A to Z of Destinations
Australia, NZ and South Pacific
A to Z of Experiences
Walking and trekking
Diving and snorkelling
Wildlife and safaris
Meet the locals
Frontier and expedition
Cycling and Mountain Biking
Visiting the Poles
Career breaks and BIG trips
Body and soul
Volunteer and conservation
Australia, East Coast
Everest Base Camp
Trans-Siberian and Trans-Mongolian railway
Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail
Climb Mount Kilimanjaro
Aurora Borealis/Northern Lights
Great Wall of China
24th January 2016
An incident in an idyllic anchorage takes the wind out of Liz Cleere's sails. Will the kindness of strangers – and friends – see her through?
With the storm clouds gone, we made our way to a gentle spot just east of Phuket along the coast of Ko Yai. Jamie dropped beneath the clear water to scrape the hull of gathering barnacles, while I tried a spot of unproductive fishing. It was our first quiet night in two weeks.
Ko Yai was a welcome break from hectic Ao Chalong, but we had to leave the next day for Phi Phi Don to hook up with a new friend we had met through social media, American McGee. A name to conjure with – to be honest, we weren’t sure if it was a wind-up – but we thought 'What the heck?'. If we didn't get along, we'd make our excuses and skedaddle.
The next morning we set off on a short hop across the bay towards our meeting point. We sailed past fishermen pulling up fish traps from the shallows, the sun shone, a gentle wind blew and we found just the spot to anchor.
The thing about Phi Phi Don is that we didn’t like it all that much when we first dropped the hook in hectic Ton Sai Bay. But American assured us that this anchorage was altogether a quieter and prettier place.
With just a couple of small hotels on shore, a few holiday makers playing in the surf, and the usual long-tails coming and going, it seemed American was right. Jamie relaxed in the cockpit with a cup of tea and searched for a wifi signal, while I did a bit of tidying-up below. If we were going to receive visitors, I had to find somewhere to hide all the clutter that quickly piles up in the saloon.
Thwack! Thud! Crash!
What in hell’s name was that?
I flew on deck to find an old steel boat the size of a house backing away from our stern. She’d hit us!
Jamie was frozen with rage and incredulity. I ran around like a headless chicken. We had recently spent over a year in the boatyard having the boat re-fitted. Now this happens?
Why? Why? WHY?
All it had taken was one skipper not paying attention for our davits (a small, manual crane), swimming platform, dinghy, guard rail and God-knows-what-else, to be crushed. The dinghy, now swinging at an odd angle from the broken davits, had taken most of the impact, acting like a large fender. If we had been hit anywhere other than the stern, SY Esper would be starting a new life as Phi Phi Don’s latest wreck dive right now.
What should we do? The offending rust-bucket was operated by local Thais who spoke no English. Our language skills were confined to the usual greetings, thank-yous, and various foods and drinks. The boat was now anchored a little way off. The crew were ignoring us.
Our dinghy was inoperable, so getting off the boat to confront them wasn't an option. We looked towards the shore. Through binoculars, I watched people dawdling in the lapping waves, drinking beers, sunbathing and playing with the kids. No-one looked back at us. There were no other yachts. We were alone.
I remembered what we had been told by the old salty bar-flies:
“It's the Wild West here, mate.”
“Don't have a collision and expect help.”
“You're on your own out there. Make sure you are self-sufficient.”
As we continued to gasp like flailing guppies, American called us on the VHF. He could see us, was on his way, would soon be there. And just like that, the sound of this single friendly voice calmed us down. Realising we had someone to share this nightmare with – someone who would understand and empathise with our pain – broke the spell. We began to look on the bright side: we were insured, we were unharmed, we were floating.
While American anchored close by, we called Jia, owner of the shipyard where SY Esper had been re-fitted. Like the true friend he had become, Jia showed the right amount of sympathy and practical aid. What could he do to help? Could he send some workers up to Phi Phi immediately? (a kind, but unnecessary, offer). We must report the incident, these people must not be allowed to get away with such irresponsible behaviour. He would speak to Phi Phi's police chief to smooth Jamie’s path before going to the police station.
And he promised we would go straight to the top of the queue for a place in the boat yard, at no charge.
It was too late to get anything done that day, so American and his friend Alicia came straight over with whiskey, wine, crisps and nibbles. While the sun made its usual spectacular dive below the horizon, we drowned our sorrows and toasted new friendships. One of the greatest joys of this alternative lifestyle is the people you meet, both those on land and on other cruising boats.
Cheers Jia! Cheers American!
Writer Liz Cleere and photographer Jamie Furlong are travellers first, sailors second. Their blog, Followtheboat, is a travelogue about two people and their cat Millie sailing around the world in a non-specific zig-zag. They also publish video diary updates on Patreon and YouTube every week.
The little-known corner of Thailand you'll never want to leave – Liz Cleere
A sailor's guide to a luxury Christmas – Liz Cleere
Mixing buddhas and mojitos in Phuket – Liz Cleere
Main image: Police on the move in Thailand (Shutterstock.com)
View all posts from
You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login or get more from Wanderlust - register today!
Sailors are a superstitious lot. Here's how to keep them onside the next time you're out at sea
Ever skipped on travel insurance and thought 'it'll never happen to me'? Susie Maggie Thorne explains some of the medical costs involved in nursing you back to health abroad and getting you home
More travellers die being hit by cars than from mosquito bites. Dr Jane Wilson-Howarth looks at how to avoid accidents that frequently assail travellers
Thailand travel guide, including map of Thailand, top Thai travel experiences, tips for travel in Thailand plus where to learn to dive and trek to hilltribe vil
Incredible birdlife. Ancient rock art. Wild rapids. We head north from Cape Town to discover there’s more to South Africa’s buzziest area than the eastern Winelands…
The river caves of Laos’ Khammouane Province have long provided shelter, food and solace to its native Laven people. Now visitors can explore their history and hidden depths for themselves…
Liz Cleere discovers a delightfully laid back and remote island in the far north of the Andaman sea that remains untouched and home to a small band of intrepid expats
Liz Cleere and Jamie Furlong explore the culture, food and hidden corners off the little known Thai island of Koh Phayam, and ask: “Is this the best island in the world?”
Longterm sailors Liz Cleere and Jamie Furlong head towards Burma and a chain of Thai islands where nature rules and people are few and far between
Simply select the destination you’re interested in or the activities you’re looking
for and we’ll send your request to a select panel of tour operators.
Each operator will respond to your request individually. Your details remain private
and are not disclosed to any partners unless you decide to proceed with a booking.
Save up to £600 per couple on Costa Rica Wildlife Holidays
SAVE 10% online with Rohan
23 Days in Bangladesh from £2,000 per person or less
Wanderlust sends out regular email newsletters – be the first to know about web
exclusives, competitions, hot offers and travel jobs. Register today!
I have read and agree to the Terms &
Where in the world are you? Add
#wanderlustmag to your tweets and share your latest travel adventures with
fellow Wanderlusters on wanderlust.co.uk
Get to know Wanderlust on facebook and bring all your travel-minded friends, too