There were many pods of dolphins, a waxing moon and only one large rain squall – torrential rain for 3 hours in the early morning. We went below – Peter slept (he was off watch) and I stayed glued to the radar in case a ship happened to come by. We were so caught in the middle of the system that the radar could not see beyond the immediate cloud bank. The autohelm and small headsail kept us going along nicely. One advantage of the rain is that it flattens out the sea! Morning was a welcomed sight! Other yachts to the south had had much more rain and a lot of wind, so we got off lightly!
We searched southwards for the elusive favourable current, but in fact only found it in the last 100 miles! Mostly we had up to 1.4 knots of current against us. Our passage took 6 1/2 days.
On entry to Galle, we tied up along side the concrete pier. Navy guards are on duty protecting the harbour from the Tamils. Every night the net goes over the entrance and grenades are thrown every so often to deter would be frogmen. We heard from other yachties that we could take a shower up in the building, a hand pointing in the general direction. There was more than one building of course, and Peter decided to try the more lavish looking one. (I was the customary two paces behind saying ‘I don’t think this is the right one dear’) In we went through the front door, Peter walking through asking the men there if there was a shower. ‘Yes, yes’, came the reply. So we were shown the shower and were welcomed to use it. Of course it was not the right place! The beds in one of the rooms were a bit of a give a way! Imagine if someone walked into our house wanting a shower!!!! Perhaps the Harbour Master enjoyed our visit as much as we enjoyed his shower. We have since found the right one!
Clearing customs in Sri Lanka was a bit of a challenge as they wanted a ‘present’. They were not having my rum! After several visits and some discussion, they left disappointed with some cheap Thai rum. It is always a bit of a hint of things to come when customs arrive on board with a large bag (they did this in the Andamans as well!). Master Peter is getting very good at saying ‘no’. The customs officers separated me from Peter to put the hard word on me for a ‘present’. They did not understand the relationship between me and a bottle of rum. No guesses who came off second best!
Amidst the full on culture of Galle, there is the tranquility inside the Portugese/Dutch fort and the beautiful beach area of Unawatuna. We spent the best part of a week on the customary yachtie trip inland, towards the north to cool off in the mountain area. A welcomed climatic escape from the tropics. Leel and Japan were our excellent guides and took us off on a gastronomic tangent. String hoppers became the favoured local breakfast, with tastes of toddy; fermented coconut flour which tastes as good as it sounds and spice tea.
Negotiating the road and oncoming vehicles was more of a challenge for us as backseat drivers than it was for Japan! The magnificent ancient ruins of Sigirya (8th/9th Century) frequented by Indianna Jones, Buddhist Temple in Dambulla with a view to die for, food market for all of Sri Lanka in Dambulla, and the Aryuvedic Spice Farm were the highlights. Although we tried to worm our way out of going to the traditional dancing in Kandy, Leel would not take no for an answer! He was right of course as it was so different to South East Asian Dance. The music and rhythm was very energetic and not unlike Cossack dancing. The finale, fire walking and fire throwing really clinched the evening.
Unfortunately we missed some of the older ruins further to the north, which archaeologists have dated back to a similar age as the Ancient Egyptians. It appears that Sri Lanka certainly supported some of the earliest cultures of modern day man.
Two nights in Colombo heralded the end of our tour. We decided to treat ourselves and stay at the 5 star hotel, Cinnamon Grand. (We had family visiting for a short time and they were already booked in there.) We obviously had many karma credits as we were upgraded to an executive suite – personal butler, 24 hour breakfast, high tea and sundowners daily as complimentary events! All of Peter’s dreams came true as we also had a pillow menu!! Our butler arrived with a choice of complimentary welcomed drinks – red wine, cheeses, and a bottle of Moet and Chandon! We enjoyed every drop!
The train trip from Columbo to Galle followed the coast. You only need do this trip once in a life time - second class, crowded and difficult to get a seat! Sitting down, you get someone’s armpit in your face as the person standing leans over your seat to hold on to the luggage rack! Sadly, on our return to Galle, Stolen Kiss sustained some damage to her rubbing strake, which took Peter 3 days to fix.
We had a week to replenish supplies and just enjoy! Jacanna of Melbourne and Motion had arrived, with Deusa arriving just before our departure. There were several instances that others experienced which highlighted the level of corruption by the Windsor brothers, who are the principal agents who ‘assist’ yachts. Customs are in on it as well, which makes for some interesting discussions. Sadly, gone are the days when the ‘Windsor’ father was alive and looked after the yachties. Being in a commercial harbour is difficult for yachts as they do not know how to deal with us.
Corruption exploits the weak and we have heard and read of many stories how many people, especially around Galle, have yet to get new houses as a result of the tsunami. Galle and the regoion to the north were devestated by the tsunami of 204. Thousands of women and children were lost in Galle; the absence of their presence is obvious as you walk around the streets. Many men have since remarried and there are many woman now pregnant so that they can have children once again. Tamils in the north are also exploited and displaced persons from the war areas are not compensated by the government. Even though you do not wish to get involved in local politics, it is difficult not to as many wish to share their plight with you. Looking at a situation from the inside, rather than the image portrayed by the international press is somewhat enlightening!
Re-provisioning was made easy with Mike’s Yacht Services as he supplies everything including fuel/gas and stores. He delivers right to the boat! In our need for alcohol consumption in Chagos, we had to leave cans of local beer (Coin) and tonic in their cartons – a breeding ground for cockroaches!
Two nights after our stores had been loaded, I felt something rather large crawling across my forehead and hair. (Peter and I maintain number 4 hair cuts!). Peter shared a dream in the morning that something was crawling across his head, but thought nothing of it as unusual dreams are the norm for him. That was no dream! So out came all the baits. Some nights later, after waking up at 2am, paddling around the boat cooking (as one does!) we surprised our guest it and laid him to rest floating in Galle Harbour.
Time Out arrived the day before Di. Peter decided it was best if he stayed with the boat; so I would take a driver to Columbo to meet Di..a 10 hour round trip. (Maybe it was because he and Bill were invited to dinner on one of the tugs with the locals!) All went well and as we were not allowed back into the Commercial Harbour until 8am, Leel (our Sri Lankan guide) organized us Di and I to stay with his mum. We were given a bed to sleep in at 0400 and Leel’s sister made us tea in the morning. They are quite an unassuming family as she speaks fluent German and is overseeing the rebuilding of some houses.
Our departure from Galle was bought forward as a SE swell rolled in and we spent a horrid night tied up to Time Out, who in turn was tied to the pier. It was quite scary. Lady M had come in and was in front of us, banging away against the pier as well. We decided to anchor out at Watering Point for a day and two nights to wait for the wind. A good decision, as we almost sailed all the way to Male, where as Jacanna who left a day before us motored all the way. It is now coming up to mid-March and the end of the NE monsoon is closing. There are 11 yachts here and still a few more to come. Time to move south to the clear waters of the Maldives and Chagos and unfortunately to cross the formidable ITCZ!