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Blogs from our sailing vessel SV Sänna. UK to New Zealand... & circumnavigation.
South...
Dave
18/10/2011, Whitsunday Islands to Brisbane

Photo: Paradise in the Great Barrier Reef.

Marie didn't much believe my account of our passage through the Whitsunday Islands. She came back onboard Sänna in Mackay and, with the wind from the south east again, we beat the forty miles or so back up to the Lindeman Island anchorage in the southern Island group. We dropped anchor in the dark as usual but it was good to be back together again. I miss her so much whenever she's back in the UK, but Henry needed to be in school. Our three month adventure with Henry around Australia had been fantastic and I was growing to love the frontier feeling of this country, even though we thought Queensland no match for the deserted shores and desolation of the Northern Territories. Now we were back to our normal intimate crew of two and there was a job to be done; Sänna had to be out of Australian waters by November so we needed to make our way southward to Brisbane and be ready to depart for New Zealand....

I had promised Marie that we would return to the Whitsundays before working our way down the Queensland coast to Brisbane. It was relaxed, good sailing and fantastic! The Islands were nearly deserted and the fleets of charter boats gone. We found anchorage after anchorage to ourselves and our magical relationship we both relish devoured us. My head was in a good place and Sänna was in a magnificent mood too. She reared her bows, flaunted her sails and slid effortlessly southwards through easy seas, wanderful islands and treacherous reefs. These were treasure days and I didn't want them to end. We tracked the Queensland coast with good winds but then a threatening storm forced us into Gladstone Harbour for a few days shelter. It was good too. Then we threaded our way through the Fraser Island shallows and Brisbane was not so far away...

We are now moored in the centre of Brisbane making ready and provisioning for the long voyage to New Zealand. We need a favourable weather window as the Tasman Sea and the Southern Ocean can be demanding and unforgiving. But we have received word that Fat Annie has already arrived in Whangarie, having themselves sailed their way south from Vanuatu in the Pacific.

She is waiting patiently and she knows we'll be there soon...

Australia to New Zealand
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Wot’s it with the Whitsundays?
Dave
28/09/2011, Whitsunday Islands, Queensland.

Photo: Sänna, Lindeman Island Anchorage

Even back in the UK we'd heard about the Glorious Whitsunday Islands off central Queensland. "A Sailing Paradise" and we were now not so far away...

As we crept our way south downwind through the wild Hinchinbrook Channel to Bowen I was at last grateful to lose the relentless SE trade winds which had made our passage from the Torres Straights to Cairns so miserable. Not so now. Our decision to wait a couple of months in Port Douglas gave us the chance to travel around the interior of this stunning country and to use the wind change that Aussie sailors had told us would come at the end of the dry season. And here they were. We now had gentle downwind and beam reach NE winds allowing us to make very good progress. But, as ever, we were never far off the relentless Queensland coast.

My brother Gary joined me onboard in Cairns to help sail Sanna down to Mackay whilst Marie returned to the UK with Henry. Unfortunately, his school year is beginning and his three month sabbatical touring Australia with us in our hired camper van has ended. Gary and I would knock off a couple of hundred miles southwards until Marie returned. He knows his stuff does my brother; but he's Commodore of his local sailing club and we had to adhere to protocol a little more than Marie and I are used too. We easily made Bowen Harbour and so Gary and I, armed with a free copy of the unbelievably complex '100 Magic Miles' cruising guide, tacked our way into a northerly wind from our overnight anchorage in Woodwark Bay to the first of the 'magical' Whitsunday anchorages on the east side of Hayman Island. We both enjoyed more dream sailing and my brother eagerly played with the sails to squeeze out the extra knot of speed. When we dropped sail and motored into the bay we found it was rammed with charter boats and big plastic pig cruisers, anchored so close together that any swing in the current instantly wrought collision havoc. WOW! Later in the evening we smiled and laughed as a huge antique tripper boat with party music blaring onboard thrust his massive bow spit over us in a typical Aussie attempt to force us off the mooring buoy we'd managed to pick up to stay overnight. I've long since learned the only way to deal with these Alpha Australians is to drop your trousers and bare your arse but I couldn't get my Commodore brother to do it...

We slipped the buoy early light next morning and left, a little disillusioned to say the least. We again caught a good northerly and worked our way through the impressively scenic Islands and channels, avoiding numerous chartered catamarans, even queuing to pass through the narrows between Hook Island and the northern tip of the main Whitsunday Island. I gave these Islands my best attention and I have to say they are not as beautiful or as comparable as the remote Island groups we'd passed through off Arnhem Land, east of Darwin making for Gove. But they are very nice and I can see why most folks are impressed. I sometimes think Marie and I are a little too 'beautiful islanded out'. Eventually, we veered south east to the south of Hamilton Island on the back of an increasing NW wind that gave fast downwind sailing under full out headsail. We only just missed a huge hump backed whale that dived just before Gary could get his equally huge zoom lens attached to his camera.... and just before sundown we dropped anchor in the beautiful bay east of Lindeman Island. This was perfect; with only a few other yachts around, this was out of bounds and a little too far for the charter fleets. The next morning we took the dingy ashore over a stunning beach and walked a good few miles through the fabulous grasslands and forests... until we found a Club Med all inclusive resort over the next headland.

The Commodore paid the $70 fee for day visitors and we sat with holiday guests through the all you can eat buffet. We sat and laughed by the pool, drinking fizzy Aussie beer from plastic glasses and watched a throng of holidaymakers swinging through pool activity exercises to blaring music, presumably to keep them fit and tanned. This was exceptionally good brotherly bonding...

We drew anchor the next morning and headed south under sail for Mackay. But I will be back with Marie. She's excited about seeing the Whitsunday Islands...

Australia to New Zealand
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The wrong way to say 'goodbye'...
Dave
20/09/2011

'So long guys' is the way we used to say our goodbyes in the neighbourhood where I grew up as a kid. I don't suppose it's that much different in your home towns in Norway. But I'm sure we didn't much care about these things back then in Kudat? Getting our tired boats fixed up in the hot sun and the dusty grime of the boat yard was just fine as long as we could all drink the cheap Malay beer when the sun went down, sitting in the cool evening shade and the dirty Chinese restaurant, eating our way through dubious dishes of fabulous food that never ended...

Me and Neil from Sanna and you hardened Berserk adventurers, with John and the Phillipino Princess from the rusting Sir Gallagher. And Graham fixing up his boat before his mother arrived, Marco and the gorgeous Rosa aboard the Italian Borossa. We even sat and laughed through the lazy evenings with the impossible Germans off the boat who's name we cannot remember, the ones that never bought their own beers? We listened to your incredible tales in the northern ice and you laughed at our own stories of misfortune and pirates. Even Hadji the Muslim smiled and beamed his toothless grin, though he never understood anything we said...

And I'm sure it was you Tom who sneaked off in the night with the young Malay girl from the canteen. You know the one? She cried through the day after you all left...

SV Berserk
Disappeared, Southern Ocean 22 February 2011. Tom Gisle Bellica. Robert Skaane. Leonard Barb....

http://www.oldsaltblog.com/2011/02/25/off-antarctica-hope-fades-for-crew-of-yacht-berserk-ii/

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The Alpha Australian Male
Dave
20/09/2011, Mackay, Queensland.

