Posted by: catamarantwooceans | January 3, 2013

Sailing from Surin to Andaman Islands

Hi All! Please notice there is a previous post about Similan and Surin!

18.12.12 – Tuesday – At 0230 the mooring ball started tapping the hull. Try sleeping when someone is dribbling a huge basketball near your head. I went out and tried to push it away with no permanent success. Just before five o’clock Sven and I met in the saloon and decided it was time to go. We slipped the lines, turned west northwest and said goodbye to Thailand. We had 331 miles to go to the entrance to Port Blair, Andamans’ port of entry.

Once we got away from the island the wind stabilized at 10-12 knots from the east northeast and with the relatively flat sea we were advancing nicely. During the day the wind picked up somewhat but on the whole we had ideal sailing conditions.

We trolled all day without success; Sven blamed the tiger striped lure and I promised him a fish on sunset. As the upper limb of the sun dipped down below the horizon and darkness sneaked in I started rolling the line in; as the lure came to about 30 meters from the stern I felt something snag it. A fish? I continued turning the handle and sure enough, we finally had a fish! It was a skipjack tuna, which is far from being my number one choice, but it gave two meals for the two of us, which is nice.

After dinner we started our watches, four hours each from 2200.

19.12.12 – Wednesday – At 0500 the plotter showed we did 134 miles in the last 24 hours; not bad. At 0600 I relieved Sven and sat on the helm seat enjoying the ride. When Sven came back I retired to my cabin and sat down on the bed to do my morning meditation. The sea was slight so I had no qualms about leaving the hatch open. Suddenly (I hate this!) I felt the boat slamming into a wave, rising, slamming again and a deluge of salt water barged in through the hatch, wetting the new mattresses.

This is not just a matter of drying everything up. The dried salt attracts and absorbs moisture; I will have to give all my beddings a good sweet water rinse. In the meantime I put all of it in the cockpit to dry.

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The sailing conditions were really good; we were going between 6 and 7 knots, which meant getting to Port Blair in the afternoon. One more thing that helped in that direction was the moving of the clock to India time – 1.5 hours back.

After dinner I saw the wind strengthening a bit and decided to put the main in first reef; this made the ride smoother without reducing the speed.

20.12.12 – Thursday – We covered 152 miles in the last 24 hours and continued speeding along at a good rate. Just as we passed 10 miles to the harbor entrance we heard the sound of jet engines and a helicopter passed overhead, followed by a twin engine turboprop airplane. Is this meant to be a reception for "Two Oceans"? Half an hour later we saw an armada of navy vessels motoring in single file head-on. We took some pictures but then, thinking about the notorious Indian penchant for bureaucracy and security, we decided to erase them all, save for the following picture Sven took in which it looks as if we caught a helicopter with our fishing rod.

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At 1045 local time we entered the harbor and at 1130 were anchoring in the position port control designated. "The navy will be with you at 1230" they said. We made lunch and sat down to wait, steeling ourselves for the bureaucratic saga all the sources on the Andamans were writing about. We prepared well in advance, printing many copies of the various documents we knew they required, making up a detailed inventory of the boat, including each electronic device and all the tools, books, DVDs and food items, not forgetting to list all the alcohol bottles we had and the quantities of liquid they contained (Pastis – 50 ml for example).

We also listed things that we did not have on board, like: Pets – Nil, Arms and ammunition – Nil and so on and so forth.

Just past noon the port control called to say that the customs people were waiting for me at the small boat basin. I rushed over to pick them up. They were four, a khaki clad sergeant and three white uniformed officers. A heavy load for our small dinghy.

They came on board and we had a pleasant surprise; they concluded their business quite quickly and efficiently, giving us no problem at all. They wanted to have pictures taken with us and were really nice.

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As we were ready to take them ashore the port control advised that the immigrations people were waiting for me on shore. Customs to shore, three immigration officers, a woman and two men, to the boat; they were also very quick and pleasant although one man had a somber and serious demeanor. While they were doing their job the navy came in with their own big launch; they came aboard and waited patiently for us to finish the thing with their predecessors who were just checking our itinerary list, crossing out forbidden islands and recommending others.

Sven took immigrations ashore and I tackled the navy; theirs was meant to be a security check, but they went into details of our navigational and communications equipment as well as our skippers licenses, of which they wanted a printed copy.

While some of what we went through was a bit ridiculous, all was concluded in good spirits and two and a half hours after it started we were free to go ashore to the last station of the entry procedure – the Harbor Master. The dinghy was taken care of by a character named Mupardee (200 Rs. a day) and the famous taxi driver Vijay was already waiting.

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Vijay’s Ambassador car (note the Merc’s hubcaps)

Harbor Master had some strange moments but all was behind us in 30 minutes. We really were lucky considering the horror stories we read about the Andaman bureaucracy; we had it easy.

Vijay took us to the town center to walk around a bit. Dinner at the TSG Emerald hotel, where I initiated Sven to the delights of Gulabjamoon, an Indian dessert, concluded the day.

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