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Welcome to sailing yacht Alishan

Read more about the adventures and boat-projects on board of Alishan


We left you on December 31st 2008 in Patong Bay in Phuket, where we were in company of s/y Sound of Music celebrating the start of the New Year, watching fireworks all night long. We thought we’d seen everything about fireworks after 13 years of Hanabi in Japan on top of some Chinese New Years in Hong Kong and Penang. But Thailand surprised us. They have paper lanterns that are lit up with a wad of kerosene. The hot air makes them float up in the sky like a mini air balloon and the wind takes them over the bay, out to sea. Hundreds, if not thousands. The construction of these lanterns is 3rd world style: poor and sometimes they collapse midway, resulting in a premature dive in the water – or a crash landing on some deck… We would not dare leave Alishan unattended, but being upwind, none came our way.

About a hundred yachts were anchored in front of the beach, close to town. It’s a tradition for yachts in South East Asia to get together for this occasion. They were swinging uncomfortably back and forth. The wind, a light NE breeze was not the cause, it was the NW swell that entered the bay in huge rollers, making the masts sway and the surf wild. ALISHAN and SOUND of MUSIC had arrived in the afternoon and found a small protected niche in the northern corner, away from the busy town and the crowds. There were no other boats at first, but a few who choose comfort over action eventually came our way.

Nai Harn

The morning of January first we returned to the bay of Hai Narn, about 10 miles to the south and the only protected place on the west coast of Phuket at that time. While we sailed in the light breeze along the coast, we listened to the VHF radio where several yachts expressed their New Year’s wishes and the general talk was about adventurous dinghy landings on the beaches of Kata and Karong. (Patong has a dinghy pontoon and even that must have been a challenge) Surprisingly nobody got seriously hurt, nor were there any reports of holes burned in the decks.

  Going ashore can be a quite a challenge, returning with lots of shopping bags even more so.

Many yachts left Phuket, either to continue west towards the Maldives and the Red Sea, or to explore the Thai islands north of Phuket. Of the last group several returned early, with stories of sleepless nights and poor diving conditions, due to that same NW swell. ALISHAN decided to wait it out and stayed put at Nai Harn. In a few weeks time we’d get a visitor for a month, hopefully things would have improved by then. We spent our days there doing little boat jobs, socializing, walking and we even ran a few km. By then our running career was down to once or twice a month, soon to become completely nonexistent. It’s just too hot, everyday.

Garden of one of the resorts at Nai Harn

We met up with friends Kari and Aslaug on s/y Lady Ann, Heyko and Rose on s/y Bavaria, Fran and John on s/y Ninth Charm and many more. About a 3 km walk from the beach was a Sauna with massage facilities, not far from Nee, our favorite place to eat and the internet café. Internet was a problem. Our wifi antenna wasn’t strong enough to pick up any usable signal. We needed to stay in touch with the family as most of us who have aged parents. So we made numerous walks, mostly in the early morning and late afternoons. Later we bought a new mobile phone with a special sim card that got ALISHAN internet-connected. Much better.

The beach of Nai Harn, seen from the south

From the Alishan on the Move blog:

25 Years afloat.

River Rhine, Arnhem, Holland.


51 degree 58 N

05 degree 50 E

It was a cold snowy Sunday, early January, 1984.

We decided to move on board of our sailing yacht JAN HARING.

For more than 19 years and 50.000 miles Jan Haring was our home.

In 2003 we moved on board of ALISHAN.

So now we are counting a whopping 25 years living afloat!

And we still love that feeling of the rising and falling tides.

The radio announced a red alarm warning for unusual low temperatures here in Thailand. Here at the bottom of Phuket we too can feel the drop in the mercury: early morning it’s only 25 C. What happened to the Global Warming?

The normally quiet little bay of Nai Harn suddenly became the noisiest place when the local temple staged its yearly fund raising festival.

The temple grounds were packed with food and game stalls, big sound systems and the air was full of firecrackers and bad karaoke. The contests went on till early morning and kept many of us cruisers awake. The only way to deal with it was to join in.

Our friend Em at one of the food stalls, sampling bbq-ed insects. She liked the COCKROACHES!

 Movie equipment from the previous century was brought in to make an outdoor cinema. The set-up was more interesting than the movie.

 The temple of Nai Harn on an ordinairy day.


Tom, Jaap’s 19 year old nephew arrived on January 20th, just an other hot day. We were used to temps of 30 C and more, but for him it was a shock. We gave him a few days to acclimatize and prepared for a cruise to the Surin Islands. By now the SW swell had subsided, the winds were mostly E – NE, generally light, but every now and then turned towards the west. We hoped for the best.

