Monthly Archives: February 2016
Position at 10.00 Monday 29th February
24 hour run from 10.00 28th to 10.00 29th 127 miles average 5.29 kph 483 miles to go
Did anyone spot my mistake in yesterday’s report? I said it was Tuesday instead of Sunday. Haha we never know which day of the week it is.
We struggled yesterday with the adverse current and the lack of wind. We put the cruising chute up at midday, always a fun occupation, and turned the engine off. Sadly it was only out for 2 hours before we saw squalls building behind up including a water spout. We could see disturbance in the sea where it was hitting it, scary, so the cruising chute had to come down. Fortunately it dissipated quickly and didn’t come near us. By 20.00 we started losing the current and making a bit of headway as we entered the curve of the land at the south eastern corner. The wind was coming round behind us and Bill put the twizzle rig up, turned the engine off and we sailed all night with really good speeds. As we turned in a more westerly direction Bill took the twizzle down and sailed with just the main up. We’ve now got about 2 kts of current with us which is giving us a good speed.
I ran a net this morning. I’ve moved it to 05.00 utc which is 10.00 in the Maldives, 10.30 in Sri Lanka, 12.00 in Thailand and 13.00 in Malaysia. Starting on 4036 and moving to 8110. Managed to speak to Inspiration Lady with a good signal and also Tintin. Tintin is very close but Inspiration Lady is about 30 miles behind us. It seems like a better time for propagation so I’ll go with that time for a while. Anyone welcome.
Position at 10.00 Tuesday 28th February
23 hour run from 11.00 27th to 10.00 28th 97 miles average 4.22 kph 613 miles to go
We were on the dock at 7.30 yesterday but there wasn’t any one around. Eventually Ravi, our agent, arrived at 8.15 with our clearance papers and to collect the money but we had to wait for the immigration officers to arrive to stamp our passports. At about 9.00 they turned up to stamp the 6 passports. Inspiration Lady, Tintin and Camomile were good to go. We weighed anchor at 11.00 and headed out to sea with Tintin, Inspiration Lady followed on about an hour later.
Trincomalee harbour is very protected without any swell so it was a bit of a shock coming back out into the rolly sea after over 3 weeks in calm conditions. We motored for a couple of hours to get clear of the harbour entrance then turned south to sail around the island. The sails were up in 15kts of wind and all was well except for the sloppy sea. As we gradually got into deeper water the sea calmed down a bit. The first thing we noticed was that we had at least 2kts of current against us which really slowed us down as you can see from our stats. We sailed slowly through the night but by 7.00 this morning the wind died so the engine went back on. It’s going to be a long passage at this speed.
The excitement this morning was being intercepted by a Sri Lankan navy vessel. They came so close we were worried they were going to hit us and signaled to them to move away. There were boys on the bow with life jackets on and I think they thought they were going to board us but there was no way they could come along side us. They were twice as big as us and with the swell they with have seriously damaged us. Bill tried calling on the radio but they didn’t answer. They wrote down our boats name then pulled away. Tintin are about a mile away from us so they headed in their direction and did the same to them then left. The navy are still very suspicious of vessels off shore after the war that only ended in 2006.
The first couple of days of our second week were spent doing domestic jobs. Washing was top of the list and we had heard it was possible to take it to the Villa hotel across the bay. So I changed our sheets, bundled all our washing into my large washing bag and we jumped in a tuk tuk to take it there. It was agreed I would pick it up the next day.
Tuesday morning Jacqui, Jackie and I sat in the Dutch Bank cafe for coffee and started to organise our trips. It was agreed that to preserve the batteries our trips would be divided into 3 to allow us to come back to the boats and charge our batteries for a few days before setting off again. Collective booking can be a bit drawn out but we agreed on our first trip and it was booked. It was decided we would leave for Polonnaruwa on Thursday, go to Sigiriya rock on Friday and a safari on the Saturday staying 2 nights in Sigiriya. Wednesday was spent on board with Bill running the portable generator most of the day charging the batteries right up. Later in the afternoon we went to pick up our washing – not good. Over 1800 rupees about £9 twice as much as we had agreed plus the two tuk tuk rides to drop it off and pick it up bringing the total cost to about £14 for one reasonably sized bag of washing! Need to find a different option. (Bill won’t let me use the water on board to wash it by hand.)
