It was great to be on an ocean passage again after sailing up and down the coast and through the islands of Malaysia and Thailand for the last year and a bit.
The weather forecast was predicting almost non existent wind in the Andaman Sea for two days with around 15 knots from the Northeast on the third day. We discussed whether to wait one more day in Nai Harn Bay to enjoy at least two days of sailing but we had all waited long enough and were anxious to get going so we just left despite the weather predictions.
At around 11.30 am we left Nai Harn Bay and sailed for a short while before meeting up with Yantara and Smart Choice around lunchtime just off the coast of Phuket and on a heading for the Andaman Islands. We managed a couple of hours of sailing before having to turn the motor on when the wind dropped.
Soon we had settled down into the cruising groove. It is a wonderful feeling being surrounded by ocean, watching the infinite variations of wave formations.
By 5pm we had lost Internet connection – we felt free and relished the isolation but enjoyed the security of having the company of two boats travelling within eyeshot.
I had preprepared some meals so all that needed to be done was heat up the main course and just cook some rice and pasta each night. Easy. Salads or sandwiches were our lunchtime fare which again were reasonably easy to prepare although a bit of wedging in was required to stop me going flying when we fell off a big wave or the boat lurched at a critical moment.
Sundowners- an essential part of yachtie life- consisted of fresh lime juice and tonic and lots of ice. It would have been better if there had been a bit of gin in it but we generally have a dry boat on passages (following the maxim don’t drink and drive!).
Throughout the day we checked in with the other boats on the radio – sometimes to let each other know we had spied a curious object in the water (e.g. A big red buoy in the middle of the deepest part of the ocean) and sometimes just to confirm all was well.
Our first night was quiet with only a few squid boats in the distance and a handful of cargo ships passing by (one rather close that obligingly altered course for our small flotilla after being contacted by Yantara via VHF radio.
At one point we were contacted by the yacht Sunchaser (who we first met on the Sail2Indonesia Rally) and who had been in the Andaman Islands for the past month and were on their way back to Phuket. Sadly we had missed meeting up with them but it was great to hear from the skipper – mid ocean and in the middle of the night.
The following day was uneventful except for an annoying spillage of yoghurt in the fridge which entailed all kinds of acrobatics to get to the fridge bottom (its like a big old fashioned chest freezer) to clean it up. Fortunately the weather was calm so I was able to deal with it without too much drama.
We had three visits from a group of around eight dolphins who came came and played in our bow wave and around the boat. As always it gave us such a feeling of pleasure to see them.
The only other event was for a short period of time we sailed through some water which could only be described as “disturbed”. It was rather like going through a washing machine – the waves were coming from every which way. The sort of thing you might see around a reef or a group of rocks
Looking at the charts we saw that we were travelling over a sea mountain. We surmised this was the cause of the disturbance as the water depth went from 2,000 to just 100 metres.
It was a little harder to keep awake the second night but during my watch I managed to keep going by listening to music and some podcasts that I had downloaded before leaving.
At 7.30am we put the sails up and had a wonderful sail. The wind was around 13 – 15 knots and even with the headsail deeply reefed and the main sail also reefed (made smaller) we were averaging around 6.2 knots – that’s with a current against us! We took in a bit more headsail and settled down to 5.5 knots as we didn’t want to go too fast and get to Port Blair in the middle of the night.
Apart from our travelling companions, we saw no other vessels of any kind all day but what was shocking was we still saw a number of large plastic bottles and a massive plastic bag – when we were at least 150 nm from the nearest land.
On the third day of the trip we had to put our clocks back an hour and a half to be in Indian time as we were due to arrive at the Andaman Islands the following day. This meant that according to the clock we ate lunch at 11.30am and had Sundowners at 4.15. Sunset was very early – between 5.30 and six which felt very strange.
We also raised our Indian flag and the yellow quarantine flag.
The only minor disaster that day was that when getting ice for our sundowner drinks the freezer door fell off in Capt’n Birdseye’s hand! Fortunately he was able to make a temporary fix so we didn’t lose all our rations for the next month!
We arrived outside Port Blair just before 7 am – perfect timing!
After seeking permission to enter the port from Port Blair Port Radio and giving all our details we were able to go to Mangrove Bay to anchor and after reporting our position were able to relax and enjoy a cup of tea.
On the way in it was just like old times to see boats we had met on the Sail2Indonesia rally – Shakti, Quintessa and Beach House, and to wave “hello” to those who were up and about.
Read the next instalment of our four week stay in India’s beautiful and fascinating Andaman Islands at: