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  April 2010


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01/04/10  Belgium bans the burka!  Blizzards and high winds grip Britain.  This is April 1st.....right?

04/04/10  A few days of shopping for bits and pieces and a day of hospitality onboard 'Chatham'.  Strange to be on a warship again - and things have certainly changed since I was in the Andrew - what a cushy life they now lead! Nonetheless, it was a very pleasant change for us and we had the grand tour of the ships armament, ops room, bridge and engine room, followed by a few beers in the Chief's mess.

05/04/10  Our original sailing time of 0700 was screwed up by Mohammed, who has been somewhat a pain to us all since our arrival, and it wasn't until 1700 that we finally weighed anchor and got underway to make our way along the Omani coast.  The coalition forces have been very successful in thwarting pirate attacks off Yemen and consequently the pirates have moved their field of operations further north, which means that we are still very much in the danger area and attacks are being carried out within our immediate vicinity.  Travelling overnight in convoy again, we headed up toward the Kuria Muria group of islands, catching yet another blue fin tuna at 1900.  Pictured right are some of the rally boats anchored side by side with lines ashore in Salalah Port.

06/04/10  A very hot day during which we were contacted by an Iranian warship, and caught yet another blue fin tuna.  Anchored close inshore of Hallaniyah Island in 7 metres of water at 1445.  White sandy beach about 200 metres to port - and not much else!

07/04/10  Day 1, Wednesday.  I'm calling this day one of our crossing the Arabian Sea - it shouldn't have been but it is, for reasons which will become obvious.  After a rolly night at anchor, we got under way at 0700 and continued our generally northerly course for Masira (and fuel), spotting dolphins and turtles along the way.   A fishing skiff zoomed across my stern in late afternoon and took my line and (lucky) lure - a bit of revenge for us though, because it stopped him dead in his tracks when the line wrapped around his propeller.  At 2200hrs, as I was marking position on the chart, I heard an ominous sound from the engine compartment - the alternator belt had broken!   It had come apart like the remould tyres you see at the side of roadways and the flaying end had sheared through the wiring loom, cutting electrical leads to oil pressure, alternator output, water temperature and the starter motor solenoid.  The convoy, now in a dangerous area, continued slowly ahead whilst Storm Dodger stayed close by.  We were able to sail at slow speed while I worked on the engine, removing the water pump, alternator and each belt - this is difficult on a Warrior sail boat, as the only access to the engine is through the cockpit floor, and of course the engine was hot!  85 miles covered.

08/04/10  Day 2, Thursday.   At 0600, I finally managed to complete the repairs, was able to start the engine, and we were underway again.  At 0915, when I woke up, I was surprised to find that we had caught up with the convoy and were back in position.  Shortly afterward, the convoy separated - some boats turning east to cross the Arabian Sea and ourselves, Easy 'n Free, Storm Dodger and Shelter continuing toward Masira for fuel.  Four hours later, at 1510, after discussion with Roger, we too decided to turn eastward without motoring the extra 120 miles for fuel, and set a new course for Mumbai - or as I'm sure most of us know it - Bombay.  Just an hour later, we had to stop whilst Roger sorted out a problem on his autopilot - quickly done in just over a half hour.  107 miles covered. 

09/04/10  Day 3, Friday.   A day of mixed sailing, motor sailing and motoring.  Then sailed through the night with all sail.  72 miles covered.

10/04/10  Day 4, Saturday.  Light winds from the wrong direction made for an uncomfortable day of rolling and slow progress.  Worries about fuel consumption in these light airs plague me, but we can transfer some from Storm Dodger as and when required.  103 miles covered.

11/04/10  Day 5, Sunday.  Motor sailed from midnight until 0600.  At 11am, my autopilot refused to steer to port and I suspected a broken drive belt, so it would have to be taken apart.  We set the boat to sail itself by balancing the sails, then removed the steering wheel and stripped down the autopilot, only to find the belt intact and a small plastic guide worn through to it's securing screw.  Fortunately, I had another - which I had rescued from the 'old' autopilot in Guernsey, so I was able to repair and reassemble the unit by 1pm.  93 miles covered.

12/04/10  Day 6, Monday.  Not much to say about today, they all seem the same......a mixture of good sailing conditions and bad.   By 'bad' I mean where we have to use the engine to keep going forwards.  86 miles covered.

13/04/10  Day 7, Tuesday.  Not a particularly good start to the day when Roger's cruising chute broke free of its halliard and crashed into the sea ahead of the boat at 0645 this morning.  We stopped while Roger went into the sea and checked nothing was caught around his propeller and I circled Storm Dodger under sail.  All well by 0810, and we were underway again.  94 miles covered.

