Male to Karachi - Korangi Fishing Port
16 October 2008 | Somewhere on route...
Had our trip to Thailand and returned. Me in transit to Karachi via Male while Wanna with friend Phuk onward to Gan. Idea being she could look after the boat while I was away. Phuk came along to assist.
Wanna and Phuk missed Graham by about 24 hours. He is now safely back in UK. Seems he had a few events during his stay in Gan. What with anchor dragging and judging by the evidence... burnt rope that must have caught round the prop and the engine control would not go into forward?.. Strange. No doubt over a few beers we will get to hear the full story! Not to worry as Wanna called in Rasheed and he got it all sorted. Now everything appears OK.
I got back from Karachi, with "Will" our new friend the autopilot! (Named after one of our earlier boat boys!) Fitted him up straight away. Then we had a couple of evening ashore. Graham had discovered you can go to the local tourist hotels and enjoy a few beers. We met up with several foreigners working there, building new hotels and had some fun time. Also two tourist couples Matt and Maria and Max and Carla staying at the hotel joined us. Together made for a very entertaining group. Even had a few disco dances. Interestingly there were also a lot of Maldvians there. They are forbidden by law and their religion to drink so they come to the hotel and enjoy their 'refreshments' there, out of sight as it were. They generally do not sit around blatantly in the open but order their drinks from the bar and then sit in the outer areas 'in the dark'. Very strange, but makes for an interesting discussion or two. One of which we had with a local taxi driver when he decided to join us and share some of our whiskey!!! Alcohol in Maldives. All part of the intricate and possibly damaging effects of tourism on local cultures.
22nd Sept. Following a great and lively night celebrating our 5th wedding anniversary along with our new found friends at the local hotel until 2.30am. Not on the plan. We got up a bit bleary eyed and at 08.10am set sail for our passage to Male. We are motoring as there is no wind. I mean none. The sea is flat calm and no one else to see. Its like we have the whole world to ourselves. Will was at his best steering as directed. No hangover for him. Wonderful.
The boat is doing fine. Works so well. Its amazing how you get used to things. I was all prepared to stand at the wheel for numerous hours. However that is no longer the case! Will is doing fime. Just a quick prayer to give George support and keep going.
With all this spare time I have been reading the charts and pilot books. Getting to Pakistan should be straight forward. October is a safe but not the best time. i.e. little wind. The books do tell me there are possibilities of a few storms waiting for us but even that is not so clear.
06.30am As the sun came up so to did a lovely king fish which took our line. Wanna landed it and before it had realized just what had happened it was in steak sized pieces being deep fried. We had it for brunch. Fried king fish, tomatoes, potatoes and onions. V good. I recommend it, if ever you are sailing up the east side of Maldives try one!!!
Breaking news. 10.20am 23rd Sept. Wanna shouting at me to come on deck. We have just caught a big one. Gone. Took the rapeller and some line. Just as I was to come back down another shout. Dolphins. Must have been about 100 of them in a big pod. Jumping up and down and across the bow of the boat. I think this time we got some good footage. Even Phuk got out of her sick feeling and jumped to the front of the boat and took a few photos. I did not mention earlier but Phuk had been sea sick at the mooring in Gan and when we left she took one look at the ocean and again did not feel so good. Sailing up last night she just slept and again this morning did not look to comfortable. Wanna told me it was Phuk being scared of the open sea and knowing that she had about 3,500 meters of sea and no land beneath her!!!! Suppose it does make you think.
Excitement over. Back to sailing.
I'm supposed to be sorting out my videos and photos. Strange but I find it harder to do on board. I need to just hunker down and get on with it.
Plan now being to get first to Male, pick up fresh supplies and clear customs, immigration etc and set sail to Karachi. About 1,500 miles. Don't forget we now had additional crew in "Will' our third hand. (The autopilot). So life should be easy.
25th September. Finally after spending a day in Male we got our clearances. Obtained at 10.20pm!!! Final documents delivered by hand to us by Hassan, Uncle of Rasheed, and our agent in Gan. This was at a pre planned meeting place, the local internet café. Done. What left to do? It's now 10.30 pm on a Friday night in Ramadan in Male. So the answer is you cannot do anything till tomorrow. Only go to bed and sleep. Tomorrow we'll complete what's left to do....i.e. Pick up our gas bottles and final last minute shopping; vegetables, chicken, and other perishables then make a move.
