Inside the head of a lifestyle-cruiser

Light stories about this and that, which keep me awake at night.
In general with no connection to cruising under sail.

Blog entries August 26 - November 27, 2010

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The Visa Run
November 27, 2010

Our 60-day visa was expiring in a few days.

Thailand makes it hard for people who wish to stay in the country for longer than just a few weeks.

If you enter Thailand without a visa, you will receive a 30-day permit. You can get a visa in advance from Thai embassies and some consulates, in which case you get to stay 60 days (note: 30 days and 60 days, not one and two months).

Before your permit/visa expires you need to leave the country, then you turn around and return. That’s why it’s called a Visa Run. And there doesn’t appear to be any limits to how many times you can do this shuffle, so many people probably do it regularly, hundreds of them every day of the year.

To see the text better, click the image.

The Visa Run is a big business in Thailand. There are numerous organized Visa Run Tours by bus all over the country, every day. From Bangkok the tours are generally made to Cambodia and in Chiang Mai to Burma. Here in Phuket there are two main options, both by bus - a one-day tour via Ranong to Burma (1,700 Baht = 42€) and a two-day tour to Penang in Malaysia (4,000 Baht = 100€).

Some people fly privately to Penang, Kuala Lumpur or Singapore and return the same day. My plan was to drive our rental car the 300 km from Phuket to Ranong and then just cross the border, stay one night in Burma before returning. It’s supposed to be a scenic drive up there and one night would give us a chance to see at least a little bit of life on that side of the border.

Reliable information concerning the rules are difficult to obtain. If you ask in 5 places you will usually get 5 different answers to the same question. I had heard somewhere that, if you enter with a 60-day visa (which was our case), you can apply for a one month extension, but I couldn’t get this confirmed anywhere. One tour operator told me that you only get a 15-day permit when you return from Burma at Ranong, but in the marina office they said that it might be possible to get a 15-day extension, not more, at the immigration office in Phuket. The marina manager, however, recommended that I should indeed drive to Burma because that way I would definitely receive a 30-day permit. Go figure.

To see the text better, click the image.

In the morning of the Monday we hade planned to drive to Ranong, I decided to try to get an extension in Phuket, after all. I asked the marina manager to write a letter to immigration supporting my application for a one-month extension of our visas. As the reason for the need of an extension I told them that our boat projects in the yard had been delayed because of much rain.

I presented the letter in the immigration office in downtown Phuket, and, the days of wonder are not over yet; only 30 minutes later I was sipping a beer, with a one-month extension stamped in my passport. It turned out, that with a 60-day visa, you always get one extension of one month (for 1,900 Baht) - no explanations required! At least it was the rule of this particular day.

But it would have been interesting to see Burma. Maybe we’ll go when this extension is consumed? Our plan is to sail away before that, but who knows?

Our Seven Seas
November 23, 2010

The expression “Seven Seas” is probably one of the best-known maritime idioms. But which are these 7 bodies of water really, and what is the origin of the phrase? According to Wikipedia, there are several definitions of the phrase Seven Seas, starting as far back as the Sumer civilization in Mesopotamia in 2,300 BC.

I think the expression Seven Seas demonstrates “all seas you have to cross to get far away, and return”, and will vary depending on the home port and the time in question. Therefore it will be different for, say, a 9th century Viking, on one hand, and a 12th century Polynesian on the other.

The number seven does not necessary indicate that there are as many (or as few) as 7 seas involved; this number has mysterious meanings, particularly in many religions. There are numerous tales and phrases built around the number seven: 7 Sins, 7 Wonders of the World, 7 Dwarfs, 7 Brothers (the name of a great Finnish novel by Alexis Kivi). Not to mention that according to the Bible, the world was created in six days and on the seventh, God rested. Those 7 days were the first week.

The Clipper Ship Tea Route from China to England was the longest trade route in the world. It took ships through seven seas near the Dutch East Indies: the Banda Sea, the Celebes Sea, the Flores Sea, the Java Sea, the South China Sea, the Sulu Sea, and the Timor Sea. Therefore, if someone had sailed the Seven Seas it meant he had sailed to, and returned from, the other side of the world.

In Medieval Arabian literature the Seven Seas also demonstrate the passage to China: the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Khambhat, the Bay of Bengal, the Strait of Malacca, the Singapore Strait, the Gulf of Thailand, and the South China Sea.
Consequently, fore me the Seven Seas are represented by, in chronological order: the Baltic Sea, the North Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, the Caribbean Sea, the Pacific Ocean, and the Indian Ocean.

