Our first stop we request is an ATM for local currency, but somehow we end up at Douglas´, a well-known jeweller here - lucky me with a 40th wedding anniversary coming up. Phil and Robbie are already here. The drivers are obviously given a commission here. Sri Lanka exports gem stones, and is particularly famous for their sapphires and moonstones.

On the way to dinner we drop our frozen and cryovac packed food to be stored in fridges and freezers at Mike´s Yacht Service Centre because we leave at 7.30am the following morning for a 4 night, 5 day tour of Sri Lanka. This is a wonderful service as we have no shore power to run our fridges. We also call by Padmini´s house with a stronger twine to mend the sail. We so enjoy visiting the locals homes and talking with the people.

We arrive very late to dinner back at the Dossinburg hotel organized by a few other yachties tied up at the same jetty. It is always interesting and fun to exchange ideas and stories. One couple, the now husband, asked his now wife to sail with him for 1 month. They are still sailing 10 years later, and this is their 2nd circumnavigation. On a more serious note we get the latest up-date on fuel availability in different countries, e.g. fuel is now available in the Maldives. This makes a big difference to how far we can plan to travel for our next leg, and therefore making more fuel available for the long leg to Oman.

It is also an opportunity to find other yachts which may be planning to travel up to the Red Sea at the same time as us. Doing that part of the trip with 2 or 3 other boats is advised for safety in numbers.

We are also warned about the mine blasts that will go off during the night in the harbour near our boats to deter the Tamil divers entering the harbour with bombs - and they do!


We discovered a proud gentle people
Who have been dealt an unlucky hand
For the Tamil war and tsunami
May be too much for them to withstand

The army walks around with machine guns
There are check points along the road
Depth charges go off in Galle harbour
But the Tamils are hardly slowed

The elephants come to the river to drink
And to roll in the mud on the edge
We feed them bananas and bottles of milk
They strip the palm fronds like a wedge

At Kandy we stayed at the Suisse Hotel
The school children walk by the lake
We eat at the Ram but drink beer next door
The market sells branded and fake

If you want to propose a marriage
Place an ad in the Kandy press
You will have to disclose your prospects and caste
And otherwise try to impress

The plantations colour the highlands green
As far as the eye can see
Generations of Tamil women
Have brought us our Ceylonese tea

They claim it´s the eighth man made wonder
To have tamed this gigantic rock
A thousand plus steps must be climbed to arrive
At Siguriya perched on the block

The buses and vans and trishaws
Use up every square inch of the road
Good drivers need judgment and nerves of steel
As our guide Mahinda showed

If you want to propose a marriage
Place an add in the Kandy press
You will have to disclose your prospects and caste
And otherwise try to impress.

The plantations colour the highlands green
As far as the eye can see
Generations of Tamil women
Have brought us our Ceylon tea

They claim it's the eighth man wonder
To have tamed this gigantic block
A thousand plus steps must be climbed to arrive
At Sigiriya perched on the rock

The buses and vans and trishaws
Use up every square inch of the road
Good drivers need judgement and nerves of steel
As our guide Mainda showed

The fruit vendors wait on the edge of the road
The shop fronts extend for miles
The cashew nut ladies will wave you down
With their colourful saris and smiles

There is cricket on verdant Test ovals
There's a game in the dry dusty park
There's a pick up game on the edge of the road
(Murali has passed Shane Warne's mark)

March 2008



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.




We drive up the east coast to Columbo with lovely views of the many beaches and coastal towns. We see evidence of the tragedy of the tsunami here. 40,000 people died and 10,000 are missing. We see a train which was struck by it and can´t believe the damage it caused.

We visit a moonstone mine. They also grow cinnamon and cashews here.
Local tractor

At Columbo we change drivers. Mahindi has excellent English and stays with us for the rest of the trip.

We then have a wonderful visit to the elephant orphanage - Pinnawala. This is a marvellous institution where young elephants are brought in to be cared for. Their mothers may have been shot, e.g. by farmers protecting their crops. We watch the elephants for several hours and feed some of them bananas as they bathe, swim and drink water in the river.

