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  september 2010


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01/09/10  Day 2.......0100 hrs and I discovered that Storm Dodger was 15 miles north-west of my position and stationary with a rope around the prop., and had been for some hours.   A break-down in communication between Sandeep and his Indian counterpart, Nitin onboard Storm Dodger had resulted in the information not being given to me.  We stopped engine and wallowed in the swell until Roger could dive in daylight, clearing the rope at 0800, meanwhile dodging fishing boats which appeared out of the gloom of fog.  We then waited a further hour before  resuming course, to allow Roger to catch up a bit.  By 1800, the gap had closed and we were now just 6 miles ahead of Storm Dodger.  Fishing boats were everywhere and we were once more under sail with two reefs in the main.  The wheelpilot was now playing up and alarms were sounding for being off course.  75 miles covered.

02/09/10  Day 3......By 0700 it was apparent the wheel pilot would not hold any sort of course without the alarm sounding.  With following wind and seas, it was extremely difficult to hand steer an accurate course but we would have to do that until we could sort out the problem.  With a westerly F7 blowing, we dropped the main and used a deep reefed genoa only.  111 miles covered.

03/09/10  Day 4......Rough seas and a WSW F6/7 blowing for most of the day.  The wheel pilot had completely given up (an electronic fault?) and we were taking turns at the wheel in one hour periods throughout the day - no other boats in sight.  A passing container ship gave us an updated weather forecast of easing winds and moderating seas.  Storm Dodger 14 miles ahead.  We were still heading southeast and very kindly, Anthony onboard Divanty back in Cochin, had been in contact with the agent in Galle, Sri Lanka, to ask if they could repair my autohelm, which they said they could.  However, the pilot book says of Galle.....only minor repairs.....and as they had no idea of the fault, I doubted very much if a repair could be carried out.  As we had hand steered for some days now, we decided to carry on with the voyage and by-pass Galle.  118 miles covered.

04/09/10  Day 5.....With a south westerly wind and calm seas, we were making reasonably good speeds with full genoa and 2 reefs in the main.  Forecast from M/V Yangtze Rhyme of 17 knot winds, 2-3 metre wave height, scattered rain and good visibility.  At 1200, we turned east - maybe 25 miles too soon but I was trying to cut the corner a little and we sailed around the southern tip of Sri Lanka which was out of sight on our port side.  No contact throughout the day with Storm Dodger who are now out of VHF range.  Battery power is down to 40% again and we had to run the engine in neutral for a couple of hours to re-charge.  Consistent speeds of 7 knots with occasional 8's were being shown on the log.  132 miles covered.

05/09/10  Day 6....0145 hrs - Rough seas.  Genoa furled 90%.  Batteries down to 10%, so engine started to re-charge again.  Speed reduced to 6.5 knots.  0700 hrs, contact made with Storm Dodger who are 18 miles south of us - convergence course set.  Ongoing battery problem and because the rolling of the boat does not allow the solar panel to face the sun for more than a few seconds at a time, very little energy is being recharged into the domestic battery bank.  I started the engine again but a deep rumbling sound when in gear made me shut it down and wait until it cooled before investigating further.  An engine room 'knock' when the boat rolls to port has been worrying me for the last day or so, and I suspect that one or more of the engine mounts has broken in the rough weather.  158 miles covered - our best day yet!

06/09/10  Day 7....0400 Storm Dodger passing 4 miles to starboard.  Trying to hold our latitude most of the day but current pushing us southward.  Steering is very difficult for both Sandeep and myself and we both either steer or sleep, catching a bite to eat whenever possible.  131 miles covered.

07/09/10  Day 8....Still drifting south which may cause problems later.  Weather report from Japanese warship of 15 knot winds.  Now we have major problems.....we cannot run the engine because of the damaged mountings unless the sea is flat calm (which it isn't), we have now exhausted the water tank supply and the watermaker needs the engine running in order to operate properly.  The domestic batteries are flat and again need the engine to charge them.  Without battery power, we are having to turn off all non-essentials, ie...the fridge, interior lighting, water pumps and the VHF radio which doesn't have enough power to transmit anymore.  At 1400, we gybed north in anticipation of wind loss further eastward and maintained that course until sunset.  All instruments now lost through power outage, with the exception of the GPS.  2200 hrs to midnight were a nightmare of rough seas, squalls and lightning.  128 miles covered.

