Myanmar Day 10: Mangroves

Well the anchorage didn’t improve over night with a wind shift. We’re still rock’n and roll’n by the time I get on deck. The boat is pointed in the same direction we were when we went to bed. Jenn and I have slept in a bit, but not long enough to have missed breakfast. Today we’re getting a late start with everything so we take our time.

Today we’re going to explore this mangrove lined river, but because of the timing of the tides we weren’t going to until noon, but by then the birds will have mostly left. We concoct a new plan to tow the kayaks in close once the tide is high enough that we won’t run aground in them, row ourselves in all stealth like, and when we’re done we’ll tow them back against the wind to the Meta IV. Because we have just the 2 kayaks we’ll need to go in 2 groups. Jenn and I in one kayak, Rob and Jane in the other, and then the family in the second group.

We start at 10am and are half way to the mouth of the river and we realize none of us used bug spray or brought it with us. Rob doesn’t want to go without it, especially since he skipped getting anti-malarials. So AK drops us at the mouth and heads back with them to get bug spray and make the trip again.

We’re in no hurry so we mostly just drift in with the tidal flow controlling the kayak’s direction without putting much effort in. We actually don’t see many bugs, most sand flies when we do see them. And the occasional house fly. The birds though are scarcer than I expected, though I bet if AK goes he picks them out easily. We can hear many different kinds but can’t quite pick them out. One strange long necked breed with some kind of formation above its beak flies into nearby tree. I have my waterproof camera with me so we can’t really get much of a picture of it. We plan to have a look in the bird book back onboard, but never do. Further down the river we hear cracking noises we rightly guess are monkeys cracking open something. We’re told they’re cracking open the mangrove fruit. Eventually we get to a fork and go left as straight is blocked by some downed trees. We weren’t given directions but if nothing else we should always be downstream on the way back. And then we find ourselves at a fork. The left fork has a sandbar visibly above water. The right gets narrow, and it’s not clear we can get much further. I’m feeling a tad anxious about the bugs and don’t really feel like getting the kayak stuck, so I turn us around and we start out. Not far from our turn around we spot Jane and Rob who must have made time up on us earlier on jetting through the places we just coasted through. We grab their bug spray but it doesn’t seem to help and continue on our exit. As we get close to the end we spot in the distance some osprey of some type; a hawk or an eagle. And we also see a pair of gray heron sitting on a tree stump. The wind is now full on us, and its tough going against it. This is why we were going to have AK tow us back, getting all the way to Meta IV in the distance would be tough work. Jenn still feels shitty, so I’ve asked her to not paddle and let me do the work. She pitches in every so often but I keep telling her to not worry about it. At the dinghy we’re warmly greeted and chat while we wait for Rob and Jane.

For as much time as they made up going in, they lost coming out, but despite the wind, the air is still warm and pleasant. We pull up anchor and get closer to meet them helping them onboard and then stringing out the kayaks behind us.

Back on the Meta IV we sit with Jane on the foredeck. Jane and Jenn chatting about horses, me reading my book or journaling. The crew starts pumping the bilge, and Jane complains about it. That it’s unsanitary. But we’re not pumping black water. That goes straight out when you flush your toilet. She doesn’t understand, and thinks the boat has a holding tank and thinks we should be pumping out at dock or something.

The others return to the boat and we have lunch, which is great as always. Jenn has something made easy for her stomach which she has a little of, but she’s still hardly eating. During the conversation the brits maintain that they’re being hard on everyone, and Jonathan exclaims “we haven’t been hard on the Japs yet!” completely oblivious that it’s a derogatory term. I tell him he shouldn’t call them that, it’s offensive, and he starts arguing with me, saying they shorten everything, and hey, they’re the Brits, and that’s not offensive. I’m actually going to have to explain about how its use has more to do than the actual words. They chose the shorthand Brits, it wasn’t used to diminish a people. Jane mentions it’s also derogatory to call someone from Pakistan a Paki, and he eventually consents in a way that isn’t really agreeing, but just not wanting to keep arguing.