Next morning saw us up early. Boat made good with everything tied down. We took our dinghy for the last trip back to shore. Tied her up and took the ferry to Male for gas etc. We returned fully laden with everything on our list. On returning the wind had picked up which was a good sign. However our little dinghy was on the limit, bobbing up and down like a yo-yo adjacent to the sea wall. The wind really had picked up! Great for our trip if only we could get back to the boat. While contemplating our situation, another tender came along side and asked if we wanted a tow? What luck! Everything seemed to be going our way.
All safely on board, hoisted the dinghy and checked, yes everything tied down. Wanna lifted the anchor and we set course to pass south of the airport and then head north. Wind assisting well.
Past the airport and face into the open sea. Lovely. Hoisted the sails and set course for the northern tip of Male Atoll.
Our plan was to sail north till the 8 Deg channel then go for a way point about N20 E 66 followed by Karachi. Good idea except the wind decided to do the exact opposite. (Can you believe it?...) All indications well light westerly winds. Not straight on the nose. No worries we need to go anyway. No choice now.
With this head wind we decided also to head higher before turning towards Karachi. OK so route rearranged. We had also arranged via our pre paid sat phone (all mod cons on board) to send some SMS's to keep a few people updated on our location. This we duly did, but more on that in a minute. Off we sailed.
Strange how on a boat time flies. Already it is three days out of Male. Don't ask me what we have been doing as I have no idea. The time has just vanished. I know I've been on watch and done some fishing and cooking. Even wrote a few lines for this Blog. But if you do not record details and times in the ships log, I am sure you would miss a few days without any bother. Does make you wonder if we on land in the western world do not take it all a bit too seriously?
Forget the philosophy and concentrate on the trip. Oh yes I know what I've been doing. I took time out from doing nothing to take down the Maldivian curtsy flag! Now that's 2 minutes accounted for. Big deal so you can see there are things to do and now I need to think about putting up the Pakistani curtsy flag in due course. No rush.
Through all this Wanna has been busy on the cooking front. Turning the plain veggies and stuff that we purchased on Male into some wonderful Thai concoctions. We've even had some sticky rice dishes with grated coconut. This morning though, was my turn to cook. Ordinary porridge was my creation. Easy, just boil water, add the oats and stir till you get the right consistency. Serve with a topping of sugar. Easy, easy and very filling but somehow the taste, texture and presentation did not come up to the standard that had been set by Wanna.
One day we spotted 7 ships. Which day? Pass. That was the sum total of events for the day. (Remind me never to take up train spotting). During the night all was calm, we could hear occasional breaking waves away from the boat. As if someone of something was jumping in the water. I used a flashlight but nothing there, except lots of red spots. We concluded these were fish eyes and indeed this turned out to be the case and we spotted some squid next to the side of the boat. Where do small fish sleep?
30th September. Still do not know where the time has gone. Not sure we are making much progress even against the wind. We're averaging about 100 Nautical Miles per day. Not good. But one has to be philosophical about it. What's the rush? It's not as if people were chasing me all the time. Which brings me to my next point. The sat phone. Being prepaid it needs topping up. Well there are no shops out here and you need the scratch card numbers to top up. Easy send a text message to Khalid in Karachi. Ask him to buy one and text me the number. Sorted.... Well could be if I had enough money to send the text message. Not only that there is no facility to even contact the supplier. Piece of advice, either carry spare scratch cards or use a better system phone. i.e. iridium phone (I used one before and it was great).
Having proceed north we passed close to the Lakshadweep Island and guess what being part of Indian they have the Airtel mobile phone system. Wanna using her T
Ai phone rattled off a few SMS's and called home. However still no response from Khalid. Can only assume if no monies in my phone then I cannot receive calls either. So more advice go for the iridium phone when buying your next sat phone!!
So far we have seen dolphins, and one turtle. He was on the surface have a few gulps of fresh air. Soon disappeared as we came past. Made a break from the ongoing sailing into the wind. We've caught a few fish. Small tuna and a couple of Bonito. Not much but the fact there are no birds around should indicate there are few surface fish about. One small bird did appear and circled us a few times. Make a landing on the forward rigging. Stayed for about 30 seconds and went away. Perhaps did not like the ride or more likely though we were to slow!!!