Thursday morning at 7am Gary and Jackie off of Inspiration Lady, Kevin and Jacqui off of Tintin and Bill and I met on the jetty to start our trip. We had agreed to go with Yoosef, a local guy who had a 6 seater mini van. It was a bit beaten up but then they all are here. Yoosuf was very good stopping whenever we asked him too. These road side shops are selling a type of curd that looks and tastes like a creamy yoghurt. Delicious.
The scenery outside of Trinco was beautiful. Not in a British rolling green fields way but in a Sri Lankan padi fields with palm trees dotted across the land sort of way. The different shades of green are astounding; rice fields, lily ponds, palm trees. So many wonderful scenes around every corner. People seemed very poor living in mud huts but happy to wave as we pass. Although Yoosuf stopped quite a few times to take photos we couldn’t keep stopping but the views are locked in my memory.
After about 3 hours we arrived at Polonnaruwa and went into the excellent archaeological museum first. There were some wonderful models of how the site once looked and amazing before and after photos of the many sites to see in the area. After spending a couple of hours wandering around the many exhibits Yoosef took us to a great restaurant to get some lunch before we started exploring the ruins.
Kings ruled the central plains of Sri Lanka from Polonnaruwa over 800 years ago when it was a thriving commercial and religious centre. For three centuries Polonnaruwa was a royal capital of both the Chola and Sinhalese kingdoms. It was abandoned by the early 13th century and in 1982 UNESCO added it to it’s World Heritage list.
We started our visit at the Royal palace which was built during the 12th century. It is said to have had 7 storeys but today it’s crumbling remains look like giant cavity ravaged molars. The 3m thick walls have holes to receive floor beams for two higher floors, the other four levels would have been made of wood.
In a few corners there was evidence of what the decorations would have looked like.
We were freely allowed to walk around the ruins, they were simply amazing but then I love archeological sites.
We continued onto the Audience hall which has a wonderful frieze of elephants, all different in varying position.
In a corner of the palace grounds was the bathing pool which has been superbly renovated. I could just picture the king and his entourage descending the steps into the water.
We moved onto the Quadrangle a compact group of fascinating ruins. The most impressive was the Vatadage or circular relic house. It’s outermost terrace is 18m in diameter and the second terrace has four entrances leading to the central dagoba with it’s four Buddhas. Each entrance has impressive guard stones. The columns once supported a grand roof structure.
At the base of each of the guard stones was a moonstone . This is a ‘door step’ carved out of granite. It was amazing to us that we were allowed to walk on these fabulous carvings. Even though we had to take our shoes off at the entrance to the quadrangle bare feet will wear it away eventually.
Just across from the Vatadage was the Hatadage monument said to have been built in 60 hours. It was originally a two-storey building. The symmetry of pillars receding into the distance is always an impressive sight even if I did have to wait for ages for all the tourists to move out of the way. We spent about an hour wandering between all the buildings in the quadrangle area. It would get a bit boring if I listed them all. You’ll have to come here to see for yourself.
The last area we visited on the sight was Gal Vihara. A group of beautiful Buddha images cut from one long slab of granite. This reclining Buddha measures 14m long. The standing Buddha to the left of the photo is 7m tall. Quite impressive.
There were lots of Langur monkeys around.
After a wonderful day visiting the sites Yoosuf drove us to our hotel. We stayed at the Sigiri Holiday Inn. Firstly it was NOT part of the Holiday Inn chain and looked different to the photos on the website. Secondly it was a long way from the town so we had to eat there. The menu consisted of ‘western style’ food, always a mistake in this area, and we all ordered chicken and chips. The chicken was cooked within an inch of it’s life and the chips weren’t much better. The breakfast consisted of bananas, lots and lots of toast plus a scrambled egg or omelette washed down with the most disgusting coffee. It only cost about £20 a night, it was clean and the bed was reasonably comfy but I don’t think I would recommend it.
