HAPPY NEW YEAR to all our friends and family,
These wishes seem incredibly hollow amidst all the death and destruction here in South East Asia following the largest earthquake (9.0) in the last 40 years and the resulting tsunami that killed over 120,000 last Sunday, December 26. On December 24, we sailed to Yacht Haven Marina (Northeast coast) to enter our slip on Christmas Day from Nai Harn Bay, one of the beautiful beaches on the West coast of Phuket Island in Thailand, much to the protests of the men aboard. We received about 15 minutes warning on the VHF radio from the marina announcing that Patong Beach (West coast) had been completely demolished by a tsunami. The current immediately switched to the opposite direction and reached a speed of 6-7 knots through the marina and the water rose to within 4 feet of the top of the pilings. Thank God it was not high tide, otherwise the docks would have slipped off the pilings and it would have been mayhem with 100 boats here. We had our engine on full in reverse to keep us off the dock. The current slowed, the water level decreased and finally switched to the correct direction. We spent most of the day listening to our World Radio (CNN and BBC), SSB (VOA and BBC), and watching Thai tv which is never in English in shock waiting for news. We continued to receive warnings of another wave on the way (even yesterday), but thankfully none have materialized. The first one did enough damage for a century!
We are so saddened by what we see and hear on the news, especially since we visited many of the Thai Islands, which were especially hardest hit, like Phi Phi Don and the western bays of Patong, Kata, and Nai Harn. We did not visit Aceh Province in Indonesia, which had suffered the most deaths and destruction since it is located so near the epicenter of the quake. We spent time at Nongsa Point Marina in Bantam Island; however, Aceh is much too dangerous for cruisers or any tourists to visit with the Muslim separatists constantly at war.
We feel so close to this destruction, but yet so far away and apart. The separation by language is very wide. There are no local television programs in English, which makes it very difficult to hear about local news. We also heard on CNN (only once) that the 21 year old grandson of the King and Queen of Thailand died while he was jet skiing in Patong. He is an American also, since his father, Mr. Jensen, lives in New York City. We would love to be of service to these beautiful people and to the many foreigners who have lost so much here, but we do not know how, feeling that since we are not trained and do not know the language, we would only be in the way.
We are continuing with our plans and preparations to leave for the Red Sea about January 10. We had planned to sail to Sri Lanka, which is no longer possible, since Galle (Port of Entry) is completely demolished. Our plan now is sail to the Maldives (as only a rest stop to snorkel in our last atoll), to Cochin, India without a visa if we are in need of fuel, and then to Oman, where we will regroup to head through the piracy problem area between Somalia (also hit by the tsunami) and Yemen, and then to Eritrea and up the Red Sea. We are provisioning and carrying, hopefully, enough food and fuel for a complete passage from Thailand to Oman.
We thank you for your emails and phone calls to Julie (we think that she is enjoying talking with many of you whom we haven't seen in years:) voicing your concern for our well being. We miss you all and we will be home in the USA and Maui by June 2006, before you know it! Thank you for caring and for your prayers! Please don't stop and keep them coming! Please send us your news and your plans! (We are still working on our Christmas letter:)
Happy New Year! We wish you all a beautiful and abundant 2005! God Bless! Take care! Smooth sailing where ever you are! Be safe!
With Love, Peace and Aloha,
Ellen, David, Jason and Eric
S/V PEACE AND ALOHA
Yacht Haven Marina, NE Phuket Island, Thailand
January 1, 2005