Thursday, June 20, 2013

Maldives to Malaysia (May - June 2013)

Maldives to Malaysia (May - June, 2013)

Our route across the Bay of Bengal

  The "spirit of blogging" is waning in that this is becoming more "book-like" all the time. When the book is finally published it will be entitled: "How I Singlehanded Around the World the Wrong Way - with Deborah". Not really mean, she freely agrees. In the meantime, another post for those who follow us.

Remember that to enlarge the pictures click onto the thumbnails and to return to the post, click  "back".

We spent close to three months in the Maldives and our account of that is in a previous blog "India to the Maldives". Overall, our time there was again different from any other of our sailing experiences apart from perhaps the Bahamas, the similarities being flat islands which were less interesting than the coral reefs and clear waters, as well as having limited food supplies and fresh water and the differences being largely cultural ones. Life is so interesting when you let it be. 

Satellite picture of precipitation in the Bay of Bengal
 This passage to Malaysia is a traditional sailing route that many cruisers follow, 1600 nautical miles traveling almost due east from Male (Maldives) passing south of Sri Lanka, across the Bay of Bengal to the top of the Indonesian Archipelago and across the Straits of Malacca to Thailand, or in our case, the island of Langkawi, Malaysia, close to the Thai border. The winds that would allow us to sail were those of the Southwest Monsoon, stronger and wetter (than the North East Monsoon) noted for their frequent squally conditions. The month of April was a "transition" month, meaning the seasons were beginning to change and by mid-to-late May the eastbound passage could be attempted without having to motor excessively. The Bay of Bengal is notorious for tropical storms at this time of year, which, although having paths tending to move northward, still spawn and develop along that route. Weather watching and obtaining good forecasts are a must. 

The planning and preparations from the India to Maldives passage we had made a few months previously were still fresh in our minds and the notes we had made then were to be a time saver. Provisioning, taking on adequate water rations, making RO (reverse osmosis) water daily with the water maker to keep the tanks full, planning meals and buying the food, ensuring the boat's systems were all up to standard, safety and emergency equipment and procedures, were all in place. 

The limitations of our sheltered anchorage, positioned behind the Male International Airport runway on the island of Hulhumale were quite apparent as we began final preparations. To get ashore we had to dinghy to what is known locally as the "Tsunami Jetty", a semi-sheltering, badly rusting steel wall which, being the busy place it was, had us beach the dinghy on a plastic-bottle strewn sandy patch - most often with an onshore wind which created body-soaking waves coming and going in spite of our cringing. 

Diesel had to be jerry-jugged from the nearby petrol station via dinghy, Chinook's tanks topped and eight jugs with a total of 200 litres lashed to the deck for the anticipated motoring approaching the Thai/Malaysia peninsula. We hauled 5-litre bottles of drinking water to supplement the RO water, loaded the dinghy many, many times with fresh fruit and vegetables which cluttered the fridge and hung in the hammocks crowding the saloon - bunches of green bananas that were to last us 14 days, oranges, green and ripening melons, papayas and mangos, coconuts, tomatoes adorned the downstairs. 

The other limitation was that the (only) protected anchorage was on Hulhumale, so it was a ferry ride to Male where the large grocery stores and the fresh markets were. A 10-minute dink ride, a 20 minute walk to the ferry terminal, a 25 minute ferry ride, taxi rides; the day took planning amid the increasingly frequent rain and wind squalls.
 Photo: Another sunrise...

 Watching and waiting for a reasonable weather window in which to depart became the game. We planned to leave around the middle of May, actually departing on the 19th between successions of squally weather and the tail-end of a tropical storm in the north Bay of Bengal. Our friends Terry and Fiona on Roam2 in Malaysia had offered to text (sms) us daily weather forecasts via satellite phone. At least that would tell us what to expect en route although re-routing would only be done if a tropical storm was to develop along our path. The moon phase was to be good for us; a full moon on the 25th May meant about ten nights of comforting moonlight during night watches, as long as the clouds did not obscure it. 

The other two yachts that had sailed from India about the same time we did, Esper and Divanty, had set sail south to Chagos and then to Madagascar and Seychelles respectively. Encountering bad weather in the Maldives which forced them back to Male they both decided to sail to Malaysia instead but they needed a little more time to prepare and were to depart after us. We agreed to communicate by satellite phone with daily position reports, weather updates, safety issues and encouragement. Divanty, a much larger and faster yacht was to pass us after 17 days and Esper arrived in Langkawi a few days after us. 

Chinook's anchor, with a light weedy growth along 20 metres of its chain, was lifted at 0930 on the 19th May and she motored out of Hulhumale, setting sail in 15 knots of wind an hour later in the flat seas of the lee of the island. The day was clearing after a night of rain showers and it was a pleasant day's sail.  The seas became lumpy that night and the first squall of many to come mowed us down at 4 a.m. Gray skies and light showers persisted all day and we found ourselves motoring ten miles off track to avoid a large area of thunderstorms. So much for the reasonable weather forecasts we had waited for. 

The following day a severe thunderstorm caught up to us from behind and for several hours lightning and deafening thunderclaps played around us. Some of the more important electronics were put into the oven, a makeshift Faraday Cage that is supposed to protect from electrical surges. This was the first time we had been in such a situation and it was not enjoyable. However, the next nine days were to be mostly sailing, the engine only being used to replenish the house batteries that were feeding the voracious self-steering, augmenting the wind generator and the solar panels. We were averaging the 80 - 90 miles a day we had counted on. 

Crevice corrosion in the turnbuckle
A turnbuckle (bottlescrew) which had some crevice corrosion had been repaired in India but even after thoroughly inspecting all the others we missed another corroded one on the inner lower shroud that let go with an explosive sound on the 5th night. The broken end was replaced with the only spare part we had, but two days later the other end went. A $5 cast iron hardware store special was used as that replacement. 

Our poopy little "traveler" 
A seabird decided it needed change from sleeping in the waves and roosted under the dinghy lashed on deck. Cute, except it pooped its white fishy shit everywhere. Flying fish often made the mistake of winging onto the deck for their last landing. Three pods of dolphins were seen on this passage - always treating us to their swimming antics. And the fishermen we are not, meant no fish were caught.

The lumpy seas stirred up years of settled sediment in the main water tanks making it unfit for washing dishes, clothes and bodies. Our drinking water is in a separate smaller tank which is able to be cleaned easily, and so the RO water was put into that now "multipurpose" tank. 

