was only one other sailboat and a motor boat there.

We woke to a nice sunny day. The bay was soon full of small motor boats. Despite the crowd we had a relaxed summer day with lots of swimming, good food and even a gin&tonic or two. It was so nice, we decided to stay another night. This is how the sunset looks in Uvala Planka...



... and this is how it looked the next morning before all the motor boats filled it. We were actually alone from 7 the evening before till 10 in the morning.



I hurried to go snorkelling at 9 to have the bay all to myself. Under a rocky ledge I discovered plenty of Yellow cluster anemone (Rumeni zoantar).



This was suppose to be the photo of Encrusting orange sponge (Spužva žilanka), but after a careful inspection on my computer I discovered a nudibranch above it - it is a Pilgrim hervia (Oranžni obročkar). It is not a stellar photo, but since it's the first time I managed to take a photo of the snail it deserves to be in this post.



This little guy - the Red-black tripplefin blenny without it's mating colours or maybe a female - was literally posing for me, I had a feeling he was expecting me to help him get rid of the parasites that sat on his back and neck. Look at the big Parasitic isopod,  in Slovene Ribja uš or Sea louse in translation (Anilocra physodes), you can see how it is hooked to poor fish with his legs/hooks.



Only when the fish turned I saw that it was actually plagued with three parasites.



This is also a Red-black tripplefin blenny (Rdeči sprehajalček) looking at me from underneath the rock, turned upside down.



Luckily I could hold my camera under the rock to get a full view of all his pretty colours.



After a late breakfast we sailed off towards Olib. There was still plenty of light when we got there for a good snorkelling trip, that took me good two hours.

Under a ledge I saw a Daisy anemone (Sončna vetrnica).



The stars of the day were Mottled sea hares (Veliki morski zajčki), this was the most I've ever seen and they looked as they were mating. Maybe it had something to do with previous night's full moon.



Those that were alone, sat near a funny violet and pink spaghettis, that I assumed were their eggs, and later my books confirmed it.



This is how the egg clusters look up close.



I saw couple of other nudibranchs (gološkrgarjev), the Plarydoris argo (Ploščati perjaničar). I saw them here already last summer.



What I didn't see was any octopus and I'm starting to get worried for them. All I see are lots of fishermen in camouflage diving suits with spearguns, hunting and fishing in almost every bay we've been, this year I even saw fishermen with complete scuba gear several times, although I believe it is forbidden to fish like that.

Next day we made a detour to Novalja on Pag and then returned to East side of Olib in pretty hefty S-W wind, 30 knots is not very usual for Adria in summer. Boat was completely salty and we thoroughly shaken.

On my snorkelling trip next morning I saw couple of Sepias or Cuttlefish (Sipe), this one was dressed in  particularly pretty pattern.



These guys are so difficult to spot because of their great camouflage, lucky for me this one was moving, otherwise there would be no photo. It is a Spider crab (Veliki morski pajek).



And this is a Brown encrusting sponge (Rjava skorjevka or Hemimycale columella).



Later that day we sailed to S side of island Cres, S-W wind was supposed to turn to N-E, so we needed another protected bay for the night. We anchored at about 7 in the evening, there was way too little light for snorkelling and making photos, but I still put on my mask and checked our anchor and the bay for rocks and shallow spots. I was surprised when I discovered that all Sea cucumbers (Morski brizgači) were standing upright in the water. I even saw one releasing a milky fluid into the water. Later at home I checked my books and learnt that they were mating. Maybe again something to do with full moon.