4th October. We are about 700 Miles south of Karachi. Still motoring, sailing into wind etc. But seems we are making good progress in spite of doing nothing all day!! Just caught a fish so lunch is sorted. Wanna tells me we have curried fish and rice coming up. Beats porridge any day.
5th October. Both awake bright and early. Both getting to the stage where we would like to just get to Karachi. And that, Karachi that is, is approximately 670 miles away! Sailing is a lot of fun but with no wind it just is becoming a drag. So any distraction will be welcome. There have been several ships passing and today a strange sight, a large fishing type vessel stationary in the water. Its big I would put it at 250 tons. It is however slowly disappearing to our south as we moved northwards. Good sing as it means we are headed closer. Must dash. Off to make a pot of tea.
Come mid day we had been slowly making our way north. Spotted three large Iranian fishing vessels (120foot+). Strange they were all clustered together not making any attempt to do any fishing... My imagination strayed. I suspected they were making a rendezvous with other vessels. Perhaps they were smugglers between Iran and India, you know Bitumen exchanged for beer etc. Could be. As we continued to sail up we kept an eye on them. Much to our surprise and concern as we were abreast of them, one of the pack broke away and came straight for us. We continued on our path but within minutes they were along side and it started. We were being shouted at. "Where you going? Do you want fish?, Where you from? Do you have whiskey?". These were the three main questions. Easy reply. "No thanks, Seychelles and don't have". The first two answers were accepted, but they found it hard to believe we did not have beer or whiskey on board. They kept asking. We kept replying!
Then Wanna appeared from below deck and took a picture of them. Well the questions changed. "Where you from ? Philippines?" "No. I'm from Thailand". "OK. Next time come to Iran not Pakistan". And off they went.
That's all there was to it, a close encounter at sea with friendly fishermen. But and it was a big but with a "what if" factor. What could have happened if it had turned nasty? We discussed this all afternoon whilst keeping a look out to our rear for signs of their return. This did not happen thank God! However it was an interesting situation. We, 2 of us in a small fiberglass boat and they, 18+ of them in a massive fishing boat, accompanied by several other boats, 700 miles from anywhere. Anything could have happened. You read every day about pirates in the red sea and along the Yemen coast. When you are in the situation, it is no longer a story in the papers about a far flung place. In fact its fair to say Wanna and I were both nervous and a little frightened and this feeling carried on till well into dark when we were sure they were long gone.
6th October. Saw some lightening early morning before sunup. Lovely sunrise. No boats in view! Relax. About 590 miles to Karachi. Wind picking up and looking good.
We passed several more fishing boats. Some actually was fishing. Figured out the type of fishing gong on. Long nets and long lining. Both types involved and lot of space and the far ends of the nets was marked with a buoy flag. Often the country flag. So there is was simple. Just need to avoid the lines as we continue out journey northwards. Evening came with little to record of interest. Then about 11.00pm. Wanna shouts, "Fishing line" Sure enough we were coming up to a large line of floats. To late to stop. So we kept going. Fortunately we went straight over the top and did not snag anything. I had visions of donning a snorkel and cutting away the net from around our prop. And it was dark in the water. Who knows what lurks there under the boat in the dark. I was not keen to find out either!!! The rest of the night was fine, did a steady -45 knots.
7th October. Mum's birthday. Cannot call (no sat phone!!! Remember!), so will have to wait till we hit shore.
Just caught another Bonito. We have now two fresh ones which Wanna is preparing. Choice Bonito deep fried, curried, salted; you name we are having it.
8th October. About 470 Nm to go. Bit slow now but we are plodding along. Last night we had a good wind and today same as the recent days little wind. Decided to motor and set a course direct for Karachi. Who knows maybe we will find a fisherman who will sell us some diesel. Then we just motor in. In the mean time its back to fish curry. No line out today, already got enough supplies for a week!!!
Late in the evening we decided to charge up the sat phone. No real reason except I think we had run out of things to do! Would you believe there is a message from Graham containing a scratch card number enabling us to renew our subscription and get reconnected with the world. Fantastic. So off went a load of SMS's. Back in the real world. Even tried to call my Mother to wish her happy birthday. Not in!! Just can't win sometimes.
