Myanmar Day 8: Dinghy

Jenn was sick all night with stomach problems. We’re not sure what exactly caused it. She has sharp pains and a feeling of bad heart burn with a bit of nausea. It sounds like food poisoning a bit too me, but we all for the most part have eaten the same things. Perhaps it was the food at Victoria Cliff that was way too spicy? She didn’t really sleep last night, and at some point went up on deck. She says she could see the phosphorescence on deck and even though she was really uncomfortable, it was at least magical in a way.

Our first destination for the day was a Moken Village. The Moken are an ethnic minority group living in these islands. Traditionally they live on boats free diving for food, but with the over fishing in the area, many are starting to live on land more of the time in small villages. In the videos for the cruise we were shown peaceful beaches with a few stilted huts and hardly anyone else around. It’s a large part of what drew me to do this cruise, to show Jenn a glimpse of what it was like cruising as a child, stopping in at villages in Fiji and interacting with the locals. We’re told those that have settled largely have adopted the local religion and the village we’re going to is going to have a special ceremony to install the umbrella on the top of their new pagoda. We’re told there will be a lot of people there. The idea of a pagoda clashes with the rudimentary village from the video, so I’m not sure what to expect.

The sail doesn’t start off particularly well. The crew is having trouble trimming the sails, the wind is up, and we’re getting pretty big wind shifts, even crash jibing once when the wind shifted a good 90 degrees sharply. They don’t particularly want to just sail relative to the wind when it does shift. I’m not horribly impressed with the sailing skill. We finally settle down into more steady wind, but then someone says “where is the dinghy?”

Seriously? It really isn’t there. We take down the sails and turn around. Binoculars out scanning the horizon, we don’t see anything. Things are complicated by the abundance of whitecaps or “white horses” apparently the brits call them. The dinghy also being white would blend in well. We end up all the way back to our anchorage and find the dinghy right where it ended up last night. Apparently it likes that spot.

Back we go to the Moken Village, retracing our steps, dinghy in tow. On the way out they mostly gave up on sailing even though we had a good 15 knots of wind, mostly because it was still quite shifty and they wanted to make up time.

Along the way Jenn sleeps, and I read. I finish the last book in the Expanse series. Well last book so far, I don’t think they’re stopping here. Luckily I discovered they’d released a few novellas over the years, so before we’d left internet I’d downloaded 3 of them to read.

All along the way AK and Suchet take a ribbing about the missing rib.

Jenn still can’t eat, but she hasn’t eaten anything for a while, so I have some toast made for her which she is able to take.

Arriving at the Moken Village it’s nothing like I pictured. Filled with fishing boats, with ferries coming in and out with a little dirty shanty town on one side, and a bright new pagoda on the other. We go ashore and it’s worse than it looks from the boat. There is a ton of pollution with plastic waste covering the shore to the point where you can’t see the ground. The town is physically split with the Moken in wooden houses on stilts over the water, and Burmese in concrete homes on the shore built on retaining walls. The Burmese seem to be mostly shops selling to Myanmar tourists. With our delay retrieving the dinghy, we arrive late and miss the big celebration and event that was the topping of the pagoda. I think it’s the reason we’ve gone to this village and not another, and we didn’t get to even see that, so total bust to me. I think personally I’d never go to this village, it’s not picturesque or interesting at all. Given the choice between this and going swimming somewhere else, I’d take option 2. I really wish we had made it further out to one of the less visited Moken villages like the one in the video. Bringing us here feels a little disingenuous.

We walk to the pagoda but no one is much interested in it. It’s just a small town pagoda. Jenn is feeling worse so we head back. Along the way lots of people take our photos, not even discretely. Some run up and just force a selfie. It’s weird.

Meta IV really stands out in the harbor all white, while the surrounding boats are darkly stained wood boats, most with a red band along them. I could say some smart metaphor about the Meta IV, but it seems too easy.

We have lunch onboard before heading off to our next overnight anchorage. This one is on the same island just around the corner. It’d probably work well as a hurricane hole with high walls and 360 degree protection from storm surge. We should at least sleep well tonight without any rocking and rolling.

AK takes us to what he says is his favorite snorkeling place. While everyone sorts themselves out we have a bit of tea, and Rob goes off to go fishing on his own with one of the kayaks. Jenn stays on board to grab some sleep below deck. I decide to bring my weight belt and try to pick up some stones along the way to give me more neutral buoyancy, but end up leaving it in the dinghy. AK stops over what looks like deep water, the sun low on the horizon, almost below the mountains surrounding the anchorage and tells us this is where we get out. Follow the reef line to the right and then cross the channel. We’re not really clear what to expect, and everyone is tentative to get in the water. Fuck it, this is my kind of activity, I’m not sure why they’re scared, but I’m not so a fall backwards into the water. Then it makes sense. This spot is a coral wall that comes right up to the surface at low tide. AK couldn’t bring us much closer for fear of being pushed ashore by the wind by the time everyone got in the water, so it is quite deep where we enter, but not 10 feet away is some very healthy coral.

AK wasn’t kidding when he said this was our best spot of the trip. The coral is extremely healthy with big formations and tons of sea life. I keep hoping to see a reef shark, but instead I just see jellyfishes of different types, often the prey of sharks. I have a feeling the sharks have been fished out of these waters along with sea turtles that also munch on jellyfish. We do get a few larger fish checking us out at times, but I’m not sure the species. I also find an octopus hole, you find these by the pile of shellfish shells discarded outside of it, but I can’t find the octopus. It could be there, but they’re masters of camouflage and the times I’ve seen them they’ve been pointed out to me, but it still took me a while sitting there to see them, and it’s much harder free diving while positively buoyant. I saw some needle fish pretending to be spikes on an urchin. And some jelly sort of thing stuck to the coral that I’d never seen before. The visibility is a bit low from the wind I think, but it’s still a great spot. As the reef ends we come to a sandy area with a few boomies, and a ton of jellyfish. The others are out of the water by the time I swim into the jelly patch with tons of little ones all around. I pick my way through and up the side of the dinghy. Apparently there was an absolutely monstrous one, but I missed it.

Back on board Jenn is still asleep and I wake her up a bit to change clothes. She goes back to sleep and I bring my laptop and phone into the cockpit while she naps until close to dinner time. She says she’s still tired but doing a little better. Hopefully tonight goes better than last night.

Tonight as the dinner conversation goes negative again, I just get up and move away from the table reading my book, not engaging at all. Most of it is aimed at the crew. I try to defend them with what little I can, it’s hard to set the sails on a boat this size when the wind is shifting fast and big shifts, and we’ve lost our dinghy before and had to go searching for it (though not twice in 12 hours). I think the crew understands they’re the butt of the joke even if they can’t understand all of the language. Jenn and I go to bed early partly to avoid the conversation that should be a highlight of the cruise, but instead is more of an annoyance, but partly because she’s still feeling like she can sleep more.

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