Nitty Gritty

You’ve read the light overview of Pirate Jam and are excited to join in the fun. Before signing up take a moment to read a more detailed description of what to expect from 10 days of life aboard a sailboat.

Where are we going?

We’ll be sailing around Phang Nga Bay and the Andaman Sea, between the east coast of Phuket and west coast of Krabi, Thailand. This is a roughly 400km/sq area, much of which is protected as the Ao Phang Nga National Park. The area is filled with uninhabited islands, limestone cliffs, mysterious caves, and archaeological sites. The water here is often very shallow, meaning we can drop anchor just about anywhere while we’re sailing – even in the middle of the bay! 10,000 years ago, when sea levels were lower, one could walk from Phuket to Krabi across the bay.

There are 88 species of birds, 82 species of fish, and all kinds of other creepy-crawlies to be found here… including the black finless porpoise. (Not to be confused with a black purposeless Fin). For bird watchers a guide to local birds has been installed on the boat and binoculars are also on hand. For those that love aquatic life there are fish identification guides in both book and dive card format.

You will be sailing and living aboard a Tosca 36′ sailboat built in Cape Town, South Africa, circa 1986. This particular boat (“Chaos” nee “Synchronicity”), has sailed around much of the Indian Ocean from Africa to Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Indonesia, and other parts of SE Asia, including Thailand, where she’s now registered and maintained in good condition. Boats built in South Africa call “The Cape of Storms” their home, so they tend to be extremely sturdy, heavy, and sea-worthy – Chaos is no exception. (There are other boats in the Pirate Jam fleet and final accommodations will be decided upon arrival).

During the jam we’ll make several stops to enjoy cave exploring, swimming, snorkeling, diving, spear fishing, BBQ’ing, and other activities. Wherever we go, we’ll also have a small gas-powered dinghy to use for local exploration, heading to shore, and water sport adventures.

Weather in the region means sailing is possible year-round without threat of hurricanes or cyclones. Thunderstorms and squalls can bring heavy rain and gusty winds for brief periods of time, punctuating long periods of tranquil conditions. Due to the shallow nature of the bay and “sticky” bottom (made up of sand/mud) we’ll always be able to find a safe and secure anchorage, regardless of weather conditions.

Wind (or lack thereof) and temperature are important concerns while exploring Phang Nga Bay. An early departure (around 7AM) is advisable on days we’re traveling from one anchorage to another. There’s generally more wind and cooler temperatures in the mornings. Later in the day, it’s better to hide from the heat; either on-shore or in some secluded anchorage.

For these reasons, the development portion of Pirate Jam will take place on-shore, starting around lunch time. Mornings will be reserved for sailing and other activities. After each 5-hour development period we’ll be free to engage in other pirate games.

Because strong winds are rare in the region, we may spend a significant amount of time motoring as opposed to using the sails. If it makes you feel more romantic we can still raise the sails, even when there’s no wind.

Weather is hard to predict… but it’s generally “very hot” in the daytime (30~35c – 86f~95f) and cooler at night (25c – 77f). Because it is so hot during the day, as soon as the sun goes down it immediately feels very comfortable outside. The cockpit area of the boat is protected from the sun by a large canopy (called a “bimini”).

When it comes to comfort, the main issue is breeze/wind… the more there is, the more comfortable we’ll be (up to a point after which we’ll fly away in an uncomfortable manner). This is especially true when going below deck. There are 12v fans throughout the cabins, and they make a big difference, but it’s still rare to feel “cold” inside the boat (we experienced something approaching cold during January/February at 4AM). There are some synthetic fiber blankets on board (along with regular sheets/bedding) in the event you do feel cold at night.

This means you’ll be most comfortable in shorts/t-shirt or swimming attire during the daytime. At night, You’ll want to sleep in very light underwear (or in your birthday suit). A wet towel on your back or stomach is a good form of natural air-conditioning and can help you stay cool when trying to sleep.

Sunglasses and sun-screen are a MUST during the daytime. Sun hats are also a good idea if you plan to be out in the direct sun for very long. There are several sun hats and long-sleeve “sun jackets” onboard which can also be worn if you have particularly sensitive skin (or a sunburn). Avoid sunburn at all cost!

Beach shoes (the sort that can get wet and have full protection of sole and toes) should be worn at all times when off the boat. There are bits of sharp coral/shells hiding on even the most beautiful beaches. Onboard you must go barefoot. Wash your feet whenever returning to the boat, as bringing sand aboard is a big no-no. Sand is magically attracted to bunks – and nothing’s worse than trying to sleep in a sandy bed. Please, for the love of all things holy, don’t bring sand on the boat!

