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Phuket to Trincomalee

January 20, 2015

Departure from Thailand was bittersweet. On the one hand we were looking forward to exploring new shorelines but on the other hand we were reluctant to leave new-found friends. From the graciousness and kindness of Greg and Liz, the owners of the home we housesat, to the crazy Swede, Pel onboard Suntess, who kept us laughing and was kind enough to host an American thanksgiving. There were so many others I cannot mention them all but there is Diane and Rob, onboard The Doctor, who painted our wind vane cover; Mark who showed us some of the best of local Thai food restaurants in Khao Lak; Darrell and Loretta who were brave enough to cut the proverbial sailing rope and settle in Thailand; and then the numerous others too many to mention.

We loved our time in Asia. It’ a very different experience than cruising south pacific islands or exploring the haunts of the Mediterranean. We are looking forward to a new continent, Africa, as well as the numerous islands and nation states between Thailand and Capetown.

Who knows what this adventure will entail.  To start it off here is a day to day blog of our sail between Phuket and Trincomalee, Sri Lanka.

*To see more pictures of our trip come back to view when I get a better internet connection!

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Day One

1200hrs – January 10th
Latitude: 7 46.75
Longitude : 98 08.46
Miles

Departure today was 1000hrs from Nai Harn, an anchorage on the south-west coast of Phuket island.k

Beautiful day with a nice easterly wind pushed us out of the anchorage under sail. Always one of my favourite ways to leave or enter a harbour.

Amazing that we are actually departing after almost  3 years in SE Asia having arrived in the Philippines March 2012. It seems like yesterday that Marcello made Connie a pizza for her birthday while we were anchored in our respective sailboats right where Cyclone Huinan trampled its way through one year later.

Now we are on our way to South Asia and on to the coral atolls of the Maldives and Chagos. We are going to miss our Thai food. There is hardly a place in Thailand where you get a bad meal. Their ancient knowledge of spice mixtures, plant life and fruit make for a tireless cuisine. I don’t know what we are headed towards but am sure we will find pleasure in a new cuisine.

We will miss SE Asia and leave with few regrets. I think the only regret being we didn’t do more land travelling. SE Asia is not a great sailing place but offers numerous places to leave the boat to explore inland. The coastal areas are overfished, overpopulated and over subscribed by tourists. Gems still exist but they require more resources to reach but are rewarding. There are only just a few that I have covered in my blog here.

Day Two

1200hrs – January 11th
Latitude N8 25.2
Longitude E096 27.2
Miles

A night in a washing machine and the day on rinse cycle pretty much sums up the last 24 hours.

The washing machine relates to the times at which we cross current barriers. These are unpredictable and quite violent. The waves suddenly come from all directions and rise to over 1.5 metres throwing Sage around like she’s in a pinball machine or washing machine. We haven’t figured out why these upwellings occur as we are not going over seamounts or sudden changes in water depth. We can only surmise they are caused by large volumes of water transferring from the Indian Ocean into the Andaman Sea and the Malacca Straits.

image Connie changing the card in the Garmin. This card will now guide us on the chart plotter from the Andaman Islands to Chagos where we will switch to a new card for East Africa

Then there are the squalls. We just had one tear our drifter apart. The drifter is our light weather sail and we got caught out with the result it tore from leech to luff along a seam. It’s a great loss as we use it a lot but we might be able to repair once ashore.

image Sailing with double headsails before we tore apart the drifter i.e. The colourful sail

Day three

1200hrs – January 12th
Latitude  N08 53.5
Longitude E094 14.3
Miles

Well, if yesterdays it was the washing machine today is in a barrel going over Niagara Falls. Rain started at 0900hrs as I passed the watch to Connie and the rain did not stop till 1800hrs. Water everywhere but at least it was fresh water. Wind up and down but generally stayed in the southerly quadrant.

Morale not great and it is taking a great deal of effort for even the most mundane task. Snacking continues and a desire to just put ones head down and wish it all away is strong.

Night comes with a bit of relief. The wind stabalizes, the seas are becoming more rhythmic and the sails remain full. Only one period of panic as I realize we are doing upwards of 10knots as we surf along a wave. I think it’s time to reef so call Marcello on deck to assist. I steer while he winds in the genoa and relief is almost instant. We are now doing a sedate 8 knots, less than I go when cycling!