This big island continent on the southern side of the dotted line is a fascinating country. It's taken more than five years to sail here aboard Sänna and, truth be told, we've heard varying reports from other sailing boat crews we have come across who had already docked in Australia and left. The country itself is stunningly beautiful in its desolate and rugged way and the frontier mentality of the people who live on the edge of the infamous outback is both refreshing and breathtaking. And then there is the diversity of animal life not seen anywhere else on earth, a good deal of which would readily kill you for no other apparent reason than they do not wish you around. But there is one strange creature we've increasingly encountered as we've made our way southwards along the Queensland coast and, surprisingly, in increasing numbers. For reference purposes we ourselves use the term 'AAM' and we breath this in hushed whispers so that we do not alarm or provoke what we've identified as a volatile and unpredictable beast. Its lifestyle and habits are fascinating and we have taken to studying it in great detail so that we can try to understand and learn if it's possible to communicate with the great Alpha Australian Male....

And we're making good progress. So far we've established that the 'AAM' is predominantly found in the eastern and southern side of the continent, particularly around built up and urban areas close to the shoreline. Clearly there is a marine connection and greater numbers are undoubtedly concentrated within marinas, harbours and some mainland and island anchorages that do not pose undue dangers to its existence. But the 'AAM' is deceptive as there is a definite sub species that is far more adventurous and shows distinctive 'hunter gatherer' tendencies that could clearly define it as a possible species in its own right. However, we ourselves are primarily concerned with the main branch of the Alpha Australian Male that shows much less spirited tendencies and any sub species are better left to the studies of more experienced experts than ourselves. Right now, we've definitely established a number of key characteristics that identify the type of 'AAM' that we are ourselves concerned with....

Research shows that some form of transformation takes place in the primary male grouping of the Standard Australian Male (SAM). This possibly occurs around the age of 35 to 40 years but more research is needed. We've also identified signs of an extreme competitive nature within the Alpha Australian Male which readily extends to aggression and, in some instances, clear signs of a developed killer instinct. These more extreme characteristics seem to occur when the 'AAM' comes into contact with Alpha Males of other species, more notably a northern hemisphere type commonly known as the POM. Undoubtedly, the POM is speedily recognised as a dangerous competitor to the Alpha Australian Male which must be challenged at all cost. The stakes appear to be high and no quarter is given. The ensuing verbal calling of the 'AAM' when contact is made is relentless, sustained and aggressive. More research is needed. But distinct signs of challenge occur when the POM is in close proximity, particularly when the POM calls its own territorial warning of "Good Morning", "Lovely Morning" or even "Do you cruise that plastic duck far?" which seems to illicit more extreme reactions from the Alpha Australian Male. So far we ourselves have made a number of contacts and we are gaining experience. Our first reactions were nervous and tentative when faced with clear signs of territorial protection. We also noted strange muscular twitches when we mention how far we have sailed. We think maybe there could be a softer, friendlier underbelly but, again, more research is needed...

Marie and I have decided that we must gather much more information before we depart the Australian shoreline in November for New Zealand. We will share our findings through our blog site and invite our readers for their own comments. We are both fair minded individuals and do not wish to prejudice our public into thinking our own way. As experienced marine researchers we'd much rather present our findings in an unbiased manner for you to decide. If you do have any comments then please share them. We will accept both negative and positive views in the interest of balanced research. In the meantime we ourselves will post examples of contact with the Alpha Australian Male through the Sänna blog site so that you can be the ultimate decision maker...

Australia to New Zealand
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Dunk Island Devastation
Dave
18/09/2011, Cairns to Mackay, Queensland.

Photo: Wrecked beach houses

So my brother and I pitched in to the Dunk Island anchorage, showing off our sailing prowess by entering under sail ready to drop our hook close by the pier. We knew the bar at the foot of the pier was a homing place for Aussie yachties and we were sure to impress them with our English skills whilst they sunned themselves drinking their stubby beers. We dropped anchor without any problems and congratulated ourselves as much as we could, looking forward to the stinging banter we were sure to receive ashore. Next, we showered and donned our best shore gear before lowering the dinghy to head for a nice cool beer. My brother Gary had even decided his steak dinner for the evening....

We neared the pier and it didn't look quite right. I tied the dinghy and climbed the twisted steel steps to face utter devastation. The whole concrete structure was a mess and didn't even reach the shore. And the 'Shack', the very same establishment where we were sure of our esteemed boozy welcome, was a deserted wreck. We beached the dinghy and climbed ashore from the bay to face a total disaster and warning signs stating 'Danger, Do Not Land'....

The whole island and resort had been battered and destroyed by Cyclone Yasi earlier in the year. I for one had not realised the power of these storms and the extent of the damage Hurricanes can cause. We walked around the island quietly and humbly, trying to understand how these people who had survived were coping and trying to rebuild. There was no one around to witness our sailing skills and no one there to laugh at us in our stupid pride. And we would move on southwards whilst these Aussies sat around waiting for the next storm to torment them.

We anchored for the night and cooked onboard. It was an undisturbed night and we were grateful for the sleep. The following day we pulled up our anchor and headed for the Hinchinbrook Channel and scenes of more devastation around Cardwell and the smashed up Hinchinbrook Marina. Another lesson learned...

Australia to New Zealand
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Dilemma
Marie
26/08/2011, Port Douglas, Queensland

Well, we've returned from our land trip round Oz, it's been great, and we've a few days to get some jobs out the way before my sister Ali arrives. Once she's here we'd planned on sailing out to the Low Isles on the barrier reef to do some snorkelling, however this morning we discovered a birds nest on the back roll bars under the solar panels, with a baby chick in it. Now what do we do???

Australia to New Zealand
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Smashed Up...
Dave
18/07/2011, Port Douglas.

Photo: Now back up to three crew....

We've sailed to other side of the world and we've crossed vast empty oceans. Curiously, we've only had two really bad storm experiences and both times the coast was only a few miles away and clearly visible. The first was Bab Al Mandab and the massive gale at the southern end of the Red Sea which nearly saw the end of us. The second has been the relentless beat down the Coral Sea from the Torres Straights to Port Douglas. Well inside the barrier reef, we at least got some protection from the big seas, but not from the 30kt headwinds. We eventually made shelter in Lizard Island and a welcome rest having tacked ourselves into exhaustion. And the toggle fastener to our inner stay sail Furling gear sheared, it was only fitted in Darwin....

We're in Port Douglas and I've been carrying out running repairs. Marie has travelled back to the UK and returned with Bealy (Henry). We've got a new crew uniform, courtesy of some weird material Marie found on a local market. And my little best mate will now be with us onboard for the next few months....

Well worth getting all smashed up for.

Australia to New Zealand
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Dave caught a fish....
Marie
10/07/2011, Great Barrier Reef

Once again we were sailing along and once again Dave 'suggested' we cooked fish for dinner, and he was the man to catch one... So he happily spent the next hour looking for his fishing box, sorting his line, choosing the lure, looking for his rod... I spent my time more fruitfully deciding what we'd have for dinner after he finally admitted defeat (I personally think the fishy grapevine operates whenever he's fishing in the area, they know they're safe...) He even asked what type of fish I wanted - oh the optimist!

Several hours later a strange noise was heard on deck and, as usual, we both jumped up and began looking round to see what was going on to cause us a problem this time. But no, we realised that it was the line being pulled out. Something had taken the line!

A frantic 10 minutes then followed while we worked out how to get the reel to pull in again, and then a long tedious and hard hour followed as we slowly reeled in the line. It was coming closer and seemed quite large, much discussion followed about what type of fish it was and whether it was a shark...

