Saturday, February 22, 2014

Geoff and Richard at Kata

 Yesterday Richard Spracklen was finally persuaded to have a break from the varied delights of Chalong and to come diving. I know Richard had  reservations about diving  because of a bad experience he had 10 years ago. It is suprising how many of you coming here tell me about your bad diving experiences which have put you off diving. I know the PADI course organisers would be dismayed to hear this as PADI prides itself on customer care. I have to say that in my experience I have only met one PADI  divemaster who I could see was frightening his novice divers but as for the rest, I can speak only in glowing terms as to what very professional, caring and genuinely nice people they are.

Anyhow...after a bit of stuff in the pool and a gentle rope dangling session (by the hands not the neck) Richard was soon on the seabed and looking suprisingly relaxed. Our first fish sighting was of these two little lionfish hiding under a bit of coral.
This big shell was on the move....we rested on the sandy bottom trying hard not to move and stir up the fine sand and watched this mollusc hurtle off at speeds up to nearly a mile a fortnight.... seriously tho' it was pretty quick for a shell!
Here's our Richard....just getting his balance underwater after 10 years away from diving. The picture is a bit mucky because of the sand being kicked up and the flash being scattered....but look how things had improved by the middle of the cloud of sand now.
                            Here he is.....control well on the way to being established. excellent.
 And with us was Geoffrey...although he had also been the day before so his control was better...
                       ...just look and admire his neat diver, hands tucked in profile.....very nice.
We found a number of these pretty things on one area of coral. I don't know what they are. About 2'' long and a deep purple body with very bright yellow spOts on them. Are they a type of Nudibranc? Anyone know??

 Kata reef is jammed full of fish life....we were moving through literally hundreds of fish and they weren't spooked by our was all very peaceful.
There are big shoals of juvenile barracuda all over the place. They present an impressive spectacle of silver when photographed from below and looking up into the sun.     

Well, that is the end of Richard's diving as he and Keith fly home tomorrow. But Geoff is staying and two years ago did his AOW (Advanced Open Water). We are going to do a couple more day trips and by then Geoff should be ready for his first Dive Liveaboard experience. We are soon to be joined by Heath Barnard from Southampton and we are off to the Similan Islands with Scubacat for a 4 day trip. Very sadly, Jai cannot be with us because of her injuries. In fact I am going to the Similan Islands tomorrow for 4 days and Jai was due to come on that trip. What a shame that someone's inability to shut a gate properly
has resulted in that bloody dog escaping and Jai being in hospital instead of coming on the diving trips we had planned.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Bay Regatta 2014

 This year Jai and I were involved in the annual Phang Gna Bay Regatta. This involved 5 days racing and stopping overnight (on the boat of course!) at various locations around the Bay area including Ao Nang in Krabi and Pi Pi Island about 20 miles west of Krabi before heading into Ao Chalong.

As most (if any!) of you reading will be sea anglers then sailing will not be of much interest to you and so very little will be written here...just a few photo's to give an impression of our adventure along with several charts of the area to give you an idea of the races.

For those of you who do enjoy sailing or would like to have a go, Sunsail are in Phuket and yachts of any size can be chartered with or without skipper/crew. You can even learn to sail here as part of your holiday and the Phang Gna Bay area is a delightfully scenic place to enjoy from the sea.
Point a camera at Jai and she immediately stops work to strike a pose. These Thai gals, eh!
Chart of Day One Race
Mostly, of course, the photo's will be of our Jai
And of Kaesawn who is Jai's friend and an excellent sailor too!

Day 2 Race
Spinnekers are up in the light breezes

An impressive navigation area abord the 55' yacht Fistral


Fun room...didn't get used enough ...too busy partying

Jai and Kaesawn

Rounding one of the 'leg' buoys

Fistral is a cruising is not fast and needs a decent bit of wind to get her 33 tons underway.

Two of the happiest crew you could meet

Friends of Bill and Kaesawn from Weymouth will recognise this very talented young lady

Fistral owner, retired Cathay Air Jumbo Jet pilot, Captain Bill Crump, and old scroat Whittall on right playing with the wheel.
Great parties every night after the racing...unlimited drink and great food n music. All this dancing on the beach, eh? Moon rising over Ao Chalong at the end of our Regatta.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Scenery at Gillhams, Ao Nang, Krabi, Thailand.