Bath/hand towels, shower soap, toilet paper, and other toilet necessities will be provided aboard.

Important Parts of the Boat

Starting at the bow (that’s the pointy end at the front of the boat)…

The anchor lives up here on a bow roller. Just behind the bow roller is an anchor windlass- the machine that raises and lowers the anchor mechanically so we don’t have to do it manually. Always praise the windlass and give it “nice pets” for working hard. We don’t want to windlass to quit, because pulling up chain and anchor by hand really sucks.

The Windlass

Dropping and retrieving the anchor is made easier if handled by two people working together. If you’re interested in windlass duty, read the next section, otherwise feel free to skip it…

How to Use the Windlass – A Quick Primer

*USE CAUTION! The windlass is capable of lifting the anchor and hundreds of kilos of chain – it’s also capable of eating fingers, toes, long hair, and other appendages. Do not sacrifice human flesh to the windlass!

Two big black buttons are mounted on deck just aft of the windlass. Each button is marked with an arrow indicating the direction the windlass will work when pressed – the inward pointing arrow will pull chain in (IN), the outward pointing arrow will let chain out (OUT). The buttons are protected by flip-up covers. (You’ll need to flip these up in order to use the buttons). You can use your hands or feet to operate the buttons.

When bringing up chain, lift 5~10 meters, then wait 5~10 seconds, then lift 5~10 more meters. Never operate the windlass continuously as this can burn out the motor or wiring. Most anchorages feature muddy bottoms, so you’ll be spraying mud off the anchor chain (with the deck mounted pressure spray nozzle) while bringing it up and waiting. If you eat the wrong Thai food you will also feature muddy bottom, though it’s unlikely anyone will help you spray it off. You must also take a break from raising the anchor every ~30 meters in order to “knock down” the building “anchor mountain” inside the chain locker.

When dropping the anchor, there’s a chance the chain will begin to “run free” in an uncontrolled manner. The first time this happens you’ll freak out and think you’ve done something wrong. Stop this scary stuff by pressing quickly and repeatedly on the IN button. The end of the anchor chain (the bitter end) IS secured to the boat, so don’t worry if the chain just continues to run.

If you need to drop the anchor, you’ll first need to push it off of the bow roller. Do this by letting out some chain (press the OUT button). Then manually push the anchor forward (and off) the roller. USE CAUTION! The anchor is heavy (duh) and there’s gravity (also duh).

The anchor is marked with wire-ties every ten meters. It’s important to keep a close eye on the anchor chain as it’s being lowered and to count those ties (this is why you don’t want the chain running free). In most places we’ll anchor in 5~10 meters of water and want 5~6x “scope” (length of anchor chain = depth of water * scope). So in 10m of water we’ll want to let out 50m of chain. 5x wire tires = 50m. (All this math stuff will get sorted before we arrive at the anchorage).

Once you’ve let out enough chain you’ll want to lock the windlass. Do this by swinging the locking arm forward.

If you need to raise the anchor (“weigh anchor” in pirate-talk) you’ll once again work with the windlass. Press the IN button in short (5~10 second) bursts while waiting for the bow (the pointy end of the boat) to glide towards the chain. Try to avoid pulling the boat around with the windlass – instead let the weight of the anchor chain do the pulling. Once the anchor (and chain) are directly under the bow – and the anchor comes off the bottom – you can use the windlass more aggressively to retrieve the remaining chain. The anchor should realign itself with the bow roller (its home on the bow) as it enters the roller. If it doesn’t then you might engage in Anchor Wrestling.

Further details on anchor, windlass, and anchoring procedure will be provided on the boat. It is also possible that you never mess with or risk fingers with the windlass as the entire job can easily be done by one person (and often is).*

The Head

The “head” is both a location (the bathroom) and a thing (the toilet).

The head (bathroom) serves as shower and toilet (preferably not at the same time). There is a hand-held spray nozzle for showering and a traditional sink-mounted faucet – both will produce fresh water from the onboard tanks. Use fresh-water sparingly as there’s a finite supply (200 gallons) onboard.

Shower water drains to the floor and is pumped out by pressing (and holding) a wall-mounted electrical switch. (Don’t worry, it’s 12v and won’t electrocute you to death if touched while wet). Wash water (for brushing teeth, washing face, etc) goes in the sink basin, which is then emptied into the toilet. DO NOT put anything (water, etc) in the space under the basin. DO NOT put anything other than water and #1, #2, or #3 into the toilet. (If you have #4 seek medical attention immediately). DO NOT pee in the shower. Seriously, yuck.