Eventually we got it close enough and then had to find the net to land it (and my camera to record the event - strangely people never believe Dave's tales about his fishing prowess). It was a fair size, another 30 minutes passed and finally it was on deck. It was Tuna again.

3 days later we were fed up with Tuna bake, tuna sandwiches, tuna salad, tuna curry...

Maybe next time we will let it get away....

Australia to New Zealand
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Escape River
Dave
25/06/2011, Torres Straights, Great Barrier Reef

Photo: Rest & Relief - Lizard Island Anchorage

The relentless head wind gave us nothing and we worked hard for every mile by tacking endlessly between the reefs. We'd made only fifteen miles progress since leaving the Mount Adolphus Island anchorage at daybreak and, fighting the wind and current, we were tiring rapidly. Ahead, tantalisingly, lay the entrance to the remote Escape River where we knew there was a sheltered anchorage among the mangroves. But the entrance was treacherous and shallow. Marie worked the sails and we tacked again in the big sea, heading towards the headland in the failing light. We needed to take a critical bearing from the point to navigate our way into the river, so a night time entry was not feasible. We could just do it.

"When's low tide?" asked Marie. "In about fifteen minutes," I told her. She looked worried as well as tired. I knew what she was thinking. The charted entrance depth over the bar was just over two metres; Sänna's draft was two metres. It was tight. We needed tide depth for a safety margin but I reasoned it could be done. "This sea is nearly three metres," she said. She was right; we could easily bottom or go aground if we got it wrong. The alternative was to tack our way through the night and the next day to another remote headland anchorage. This was a tough call. I was torn between our two choices... "Let's go for it, we can do it," I shouted above the wind. "No," Marie screamed at me in her way of taking charge, "We'll end up dead."

We tacked back through the wind and headed out into the long black night...

Suez Canal to New Zealand
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The Nuhulumbuy Aboriginal Touring Band…
Dave
17/06/2011, Gove Harbour, Northern Territories.

Photo: Nuhulumbuy Celebration...

We dragged the dingy up the beach, clear of the rising tide and mindful of the warning sign informing us that crocodiles were a danger to anyone landing here. Making our way through the shuttered 'club' grounds to the dusty road to Nuhulumbuy 12 kilometers away, we had to find a way of getting there to buy supplies. There was no bus or anything like that. Nothing much else happening either...

We came to the road just as the dust cloud came towards us. It was a decrepit four wheeler heading in the right direction so I stuck my thumb out half heartedly and without much feeling. The four wheeler screeched to a halt and reversed back towards us. Inside were three beaming aboriginals, two men and a young angelic looking girl. "Where you heading?" said the driver with a broad Aussie accent. "Nuhulumbuy" said Marie and they told us to hop in the back. We were off...

"I'm Dave" I said, introducing myself. "Well. I'm Dave too", the mean looking one in the passenger seat offered. "And I'm Dave as well", laughed the driver in his mirror. We all laughed together striking instant friendships and Marie introduced herself to the little girl Hollie. This was good. We had a fine time hurtling down the gravel road towards Nuhulumbuy...

And in the middle of this wilderness land we discovered that Dave and Dave, two of the toughest aboriginal males you could wish to come across, used to be the lead singer and lead dancer in the ethnic Nuhulumbuy Aboriginal Touring Band. And they had toured the world. They visited England, to Nottingham in fact, our home town, to Scotland and the Isle of Sky. Pretty much everywhere it turned out. They were very proud and we were genuinely impressed. I looked out of the rear window into the dust cloud and wandered how it was we could all meet in a wild place like this...

Dave and Dave took us to the small outback settlement of Nuhulmbuy and showed us around. We got our fresh supplies and found a lift back to Gove Bay. We stayed on anchor a couple more days waiting for the storm wind to die down and then left to cross the Gulf of Carpentaria, towards the infamous Torres Straights...

Australia to New Zealand
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Wilderness...
Dave
10/06/2011, South Goulbourn Island, Arafura Sea.

Photo: Heading into South Goulbourn Island Anchorage

We left Darwin behind us by beating into the prevailing easterly and south easterly trade winds. And we were leaving civilisation too. Considering we were now in a first world country it dawned upon us both that this part of Australia was desolate, wild and empty. And huge....

We had nearly 600 nautical miles of nothing ahead of us before we reached our first port of call. We were heading for Gove, a small harbour bay served by no road links to the rest of Australia except for 500 miles of dirt tracks. The harbour served the bauxite mines, existing to load up ore carrying ships and it was our only port of call. But along the way we picked up a couple of remote wilderness anchorages among the islands and mangroves. Valencia Island and South Goulbourn Island gave us some good rest from the relentless tacking into the wind. But the weather was turning foul so we decided to go for it and complete the final 280 miles to Gove in a series of long tacks that took us through the infamous 'Hole in the Wall' and 12kt currents....

Fabulous Gove. A run down 'yacht club' that at first offered not much, a dusty road to the mining town of Nuhulunbuy and its aboriginal settlements. The harbour bay gave us good shelter from the passing storm except that we dragged our anchor. The 'club' served us some good beer and revealed a shady garden area and a fine barbecue. It was a good place to rest and stock up....

And we began to make new friends....

Australia to New Zealand
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Engine Refit....
Dave
30/05/2011, Darwin

Photo: More transient friends...

Finally arrived back onboard Sänna floating serenely in Tipperary Waters Marina. The weather here in Darwin is surprisingly fresh and much colder in the dry season than when we arrived back in November during the wet. It's actually very pleasant now, much like an English summer day but these Aussies find it cold.

The engine has been hauled out of the boat, taken to the Cullen Bay Slipway workshop and completely reconditioned with new piston rings, cylinders re-bored and the cylinder head skimmed down. Together with a new seawater pump and fuel pump we should now see the last of our Volvo engine problems that have plagued us up in the Philippines and down through Indonesia. Sänna has also been fitted with a new stay sail with new inner stay furling gear and a new main sail. The genoa head sail has been repaired. The cost of both engine work and the new sails has been stunningly expensive and my wallet has taken a pounding, mainly due to the poor exchange rate between the Aussie dollar and UK pound. The work has all been completed during our absence back in the UK and everything seems good. We shall see....

Our problem now is leaving Darwin. Marie came back on board at the end of May and we are ready to sail. But we have the usual problem in that we both like Darwin very much and we have made new friends here. Andy and Pauline from the steel sloop Windcutter together with Barry and Sue from Nerfititi. Both boats have sailed up from Brisbane and they are planning to leave sometime soon for SE Asia. We had the usual crazy last night party aboard Sänna and it's nice to see that we are using the Aussie socialising protocol which means they all turn up with cool bags full of their own drinks, food and trimmings. It beats the English protocol that requires ourselves to provide and prepare everything and the Yankee protocol that requires everyone to be over 21....

We're leaving to go eastwards across the Arafura Sea and the Aussie boats are appalled. Big trade winds and seas will hit us on the nose. So here we go again......

Australia to New Zealand
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We're Married!
Marie Ungless (Tee hee hee)
12/02/2011, Nottingham, England

Our wedding in Nottingham was initmate, informal & fun with only immediate family and a couple of friends knowing before the day.

