11/08/2009, Port Dickson
We were on our way to Singapore and we saw something tied up to a big floating buoy. It was a very little boat and they had ran out of petrol. They said they had been there a long time and asked if we had any petrol. We said yes, we have petrol and we gave them some. Dave was worried their boat would scratch our boat. Soon they were on their way.
Bealy Boy x
|Malaysia to Singapore|
05/08/2009, Port Dickson
When your leftover cucumber sandwich mysteriously dwindles overnight, when you've finally found your glasses and inspected your sandwich thoughtfully, when you see little teeth marks around the edges and the crumbs are right next to your pillow then you know you have a little furry friend on board your boat and Armageddon has begun. I can see how Sigourney Weaver's heart pulsated in the movie 'Alien', I understand Big Arny's desperate determination in 'Predator' and will always remember Bambi in 'Bambi Goes to Dallas'. The hunt was on for my f******g furry friend.
I went to see Big Johnny on SY Cloudy Bay, he's an Aussie from Tasmania and he hates the Abbos. He told me "You need to kill it and kill it fast. It can sink your boat". So off I went to see Mr Mousey Ching, the local Chinaman who sells big traps. He was delighted to see me and we sat and drank tea. I explained my problem to Mr Mousey Ching. "I need to catch this killer rat as quickly as possible because my partner Marie and her son Henry arrive in two days time and they hate rats". "Vhy dey hating vats?" Mr Mousey Ching asked. "Because it could sink my boat", I told him, not wanting to get into a detailed discussion about why rats are seriously misunderstood creatures. "Aah, I seeeee...", he said. So I bought three of his biggest traps, which don't actually kill the rat, they trap them inside through a marvellous trap door mechanism and hook trigger device which has to be baited, I reasoned, with cucumber.
Then Big Johnny on Cloudy Bay informed me it could already be too late. "It will eat through your cables, probably the one that feeds your lightening conductor. You will then be unprotected and the next lightening strike will blow out your sea cocks and I guess you'll have about fifteen minutes to abandon ship, if you're lucky". So I set my baited traps, one in the bilge containing our large supply of Sabah Tea (half eaten), one next to the rubbish bin and one in the cupboard with the raisin cornflakes where I know Harry the Rat had already been (don't ask). I set off to the airport to meet Marie and Hen. I'd already decided to tell them nothing. This would all be over before they knew.
Everything went well until the next morning. Marie flung the cabin door open whilst I was reading my newspaper and demanded to know what the big cage was for next to the rubbish bin. "It's a surprise" I said. She gave me the 'look' she gives me often. I explained, "You know the little baby Gecko lizard that lives in our dinghy? I thought I'd try and catch it so that Hen can keep it for a pet in his cabin." We've had a small gecko living under the dinghy housing for about a year and we feed it often. It's dead cute and Hen's always wanted one as a pet. "Mmmmmm" she said. "But don't tell Hen, it's a surprise," I said. However, I was worried.
That's how it all began to go wrong. Henry finally found the traps too. He was really excited, realising he was going to get his pet gecko. He was going to call him Geeky. But he wanted to inspect the traps every ten minutes and I explained that wouldn't work and he needed to not look into the traps ever again. That didn't work either.
In the middle of the night one of the traps sprung and Hen was out of his bunk in a flash, much faster than me, and looked into the trap next to the rubbish bin.......
"MUM, IT'S A RAT......" The next ten minutes rank as some of the most sticky moments I've had for a while. Henry was crying because he wasn't going to get his pet Geeky, Marie was in tears because she's absolutely terrified of rats, Harry the b*****d Rat bit me through the cage wire when I decided he needed to get off the boat fast and Mr Mousey Ching was horrified when I told him I threw the rat overboard, still inside the cage.
Thankfully, everything calmed down by breakfast. We were all trying to be normal. Marie asked me if I wanted a cup of tea and a bowl of cornflakes. "No thanks, I'm still full from yesterday", I said.
Harry the Rat probably climbed on board when we were moored in either Port Lumut or Port Dickson, Malaysia. They are good swimmers I'm told. We slipped our mooring in Port Dickson and made for Singapore where Sänna is now moored. There are no rats in Singapore because they're banned, like everything else that's bad for you. Singapore is unbelievable, it's fantastic!
