Thursday, February 24, 2011


We cannot allow a bunch of thugs to take an entire ocean away from the world. Ignoring this will be disrespecting the deaths of the crew of Quest...we will NEVER FORGET QUEST.  We call on the Congress and the Administration to take action which will rid the world this problem.

We are working to create copyrighted items such as the Burgee above which will be distributed by interested organizations.  These interested organizations will receive 100% of the revenue with no licensing fee back to us.  The organizations must agree to use 100% of the gross margin from sales of the licensed items to fund lobbing efforts and other efforts which will may lead to a change in how various governments treat pirates and piracy, with the ultimate goal always being the elimination of piracy.  As soon as we have our first license agreement we will post it here and on the Facebook page for QUEST NEVER FORGET (
We are cruisers and do not have a real office nor do we have support.  We are looking for a land-based volunteer to head up the effort of getting various organizations on board...please email us at if you feel you can help in any way. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Devastated by the senseless murder of crew of S/Y Quest!!

As everyone probably already knows from news flashes, owners Scott and Jean Adam and their crew, Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle, were murdered today aboard captured S/Y Quest by the Somali pirates.

Per Associated Press news article:  "Vice Adm. Mark Fox, commander of U.S. naval forces for the Central Command, said in a televised briefing that the violence on Tuesday started when a rocket-propelled grenade was fired from the yacht at the USS Sterett, a guided-missile destroyer which was 600 yards away. The RPG missed and almost immediately afterward small arms fire was heard coming from the yacht, Fox said............Negotiations had been under way to try to win the release of the two couples on the pirated vessel Quest when the gunfire was heard, the U.S. military said. "

So, the pirates fired a RPG toward the guided-missil destroyer and then immediately shot and killed the 4 hostages.

We had so hoped the US Navy would be able to rescue them, but our hopes were failing as Quest got closer and closer to Somalia.  This might sound cold-hearted, but we figured that the Navy would act even if the perfect opportunity to save all 4 hostages did not present itself.  They could not let that yacht reach Somalia and let the 4 Americans be taken ashore.  Who knows what horrors would have awaited the hostages there or for how long.

The 13 pirates captured alive deserve the death penalty!!!!  They do not deserve to live out their lives in a comfortable US prison.  Frankly, I wonder why they were taken alive in the first place.

We are torn as to whether we should notify others we know who are now sailing across the Indian Ocean about what has happened.  We feel they should know.  But, on the other hand, there is nothing they can do except continue sailing forward or turn around and return.  Either way, they will all be in danger of pirates.  Would knowing simply cause additional stress to them in an already extremely stressful situation.   The pirates are now striking within 300 miles off the coast of India, and all the boats we know our there are well past that point; so they are all well into pirate waters.  "Damned if you do and damned if you don't" situation for them now.  We pray that no more yachts are captured.  We also pray that someone or some government or some group of governments finds a way to stop this piracy.  The Somalis cannot be allowed to plunder the entire northern Indian Ocean and deny peaceful passage of commercial and private vessels.

Our deepest sympathies and condolences to the family and friends of Scott Adam, Jean Adam, Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle.  They did nothing to deserve such deaths. 

And people like visiting here?

I have been checking out various requirements and restrictions for entering the Maldives -- prepping for our arrival there around the first week of March.  The following is posted on under Customs regulations for the Maldives:

'Prohibited imports are:- pornographic material; materials deemed contrary to Islam, including "idols for worship" and bibles; pork and pork products; and alcohol.'

And under health:

'Dengue fever is endemic.
Vaccinations for Hepatitis A and B, Tetanus, Typhoid and a booster for polio are recommended.
Yellow fever certificates are required if arriving from an infected area.'

As for the first restriction, we don't have a Bible onboard so that won't be a problem.  Actually wish we did have both a Bible and a Koran onboard as I would like to study both.   And we are doing our best to consume all the frozen pork before arriving in Male.   Alcohol might be a problem, but surely that can be bonded as I don't want to throw out our limited selection of wine.  Trying to consume much of that prior to arrival as well, and thoroughly enjoying doing so.

Which brings us to the "idols for worship."  I'm thinking they mean things like crucifixes and rosaries, or even just plain crosses.  That's okay; we are not carrying any of those either.  However, I do have a little tabletop God of Peace statue carved from wood from the Kingdom of Tonga.   This little statue was a gift from a grandmother in exchange for the cartons of UHT milk I gave for her grandchildren when we were in Vava'U.   Surely the Muslims won't get upset over a little South Polynesian carved statue.  I will leave it on the table in full view when we clear in and hope it does cause any ire.  I find this all so very silly.

And how do you like those health warnings!  We have the standard yellow International Health Card which reflects all our immunizations -- with all boosters up to date.   These warnings make Maldives sound like a place that should be avoided, rather than the ultra-expensive resort area that it is supposed to be today.  Why would anyone, no matter how rich they are, want to spend thousands of dollars per night for a hotel room in an area that is so unhealthy?  I must be missing something about the desirability of travel to this country.

To clear into the Maldives will cost $680 USD.  The breakdown is:   $400 for a 30-day cruising permit, $200 agent fee, $60 for a boat to come out and meet us before entering the channel (mandatory) and $20 port fee.  If a yacht takes on additional crew members or discharges any crew in the Maldives, that costs an additional $20 per person.   If the transport ship is delayed and we end up having to stay in the Maldives 31 days instead of 30, then we must purchase another $400 cruising permit.  And, yes, the cruising permit is mandatory even though we will be sitting at anchor in one place during our entire stay in the Maldives.  One of the boats being transported even offered to stay on his boat the entire time, flying the Quarantine flag, if they would exempt him from the cruising permit.  Nope; it is $400 for each 30 day period just for having your boat in Maldives waters.

NOTE:  Each yacht must also have a de-ratting certificate.  Or pay a fee to obtain one after arrival.  I can only imagine what that would entail.  Thank goodness, we already have such a certificate.

Others we know in the Maldives now have told us that going ashore to the resorts normally costs $50 per person per day just to land your dinghy.  One resort wanted $200 per person per day just for the privilege of stepping on their land.  And one resort uses midnight as the dividing time between days -- so if you anchor overnight for 1 night only, you still must pay for 2 days.