The highlight today was a bird landing on our boat. Took a sitting position in front of the mast, We took loads of photos of course. Stayed for some time up the front. Just now it walked or rather waddled itself back to the rear of the boat next to Wanna. Does not seem scared at all. Must be either very tired of injured. Only other conclusion is that it is very used to taking rests in ships and yachts in particular.
Now back to looking for wind!! We're doing about 1.5 Kts. Ugh!!! Hope as the sun goes down we get some evening breeze. Wait and see. Just about to close down for the day when a shout from Wanna. Come quickly! The little bird that come down to Wanna is now sitting on her hand. No worry and we then put it on the deck and it wandered on back up to the front. No doubt see it again in the morning. Quite amazing. Not scared or phased by the handling.
10th Oct. The bird was still with us next morning. Seemed very quiet and not at all fussed when Wanna again picked her up. About an hour later the poor feller was dead. We concluded he had landed for a rest and that was the end. We however had to sail on.
The wind was still against us and we had to tack and slowly make our way up. Just keep going was all we could do. By now of course we were back in communication with the outside world and we were busy planning on the arrival. So much so the time flew by. We caught some bonito and tuna. With which Wanna made some stir fries etc.
We had a second bird land and stay with us. This time it flew away and did not die on us. Days were following nights and I was reminded of a very old classic film "Das Boot" all about a German submarine on a trip during the 2nd world war. It basically made you realize how the time seems to go on and on as without a clear set of reference points you easily start to loose all sense of time. Well it was beginning to happen on Prinos!! Except for the fact that we had fallen into a system. As soon as the sun was going down we would get the blankets and pillows out for sleeping in the cockpit. By now we were doing it without talking or asking each other!!!! Definitely time to get a few days off the boat.
Later in the night on a flying fish landed on the cockpit floor. It brushed passed me and I nearly jumped so high in shock as to leave the boat! Even now not sure who was more shocked, me or the fish. First things first, get a photo!!! Then we put it back into the sea.
14th Oct. Turtle! Would you believe we passed a turtle in the middle of the sea. Just taking a break in the sun. Soon disappeared back below the surface as we approached.
Evening came and time to text Captain Farooqi our Agent in Karachi. We had earlier asked that we arrive that we be able to moor there. Reason being there are few boats and it is relatively clean. He responded "All OK. Please let me know ETA?"
Well given the wind or rather the lack of wind to date I was reluctant to advise an ETA. What to do. Just carry on for the night and reassess to morrow morning.
Well the night of the 14th and 15th produced the first wind that directly assisted us on our way. we were doing 4 Knots then 5 knots which was fantastic, especially given the majority of the trip speed. We knew then that arriving on 16th was a realistic possibility.
Next morning called Captain. Sure 16th morning. "OK be at the entrance channel to Port Qassim and await instructions". Fine except it meant we had to be up all night keeping watch on all the fishing boats and commercial boats approaching the port. Morning came and so did we. Arriving at the outer anchorage to Port Qassim entrance channel at 06.00am. Back and forth we moved to keep the boat around the vicinity of the entrance. 12.00 noon. Captain called. "You can proceed up the channel. A boat will meet you just before Korangi creek to show you the way in".
Well the channel is 15 miles long and the tide was flowing.. you guessed against us.....Up we came with the sails out. We did it in 4 hours. The trip up the delta is a journey of its own. Low lying sands and mud flats. Small wooden fishing boats everywhere along the route. Trully an amazing area. (Might warrent a short video at some stage). Finally we arrived.
Port Korangi looked wonderful! Great trip and a great landing. Everybody had helped and we were there. 1500 nautical miles in 19 days. A long journey which few yachts have undertaken. Will now get the boat out of the water and anti fouled and upgraded. Lots to do before the next trip.
On the trip we've seen whale sharks, sharks, dolphins, turtles, sea snakes, flying fish, 'pirate' fishing boats, massive tankers and millions of waves, not to mention the beautiful skys and fantastic sunsets. We've caught tuna and had fresh meals, enjoyed good health and kept in touch with friends and family.
Amazingly I can honestly say Wanna and I did not have any arguments. (Women are always right and have the last word to any discussion. Otherwise it means as a man, if you try and have the last word you are just starting another discussion!!!!!).
When you look back on a trip like this you realize just what you've seen and how absolutely fabulous the whole experience has been.
