From Boulder City, Nevada to Turkey and Back Again
via Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, Pirate Alley, Maldives, Dubai, and Egypt
June 12, 2010
Time has flown since our return to Boulder City in October 2009! We have been very busy between keeping our business afloat, home schooling, and karate classes and competitions, as well as with visiting family & friends and gathering parts for Esprit. On the family front, October brought trick or treating with Amy (our daughter), Beau(son in law), Trinity & Tasha (our grand daughters); we spent a quiet Thanksgiving at home with Amy; and a very special Christmas was celebrated at Big Bear in the snow with Amy et al. Once again, we participated in the Boulder City Electric Light Christmas Parade, but this time our 1971 Chevy El Camino was our sleigh. We also expanded our traditional Christmas village with a seaport, featuring Jamie’s Lego Maersk freighter. January brought Tasha’s birthday and Chay & Katie’s 17th wedding anniversary which we celebrated in Dallas at an American Taekwondo Association (ATA) National Karate tournament. Chay & Jamie were able to visit with Becky & Chay Jr. (our older daughter and son) and their families in Georgia in February while there for another Karate tournament. Chay really enjoyed being able to spend time with all the kids and grandchildren (Ethan, Genevieve, Chalea, Chasen, & Tailour). Katie’s Mom & sister Linda spent two weeks with us at Easter which we celebrated in Big Bear; Katie’s brother Carl surprised us all with a weekend visit – it was fun to have so many of us together at one time. We squeezed in a trip to Chay’s Mom’s house in southern California so that Chay’s Mom & Katie’s Mom could visit. Jamie & Chay had their annual camping/fishing trip in early June to Mammoth Creek in southern Utah. Every day they were there the creek rose an additional foot due to melting snow. Brian Head ski area, which is part of the water shed for Mammoth Creek, had over 38 feet of snow this past winter! Finally they decided to leave, rather then risk flooding out their camp site in the middle of the night. Jamie had fun using his new bb gun pistol, as well as Chay’s red rider bb gun! Nine fish were caught, and they were yummy!
Jamie turned 13 and graduated from 8th grade with 2 high school credits under his belt. He is growing into quite the young man. This year’s karate competition proved to be extremely competitive – but Jamie persevered, and most importantly had fun! He has completed two of his three mid-term tests for his 3rd degree black belt, and earned his leadership collar after teaching over 500 classes! Something most students don’t earn until they are 18 or older! Katie and Jamie were both involved in fundraising activities. Katie participated for a second time in the Walk for Life in support of First Choice Pregnancy, a pro-life, Christian based clinic. Jamie raised over $650 for the H.U. Lee Memorial Foundation, an organization which awards college scholarships to deserving high school seniors within the ATA (Jamie’s karate association). Part of Jamie’s fundraiser was a board break-a-thon in which we all participated – fun was had by all, with minor bruising of some participants as their souvenir.
The economy has given us a challenging time with the business (we celebrated 16 years in business this year) – Chay has taught over 20 classes since we returned and we have participated in many marketing meetings at real estate offices and functions. Katie’s big project was converting our word processing system from Wordperfect to Word – no easy feat – but it’s done, and it works! We have been able to go “green” and are now emailing, rather than mailing, our reports, saving both trees and money.
Our last week home was spent in Big Bear where we were able to spend time with Chay’s mom and sister. In addition to family time, we completed spring cleaning and Chay and Jamie also played lumber jack and kitchen remodeler. We were unable to visit all the friends, both cruising and land-based, that we had planned. Hopefully those of you we were not able to visit while back in the States will forgive us. Maybe next time.
We fly back to Esprit in Darwin on June 21st, and will have about a month to get Esprit back in ship shape condition including provisioning before we leave with the Sail Indonesia Rally fleet (over 120 boats) on July 24th to cruise and explore Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand.
June - August 24, 2010
We left Darwin a month ago with the Sail Banda portion of Sail Indonesia rally and have had quite the adventure so far. After a very fast passage (we averaged 8 knots over 505 miles), with a mix of calm and rough seas, but good wind, we arrived and anchored at Banda at 2:40 in the morning – the third to cross the finish line. Anchoring wasn’t so bad with the help of Orono 1 who arrived an hour before us and kindly waited for us to arrive. We anchored in 60 feet of water and were floating over 150! Banda is a small town with a wealth of history being that it was the center of the “Spice Islands” and under Dutch control for hundreds of years.
The first morning was the welcome ceremony and luncheon – Chay was selected to be one of 9 captains to represent the fleet during the welcome ceremony. Chay received a necklace made out of nutmeg and we each received a souvenir plaque with a sailboat on it – all made of shells.
Chay with four other of the Captains from the "yachts"
After all the welcome ceremonies were complete we enjoyed a tour of one of the nutmeg plantations and the fort and were able to dive/snorkel three times. Thanks to the Randy Repass family of Convergence (CEO of West Marine) the third dive was on a reef wall on the island of Ai about an hour’s boat trip aboard Convergence from the Banda anchorage. The dive was spectacular – the best since the Tuamotu’s.
After Banda we headed for Wakatobi where we had an “exciting” entrance into the lagoon – as we came through the “gate” in very shallow water where Gino from the welcoming committee boarded our boat and started telling us in his limited English where to go except that he was actually telling us where not to go! We plowed the bottom for a short time but eventually got through back into the deeper water of the lagoon where we anchored for the next week. Our Wakatobi experience, included participation in a local parade, a welcome party at the Regent Major’s house where we were treated to a show of traditional costumes from each of the Indonesian provinces and local dancing, and a welcome dinner at one of their new resorts (owned by the Regent Major) where we each received a scarf made out of the locally weaved sarong fabric. The anchorage was good, but very noisy. The mosques broadcast prayers and the locals played their music all hours of the day and night – the most annoying one being the wake up call from the mosque between 2:30 and 3:00 AM!! Unfortunately our visit in Wakatobi ended on a bit of “sour” note – when we were going to the traditional welcome ceremony there was a protest going on that started to turn a bit violent – before any of the festivities could begin, the cruisers were given a police escort (walking) back to the boats. It appears that the protesters were upset about the way the money was being spent and less so about the fact that the festivities were taking place during daylight during Ramadan. The Moslems fast during the day from 4 AM to 6 PM and party all night during Ramadan, and our event was taking place at 4 PM. We had already been cleared to leave the next morning, but several other boats made the decision to leave as well because of the protest. We motor sailed 4 hours south to Hoga, a very beautiful little island with a nice white sand beach, good snorkeling/diving and quite nights. We were able to pick up a mooring for the few nights that we were there. We celebrated Jaryd’s (Tins Soldier) 14th birthday there – they had games on the beach and dinner on shore with the “kid boats” Tin Soldier (Canada), Orono 1 (Australia), Pegasus (England), and Anui (Australia). Jamie and Jaryd camped out on shore that night but didn’t get much sleep due to lots of bugs and local kids watching them! We dove the next day on a pinnacle, and then prepared for our 2:30 AM departure for our next destination, Bau Bau on the island of Buton in the Sulawesi province – a 90 mile trip.
We anchored in the harbor right in front of the city of Bau Bau - the anchorage filled in quickly and between squalls and the currents we did the "La Paz Waltz" where the boats all swing in their own way rather than together. A few boats dragged - Chay & Jamie & Jaryd using the dinghies pulled/pushed one of the catamarans (Camille) off another cat (Ultimate Dream) while everyone was on shore doing one of the tours that we had decided not to do. That was quite the trick because the current was really flowing. Bau Bau was a wonderful experience - the locals were very welcoming and had tours and events planned each day. We visited a unique waterfall (the rocks were all rounded rather than rugged) and went to an underwater cave where we climbed down & down to a pool of fresh water in rather dim light powered by a tiny gasoline generator on the surface which they refilled with gasoline while running. We were sure glad we brought our own flash light! There were lots of stalactites and stalagmites to work our way through. They said there was only enough air for an hour in the cave. It was a rigorous climb and one of the highlights of our stay in Bau Bau - not something you would be able to do in the US due to litigation!
Katie & Jamie in the cave
We spent a drizzly morning at the Nirvana Beach where the waters are supposed to have healing powers. After so many welcoming ceremonies we were a bit hesitant to participate in another one but boy are we glad we did! The elders of the villages in traditional garb did a "holy" welcome ceremony with prayers and incense and they blessed each of us individually with water using palms. We were then each given a necklace of flowers which included orchids and proceeded to walk through two lines of the men greeting us by shaking our hands. After this ceremony they took us to the "widest" (largest) fort in the world - the sultans built it in the 1500's to defend themselves against the Dutch & Portuguese.
Chay & Jamie at the fort
After the fort we walked a short distance to an community area where they performed two local dances and then treated us to the most amazing experience - set up on the floor in a very large tent were 25 or so families/villages who had prepared a feast- another one of their special ceremonies to welcome special guests by "eating together"! It was called a Pekakande-Kandea ceremony (give thanks and eat together) – what a splendid, unexpected experience! Each yacht had its own "family" and we sat on the ground facing the women who had prepared the food - one of whom was in traditional dress. The place setting was beautiful! The woman dressed in traditional costume fed each of us our first bite and then we were served the rest of our meal by the women. They did not speak much English but they made us feel very special and welcome.
During the ceremony each of the local villages prepares a huge assortment of food. Each boat family sat with one of the villages where one of the local women in traditional costume fed each of us our first bite and then the other women served us all of the many delicious dishes – shrimp, chicken, vegetable soup with pigeon eggs, rice, a banana/nut soup, and lots of desserts. It was truly an experience to remember!
Young girls in traditional Indonesian costumes
After dinner lots of pictures were taken and we were interviewed by the local radio and tv journalists – we think they were more nervous than we were. As has become tradition, the young girls all want their photo taken with Jamie. As we tour through the towns we have visited we are always greeted with “Halo Mister” and a huge smile. The Indonesians are stunning when they smile. There are tons of children – they outnumber the adults by quite a bit. We will leave Bau Bau in a day or two and head south to the island of Flores where we look forward to some dry weather – it has been very wet and humid so far. Flores is where we will get to see the famous Komodo dragons and hopefully do some diving in the Komodo Islands before heading to Bali.