08/09/10  Day 9.....0900 - lost 26 miles to the south during the night.  Storm Dodger 2 miles south-east of us.  At 1600, Roger came alongside and threw across 10 litres of water and some tuna steaks from an earlier catch.  The downwind slamming of sails and rigging, despite preventers in place, is driving me mad!!  111 miles covered.

09/09/10  Day 10....0900 After gybing north throughout the night, we resumed an easterly course and were able to run the engine for a couple of hours to put some wrigglies in the batteries.  Weather report from 'Coral Sea' of 15 knot SW winds, fair weather, 1 - 2 metre waves with an east setting current and 20 mile visibility.  1200...overcast skies, showers.....what happened to the good forecast?  Managing to maintain our latitude of 6o North with a 0.5 knot current in our favour.  At 1700, a Swiss military hospital ship passed very close on our starboard side, heading west, the decks lined with youngsters who waved and cheered loudly.  Without navigation lights, I decided to gybe north again in order to get out of the shipping lanes - there are at least three lanes converging toward the northern end of Sumatra, and it would be too dangerous to remain on our present course.  Agreeing that Storm Dodger would do the same in the light of morning, we moved 20 miles north during the evening and gybed back onto course at 2130 hrs.  102 miles covered.

10/09/10  Day 11.....An eventful night with varying winds which died to nothing until 0500, then blew at 18 knots from the west before backing NW and hitting 50 knots for a couple of hours.  We hurriedly dropped the main and used just the genoa, still making almost 8 knots over ground while the gale blew.  Ran the engine a couple of times during the day whenever the seas permitted, but now very worried about the security of the engine.  Unable to transmit on VHF because of low battery power.  Storm Dodger had not turned north but had kept heading eastward and were now some 35 miles ahead of us, - we would not hear from them again.  By 1700, we were again too close to shipping and with two reefs in the main, we again gybed northward to keep clear of the traffic.  96 miles covered.

11/09/10  Day 12.....0600, genoa reefed to 50% with a storm to starboard (south) of us.  Main halyard jammed around the radar and deck light - Sandeep shinned up the mast to free it off.  By midnight we were amongst many ships heading into The Great Channel and we made the decision to go north of Rondo Rock, contrary to advice given by fellow German cruisers in Cochin who said they would never go that way again because of the overfalls - much better to go south of the rock and north of the northern most tip of Sumatra. Constantly worrying about the engine mountings and our water supplies.  Counted up all the bottles of water onboard and calculated that at our present consumption of 2 litres per day each, we should just have enough to make it to Langkawi.  We were using sea water to cook, or collecting rain water for making coffee etc.  81 miles covered.

12/09/10  Day 13.....Noon and a squall had built over the last hour or so and we were now in 35 knots of wind from the west, with absolutely torrential rain and nil visibility.  Both Sandeep and I were in the cockpit with the boat sealed up, Sandeep scanning the limit of sight for the many ships that were in close proximity.  By 1800 we were in just 5 knots of wind and against a strong counter current but were able to run the engine in the relative calm, giving us some electrical power and running the watermaker.  One thing about this.....we are hardly using any diesel!!  2359hrs....two reefs in the main again and genoa furled 90%.  79 miles covered.

13/09/10  Day 14.....0500, now in the overfalls about 30 miles north of Rondo Rock - the sea very confused as the currents and winds meet.  With approximately 4 metre wave heights, we were frequently doused by cockpit encroaching water!  After clearing the last of the overfalls at around 1300, we were able to make 4.5 knots under sail until well after nightfall, shaking the reefs out of the main at midnight and with an electrical storm in the distance.  99 miles covered.

14/09/10  Day 15....Four years to the day since leaving Gillingham Marina!  Calm seas, sails dropped at 0530 and motoring only - which allowed us to actually fill the water tank again.  No ships in sight, just a lonely fishing boat which approached and tried to sell us fish.  Transferred 60 litres of diesel from jerry cans to the tank at mid-day with about 180 miles to go.  At 2100, turned off the engine having filled the water tank, and made 4 knots with the main and genoa reefed, electric storms all around us and a worsening sea state.  102 miles covered.

