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.
|Batham grandchildren swim off Sea Quest at an anchorage near Ko Dam Hok.|
When the sun was low and the sting was out of the heat, we roamed the town of Ao Chalong among throngs of happy, convivial Thai people. Families sated appetites in the aroma-scented night market, selecting from a vast variety of red-hot spicy food or snacking on roasted grasshoppers and grubs, which, understandably, the American children eschewed for the more familiar fried chicken.
We sailed from Ao Chalong on a brisk breeze that gave us a fast trip to Ko Mai Thon, just seven miles away. Anchoring us amid a fleet of Thai fishing craft, Michael then took the kids ashore to run off steam chasing seabirds and picking up wondrous bits of flotsam and sea shells, all strange to their eyes. But there was too much swell for a peaceful night’s sleep, so we put to sea again, setting a course to the much larger island of Ko Phi Phi Don, 22 miles to the east.
Downwind, under main and genoa, Sea Quest kept up a good pace, sliding through the Phi Phi Leh channel in the fading light of evening. Sophia and Connor, both of whom had quickly recovered from an earlier bout of seasickness, spent the entire passage gaily chattering on the windward rail. Neither yet realized the many generations of salt water that ran in their veins or just how strong the influence of those seagoing ancestors might yet prove to be. Marina was no neophyte either. She’d crewed with us on a passage across the Coral Sea from Australia to New Caledonia a decade earlier. Later, just after she and Mark Simon had married, they cruised for eight months with us though the western Pacific Ocean.
In near darkness, we tucked into Ko Phi Phi Don to drop anchor under cliffs looming darkly against a quarter moon. A mile away, numerous tourist boats bobbed off the main beaches from which amplified music boomed long into the night. Morning’s peaceful quiet revealed a breathtaking wall of dragon-toothed peaks and handkerchief-sized beaches. As we approached one beach, a tribe of monkeys materialized out of the jungle, advancing curiously as our dinghy grounded.
The macaques the children had earlier encountered at the “monkey school” back in Ao Chalong had been trained from babyhood to have manners. Wild macaques had no such manners! To prevent these engaging animals from climbing over us and possibly biting, we had to force them to back off with a splash of water or a handful of tossed sand. They seemed used to visitors and demanded food. But after our rebuff, they sat nearby, pouting like spoiled children, until their playmates diverted them into a game of tag. A female clutching an almost hairless newborn slung close to her chest walked nonchalantly past the cavorting youngsters to climb into a tree to nurse.
I stepped forward to try for a camera shot through branches. A male monkey moved closer and eyed me, giving me a warning. Threateningly, another also advanced. I was already stepping back when a sharp bark rang out a signal! Instantly, the tribe descended on me like an army of Lilliputian soldiers, grabbing my legs and pulling at my clothes. Alarmed and holding my camera high, I leaped backward into knee-deep water.