The eldest one is 65 years old and is blind. There are several babies, the youngest of which is 1 month old, and so much fun to observe. Then we walk over to their feeding pavilion. They are given coconut palm fronds and the younger ones are given several bottles of milk. It is all a wonderful experience, especially giving an elephant a bottle of milk.


We visit this famous temple of the tooth relic of Buddha. This temple was bombed by the Tamils in 1996, but is now restored. We are frisked twice before we can enter. It holds manuscripts which are 2,000 years old and are still in good condition.

Our dinner tonight is a really local experience and lots of fun. It is an Indian restaurant, the Ram, near the centre of Kandy. There is no alcohol served here so we order and then go a few doors up to a quaint pub, the Victoria, for a beer. They call us when our meal is ready and it is absolutely delicious.



We motor until 1300 hours the following day, and there is quite a swell. 17 kts of wind comes up forward of the beam, so we can sail with the headsail and mainsail up averaging 7 kts. This lovely sail lasts for 6 hours until the wind drops out and the current is against us. Later during night watch the wind comes up on the beam averaging 9 to 12 kts, we have the current with us and have the foresail up, motoring with minimum revs, averaging 7 kts boat speed. The swell has subsided and it is wonderful to watch the fine red-tinged moon drop below the horizon in the early hours of the morning. The rest of the crossing is uneventful with calm weather and so no complaints.

One of the nights I struggle to keep awake with night watch. The weather was very hot and humid in Galle, and so tiring. If there is something to do it is easier so I keep myself busy writing up crew lists for customs. We need 9 of them in the Maldives. Also an engrossing book helps, eg. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie Farrell, and Nine Summers by Rina Huber - It’s about a couple sailing in the Mediterranean. It is also lovely to be out in the cockpit in the fresh air and just take in the beautiful night. I always enjoy the feeling of peace and space out there.

The Maldives is a very welcome stop in our journey across the Indian Ocean. We still have over 1200 nautical miles to go. We drop anchor at Uligan at 9am. This is the northern-most atoll of about 1300 small coral islands. We can see the concerns of strong tidal surges here seeing that all the islands are low-lying, none rising more than 1.8 m. above sea level.
We call the coast guard but because of a holiday they can’t come out to check the yacht in until 3pm. Apparently, we are unable to go ashore until we are cleared. This maybe an excellent idea as we can catch up on some well needed sleep.

The 4 young men who come out to the boat are immaculately dressed in their white or khaki uniforms. It is so relaxed here too, with no guns or machine guns! We are relieved to hear we can buy fuel here, as we heard differing reports about this.

Their rules are relaxing. The dress code to go ashore was strict (as written in the pilot book) but now they just request you don’t wear a bikini. The locals still wear Muslim dress. You can now go ashore after dark, not that there is anything to do there, and you are requested not to take alcohol ashore.

For yachties there are 2 dinner options ashore. (It is rather delightful there are no cafes or restaurants). One is on the beach and each yacht can bring in their favourite dish from their country to share or, secondly, the locals will put on a dinner for a minimal cost. There are several other yachts anchored here and we all book for the second option on our second night.

When we arrive the crystal clear waters are as we imagined, and just the most beautiful shades of blue. The following day is, unfortunately, overcast with a slightly choppy sea. We are booked to receive fuel at 9am. They eventually come to our boat at 3pm after starting late at the boats anchored further away. So we have a quiet day dealing with boat issues while we wait. We are disappointed to hear the dinner is cancelled due to the weather. We probably have to leave tomorrow so will miss it. The weather forecast is for a tropical depression coming through in 3 days, so if we leave tomorrow we can stay ahead of it. We have also been so looking forward to snorkeling here. We hoped to go out with some local lads but the weather isn’t suitable.

We go ashore several times. The population here is only 435 and everyone is very friendly. The teenage girls are stunningly attractive and have lovely, smart clothes still in keeping with the Muslim restraints.

We have several lovely walks along the pristine beaches and through the centre of the island, which has luxuriant growth of coconut palms.

