Wednesday, March 28, 2012

We have been playing musical boats the last few days.  We are in a military port and 2 days ago at the drop of the hat we were told we had to move to let a huge tug  go out.  We were attached to shore by three lines, one starboard, one port and one aft as well as to our anchor.  We had to untie all 3 lines and then pull up the anchor, all the while trying not to run into the boats on either side of us.  We then went around and around in circles in the harbour  until the tug had left.  We were given a little more notice the second time and were told we could tie up in another section of the harbour if we chose.  All the lines were untied and we motored to the other side of he harbour and tied up again.  Today the wind changed directions and our boat drifted in to the floating plastic dock behind us.  Our neighbour boat thought we were dragging anchor so untie all the lines, pull anchor to discover his anchor was over top of ours, so he had to untie all his lines and get his anchor out before we could reset ours.  What a smoze!  Hopefully we can stay put for a few days in this location and the swell doesn't get too big, because it gets uncomfortable in this spot if there is a large swell.  
I was going to do a blog about the food in Sri Lanka but the pictures won't load so I will save it for another day. The English cricket team is in town and are playing a 5 day test match against the Sri Lankans.  There are supposedly about 8,000 extra Englishmen in town to watch the games so it is really busy downtown.  Barry and I did not want to spend the $35.00 each to watch in the stadium but if we went up to the ramparts of the Galle fort we could catch some of the actions.  We spent about 2 hours watching.  The vendors were in full force but rather than the peanuts, popcorn we usually here in North America, the cry here was watermelon, pineapple, water but universal and especially welcomed in the heat was "cold beer"!  

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


The last day of our tour we started off  by visiting a sacred Buddhist place. It was a temple called Dambula that consisted of 5 caves, which were filled with frescoes and sculptures, each more elaborate than the last.  I was amazed at how they could paint of the roofs an sides of the caves.  Buddha was represented standing, sitting and lying down in many sizes. 

What detail, magnificent. 
This is painted on the uneven roof, it is truly amazing. 
We were driving home and there were a number of cars stopped at the side of the road.  What a marvelous site to mark the end of a super tour of Sri Lanka. 

We are back at the boat and our wonderful trip is over. I will try and give you a sense of what we saw.  The archaeological sites were stunning. We spent a tiring but exhilarating two days touring the sites, extending our stay an extra day to make sure we had time to do an adequate tour of the ruins.  To back up just a bit, we had a visually stunning drive down the mountains  through the tea plantations and on to the flat lands were the ruins were located.  There were hair pins turns all the way down the mountains, the road being so narrow if there was a bus coming up towards us we had to wait until he got around the curve because he would take up 2 lanes because he turning radius was too wide to negotiate the turn in one lane.  Sri Lankans love colour and they decorate everything including their transport trucks, check out this prime example that was trundling up the mountain road.  This woman was out cutting food for her cattle, and she was hiking back up the highway to her home. 
Before we set off to the sites the 10 year old girl we were travelling  with and I partook of an elephant ride.  We had to climb up a ladder to a platform and then clamor onto the "saddle".  A few meters down the path I got to ride on Kumari's neck.  The hair on her skin was about 8cm long and very stiff and prickly. Her ears would flap back against my legs and I am not sure if she could feel me scratching them or not.  We had a hand of bananas that we fed to her one at a time.  Her trunk would come up over he head and grope for the  banana as we attempted to put it in her trunk. She would exhale noisily, I think perhaps she was smelling  where the banana was. We had a great time going into the water and sitting alone on her there while she cooled off.  She was very  well behaved. 
After that we headed off to Sigaraya an ancient site that was first built in 200 BC, but the main palace was built on top of the rock in 11th century.  To get to the top you had to negotiate over 1200 steps. Each brick that was used to construct the palace was made at the bottom and carried up the 1200 steps that were made of bamboo in the old days, quite an impressive feat.

These steps were enclosed and built by the British in 1937, pretty secure.