Squalls passed over us several times a day making for exciting downwind helming. The winds were generally 25 knots during them but occasionally gale-like 35 knots whipped up the seas and had us surfing down the waves. Our original sail plan was to sail with two reefs in the mainsail, leave the storm staysail hanked on permanently for the squalls and use the genoa for helm balance . After the first violent squall the main came down and the genoa was played for light winds and furled for the the heavy winds. The small but strong storm staysail alone was sufficient in the squalls. 

Deborah repairing the genoa sail
Then the genoa developed a small tear in the lower panel which we watched anxiously but could not do much about, as to take it off for repairs was impossible in any wind. During the twelfth night the tear became a major rip along the whole seam and as luck would have it for us, the winds died the next morning, we motored, took the sail off, stuffed it down the forward hatch and Deborah mended and reinforced it using the new sewing machine we purchased in India. It was back up again within hours and we were sailing again with the light breeze that was developing. 

Several Sri Lankan fishing boats were seen - two were very curious and came alongside to just watch us for a while. Piracy was never an issue this far east, but other cruisers had reported aggressive fishermen demanding liquor and cigarettes. No cargo freighters were sighted until the 14th day nearing the Indonesian archipelago - there we saw two. 

That night (of the 14th) we encountered a storm with rain and strong winds whipping up the seas into large waves. The autopilot could not handle the motion and we took turns of 15 - 30 minutes about hand steering, trying to nap in our "off time", By morning we were quite exhausted. To make matters worse, the genoa had ripped again, this time in different places. The adverse current against the wind made the seas even larger, causing Chinook to roll most uncomfortably gunwale to gunwale and our speed to slow to 2.5 - 3 knots. Then the GPS hooked into the AIS radio stopped receiving, meaning we could not "see" shipping on the AIS screen. Of course there was no comforting moon; it was truly, a dark and gloomy night! Rogue waves, not obligingly following the wave pattern would frequently slap Chinook off course but one nasty one leaped over the stern almost filling the cockpit and drenching both of us. 

Pelau Weh
At that time we were nearing the island of Pelau Weh north of Sumatra we decided to stop for a night to repair the sail, look at the GPS and recover from our lack of sleep. Guided by a friendly local, Anwar, to a mooring buoy off the village we immediately took down the sail and began the repairs. Within an hour the Habourmaster's official and a Coast Guard representative arrived to do the "formalities". We did not want to formally check in to Indonesia with the time and costs involved so were granted 48 hours to complete the repairs - after writing a "declaration" that there was indeed an emergency. "Cigarette money" was given in the form of American dollars for the "granting". 

We slept like logs that night and decided to stay the next day and night to fully recover, change engine filters and the water pump impeller (which was damaged), dive on the hull to clean thriving marine growth off the sides and rudder, decant 10 litres of diesel fuel from jerry-jugs into the main tanks and generally check Chinook over after two weeks of non-stop sailing. 

Calm means motoring.
36 hours later we were under way for the last three days of the trip, somewhat refreshed with the mended genoa we were largely depending on. The wind was light but we could sail in lumpy seas. By the end of the day the wind had disappeared and the engine was started - and remained on for the next 60 hours. The bonus was that the seas had flattened considerably. 

One of the dozens of container ships
Life is a highway! The ship dodging games began. The Straits of Malacca is an extremely busy shipping route with freighters from Singapore heading to and returning from India, the Red Sea and African destinations. At any given hour we had five new ships appearing on the AIS screen - that is 120 per 24 hours within the 15-mile radius of the screen. Many of them were on courses that would have us pass as close as 200 metres so we had to alter course. Several fishermen came to look at us, one boat asked for beer but got water. Unfortunately they had no fish to sell us. 

Approaching Langkawi - 3 hours to arrival
The green mountainous coastline of Malaysia and Thailand appeared in the early morning sun of the 20th day of the passage, June 7th. With a helping tidal current and a light wind we motor-sailed into Langkawi and entered the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club at 12:30, berthing at slack tide with assistance from Terry and Fiona (from Roam2). They had cold champagne waiting in their fridge and with Divanty, who had arrived the previous day but anchored overnight in the bay, we duly celebrated the passage. 

Checking in procedures were very easy to do (with no costs involved) the following day. The RLYC is a great location and a destination for many cruising sailboats. It has a bar, restaurant, pool, chandlery, dive shop, and is close to a mall with a large supermarket. The island of Langkawi is "duty free" and has many beautiful scenic attractions - quite touristy. Ferries to Thailand, Indonesia and other Malaysian ports arrive and leave frequently from the nearby Jeti Terminal. Here, we are meeting many other cruisers and swapping stories.

We stayed in the RLYC for about ten days before taking Chinook to nearby Rebak Island Resort and Marina to be hauled out and left alone "on the hard" in the heat and humidity while we fly to a pleasant British Columbian summer.

Deborah commented that the few days after arrival felt like "jet lag" and it took her almost a week to recover from the passage. It was a tiring journey and made us realize that we are not as young as we once were. We crossed the Atlantic nine years previously and had forgotten the discomfort of the continual motion, the dampness, cooking on a wildly swinging gas stove, bad weather, Brian's seasickness affliction, never being able to fully relax, worry about rigging failure, engine problems, sails ripping - the list goes on. Had we remembered these, would we have left India, and more importantly, unless we blot the discomforts of this passage from our minds, will we cross any more oceans? Remains to be seen. 

Rebak Island Marina


Monday, April 08, 2013

From India to the Maldives


Photo: Chinook just entering the North Male Atoll. Courtesy of Jamie aboard Esper

We had left Chinook in the Kochi International Marina on Bolgatty Island just off Cochin City and flew to British Columbia to escape the wet monsoon months. As it turned out we stayed six months in Canada, purchasing a small motor home to live in, tripping a triangle around Vancouver, Victoria on the Island and Squamish). Those six months went fast; the weather was great, we saw many friends and of course visited family in Ontario. The grandkids are growing like weeds and we do miss them, but we have sailing to do...

This is the third consecutive year we have left Chinook in the hot and humid places she has taken us and perhaps marks a slight change in our "permanent live-aboard" status as yachties, meaning we may sail six months of the year and be land gypsies for the other six. No laughs of derision, please - it's still a hard life...

Returning to India on November 7th we stayed in the Bolgatty Palace Hotel for five days while we made Chinook habitable. The mould and mildew farm was not as bad as we had expected, but considerable enough for us to spend days washing the teak surfaces with vinegar and bleach. Soot from the city had penetrated to form a thin black layer on most horizontal surfaces - needing much washing. The weather was still very hot, so it was cleaning in the mornings and cooling down poolside in the afternoons, a workable routine. Being the off season, hotel prices were not too high, and we did get a discount for having a boat in the marina - part of the whole Bolgatty Island complex. Anticipating the drier months, typically December through February inclusive (and they were very dry) we wanted to enjoy India while waiting for the monsoon winds to take us to S.E. Asia.