There are hundreds of crabs everywhere of different shapes and sizes with their multi-coloured shell protection on their backs.

The village is spotlessly clean. Stone built fences surround their neat homes which are built on sandbanks. The sand surrounding the homes and throughout the village is pristine white.

The tranquillity and ambience is about to change here. This week they begin to build a new marina, resort and airstrip.

Delivering fuel

Some people are interested in our work at home. It has been rewarding to be able to help a few people with some basic physio.

Apparently, Sri Lanka is one of the poorest countries in the world. Its economy is improving, especially with the increase in tourism.

The Maldives were first settled by Buddhists in the 5th Century BC. This dominance was followed by the Portuguese, later the Dutch and then the English, which is the pattern seen in Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, East Indies and Malaysia. It must all be linked to the spice trade.



We head off north of west 302 degrees in a direct line to Oman. All goes well until 8p.m. the second evening when we have been sailing and need to turn the motor on again. It doesn’t respond. What an anxious time when we are fluffing around in the Indian Ocean with no power and no wind to speak of. We often have to fiddle with the throttle in the saloon and in the cockpit so they are correctly aligned, but it has always started. We have had this looked into many times and there has never been another solution.

Phil happened to call us soon afterwards and talked Ross through some incredible manoeuvres. Ross is amazing how he can concentrate and just keep working at something. He is in the very hot engine room and can’t see the parts involved because of fridge parts, but he can feel them. He has to peel back the protective tape of 2 wires and link them with a small screwdriver to get contact - all by feel. By this stage I am thinking a tow by a large container ship seems like a good idea!

Phil is still very patiently and assuredly conveying instructions over the radio. Some one and a half hours later Ross says he is ready to try it. What a marvellous sound when I turned the key on and the engine started first time. I so admire my skipper, as this was quite a challenge for him. And we are so grateful to Phil for being able to tell us so clearly and explicitly how to manage it all. We are especially grateful as it is Phil and Robbie’s 30th wedding anniversary and they have had their dinner interrupted.

We are nearly 8n. miles behind them now. We will try to make up some ground during the night. We have been sailing with another yacht from the Maldives and we are not sure how far behind it we are, but probably about 2 hours by the time we get under way.

Our night watches are out of routine now but we are so pleased to be under way again that is the least of our problems. We can always sleep during the day to catch up. We are not turning the engine off until we reach Oman, but the winds are favourable and with low revs we motor sail with both sails up all night and catch up some ground with Free Spirit.

This whole episode reminds us of when crossing the Great Australian Bight the alternator belt stretched and we had no power for the 8 days crossing. That couldn’t be fixed without mechanical help.

I think I have a touch of homesickness today. This is because when Scott said he was bringing Augusta home for Easter we assumed we could be there. However, we hadn’t realized at the time Easter is so early this year, and we can’t be there. Easter has been such a family time for us all. However, we are pleased to know they are safely there and will have a great time with Heather and Steve and their families. It will be wonderful for Augusta to have the time with her cousins. We are planning to meet Scott and Augusta in Dubai on their way home, so are really looking forward to that.

What a lovely time of the evening to be sitting in the cockpit at dusk having dinner, with both sails up, averaging 7 kts with a steady wind of 15-17 kts (we won’t turn the motor off until we are tied up at Salalah, Oman).

We are having dinner early so we can watch a movie together before beginning our night watches. Last night we watched "Miss Potter" which is delightful. It is when we turn on tonight’s DVD we realize the inverter isn’t working (the one we had replaced in Phuket). During the night Ross realizes the water-making machine isn’t working, and we are working our back up auto-pilot system. This is all very frustrating, and gives Ross more challenges for tomorrow. All these functions have to be organized before we leave Salalah.

So we listen to some music instead. It is a lovely clear, calm night with a nearly full moon shining down on the yacht and across the ocean. This is almost a meditative atmosphere.