The head (toilet) on a boat is to be feared and respected. Improper use can result in clogging or breakage. Please don’t break the head. (This usually results in scuttling of the boat, as repairs are too gross to be imagined). Like the windlass, it makes sense to give the head “nice pets” and to whisper sweet nothings to it.

Compared to using a toilet at home, using the head onboard is like operating a steam-powered locomotive. There are two main controls – a toggle switch (moves left/right) to control whether water is being brought IN (left) or pumped OUT (right) – and a pump-handle (moves up/down, rotates left/right) that pumps sea water from outside the boat, through the head, and out again. Here’s how it works:

  1. Sit down.
  2. Do your dirty business. Put toilet paper in the trash bag!
  3. Stand up.
  4. Rotate pump handle to unlock.
  5. Flip switch left. Pump 20 times to push seawater through the head.
  6. Flip switch right. Pump 10 times to flush water out.
  7. (You may want to repeat the switch/pump sequence).
  8. Rotate pump handle to lock.

(If you find yourself infinitely repeating “dirty business” you have Bangkok Belly).

If you forget to lock the handle or leave the switch to the left (intake), the boat will explode (probably not, but let’s not risk it).

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD AND ALL THINGS HOLY – DO NOT PUMP THE HEAD IF THERE IS RESISTANCE OR PRESSURE ON THE HANDLE. PUMPING A CLOGGED HEAD CAN RESULT IN AN EXPLOSION OF POO AND PEE. STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING AND SEEK OUTSIDE HELP!

To use the head (room) as a shower, first make sure the fresh water pump is turned ON (at the breaker panel over the nav station – more on this later). Shower yourself using the spray nozzle (trying to conserve water). Water will accumulate in the floor basin. If you start swimming, you’re wasting water. When finished showering, press and hold the wall-mounted switch (above the head) to activate the drain pump. It usually takes ~30 seconds to drain all the water – when the water is all gone the pump will make a “gurgle” sound – at which point you can release the switch.

When you finish using the shower, use a towel to remove moisture from the head (walls, floor, ceiling). There are super-absorbent towels provided for this purpose. If you aren’t able to do this (seasick, hot, or lazy) just say so and someone else will handle it. Better to do this job before you towel yourself off as it’s a bit hot & sweaty in the head.

The Galley

There’s fresh water, a sink, a freezer, and stove here. To use the fresh water, first make sure the fresh water pump is turned on. DO NOT drink the fresh water – it’s not that fresh. The drain here works automatically, but don’t put large chunks of food or garbage into it.

To use the stove, first make sure the propane is turned on (another switch at the breaker panel). Propane tanks are mounted in a stern locker and are usually filled and turned on before we leave the marina. The stove is lit with a long-reach lighter stored in the galley drawers.

If the stove gets crazy, there is a fire blanket within reach. If the fire blanket doesn’t do the trick, there are several large fire extinguishers also within reach. Try not to make the stove go crazy.

The freezer is where we keep perishable items. It’s accessed via a top-opening door. Open and close the door as quickly as possible to prevent loss of cool air.

Garbage is divided into two categories: natural and man-made. Man-made items (ex: soup cans) should be rinsed and placed in the garbage bag (located in the galley). When possible, throw fresh items (egg shells, vegetable remnants, shrimp heads) into the sea. Keeping “fresh” garbage on the boat in the Thai heat is a recipe for Super Stink(tm).

The Cabins

There are three main cabins on the boat. You’ll find fans, lights, and 12v outlets in all the cabins. These will only work if power is turned ON at the breaker panel. Don’t stick your fingers, toes, hair or appendages in the fans. Keep cabins tidy and free of clutter – especially the main cabin. Depending on conditions, loose objects can “fly around” and open bags can “explode all over the place.” All of these events are “undesirable.” Turn off power to cabins when not in use.

The Engine

Though it is a sailboat, there is an engine. And because this sailboat is heavy and the winds in Thailand are (usually) very light, we will probably use the engine. Engine controls are in the cockpit. Instructions on use will be provided onboard. The critical thing to remember is this – if the engine alarm starts screaming, immediately STOP the engine. This is done by pulling OUT on the engine stop control (a black pull-stick located just behind the throttle control). Breaking the engine is almost as bad as breaking the head, so pay attention to its noises and treat it nice.