Day Four

1200hrs – January 13th
Latitude N08 58.1
Longitude E093 13.1
Miles

What a change. Morning brought sunshine and a chance to dry out. Towels, cushions, underwear and various sundry items were spread across the deck and in the rigging to dry. Seas calmed down and the wind steadied from the SE allowing for comfortable sailing and a chance to make something good to eat.

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Lost a fishing lure to a strike in the early morning. However, on deck, was our breakfast

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Well, not exactly. Has to be the smallest flying fish we have found on deck.

Having lost one lure we affixed another and by 1700hrs we had us a tuna. Unfortunately Connie had already prepared a massaman curry for dinner so fish awaits another meal and some for drying and sashimi

image

Day Five

1200hrs – January 14th

Latitude 09 04.5
Longitude 091 27.1
Miles – 129 nm

A very pleasant night spent at sea with a southerly wind, gentle rollers and a waning moon that rose at 0130hrs and outlined all the clouds. The night was marred by only one squall which thankfully was not on my watch! Poor Connie had to endure a torrential downpour for 30 minutes then on off drizzle for the remainder of her 0300-0600hrs watch.

By late morning conditions improved and we were moving towards our destination and already talking over lunch  about what we would do once arrived. Lunch of course was sashimi, cabbage salad and rice. All cooked by our Italian chef, Marcello!

image tuna drying in the sunshine. All that was left after straks and sashimi

image

Sorry did not think of taking a photo until after we finished!

Day Six

1200hrs – January 15th

Latitude 09 28.5
Longitude 090 41.4
Miles 78 nm

What a night. Dark black threatening clouds all around and no wind to help us escape. Six hours we were becalmed with the boat slapping from side to side. We took down all sails as the motion was murderous on equipment all round and most on sails. One other casuality was our self steering.

image No easy trick. The boat is moving and someone has to go over the back and fix the self steering. Ended up we both had to go over!

I surmise that when I put it all back together I neglected to tighten everything really well. As a result we had to dismantle a few things before putting it all back together again. I guess the real challenge came in working off the stern of the boat while we were moving. Neither Marcello nor I wanted to be left behind in the Indian Ocean.

The wind came back at 0730hrs but not with a lot of vigor. We are moving at a snail’s pace of about 2 knots. What makes the day though is that we are 30 miles from our halfway point!

Day Seven

1200hrs – January 16th
Latitude 09 30.5
Longitude 089 34.5
Miles 67nm

Okay we are no rocket. Yes it is slow going but that happens. Not often but on this trip seems to be the norm.

Best part of the last 24hrs is that Connie made bread and nothing broke. It’s comfortable sailing with a gentle NE swell and wind around 5-6 knots. Yes, the sails slat around, the mainsail gets put up and down depending on the wind and life onboard goes on. Laundry, washing, swimming, fishing, long conversations and best of all laughter.

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Oh yes, then there are hours of reading. Connie is reading Patricia Cornwell’s Dust and I am reading  The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell. We are obviously miles apart on our literary choices. Marcello is watching movies! Apparently he downloaded 12 into his I pad before leaving Phuket. He’s going to run out of ones to watch though as I think our original estimate of 10 days for the crossing is way off. Marcello is also consuming huge quantities of Japanese soduku.

Day Eight

1200hrs – January 17th

Latitude
Longitude
Miles 108

What an incredible night. Sky packed with stars and in the distance the flashing strobes of planes carrying people back and forth to and from Asia to Europe. Pencil thin strokes in the sky made from meteors entering earth’s atmosphere scattering angel dust over the oceans. Ships travelling across the Bay of Bengal to and from Singapore and Kolkata. Gentle breeze from the north rocking the boat like a cradle with a cool tropical breeze entering all the open hatches. One can’t ask for better sailing conditions.