Everything went really well in Singapore until I took Henry to the Four Floors of Whores........
|Malaysia to Singapore|
08/06/2009, Port Lumut
We're leaving Lumut and heading south down the Malacca Straights in the morning for Port Dickson, Malaysia. Unfortunately, this is a notorious pirate area, especially against small yachts. But I've got the option of purchasing an old four barrelled Bofors anti-aircraft gun salvaged off an American river gunboat sunk in the Mekong Delta during the war no one talks about. It doesn't work but it will look very impressive mounted on our bows.
I'm trying to get Marie to wear combat fatigues but she's having none of it. But she does say I look like Richard Gere in my imitation Naval Whites.
I have a back up plan though. If we are approached by Pirates and have to fire the thing then Marie puts up her hands and offers her surrender whilst I hide in the bilges. If I keep quite then they won't know I'm there.
So, all being well, we'll be back in touch from Port Dickson....
|Malaysia to Singapore|
10/05/2009, Langkawi, Malaysia
Photo: Vagabond sailors.
Tan Jung Rhu is a magical place. We nosed our way in through the narrow opening, between the sandbank and the hard rock, and the lagoon opened up. Fat Annie was already anchored and we drifted over the wreck to drop our hook two cables away from them. There were a few other boats too...
We were both whisked off in darkness in Fat Annie's dinghy to join the vagabond yachties gathering on the jungle beach. The Aussies had dug a hole in the sand and were burning logs on a fire in their own inimitable style. We drank their beer and ate their food, they would take nothing back. We carted them all back to Sänna, the Aussies, the Kiwis, the Canadians, the Brits and the French and we drank our beer and we all got drunk and we all said our goodbyes...
|Sri Lanka to Malaysia & Thailand|
04/04/2009, Phuket, Thailand
Somehow I've inherited seven Thai labourers to work on my boat. This includes their very own female cook who comes along with her pile of pots and pans to cook lunch. It seems she's part of the 'gang' I've 'employed' to re-caulk my deck and install a new steel antenna mast to my roll bars. They all arrive early at 7.30 every morning whilst I'm still lying in my bed and the day begins promptly at 7.45 by gathering under the two palm trees to discuss what work needs to be done. We also talk about David and Victoria Beckam, Wayne Rooney and someone called Neathia (that's how it sounds) who's the Thai equivalent of the expected winner of X Factor. First off I moan and groan about how early it is but then I get a plate of delicious bread and curried jam pushed in front of me with the usual steamed rice and oats. We then agree a price for the day but my standard practice of a simulated heart attack cuts no ice anymore. So we press on, it's six days now and there's no end in sight...
My 'gang' all call me 'Boss', which I quite like. I'm summoned by calls of 'Boss, come look?' and 'Boss, this ok?' which has the effect of making me strut around the boat yard in the colonial style that I think every Englishman should try at least once in his life. So, I got myself a colonial safari hat from Big Johnny on SY Cloudy Bay. Johnny's an Aussie from Tasmania who hates the 'Abbos'. He says I'll get twice as much work done at half the price if I harden up, treat my 'labourers' the right way and stop being soft. So he gave me this hat and he said 'this should do the trick'. I wear my new hat and my gang all laugh and mock me by mimicking the way I walk. When I get angry they tell me it's time for lunch, so we eat with our hands under the trees, sitting on a dirty old plastic sheet with a red rose pattern and an old curry stain that looks a little bit like dog shit.
Now, every afternoon when the sun gets hot we sit under the two palm trees drinking Thai rice wine, eating god knows what cooked by a female welder who refuses to let me wash up. I can't pronounce her name but her mother was married to two fisherman at the same time. And she keeps looking at me out of the corner of her eye and I'm seriously worried. Hassan the Muslim says she likes men with no hair... I tell them I want my deck finished by Monday and they all nod in agreement.
This morning I told them about a mate of mine, Stefan, who I've heard has been diagnosed with cancer. Hassan said they will all go to the Buddhist temple tomorrow and make a special song, but he's sorry he can't go because he's Muslim. He was nearly in tears. I'm not sure I really understand what they mean but it's nice that they understood? My gang were genuinely upset. Maybe this all sounds a bit gooey but I hope my mate Stefan is listenening out.