 Jamie and Liz returned to Esper a week or so later and happy hours on the dock resumed with swapped tales of the summer and some good company for the next few months.

We planned a trip to the cooler mountain region of Wayanad with Jamie and Liz to Varnam, a family-run "homestay" amid tea and coffee plantations for a few days around Christmas. It certainly was cooler and the villages a change from the bustling city of Cochin. Wild tigers and elephants roamed in the area and we did see one one of each - from the car.

The arrival of 2013 was also celebrated with Jamie and Liz and their visiting British friends at nearby Fort Cochin, an historic area and tourist destination of the city. A huge thunderstorm soaked us to the bones late on New Year's Eve and the next night we watched a parade with bizarre floats portraying the underworld and dead.

 A day trip in the "backwaters" of Kerela was a highlight, motoring through a series of interconnected canals, rivers and estuaries with small villages, their paddy fields and many live-aboard tourist houseboats.

The next event was the arrival of "Divanty" from Thailand, Antony, Divina and crew Tony and Pat ("Full Flight") whom we had known well in Turkey. And it was more "happy-houring" on the dock than was good for one's health.


We flew to Nepal for two weeks in late November and early December. Smoggy, crowded Kathmandu, clear and tranquil Pokhara and historic world heritage site Bhaktapur were visited with a hair-raising eight-hour bus trip over several mountain passes between them. Brian ran with the Himalayan Hash House Harriers up the steepest hills he ever had jogged in his life and did a couple of paragliding flights with stunning mountain views. We rented mountain bikes and further exhausted ourselves on rocky hilly tracks , hiked in the dark to view the sunrise pinks and reds of the Annapurna mountain range and ate locally, watching cultural dancing. Everest was elusive however, obscured by smog but can be seen on a clear day at higher elevations from Bhaktapur. Nepal is a country we would love to return to for a longer period of time.


The month of February was devoted almost soley to preparations for the 260 n.mile sail to the Maldives. Checking the engine, sails and rigging, electronics, planning the route, watching the weather forecasts, provisioning, filling with diesel, water, and checking, checking checking all the boat's systems over and over... The many small jobs that had been put off while we were having fun in India had accumulated to a point it seemed to be a scramble to complete them all. The hull had an thriving ecosystem of its own after six months: barnacles, weed, attendant fish and crabs - almost a floating reef - and had to be scraped as clean as was possible. This we had done professionally by a company specializing in that with divers employing hydraulic hull scrubbers. Not cheap but well worth the money. We had placed a plastic bag over the propeller for the months we were in the marina (replacing it several times) so at least it was clean and Brian had scraped most of the rudder area so it would turn and let us check the steering systems.

The Somali piracy situation in the Indian Ocean has vastly improved, for several reasons although it is still not safe for small yachts.  It is not a lucrative business any more - in fact perhaps dangerous for the pirates as freighters have been arming themselves and repelling most attacks. The coalition forces still patrol the busy freighter routes and still arrest offenders; small yacht traffic has completely ceased on the India - Red sea route.   The pirate leaders have been persuaded to give the activity up by the Somali government with pardons and induction into the running of the coutry. We also thought ourselves to be too far south and east and well out of the danger zone and had little trouble making the decision to come here.    

 Saying goodbyes were not easy. The marina and hotel staff had been sweet to us, as had Nazar and Gladwin whose families we had gotten to know. Divanty had left a week before us and Esper was set to leave a week after us (both  Maldives-bound). Nazar facilitated the customs and immigration checking out procedures on 22nd February which took the whole morning with last minute provisioning taking the whole afternoon. The previous two days had been nation-wide strike days and although we could not do as much as we wanted because of the strike, we were actually glad of the forced delay giving us breathing space. The weather reports were becoming more favourable, we were to have a moon at night and the tides were high enough the next day to exit the marina without getting stuck in the mud. By 0900 of the morning of the 23rd we had the engine running, the lines slackened and help turning Chinook around to point out through the large busy harbour.

 The passage took exactly 73 hours - three days and nights. Light winds and flat seas had us motoring for 68 of those hours and sailing only five. Sven guzzled 150 litres of diesel, chewed through one newly-replaced impeller, a primary fuel filter and otherwise behaved. We saw few fishing boats and fewer freighters - OK by us, especially at night. Not one pirate in sight. The moon was near full for most of the hours of darkness each night and the weather clear. There was a slight adverse current for most of the passage, becoming favourable for the last twelve  hours. Our night watches were three hours on/off then two hours on/off. Meals were easy to prepare with the reefed main countering the rolling tendency - and as usual, delicious. And, as usual, no fish caught.

Arrival into the Maldives at 10:00 was at Uligamu, one of the northernmost islands in the northernmost atoll. The anchorage was slightly uncomfortable as some ocean swell wrapped around the island - not fully protected by the reef. It was a long dinghy trip into the little harbour with larger wind-generated waves, so we waited another full day to go ashore to pick up our temporary cruising permit from ANTRAC our Ship's Agency. Three hours after arrival we were clearing customs and immigration with five officials (including police and a local dignitary) crammed into our small cockpit. Quickly and efficiently done and all very friendly. Later we snorkeled the coral reef in the clear, warm waters the Maldives is famous for and napped to catch up on missed sleep.

 The word "atoll" is Maldivian (Arabic derivation) - used of course globally to describe the geophysical structure of the reefs and islands. Planning an accurate route through the them is important then, as, it can be only a minute or so after coming from ocean depths of 1500 metres to 20 inside an atoll then zero onto a reef attempting to enter a lagoon. Reading the colours of the water (deep blue, light blue, green, yellow and brown) is a skill we learned in the Bahamas - the refresher course a crash one. The colours show best when the sun is high and behind us, so we must make sure we are coming into anchorages before 3 p.m. otherwise there can be loud shouting.

The Maldives is a Muslim country with an Indo-Arabic history, a crossroads of ancient trading routes, Portuguese and Dutch ruled and in 1965 independence from the British was gained. The previous authoritarian president was in power for 25 years maintaining a governing structure under the guise of democracy but it was not until 2004 that valid democratic elections were held and a constitution set in 2008. Since the real democratic change, the Maldives has lifted itself out of "Least Developed Country" status. Tourism is the main economic sector making it vulnerable to global economics. A tusnami in 2004 devastated many of the low-lying islands and with rising sea levels due to global warming a reality, we are pessimistic for any long-term future for the country. In fact the government is preparing for this eventuality by buying land in Australia.