On to our second day we got up early so we could get to Sigiriya rock to beat the tourists……hahaha, so did everyone else. There’s a set of beautifully landscaped water gardens at the entrance to the complex then as you approach the rock it’s base has been landscaped to produce terraced gardens.
The rock rises straight up from the jungle and a series of steps leads up through the lower boulders. The ascent is a steep climb which is mostly steps.
Halfway up the rock there’s an open-air spiral stairway leading up from the main route to a sheltered galley in the sheer rock face. In this niche is a series of paintings of buxom women. They are protected from the sun and photos aren’t allowed so in remarkable good condition. There are various theories of why they are there and how old they are but I think it was a monks naughty boys corner! These two doggies had followed everyone up the stairs. but they were a real pair of mutts.
This photo was taken from the spiral staircase looking back down on the queue that was building up with Kevin and Jackie, Gary and Jackie standing in the line. So much for getting up early to beat the crowds.
At the northern end of the rock, after more steps, the narrow path opens out onto a large platform from which the rock gained it’s name – the Lion rock. During the 1898 excavations two enormous lion paws were found. At one time a gigantic brick lion sat at this end of the rock and the final ascent to the top commenced with a stairway that led between the lion’s paws and into his mouth. It must have been quite spectacular. The 5th century lion has since disappeared, apart from his paws, and to reach the top now it was up more stairs, more narrow and more steep. These last set of steps were too much for Gary’s fear of heights and he stayed by the lion’s paws but the rest of us managed to get to the top. It was hard work. Once at the top we were told there were 1208 steps not that I was counting. The view from the top was spectacular, well worth the climb.
The terraced summit of the rock covers 1.6 hectares and is thought to be the site chosen by King Kassapa for is fortified capital. Today only the low foundations of structures exist and one can only imagine how grand the original structures would have been. The astonishing views across a sea of green forest is captivating.
This looks like it might have been a swimming pool but the 27m by 21m tank was more likely to have been used for water storage. The acid leeching out of the rock around the tank looked like it had been painted on. The colours were amazing.
After spending over an hour exploring and admiring the magnificent views we made our descent. Fortunately there are a second set of steps for descending alongside the ones to go up. By the time we got to the bottom our knees were like jelly but we were all pleased with our achievements.
A visit to the superb museum alongside the gardens was very enlightening about the theory of Sigiriya and it’s past uses. It also had a computer generated programme of what the building might have looked like. It must have been spectacular when it was originally built which could have been several thousand years ago.
Yoosuf took us to another great restaurant for a buffet lunch. In the tourist area there are lots of these type of places offering fairly good food at reasonable prices. After lunch he drove us south to visit one of the famous spice gardens of Matale.
The Heritage Spice and Herbs garden is an attractive shady spot that runs informative tours about the herbs and spices they are growing.
It was very interesting learning what the different herbs can be used for.
Our tour guide was got very excited when he realised we were yachties and offered us free massages by his trainees. I won’t embarrass everyone with the photos. There was a bit of hard sell at the end but I resisted. Everything was very overpriced but it had been an interesting afternoon.
Then it was back to the Sigiri Holiday Inn for a second night with equally inedible food. Why did we do that again?
The next morning after breakfast we headed out to the safari park area. Yoosuf had a friend of his cousins that knew the best park to go to for elephants. Your choice is in the lap of the gods at the end of the day because these elephants are completely wild and free and wander where they want. There’s no feeding stations and they are free to roam where they want although a lot of the local villages had electrified fences erected to keep them out because they can be quite destructive. We swopped Yoosuf’s van for a safari jeep.
The entrance was by a wonderfully scenic watering hole.
This lady was washing herself and her clothes by the water’s edge.
We drove on into the park. The park is made up of a series of dusty tracks and our driver drove around the circuit.
It was possible to stand up in the jeep and we took it in turns in spotting an elephant. I was the first to see a lone male with big tusks standing under some trees. When he saw us he disappeared into the undergrowth. Our driver edged forward and then luckily the elephant decided to come back out again and sautered across about 50 metres in front of us. We followed him for about 10 minutes then he disappeared again.