It's always the weird stuff like this that makes a difference.
|Sri Lanka to Malaysia & Thailand|
15/03/2009, Koh Rok Nok, Thailand.
Me and Loz caught two tuna but I made her gut them to see if she's grown up yet. And she did gut them so we stuck them on the barbecue with pad thai rice laced with fresh limes. We watched the sun go down and then took turns on watch through the night with a sweet wind that pushed us northward to Koh Rok Nok in Thailand. We set the anchor the next morning as close inshore as the reefs would let us and just far enough offshore to stop the monkeys climbing through the hatches and going through the fridge. When the anchor drifted out Loz told me the currents were slack enough to scuba under the boat so we could clean the prop shaft and keel. Half an hour later we were five meters down with the underside of the hull banging on my head. I could see Loz was laughing inside her mask but an hour later we had the job done.
Before we surfaced I watched her make her way under the boat to the swim ladder and I thought 'life doesn't get any better than this'. Then I felt tears well up in my eyes, which freaked me out as I suddenly thought that no one ever tells you what happens when you cry in your mask underwater. Perhaps they never surface and don't live to tell the tale. Then I felt all whimpish because Troy Tempest never cried in 'Stingray'. He always seemed to have a smile on his face when he was swimming underwater right behind Marina, the beautiful aqua princess who couldn't talk....
Any of you lot think I can't catch fish then think again.
|Sri Lanka to Malaysia & Thailand|
25/09/2008, Ao Chalong, Thailand
"....and so, I had to eat my brother." His last line caught my attention and jerked me from my inattentive, alcohol induced indifference and I looked at him. He was wild and a long time unshaven. We had met many solo around the world sailors during our own long voyage and they were universally the same. Invariably colourful, individual characters who were desperate for someone to talk to, to tell you of the latest wild storm or shipwreck they'd survived, a blow by blow account that could go on for hours. Like other sailboat cruisers we tended to avoid them.
I looked down to the floor for his dog. There was always a dog. It was equally bedraggled and lay fast asleep, spread out around the bar stool and probably had been for hours. I'd heard tell that lone sailors and their lone dogs looked and acted alike. I also knew why this particular solo sailor had dropped anchor here in Ao Chalong, Thailand. He was like all the rest that had been here before him. Soon, the dog would be gone. In the dog's place would be a young Thai girl or even a Thai bride. We'd met many of these cruising 'couples' during our travels and some had become our great friends. I could never find out what happened to the dogs.
I didn't find out why he'd had to gorge on his brother either. When I reverted my gaze back the guy was out like a light, unconscious with his head on the bar in the same spreadeagled manner as his canine companion at his feet. I guessed they were both drunk. The evening was getting dark and the numerous girls were starting to gather outside the bar, accosting passing strangers who were all, invariably, cruising crew of some description. They were here because Ao Chalong was the easiest access into magical Thailand for sailing boats, that is, until you met the little bastard in Customs & Immigration, who was as sly and corrupt as any official we'd ever come across. Those of you who have checked in to Thailand through Ao Chalong Immigration will know who I mean.
I hung around a short while to see if the old solo sailor would wake up to continue his tale. I was intrigued to learn why he'd turned cannibal and eaten his brother although, having heard the tale before, I knew full well it was an embellished story told to shock and impress. But I'd also heard rumours and strange whispers of a yacht shipwreck in the mysterious Nicobar Islands a few years ago when... after another beer I stood up and walked to the door. As we left I noticed a young girl slide on to my stool and try to revive the old guy from his stupor. Neither him or his dog stirred.
The night heat was good and the neon lights lit up the street like a beacon, probably visible from space I thought. Music from the numerous dim red bars added a systematic beat to the incredible evening atmosphere. Because I was with Marie, the girls left me alone, until, that is, she dawdled to look into a shop window and a gap of a few yards opened up between us. They closed in swiftly, ready to pounce but retreated when Marie, realising her mistake, staked her claim to her skipper mate and re-established her rightful ownership. One of them admired Marie's dress and shoes and they both struck an instant friendship laughing and giggling. Only women have that incredible skill. The petite street girls forgot I was there and they each tried on Marie's little coloured shoes, the ones she'd bought in Sri Lanka...