The only excitement during the night, which we didn’t need, is during my watch at about 3am. We hadn’t seen another ship out here for over 24 hours. I notice a large container ship 12n. miles ahead on the radar coming in our direction and directly by our rhumb line on our port side. It is moving very quickly and is very large because it isn’t long before I see its lights on the horizon. To be safe I change our course 13 degrees to starboard (bearing in mind the sails are still up), so it is difficult to change to port (i.e. downwind). I think this will give a clear indication of our intentions. And still it seems to be coming directly towards us. When it is frighteningly close I call Ross. We forget about the sails and veer off sharply to port. Simultaneously the other vessel turns sharply to its port also. How bizarre to have two boats out here with all this space, on a collision course. Even out here we can’t be slack with our watches, as easy and relaxing as it may seem.

This morning, our 5th day out, Ross tries to fix the inverter with help from Phil over the radio. The invertor system is set up so it cannot produce 240v from the generator without the invertor working. So when the invertor fails it has to be by-passed. This is a very difficult task, seeing the way Ross has to contort his body to do this. Fortunately, Ross had asked what to do if this system broke down again. Then talking with Phil it is apparent that the water-maker system has to be included in this by-pass. This is another tricky job in this same small space. They also ascertain that the unit is broken and will have to be replaced (the 4th one so we think it is best to request a different make).

At 1300 hours we cross the halfway point. This is our longest crossing so far. I guess we have known how long it will take, and so can prepare psychologically for this time, e.g. reading, (Ross is reading Samuel Pepys and I The Oyster Catchers - both are book group books), writing, drawing, tasks on the boat and cooking. It is interesting to tune into the "sked" at 5.30 p.m. and hear the other yachts positions and any experiences they have had. Peter sailing single handedly in a small 24 ft. yacht (how brave is that!) cannot carry enough fuel to reach Salalah so Phi has offered to rendezvous with him tomorrow and give him 60l. The yacht Tania had a worrying time yesterday with a fishing boat staying beside them for a while. Nothing came of it so they were probably just inquisitive. These other yachts had to wait 3 days before they had a suitable forecast to leave the Maldives. Also we heard the third yacht we were sailing with is not far behind us now.

We also do our exercises each day, and have a sleep to prepare for our night watches. Waking up for these watches reminds me of when the family were babies and woke for their night feeds. Sometimes it is difficult to wake up.

I still enjoy lying in our bed near the bow of the boat, and listening to the water lapping on the hull. Of course, in stronger conditions it is great to feel Impulsive surging through the water.

This morning (Friday) we make a telephone connection at 6a.m. our time with Mark in Sydney to do a sea trial calibration exercise on the auto-pilot. We had to both been up before this to organize the sails and be ready. (This is our usual changeover time for the next watch so I am particularly sleepy.)

The trial involved doing 360 degree turns and other manoeuvres in the middle of the Indian Ocean, which does seem an unusual thing to be doing. Unfortunately, this doesn’t throw any light on the auto-helm failure. Our next communication for this is not until next Tuesday a.m. because of the Easter break.

We sail for 3 days and nights with the same sail setting which is just wonderful. This sailing culminates with 20kts apparent wind yesterday afternoon with lots of spray over the deck. This is very welcome as the weather forecast is for very light winds today. The wind then drops off gradually through the night down to 6kts, as is forecast. This will be ideal if it holds as it gives us a cool breeze coming over the bow. We are having a leather cleaning session of the saloon furniture this morning so every breeze is appreciated.

The following day the wind averages between 14 and 19 kts on the nose, and the seas are choppy as, motoring, the yacht heads into them. This causes a slight build up of elevation of the boat over a series of waves, until it finally slaps down hard on the next wave. This is quite deceptive if you are up in the bow as it can sound and feel quite violent.

Later, during the evening, the sea settles to be calm and smooth. The silence of the ocean is very tranquil, and makes for a very relaxing time as there is not enough wind to sail and so takes out the element of concern for having the sails set optimally.

The weather continues in this vein. During the early hours of the following morning we cross the shipping path of some large container ships. We are only 47n. miles from Oman.

This has been a great crossing. We didn’t experience as many of the n.east monsoon winds as expected (which are favourable for this crossing) but we are fortunate the conditions were so benign.