The biggest challenge of our passages lately has been the the floating rafts/fish attractors (6x15 feet with a pole or two sticking up) that sometimes (particularly at night) seem to appear out of nowhere.
Floating fish attractor raft
We moved on to Bone Rate - a reef where we thought we might do some diving. However, the anchorage was not as good as we thought it would be and the holding was in coral at 60 feet and dropping rapidly to 120 ft. There were no facilities there so we settled for a very nice snorkel and a walk through the town. They make large fishing boats here so we were able to observe them in action - their techniques are interesting, although we aren't sure how strong the boats actually are. We were anchored with Bernie & Diane on First Light III (Australian) so we shared two "sundowners" with them and enjoyed getting to know each other. When we were initially just getting ready to drop the anchor, another cruiser from New Zealand came rushing right up next to us in their boat (about 6 feet a way) and just dropped their hook - we were stunned! Needless to say we didn't anchor there! That was a first in our seven years of cruising! We moved on south to the island of Flores where we anchored in Linghe Bay for one night before moving on to Gile Bodo. Linghe had excellent holding, but tons of kids in their little canoes - they spoke some English and were asking for school supplies. They hung around for quite awhile but when we got our food & drink out they dispersed. This is the first place where the locals told us they are Christians (Catholic), although Bau Bau had two protestant churches. The island of Flores is 85 percent Catholic while the entire country of Indonesia is 95 percent Muslim. Gile Bodo is a desert like island inside a lagoon. The water is extremely clear and we are able to snorkel right off the stern of Esprit. Jump in and you are right on the reef in crystal clear water!
Jamie started his freshman year and is now taller than Katie and still growing!
Typical fishing Indonesian fishing village
The winds turned out of the west making the anchorage a bit rocky/rolly and putting us on a lee shore so we moved on to Labuan Bajo where we anchored in 20 feet (the shallowest in a long time!) along a nice beach in front of a cruiser friendly lodge with the rest of the fleet. This is the rally spot where the northern Banda fleet met the southern fleet. We were able to provision, fill up with diesel, do laundry, and enjoy the pool at the resort while getting to know some new folks. We celebrated Katie's 50th birthday at a very nice restaurant with our friends on Imagine, Tin Soldier & Linda. The owner of the restaurant brought out special drinks and fried casava (like potato) upon our arrival as a birthday treat - a nice touch (no charge to us). Jamie made a brownie birthday cake and Linda made a birthday cake for the celebration which was topped off with ice cream from the restaurant - a real treat here in Indonesia where dairy products are few and far between.
The next day we moved on with Imagine a Halberg-Rassy 46 (an American boat with a family from Chicago) to an anchorage on Rinca Island where we visited Komodo National Park and saw the Komodo dragons, monkeys, water buffalo, and birds. The Komodo dragons are an interesting creature, but were smaller than we expected. However, they are capable of bringing down a water buffalo! The monkeys look like little old men with grey beards!
The "Imagine" Family with us and one of the many Kimodo dragons
The next day we moved north to a small island just north of Komodo Island where we thought we could dive. The weather was stormy, but we snorkeled a little, and Chay & Marc (of Imagine) scoped out the bay for diving and found nothing, so we moved on to North Komodo Island in a beautiful bay with crystal clear water, good snorkeling, and some dive spots. We tried to drift dive with the dinghy, but the seas were so rough, and the current so strong, we got blown right past the rock we were supposed to be diving on. So all we saw was a lot of blue water and got good practice for diving from the dinghy in very rough conditions. There was still a weather front hanging around us so the anchorage got very uncomfortable last night. We had happy hour on the beach with the other folks anchored in the bay with us (Imagine, Tin Soldier, Linda, & Po'oino Roa a KP44) and had a bonfire so we could burn our trash. Jamie did his firestick as well which was once again the highlight of the evening.
Happy Hour on the beach with fellow cruisers
We decided not to try another dive on the rock so moved on to another unexpectedly beautiful anchorage where we had a very pleasant dive with lots of colorful fish.
Brain coral & table top coral
After a couple of day hops we arrived at Gili Air near the island of Lombok where we spent several days on a mooring ball.
Esprit underway to Gili Air (Lombok Island in the background)
Gili Air is a resort island so we enjoyed a few very good dinners of steak and hamburgers, as well as the company of several of the kid boats! Lombok is fairly "westernized" so when we did a day trip to the capital city of Mataram where we were able to shop at a grocery store in a mall that actually had paper towels! We also enjoyed McDonald's - especially Jamie. We fed the monkeys peanuts along the road in the monkey forest - they hissed at Katie & Jamie, but would eat right out of Chay's hand. We have to be careful around the monkeys because they can carry rabies.
Chay feeding one of the many monkeys
We sailed/motor sailed from Lombok to Lovina Beach on the northern coast of Bali in a day trip leaving at 3:00 in the morning. We had to keep careful watch for fisherman, the infamous floating rafts, and freighters. We encountered 9 freighters along the way which we had to make sure we didn't run into (or they into us). The Bali straight is a busy shipping channel for boats from China and Singapore. Upon entering the Lovina Beach anchorage we were greeted by a local "boat boy", Yodi, who along with his friends guided us in through the reefs, then arranged for diesel, laundry, boat bottom cleaning, and transportation to South Bali to visit the Dive Masters dive store and Carrefour (the French grocery store chain).
Yodi & Chay after a fuel delivery
Steve & Linda on S/V Linda joined us for that trip and although Carrefour was a bit disappointing, we were successful at the dive store and were able to purchase a new dive tank for Jamie, so now when we dive we will all be able to stay down long enough to enjoy the dive. We were able to see much of the island of Bali on this trip - it is a very lush green, hilly, volcanic and beautiful island. The locals say the rain is unusual, but it can't be too unusual for the island to be this lush & green. They farm a good portion of their land, and the most fascinating aspect of their farming is the terraced rice paddies. After getting things squared away on Esprit, we joined Glen, Marilyn & Jaryd of Tin Soldier & Steve & ,Linda of Linda for a three day and two night inland tour to Ubud which is a very touristy little town - similar to Santa Fe, New Mexico. We stayed at Sama's cottages where we had our own bungalow snuggled in amongst the "jungle" and were awakened by the many jungle animal sounds including a cacophony of roosters crowing! Ubud is home to the famous Monkey Temple Sanctuary which we toured - 3 temples and lots of monkeys! In Ubud we also did lots of shopping and eating, including a pleasant treat - Starbucks!
Jamie & Katie at Starbucks in Ubud
We visited several Hindu temples on the trip - the famous Bali temple on the lake, as well as the temples near the volcano. We were fortunate to visit the temples during their festival of the full moon so the temples were very ornately decorated with "sculptures" and other decorations made out of fruit, colorful breads, and rice. We all had to wear sarongs with a scarf tied around the waist - including Chay & Jamie! - to show respect in the temple. When we arrived at the temple we were surrounded quickly by local women who tied our sarongs and put the sash on us - we had to "rent" the sashes for all of us and the sarongs for the boys. An interesting blend of capitalism and religious tradition.
Chay, Katie, & Jamie on Bali
Chay at Hindu temple on Bali
Katie, Chay & Jamie at Hindu Temple
The waters of Indonesia are very clear but at the same time dirty with lots of trash floating under the surface which is not good for engine and generator intakes! This has been very frustrating for Chay since plugged water intakes/through hauls can make bad things happen. The weather has been very hot & humid, the latter being the killer. Katie finally bought a hand fan to use, and Jamie keeps stealing it!
We left Lovina Beach, Bali on Monday September 27 at 4AM for a 3-4 day passage to Borneo. The trip was a combination of motoring and sailing and sometimes both. The seas were calm most of the time, so calm that we were able to play a few games of Mexican Train in the cockpit. We had to weave our way through fisherman and their nets on several occasions - a bit more of a challenge at night!
Typical Indonesian fishing boat
There were several freighters and one crazy ferry who's captain decided to get up close and personal with us - we had to turn to port, heave to, and then go behind him. Other boats which were making the passage with us reported similar occurrences with an Indonesian ferry boat. We arrived at the Kumai River at daybreak - exactly at the time Chay predicted three days earlier! We had a couple of close encounters as we approached the river - one with a tug & tow, the other with a local fishing boat that cut right in front of us. Although we have radar, sometimes the local boats don't show up until the last minute - this time Chay had to retune the radar to pick up the boat because it was wood and not metal. We wound our way up the river through waters ranging from 10 feet to 30 feet and anchored across the river from the town of Kumai. The river current flows up to 2 knots at times - this combined with winds makes for a lot of boat movement which is not always in step with the other boats.
We accomplished a lot on our first day - we filled up with diesel, had the locals do our laundry, and had a piece from the boom re-welded (Chay noticed the weld had broken when he went to put a reef in the main sail before a squall hit - the piece that broke is the piece that holds the main sail down to the boom - fortunately only one side broke). In addition, we made our reservation for our river trip to see the Orangutans. We opted for the 1 day speed boat trip which we are glad we chose over the longer 3 day 2 night trip.
While seeing the Orangutans in their natural habitat was a once in a life time experience, the jungle climate was not our cup of tea - mosquitos, leaches, and humidity! Because of the rains and the resulting floods, we had to take off our shoes & socks and wade through the water covering the wooden trail and swamp covered trail! In addition to shoes & socks, we wore long pants and long sleeve shirts - a very wise decision. The Orangutans are being reintroduced to the wild so we visited two camps - one where they are back in the wild and one where they are still associating with humans.
Katie, Chay, & Jamie at entrance to one of the orangutan camps
The Orangutans can be very friendly, or they can be mean - we encountered both types.
Jamie & one of the friendly orangutans
We got chased back to the boat by one male who thought our guide had a bag of bananas (it was actually a bag with Chay's muddy rain jacket in it) - that was exciting! Once the Orangutans get used to being fed they assume it is their right and may attack anyone with a backpack because that is how the rangers carry the bananas to the feeding area. We observed the Orangutans feeding - they shovel as many bananas as they can in their mouth, then pick up additional bananas with their feet (actually just like their hands), and climb back up in the trees where they eat, nest, and play. After they get all the bananas out of their skins and in their mouth they mush it up, take it out in a big glob, and then eat it again! Kind of gross....
