We had survived a bad storm earlier and safely made port in Opua, New Zealand in November 1998.
After a few days of cleaning up and drying out the boat we went out into the Bay of Islands and anchored in Opunga Cove. Then another storm developed and on this day, November 27,1998, we heard that the storm was coming and the wind was expected to be strong overnight. It was; by nightfall we had 50 knots.
Some time after midnight the radio crackled to life with traffic between the NZ Air Sea Rescue and a ship out in the storm: The ship had just sighted the sailboat Salacia, reported in distress with two people aboard, Mike Fritz and Julie-Ann Black, both friends of ours, and they were going to try to rescue them.
Before the night was over Mike was safely aboard the ship but Salacia was sunk and Julie was lost. I sat up at Wings' nav station straining to hear each radio transmission. Listening as that rescue attempt unfolded was one of the most gripping and heart rendering hours of my sea-going life.
A bit ragged this morning; too long of a night at Tokyo Joe’s listening to the Soi Dog Blues Band; too much dancin’ in the street and howlin’at the moon, too much of the drop that I drink. But a good night it was for one and all, I’ll give it that.
We find the music scene, if we stay long enough and if there is one, in every place we visit and we found the music we like best in Bangkok at Tokyo Joe’s Blues Bar. Ranks up there with the warehouse that one lost night in Noumea and the stage in the park in Papeete, or the clubs in Brisbane, but none of them top Seattle in the 90’s. We went to Tokyo Joe's again last night.
The Fugitives were playing when we arrived and they pulled up some old Bob Dylan just for us, or that’s what we thought, since we’ve just finished reading Dylan’s autobiographical Chronicles and we’ve been thinking and talking about him and his music. They sang Just Like a Woman and gave it to the blues…“but she breaks just like a little girl”. And later a Beatles song: “one thing I tell you, you just got to be free”. Mixed in with some other old songs of other genre’s, and the swirling smoke and pints of Guinness and the crowd of fat white guys and laughing Thai girls; we got into it.
When the Soi Dog Blues Band started playing Judy started dancing, some Thai guy in the crowd joined her once and by the middle of the set she’d dragged me off my bar stool too and we didn’t care if we were the only people in the place on our feet; we were lost to the fun of it.
I don’t really remember much of it after that, just a few images and sounds, the jangling guitars and the rattle of the snare drums and the intensity of the singer who said he hasn’t given up his day job, the hooker in the corner with the Tina Turner hair and all the gold bracelets and a cell phone and a cigarette in her long fingers hanging behind her back to keep the smoke out of the eyes of her john; us talking to the band members when they went on break, and somewhere in all this we ordered tacos, and they were good too, but I can’t say what was in them.
We took a spin around Phuket Island last weekend on a holiday and reconnoitering trip. Flew down on one of the budget airlines, rented a Honda Jazz, did three laps of Phuket.
It’s an interesting place, and our experience this weekend just proves again that no matter how much you are told about a place, even how many photos you see, you can never really know what it is like until you go there. We had no idea.
After having said that, should I try to tell you about Phuket?
Well, it is a fairly big island, with several widely scattered communities, lots of winding two lane roads going up and down the lush green hillsides, some really nice beaches, plenty of tourist traps and probably a few girly bars thrown in for good measure, but you couldn’t prove that by us; we sort-of bypassed the Patong bar neighborhoods.
We did check out the marinas, ran into some old friends (Jack & Norma, Egress II), inspected our room for King’s Cup at the Orchidacea hotel near Kata Beach, had some good food, snapped some photos, generally acted like the tourists we are. One thing we decided: you need a car to do much on Phuket Island. It is just too spread out for walking or even taxis.
We also found out that Phuket Town is a delightfully historical old town: plenty of Thai culture based on a Sino-Portuguese history. We just got a brief introduction to Phuket Town, only stopped for one dinner at the Baan Klung Jinda restaurant, and did a drive around on Sunday, but it seemed to have that right mix of funky old Asia and modern convenience which appeals to us.
We also got exposed to a timeshare sales pitch at the JW Marriot Beach Club. A colleague from work gave them our name and the sales team there invited us to stay for the weekend in return for our attendance at a sales presentation. You know the routine: free weekend for 90 minute sales pitch. OK, it saved us the price of a hotel; it was like earning $300 in an hour and a half. We didn’t mind the sales pitch either; it was interesting, but not persuasive. The bonus for us was that the room they gave us was top quality, 5-star. That was real luxury, but, as nice as it was, it’s not something we need to have on an every day basis. We didn’t buy. But thanks anyhow Rico.
Our visit to Kata Beach however failed to give us any tangible evidence of what that bay was going to be like during King’s Cup, or that's what we hope at any rate. While we were there the SW monsoon was in full force, the sea was rough and the wind blew hard. All of the west side bays, the whole west side of Phuket actually, which looks so peaceful in the photos of previous King’s Cup regattas, was a treacherous lee shore. It doesn’t seem like much time between October 12 and December 1 for the monsoon to switch around, but we sure hope it does. I guess you gotta trust the weather patterns to be sort of reliable. We’ll see.
This is one of my all time favorite sailing photos, taken in 1999 in New Zealand. The AC boats were contesting the Louis Vuitton cup to see who would face Team New Zealand and the weather was often like this: gray, rough seas, rain, plenty of wind and the clouds coming almost down to the water.
On this day the sea heaves and blocks in the sway in the rigging as the boats circle for advantage. The crew is in full foul weather gear, collars turned up against the stinging rain and salt spray, and they huddle in the cockpits working as a seaman must do despite the storm. Spinning the winches keep a few of them warm and the others are shivering and wishing for a cup of hot coffee to hold in two hands. This wasn't anybody's idea of yachting; it was more like hard work on a tall ship battling the horn than a day of sport. It's the difference between a sunny day on the harbor with a glass of white wine and an evening's roaring pub with steaming men and beer slopped on the table.
Fred Roswold, SV Wings, Bangkok
Click here to go to Wingssail Images, or click here to go directly to this photo and click on the photo a second time to enlarge.
Two people: Fred & Judy , drawn to each other and yet somehow drawn also to the sea, and both intrigued by the idea of living aboard.
I saw her, blond and asymmetrical, beautiful, boarding another’s boat and I followed her and wooed her, or she wooed me. That was 1985 and we fell in love and we thought that to buy a boat and make a life together on the water was only natural.
So we did.
The boat was WINGS.
For the next ten years we lived on Wings in Seattle, had jobs in the city, sailed every chance we got, and 40-50 times a year, went racing. It was great.
Then we left Seattle and began our cruising life. We voyaged across the world, across the seven seas, to faraway places, and made them our own.
Wings was our home, and is still, and we lived wherever the sea met the land and people welcomed us, as they did everywhere.
For twenty-five years we’ve lived this life, and more to come, we hope.
Join us now, and sail the seas.
Fred Roswold & Judy Jensen, SV Wings, Caribbean