Saturday, 27 December 2008

Port Blair - The cellular jail

Port Blair was a failed attempt to establish a settlement in 1789 and was largely forgotten until 1858 when a penal colony for convicts was established by the British Indian government.



The cellular jail

Reason for this was because the 1st Indian Independence War was fought in 1857 and the English needed a place where to dump the freedom fighters. In the beginning convicts were just left onto the main Island (Port Blair) while the Englishmen stayed on Ross Island away from the con's. However one of the convicts, Sher Ali Khan, managed to kill Lord Mayo during an inspection of Port Blair.

As a result of the killing the cellular jail was ordered to be built in 1893.

A massive complex with seven wings in a star shape was built facing Phoenix Bay. I wonder what always makes people in power to build jails on the best spot. The view is stunning from the hillock where it is built.

In this prison was housed only political prisoners that were used and abused by their British tormentors. I'm sure this incident would be preferred to be forgotten as it is an ugly depiction that is today displayed for tourists at the Sound and Light show at the cellular jail.

Today only 3 wings remain of the jail as other parts have been taken in use as a hospital and other parts has been demolished. However, this monument serves as another memory of mans brutality against fellow man. This prison could be compared to the Cambodian Tuol Sleng and Killing Fields as well as German concentration camps in it's reminder of cruelty inflicted on men just because they wanted to be independent.

English language shows are daily at 1730hrs and tickets cost 20 INR for adults. The show is very patriotic and kind of long winding, but audio and light is working properly and is done slightly theatrically.
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Friday, 26 December 2008

Captains blog Dec 2008 voyage Phuket – Mumbai

Again we were packed up and ready to depart for India and on the 2nd Dec 2008 we cast off at highwater in Yacht Haven. We were waved off by Marina Manager Nick and Zara as well as our agent Toby and Nong. There were no weeping maidens with a broken heart though.

Taking on a greenie

We had a strong NE breeze and the forecast promised winds from the stern, there was only a small low pressure at N end of Sumatra that was not that intense and winds were fair. Our port radar was inoperable again despite the repairs we did in Singapore. In general things looked good.

Well, first day enroute we’re making good speed abt 9kts and we started to get some ocean swell but winds were still NE force 3-4. Ship started to roll and we engaged the stabilizers. After 12hrs we had to switch them off as the other side was excessively leaking oil due to corroded hydraulic piston shaft. I guess too much inactivity. Then our centre engine started heating up and consuming lube oil, we reduced revs on the engine and the problem seemed solved for the time being. Come 2nd day (4/12) the engine got worse and was literally drinking lube, the exhaust was white and one could smell LO on the bridge. The engine was stopped, it seemed either piston rings had gone or the turbo charger. After conferring with Vivek we decided to press on with our remaining 2 engines and overhaul the centre engine upon arrival Mumbai.

Come evening 2nd day wing engines crankshafts started heating up too, we had to decrease revs. This was either due to seawater pump giving up or water lines clogged by sea growth, no way of solving the problem at sea. In addition the auxiliary engine exhaust silencer had started leaking water, it was raining in the engine room. As we had just passed the Nicobar chain and looking at Vivek’s face when he told me abt the new problems I decided to divert to Port Blair as the distance was half compared to Galle. Also at this time the swell had turned to our port bow and we were pounding the waves and taking the occasional greenie on deck. Winds were still NE’ly force 3 or less, but we made speed only 5kts. After setting new course for Port Blair we were making 7kts with the swell from our stern quarter. I started wondering whether there was higher forces in working that did not want us to reach India, perhaps it was the magic of the Kingdom keeping us in its grip refusing us to depart.

Seasick girls taking a fresh breath of air with Rajaram

As usual when water depths hit over 1km the sea turns a beautiful turquoise or azure blue. At times we would be visited by dolphins that came to play in our bow wave. An everyday occurrence was the frightened fly fish that scuttled clear of us. Fish was flying port and starboard and at times onto the aft deck too.

5th Dec our A/C plant overheated and blew out the coolant gas. There was no end to the Engineer’s misery. Damage reports were sent to office and list of spares requirements were drawn for organizing engine spares to Port Blair in order to have a speedy overhaul and continue our voyage.

We finally arrived 6th Dec close to midnight at Port Blair and anchored in Phoenix Bay for Navy clearance. They arrived shortly after anchorage on a RIB with weapons galore and checked the crew (face check) and the ship for (I assume) illegal aliens and/ or substances. After completion it was time for a few hrs of shuteye before pilot boarded at 6am.

