Cyprus – Coast.

Esprit’s Cyprus coastal route.

Before we realised it, twelve days had passed in Larnaca marina – at the very reasonable cost of 13m x E0.60 = Euro 7.80/day, which equates to AUD 12.48/day. Having done all the sightseeing inland, jobs on the boat and cleaning, we set off again on Monday the 7th May, motor sailing to Limassol, 38nm to the west. We anchored outside the marina, which is very modern and expensive and out of the wind. The next day was spent exploring the marina and the surrounding city area, before motoring 4 miles to Ladies’ Mile Beach.

Limassol, approaching the marina.

Limassol marina houses.

Limassol marina boats – check the scale of the guy washing the decks.

Black boat: “You may be bigger than me, but I have bigger Mickey Mouse ears!”

Sign in a Limassol supermarket – fortunately, I found a youngster to buy me some Retsina.

Let’s dance!

Next day, sailing around the aptly named, Cape Aspro.

The following day we sailed around the Akrotiri Peninsula to anchor in Pissouri Bay, taking shelter from the strong westerly wind. It should be noted that the prevailing wind on the south coast of Cyprus, is a westerly wind, which starts at about 10am and builds up to 25 knots in the afternoon, before dying down again in the evening – leaving an uncomfortable swell in unsheltered anchorages. The coastline is dotted with windfarms of dozens of wind turbines, providing clean energy. Our next stop was to be Coral Bay, but one look at all the Jet skis and tourist boats with blaring music, had us hot footing it to Lara Bay – quiet and undeveloped.

Pissouri Bay

The reason we left Coral Bay.

Esprit anchored in Lara Bay north.

Lara Bay north – turtles come here to lay their eggs to hatch.

Lara Bay south – Van Gogh could have painted this scene.

We motored the 8 miles from Lara Bay to Cape Arnauti, the the north western tip of Cyprus, before anchoring 3 miles down the east coast of the peninsula, at Aphrodite’s Beach (According to legend, Aphrodite comes from this area). Our anchorage opposite Ttakkas’ restaurant was in crystal clear water, on sand, 1.5m under the keel. The fold up bikes were taken ashore and we cycled into Latchi town, about 5 km away, over an undulating landscape of olive trees and wheat fields. Latchi is quite a pretty town, built around the harbour.

Aphrodite Beach – Ttakkas’ restaurant.

The beach in front of Ttakkas.

On the Sunday, we cycled to the 300-year-old village of Neo Chorio, pushing the bikes up the steep hills for the last kilometre, before enjoying fresh pomegranate juice and baklava at an elderly lady’s small taverna. The ride down was quick, so we pushed on to Aphrodite’s pool to look at where the goddess reputedly bathed. Arriving back at Ttakkas’ restaurant we sank a few refreshing Keo beers, before going for a swim.

Stopping for a welcome drink, going up the mountain.

300 year old Neo Chorio mountain village.

Annie inspecting the menu at the Taverna where we stopped for refreshments.

View from Neo Chorio down to Latchi town and harbour.

Arriving at Aphrodite’s bath.

Me and my Aphrodisiac at Aphrodite’s Bath.

Ttakkas’ Sunday special lunch of lamb Kleftiko, which he starts at 6am with lamb cuts and potatoes on top of green Carob branches, bakes in a sealed clay oven for six hours. At 12:30 the Kleftiko oven was opened and we sat down for lunch with Mike and Sarah, who arrived on Soul that morning. The food, wine and company was excellent. After the very smooth house red wine, we had a Nanna nap in the afternoon.

Ttakkas’ uncle plastering the oven closed.

Ttakkas opening the oven 6.5 hours later.

Inside the oven -yum!

Lamb Kleftiko with Mike and Sarah.

View from our lunch table to Esprit and Soul.

Tuesday the 15th of May was a milestone for us – it marked two years since we set sail from Sydney and when I threw away my $7.95 Aldi Limited Edition watch. During this time, we have covered 16,739 nm (31,000 km) by sea, via Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, India, Eritrea, Sudan, Egypt and Cyprus. It has been a wonderful experience for us, meeting the local people in the countries we have visited, as well as sailors from all corners of the world. Health providing and with no grandchildren on the horizon, we estimate our circumnavigation of the world, will keep us busy for the next five years, maybe more. A great transition from work, to eventually chillaxing in retirement.

Latchi harbour approach.

Latchi on the north-west coast was our next stop. Panos, the harbourmaster at Latchi harbour, allocated us a berth at 9 Euro/day, including water and electricity, for 5 days – an absolute bargain, in a lovely harbour/marina. A coastal cycle/walkway leads to Polis town, a couple of kilometres away, where we shopped at the local Papantoniou supermarket. We cycled back with the bikes laden with wine, vegies and believe it or not, some excellent “boerewors” from the butcher, who once worked in South Africa.

Our marina berth with Mario’s furniture to relax on.

Dramatic cloud build up over Latchi every afternoon.

Our neighbours on the marina, Malcolm and Ann from Oxford, came around for drinks and we made a good impact on our white wine collection. Mario the other neighbour, lives on board and has an outdoor patio setting and an excellent collection of 60’s and 70’s hard rock music. The next morning after her morning walk, Annie cycled to Polis again for a haircut, while I dismantled Esprit’s winches to clean the gears in diesel, from the dust from the Red Sea and lubricate them. Quite a messy job and tricky to re-assemble.

Cycling to Polis – old farm buildings next to the road.

Cycling to Polis – prickly pears next to the road.

Sampling the prickly pears.

Polis church.

The winch stripped bare.

Right, all clean, now let’s put this together again – repeat this 4 times!

We have now almost spent a month in Cyprus and would be happy to spend another month here. But Turkey beckons – so on Monday the 21st May we will set sail for the Turkish coast – only 55 nm away.

Until later.

 

Cyprus – inland.

After our second Suez Canal pilot Alec, was picked up by a pilot boat at 6pm on Monday the 23rd April, we set sail from Port Said for Cyprus, 225 nm to the north-east. The conditions were as good as was predicted, with a light 10-15knot wind allowing us to close reach on a rhumb line course to Cyprus. By 2am on Wednesday the 25th we spotted the loom of the lights of Limassol on the south coast of the island.

Map of Cyprus.

At 9am we made contact with the marina in Larnaca, where we had booked a berth and after a 40-hour transit, we were tied up to a berth at 10am. Soul arrived shortly afterwards and was allocated a berth, directly opposite us on the B-finger. We checked in with the friendly marina staff, then customs and finally the marina police, who handled the immigration formalities. All friendly and efficient and very European. We then went to buy SIM cards for our mobiles with sufficient data for our internet and email use.

Larnaca marina.

The afternoon was spent catching up with sleep, before we hit the town with Mike and Sarah for a fantastic dinner of Cypriot food and wine. The following day was spent cleaning our respective boats inside and out of the layers of desert dust. Next thing, the bikes were taken out and we set off first up, to the tourist information office where a friendly lady supplied us with maps and information about the Republic of Cyprus.

Restored warehouses outside the marina.

Cyprus is the third largest and third most populous island in the Mediterranean and a member of the European Union. It is located south of Turkey, west of Syria and Lebanon, north of Egypt and east of Greece. It is roughly 213 km east to west and 126 km north to south. The Republic of Cyprus is partitioned into two main parts; the area to the south, comprising about 60% of the island’s area, under control of the Republic, and the north, administered by the self-declared Turkish Republic of Cyprus, after the occupation by Turkish forces in 1974. The occupation is viewed as illegal under international law and is recognised only by Turkey.

Old stone buildings in Larnaca.

For us wine lovers, it was good news to find out that the wine history of Cyprus has been alive and ongoing for something like 6,000 years. There are 41 modern wineries presently on the island which produce not only the well-known French white wine varieties like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and red varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz, but also indigenous Cyprus varieties like Xynisteri, Mavro, Spourtiko and Ofthalmo.

Very old Greek orthodox church just outside Larnaca.

Best of all, these Cypriot wines sell from AUD5.50 to around AUD10.50 for good quality blends in the supermarkets and you aren’t made to feel like a criminal buying wine and beer, as you did in India and the North African countries we passed through. Supermarkets are well stocked, prices are reasonable and the people are friendly and fashionably dressed. There are also a number of yacht chandleries where we could buy the required Navionics SD cards for the Med, cruising guides and all manner of yacht fittings.

Inside the very old church.

