January 4, 2005

Update and news from Thailand...

We are now in the marina at Puerto de la Navidad. This is just across the small harbor from Barra de Navidad. The marina is on the grounds of the Grand Bay Hotel here on Isla Navidad (which is really a peninsula, not an Island).

With all the storms hitting Southern California, the effect down here is that the wind died and it got hotter! So we left Tenacatita on Saturday and came over here to plug in the air conditioning ;-}

We'll probably stay here for a few weeks before working our way back up to Puerto Vallarta in February.

We decided to visit locations further south via land excursions rather than sail as 1) there's not much wind, 2) it's a long way between anchorages 3) since we'll be heading back to the Sea of Cortez in the spring - it's a long round trip, 4) it's at least 10 degrees hotter in Zihuatanejo and 5) we're at the southern end of the "nicest" part of the coast.

That's the major update from us... We're off exploring the locale including the local village of San Patricio Melaque and nearest city: Manzanillo.

A now for some news from Thailand:

When I was at Wells Fargo, I worked closely with Dudley Nigg, who retired in 1999 and set sail on his Island Packet 45 "Happy Now".

He and his wife Philippa were on Happy Now in Thailand when the tsunami struck and I though you might find their report of interest. I've included their complete email below.

Warmest wishes,
Bill and Mary
Hi Everyone,

So many of you have written asking how things are here that I thought I would send off a quick e-mail describing the effects of the tsunami here. Contrary to the news that I have had described to me, Thailand is not in chaos, and even Phuket on a day to day basis can seem frighteningly normal.

Yet behind all this when I volunteered down at the community center a few days ago, and friends were searching for the son of friends - then nothing seemed normal. Boards were covered with horrifying photos of victims of the sea under the heading, "Can you identify any of these people?"; lists and lists of victims, in hospitals or dead; people searching for their loved ones, putting photos up, "Have you seen this person, this child?" so much to make ones heart bleed; then the lucky ones, walking wounded, who have lost everything including passports.

All the embassies had set up emergency centers to deal with these issues. The biggest problem was looking for people who had not appeared on any of the lists... When I asked, "Can I help you?" the answer, "I am looking for my wife," was the hardest to deal with! So many unidentified bodies, being taken to so many places with no central record keeping. And so many people simply missing.

The next day I went back but left very shortly, the flow of people had so reduced I felt I was redundant, so we went across to the beaches to see how they had fared. Andrea had asked us to check out some hotels where she has clients booked and which had informed her it was business as usual for them.

We started at Kata Nui beach; the sight of their wedding last year and the hotel where we had stayed. Kata Bhuri is set back from the beach and other than the fact that the pool beside which we had had the ceremony was full of sea water and grunge they are unaffected and the tourists were vacationing, lying in the sun, enjoying the courtyard pool which was as blue as ever.

The Kata Thani, being beach front had fared worse, every ground floor room had had the windows smashed in and workers were shoveling out sand and debris - but the upper floors were unaffected and the gardeners were hard at work getting the grounds back to normal. Once again tourists frolicked in the waves and sat in the sun. All that seemed to be missing were the rows of beach chairs and umbrellas!

As we traveled north the story got sadder. The next beach up, where the kids had stayed, the water front restaurants had been demolished. At Patong, the real hub of tourism on the island, the road along the front was closed, and in the small section we saw, a car was dangling out of a restaurant window! Wrecked cars, smashed in by the wave, still littered the area. It looked like a bomb had gone off.

That is as far as we went but further north still and on the islands is where so many lives were lost. People simply disappeared, washed away by the speed and force of the wave. Yet when we drive into Phuket town and on this side of the island, it is easy to forget that any thing has happened.

One hears amazing stories. From the yachties perspective in Thailand we all had a miraculous escape. The marinas were hardly affected. Our Marina had a warning call, then a large swell came thru lifting the whole marina to with in a few feet of the top of the pylons, and then it all subsided, so close to disaster but actually no damage.

For the 150 or so boats anchored in a bay for Christmas they too simply rose over a huge swell which then rushed ashore clearing the beach of restaurants, deck chairs and people. Since then they have been helping the locals rebuild their businesses on the beach. The Thais are resilient people. We definitely have the feeling that around here they are bouncing back. As Dudley points out in a capitalistic society disaster brings jobs, and we saw many, many people working in the devastated areas, and hopefully they will earn enough to replace their tuk-tuk or their long-tail which was washed away.

Other areas were not so lucky. The two marinas where we stayed just before Christmas in Langkawi, Malaysia were both decimated with the wave roaring in, swirling around and then sucking all the yachts out, sinking some, damaging others. We all know we are lucky to be alive and even considering our plans for 2005!

And as for our plans. The route we had planned to take is to areas of far greater disaster. Sri Lanka we know we can not go to. The Andaman Islands, originally our first stop, will take a while to recover and we need to leave next week so have decided to miss them. The Maldives have already contacted our marina and told them to please let us all know they hope we will still
go there. So despite what you hear on the news, "The Maldives are finished as a tourist resort area," I think they are bouncing back as fast as they can.

Instead of the Maldives we have decided to go to Cochin on the south west corner of India. We had never considered it before but now we have heard about it and started to research it it an exciting alternative. In fact it is in the book Andrea and Brandon gave us for Christmas, "The 1000 Places You Must See Before You Die!" so we are excited again. I am a little apprehensive as it means 10 days at sea getting to Cochin as well as the 12 day trip from the Maldives to Eritrea. I will just be especially glad to see Cochin when we get there!

We are busy preparing the boat for a three month voyage: checking the tension of the rigging, packing away the kayaks, getting in basic food supplies, putting in safety lines, checking the emergency equipment. It has been a long time since we did a major ocean crossing. We are excited to be on our way again and will be back writing monthly, rather than semi annual
updates once again!

Our very Best Wishes for a Happy New Year to you and yours


Dudley and Philippa
S/V Happy Now
IP 45

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