Truly a wonderful trip. Would I do it again? Sure. When... Soon for sure! To where you ask? Will let you know....
Male to Gan Crossing the Equator
16 October 2008 | Male Maldives
Picked up Graham from Male. All OK. He's off the fags so there is no additional associated mess to have on board. Makes a real difference to me. Funny how you get set in your ways. Wanna and I have go into a routine on board and life then gets simple with each knowing what to do. Graham arriving puts a whole new dimension on it all. That said it also a real pleasure to share our trip.
Off we go. Gan here we come. We've been lucky with thc weather in fact if anything its all been a bit benign which also is not so good. God I moan...! To much sun, to little sun, not enough wind to much wind I want it all!
Autopilots fine. So a relaxing journey in store. Go and make a cup of tea.
Did I say the autopilot was working? Well it did autopilot worked as far as the entrance channel and again duff. Bloody hopeless thing. I know Mohammad who fixed it did tell me he had done his best but that it was the controller which was dodgy. Dodgy it was clearly F*&^%d. I'll take it back to Thailand with me next month.
So we ended up again on the wheel and we were motoring. Again no wind to speak of. Had we waited for it to blow we'd still be there on Male for a few weeks. We need to move to and time was not something we had much of as I need to get to Thailand for business and of course fix the controller!
On the equator. Graham, Wanna and I all had a dip. Great event!
Onward to Gan not very eventful. Moored up along side a whole lot of new people. Should be fun. Managed to set the anchor and all well. Left Graham in charge and we departed for Thailand.
Addoo to Male
13 August 2008 | Male
Addoo to Male
This sailing stuff is getting better and better. We had a few days in Addoo Atoll in fact 8 days. What did we do? Well we 'did' the island on a motor bike which took half a day. Well it is 19 kilometers long, all flat and very straight but we're on holiday so no rush.
This was followed by the now routine cup of coffee at one of the local haunts. What else, back to the boat to relax. Ugh, I suppose we'll wonder off for more coffee tomorrow morning.
Sounds idealistic but even so we need to move on to Male, the capital of Maldives. Supposed to be an interesting place. Population of about 100,000 all on 2 kilometers square. That's about 1 person per 40 square meters? Can't be right?
Anyway the big day came. We got clearance to depart and decided no more delay. You have read all about our adventures getting to Addoo and our frantic night with all the help from our new friends securing the boat against all odds, I might add!
OK so up and away. Engine started fine. All cleared away. Wanna up front lifting the anchor. Great all done. And just as we turned to the entrance the engine slowed and the prop stuck!!!! Oh my God^&*)( what now!!! Well as luck would have it the mooring rope our friends had left us was very long and Wanna had dropped it back into the water assuming we were passed the mooring point and the remainder of the rope would slide by and sink back into position. Wrong! We should have worked that out earlier. So emergency stop. Rushed to the front of the boat and dropped loads of chain along with the anchor. Our next door neighbour of "If you don't have a dinghy you shouldn't be here' fame was of course, on hand to watch these proceedings.
"Can you assist?" I asked.
"Are you in command of this vessel?" he responded,
Given our current performance I was not sure 'in command' was the way to describe it but legally the answer was clearly a big yes.
"Yes I am, but could do with some help"
"In that case I can't help"
So I took a big breath and smiled to him.
"No worries but thanks anyway". Enough talking get on with the job.
He was of course right in his approach, but I still found it a bit harsh given the comradeship supposedly found amongst the cruising fraternity. (Clearly I've been reading to many of those web forums devoted to armchair sailors?)...
"Alan welcome to the real world" was what went through my head.
So look on the bright and positive sides, Prinos was steady in a calm sea, still inside the reef and the anchor was holding. No current or tide. Luck was it seems in some ways was on our side, in a warped way of way, (no pun intended). In fact it was only the 4 meters of chain from the boat to the sea bed that had to do any work. Gravity is wonderful.
Me, I donned my snorkel and flippers to check out the prop. As I jumped I prayed to God that is was not serious issue. Would you believe it, I think he was listening to me. (He had probably been watching our performance as well!!). Looking under the boat I could see the big mooring rope had indeed wrapped itself round the prop but being such a large diameter stiff rope it had not got caught up in the prop shaft. That would have been another and a completely different story.