These steps were not enclosed and if you suffered from vertigo, you shouldn't bother going up. 
On the way up there was a cave that had frescoes in it.  The people had used a mixture of limestone, clay, beeswax and honey to make a paste that they smeared on the walls it was about 4 cm thick and on this they would paint images.  In later years (13th century) the site was given to monks as a monastery and they destroyed most of the frescoes because they were off bare breasted women and the monks did not approve.  They did not discover this site and the drawings down in the 11th century remain. They were stunning. 
This is painted on rock in a cave about 400 meters up the side of a huge outcrop. 
The view from the top was outstanding, a full 360 degree vista off the surrounding countryside.  A very commanding military outlook.  The only problem was water, in the wet season the king and his court could live up at the top safe and secure but during the dry season they had to come down and live at the bottom to have access to water. 
This is our guide for our trip up and down Sigiriya, this is a opening through the rocks near the bottom.  On a good day he would go up and down 4 times.  He has been doing it for 24 years.  The guides were quite impressive, our spoke German and English as well as the 2 Sri Lankan languages, Sinhalese and Tamil, he told us there were other who spoke,  French, Russian and Japanese.   I am going to do the next site on another blog because there  was so much to see. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

We had a most enjoyable train ride yesterday.  We went up in the hills where there are tea plantations as far as the eye can see.  We stopped at the highest railway station in Sri Lanka at 1891 meters. We rode along in the third class car and hung out the windows and the doors like the regular folks.  In order to see well out the window you had to kneel on the floor, there were no seats, but there were people sitting on the tables. that were in the car. There was a little concession that sold soft drinks, tea, coffee and snacks and another fellow who sold the most excellent  peanuts.  This train ride brought back memories of going on holidays when I was a kid and riding the train from Northern Manitoba down to Winnipeg. 

Barry and I each had a camera and we had fun taking all sorts of pictures.  Occasionally you get a spectacular one, at least I think so, this one was taken as the train reached the end of a tunnel.
Barry caught the train coming out of one tunnel and heading into another.  There were 12 tunnels in our 2 and 1/2 hour train ride.
Seeing the line up of passengers, it made me realize what a foreign country we are in.  Everyone has been very pleasant to us.  There are lots of people with their hands out for extras here.  We have been taking tours and paying to get into places, then a guide will take us around and we are expected to tip the guide at the end. Some of the attractions are free to the local population but visitors are charged an entrance fee.  I am okay with that, in Australia, people over 60 were given a break on prices but only if you were an Australian, I figure this is just the same thing.  
How does this man, who was the station master at one of our stops managed to stay so beautiful and clean in the dirty grimy atmosphere that comes with a diesel train. 
Once we started losing elevation on the north side of the mountain range, we started to see market gardens.The bluey green vegetation in the background are leeks and we saw carrots, potatoes, yams, beets and lots of other veggies being tended as we chugged by.  Tomorrow we  are supposed to go and see some ancient cities that were built over 2000 years ago, so that should be really interesting. I am so glad that we came on this trip.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

We are on our tour of Sri Lanka now.  I don't have much time but wanted to upload some pictures from each day.  Yesterday we went on a safari in a wildlife park.  We saw over 30 species of birds, mongoose, monitor lizards, wild boars, deer, water buffalo, elephants and a leopard.  The leopard was quite far away but we saw a mother get up and her cub go gambolling after her, magnificent. Our guide has a web site that has some great pictures so you could visit it if you would like to see some of the wonderful places we going to go in Sri Lanka, go to

At the moment we are up in the highlands, which are covered in tea plantations.  Later this morning we are going to take a train ride and see some of the old colonial buildings left over from the British area.  It was so cool this morning that we put on our fleeces when we went for our morning constitutional.  

