16 March 2019 – On passage to India

We arrived safely in India after a 9.5 day, 1280nm passage. Before setting out from Sabang, Sumatra Indonesia, we topped up with 270 litres of Indonesian diesel (very dark, although surprisingly clean) and hoisted our Code Zero light air sail on a flexible furler. This is what it looked like on a beam reach.

This is what it looked like on a downwind run, with the boom on the opposite side.

We bought this sail and furler 3 years ago (from Far East Sails in Hong Kong – while we were in Fiji), but never really had an opportunity to try it. In summary, I can say that we do like this sail, very much. Its easy to deploy and mostly easy to put away. But, you have to be careful not to leave it up in high winds (greater than 16 knots), or it can be a bugger to furl properly.

Our crew Gabriele and Mariona did a sterling job. As time passed, they assumed more and more responsibility and learned more about our boat and its systems. They did all their shifts, and called if there were any problems. We are really hoping that they will come back to join us for the next leg in January 2020, from Kochi to Cyprus through the Red Sea.

Its not always a hard time, is it?

Gabriele was very eager to fish, from Day 1. After 10 years of cruising, I hate to admit it but I have become lazy when it comes to fishing. You won’t catch fish if you don’t put out a line! I showed Gabriel our fishing gear and he took over. Over the 9 day passage, he caught two tuna and one Mahi-Mahi (dolphin fish) – usually at about 5pm. Here’s a good practical photo of me reaching down (its a long way) to try and snag a tuna with our gaff. It can be a little challenging when the boat is rocking back and forth.

The tuna were relatively easy to bring in, but they still took work. Here are shots of tuna numbers 1 and 2. There was lots of blood with the second tuna.

This Mahi-Mahi was a real fighter. Gabriele played with him on the line for 15 minutes to try and tire him out. We even let the sails out a bit to try and slow down. It took both of us to haul him in. He changed colour from green to silver in about two minutes once on deck.

Gabriele caught all the fish – and Gabriele and Mariona cleaned all the fish. A couple of hours later, they were busy in the galley and made incredibly fresh sushi and ceviche (a seafood dish typically made from fresh raw fish cured in citrus juices, such as lemon or lime, and spiced with chilli or other seasonings). Wow, that was good — its goes without saying that we all ate the fish.

As we were sailing very close to the shoreline of Sri Lanka (about 10nm), we could barely make out the island features (low profile and haze) but there were plenty of fishermen, and many came out to great us and ask for water, smokes, beer, wine etc.

This is something new to me. I took a photograph of our OpenCPN Chartplotter AIS target. Its a commercial ship called SELINA and the destination says “ARMED GUARDS ONBOARD”. I know that many ships in these waters have armed guards, but putting this in the AIS information box is new to me.

This is a new source of frustration for me. I bought a new Garmin GPS chartplotter when in Indonesia 1.5 years ago, and its under “2 year warranty”. The GPS date shows July 1999. That’s bizarre and no doubt will be a pain in the ass to get sorted out.

As we were approaching the 500 foot shelf of Indian waters, we came across about 60 fishing boats in open water at least 20nm from shore. Each boat had about 30 men onboard and they were all hand-line fishing. The boats were not at anchor but using their motors to stay in a fixed position. It was much more crowded than the photo shows, and challenging to safely pass between them.

We sailed for nearly all of this passage, 80% of the time under full sail, on every point of sail from dead down wind to this close reach.

Now, we’ve been dockside in Kochi India for a week – and we’re still eating frozen fish cooked on the BBQ and in the rice cooker. We’re busy with boat jobs, and installed a second air conditioning unit in the main cabin to help keep the heat and humidity down. Its working. With the next blog, I’ll talk about India.

In Sabang, Sumatra Indonesia

8 March 2019 – Sabang Indonesia (Sumatra)

We have safely made landfall in Cochin India – so I can now post about our experience in Sabang. We sailed from Niharn Bay Phuket Thailand to Sabang Indonesia (220nm) primarily to break the trip up to Cochin India (reducing it to 1280nm). What I didn’t count on was the weakening winds and a sinking feeling that we were getting trapped in Sabang. So, after 11 days in Sabang, we finally took the risk and sailed out in low winds.

