News from White Seal. The first Pahi 52 featured by James in one of his letters last year has now taken to the sea and is in fine form. I have just sailed White Seal single handed 1500 miles from Phuket down the Malacca Straights to Singapore and then up the South China Sea and into the Gulf of Thailand with no Auto Pilot and no vane steering. It was quite hard work since there was never a moment when I had the sea to myself. There are simply hundreds of fishing boats around these waters. Down the Malacca Straights and past Singapore the number of big ships all going at different speeds and heading in different directions make holding a course for any length of time unwise and staying awake a very positive decision. I left Phuket about 5 weeks before the tidal wave devastated large areas of the west coast of Thailand so was very lucky to have made the decision to go up to Pattaya. The trip took 21 days with not very favourable winds and no money for fuel. Now that I have more than 2000 miles of sailing White Seal and a reasonable number of charter trips under my very adequate belt, I have some pet likes and dislikes. I really like the huge uncluttered deck space and the central cockpit area which protects people in poor conditions. I love the ramp which enables me to bring the dinghy up alongside the stern and have passengers step onto a stable platform at the ideal height. I love the swimming stairway which goes at least three feet below water so it is really easy for unfit and infirm older folk to get back on board. She will make a perfect dive boat. She sails very well on the wind and goes like a train with the wind on the beam. Without a Chute or cruising Genoa she is not so happy dead downwind so better to point off 20 degrees and pick up some speed and tack downwind. I would love a big screecher for her but that will have to wait for the time being. As with all Wharrams I love the comfort below and the joy of sleeping in a massive berth with no worries about rolling out of bed. I like the 2 tonnes of water I have on board my 2 showers and hot water systems and my 23,000 baht ($600) 4kva diesel generator which pumps out enough power to heat two water heaters simultaneously and a water pot and a rice cooker all completed in 20 minutes (noisy minutes though). It runs for 5 hours on about 2 litres of diesel. The galley is just about perfect and the water cooled fridge freezer assures me of cold drinks in the hottest tropical weather. In harbour I set a huge awning between the masts and sail on day charters to the nearby islands with just the staysail and mainsail, which halves her speed under sail but protects folk from the hot sun. The steering position is good for sail trim and forward vision, although you cannot see well to starboard once you drop the mainsail, so for coming into the marina you are pretty well committed to putting the berth on the port side which may or may not be convenient. I don't like passengers going below (particularly the forward cabins) in poor weather as it is very bouncy and they are liable to get very wet in the process. I have had a lot of over 60s on the boat and they find it difficult to get down to the loo. I don’t know if there is a better stairway design we could have adopted but this one is not particularly user friendly. I have two Yamaha 25HP 4 stroke outboards just about centrally located so they don’t cavitate much and have good thrust, but I don't like having the props so far from the rudders with no prop created water flow effect to give you steering at slow speeds. Going astern and hoping to steer into a berth is not an option unless you have the courage do it fast – and I don’t. This is the big plus for the hydraulically driven props that Makz has on his Tiki 38s bare boating in Phuket which enables them to be installed right ahead of the rudders. George Kritis will have a similar problem on his Pahi 52s which have diesel long tails which will be excellent for motoring but they will be a real handful in the marina in any sort of a wind. I haven't hit anything yet but sometimes getting alongside is not very pretty. White Seal is now based in The Ocean Marina in Pattaya in the Gulf of Thailand and is available for Charter either on a by the day or by the week basis. Anybody interested in running down to the Ko Chang group of islands 140 nm from here are welcome to e-mail me on [email protected] Pattaya is 1.5 hrs from Bangkok airport we have good sailing from now until September in the SW monsoon with winds from 15-25kts every day and then again from November to March in the NE Monsoon with lighter winds of 10-15kts.