                                                                         A beautiful bird called a bee eater. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

We went on a day tour a couple of days ago and saw many very interesting things.  As we went by the main beach down town we saw these men pulling in a net by hand.  It was a huge net and our guide said it would take them about three hours to pull it in.  They would very slowly walk backwards with it and then would rotate to the front of the line once they had reached the edge of the beach.  The net piled up on the boat shows you how huge it was.
The next place we headed to was a silk factory. They showed us the silk worms and their cocoons, and there were actually spinning the silk from the cocoon to make thread.  The silk thread was extremely fine but very strong. They had lovely clothing there and I could not resist a beautiful raw silk wrap around skirt.  We met one fellow in Mexico that was comparing beer as he went around the world.  I have decided to buy an article of clothing in each country I am in.  I have some incredible clothes on board at the moment. 
The silk worms and a cocoon, there is 1500m of silk in this cocoon, AMAZING!
Next we went to a moonstone mine, there are lots of semi-precious gems in Sri Lanka, topaz, garnets, rubies and emeralds.  The gem store just in front of the mine was quite the set up and over a cup of tea we were shown the wares.  They had these beautiful pink stones that were called star rubies and they were beautiful.  When you pointed a light at them a star would shine from the center of the stone.  I picked one out and we were negotiating about how it would be mounted.  He then informed us that it would be about $1,000. USD so that was the end of that.  They showed us where the craftsmen were cutting the gems by hand. It was an incredible feat, they would turn the cutting stone by hand and the gem would be on the end of a stick and the would grind it on the spinning cutting stone. 

Our tuk tuk driver took us to a turtle hatchery next.  I applauded the fact that they were saving turtles, but to see the beautiful wild creatures swimming around in a small cement pond was very sad.  I have been in the water swimming next to a turtle and they can really move, a few flaps of their flippers and they zoom away from you.  I did not enjoy seeing those poor creatures in captivity. We were going along the rode beside the ocean when our driver said we were in a special spot where there were five types of transportation that could take place. There was an airport to the left of us as well as a railway track, we were on a highway and beside it was a sidewalk, the fifth mode was difficult to figure out but he said the ocean was a transportation corridor for big ships going to Bangladesh.
A tea plantation was our next stop.  I was very interested to learn about the tea and how it is grown and harvested. Here a woman is harvesting the tea leaves.  The plants are kept at waist height in order for the ease in picking.  She will pick all the fresh shoots and only a week later she will do it again.  The plants take about 2 1/2 years to reach maturity.
The fresh young shoots are taken to the factory where they are cooked.  The machinery in use in the factory was about 100 years old.  It was all very simple but still effective I guess,  there were not a lot of fancy parts and anything that broke down could be fixed fairly quickly. The machine below was the tea oven and the stuff coming out the bottom was the unacceptable stems, etc. the ramp by my head had the good stuff falling down it. 

After that we went to the tea tasting room.  You were given a spoon and there were about 30 different kinds of tea to taste.  I ended up buying some lovely lemongrass tea, a chai mix and some extremely smooth BLUE pekoe tea, non of that common orange pekoe for us tea conniseurs.  The tea plantation is a remnant of the British occupation and during the tour we stopped and had a cup at the plantation home.  We had to use the facilities and I got to ogle the wonderful old wooden furniture, the bookcases and the collection of family photos of the former plantation owner.  The plantation is still a going concern and at the moment it employs over 150  people.  
Our last stop was at a coconut factory.  We had been to a where they harvest the coconuts in Mexico so I wasn't sure it was necessary to go, but Barry wanted to so off we went.  They didn't do anything with the coconut meat it was all about the fibre.  The manufactured rope and stuffing out of the coconut husks. 

In the top picture you can see the wide loose rope that comes out of the first machine and then it is wound tighter so that it makes a rope.  The rope is used on the nets in the area, I  don't think it would cut the mustard for line on Cat's-Paw IV though.  This was the end of an extremely informative and interesting day.  Our tuk tuk driver drove us all over and conducted the tour for $4.00 per hour, we ended up giving him $26 for the day, what a bargain.  
Tomorrow we are headed off for a five day tour with another boat.  The crew consists of an Australian couple and 2 children aged 10  and 12, we have known them for awhile and we really like the kids.  It should be a fun trip.
Our tuk tuk driver, Batu with his trusty vehicle, it has a 150 cc engine, manufactured in India.

