Setting sail for the Andaman Islands

At last the long awaited day had come when we were to check out of Phuket and set sail for the Andaman Islands to take part in the inaugural Andaman Islands Yacht Carnival.

A poster for the inaugural Andaman’s yacht carnival

We had fallen in love – on our first visit in 2017 – with the beautiful and isolated Andaman Islands which with the Nicobar Islands, is India’s southernmost outpost. We couldn’t wait to get back!

Our daughter in the Andaman Islands in 2017. Who wouldn’t fall in n love with the place!

During our first visit a number of us “yachters” as they like to call us, suggested to Rathnam, the agent we had used, that he organise a Yacht rally and it turned out that he had already been thinking about doing this. We gave him contact details of Rally organisers in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand and all made suggestions around cultural and other activities.

Our agent Rathnam and wife Sushna

The only way to travel to the Andaman Islands apart from arriving by yacht, is by air or boat from mainland India. This is about to change however, as an international terminal is in the process of being built.

The trip is around 400 nautical miles from Phuket in Thailand, for Bali Hai that is around a three day, three nights.

This map shows where the Andaman Islands are situated

We set off in the company of Beach House, a Perry 57 catamaran, You You, a 36 foot Colin Archer double ender and Yantara, a 46 foot custom built yacht with a Sparkman and Stephens hull. Quite a mixed bag!

Our little flotilla on the GPS – like ducks in a row

The first day and night were uneventful. There was no wind at all which meant the sea was like glass and we had to motor sail which was disappointing.

The good ship S/V Yantara

S/V Beach House

Late in the first day we heard from You You that they were experiencing problems with their seawater pump. At first they thought they could mend it but we found out later that sadly, they had to turn back.

We also had a slight hitch when moving along in water 2000 metres deep – the engine noise changed and we weren’t making good headway – a piece of rope round the prop was suspected and poor Capt’n Birdseye had to jump into the ocean blue to ascertain the problem. Fortunately he was able to free the rope quite easily and soon we were on our way again.

Capt’n Birdseye dressed only in his mask and snorkel

This was the rope wrapped around our propeller

That evening we enjoyed the chicken curry I had precooked before leaving and settled into our normal watch sequence – the good captain went to bed at around 9.30 pm and tried to sleep (it’s never a good sleep on the first night) and then at 1.30 am it was my turn to sleep until 5.30 am when I took over again for a couple hours.

One of the best parts of an ocean crossing – watching the sun rise each morning

While on watch at dawn that second day I sighted a group of pilot whales move slowly round the back of the boat. A magnificent sight! Again, we motored all day until at last at five pm a breeze blew up and we were finally able to switch off the motor.

Wind at last and sailing!

In only 10 -12 knots of wind (on our beam) we were humming along at around seven knots and we continued like that until 8.15pm when the wind dropped and we started to motor sail again.

After another beautiful sunrise we were able to switch off the engine again and sailed the rest of the way to Port Blair.

A cargo ship passes as the sun rises

During the third day we spotted S/V Asterie (from Western Australia) on our AIS (Automatic Identification System) and we enjoyed talking to them on the radio and catching up on their experience of the trip so far.

We also kept in touch via the radio with Beach House and Yantara and enjoyed hearing about their competing fishing stories. Yantara’s boat guest even hooked a marlin!

Heave hoooooo! (Photo credit Jill Sheppard S/V Yantara)

The marlin before it got away

But there were compensations

S/V Asterie on the horizon as the sun comes up

Early on the fourth morning we finally arrived at Port Blair. Beach House, Yantara and Asterie led the way in and provided early morning amusement on the radio responding to Port Blair Port Radio’s questions with the consequent misunderstandings and long pauses.

Nearly there!

The young man asking the questions had a very strong accent and it was obvious he too was struggling to decipher our accents. Both sides talking “proper” English as far as they were concerned, both not understanding what the other said.

An example: question “What is your boat’s entire length”. “Errr 12 tonnes?” came the tentative answer.

By the time it was our turn I think the radio operator must have located our details which had been provided to Rathnam, our agent and Rally organiser – or the operator was too busy to ask us the complete list – as thankfully we only had a few questions to answer.

At anchor at last we were happy to have arrived in the Andaman Islands once again and to be starting another adventure.

At anchor in Port Blair

If you would like to read more about the inaugural Andamans Yacht Rally and our trip up north follow the link below:

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Salty tales from Bali Hai

In 2015, after a break from cruising of almost 30 years, my husband and I sailed off into the sunset - this time to the wonderful Islands of Indonesia and beyond. Three years passed and we swapped sails for wheels driving through Scandinavia and Europe in a motor home. Now we are on the brink of another adventure - buying a Lagoon 420 Catamaran in Athens. This is our story.

4 thoughts on “Setting sail for the Andaman Islands”

  1. You are having the best time!!! Meeting interesting people and achieving such dreams !!! Looking forward to seeing you when you arrive back to Aussie
    Love you guys
    Dave and Annie Whalley XXX


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