Magical, incredible Thailand.
|Sri Lanka to Malaysia & Thailand|
17/06/2008, Indian Ocean
The storm gathered itself on our starboard horizon and the sky grew even bleaker. Sänna sailed effortlessly through fairly calm seas so, for now, everything seemed ok. But the sun began to set on our stern and we knew the moonless night would bring something upon us. We sailed on with the mysterious Nicobar Islands only 50 miles or so to the north of us. We could see huge lightening strikes breaking up the skies inside the now hidden storm and it was moving closer towards us. I estimated maybe an hour or so and then we would be in the thick of it...
Marie and I were both uneasy. The radar screen showed nothing except torrential rain about five miles off our starboard beam. Sänna was alone for hundreds of miles and extremely vulnerable in these intense lightening storms; we could see the flashing skies coming our way and hear the rumblings of thunder. With it would come massively high winds, sheeting rain and powerful seas driven by the weather maelstrom that creates these monsoon systems? We looked at each other and, without a word between us, went through our standard storm procedures... Marie furled in the head sail as quickly as possible and together we reefed the main to slow us down in preparation of the howling wind that would hit our beam. We battened everything down and made sure everything was fast below.
The forked lightening, tearing into the flat and empty seas, now came horrifyingly fast with deafening thunder. The tallness of our aluminium mast made me shudder and Marie frantically suggested we turn all electronics off. This suddenly seemed sensible as we'd listened to many horror stories of fires and sinkings of sail boats following lightening strikes at sea. I raced around Sänna unplugging wires, disconnecting radios and making sure nothing was live. Marie switched off the navigation lights and we waited...
Sänna now drifted in the dark, completely blacked out and dead in the water. Strangely, there was no wind, only the rain now coming down in torrents, running down the decks and out through the sea drains. We both took shelter on the companionway steps, taking care not to touch the steel shrouds and staying within easy reach of our emergency equipment. It was deathly silent... Then came the one we were dreading, a horrendous deafening crack and a thunderous instantaneous roar, throwing us both to the deck. I could feel my skin crawling, I found myself upside down and confused. I couldn't even think. And then it was deathly silent...
I looked around for Marie. She crawled beside me but it took a few moments for us both to gather our senses. She quickly checked me over as we climbed to our feet but I could see she was cut and shocked. Our first reaction was to inspect the boat whilst drifting in the pitch dark and straight away could see our mast in the dim light. I felt instant relief that all seemed well. There was still little wind and Sänna was not being thrashed around helplessly in a big sea driven by the storm. But the warm rain drummed down relentlessly and both of us were drenched to the core. The first thing we needed was some light.
We could immediately sense the lightening bolt had not struck us directly. But we knew that most sail boat damage in thunder storms came from very close strikes that travel through the sea and then up through the keel and mast. We both gathered our senses as the storm edged past us with the thunder and lighting still tearing up the skies around us. Sänna was not out of trouble yet. I was reluctant to switch on any electronics and dreaded starting the engine in case the starters had burnt out. I began to calm down and think more clearly, although puzzled by the total lack of any wind, we drifted in the pitch black with only the red light from our head torches we now switched on to keep our night vision. The torrential rain began to ease, we knew that luck and patience was the key to surviving this storm and our experience would tell. We waited...
And then, like a guardian angel, starlight appeared in the sky in the direction from where the storm had hit us. A refreshing breeze picked up, filling our reefed main and Marie quickly unfurled the head sail to distance ourselves from the maelstrom now moving away towards the Nicobar Island to the north. I still dare not try the engine and we didn't need it. Our instruments now glowed and the navigation lights suddenly lit up the sea around us... Sänna came back to life....
|Sri Lanka to Malaysia & Thailand|
"And where are you now?" she giggled in her childish voice...
I laughed when I heard her rising above the wind,
"We're in the vastness of the Indian Ocean, somewhere south of the Nicobars," I answered her in my mind.
"Ah, you must be careful, maybe there is danger ahead..."
I turned to see Sänna's sails fill with wind, rearing her bows through the gentle seas.
The clear sky gave no warning and our sailing was good...
14/05/2008, Sri Lanka
Photo - Fourteen hour haul out operation in Sri Lanka.