We carried on driving and saw lots of peacocks but no elephants. We were just thinking we weren’t going to see any more when Kevin spotted a group right next to the road.
We were so lucky because there in front of us were 3 big females each with little babies and quite a few juvenile sized ones.
We watched them walking around on one side of the road when suddenly one of the big females came charging out of the undergrowth towards us, quite scary. Our driver drove forward very quickly and she stopped. We can only assume she thought we were too close to her babies. After that they crossed to the other side of the track and were happy for us to watch. They were then joined by about 3 or 4 more also with babies. It was the most amazing experience there was just the six of us watching these wonderful sedate creatures going about their daily lives.
As they moved around our driver was able to reverse back into a little side track to give us a grandstand view for about an hour. The Mummy Jumbo seemed to be ok with us watching but the adults were always in between us and the babies. I could have watched them for ever. I’ve got some video clips and I’ll try and put one on facebook.
The driver took us to a lookout on top of a small hill for a better view of the area but no more sightings. We had been very lucky to have seen our little family of elephants.
It was time to head back to the boats for a couple of days before our next trip.
I wanted to post this blog before the one about our trip.
We arrived safely on Wednesday 3rd February. After checking in Bill and I walked into the town which is very close to the town jetty. First impressions were that it was a bit shabby but not as dirty as some of the towns in Indonesia. The streets aren’t covered in rubbish which is an improvement. There are three wheeled tuk tuks everywhere. The people look quite poor but seemed happy to see us and very friendly and welcoming. Some of the buildings are painted in bright colours. Most of the shops are quite small. This guy has a lot of bananas to sell.
One of the first things we have to sort out when we arrive in a new country is sim cards for the phones. Most countries have access to mobile phones and the network varies but is usually at least 3G now. Bill bought a sim card and some credit which, once loaded, can be for data or the phone. For the sim card and 2 1/2 gigs of data we paid the princely sum of £2.50! While standing on this corner I watched the tuk tuks wizzing across the crossroads along with the motorbikes and pedal bikes. There didn’t seem to be any road rules so hopefully no one gets hurt but it looked scary driving. I took a video and will post it on facebook when I’ve posted this blog. We had a nice meal in the Dutch Bank cafe later that afternoon.
The next day was a celebration for Sri Lanka having fully gained their independence from the British in 1947. There wasn’t very much planned in Trinco except that every where was shut so we spent the day sorting out the boat. Bill discovered more problems with the twizzle rig. The central ring had been bent out of shape and the downhaul needed some work. Bill had kept the metal ring from the clew of the old sail which was good enough for the job, he then sewed a ‘thimble’ onto the end of the downhaul so that sorted that out. One of the big shackles had also broken although not from the damage, just general wear and tear but Bill managed to borrow one from Gary when they arrived on Inspiration Lady later that day.
The boat was covered in salt. In the past I haven’t worried about it but now with our new deck and Camomile looking so beautiful I decided it needed to be washed off. I had already washed the cockpit down and the windows of the new cockpit cover so today was the turn of the deck. We don’t have enough water to hose it down so I painstakingly hand washed the whole of the decks, coachroof and metal work starting from the bow. Think about washing a very muddy car by hand and times that by at least three and you’ll appreciate how much work it was. Took me all day. She looked beautiful and gleaming when I had finished.
Friday 5th February with all jobs completed we all decided to have a day out. Gary and Jackie went in early to check in then we all met at 11.00 for coffee in the Dutch bank cafe. After catching up on our trip over delicious coffees we all decided to jump in some tuk tuks and go up to Kandasamy Kovil. This revered temple at the summit of a rocky outcrop is one of five historical Hindu temples dedicated to Shiva and established to protect the island from natural disaster. It’s an ancient place of worship but this structure only dates back to 1952. The site has been a place of worship for at least two millennia.
Kevin, Gary and Bill weren’t really interested although they did walk round the inside of the temple with us but no photos allowed inside. Here they were looking over Swami rock, a 130m – high cliff nicknamed Lovers Leap.
Not really sure what these boxes were hanging in the tree but they looked unusual.
We were on a peninsula looking across to the Uppuveli beaches. The view was amazing.