The Breaker Panel

12v electricity (for various sections and devices on the boat) is controlled by a breaker panel. The breaker panel is located above the nav station (just to starboard as you enter the main cabin). Nothing electrical on the boat will function without first turning on power at the breaker panel. You will frequently find yourself going to take a shower, getting undressed, trying to use the water, the realizing that you forgot to turn on the electric shower pump at the breaker panel. This is normal. Cursing like a sailor was born from this sort of situation.

There are 12v “cigarette lighter” outlets in most cabins. 12v->USB adaptors can be plugged into these outlets to charge mobile devices and anything else with a USB power adaptor. There is also a dedicated pair of USB power ports for charging mobile devices. There is no 120v/220v “wall current,” though a 12v->220v inverter is kept onboard for special use and emergencies. The inverter is able to provide less than 500watts of AC power for recharging things like flashlight batteries and laptops. Do not bring AC powered machinery like: hair drier, electric lawn mower, electric hair crimper, etc. If you have a special-need item powered by AC, please ask before bringing it.

VHF Radio (and calling for help)

There are two VHF radios onboard – one handheld and one mounted above the nav station. We use VHF radios to speak with each other, call the marina (when exiting/entering), talk to other boats, and to request emergency assistance.

The one in the nav station will only work if the breaker for “VHF/Radio” is turned ON. In case of emergency, turn on the VHF, switch the channel 16, then follow these instructions:

  • Transmit “MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY.”
  • Say “This is (name of boat three times, call letters once).”
  • Repeat once more “MAYDAY” and your boat’s name.
  • Report your location.
  • Report the nature of your emergency.
  • Report the kind of assistance needed.
  • Report the number of people on board and condition of any injured.
  • Describe the boat and its seaworthiness.
  • Wait for a response. If there is none, repeat the message.

(These instructions can also be found posted just under the VHF radio).

Cell phones will also work throughout the entire Phang Nga Bay area, to reach someone for help at Krabi Boat Lagoon: +66 086-281-0330

  • Yacht Haven Marina can be reached (when in range) on VHF channel 68
  • Krabi Boat Lagoon can be reached (when in range) on VHF channel 67

For times when we are outside the range of cell phones or VHF radio, we have a Delorme inReach 2-Way Satellite Communicator. This device can be used anywhere in the world to send/receive SMS messages, emails, and SOS distress calls.

Emergencies

If you would like friends or family to see where you're going - and to be able to message you via the InReach, give them this URL. The password is whereisajm

From that page, they will be able to see our location in real-time, as well as communicate with us via short messages. The InReach has an “SOS” button, which will summon rescue services (helicopter, navy, etc) – only press this in a true emergency.

Lastly, the Thai Marine Police can be reached via phone on 1196 or 076-211-883
Calling the Marine Police should be done knowing they usually take hours/days to arrive and render assistance.

Instruments & Autopilot

Displays for wind, speed, depth and autopilot are all contained within the cockpit. These devices must all be turned on at the breaker panel. Detailed instructions on use will be provided on-board – but as a general rule, we try to keep the depth (as measured directly under the keel) above 5 meters.

Safety Equipment

The boat is equipped with a variety of items related to safety, all of which you’ll be fully introduced to once on-board. A quick rundown is included here:

Man Overboard Pole (MOB Pole) – is secured to the starboard stern quarter rail (the back of the boat on the left side if you are looking back). It’s a float attached to a pole and life preserver – the whole rig being easily thrown into the water if someone falls overboard. The top of the pole is fitted with a flag, which is deployed by lifting the cover tubing.

Life Jackets – two automatic gas inflatable jacket/harness flotation devices are stored in the starboard cockpit locker (access panel forward of the auto pilot controls). Do NOT jump into the water while wearing these – they are water activated and will automatically inflate. If automatic inflation fails, pull down (hard) on the bright orange manual activation cords. Do NOT inflate these while inside the boat.

The Anchor – Phang Nga Bay is very shallow in most places, so dropping the anchor to stop the boat during a crisis is a useful tactic to keep in mind. Check the depth gauge, multiple the depth by 5~6 and drop/secure the anchor.

Fire Extinguishers – There is at least one fire extinguisher in every cabin.

VHF Radio – two on-board (handheld and mounted in the nav station). Can be used to call other vessels (CH16, then switch to another open channel), the marina (CH68), or Thai coast guard (CH16).

Dive Knives – stored in the cockpit, and the “dive & snorkel” locker; can be used to cut ropes and lines.

Tools & Spares – almost all repairs can be handled using on-board tools and spares, most of which are stored in starboard-side lockers in the main cabin.

Various Lights – head-mounted, hand-held, flashing, and other types of portable lights are found in the nav station and in the starboard-side lockers of the main cabin. Avoid using bright white lights at night as these destroy night vision. Use low intensity red LED lighting instead.

