We Made It !

An Thoi Travel Blog

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Leeward side of An Thoi Island

The dreaded crossing back to Phu Quoc Island on three-foot whitecap seas was treacherous in the small boat. We all got soaked again. Saltwater spraying over the bow and starboard side was rather warm and the wind cold but it was probably fear that gave us the goose-bumps. We realized that we were at the mercy of the tossing sea and Nguyen's skill at handling it. He grew up a fisherman so the ordeal was probably routine to him; but to us, rather chilling if not downright terrifying. A capsize would have been catastrophic since there were no other boats in sight and no radio, cell phone, or signal flares. We had no life jackets.

Nguyen at the helm, his daughter bailing
Had our boat gone down, the only sign would have been the floating debris on baby-blue waters: red cooler, an empty fuel jug, two orange plastic chairs, pieces of wood from the decking, and five pairs of flip-flops. I wondered how long my baseball cap might stay afloat. The girl would miss school again tomorrow and every day thereafter. Phuong would probably take over Nguyen's new brick house. I cursed myself for the risk and danger I had gotten Hubert and Michaela into. We gripped the gunnels and remained silent during the rough crossing.

 

The three of us breathed sighs of relief then relaxed, laughed, and cheered upon finally reaching the calm waters on the sheltered side of Phu Quoc island. We made it. Grinning once again, Nguyen docked at one of the floating houses that we had passed on our way out.

The floating house
He dropped us there along with his daughter and motored away. The platform supported two submerged fish farms, other nets, a clutter of crab or shrimp baskets, and a one-room wooden shack that someone lived in. A brown dog roamed the rickety platform while two others - pups - were caged in one of the shrimp baskets. After about fifteen minutes, our own boat returned with a different driver. I don't know what happened to Nguyen. Perhaps he went back to work on his house, set off to gamble the money he had made, or maybe even left sea life altogether after the daring crossing. We never saw him again.

 

Our new driver cruised north among the hundreds of boats that made up the An Thoi fishing fleet. We were amazed at their variety of sizes and rigging. Each was outfitted for specific catches, or at least techniques.

Cruising amid the anchored fleet
All of the boats appeared to use nets; setting and retrieving them by different methods. I wished that Nguyen, his daughter, or the new driver had spoken English, they would surly know. Deck hands shouted and waved, smiling, as we passed. 

 

 Clearing the anchored fleet, white sand beaches appeared along the shore. Fish farms scattered on blue-green waters at another tiny fishing village. Round basket boats bobbed in the shallows but no people stirred. Without the wind and sea spray, the sun was scorching hot so we finally signaled the driver to head back. We returned to the rocks in front of Nguyen's house two hours after our seat-of-the-pants tour began.

 

Thrilled to be back on land, we stopped at the kiosk near our motorbikes for a beer and Coca Colas. While land-locked sea captains waited out the winds gambling cards - Phuong among them - Hubert, Michaela, and I recapped our wild experience. We agreed that those unplanned spur-of-the-moment adventures were often the most memorable. If they hadn't come along, I would not have done the boat trip either. We exchanged email addresses and I asked them to have a Bavarian beer for me when they got home from their two-week holiday. They said they'd have two.

 

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Leeward side of An Thoi Island
Leeward side of An Thoi Island
Nguyen at the helm, his daughter b…
Nguyen at the helm, his daughter …
The floating house
The floating house
Cruising amid the anchored fleet
Cruising amid the anchored fleet
Aiming for An Thoi Island
Aiming for An Thoi Island
Approaching Phu Quoc
Approaching Phu Quoc
Heading to Phu Quoc
Heading to Phu Quoc
Calm waters off Phu Quoc
Calm waters off Phu Quoc
Back in calm waters
Back in calm waters
Docking at the floating house
Docking at the floating house
One end of the platform
One end of the platform
Fish at the floating house
Fish at the floating house
Pups
Pups
Leaving the floating house
Leaving the floating house
Colorful fishing boat
Colorful fishing boat
Basket boats on board
Basket boats on board
Boat with nets at the sides
Boat with nets at the sides
Colorful net-markers
Colorful net-markers
Floating merchants
Floating merchants
Nguyen and our boat
Nguyen and our boat
Basket boats at a Phu Quoc fishing…
Basket boats at a Phu Quoc fishin…
Fish farms
Fish farms
Approaching Nguyens house
Approaching Nguyen's house
Racks of drying squid
Racks of drying squid
An Thoi
photo by: rotorhead85