Dagmar Kienast, our good friend and sailor from S/Y Iltis travelled to be with us and was our 'Bestwoman'. We had a fantastic day and we are both very happy.

x

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Life with no Frontiers
15/01/2011, Darwin

Old map makers used to say that beyond the end of the world there lived dragons. And it's true, there are dragons there.

It's a long journey and a difficult one too. But anyone who's had their judgement day and experienced the loneliness of the great oceans will reveal the most secretive of secrets and tell you the hardest part is the decision to go there. In reality, no one ever makes a conscious decision to leave the known world of map makers to go in search of dragons. Fate takes you there and no map shows the way home again. Only a traveller's sense of adventure and a fear of strange beasts mark your return. First, we must leave the conformist world behind and cross into a life that's unknown, unexplored and uncharted. It's an amazing and sometimes treacherous journey.....

Marie and I have been there. We didn't know we were going there, not until we'd transgressed from the world of rule and morose lifestyle where individuals do not count. We'd always suspected there was some mysterious place, somewhere, we reasoned, discovered only by fearless explorers, gallant sailors and the lonely vagabonds who keep their secrets to themselves. We'd seen something strange in their eyes, a look that is distant and difficult to fathom. It seemed they were peering into the horizon to find a missing friend or mark to show their way home. Soon, we realised, travelling to the very edge of the world and beyond is about the journey itself.

Our voyage to the land of dragons and mysterious things began by chance. We had no plan to go there and didn't know it existed until strange feelings began to possess us. This took a long time. Easily more than five years. First, we began to voyage ever longer distances over oceans that were vast and empty, just the two of us looking out for each other and learning to be a sole companion. Days and weeks of no one else, only the endless sea, the big sky and remorseless wind that often threatened our lives. We didn't realise it then but we were morphing into lonely travelers, sailors who need nothing much in their life to be at ease. We found our loneliness bound us together, we loved a deepening love realising we were unique, a devoted relationship that many in the groove of their lives never find.

Then we slowly transformed and, when we came across the vagabonds and lonely sailors, they would listen to us being together and see what we'd done. The mysterious look in their eyes would fade and diminish with a knowing smile. "Ah, we see you are heading to the secret world with no frontiers". We laughed their laugh and then they said, "But you must be careful there, for there are strange beasts, serpents and other demons to torment your unsettled minds"....

And we found the demons and ancient dragons and we saw the uncharted way. We fought and loved; we laughed and planned our life together knowing that we too had the mysterious look in our eyes. Our loneliness as one became unique and we know, one day, our hearts will be tormented and broken. But we've been and seen, tried and sometimes nearly died. We lived with the privileged few and learned the knowing smile. So, we talked, we vowed and then we got married. We know the friends we left behind can never understand.

There are dragons at the edge of the world. And the seas are vast, the wind is wild and no chart, or map, or mark will ever show us our way home....


Dave Ungless and Marie Beal. Married 8th January 2011. Our wedding was small, private and privileged.

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Big Johnny Beale....
02/12/2010, Darwin, Northern Territories. Australia

Raise your glasses boys, and drink your beer
To Big Johnny, Cloudy Bay who, I'm told,
Slipped away, his wide eyes filled with fear
Claimed by the feisty sea and howling cold....

John Beale. Cloudy Bay. Missing overboard presumed lost. 2nd November 2010.

http://www.ntnews.com.au/article/2010/11/03/191711_ntnews.htm

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Sea of Glass
25/11/2010, Arafura Sea

Photo: Arafura Sea, south of the equator.

The voyage south from Bitung was becoming arduous due to lack of wind. We crossed the equator and headed to the island of Bacan and the anchorage at Selat Sambaki. This was an idealic place to lay on anchor a couple of days to see if the wind would finally arrive. But after two peaceful nights we continued 100 miles south to another remote anchorage tucked inside the island of Tawa, with Dan's eagle eyes successfully conning us through the reef entrance. But still no wind....

After waiting two more fruitless days for the wind to arrive, we decided to make the dash south to Ambon and I felt uneasy. The engine was beginning to worry me. Grey smoke was blowing from the exhaust and drifting in the light breeze but Dan kept me re-assured. He's a diesel engineer with huge experience driving overland adventure trekking trucks through Africa and other remote parts of the world. I sensed he was uneasy too, but he was simply loving this too much to care. "I've seen much worse" he kept telling me....

We finally made Ambon, once again, in the dead of night. We knew from other sail boat skippers that Ambon was a difficult place to anchor and its bad reputation did not disappoint. It was awful, dirty and dangerous. The only safe anchorage we found was under the scrutiny of the Indonesian navy and they moved us on just as we were all about to get some much needed sleep. The dinghy landing was probably the dirtiest we'd ever experienced and the amount of rubbish in the water meant that our engine had to remain off for fear of sucking plastic bags into the sea water intake. This was not a place to linger for very long but we needed to check out of Indonesia and go through customs and immigration. Lauren and Dan were also jumping ship here to continue their travels through the islands. I myself was glad to get away from Ambon harbour because we were not safe. After three restless and difficult days we left, refueled and replendished...

But where was the much fabled east wind from the Arafura Sea that I was relying on to take us the remaining 600 nautical miles south to Australia? Nothing.....

All we had was a strange, glass calm sea only interrupted by the occasional shoal of dolphins and three large sperm whales. Luckily, we had loaded up with extra diesel in jerry cans on deck so we had the range to motor all the way to Darwin if need be but the engine was still worrying me. Our new racor twin filters were easily coping with the awful diesel we were picking up in Indonesia and our infamous diesel bug problems were now a thing of the past. But I could sense distinct changes in engine pitch and the exhaust smoke was worsening. We needed the much vaunted easterly wind to give our Volvo engine a rest. Sänna is a sailing boat and we rely hugely on our sails to power us, our engine being only an auxiliary means of propulsion. The weather forecasts downloaded through our HF SSB radio showed nothing for the next three days so we were in for a long drag, our alternative being to just sit and drift with the current like the old sailing ships of the distant past. So we kept going.....

Eventually, something had to happen and it did. I stopped the engine to check it over and I found the sea water cooling pump leaking water and, even worse, a small hole had appeared in the side of the turbo heat exchanger. It was blowing hot air with a mixture of water and oil all over the engine cover hatch. I knew the sea water pump would probably be ok because we'd had this problem before, but a hole in the engine? Wow! I called Dan on the Sat phone and he told me not to stress. He'd had much worse on his many overland trips, but I didn't believe him....

So I bunged the hole with epoxy glue purchased from a hardware store in Bitung and it held. I told Marie it was her chewing gum she'd chewed and thrown away and I could tell she was visibly impressed. I decided not to elaborate further as her praise was both welcome and unusual. So we kept going...

On day five out from Ambon we were nearing Australian territorial waters and early in the morning we were buzzed by a twin engined aircraft from Australian Customs. Over the radio they requested our details and they circled us three times checking us out. But we had already conformed with Australian regulations and previously informed them of our ETA before we left Ambon. They were expecting our arrival and they were friendly, helpful and offered assistance when we informed them of our worries about the engine. We declined their assistance. I told Marie I had full faith in the strength of her saliva mixed gum but I could see she was having her doubts. She'd already found my discarded epoxy glue container. So we kept going...