Posted on www.noonsite.com. August 2008
We left Aden, Yemen, in mid January and were blessed with crazy but good winds to sail the 600 miles up to Salalah in Oman, although we had to engine the last 100 miles. The trials and tribulations of our passage down the Red Sea were now well behind us. We had to tack relatively little and pondered the "NE" monsoon repeatedly, with easterlies and south easterlies giving beam and close reaches much of the time. After refuelling and good provisioning we left Salalah for passage to Galle in Sri Lanka in early February and were again rewarded with good winds. Marie had returned aboard Sänna in Salalah with my brother Gary hopping off back to the UK. The Piracy risk from Aden to Al Mukallah and Salalah meant that it was unwise for Marie to be away from Henry with his broken leg. Initial F6/7 NW winds pushed us along very well until the wind turned N and then NE, F5/6 for much of the passage and we were able to follow our rhumb course line pretty much all the 1700 miles across the Indian Ocean to Galle, arriving in 13 days from Salalah. We then left the wonderful island of Sri Lanka in early March bound for Langkawi in Malaysia but then had no winds at all for five successive days and sailed from thunderstorm to thunderstorm to claim the wind.
After burning much of our diesel reserves against the currents we decided to retreat back to Galle using what little winds we had to either await the SW monsoon or increase our diesel reserves as there was again little wind in prospect. Many yachts travelling westwards had motored all the way from Malaysia/Thailand to Sri Lanka. So we decided to investigate the possibilities of hauling out in Galle through the Agents GAC. Consequently, we are now hauled out in Galle Harbour. I'll leave the sorry and amusing tale of our fourteen hour haul out operation to a later blog...
There are now a few yachts gathering in Galle to go eastwards and we are pondering the best time to leave. At the moment the consensus seems to be early June when the Cyclone season's worst has passed and the big seas have not yet built up. In the meantime, we are enjoying this amazing Island, alongside our very good friends Peter & Dagmar aboard the German SY Iltis and the inimitable and unsurpassable Swiss couple Lucy & Romeo aboard SY Miou De Mere. We have also made good friends with Serge & Maire aboard their French yacht La Bulle. Serge is to tragically die in appalling circumstances after departing Sri Lanka.
We also spend our time avoiding the infamous Saman, Secretary of the so called 'Galle Yacht Club'. Three hour chases are not uncommon...
|Gulf of Aden to Sri Lanka|
15/03/2008, Galle, Sri Lanka
Photo: Saman, 'Secretary' of the 'Galle Yacht Club'
The insufferable Saman offered to supply a diver to recover our anchor. Which was fine except they turned up at the harbour gate and were unceremoniously refused entry. I was told by the army guards that Saman was a crook, but I already knew that. I found him arguing in the office with his 'diver' standing innocently beside him. I asked Saman if his friend had any dive gear and he reliably informed me he didn't because his diver was special and could hold his breath... and could I pay him the 5000 rupees in advance...
The officer in charge told me that no one was allowed to dive in Galle harbour, ever since the Tamil Tigers had sunk the Sri Lankan navy with crack scuba teams. The navy now threw hand grenades into the water every thirty minutes as a deterrent; which explained why we hit our heads on the cabin roof each night when we flew off our bunks...
Saman was unduly thrown out and the navy offered one of their divers to find our anchor (they never did). But, of course, Saman did not give up so easily. Three hour chases were not uncommon...
|Gulf of Aden to Sri Lanka|
13/02/2008, Indian Ocean
Photo: 1,000 miles from land & 3,000 metres deep
We left Salalah in Oman heading for Sri Lanka late one evening, a little out of sorts, our good friends Peter and Dagmar were planning on making the 1700 mile crossing with us, but as we pulled up anchor and circled them it became evident that their anchor was fouled and they wouldn't be going anywhere that day, so with some reluctance and the promise of having a beer waiting for them in Sri Lanka we waved them goodbye to catch the back edge of a storm which we hoped would give us good winds for the crossing.
We did catch the storm, but more the middle than the edge and a few days of full on sailing followed, followed by days and days of sweet sailing with nothing in sight, where the biggest challenge was making sure the bunk in the rear cabin was level, for a restful sleep between watches, and deciding which bit needed tanning next.
