Thursday, February 3, 2011

So Long Ceylon

Hope everyone knows that Sri Lanka is the current name for old Ceylon. I am writing this as we prepare to leave the dock in Galle Harbour; next destination Cochin, India. This should be an upwind sail of about 400 NM, maybe more depending on how much tacking is required. There is also an adverse current to be expected so this passage might take a couple of days longer than would be normal for this distance. This is not in the known pirate area; do not worry if we do not update the blog until after our arrival in Cochin.

Now; everyone stop and take a deep breath. Bill's correction to the recent posting sent a wave of distress and worry to our family and friends. We received several panicked emails inquiring about our safety. We are, and always were, perfectly fine. It was just a misunderstanding due to some miscommunication. Someone (who shall remain unnamed) told me that it was the Harbour Master who insisted on bribes in order to allow our sail out of the port for repair and then again for it to be delivered back into the port. That was not true. Bribes were required, but to the Customs guy not the Harbour Master. This is the same Customs guy who was on our boat when we cleared in and declared, "I will take that bottle of rum." And, "I will take that bottle of wine." And so on. He was on a personal shopping trip as he cleared in the 7 yachts that arrived that day. This guy needs to be fired. 

At the time I wrote that blog posting we had not yet met the Harbour Master. Bill met him later and gave him one of our boat cards - why Bill felt the need to give our boat card to a local official I do not know. Bill knows I am not shy about writing about negative experiences in the places we visit, so I was surprised to learn he had given out one of the cards showing our blog website address to a local official. That is the only reason that the man looked at our website and discovered that I had misidentified him as one of the bribe takers in this port. That is absolutely not true. The Harbour Master is an honest man. It must be very difficult for him to perform his job properly in this port where so many of the other officials are not honest men.
When Bill returned to the port last Thursday 4 security men came to the boat and drove him to an office within the port. They called the Harbour Master and he soon arrived. A confrontation ensued and Bill explained that I had written the wrong identity and offered to remove the posting from our website. The Harbour Master did not want the posting removed and said he was going to the police station and press formal charges against Bill. It was a tense situation for Bill. Eventually Bill was allowed to return to our boat and he wrote the correction to the website. He also wrote a formal letter of apology to the Harbour Master.

Compounded into this situation, we had contacted the US Embassy when we first arrived in Sri Lanka. We try to keep the State Dept updated as we move from country to country around this globe; all traveling US citizens should do likewise; you never know when it might be important for the State Dept to facilitate evacuation (such as happened in Egypt this week and after Hurricane Ivan in Grenada a few years ago) . They responded stating the Embassy would assist us with an attorney should we encounter any problems while in Sri Lanka. The Embassy was surprised to learn that so many American boats are visiting Sri Lanka at this time. They track US citizens who arrive in Sri Lanka at the airport, but were not aware of the seasonal influx of American yachts that pass through Galle. It just so happened that on the same day that the Harbour Master read our blog incorrectly identifying him as one of the bribe-solicitors the State Department called him to set a meeting. The meeting had nothing to do with bribery; it was about American yachts visiting this port. But I am sure he was worried that there might be a connection. After this "problem" was cleared up, Bill phoned the Embassy and spoke with the Deputy Consular Official involved and was reassured that there was no connection.

While all this was going on I was at the Galle Literary Festival with friends and was in phone contact with Bill several times. They had contacted their Sri Lankan attorney in Colombo and I already knew we were not in any legal trouble. In fact, if the matter escalated we had legal recourse due to harassment. But we wanted to keep this on a handshake level and not involve attorneys. That afternoon both Bill and I went to the Harbour Master's office and verbally apologized for misidentifying him on our blog. I was chastised and told not to post anything on our blog without first having Bill read and approve it because he is the master of our boat. I bit my tongue. Yeah, okay. You bet that is going to happen. Guess men in Sri Lanka are not familiar with 50/50 ownership of a boat by husband and wife. And the officials here would never understand that I am also a licensed captain. Women just don't do things like that in this part of the world.

Other than this one little glitch, we thoroughly enjoyed Sri Lanka. The people are full of humor and always quick with a smile. Twice we were invited to peoples' homes (but declined each time because we are not comfortable doing that). The people go out of their way to help you in any way needed. We would return here, but not on a yacht.

Oh, and now that we are out of Sri Lanka I will go back and change that blog posting when we get internet access.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, poor Bill, and the Harbour Master! Didn't you know you should always check with your husband before doing anything?! =) Glad it all worked out.


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