Alcohol is not permitted in the country (apart from at resorts only). Declaration of alcohol then requires the customs to impound ship's stores and release them when checking out. Ask us later what is was like to be dry for so long and we will tell you the truth...  We were disappointed over the "rule" of not being able to visit inhabited islands - with the exception of the four that have customs officials and resort islands. This is to minimize contact between Madivians and outsiders (yachtspeople) - the fear that alcohol will be sold and women with exposed arms and legs will be seen. The rule is not applied consistently, we were to find later, as tourists from resorts frequently visit local islands.

Water, water, everywhere...At the Uligamu anchorage we began using our watermaker for the first time since the membrane had been replaced - as it could not, and did not have to be used in the marinas in the UAE and Cochin. Whenever the engine is running or whenever we have good sunlight so the solar panels are keeping up with charging the batteries we are now employing its services. We were relying on this for our water as it can be quite expensive to buy here, Maldivian water being reverse osmosis derived - using electricity which need diesel generators. The locals rely on cisterns to catch rain water and some islands actually have wells.  Working away in the background our little Katie (Katadyn) seems to be chanting "what are we doing what are we doing" and "i'm not sure I'm not sure"

Through Mohamed, the young man who was ANTRAC'S representative in Uligamu, we were able to buy limited fresh fruit (bananas right off the tree) and veges (eggplant and the greatest find: a kilo and a half of passion fruit - Brian's favourite additive to happy-hour rum! We bought a SIM card for the mobile phone with talk time and an internet data package. Mobile coverage is excellent and cheap throughout the Maldives with cell towers on every inhabited island. Mohamed gave us a tour of the small island which has a pilot project for wind-generated electricity - still after 4 years to be completed.

 We stayed four nights at Uligamu then began the 200 n.mile passage towards Male, the capital. We had intended to do this slowly, enjoying the anchorages and islands. The limiting factor was our fresh food supplies and replenishing them over the next few weeks - not being able to visit inhabited islands. On the advice of Divanty who had just stopped there a week earlier, we spent two nights tied on a mooring ball off Hideaway Resort on Dhonakhuli Island. The current passing through the reef reached 4 knots at times which made swimming and snorkeling almost impossible and actually prevented us from going ashore lest the dinghy engine fail and we would be literally swept out to sea.

Nolhivaranfaru Island and village, a further seven miles south, has a circular-reef protected anchorage where we stopped for eight nights in total. Local passing fishermen would wave; one offered us a tuna far too big for us to eat in a month. We were bound not to go ashore for the reasons mentioned previously, however we made a day trip (two hours each way) to nearby Kulhudhufishi Island which had a customs office and a dock in the port where we could, for $12 USD per day, tie alongside. No problem there about finding limited fresh fruits and veges and frozen chicken (no fish). On the second stop there we stayed overnight, reprovisioned, jerry-jugged 100 L of diesel (very reasonable prices), bought petrol for the dinghy outboard engine and hosted a family of giant cockroaches which took two weeks to get rid of. Boric acid sprinked everywhere was the final solution.

 Motoring further south in light winds we stopped at Feevah Island, Zitahi (an unfinished resort) and then at the Ira Fushi Hilton Resort where we met up with Katie, the young lady who had helped us buy supplies in Egypt's Aqaba Peninsula (see the blog of Egypt). Katie had left that job rather hurriedly during Egypt's Arab Spring (almost at the gunpoint of the Kurdish rebels) and is employed at the Ira Fushi resort as public relations manager. She is also a keen diver, underwater photographer and animal rights proponent. Keeping in contact via Facebook over the last three years we finally, and very pleasantly, met again. She obtained permission for us to pick up a mooring ball in the resort's lagoon and ashore we were able to use the pool, bars and restaurants, rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous, who pay up to two thousand US dollars per night to stay there; "posh" pretty well describes it. We were the novelty there.

Float planes are in and out from Male, a 25 minute flight, and Alan Troi, the Canadian captain of a Canadian-built Otter took the above photo. His copilot was also Canadian, as were three passengers in that flight.

The lagoon entrance through the reef is quite shallow, our depth sounder reading zero most of the way entering on mid-tide, so we had to wait for at least mid (and rising) tide to exit, which would mean reaching our next anchorage at Kurendhoo Island too late in the day to read the water, so we stayed another night, cautiously slipping out at 0600. At Kurendhoo Brian did go ashore to find that resort-based tourists visited and he was not unwelcome there. Frozen chickens, eggs and fresh veges were found and we did make a purchase at the local gift shop.

 Because the weather forecasts showed favourable winds, we decided to sail overnight from Kurendhoo to Hulhumale, a distance of 72 nm. And a slow, peaceful twenty hours under sail it was, the engine on for only six extra hours, averaging three knots on the outside of the atolls under starry night skies and the next day dodging reefs in the North Male Atoll. We passed by an anchored Esper at 0900 on entering the atoll but the fair winds over-rode a cup-of-tea visit.
 Hulhumale is a reclaimed island servicing Male with the Maldives international airport and is the main small boat anchorage for the capital. A very busy place with ferries, floatplanes and frequent flights.   The "slow" ferry took 25 minutes and cost 5 rufiya (35 cents CAD) and was an experience not to be missed for the slices of life aboard. We took the "fast" ferry once for that fun experience; 8 minutes and $2.50 CAD. The following day Esper (Jamie and Liz) arrived, a few days later Divanty (Antony and Divina) arrived so we had a most suitable reunion.

 Male is a city of 62 000 set on a squarish island approximately 1.5 kilometers each way and has all one would need. For sailors, five chandleries and a couple of great hardware shops. Restaurants and cafes (no bars of course) everywhere, a super fish market and all kinds of fresh fruit and vegetables - for very reasonable prices as most are imported.We met here with ANTRAC to renew our nearly-expired cruising permit and obtain full 90-day visas

 We ate fresh fish (red snapper the favourite for $3 kilo) most nights scaled and cleaned in a flash for an extra 60 cents.

 Ten days in and around Male with cooking gas bottles refilled, diesel jerry-jugged from town, 400 litres of water delivered by a small tanker boat alongside (we could not make water in the harbour), engine oil changed along with filters and impellers, and provisions to last a week we sailed 15 nm to the South Male Atoll, anchoring off a resort on Velassaru Island. Two nights there and we decided to explore Guraidhoo Island where we are at the time of writing.

Guraidhoo is another tourist trap for the nearby resorts and one of the best scuba-diving areas in the reefs around. It was hit hard by the 2004 tsunami and still receives financial aid from the International Red Cross. Limited fresh produce is available in the small town but we did buy fish and the ubiquitous whole frozen chicken. Deborah took the local ferry to Male for a day excursion from here - two hours each way, while Brian had coffee with Ahmed, a young man who has helped us obtain fish, petrol for the outboard and introduced us to his young family. 

So here we will enjoy another month before the two-week passage to Malaysia and Thailand. April is a "transition month" between monsoons and once the south west monsoon winds set, we will sign out and sail further eastwards. That will be the subject of the next edition.

Photos below: the famous Bhaktapur Pottery Square, Nepal; Deborah caught by a hunting falcon in Kerela; the tea plantation we visited in Wayanad;

What beer does one drink in Nepal? (trick question)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Passage to India (March-April 2012)

Passage to India

Don't forget, clicking onto a picture will enlarge it; click the "back" key to return to the blog.

Our previous post related the trucking of Chinook overland through Saudi Arabia to the United Arab Emirates from Jordan in June 2011. This "desert sail" was to avoid the Somali piracy activity of the southern Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the increasing number of piracy incidents off the coast of Yemen and southern Oman in the North Indian Ocean.

Chinook spent five months alone in the Al Hamra Marina (Ras Al Khaimah) in the high heat and humidity of an Emirate summer while her crew (Deborah and Brian) spent the time in a cooler British-Columbian summer. Because no sailing was done in this time- and since this is essentially a sailing blog - there is a noticeable "gap" in blogs.

Returning to Chinook in late October we began preparations for the sail to India planned for early in the new year (2012) and, at that time, had intended sailing further east on to Thailand. Chinook was registered with the Maritime Security Organizations, particularly Dubai-based UKMTO, the co-ordinating office to obtain their current advice to yachtsmen and initiate the process to participate in the voluntary reporting scheme for support. Their first response to us was: " is our advice NOT to make this passage" Piracy was still spreading and there was no decrease in activity this year in the South West Monsoon due to calmer seas than usual and the use of "mother ships" increasing the range of the skiffs used by pirates. UKMTO further added that small yachts like ours have absolutely no defence against the Somalian automatic weapons.

Deborah's comfort level suddenly dropped to zero. Brian was still OK about making the trip, but not to single-hand due to the high numbers of ocean freighters and fishing boats - which required a vigilant lookout. The search began looking for a crew member among our sailing friends, as well as contracting paid crew and possibly an accompanying "guard boat" for the more dangerous leg of the journey. We even explored the costs of shipping Chinook on a freighter with companies specializing in "lift-on-lift-off", but the costs were very high.

Our Swiss friend Gil, whom we had met first in Lebanon and then again in Egypt, was very keen to crew with Brian but would not be available until early March as he had other commitments. Gil, 73, an inveterate and experienced singlehandler and world traveller, saw the threat of piracy in the intended route as being almost non-existent - and wanted a little adventure. We decided to wait for Gil to crew even though it meant a later start than we wanted.

And it really was quite pleasant at Al Hamra - pleasant weather at that time of year, the friendly  marina atmosphere, people we were meeting, being able to bike, jog and swim, a large modern supermarket nearby, easy access to Dubai when we wanted. Brian ran a 10 K race in Dubai and jogged with the RAK Hash House Harriers.

Coffee with John and Aileen from "Nismah" in Al Hamra Marina, Eric and Vicky, Canadians working in Fujairah.

An Australian yacht in the marina, "Sailing Grace" with Brett and his undaunted crew of three was preparing to sail the same route (Brett's wife was of the same mind as Deborah and was not sailing). "Grace" set off in February and had no difficulties after a delayed start due to high adverse winds.

 In the meantime, Deborah's UAE Visa was due to expire and as she could not renew it without leaving the Emirates for a month, we hired a car and explored Muscat, the capital of Oman, before she flew to India to rejoin Chinook.

At the Royal Palace in Muscat, Oman

Five days after Gil's arrival in UAE, provisioning was shopped for, last-minute boat jobs were completed, goodbyes said - and after two days waiting for high winds to lessen, we left Al Hamra Marina at 0630, motoring in lumpy seas to the Coast Guard and Immigration docks at the Ras Al Khaimah Port, 12 miles north for the check-out procedures. 1100 saw us motoring out of RAK into calming seas and light winds. A cup of coffee and photographs with the officials had completed the formalities - very endearing.

We managed 42 miles that first day before dropping anchor at 1815 in Kwahr Hanah (Bay) just inside the Omani border. Red wine, lamb stew and early to bed for the early start the next day to take us through the Straits of Hormuz and around the Musandam Peninsula. At exactly midnight we were woken by the searchlight and loudspeaker of an Omani Police boat (the police do coast-guard duties) questioning us on our intentions. They were courteous but a reminder that they knew who was in their waters.  Photo: Musandam at Hormuz

Day two, the anchor was up at 0630 after a wakening cup of tea and the next staging leg of 55 miles began. Light winds and an adverse current of up to 2 knots at times had us creeping into Al Limah Bay in the dark, anchoring at 1930. During the day we navigated through the starkly spectacular scenery of steep barren cliffs of the Musandam, had another Omani police boat check us out, saw local ferries and many "Irani Runners" (smugglers in small fast skiffs operating between Iran and Oman) as well as a few fishermen. Red wine and Beef Stroganoff in the anchorage.

For the following nine days it was "leg one", the passage along the coasts of Iran, Pakistan and northern India. Keeping 20 - 25 miles off the coast of Iran in international waters to avoid being arrested as spies, we saw only fishing boats and freighters. The fishing boats were lit at night and not a hazard and the AIS radio showed us freighters' position, course, speed, and closest point of approach, almost making being run-down a non-issue.

The Iranian Navy had been recently missile testing in their waters and in the same broad area (but in international waters) the USA and British Coalition forces were also engaged in firing practice. Warnings on the VHF radio were a constant reminder that muscles were being flexed...

Gil practising his new saxophone

Winds were generally light and apart from a few hours of sailing in the afternoon sea breeze effect, we had the Volvo-Penta panting. With slow sailing, a slight current against us, the daily average was about 85 miles (24 hour periods) We stopped for a swim (well, OK to wash our smelly man-bodies) a couple of times. The phosphorescence at night was spectacular and the sea surface was rich in plankton and long coiled sea-cucumbers. Dolphins accompanied us one morning. Although the fishing rod was always strung out from the stern, nothing was caught.