Thursday, March 08, 2012


Oh this is what else I did on the crossing,  this is for my granddaughter, Cassidy and I thought it was kind of neat that I was crossing the Bay of Bengal when I was working on this. Cross stitch is a great hobby to have on a boat because it doesn't take up much room.  Outlining the piece gave me an idea of how much work I have left, lots.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

You know a storm is hiding in there somewhere, notice the  flat calm sea, hard to sail in that. 
We are safe and sound in Sri Lanka.  We are pretty tired but happy to be here.  Check in was not difficult but long and a bit confusing.  We motored the last 15 miles because the wind was on our nose.  Here are some pretty nice shots from our passage. 
Look carefully, there is a water spout. A tornado is it's land cousin, 

Just great, pan sized. 

Monday, March 05, 2012

Well, I am on shift again and it is 9 at night. We are motoring in dead calm conditions, the sea is so flat that you could see your reflection like it was a mirror. A freighter just went by to the south of us, we are within 100 nm of Sri Lanka and we have about 200 nm to go to get to Galle, where we will enter the country. I imagine we will be seeing more freighters and fish boats the closer we get, all the traffic from the Med. headed for the Far East take this route and just skim the tip of Sri Lanka headed for the Malaka Straits and Singapore. 
Speaking of fishing boats we were slowly sailing along today and a fishing boat appears on the horizon. As we get closer he turns and starts putting up a bow wave coming towards us. I get out the binoculars and see someone waving from the top of the boat. What to do, we are on the high seas heading into pirate country and a lone boat makes a beeline for us. Fortunately, others have told us that mostly it is just fisherman wanting cigarettes, sure enough, that's what it was. Neither Barry or I smoke and it has been proven to be dangerous to your health so although other cruisers stock up on tobacco products for trade and barter we never have. I bought a flat of Coca Cola for just that purpose. The guys (there were 6) onboard did not look too happy that we didn't have cigarettes for them and were even sadder when we said we didn't have beer but they took the Coke anyway. We were given 4 small bonito in exchange, a pretty fair deal all around. I cooked up one for my supper and it was delicious.
I thought I would let you know what a day on passage can be like. Most of the hours of darkness are taken up with sleep, one of us tries to get into bed at 1800 hours or 6 PM, he/she gets up at 9, does a 4 hour shift, to bed at 0100, back on shift at 0500 then depending on how you slept back to sleep again at 0800 for as long as you can. This sleeping between the 2 of us takes up 14 hours of the day each of us having the potential of 7 hours of sleep which in reality is usually about 5 1/2. We sometimes nap during the day. Yesterday I was inspired to design and print new boat cards, we have a small printer/scanner/fax on board that miraculously has survived in the marine environment for over 5 years and we can still buy cartridges for it, that took me about 3 hours. Barry and I had 2 games of scrabble. I am trying to teach myself to play the recorder, I can read music and have directions for the fingering so all I need to do it practise. I have 2 hymn books on board so I page through them looking for hymns in the key of C (no sharps or flats, I am not very good at those yet) and then I murder those poor hymns for about 10 minutes each until they kind of sound like they should, then I try to play them faster and mostly I fail miserably. At least only Barry is being subject to this torture, there is not another soul within 100 miles most likely. Today's project was to get our new sail cover to fit on our boom. We gave the wrong dimensions to the sail maker so that the bottom of the cover which was supposed to slide into the track on the boom was too loose and would not stay in the boom. We have some extra slides on board so in order to get them to fit on the boom Barry had to cut a section out it with our handy dandy Dremmel tool (Thanks GEORGIE. Once he had done that we discovered the slides were too big, out came the file and the Dremmel again and we filed off about 3 mm of hard plastic off of 11 slides. Then I sewed them onto the sail cover. The first one I made sure it was really going to stay on and made a thorough job of it. We tested it out and sure enough it was in the wrong spot, out come the scissors and I started over. In order to stitch these slide on, I have a palm which I wear around my wrist that has a bit on it that help to push the needle through the very tough plasticised fabric. Then I use a pair of pliers to pull the needle through the other side. I managed to sew on 4 slides today so I have a project for tomorrow. 