Does any of this sound inviting?  Not in my book.  We would not be going there if the transport ship did not require us to do so.

The Maldives are supposed to be beautiful.  And obviously this country is actively discouraging cruising yachts from visiting.

BTW, the shipping contract is signed and submitted and the invoice is paid.  Still waiting to learn the name of the ship that will be transporting S/V BeBe to the Med next month.

Pirates and the South Africa Route

Many folks have asked us to show our charting of Pirates near the South Africa Route.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Wobbling heads

There is a way of bobbling or wobbling one's head that is unique to India.  Bill noticed this head bobble a little bit in Sri Lanka.  I was not so observant and never saw any bobbling heads.  Once we arrived in India, Bill noticed that this oddity is very prevalent here.  At first, I did not notice it here either.  But once Bill pointed it out, I see that this is done constantly by almost every local, both male and female.  Exactly what does this mean?

Our observations after a few days seemed to indicate that this head bobble might mean yes -- or, it might mean no -- or, it might mean "I don't know" -- or, it might mean "I agree with you"  -- or, it might mean something altogether totally different.

I especially noticed when a few of us were talking with a very nice, hard-working local young man who does boat work here in the marina.  His head tilted side-to-side slowly when it was obvious by what he was saying that he agreed with something in the conversation.  But it also tilted side-to-side rapidly when he obviously disagreed with something or when he strongly agreed.  We were discussing Somali pirates and he explained to us why the Somali pirates are good men.  According to what he has been told, the pirates used to be fishermen but now their government refuses to let them fish anymore.  So they have turned to capturing big ships and holding them for ransom in order to make a living.  (This is so far from the truth that it is absurd, but there was no point in us trying to change his mind.  We did ask why their government supposedly refuses them permission to fish now and he had no answer.)

If you have good internet access, here is a link that explains this odd custom of head movement:

And a few more explanations:

And for further entertainment:

Another thing that I have found somewhat amusing, but to which I have now become accustomed, is being addressed as "ma'am."  Yes, just like we taught our kids to say "yes, ma'am" and "no, ma'am."  Everyone refers to me or addresses me as "ma'am" unless they know my name.  Even some people who know my name still continue to call me "ma'am."  And I have heard even young teenage Caucasian girls addressed as "ma'am" so it is not an age thing.  "Would ma'am like something to drink?  Will ma'am come this way, please?  I have good things for ma'am."  It just amuses me.

All I can think is that this custom is a throw-back to servitude during the British colonial period.  Maybe the servants were instructed to address all white people as "ma'am" or "sir" and over time this became the norm. 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Fort Kochi & the Chinese fishing nets

One day this past week Linda & Michael on S/V B'Sheret joined us for a day excursion to Fort Kochi.  We wanted to see the Chinese fishing nets.  And to visit the recommended Seagull Hotel restaurant for lunch.  Time to get off the boat and wander around for a few hours.

Fort Kochi is the "happening" area of Cochin.  Especially for tourists.  And Cochin does get its fair share of tourists, both international and domestic.   Millions of people in the interior and mountainous areas of India have never even seen the ocean.  And Cochin is a popular place for them to visit.  International tourists to this area come mainly from Europe.   I don't want to give a blow-by-blow, century-by-century description of the history of Fort Kochi, but here is a very brief synopsis.

Since 3000 B.C.  this area has been important for trade.  First came Mesopotamians, the Greeks and Romans and established spice trading.  Then the Arabians who brought the many spices up to Europe.  Many centuries later they were followed by the Portuguese, then the Dutch, and finally the British.  This area is also referred to as the Malabar Coast and is one of the wettest areas of India.  Fortunately for us, all this rain falls during a 3 month period annually during the strong SW monsoon.  Then it is dry for the rest of the year.  We are here during the NE monsoon and have been told that it will not rain a drop during our visit.  That has been true thus far.

Written documents reflect that by around 600 A.D. there was a large community of people of various religions living peacefully in this area -- Hindus, Christians, Muslims and a Jewish minority.  There is a Jewish synagogue built near Fort Kochi that still stands today.  I do not know the year of construction, but it looks pretty darn old.  In 1341, the natural harbor of Kochi was created by a flood which also destroyed the harbor of the town Kodungallur. Kochi developed into one of the most important harbors on the west coast of India and concentrated on the spice trade with China and the Middle East.  The 1500s found Portuguese ships landing at Kochi.  Explorers Vasco da Gama and Pedro Alvarez Cabral visited.   Vasco da Gama was once buried here at St. Francis Church Fort Kochi.  His remains were returned to Portugal in 1539. The body of Vasco da Gama was re-interred in Vidigueira, Portugal in a casket decorated with gold and jewels. 

The Majaraja of Kochi felt threatened by King Zamorin of Calicut (Calcutta) and thought that the Portuguese would help defend him, so he opened the port to the Portuguese and they established their first trading center in Kochi.  Guess he put a bit too much trust in the Portuguese because they soon took over.  The Majaraja lost most of his power and Kochi became the first European colony in India.

The Portuguese wanted everyone to convert to Catholicism.  They pressured the small Jewish community and the Syrian Christians, who had lived here for hundreds of years.  The Portuguese tried to merge the Syrian Christian Church with the Roman Catholic Church which consisted of people converted by the Portuguese. This created conflicts with the caste system, because the Syrian Christians believed that they belonged to a higher caste than the converted Catholics who consisted mainly of poor fishermen from the coast.  Hard times for all of them.

The Dutch came to Kochi at the invitation of a deposed prince of the Cochin Royal Family and the hereditary Prime Minister of Cochin with the active and open support of the local Syrian Christians.  The Dutch conquered Kochi in 1653. The town now belonged to the worldwide trading network of the Netherlands East India Company.The Dutch also destroyed many Catholic institutions in Kochi (later called Cochin).  The Dutch also established themselves in Sri Lanka, as well as all throughout Indonesia where spices were also grown.  The Netherlands East India Company had the spice trade locked up for a long time.

Around 1790 the British arrived with their ever-expanding policy of world-wide colonization .  In 1814, Kochi became a part of the Madras Presidency and became a part of the British colonial empire. The British shaped the country until the 20th century,  As the clearance process for yachts can attest to this day, the British taught the Indians well when it came to bureaucracy and needless paperwork.