All the drinking water needs to be carried from the shore in 20 liter bottles.

A hard job, and good motivation to use it with care.

The first day took us along the west coast of Phuket Island and next the mainland of Thailand, as far as Hin Talumphuk, close to Kao Lak. We only stayed for the night and hauled the anchor early next morning, to continue north, hugging the coast. We sailed in the mornings but had to get help from the Yanmar in the afternoons. Later in the day the heat over the mainland would cause a light sea breeze, which put us on a lee shore. Late that afternoon we got to Chong Ko Phra and we made our way up the river.

Toms first go at the wheel

River entrances have sandbanks in front of them and sandbanks are known to move, so one cannot completely rely on charts, especially not C-map. (charts on a computer) We hit the bank only once. And very softly. Still, it makes your heart beat fast! We did a 180 and got safely into deeper water from where we followed some longtails that miraculously appeared out of nowhere. (Longtails are local small boats, used for transporting people as well as fishing, equipped with a car engine that drives a long propeller shaft. The engines are NEVER covered up and usually have NO muffler, so you can hear them before you see them ;-))

Longtails on anchor at the Surins.

We dropped anchor in the middle of the river, between Ko Phra Tong and Ko Bosai, not too close to land, so we still caught a bit of sea breeze. The days were hot and humid and whatever little wind there was needed to cool down our cabins for the night. From our spot we couldn’t see any sign of civilization. No houses, no villages, no roads, no ships. The longtails had moved on. It was dead quiet.

Relaxing in the cockpit with our sundowners, we watched the clouds to the east darkening and what looked like a proper rain cloud seemed coming our way. This got us all excited! We hadn’t had any rain for weeks and there was no way to wash the dirt off the decks but with seawater, which really attracts more dirt and is a waste of energy. Now we had this free shower coming, we closed the hedges and put our soaps and shampoos on standby.

However, before the first raindrops fell, the darkness preceding it hit us: A thick cloud of mosquitoes, big and hungry. For a few minutes there was frantic running in and out, but soon the sweet fresh water drops started to fall. And it poured! We took off our clothes and the 3 of us danced around naked, scooping delicious rainwater off the bimini with our hands, soaping, shampooing, singing and shivering - that water was cold! - wiping the deck with our hands. A full half hour and it was all over. Another half hour and we were sweating like before.

Ko Bosai

The next day we continued north, this time up the river, which was part of a water system behind the coastline. Early afternoon we anchored in another bend that collided with a channel to sea, too shallow for Alishan but perfect for dinghy exploring. Apart from a few fishermen catching big pink blobs of jellyfish(!) there were no people nearby and we never saw the village that is mentioned in the cruising guide. It was Marijkes birthday, but the plan to eat out (crab!) someplace had to be abandoned. However, a cake came out of the oven and there were presents and a beautiful sunset walk on a gorgeous beach and it turned out a beautiful day.

Ko Phra Tong

From here it was only 30 miles across to the Surin Islands. The NE wind picked up and we could sail most of the way. Wonderful! This is what cruising is all about: sailing peacefully with your loved ones across a blue sea, under a blue sky, green mountains on the horizon, birds flying over, 2 content cats squeezing their eyes against the sunlight, seeking your company in the cockpit.

The Surins, a group of islands close to the Myanmar border are a marine nature reserve and there is no form of infra structure and no electricity. The only buildings present belong to the National Park Headquarters and one tiny naval station. To preserve the coral there are some moorings available at various locations, so visiting yachts don’t need to use their anchors. Every day many dive boats come over from the mainland, most return at night. They dump divers and snorkelers in the waters over the reef, the last ones bobbing around on the waves clad in bright orange lifejackets.

Boats in front of the NPHQ at the northern island of the Surins

We found an unoccupied mooring on the north east side of the main island and as soon as ALISHAN was safely tied up we all jumped over the side, armed with snorkel, mask and fins. The fish, the corals, they were amazing! Such a variety of colors and shapes, all around us. The visibility was very good, we could see for at least 50m. Unlike the orange blobs, we dove down to a depth of 3 – 10 m to look at anemones, nude branches, crabs, shrimps and shellfish, which are often not visible from the surface. Tom was quite good at it. He must have secretly practiced in the swimming pools of the Netherlands. Jaap tied the dinghy on a long line around his waist, incase the current took us and thus we all felt quite safe, even when we wandered off, far along the rocky coast.