Then in the middle of the night (it always is!) Dave was on watch and a thud hit the bottom of the boat, enough to wake me and send me up on deck, 'think we've hit a fishing net' said Dave. We'd heard tales of Iranian fisherman who cast nets miles long and then left them overnight to collect later, we were sailing and there was little we could do.
Next morning and the wind died and all was calm, "We need to check the keel and the rudder to make sure the net is free before we start the engine" were Dave's words of wisdom, after some intense negotiation - Dave "You go and I'll make you tea every day forever" Me - "I've got chocolate hidden" Dave "I'm skipper - you're going". It was decided that I should be the one to check, so I donned my cossie, snorkel and mask and tied a line on, before asking "By the way how deep is it here?", "Does it matter" were Dave's words of reassurance. I guess not - but out of interest it was 3000 metres!
It was fantastic, bath water warm and as clear as anything, there was no net but some fabulous fish swimming round the rudder, it was so good, Dave insisted on going in afterwards.
|Gulf of Aden to Sri Lanka|
Dagmar told us over the VHF radio they were heading off to the Seaman's Bar for a beer, no easy matter in alcohol banned Yemen. We said we'd join them in half an hour or so when the outboard motor was fixed and we could get ashore. Gary, the commodore, fixed the engine and started to change into his best attire... I laughed and told him not to make too much effort. He'd never visited the decrepit bar before and I was bothered...
We all had another good evening in the only establishment in Aden in which alcohol could be served; strictly to non Muslims although it never seemed to deter Omar. The French delivery crew off the Catermeran joined us and my brother merrily consumed his cans of Heinnigan, the only beer on offer. He had no idea he was about to be 'solicited'...
The woman suddenly sat on his knee. She was dressed in the full Muslim habib showing only her eyes. Stroking his hair, she whispered into his ear... and Gary's face froze with shock. It was a spectacular moment and we all howled with laughter.
Dagmar explained to Gary that his new friend was from Somalia, trying to make a living as an illegal immigrant. He was not amused (although he did try hard). Dagmar was good friends with all the Muslim girls in the port.
Peter and Dagmar cheerfully departed the next morning on Iltis for Salalah in Oman. Sänna would follow a couple of days later when the headsail furling gear was finally fixed. But we were further delayed by our fouled anchor; which meant we made good friends with the Frenchies off the Cat.
|Gulf of Aden to Sri Lanka|
09/01/2008, Gulf of Aden, Yemen
Photo: Daybreak after the storm
"Shit" I screamed in sudden panic. The headsail flailed noisily in the wind and I realised the sheet rope had snapped. The tremendous 'bang' as it parted sent me reeling down into the cockpit floor. Gary, my Commodore brother, shook off his seasickness and heaved himself out of his bunk to join me on the rolling deck. I could see little in the pitch black darkness. We needed to react quickly to secure the redundant port side sheet to the winch to somehow control the dangerously flogging sail. In no time it would tear itself into shreds, just like before. With the wind now well over 45kts, I turned Sänna's bows into the heaving sea, which then hurled green water down the deck as we prepared to furl in the already reefed sail. Then, unbelievably, the bowline knot of the remaining sheet shook itself free and the furling line jammed. Now we were in big trouble.
I cursed this Gulf of Aden, Marie and I had already fought for our lives in the Straights of Bab Al Mandab. We'd then spent three months replacing sails and making repairs in Aden. I instructed my brother to steer and, at all costs, hold the bows into the sea to use the wind to control the sail. I clipped my dual harness to the webbing life lines and, crouching low, made my way forward against the crashing waves washing down from Sänna's bows. I raised myself onto the bow pushpit and, with my harness straps still secured, tried desperately to turn the sail to furl it. Suddenly, the bows pitched and I flew into the air. I shouted in alarm but, in the wind, Gary had no idea I was in trouble; he hid behind the spray hood whilst concentrating hard on steering Sänna to keep us safe. I flew down over the bows and into the frothing sea...
This was it. I knew there was no way out from this one. The harnesses held me but I was immersed to my chest in the water. The next wave would bring the bows crashing down on to me and force me under. In the few moments when Sänna raised herself on the next towering wave my only thoughts were for my brother and how he would cope alone in these conditions...
