Day 93, Year 5: Passage to Cochin, Day Twelve

Day 93, Year 5: Passage to Cochin, Day Twelve
Date: Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Weather: Clear, Sunny Day; Winds Varied
Latitude: 09 degrees 45.576 minutes N
Longitude: 076 degrees 11.620 minutes E
Miles Traveled to Date: 1,470

We are motor sailing as fast as we can go with the current wind conditions trying to make it into Cochin by dark. We had planned to go slow and arrive in the morning, but around 5 am we got a couple of hours of 25 knot winds that carried us further north than planned. So we changed plans to try and make it in. The current ETA is 7:10 pm, which is just about sunset. So if all goes well, we will be at anchor off the Taj Malabar Hotel at the end of Willingdon Island awaiting morning check-in. Then we will proceed to the real anchorage off the Bogatty Hotel at the tip of Bogatty Island. Cochin is a city divided into sectors by various waterways and there are different sections of the city. We will start learning the ins and outs of Cochin starting tomorrow with check-in on Willingdon Island.

But first we have to run the fishing boat gauntlet to get there. I felt like I was playing a computer game this morning on my 4:30 to 7:30 am watch. There were boats long-lining, trawlers pair-trawling with a line between them, and small boats with flashing green lights that provided the real challenge. I would change direction to avoid one, and then it would head directly toward me. In the dark this just looks like a little flashing green fairy skimming across the water. This little game went on until the sun came up and then all the boats vanished just like magic. We read that the entrance to Cochin is filled with fishing boats and some will have surface nets for prawns. Mark is just now beginning to see a low shoreline. So, land-ho.

100127 Day 93 India–Passage from Thailand to India

Day 92, Year 5: Passage to Cochin, Day Eleven

Day 92, Year 5: Passage to Cochin, Day Eleven
Date: Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Weather: Clear, Sunny Day; Winds E 25 then No Wind then SSW 10-12
Latitude: 08 degrees 06.604 minutes N
Longitude: 076 degrees 44.004 minutes E
Miles Traveled to Date: 1,361

What a varied twenty-four hour period we have had. Late yesterday afternoon we were flying along with about 20 knots of wind and heavy seas. The wind increased during the night and we were flying along with 20-25 knots. Early morning had us rounding the tip of India and the winds were actually gusting to 27, but once we were in the shadow of the land we lost all wind and had to motor. We motored along patiently and then at about 4 pm this afternoon, we got a nice 10-15 knot wind from the SSW and we are now sailing once again, and on flat seas! But we have had a one knot current or better against us all along and can’t seem to find the positive current that should run up this coast. In order to find the wind, we had to go a little closer to shore and right now we are running on the edge of the shipping lanes. But we have thus far avoided traveling through the fishing grounds. We had one fishing boat approach us this morning, but we were motoring and we just upped the RPM’s and outran them. They just want Coke or water or whatever we will give them, but it is a hassle we would rather avoid if possible.

Because we are traveling at 4 knots rather than the 6 that we had become accustomed to, we will not arrive in Cochin late tomorrow. Instead, we will arrive on Thursday. That will make this a thirteen day passage. I don’t like the number, but I am very happy with the passage. It has been a good one thus far.

We hear our friends Robert and Tina of Shirena on the IO (Indian Ocean) Net each morning. They are traveling with Fatty and Carolyn on Wild Card and are making great time. Shirena is having an auto pilot problem, so we hope they get that solved. Hand steering all the way would be no fun at all.

Day 91, Year 5: Passage to Cochin, Day Ten

Day 91, Year 5: Passage to Cochin, Day Ten
Date: Monday, January 25, 2010
Weather: Clear, Sunny Day; Winds NE 16-22
Latitude: 06 degrees 47.500 minutes N
Longitude: 078 degrees 15.779 minutes E
Miles Traveled to Date: 1,231

