Captain Hawkins Blog: Princess 52 “Michael’s Day Out” Part 2. Phuket to Myanmar trip

Princess 52033 Michael’s Day Out.
25/11/2013. Ao Po Marina Phuket.
Delivery, Phuket to Ngwe Saung (Myanmar).

The delivery to Myanmar had also been delayed by several days owing to a large storm passing through the area, winds of more than 60 knots blowing for several days. Not ideal conditions.

So really the first day out of the marina was a day of checking the sea conditions, and also fuel consumption. Firstly there was still a big swell running, plus the fuel consumption was higher, but we did expect this. We calculated a new fuel table, and also decided to give it one more day to allow the sea to calm a little more.

So, the following morning we set off with full fuel tanks and calm seas – a good decision to wait. The sunrise was very spectacular, and passing around the south end of Phuket, seeing the fishing boats returning to port, we were now on our way. The big Buddha looked very spectacular high on the hill in the morning sun. After a smooth passage up the coast we reached our first fuel stop. With these boats, of course, we can not make these trips without fuel. Thanks to the owner’s logistic team we were able to arrange suitable refuelling points. Although these were at our maximum fuel range, this is how it was.

Our first stop, just into Myanmar. We were given a way point – latitude and longitude, and that is where we were going to be met. Having done many thousands of delivery miles and picking up fuel in some strange locations, I did not know what to expect, as to what form the refuelling boat or barge would look like. Well, at the correct time and at the correct position this very large wooden vessel headed over the horizon and toward us. Well, to my pleasure it was clean looking. And once alongside, I saw that they had a good pump system and even a fuel gauge. So, we knew how much fuel was going in. All went well. Very little swell even though we were many miles from land. So, after passing over a few cans of drink to the fuel barge crew we were on our way.

Our next decision was: were we going through the night or anchoring. So travelling north for around 60 NM we made the choice to anchor and headed into a well protected bay. Knowing that we were now heading into the archipelago islands, we were not 100% sure that the navigation charts spot on. So, the decision to anchor was the correct one. Once anchored, in a bay of an uninhabited island, we noticed that there was the odd light coming from the shore, so we were being watched. The night passed without any problems, and at first light we set off north.

We did make the choice to cut between the many islands of the archipelago, but after venturing several miles, the number of fishing nets and traps was increasing. So, knowing that we would not clear the islands before dark, we made the decision to about turn and run outside of the islands. This again was another good decision as that evening, as darkness fell, we came across more and more fishing boats. So dropping speed we chose to keep going through the night in order to arrive at the next fuel stop at daybreak. After a long night, weaving through the hundreds of fishing boats and nets, we arrived at our next way point latitude and longitude. Now because we had been delayed, we put our meeting time back to 7.30am. We just hoped that the fuel people had got the message. We had made contact with our logistic man who assured us all was good, so a little after 7.30am we saw a fishing boat heading in our direction.

Now where the last fuel boat had been large, this one was a little small. Well, anyway once alongside, they assured us that they had plenty of fuel for us. So, after fendering up alongside, we asked them to start pumping the fuel. They looked at us a little strange, and we then realised they had come out to sea, with plenty of fuel but no pump. Um, now we had our own hand pump that we used for transferring the extra fuel that we carried. This we used to transfer 200 litres once an hour. We needed 3,000 litres, so we handed over our hand pump. So lucky they had several fit looking guys onboard, and away they went turning the handle of the pump. So, 4 hours later and with the crew of the fuel boat looking very tired we were full again. Great, my big worry was that we weren’t able to fill full, but we did. They handed us back our sturdy, handy, hot pump, and off we went.

Now heading west our next stop off was to the west of the main Yangon River. As we were now behind schedule, we knew it was going to be another all-nighter. Heading toward dusk and more than 100 miles from land we prepared ourselves for another long night. In the beginning the fishing traffic was not too bad, but as we got back toward the coast, the boats numbers ran into their thousands. We were surrounded different lights, big boats, small boats, long nets, everything. Are there any fish left out there?

Well, our next destination was the Bassein River. Looking on the chart it seemed a wide entrance between a group of small islands and a shallow reef. Arriving at the entrance around 5am we thought we would move into the river slowly. Well, on moving forward we could see that we were surrounded by small fishing boats, laying out long nets. Now were they trying to catch fish, or trying to catch us? So, with a swift 180 degree turn we went back out to sea and waited until we had some day light. Again the correct decision, as even on daylight there were nets everywhere all about 400 metres long. Zigzag, zigzag up the river we went. Again once nearing our given meeting point we could see our fuel boat, spot on. So, despite our delay, we were now alongside and fuelling. All of our fuel stops were where they said they would be, so this was a great relief. So, within the hour we were fuelled and away we went. Again, avoiding the nets on the way out. But now we only had a little over 60 miles to run. When we left Phuket we gave an ETA of midday on the 29th of November, and here we were heading for an arrival time of 12.30 pm perfect.

Ngwe Saung, this is our destination. This is also were the 2013 SEA Games sailing events will take place, this December. Here they have invested heavily in building Ngwe Saung Yacht Club, a magnificent facility to train the up and coming Myanmar sailing team, but also a great venue to hold such a prestigious event. The facilities ashore are excellent, and whether you are there for your sailing experience, or to go and simply relax, they have or will have it there for you.

S, once we came around the headland and turned in towards the yacht club, it was with great relief that things had gone so well. The boat had run so very well, but most of all we had avoided all of those fishing nets, and the fuelling points had been perfect.

We were asked if we could arrive on the 29th of November if possible as they were expecting to receive some VIP guest on the 30th at the new Yacht Club. These guest were the President, the Vice President and several government ministers. On their arrival they were asked if they would like to visit the boat, which was at anchor in the bay. This they agreed to do, so to have the owner, the President, Vice President and governors as your first guests onboard was a great honour. As you can imagine, after many months of planning this trip that all had gone so well, and that upon arrival we had been welcomed by these very important people.

Part 1