Then we are off to our last anchorage of the cruise. We actually get to put up the sales, though we’re beating into the wind. We start on starboard, pretty pinched to the wind. Over the last few days we’ve mostly seen the wind come toward the east, but now it’s mostly south east, so I think the expectation is for the wind to swing to our left. We’re on the tack for a while and it’s wonderfully calm for the amount of wind we have with maybe 12 miles of fetch. The crew seems to be debating if they should tack before or after this island we’re coming up on, and then we start to get headed, and it’s not long before we tack with our new tack bringing us closer to our destination. As we go we’re now being lifted as the wind continues to shift, first to the point where we’re laying our destination, and then eventually to the point where we can crack off and sail faster. To me this was played perfectly, and my opinion of the crew is much better.

The spot we arrive at is busy with lots of fishing boats in a little pass between two islands. But they all fish at night, so it’s like the changing of shifts with them going out and us coming in. Except that Rob and Jon don’t seem to understand what will happen and complain to AK saying they wanted somewhere more to “ourselves” and “special”. The sun is down over the horizon, so and AK is already with the dinghy to go ashore, hopefully before it gets dark as its quite shallow and low tide. I don’t know what magic they expect him to work. So AK and Suchet move the boat, but the only place for them to put us is outside of the channel, unprotected between a sandbar and the reef on what strikes me as a short anchor chain that doesn’t grip immediately. I’m sure that they Rob and Jon don’t understand the difficulty they’ve put the crew in. in 30 ft of water we’re probably on 150+ ft of chain, that’s a lot of swing if the wind shifts. It wouldn’t surprise me if they had to keep an anchor watch tonight because of the move. We have paid crew not just to have someone else do the work, but because they know these waters including the many unmarked reefs and sand bars, they know this boat, and they know how to sail it. Defer to the experts you paid for, especially when you have no expertise at all yourself.

We had been planning to go ashore before sunset, but with moving the boat we’re now going ashore with very little light and very shallow water. AK has the outboard canted up most of the time and backs us on shore so he can see each bit of coral as he goes. It’s tough work needing lots of skill, but he gets us there. It’s my last time on these wonderful sandy beaches. I love how fluffy the sand is, each step my foot sinks a good 3 inches deep like fresh powdery snow. I’ve been thinking about how that must happen, but I really can’t come up with a solution other than that the grains must be very coarse so they stick together easily, yet and fairly light so they get fluffed up easily by the tide. I have a beer and Jenn and I chat with AK. I feel bad for how he’s been treated so I tell him how we’ve really enjoyed this trip, and that they’ve done a great job.

Jane joins us and then the others. I had just explained my fascination with the sand when AK said he had two past guests who would collect the sand. Jane thought that sounded great, having little glass vials of sand from different beaches or countries you visited and then hang them in some artistic way. I love the idea, though it’s perhaps a bit too late to start. Perhaps someday if we ever go cruising ourselves we could do that, building a collection of our own together of sands of places we sailed to.

The sky starts spitting down a bit, and we’re actually getting cold in the wind, so we head back to Meta IV. But since we’re now parked out in the exposed channel, getting there is very wet, and I think AK is enjoying getting everyone soaked maybe a little. The water is so warm though, more than the air. Thanks for the great anchoring spot Rob and Jon! Expertly done!

I wonder if at this point we’re getting on their nerves as much as they’re getting on ours. We’ve tried to be nothing but polite company, but I’m sure we’re dampening their fun by not joining in. And I complained to Jenn with Sara and Jane around when we were being moved to our new anchorage.

At our final dinner, we share 2 bottles of wine, they’re drinkable if not great, but it’s another opportunity for the brits to try to one up one another. Rob and Jane talk about this vineyard they only ever buy from in France, apparently it’s famous, but we drink nearly entirely California wines. Jon asks us if that’s what we drink, and I tell him yes, and he uses it to explain he sometimes gets them from one of his wine brokers. We personally think California wines are better than French wines because they’re not constrained by tradition of growing only Cabernet grapes in the Burgundy region or what not, but are grown where conditions are best for that particular varietal. They routinely win out when compared to their European counterparts I’ve read, not that I would be able to tell.

After our last dinner, Suchet sits down with a flute made of PVC and plays traditional Thai music for us. The wine I think made it even more enchanting than it norally would have, and I was struck by how surreal the situation was. Here we were, in some remote islands of Myanmar on the other side of the globe sitting on a sailboat being played traditional Thai music. Moments like these remind me of how fortunate I am to be able to go on trips like this. We sat and listened to 6 songs and then we all retired for the night.



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