The Alba Chronicles
Neville Howarth
Sun 19 Feb 2017 01:53



05:50N   080:42E


So far we've done 813 miles with 33 miles to go. We did 177 miles in the last 24 hours.  We have complete cloud cover and 6 knot NE winds.  We’re now motor-sailing along the Sri Lankan coast heading for Galle.  Here's what we did yesterday and overnight.


18 February 2017    Port Blair to Galle, Sri Lanka (Day 5)

In the past 24 hours, we’ve had a cracking run of 174 miles (average 7.2 knots) with 15-20 knot winds and a favourable current.  At 07:00 this morning, we only had 203 miles to go, so if we can average 6 knots, we should arrive before sunset tomorrow.  The latest GRIB forecast shows similar winds & current for today and overnight, so it looks very possible.


It’s Sunday tomorrow and I was worried about extra costs for a weekend arrival, so using our sat phone, I emailed our agent in Galle and he’s confirmed that there’s no overtime charges – its the same outrageous cost every day of the week.


This morning, we saw our first fishing buoy.  We passed within 50 metres of a black flag and there was a white float about 25 metres from the flag – I couldn’t see any other flags or floats.  I assume that they are long-line fishing with a fishing line suspended from floats between two flags, miles apart.  Hopefully the main line will be several metres under the surface and as long as we don’t hit a flag or a float then we should pass over it.


The day started off overcast and grey, but with a consistent 15-20 knot wind.  As we moved into the afternoon, the wind started to gust up to 25 knots and dark patches of rain squalls were bubbling up around us. 


We reefed the main and the genoa, but as Glenys was winching in the genoa sheet, she leaned on the bimini frame and the bolt holding the frame leg snapped off.  Unfortunately, half of the bolt has been left behind in the deck fitting, so it took us ten minutes of inventive use of 3mm line; a piece of wood; and some duct tape to bodge a way of holding the frame in place.  I’ll repair it properly when we get to Mirissa.


We managed to avoid the squalls until about four o’clock, when one overtook us and heavy rain started.  Within 10 minutes, the wind had veered by 45 degrees and was increasing rapidly, so I braved the lashing rain and went on deck to roll away the main sail.  By this time, we had 35 knots of wind, so we turned dead downwind and ran for ten minutes with about ¼ mile visibility, hoping that the two nearby ships would keep clear of us. We could see on our AIS that they were both within a mile of us, but we couldn’t physically see them because of the driving rain.


The wind gradually dropped down to 5-10 knots, leaving us in big, confused seas with no boat speed, so rather than wallowing about, we started the engine and headed off towards our destination. By this time we needed to have dinner, but we were being bounced around by the big waves, so Glenys abandoned the idea of cooking a Spanish Omelette and rustled up a one-pot beef stew from tins, which was surprisingly good being enhanced with Heinz tomato soup and Tabasco sauce.  As darkness fell, we were only 30 miles from the Sri Lankan coast, but still had 120 miles to go to Galle.


My 7-10 watch was pretty miserable – it was pitch black with persistent rain; we were being thrown around by the confused waves; and every few minutes, the sky was being illuminated by huge flashes of lightning. The wind was very fickle, varying from 8 knots to 16 knots, so with the uncertainty of another squall, I left the main furled away and motor-sailed with just the genoa. There were scores of ships on the AIS and I passed a few fishing boats, so it was a busy three hours.


The wind picked up to a steady 15-20 knots allowing Glenys to sail for most of her 10-1 watch albeit just with the genoa.  By this time, we had a 2-3 knot current pushing us along, so we were making good speed across the ground.  The rest of the night turned out to be lovely.  We raised the main sail at 01:00 and had a cracking close reach as we curved around the south side of Sri Lanka.  With the strong current, we were doing over 9 knots across the ground at times. We finally lost the wind just after dawn.