 Here we are approaching Krabi having enjoyed a two hour boat ride from Phuket. Just look at this scenery....and the colour of the sky!
 I wonder if Gillhams Fishery at Ao Nang is the most photographed fishing lake in the world? It is that sort of cannot stop taking photographs of these limestone mountains. And throughout the day they change colour. My favourite time is in the early morning with the mist rising off the lake and drifting between the is a fabulous scene to start off your day.
    Here's the view from one of the swims and we are here for 5 days....who could ask for more?
 The restaurant, shop and office are situated under the mountain. Fishing goes on until 8pm so, after a shower etc, time is getting on and the foodhere  is great so many people choose to stay and enjoy the atmosphere and have a chat with fellow anglers from all over the world. Like the majority of the anglers, we didn't leave the resort for the whole time.
                                                     Another view across the lake
                       A variety of dragonflies like to balance on the rod tips throughout the day

Keith Downton at Gillhams

The team (L to R) Keith Downton from Blandford, Richard Spracklen from Wool, our amazing guide Geoff Akroyd and Steve Gilbank from Southampton. Look what a jolly lot we are...and every reason to smile!
Day farmer Keith caught nothing. Day two, increasingly desperate fish farmer Keith caught nothing. Day 3....and now concerned ....nothing until late afternoon and then.....
...this! A magnificent 75lb Siamese Carp. This is what we came for....and within the same hour both Richard and Steve caught a Siamese Carp each to add to what was, for them, a steadily increasing tally.
But Day 4 for keith was the sort of day that dreams are made of. One Siamese Carp, two Arapaima and  7 redtail catfish up to 90lb!!! What??? All in the same day???? Yes, fellow anglers, read and admire.
                                                         One of Keith's redtails.
But look at this monster...all 90lb of what is regarded by many as the hardest fighting freshwater fish on the planet. And note the special Gillhams Style photograph whereby only half the angler's face is revealed. I noticed quite a few similar poses in the photographs in the restaurant.
                  What a cracker of a fish..........and what a happy fish rearer our Keith became.

Richard Spracklen at Gillhams

Here he is...the famous personage on my Facebook page, Mr Richard Spracklen from Wool. Many of Richard's fishing friends would have enjoyed seeing his many photographs of the fish he caught from the Ascension Islands. Richard was sent to the Ascensions last year, as a construction materials analyist,  in October 2012 for a six month contract which turned out to be nine months until July 2013. Unfortunately this meant that Richard had to endure a considerable amount of tuna fishing resulting in many yellow fins up to 320lb.
                               Richard totalled 8 fabulous carp to 77lb and a red tail catfish 30lb.
The lakeside foliage is well established so it can be quite difficult to find your angling companions.
                                   Here's Richard with another of his fabulous Simaese Carp
And now in the water with Geoff, our Guide, with an early evening carp. The sun sets fast over here. We are only 7 degrees (so 540 nautical miles) north of the equator so we go from dusk at 6.30pm to pitch black by 6.45pm.
                                          The redtail catfish become especially active at night.
Richard playing one of his fish. The temperature is about 88 degrees so hat and sun glasses are just a bit important.
Getting into the water is a pleasure after a lengthy period playing a big fish in the heat. By now you will all know that these magnificent fish are treated as gently as possible and remain in the water with the angler joining them for a photograph. One lift is allowed for the photograph with the bigger fish being supported by two guides either side of the it's important to have the camera charged and ready.

Steve Gilbank at Gillhams

Here's our Steve with his first carp in hand. Many of you south coast flatfish exthusiasts will remember the legendary Bert Waller. Charter skippers in Weymouth were always happy when Bert was on their boat as they knew there was a very good chance of being top boat that day with Bert showing the way. Steve fished for many years and is an outstanding all round angler, especially at flatties and turbot in particular. He is also an amazing carp angler with a deep knowledge of the rigs and methods. Steve is constantly refining and adjusting his tackle and modifying his various baits whilat waiting for that next run on the Shimano Baitrunners. It's quite an education to sit with him and watch the meticulous attention to detail that goes on...he certainly works hard and deserves his every fish.
Geoff, our Guide, is getting Steve into lifejacket. Steve's fish has hurtled off to the furthest reaches of the lake and turned left. There's no way of dragging it back so the answer is to get into the lake and follow it. A powerful fish will easily tow an angler under....., with Geoff behind to steady our intrepid angler, Steve sets off to track the fish down the lake. In fact, on this occasion, it turned out to be a 100lb+ mekong catfish but another angler had hooked it. The mekong had powered its way down on eend of the lake, picked Steve's gear up and then shot off down the other end.
It is hard to overstate the care that is lavished on these fish. If you look at this carp's mouth you will see that it is unmarked and, as the fish is lifted for the photo (below) you will see that it is in superb condition.

Before being released the fish is carefully inspected and sprayed to ensure it remains in tip top condition....
...and they don't get any better condition than this!
                                                  Steve was delighted to land a fine redtail
      And another superb carp to round off an 11 fish tally during our wonderful stay at Gillhams.
               Steve and Geoff became the best of pals by the end of or short visit........!!!!!!!