Diving, Birthdays and a HoHoHo Cruiser Christmas

Two days before Christmas I was back at my favorite dive shop talking dive sites when one of the instructors said he had a techy dive student who wanted to do deep penetration on the Wreck I had dove on earlier. This is an 85 meter passenger boat that sank about 14 miles off of Phuket. He had everything but a boat and I had everything but local knowledge so off we went.

My anchor windlass had shown an intermittent problem which was now full on TU and I had to hand crank the 60 ft of chain and 110lb anchor, a good upper body work out for sure.

With Ben’s help we found the mooring and lucked out finding it empty. The two techy divers dropped in first with double tanks and deep penetration gear, looking like something out of special opps. The girls and I followed, they had the best toys but I had the cutest dive buddies. The current was very strong on the surface so we attached lead lines from the mooring to the back of the boat to aid in swimming upstream. As I suspected the current died as soon as we dropped down ten feet. The currents here are erratic and come and go quickly.

We landed on the wreck and started to explore. This was my first dive with Missy and Jess’s first wreck dive so I took it slow and easy, resisting urges to enter dark places. We saw Lion Fish, a large eel, and schools if small fish that encompassed us as we pass through them. We dove to 78 feet covering the upper deck and the whell house. We surfaced just before our friends who were able to get one hour of bottom time.

The winds had picked up earlier in the day and then dropped but regained strength as the sun went down so we had 20 plus knots against us on the large jetty as we unpacked the gear in the dark and picked up Nok who had spent the day “on solid land talking Thai” as she has been surrounded by English for a couple of days.

We then headed to the anchorage and sought the shallowest usable water to reduce my upper body work out when we would leave. The wind stayed over 20 for the next two days making the long dinghy ride thrilling.

Undaunted by 3-4 foot swells, the party must go on. the first birthday was Missy who turned 24 just after she arrived. We had a dinner out and I had a cake made at the local bakery.

While there I ordered a vegan cake for Jess, who’s birthday followed on Christmas day. Another test of language, try ordering a vegan cak in Thailand—or just try telling a baker what a vegan is, hahahaha.

Christmas came with a sunny albeit blustery morning and we arose the HoHOHo’s of Santa and Mrs. Clause who came upon us in their dinghy bearing gifts. Leave it to our good friends Robin (of Thanksgiving fame) and Rick to bring Santa suites half way around the world. They are really special holiday people who make being away from home so nice at these times.

We joined a group of 30 cruisers at a local restaurant which advertised a real Christmas dinner with all the trimmings. Now try that when everyone has a different idea of what a Christmas dinner is! They did a great job, sausage for the Germans (and me) pastry for the Brits (and me) ice-cream for the Yanks (that would be me)

After the dinner we made the heroic trip back out into the now gusting 30 knot headwinds in the bouncing dinghy. All the girls got a good soaking but, as the song goes, laughing all the way!

We lit up the vegan wonder and all had a piece of the surprisingly good cake—dark chocolate is vegan it appears.

All things celebrated and all things eaten we all hit the bunks for a bouncy night of slumber. Again my Rolex stabilizing system saved the day as we watch out neighbors roll heavily, we were perfectly comfortable.

I faced the music the next day, another hand crank of the anchor against 20 knots of wind. I put Missy at the helm and she kept the boat into the wind taking the pressure off the chain. Crank, crank crank, six inches at a time and finally up she came. We headed out of Chelong Bay into 30 knot gusts and 2 meter seas. Missy, a veteran sailor was very impressed as Furthur easily passed through the huge head seas. Jerry did not even budge from his perch.

We entered the winding shallow entrance to Boat Lagoon and back to the Royal Phuket Marina where we were again welcomed with open arms and cool wet hand clothes like in a fine restaurant.

With the help of a new friend I found a technician who works on windlasses, down to the boat they came and off went to Muir to determine its fate. I am a bit puzzled by this failure of a two and a half year old, over sized windlass. I had upsized the standard with a new Jaguar just before I left. I take great care to not put any pressure on it while raising the chain, always driving up on the chain so it comes easily. I am very curious to see what exactly went wrong. Tomorrow I shall know.