The Gulf of Mannar is not one I had ever heard of, but it is one that I won’t forget. By midnight tonight we will be fifty miles directly south of the tip of India and on our way out of the Gulf of Mannar, but until then we must endure what she has to throw our way. At 3 pm yesterday we were motoring because Sri Lanka was blanketing the wind. By 4 pm we had 12 knots of wind and we turned slightly NW to take advantage of the winds and turned off the motor. By midnight we were motoring on flat, glassy seas and were able to get back to our course, and then by 2 am the winds and seas started building, so off went the motor and sailing we were. And we have been on quite a ride since then. The six to nine foot waves come directly at our beam, raising our starboard side leaning us to port, sliding under the boat, and then tossing us back again. This happens every three to five seconds, so it’s a bit like riding a bucking bronco. When Mark got up this morning, he said he felt like he had been in a Mix Master But we feel very lucky that it is not rougher. Boats transiting the Gulf of Mannar during the past week have reported 25-30 knot winds and very rough seas with squalls. I think we hit it just at the right time. The GRIB files are showing 15 knots of wind, which means you can get up to 20, and that is what we have. And Freebird, who is about 24 hours behind us reported sailing through hundreds of fishing boats on the east side of Sri Lanka. Somehow we missed that treat as well. So far the decisions we have made jointly with Constance for this passage have been good ones, so we hope the good continues until we reach Cochin.

Tonight we will reach Cape Comorin on the southern tip of India, and then head out to the NW until we are about 25 miles offshore. We will parallel the coast up to Cochin. We could motor sail right next to the land, but then we would more than likely have to motor and contend with fishermen stopping us asking for things. We contacted a boat named Hafskip in Cochin and the captain, Joost, said he took the close-to-shore route. But we think we would rather put on the extra miles and go offshore. Right now it looks like we will be in Cochin mid-day Thursday. It’s been a good passage but it will feel good to be an anchor once again.

Day 90, Year 5: Passage to Cochin, Day Nine

Day 90, Year 5: Passage to Cochin, Day Nine
Date: Sunday, January 24, 2010
Weather: Hazy Horizon; Winds SW 7-10 (daytime land breeze)
Latitude: 05 degrees 56.070 minutes N
Longitude: 080 degrees 02.550 minutes E
Miles Traveled to Date: 1,111

Here’s a quick summary of the past glorious twenty-four hours:
–Motor sailing through the evening to reach our first waypoint off Sri Lanka by midnight.
–Strong winds pushing us in just the right direction by 11 pm, so off with the engine..
–Overnight broad reach sail in 18-20 knot winds with two knots of positive current in fairly calm seas-Windbird was flying!
–Best ever 24 hours from 5 am yesterday to 5 am this morning-161 miles.
–Spotted only a few ships and a few fishing boats all night. Whew!
–Passed under Sri Lanka during the day, only eight miles offshore, with no indication that land exists there. We did see two light houses, but nothing else, not even a bird. Oh, Mark did see a whale that put on a little show for him. Unfortunately, I was napping.
–Continued great sailing until we entered the Gulf of Mannar which separates Sri Lanka from India.
–Lost our wind before noon and motored until 4 pm in calm seas.
–Currently sailing again with what we assume are temporary SW winds. We are on a beam reach but the winds are only 7-10 knots.

We’ll be spending tonight, tomorrow, and most of the next night crossing the Gulf of Mannar before we reach the southern tip of India. Depending on the wind, we should reach Cochin by Thursday. Right now we seem to be in the path of ships leaving Galle, Sri Lanka headed west, so we will have to keep a sharp lookout tonight. But all is well.

Now for the salt story. There is a book named Salt that outlines the role salt had to play in the development of the civilized world. Well, you can now add our discovery of salt to that outline. This morning I fixed French toast and needed to get the maple syrup out of the cabinet over our starboard settee. Right now that starboard settee is our sea berth and the back cushions are snapped up to the ceiling covering the cabinet doors. I unsnapped the far right cushion and let it fall, along with a cascade of salt pouring out of the louvered cabinet doors. It’s amazing how much salt is in one little 500 gram container. This one was on the top of boxes on the top shelf and the foolproof lid had come off draining salt down on top of everything. And of course, when I took the cushion down, the salt then spilled on to our sheets on the sea berth. So we had a whole morning of clean-up. How I miss my shop vac. With a vacuum the job could have been done quickly, but without, it took almost two hours.

We heard Robert of Shirena and Fatty of Wild Card on the net this morning. They have left Uligan in the Maldives and are headed to Oman. We wish them both a safe passage to Salalah. That is where they will regroup before heading into the Gulf of Aden.

