Home of the yacht "RHUMB DO"
  may 2010


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01/05/10  I planned to leave this morning and make my own way to Cochin but Sandeep's recommendation of crew made me change my mind and wait another couple of days, although I suspect there may be trouble with the Port Captain and Customs when I change my crew list on Monday. 

02/05/10  Dhanya, my young Indian lady crew member and accomplished J24 sailor, joined the boat.  (Dhanya's website)

03/05/10  Sure enough, the Captain of the Port wasn't best pleased when I turned up at his office this morning with a change of crew list, and purposely delayed us.  We also needed to clear out in the Customs Office on the other side of town, as well as buy our fruit and veg for the next four days or so. 

04/05/10  Storm Dodger and ourselves weighed anchor at 0900 and made our way out to sea, motor sailing throughout the day because there was little or no wind. 

05/05/10  Absolutely no wind this morning but there was an electrical storm astern of us during the early hours, lighting up the sky with vivid forks of lightning.  Dodging fishing boats all night long - and still motor sailing in high temperature and humidity.  Haven't caught any fish either, although something fairly big had obviously taken an interest in my lure and bitten through the wire trace, taking my brand new lure with it.

06/05/10  Happy Birthday Tracey.  Again an electrical storm, this time ahead of us, which fortunately dispersed as dawn broke.  Stopped the engine for three hours at 0630 and decanted 100 litres of fuel from jerry cans, topped up water and oil and repaired a damaged bimini frame.  The day was a mixture of sailing and motor-sailing and the evening was the usual game of fishing boat dodgems as we remained within 10 miles of the coast.  How can there be so many fishing boats??

07/05/10  The skies blackened just after midnight and the lightning started again, this time much closer.  I reefed the genoa and put two reefs in the mainsail in anticipation of the storm, then went to bed at 0200, leaving Dhanya on watch.  Just after 0400, Dhanya woke me and said we were in the storm, and within seconds of stumbling into the cockpit, the wind and torrential rain hit us.  Lightning was hitting the sea all around and very close, the air noticeably heating up with each 'strike'.  Both wind alarms were screaming out warnings and the autohelm alarm told me the course could not be held.  It took several minutes to ease the main and furl the genoa before regaining course on a beam reach with the wind blowing at 40 knots.  The main worry was the shipping and fishing boats - which were now invisible in the driving rain and rough seas.  The storm was fortunately a localised one and lasted just two hours.  By 0900, we were back to the usual motor sailing in calm seas.  It was obvious that we were not going to make it to Cochin in daylight and would therefore not be able to clear customs and immigration during their working hours - a problem for Ayesha, the young girl crewing on Storm Dodger as she had a return flight to Mumbai booked for Saturday morning.  Phone calls to influential persons in Cochin were made and as we anchored off the Raj Malabar Hotel (next to the impressive new Port Office), security and customs vessels came alongside and gave permission for her to land and make her way to the airport.  Roger and Astrid came over and we despatched a bottle of Urrak (the first distillation of cashew nuts) in celebration of our arrival.

08/05/10  As it is weekend, and the port office is closed until Monday, we are unable to complete entry formalities and cannot move from the anchorage, although a few more strings were pulled and we did manage to clear immigration, thanks to Loval (named after the astronaut.   His name is actually George Loval, but everyone calls him Lo) of the Cochin Yachting Association - which allows us ashore to shop or eat.  Dhanya was ferried ashore to visit family before making her way back to Mumbai (thanks Dhanya - it was good to have you aboard) and we were interviewed by a television crew - a now common experience as there is great interest in the Vasco da Gama Rally here in India as it is seen as a possible boost to tourism and yachting in general. 