To top it all off it’s Marcello’s birthday! Started off slowly with fresh-baked bread and expresso coffee making way, later in the morning, for sausages and eggs. A good start for a special day.

image The admiral and crew relaxing at sea while the captain swabs the deck and takes photos

Day Nine

1200hrs – January 18th

Latitude N09 44.2
Longitude E 08 35.2
Miles 130

Marcello’s birthday celebrations continue as the day progresses with telephone calls to Italy followed by scotch served in crystal glasses followed by an italian red wine accompanied by pizza. How Italian could we make it? Dinner ended with chocolate cake but I forgot the brandy so will just have to serve that in the morning.

Nighttime brings a new challenge but also signs of getting closer to Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan fishboats start to appear. They do not have regulation navigation lights but rather just run bright white working lights. This makes it difficult to determine the direction they are going. They did scare Marcello. He was on watch and one boat came roaring up to the side of the boat with all its crew gesticulating wildly trying to get us to stop. Marcello called me up and I said just keep going and the fishboat fell in behind us cutting our fishing line and eventually gave up and off they went much to Marcello’s relief.

Ah well, it was another lovely night and the wind started to pick up a little giving a more boisterous ride.

Day Ten

1200hrs – January 19th

Latitude N 09 36.0
Longitude E 083 36.5
Miles 125

Boisterous seas and a stiff breeze until 2400hrs pushed us along at 7-8 knots. Wind slowly died off finally picking up at 0800hrs.

No special events, no celebrations, no astounding revelations…

1 lonely petrel seen with no mate and no other competitors for food. Lonely ocean. There does seem to be an abundance of fish. We are finding numerous flying fish onboard and of a reasonable size. True to their name as we found one high up in a furled sail when we unfurled in lighter winds.

Ah, only 147 miles to go.

image

Day Eleven

January 20th
1200hrs

Latitude
Longitude
Miles 125
Wow, only 35 miles to go and the sea is flat, the wind gentle and speed not so great. Would love to arrive before dark but no go. We did try running wing and wing but the current took us south faster than the boat was sailing. We are now steering a course of 272 and we are making 233. That’s quite the impact from the south setting current. Great for the next leg as we head south and west to the Maldives.

image Setting the Sri Lankan and courtesy flag ready for arrival

2100hrs

Exhausted and hungry we finally tied the docklines. What an evening. We tried to arrive in the outer harbour before nightfall and anchor in s small cove outside the harbour limits. But we were thwarted. A Sri Lankan commando boat roared up to ask if we had permission to enter. Thus began a long sequence of events that saw us being escorted to a remote dock designed for tankers and left for the night miles from nowhere and no clearance from immigration nor customs. All that is supposed to happen tomorrow morning.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. January 23, 2015 08:14

    What a great adventure!

  2. January 23, 2015 11:05

    Tony:
    So grand to know you’ve completed the first leg. What an inspiration you guys are!
    love the blogs.
    Fred

  3. January 23, 2015 22:31

    Thanks again, lovely to hear of a safe arrival, and yes we have also experienced the washing machine!! Mauritius to Richards Bay – yuck!! Was so good to arrive. Stay safe and enjoying life.

  4. Annie Boldt permalink
    January 24, 2015 01:08

    This blog had me biting my nails… I guess they will all be chewed off by the time you get to S. Africa!
    Annie B.

  5. Sue Donaldson permalink
    January 24, 2015 01:13

    You are going to LOVE Singhalese/Tamil food–the sambals are amazing! The washing machine sounded very unpleasant, glad I was not onboard for that part! xxxx

  6. Juliet Robinson permalink
    January 27, 2015 11:47

    Have really enjoyed reading your stories, I’m actually The daughter of Suzy (John’s girlfriend).
    I know they were planning on sailing across to Sri Lanka and wondered if you had heard or seen from them at all. We usually speak every day but I’ve been sat a home back in freezing cold England and haven’t managed to get in contact with them at all for almost 5 days. I’m probably just worrying, but please do let me know. I know how much you’ve all enjoyed each other’s company!! 🙂

    • January 27, 2015 11:52

      If they left for Sri Lanka ot will take at least 11 days. Am sure they are OK and we hope to see them in Trincomalee.

  7. Louise permalink
    January 27, 2015 13:18

    I love the iconic ‘replacing the data card in the plotter’ shot!

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