In 1947 India finally gained independence.  In 1956 the first free elections were held and the Communist Party formed the first government of Kerala (the state in which Cochin is located), the first freely elected communist government in the world.  Today India is a parliamentary democracy.

One of the main tourist attractions at Fort Kochi is the area of Chinese fishing nets.  Why these are called Chinese, I have no clue.  We did not see anything like this in China.

These are nets suspended from bent tree trunks.   There are large rocks tied with hanging ropes on the land side of these structures that are used to pull up the tree trunks & nets.  To submerge the nets, a man walks out to the far end of one of the tree trunks.  It is all a balancing art.  I must assume that weight is removed on the land side while the man is standing out near the center of the net structure; otherwise, it would seem to me that the net would rise again as the man walks back to land, which it obviously does not.

The nets are allowed to remain submerged for a  brief time -- maybe 5 minutes or so.  Then a group of men pull on the hanging ropes laced with large rocks and raise the nets out of the water.

Next a couple of the men go back out on the platform near the tree trunks and start shaking the net.  They do not go as far out as the man who walked out to cause the nets to submerge; they remain closer in and cause no effect on the balancing of the structure.

As they shake the large net, any fish fall toward an off-center "pocket" where a smaller net is attached.  The men still on land pull the ropes & rocks a bit more, causing the net to rise higher.  This allows the man or men out on the tree trunks to reach the smaller net where the fish have been accumulated.  There is some kind of drawstring type opening in the smaller net that allows the fish to be poured out.  These are collected and brought to containers ashore, where they are sold to waiting customers.

These photos should make the process fairly clear.

The only fish we saw being caught were very small.  We wouldn't bother with anything that small, but both in Sri Lanka and here in Cochin the locals like to eat these tiny fish.  Cannot imagine why.  Give me a nice thick fish fillet any time, no bones please, instead of these tiny fish.

Michael walked farther down the row of Chinese fishing nets -- there are at least a dozen along this part of the shore; and many more elsewhere around Cochin.  Michael said the men farther down had caught larger fish.  He saw decent sized snapper and large prawns for sale.  And those were actually being kept on ice -- a practice we have not seen anywhere else here.  Usually fish are just laying on plain wood and are not refrigerated; sold on the side of the street.  As you can guess, this is yet another place where we are not buying seafood.   

Hardly seems worth the effort, although there is little effort involved.  This is the simplest method of fishing imaginable. 

The 4 of us got a tiny surprise when we entered the restaurant at the Seagull Hotel.  There are at least 2 entrances to get into the restaurant.  We chose the first one we came to on the street and followed the signs.  I noticed a "Family" sign that diverted to the right, but did not snap as to what that sign meant.  We followed the sign straight ahead of us that said "Restaurant."  When we entered through the low doorway, it was immediately obvious to me that we had chosen wrong.   The entire place was filled with men -- no women present.  They looked at us and got a little loud and we could see anger in some of their eyes.  Oh crap!  We screwed up.  I knew what was going on here because my brother and sister-in-law had lived in Saudi Arabia for years and had explained this custom.  We had walked into a restaurant for men only -- a normal Muslim custom.  That "Family" sign back up the walkway a bit was where we needed to go.  Linda was confused by all this because she and Michael had never heard of segregated male/female dining.  Bill and I knew about it but had never run into this before.  We all quickly backtracked and soon were seated in the comfortable family section and enjoyed a delicious lunch.

For people not familiar with this custom, it is normal in stricter Muslim societies for women to be barred from entering restaurants unless the restaurant offers a separate "family" section.  This includes McDonald's or KFC or any type eating establishment.  We had not encountered this custom in either Indonesia or Malaysia or even Sri Lanka.  The percentage of Muslim population here in the Cochin area is far, far less than in Indonesia or Malaysia; but here in Cochin they follow this male/female separation idea more commonly.  After our mistake, when we later walked around town we noticed more signs segregating the regular "restaurant" from the "family" area.  We assume that if a group of women are dining that they would be allowed to enter the "family" area -- even though not accompanied by any males.  But we have not yet seen than happen.

Cochin doings

Hard to believe that we have been in Cochin for 17 days.  Time has seemed to fly.  And we have done just about nothing.  One nice dinner out with a large group of friends; one lunch with friends; invited friends for dinner on our boat a few times; had dinner with other friends on their boat once.  Sounds like all we do is eat, doesn't it?  We did spend one day walking around Fort Kochi and I will write a separate blog for that excursion.

So here are a few observations about India and some photos. 

India assaults the senses.  This is true in every meaning of that statement.  Everything is too much.  The crowds walking in the streets are too much.  The vehicle traffic is too much.  The smells are too much.  The closeness of the buildings and narrowness of the streets are too much.  The spiciness level of the foods is too much (most of the time).  And the filth is way too much.  One feels as if all senses are assaulted at once.  I don't mean this as a negative statement.  It simply is the way it is.

And, for the most part, we enjoy it very much.   

Could do without the filth, but the rest of those things mentioned above add to the total experience and make India be India.

It is over-populated and the people are pushy.  Personal space does not exist.  At the grocery store yesterday I had all our purchases already on the counter and the cashier was ringing them up when a man pushed his way around me and thrust his items under the cashier's nose and insisted she take care of him before continuing to ring up my stuff.   His intent did not appear to be rude to me, but simply that he wanted to be taken care of NOW.  It is like that when standing in queue to buy a ferry ticket or trying to pay the vegetable man or anywhere one might be buying something.  Everywhere one is brushed aside as a more demanding person gets his way to be taken care of first.  Always the "me first" attitude -- much like we saw in China where queuing or waiting one's turn is not a cultural norm.  If you patiently wait your turn to be served then you will never buy anything here.

