Blog from board

Lars Alfredson
Mon 9 Mar 2020 11:14


  On the 23rd Feb we leave Dawnbreaker in her usual place anchored in the middle of the harbour and take the dinghy to Chatham Bridge Pier which is our entrance point into Port Blair. Our agent has set us up with a man here who takes care of the dinghy when we arrive. Umar, I think he is called. I didn’t really bother to learn his name, not out of disrespect, but knowing that soon as we leave here he will be another forgotten person. He is a happy fellow, and should be by what we pay him for tying up the dinghy, an average Indian daily wage for 5 minutes work. He likes us.

  The three of us squeeze into an auto-rickshaw and head into town. We have the prices pretty well worked out from last time. It’s a Sunday and we go to the Anthropological museum. It’s quite interesting and possibly worth the entrance fee. Foreigners 150 rupees, locals 20 rupees. I have mixed feelings about double-pricing as most people would who are forced to pay more. I understand that foreign tourists tend to have more spending money but you can’t help but thinking that a level of greed is also involved and asking 7 ½ times the price of a local looks a bit greed based. Anyway, the museum highlights the 5 or 6 indigenous tribes that have called the Andamans their home for thousands of years. The tribes are very interesting here. Half of them are of Mongoloid background and half are Negroid. So some obviously came from Africa while others arrived from perhaps Myanmar. 

  It’s interesting. I used to think they were a part of the first migration of humans that left Africa and ended up in Australia and right up the north-eastern side of Asia. But they could not be. If so they would have Australoid features which they obviously don’t have and anyway they could never have reached small islands so far from the mainland then, you would think.

  The Australoid family group left Africa about 70,000 years ago. The next migration, that ended up covering the entire world and includes the Caucasoid and Mongoloid groups left about 50,000 years ago. These two groups are relatively close genetically. At least compared to the Australoid and the Negroid groups. I’ll give you a little known fact. Very small family groups left Africa many tens of thousands of years ago but most of the people stayed in Africa so there is actually more genetic variation within a single village in Africa than the entire rest of the world put together. That means that indigenous South American, Chinese and Italian are more closely related to each other than certain tribes in Africa. If you look at the differences in Africa you can see it. Pigmies, Zulus and fine-featured Ethiopians are good examples. The idea that Australian Aboriginals have some common link (apart from the obvious, darker skin) with Africans is way off the mark. Anyway the Anthropological museum was cool. 

  Most of the indigenous tribes here in the Andamans will become extinct. Apart from the converted Christians on Nicobar who are becoming more populous the populations of all other tribes are shrinking They are isolated in small areas and are not given contact with outsiders, Indians included. For whatever reasonYou have to questions India’s motives. Contact with the outside world could lead to demands of a kind of separatism or nationhood. I mean India, obviously because of the distance from the Indian mainland and the difference of ethnic and cultural background, really should not even be claiming these islands at all. A good example of how isolated they are is the story of the crazy American preacher that had himself illegally dropped on the beach of North Sentinel Island so he could try to convert the local indigenous people, the Sentinelese. This small tribe has been relocated to this one small island. They are very aggressive and show clearly that they desire no contact with the modern world. They did what they thought was right thing and put an arrow in him and killed him dead.

  After the museum we went back to the hotel where Pellestayed for one night before flying home. The Seascape Hotel was only just opened the week before. It was not even finished, but the reception was done, as were most of the rooms and the restaurant. I wanted to check in for a night. It would be nice to sleep in a real bed but the main reason was to use their WIFI and of course the pretty receptionist. The WIFI wasn’t fast but it was still faster than anything else I had had since leaving Phuket. 

  The guys stayed there for dinner and headed off back to the boat. I smuggled some wine into my room for a little celebration but fell asleep after the first glass. It was 8.30pm.

  The next day was my birthday; 24th Feb. We were refilling the water and later in the day checking out with customs and immigration so I had a fast breakfast and then met the guys at Chatham Bridge Pier. 

  Ivan and I did a final shopping trip to pick up basics like butter and bread and the few fresh vegetables and fruit we could find and then Lars picked us up with the dinghy and we left the landside of the Andamans for the last time.         

  Getting back to the boat I find a huge sign in the cabin with CONGRATS written with blow up party letters strewn across the salon ceiling. And a present! A book about Copenhagen. Thanks guys. 

  That night to celebrate I do the cocktails and Ivan makes dinner. A Bloody Mary, Blue Hawaii, a Margarita and a few glasses of wine later and I get this notion to sleep on-top of the boom. Lars says people have slept there before and it is amazingly comfortable. I go to sleep listening to Patty Griffin on my Sony Walkman but wake at 3.30 and go downstairs as it’s a bit nippy outside. I have a splitting headache from all the mixed drinks and eventually throw up over the side at around 5am. Another birthday over, thank god.

  The 25th was not a good day. Sore head sore body and one year older. What can you say? Good to get moving. We up-anchor at about 8am and start the long slog towards Galle in Sri Lanka. We looked at the Windfinderapp at the hotel when we had WIFI and thought the wind might be strong enough to do it in 5 days, if we are lucky. It doesn’t seem to be that way though. We put the sails out to port and starboard as we had done a few days earlier and run with the wind down the eastern side of Andaman Island, past Rutland Island and then head 250 degrees on a direct line towards Galle.

