Posted by: catamarantwooceans | January 15, 2013

Sailing Andamans – Sri Lanka

3.1.13 – Thursday – Before you can depart to an other country you have to pass the hurdle of the Andamans bureaucracy. When we came in it took us a little over three hours; at the time we considered ourselves lucky. Today, the departure procedure took about the same time but made us annoyed and impatient. first step was the harbor master, where a team of at least ten people took part in producing the NOC document and we had to fill forms, sign and stamp them using the new ship stamp I had made in Port Blair for 1.4$ after the old one simply broke down after extensive use.

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NOC is No Objection Clearance and you give it to customs to show them that you paid your anchorage fees. Those came up to the equivalent of 20$ and after the document was ready, we were taken to the office of the chief harbor master, Captain Kumar, who gave his presence to the handing over of the document and bade us farewell. All this took one and a half hour.

You can look at it from two different points of view; one would be astonishment of and irritation by the inefficiency and unnecessary waste of time. The other could be the understanding that this is the way things are being done here and the only way to go through it is by being patient and cooperative.

The second approach was easy to take in the harbor master’s office, where everybody was smiling and chatty. Customs, on the other hand, was less easy to swallow. We entered an office with two people in it; one was playing chess against his computer. The other put aside the paper he was reading, took the documents we prepared and read each of them slowly, moving his lips as he went through them four or five times. A third officer was called in to write our port clearance. He was a stickler for details like the smudge on one digit of the departure date. I had to sign and put the yacht stamp opposite it to validate it. All of this took about an hour. The chess player was the one who signed the document, after which he went back to his chess. One hour for something that should have taken 10-15 minutes.

Lastly we visited immigration who said they will show up at 0615 on the jetty to stamp our passports and send us off. We were finally free!

We went with Vijay to fill three jerry-cans of diesel fuel, then took the yacht to the dock and filled up our water tanks. In the evening we took an Auto-Rickshaw to the internet café for a session which became a huge success when suddenly the snail pace quickened and I was able to publish the blog. Forecast was taken for the next seven days, we had a nice dinner in Gagan restaurant, a simple place with good food and when we hailed a Rickshaw to go back it was the same driver who took us to town two and a half hours before; nice coincidence.

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All in all – a very busy and fruitful day.

4.1.13 – Friday – The immigration people showed up on time and at 0700 we were on our way to Sri Lanka. We chose to sail via the Macpherson strait separating Middle Andaman from Rutland island.

As we left the Andaman behind we waited for the forecasted northeasterly wind but initially got a northwesterly. We had an unpleasant surprise as I opened the fridge to take out some juice; it was not working! I tried checking and manipulating the electrical connections but to no avail; we can use the freezer but this is so frustrating!

Just before Sven came on watch at 2100 the wind went to the NE and we put the sails wing and wing, jib poled out. Sven, who has almost no experience with this configuration, was unlucky to have the wind change direction, causing an unintentional jibe. After the second time he got the hang of it and the rest of his shift passed smoothly.

5.1.13 – Saturday – I came on watch at 0100; sailing nice and fast, touch wood. Position at 0700 showed we passed 128 miles in the first 24 hours.

The wind went up to 20 knots a few times and on some occasions, surfing down medium sized waves, we reached 11 knots on the GPS. As evening came I decided to put the main in first reef for the night, which immediately made the ride easier with much less yawing. When I came on the 2100 watch, Sven showed me a ship he was anxious about. It did pass quite close behind but nothing to worry about.

Close to midnight the wind veered and became lighter; main goes full again. The forecast says we’ll have easterlies tomorrow.

6.1.13 – Sunday – At night the wind became lighter, reducing our speed to 4 knots and less. During the early morning we had some rain; first light showed gray skies. I noticed that we had a counter current and that did not add to morale. By 0700 we only made 123 miles in 24 hours. As the day progressed the sun came out and the wind came back from the east northeast. This had us pointing to starboard of our desired track so at 1530 we changed tack to port and could sail straight to destination.

A short rain squall passed and as night fell we were back with first reef main and full jib, wind between 17 and 22 knots true. At 1900 I calculated that we did only 55 miles in 12 hours. Thoughts of an early Sri Lanka arrival shriveled.

7.1.13 – Monday – Last 24 hours we only covered 111 miles towards destination. We had a few mini-squalls with wind going up to 25 knots and a lumpy sea.

8.1.13 – Tuesday – 135 miles done in the last 24 hours. A Low on the south of Sri Lanka went northeast and intercepted us, making the wind go all the way from the south east to the west. It was too light to use sails and tack, so an engine replaced the jib and we motored straight to our first way-point near Great Basses reef off the SL coast.

A small swallow alighted on deck completely exhausted. Sven went out for a mercy mission, brought the bird into the cockpit, put it in a bucket with food and water, hoping to revive it.

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The thought of motoring 300 miles to Galle is driving me crazy; we are hoping for wind next evening.

9.1.13 – Wednesday – 0700 – Even with the engine running we only made 117 miles in the last 24 hours; we have to resign ourselves for a Friday arrival. At least the sea is calm! At noon the wind veered to the northwest and when it was over 10 knots, we shut the engine down. a hour and a half later we had to reef the main and as the day progressed – the jib and a second reef of the main when the wind gusted to 26 knots.

Just as it seemed that Sven’s swallow is recuperating it suddenly died; poor bird.

Fast sailing went on, aided by a favorable current. At 1900 we calculated we did 79 miles in 12 hours, that’s the right tempo!

At 2120, I was resting before going on the 2200 watch (we moved the watches one hour forward so that the second watch will end close to sunrise) when Sven called. I rushed to the cockpit to find us pointing northwest instead of southwest, wind on the nose and sails flapping. A fishing boat "attacked" us, doing their own thing with no regard to collision regulations and Sven had to take evasive action. The same (in regard of fishermen boat) happened to me too during my watch; what made it doubly difficult was that they carry non-reg lights and you can’t tell which way they are going.

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                            As seen in daylight

The currents here are very strong; we had to take up a heading of 280 to sail course over ground of 243. Back on track we reconfigured the sails for the lighter conditions, full jib but left the main in first reef as a precaution against squalls.

10.1.13 – Thursday – At 0445 we reached Great Basses reef lighthouse near the Sri Lanka shores. From then on we were protected from the seas by the island and with good wind we sailed a around 7 knots. Hey! with this speed we can get to Galle before darkness, but must keep an average of at least 6 knots . One is not permitted to go into the harbor at night, so I decided that using the engine from time to time in order not to spend another night at sea with all those fishing boats around was a good investment.

We ended up having to use both engines, calculating continuously speed and distance against the all important sunset time of 1836 L.T. As we passed Dendra Head, on the southern tip of the island, a huge cloud burst, letting out torrents of rain that obliterated visibility almost completely. Two fishing boats came out of the murk only a few tens meters away, demonstrating the folly of rushing blindly ahead; our ETA was in jeopardy.

Luckily tropical showers last about 45 minutes, after which we continued towards Galle at full speed, reaching the bay and dropping anchor at 1800. A magnificent sunset red signaled the end of our 840 miles trip, the crossing of the Bay of Bengal.

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                                                                           pic by Sven

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