Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Fire At Sea - A Cruising Yacht Burns

Our friend Laszlo Torok is recovering from significant burns after a fire engulfed his cruising boat, 11 nautical miles off the east Australian coast, near Surfers Paradise.

Television news showed the fire destroying the yacht, which eventually sank in 65 meters of water. Check the video here.  Laszlo tells me he is recovering and will be 100% in a few months, but he is obviously a very lucky sailor.

Wanting to learn from this tragedy, I asked Laszlo what caused the fire - was it a propane leak, or an electrical failure ?

Laszlo believes it was probably a faulty high pressure fuel injector pipe on the diesel engine, spraying a fine mist of diesel that eventually ignited.  He tells me that commercial trawlers have suffered similar fates in the past year or so on that coast.  His center cockpit vessel had space for storage in the engine room, so he did have solvents and fuels stored in there.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Arrival In The Maldives

Before we can see the land, we study that landfall on our charting system.  The approach to Male, the capital of the Maldives, is specially exciting - just look at all those reefs.  Crystal Blues arrived in Male on Sunday morning, after a five day crossing from Trincomalee in Sri Lanka.

From closer in, Male rises from the sea in an amazing display of tight communal living on a very small tropical island.

We had planned an early morning arrival and all was going to plan until huge black clouds began dumping rain on Male ahead of us. So we altered course and headed out to sea, away from the tropical storm. We tracked the storm on the radar and when it started to dissipate we headed back to Male.

Our emailed instructions from our agent, Real Sea Hawks, asked us to drop anchor in 40 meters and wait. Ley lost sight of the anchor at 17 meters, the water colour and clarity is stunning. We waited for 4 hours, but the officials were pleasant to deal with and after clearance we motored to the anchorage near the airport.

The lagoon anchorage in Male is just past the end of the runway and with building construction at the far end there is plenty happening. Neil is in "plane spotting heaven"with ancient Twin Otter sea planes continually flying overhead. We slept well at anchor that night and headed into Male town the next day for provisions.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Indian Ocean Clearance Diving

Can He Touch The Bottom ?  No Way....
On Tuesday night we hooked up on a surface net, where the top rope was directly buoyed on the surface.

I felt it pass under the keel around 9:00pm and then was amazed to see Crystal Blues slow down to a crawl as the line hooked onto the skeg and we started to drag the net to the south.

It was strange to be heeling over, sailing on autopilot, but going absolutely nowhere. As I turned to get the diving gear ready it broke free, assisted by the boat heaving on the light swell that was effecting us at the time. A lucky break.

Then on Friday, Ley noted a small white object trailing the rudder, about half a meter behind the stern. It danced and dived in the water, and got kind of excited when the boat speed hit 8 knots. Having sailed through an area of fishing nets we figured we had something hooked up somewhere under the boat.

Fish Line & Float Trailing Us For Day
Yesterday I took the plunge and swam in the deepest water that I've ever been in - 4,484 meters according to our charts. I must say it was amazing - so perfectly clear that I felt like I could see forever. Crystal Blues was like a toy floating above me in a light blue field. The clarity was at first disorienting, I've never experienced anything like it.

It took only seconds to cut the light line holding a fishing float to our skeg - looks like we hooked up the vertical suspension line on a submerged net, and it broke away from the net as we passed over it.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Passage To The Maldives

Three days in to our passage from Trincolmalee, Sri Lanka, to the Maldives the weather has been kind to us once again. Sunny days, dry weather and just enough wind to sail. As you can see here the sunsets have been beautiful.

All is well on board, the basil is growing like mad and we expect to arrive in Male on Sunday afternoon. Ley has caught no fish, except for the squid and flying fish found dead on the deck this morning.

We have sailed 406 NM and have 259 NM to go. Luckily we have had up to 2 knots of favorable current for the past two days so we covering miles very comfortably.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Travels In Trincomalee, Sri Lanka

Between the old Honda Motorbike and a fairly battered Toyota van we managed to cover a lot of ground here in Sri Lanka.  We never did get to one of the nearby wild life parks, but that didn't prevent us from sharing the roads and tracks with wild elephants, mongoose, peacocks, lizards, squirrels, deer, water buffalo, monkeys of many kinds etc etc.  That's not to mention the thousands of cattle and goats that roam free here and do really own the roads, though the local bus drivers would disagree.

Ancient City of Polonnaruva ruins
Traveling without a local guide is kind of unusual here, and the various historic sites make it a challenge, but Google Maps and an almost infallible 3G network made the navigation simple.

We spent a lot of time on back roads and tracks, and were never without a phone signal.  Even better, we were never without smiles and welcomes from the local people.

In one local town we waded into the river to watch the elephants being scrubbed, ate great local food and generally felt that we were very welcome everywhere.

The historic sites here are plentiful and spectacular, if a little expensive for foreigners to enter. But do pay the money and walk on to see some amazing sights.

Sigiriya - Water Gardens Leading To The Lions Claws
At Sigiriya we climbed the 830 steps (sure I counted them all) to get to the site of the palace.  Having proved to ourselves that we are definitely "getting older", we spent 30 minutes recovering before exploring the palace site.

Perched on top of a monumental chunk of rock, this was certainly a defendable site for a palace.  An amazing perspective on the countryside from up there, a forest of green punctuated with lakes as far as the eye could see.The next 830 steps (down) were very much easier.

From  our base in Trincomalee we were able to travel widely and return to the boat each evening.  Some of the island's attractions, including the national parks, do really require overnight travels, but we were keen to get moving again. 

A collection of our Sri Lankan images can be viewed here.

Sigiriya - Cave Frescoes
So we have refueled and provisioned for the next stage of our journey.  We cleared with customs and immigration yesterday evening, the Navy inspection boat has just departed and the dinghy is in davits ready for the passage.

We'll depart here in an hour or so and sail to Male in the Maldives.  Our transit time should be four to five days.
Sigiriya - fabulous views from the palace on top of the rock.