March 22, 2015

Slowest passage ever?

If there is any wind, we're a 6 knot boat. We have typically averaged about 150 miles in a 24 hour period on passages. From Trinco to the northernmost Maldives port of entry is 720 miles.

This one has been different. Aside from the south coast of Sri Lanka, where the light NE trade winds are deflected and increased by the island, and the engine was shut off for a day, this has been a motorboat ride. And because we've still got a long way to go, we're maximizing our fuel range by motoring and motorsailing slowly. At 4 knots.

At 4 knots we burn about 0.4 gallons/hr, at 5 knots it's closer to 0.6. Fuel consumption in displacement boats is a very nonlinear curve.

We carry 60 gallons of diesel. At 0.4 gph we can motor for almost 150 hours. 150 hours x. 4 knots = 600 miles. We've never tried to maximize our motoring range until this passage. Let's all raise a glass and say "cheers" for bit of wind out here. 320 miles to go as of 3 am today.

Its boring to motor for 6 days. 🍻


This e-mail was delivered via satellite phone using Iridium Mail & Web software. Which is still a work in progress.

March 20, 2015

En route to the Maldives, day #3

It's been a very light wind passage to the Maldives until last night. Night #1 saw us getting caught in 2 fishing nets and having to cut ourselves free. It got to be a well practiced drill. Engine off, furl Genoa, raise the daggerboard where the net was caught, let net slip aft to the rudder, lift it with a boathook and cut away. Thankfully winds were light so there wasn't much pressure on the nets. Its always very stressful.

Last night was easier, we stayed further offshore in the shipping lane on the South coast of Sri Lanka - but more importantly the fishermen had lights on both ends of their nets. Made it much easier to avoid them. None came by to trade with us for fish.

We've been sailing slowly all night but the wind has increased to about 11 knots on the beam. So we're doing 6.5 knots. The forecast doesn't have this wind lasting, but for now we're going to enjoy it and sail fast to our next country.


This e-mail was delivered via satellite phone using Iridium Mail & Web software. It's working quite well.

March 18, 2015

So Long Sri Lanka

In a perfect blogging world I would have written several posts about Sri Lanka by now. I would have written about riding an antique train to catch up with our friends in Kandy, and then stopping long enough to absorb a little of the wonder of Sri Lanka. I would have described how Maia fulfilled a childhood dream and had a sari made with babysitting money—and then how she discovered that it’s a bridge between cultures which lead to some of the sweetest interactions she’s had, as each woman she met needed to adjust it.

Some of my words would have been used to tell about the highlands, where tea is grown. How the green is so vibrant it made us think of New Zealand. But also, how the picking and processing of tea is so labour intensive that we’ll never take a cuppa for granted again. One entire post would probably have been about traveling cross country in company with three other boat crews—about the hotels we found (some nice, some infested) and what it felt like to hurtle down roads, passing every vehicle in sight, despite the lack of passing lanes and driving three abreast on a one-lane road.

The roads
Making hoppers--a yummy rice and coconut pancake with an egg inside
Sri Lanka has captivated us. We love the food, the people and the beauty of the landscape.

One morning in Anuradhapura we woke up early and loaded into a big jeep for a Safari through Wilpattu National Park. The park was closed for 26 violent years during the civil war. In 1984 when the LTTE massacred 24 park rangers, the terrorists went on the rampage poaching animals, taking timber and robbing archaeological treasures. The Government attempted to re-open the National Park twice. First in 2003, but then a group of visitors were killed in a landmine blast. In 2007 eight soldiers and park staff were killed by terrorists.

The park reopened for good after the war in 2010. But even in 2015 visits to the park are still a fraction of what they were. For us, this meant when our jeep passed through the gates and into the park, we soon wonderfully alone in the woods. Our guide was thrilled each time he stopped to show us yet another wonder. There was a jackal which looked exactly like an Egyptian Hieroglyphic, enough mongooses that we had to look up the plural of mongoose (mongeese is also correct), native peacocks and elephants.

When we sighted one of the parks 40 endangered leopards, I couldn’t help but cry.

