A light wind sucked us towards Rok Nok island at a steady 7 knots, at that rate from Lipe we arrived in the dark, again! Just as Kevin on the Nacra had told me years earlier, "there's a beach on this side" so to could I now say the same.
It was eerily similar to arrive at Rok Nok in the dark! This time however there were more boats in the shelter between the two island and there were lights along the foreshore!
Even at night you can see the bottom here. This is about the clearest water we have seen in the whole 500 miles. Lipe is bit of a diving mecca but by comparison the water in Rok Nok is way better. Maybe it's off the beaten path and out of the range of day trippers that helps preserve its natural splendour! You reckon!
Twenty two years earlier... We'd hit the beach quite literally as Kevin held the flashlight on the only patch of sand visiible between the trees. We'd been so freezing cold that we got a fire going on the beach and as the warmth entered our hands we realised that our butts had been soggy for over a week and well, this was the first fire of that trip. So after a few minutes we'd peeled down and were baking our buns over the fire hoping that no one would find us in the strange ritual. We'd been so exhausted that we simply fell asleep in the soft sand and that was it until morning when a fisherman found us and took us to his hut and fed us steaming hot fish and rice for breakfast.
Watching the sunrise from RAW's cockpit seemed altogether much more civilised, hot coffee, breakfast, stick the motor on and head for Phuket, 69nm's to go!
As we headed out through the gap between the islands the smell of the jungle greets you. Its amazing how good the world smells when there is a scarcity of humans. The sound of nature coming awake is a really nice feature here.
From Rok Nok up to Phuket its 'always' been a good sector for us! The waters are clear and the wind is usually cooperative and lies at a favourable angle so on the Nacra we made this section all in daylight ours and amazingly had made Phuket one day before the kings Cup was due to kick off!
We hit the beach looking rather wrecked, kissed the sand and then set to stripping the Nacra of all the 'cruising gear'. Stripped down and ready for racing the very next day when we'd head back to Phi Phi Island 30 miles south! That little Nacra was just like a pair of your best well-worn jeans by that stage.
We trundled along on RAW pushed on by the motor until the wind woke up enough and soon we had the spinnaker filled and were watching the GPS Arrival time reduce from 9pm to 3pm - that's much like the Nacra trip sans the GPS!
Life was all the more comfortable on RAW whereas on the Nacra I'd lost my sunglasses so had spent 8 days in teh sun having fried eyeballs during the day and then alternate salt/fresh water washes all night. When we had left Singapore, we were told we will be fried to death with exposure and as such had taken our wetsuits and instead just wore cooling cotton. We found that all day yes we did burn but at night our bodies would just radiate all the heat right out of our systems. So much so that at night we'd just spend the hours shiverng.
Here I was now under the shade on RAW's deck sitting comfortably and watching the speed hover aroun 10-15 knots, ahh life is good. Phuket's in sight so we can start to think about sleeping in a real bed and all those good things!
Life was good... Punctuated by a cracking sound from the back of the boat! "What was that?"
A quick visual didn't reveal anything, so continue. On one little burst to 15 knots there was a larger sound of cracking promptly followed by "I haven't got any steerage!"
That's never a good thing and peering over the back of the boat, the rudder could be seen at right angle from where it normally is! Game over, at least for a while. Drop the kite in a rush and run over it. get that sorted just in tim eto get back to the back of the boat only to discover that there was no longer any blade left at all, only the rudder housing wit the remains of the blade clamped into the stocks.
Ok, there are a few distinct advantages to a trimaran. One is it takes a hell of a lot to sink one and two, they are very stable. So its easy to get control of the situation. drop the jib straight to the deck haul in the main and she just head up into the breeze and weather vanes right there. No issue. So as RAW turned herself promptly into the breeze we could just drop the main and then figure out the next step.
Using the skin off one of the fenders we quickly fashioned a drogue. This was held in place by a long rope yoke that uses the two rear winches so that we could haul the drogue from side to side and we'd have some form of steerage. Whilst we were flaffing around with that that was a loud 'bang' against one of the hulls but rather than being another disaster it was just the rudder blade 'returning' to the boat - stroke of sheer luck!
With the remnants of the blade all back on the boat we hoisted the main to the second reef and then the jib. Backing the jib got us out of head-to-wind and the reduced down main had more than enough power to push us along as the drogue hanging from the leeward ama kept as heading at 7 knots towards Phuket. Not a very nice way to arrive but so be it.
But now that we had the once missing part of the blade back with us well the solution was rather obvious! Take out the rudder head from the stock and jam the broken off piece down into the water. It worked and soon we were back up to 10 knots heading right at Phuket. So can you imagine, 20 miles out from your destination and the rudder falls off the program. But those are the defining moments when you sail. That's when the fun begins! It was rather boring klnowing that the factory would send the new-spec rudder that has much more internal reinforcing!
Coming around Phuket's southern tip and spotting the windmill turbine - it was all familiar territory! Nai Harn Bay had been the former site of the Kings Cup all those years ago when we sailed in with the Nacra.
We were back or more to the point 'honey I'm home!'
Let the games begin...