Thursday, October 7, 2010

Our Seven Seas

Where does the expression "The Seven Seas" come from?

The old Clipper Ship tea route from China to England was the longest trade route under sail; and included the Sulu Sea, Java Sea, Flores Sea, Banda Sea, Timor Sea, Celebes Sea, and the South China Sea.

After leaving New Zealand in early May 2009, we crossed only four of "the" Seven Seas, but we've now sailed our own seven: the Coral Sea, Arafura Sea, Timor Sea, Flores Sea, Java Sea, South China Sea and are now in the Adaman Sea.   

(Thanks to Nancy on S/V Halekai for pointing this out!)

We had sailed roughly 7300 nautical miles between May and October 2009.  Then we sat in Singapore area for 10 months before sailing up to the bottom of the Andaman Sea, which we will cross in January 2011.  We are eager to move northward in the Andaman Sea and see the beautiful Thai islands.

Unfortunately, bureaucracy prevents us from visiting the remote Andaman Islands.  The Andaman Islands and Nicobar Islands belong to India.  It is possible to obtain a visa to visit the Andamans, but visitors are barred from the Nicobars.  India is trying to preserve that tribal culture.  People on the Nicobars live as they did thousands of years ago and every effort possible is being made not to expose these folks to the 21st century!   It would, however, be logistically possible for us to visit the Andaman Islands, just a hundred miles or so out of our way on the route between Phuket and Sri Lanka.

However, India has a somewhat strange rule.  As US citizens we can obtain a long-term visa for visiting India (including Andaman Islands); but there is a rule that one must wait 2 months between entries into India.  There is no way for us to follow that 2 month exclusionary rule because we need to be well northward into the Red Sea in 6 weeks after departing Phuket.  Our route and time is dictated by seasonal weather.  Would have loved to visit this unique place, but it is not to be.

It is possible for cruisers to visit the Andaman Islands as long as they do not also stop in mainland India.  The other options are to stop in Sri Lanka and/or in The Maldives.  Due to increased Somali pirate activity extending so far off out, we will not be going to The Maldives.  That would place us too far south to avoid known piracy areas today.  And we do not want to stop in Sri Lanka because we have read too many negative reports from others who have stopped in swell-plagued Galle harbor and suffered boat damage.  Instead, we will be going to Cochin, India.  That decision prevents us from also visiting the Andaman Islands because of that silly rule of waiting 2 months between visits to India.  We will sail within a few miles south of Sri Lanka before heading northwards to Cochin on the western coast of India.  This will place us farther north and at a better departure point to head across the Arabian Sea to the Red Sea in the monsoonal northeast winds in January.

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