Orangutan with three bananas in its mouth - just the beginning
We left Kumai and the orangatans on Monday morning October 4th. After winding our way out the river we headed west through the shallow waters. Chay maneuvered us through a narrow channel amongst the shoals during his midnight to 3 am watch - he played "chicken" with two fishing boats coming the other way and fortunately he won! Going through the channel we did shortened our trip by 30 to 40 miles.
Jamie on Esprit underway - getting ready for the night watch
The rest of the trip up the South China Sea was an interesting mix of no wind, wind to motor by, wind to sail by (mostly at night), and too much wind just south of the equator. We saw 5 different water spouts (like tornados only on the water), 3 of them from one cloud which caused us to tack in order to avoid them!
Water spout in South China Sea
We dodged fishing boats several times - one night Chay had to drift over one of their nets as he watched the black flag marking the other end of the net go by. Katie had a similar experience at dawn one day - she could see the net and the boat so she put the boat into neutral (so the net wouldn't get wrapped around our prop), then at Chay's direction, put the boat into reverse, backed up, and went around the small fishing boat. As we went around the boat the fisherman waved and smiled - you would have thought they would have waved us around their boat as we approached, before we had to go into reverse. After 5 years of cruising in the southern hemisphere, we crossed back into the Northern Hemisphere on this trip and had the traditional celebration.
Chay & Jamie celebrating crossing the equator back into the northern hemisphere
We had lots of thunder and lightening, water spouts, rain, and mostly clouds the whole way. Welcome to the doldrums and the SPCZ (South Pacific Convergence Zone).
During the high winds and rain with less than a mile of visibility, we were approached by two Indonesian gun boats - one from each side of Esprit - they stopped just behind our stern and then moved off behind us. A short time later we spotted three military ships which turned out to be Japanese military ships! One we picked up on radar, the other did not appear on radar until the other ship identified us, and the third ship never did show up on radar so they were apparently jamming the radar. The Japanese were apparently making an incursion into disputed Indonesian/International waters! We never know what to expect out here! Friday morning we arrived at the entrance to the Selat Riau (Channel Riau) which is a shipping channel that runs for about 40 miles between the two islands of Batam and Bintan before merging with the Singapore Straits. The currents were unpredictable, the fisherman, freighters, and tugs with tows were many, and trash prolific, but we beat the odds and safely arrived at the Nongsa Point marina on Friday October 8 at about 4 PM. What a pleasant treat the marina is - modern facilities, showers that you can stand under for as long as you'd like, restaurants, and a pool! The pool is great as it is extremely hot & humid here. We have shore power so we can run our fans now which helps quite a bit. Jamie has been washing & waxing the boat, Chay has been working on the water maker and engine, & Katie's doing laundry and other boat clean up chores. Last night we had the biggest and most boisterous thunder & lightening storm we've had since Central America - it was amazing and we are glad we weren't having to sail through it.
We spent a week at Nongsa Point with a trip into town to look for parts and do some provisioning, doing our usual boat chores, and enjoying time at the pool with fellow cruisers. One night we went with Tim & Ruth of Victory Cat, Mark & Jane of Imagine, and Bob of Sisuital to the more upscale yacht club next door to our marina where we enjoyed happy hour and karaoke in our own private room - what a hoot! The highlight was Roxanne performed by the guys - they were so loud the locals must have thought we were crazy! It was the first time either of us had done karaoke - always something new. We finished the evening with dinner at a Beni Hana like restaurant. Jamie and the Imagine kids stayed on board and watched movies.
We checked out of Indonesia on Thursday, and left for Singapore on Friday the 15th along with Imagine & Victory Cat. The Singapore Straits are one of the busiest shipping channels in the world. Katie manned the radar while Jamie & Chay watched with eyeballs to keep track of all the ships. These are huge freighters (some over 1000ft long) that are only about 8 minutes apart in three different lanes. We crossed at 90 degrees to the traffic lanes to reduce our time in the lanes. Our crossing through the shipping channels went smoothly - Chay waited for two freighters to go by, tucked in behind the second one and "gunned" it across the east bound lane. We were fortunate to not have any traffic in the west bound lane! We drifted in the quarantine anchorage while we waited for immigration to check us into Singapore. They arrive in a boat, hold out a fishing net on a long pole, and you drop all your paperwork and passports (in a baggie of course) into the net. About a half hour later, they came back and gave us back our documents in the net and cleared us to proceed to the marina.
We opted to go into One15 Marina on Sentosa Island which is just a few kilometers from downtown Singapore. The marina resort facilities are incredible with pool, work out room, tv/game rooms for the kids, etc. Talk about culture shock - we went from third world to on top of the first world in just a few hours! However, the docks are a little "loose" -when any swell comes in, the docks do a lot of flexing and boats do a lot of rocking. But it is tolerable - it will help us keep our sea legs. We have done some touring, shopping, and eating in Singapore taking advantage of their subway which is impeccably clean, smooth, and fast. We had lunch with some of the other cruisers at an Indian restaurant called the Banana Leaf - the plate is a large banana leaf which they plop your rice, eggplant, and cabbage on and then you add whatever meat dishes you ordered. It was a good authentic Indian meal in the Little India portion of Singapore. Singapore is extremely clean - you can't chew gum and they fine you big time for smoking, eating/drinking, and having flammables on the subway.
We explored Chinatown, Little India, and Fort Cannery Park. Chinatown was an impressive sight with all the lights and hustle & bustle as we exited the subway station. We enjoyed dinner at the hawker stands; this is where food hawkers serving a variety of dishes are set up along the road and there are tables set up in the middle of the road. You get your food and then pick a table to sit at; table girls will sell & serve you your drinks, and clear the tables as well when you are done. After dinner we window shopped in all the “touristy” souvenir stalls. It was a fun evening! In Little India we accidentally found a wonderful Indian Restaurant where several of the family boats enjoyed a great dinner in the open air square – good ambiance and the best Indian food so far.
At Fort Cannery Park we toured the Battery Box – this is the underground bunker where the British/Singapore surrendered to the Japanese in World War II. The tour was excellent, using wax figures to reenact the events leading up to the surrender. The WWII history from this part of the world is fascinating and to actually see the terrain where the battles took place puts everything in a much better perspective. We shopped at the famous Sim Lim Tower and Square for electronics (we have never seen so many electronic products in one place) – we finally bit the bullet and purchased a local phone – calls are very cheap and it is the preferred mode of communication for the rally directors. We also found a wifi antenna and USB modem which have greatly improved our internet capability. In between shopping and playing tourist we took advantage of the resort like atmosphere at One15 Marina – especially the pool.
We were sad to leave One15 Marina after 12 days, but did indeed depart the slip on October 27th. We cleared immigration out in a rough Quarantine anchorage and headed to Danga Bay Marina, Johor, Malaysia. After maneuvering through many ships ,drill rigs, (more than we expected) and fisherman we arrived at Danga Bay that afternoon. Along the way we were escorted by Singaporean Coast Guard – not only do they patrol the Jahor passage between Malaysia and Singapore with many gun boats, but the shoreline along the Johor Strait that separates Singapore from Malaysia was fenced along the Singapore low water line with signs posted to stay out due to live fire. Singapore must also have an illegal alien problem.
The marina at Danga Bay was in better condition than we were expecting from prior cruiser information – it had been under construction but is now almost complete with the power being turned on to the docks the day we arrived. Danga Bay Marina is part of a larger government project that includes an amusement park, small shopping mall, petting zoo, restaurants, etc., with high rise apartments/condos planned for the future. The Malays are trying to bring their living standards up, and this is part of the plan. We’ve done some shopping for provisions and parts and took part in a city tour as part of the Sail Malaysia Rally. The Rally technical briefing and information center were excellent, as was the Gala Dinner; Chay spoke on behalf of the cruisers and received several compliments for a good speech.
There were several kids in the marina so Halloween was fun as they trick or treated from boat to boat. Even the daughter of the marina manager joined in - a completely new experience for her. Not only the kids had fun - one of the Swiss cruisers dressed as a clown and played the recorder when the kids came to his boat!
Halloween at Danga Bay Marina, Malaysia (Jamie at right center rear with mask on)
Swiss cruiser getting in the fun of Halloween
We did an overnighter to Malacca where we were the only boat who anchored off the city of Malacca; because the anchorage is an open roadstead, the anchorage has a reputation for being rolly when it's stormy and it has been stormy at least once a day.
Esprit at anchor at Malacca with Mosque in background
Esprit in the Malacca roadstead anchorage with the freighters
It turned out to be fine except for the last morning when a storm blew in with 35 kts of wind and a tug and barge, that couldn't control his load in the storm, was backing down on us and only at the last minute, after we called him on the radio, did the tug move to either side of the barge, see us, and start to pull away from us. Close call! The other draw back was a fisherman who put his net out behind us an hour or so before we were going to leave for Pangkor, and then the current carried it into us. Chay turned Esprit around so to keep the net out of the prop, and we pulled up anchor, but not in time - we caught our anchor in his net. Jamie & Katie had to cut and tear the net to get the anchor free, and we don't think the fisherman even knew what happened!
Malacca is a very nice town with lots of history - it was the main port during the spice trading hay days where Indian, Arab, and Chinese ships would meet to trade; it was also home port for pirates. We visited a few museums, Portuguese and Dutch forts, and the remains St. Paul's chapel where St. Francis Xavier was buried until he could be moved to his final burial site in India; his tomb is fenced off and is now a "wishing well".
Katie & Jamie at St. Paul's Chapel where St. Francis of Xavier was once buried
Jamie & Chay holding a boa constrictor in the main square of Malacca
On Saturday morning, Nov 13, at 7:30 am local Malaysia time (3:30 pm on Nov 12 Pacific Standard Time), we crossed our half-way around the world point!!! We celebrated with a bit of rum in our coffee as well as giving some rum to Neptune for getting us safely this far in our journey.
Chay & Katie celebrating having cruised half-way around the world!