14/04/10  Day 8, Wednesday.  A better start today with dolphins playing in the bow wave from 0530 until 0600, then a good morning sail until the wind once more died at noon.  These long passages can get boring!  A minke whale alternated between the two boats, swimming close by and under the keel.  Watched shooting stars and satellites throughout the night.  85 miles covered.

15/04/10  Day 9, Thursday.  We had a scare about 4am this morning when I saw an unlit radar target behind Storm Dodger who was 2 miles off my port side.  I called Roger on VHF and we both changed course to get closer together.  The target came closer to me and moved as if to go between us before suddenly disappearing from the radar screen.  I can only suggest the conning tower of a submarine who had come to have a look at us, and scare us to death!  103 miles covered.

16/04/10  Day 10, Friday.  Motor sailing all day in close company with Storm Dodger.  Carried out our second R.A.S. (replenishment at sea) by Roger holding a steady course while I approach from behind, then throw a heaving line across and tie on jerry cans of fuel for Robby to pull over to us.  Also passed over some Dorado which they caught today - we don't often trail a line now because everyone except Robby and Mutley are sick to death of tuna!   I know, I know....in UK most of you would kill for freshly caught tuna....but we can only eat so much of it you know!!  The evening saw us with a threatening storm ahead and the winds strengthened and blew from the south east.  At least it allowed us to stop the engine and sail at 7 knts eastward until the storm skirted around us. 

17/04/10  Day 11, Saturday.  With around 60 miles to go and the wind gone to sleep, we wallowed around making about 4 knts. until daylight, dodging fishing boats, nets and oil platforms.  Another R.A.S. - this time coca-cola from us to Storm Dodger.   An Indian warship, (ex Royal Navy Leander Class Frigate) changed course to come up alongside and check us out.   By noon, we could see the city of Bombay, shrouded in haze on the horizon and at 1645 (Oman time) we anchored off the Royal Bombay Yacht Club and the Taj Mahal Hotel.  Local time is one and a half hours ahead, so it was 1815 hrs.  It seems that several of the other crews here have not yet been ashore due to the slowness of immigration formalities.

18/04/10  All paperwork handed in to our agents at noon, in order to get our shore passes, diesel, water etc., but as today is Sunday, it's unlikely that anything will happen until tomorrow.  Wi-fi connections are showing on my computer, but no signal is strong enough to make any use of.   Just under a mile away is the naval base, and tied up alongside is the aircraft carrier INS Viraat - formerly HMS Hermes - my old ship!!  It would be great if I could arrange a visit onboard?   Marine Solutions who are our agents/sponsors in India, held a wine and cheese party for us during the evening, onboard a barge anchored about a mile south of our position which I am sure was enjoyed by all who attended.

20/04/10  Since we arrived, the wind (which we wanted some days ago!) has been blowing from the south and making the anchorage very uncomfortable, a few boats suffering damage of one sort or another.  My stanchions have been bent inboard by the water taxi and the wind vane rudder knocked off because Robby (who left the boat yesterday to continue his overland travels)  tied the dinghy too close to the stern of the boat.  Yesterday, Astrid and myself went over to Slamat which was getting too close to moored motor boats, and helped Monica to re-anchor some 300 metres further south.  Now we have our passports back and our honorary membership cards to the Royal Bombay Yacht Club, we were able to go ashore and did so on the 11am water taxi.  The city is fascinating.  It's heaving with people and traffic, the taxi's are almost all old Fiat Premiers or Morris Ambassadors - or at least the Indian equivalent and everyone drives like they are invincible.  Lunch in the yacht club was like stepping back in time, very colonial and every inch the 'gentlemen's club' of yesteryear.

22/04/10  Happy Birthday to Jordan onboard Storm Dodger.  Spent the whole day waiting for fuel, then filling the tank and jerry cans until after 7pm.