Then, I flew into the air as the bows heaved down. Clear of the sea, I hung uselessly on the harness and landed forcibly on the pullpit.... in exactly the same position I'd departed. I grabbed the half furled sail and held tight to regain my nerves. My brother's head appeared around the spray hood and he shouted "Is everything ok?"...
I managed to somehow re-tie the sheet into the headsail clew but we couldn't free the jammed furling line to bring in the sail. Our only option was to turn and run with the wind back to harbour in Aden. With the sheet properly tied we tacked the boat to use the now secured headsail and set a downwind course back to Yemen. In Aden, we'd be able to fix our problems and start again.
I never told Gary I'd been overboard in the sea. The commodore would never be able to look his rear commodore in the eye...
|Gulf of Aden to Sri Lanka|
10/11/2007, Aden, Yemen.
Photo: All dressed up and nowhere to go. Aden, Yemen.
I went to see the local Commanding Officer of the Yemen Navy. Every day, vagabond pirates passed by Sänna when they went to get their diesel to pillage and rampage out in the Gulf. They waved and smiled and said I looked like the man in the movie. The Navy Chief told me Sänna would be safe and we would have nothing to fear or stolen in Aden because the Pirates had told him I was their friend. But they said if I insulted Islam or their God they would slit my throat and I would die like a western dog. He asked me how many children we had and he laughed when I told him four. He said we were lazy coz he had twelve and also two wives. I didn't tell him Marie and me were not married...
We left Sänna swinging on the anchor for nine weeks in the once glorious Port of Aden, a magical place. And we made good friends with Peter & Dagmar on the German yacht Iltis and with Omar and the Somalian laundry man...
|Red Sea to Gulf of Aden|
28/10/2007, Gulf of Aden
Marie was worried, I could see it in her face. The speeding skiff boat was approaching very quickly on our starboard beam and was now on a constant bearing. We'd been watching them for about half an hour. We could see four men onboard and one of them was holding what appeared to be a weapon, but it was difficult to be sure at this range. They changed direction on to a parallel course and their speed slowed to track us. I was worried too - these were standard pirate tactics and our current position put us about 30 miles off the Yemen coastline, well within the piracy danger zone. They turned and approached us and I told Marie to stay calm...
The skiff came alongside with four ragged and beaming fishermen. They could have been Yemenis or Somalian, we couldn't tell. They wanted to give us fish and insisted they wanted nothing in return. They showed us the huge sharks they had caught and we all laughed, they because they had laughing faces, Marie and I because we realised we were stupid.
They gave us a great big tuna and Marie gave them my favourite knitted Rastafarian cap, my treasured one from Jamaica. "Good trade" the skinny black man said, smiling, and they sped off, the shabby helmsman wearing my hat...
|Red Sea to Gulf of Aden|
20/10/2007, Bab Al Mandab, Yemen
Photo: Cheap diesel and new friends.
I was surrounded by four skinny black soldiers beaming their smiles and proudly presenting their automatic weapons. I climbed the stairs and entered the smoky room in what seemed like an old desert fort from some Beau Geste novel. The officer sat behind his desk smoking a cigar, looking at me intensely. This was surreal. Everyone was silent and no one said anything. I couldn't think straight so I saluted. They all laughed and saluted back, obviously thinking this was some strange English greeting. I saluted again, laughing, and they followed the same ritual, laughing even more. This was going well...
"We need diesel" I told the officer. They all laughed again, having no comprehension of what I'd said. I got coffee. It was good too. I tried to explain again that we'd anchored off their military post because of the big storm, our damaged boat and lack of fuel. They were now my friends and the tall skinny slapped my back and said "You stay." I laughed my stupid laugh...
A good while after I was taken outside and led around the back of the fort to a compound by the same officer and two other skinnys I'd not seen before. Inside the compound stood three enormous army Tanks, their yellow guns pointing to sea in the general direction of Sänna still anchored about a hundred metres from shore. Marie was sitting in the cockpit drinking tea. I don't think she noticed three tank cannons pointing at her. The officer said something in Arabic and the two skinnys started to drain the diesel from the engine of each army Tank which they transferred into two bigger oil drums. I got 300 litres.
I love these people...
|Red Sea to Gulf of Aden|
"Where are you now?" she whispered above the howling wind...