We continued SE, negotiating the shallows and shoals of the Timor Sea with little or no wind to hinder us and after another day and night we neared the entrance to Darwin harbour in darkness. The buoyage was easy to pick out and I didn't want to hang around with engine smoke advertising our presence to any laughing Aussies. It would be an easy entrance and we altered course into the ship channel. As dawn crept upon us we turned to port out of the navigational channel and picked a good spot in Fannie Bay to drop anchor. The chain went out in seven metres but we had to allow for an extra eight metres of tide too. It was calm with a beautiful sunrise and red Australia was there before our eyes.

We had arrived safely after five years trying and we needed sleep.....

Philippines to Indonesia & Australia
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We Crossed the Equator...
Dave
16/11/2010, Molukka Sea, Indonesia

16th November 2010, 0105 hours. Course over ground (COG) 124 degrees true. Position 126 degrees 49 minutes 1 second East. Speed over ground (SOG) 4.9 knotts. Wind NE F1. Crew - Dave (skipper), Marie (1st mate), Lauren and Dan (crew).

We crossed the equator heading south. We drank beer, sang songs and celebrated in the traditional way by saluting Neptune, God of the sea....

894nm to go for Darwin......

Philippines to Indonesia & Australia
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Indonesia...
Dave
09/11/2010, Bitung, Sulawesi, Indonesia

Photo: Bitung Harbour

Heading south at last. We left Tawau in Borneo calling at the dive resort of Mabul along the way. After departing Mabul we headed for Bitung on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi expecting the infamous hard time from the Indonesian immigration and customs officials. Armed with our new CAIT (cruising permit for Indonesia) we entered Bitung harbour in the dead of night and nosed around for two hours before we found a suitable depth to anchor. This was hard going. We then had a dinghy treck of over a mile to the nearest landing point to find Immigration...

We had a fantastic reception. They simply could not do enough for us. These guys arranged our Visas, stuck me on the back of a motorcycle to take me to Quarantine, Customs and to the Harbourmaster. They then arranged our diesel re-fueling and to collect my daughter Lauren with her boyfriend Dan from the airport the next day. And when Lauren and Dan's luggage never arrived.... they sorted that too!

The best place to land ashore with the dinghy was the local bum boat dock which was a colourful and noisy maze of small boats and shouting boatmen. We paid one of the boat guys a few Indonesian coins and left the dinghy to his mercy. When we returned a few hours later it was neatly and safely tied between the bum boats. We knew we were perfectly safe in this busy and bussling harbour and the friendliness of these people was simply overwhelming. We departed Bitung a few days later, now with a crew of four and headed south towards the equator. We were sorry to leave.

Bitung and Sulawesi is third world bliss.....

Philippines to Indonesia & Australia
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Darwin
Dave
30/09/2010, Kudat, Borneo

Photo: Sänna again anchored in 'Crossroads' Kudat

We were anchored in the lagoon in 'crossroads' Kudat for the fourth time. Our plans to return to the Philippines were well advanced and we would depart northwards the next day. I was on the mobile phone to Fat Annie and Robert mentioned that Audrey and Ken aboard Fast Forward had applied and received their Indonesian CAIT sailing permit from the Consulate in KK in five days instead of the normal five weeks. "If we could get a CAIT through in five days we could be in Darwin Australia in four weeks time", I said to Marie. She looked at me and smiled, "Well, let's go then....."

So we did....

Philippines to Indonesia & Australia
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The Ship's Fixed
Dave
15/09/2010, Kota Kinabalu, Borneo

We would dearly have liked to stay in the Philippines but we could find no safe place to leave Sänna. We needed to return to the UK to see my father and to travel to Germany to see our very good friend Peter, both suffering from cancer. Most of the Philippines lie in the world's most prolific hurricane belt and there are very few safe havens to leave a sailing yacht. So we made the decision to sail back down to Kota Kinabalu in Borneo to leave Sänna below the hurricane belt and fix up all the problems when we return. Some of the work could be done in our absence by my mate Neil and the infamous Mr Wong, the loveable Chinese mechanic. Mr Wong is 72 and fondles Racor diesel filters like they are women's breasts. And he doesn't know he's doing it...

I returned to Kota Kinabalu in early September with spare parts galore and the work schedule went amazingly well. Everything is now fixed, working and tested. I'm uneasy and suspicious....

I'm now waiting for Marie to come and join me. She's flying to KK in a few days and we will make yet another new plan. We're thinking of returning north to the Philippines. If we can make Subic Bay near Manila then we can wait for the monsoon change and then head for Hong Kong and maybe Japan. This would put us in a good position to pick up the westerly winds to cross the Pacific eastwards to the west coast of America. This is a good plan.

But this would mean giving up Australia and New Zealand.....

Singapore to Borneo & Philippines
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The Loveable Mr Wong....
Dave
02/09/2010, Kota Kinabalu, Borneo

I showed Wongy our new Racor double fuel filters, an ingenious device I planned to fit to finally rid ourselves of the problem of diesel bug. The Racors have twin filters which can be switched over when one of them is clogged by bug, preventing the engine from failing. They have two glass bulbs with bleed nipples at the bottom to drain water that is contaminating the fuel. Strangely, when held flat, they appear very similar to a pair of women's breasts...

Wongy took them from me with a gleam in his eye. He's a seventy two year old Chinaman who's continually dressed in the oldest and greasiest pair of overalls ever created. He's less than 5ft tall and he has a passion for Philippino women. I happened to mention to him that we were planning to return north to the Philippines and now, every time I bump into him in KK marina he nudges me with a wink and says "You go see them Philippino girls, yeh?" And now, with the Racors in his hands, he started to explain the best way to install them. His English is not easy to understand so I had to concentrate hard. He started to get excited and when Mr Wong gets excited his English becomes unintelligible. Then I noticed he was fondling the Racor bulbs in a strange way and, in his half Chinese and half English, I had no concept of what he was saying. He had a strange smile on his face whilst trying to tell me these filters needed installing between the fuel tank intake and engine fuel pump. Suddenly, the conversation seemed to change and I picked out the words 'Chinese viagra', 'Philippino girls' and 'contaminated diesel fuel'. I was lost and totally mystified but couldn't help bursting into a smile saying "Mr Wong, please be careful with my Racors". He paused his rattling and said in almost perfect English "Aaahh, sorry. These Racors are like them Philippino girls........."

The Racors are now fitted, the watermaker is fixed but I'm still waiting for the correct rudder retention nut from the awful Clipper Marine in the UK.....

Singapore to Borneo & Philippines
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Email to a friend....
Dave Ungless
23/08/2010, Kota Kinabalu

Photo: Dagmar & Peter - SY Iltis

Dear Peter

I have been giving this matter of your illness a great deal of thought, usually whilst peering through the bottom of my beer glass that's never quite empty. I'm beginning to see a solution to all of this madness and I think you should give a good idea of mine some serious consideration. But first I must tell you a story about my good friend Bob.....

I first met beautiful Bev over 35 years ago. Sometime later she married an unconventional Englishman, Bob, who also became my very good and dear friend. Before I tell you the rest you have to understand that Bob is a very intelligent man who is a well respected lecturer in Economics at our Nottingham University. You need to remember this. A good while after their marriage Bev was given little chance of surviving a tumour found in her head and the two major operations to remove it. She did not live.

