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Eastwards Across the Andaman Sea

By Val Ellis last modified May 14, 2008 06:53 PM

Published: 2008-05-14 18:53:41
Topics: Indian Ocean
Countries: Djibouti , Egypt , Eritrea , India , Malaysia , Oman , Singapore , Sri Lanka , Sudan , Thailand , Yemen

We left Aden in mid Jan and were blessed with crazy but good winds to sail up to Salalah in Oman, although we had to engine the last 100m. We had to tack relatively little and pondered the "NE" monsoon repeatedly, with easterlies and south easterlies giving beam and close reaches much of the time. After refuelling and good provisioning we left Salalah for Galle in Sri Lanka in early Feb and were again rewarded with good winds. Initial F6/7 NW winds pushed us along very well until the wind turned N and then NE, F5/6 for much of the passage and we were able to follow our rhumb course line pretty much all of the way to Galle, arriving in 13 days from Salalah. We then left the wonderful island of Sri Lanka in early March bound for Langkowi in Malaysia but then had no winds at all for five successive days and sailed from thunderstorm to thunderstorm to claim the wind.

After burning much of our diesel reserves against the currents we decided to retreat back to Galle using what little winds we had to either await the SW monsoon or increase our diesel reserves as there was again little wind in prospect. Many yachts travelling westwards had motored all the way from Malaysia/Thailand to Sri Lanka. So we decided to investigate the possibilities of hauling out in Galle and we received very good service from GAC, the agents in Galle, as well as the officials there. Consequently, we are now hauled out in Galle Port.

There are now a few yachts gathering in Galle to go eastwards and we are pondering the best time to leave. At the moment the consensus seems to be early June when the Cyclone's worst has passed and the big seas have not yet built up.

Also, there is now a feeling from the Sri Lankan authorities that they need to do more to attract yachts to stay longer term. Local businesses have pressured the President of Sri Lanka to authorise investment back into the harbour to make it more yacht friendly. They are also aware that new marinas in the Maldives and Cochin may take much valued local business away from them.

Consequently, a Japanese consultancy firm has been engaged to plan a new yacht marina in Galle which should be completed sometime in 2009. This will also include haul out and repair facilities and the two agents GAC and Windsor are pushing this too. This new mood of help rather than hindrance and suspicion allowed a much easier situation for our 15m fin keeled Ocean 50 to be hauled out by crane onto hard standing within the harbour so that we could leave it safely (mooring in the harbour itself is still a nighmare!). GAC are now pushing hard for other visiting yachts to do the same if needed. Given Galle's strategic position for sailing yachts transversing both east and west, this could be an interesting option for many yachts.

Dave Ungless, Skipper

S/Y Sänna 2

Additional comment from Jimmy Cornell:

An eastbound passage across the North Indian Ocean is never easy, so retreating to an Egyptian marina would not make much sense. So if you are determiend to make it to SE Asia, sooner or later you need to bite the bullet...and go. Waiting for the SW monosson would make sense, but if you do decide to leave eartlier, perhaps wait until the NE monsoon gets lighter. Whatever time you leave, you will need to tack. The problem is compounded by tha fact that a port tack will take you dangerously close into Somali waters, so you need to take short tacks until you are well past the Horn of Africa. From there you may take a long tack towards the equator (forget Cochin!), then make your way east in what could be lighter winds (take a lot of fuel with you), stop if convenient in the Maldives, then continue east. However, if you find better conditions that take you south of the Maldives, carry on in low latitudes and only turn NE once close to Sumatra.