World College's Voyage in Phang Nga Bay – A Demonstration
#1 – 13 Nautical Miles
had been quite mercurial. The original itinerary had this gang of
intrepid National Youth Achievement Award students beginning with
an open-water crossing from Ko Sire (Phuket) to Ko Yao Yai. Having
just spent the previous two weeks in the bay and seeing the weather
produce storms, strong winds and lightning, I asked Mike Gibby (teacher,
tour leader, all-around good guy) if he minded modifying the plans.
He was very open as this was a potential safety issue.
nine students, three teachers and three PaddleAsia guides headed
off to Ko Yao Noi. We launched at Laem Sai Beach and paddled the
short distance to Ko Nok (Bird Island). Off in the distance, the
skies were darkening. The kids would take turns being the group
leader and I walked over to Ben (student) and talked about what
we were having lunch, the calm day became tainted with wind. Launching
from the lee side of the sandy point on Ko Nok, we tightened our
spray decks (spray skirts if you’re an American) and headed
off to Ko Pak Bia.
seas and tail wind played havoc with the kayaks. Students were struggling
to paddle in a straight line and in spite of the double kayaks having
rudders, I requested that they didn’t put them down so as
to help them learn how to paddle without resorting to using such
‘tools’. All along the way the adults (teachers and
guides) supported various students with helpful hints on technique.
You could see frustration in some of their faces, but the persevered.
Sweep and rudder strokes were amended and fine tuned.
that was brewing to the South didn’t materialize; the storm
to the Northeast didn’t either. We all relaxed in the warm
water of Ko Pak Bia. Some small crabs were found clinging to some
floating debris. Several students let the crabs climb onto their
hands. A connection was made. The crabs were released shortly thereafter.
leaders, we decided to head to the Holiday Resort instead of the
camping beach that is further north on Ko Yao Noi. The change was
made for two reasons: another storm was manifesting itself and heading
towards us and the thought of setting up camp in a storm wasn’t
very appealing. The kids had done wonderfully in adverse conditions
and the Holiday Resort offered a big empty restaurant where they
could both set up their tents and do the cooking. In addition, we
adults got to stay in a bungalow with hot showers and cable TV.
It didn’t take much convincing to persuade the teachers to
choose this option. We were all happy campers.
to the paddle, we couldn’t see Ko Yao Noi. The storm was coming
due west and the big island disappeared in the mist. In addition,
there was a very stiff headwind trying to keep our progress to a
minimum. Again, the kids buckled down and paddled through the storm.
We were all becoming rapidly impressed with this group of youngsters…
and this was just a sign of things to come. All in all, we paddled
13 Nautical Miles! How’s that for a big first day!
of the National Youth Achievement Award, students are expected to
do their own cooking. Poo, our charming new Bangkok Admin office
manager, Moo and the guides instructed them on how to make Gang
Keow Wan Gai (Sweet Green Chicken Curry) and a couple of other tasty
Thai dishes. The kids jumped at the opportunity to chop veggies
and learn the recipe. Their hard work paid off with a delicious
#2 - 12 Nautical Miles
the sun, the kids were packed and ready by the time when most students
would have just been getting their act together. Rushing to get
my act together, I met them on the beach in front of the Holiday
Resort while Jason (teacher) was running through some warm-up exercises
with them. Whew, I didn’t hold them up.
up the eastern side of Ko Yao Noi, the group really impressed us
with how well they were staying together. We didn’t have to
stop a regroup and we moved at a very noble pace. Tour leader for
this leg, Ana, chose the beach on Ko Kudu Yai as the lunch spot.
A lovely beach that is being assaulted by lazy speedboat tourists,
Ko Kudu Yai is an island destined for ruining. Yet another fine
beach falls prey to the sting of mass tourism, still, if you get
there when no one else is there it’s a nice bay and beach.
Kudu Yai, we headed over to Ko Roi to explore the cave and hong.
I filled the kids in on the importance of a healthy mangrove population
and the relationship between mangrove, coral, pelagic fish species,
south towards Ko Boi Yai, we were slapped in the face by sudden
Force Four seas (white caps and strong wind), so we shot over to
Ko Yao Yai to a small beach to wait out the front. The seas did
calm down, but we were still faced with at least Force Three seas.
Halfway to our camp, I heard one of the girls getting sick. She
had mild sea sickness, but instead of hopping in the longtail escort
boat, she was determined to carry on. I was impressed. She had every
right to bail out, but didn’t want any part of that. Not a
whimper was heard from her! She even picked up the pace!
at near sunset, the gang quickly set up camp. My team got the dinner
started. These kids had fought through very, very tough conditions
and we all (teachers and guides) weren’t about to make them
cook. They put in a big day of activity, starting very early and
lasting all day. My guys and gals got the food started and the kids
still came to help a bit. We all slept well on this night.
#3 – 8 Nautical Miles
the last day and we were all still eager to get in the boats and
paddle. I can’t truly express my utter contentment with this
wonderful group of youngsters. If all school groups were this easy,
I’d have a very easy life. We never had to ask them do keep
their shoes on while on the beaches or while swimming (a constant
problem with some school kids), nor did we have to stop a lot to
keep the group together. They were all around sixteen years-old,
yet more mature than some adults (like me sometimes!).
and I decided to give them an easy day… after all, they did
the equivalent of two days’ worth of paddling on each of the
previous days. They had all satisfied (understatement) the criteria
set forth by the NYAA scheme.
off to circumnavigate Ko Boi Yai. I had actually never done this
in all of my sixteen years of paddling in the bay. I didn’t
think it was worth doing, but I was proven wrong. The island is
covered with thick verdant jungle. We saw White-bellied Sea Eagles,
Brahminy Kites, a lone Crested Serpent Eagle and a troop of Crab-eating
Macaque monkeys. And, of course, the wind was blowing strongly against
us for the first half of the paddle around. Why would we expect
the far point and actually had calm seas. What a lovely island.
I need to do some more exploring as I think it would be fun to hike
from one end to the other of this ‘hotdog-shaped’ island.
Anyway, we made it back to the previous night’s campsite and
ate some banana bread and Oreos.
stretch was waiting for us. This time, however, we actually had
a nice tail wind and following current. We were all somewhat relieved,
though I’m sure if conditions were otherwise these kids would
have carried on.
of having them cook their lunch, I felt compelled to buy them a
nice lunch at one of Ko Yao Noi’s best restaurants. To say
that they earned it would be a gross understatement.
met and greatly exceeded our wildest expectations for a group of
students of this age, we can’t wait for another United World
College gang of determined and intrepid adventurers.
thanks to Mr. Mike Gibby (hand in the air) for organizing this wonderful