A Change of Plan
Barry and Margaret Wilmshurst
Wed 23 Mar 2011 14:07
We have been accused of "going a bit quiet" over the past week or two and we plead guilty as charged. We had a very good couple of weeks with our old friends Merril and Roger and that gave us plenty to think about for a while. Then the terrible deaths of the four Americans on the yacht Quest has affected us all. We did not know the crew ourselves but we know people who did and we all feel the loss as if it were our extended family. Four US warships close by for three days; a carrier, cruiser, and two guided missile destroyers; 6,000 military personnel, including special forces; 19 young Somalis and four hostages. And the hostages died. Perhaps the most chilling comment was from the "pirate leader" Farah speaking to Reuters from Bayla: "I lost the money I invested and my comrades. No forgiveness for the Americans. Revenge. Our business will go on," he said, adding he had spent $110,000 so far in the hijacking, including on weapons and food and salaries. This is the first time, as far as we know, that Somali pirates have killed anyone. We all know that this awful incident changes everything - but in what ways? Now seven Danes, including three children, have been taken hostage,
No wonder that we have paused for thought. Waiting here for a year in the hope that things will improve no longer seems sensible. So after sober reflection we are starting to plan for sailing via South Africa leaving here in August. We shall try to get back up to Phuket for a few weeks before we go and visit the UK for a month. The route round the Cape of Good Hope would take us down the Malacca strait then further south through some of the islands of Indonesia to pass into the Indian Ocean via the Sunda strait between Sumatra and Java, to Cocos Keeling. A decision would then be made whether to head somewhat out of pour way to the Chagos archipelago or sail direct to Mauritius followed by Reunion and Richards Bay, north of Durban. The tricky part will probably be from Reunion onwards when we shall pass south of Madagascar and across the fast-flowing Aghulas current. There are few ports of refuge on the South Africa coast and care has to be taken to avoid the regular string of south-westerly gales that always blow up against the south-going current. Weather forecasts are good but mariners must remain very alert. The aim would be to be in Cape Town by Christmas. We are still in the preliminary planning stage but we have heard from friends who have been that way before, we are speaking to others contemplating the same route and things are shaping up.
A friend we met on a walk.
Merril and Roger were with us for a little over two weeks so we were able to show them something of the sybaritic lifestyle around the marina and the hotel pool, take them shopping in Kuah and drive round Langkawi identifying the high spots. Then off for a mini cruise round the island, finding some delightful anchorages and all agreeing that Langkawi was prettier from the outside looking in than from the inside looking out. There are one or two very attractive bays which have attracted high class hotels but unlike in some other parts of the world the hotels make no objection to yachts anchoring off shore and are only too pleased to welcome decently dressed yachtsmen to their restaurants. Our guests took themselves off to Georgetown, Penang for a couple of days while we grabbed an opportunity that had arisen out of the blue to engage the services of another fridge man. We think he has correctly identified the latest problem and put it right at moderate cost. Very satisfactory.
The Hole in the Wall anchorage - well known to cruisers.
What's going on? Anchored off a beach we watched these local people, fully dressed, on a Friday, in the water for over an hour, Had it not been a Muslim country we would have thought it was a baptism, We never found out.
The little air conditioning unit has proved a godsend - it gets very hot here during the middle of the day. The mate found it inconvenient that the unit should be stuck in the main hatch so that we had to climb over it every time we came aboard so she devised a cunning housing over one of the hatches above the saloon. It is not as effective but is much more convenient. We shall see how it works when the weather gets even hotter.
We have been trying to keep in touch with our friends and others who are shipping their boats from the Maldives to Turkey. We think about 14 are taking this option. They should be busy about now preparing to be hoisted aboard the freighter. It seems that the Thailand to Turkey convoy has more or less broken up so it is unlikely to be forming again next year. Other friends have pressed on through pirate infested waters in spite of the dangers and we have received encouraging reports from the Red Sea. Others are still struggling along the Indian and Arabian coast. We are thinking of them all and holding our breath.