LEAVING PHUKET FOR SRI LANKA
WEDNESDAY, 29th. FEBRUARY 2008
It is very exciting to be setting out on the next leg of our trip after a 4 month break. We are thrilled to have “Impulsive” ship-shape, especially with the long voyages ahead.
After being on the boat again many times, and sleeping on her the previous few nights, we feel comfortable about heading off on our 1,100 nautical mile trip (minimum 6½ days) due west. It is a lovely surprise to have winds of 8-10 knots from the east, and varying, as the forecast is for no wind at all. We have sails up, especially as fuel is a huge issue so we want to motor conservatively, and any help from the sails is beneficial.
It is a beautiful hot, sunny day and the waters are blue and sparkling. This afternoon we are given a wonderful display by about 150 spinning dolphins. They all swim towards the yacht, some of them swimming at the bow and some making triple twists at the stern.
This evening we tracked some electrical storms on the radar, which produced a very heavy shower of rain accompanied by sheet and fork lightening that lit up the whole sky.
This morning there is just enough wind to be under sail with the flying reaching spinnaker and foresail. We have an excellent sail like this at good speed, but as the wind drops off we slow right down. Normally we would motor in these conditions but we want to make the most of the wind. Robbie and Phil are soon 8 nautical miles ahead but we catch up during the night while motoring to sail in tandem again. It is very comforting to be sailing like this through these areas.
Our favourite way of sailing
The nights have been wonderful - the skies filled with stars and the waning Moon bathing the seas and the boat with its light.
Our days are filled with odd jobs to keep the yacht ship-shape, e.g. sail repairs (see photo) and cleaning waste water pipes. Apart from running the boat, e.g. navigation, setting sails and regular watch, we enjoy some time to relax reading, listening to music and sometimes drawing. Ross and I try to do our exercises daily, even though we feel we get regular isometric exercise constantly on the boat, e.g. keeping our balance. It goes without saying that our meals are always a highlight, even though we never drink alcohol when overnight sailing. We will certainly feel in good health after all these long voyages ahead!
We spend time on the computer to send emails and check the weather via HF radio. It is also a good opportunity to get our photos up-to-date.
During a long voyage such as this we try to rest during the day so we can manage night watch. One of us is always on watch throughout the night. Fortunately, our body clocks work differently and Ross prefers to sleep first, whereas I am happy to stay up later.
The wind has dropped out completely now and, although we would prefer to sail, it is very relaxing cruising over smooth seas. Just occasionally it has been oppressively hot for short periods but, generally, we catch a cool breeze. The evenings and nights are magical with glass-like calm waters, magnificent sunsets (even dolphins at sunset yesterday, some phosphorescence in the wash of the boat, and reflections from the Moon. There are reflections from the stars on the water tonight as it is such a magnificent night. There is something very special about doing night watch, experiencing the peace and tranquillity of it all, and realizing the enormity of nature.
This meditative feeling is only broken when other ships come into view or show up on the radar. We have not had too many crossing the Indian Ocean.
Our only boat issues during this passage are the batons "popping" out of their new insets in the mainsail because the stitching has pulled away and the freshwater pump is not operating. We have taped the baton sockets and hope to have them stitched in Sri Lanka.
Ross has a "swim" in the Indian Ocean to see if there is plastic caught in the seawater inlet valve. There is no problem with this, but he removes a fishing line and medium size float caught on the transducer for the forward looking depth sounder on the keel. The pump will need replacing which may not be easy in this part of the world.
On our final night we encounter a heavy rainstorm which is quite refreshing. Also, the wind comes up to 12-13 knots just west of north so we can reduce our motoring speed and use the headsail to average 7-8 knots.
Later during the same night watch I have a tricky manoeuvre with an oncoming vessel. It is more difficult to change direction with the sail up, but whichever way I change course the other boat seems to stay on our rhumb line, i.e. a collision course.
Eventually, we sort it out and pass each other quite close by. It is the first of many smaller fishing vessels. Ross experiences about 30 of these, all with bright lights, and having difficulty working out which way they are travelling. As with the one I experience, they change direction frequently and readily.
We have also spent a great deal of time sorting out our travel arrangements on land. Having realized we are not able to get to Aden on time (from the Maldives) we have decided to go to Salalah (Oman). There were thoughts of going to Mukallah instead, but this option doesn’t seem safe (I kept remembering reading "Not Without My Daughter" when we were talking about a 200 mile drive from Mukallah to Aden). Making arrangements from here is also very difficult. We are trying to get to Dubai to meet Scott and Augusta on their way home from spending Easter in Australia. It does seem sad that in these areas we really have to consider where it is safe to travel. Going to Salalah proves to be a much better option as we would have serious fuel issues if we had to motor non-stop to Aden from the Maldives.
Tonight we anchor just outside Port de Galle. We are not permitted to go inside at night time. We have an 8.30 a.m. appointment with the port authorities tomorrow, and once they have come aboard to inspect the boat and have given their permission to go ashore, we look forward to exploring Sri Lanka.
Apparently, mines are let off during the night in the harbour here to try to deter Tamil Tiger divers who might be trying to enter the harbour to explode bombs. All very welcoming, but we have it on good authority that what we are doing and where we plan to travel is all safe.