Now we look forward to being securely moored in Salalah, and are very excited to be seeing Scott and Augusta in Dubai in 3 days time.




This is one we enjoy for a light lunch on a very hot day.

1 cantaloupe, chilled and cut in half and squeeze with some lime juice.

Mix in a bowl: Medium size can of Sirena Tuna (from Australia-we still have some stowed on board)
Large bunch of grapes
Finely diced cucumber

Mix with a light vinaigrette dressing (a light mayonnaise is optional) and spoon into the cantelope.


2 salmon fillets marinated in lime juice.
Poach gently and garnish with coriander.

Serve with this local eggplant dish:
1 medium size eggplant (these are finer and lighter than what we are used to)
2 cloves of garlic crushed.
Half a Spanish onion finely diced.

Tamarind sauce freshly made local style:
Cook the garlic and onions, add the eggplant and simmer until just tender
Spoon through 3 tblspns tamarind sauce - taste and adjust if necessary

Serve with new potatoes and green salad eg lettuce. local spinach (which has quite a poignant flavour) and finely chopped wing beans (these add interest to any salad as they are tasty, crisp and an attractive star shape if cut across the bean), avocado, cucumber and fetta cheese.



The ocean resumes its huge expanse
It´s benign and suggests no duel
We motor along beneath cloudy skies
We hope we can purchase more fuel

But it´s good to be back on the water
It´s cooler and feels safe as well
And there´s plenty of interest with ships to dodge
As we roll side to side on the swell

On our second day out the wind appears
And moves from west to north
We sail along at over eight knots
No need for an engine henceforth?

But that of course was a naive hope
When the wind drops out at night
We´re motoring under a headsail
And hope the fuel´s all right

The next day it´s even calmer
The sea is a ripple of glass
Which reflects the silver flying fish
As they do their skip-fly pass

Young dolphins come over to wish us good night
And exude their sense of vigour
They´re absurdly energetic
Will they still be when they´re bigger?

We reach the Maldives at 9 am
We must wait til 2 for clearance
Five men arrive with umpteen forms
And Susie must watch her appearance

Ulingan is small and is fringed by reef
There´s a white sandy beach all around
For only four hundred inhabitants
More remoteness could hardly be found

But they´re planning to build a hotel here
Construction´s already begun
The island will change,dramatically
What price for tourism fun?

We´re off on the long stretch to Oman
It´ll take us about nine days
Twelve hundred and fifty miles to go
A routine and patience pays

With a thousand nautical miles to go
We can´t get the engine to kick
Phil radios jump start instructions
To Impulsive´s fledgling mechanic
(Who is showing modest signs of improvement)

Now the wind has settled down into a slot
Please let it stay there for ever
And the grib files show that we seem to be clear
Of some potentially nasty weather

It stayed for a day ,but of course not for ever
It moved round towards north west
Not right on the nose but not far off
And not conducive to rest

It´s our fourth day out and we´re feeling tired
But we´re almost half way there
We´re coaxing it back towards north again
So Impulsive can show some more flair

It did come back to the north that night
And under a three quarter moon
We sailed back up to the rhumb line
We don´t want to end this too soon

But we have some equipment problems
First the auto pilot fails
The inverter and water-maker then stop
Why not stick to old-fashioned sails?

The sails do the job,for the wind stays up
And we barrel along north north west
Phil´s trying to get some fuel to Cool Change
The rendezvous could be a test

This morning the sea is so dapple-calm
That the massive setting moon
Reflects like a bolt of lightning
Must we get to Salalah so soon?

Now we´re the only boat on the ocean
In the centre of a huge blue disc
There´s a cool breeze wafting down from the bow
It´s serene and there´s no sense of risk

So with just a bit under two days to go
We´re happy and feeling up-beat
Perhaps it relates to our viewing last night
Of the charming film Happy Feet

We reach Salalah on our ninth day out
With a sense of relief and pleasure
There´s a list of jobs(and sleep)to do
Then Dubai for five days of leisure.

MARCH 2008