The smells are pungent and pervading.  One cannot get away from the smells.  Your olfactory senses adjust, I suppose; because after only a couple of weeks we don't notice smells nearly as much as during our first days here.  Much of the pervading smells are caused by the sidewalk food vendors on almost every street.  They are frying up all kinds of foods everywhere.  We have tried a few of the fried vegetarian samosas which are pretty darn good.  And there is a small strip of pepper that is dipped into an egg batter and deep fried; served with a dollop of spicy sauce -- very tasty.  We cannot understand what the sellers are saying so have no idea what these delicious little treats are called.  Just point and smile and pay.  We have seen many more foods that I would like to try but Bill has such a delicate stomach he refuses most things.   Almost all our time is spent together, and I don't want to stand there eating alone; so I have only enjoyed the samosas and pepper strip things twice when friends have joined us on walks.  My favorite dishes in restaurants thus far are mushroom masala and chicken briyani.  Surprise, surprise.  Same things I enjoyed in the Little India section of Singapore.  But served a lot more spicy here.

Almost daily a family floats past the marina in multiple small round boats.  I guess you would call these boats.  They look like a large round shallow basket that is lined with something white that appears to act as waterproofing.  The grandparents will be in one bowl-boat.  The parents are in another bowl-boat.  Then the kids float or paddle by in 3 more bowl-boats, usually 2 children in each one.  It appears that they float past on the current, fish with very lightweight hand fishing gear and nets for awhile somewhere nearby the marina, then paddle back to their home in the other direction.  They usually wait for the tide change so the current is flowing in the right direction.  Paddling those bowl-boats against the strong current looks very difficult and tricky.  The fish caught and some rice would be their meal of the day.  They are not catching fish to sell but to provide for their family.

Here is a shot of my favorite vegetable vendor.  He does not speak a syllable of English and never smiles, but he has good quality produce at cheap prices.  One day I bought enough green beans for 3 meals, eggplant for 1 meal, carrots for 2 meals, broccoli for 2 meals, several potatoes, 4 red onions (they only sell red onions here, no other kind) and 10 tomatoes.  Total cost was about $2 USD.  Produce is very, very inexpensive here and always very fresh.  Bad side of that is that there is very limited selection of variety of vegetables.  Pretty much just green beans, eggplant (called brinjal here), carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes and okra.  Occasionally we find broccoli or potatoes.  Yesterday we saw cabbage and hard winter squash.  Lettuce is not sold here at all.   Apparently Indians do not ever eat lettuce of any kind.  What's up with that?

There are lots of Muslims in Kerala, the state where Cochin in located.  There are also lots of Hindi and more than a few Christians.  I have seen less than an half-dozen women dressed in the all-black abaya and hijab or whatever that head covering is called.  But it is very common to see a women dressed in a version of the traditional Indian sari (though a modest version) with her head covered in a long black scarf of some sort in the traditional Muslim manner.  Behind the woman in the white sari in this photo there was a group of 8 Muslim women.  Each was dressed in a brightly colored and sequin-trimmed Indian style dress, with the traditional Muslim black headscarf wrapped tightly covering all hair and neck.  We have never seen women dress in this manner before.  Usually it is either all black or the headscarf matches the dress.  But this black headscarf is fairly common in the Cochin area.

Bill loves these old Morris Minor cars.   They are everywhere on the streets of Cochin.  And always white.  Apparently these were manufactured for a long time in India.  I do not know if these are still in production, but kind of doubt it.  These must run forever without a lot of maintenance.   Bill says this is what he wants to buy when we eventually move back to Texas.  But I don't think he is going to find one there.  (ADDED LATER:  According to Wikipedia, the Morris Minor is still being produced in India today, but under a different name.  Bill also checked eBay and found one for sale in Missouri at the moment.  But it is a convertible and I would not want to own another convertible of any kind.)

One day we took a different ferry from Vypin Island to Kochi Island.  This ferry accommodates a few cars and a lot of motorcycles -- while with passengers standing right amongst these vehicles.   Quite safe, I am sure.   I was particularly intrigued by the tiny bright yellow delivery "truck" that rode on the ferry with us.  That was the tiniest "truck" that I have ever seen.  It had 2 wheels in back and 1 in front, like a tricycle, all enclosed to handle deliveries of some product.  Never seen anything like this thing.

While waiting for the ferry to arrive I noticed these 2 men and snapped a photo to illustrate how the men wear their skirts here.  They probably do not call these skirts, but I don't know what else to call this garment.  If the weather is cooler, the men leave the skirt long -- almost to their ankles.  But if they get hot or if they are doing any physical labor that might be hindered by the long skirt, then they can easily shorten it.  They simply reach down and grab the hem with both hands; flip the hem up to their waists and tuck it in.  This leaves  the skirt at a length just above their knees.  They can do this so quickly it looks like a single movement.  Simply release the tucked-in part at the waist and it drops down to the ankles again.  BTW, this is sort of like the Scottish kilt thing -- do they wear anything underneath that skirt?  Here the answer is pretty obvious.  Nope; they do not.  This is readily evidenced when a man just stops on the side of the street and whips it out to pee on the side of a building.  Doesn't happen that often in the crowds, but does get the attention of us westerners because it seems so immodest.  Just normal behavior around here.
Waiting for the ferry in this photo.  Behind the lady in the white sari are Linda & Michael of S/V B'Sheret.  Bill is standing to the right of them.

Yesterday another American yacht departed the Cochin marina en route to Salalah.  We will keep them in our thoughts and prayers.  And will worry about them until they are safely well up the Red Sea.  In fact, I will worry about them until they pop out of the Suez Canal into the Med.  We met Chay, Katie and their son Jaime aboard S/V Espirit in Australia during summer 2009 when our grandson Zachary was visiting us.  Jaime and Zachary fished together in their dinghy, enjoying some time away from all the adults.  We went separate paths and timetables but chanced to meet up again at Christmas 2010 in Phuket.   Here is a photo of Katie and me on one of the passenger ferries here in Cochin recently.  Please send out positive thoughts (or prayers if you are so inclined) for their safe passage through the dangerous waters ahead of them.

Right now there are 5 boats of good friends transiting the pirate infested waters of the Indian Ocean.  Plus we are acquaintances with about 2 dozen other boats out there.  We listen to the SSB net each morning to track their progress, and also receive emailed position reports from our closest friends.   I worry about all of them every waking moment.   I am so glad we have decided to ship S/V BeBe through this danger zone.  We have decided not to do any land/air travel in India.  We had inquired about a tour flying to Delhi and touring Agra to see the Taj Mahal and the Red Forts in that area; then driving to Jaipur to see the Pink City and the big bazaar and Red Forts in that area.  But now our hearts are just not into it.  After learning about S/V Quest being captured by Somali pirates, we have lost all interest in doing any travel here.  Our minds are now focused on getting down to Male to await the transport ship.  We are watching the weather and waiting for a good weather window to sail south to Male.  It should be a 3 day passage.  The transport ship is scheduled to arrive in Male between March 15 - 25.  Once we clear in at Male ($680 USD fees!!!) we will be allowed only 30 days.  Anything longer than 30 days will require an expensive extension fee.  So we hope to depart Cochin around March 1 and arrive Male around March 4.  Hopefully the transport ship will arrive and get us loaded before April 3.  At least, that is today's plan.

As always, you can click on any photo for a larger image.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Somali pirates seize American yacht crew off Oman

 We met these people here in Cochin, India about 2 weeks ago...The following is reported by BBC News:

Four Americans sailing on a yacht off the coast of Oman have been taken hostage by Somali pirates.
The S/V Quest, owned by a retired couple, was hijacked 240 nautical miles (275 miles) off Oman on Friday afternoon.  The yacht was en route from Cochin, India to Salalah, Oman.

While pirates usually attack cargo ships, they have hijacked a number of yachts in recent years.
The S/V Quest had been reported by both its sources and by Nato's anti-piracy operation, Ocean Shield. Nato could not be reached immediately for comment.
Jean and Scott Adam, the yacht's owners, have been sailing it around the world since 2002, according to their website.

The couple wrote on the site that they had taken on two new crew members last year.

Mapping out their sailing plans for this year, they said they planned to sail from Sri Lanka to Crete in the Mediterranean, via the Suez Canal, making stops in India, Oman and Djibouti.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Shipping S/V BeBe to Turkey

Quite a few people have let us know that they applaud our decision to ship S/V BeBe to the Med.  But a few have also questioned this decision.  One person thought it was just too much money when we could sail it ourselves.  This person means well, but is not a sailor and has no conception of the realities of sailing up the Red Sea and the toll it takes on a yacht.  Experienced sailors estimate that wear and tear on a yacht our size sailing up the Red Sea would be approximately $5,000 USD -- sails,rigging, engine and all other things considered.  And he has no conception of the realities of recent pirate activity, which I elaborate below.  The other couple of folks who think we are over-reacting to the piracy and to the problems in Egypt are basing their logic on years past -- not on the current situation either of piracy activity or of what is happening in Egypt.  I think these folks are ill-informed.

While I don't feel we need to justify our decision to ship the boat to anyone, I did want address this idea that the piracy situation is the same as it has been for the past few years.   Oh, no; it most certainly is not.

As mentioned in a previous posting, we have been tracking pirate attacks since sometime in March 2009 when we were in New Zealand.  That was well before we changed our plans and decided to go to the Med rather than to South Africa.  At the time we were concerned about pirate attacks between the Seychelles and Madagascar, but Bill entered all reported attacks into his files.  The information was obtained through the international piracy website.  They have come to know Bill well through his frequent email contact with them.  Later, information also was obtained from MARLO.

Last month there was a NATO statement issued warning all ship traffic (commercial ships and pleasure vessels like us)  to go the South African route.  The NATO statement said that they could not provide safety to any ships continuing on the Red Sea route.  MARLO also issued a statement that basically said:  "DON'T COME."

As the official policy has always been "Don't Come" most of us wondered if this was the same old "Don't Come" or if it was a new "SERIOUSLY.  REALLY DON'T COME!!"  After further analysis of the piracy data, we now believe it to be the latter.

During the same "season" period last year (Oct 2009 to 10 Feb 2010)  there were 7 piracy attacks in the Gulf of Aden.  This "season" for Oct 2010 to 10 Feb 2011 there were 10 piracy attacks in the Gulf of Aden.  That is not much of an increase.  Probably because the attacks have moved farther up into the Red Sea and also much father out into the Indian Ocean.

However, last year between Oct 2009 to 10 Feb 2010 there were 6 piracy attacks in the Northern Indian Ocean (outside the Gulf of Aden).  This year between Oct 2010 and 10 Feb 2011 there were  78 piracy attacks in the Northern Indian Ocean.  I had assumed that the piracy had quadrupled this year, but I was way off.  It has increased thirteen-fold.  The latest information we have received from MARLO is that there currently are 5 cargo ships being used as mother ships by the pirates, and many captured fishing boats also being used as mother ships.  The pirates have blanketed the entire Northern Indian Ocean this season.

Yes, no pleasure yacht has been attacked in 6 years, except 2 south of Somalia who were in areas they had no business being in. ( Kind of stupid to put yourself right off the coast of southern Somalia.)   

The pirates out in the Indian Ocean are the more dangerous ones -- per MARLO -- than the pirates closer in towards shore in the Gulf of Aden.  The pirates go far out to sea without adequate provisions and water.  These are not rational people by our western ideas.  They have grown up knowing nothing but violence and lawlessness.  They chew qat to relieve hunger and thirst.  So you have hungry, thirsty, drugged up pirates farther out from Somalia.  Imagine how they would react if a pleasure yacht happens by after they have had a failed attack on a container ship.  Or if a pleasure yacht happens by when they have reached their physical limits of hunger and thirst.  They know there is plenty of food and water on that pleasure yacht and it would require almost no effort on their part to get it.  

If the piracy activity were the same now as it was last year or the year before, we would have no qualms about sailing through the Northern Indian Ocean.  Frankly, we have never been concerned about the Gulf of Aden.  It is the pirates farther out to sea that have worried us; and now there are just too many of them and they are too organized.  The ones in the Gulf of Aden (a/k/a pirate alley) have their picking of hundreds of cargo ships in a tiny area daily.  They are far less likely to be the slightest bit interested in pleasure yachts.