10/05/10  Following a night of thunderstorms and heavy rain, the local 'bumboat' picked up Roger and myself at 0945 and took us ashore to the port authority building.  We were 'fast tracked' - escorted by a uniformed customs officer who personally made photocopies of the papers we required, showed us the various offices etc., which was probably the result of phone calls made by Ayesha, Dhanya and Loval to people in high places!  I'm glad we were not in the normal process because even being rushed through, it still took well over two hours to complete the papers.  The offices have to be seen to be believed, there are mountains of dog-eared and dusty folders, all individually tied up with string, piled on every surface and bursting out of dilapidated cupboards - how do they ever find anything.  Or do they ever look?  The copies of our port entry, ships details, crew lists and the many other forms are made on thermal image paper, which of course will have faded into nothing in six months  time, and all are religiously stamped, holes punched in the corners and string passed through for filing alongside the other heaps of folders.  All of this occurs in colonial style buildings which have no air-conditioning, just a slowly rotating ceiling fan, and the dirty windows still have crossed strips of masking tape on them - probably dating back to the Second World War.  However, when it was all done, we returned to the boats and weighed anchor to make the short passage to Bolgatty and our home for the monsoon season.  This is a new 'marina' construction beside the Bolgatty Hotel and as such is not yet complete, the water and electric boxes not all functioning correctly.  (The official opening of the marina was just a few weeks ago on the 24th April.)  The hotel has a pool, bar, gymnasium, restaurant, snooker and table tennis facilities, horse riding school and an eighteen hole golf course, as well as a 'marina house' where you can rent a room should you fancy a break from the boat - so it should be ok to spend a few months here.  The main town of Ernakulam is a short ferry ride away and is yet to be explored!

11/05/10  Now that we are in Cochin, this is the end of the Vasco da Gama Rally.  The town is where Vasco da Gama died on Christmas Eve 1524, and I was in his birthplace in November 2006.  You can view a few of the journalistic reports about the rally here, (my eyes are brown, not blue!)   here,   here  and here.  The boat is  tied up alongside a pontoon for the first time since Port Ghalib in Egypt, and 4,422 nautical miles have been recorded since sailing from Marmaris in Turkey some five months ago.  We are now less than 10o north of the equator - that's under 600 miles.  Thunderstorms are frequent, heralding the start of the southwest monsoon (April to October), which is the hot and rainy season, and as can be expected, the humidity is stifling.

14/05/10  The marina is full of police boats!  Kerala Police are today having a bit of a ceremony and accepting the hand over of around 50 small new speedboats, equipped with forty horsepower Honda outboards, in which they will patrol the backwaters and estuary of Cochin.  Sadly, no-one thought to give the 'river police' any courses in boat handling skills and when they all tried to leave the marina together, pandemonium ensued!  It was quite upsetting to watch as boats rammed one another, mounted finger pontoons, reversed the new engines into pontoons or, on leaving the marina, ripped off their bimini tops on the overhang of Storm Dodger's bow.

15/05/10  A lazy day at the pool.   Too hot to contemplate working and decided on a day of relaxation by the poolside...................the trouble is, the pool is like having a warm bath and it's only when you come out of the water, have a cold shower and sit in what breeze there might be, that you feel any relief from the humidity.  Worryingly, we know it can only get worse as the monsoon arrives!  Whilst I've been having my lazy day, Jessica Watson, the sixteen year old girl from Australia, has crossed the finish line to become the youngest solo, non-stop round the world yottie......congratulations to her.

17/05/10  Made my second visit into town in order to buy a high speed wi-fi dongle (my phone connection is too slow).........what a performance!!   I anticipated that they (the shop) would want a copy of my passport and a photo and took both with me.  They wanted the original passport so they could take a copy!  Then they accepted the copy but wanted an address in Cochin, which I gave them.......not good enough, they wanted proof that I was staying at that address.  Eventually they accepted that I was indeed with the Vasco da Gama Rally (they've all heard of us) and that I was indeed in the new Kochi International Marina, but now they wanted proof of my UK address.   I explained that I left the UK four years ago and lived on my boat, and consequently did not have a permanent address in the UK (though of course I could provide one).........nope, not good enough, they wanted proof.  I gave up in frustration at that point and took their foolscap questionnaire, my passport copy and photograph, told them what they could do with their dongle and left the shop.  I mean, I know they are only applying their stringent anti-terrorist rules, but I'm in my sixties, a single handed sailor visiting their country with a rally reported on by newspaper and television.......do I look like a goddamn terrorist??  Maybe when I've got over my annoyance, I'll go back there with so much paperwork that they will have to sell me one, or spend the whole day copying my life history.