We decided Cyprus was definitely worth a 3-4-week visit, inland and cruising along the coast. The 28th April came around, as did my 71st birthday. Annie treated me to a new pair of Ecco shoes and we celebrated suitably with a BBQ on board Esprit with Mike and Sarah. Annie had bought some Cypriot meat dishes with baked potatoes and salads and desserts. Over dinner with bottles of wine, we all agreed that our present lifestyle should continue for as long as our health continues. We do indeed feel fortunate about the present.

Beautiful stone masonry in the old church.

A rental car for three days, shared with Mike and Sarah, allowed us to explore the mountains and wine regions. The first day we headed west along the coast to Zygi and then inland between Larnaca and Limassol to the mountain village of Lefkara, famous for its lace and silver smithing.  We explored the narrow streets and shops and had lunch at a taverna, before driving back to Larnaca. The second day we went east to Agio Napa and Cape Gkreko, an area on the east coast popular with Russian and British tourists, packed with hotels and holiday apartments. You could be in any generic tourist destination in the world – not for us.

Approaching Lefkara.

Lunch with Mike and Sarah.

Lefkara street scene.

Agio Napa beach.

The third day we headed west to Limassol where we had to pick up pilot books at a chandlery and some other yacht spares. Then we headed north into the mountains and wine producing areas, tasting wines at the cellar door and buying some indigenous varieties. We had lunch in Omodos, a beautiful mountain village where we explored the narrow streets and visited the monastery. We turned back after visiting Mount Olympos, the highest mountain in Cyprus and popular for snow skiing, before driving back to Larnaca.

Highway to Limassol – colourful Oleander on the verges.

Chapel on the harbour.

Baby girl to be christened in the chapel.

Walking street in Nicosia.

View from our lunch table in Nicosia.

Whilst we had the car, we did a major shop at the local hypermarket, stocking up with local and imported products, wine and beer. The local retsina wines which Annie and I enjoy, sells for about AUD 1.80 per 500ml, so we stocked up! I took the opportunity to borrow Mike’s oil sucking vacuum device, to drain the oil from Esprit’s 54 hp Yanmar, replace the oil and fuel filters and fill up with 5.5 l of fresh oil. While on a roll, I drained and replaced the oil on the 5 hp Mercury outboard and replaced the worn sacrificial anode.

Omodos village.

The monastery in Omodos.

Gents from the monastery.

Street scene Omodos.

Another street scene in Omodos.

Annie on top of Mount Olympos.

Tomorrow we set sail for Limassol. We plan to spend a week to 10 days exploring the south and west coast of Cyprus, before checking out at Pafos and sailing to Turkey.

We will tell you all about the coast in our next post. Cheers for now.

Gulf of Suez, the Pyramids and the Suez Canal.

Be careful of the reefs – a wrecked German yacht near Port Ghalib.

We departed Port Ghalib after checking out at 4:30 pm, on Thursday 5th April, in the company of Darryl Laurin from Canada, on “Vimy”, a Beneteau First 47.7 which he has sailed around the world singlehandedly.

Vimy – Beneteau First 47.7

As you sail north in the Red sea to Suez, particularly in the Gulf of Suez, the prevailing north westerly winds blows continuously against you at up to 30 knots, for days on end. This results in long waits for sailors, for the right weather window to sail north. The various forecasting models, six of which we use, predicted a four-day window of light north westerlies starting that evening, hence the sunset departure.

The Gulf of Suez is littered with oil and gas rigs.

Well, as experienced many times before, these models all proved inaccurate, because as we headed out of Port Ghalib, the wind picked up to 20 knots – straight on the nose. This resulted in a bone jarring all-nighter of choppy 2m swells, which we tried to motor sail into obliquely with waves breaking over the boat, crawling along at 2 to 4 knots. So jarring in fact, that one of the ceiling panels in the saloon dropped down! 11:30 am the next morning the wind and the swell decreased, allowing us to sail.

Ceiling drop down – took hours to re-assemble the switches!

It was a relief to sail into Marsa Abu Makhadiq at 5:30 pm. Having only covered 119 nm in 25 hours. We had a good night’s sleep, setting sail again at 5:30 the next morning to take advantage of the lighter winds. A difficult day’s sailing is usually followed by a good day, so we were able to sail across the entrance to the Gulf of Suez in a 16-18 knot wind averaging 7 – 9 knots SOG. The coast of Africa was left behind and we were able to cross the busy shipping lanes between ships, heading for the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula.

Marsa Abu Makhadiq.

Goodbye Africa.

A brisk sail.

After 40 miles, as we approached the Sinai coast, the wind petered out, so we started the cast iron genoa to make as much northing as possible, before the next N-W buster was predicted to come through at midnight. This got us as far as port El Tor just after sunset, having covered 87 nm. This time the predictions were correct and at midnight the wind started howling, putting strain on our ground tackle. We were surprised to find “Salima 2” a Bavaria 36 at anchor, with an elderly French couple (read, older than me) on board, who have sailed around the world. We first met them in Darwin and have caught up in different ports along the way.

Salima 2 in El Tor.

Port Ghalib to Suez.

Sunday was spent relaxing, servicing the anchor winch, tightening the jib furler and other maintenance items while the wind continued blowing. On the beach was a hotel with water sport equipment and the board sailors were flying past us. We had internet via our phones, so were able to catch up with emails. Also made some calls via satphone to the rellies. The wind pumped continuously through Monday and Tuesday, but on Tuesday after lunch with Darryl at the Moses Bay Hotel, we walked into town to buy fresh produce and provisions. It was a long walk, but we found more or less what we needed in small shops and markets.

Remember when we were addicted to this?

Le Tor shopping precinct.

On Wednesday we bit the bullet and motor sailed across the shipping lanes in an 18 knot NW to Ras Gharib, where spent the night in a very rolly anchorage, hardly able to sleep. The next day, we zig-zagged back to Sinai to anchor at Ras Malab, 60nm up the coast. Here we had Egyptian soldiers with AK47’s inspecting our documents and passports, photographing everything, as evidently, this was a military post!

Approaching Ras Malab.

Just as well Karen & Michelle caught a bus to Cairo in Luxor, as they would have been a week late for their flight to South Africa by now. They were being spoilt in Cape Town by their godmothers and friends. The Adelbert’s lent them a car to drive up the Garden Route and visit the Afrikaburn festival.

Karen & Michelle in Cape Town.

Vimy in the meantime had developed electrical problems – it appears either the alternator or voltage regulator had packed up. So with his batteries running down, Darryl had to manually steer his boat, hoist the anchor by hand and had no instruments or VHF. We escorted him to Suez, where he hoped to get it sorted. Finally, on Friday the 13th April, the wind died and we motored the last 48 nm to Suez city over flat seas. We were by now over the dust sifting down, and the wind coating the boat in a crust of salt and dust.

Vimy ahead of us.

Port control gave us permission to motor to the Suez Sailing and Rowing Club, despite the southbound convoy coming down the canal, with the first ships already exiting the canal. It was intimidating squeezing past these behemoths with barely 60m to spare in the channel. We were met at the yacht club by Karkar, the offsider of Captain Heebi of Prince of the Red Sea, shipping agents. He deftly tied us to a buoy and pulled Esprit’s stern to the small jetty and tied us up. Soon after, the larger than life Captain Heebi appeared and relieved us of USD500 for Suez Canal dues, port clearance, agent’s fees and 160l of diesel, which was promptly delivered the same evening.

The Suez mosque next to the canal.

On Vimy, Darryl cracks open a bottle of Champagne to celebrate our arrival in Suez.

Captain Heebi also arranged a minibus to drive us into Cairo to see the pyramids on the Monday for USD70 per person including entrance fees and lunch. The Saturday was spent cleaning the boat with fresh water whilst being inspected in turn by Customs, Immigration, The Canal Authority and the Army at 8pm! The Canal Authority makes quite a meal of measuring your boat to determine the fees due, to transit the 162 km long canal. Ours was calculated at USD200, which didn’t seem much, when we were told the big Maersk container vessels pay between USD500,000 to 800,000 to transit the canal. Good revenue earner for the Egyptian nation.

The rundown Suez yacht club.

Karkar and Captain Heebi.

Esprit and Soul tied up to the jetty next to the canal.