In the evening some fishing boats came in and one of them stopped by ALISHAN to offer us fish. A Thai custom, they do this when they have a good catch, to avoid bad luck. Well, lucky us. We ended up with fresh fish, squid and CRAB! Marijke’s birthday was properly celebrated again.

Nori with his share.

We stayed 2 nights on this side of the islands, another 2 nights at another location, closer to the boat landing. We took the dinghy ashore, to the National Park’s Headquarters. We paid for our stay and walked the one and only trail on this main island, hoping to spot some Nicobar Pigeons, which are endemic to this region. We never saw any, but Tom did get to see his first sharks, safely from a high rock. We had lunch at the NPHQ’s campsite, the only place to eat out.

watching the reefsharks in the channel

lunch, a rest and the walk back

Across the bay, on another island we saw a congregation of huts. We were told it was a village for Moken people, a tribe of status-less people who spend their lives living on boats, roaming the off shore islands along the coasts of Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia. The government of Thailand persuades these people to live on land and send their children to school. They offer some employment, p.e. as cleaners of the campsites on the island parks. We saw them doing their work when we were ashore, but they didn’t seem to have a greeting custom and never replied to our ‘hello’. Thus we never established any kind of contact. We didn’t attempt to visit their village; they seemed to want to be left by themselves.

Moken Lobong, or totem poles, embody the spirit of ancestors, are the first thing that welcome visitors to the Surin Islands.


Reading the guide books about the excellent diving in the Surins, it never occurred to us that there would not be any dive schools. Tom, who wanted to get his certificate, had to go somewhere else. It took an overnighter to get us back to Phuket. The NE wind did what it’s supposed to do for a while and we even had the spinnaker up. Our one and only time since March 2008.

Up and down

Tom, our honored guest, not being accustomed to us yachties’ way of life, spent most of the time stretched out in the cockpit, while we worked around 1.97m of arms and legs occupying a fair share of our living quarters. But we didn’t mind, He didn’t snore too loud and he was good to have. He didn’t demand 3 course meals for lunch, ice cubes in his drinks (we have a fridge, no freezer) or play loud music on our sound system. We sometimes managed to get him to take the helm for a few hours! He was good, we let him sleep that night.

Some crab are for eating, some for watching

ALISHAN headed straight for Patong. It was time Tom got to see a different side of Thailand. The bay was fairly calm now and we stayed for 4 days. It coincided with Chinese New Year celebrations, we rented a car for a day and we did Bangla Street by night after an evening at Simon’s Cabaret, so we all got familiar with the ladyboys around us. In Thailand these converted women are widely accepted and we often saw them in town. A lot of them have beautiful bodies, it’s hard to imagine they once were men. We had also met someone on a previous occasion which got me feeling kind of sorry for them. Having a normal family is never an option and many end up having to make a living using their body as a show case. As in a cabaret.

Patong by night

Our next stop was Kata Beach, another tourist beach, but not as crowded as Patong and with a dive shop that offered courses for a good price. So the next 4 days Tom was out and we had the boat to ourselves again during the day. Jaap had picked up an eye infection and didn’t feel too good. A doctor in Kata gave him antibiotics and a few days later he looked normal again.

Kata, Karong and in the distance Patong Bay, seen from Kata View Point.

At an elephant station between Kata and Nai Harn

Suddenly the SW swell returned and ALISHAN started rocking and rolling, pulling the chain. The lee shore was too close by, we had to move. So we left, motor sailed around the south point of Phuket to the east coast, and anchored 3 hours later in Ao Chalong. We had been here several times before, to clear in and out of the country. The bay is protected all year round and home to many local dive and tourist boats that visit the nearby islands. There is a noisy little town with some shops. Nothing special, but here we were safe from the wind and the waves. Now, what about Tom? This had all happened during his absence. He was out on a dive boat for his first open water dive at Phi Phi. There could have been a problem were it not that nowadays everybody has a mobile phone, even when on holiday in Thailand for a month.

The big Buddha of Phuket

Temple bells

When Tom had his desired certificate we set off again, this time to the islands in Phang Nga bay, east of Phuket. A couple of stops at lovely and quiet Ko Yao Yoi, where we explored a bit of mangrove and plantation, brought us to Ko Phanak and Ko Hung, both uninhabited, limestone islands. We did a few different caves this time and got up early in the morning to visit the most spectacular hong at Ko Hong. Just like 6 months before and it was just as serene. I love that place.

(See also Q3 08)

Ko Yao Yoi

  Exploring hongs (Thai for room) nad caves

The photo on the right shows lizard trails

More hongs and more caves

ALISHAN in Phang Nga Bay

New for us was Krabi, a rapidly popular becoming tourist destination. We anchored off Rai Le beach, The Place for rock climbing, but decided not to venture up. Instead we went down a few meters on a snorkel tour around the rocks. Much more relaxed.