Our trip to Pangkor went quicker than expected and we arrived at 7:30 pm in the dark; the marina sent a boat out to guide us in. The marina is a work in progress, as are many of the marinas in Malaysia. We stayed long enough to get diesel, do laundry, and visit the Navy town of Lumut. We had heard Lumut was not anything spectacular, so we were pleasantly surprised to find it a charming little beach, touristy, town. After 3 nights in Pangkor, we left for Penang with John & Renee on Scarlet O'Hara; we weaved our way through fisherman, including one who stopped right in front of us and dropped his last flag marking the end of his net. Chay had to do a hard turn to port to avoid the net and go around the boat, but not before giving the fishermen a bit of a scare. We just don't understand why the fisherman do that. We stopped at an anchorage behind a little island called Telang, about 15 miles away to break up our trip to Penang/Georgetown. It was a great anchorage where we had hoped to clean the bottom, but unfortunately it had thousands of jellyfish in it with tentacles up to 8 feet long and up to 3 feet in diameter, so we decided against it. The bottom hadn't been cleaned in quite a while because the water has been too disgusting to get into. We left at 6 am the following morning for an uneventful motorsail to Penang. We anchored in Jerejak Anchorage south of Georgetown central. The entry to the anchorage was tricky because of bridge construction ongoing in the channel. We dinghy'd to shore the next morning, caught a taxi to the Thailand Consulate where we dropped of our passports and applications for our Thai visas, then caught another taxi to city center where we met our friends Tim and Ruth on Victory Cat at the Tanjong City Marina (where they will be living for the next year while Tim goes back to work at Honeywell). We enjoyed lunch with Tim & Ruth (Victory Cat) and John & Renee on Scarlet O'hara and then took the free bus which "toured" us through town to the mall. We picked up some fixings for Thanksgiving dinner at the grocery store at the mall and then got a taxi back to the Thai consulate to pick up our visas; the taxi waited and then took us the Queensbay mall near our anchorage where we window shopped and checked out the cinema. All in all a productive day. The next day we walked back to the mall (about 30 minutes) and watched the new Harry Potter movie - our grand total for movie, popcorn, and soda was 57 ringitts or about $18 dollars US for the three of us - a true bargain! After the movie we went shopping for a Christmas tree and decorations as it is looking like we will be in Phuket, Thailand for Christmas. Although officially Moslem, Malaysia is truly a mix of cultures. The stores were decorated for Christmas and some were even playing Christmas songs! Georgetown is a very pretty city – one of our favorites so far this year. We left Penang Saturday morning the 20th for Langkawi where we arrived at an absolutely beautiful anchorage at 4 pm - we had a good current with us most of the way. It was fun going under the Penang bridge - the longest bridge in Southeast Asia at 13 km long. The “Fjord” anchorage we arrived at is stunning - the best one this season. Marc, Jane and the kids on Imagine were there to meet us and hosted happy hour for us & Scarlet O'hara. - it was fun to catch up with them - especially for the kids. We cleaned the bottom - it's amazing the "ick" that gets along the water line and on the bottom. Katie had a jelly fish wrap around her arm, but did not get stung - good thing!
The next morning we moved on to an anchorage closer to Rebak Marina – this anchorage was calm, but we were very close to a reef. Good thing the winds cooperated until next morning when we left for Rebak Marina where we have been for over a week now.
We shared a traditional Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday the 24th with Marc, Jane &the kids on Imagine & John & Renee on Scarlet O'Hara (10 of us in all), so that we could enjoy the company of our friends on Imagine before they set off on an inland trip to Cambodia early Thursday morning. The marina let us use one of their open air "party" areas so that we didn't have to squeeze into one of the boats. We roasted the turkey & stuffing on Esprit (with a quarter inch to spare in the oven) and made a corn casserole and cranberry sauce; the others prepared the mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, salad, and desserts! We all returned to our boats with a full tummy! We enjoyed leftovers for the next few days.
Thanksgiving Dinner with friends on Scarlett O'Hara and Imagine
On Monday the 29th we hauled out and sat in the sling for 2 hours while John on Scarlet O'hara completed our out of water survey (an insurance requirement) and we performed some bottom maintenance (greased the Max Prop. & through hulls). Our copper bottom paint is working as predicted and looked in excellent condition after two and one half years! We finally managed to unplug the through-hull for our refrigeration system - it had two pieces of plastic stuck in it! The refrigeration requires good salt water flow through the heat exchanger to operate properly, so plugged through-hulls aren't a good thing.
The marina is good, showers & laundry facilities adequate, restaurant good, and the pool is excellent. The marina is part of a resort which like so many others we have mentioned is nearly empty and in need of some maintenance/upgrading. We have taken the ferry to the main island of Langkawi (about a 10 minute ride) where we rented a car (also in need of lots of maintenance) and explored the main town of Kuah as well as other spots around the island. We have found some good shops to provision at with decent meats and other hard to find products which are imported from Australia. We visited McDonald’s and Starbucks and ate for about one half of what it costs in the States! We opted not to travel to Cambodia and Vietnam. Although the captain wanted to go, the crew wasn’t keen on the idea (mutiny?) so the captain acquiesced and we stayed on Esprit preparing her for her next long passages. We will do inland travelling in Thailand for sure. While here we have placed a West Marine order and are having our anchor chain regalvanized. We have also purchased our courtesy flags and charts for the Indian Ocean, Pirate Alley, Red Sea, and Mediterranean– there is an excellent store here that carries all we needed! Once our chain comes in, we will recalibrate the depth marks, reinstall it, and we will start heading towards Phuket Island, Thailand, where we will be for Christmas.
Jamie is winding down his first quarter of his freshman year - lots of writing to do! He was able to hang out with Jaryd on Tin Soldier for a couple of days and has been enjoying the pool. It is quite refreshing after a long hot, humid day of working on the boat. Jamie is looking forward to moving on and hopefully getting some diving in! There are supposed to be some decent dive spots on some of the islands off western Thailand.
In December, we day hopped from Langkawi to Phuket enjoying some snorkeling and even a dive! The water was finally more inviting than it had been for the previous 3 months. The route we took for this trip was an obstacle course of fish traps - thousands of them! Of course we assumed the flags were marking nets and didn't figure out they were fish traps until half way through the trip, so we spent a lot of time slowing down and going into neutral as we crossed over what we thought were nets. Several of the anchorages we stopped at were infested with "trippers" which are the boats from Phi Phi Don & Phuket that take day trippers\tourists out to the outer islands to snorkel and dive - we tried to avoid these anchorages as much as possible. The highlight of this trip was our stopover at Muk Island where we anchored off and snorkeled into Emerald Cave about 80 meters and out the other side to a lovely beach totally enclosed but open to the sky. It looked like a movie set - it was an awesome experience. Of course no passage is complete without boat issues - this one has included an oil leak on the engine, plumbing leaks, and a malfunctioning toilet. Chay was able to fix the oil leak and the toilet. However, the plumbing leaks look they are going to be an on-going problem as our 20 year old plumbing supply lines appear to have reached the end of their useful life. We arrived in the Royal Phuket Marina on December 20th. We spent the week getting ready for Christmas - lots of shopping. It is very weird to be sweating while wrapping Christmas gifts! Phuket is a hustle bustle city catering to tourists and boaters alike so much of what we needed was available including Doritos. Christmas eve we drove to the bay where several of the boats that we've been cruising with this season were anchored so that we could wish them a Merry Christmas - it is very odd to be on a crowded beach, in the hot sun, on Christmas Eve!
Christmas Eve on the beach with fellow cruisers
We then drove up the coast to attend Christmas Eve Mass which was held at one of the resorts. We chose the English Mass rather than Thai or Italian, but the congregation was a mix of Italian, French, German, Japanese, Hispanic and us, the only Americans. Katie volunteered to do the first reading and the responsorial Psalm and didn't even get nervous. This was the first place we have been since Darwin where we have had the opportunity to attend Mass and we enjoyed it. Our Christmas at anchor at Ko Yang Rai was a memorable one. We were joined by our friends (14 of us in total) from Imagine, Tin Soldier, and Bebe for a wonderful, progressive Christmas dinner. The adults enjoyed appetizers and drinks onboard Bebe, while the kids played on the beach. Dinner was savoured on Esprit with everyone bringing a tasty dish to compliment the turkey which was roasted in Esprit's oven.
Noah (Imagine), Jamie, Jaryd (Tin Soldier), and Grant & Caroline (Imagine)
The stuffing turned out excellent, in part due to our being able to find pork sausage (a key ingredient), and also due to our finding, of all things, an old fashioned hand meat grinder in Langkawi, Malaysia, which allowed us to grind the stuffing instead of hand chopping all the ingredients. After dinner we moved onto Imagine for dessert - pumpkin pie with whipped cream & Christmas cutout cookies from Imagine, and Chinese rocks from Esprit (an old family recipe from Katie's grandmother). It turned out to be more special than any of us thought it would be! The next morning all 14 of us celebrated Chay's 60th birthday in the cockpit of Esprit with chocolate cake (purchased at a local french bakery, not homemade - due in part to not finding a cake mix, and not wanting to heat up the boat). Fun was had by all! Then, with Chay at the helm enjoying a Cuban cigar, we went back into the marina with the high tide to get ready for our trip to Bangkok.
Chay's birthday 2010
New Years 2011
We flew to Bangkok from Phuket (way too early in the morning), dropped off our Indian Visa Applications, enjoyed breakfast, and then had our taxi driver drop us at our friends' apartment. Jim works for the embassy here, and he and Patty graciously opened up their home to us to stay and use as our base. That same afternoon Jim took us on a walking tour of several of the malls, the Jim Thompson Museum (he was an American businessman who moved to Thailand after the WWII and started one of Thailand's first silk factories), and the top of the highest building in Thailand for a 360 degree view of the sprawling city of Bangkok (population 13 Million).