After coffee Sunday morning on Soul, we walked a kilometre to the nearest supermarket which was very modern, having opened in January. Surprisingly, the supermarket and two others, are ventures of the Egyptian 3rd Army. The shop assistants are all national servicemen/women doing their one-year military service after college! The manager (commanding officer) delegated Abu, who spoke English fluently, to accompany us through the shop and answer any questions – not many products have English text on it. We were quite a sensation – they have not had any customers spending AUD70 on groceries.

Mike waiting for the supermarket to open.

Not aware the supermarket has opened – Sarah and Annie.

A novelty person for local kids at the supermarket.

The trip to Cairo on the Monday was interesting in many respects. All along the road from Suez to Cairo, the areas on both sides of the road were pockmarked by piles of building rubble and rubbish. It appears there are no demarcated rubbish tips and the people therefore dump everything next to the roads. Cairo has a metropolitan population of 21 million people, living in a large rubbish dump, with half built buildings as far as the eye can see. The dreary dust covered structures are relieved by thousands of billboards along the roads, providing the only colour. The Nile flowing through Cairo.

Urban architecture.

But then you arrive at the Pyramids of Giza: These 5,000 year old structures are truly amazing. It begs the question how such an advanced civilisation from so long ago, building such complex structures, could have degenerated into the chaotic and unplanned city that Cairo is today. Mike and Sarah from Soul, Darryl from Vimy and ourselves, negotiated a guide and camels at $25 per person to take us around this vast area, having espied the sandy terrain we would otherwise, have to negotiate by foot. The camel ride is an experience in itself and not recommended for persons suffering from hemorrhoids. You do walk like an Egyptian after extended periods in the saddle.

Camel train.

Walking like an Egyptian.

Khafre’s pyramid. The limestone cap is what remain of the cladding, which was stripped by later generations for buildings.

Close up of – Khafre’s pyramid, 143m high.

The ladies had to touch the great pyramid of Khufu.

Ahab and Fatima with their camel called Clyde.

Our tickets also included a visit to the Sphinx and the museum underneath it. Then, there was a bit of a frisson with our guide about the size of his tip – everyone tries to milk you for every piaster they can get. Afterwards, we had a lovely lunch, compliments of Captain Heebi, before fighting the traffic back to Suez, where we arrived at 5pm. Thoroughly parched and aching for beers, we decamped to the spacious deck on Soul, where after the beers, many soothing wines were consumed with gusto.

Below the Sphinx.

The Sphinx guarding the entrance to the pyramids.

Bye-bye Clyde!

The Suez Canal

We were planning to stay in Suez for four days, but we ended up staying for nine days, due to very high N-W winds off Port Said and on our route to Cyprus. This gave us the chance to do some maintenance work on the dinghy outboard, the deck wash pump and also do a couple of loads of washing in the yacht club laundry. It also provided a non-stop view of all sizes of vessels steaming past us in the canal, a 100m away.

American warship heading south.

Container vessel making the warship appear like a Dinky toy.

And then, “Majestic Maersk”, when launched in 2013, at 400m, the longest ship in the world. (20,566 TEU containers)

We also braved the streets of Suez city on our bikes in search of a chandlery. Not recommended, as we saw not a single other bicycle and our presence on the road resulted in rubbernecking by vehicle drivers, causing near collisions. Also, in a city where the burqa is quite common, a woman on a bike dressed in shorts and a shirt, raised some lecherous banter from the Arab studs in their clapped out cars.

Suez canal route.

Ahmed, a canal pilot came on board Esprit on Sunday morning at 10am, the 22nd April and after the main convoy of ships had passed, we headed north in the canal to Ismailia where we arrived at 6pm for a compulsory overnight stop for yachts. Ahmed wasn’t backward in coming forward: As soon as we departed Suez, he asked for a pair of sunglasses and a packet of cigarettes and matches. Five minutes later it was for coffee (only drinks Nescafe) and cake. Annie offered him biscuits, which he grudgingly accepted. There followed a string of requests for orange juice, tea and lunch, which he woolfed down, but didn’t enjoy!

Ahmed.

Ahmed was proud to tell us that he had been working for the Suez Canal Authority for 21 years, that they paid well and that he was arranging for his son to get a job there as well. On arrival in Ismailia, the usual arguments then ensued about baksheesh, which really puts a damper on everyone’s Egyptian experience. The four yachts who were transiting together agreed to provide food and water, and tip the pilots USD10 each plus a packet of cigarettes and clothing. They were after all earning salaries from the SCA.

12:00 and a warship leads the southbound convoy.

Esprit carefully passed these monsters.

We were warned about Somali pirates, but not about the Egyptian pirates. The pilots demanded between USD20 – 50 each for their eight hours of work. The guy who caught our lines at the jetty, demanded USD5 and the SCA yacht club manager wanted to rip us off for more than the standard SCA, USD21 per night.

The well maintained SCA yacht club at Ismailia.

The next morning at 5am, when we were supposed to depart Ismailia for Port Said, we were informed that a warship was transiting the canal and that we will be informed later when we could leave. We phoned Captain Heebi who, after numerous calls managed to get us back in the canal after the warship had passed, at 11am. A new pilot Alec, came on board to accompany us to Port Said where we arrived at 6pm. Since the wars with Israel, the Egyptians have put numerous rapid deployment canal bridges in place – see below:

Mk. 1 bridges.

Mk. 2 swing bridge.

Mk. 3 floating bridge.

The new high bridge – still no traffic on it!

To summarise, for sailors who may be planning a similar trip – April 2018 costs for the Suez Canal in US$:

Suez marina 9 nights @ $21: $189

Canal Authority for a 44’ (13m) monohull: $200

Port clearance: $40

Agents fee (Prince of the Red Sea): $80

Ismailia marina 1 night: $21

Baksheesh pilots: $20 plus cigarettes, food, drinks and clothes.

Total: $550

 

Cheers, next post from Cyprus.

 

Port Ghalib and Luxor.

Dolphins enroute to Port Ghalib.

Midnight Wednesday 28th March and we tied up at the Port Control and Customs jetty in Port Ghalib, Egypt. We had sent emails advising the authorities of our ETA and tried to call by sat phone to find out if a night entry into port would be in order. No response, so we navigated in to find a couple of officials waiting for us on the jetty and welcoming us warmly. We gave them our passports, ships rego and crew list and were told they would be back the next morning at nine, with all the paperwork. We had a celebratory drink with Mike and Sarah on Soul who had arrived with us, went to bed and slept like logs after the 43-hour passage.

Dust storm – Port office and Esprit.

The winds were kind to us as we had 15 knots of easterlies on the beam for the 280nm route – blogs often report winds of 35 knot northerlies on the nose, blowing for days on end. We woke up on Thursday the 29th March, four weeks to the day since we left Cochin in India, to find that the wind had turned west overnight, bringing in dust from the desert, covering everything under a blanket of dust. The sun could not be seen through the dust cloud and we decided to chill for the day, or until the dust cleared, before cleaning up.

Port officials with Mike of Soul.

Esprit covered in dust.

At about 2pm the dust started clearing after a wind change to the north east. Our visas, customs clearance and other formalities were completed after 5 hours. Lots of paperwork, but very friendly officials. We were allocated two stern to tie ups on the long break wall of the bar and restaurant strip – right in front of the “Hakuna Matata” bar where people partied until the wee hours. We had a late lunch and stroll through the commercial centre next to three huge resorts. Sundowners with “Soul” and “Vimy” was followed by dinner on shore at very reasonable prices. We bought data for our modem and reserved a guided tour to Luxor, about 4.5 hours inland on the Nile river.

Girls on land in Port Ghalib.

Sundowners with Mike & Sarah opposite the boats.

Paddle boarding.

Snorkeling.

Haircut for dad.

Saturday at 5:30am, Abdul the driver picked us up at the marina and set off at a cracking pace through the desert. Annie had a similar Kia Rondo in Sydney but never drove it at more than 100km/h. Not Abdul – he put pedal to the metal and cruised at 160km/h, on roads with potholes, negative camber and overtaking on blind corners. I wished I had a handful of Valium to relax or fall asleep.

Formula one Kia.

Some greenery in the mountains.

Miraculously, we arrived in Luxor intact. We picked up our guide Bahy, who took us to the Valley of the Kings – a vast necropolis where many kings from 2000 BC onwards were buried. The story of Howard Carter’s discovery of the boy-king Tutankhamun in 1922 is well known. We visited his tomb, as well as the tombs of Ramesses 5 and 6, and Horemheb.