  Now we are three we change the watches to three hours. I have the first one from 8pm till 11 then again from 5am till 8am. This is where I am now, at 7am, sitting at the table on the cock-pit getting this blog up-to-date. The sun has been up for almost two hours already, the boat is rocking to each side as we roll along at around 4.5 knots – rock-and-roll sailing. At this rate it will be at least a week to Sri Lanka. I’ll get back to my kindle book. It’s by Simon Winchester about a trip he did to the remnants of what could be called the present British Empire. The first chapter is Chagos Islands and the infamous Diego Garcia Island. You’ll hear about that in time.

  As they do, the days drift by on the ocean. I guess you either love it or you don’t. I love it. Like long train trips, and I have done quite a few of those, you get into a kind of slow relaxed rhythm.

  I find the first days watch the easiest. 8pm to 11pm and again at 5pm till 8pm. The 11pm till 2am and the 2am till 5am are harder to wake-up. In the daytime we don’t organise watches because somebody is always on deck. Most of the time that is Lars. I try to ask him if he needs breaks in the day but most of the time he is content to sitat the stern and read. We are all going through books at a great rate. I’ve read 5 since Phuket. Lars has probably read a lot more. He reads fast.

  As I said, I find the later watches harder because you are usually waking from a deep sleep. I always take a coffee before I go up on deck. Then most of the time I’m listening to music on my Walkman while checking the Open CPN navigation program, checking the wind, sails, depth and most importantly looking out for boats. We see very few boats as there is no major shipping line in this part of the ocean. We don’t come across a shipping line until we round the South-Eastern tip of Sri Lanka. Then it will get crazy. Basically all the ships moving from the China Sea up to the Suez Canal will pass by the southern tip of Sri Lanka as the fastest route.

  We get into a routine with cooking also. Ivan does most of the breakfast and lunch and I do most of the dinners. After the binge on my birthday I am not drinking much, the occasional cocktail or a glass of two of wine but that’s about it. However our wine supply is rapidly dwindling. I’m thinking we will not be able to build it up again in Sri Lanka. We will have no trouble finding whiskey, rum, vodka etc but wine is still a luxury item in many countries. Let’s see, maybe we are lucky and find reasonably priced wine otherwise having no wine is also not a bad option. 

  After the first day the wind picks up and we only need to use the engine or the genset that are both run on diesel torecharge the batteries for powering the boat. We are using a huge amount of electricity. I don’t know if I have already mentioned all the electronic gadgets on the boat. It has just about everything including lights and power sockets everywhere, so we are running and charging multiple smart phones, tablets, kindles, lap-tops etc. Then there is the fridge and freezer and all the kitchen appliances you would find in any modern home. Well, within reason anyway. The cooker and oven run off gas.

  The wind is coming from the right direction and strong enough that we average about 6 knots. The only times it dies down and we need to use the engine was when we left Port Blair and rounding the southern tip of Sri Lanka. Both times protected by land. Because the wind is coming from behind it gives the boat a gentle rocking movement from side to side. It can sometimes throw you around if you get a large wave and are not prepared for it but generally it’s pretty easy. If we were going into the wind with sails then we would be constantly heeled over which is a bit like living on the side of a mountain. It will be interesting when we get back on land again. After six days at sea I expect it will be like the day-after-the-birthday all over again. Without the hangover.

  We hooked one more fish on the way over. Lars said it looked like a dorado. We lost it just before we could get it onboard. Luckily we still have a lot of canned tuna. Not to mention chicken, beef mince, steak, sausages bacon and enough cans to sink a ship – almost.

  Last night I had the 2 till 5am shift. The wind had swung around to off the starboard beam so I adjusted the genoas. They are both on spinnaker poles. The port side went fine but when I adjusted the starboard side the spinnaker pole broke out of its holding and came crashing down onto the deck. It’s not a huge weight. It’s not made from oak as they used to be but of carbon-fibre. But it was still enough to wake up Lars. He came up in a cheerful mood, thankfully, and helped me sort out the mess. Its another job. Things are constantly breaking on a boat. That’s something you learn pretty fast about sailing. You must be a handy person to keep a boat afloat. Either that or extremely rich and pay for repairs by trades-people you hopefully find in ports. Running a boat ain’t cheap.

  We expect to arrive in Galle sometime in the early afternoon today. Hopefully we can get on land. Ivan cannot contact the ‘agent’ we have organised to help us negotiate through the customs and immigration etc. We always need to do that before stepping onto land in a new country. He can also hopefully help us with all the other stuff that needs to be done. First and most importantly for me a sim card, then there is laundry, supermarket to top-up on food, duty free, if they have it here. We are here for about a week so hopefully we can see a few sites also. That means organising a bus, train or driver to take us into the interior of the island. It would be nice to see Sigiryaagain after so many years. Actually it will be quite funny coming into Galle harbour because I did a sailing trip from Singapore to Sri Lanka in 1981, 39 years ago. The boat was a 50 foot ketch and the captain was Norwegian. I wonder how much the town has changed in that time.