I have to tell you that my very good friend Bob had no faith in Bev's expert medical team, preferring instead his own cures for her illness. This was because Bob is a huge believer in the power of the internet (he once confessed to me after more than a few beers that he himself invented the internet). Through the internet, Bob eagerly spent many thousands of pounds on such things as shark's cartilage (to mix into Bev's food) and specialist Raditech devices to divert the earth's lay lines he was convinced were killing her. But, more importantly, he also discovered Nonie Juice, a little known method of treating tumours which could be bought at a special price of only £1,000 per litre. Bob purchased over 10 litres for an extra special discount. To explain to a layman such as yourself, Nonie Juice comes from the fruit of the Nonie Tree. The tree is very rare and only grows in one secret location on a remote Pacific island. But once Bob had sold his soul to purchase the limited supply of this juice, the big difficulty facing him was how to introduce it into Bev's dying body. Being an intelligent man he came up with a very clever plan to do this. Bob's plan was to enter the hospital ward in the dead of night and, whilst his good friend Dave was keeping watch to ensure no doctors or nurses were about, disconnect the intravenous drip from the unconscious patient and substitute a Nonie Juice drip instead of the medicinal saline that some doctors feel is more useful to life. This ingenious and cunning plan was carried out successfully over several nights....

I know all of this may sound rather bizarre to you but I must tell you that Bob truly believed Bev would be rid of her illness and the Nonie Tree would be her salvation. And now, through my very good friend Bob, I have some excellent news! I know the whereabouts of the only known Nonie Juice tree. The tree is growing beside a fresh mountain stream on a remote Pacific island not too far from where Sänna is now moored. I have in my possession an old map with a very distinctive cross which marks this location. It is the only map known to exist. And, like Bob, I have a plan for my very good friend Peter. My plan is this....

You and I take your sailing ship Iltis and together we sail to this secret place. But, instead of all of this sneaking around hospital nonsense in the dead of night, we will connect and plug you directly into the Nonie Tree. We can stay on this beautiful island for many months if need be until you convince me you are cured. I can arrange for dancing girls, cheap DVD entertainment and, during the dark nights, we can relate our favourite disaster tales of Romeo and Lucy aboard Meau De Mare whilst drinking our preferred local beer. And because Dagmar loves you so very dearly she can visit often, providing she promises with her signature signed in her blood that she will never divulge the location of this treasure island. By being beside my good friend Peter we can monitor your progress by checking the flow of juice directly from the tree. I am convinced this plan will work because I have been giving it a great deal of thought....

Please, I ask that you think about this my dearest friend Peter? We can talk about my plan some more whilst drinking your good German beer when Marie and I come to see you very soon. When we have discussed everything we can laugh and joke again and make our plans to sail Iltis secretly eastwards into the deep Pacific....

I need you to do this Peter. I need you to know there is a way out of this madness.....

Your good friend Dave x

Email 22nd May 2010

Peter Kienast. Sailor and Geologist. 1962 - 2010.

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Aldo the Mechanic
13/04/2010, Puerto Princessa, Philippines

Photo: Port Barton, Palawan, Philippines.

"A sailors plan is no more than a line in the sand at low tide".

With our original plans in disarray we decided to head north to the Philippines. So much for heading to Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands! We once again departing Kudat in north Borneo making our way northwards through the Balabac Straights to Puerto Princessa on the Philippino Island of Palawan. No Muslim culture here - San Miguel beer, cheap wine, good food, beautiful women and..... Aldo the Mechanic!

Approaching Puerto Princessa our Volvo engine died again, clogged up by b*****d diesel bug. I've learned before that repeatably banging your head against the steering wheel, swearing your head off and promising to mend your ways doesn't actually fix the problem. So we crawled into port and anchored off the archaic 'Abanico Yacht Club'. Paradise! No yacht club this, just a fabulous laid back drinking den for ex-pats and round the world yachties with their Philippino girl friends. But we needed to fix the engine and the 'club' arranged for me to collect Aldo by dinghy the next day. For some reason I expected a greasy Philippino spanner man but that's not what was waiting on the jetty. 'Shit', I said to myself, as the most hunky, handsome Frenchman I've ever set eyes on climbed into our dinghy, shook my hand warmly and said, "Now, Mr Dave, take me to your woman"....

We approached Sänna swiftly over the calm anchorage and I threw the line to Marie who, I assume, never noticed it when it flopped uselessly into the sea. So I made it tight to the stern myself to climb aboard and saw Marie standing there transfixed. Aldo held out his hand for Marie to help him aboard. He jumped effortlessly, kissed her hand gently and said, "Aahh, Marie. I am Aldo. I am at your service and I will fix your engine". Marie went straight into her flirting mode and replied "Nice to meet you Aldo. You can fix my engine anytime". I stood by trying to join in the conversation but I got the impression that neither of them noticed I was there.

So, eventually, Aldo checked over the engine and, to be fair, he's a nice guy. He lives in Puerto Princessa with his Philippino girlfriend and he's soon returning to France to be with his son. He's actually a marine engineer making a living on boats until his girlfriend receives a French visa. We sorted the engine before leaving Sänna on anchor for a few days whilst we travelled around Palawan. The Philippines are one of my favourite places we have visited on Sänna and I could easily spend years cruising the many fascinating islands of this country. The food is good, the women are beautiful and the beer is cheap.

I can see why Aldo the Mechanic came and stayed....

Singapore to Borneo & Philippines
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Kinabatangan River
Dave
07/03/2010, Sabah, Borneo

The Kinabatangan

So we decided to explore the Kinabatangan River. We had lost our passage window to head eastwards to Papua New Guinea and in to the Pacific for the Solomon Islands. Delays, essential work to Sänna's autopilot and reports of piracy attacks south of Mindanao forced a re-think and, once again, our plans were changing. The Sandakan 'Yacht Club' had 'charts' and a waypoint list to navigate the north entrance to the fascinating 200 mile river adventure so we decided to go for it and head into the heart of Borneo's jungle paradise. Now, my hair is gone, my fingers have been knarred to the bone and Marie tells me I'm a quivering wreck when anyone mentions the word "crocodile"....

Grounding on sand banks infested with crocodiles is a new experience for me although I now consider myself an expert after five groundings. Lying to anchor in nine knot currents with floating tree trunks hammering your hull is a formality to be dismissed after you've sat on the bows through the night with spotlights, boat hooks and grappling ropes. But the Kinabatangan was a fantastic experience of jungle river cruising straight out of the 'African Queen' movie. After successfully negotiating the entrance estuary (two days) I easily fancied myself as Humphrey Bogart in my white hunters hat and colonial shorts whilst overnight mooring in native villages. We traded for their food and found wild orangutans, countless monkeys, elephant herds, exotic bird life and, of course, Borneo's infamous crocodile swarms. We became masters of river navigation techniques and learned to explore the creeks and tributaries by dinghy - ignoring the danger of sudden attack by inquisative underwater predators. No swimming in this river!

After a couple of hair raising weeks we cautiously back tracked our way out of the Kinatabangan into the relative calmness of the Sulu Sea and headed north to Palawan in the Philippines - to more engine problems through bad diesel, F8 headwinds and to fantastically warm people, more amazing food and stunning scenery. I need time to recover my senses and pondor why land locked water can prove more demanding than anything we've encountered at sea. Marie and Hen consider the Kinabatangan some of the best stuff we've done - I prefer the deep depths and refreshing comfort of endless ocean. It's much, much safer...!