15/09/10  Day 16....and a year since my dear Mum passed away - thoughts were about her for the day.  Still rolling badly so centralised the main and furled the genoa which allowed me to get an hours sleep around mid-day - the first for 27 hours.  Raining and overcast for the afternoon, with the barometer falling.  Sighted our first Thai islands of Ko Butang and Ko Rawi at 1500.  Dropped the mainsail at 1800 and motored through calm seas with hundreds of fishing boats around us, presumably fishing for squid with their bright floodlights.  100 miles covered.

16/09/10  Day 17....0530 entering the SW channel to Bass Harbour and squinting into the rising sun.  At 0735 we dropped anchor off Kuah town, Langkawi and with a two and a half hour time difference, the local time was 10.05am.......36 miles covered today and 1701 since Cochin.  Storm Dodger, Full Flight and eeyore were already here of course.  I had a celebratory rum for breakfast, then slept for the rest of the day!

18/09/10  Sandeep and Nitin left this morning to catch the ferry to Kuala Lumpur and their onward flight home to Mumbai - many thanks to Sandeep for crewing Rhumb Do on what proved to be a very difficult passage, I hope my frustrated bouts of temper as things failed did not put him off sailing.  Normally I am a placid kind of guy, but this was a worrying trip with one thing after another breaking down, coupled with the need to conserve fuel, water and electricity - all made worse by tiredness.  Finally managed to find a half decent supermarket but it's a long walk from the boat!  Such a change to see shelves well stocked with most requirements, instead of the one packet here and one packet there system of India.  Walking back with Astrid, Leah and Jordan was a case of dodge the cockroaches and rats that seem to take over the town streets as night falls and the people disappear - and these are the BIG cockroaches, not the small brown German variety.  Ran the engine for a couple of hours to supply power for the watermaker.

19/09/10   Took the cover off the fluxgate compass part of the wheelpilot first thing this morning which revealed two areas of obviously overheated, burnt circuit board.  Now I need to find an electronics expert, and then find out if it can a) be repaired and b) repaired in situ.

26/09/10  We have met up with Nelson and Claud onboard Black Swan who have sailed here from Oman and whom I first met in Preveza, Greece (seems an age ago).  There are no electronic experts in Langkawi!  That means the wheelpilot cannot be repaired here - I could have a new one (Raymarine) fitted, which of course would not be cheap or quick as it would have to be imported from Singapore or Australia.  I hired a car for a few days and went exploring the island with Storm Dodger's crew, visiting the Seven Wells waterfall.......a climb up a very, very steep hill followed by 580 concrete steps - and all the while dodging monkeys who wanted to steal any food or drink we may have been carrying.  We also visited a wildlife centre (recommended), getting up close and personal with kites and eagles as well as the more usual animals.  Zainol, the one and only marine engineer on the island came to the boat yesterday and removed one of my engine mountings; he has now gone to order four replacements - again from Singapore.  I now have no engine again should any bad weather hit us at anchor!

29/09/10  So we are all now firmly established on Willy Wonka Island (as I call it, because the number of chocolate shops is unbelievable).  Still no means of updating my website that I can get my head around!  I have managed to update the route map on my site, though you will have to use the scroll arrows to follow it now.  We've had the usual parties onboard various boats, met a lot of new people and partied on the beach (another one later today).  The night market on Wednesdays and Saturdays is very good with a wide selection of foods on offer.

30/09/10  Happy Birthday Angie!  We are still getting rain most days, either afternoon or evening - mostly the latter, coupled with electrical storms which light the night sky to a brilliant blue white.  Sleeping is difficult if the hatches have to be closed because of the rain - cabin temperatures soar very high!  News from Zainol the mechanic that the engine mounts will be another few days yet.  I just wish he would hurry up before any really big storms blow in from the Bay of Bengal - I'm feeling somewhat vulnerable anchored close inshore with no engine or windlass.


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