When we are motoring the boat sails itself, we put on the auto pilot and it steers to a compass heading that we set. All we have to do is look up every 10 minutes or so to make sure we aren't going to run into anything. When we are sailing we have to be a bit more vigilant because most times our wind vane in steering (in order to save on electricity and not run our batteries down with the auto pilot). When the wind vane steers it goes in the direction of the wind you have set it for. So for instance if you are heading 270 degrees or straight west all is good, until the wind shifts. The wind may veer 20 or 30 degrees and all of a sudden you are headed for Madagascar instead of Sri Lanka, OPPS! It would be necessary to adjust your sail trim and your wind vane so that you are once again headed in the correct direction. 
Okay, okay enough, I have not talked to anyone else but Barry and for 5 minutes every second night to another boat on Ham Radio for the last 10 days, so you are getting the benefit. The other things we have to do on board is cook, we take turns having our big meal about 1700 hours so we can get the dishes done before dark. Other than that we read an awful lot, I do cross word puzzles and sometimes play some computer card games. Oh yeah, we have to one occasion, rush up to the bow of the boat and watch the porpoises play in our bow wave, that has happened 3 times on this trip so far, someone reported whales close to Sri Lanka as well so we will have to keep our eyes peeled. I also log our position every day and post it to Yotreps so make sure you check it out on the side of the blog, just click on the link to our position. 
Okay the last little bit, who remembers Lotta Hitchmanova????? We are traveling across the Bay of Bengal and just to the north of us is, you guessed it, Bangladesh. For those of you too young to remember, Lotta Hitchmanova used to raise money for the starving peoples of Bangladesh, to my mind this was in the 70's. There were TV commercials galore exhorting you to send money. If I remember rightly poor old Lotta was later convicted of fraud or some such thing. Does anyone else out there remember her? Please let me know and if you can find out, what era it was. Badabadabadab......that's all folks.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Well conditions have improved quite a bit. After another brutal night, with driving rain and lightning, we are now sailing along at 3.5 knots under a starry sky with a light breeze pushing us across the Bay of Bengal. Yesterday was actually quite pleasant, we had 2 games of Scrabble and had the spinnaker poled out averaging 6 knots. I had some avocados that needed eating so I made guacamole and we soaked up the sun as we munched and sipped our Diet Cokes, life doesn't get too much better than that. They were right, there was wind after the Nicobar Islands, it is just a little light as last night we sailed very slowly, Barry made 4nm in his 4 hour shift, brutal. We contemplated motoring but decided that we needed to conserve fuel as we had used a lot in the first 3 days. We now have 535 miles left to go, so we are about half way, we should arrive in Sri Lanka next Monday or Tuesday. 
I was reading about the country and there are old British tea plantations up in the hills and I hope we can take a tour and stay a night or two up in the hills. I am looking forward to learning about how to grow tea and sampling some. From what I can gather you don't cruise much around Sri Lanka, just stay in the harbour at Galle and travel about. Apparently there are a lot of persistent touts (or people trying to get you to buy stuff) so I will have to harden my heart and practise saying no in a polite way. Hope all is well with everyone and can someone please let me know who won the Scott Tournament of Hearts, I am guessing either Jennifer Jones or Kelly Scott, the long shot would be Heather Nedowin(the internet connection sucks out here!!!)
The other day a huge event happened on the boat, BARRY CAUGHT A FISH! We are not very good fishermen so when this happens it is a huge deal. He had something on the line and it broke the line and took his hook and then a little while later he got another bite and managed to reel it in. His fishing rod leaves something to be desired, he picked it up outside a dumpster (I guess this is where you get it from Trish) and it has seen better days. While this fish seemed to be pretty big, he was having a tough time reeling it in. He decided in the best Barry fashion to just drag it along behind the boat for awhile. We were zipping along at about 4 or 5 knots so this fish was getting a workout. He used his watch and dragged it for over half an hour, much to my impatience, and then gradually wound it in. When the fish was about 10 meters from the boat the reel broke and he had to haul it in the rest of the way by hand. The stupid fish had managed to wind the line around his tail so when he was being brought in I think Barry was basically pulling him sideways, no wonder he felt so big. It was about a 7 or 8 pound bonito, not the greatest eating fish so Barry made a lovely fish soup with a tomato base, very tasty and a nice change. I hope this was the start of a trend.