Singapore to Borneo & Philippines
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So this is Paradise?
Marie Beal
16/02/2010, Banggi Island, Borneo

We left Kudat, heading for Sandakan, hoping for a good sail. That night's anchorage was to be tucked inside one of the small islands off the north coast of Borneo. After sounding out some 'dubious' reef anchorages we settled on a spot within a large, stunning bay with palm fringed beeches and jungle reaching down to touch the sea. Early the next morning we awoke and made ready to sail more distance so we could make Sandakan in a couple of days time for my birthday. Hen said "do we have to go? Can't we stay and go to the beach for the day?" We looked around at the white sand beach with coconut palms surrounded by virgin rain forest. The reef beckoned with the clear water inside the lagoon and so we decided - yep, we think we can...

We spent probably one of our best days, sitting on the beach, messing about in the bath warm sea and Hen building his den with bamboo and tree branches pulled from the jungle.

I really don't think even a dream life gets much better...

x

Singapore to Borneo & Philippines
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Numeracy with a smile...
Dave
10/02/2010, Borneo

Photo: School classroom aboard Sänna

School lessons onboard Sänna are always interesting. One on one teaching is considered a highly satisfactory ratio in most schools... but Bealy has the distinct 'advantage' of three on one, although he doesn't usually quite see it like that. "Three teachers to one pupil is a kid's worst nightmare..." Maybe he's right?

Marie takes the brunt of it all (from many directions) and shows great patience. Louise, an experienced teacher, regularly joins us onboard to assist in Bealy's education. And I get to take over for maths... we both have a ball of a time and I have the opportunity to stimulate his rebellious side. When I'm told off too by my 'teacher' colleagues both Bealy and I mutter dark threats of mutiny under our breaths. My argument is it's my job to teach him everything he needs to know about more important things, like spitting into a pan from five paces, decisive girl chat up lines and how to pee the highest up the wall...

It all goes very well. Bealy goes back into mainstream school when he's back with his dad in England but his educational level is very high. So he gets his fantastic sea life with us onboard Sänna plus the unstructured offbeat education he needs... and he grumbles incessantly when he has to go back into 'proper' school. The system we have developed is very good.

Note: we have received fantastic support from Henry's school headmistress Mrs Gretton (Burton Joyce Primary school). She provides us lesson plans to follow and freely gives Henry long extended periods out of school, a controversial issue. She has now been suspended by the Local Education Authority.

Singapore to Borneo & Philippines
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The Ship's a Bitch
Dave
03/02/2010, Kudat Boatyard, Borneo

My good mate Neil and his hole

I have at last come to the conclusion that my beloved Sänna is a bitch, an evil woman in disguise and, for now, I am done with her. She has tormented me and turned my head inside out for the last time, so I left her to rot in the humid tropical heat where everything else rots and ferments in the rain. Our recent infestation of cockroaches can rot too. When she's learned her lesson, we'll make friends again...

First, the autopilot refused to function and then the refrigeration unit packed up. Our windlass decided not to play ball and our frantic efforts to drop and retrieve our anchor even made the local fisherman smile. The watermaker hose split and then, to top everything, the engine died again because of our ongoing enemy - Diesel Bug! So, we decided to haul the boat out of the water in Kudat, using a jungle boatyard equipped to deal with the local Malay fishing fleet. I needed to change the rudder bearing and I'd bought a replacement out from the UK.

So we hauled out. First, we discovered that we needed to dig a hole in the ground to drop the rudder but my good friend Neil offered to help me fix up Sänna to sail again. But I'd been supplied with a rudder bearing 10mm too big by the awful Clipper Marine in the UK and I'd waited eight weeks for it. Neil got a local Malay from the diminutive Rungus tribe to machine a new collar from some salvaged stainless steel. The guy used a sixty year old machine lathe and it fitted perfectly. My new windlass got stuck in Customs and it took me two weeks to retrieve it. But Clipper Marine had not supplied the right autopilot parts either...

We hauled back into the water ten days later. But my ship's still a bitch and we are not good friends yet. The air con unit packed up, the bilge float switch isn't functioning and my new plumbing to the watermaker leaked...

I'm going to buy a bungalow in England and name it 'Dunroming'.

x

Singapore to Borneo & Philippines
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Mutiny...
Dave Ungless
22/01/2010, Kota Kinabalu, Borneo

We're now moored not so very far from the route of Captain Bligh's epic voyage after he was cast off HMS Bounty by the original Pacific cruising yachties searching for cheap beer and the wayward women who would follow them. Bligh survived his crew's mutiny and, I'm now proud to confess, I've survived my very first hostile crew rebellion too.

It all started over a pair of shorts. Women's shorts to be more precise. My own infamous crew are my youngest and middle daughters who shall remain nameless to avoid investigating naval authorities taking the same vigorous actions that befell Fletcher Christian and the mutinous crew of the Bounty. Those heartless hearties were eventually discovered on Pitcairn Island and finally suffered endless deprevations and punishments...

So, not so early in the morning, Loz said to Lou, "You're not wearing those shorts today are you?" Lou said "Well, they are mine", to which Loz replied "I know, but you said I could borrow them forever"...

The three day battle that followed was a fierce confrontation between two young adults intent on establishing territorial advantage upon each other's wardrobe. This quickly degenerated into accusations of things said and old childhood grudges stemming back twenty years, including a heated debate over who used to chew their older sister's food for her. When, as Sänna's Skipper, I urged them to make ready the boat to finally depart Kota Kinabalu for Kudat, I was stonewalled by two pairs of enchanting blue eyes that contained deep and venomous menace...

So we didn't depart for Kudat that day or for the next three weeks. Just when I really did begin to despair and form the conclusion that a deep and irreparable rift had split the Ungless family forever, they announced they were off for a cappuccino and a banana smoothie...

Hormones sometimes play a big part in Sänna's passage planning...

x

Singapore to Borneo & Philippines
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Across the South China Sea...
Dave Ungless
06/11/2009, Singapore to Borneo

Diesel Bug...

We finally managed to leave Singapore much later than we originally planned. The end of the SW Monsoon was coming and with it our last real chance to sail the 700 miles to Miri in Sarawak, Borneo. We had the last of our several farewell parties aboard various liveaboard yachts with friends we'd probably never see again. Usual story... We're heading eastwards whilst everyone else is sailing with the prevailing winds westwards.

But maybe we were not too late. Leaving Raffles Marina, we were immediately blessed with good winds but it soon proved far too risky to make our way under sail through the myriad of shipping, islands and traffic separation zones to the south of Singapore so we stuck the engine on and flicked Freddie's switch. Marie dozed and I kept my eye open for a possible anchorage for the first night. We could begin the big stuff in the morning when we finally got rid of our hang overs...

Two Hundred miles out from Singapore and everything was going well. The SW Monsoon wind was still with us and blowing very nicely from astern. It was good not to be beating into the winds as usual. Then the wind suddenly dropped abruptly and we were drifting in a fairly benign sea, so we had no option but to stick the engine on again. Half an hour later the engine suddenly died...

Now it was panic! No wind and no engine! Now, my knowledge of mechanical beasts is not my strongest point but I know enough to at least get my big tool out. After scratching my head and trying hard to convince Marie I'm the mechanical god who can get an engine running using only a pair of women's nylons, I had to confess that, on this occasion, I was stuffed. But Marie then took over the situation in her own normal style. We had a cup of tea and waited for something to happen....