Bangkok is the coolest place we have been this year not only because it is so exciting but also because the temperature is the coolest that we have experienced this year. It is even more modern then Singapore with many first rate high-rise malls. The next morning we had the same taxi driver that picked us up at the airport, take us to the train station where we caught the train to Kanchanaburi - home to the Bridge over the River Kwai. It was a good thing we left early because the taxi driver took us to the wrong train station (there are 3)to start with, even though we told him which station. He was humbly embarrassed, and very apologetic. But he got us to the correct station with time to spare - traffic is so congested that we weren't sure if we would get there on time. The train ride was fun, with many stops along the way. Our hotel was the Thai Garden Inn - we had a small bungalow with western style shower/toilet, and air conditioning. We probably could have done with just a fan as it was quite cool - especially compared to what we had experienced for the previous 6 months! We toured the Bridge over the River Kwai, the British, Dutch, and Chinese cemeteries, and the WWII museums the next day.
Jamie & Katie at the River Kwai
Cemetery at the River Kwai
The story is amazing, and our visit will give Jamie much to write about in his research paper this school year. The next day we took a tour to do some elephant trekking & bathing, and to visit the Temple of the Tigers. Riding an elephant through the jungle riverside was a hoot, but bathing with the elephants has to be the highlight of our trip this year! At first all 3 of us sat on the elephant with a guide who could prompt the elephant to roll over in the water or to soak us with water from her trunk. Sometimes the elephant did what she wanted to do and all 4 of us would wind up in the water! Then we would all have to climb back on and do it all over again.
Chay, Katie, & Jamie bathing with the elephants
They brought a younger elephant in after about a half hour and had Jamie shift over to it - Jamie was actually able to stand up on it! We were exhausted after about an hour of bathing with the elephants - and we were laughing so hard Katie almost couldn't get back on by the end. A baby elephant joined us and tried to climb up on the bigger elephant with us. It must have thought it was human and wanted to have fun to! Katie also had brush burns from the elephant skin! At the tiger temple we were able to play with the tigers, and bathe and feed them (only Chay had the courage to feed them and found them quite gentle). The Temple of the Tigers is sort of like a zoo, with water buffalo, pigs, and deer in addition to the 30 or so tigers which ranged in size from babies to full grown. We took the bus back to Bangkok on New Year's Eve and headed to the Indian visa office to collect our passports with our Indian visa issued and secured in them! The entire amount of time that we spent at the visa center was less than one hour. After all the stories we had heard this was great. They even gave us a family discount. We are looking forward to our Indian adventure in early February.
We celebrated New Year's Eve and welcomed 2011 onboard a river cruise boat where we enjoyed a buffet dinner, music, dancing, champagne and fantastic fireworks at midnight! It was a very special, unforgettable way to celebrate New Year's.
Katie, Jamie, & Chay ringing in the New Year in Bangkok
January 2nd we joined a tour to visit the floating market, watch an elephant show and crocodile wrestling demonstration, and a Thai cultural show with dancing, Thai fighting, and a "mock" wedding ceremony. The floating market was pretty unique - the Thai women sell their wares from their canoes along the canals, and we shopped while being rowed along in our own canoe. Of course there are lots of non-floating shops along the canals as well!
Bangkok's floating market
We wound up our day at the local's MBK mall where you can find lots of "name brand" items at cheap prices. New Rolex watches, Ray Ban sunglasses, and Quicksilver and DC t-shirts were a few of the items found. While at the American Embassy in Bangkok we had additional pages added to our passports at the American Embassy and had lunch with Jim at the Embassy cafeteria. On January 4th we flew back to Phuket to get Esprit ready to go cruising again. Although our land travel had been great and Bangkok fantastic, we were looking forward to going cruising again!
After a week of cruising, provisioning, fixing and otherwise preparing Esprit, and saying our goodbye's to Anui and Tin Soldier, we left Thailand and the Andaman Sea for points further west.
Katie & Jamie enjoying one of the many Thailand beaches
Marilyn (Tin Soldier), Katie, & Sarah (Anui) enjoying one last game of scrabble on the beachAs we approached Galle Harbor we were met by Captain Suda in his civi’s on a Navy patrol boat and then guided into the inner harbor where they assisted us in getting moored to the concrete wharf (rather than the floating, plastic docks).
We crossed the Bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean on passage (1100 miles) to Sri Lanka where we made landfall over the weekend. The seas were calm, the winds were light, and we motorsailed taking advantage of a 1 and one half knot current with us. We did not have to say goodbye to Pegasus as they changed their plans and went with us, and our friends on Imagine were in Sri Lanka when we arrived. We celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary on this passage.
We arrived safe & sound in Galle, Sri Lanka on Saturday Jan 22nd at 5PM. We had good wind the last couple of days of our passage and actually averaged over 200 miles a day for a day and a half(over 8 knots per hour)!
Chay barbecuing underway - that doesn't happen very often!
Dolphins at the bow of Esprit guiding us to Sri Lanka
As we entered Sri Lankan waters the fishing boats appeared - small boats with 8-9 men on board with nets that they set in a circle around their boat. One of them approached us asking for alcohol, cigarettes, and cookies, and two others approached with friendly, smiling faces offering us fish. Before continuing, we need to introduce a few people to you: Father Bob is our Parish Priest in Boulder City; Father Bede, a Parish Priest in North Las Vegas is from Sri Lanka, and is a very good friend of Father Bob; Suda is one of Father Bede's brothers and is a Sri Lankan Navy Captain stationed in Galle; and Varuna is one of Father Bede's good friends here in Sri Lanka. Before we left the United States Father Bob introduced us to Father Bede who told us his brothers would help us out in Sri Lanka if we needed it. Well you know how that goes…most of the time nothing happens…this time was entirely different…
Katie, Jamie, & Suda touring Galle
Esprit moored on the concrete wharf in Galle
Suda had made prior arrangements with our agent, so our check-in with customs, immigration, harbor master, and quarantine went very quickly and smoothly. That evening Suda took us out to dinner with one of his friends (another Navy captain), and the next day took us on a tour of the Galle Fort which was built by the Portuguese and is still in use as a "neighborhood" and location for local government offices.
The next morning, Monday, we were met by Varuna whom we spent the next week with travelling through Sri Lanka. He did an amazing job of arranging a very busy and interesting tour. On our way to Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, we stopped at a family run mask factory & museum where we learned a bit of history about the masks and the role they played, and sometimes still do, in Sri Lankan culture. Of course we purchased one of the masks to add to our collection of masks from around the world. Next stop was at a turtle hatchery, research center, "orphanage" where we learned about the types of sea turtles they have here and what they do to preserve them - the local fisherman collect the eggs before they are eaten by predators and sell them to the research center. The center has a hatchery and once hatched they carefully release them back to the ocean. We had lunch at a rustic restaurant on the beach that was like Bloody Mary’s, on Bora Bora, used to be and where many dignitaries have eaten including Princess Ann. Once we arrived in Colombo we took a walk at sunset on the Galle Road, visited the old Royal Hotel (1867), and the Green - a park along the waterfront where locals come to stroll, fly kites, snack, and play games. The next day we headed inland to our first stop at an elephant orphanage. We enjoyed a nice lunch overlooking the river where the elephants were bathing (no swimming with them this time), before moving on to Dambulla where we spent the next two nights and days exploring a 2000 year old fort, Buddhist cave temples, herb gardens, and took a jeep safari.
Sri Lankan Indians bathing in the river
The Sigiriya Fort was built over 2000 years ago and is an amazing engineering and architectural structure. The lower gardens are perfectly symmetrical and the fort itself sits on top of a rock/hill. The fort served as the capital of Sri Lanka for 18 years. The Buddhist cave temples were interesting - we got to see several buddhas large & small and learned what the 7 Buddha positions mean.
The entrance to the Buddhist cave temples
We toured one of the many herb gardens which, while interesting, was actually a way to sell natural medicinal products. We did get a recipe there for Sri Lankan curry which Katie looks forward to trying her hand at making. Speaking of curry, we have eaten a variety of curries here, from mild to quite spicy, and we are told that the Sri Lankan curries are the spiciest - even spicier than Indian curries! We will let you know after our trip to India which curry wins. The jeep safari was a bit of a let down, with only a few elephants sited, apparently due to the rain which caused the elephants and other animals not to have to come out to get water. However, because it was raining, our jeep ride over the muddy trails proved to be exciting! When we got to Kandy in the center of the island we attended a cultural show with Sri Lankan music, dancing, fire dancing, and fire walking. The latter were the highlight - it is amazing that they can walk on the hot coals! After the show we visited the Tooth Temple, one of the most venerated Buddhist temples. It is believed to house the tooth of Buddha, and where the tooth is, so is power.
Katie, Waruna, & Chay enjoying dinner - Waruna was a wonderful tour guide
The next morning we took a stroll through the Sri Lankan Botanical Garden before heading south to the hill country, home to the many acres of tea plantations. The countryside is beautiful and as green as Ireland. We took a tour of one of the tea factories in the up-country where they believe they grow the best teas. The low-country planters may differ in that opinion.
Typical tea plantation in Sri Lanka
Our last night was spent at a small lodge on a tea plantation in the low-country - the plantation is family owned and operated and has been in operation since the 1930's. In addition to tea, they also plant rubber trees which we enjoyed seeing being "tapped" for the rubber "milk".
We covered a lot of kilometers, over a variety of roads. Many close calls for head on collisions, pedestrians, and cows – lots of crazy driving. The culture is an amazing mix of Buddhists (the majority of the country), Hindus, and Christians – predominantly Catholic. There are many road side shrines – both Catholic and Buddhist – which are visited by all faiths. You will also find statues of Hindu gods right along side Buddha statues in the Buddhist temples.
After our tour of Sri Lanka, we spent a few days getting Esprit repaired, refueled, and cleaned up in Galle - Chay stitched up the Genoa sail which has threads that are wearing out (done in New Zealand), plus some plumbing repairs. After saying goodbye to Captain Suda, we left Saturday morning for India and had a very rambunctious ride for the first 36 hours or so - 20 to 25 knots of winds on the nose with gust to 35 and 10-15 foot seas. It's hard work to keep yourself steady and upright when the boat is heeling 30 degrees! All of our tummies weren't feeling too good, but we survived and went on to much calmer seas and lighter winds. That was our roughest trip since New Zealand and our US flag showed it!