The head (toilet, landlubbers!) decided to stop working due to blocked hoses and in spite of a couple of valiant attempts to clear the line, it was "bucket and chuck it" until reaching port.

Reaching the Pakistani border late afternoon on the third day after leaving Al Limah, the winds began to pick up and for the next few days we were able to sail under the genoa most of the time in 20-plus knots of a following breeze. The swells became larger and due to our course, Chinook rolled a lot, triggering Brian's sea-queasiness. By late afternoon of the next day it was very "hazy" until we realized the haze was fine sand - a sand-storm 20 miles off shore - it penetrated and coated everything.

One afternoon, napping, reading, a rogue wave/swell caught and slewed Chinook, filling the cockpit, ripping the dodger and breaking part of the bimini frame. Books and tools flew from cupboards, for the second time a laundry detergent bottle spewed over the sole (floor) and three drawers in the head emptied their contents. Although the companionway hatch was closed, some water did find its way down to the nav. table but apart from the ripped dodger, no real damage was done. Complacency during the calmer periods of the passage had lulled us.

Pakistani fishermen were most curious and came out of their way to look at us - some staying with us for half an hour. We bought a nice fish from one fishing boat, the price a six-pack of cola. Nothing that looked remotely like a pirate skiff approached - that is, skiffs with powerful outboards, extra fuel jerry-cans, boarding ladders and guns.

Daily position reporting was made to the Maritime Security organization (and various family and friends) by texting on our satellite phone. It was some comfort to know that someone knew where we were, although we were never too far from shore and there were many fishing vessels in proximity. The Indian Coast Guard actually paid us a visit not long after crossing the Pakistan-Indian border, 20 miles offshore.

After five days it became apparent that we would not reach Mumbai in time for Gil to catch his flight home, so we decided on Porbandar as our Indian landfall where Deborah could meet us and effect the crew change. She (Deborah) flew there, hired a shipping agent and although we felt we were overcharged, check in and out procedures were effected quickly and efficiently.

Arriving in Porbandar, we initially tied alongside a large, old wooden dhow unloading dates from Egypt. The various agents, customs and immigration people clambered down a rickety ladder from it to visit. There must have been ten officials aboard at one stage, all polite and courteous. Being a "dry" Indian state (Gujarat), all alcohol aboard was sealed by Customs into lockers although three partly-empty bottles were left as our allowance.

Quite the novelty in Porbandar as very few foreign sailing yachts ever stop there, Deborah was interviewed by the local radio station, Brian was interviewed by a local TV crew and there were literally crowds (all men) who came to look at us - often sitting for several hours just looking over Chinook.

In-out formalities were completed within 28 hours. Deborah boarded with fresh provisions and extra drinking water. It was now time to say au revoir to Gil. Had it not been for him we possibly would have shipped Chinook. We are both extremely grateful to him for giving his time generously and happily.

The following morning we sailed out of the harbour with five fresh fish we had bought from early-returning fishermen for one USD, two packets of cigarettes and two coca colas. That was the real deal; the other was the thick layer of black soot from the nearby cement factory that had settled overnight, covering every inch of Chinook. It took time to be washed off with many buckets of seawater as we hit the open seas. And the head hoses were now cleared...

The second leg (500 nautical miles) took six days. Again the winds were very light (the afternoon breeze always came) so much motoring was done. We should have purchased more diesel in Porbandar, but the agent could not guarantee the quality and told us it would be expensive, so we left there with only 250 litres in total; possibly not sufficient to reach Goa if we had to use the engine a lot. We accepted slower sailing speeds to conserve fuel. The gennaker was used several times, Chinook gently drifting along at 3 knots, ten to fifteen miles off-shore.

At nights there were waves of fishing trawler fleets to avoid - as many as 30 boats strung in a tight line abreast. Usually we managed to sail around the end of the line but sometimes having to slip between two of the trawlers. And the AIS radio showed us where the large freighters were - on average about six per day, often passing us within one mile. We never had a problem with fishing nets - the smaller, individual fishing boats were closer inshore, but we dodged many set pot markers. The fish offered by several boats were always much too large for us. If we had a freezer...

It was not our original intention to stop in Goa but our fuel was now critically low and we had to obtain more. Creeping into Goa's outer anchorage in the dark, we dropped the hook for the night and the next morning moved through the shallow entrance channel to the anchorage off the north of the city on the incoming tide. Putting down next to a floating casino, three dinghy trips were made into town, jerry-canning back 100 litres of diesel at a time (cost 83 cents CAD per litre). The diesel seemed clean enough but we used the baja filter when decanting into our fuel tank. We (illegally) did not check in at Goa, staying for three nights in the inlet with passing barges and party boats - the casino keeping late nights. No officials came out to visit but a police boat waved to us. Oil and filters were changed (long overdue) and the water-pump impeller was found to have lost three of its six blades - the remaining three cracked and ready to come off also.

The final 400-mile leg from Goa to Cochin was five days, and as for the previous legs, the light winds kept us motoring often, we dodged large freighters and nocturnal fishing fleets, staying 10 miles offshore. One small tuna tried our lure and ended up in the frying pan with butter. The temperatures were becoming noticeably warmer and there were nightly shows of lightning over the land - the storms dissipating as they moved over the ocean.

"Breadcrumbs" are not just what Goldilocks left, they refer to the track created on a GPS by the boat's path - to be followed back if necessary. In our case the breadcrumbs could also mean about 200 tea bags left floating behind us over the journey - carefully dropped every three hours along the way. We drank tea copiously .

Chinese fishing nets at harbour entrance

Arriving at the Cochin Harbour entrance mid-afternoon on March 5th (22 days after leaving the UAE) we obtained permission to enter and were directed to the anchorage off the Port Authority building. The police and customs were waiting there to meet us and boarded to carry out their inspections. The following day being Easter Friday everything was closed so we would have to wait until Monday before completing the Customs work. Immigration we were able to do the following morning, however, and then get "special" permission to move Chinook to the Kochi International Marina in the Bogatty Island Resort, India's ONLY marina, opened two years previously (2010).(See pic below)

Our "agent"/helper, Nazar, prearranged by Jamie and Liz (SV "Esper") took us to the various official offices ashore and guided Chinook through the skinny water to the KIM where Esper helped tie us to the dock. Jamie and Liz had sailed to India from Turkey (where we had met them) two years previously with the Vasco da Gama Rally, liked Cochin and were traveling extensively within India allowing them to write (Liz) and  photograph (Jamie) - as well as broadcast their own podcasts. Really worth a look at with a super newly released app for android.