In Anuradhapura we cycled through the 2000 year old city exploring the ruins. Samphat befriended us when we were looking at one excavation. He had worked as an archaeological assistant but because his hope is to travel he went to school to become a cook. Even as a cook in a good hotel he still only earns $40 a month. So as he showed us the ruins and taught us about Buddhism he explained his plan.

By the old bathing pool he gave us samples of the languages he’s learning—along with English, he’s taught himself some French, Italian, German and Spanish. As he showed us 2000-year relief carvings he told us how he was collecting foreign coins to represent his goals and showed us his small collection. Then he grew thoughtful and explained Buddhism teaches you to accept things, and maybe he’d never earn enough money to travel. So he showed us how to meditate to gain peace. 
But when he was done he told us he was a bad Buddhist because he still really wanted to travel.

March 4, 2015

Deep Sea Fishing Sri Lankan Style-day 8

It might seem counterintuitive, given all the pirate lore out there, but being approached by a decrepit boat with a wildly waving crew can be the highlight of a passage. We were prepared for the fishermen as we closed with the Sri Lankan coast. Other boats mentioned that the boat crews love to trade. On the surface they seem to be looking for beer and smokes but when we said we had neither, but wanted fish, it seemed anything would do. We were offered 3 mahi mahi for a container of orange juice. We only took one, but the real trade seemed to be a chance to laugh and wave and check out each other's boat.

We have a love-hate relationship with fishermen. At worst they fill the sea with unmarked or illegal gear and turn the ocean into a hazardous obstacle course. It's the best fishermen we love. They're often fishing at a substance level, with barely seaworthy boats, but their seamanship skills are humbling and their good nature is infectious.

Maia counted seven young men, on that small boat, 200 miles from shore. The cabin was a crowded wheelhouse and gear spilled over the decks. She tried to figure where they'd sleep or even find shade in the hot tropical sun. And maybe where they'd cook and what they might eat. They had questions too; where were we from and where were we going, but we had no common language for questions. So they circled us, calling out "hello" and "Bollywood" while one danced. And we called out good luck, wishing them safe fishing.

It's a small thing to trade for fish in the middle of the ocean, but it's a moment that will linger. The fish tasted of gratitude.
Sent via Iridium Go!

March 3, 2015

Collision in the night-day 7 to Sri Lanka

My 12am-3am watch started off with a bang. We were speeding along at 9 knots under spinnaker when our starboard hull collided with something. The banging reverberated through the boat, waking Maia and sending Evan I out to check the rudder by flashlight and to try and catch sight of the mystery object.
The sea is filled with things we don't want to hit. There are half-sunk shipping containers, and their liberated contents, whales, fishing gear and more recently tons of random garbage. Along with all the plastic we've avoided huge timbers, large metal tanks and containers and even a door in the past months. Yesterday we sailed past what appeared to be a wooden stairway railing.
Happily whatever we hit last night was noisy but light weight and our hull and rudder were fine. Reassured all was well Evan and Maia headed off to sleep and Charlie and I hunkered down in the moonlight and peered into the distance.
There wasn't much to see; while the moonlight brightened the waves and made it easy to see the horizon it was impossible to see any submerged hazards. After a while I stopped staring at the waves and went back to scanning the horizon for boats. This is why I only caught a flash of the flying fish when it came soaring in through the hatch.
It landed by Charlie, who must have thought dreams do come true, then started fluttering its way around the boat.
A fish, flying through a window at 2:30am, is a hard thing to process, even on the ocean. Mouse, bug or wind-up-dalek toy all seemed like more likely explanations for the object that had just bounced down the stairs into Maia's hull, with Charlie in cautious pursuit.
The fish woke up Maia and she suggested I catch it and set it free before Charlie got brave enough to approach it. I scooped it up with a paper towel and slipped it back into the sea. Charlie settled in back beside me and stared intently out the window perhaps hoping for another wayward flight.
A half hour later, just before I woke Evan for his watch, I spotted a small boat dead ahead. I steered to avoid it and then headed to bed. When I woke the moon was gone and dawn was breaking and we were one day closer to Sri Lanka.
Sent via Iridium Go!