Some modern geographical classification schemes count seven oceans in the world: The North Pacific Ocean, the South Pacific Ocean, the North Atlantic Ocean, the South Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, the Southern Ocean, and the Arctic Ocean.

For us aboard Scorpio, on the last leg of our circumnavigation – and having already experienced Our Seven Seas, as indicated above – there will, unfortunately, remain an additional Eight Sea: the Pirate Sea, which (in modern times) is the area between India and the Red Sea, and even as far north as Egypt.

We trust that the number will remain safely at seven, with no pirates involved.

Year of the Rat?
October 30, 2010

The Chinese think we are now in the Year of the Tiger. I think they may be wrong.

At least here in Phuket we feel it must be the year of the rat. Some of our Face Book friends may remember the scene I faced when I opened our storage locker after our return from Europe. Three rats were caught in my glue trap.

Click on photo for large version

A few weeks later, with the yacht still on dry land in the yard subject to upgrading work, I found this rope, below left, in our sail locker on board. It's an unused sheet, chewed through in many places. Also one of the sail bags had a large hole, below right. But the discoveries didn't end here.

Sometimes when we leave the yacht for longer periods I have left the main sail (and mizzen) on the boom protected by the canvas cover, thinking that it actually is a better place in stead of folding the sail into a bag. We have never had any problems with that other than sometimes bees build nests inside.

This time we were up for a big surprise. There were 3 large holes in the thick (8 oz) Dacron fabric, clearly the mark of rats.

So, as a warning to fellow cruisers, I'm giving you a heads up for this potential problem. This sail was almost 19 years old, with 60.000nm of service, and I had been thinking of retiring it anyway, so it was not a big loss. But what if it would have been a brand new one? The price of the new sail is 3.500 USD.

Living in the yards
October 27, 2010

We are presently in the Boat Lagoon hard standing area in Phuket, Thailand. Since we started our serious world cruising, in 1992, we have been hauling out Scorpio in 18 different shipyards or marinas – in almost as many countries. Only once have we visited the same yard twice (this was in Deltaville, Virginia, USA). Every time we have to go through the same process: evaluate the shipyard/marina, find the reliable contractors in various technical areas, hardware stores, marine chandlers etc. Everything is new, both people and the culture. This is a complicated process but, at the end of the day, very rewarding: you really get to know places and cultures in a completely different way than tourists do.

We don't see ourselves as tourists in the usually accepted sense, trying to get our floating home maintained and improved and dealing with local small businesses. Just as an example, if you are in a yard at, say Costa del Sol, don’t buy your paint in the marina store, go to the hard-ware store on the third street from the waterfront (where the local fishermen go).

There is usually also a lot of dealings with officialdom; customs, immigration, health inspections, agriculture, harbour masters etc. And usually you have to find these offices in different parts of the cities. Clering in or out may take a few days sometimes. Sometimes it is an additional challenge trying to explain why you want to leave your boat and fly home for a while ("you are not selling it here in our country are you, in that case you would have to pay tax for importing it, just to make sure we will want a bond while you are away").

And remember, the language barrier is often pretty high, they are not spelling it out as clearly as I'm doing here, and there are seldom any written guide lines (as you would have arriving on a commercial jet).

But the bottom line is, that along the way we have met many wonderful people and even if we are getting poorer every time we haul out, we are so much richer with experiences – every time.

Severe body piercing in Phuket
October 16, 2010

We got caught right in the middle of it all. No, it’s not the riots in Bangkok starting again. This is a scene today in the centre of Phuket during the annual Vegetarian festival.

The festival is a 150 year old tradition of refraining from eating meat, drinking alcoholic drinks, engaging in sex, quarreling, telling lies or killing. The procession walks trough the city and several persons pierce their tongues, cheeks, and other parts of the anatomy with sharp implements. Apparently they feel no pain, and show little sign of real injury, although we saw a lot of blood on their clothes.

Unfortunately I had a problem with my camera, so the photo of the man with both a sword and a garden scissor through his cheek is not sharp (but I bet the tools were).

If you are not one of the faint-hearted, take a look at photos from last year’s festival in Session Magazine. If you are not presently connected to the Internet, here are some samples from their web site:

Raising the water line
October 15, 2010

We haven’t posted any reports in the Log&Yarns -section for many months. This is because, since April, Scorpio has been up on the hard, where she is subject to, again, extensive maintenance and face-lifts. I will give a full report regarding all the work at a later stage, when all is finished.

