Tuesday, 26 July 2016

The Mergui Archipelago (day 4)

Events of Tuesday, 26th April, 2016

Once again, we enjoyed a very adequate and varied breakfast in the dining area towards the rear of the open deck. I'm afraid we made some good-natured fun of the captain and crew reminding them that it was our fourth day on a sailing yacht and we hadn't yet seen a sail unfurled. They explained that the morning's itinerary was a journey of a few hours to Kyunn Philar East to replenish our fresh water tanks and they set about raising sail for the cruise. There wasn't a lot of space on deck for handling the ropes and windlasses which control the sails and the inexpert help of the guests was not required, so we watched with interest whilst keeping out of the way.

I mentioned in an earlier post that 'Meta IV', though originally having a ketch rig, had been simplified to a 'Bermuda-rigged Sloop' with simply a headsail and main sail, both supported by the mainmast. The 'mizzenmast' originally used by the ketch rig, whilst still present, carries no sail.

Under sail to Kyunn Philar: L: Headsail R: Mainsail. Note 'Guest flags', celebrating the countries of origin of the Guests.

When not in use, the triangular mainsail is stowed horizonally, folded into a canvas 'pouch' carried by the horizontal boom to which the bottom edge of the mainsail is secured. A headrope attached to the top corner of the mainsail is carried over a pulley at the top of the mainmast and led down to deck level where a winch or windlass near the cockpit is used to manage the raising and lowering.

The headsail, also triangular, is managed by a furler mechanism. The 'forestay' (which runs from the top of the mainmast to the bow) becomes a shaft which is rotated by ropes to unfurl or furl the headsail. When not in use, the headsail is thus tightly coiled around the forestay, ready for use. The control ropes are also taken to winches or windlasses near the cockpit. Bringing the winches and windlasses near the cockpit makes sail management easier with a small crew.

Most of the windlasses on 'Meta IV' are from Maxwell Marine. Headquartered in Auckland, New Zealand the company produces a wide range of winches/windlasses/capstans and associated equipment for boats.

Windlasses by Maxwell Marine on the starboard side of 'Meta IV'.

The headsail furler on 'Meta IV' is from Harken Inc. who are based in Pewaukee, Wisconsin. Their product range includes headsail and mainsail handling equipment, winches, pulley blocks and related accessories.

Lower end of Harken Headsail Furler on 'Meta IV'. Note the coloured scarves attached to the bow.

Once the sails had caught the wind, the diesel engine was shut down and we continued at around 8 knots. As we made our silent but majestic progress toward Kyunn Philar East, we passed a group of squid-fishing vessels. Although the basic boat design was similar to large, wooden fishing vessels we'd already seen when squid fishing is in progress, with massive, elaborately-guyed horizontal booms extended on both sides, and a complex system of ropes and pulleys for handling the lures, the vessels acquire a very weird appearance. I hope to write more about this interesting industry later.

Squid fishing vessel.

After around three hours cruising, we approached Kyunn Philar East so the foresail was furled, the mainsail was lowered and our diesel engine was restarted as we manoeuvred towards land. Three fishing boats were anchored together in the bay. Steel hulled, fairly large, they appeared rather more modern than other vessels we'd seen and the wheelhouse was perched on top of the superstructure with all-round windows. A massive net was piled high on the foredeck together with a novel design of derrick presumably for handling the net. Three crew members on the nearest boat viewed the visitors with interest.

Fishing Boats anchored at Kyunn Philar.

A low, wooded hill led down to the water's edge. There were few buildings visible but one narrow patch of hillside had been largely cleared of trees and a flight of concrete steps led straight up from the shore to the top of the hill where a golden pagoda stood on a concrete platform supported by concrete piles.

Kyunn Philar Pagoda.

Looking to the right, there was activity about 100 yards off the beach where three smaller fishing boats clustered around a rectangular, moored raft which carried a building with a corrugated iron roof and woven bamboo sides.

Kyunn Philar East, Mergui Archipelago: The floating Water Station.

Seeing a number of plastic hoses dangling from the raft, I concluded that this was where we would replenish our water tanks. I assumed that a pipeline ran down the hillside and extended across the sea bed to the raft. There was no sound of a pump on the raft, suggesting that, having dammed a suitable perennial stream, the hose permanently discharged freshwater into the sea. As we slowly approached the raft, the three fishing vessels moved away and 'Meta IV' attempted to throw a mooring line to a man on the raft.

The Water Station raft. One line is already attached to the raft on the right and a second has been thrown.

It took a few minutes to secure two lines to the raft and receive the end of one of the plastic hoses. Set in our deck on the port side was the filler for the one freshwater tank. With the metal cap unscrewed, the end of the hose was inserted and the watering process started.

The Captain filling the port fresh water tank.

When the port tank was full, the hose was transferred to a similar filler on the starboard side deck to fill the other tank.

The sea around the raft was teeming with fish in a circling frenzy, presumably after food.

Fish in a frenzy by the water station raft.

On completion of taking on water, we manoeuvred away from the raft using the engine and then went back to 'sail power'.

Sail power: Unfurling the headsail.

With the Captain at the helm, we sailed around Kyunn Philar Island towards the west side, passing various fishing boats on the way.

The Captain at the helm of 'Meta IV' under sail.

We anchored off a beach with coral reefs and transferred to the dinghy which took us nearer to the shore allowing my fellow guests to take to the water for snorkelling. I stayed in the dinghy, quite happy in the peacefulness of the spot. Even when Aung, who was the 'boat driver', donned snorkel gear, left the boat and swam to make sure that all the snorkellers were safe, I was quite content to be adrift, alone in the dinghy. Aung returned and we landed on the beach, ready to take the guests back to 'Meta IV'.

Kyunn Philar: We spent the afternoon in this tranquil bay.

I had neither the inclination to swim nor explore very far: I was content to sit in the sun and enjoy the moment. As dusk approached, Aung summoned the snokellers and returned us to our ship in the dinghy.

As dusk approached, we returned to 'Meta IV' in the dinghy.

As usual, dinner was the main event of the evening, after which I was ready to retire for the night.

Related posts

You can read about the following day aboard 'Meta IV' here.

All my posts on my trip to Myanmar in 2016 can be found here.

My pictures

If necessary, pictures in this article can be viewed uncropped by clicking on the image. To view in other resolutions or download, select from the albums below:-

Sailing Vessel 'Meta IV'.
Under sail to Kyunn Philar.
Kyunn Philar East, Mergui Archipelago.
Sail power.
Viewing coral and on the beach.