India is still deeply mired in the British Colonial tradition, reflected in the paper-work - handwritten and in triplicate (with carbon paper - "Please press hard Sir"). Time-consuming and tedious and judging by the condition of the high, teetering mounds of dusty, discoloured files piled on the floor of the dimly-lit offices we sat in, the paper work has been there since the Brits left. However, it still seems to be giving many, many people office jobs (where a few computers would do). Change will not come easily due to the autonomy of each of the 28 states, stated one official we chatted to. And the power of the "boat seal" (stamp) in India is absolute!
Photo: Nazar, Jamie and Liz (and Brian) - hot curries at lunch.

First impressions of India: "Chaotic" is a good word to begin with - at least until we discover any hidden order there may be. Everything is crumbling, decaying, broken, falling-down - left-overs from the Colonial days. Traffic rules are few - in fact three: whoever is in front has right-of-way (meaning there is a constant race to get in front - cutting your opponent off is expected practice); horn-blowing is mandatory at all times and pedestrians have no rights whatsoever. Fumes from the thousands of vehicles - motor cycles, auto-rickshaws (tuk-tuks) trucks, buses and the occasional private car combine with the heat and humidity to make breathing the other hazardous activity. The smells from the open drains, garbage, discarded produce and urine walls finish you off. And yes, there are many beggars. At least in the cities. On the other hand, the people are friendly and helpful, inexpensive tropical fruits and fresh vegetables are available at markets and roadside stands, the culture is fascinating, the history is amazing and the many varieties of dishes are hot hot hot! Deborah arrived a month earlier, as mentioned before, sightseeing in Mumbai and Delhi: the Ganges funeral pyres, elephant riding, tiger spotting and of course, the Taj Mahal, We have yet to see more of the cooler, countryside and mountain areas and look forward to that.

Rather than continue (rather rushed) eastward this sailing season, we have decided to leave Chinook in the Cochin Marina for the hot, wet monsoon months and, again enjoy a cooler Canadian summer. We will return in October and sail more leisurely via Sri Lanka to Thailand and Malaysia. That is, if we ever get through the paperwork to leave... 

Click here to return to the HOME PAGE

The only fish caught...
Hitchhiker 20 miles offshore
Gil happily cleaning fish
The powerful boat stamp - don't leave home without one...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Desert Sailing: Across Saudi Arabia by truck (May 2011

This blog details our wanderings to Jordan north up the Gulf of Aqaba and, what may be of interest to some readers, the trucking of Chinook across Saudi Arabia to the UAE as an alternative to the Red Sea route to Asia.

APRIL 16, 2011: Resuming our journey up the Gulf of Aqaba from the previous blog post, the next six days were spent on a mooring ball off the Club Med at Marsa Hamira. Dive boats and tripper boats came and went - usually between the hours of ten and two. We shared a mooring with one particular tripper boat several times and they gave us a lunch of fish, salad, fries and coke!

On the 22nd April we sailed back to Taba Heights to fill with water and check out of Egypt. Customs and immigration procedures were quick and courteous the next morning and we had Jordan in sight 15 miles to the north.

Drama with the Israeli Navy kept us on our toes - and wishing our navigation charts were more detailed. We crossed a mere half-nautical mile into their waters and in a flash the vhf radio cackled a firm request, a warning backed up within five minutes with a swift navy gunboat, bristling with armed personnel. Turning south to exit, then east and north again we called the Jordan authorities for instructions.

Checking in with customs and immigration was quick and efficient, although the coast guard inspection the next day (along with the $100 fee) was lengthy and meticulous. We were one fire extinguisher short of passing and would not be allowed to leave unless we purchased another and updated our flares.Brian had not yet obtained his operator's card (licence to sail), but as we were not sailing away, the coast guard could not prevent us from leaving by land... 

JORDAN:  Jordan is landlocked apart from a small coastal strip adjoining Saudi Arabia and Israel. With little scope for sailing, all the boats in the Royal Yacht Club were power apart from a derelict French sailing yacht and the youth learn to sail program dinghies. Several day trippers operated from the marina. The club, in the large personage of Capt. Mahmoud is small, friendly, has a pool and restaurant and is a short walk from Aqaba's city centre. Berthing costs are very reasonable. A much-used boulevard along the sea front adjoins the marina - good for our biking and jogging as well as strolling activities. A small market area is nearby also with fresh produce, meat and fish and two large modern supermarkets are a taxi or bike ride away. Jordan is more westernized than most middle-eastern countries, and its tourist destinations make it an easy country to be in. English is spoken everywhere. It seemed that the downturn in tourism to middle eastern countries had also affected Jordan as it was not overly busy with tourists during our stay.

Our planned inland trips were to the capital, Amman, Petra's Valley of the Kings and the Dead Sea. Travel by bus is inexpensive and cheaper hotels can be found easily. The Valley of the Kings is awesome - we spent two days wandering around there.

It was a taxi ride from Amman to the Dead Sea and we found, as millions of others have, it is impossible to sink. Happily we floated for a short while in the hot sun, then visited the beautiful new ecological museum on the hills overlooking the sea. Interesting point: the Dead Sea water level is lowering by one metre annually. Plans to "save" it from evaporating completely include pipelining water from the Red Sea across the Sinai.

THE TRUCKING OF CHINOOK:  After wintering in Egypt, we had fully in tended to continue our trip south down the Red Sea, around the Horn of Africa and across the Indian Ocean to India and South East Asia in February of 2011. However, the dramatic increase in the number of "incidences" in the Gulf of Aden made us seriously reconsider. Five small sailing yachts were captured by Somali pirates and the sad killing of the American crew of Quest swayed us. But we did not want to go back to tne Mediterranean and retrace our wake across the Atlantic to Canada. We would rather continue our east-bound “almost-circumnavigation“.

The high cost of shipping by ocean freighter was, for us, prohibited. We received quotations of $20 000 USD to $35 000 from five shipping companies - the lowest not even including a support cradle, loading/unloading and insurance.

It was “Fang”, a Japanese cruiser moored next to us in Hurghada Marina over the winter months, who planted the seed in our thoughts for trucking, as they had looked into this option - although later discarding it. It would involve hiring a trucking company to freight our yacht across Saudi Arabia from Aqaba, Jordan, to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, a distance of about 1500 kilometres. We had our previous yacht trucked in Canada - a short distance by an experienced and specialized trucking company and trucking yachts is common in North America. As we found out, not so in the Middle East.