Sunrise at Rai Le, Krabi

And then came Phi Phi. But not before another snorkel stop, at Koh Dam Khwan. We saw quite a bit of fish there, and one spiny lobster. The visibility was so so but hey, after the Surins it’s hard to find something that spikes your senses.

Phi Phi island is fun when you are young and love discos and that kind of stuff. For us it’s convenient because we can have the laundry done and buy fruit and veggies. Of course eat out. Thai food has risen to one of our favorites. That means, as long as the amount of chili is reasonable. We love the papaya salads (normally prepared with 12 chili peppers, but for us with just one) and Tom goes for prawns. In Phang Nga bay we did get some from the local fishermen, which were super fresh of course and fried Marijke style, scaled raw and rolled in a mix of flour and spices tasted superb.

Views of Phi Phi Don

One evening in one of the open restaurants in town we got some extra nutrition when a squadron of flying ants landed on us. We were just finishing up when suddenly they were everywhere! In your hair, under your shirt, on your plate and as soon as you opened your mouth for a bite they crowded in! It was impossible to endure. We paid quickly and hurried out to the other, ant-less end of the street.

The best of Thai cuisine: curries and salads

 Ants fly low and time flies by. We had only a few more days before Tom had to fly out to New Zealand. We returned to Ao Chalong (We didn’t want to risk any surprise departures anymore) where he rented a motorbike for a day and did some last shopping. On Feb 19th we celebrated Jaap’s birthday at the airport.

Jaap and Tom enjoying their Thai massage in Nai Harn

Bye bye, Tom. It was good to have you onboard. You can come again – any time. We still have some fishermen’s pants for you. (see Bloggerblog)

 Market scenes, Phuket Town. Note the size of the pineapples top right, smaller than appels.

The lady below is selling us a durian. We love that smell!


The original plan was to sail to the Andaman Islands of India after Tom’s visit. We had applied and gotten a visa for this when we were in Penang. But now we were not so sure if we did want to go there anymore. The recent Mombai terrorist acts had made officials tighten the already strict rules.

Visiting yachts have to report by radio twice a day. Fees had to be paid just about everywhere outside the city of Port Blair. And now yachts who wanted to visit the nature reserves could not anchor overnight anymore. What was the point of going there? So, we changed plans. Whether that was good or not we don’t know, we might not get a chance anymore. But it was definitely more relaxed now that we didn’t have to hurry to get all the boat jobs done, haul water, fuel and the supplies onboard and sail into the northerly winds.

Instead we took our time and left Phuket to “sail” to the Similans, another group of island that is a Marine Park, south of the Surins. Sail between “”, since there was hardly any wind to sail by coming from a favorable direction. The Yanmar did a great job.

First we sailed to an inlet near Kao Lak, Thap Lamu, 35 miles north of Phuket.

Fish market of Ban Thap Lamu

Jaap inspecting the fish traps.

quid dried in the sun  

A fisherman getting his tattoes

The best place to anchor was just off the naval base, half a mile upriver, in front of a small town. Ashore we came across a surprisingly big hardware store (good to know for future expeditions), a cheap barber (1 euro) and a lively fishmarket. A short dinghy ride through mangroves took us to a lovely old plantation with numerous birds. We stayed an extra day, enjoying the calm waters of the river, after all the open bays of the previous weeks.

Children of Thap Lamu

In the Similans we found moorings again. And dive boats that stayed overnight, but not too many. Again we enjoyed the underwater world with our mask and fins. This time it did match the Surins in variety of fish and other creatures, but with less coral. Big grey granite boulders form the landscape here, above as well as under the waterline. There were turtles and life humpback cowries, lion fish, scorpion fish and several different kinds of pufferfish. Even Nori and Wakame liked it. They could watch schools of fish at several meters depth from the deck, which Wakame found most entertaining. She never showed the urge of jumping after them, though.

We met up with sy Mata’irea with Sten and Danika, who we’d first seen in Nai Harn and shared our views of this place. We also hiked up to the top of one of the islands, hoping to see some Nicobar Pigeons again, but…

Sailing Scene at Similan

Back in Phuket we headed straight for Patong, where we dropped of the laundry, bought CD’s, DVD’s, souvenirs and groceries. The bay was quite rolly – again – and now dark clouds came in at the end of each afternoon, resulting in some serious thunderstorms. Winds would pick up to 35 knots, but we could still here the sound of fire crackers, that announces the departure of a seagoing vessel. The boats that take tourists out on sightseeing and diving tours to the outer islands are all locally build with local funds and local knowledge. In other words they are not very seaworthy and when seas get rough they tend to simply roll over, top heavy as they are. It wasn’t surprising that one night one of the boats didn’t make it back. 6 people drowned. Others were picked up. Sad. Locals say it happens every year…

 Cats on the lookout, waiting for that fish, that did come....