24/04/10  We have been out and about in Mumbai, searched out suppliers of rope (my genoa sheets need replacing), printers capable of copying A1 size charts, beer and wine wholesalers - and other important yottie requirements.  Lunch in the yacht club has become the normal practice for all crews and last night we were invited to a dinner for all crew members and local dignitaries.  The press have been photographing boats and interviewing some crews.  Prior to the dinner, we took a tour of the city, visiting the fisherman's village, the laundry area (where the city's dirty washing is taken every day and scrubbed clean in open air tubs), the commercial area of 'new' Mumbai, the Jain Temple and the hanging gardens.  We also went to the Towers of Silence, where people of the Parsi religion take their dead.  In the Parsi temples, only fire is worshipped, there are no idols or priests, just a permanent flame and as they do not want to contaminate flame by cremation of bodies, nor the earth by burial, they take the bodies to the Towers and leave them exposed for the vultures, eagles and crows to dispose of.  Only when all the flesh is stripped from the bones do they bury the remains.  The religion is dying out because they marry late and produce few children, and the religion can only be inherited and not joined.  Traffic in Mumbai is horrendous, with black and yellow taxi's everywhere.  The driving skills amount to 'aim it and go', non of the taxi's have wing mirrors (not that anyone would use them), either they have been ripped off, or folded in to prevent ripping off.  There is absolutely no lane discipline, or indicators (they are broken too!) and it's an experience just to travel in one of these old heaps and watch the road go by under your feet!  Apparently the authorities have said the old cabs have to go, but there are some 60,000 of them in Mumbai.....so no-one takes any notice of the orders.  Amidst all this mayhem, cows wander freely along the roadways!

26/04/10  We were told to move anchor some half a mile south to the barge which we visited on the 18th - something which annoyed me intensely because after so many days at anchor in a strong tidal current, the anchor was well and truly dug in.  It took me some 45 minutes to weigh anchor against strong wind and a 2 kt current, only to drop it again 10 minutes later.....and all just for the sake of flagging off the regatta to Goa (in which incidentally, no-one except ourselves is taking part!)  Secondly, I was also annoyed that only last night, I was informed that I would be having a crew member onboard from the Bombay Yacht Club, leaving me absolutely no time to provision for two.  Anyway, Sandeep joined the boat from the barge and he's a great guy who is keen on learning to sail yachts for his RYA Yachtmaster exams.  He owns a 20 foot open dinghy which he has sailed extensively along the Indian coast and he proved to be a valuable asset onboard when it came to negotiating the massive fishing fleets which we encountered over the next few days.  We weighed anchor again at 1715 and left Bombay under full sail, making up to 7 knts throughout the evening - but out to sea rather than southward along the coast.

27/04/10  At 0200 the winds died and the expected land breeze did not set in.  It's probably too late in the year according to Sandeep, January and February being the best months to sail this coast.  Anyway, we were forced to start the engine and motor sail for the rest of the voyage to Jaigarh, where we anchored at 1730.  A half hour later, we all went ashore and were taken to Lord Ganesha's religious tourist place in Ganpatipale village, which is on the coast some 20km south of Jaigarh, for dinner and an evening show of local folk dancing, returning to the boats around midnight.

28/04/10  Leaving the charming little village of Jaigarh at 1030, we made our way out through the narrow channel to sea, heading south again under full sail (and engine).  Only for short periods were we able to stop the engine and sail in quietness, as the winds were very fickle.  We were approached by the local police boat and questioned about our destination etc - but Sandeep was able to speak to them in their own language and they went off happily.  We had also been questioned yesterday by the Indian Coastguard, so obviously the authorities are taking the threat of terrorism seriously.  The seasons are now changing and the monsoon will soon be with us - all night long we could see an electrical storm in the distance ahead.

29/04/10  Early morning saw us approaching the mouth of the Mandovi River and it wasn't long before we were threading our way up the dredged channel to the anchorage off Panaji - the capital of the state of Goa.  I have to say that, on first impressions, the place contains everything that I hate about destinations - parasailing motor boats, loud disco boats with grotesque flashing  lights.....and tourists!  In fairness, I haven't yet been ashore, so I will reserve final judgement.

30/04/10  Went ashore at 0945 to complete paperwork for entry into Goa........and at 1900 it still wasn't finished!  The country is 100 years behind, everything is written out longhand in  triplicate (no carbon paper), old typewriters are on each desk and the number of papers you personally have to fill in, then take to the nearest photocopy shop to run off several copies is unbelievable.  On top of this, the traffic is well.....I thought Mumbai was bad, but this is stupid and I saw one woman run over by a bus this afternoon.   For all the tourists I have some advice, save yourself mega bucks, several hours on Thomas Cook cattle airlines with the associated airport hassle - and go to Blackpool, where you can enjoy cleaner sea with the same gaudy lights and disco bars but for a fraction of the cost.  My thanks to Sandeep for helping with all the formalities of checking in and checking out - he leaves the boat here to return to Mumbai, his wife and his job, but before he leaves, he arranges new crew for myself and Storm Dodger, for the next leg to Kochi (Cochin).


Click for some of the Vasco da Gama boats.

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