Entering the valley of the Kings.

Tomb of Horemheb.

Sarcophagus room of Ramesses 5.

Two friendly guards showing Michelle how to wrap her scarf.

Walk like Egyptians.

The Colossi of Memnon.

After lunch we drove to another valley where the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut was located. The adjoining temple of Mentuhotep 2, was not rebuilt after the earthquake of 27BC.

Temple of Hatshepsut.

See, we were there!

The colonnade.

We checked into the Lotus Luxor hotel where our room balconies looked down on the Nile. We had a swim, showers and sundowners before bedtime. Lunch was late and huge, so we skipped dinner.

Dhows on the Nile – from our balcony.

The following morning after breakfast we set of to the Karnak temple, the largest temple complex in the world, comprising 25 temples, built over thirteen hundred years. I was gobsmacked by the scale of this site. In my first year of architecture, we had to acquire Banister Fletcher’s bible “A history of Architecture” and I used to marvel at this temple complex, hoping one day to clap eyes onto it – well, here I was, overwhelmed!

Walking to the entrance of Karnak.

Hieroglyphics.

The hypostyle hall – 134 gigantic columns, 21m tall.

One of the two remaining obelisks – each carved out of one piece of granite.

Reconstructed statue of a Pharaoh.

For an encore, we visited the Luxor museum where a lot of the treasures of these sites are on display – many though were installed in the museum in Cairo, which we hope to visit when we go to see the pyramids.

Luxor museum.

Pharaoh no. ? (There were 30 dynasties)

Amenhotep 3 with the god Sobek – 18th dynasty.

The middle coffin of Ramesses 6.

We also visited an artisan community who still produce artefacts in stone, in the traditional manner.

Craftsmen at work with traditional tools.

Finally, we were treated to a cruise on the Nile before heading back at breakneck speed to Port Ghalib, compliments of Abdul – with me now ensconced in the back seat, my eyes glued to a book. Karen and Michelle took a bus from Luxor to Cairo from where they will fly to South Africa, for the “Africa Burn” festival in the Karoo.

Obligatory Nile cruise.

Michelle & Karen on their way to Cairo.

Racing back through the desert.

The boat felt empty without them on board, but we started cleaning up the dust, bought groceries and wine (surprisingly palatable Egyptian wines) before giving the Port Captain 48 hours’ notice of our departure to Suez on Thursday – he has to keep the Coast Guard happy, hence the timeous notification.

The friendly Port captain.

View from the port captain’s office to the harbour entry – note the reefs.

View to the marina.

View to the resorts.

Across the marina, the desert.

The modern souk shopping precinct.

More shops.

A tourist boat.

Cheers until we post a final blog on Egypt, after the Suez Canal and before sailing to Cyprus.

The Sudan.

Sailing from Massawa, using two chart systems: Navionics and OpenCPN, because of the sparse charting.

Leaving Massawa in Eritrea at 10:00 on Monday the 19th March, there was a perfect 10-12 knot wind from the east to take us up the coast on a broad reach. We decided to use the wind for as long as it lasted and sailed through the night and the following day, to anchor at Talla Talla Kebir island after 215 nm. This left us with a short 53nm sail to Suakin in the Sudan the following morning. We phoned Mr Mohamed the agent, on the sat phone to advise him of our arrival. He was waiting for us at 4pm when we anchored in Suakin.

Mr Mohamed.

Mr Mohamed was fluent in English and within 30 minutes he had completed the paperwork for shore passes etc. and organised two 10GB SIM cards with enough data for our emails and for Karen to complete her UM Uni assignments. He also organised and delivered 400 litres of diesel at 70c/l to fill our tank and have 300l spare in jerry cans. The government derives a good income from yachties (Sudan desperately needs it), so we parted with USD210, including Mr Mohamed’s fee. We had a quiet evening with all of us catching up with our emails and admin –  our minute Huawei modem linking all four laptops via Wi-Fi.

Karen contemplating her dinner menu.

The following day, the ladies on our boat set out for the markets, suitably attired for this strict Muslim country. The patriarchy is alive and well here, with very few women seen on the street or at the market – it’s a man’s world. If you do see a woman, she is covered from head to toe in fabrics. Annie and the girls were stared at by the men and felt uncomfortable. We thought Massawa in Eritrea was a sad sight, but this place is a dump – a country where the economy has been crippled by years of civil war between north and south (read Muslims and Christians). I stayed on the boat, filling the water tanks and defrosting the fridge.

Walking to market – Karen searching for a bin to put our rubbish.

Down the main street.

Buying vegetables.

Buying hooks and lures – the merchant was happy.

One of the two ladies they saw – with child.

Two big yachts, “Cannonball”, 77ft and “King’s Legend”, 65ft arrived, full of young people of Karen and Michelle’s age. We were invited to Cannonball for drinks and left later for more drinks on Soul. The girls went out with the young people to dinner and an all-night party on King’s Legend. They arrived back the next morning with hangovers, after which Annie and I lifted the anchor to motor to Sanganeb Reef, 43 nm north east of Port Sudan.

Cannonball.

Karen – last visit to the old town.

Michelle – ditto.

This turned out to be a good spot to relax with lots of reefs for snorkeling and a lighthouse to visit. The lighthouse keeper was happy to see visitors and allowed us to climb to the top.

Motoring to the lighthouse.

Lighthouse built by the British.

View across the lagoon to Esprit in the background.

The light.

The stairs going down.

Walking back to our dinghy.

Good snorkeling at the drop off by the end of the boardwalk.

We had just finished lunch after snorkelling, when Cannonball and King’s Legend dropped anchor. Our girls were a bit more cautious for a change and we enjoyed a quiet evening.

Kings legend.

After coffee with Mike and Sarah from “Soul” the next morning, we set sail in a 10-12knot N-E to reach north west for an overnight sail to Khor Shinab, 120nm from Sanganeb reef. The sea was steep and lumpy after a strong north easter, so by sunset we started the motor and headed straight into wind. The boat was slamming hard into waves, almost dislodging the fillings in my teeth. We arrived at Khor Shinab the next morning at 8am and dropped anchor in the deepest bay of the marsa (lagoon).

Karen on bommie lookout as we enter the marsa.

The day was spent exploring this lunar landscape, walking up a wadi and climbing some of the hillocks.

Runners on for the hike into the hills.

Walking across the wadi.

Top of the first hill.

Nice colours, but very little grows here.

View down to the marsa with Esprit in the background.

The girls hiking to the next ridge.

Well done! They made it to the top.

Afterwards the girls did their washing.

Laundry on the life lines.

Some fishermen arrived late afternoon and asked for water and we asked if they had fish to sell. We bought two red snappers with the currency of a kilogram of sugar and rice each, a packet of cigarettes and two bonus caps. Although I detest smoking, we were advised on numerous blog sites to carry cigarettes as these were as valuable as dollars. Hence, a carton of cheap lung cancer bought in Langkawi. We invited Mike and Sarah from Soul over for a fish barbeque and enjoyed a pleasant evening in their company.

Red snappers – Frank, I was thinking of you!

The next morning at 5am we lifted anchor at Khor Shinab (across the narrow Red Sea from Jeddah and Mecca in Saudi Arabia) and started motoring north to Port Ghalib in Egypt, passing the disputed border between Sudan and Egypt by midnight. Does this sound familiar? – most borders in this region are disputed. This then is a short account on the Sudan – we will report again from Egypt. Cheers for now.

 

Red Sea passage.

Note: This is a longer post than usual, as there was more time during this passage to reflect on events and record it for posterity.

The 28th of February 2018, was spent checking out with the Cochin Harbour Master, Indian Customs and Immigration. A tedious process which took 6 hours – lots of officials aimlessly talking and walking around. We were delighted when Immigration, the last department, took only 30 minutes to exit stamp our passports, so we bolted down to the docks, jumped into our dinghy and motored out to Esprit. We were determined to leave the Indian bureaucracy, the mozzies, the heat and pollution behind us, as quickly as possible. We pulled up the anchor and motored out of the harbour at 4:30 pm to set off across the Arabian Sea on the passage to the Red Sea.

Lowering the Indian flag.