There are 2 other problems this year that have not been present in years past.  One is Al Queda.  There is now a very strong Al Queda presence in Yemen in the area west of Al Mukala, Yemen.  There is strong anti-USA sentiment among the villagers because of perceived USA drone activity in the region.  Supposedly (according to the Yemeni newspapers) the CIA has been quietly helping the Yemeni government rid the area of Al Queda camps during the past year.  Whether that is true or not, who knows.  But truth does not change the feelings of those on the ground in the area being affected.  Al Queda would like to kill any Americans; and some of the local villagers are pissed off with America and likely not to be so welcoming either.  There are nice welcoming Yemenis; there are also many who would like nothing better than for all Americans to die.

The other problem are the human traffickers.  More than 70,000 people were smuggled from Somalia up into Yemen during 2010.  Would not be pleasant to cross paths with them either.

I won't even go into the problems in Egypt.  The US news media is playing this up as being all about democracy.  We think it is all about jobs and money.  So Mubarak has stepped down.  The military is in control.  For how long?  And who will be in control next?  We prefer to give Egypt a very wide berth at this stage of their political and social change.

We regret that we won't be able to sail parts of the Red Sea -- we have heard some of it is unequaled anywhere.  But we are very happy with our decision to ship the boat to Turkey.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Update on plans to ship BeBe to the Med

It is looking as if the shipping idea might actually happen.  But from Male instead of from Cochin.

Bill announced on the morning SSB net for Indian Ocean cruisers that we were researching transporting our yacht to Turkey via SevenStar Yacht Transport.  He also posted that info on  That fueled interest by some of the boats that are anchored in Uligan (or Uligama, depending on your chart) in the northernmost tip of the Maldives.  At least 1 of those boats immediately wrote a contract to be picked up in Male by SevenStar.  This will be an unscheduled stop for this route.  

The ship originally was supposed to sail from Hong Kong to Genoa, with scheduled stops in Singapore and Marmaris.   We were dealing with an agent who said there were 2 yachts in Sri Lanka that had expressed interest but had not yet written a contract to be picked up by this ship, so there was a possibility of an unscheduled stop in Sri Lanka.  The agent thought that if there were enough confirmed yachts for transport in Cochin that he could arrange another unscheduled stop in Cochin.  If not, we could sail back to Sri Lanka and be loaded there.  Sailing in that direction should have been easier than our passage up here because the seas would be moving in a better direction.  We would have preferred to be loaded in Cochin, but Sri Lanka would be okay too.

After Bill made the announcement of what we were contemplating, that unscheduled stop by the transport ship was relocated from Sri Lanka or Cochin to Male.  Makes perfect sense.  The port fees for the transport ship will be less in Male and that ship certainly is not going to stop more than once in this general area.  Boats in Sri Lanka or Cochin can sail to Male; and boats in Uligan can sail to Male.  None of those passages are a great distance.  It is less than 400 NM from Cochin to Male, a couple of nights at sea and likely an easy downwind sail.

The transport ship should arrive in Male between 15 March and 25 March.  We probably will hang around India until around 1 March, maybe do a bit of land travel.   Although I must say that neither one of us is the slightest bit interested in visiting the Taj Mahal.  But maybe a drive into the mountains might be nice for a change of pace.

Everything is set for the transport ship.  We have agreed on the cost quoted and are just awaiting the formal paperwork and wire transfer instructions.  Hopefully this will  happen.  The ongoing problems in Egypt don't look as if that will be settled quickly, and that was our biggest worry.

Now we need to research the Maldives.  We never planned to go there and know little about the place except that it costs about $600 USD to clear into Male and that they let you stay 30 days, which can be extended for some period of time with an additional per diem fee.  Supposed to be beautiful atolls and islands.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A few photos

We finally have working internet again -- after three 3-G modems and 3 different provider companies.  Cochin has had difficulty providing quality service to all locations.  The marina is located on Bolghatty Island and service is sketchy out here.  Thanks to Bill & Amy on S/V ESTRELLITA we finally found the right provider and now have fast internet again.  So I will take this opportunity to upload a few not-so-great photos.  Our old Canon A95 camera finally died and we are now forced to use the Land & Sea Sealife camera, which might be good for deep diving underwater photos but kind of sucks for regular land use.  The quality of the photos is barely adequate but this is not the place to be shopping for a new camera.

The day we departed Sri Lanka the Navy guy who handled our inbound clearance dropped by and gave us a pretty photo of women carrying pots of drinking water on their heads -- a traditional Sri Lankan activity.  Lalith turned out to be a great guy to know on friendly terms.  He is the one who managed to get our boat docked on the concrete wharf with electrical shore power.   We took a photo of Bill standing with Lalith and our agent, Nana of Don Windsor Navigation Reef.  
Catching up on Facebook

Then we promptly sailed away from Sri Lanka.

When boats arrive in Cochin they are directed to anchor in front of the Malabar Hotel -- over to the right side only, please.   After completing clearance processing, boats are then allowed to move to the Bolghatty Anchorage or to the new Bolghatty House Marina.  Yachts are not allowed anywhere else in this busy commercial port.  The Malabar Hotel is on the point on the left; a very old church is next door; and on the right is the Taj resort Vivante Hotel.  This spit of land is bordered by 2 rivers on either side and it is all quite shallow.   

Looking back toward the entrance channel one sees the northern tip of land where Fort Kochi is located.  We hope to visit this trendy touristy place later this week.

Directly across the main shipping channel from the Malabar Hotel is the new port terminal area.  The Prime Minister of India is in Cochin today and tomorrow to dedicate the opening of this new container terminal.  Cochin has plans to take a lot of the commercial shipping away from the port of Colombo at Sri Lanka.

Weeds float down the rivers during descending tidal flow; then float back up the rivers during ascending tides.  White birds that look like some sort of crane sit atop the floating weeds and go zooming by in the strong currents.  Wish I had a video camera to show this strange sight.  The large city of Cochin is barely visible through the haze in the background in this photo.

Moving from the clearance arrival point in front of the Malabar Hotel to the Bolghatty Anchorage or the Bolghatty House Marina requires high tide.  The channel to the anchorage and marina is extremely shallow.  We moved during a .9 meter high tide and saw lowest depth of 0 beneath our 2.2 meter draft.  Inside our marina slip on the outside southern-facing pier the depth was .9 foot beneath our keel at 15 minutes past highest tide.  They are dredging that channel again at the moment, but I think with the constant river flow and tidal flow back and forth that this dredging will be required constantly in order to keep the channel deep enough for sailboats to use.   

