We are very excited to sight land as we motor at our top constant speed (22,000 revs) along the south coast of Sri Lanka with all its beautiful beaches hoping to reach Galle in daylight. We arrive outside Galle harbour just on dusk.
There is just enough light to see the small dark naval boat pull up alongside Free Spirit. We can see the outline of 3 crew and 2 large machine guns. Apparently, Phil has to talk them into allowing us to anchor just outside the harbour for the night rather than just motoring about further out to sea dodging fishing boats until morning. After such a long trip this would be exhausting and very taxing. It is part of the heavy security here because of the problems with the Tamils that no boats can enter the harbour after 5p.m.
The setting here is lovely by a small beach and with a large very imposing well-lit white Buddhist temple above.
We have a very welcome hot shower on Free Spirit and a celebratory drink with Phil and Robbie on reaching this destination successfully. Robbie and Phil had a couple of issues which could have been disastrous (smoke in the engine room caused by a malfunctioning O-ring, letting diesel escape, and then flooding in the engine room caused by cleaning material blocking a valve put there by an over enthusiastic cleaner in Phuket). Thank goodness (again!) for Phil’s mechanical prowess.
We have an appointment at 8.30a.m. with customs. Three armed men come aboard the boat to check our papers etc. and one searches the boat. They found arms hidden on a vessel last week. These men stay on board with us as we enter the harbour and then are picked up to go on their boat with the 2 machine guns. After some manoeuvring we are finally tied up safely in this naval port with high security. We have to check in and out every time we exit and enter here.
Sadly, a local fisherman was shot by German sailors last week, who claimed the fisherman was trying to board their boat. The court believed the evidence and he was cleared of the shooting but given a hefty fine in relation to using the arms.
We so enjoy stepping ashore and walking up the hill to a grand old colonial-style hotel, the Dossinburg, for lunch, looking over the port. The waiters are still very formal here wearing their white shirts and black bow ties, which looks very striking against their dark skin.
After this very relaxing lunch, back on Impulsive, Ross discovers it is snapped off wires from corrosion that has caused the malfunctioning water pump. With Phil’s electrical expertise they get it working again which is wonderful- we now have water again, and it probably has saved us many hassles trying to repair or replace it here.
We agree to meet with the sail-maker, Padmini, at 4 p.m. She is able to repair the sail, and can also supply us with flags for all the countries we plan to visit (it is courtesy to fly the host country’s flag while you are there.) These are made for only $2.50 each, and it took me hours to make and paint the flags we have already used. Padmini is a lovely women, and so elegant in her sari. We chat for a long time, especially about the effects of the tsunami on her family, and the poor economy.
We spend the early evening in an auto rickshaw (tuk tuk), being taken to different places we would find difficult to find. Being driven in one of these is great fun, seeing local scenes and dodging in and out of traffic (and occasionally cows). These small vehicles manoeuvre well but to drive in this traffic is definitely a skill.