Our weather beaten US flag - we retired it upon arrival in Cochin, India
We alternated between sailing and motor sailing and our speed ranged from 2.8 knots to 8 knots for this trip. We saw lots of freighters and fisherman in pongas (similar to Mexico). One of them got upset because he got Chay's fishing line caught in his prop and we wouldn't give him any booze so he cut the lure off of Chay's line and took it! Most of the other fisherman just smile and wave as they go by.
Chinese fishing nets at the entrance to Cochin, India
After arriving in Cochin on the 8th of February we did the usual boat clean-up and maintenance, including refueling. The marina is good, although the berths are bit tight. We met our Indian "contact/ Varuna's friend", Srikant on Friday for breakfast at his home - it is amazing how welcoming and gracious people we don't know have been to us. On Saturday February 12th we left for our inland tour - Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, and Goa. Our tour started in New Delhi - both "modern" and old - including the Red Fort, a rickshaw ride through the wholesale market of tiny winding crowded streets, and toured the capital government buildings which were built during the British rule.
Chay & Katie at the Red Fort in Delhi
Interior of Red Fort - water fountain/stream used as part of their air conditioning system
Agra is where we experienced the Taj Mahal - truly an engineering, architectural, and artistic wonder (but a bit smaller than we imagined). It is actually a mausoleum and not a palace where someone would live.
Jamie, Chay, & Katie at the Taj Mahal
The Agra Red Fort was amazing and much more impressive than the Delhi Red Fort. Our guides have been very informative and the history is truly amazing. On our way to Jaipur, the pink city, we stopped at another fort/mosque with its own place in history.
The Agra Red Fort
Jamie, Chay, & Katie inside the Red Fort at Agra
We visited an amazing palace/fort built in the hills of Jaipur. Their construction, architecture, and sculptures are impressive. We also rode a camel - they are a funny, unattractive animal!
Jamie, Katie, & Chay riding the camels in India
Our last stop was in Goa, the city where St. Francis Xavier's body is entombed. He was brought here, his favorite city, from Japan where he died, after several years of being entombed in a church in Malacca on the way. His body is incorrupt and we were able to see through his casket from a distance and viewed some of his relics up close.
Tomb of St. Francis Xavier
His body is put on display every ten years. St. Francis Xavier "of the Seven Seas" was a missionary all through India, southeast Asia, China, and Japan. There are several impressive Catholic churches, cathedrals, and chapels in Goa all over 400 years old. The Goa area is like a beach town in the middle of Europe. Our hotel was an old mansion renovated into an inn - the furnishings were Portuguese antiques. We shopped several of their "cottage industry" stores where locally made (India) rugs, silk clothing, jewels, etc are sold.
India is bizarre, overloaded, and chaotic (their words). Only here will you have a state-of-the-art expressway with cows roaming across it! They have road signs saying "stay in your lane" - of course that's easy when everyone makes their own lane. Driving India is an adventure - no one uses the lanes so a two lane road can become a 5 lane road with a mix of modes of transportation going in every direction from large trucks, to busses, to cars, to tuk tuks, to motorbikes, to camels and horse drawn wagons! Throw in lots of people, brahma cattle, and dogs and you get a crazy trip. We found India to be a vibrant, colorful, and fascinating place with a very interesting history.
February 19 - 26 2011 - Our Pirate Adventure
On February 19th, we began our next passage which was to take us west to Oman and the Red Sea. On February 23, 8:30 am, after fighting light head winds for four days and being 500 miles from India at the news of the death of our friends, Scott & Jean Adams, on the pirated yacht Quest, whom we knew from Tonga and New Zealand, we made the difficult, but important decision to turn around and return to Cochin, India. Although there were reports of pirates in our path back to India, it was not as high risk as the area into which we were going.
We arrived back into Cochin India on Saturday 2/26 around 7 PM, and anchored in the arrival quarantine anchorage.
The following may emphasize why we did what we did…We turned around 500 miles out at sea with only 800 miles to go to Salalah, Oman when we heard that our friends on Quest had been killed. Our reasoning was that the pirates had now raised the bar from the taking of hostages to death, we had damaged our prop in Cochin and our motoring speed was thus reduced by over 20% and our fuel consumption increased, and the winds were light and the seas almost flat, giving too much advantage to the pirates. When we looked out at the weather there was no indication that the winds were going to pickup. With Jamie on board we thought this was too much risk for us to take. We would want to have at least 15 knots of wind and preferably 20 knots to swing the advantage at sea a little more in our direction.
A huge thank you to all of you for your E Mails of support to us during our trying times in the Arabian Sea over the last few weeks (Feb 19 – Feb 26). Your prayers and emails have been a true boost to our morale. We truly appreciate it.
Upon our return to Cochin, we were visited by customs and port control almost immediately, had our celebratory beers and chips (root beer for Jamie), and went to bed looking forward to a good night's sleep. At 1:00 AM we were awakened up by a thunderstorm and realized we were dragging onto the other boat anchored here. We quickly pulled up anchor and re-anchored - all in a heavy downpour and high winds! We were soaked and had some hot chocolate to warm up after the storm died down. Sunday morning we went to immigration to check-in and were told by the junior officers working on a Sunday that we didn't have a valid visa, that we had used our one time entry when we were here before. We tried to explain that we never landed anywhere else, that we were returning from the "high seas" due to our damaged prop. They gave us a run around including telling us we could leave the boat here and fly to Sri Lanka the next day to get new visas! Not an option for us at this point in time. (It takes 5 days to obtain an India visa and you can't return to India for 60 days) They finally said we could stay on the boat, but would have to leave the country within 6 hours, but that we could refuel, get water, and food through the assistance of Nazir our local "boat boy". We contacted the US Consulate in Chennai to see if they could assist. Their response was incredible! They kept us posted as to what was going on throughout the day, and at 4:15 we got a phone call that we had been given a 6 day emergency stay and had to meet the Commissioner of Police (immigration) at the Taj Hotel near where we were anchored right away. So, with the help of our boat boy, we were given a ride over to meet the officer. The immigration gentlemen we had dealt with earlier were also there and were very courteous and helpful as they took our passports to grant the 6 days (later extended for an additional 5 days). Amazing what can happen when the boss is around. That was all on Sunday - on Monday we completed the check in process (from 9:30 AM to 2:30 PM) and then moved into the marina. It was low tide so we were plowing our way for a little bit in the channel before we started getting depths again. We arrived and were berthed in the marina safe & sound.
We went through the exercise of requesting an extra 5 days with Indian immigration. We, along with Jose, the marina manager, met with the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of immigration. He agreed to approve an extension if we went back to the regional office at the Port and got a letter from the Port Regional officer saying it was okay. We went back to the immigration office by ourselves because Jose has worn out his welcome there helping other cruisers. The Regional officer listened to our story, made a few phone calls, and sent us back to the Commissioners office with one of his lower rank officers who brought our passports along (if you remember, immigration kept our passports). Once we got back and the commissioner’s clerk looked at our passports and saw that we had visas that had not expired, and realized that we had returned to Cochin from the high seas, the whole tone changed. We were granted an extension of 5 days, but probably could have stayed until our visa expired at the end of March. It appears that immigration messed up when we first returned, although no one actually admitted it. Of course, we had to pay more money for the extension, but at least we had more time to complete the paper work and wire transfers (another long story in itself to accomplish from outside the US) to the shipping company and wait for the right weather window to leave for the Maldives. We also used these extra days to play tourist.
We had Nizar, our “boat man” give us a tuk tuk tour of Fort Cochin – we visited a maritime museum, the dutch “palace”, and a 1500’s catholic church. The next day, Nizar took us, along with Bill & Judy of s/v BeBe, on a boat tour of the back waters. It was very peaceful and interesting to see how the locals live up the rivers. Some of them lease an area of water for a year that is damned up with locks. They then use the locks to catch and raise fish. Nizar stopped at a “toddy shop” where we were able to taste Indian toddy – a mild beer made from coconut milk. It was okay, but the locals seem to really enjoy it! We left the marina on Tuesday and anchored in front of the Port Control Building. Cochin is a busy Harbor with ship coming and going all night.
Disc fishing in Cochin
A fish farm in the "back waters"
Bill (Bebe), Chay, & Nazir our "boat boy"
Some more thoughts on the past 2 months
2,500 miles and where did we go? almost right back to where we started from!...it used to be that we were very concerned about the freighters and the weather when we were at sea. Now the watch was all about looking for pirates. Because the freighters usually didn't keep a good watch we had to be worried about being run down, but now the freighters keep an excellent watch and are worried when they see us (a small boat) because we might be a pirate...we used to not have a second thought about a fishing boat except for how to stay out of his fishing nets, but now our first thought is that it is a pirate mother ship....for example, when were about 180 miles off the Indian coast on our return through the Lakshadweep Islands, at dusk, near where two other pirate attacks had taken place, we noticed a ferry boat stopped completely which was odd, heard some chatter on the radio, and then saw the ferry boat proceed south. We then spotted a black fishing boat at dusk that was on an intercept course with us. We implemented our security procedures - changed course, sped up, closed down the boat except for one hatch, had radios ready to issue distress calls, and monitored its position. Chay & Jamie were in the cockpit navigating and preparing for an attack, while Katie was below manning the radios. (our toe rails and life lines were still greased to make a boarding more difficult) After about 30 minutes we were confident that he was not following us and thus not a pirate and we stood down. Katie was scared to death! We assume the ferry had stopped to assess the fishing boat as well.
Some of you may be wondering why we chose to come this route if we knew there were pirates. We made the decision to continue on our circumnavigation when we were in southeast Asia. Since that time, the situation has escalated exponentially and expanded in area from a 600 mile route that was heavily patrolled by the world’s military organizations to one that includes the entire Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, and part of the Red Sea, which is a course of over 2000 miles. You may also be curious as to whether it was worth it to come to Sri Lanka and India. Definitely yes! We had incredible trips in both countries through the efforts of our wonderful new friends in both countries. The political and piracy situation continues to worsen. As many of you know Scott & Jean Adam on S/V Quest were killed less than 400 miles from our position when we made the decision to turn around. They were gentle people whom we cruised with in Tonga and New Zealand and liked very much. Two days after we turned around and in a location near where we would have been if we had kept going, S/V Ing was taken by pirates with 3 kids on board. They had been in Galle, Sri Lanka with us on the concrete wharf! We know we made the right decision to return to India. We now plan to ship Esprit to the Med. Once we pick Esprit back up, we will let you know how it all went.
