The islands off southern Thailand's Andaman Sea coastline grace Sea Quest's husband-and-wife team and their crew with the splendid sights of a fitting finale to their cruising sojourns. From our November 2012 issue.
It’s a surreal land, so phantasmagorical as to make someone want to pinch herself to see if she’s dreaming. Gilded temples and giant statues of the Buddha adorn misty islands afloat upon jade-colored seas. Eagles circle peaks; herons fish from caves; dolphins glide through pellucid waters. Peculiar plants that might’ve been drawn from the imagination of Dr. Seuss and bizarre amphibious creatures live among the islands’ jungle-filled gullies and fissures. This heavenly place in Thailand is Phuket’s great bay, Ao Phang-Nga.
Over the past months, my husband, Michael, and I had worked our way along the Strait of Malacca from Singapore on our 47-foot Colin Childs steel ketch, Sea Quest; we’d been careful to hug the Malaysian coastline to remain out of reach of opportunistic Indonesian pirates. Our anticipation of reaching this fabled cruising ground heightened when we received word that our daughter would be flying in from the United States bringing along two of our grandchildren. Although by the time we reached Phuket in June it was already the season of the southwest monsoon, we intended to give the family a cruising experience that they’d long remember.
Having not experienced the southwest monsoon in Thailand ourselves, and thus unsure of what to expect, we were reassured to note that among the hundreds of islands of Ao Phang-Nga, several of them in the bay were large enough to afford protection in a blow.
Before departing with our daughter, Marina Batham, and the two 10-year-old cousins (Connor Batham, our son’s son, and Marina’s daughter, Sophia Simon), we first introduced them to Thai culture. We toured the exotic countryside, where under a temple’s upturned eaves, the children lit incense and, at the direction of a saffron-robed monk, applied tiny squares of gold leaf to Buddha statues. They climbed to the colossal 45-meter-high Buddha of Wat Chalong, which offers a view across the harbors and beaches of Phuket. Then in answer to Connor and Sophia’s passionate hope that they might ride an elephant, we found some of the massive pachyderms at a wildlife park, where the children were soon swaying upon the back of a gentle giant lumbering through the shade of a rubber plantation.