This marina opened during the first quarter of 2010 and is the first marina in India.  It is owned and operated by the government.  I think someone should have done a lot more research.  It has been built to accommodate yachts in the 30-32 foot size.  The average size cruising yacht today is 46-50 foot, and that average goes up each year.  We are seeing more and more cruising yachts in the 60-foot range.  They thought we cruisers would want to stay in a hotel when our boats are berthed in the marina, so they built a very nice large hotel next to the marina.  But they didn't think about toilets and showers and garbage disposal for the yachties.  Operating this new marina is a learning experience that is still evolving.  Trash and garbage containers have been added.  And 2 of the hotel rooms have been converted to storage spaces for visiting yachts and the bathrooms of those 2 hotel rooms now serve as showers and toilets for yachts berthed in the marina.  The marina is managed by a former naval commander, Jose -- pronounced Joes, as in Joe's Cafe.

Across the river from the marina on the mainland side is the Ernakulam section of Cochin.  Cochin is a very large, very crowded city.  Ferries run every half hour all day long from this marina over to Ernakulam.  Then you walk to another ferry terminal to catch ferries to Fort Kochi or to Willingdon Island or any number of other destinations.  A ferry ride costs about 9 cents USD per person.
On our first evening in the marina, this man paddled in front of our boat just before sunset.  Love the hand-carved wooden boat.

Different opinions

At dinner last evening a British couple informed me that if the Egyptian political crisis caused the Suez Canal to close while we are in the Red Sea and we had to reverse course that it would not be a bad situation.  They would love to get trapped in the Red Sea because they enjoyed it so much during their southbound trip last year.  They are certain it would be no problem if Egypt has political/civil unrest.  And returning back along the coasts of Sudan and Eritrea would be a great time.  Diesel is always available from Saudi Arabia.   Going through the Somali pirates twice should not be a problem.  And dealing with different monsoons should cause us no difficulties whatsoever.

They are "experts" because they have made one southbound passage with a rally group and encountered no difficulties.  Therefore, difficulties must not exist.

 I will not give any credence to these folks opinions on anything in the future.  They must live on a different planet.  Take a look at the number of pirate attacks and tell me if you think sailing twice through this area might be a good idea!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A state of limbo

What to do? What to do? Do we dare go up the Red Sea with all the current problems in Egypt? If so, by what route? Or do we change plans and go around Capetown? Or possibly do something else - like try to ship the boat to the Med? We do not want to turn around and return to Thailand/Malaysia.

We have been tracking pirate attacks in the Indian Ocean since we were in New Zealand. Started doing this about February 2009. These are shown on our electronic charts in red. Last month the Somalis got unusually active. We have learned that the international piracy website does not reflect all pirate attacks. MARLO has more accurate information. This week Bill plotted all the pirate attacks that happened November 2010 through last week. These are shown on our electronic charts in blue. The reds and blues seem to cover the entire northern part of the Indian Ocean. This is getting ridiculous!
At least we are in a much better geographic position than the 30-35 boats that went to the northern Maldives. Those folks really have a challenging time before them. At least we are docked in complete comfort and safety in Cochin. Our Indian visas are good through 26 April 2011, so we have plenty of time to assess the status of Egypt and pirate activity. The longer we wait, the more difficult weather-wise it will be for us to go north in the Red Sea - if that is where we end up going - but we can deal with the stronger winds if necessary. The worst possible scenario is for us to proceed and then have the Suez Canal close while we are in the Red Sea.

So, we are sitting in Cochin for now and hoping the Egyptian situation gets sorted out quickly. If it looks too questionable, we can stay in India until our visas expire; then go to Chagos for 28 days; then the seasonal weather should be correct to sail farther south to Madagascar. That was our original plan when we left Panama. Along the way we changed our minds and decided that the Med would be more interesting. The Med is still our preference; but going to Madagascar would also be okay. Just not our first choice.

The other option might be to ship the boat to the Med. We will be investigating that possibility this week. We already know that a Sevenstar ship will be going from Hong Kong to Turkey via the Red Sea, with a possible stop at Sri Lanka around mid-March. Maybe they will also come to Cochin to pick us up. Some of the other cruisers have a pride thing about sailing a complete circumnavigation on their own boat bottoms. We don't care about that at all. Even if we ship our boat up the Red Sea due to political unrest, we will still consider that we have completed a circumnavigation once we return to the Caribbean. Call us liars; we don't care. (Bill would like to stay on BeBe aboard the transport ship, but that will be at the discretion of the ship's captain. I am not so crazy about that idea.) And, yes, we do know that one of the yacht transport ships was captured by Somali pirates on 22 January 2011. In fact, putting S/V BeBe aboard a yacht transport ship greatly increases the chances of piracy. The pirates have not attacked a pleasure yacht in more than 6 years in the shipping lanes. They want big ships because that is where the money is. This gives us a lot to think about and we need to do a lot more research of the various options.

In the meantime, friends on S/V ESTRELLITA, S/V SAPRISTI, S/V B'SHERET and M/V DORA MAC are all docked here at the marina in Cochin. And I think S/V ESPIRIT is enroute from Sri Lanka and should arrive tomorrow. ESTRELLITA and SAPRISTI have turned around and abandoned all plans of going up the Red Sea. They will spend at least another year in the Thailand/Malaysia area; then probably go around Capetown. B'SHERET probably will also go south later this year, or they might ship their boat to the Med. DORA MAC also might ship their boat to the Med. Like I said, we are all in a state of limbo. At least we are not being rushed to make decisions and are enjoying where we are at the moment. The 10 of us are going out for a nice dinner tonight at The Grand Hotel. A real dinner party!

But all family and friends who had planned to meet us in the Med next summer should hold off buying any non-refundable tickets. We still hope to be in the Med by late May, but it is looking very iffy right now.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Arrived Cochin, India

We arrived Cochin (or Kochi or Kotchi, depending on which chart you prefer) early on Thursday morning. We wanted to run the watermaker in order to have sufficient water to last however long we would be in the port, so we sort of drifted for awhile in order to accomplish this task. The generator is required in order to operate the watermaker and this job is best done out at sea. By 10:00 we were anchored in front of the swank Malabar Hotel, right next to Port Control.