The initial plan was to anchor a mile offshore, dump the undrinkable marina water in the aft 200l tank and run the water maker for 90 minutes to fill the tank with clean water. The stiff onshore wind and swell negated this plan, so we set sail and headed south west to the Nine Degree Channel, south of the Indian Cannanore islands, about 150 miles offshore. We got word that the Turkish boat in our group had decided to set sail from the Maldives, but rather go south to round Cape Town. The New Zealand 16m catamaran “Soul” was about 5 miles behind us, so we sailed together until we could catch up with the Swiss, “Elas”.

Beautiful sunsets.

The first night’s sailing was perfect, with a 10 knot wind, flat sea with 1 knot current in our favour and a full moon. By 10am on day one (the 1st of March) Soul passed us, as the wind dropped to 5 knots. We furled the jib to slow down and ran the water maker for two hours to make 300l of fresh water. We set sail again as Soul disappeared across the horizon. We were about 20 miles south of our intended route, but during the night clawed our way back north and caught up with Soul.

Soul passing us.

At 3am, I heard Mike on Soul, less than 2 miles ahead of us, calling the 300m long cargo vessel “Colombo” to tell them that they were closing in on us at 19.5 knots at right angles to our course. No reply, so I tried to raise them a few times and eventually got a reply. Their watch captain confirmed that he could see us on AIS and after I reminded him we were under sail and have right of way over power, he said he would alter course to pass behind Esprit. It was a big a surprise to discover that he altered course to gun for the gap between Soul and Esprit, missing Soul by a mile and Esprit by about half a mile! I hastily altered course to starboard to miss his stern – so much for the laws of the sea.

Rain! Time for a shower.

Day 2 dawned, still with perfect conditions but light winds, so we hoisted the asymmetric spinnaker. By noon, we passed Suheli Par, the most westerly of the Indian Cannanore Islands – shortly after which we were called by the Indian Coast Guard, for our particulars and to enquire if we had an armed guard on board. We were puzzled by the last question, but soon discovered that the cargo vessels and tankers passing us, showed on their AIS’s “Armed Guards on board” or “Navy Seals on board”, while we were still a week or more away from the HRA “High Risk Area”. It made us feel under staffed.

The girls having a nap after a busy day of tanning.

The winds were light and variable for the next two days, but Karen and Michelle’s racing skills came to the fore from here onwards, by using the wind shifts to maintain good boat speed. We made contact with Elas and Soul on day 4 to get their latitude and longitude positions. Our relative positions showed that Elas was about 60 miles south of us and Soul about 40 miles north-west. Elas said they had encountered head winds and that we should not wait for them, but use the north-easterly that kept us on course, to push ahead.

More beautiful sunsets.

The 5-day Predictwind forecast, downloaded on our Iridium Go, indicated a strengthening north-easterly. We decided to take advantage of the winds indicated and sail a northerly rhumb line route to Socotra, an island off the Horn of Africa – still 750 miles away. By the evening of day 4 we were pushed along at a brisk 8 – 9 knots SOG which held through the night and the following 3 days. On day 5, Karen hooked a Dorado, also known as Mahi-Mahi. This 60cm catch provided us with an excellent dinner. The girls also worked on their tans, read many books and watched movies in the evenings.

Karen’s Dorado.

If it had been slightly daunting to read about the HRA – High Risk Area for piracy, we were now having to travel through it and so of course, we wanted to get it over with as soon as possible. Vessel movement reports were sent to MSCHOA (Maritime Security Horn of Africa) and UKMTO (United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations).  It was reassuring to have the UKMTO phone number on sat phone speed dial if we needed it. The strategy adopted for dealing with the pirates seems to be working. At the height of Somali piracy in January 2011, 736 hostages and 32 ships were being held by pirates. By December 2014 that number has dropped to 30 hostages and no ships being held. In 2015 there were no attacks and just one suspicious event. Now, the Atalanta EU task force is in place, so we felt that this year is one of the safest to travel through the area.

The HRA.

The IRTC (Internationally Recognised Transit Corridor) runs for about 550nm down the Gulf of Aden, between Yemen (war) to the north and Somalia (pirates) to the south. The IRTC has two lanes, each 5nm wide and a separation zone between them, 2nm wide – effectively a traffic separation scheme. We planned to transit the Gulf of Aden in the buffer zone between the two lanes. This section to Bab el Mandeb is potentially the most dangerous area, patrolled by the coalition navies. We estimated we would reach the eastern entry point B of the IRTC on day 9 or 10, at our current speed. Our response in the event of an attack, had to be planned well in advance amongst the crew and these plans were now finalised, valuable assets hidden and radio and phone duties confirmed.

Start of the IRTC.

Day 8 arrived and the wind started dropping to 8 knots, 240nm from the IRTC. The engine was fired up again – the first time in four days. The nights have become noticeably cooler as we were heading north – evident when you looked at the water temperature readout from the hull transponder. The water temperatures varied from 32.5 degC in the tropics, to 30.8 degC in Cochin. It was down to 26.7 degC this morning. Shipping traffic has also increased approaching the IRTC, with huge tankers and cargo vessels passing us in both directions. Word from “Soul”, the 16m catamaran is, that they will be entering the IRTC tonight at around 6pm – a day ahead of Esprit. The light beam reaching winds have suited them well. “Elas” is a day or more behind us and have emailed to say they may pull into Socotra island for a break.

There are a number of yachts in Socotra taking on diesel and waiting for the best weather window. We plan to head down the IRTC, through Bab el Mandeb and on to Massawa in Eritrea for a two-day rest. Sunrise on day 9 and we passed the island of Socotra 70nm to our port side, with the north-eastern entry point B to the IRTC, still 120nm away. At 10:30am the wind died, so we furled the jib, to slowly drift while we started the water maker. After two and a half hours the water maker had made 350l of water and our water tanks were full – we didn’t plan on stopping in Djibouti, before Eritrea. I also topped up the diesel tank with 60l of diesel. The girls were enjoying the crystal clear water, diving and swimming, when a coalition patrol plane circled us not once but twice to take a closer look. Fifteen minutes later another plane arrived to do the same!

Foredeck mascots.

Diving exercises.

The motoring continued at 13:00 over a beautiful flat sea. An hour later I dropped Naomi Klein’s book “This changes Everything” (a slow burn read over 4 days), when there was a commotion on deck. For the past week, the girls had been trawling a thick line with four lures attached 3m apart, to improve their odds of a bite. We must have motored through a school of Bluefin tuna, because they struggled to pull in 4 tunas – all the hooks taken! We released two and cleaned and cryovacked two for eating. The sea in this area was teeming with dolphins, Orca’s and fish.

Four tunas.

Two for eating.

I just remembered a funny passage from the above book: A cartoon about global warming: A man stands up at a climate summit and asks “What if it’s a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?”

We entered the IRTC after 9 days and 12 hours of sailing, having covered 1,447nm (2,680km) from Cochin in India. The separation zone was clear as we motored west after sunrise, but the AIS showed up to 30 target vessels on the GPS screen, passing us on both sides.

This behemoth is 400m long.

By day 14 we had cleared the IRTC and were in Djibouti waters and Karen hooked three more Bluefin tunas. Next challenge was getting through Bab-el-Mandeb, Arabic for ‘Gate of Tears’, according to Wikipedia “The strait derives its name from the dangers attending its navigation, or, according to an Arab legend, from the numbers who were drowned by the earthquake which separated Ethiopia and Arabia.” The distance across the strait is about 17 miles so the wind tends to funnel through here and bend around the land, oscillating between northerly and southerly. We had timed our passage to coincide with the change to southerly winds and a rising northern tide.

The route through Bab el Mandeb.

But, we were still a bit early and so on the Djibouti side, the wind turned east, at 15 knots and we had a leisurely sail through Bab el Mandeb up to the Hanish islands (also under dispute between Yemen and Eritrea and best avoided). Then came the expected southerly winds, but gusting up to 35knots – a shock to the system – so we put 2 reefs in the main and with a small bit of headsail we screamed up the western shore, to cover 193nm in 24 hours. Evening day 15 and we anchored in Anfile bay behind a flat, featureless island – exhausted after fighting the steep sea. We cracked a bottle of champagne to celebrate! The following day, a pleasant sail to Port Smythe, on a small island, to anchor overnight.

Predictwind showing the wind we had.

Bare minimum of canvas.

Karen having her hands full in a big sea.

