My good friends; Tony, Arturo, Kettie and Christy asked me if I’d like to join them on a day trip to an island. Sure! Why not? So, we rented a longtail boat and made our own private trip to an island Ko Ratcha Yai. The day turned into quite and adventure!
We met at Rawai Beach around 8:30 AM after picking up some snacks for lunch. They had already talked to the Long tail boat skippers and rented a nice one called the “Wannamee”. It was low tide so we had to carry everything out to the boat which was anchored about 100 meters from the shore.
Well, Arturo started cursing in Italian which got everyone laughing pretty hard. (Tony and Kettie are half British and half Italian so it was pretty much an Italian trip) It was all in good fun and we set off to a beautiful day although the waves were a bit high.
Usually Thailand at this time of year is very calm with near perfect weather. This was one of the windier days we’d seen and there were whitecaps out there. Sure enough the crossing to the island was a bit rough and took about 1 ½ hours as it was perhaps 10 miles.
I guess I was expecting to see an uninhabited island or something, but when we arrived to a big beach, it seemed to be full of people and huts. So we told our driver to go around the island and we’d check it out.
After putting around in our long tail which is actually a nice big boat that probably seats 8-10 comfortably, driven by a big car engine mounted on a fulcrum with a long shaft of about 20 feet which has the propeller attached to the end.
Well, the driver pivots this thing around with a lot of balance and muscle to keep the prop in the water and at the correct point to steer us where he is trying to go! A crazy looking rig but very sufficient in these shallow waters. (sometimes)
So, in driving around the island, we found another smaller beach with only 2 people in view. We all pointed there and he maneuvered through the coral in a beautiful, turquoise and white bottom. The sand was so fine and white, it was so comfortable and scenic.
He set anchor and we spent a wonderful day swimming, laughing, eating and I brought my guitar along so we had quite a concert which the others at the beach (a couple from Sweden) snuck in too. It started raining so we moved to a pavilion at a restaurant and continued for all the Thai locals too. We had a great sing along as many of them were Pink Floyd fans and they are one of my favorite groups and I know about 12 of their songs.
The sky was getting dark so our driver said we should wait an extra hour and hopefully it would blow over.
Well, the seas were even bigger now and although I had been in the Navy 25+ years ago, and quite used to some rough seas, and Tony had been a pirate for part of his interesting life around the Suez canal, (really), the rest of the group seemed slightly giddy.
Our driver/operator/skipper was working it hard through the big waves and at times it felt like we were traveling 25 knots or so surfing down the face of some big ones. At times, the propeller would come completely out of the water and then be slammed back into a wave. About half-way across, all of a sudden, the shit hit the fan. Or should I say the fan bit the dust? The water?
As I watched, another big wave came and the driver jammed that propeller down into it. It was too much and something bad happened. I think the crankshaft must have snapped in two as I saw the flywheel and chain fall into the sea! As my buddy Mick would say, “she broke”!
We were DIW as they say in the Navy, or, Dead in the Water.
After a lot of laughing about our non-English speaking skippers pulling out his cellphone in this emergency, and everyone looking at our ex-pirate, Italian/Brit sailor, Tony, he said, “let’s go fishin” and pulled out a hand line and hook and an empty water bottled and proceeded to pay out line in hopes of catching Charlie tuna!
Turned out that what Tony was doing was checking to see which way we were drifting with the current or wind. And of course, we were headed away from the mainland and towards India about 2,000 miles away!
Also, Tony later told us, that he didn’t want to scare anyone at the time but that he saw a shark nearby.
We had to wait until help came, and we spent the time watching the oncoming, dark, scary-looking clouds that were wave 2 of the storm. We all put on what gear we had which was almost nothing. I had a sil-nylon emergency rain jacket as did Arturo, the rest each put 2 life jackets on and towels as the rain was cold. It came down pretty steady and the waves grew in size till the tiny little long tail was rockin and rollin pretty good.
After about an hour, our skipper got pretty excited and pointed to a speck which turned out to be his buddy, our rescue team. After 2 short throws of the line amid circles by the rescue boat named “Tuk Tuk boat” in 5-6 foot waves, we tied together and headed for shore.
It was getting quite dark on our way back and Tuk Tuk would only go about 4 MPH as he later claimed this was why our engine broke. Just as full night came, we got to shore and poled our way in the last 100 metres. Glad to be on land, we paid our driver and then gathered in the nearest tarp/tent/restaurant that turned out to be full of Thai locals and sea gypsies.
I thought this was great till the next thing I knew, Arturo, Christy, Tony, Kettie and Anuson, were booking a tuk tuk to take them home as they lived far away (20 miles) which was too far to drive in the rain on a bike having already been cold for the last 2 hours. We said our goodbyes and I stayed with the Thais for some socializing.
This turned out to be pretty exciting and an adventure in itself! Looking around at the gang there, I noticed 3 policeman hiding from the rain in the one corner so realized that nothing really bad was going to happen to me and I might as well enjoy this.
After a round of whiskeys and the Thai toast “Choke-di Kop”(Good Luck) I was feeling pretty good, especially after my 3rd bowl or the hot soup that had some curry in it, vegetables of some kind, and some meat that I couldn’t quite pinpoint.
I realized these good old boys were a bit drunk and after another round, our driver (who spoke not more than 4 words of English up to this point) says to me, “Play the Guitar”. And they all seemed to hear him say it so echoed his words with enthusiasm.
Now it’s one thing to play music that Europeans know by pulling out almost any Pink Floyd tunes, but the only thing I knew that Thais really liked (my friends anyway) was Bob Marley, so, I tried my best one. Well they didn’t seem to know it but they loved it and all started shouting requests. The only one I half knew, which had been requested from me before in many countries was “Country Roads” by John Denver.
Well we had pretty much fun singing a few more till I was getting worried as my fingers were really hurting from the waterlogged day, till this Big Thai Dude pulls up and comes into the tent. They all show some respect for this guy whether it was his size or who he was, I wasn’t sure.
He got himself a bottle of whiskey, poured a glass, looked around and says to me, “where are you from?” I immediately said “Canada” with as much gusto as I could come up with and then added, “and this songs for you” and played the new one I’m working on “Ain’t loved at all”.
When the song was over, he had a big smile on his face and handed his whiskey bottle over to fill my glass and said, “Choke-di Kop” and we all laughed.
One of my now, new friends says to me “he is militant from Malaysia, but now for Iraq!” And I was pretty damn glad to be his drinking buddy. Luckily on the next song (Grateful Dead) I broke a string and said “sorry boys, she broke” and the guitar got retired.
A little later, I said goodbye to all and went out in the rain and drove home to my bungalow about 3 miles away.
All in all, it was one unforgettable day!