It took about 5 minutes to free the mooring rope and then lift the chain.
All set and I was not waiting out any more embarrassment from our neighbours.
However as a parting comment from our yachatie neighbour, to Wanna to whom he was talking (our boats being about 10 meters apart) was "I suggest you find a new Skipper".
I suppose taking an unbiased and reasonable assessment of our performance since our arrival in Addoo; he had a point, in fact several very good points.
No way was I staying any longer. It was already 17.00 hrs and we have about 2 hours of daylight left. I knew what to do, go out the reef and turn north to Male.
We point out through the reef and north to Male, sure dead easy. The whole episode had only taken 20 minutes. It was now 17.20 on Tuesday 5th August. Well now as we left it all seemed too good to be true. Once out of the bay we can relax and put the kettle on.
But again the Autopilot went on strike. So here we go again with the two of us on a 3 day journey to Male. We're still going to have the tea and relax a bit before the night sets in.
But look on the bright side. We left Addoo no doubt, with stories abounding, about the yacht that broke loose, and again the prop getting caught etc. The local lads have plenty to chat over, and our Yachtie friend can mull over with numerous other old salts who've seen it all before, the current new low caliber of skippers entering the cruising scene,.
Anyway off for a cup of tea and a long night.
Had our tea and settled in for the trip. We thought we would get some rain etc but the first evening the sky went black. By 20.00hrs it was jet black, no stars. We watched a dark cloud slowly come our way but there was no wind to speak of, just a very heavy atmosphere. Then the rain fell. And I've been in tropical rain before, in Seychelles, Singapore and even at sea. But this was the heaviest yet. It fell in bucket loads. Not to cold and as I say without wind. It was like being in a strong shower. And of course no autopilot I had to sit it out. This was our introduction to Maldives inter island sailing. (and I should note that the rain was not showing on any weather charts prior to our departure from Addoo). I had checked that much.
Well it dried up, had to as there could be little moisture left up there It had been falling for 3 and 1/2 hours.
We motor sailed our way up seeing several local fishing boats. All out catching tuna. One vessel swung by to give a "hello". They soon disappeared behind us.
Then we had the ocean to ourselves. We were keeping about 6 miles east of the atolls for safety. You know, engine breaks down or the wind suddenly lifts etc. The swell was going east to west so it seemed prudent. I mention this as we were not really far off shore but for 2 days no boats. It's quite an amazing sight to see the ocean for 360 degrees and be the only object in sight. Hardly any birds and not one fish caught the whole trip.
This is difficult to describe, the vastness of the ocean, the sense of isolation and you realize how easy it is to get lost and indeed how unimportant to the scheme of things are 2 people in a boat. Imagine how people did this before GPS and satellite phones etc. Truly amazing.
We were joined on several occasions by dolphins and whale sharks. Made for a good distraction in the journey and for some good shots on the camera.
Then after 3 days on the 8th August we slowly made our way into Male. I had last been here 15 years ago. That was a quick visit to Male. Then is was a quiet backwater sort of place. Now we could not even moor there but next to a new reclaimed island at the airport. How things had changed. It was good also to see land again. When sailing the landfalls are really something!
We found a mooring. No radio call or inspection. Just sailing in and moored up. Next to the airport the island which has been extended and there is a fantastic mooring arrangement for yachts. I say yachts. We were the smallest thing in the area. Loads of super yachts and cruisers. All dwarfing us. In a way over powering and in another way great as we the little feller had just made it from Addoo.
We were moored next to the second smallest boat a 70foot warram ketch. Serious sea going vessel. The chaps on board came over to say hello and chatted about Male etc.
"we're going on shore and taking the ferry to Male. Want a lift?" What a difference to our yachtie friend in Addoo. And interestingly they were both from the same country. (No names!).
Off we went and had a great time. Male is small as I mentioned earlier but it has everything. The shops are full of goods including a wide range of marine items. Really quite a shock. Well we had our day on shore and relaxed the following day on board. Swimming, reading and drinking more tea.
Time seems to fly by and all we needed to organzie was the autopilot, someone to baby sit the boat and our flights to Thailand.
Well we had been chatting with our friend Graham about boat sitting. He is scheduled for arrival Wednesday evening. Then we will go back down to Addoo and moor there for a few weeks leaving Prinos with Graham. We will fly off to Thailand.