A word on boat insurance for the Red Sea HRA: We have been insured for years with Club Marine in Australia. They provide cover for yachts up to 250nm off mainland Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand, but are not prepared to extend their risk beyond that geographic limit. So we had to look elsewhere and insured with Topsail (Lloyds registered) when we left Australian waters. When we approached the Red Sea, Topsail were not prepared to cover us for the HRA. Annie found a Dutch insurance company who placed the risk with Lloyds, who underwrote our risks for loss and damage in this area, but excluded piracy and war. This cost us USD5,000, but we felt it worth the while for an investment of AUD500,000 to date. Well, this was the quickest USD5,000 blown in 7 days, because of the fear industry! Think twice before spending this money.

Tied up at Massawa tug wharf.

Day 17 and we arrived in Massawa, Eritrea in the Red Sea at 11:00 to tie up at the tug jetty after 2,430nm (4,500km). After 30 minutes, we were boarded by Customs, Immigration and Quarantine for a quick check and paperwork. We received a 48-hour shore pass for free – after 48 hours you pay US$50 per person for a visa to stay longer. Esprit was then anchored 50 metres from the jetty and soon we went ashore with a mountain of washing, which we deposited with Mike (Weldemicael Habtezion) at the Yasmin Bar for washing. Mike showed us to a café he thought was good and we had a lovely seafood lunch with drinks. The girls went shopping and I went back to the boat to make water and fill the tanks, as the local water is undrinkable.

Esprit anchored behind the tugs. Note the bombed out Governor’s Palace in the background.

The restaurant. Great frontage!

Lunch spread. Mike at the head of the table.

Massawa looks like a movie set for “Mad Max” after 30 years of war to get Eritrean independence from Ethiopia. Bombed out buildings everywhere, with people living in squalor and desperately poor, but so friendly you can’t believe it’s possible after all their suffering. After filling the water tanks, I had made 3 tubs of extra water to clean the salt encrusted Esprit after 17 days at sea. The girls were a great help washing the floors and pressure cleaning the deck and fittings with fresh water. Annie and I were pooped after a busy day and after a shower and a bottle of wine, hit the sack – on clean bedding! The girls had enough energy left to hit town and visit a few bars and have dinner, before getting home late.

The erstwhile Italian town hall.

The rundown old town.

These places become lively bars at night.

We had a late sleep on Sunday and the girls went shopping for fresh food at the markets while I did some necessary repairs and maintenance on the boat – anything to not go shopping! Sunday evening, we strolled around the old town with its derelict buildings, to discover this town had the highest number of bars per capita – despite the Muslim presence. We did a thorough pub crawl savouring their local beer, gin and vodka, before having dinner at a restaurant serving local dishes.  On the way back to the boat, we stumbled upon a wedding and were immediately asked to join in to the festivities. Late to bed, but up early next morning to fetch our laundry at Mike’s shop, before checking out with customs and immigration who went through our boat for stowaways. At 10:00 we set sail outside the harbour for Suakin in Sudan, 240 nm to the north.

Imagine these alley’s in the days of the Italians.

We had one too many at this pub run by two wonderful ladies.

The wedding.

Cheers for now.

Cochin, India.

Southern india.

After Karen’s arrival from Melbourne, she and Michelle left by train the following day to Varkala, 4 hours south of Cochin, to go surfing. Three days later they took the train to Alappuzha, in the “Backwater” area to spend two days exploring these waterways. Annie and I in the meantime, took the bus from Cochin for a 5-hour trip into the mountains to Munnar. The young driver of the bus, has aspirations to join the formula one circuit and managed to turn our already grey hair, white. Traffic on these narrow roads is chaotic and we had many near misses with trucks, cars, cattle and pedestrians. He had three rules: overtake on blind bends in the road; avoid eye contact with any other road users and blow the horn for 50 minutes of every hour. I think horns and hooters on vehicles here are replaced once a month, when they are worn out.

“CH–ST” ….  The bus nearly ran me over!

After a recovery nap in our B&B room, we set of to find a calming beer, white or red wine. We spent two hours and walked about 5 km’s before we found a government hotel, where we could order a beer and dinner. Evidently, alcohol is government controlled. After a Tuk-Tuk ride back to the B&B we had an early night. The temperature difference between Cochin and the mountains was substantial, so we had to buy sweaters to add to the jumpers, we had brought along.

Mr Blossom Dinesh Munnar

At 9 am the following morning Mr Blossom Dinesh Munnar our guide and us, set off on a 12 km hike up the mountains. The route took us through beautiful tea plantations, up to forested areas, before cresting in grasslands at the summit of the mountain we were climbing. Far below, we could see the town we set out from, before taking a different route to descend, back to town. Opposite us, we could see the highest mountain in southern India. We also took a Tuk-Tuk out of town to visit an herb and spice producing farm. We had a most informative tour of the farm with the owner, before buying some of their spices.

Starting fresh at the foot of the mountains.

Climbing higher through the tea plantations.

And higher – taking a breather.

At the top.

The view down to Munnar town, below right. Anamudi mountain, above left.

Winding our way down to Munnar.

Tuk-Tuk trip to the spice and herb farm.

Arriving at Green Valley farm.

Our guide and Annie.

I can’t believe these are figs!

Crucifix flowers.

The trip back to Cochin by bus, was again white knuckle stuff, which required two stiff shots of calming whisky when we got back to the boat the following evening. The next day we took delivery of 200 litres of fresh water for the front tank, as the town water on the marina jetty is only good for washing and showering. The rear tank is used for the town water, but we cannot use our water maker as the water we are in, is a Petri dish of contaminants. I also updated our GPS charts for the Red Sea, whilst we had good internet reception at the Bolgatty Palace Marina.

The girls returned from their travels the following day, very happy with the trains and their experience, despite the lack of good waves to surf down south. I did a run with Mr Nazar to the government liquor store to purchase beer. This store was specifically for tourists, even though it resembled a prison, with limited stocks of beer, wine and spirits. At this store, tourists can buy unlimited quantities of booze, unlike the stores for Indians with queues outside, where they can only buy 6 x 500ml cans of beer a day. I walked out with 4 cases of beer – 96 x 500ml cans at 100 rupees/can, which equates to less than AU$2/can.

Varkala.

Little surf.

Three of the yachts in the marina had left for the Red Sea run and in their place arrived “Soul” a NZ cat and our old friends the Rigney’s from California on “Kandu”. We have established a large sailing group with satphone and SSB comms, to exchange daily reports on our progress. We are leaving in batches of yachts with similar speed potential and 44ft Esprit will team up with a Beneteau 44 “Elas” from Switzerland and a Jeanneau 45 “Balickil” from Turkey. We will give them a 36-hour head start to rendezvous about 1,000 nm from Cochin, before entering the shipping corridor south of Yemen.

We are all registered with UKMTO (United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations) and MSCHOA (The Maritime Security Centre – Horn of Africa). Travelling through the HRA (High Risk Area) in the Gulf of Aden, between Somalia (potential pirates) and Yemen (war), through to the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait before entering the Red Sea. These organisations co-ordinate the coalition naval vessels patrolling the HRA. Wish us luck!

Passage to Bab-el-Mandeb, into the Red Sea.

Michelle and a friend from Sydney set off on Friday to Munnar, to climb Anamudi, southern India’s highest mountain, over the weekend. I did final maintenance on the boat and spent the warmest parts of the day at the hotel pool, while Annie and Karen visited the markets for fresh produce and finally the “Lulu” shopping mall for provisions.

Going up.

And up.

Selfie.

Sunset.

On the Sunday before we departed, Mr Nazar insisted that we join his family at home for lunch, so we took the ferry across to Fort Cochin where his family lives.

Waiting for the ferry at Fort Vypin.

The ferries are packed on a Sunday.

Lunch with Mr Nazar’s house – Grandma at the back.

Mr Nazar’s pride – his, and his son’s Tuk-Tuks. A far cry from Sydney’s BMW’s and Merc’s.

After lunch, we explored the Fort Cochin area where Vasco da Gama landed in the late 1400’s. The state of Kerala has the highest percentage of Christians, with churches everywhere. Followed by the Hindu religion and then the Muslims – all living in harmony.

Santa Cruz cathedral – first church built in 1505. Named cathedral 1558. This cathedral blessed in 1905.

A more modern Catholic church.

The Fort Cochin area was first settled by the Portuguese, then the Dutch and then the British. It has some grand homes dating back to the colonial times.

Councilor Shiny Mathew’s abode really shines.