First Aid Kit – a basic first aid kit is stored in the main cabin (upper starboard side, furthest from the galley). This contains bandages, seasick pills, antiseptics, Betadine, anti-stuff, pro-stuff, and other stuff.

If you suffer any sort of cut/scrape, disinfect and bandage it immediately. Tropical infections are no joke.

Medical Emergency Oxygen – a large canister of medical oxygen is stored in the “dive & snorkeling equipment” locker (lower port side, nearest the galley). Oxygen mask and connectors are stored in the First Aid locker (upper port side, furthest from the galley). In case of trauma during swimming or diving, administer oxygen and seek medical attention.

Things to Conserve

Electricity – We have to make our own, so always turn off unused devices (lights, fans, etc) – and remember to turn off power at the breaker whenever possible.

Water – We have to bring fresh water from the marina, so use it sparingly when washing dishes or showering. We’ve never actually managed to run out of water, even while being somewhat wasteful with it, so don’t worry about water too much, just don’t waste it aggressively.

Ice and Cold – Keeping things cool on a boat in the tropics is tough. We’ll have two styrofoam coolers (filled with ice) and an engine-powered freezer to keep things cool. When grabbing things from these places be sure to open-and-close lids as quickly as possible to preserve internal temperature.

Top 17 List of Important Things

  1. If something looks, smells, or feels wrong: Say something! If in doubt, ask. It’s better to ask a “silly” question than ignore a potential problem.

  2. Keep one hand on the boat at all times when moving around inside, on deck, or in the cockpit. DO NOT fall off the boat, especially when under way. Tell yourself that falling off a moving sailboat is like falling off a mountain – an almost certain death sentence!

  3. Move slowly and deliberately to avoid slips and falls.

  4. Be cautious around tension-ed, loaded, and heavy objects – including lines, chains, and anchors.

  5. If something seems jammed or stuck, don’t force it. Stop, investigate, or ask for help.

  6. Everything has two “off” switches – breaker panels (electrical) and seacocks (water). Know where they are.

  7. There are fire extinguishers in all cabins. Know where they are.

  8. There are master shut-offs for electricity and diesel. Know where they are.

  9. Check for lines, people, and other objects in the water before starting engine or engaging the propeller.

  10. Stop the engine immediately at first sign of mechanical trouble or upon hearing warning buzzer.

  11. In case of Man Overboard, whatever else happens, one person (spotter) must maintain visual contact with MOB at all times and someone must throw the MOB pole into the water ASAP.

  12. Seasickness is worsened inside the boat. Stay outside, keep an eye on the horizon.

  13. Sunburn can happen in minutes. Use sunscreen liberally and at all times, in (almost) all places. Sunscreen should be applied ~30 minutes prior to exposure.

  14. Dehydration is a constant risk in tropical heat. Drinks lots of water and consume electrolytes daily.

  15. Cuts and scrapes in tropical seawater can result in life threatening infections. Disinfect and manage even the smallest cuts.

  16. “Bangkok Belly” isn’t only uncomfortable, but can cause rapid dehydration. Avoid uncooked foods and handmade drinks.

  17. The most important knot is the bowline. If you’re going to help tie any useful knots, learn how to tie this one.

What to Bring

The main rule when considering what to bring is: Don’t!

You can live comfortably on the boat for 10+ days with a minimum items:
Sunglasses, beach shoes, 1 ~ 2× items of swim clothing, 1 ~ 2× pairs of shorts, 2 ~ 3 t-shirts or other sort of top, minimum toiletries. We can hand wash clothes on the boat. Quick-drying synthetic fabrics are preferable to linen or cotton.

A single backpack of stuff per-person has always proven to be more than enough.

DO NOT bring any sort of hard-case suitcase to the boat. There is nowhere to store it! The lockers are small and cannot hold anything but the smallest suitcase. Stick to soft duffel or backpack type bags. Almost every type of toiletry, sun block/cream, shower gels, etc are already on the boat. If in doubt about bringing something, ask!

Marina Contact Info

Krabi Boat Lagoon (where the boat lives when not at sea)

Address: 175 Moo.2 Ban Klongsai, Talingchan, A.Nuea Khlong, Krabi, Thailand
Tel/Fax: 66(0) 75 656017, 66(0) 8 6281 0330
E-mail: info@krabiboatlagoon.com, VHF 67
GPS: N 08°00’43.6 E 098°57’42.1

Alright, matey. You’ve consumed all that and are still ready to come aboard? Then head back to the sign-up page and let us know!

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