Again, conditions chased us out and on to Ao Chalong, We packed our stuff and got ready to leave Thailand. At least, on paper.

After clearing customs and immigration we left Phuket and headed south towards Malaysia, a little earlier than planned. Old friends Dave and Marcia were coming to Rebak in Langkawi where their boat Strider was parked, after their land travels and trip to their home country, the USA. They had offered to look after the cats if we wanted to go somewhere and we took the opportunity to book flights to Fukuoka. Our re-entry permits would expire this year, so we needed to go some time before September. Finding good cat sitters is never easy, so this was our chance.

The southern part of Thailand has some excellent cruising grounds, with islands and nature reserves. We had seen a bit on our previous trips and planned our way back carefully.

The first night we anchored at Ko Lanta, off the SE point, without going ashore. Difficult, I like Ko Lanta, but we had only 10 days. The next day we continued to Ko Rok Nok, a bit further west, away from the muddy waters of the rivers on the mainland and found a nice spot between 2 little islands on the north side. We had heard about the beauty of this place from other yachts and wanted to see it before we left this part of the world.

Campsite on Rok Nok... noknok who's there....

The weather played games again; we were getting close to the wet monsoon and winds started shifting. The thunderstorms that were hovering over the mainland came closer. The 2nd night conditions became so bad, we had to move in the middle of the night and made an hour long d-tour to the other side of the islands. With use of a nearly full moon we worked our way towards the coral reefs and found a mooring at 2:30 am. What a relieve! There we stayed another 2 days near a pretty beach with some pretty birdlife and monstrous lizards. We were clearly getting closer to Langkawi.

Our last stops in Thailand were in yet another group of islands, the Butangs, 40 miles from Ko Rok Nok, and also a Marine Park, but with a small town,. Here we first picked up a mooring off jungle covered Ko Adang, where we could only walk on the beach – inland trails were mostly non existent. Then Ko Lipe, a small paradise that gets some tourists and were we felt that we could stay for weeks on end.

 A river on Ko Adang, reduced to a tiny stream in the dry monsoon, sporting hornbills, monkeys, drongos and 2meter monitor lizards.

And that was it. Bye bye Thailand. HOPEFULLY we’ll get a chance to see all those magnificent islands again. The karst of Phang Nga, the granite boulders of the Similans, the Surins, the rainforests of Tarutoa and the Butangs and all the other islands between Phi Phi and Langkawi. Forget about Phuket.

In Langkawi we had a few days in Telaga and Rebak before we flew to Fukuoka. We were still full of the wonderful places we’d seen, when the latest news hit us with a big shock. A yacht that was due in Rebak for haulout had not arrived. When it was anchored at night off Ko Adang in the Butangs, 3 men climbed onboard, intending to steal the boat. They killed the owner, bound his wife and sailed to Satun, the nearest town. There they left, taking food, clothes and many valuables.

Thailand’s Fishing Scene



SW Phuket.

From Phuket to Surin Islands and back. From Phuket to Similan ISlands and back.

From Ao Chalong, into Phang Nga Bay, to Krabi, Phi Phi Don and back to Ao Chalong.

From Ao Chalong to Langkawi (part 4 story)


Thap Lamu

Thap Lamu


Andaman Sea


Siray, a river in Phuket


Thap Lamu


How many legs does it take to carry a longtail engine?


Handheld Internet connection on ALISHAN.

Marijke is holding the antenne out on deck through the hatch, while checking mail

MTR: Not Mass transport but Mast transport

Find the shark. For information, contact Tom at



Brown Shrike

Blue-eared Barbet

Red-wattled Lapwing

Oriental Magpie Robin

Black-crested Bulbul

Stripe-throated Bulbul

Black-headed Bulbul

Orange-bellied Flowerpecker

Red-eyed Bulbul

Common Myna

White-vented Myna

Hill Myna


Yellow-vented Bulbul and it’s chick


Coppersmith Barbet



Scaly-breasted Munias

Asian Brown Flycatcher


Insects, lizards, flowers.

These photos are all taken in the first 3 months of 2009.

I left the titles out, simply because I don’t know the names of most insects

Hopefully I will be able to name them someday.

***q109buffly02 q109insect01