Around the corner, the overhead cables hang low and is an obstruction for pedestrians – “No worries”

After the long walk, we needed a drink. This little cafe poured us cold Kingfisher beers in coffee mugs, because they were not licensed to sell alcohol. They also had a resident eagle.

Karen and feathered friend.

We were walking past the big fishing nets on the beach. I was intrigued with how they worked, so the chief fisherman showed us the process and enlisted our muscle power to lift the huge nets out of the water – aided by big rocks tied to the boom.

Fishing net contraption.

Father and daughter helping to pull the nets out of the water.

Finally, for you bike lovers, the second world war Royal Enfield motorbikes (Single cylinder, Twinspark) are still built in India, as are Jeeps by Mahindra. These range from the stock standard to the customized versions on the streets. See below:

The standard Classic 350cc version.

The Classic 500 cc version.

A customised 1969, 350cc Bullet version. (Harley-Davidson 1400cc ghetto blasters take note – these machines purr).

Mahindra Jeeps – still produced by the hundreds.

Stop Press: We have updated the “Follow Esprit” page with charts taken from our Open CPN navigation programme, to graphically show our progress. These will be updated with every post, to make it easier to follow the places mentioned in the text.

Cheers for now.

 

 

Phuket to India.

As reported in our previous post, we departed Langkawi in a hurry, as there were a number of deadlines ahead of us – much as we don’t like to rush! The shipwrights and service providers in Langkawi are mostly Australians and South Africans who have settled there and are very relaxed. They appear to think “you are retired, so you have a lot of time to waste”. Add to that the duty free aspect – gin, vodka and brandy at AUD7.50 per litre! Most locals and hard-core yachties are chilling in an alcoholic haze. The result was that we sailed back to Phuket ten days later than we had planned – cutting out a later visit to Sri Lanka enroute, to be in time to meet Karen in India, when she flies in from Australia.

Annie at a Langkawi shopping centre.

We did an overnight dash to Phuket to arrive at the Yacht Haven Marina in the north west of Phuket, just in time for Michelle’s arrival from Sydney. She arrived loaded with equipment for the yacht, a spare code zero sail, Aldi coffee capsules and meds for us. We managed to vittle the boat at Tesco and Makro, fill up with diesel (with additional containers on deck) and connected the additional 200A/h LifePo4 battery. The 2 x 265W Canadian solar panels and the 2 x 200A/h LifePo4 batteries are working a treat – I can monitor charging progress through an app on my iPhone. It shows the charging, absorption and float cycles.

Another 100 litres of diesel on deck. Total diesel load 500 litres.

iPhone screenshot.

Phuket: back in superyacht territory.

…and floating Chinese restaurant!

Yacht Haven marina’s most gross cat, behind a Leopard 39 cat.

Yacht Haven – view from the bar.

Father and daughter enjoying a drink.

Yacht Haven marina and Sevenstar laid on a fantastic party with free drinks and food for 150 yachties, the night before we left. We checked out with the harbour master, customs and immigration in Au Chalon, and set off in a fresh breeze from Phuket to India at midday on Saturday the 3rd of February 2018. The Predictwind ten-day forecast was for north easterlies of around 13-15 knots. It turned out to be easterlies, which meant we had to pole out the jib and run zig-zagging downwind. Esprit with her new clean bottom was like a young filly – we did 24 hour runs of 160 to 170nm, averaging 6.5 to 7 knots/h. Early on day 2 we passed Indira Point lighthouse on the southern tip of Great Nicobar island and Annie celebrated by catching a blue fin tuna.

Traditional music before the party.

Leaving Thailand behind.

New crew member Michelle.

Passing the lighthouse south of Great Nicobar island.

During the night of day 4, the long expected 15-18 knot north easterly kicked in and we could sail a rhumb line route, broad reaching to the southern tip of Sri Lanka where we passed the lighthouse at Galle on day 7. There was a 6-hour low wind period in the lee of the island, which we used to run the water maker to refill our aft tank – our 550l water supply had run out two hours earlier. Despite numerous reports to expect strong head winds on the leg from Sri Lanka to the south of the Indian peninsula, we caught the prevailing fresh north easterly again, about 25 miles offshore. This allowed us a romping tight reach across the Gulf of Mannar, between Sri Lanka and India – dodging numerous fishing boats enroute.

Sundowners sailing up the west coast of India.

No sooner had we made our Indian landfall at Cape Comorin at 5am on day 9, when we were intercepted by the Indian Coast Guard. The friendly commander asked for our boat and crew details on VHF channel 16 and welcomed us, checking if we had enough diesel, food and water to reach Cochin, before wishing us fair winds. We were expecting to motor the last 100 miles up the coast, but the wind fortunately turned north west to allow us a pleasant port reach up the west coast of the Indian peninsula to Cochin. At this point I should add that having Michelle on board for this crossing has made the experience really enjoyable. With Karen joining us later this week, the crossing of the Indian ocean to the Red Sea and beyond to Suez, should be a lot easier for us old codgers.

The new crew member even served us dinner.

Esprit at anchor off the Taj hotel.

We slowed down our speed approaching Cochin at midnight on day 9, to arrive at sunrise at the Cochin port entry, as there were numerous ships showing up at the entry area on our AIS. As we approached the leading marks at about 6:45 am, Cochin port control who had picked us up on AIS, called us on channel 16 to ask if we were entering port. Confirming this, we were told to enter and anchor off the Taj hotel, where a boat would meet us to start the entry paperwork. At 7:30 am the port manager and a guy from Immigration boarded Esprit with the necessary documentation. We were told to come ashore to their offices.

First Immigration – still fresh and all smiles.

… then Customs.

The British has left a legacy of official paperwork in India, that has no equal in the world. Six hours later, after visiting numerous buildings in the area, our entry was finalised by Customs, Immigration and the Port captain. We then proceeded to the Cochin “International” marina, where the berths are undersized and very shallow. The other yachties who we met over drinks later, told us we were very lucky to have finished checking in in 6 hours – most of them took 6 hours on the first day, with another 9 hours the next day! Possibly, we were lucky that our check in was on a public holiday, with only a skeleton staff at each department, thereby reducing the number of officials who wanted to shuffle the documents around.

Then breakfast at the Taj Hotel, while Customs shuffled our paperwork.

Finally, the Port Captain – what? we have to pay port dues?

Cochin is a revelation – chaotic traffic, unbelievable air and water pollution, with piles of rubbish around. Another source of pollution is the ear piercing Bollywood music emanating from the passing sight-seeing boats next to the marina. On the positive side, the Indian people are extremely friendly and willing to help. Confusing at first though, is their habit of shaking their heads from side to side, to confirm or agree with your conversation. We would of course nod our head up and down to confirm or agree.

Mr P.M. Nazar taking us to the Vodafone shop for our mobile SIM cards.

Downtown Cochin.

Ferry terminal in the city.

Ferry across the harbour to the marina.

Esprit on the right at our compact marina berth – almost touching the yacht behind us.

Interesting ferry – passengers are allowed to fly on the wing.

Our anchor and chain was again showing serious rusting, so we took the opportunity to have these re-galvanized at reasonable prices, while we are here for a fortnight. We will also stock up with provisions and replenish the diesel before we set off for the Red Sea crossing at the end of February. Karen will arrive on Saturday – she and Michelle plan to head south to do some surfing, while Annie and I will travel inland to do some sight-seeing. We will keep you posted on further developments. Cheers for now.

 

 

Langkawi – take two.

Sunset over Nai Harn Bay from the Phuket Yacht Club.

After Michelle left for Australia, we stayed on at anchor at Nai Harn Beach, which was well sheltered from the weeklong strong northerly winds. We did daily walks and took the opportunity to explore Phuket by rented car and mopeds. The car was necessary to collect boat spares at Boat Lagoon Marina and our new davits from Scotland, at a post office north of the town.

Coffee and croissants after a morning walk with Mike and Debi from Cape Town.

Budgie smugglers rule! The wife of the bloke on the right, slapped him with a wet copy of the Women’s Weekly.

Easy riders.

Phuket’s big Buddha.

Christmas day coincided with Mike Kruyt’s birthday. We had a jovial group of friends celebrating at a Christmas lunch on the beach. New Year’s eve arrived and we had dinner with friends from the UK and Holland before settling on Esprit with drinks, to see in the New Year and celebrate Annie’s birthday. The locals put on quite a spectacular but un-coordinated fireworks display on the beach. It started at at 11:30pm and sporadically carried on until 2am! Great fun.