We found the fishing boat on the horizon, drifted slowly towards it with the genoa headsail grabbing what breeze it could and talked the Indonesians onboard in to lending us their engine mechanic, who promptly found the broken solenoid on the starter motor and got the engine started. We all laughed, slapped backs affectionately and they left us complete with a box of beer and coke. Not bad for a Muslim crew! Of course, I told Marie their engine mechanic had been lucky as it was only a matter of time before I'd have found the problem anyway. But it was soon obvious to us the problem was not alltogether fixed as we could get no real power or revs. And our problem was about to get very much worse...

The wind suddenly hit us in the middle of the night, it seemed, from nowhere. Marie was on watch and I heard her shout a warning. I ran on deck and she was already furling out the main sail to catch the wind. Together, we then let the headsail go full out and we were soon sailing at well over nine knots with the wind blowing from our port quarter. But the wind was bearing ever harder at over 30kts and we were soon reefing everything in again to get the sails under control. At 40kts we were reefed right down and digging the stay sail and even the tri sail out of the locker in readiness to hank on. It was a pitch black night but we were once again working very well together.

So we hung on for some fantastic and exhilarating sailing. The next five hundred miles flew but we worked exhaustingly hard for the next three days, always with the nagging thought that we still had no engine. There was no way we could safely enter Miri Marina with a lee shore entrance, a dangerous sea and an unreliable engine. The only option was to make for Labuan Harbour, which the charts indicated could be safely entered under sail, another 120 miles NE from Miri along the Brunei coast and through the offshore oilfields. We abandoned Miri only 2 miles from the entrance and changed course NE with well over 30kts of wind.

Fantastic! It was probably our best sailing of the year! We had to slow Sänna down with heavily reefed sails so that we could enter Labuan in early daylight. But we did it! We dropped anchor under sail with the Harbour Master warning us over the VHF that we were obstructing the local ferry. We arranged a tow with an Angel called Neil and we tied gingerly behind a harbour wall in the wonderful Port Labuan, Borneo.

Next day we found the diesel bug in the tank that had blocked our engine fuel intake. Well, Neil did...

x

Singapore to Borneo & Philippines
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The Sänna Salute...
Dave Ungless
20/08/2009, Raffles Marina, Singapore...

Me and Bealy have decided we need a Sänna crew uniform and a Sänna crew salute...

So here we are! This three 'man' crew is great. We're all heading south to Singapore and Hen is with us for a few weeks now. Harry the Rat is dead, the winds are light and refreshing and we've just rescued three Malay fisherman...

x

Malaysia to Singapore
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We rescued some fishermen...
Henry Beal
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
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Harry the Rat....
Dave Ungless
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........

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Malaysia to Singapore
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An Officer and a Gentleman...
Dave Ungless
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....

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Malaysia to Singapore
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Sundown in Tan Jung Rhu...
Dave Ungless
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...

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Sri Lanka to Malaysia & Thailand
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Boss Man...
Dave Ungless
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.

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Sri Lanka to Malaysia & Thailand
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Me and Loz....
Dave Ungless
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.

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Sri Lanka to Malaysia & Thailand
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Confession of a long distance sailor
Dave
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
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South of the Nicobars
Dave
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
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The Nicobars...
15/06/2008, Andaman Sea

"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...

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Eastwards across the Indian Ocean and Andaman Sea
Dave Ungless
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...

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Gulf of Aden to Sri Lanka
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Saman
Dave
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
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Does it Matter how deep it is?
Marie Beal
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.

M
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Gulf of Aden to Sri Lanka
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Somalian Prostitute...
Dave
13/01/2008, Aden

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
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Overboard...
Dave
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
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Pirates in Aden...
Dave Ungless
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...

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Red Sea to Gulf of Aden
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Fisherman Pirates...
Dave Ungless
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
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Beau Geste...
Dave Ungless
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
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Survival
15/10/2007, Bab Al Mandab Straights

"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...

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Eritrea
Dave
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....

Dave

Red Sea to Gulf of Aden
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The One that got away
Marie Beal
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.

M
x

Red Sea to Gulf of Aden
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The man with no legs...
Dave Ungless
10/09/2007, Port Sudan.

Photo: Hungry Friends

I threw the mooring line and shouted to the old man on the quayside to quickly take it and secure it. We were drifting towards the rusting dive boat and I desperately needed a fixed line. He was sitting smoking his pipe but he dropped it as he groped for my line. The old man shuffled and crawled and missed. I nearly died on the spot! He had no legs. Marie was horrified and the bunch of Sudanese soldiers standing by the guard post started laughing uncontrollably. I didn't know what to do.

We got the line secured and got ashore. I went to see him but didn't know what to say. He stared at me, me with my big sailing boat and him with no legs. I had much to say to him but in the end said nothing. I offered him some money but he refused it. He then pointed to the black plastic refuse bag I was holding full of rubbish. He asked for that.

As I walked away he was joined by two other men and they poked through my rubbish looking for bits of food. I turned to watch the three of them eagerly devouring the stale bread we'd had onboard for some considerable time. We walked down the street into the main town and saw much worse. I was agitated and distressed.

Why is the world such a crazy place?

Red Sea to Gulf of Aden
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Swimming in the Suez Canal...
Henry Beal
22/07/2007, Port Tewfig, Suez Canal, Egypt

Me and Dave went swimming in the Suez Canal in a harbour. There is a big container ship behind us. It is ten meters deep and it is very hot. Dave said he had a fight with a shark once and I asked him who won.

Bealy Boy x


Red Sea to Gulf of Aden
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Pilot in the Water...
Dave Ungless
15/06/2007, Ismalia, Suez Canal, Egypt

Photo: Louise
I bet no one who's transited the Suez Canal has had to fish their Canal Pilot out of the Canal? There's no RYA qualification or certificate available for standing and staring gormlessly at the thrashing arms of the guy you're totally dependent upon as he screams at you in Arabic. Can you imagine the might of the Egyptian Navy and Army fixing their beady eyes on you in disbelief as chaos reigns in their beautiful canal? It all began so smoothly....

We left Sänna moored for a month in Ismalia, the Egyptian port half way down the Canal where, it seems, all sailing vessels have to spend the obligatory period tied up paying fees to the 'Ismalia Yacht Club' before they are allowed to transit the remaining part of the Canal. But it's a really nice town, a perfectly safe and friendly mooring and an ideal spot to leave your vessel whilst you explore the unbelievable sights of ancient Egypt. So we did it all and it was fantastic. Egypt is stunning! Then, when we'd done everything, we decided to continue our passage south down the Canal to the Red Sea, which we thought was a fairly straightforward matter....

Well, no....

The skippers on board the two other waiting yachts laughed, "War Ship", they said with knowing smiles. And so it proved that each time I requested a departure date from the Canal Pilot's office they would inform me "Not today, big warship coming." Which everyone knew was just a ruse to get you to stay and pay. After waiting five more days with no warships of any nationality in sight, I decided I'd had enough and confronted the Harbourmaster using a version of the English language that, I understand, is not translatable into Arabic. And, in the middle of my rant, a huge American Aircraft Carrier drifted by behind the Harbourmaster's back with impeccable timing. He didn't say anything to me. He didn't have to! He just beamed a gratifying smile that made me want to knock his block off.

So two days later, we got ready our departure, cast off our lines and waited for our Pilot to jump aboard. But our propeller was completely fouled from four weeks moored up motionless in some of the most growth prolific waters in the world. We drifted instead, despite revving the engine at full throttle in panic. The Pilot jumped, missed as we drifted out... and fell into the canal....

Red Sea to Gulf of Aden
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