After many internet searches and many long phone calls we found NABRESCO in Jordan, a company that looked promising. Raed Naber, the operations manager and 32 year-old grandson of the company's founder, was confident he could do the job. NABRESCO hauls heavy equipment around the middle east and had transported two power yachts before, but never a keeled sailing yacht. We could not find a company in the middle east which had.

NABRESCO's first-quoted price at first sounded excellent - a mere fraction of tne cost of ocean freighting. However, a support cradle had to be fabricated, the loading and unloading (and mast unstepping /stepping), customs and border fees, agents fees (an Arabic-speaking agent who handled such transactions on behalf of NABRESCO), insurance, our flights and hotels (as we could not accompany Chinook) and yes, some baksheesh, all began to escalate the costs.

Everything included, our costs finalized at around $11 000 USD. We could have cut $1000 or more off the final bill, but lessons are always learned the first time around.

As we had planned to do some inland touring in Jordan (the Red Sea and Petra) we went to the capital, Amman, to meet with Raed at NABRESCO to discuss the operation, and in particular the building of the support cradle on the flat bed trailer. We were highly impressed with the trucking company and the meeting we had with Raed and another manager gave us the confidence to go ahead with our plans.

The Royal Jordanian Yacht Club organized the mast unstepping with a local crane firm. This was done a week ahead of the trucking date (and in-water) to give us time to strip the mast of its rigging etc. We very closely supervised as the company had never unstepped a mast before.

Removing Chinook's cruising equipment was a formidable task. The solar panels, radar, wind-vane steering, barbeque, bimini and dodger structure, wind generator, anchors, booms, outboard engine, all had to be taken off and stored inside. We knew intrusive inspections would be made in Saudi Arabia and the UAE for alcohol, cigarettes, firearms, drugs, and pictures of women "unsuitably" clothed (that is, showing any skin at all), and had to arrange as best we could for customs officials’ access to the many storage nooks and crannies - and the bilges. A photo of the inside would never do justice to the amount of "stuff" stacked up on the settees and floor.

As Chinook was being lifted onto the flat bed it was found that the yacht club's travel lift could not lift her high enough, so NABRESCO called in a local crane company they knew to complete that job - cheaper than the yacht club (whom we had to pay anyway). The truck left after dark following 12-hours of loading and securing. The customs exit procedures had been done the previous day, thankfully, as that took several hours with the agent down at the shipping offices.

Two days later we flew to Dubai and spent time in hotels and sightseeing while waiting for herself to arrive. We went up the world's highest building and wandered dazed in the world's largest shopping mall in an unreal city. Dubai is pure glitz with little substance apart from the oil it is built on. Oil to run the electric generators which run the water distilling plants and air conditioners and concrete mixers. Sand is free. It was the beginning of the hot, hot, hot season and the high humidity. We purchased an air-conditioner for the boat but it had trouble keeping up, so we went back to a hotel.

Chinook would take a week to get to the UAE and another 3 days to clear customs due to the inexperience and inefficiency of the agent who made some costly avoidable errors. We posted a bond of the value of the import duty of Chinook - redeemable on exiting the country within 45 days. The plan then was altered slightly to sail to Oman and then back to a smaller northern Emirate, Ras Al Kaimah, where the tax time-restriction did not apply. During the inspection in Saudi Arabia, the hull was scanned and when the encapsulated steel counterweight in the keel was revealed, questions were raised and answers sought by drilling holes! $100 baksheesh helped the explanation that nothing was hidden (and averted the hole drilling) - all made by long-distance phone calls between the driver, NABRESCO and Brian.

When Chinook was finally released to us in Dubai, the mast was stepped and splashed at the Yachtmaster Boat Yard which is professionally run by Australian David Nunn. Located at the entrance to the Dubai Creek Marina, we visited that Marina and met, by chance, Sir Peter Blake's cousin's son, Phil, a pleasant Kiwi and the operations manager.

Clearing Chinook's insides as much as to allow us to motor, we took her eight miles to the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club where we were invited as guests and could put Chinook back together again. In the heat and humidity! Club commodore Keith Mutch was very accommodating and we felt very much at home. Puns not really intended. The members were very friendly, interested in what we were doing, and we spent many happy hours during happy hours.

As an aside, a few days before we were due to leave Jordan, we received an email from Phil, an Emirates airline pilot, saying he had found our blogs and was interested in purchasing a sailing yacht of our design - or similar. "And where was Chinook now? Where will you go after the Med? " We replied, "Funny you should ask. On her way to Dubai!" Which generated many more emails, a friendship and the berth at the DOSC. Very coincidental and indicative of the kinds of out-of-the-blue happenings which make this way of life so interesting.

As mentioned above, to recover our bond, Brian sailed Chinook (singlehandedly) to the Omani port of Khasab in the Musandam Peninsula . Deborah could not go due to passport issues. A passort visa and cruising permit had to be arranged ahead of time (in Dubai). It was a four-day trip of 160 n.miles and is usually sailed with light northerlies. The spinnaker was used for several hours giving Chinook a racing speed of seven knots before it was found just too exciting. Checking in and out of Oman was done with the help of friendly local police driving Brian to the offices in town, three kilometers distant from the port. It was difficult to explain why he wanted to check in and then leave right away. “You come with an empty ship and you leave with no cargo?” was the question from the portmaster.

The trip back to Ras Al Kaimah in the stronger-than-forecast head winds was not so easy. Motoring into choppy seas was tiresome and finding a protected anchorage to spend the night was difficult along that coast. The check-in to RAK was easy and fast. Then the final 25 miles to the Royal Yacht Club of RAK was made before sunset. . Debby had a nearby hotel arranged and it was the sleep of the dead for one tired sailor that night.

The friendly Royal Yacht Club is a good place to leave a boat for a longer period of time, as we must do. However, the berthing fees are the most expensive we have encountered since we left Canada for a long-term stay - with the exception of Seville (where we stayed only two months). We only had a few days to prepare Chinook for closing up, but managed to scramble and leave with the plane tickets we had changed once already.

The whole "process" of trucking was all-consuming: planning, emailing and phoning, dealing with officials, as well as being physically demanding along with some anxiety. We almost packed it in at one point, and talked about selling Chinook again. In the end however, all thoroughly worthwhile and rewarding in ways we would not have thought about. We are able to continue our journey avoiding "Pirate Alley" and in October will return to "herself", wait for the southwest monsoon to cease, the northwest lighter and fairer winds to begin and sail the coast of India to S.E. Asia.  More about that in the next blog.