Christmas lunch.

Michelle and Karen – Christmas day at Byron Bay.

New Years eve dinner.

Michelle & Karen: New Year’s day music festival at Wisemans ferry.

We set sail back to Langkawi on the 3rd January and had a leisurely sail visiting islands enroute, on the 3-day journey back to Rebak Marina. The reason we sailed back for the haul out of Esprit, was that the quote from Rebak Marina for the slip, pressure clean, sanding down the hull, two coats of antifouling, polishing the topsides above the waterline and a comprehensive engine service, was around AUD1,500 less than in Phuket. Grant and Pete, both Aussies, did a fantastic job.

Esprit haul out and barnacle scrape off.

Pressure cleaning the hull.

For our non-sailing friends, a few photos will show the effect of the oceans on a sailing vessel after only 14 months at sea, since the previous haul out. Like a car or a house, a boat requires annual maintenance.

Esprit off to her parking bay in the rain.

Yanmar leg and prop with worn anodes.

Pete stripping the saildrive leg to drain the oil.

Once out of the water, the 2-metre long rudder showed movement on the shaft, resulting in Grant removing the rudder to have new nylon bushes and brass shims turned and fitted. An unexpected AUD 700 remedial exercise, but a precaution against losing the rudder in mid-ocean.

The rudder waiting for new bushes.

Mr Sahad applying the second coat of anti fouling paint.

Folding prop with new anodes and propspeed silicone paint.

The boat went back into the water after 8 days. We spent this time at a charming beach resort on the main island, taking the free ferry in to Rebak island each day to do work on the boat.

Esprit going back into the water.

View from our room.

Our wing at Senari Bay.

Sundowners on the beach.

Dinner at an Indian restaurant.

Dancer at the Indian restaurant.

It was a short trip to Telaga Harbour Marina, six miles to the north where we took a berth while Chris Morgan arranged stainless steel welding for the new davit mounts and a frame to carry the two new Canadian Solar panels above the bimini.

New dinghy davits.

New solid solar panels mounted above the bimini.

The customs and immigration office opposite our berth at Telaga Harbour Marina, has a clocktower which plays a tune and rings the bell every hour from 8am to 8pm. Very quaint.

There are a number of restaurants around the marina with reasonably priced food and drink. Langkawi is a tax free island, so we stocked up with wine, diesel, engine oil, filters and other tools and spares.

Dinner on the marina waterfront.

After ten days we sailed back to Phuket, to meet up with Michelle and prepare for the trip to India.

Langkawi to Thailand.

Looking up into the sky in Langkawi, you are bound to spot sea eagles, which are fascinating to watch as they swoop down to catch Garfish, which are in the habit of tail walking across the water. Langkawi, according to folklore, got its name from the two Malay words ‘helang’ (eagle) and ‘kawi’ (reddish brown): hence, lang-kawi.

The huge eagle statue in Kuah town.

After a five-day stay at Rebak Marina west off Langkawi, during which time we met a host of new yachties and travelled across to the main town Kuah, we set sail to explore some anchorages on the surrounding islands. The scenery is absolutely unique, with sheer limestone marble cliffs rising from the landscape at every turn. The land is densely forested with small fishing villages found only where there is flat land, which is rare. Most of the population resides on the biggest island Langkawi, where Kuah is the centre. We saw surprisingly few cruising boats and had anchorages to ourselves.

Rebak marina.

We anchored off Princess lake, which is quite a tourist attraction. Because we had no dinghy at this time, Annie used her paddleboard a lot to visit onshore sites.  We tied up at the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club for two nights, during which time I installed a new anchor pressure wash system to cope with the muddy bottoms in these parts. We also filled up with diesel before setting off north to Thailand.

Princess lake.

RLYC

Sunset from Charlie’s Bar at RLYC.

The new anchor pressure wash system installed at RLYC.

Sailing north along the east coast of Langkawi island, we stopped at the “Hole in the Wall” which is part of the Kilim Geoforest Park – a World Heritage area and definitely worth a visit. We had a leisurely three-day sail from Langkawi to Phuket, averaging about 45 miles a day.

Kilim Geoforest Park.

Entering the Hole in the Wall.

The lake inside hole in the wall.

On our first day, as we crossed the border from Malaysia into Thailand, I was busy lowering the Malaysian and hoisting the Thai courtesy flags, when Annie shouted for help. Thailand had welcomed us with a beautiful Spanish Mackerel, which Annie landed, filleted and cryovacked into 16 portions. This catch will keep us fed with protein for more than a week. The beauty of this species of fish, is the absence of scales and fish bones – simply slice the meat off the spine and its bones.

Up goes the Thai flag.

Spanish Mackerel.

Annie the filleter at work.

As we approached Phuket, the peculiar vertical limestone marble outcrops rising from the sea became numerous. These sheer stone structures known as karst outcrops, with vegetation clinging to it, are all over. The last time we visited Phuket was two months before the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004. After the utter destruction, now 13 years later, it is paradise again, as usual.

Karst outcrops.

We arrived at Chalong Bay in the south of Phuket on Monday 11th December and anchored to check in with the harbour master, customs and immigration. It was a public holiday and we were advised to check in later. So, we sailed up the east coast of Phuket to a berth at Ao Po marina. Cholamark Boat Company delivered our new Highfield 2.9m Ultralight dinghy the same afternoon.

Michelle hiking with friend in the Lake District.

The following morning, we drove a rented car to the airport, to welcome Michelle our daughter, who flew in to Phuket from London where the temperature was – 6 degC. Two days before flying over, she was hiking in the Lakes District where it was snowing and the week before, she and her friend Simon, were in Iceland to see the Northern lights at -18 degC. The local temperature of 30 degC was a welcome relief.

Gosh – look at this pale girl.

Pale girl with dark father.

Afterwards, we drove south to Au Chalong to check in with the harbour master, customs and immigration – this was a painless and speedy 15-minute exercise. On the way back to our marina, we stopped to stock up with Vittles for Michelle’s 10-day stay.

Hong entrance.

After two nights at the Ao Po marina, we set off to explore the numerous islands in Phang Nga Bay, between Phuket island and Krabi on the mainland. Some of these karst outcrops have internal lakes, accessible by narrow caves which you row through in the dark to get to the “hongs” which means rooms. These are spectacular natural wonders, sometimes open to the sky through steep shafts, letting in light and air.

Entry to hong at Koh Phanak.

From the inside.

Light shaft.

Annie on an internal lake.

After exploring a few of these hongs, we were motoring to “James Bond Island” when we ran aground on an uncharted sandbank. This resulted in a 6-hour wait for the rising tide to lift us off, with the aid of the Mercury outboard on the new dinghy, pulling at the 10-tonnes of Esprit, at full throttle.

James Bond island in the distance – Esprit careening in the foreground.

Visiting JB island by dinghy while we wait for the tide to turn.

We continued at a relaxed pace to the east coast at Krabi which is really beautiful. We spent a few days exploring and sampling the local food before heading south to the Phi Phi island group.

Koh Yao Noi beach resort for lunch, enroute to Krabi.

Esprit anchored off Railay beach in Krabi.

At the penis shrine on the beach.

Rock climbing is very popular in Krabi.

Outdoor stalactites.

Amazing walks.

But, I am so hungry!

Krabi village street.

Bob Marley bar – magic mushrooms and ganja with the drinks.

Railay beach.

The ubiquitous and noisy long-tail boats.

Canoeists give scale to the overhanging stalactites.

Annie & Michelle on the beach.

A strong wind started to build up out of the Gulf of Thailand from the east, so we had a boisterous sail back to the shelter of Nai Harn beach on the southwest tip of Phuket island. In the relative shelter of this beautiful beach we sat out the gale force winds for three days. This severe weather system sank a yacht in the Philippines, drowned the Aussie skipper and left two crew in hospital.

We did numerous walks and on Thursday the 21st of December we will rent a car to drive to the airport in the north of the island, for Michelle to catch a flight to Sydney. She will spend the festive season with Karen and friends in Byron Bay, before going to the Rainbow Serpent Festival in Victoria, where she and a friend have received a grant to do an art installation.

We will be hanging around this area for the Christmas and New Year festivities with the other sailors, before sailing back to Langkawi to have Esprit slipped, cleaned, antifouled and the engine serviced for the long haul to India at the end of January. We will do another post before setting off. Cheers for now.