The passage from Galle Harbour, Sri Lanka was worse than we expected. Jimmy Cornell's book states that this area is usually rough. Man! Is that ever an understatement! This was as rough as that notorious area NW of Aruba in the Caribbean. Except that this was a much larger area of rough. Seas were large and stacked - 3 meter swell topped with 1 ½-2 meter wind waves. Winds were 30 knots sustained, gusting 35. These conditions lasted about 40 hours. We were both queasy for 2 full days; couldn't eat, headaches, lethargic, but not throwing up kind of seasick. Bill was convinced we were getting back into the same kind of storm conditions that we had experienced in the Bay of Bengal a few weeks ago, but it never got anywhere near that level. Again, the GFS and NOGAPS weather files were totally wrong. However, the spots forecasts were correct. We abandoned using the larger area forecasts and started using just the spots to determine where we should go and when. This worked very well. At about 7 degrees 30 minutes latitude the conditions abated quickly and soon there was almost no wind and the seas were normal. Once in the lee of the coast of India, the seas became very calm and winds were just strong enough for us to sail. Great sailing conditions for about 8 hours. Then we were forced to motor. You just cannot move a 54,000 pound boat in only 6 knots of wind. After the rough conditions during the first part of this passage, I was quite happy to motor over windless calm seas for the duration of the trip. Total trip: 414.6 NM in 69 hours; avg 6 kts.

Wednesday night was video arcade night with fishing boats of every description and lights of every conceivable color combination flashing in every direction. It took me 7 hours to get out of those fishing boats surrounding a long 25-meter bank just offshore and just south of Cochin. Stressful!! Once I finally broke out of those fishing boats, I awakened Bill and he took over from 03:00 until our arrival in the port.

Nazar (boat #54) met us shortly after the anchor was set. Naizar is the "go-to man" in Cochin. I think he has 3 boats, but we know him as boat #54. Next the port officials came to the boat to confirm our identities. The anchor was barely down before they arrived. We had already tidied up and changed into "meeting the officials clothes" and were ready. Friends on another boat had warned us that the officials arrive rather fast here in Cochin and that we should be ready quickly. Next was the Customs man. What a change from Sri Lanka!!!!! 

The Customs officer was named Gibi John and he was the spitting image of a friend back in Texas named Larry Shelton. We nearly fell over when he said he would enjoy a Red Stripe beer. Gibi John has different color skin and hair, but the facial expressions and body movements were exactly like Larry. Gibi John is quicker with a smile than Larry, but everything else about him reminded us very much of our old friend back in Houston. Gibi John sat in the cockpit and filled out 6 to 8 pages of clearance papers, each set in quadruplicate. Then a boat took us and Gibi John to the port authority area and we met up with Nazar. 

Clearing into India requires a horrendous amount of paperwork. The local officials blame this on the British, but the Brits have been gone for something like 64 years so they have had plenty of time to change the paperwork if they really wanted to do so. 

Nazar walked us through all the clearance processes. First was Port Authority, where Nazar paid our port fees and said we could reimburse him later after we visited an ATM. Next was back to Customs where Gibi John walked us through several offices shunting papers. Then a tuk-tuk ride with Nazar to the Immigration office; then back to Customs for passport clearance there also. Finally we were officially cleared into India - only took 6 hours. And not one person even hinted they wanted a bribe of any kind. Everyone was very professional and courteous in the performance of their jobs.

Later Nazar visited the boat and loaned us a sim card for the cell phone. A sim card for the internet modem will have to wait until tomorrow. He also took our dirty clothes away for laundry service. We would have liked to have him take us somewhere for lunch, but that never happened because it took so dang long to get cleared in at the various offices. Tomorrow Nazar will guide us to the marina at high tide. Our first night in Cochin will be spent at anchor right where we are. Late in the afternoon 2 boats that we know that are participating in the Bluewater Rally arrived and anchored next to us. Another 2 boats we know will arrive shortly. They are turning back.

Chris & Trish on S/V SAPRISTI and Bill & Amy on S/V ESTRELLITA have decided to turn back because of the recent flurry of Somali pirate attacks and the civil unrest in Egypt. We know this was an agonizing decision for them. It won't be the same without running into Bill & Amy every now and then. I think they plan to return to Thailand and possibly even Singapore. Maybe take the South African route later this year or next. These 2 boats are not the only ones turning back. A good number of boats followed the traditional route to the Maldives rather than coming north to India. There have been 3 Somali mother ships operating for the past couple of weeks, mainly in the region between the Maldives and Salalah. A few days ago the Indian Navy captured one of those boats, a fishing boat. They removed the 13 Somali pirates and 7 hostage crew members, and sank the boat. That leaves 2 mother ships still operating at the moment. The boats in the Maldives held a meeting 4 nights ago. Some are turning back to Thailand; some are going to Chagos to wait for appropriate weather to sail south to Capetown; and some are continuing to the Red Sea. Those going to Chagos might have a serious problem because they must obtain a BIOT permit from the UK before arriving in Chagos or they will be told to move on and not allowed to stop. And the new rules for the BIOT permit limits a boat to a stay not to exceed 30 days, non-renewable. Best guess is that those folks will return to Sri Lanka in order to obtain the BIOT permit and then sail to Chagos. Factor into that mix the fact that it is cyclone season in the Southern Indian Ocean through May, and these folks have major logistical problems.

As you can tell, we are monitoring the situation carefully. The most worrying thing to us at this moment is the civil unrest in Egypt. It would be a major, major pain in the butt if they were to close the Suez Canal while we are in the Red Sea. That has only happened in the past during wars. Looking forward to getting internet access to find out what has been happening in Egypt during the past few days. We are much more worried about that than we are about the Somali pirates attacking cargo ships over 560,000 square miles of ocean.

BTW, I positively LOVE Cochin! Haven't seen much yet, but really like what we have seen. And the people are oh-so-hospitable and friendly. Looking forward to some good Indian food. Wish we had gotten in and out of Sri Lanka a lot faster so that we would have more time to enjoy Cochin. That Red Sea weather deadline holds over our heads and we can't dally long.

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.