"We're near the Straights of Bab Al Mandab and Sänna is dying" I cried, in desperation, the sail shredding and tearing away into the darkness. We were fighting to stay alive.
"She will not die, this angry sea will not claim you" she turned away and looked back with a strange light in the sky...
"How do you know? is now the time to find you?" I pleaded, the towering sea curling and breaking across our desperate bows. We could not take much more.
"Someone else is protecting you on this dark evil night. It is not my soul that will save you"... the screaming wind and spray stung our eyes...
"Please don't leave, not now, we need you to see us through?" I begged. I watched the mast bend and twist towards the pitching sea. The harnesses held and we grasped hard on the sodden lines.
"Now is not my time. Nor yours either I say".... the gale blew down harder, we crashed headlong down into the boiling abyss...
But when the daylight came with a cruel dark sky, Sänna reared her broken bows with a tired sigh. The wind paused and this cruel sea began to die...
25/09/2007, Massawa, Eritrea
Photo: War ruined Massawa...
This wasn't going very well. We needed diesel. The skipper of the Yankee vessel Pipe Dream had already approached me asking for spare diesel. I'd told him to bollocks when he informed me he needed it to run his air conditioning!
Port Massawa, still a war ruined shambles, offered very little in the way of supplies and nothing much else either. Mike, the 'Laundry Man', was our Mr Fix It and he told us the good news. A UN Aid vessel had just docked with 400 tonnes of sugar. If we queued at the depot we'd get some. I told him we didn't need sugar, only diesel and whatever supplied we could scrounge with our US dollars. He promised to take me to see the harbour master to ask for a permit to buy diesel...
...it turned into a disaster. The skipper of Pipe Dream was already there ranting and raving in his American style, demanding diesel as though it was his right. His arrogance was unbelievable. The Harbour Master threw us both out, saying his diesel was for his people, not for rich Americans. The Yank asked me again if we could spare some fuel adding that, to stay on his schedule to arrive in Yemen, he needed to use the engine if his speed dropped below five knots. He couldn't just rely on the wind and his three fee paying crew demanded their air conditioning. I assumed they must be Yankees too. I told him we were down to our last 100 litres, which was hardly enough given we would need our engine if we ourselves encountered trouble heading south to Aden. He told me they were down to their last 800 litres too which, I figured, was more than enough for him to get out of the Red Sea.
Pipe Dream left Massawa within the hour and Mike told us, now that the Yanks had gone, we'd get some fresh supplies but no diesel. Maybe there was fuel in Port Assad but we must be careful of pirates there. He said there was little of anything in Eritrea except lots of good fish. Mike led us both to a back street eating place and, in the squalid port, they served us the best white fish we'd ever tasted, straight from newspaper and eaten with our hands. Washed down with fresh mango juice. Fantastic!
The next morning, the harbour master cleared us out and Sänna left port under sail to conserve the precious fuel we had left. We'd managed to buy some meagre supplies of questionable fruit and veg which would somehow get us through. Marie and I both knew it was going to be tough. A few days later we sailed into the foulest storm we'd ever experienced....
|Red Sea to Gulf of Aden|
17/09/2007, The Red Sea. Sudan to Eritrea
We were two days into a five day sail down the Red Sea heading for Eritrea having left Egypt after a fabulous few months, night time was here, Dave had just gone to bed, I was on watch, the stars were out, it was a full moon, the bimini was back and my Ipod was playing in one ear - all was good in my world.
Once again Dave had a line out fishing (as we had for the last few years) with little hope of catching anything - despite every other boat telling us how rich the Red Sea was for fish (my hunter gatherer sadly very rarely did), suddenly there was a big bang and a clatter, I jumped up and grabbed the torch scanning the back to see what had fell off or hit us. Realisation slowly dawned - I needed to wake the Skipper....
'Do you want the good news or the bad?' I asked giggling, like any good seafaring sole he was already on his feet heading for deck - 'Give me the good' he said '....well you've just caught your first fish...' replied I 'and the bad?' he asked with a slowing down ' its got your rod...' at which point I gave in to a good old fashioned hysterical chuckle.
Dave consoled himself as he headed back to bed that it must have been least of shark like proportions to have pulled it out of its holder, I on the other hand - laughed all night.
|Red Sea to Gulf of Aden|