Hello from the Maldives! First of all, for those of you who may be concerned, we felt no effects from the Japanese tsunami. Then early on Wednesday March 9th we left for the Maldive Islands and arrived Saturday morning at sunrise. It was an uneventful passage with light winds and calm seas. Although we knew the passage was safer than the last one we undertook, we were still on higher alert than normal. We saw a few freighters which were travelling in convoy, and the fishermen seemed to fish in groups of 5 or 6, rather than solo – most likely both freighters and fisherman were taking precautions against piracy. Katie’s imagination was being quite creative at times when she saw lights on the horizon, but she did keep it under control and figured out what she was actually seeing. It was a relief to arrive in the Maldives. Our check-in went smoothly and we are now at anchor amongst tour/dive boats and other cruising boats. However, when anchoring at the arrival anchorage, our anchor windlass (the motorized winch which raises and lowers the anchor and chain) broke. We anchored in 70 feet of water on top of a coral bommie while Esprit drifted off over 150 feet of water and we had 225 feet of chain out! When it came time to move to the “safe anchorage” near the airport, Chay & Jamie took turns raising the anchor 25 feet at a time. 150 feet of 3/8th BBB chain is really heavy! The anchor came up okay, albeit slowly, and Chay & Jamie have sore backs as a result. Of course we had to drop the hook by hand in the anchorage, but that was a bit easier than raising it since the depth was only 45 feet. So, Chay’s first task was to repair the windlass, and Katie’s was to take the ferry to Male (the town) to get a sim card for the phone, and for the modem/internet. Both missions were accomplished.
We haven’t been in an anchorage (except for the arrival anchorage in India) in two months and we realize how good it is to be on the hook again. The Maldives are atolls (old volcanoes), very similar to the Tuomotus in French Polynesia. The water is clear, and we hope to get a few dives in while we are here. It is a very busy place with lots of tour/dive boats, ferries, and ships moving about. Most of the islands (all very small) have resorts on them. Male is the capital of the Maldives and they have filled the island with just about as many buildings and roads as they can. The amazing thing about this place, is that, because it is an atoll, it is sinking and may not be here at all 100 years from now.
Right now we are feeling a lot of anger towards the pirates, and its frustrating because there isn’t much we can do about it. Not only because they have taken the lives of friends and have others held hostage, but piracy has really taken the fun out of cruising. As we have said in previous blogs, what was once a simple concern about getting tangled in fishing nets, has turned into a concern about our lives. We chose to give up our goal of circumnavigating because of the pirates – it is a let down when you make the difficult decision to give up a dream. Although, as Jamie points out, Esprit will still be working her way around the world by sea, even if we have to fly part of the way. Check out www.BluePlanetTimes.com to read a story by Kimball Livingston about our “Circumnavigation, Interrupted.”
Our good friends on Jade are now back home in Hong Kong and Emailed us to let us know that while Quest was there they had joined the yacht club and made friends with many of the people in Hong Kong. The people in the Hong Kong Yacht Club were also in mourning after hearing the news about the deaths on Quest. Scot and Jean Adam made friends wherever they went! One thing we can’t let happen is to forget what happened to s/v Quest. In an effort to keep the incident alive, Bill & Judy of s/v BeBe have created a facebook page “Quest-Never-Forget”http://www.facebook.com/search.php?q=svbebe%40gmail.com&init=quick&tas=0.5852082634746886#!/pages/Quest-Never-Forget/196704463691254?v=info#info_edit_sections
If the link doesn’t work, go to Facebook and search for Quest-Never-Forget
We will be here in the Maldives for a few weeks waiting for the transport ship to arrive. We have a lot to do to get Esprit ready to be shipped, and Jamie can catch up school work, so the time will go by quickly. Once Esprit is on the ship we will fly to the Med, although we don’t know where we will go to fill the time (2 to 3 weeks) while we wait for Esprit to arrive in Turkey. Maybe Egypt…..
We will let you know how the shipping goes for those of you thinking about coming this way. Sri Lanka, and India were so great that we think that we still made the right decision in coming this way.
Male may be small, but it is a busy little place. There are ferries every 10 minutes to Male from the airport island, Hulule, where we are anchored and tour/dive boats buzzing around all day, several of them anchored around us. We spent a few days exploring the city looking for chandleries and hardware stores that might have a plug/drain for our primary fuel filter bowl. Ours had cracked and was leaking. Unfortunately, we were unable to find a replacement, but Chay in his usual creative way was able to come up with a temporary repair until we are able find the correct part. If he had been unable to fix it, we wouldn’t have been able to use the engine, (my kingdom for a 25 cent plastic plug!) which would have made loading Esprit on the big ship a bit of a challenge. We did a rough cleaning of the top sides, cleaned the bottom and took a good look at our damaged prop – two of the blades are bent and/or missing a chunk of blade - no wonder Esprit was so much slower! We will have to wait to get it fixed when we get to Turkey. We celebrated St. Patrick’s Day onboard Esprit with Bill & Judy on s/v BeBe – Katie made lamb stew and green beer bread, and Judy made a green frosted cake that was so yummy. Of course, we can’t forget the green beer! We did a drift snorkel yesterday on Banana Reef – lots of colorful fish, including a Napolean and some of the largest Parrot fish we have ever seen; we will do a drift scuba dive on it tomorrow. There are two turtles that swim around our boat – they must have their home around our anchor somewhere. It is such a pleasant change to be anchored in clear water with cool (80 degrees F) dry air to sleep in at night. Last night we enjoyed a cool evening in the cockpit with the largest full moon in 20 years – it is the closest to Earth that it has been in those 20 years.
We are still unwinding after the last stressful month and enjoying getting back into the cruising mode, relaxing and having fun. Chay & Jamie spent one afternoon skurfing, which is pulling each other on a knee board behind the dingy and boy did they have a ball!
Jamie skurfing behind the dingy with Chay at the helm
We’ve been enjoying snorkeling and diving almost every day - all within a short dinghy ride from Esprit. While the coral life is only average, the fish life is amazing! We’ve seen huge parrot fish, sea snakes, a Napolean, and a myriad of vibrant, colorful fish that we’ve not seen before. We took one step further in our diving adventures by doing a night dive on a shallow reef – we saw a 8-10 foot long eel out in the open looking for prey, a large albino octopus, a lion fish, and several other fish – none of which we would have seen on a day dive. While Katie was a little unnerved, Chay & Jamie handled it like pros despite the fact that Chay’s BC failed and he had to remove his weights in order to ascend. We all enjoyed it and plan to do more. Jamie loved it so much he doesn’t want to do day dives anymore!
Katie, Jamie, & Chay on the night dive
The winds have shifted to out of the west so we moved anchorage a little bit north to get away from the concrete wall we were anchored near and to get away from the flies. This move also let us test the anchor windlass which as we mentioned previously had failed while anchoring in the quarantine anchorage here in the Maldives, and was repaired by Chay. The new anchorage is calmer and essentially fly free, and if the winds kick up too much we don’t have to worry about dragging into a concrete wharf - just into a sandy shallow area. The only real problem with this anchoring spot is the sea grass which flows by during part of the day and plugs the thru-hulls which causes the refrigeration and generator systems to stop working. So, we just avoid running those systems when the sea grass is around. One other negative about this otherwise picturesque anchorage are the tourist boats that fly through the anchorage at high speed creating quite the wake and causing Esprit to rock & roll.
We took a walk through the small town here by the airport anchorage – it is primarily a “bedroom community” for the city of Male, which has reached its maximum for occupancy. This island has a few shops, markets, and restaurants.
Jamie has been working hard on his school work and is almost finished with his second quarter. During Jamie’s school time, Katie and Chay have been doing their boat chores and maintenance – including polishing the stainless, taking down part of the dodger in preparation for shipping, laundry, cleaning filters, filling dive tanks, and the list goes on & on….. One evening, we enjoyed a homemade Chinese dinner on BeBe with Bill & Judy. Jamie made the brownies that we took with us for dessert. Everything was great!
As we prepare to ship Esprit, one of the things we have to make sure we do is eat all the food on board that otherwise might be an attraction for the rats that might be hanging out on the transport ship. Oh so many things to think about.
During our last week in Male we took advantage of light winds and took down the sails, some of the bimini, and some of the rigging in preparation for shipping. Unfortunately, this meant Jamie essentially lost his bedroom because the sails are stored there. Jamie was sleeping, once again, in the cockpit, but still managed to find a corner in his room to do school and work on his computer. We enjoyed some more snorkeling and diving as well. We dived on Banana Reef and drifted with the dinghy again – but this time the current was up to 2 knots in some places! It was a beautiful dive with colorful corals and tons of fish. The highlights were a sea turtle right up close and personal, several large eels, a huge puffer fish, and a lion fish, as well as a school of long, needle nosed fish. Except for the safety stops, where he turned right side up, Jamie did the ascent upside down! We had a dinghy raft up on Friday night with six other boats - BeBe, B’Sheret, Voyager, Heartsong, Renegade, and Passage. As usual with dinghy raft ups, the food was yummy, conversation lively, and a good time was had by all! As the days wound down to the ship arriving we continued to get Esprit ready for shipping and the expected 45 knots of wind, green water over the bow of the ship, and sand storms in the Red Sea, by taking everything off the deck, pickling the water maker, removing screens, and a myriad of other things to ensure that Esprit arrives in Turkey in good shape. One of our frustrations was trying to make travel arrangements without a specific date – we couldn’t make plane or tour reservations until we had a firm load date for Esprit and we wouldn’t have that until the transport ship got there! Fortunately, Emirates airlines was very accommodating and flexible.
After several delays, Esprit was finally loaded on the transport ship BBC Everest.