We walked back down the hill to find a tuk tuk to take us to the Uppuveli beach. The winds that had blown us here were still blowing quite strongly out at sea. This is Uppuveli beach, which faces to the east, where we had come from, looking toward the cliffs where we had been standing not more that half an hour ago. Wonderful surf but no swim today.
The six of us enjoyed a lovely lunch together and this little chap thought he would join us. It was very difficult to capture it in a photo. I have so many with a blur in it. Bill kept feeding it chips so I could get my photograph.
Our ride back to the jetty in another tuk tuk was pretty hair raising. The driving here can only be described in one word, ‘chaotic’. Tuk tuk’s are definitely way down in the pecking order on the road, how we didn’t get squished I’ll never know.
Saturday was another quiet day on the boat. I gave the inside a clean and Bill was busy doing various jobs. We had a great game of cards on Inspiration Lady in the evening with Dave and Katrina from Laragh, the other yacht in the anchorage.
On Sunday Bill and I went ashore for my favourite coffee at the cafe and then went for a little wander. This is Dutch bay which is the beach on the other side of the peninsular to the temple. Beautiful beach and the sea was calmer today.
We treated ourselves to a nice lunch in one of the hotels that looked out over Dutch bay before continuing our exploration. This is Kali Kovil which has the impressive and eye catching gopuram of the many temples here.
We continued onto the market which we assumed would be closed but there were several stalls open with very good quality fruit and vegetables on display. Not quite like the displays in Sainsbury’s although equal in quality but only a fraction of the price.
Note the scales.
When we got back to the jetty we noticed the police had put out beautifully painted new bins. The jetty where we come ashore is part of the police compound so our dinghies are very safe here plus there’s a little toothless old guy who watches them all day.
So at the end of our first week here are the 4 boats with others on their way or preparing to leave. Our first impressions of Trinco are good but next week the six of us are planning to see more of Sri Lanka.
Position at 10.00 Monday 1st February
24 hour run from 10.00 31th to 10.00 1st 151 miles average 6.29 kph 314 miles to go
We had a calmer day yesterday, the seas have gone back down. I can cope with high winds but I don’t like big seas. Life on board continues. I spent most of the day reading my Lonely Planet guide book for Sri Lanka. It looks like a wonderful country, can’t wait to explore it.
We are now at latitude 08 degrees. Latitudes are the rings that run around the globe. The equator is zero, the north pole is 90 degrees and the UK is between 50 and 60 degrees north of the equator, that’s why it’s cold there! As I said we are now at 08 degrees which is the furthest north we’ve been since coming through the Panama canal in 2010 and as far north as we intend to go this year. It’s still hot here but has started getting a little colder at night. I still only where shorts and t-shirts on watch but find I’m needing a wrap on my night watch now. Not sure how I’ll feel coming back into the cold UK waters but that’s not for a few years yet.
Interesting situation occurred yesterday evening. We were eating our delicious beef rendang up in the cockpit (everything we eat is served in a bowl because food would slide off a plate plus we can only use forks as we need to hold the bowl). It was a beautiful evening with a nice sunset when Bill noticed a boat coming in our direction. We haven’t seen anything for about 3 days now but this boat was coming straight for us. They should have given way to us because firstly we were sailing, and power should give way to sail, plus we were on starboard tack. It was a Chinese fishing boat, although he wasn’t fishing, and I don’t think they had even seen us but we were on a collision course. Bill started the engine and went behind them. After they had passed I noticed they had turned their AIS system on which they certainly didn’t have on before hand. It proves that it’s necessary to keep a watch.
On the net later Nicone were about 11 miles south of us, Inspiration Lady is still about 134 miles behind us and Tintin are only about 27 miles away from us but ahead by about 10 miles. They also reported Chinese fishing boats in their path. May have been the same one.
We had to run the engine for an hour last night to charge the batteries, first time we’ve had to do that in 48 hours. The wind generator and solar panels are doing very well at keeping our bank of 4 new domestic batteries charged. I think Bill wrote an article on power management for the website. It will be on his technical page.
This morning it was less than 300 miles to go to the harbour entrance. Hopefully be in sometime Wednesday. Can’t wait.