Day 89, Year 5: Passage to Cochin, Day Eight

Day 89, Year 5: Passage to Cochin, Day Eight
Date: Saturday, January 23, 2010
Weather: Clear Skies; ENE Winds 10-15
Latitude: 06 degrees 05.886 minutes N
Longitude: 082 degrees 43.463 minutes E
Miles Traveled to Date: 947

It’s all about timing. We have had days of beautiful sailing with no deadlines, so if we went a little slower, no problem. If we went a little faster, great. But now we need to reach a waypoint by midnight tonight, so that by 9 am tomorrow morning we will be starting the sixty mile stretch along the south side of Sri Lanka. We know there are fishing fleets in that area, but they move and you never know exactly where they will be. And we are hoping to stay close to shore and negotiate the fishing fleet during the daylight hours. Then by dusk tomorrow night we will be heading across the Gulf of Mannar that separates Sri Lanka from India. The winds have died down some but our problem is that they are coming almost directly from the east. Since we are going due west, that puts the wind directly behind us, so we finally had to make a sail change and we are now motor-sailing wing and wing. The seas have increased so that we are moving forward like a Weeble Wobble. I think this was the name for those little toy people with weighed, rounded bottoms. You could push them but they wouldn’t fall over. They would just weeble wobble. And that is what the bigger seas do to us when we are sailing wing and wing. The swell goes under Windbird’s aft starboard quarter and emerges on the forward port quarter leaning us one way and then the other. Unless there is a change, we will have to continue to motor sail through the night and then possibly through the day tomorrow. When you sail as close to land as we plan, there is often no wind. But even if we have to motor for the next 24 hours, we just have to be thankful for the past week of beautiful sailing.

Today was a baking day-bread and brownies. And, of course, there was more reading and daytime naps to fill in the gaps from the nighttime watches. The nighttime sky has been spectacular, but I have really missed having moonlight to sail by. We started out with a new moon. On our second night out, the tiny little crescent set just about the time our first watch started. Last night is the first I have seen of the crescent moon. It was low in the sky when I went on watch at 10 pm and I was amazed at how much light in shed on the water. But before midnight, it set, and things were pitch black again. We had one ship pass by us last night, but that is the first ship we have seen. I have a feeling that during the next few nights, we will see lots of ships. So watches will be a little more tense. I just wish I had the moonlight to guide me.

Day 88, Year 5: Passage to Cochin, Day Seven

Day 88, Year 5: Passage to Cochin, Day Seven
Date: Friday, January 22, 2010
Weather: Clear Skies; NE and NNE Winds 12-18
Latitude: 06 degrees 28.537 minutes N
Longitude: 085 degrees 10.076 minutes E
Miles Traveled to Date: 799

Yes! We have passed the halfway point. We have traveled 799 miles and have 782 to go. And we have had another day of beautiful sailing. We have NE winds 12-15 putting us on a broad reach most of the time, but then we get periods of NNE winds 15-18 putting us on a beam reach. We are making great time averaging 140 miles every 24 hours for the past three days. We had one twelve-hour period where we averaged 150 miles, so no complaints here. Constance had another problem with their auto pilot last night, but once again Ed was able to come up with a fix. We’re all hoping things will hold together until we arrive in Cochin.

It now looks like we will be passing under Sri Lanka during the daylight hours on Sunday. Other boats doing that part of the passage in the last few days have had 25-30 knots and rough seas if they went offshore and calmer seas and less wind if they traveled about five miles offshore. The inshore route means negotiating the fishing grounds, but doing that in the daytime is not nearly as intimidating as doing it at night. We hear that the winds and seas in that area should be settling in the next couple of days, so a final decision will be made as we get closer and get a feel for the wind and seas and the time of day.

Congratulations to Ed and Lynne on Constance on the birth of the seventh grandchild, Arthur Edward Kurwin. He was born on the 20th, so doesn’t share a birthday with Sam, but is a healthy baby. We are happy for all. Welcome to this world, Arthur Edward.

One last note-We just had a late afternoon dolphin show. I love watching the dolphins race toward our bow, cross over and then jump out of the water. They look like they are jumping for joy.