19/05/10  So yesterday, I went back to the Reliance dongle shop armed with reams of paperwork........and they didn't want any of it!   There were a couple of other rally members in there and it now seems that the shop has got the idea of what we yotties actually do with our lives.  The upshot of it all was that they were only too pleased to take my money this time, and give me the required high speed connection.  I should now be able to upload some photo's onto the album over a period of time.  Heavy rain for a great part of today and the roads in town were flooded to about 0.25 metre, not that it slowed the tuk-tuk drivers down, they still drive like demented kamikaze pilots.

20/05/10  Today, HMS Chatham which we visited in Salalah, rescued over twenty crew members from a freighter which had put out a Mayday in stormy seas off the coast of Somalia.  Well done lads!

22/05/10  Rain every day now, but at least it's warm rain!  Temperature still in the high twenties/low thirties, so even if the UK is experiencing good weather this weekend, it still isn't as hot as it is here!!  I have two Indian guys onboard, employed to clean and polish the boat - the hull and those of all the other rally boats are showing the ravages of five months at sea, with green algae well above the water line, barnacles in abundance and long tentacles of weed hanging down.  I took down my sails (after going to the top of the mast to free a jammed block), folded them up and stored them in one of the hotel rooms allocated to us............then went for a swim to cool down!

23/05/10  Very hot and humid again today.  Whilst at the top of the mast yesterday, I took down my wind instrument which had been sticking on the last few days of sailing, cleaned and greased it and screwed it back at the top of the mast.....today it's showing the direction perfectly but not the wind speed, so I'll have to go back to the masthead and have another look at it.  Spent the afternoon in the pool with the gang just trying to keep cool.   Received a call during the evening from Nazar (one of the local boat men, tuk-tuk driver and general helper), inviting us to his daughter's wedding party this coming Sunday - so that's something to look forward to.

25/05/10  It's just gone 7.30pm here and we're in the middle of a huge thunderstorm!  The rain is absolutely lashing it down, the thunder is making everything on the boat vibrate and the lightning is making it look like daytime.   We (Roger, Astrid and myself) have spent the day in Ernakulam and Fort Cochin, being driven around all day by Nazar, buying chemicals for my watermaker, rain awnings (need to re-measure mine before ordering) and various other bits and pieces - including two live chickens........well, they were alive when we bought them, but two minutes later they were deceased, skinned and in our bags!   As we returned to the marina, the skies turned jet black and we knew we were in for a serious downpour, which we are now getting!!  The day was quite interesting, although standards of driving still astound me and I cannot understand why we do not see dozens of accidents each day.  The trip over Throppumpady Bridge to Fort Cochin showed us why heavy vehicles are not permitted......it's falling to bits!  We were invited onto the platform of one of the Chinese fishing nets to have a go at raising and lowering the nets, which the fishermen do every few minutes.  Cochin is the only place outside of China where you can see this type of net, which is on the end of a balanced boom - the shore end being weighted with rocks.  Catches of fish however, are diminishing due to overfishing and weather conditions during the last year or two, and the six families who operate the net we visited are finding it hard to make ends meet.

26/05/20  This afternoon saw the last meeting of skippers and crews of the Vasco da Gama Rally yachts - so the rally is officially over as of today, and Lo is now organising the next (and last) rally from India to Turkey.

27/05/10  Infuriatingly, my wi-fi dongle kept dropping the connection this morning whilst I was trying to read the news, and eventually it cut me off altogether telling me that my username and password were invalid.  So, a trip to the dongle shop again where they told me that the system was being updated and that all would be well in about a half hour.  Sceptic that I am, I didn't believe them for one moment and sure enough, on returning to the boat some 6 hours later....it still gives out the same message!  Oh dear, I think someone is going to get an ear bashing tomorrow morning.

28/05/10  Into the Reliance telephone shop, much foot stamping and desk thumping.......but Roger still didn't get his mobile phone working!  They did however, sort out my dongle problem.

30/05/10  For various reasons, I decided not to go to the wedding of Nazar's daughter this afternoon.  Those that did attend tell me that it was a colourful event.


Click for some of the Vasco da Gama boats.

For previous logs, click Here

 For information on the Vasco da Gama Rally, click HERE



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