Our trip from Thailand to Sabang was calm but a total motor-sail as we were rushing to get in before nightfall. It was about 205nm and that can be tough to do in 36 hours, particularly with contrary currents. What we were pleased to see were dolphins, we haven’t seen dolphins in several years! We came across several pods. 

Although our sails were up, there wasn’t much wind. This was the first time we’d used our mainsail since we had it made for us by Au Wei in Pangkor Malaysia last year.

On arrival, we tied up to one of the many heavy duty moorings that have been conveniently placed for us in deep water by the Indonesian government. Normally we’re suspicious of moorings, but the winds were light so we took the chance. The ball looks steel but its encased in plastic so it didn’t scratch the hull. Although at night when the wind was light, it did knock against the hull. Clearances were straightforward but lengthy. Thirty minutes after arrival, I was ferrying out 13 Government officials, 4 or 5 at a time, from Quarantine / Immigration / Customs / Harbour Master. It was worse than Cuba! All paperwork was completed on the boat and then the next morning again on paper and on the computer. Indonesia is a very bureaucratic place. 

Getting diesel was problematic and slightly dramatic. The Captain of the local Coast Guard boat (Andy) told us that selling subsidized diesel to foreigners was illegal. However, he could help us out by tying his boat (about the same size as ours) to ours and pumping directly from his tanks to ours – at a cost of about $1 USD per litre. Excuse me? Doesn’t that sound like corruption? In the end, I dismissed his offer because I thought it was difficult to know how much diesel was moved, impossible to filter due to the high pump speed, might scratch our boat – and was supporting corruption. I found somebody with a tuk-tuk (motorbike with a sidecar) and jerry cans and moved 270 litres, filtering it – at a lower cost, and without involving any corruption. The local rate was about 60 cents per litre, and I paid about $1 CDN per litre. It wasn’t about cost though, it was about not supporting corruption. I didn’t want to make this post until we were in another country in case it was discussed. 

We also took an island tour one day, and saw the inland lake and water reservoir. The island, on the whole, is quite clean compared to most of Indonesia. However, when it rained, there was still a fair bit of garbage that washed off the streets into the water (where we’re moored). Nonetheless, we were able to swim and wash in the refreshing salt water every afternoon. 

We also visited the local volcano, which although not actually ERUPTING, it is pretty hot and smells strongly of sulphur. As we walked over the surface, there were many vent holes discharging the hot foul gas.

Much to my surprise, there was a government funded project underway to install a geothermal electrical plant, just a short distance away. I would have loved to have had a tour here, but connections are required. I hope they are successful. 

There weren’t any monkeys near the volcano, but elsewhere, plenty.

Here is an example of wasted government money. Somebody had the bright idea to built a marina, way out in the boonies about 6 years ago. Nobody ever stayed here. The electrical and water were never connected. The road in is unfinished. The building are being taken back by the jungle, and the locals are stealing whatever they can of value (like the dock cleats). Somebody made a pile of money, in their back pocket, when this was built. IF we brought our boat here, its too shallow, too remote and too close to the mangrove swamps to be of any interest. Its a flop.

We had many nice lookouts as we spent the day driving around the island. Here are Gabriele and Mariona with Diane at one scenic view.

One night we went out for dinner at Casa Nemo, a resort built by a Swiss man and his local Indonesian wife. It was a beautiful setting and we had pleasant conversation with Peter and his wife Donna on SV Kokomo. 

We will think back fondly of this place in years to come. One think we’ll remember is the 0515 prayer chant (which sometimes can go on for more than an hour) and the four competing mosques in the downtown area! The cacophony of “Allah Akbar” was sometimes relentless and always annoyingly LOUD. I am one of the most accepting people on the planet when it comes to freedom of worship and religion, and have lived for many years in Muslim countries. BUT, this place was truly “over the top”. I’ll also remember the shoreside ladder where you had to climb down to get to the dock (at the city centre where you have to access Quarantine, Immigration, Customs and the Harbour Master). The top two rungs of this ladder were apparently missing for two years, nobody gave a shit about fixing it. I paid two local guys to go out and get me two ladder rungs from the wood mill – and I screwed them on with Canadian Robertson screws, and wrote the word CANADA on each rung. Maybe future cruisers will see this and think about how they too can make a difference…..