This Blog-section is primarily intended for stuff unrelated to cruising, but it is convenient for short, ad hoc, writing about anything. So, until the full story, I thought I’d give you some ideas of what’s going on here in Boat Lagoon, Phuket.

Click photo for larger version

In the distorted (panorama) photo above, I am trying to illustrate how the water line is being raised. This is the second time the line has been raised since the yacht left the Nautor yard in 1979. We have been carrying so much junk aboard, causing the yacht to float deeper than designed, that we decided a raise was necessary. In the picture, the new boot stripe (I think that is what the broad dark blue line is called) has already been painted. The thin blue line is masking tape showing the level of new anti fouling paint. The sanded greenish area is the old anti fouling area. The new water line will be about two inches higher that before.

Seven more albums
September 8, 2010

Unfortunately, ten choices wasn’t enough to cover all the essential albums of my teen years. I feel a need to mention the most important ones that are missing, there’s seven of them.


11. Chuck Berry

Berry was among the first musicians to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He is included in several Rolling Stone Magazine’s “Greatest of All Time” lists, including being ranked fifth on their 2004 list of the Greatest Artists of All Time.

Leaving Berry unmentioned in my Top Ten doesn’t mean that he isn’t present there actually. Practically every artist mentioned in my list recorded songs by Chuck Berry and all of them definitely played his songs on stage at some point in their career.

I owned several of Berry’s vinyl albums in the 60′s, but today the best buy would be a greatest hits compilation called The Great Twenty-eight. It contains 28 of his greatest songs from 1955 to 1965.


12. Summer Days (and Summer Nights!!)

BB gained popularity for their close vocal harmonies and lyrics reflecting a Southern California youth culture of cars, surfing, and romance. Brian Wilson’s growing creative ambitions later transformed them into a more artistically innovative group that earned critical praise.Their 1967 album Pet Sounds has often been regarded as the best album of the 20th century (in close competition with Sgt. Pepper, of course) and Good Vibrations has been voted best song many times.

For me, however, the record that finally convinced me was their 9th album, Summer Days, which was released in 1966, the year before Pet Sounds. My favorite song on this album is “California Girls”. Today, I think the best collection of Beach Boys songs is the album “20 Golden Greats”, which was the second biggest selling album in 1976. When BB gave a concert in Helsinki in 1966, I had a seat in the front row.

Click for great blow up of both sides of album cover

13. Strange Days – The Doors

As noted before, there is a connection between the groups Love and Doors, apart from both coming from Los Angeles. Arthur Lee tipped the bosses of his record label, Elektra, about The Doors, then playing as the house band at the famous Whisky a Go Go. The rest is history.

Their greatest song “Light My Fire” is on their first album, but I liked the songs on their second album, Strange Days, better as a whole. Some of the songs on Strange Days were written in 1965-1966 , but did not make it onto their debut album, such as “Moonlight Drive” (which probably is the first song Jim Morrison wrote).


14. Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul

Black music was very much part of the rock scene in the sixties. The dominant label was Tamla Motown, with names such as The Miracles, Martha and the Vandellas, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Supremes. But there were many others; my favorite being the “King of Soul”, Otis Redding and I still have his 1965 vinyl album “Otis Blue” in my book shelve.

A close contender is James Brown, the “King of Funk”, but he was more limited. Otis Redding’s greatest song, “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay”, was released after his death (only 26 years old, in one of those many plane crashes).


15. Orbisongs – Roy Orbison

The Caruso of Rock”, Orbison had maybe the most distinctive voice of the rock scene. He was known for complex compositions and dark emotional ballads. His greatest success came in the early to mid sixties, when 22 of his songs (according to Wikipedia) landed on the US Billboard Top Forty, including “Only the Lonely”, “Crying”, “In Dreams”, and “Oh, Pretty Woman. In a 68-week period in 1963-64, Roy Orbison was the only American artist to have a number-one single in Britain. He did it twice, with “It’s Over” and “Oh, Pretty Woman”.

It is a bit difficult to name my favorite Orbison album of the period, but I chose “Orbisongs”, the one that includes “Pretty Woman”.


16. Are You Experienced – Jimmy Hendrix

In the winter of 1968 I saw Jimmy Henrix Experience live in Helsinki. I still think that’s the greates concert I have ever experienced. His first album does not include his best songs of the time, unfortunately, but a new release in 1997 fixed that problem, adding “Hey Joe”, “The Wind Cries Mary” and “Purple Haze” and some other tracks to the original eleven.