Our transport ship - BBC Everest
The transport ship was originally scheduled to arrive between the 15th and 20th of March and take two days to load. It finally arrived on April 9th and took 5 days to load. On our day of loading we were told to be at the ship at 8:00 AM, and that the ship was moving to a wharf about 6 miles away. The ship had been at anchor and was experiencing less than ideal conditions from local boats speeding by too close and creating wakes which were causing the boats being raised to swing dangerously in the sling when being lifted by the crane onto the ship. We left the anchorage at 6:30 AM after seeing the transport ship pull up anchor and head to the wharf. We arrived at the ship at the new location at 8:00 AM as scheduled by the load master and then proceeded to wait in the hot sun, along with the Australian boat Skedaddle Again, until after 5:00 PM when the loading process finally started! The transport crew were not very efficient in running the operation and did not have the deck prepared for the loading of all the boats. As a matter of fact we weren’t sure they were going to get everyone loaded (but they did two days later). They finished loading us about 6:00 PM that evening and we were able to reattach the back stay (which holds up the mast) and finish closing down Esprit before they started loading Skedaddle Again. Finally at 7:00 PM we were finished and they transported us back to the hotel where we were staying. Our luggage had been there for two days, so it was a good thing we weren’t delayed any longer. On our way to the hotel in the speed boat, the driver almost missed the turn in the dark, and in overcompensating to make the turn, ran us aground on a reef right near the green light for the entrance through the reef Typical of the boat drivers in the Maldives! Fortunately the divers who helped set the slings for lifting the boats were onboard with us and jumped in the shallow water to help push the speed boat off the reef. If it’s not one thing, it’s another! And another came all too soon the next morning at immigration. We checked out of the country on April 9th and were told that as crew we had seven days to leave the country; we left for Dubai on the 13th of April. However, immigration pointed out that the seven days was only good if the entrance visa was still valid; ours had expired two days prior on April 11th. After much debate, and some raised voices on our part with our agent who wanted us to collect our luggage from the airlines, cancel our flight and our hotel in Dubai and charge us $750, the immigration Department gave us an extension until the 13th (that day), and charged us a fine for overstaying our visa. Total cost $286 and we were able to make our flight. The frustrating thing was that our friends were in the same boat as us, and immigration let them through with almost no questions asked. Our agent did not do a very good job at explaining the process to us, and was so bold as to suggest that we stay an extra day to extend the visa – that would mean changing plane reservations and hotel reservations. The agent was going to charge an extra $500 on top of the fine that the airport immigration officers charged to “help” us fix our problem. Needless to say, we were glad to arrive in Dubai for a few days of sightseeing.
Dubai with the world's tallest building in the background
In Dubai we went up 124 floors in the world’s tallest building (824 meters), in the world’s fastest elevator, and visited the world’s largest shopping mall, and this isn’t even New Zealand! Our last morning was spent enjoying a 4-wheel drive safari in the desert on the sand dunes.
Chay, Jamie, & Katie in the sand dunes
We got stuck in the sand, buried up to the axles, and had to be towed out. There’s a lot of sand in the deserts of Oman and Dubai! Dubai is a very modern, new city.
Desert of Oman with an Oryx
Most of the workers are from outside of the country – India, Sri Lanka, and Philippines.
Peacock in Dubai
We arrived in Cairo, Egypt Saturday April 16. Cairo is a city of 18 million people and although the climate feels a lot like Las Vegas it is not nearly as green. Our first errand was a trip to the largest mall in Egypt so that we could get our phone and computer modem set up to work here in Egypt. Many of the buildings here either look unfinished, are unfinished, or are abandoned – much of the city has the appearance of having just been bombed.
Our guide in Egypt, Sharif, was with us for the entire trip. He is a young (23 yr old), energetic, Egyptologist, who really enjoys what he does. The travel agency we used was Wedjat tours – they were excellent. Their website is www.wedjatours.com
Pyramids, sphinxes, temples, and tombs….you can’t help but feel that Egypt is ancient. Our tour started in Memphis, the first capital of Egypt. Here the giant stature of Ramses II is displayed – Ramses II trademark is “huge”; everything he made is big. Next stop the nine Pyramids of Giza – they are impressive!
The Great Pyramids of Giza
Katie, Jamie, & Chay "dwarfed" on the pyramid
The Sphinx was smaller than we expected, but still amazing.
Katie & the Sphinx
After visiting these architectural wonders, we visited the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo, which sits on the square where the January 25, 2011 revolution occurred that created the “New Egypt”, and is right next door to one of the government buildings burned out by the protesters. The museum artifacts numbered in the 100’s of thousands, and included the Tutankhamen collection. After the museum we visited Coptic Cairo (Christian) and the hanging church where the Christians built their church on top of a buried Roman tower which is now uncovered and can be seen through a glass floor in the church. This area is also the site of the Jewish synagogue located where Moses was taken from the Nile and is also the location of the homes of a few remaining Jews; most of the Jews left Egypt for Israel when Israel became a country in 1948. The crypt of the Holy Family, where they hid when they were in Egypt escaping Herod’s edict to kill all males under the age of two, is located in this area as well.
The Crypt of the Holy Family
Sight where baby Moses was found in the basket in the Nile River
No tour of Cairo is complete without visiting the souk, or market. We enjoyed “window shopping” and Chay bartered for a new suitcase, sunglasses, and a watch .
Our next stop was Aswan for the beginning of our River Nile Cruise aboard the Princess Sara. But as things seem to go for the McWilliam clan, we had to stay an extra night in the hotel in Cairo and fly there instead of taking the overnight sleeper train. The train was cancelled due to unrest/strikes in Qena, a city between Cairo and Aswan. Once onboard the Sara we were met by Mohamed, our guide for our tour of Aswan antiquities; Sharif had to take an 18 hour bus/van/car trip to get to Aswan because of the train stoppage so did not arrive until that evening. In Aswan we saw the unfinished obelisk in the ancient granite quarry of the pharaohs & the rich, and visited the Philae Temple. We had to take a small boat across Lake Nasser to get to this Temple.
Philoe Temple - Aswan, Egypt
This temple was unique in that it was moved from one island to the island where it is now situated because of flooding when the High Dam was completed and created Lake Nasser. The next morning the Princess Sara set sail for Luxor with a few stops to visit more temples along the way – it was amazing to cruise down the Nile.
The scenery was a contrast of fertile farms near the river which was surrounded by barren deserts as far as the eye could see! You could feel the history in the air. In Luxor we visited the Valley of the Kings and went into 3 of the tombs, the Luxor Temple (at sunset which allowed us to experience the temple in daylight as well as at night), and Karnak, Egypt’s largest temple. The hieroglyphics carved in all the temples and tombs were amazing, and by the end of the trip we were able to interpret some of them ourselves.
Luxor at night
Jamie, Chay, & Katie on the Road of the Sphinx's connecting Luxor to Karnak
Once again the trains were still not running, so we opted to take a van back to Cairo – this allowed us to beat into the wind up the Red Sea at over 80mph for five hours! Much faster then we would have been able to make in Esprit. We could see Mt. Sinai in the distance on the Sinai Peninsula and observed all the development taking place on the Egyptian shores of the Red Sea.
Once back in Cairo we visited the Red Pyramid and the second oldest pyramid, the Bent Pyramid, which was actually not a true pyramid. Because of cracking noted during construction in the base, they had to modify, or bend, the pyramid to minimize the stress loads so they could complete the structure. Pharaoh Snefru didn’t like the look of it so built himself another completely new Pyramid. That was a steep learning curve for that engineer!
We then visited the Pharaonic Village – a “hokey” tourist site which gives a quick look at what life was like during Pharaonic times. The highlights of the Village were the museums of mummification and Anwar Sadat. Our final day was spent in Alexandria, on the Mediterranean Sea, where we visited the Catacombs and a Greco-Roman theater before enjoying a seafood lunch – Alexandria is famous for its seafood and is a beautiful European style city.
Chay, Katie, & Jamie at the Bent Pyramid
Jamie, Chay & Katie in Alexandria with Mediterranean Sea in the background
In Alexandria, and back at our hotel in Cairo, we got to experience the locals celebrating their Spring festival which just happens to coincide with our Easter – the families were out in hoards enjoying their picnics and pool time. Some of them just rent rooms for the day. They even color eggs to enjoy with their traditional meal of salted fish, green onions, and bread.
Unfortunately, Egyptians, like in many of the countries we visited in the past year, have not learned how to manage their trash, so much of the “roadside” in the populated areas is strewn with trash.
We are now in Marmaris, Turkey having made a 48 hour passage via Dubai (where we had a 14 hour layover, so spent the night in the Dubai International airport hotel where we rented the room by the hour – not what it sounds like!), then on to Istanbul, followed by a through the night twelve hour bus ride to Marmaris where we picked up Esprit. During one of the bus rest stops, Chay missed the bus and had to run after it! Fortunately he caught it, because Jamie & Katie were sound asleep on the bus! Turkey is a beautiful country.
Jamie & Katie by the bus we took from Istanbul to Marmaris
The ship arrived earlier than expected so unfortunately we had to cancel our plans to tour Istanbul and had to get to Marmaris, Turkey pronto. The ship arrived on the 29th in the morning, and we were the last boat off loaded that day at 6:00 PM during a big thunder & lightening storm. The boat unloaded before us, SlapDash, got hit by lighting after anchoring and lost all their instruments! By the time we got the boat docked in Netsel Marina and back to our hotel room, we were drenched!
Esprit on board the BBC Everest upon arrival in Marmaris
Esprit being lifted off the transport ship and back into the water during a thunder storm!
We took a berth in Netsel Marina, the marina right next to where the transport ship was berthed. The marina is nestled in a bay completely surrounded by high green hills except for a small passage to the Med. – a very pretty setting. We have decided to leave Esprit here instead of moving to Finike Marina (about 140 miles east by sea from here), and are preparing now to return home to Boulder City. The city of Marmaris is a quaint European style city but with lots of tourist and marine stores – even a West Marine! We had a wonderful visit with our Belgian friends Bart & Dorothy on Bauvier (which is berthed in the same marina we are), whom we cruised with in 2008, and have not seen since then.
Katie, Chay, Bill (Bebe), Bart (Bauvier), Judi (Bebe) & Dorothy (Bauvier) having Mother's Day Lunch
And we can't forget to mention that Jamie turned 14 on May 1st! Time sure flies by....