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2011 Logs

January 2011

January 3, 2011 – Phuket, Thailand

Happy New Year!!!!!  Oooohhh, Aaahhhh is all that we could say as we rung in 2011 in the anchorage at Patong Bay.  The party started with an early dinner ashore and the lighting of Chinese lanterns by all of the children.  The lanterns are more like paper balloons that float into the air as the heat from a wax wick fills the balloon.  They are just beautiful and we watched as thousands filled the air. 

After dinner, we went to a kid party on the rafted up boats of Orono, Pegasus, and Anui.  The three catamarans formed a bridge that was over 60 feet across and a great platform to watch the fireworks display and what a display it was.  Wow, we have seen some incredible shows in Chicago from our boat in Monroe Harbor but nothing compared to this.  From dusk until dawn, fireworks lit up the sky all along this huge bay.  At midnight, the spectacle was huge.  What was absolutely amazing was that it was not an organized public display it was all done by private individuals.  It was amazing and since the fireworks were being shot off of the beach along the bay it looked like the show was put on just for us.  OK, and the 100 other boats in Patong Bay.  It was just a grand display and we all had an unforgettable night.

The only downside of the night was the constant knowledge that we would soon be leaving this wonderful group of cruising friends.  I know that I have mentioned it many times but the hardest thing that we do on this trip is say “goodbye” and this will be a tough one.  But what we must remember is that it is a small, small world and any place or anyone in the world is only a short plane trip or maybe a “long” sail away. 

January 7, 2011 – Langkawi, Malaysia

We made the decision to sail back to Langkawi after New Year to provision and fuel up before heading out across the Indian Ocean.  It was only a day sail and we calculated that it would save us at least $1000 when you consider the cheap prices for food, beer, wine, and fuel in Malaysia.  We know that we won’t see these prices again for food and alcohol as we approach the expensive areas of the Middle East and Med.

After a couple of whirlwind days, Imagine is filled to the brim with 1000 liters of fuel, 10 cases of beer, oodles of soda, juice, canned goods, cookies, Pringles, and plenty of red wine.  So we prepare to set off on an 8 day sail from Phuket to Galle, Sri Lanka. It is with mixed emotions that we leave this part of the world for a number of reasons.  First of all, we are saddened to leave so many friends.  We are also anxious to begin the long passages across the Indian Ocean and into the Red Sea.  Although this passage should be one of the most enjoyable that we have done (according to Jimmy Cornell – The King of Cruising), it will be our first step in approaching the dreaded pirate area of the Gulf of Aden (GOA).  We have thought and worried about this part of the trip for years and now it will become a reality.  Although we desperately want to enjoy Sri Lanka and the Maldives, the knowledge of the upcoming months is starting to cause sleepless nights. 

But for now, we will try to focus on one leg at a time.  Although the forecast doesn’t look great, it doesn’t look bad so we will start our first trip in the Indian Ocean. 

January 23, 2011 – Galle Harbor, Sri Lanka

Luckily we don’t judge a county on first impressions.  If so, we would have left Galle, Sri Lanka before we even completed our check in formalities.

We arrived in Sri Lanka, utterly exhausted after a passage much longer than expected.  First, we were boarded by two members of the Navy who were actually quite nice.  They escorted us to a large, menacing concrete dock which would be our home while we were here.  The dock was designed more for commercial ships.  It was too tall for a sailboat and unprotected .  There was a big surge in the harbor and we were constantly worried that Imagine would be damaged. 

In Sri Lanka, you are required to have an agent ours, Don Windsor Shipping, met us on the boat.  We completed all of the paperwork and we assumed that he would complete the formalities.  In most countries, agents are not required by pleasure yachts but where they are required the agent usually takes care of everything and we do not need to deal with officials.  But in Sri Lanka, all of the officials still come to the boat to get their “compliments”.  After we finally figured out what they were talking about (bottles of alcohol), we politely told them that we had nothing to give.  Our standard line was,   “We have children and do not have many bottles on board.”  Luckily they did not check the bilge…...  After hearing this most of them politely left the boat.  But one immigration officer just sat in the cockpit and refused to leave without his compliments.  It was a standoff and there was NO WAY that my tired, stubborn husband was going to give in.  Finally, the rude little man gave up and I was happy to see him go.   We later learned that friends of ours offered him a Rum and Coke in lieu of a bottle of anything…..6 drinks later he had to be escorted off their boat.  What a first impression!

After five months in Southeast Asia where no one asked for a thing, this was quite a shocker.  One shining light in all of this was Marlon, our yacht services rep.  He can set up anything that you need….sim cards, sail repair, tours, etc.  He was polite, professional, and very helpful.  If you are coming this way contact him prior and he will have everything set up for you.  His contact info is on noonsite. 

The country itself is quite lovely.  Since it is fairly small, it has much in a condensed area…..gorgeous beaches, mountains and waterfalls, lush green highlands, and crowded busting cities.  Marlon set up a three day tour for us that was enjoyable.  We first took a 4 WD jeep safari through Yala National Park.  Although not quite an African safari, it was tons of fun bouncing around in the 4WD looking for wildlife.  The hit was seeing the massive Asian elephants within a few feet of the jeep.  From the safari, we headed into the highlands which were really beautiful.  We had our first taste of “tourist prices”  as we boarded the train from Ella.  The “observation” car cost $7.50 pp while the 2nd class car cost $1.50.  We, of course, wanted the best view so we chose the observation car.  We quickly realized that there wasn’t much difference except that everyone in the obs car was a tourist.  In fact, the 2nd and 3rd class cars, actually had bigger windows.  But it was still a beautiful trip.

The next stop was the beautiful tea plantations.  Sri Lanka, which was an English colony, is the 2nd largest tea producer in the world.  The rolling hills of the tea plants make up the beautiful scenery in inner SL. Another fun stop along the tour was the elephant orphanage.  Although originally set up as a haven for abandoned or injured elephants, it now appears to be more of a money making zoo/tourist attraction.  But it was fun watching 30+ elephants bathe in the river and especially seeing the 3 month old up close. 

Although our tour was over, we still had to get back to Imagine.  That drive may have been the most exciting part of the trip.  SL is a very populous island with cars everywhere, however, the roads are “island roads” …outdated, winding, and just plain dangerous.  People drive fast and pass recklessly.  In fact, there was once when we were in the middle of a line of five vehicles with everyone passing each other in different directions.  We’re not talking an expressway here.  But miraculously, we saw no accidents the whole time we were driving.  So I just closed my eyes and tried to relax. 

The tour was fun but once we were back on Imagine, we were so ready to get to the Maldives.  The island of Sri Lanka has some very beautiful attractions and would probably be an interesting place for a vacation but the filthy port and difficult officials do not make it an easy place to visit on a yacht.  But it was interesting…….