Led Zeppelin 2

17. Led Zeppelin II

Probably one of the most influential guitar albums of all times

The rest of the top 10
September 6, 2010

Every record the Beatles published was a shock when it came out. We used to line-up outside the record store in the mornings of the release days. Compared to rabid R&B evangelists like the Rolling Stones, the Beatles arrived sounding like nothing else (Rolling Stone Magazine).

Following up on my earlier post today, on the list of my most memorable albums, we now get to the rest of the Top Ten, in random order (the number is there just for the count). And one rule here is, that no group can have more than one album on the list.

2. Rolling Stones no. 2

Yes, they are number two on this (random) list, but that was also the name of the album. Also in this case I chose an album that not normally is regarded as one of the band’s greatest. It contains only 3 songs composed by Jagger and Richards, but this is how I learned to listen to The Stones. My favorites on this album are “Everybody needs somebody to love”, “Under the Boardwalk” and particularly “Time is on My Side”.


3. Dance with the Shadows

The Shadows were pioneers of the four-member rock-group format (lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass guitar and drums) in the UK. They were Cliff Richard’s backing band, but had their own career as an almost entirely instrumental group. Cliff and The Shadows dominated the British popular music scene in the pre-beatles period 1958-62. John Lennon is rumored to have said that before Cliff and the Shadows there was nothing to listen to in Brittish music.

As the first backing band to emerge as stars in their own right, they were early trailblazers for the beat-group boom that followed. The Shadows didn’t have any particularly great album, but several chart-topper singles, starting with Apache. For me personally, as a drummer in our garage-band, the most important track was Brian Bennetts drumming on “Big-B”. The best album to buy today would be “20 Golden Greats”, but as an illustration for this post I have chosen the album “Dance with the Shadows (1963).

4. Elvis Presley

The early 1960′s was not musically a good period for Elvis Presley. He got lost in Hollywood and in a few years starred in more than 20 films. They were “musical comedies” accompanied by sound track albums. The movies were dismissed by the critic and by and large, the songs were written on order by men who never really understood Elvis or rock and roll.

Nevertheless, each year we saw at least one new Elvis movie, such as Kid Galahad, Girls Girls Girls, Fun in Acapulco, Kissin’ Cousins. Three of Elvis’s sound tracks actually reached number one on the charts and a few of his popular songs are from his films, such as “Can’t Help Falling in Love” (Blue Hawaii), “Return to Sender” (Girls, Girls Girls) and “Viva Las Vegas” (Viva Las Vegas).

Although we never missed a new Elvis movie in the early 60′s, we didn’t really appreciate many of the songs. Instead we favored the “real” Elvis and the proper album for that is his debut long-playing record, named simply, Elvis Presley

elvis animals

4. Best of The Animals

Their 1964 hit House of the Rising sun was probably the first folk rock hit (although the term was not invented until the Birds recorded Mr Tambourine Man). This album by the Animals was not released until 1966, but the songs are recorded in 1964-65. In May 1964 I went to The Animals’ concert in Helsinki. It was the first live performance of an international band I have experienced (except Paul Anka by coincidence at the amusement park in Stockholm 1959, unfortunately I was too young at that time to realise what was going on).

5. Magnificent Moodies

Anybody can tell you, that the symphonic “Days of Future Passed” album is considered to be the ground breaking album of the Moody Blues. But I got totally knocked out already by their first, R&B, album in 1965. The first track is a cover of James Brown’s “I’ll Go Crazy”, and this version is the reason I found the album. One of the most popular Finnish groups in the 60′s was Topmost, and they used to open their shows with the Moody Blues version of this song. I thought it was awesome. The album also includes “Go now” and a great version of “Something you got”.

moodies highway61

7. Highway 61 Revisited – Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan was, no doubt, one of the most influential songwriters in the 1960′s. His own performances were initially not easy to digest, the voice very nasal, “as if sandpaper could sing”. Many of his most famous early songs first reached the public through more immediately palatable versions by other performers, such as Joan Baez, Peter Paul and Mary, Sonny and Cher, The Birds, The Association, The Hollies, The Turtles, Jimi Hendrix etc.

Many consider “Blonde on Blonde” to be Dylan’s best album, but I have chosen Higway 61, partly because it includes the fantastic “Like a Rolling Stone”. In those days a typical track lasted between 1:50 and 2:20 minutes. Like a Rolling Stone goes on for more than 6 minutes. The times really were a’changing.

8. Disraeli Gears - Cream

Cream was probably the first so called “Supergroup”, but even so, their front man was Eric Clapton. He played a central part of many groups in the 60′s, and is still very much around, almost 50 years later! Earlier in the 60′s he was part of, among others, The Yardbirds and The Bluesbreakers and after Cream he formed Blind Faith (including Stevie Winwood) and Derek and the Dominoes before leaving on his solo career.

Claptons first (solo) Number One was Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff”, probably the first reggae song to top the charts. According to one source, Clapton is the only person who has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three times; as a solo performer, as well as a member of rock bands the Yardbirds and Cream.

In 1967 I had the good fortune to experience Cream in a concert in Helsinki. The first song they played was Tales of Brave Ulysses, also included on Disraeli Gears. The record also includes “Sunshine of Your Love” and “Strange Brew”. By the way, the two other super stars of Cream were bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker. Just three musicians, but a lot of noise!

disraeli_gears_cover forever_changes

9. Forever Changes – Love

This is my choice for the best album of all times, but I guess I have said enough of the album earlier in this blog (see August 22). I’ll just add, that enigmatic singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist Arthur Lee formed the group Love when he was just 20 years old. An other important member of the group on their first three albums (this one was the 3rd) was Bryan MacLean, who wrote the opening track “Alone Again Or”.

Arthur Lee is also known for producing Jimi Hendrix in his early career, and tipping off his label bosses about his friend Jim Morrison’s new band, The Doors.

10. Child is Father to the Man – Blood Sweat and Tears

A fusion of jazz, rock and roll, psychedelia and classical music, Child Is Father to the Man is one of bandleader Al Kooper’s greatest works. This album was not a commercial success and Kooper left the band, changing the nature of the group. Later, with a completely different line-up, BS&T had some great hits, but that’s an other story.


My favorite on this album is “I Love You More than You’ll Ever Know”. It also includes Nilssons “Without Her”.

11. Eleven? Yes that’s the problem,

I have now listed ten albums out of ten, and I still have seven more! But I will leave them until tomorrow.

Best remembered album of all times
September 6, 2010

I have an embarrasing confession to make. A couple of weeks ago I participated in a poll about electing the best (pop, rock etc) album of all times. At least that’s what I thought I was doing. Reading the titles the other participants voted for made me a bit confused, cause I didn’t think their choises made sense at all, but for some reason it didn’t ring a bell – yet.

I listed my favorite album, Forever Changes by a Californian group called Love (see earlier post, Aug 22).

It took me more than a week to realise that the contest had been about “The best album name”, not “The name of the best album”!

Anyway, the last two weeks I spent a lot of time, going through in my mind, all the albums that have moved me, and I might as well let it all out now.

Therefore I have made a list of the albums that have been important to me.
Remember that this list is not the “general” Top Ten, but about albums that have had a real impact on me as a person. I was born in 1950, so it should be no surprise that, for the Top Ten, I have chosen only albums published in the 60′s.


1. The Beatles – Please, please me.

No band has influenced popular music the way the Beatles has. They were unmatched innovators who were bigger than both Jesus and rock & roll itself: During the week of April 4, 1964, the Beatles held the first five slots on the Billboard Singles chart; they went on to sell more than a billion albums.

Many lists of “All time greatest” have named Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band as their finest achievment, sometimes it has been “Revolver” or “The White Album. They are all educated choices, but my first long-play record was Please Please Me, the Beatles’ first album, and therefore it has had the biggest impact on me.

I will continue the list in next post.

Paying your weight?
August 31, 2010

Air Asia has an excellent web-booking system. For instance, you choose weather you like to eat or not and how much luggage you need. The price for additional kilos is not excessive, contrary the IATA "penalty", which used to be something like 1% of a regular ticket per kilo (maybe still is).

The more weight you carry, the more fuel is needed aboard the plane and, at least theoretically, the less cargo can be carried, resulting in less revenue for the airline.

However, if this is the real reason for limiting weight, I think the airlines should go all the way. Let's say that the average passenger weighs 80 kilos. Then enters the over-weight 130 kilo flyer with his bagage, loading the plane at the same charge with 55 kilos more of weight.

Someone might argue that charging the heavy passenger a higher fee would be discriminating, but I think it is the other way around: as the practice is today, it is the lighter person who is getting the foul treatment.

image source:

So why don't we fight for a system with a total maximum weight limit, passenger plus luggage, of, say 80 kilos included in the price for a regular ticket? For any excess you pay more, but you don't get credit for weighing less. About one dollar per kilo would be fair, or the fee could even be progressive.

Problem with this idea is that women, on average weigh less than men, and having cheaper tickets based on sex would probably be unacceptable.

But What the heck, women carry more luggage than men anyway - let them keep on doing this.

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