On the 14th morning we finally had the engine running and pilot onboard and we went for sea trials. Eventually the engine was found running well and I headed out and anchored off Aberdeen jetty opposite Ross Island for port clearance. Once all clear and having said our goodbyes to Salim and Ashraf we left for Galle at noon, our intention was to take cheap bunker there and possibly install a new turbo charger.
15th Dec we were alone in the middle of nowhere, not a ship around, not even on the AIS. It was Jessica’s birthday and Richie fixed a cake and come dinner time we all sang to “Happy Birthday” to her and she even got a few presents.

16th Dec onwards the swell just got higher and the Ocean was just deserted as before. Not a soul in sight. Jessica and Martula got seasick and lay on the saloon floor like fish out of water.



We made good speed 9kts all the way to Galle, the swell was from our stern and we were surfing with the waves that caused us to roll heavily at times. Anything loose was sure to move. When we neared the Island State we got a remarkable stern current that whisked us forward at 11kts at times and I amended our ETA to morning in order for us to depart on same day after bunkering. We had decided to overhaul the turbo in Mumbai as the engine seemed to be holding well together.

17th Dec went printing documents for the port authorities. I always wonder where these papers end up. Does anybody read them afterwards? Or do they just end up in vast archives to collect dust?

We arrived Galle roads at 7am 18th Dec and I contacted the Port control. Port Control instructed us to proceed in and a naval patrol boarded us to do inspection.

Evening when sailing along the Sri Lankan coast was littered with fishing boats, they looked more like narrow dinghies and had a smaller pontoon rigged on the side for stability, we had to get 10’ offshore when we cleared all fishermen. Once out on the Gulf of Mannar we got a good NE’ly force 4-5 and a swell as well.

19th Dec got us going doing good speed 10kts sideways to the waves at times rolling heavily, wind increased to E force 6-7 and at 5am our eggs were cleared off the shelves onto the galley floor. Luckily we are due to shelter from Indian mainland in another 5hrs, if we would have been delayed the 12hrs I would have been forced to sneak my way up the Sri Lankan coast and slink over to the Indian side instead of taking the straight route. 6am one of our steering pumps gave up, that was probably the last technical item we had not had any issues with so far.

There would be no more omelets before Mumbai nor any birthday cake for me. Other people have big bashes when they turn 30 or 40, I believe that during both anniversaries I have been at sea. 10 yrs ago I was working on Superstar Leo in Malaysia, I recall I had no party that time, not surprising recalling their draconian personnel policies. At 1800hrs when I went on duty, Saini told me to go and have some dinner first and I was met by Richard who presented a cake against all odds. It was a bit hard but tasted good with cinnamon and all masala he had added. After all it is the thought that counts.

Anyway, by the time we passed Cape Comorin we were only doing 8.5kts and the E’ly turned to a NE’ly.

20th Dec saw us picking up speed again, at times we were doing 10.5kts. The sea calmed down as a result of the shelter from the Indian mainland provided. Wind was all the time a NNE’ly, the sea turned a drab green as water depth went down to 50m and less. Also our dolphins and flying fish had abandoned us. In the afternoon we spotted bigger ocean going fishing boats pulling up their haul, I counted abt 20 men on deck, no shortage of man power there.

My guys and girls started to setting up ship as much as they could. In fact Raja Ram and Sandeep had been scrubbing the deck for days on end now. On the bridge the Captain’s chair finally gave up and plonked out of its swivel socket - it had served well.

In the evening 21st Dec, while passing Mormugao (Goa), the notorious hippie haunt as well as a major iron ore port in India, there were several ships on the roads waiting for a berth. I saw several fishermen in mere dinghies pulling nets in pitch black darkness only illuminated by a fluttering open flame kerosene torch 12’ offshore. Richard said they come and go by the tide. I wonder how many of them are lost to Poseidon annually.

22nd Dec brought a NNW’ly swell and Kalizma was pitching like a bronco trying to rid his rider. We sure have had our share of pitching, rolling, yawing and broaching during this trip. Wind had died down to a N’ly force 2. Afternoon was again spent printing out documents for the thirsty bureaucrats of Mumbai. Jyoti was setting aside some JW Red Label for them. At 1800hrs we entered Mumbai pilot boat cruising area and picked up our pilot for taking us to our anchorage in front of the Gateway of India. We had finally arrived Mumbai after 20 days of sailing.

23rd Dec the day started with Immigration clearance, the customary whisky was offered upon completion and the Immigration Officer promptly asked for 2 btls more and some T-shirts and caps. Well, I gave him the whisky but had to inform him that I was all out of T-shirts & caps. Immigration Officer said I could send some to his office once I got some. Errrrrr…..oh well… Indian bureaucracy.
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Captain's blog - visit Galle

We arrived Galle roads at 7am 18th Dec and I contacted the Port control. Port Control instructed us to proceed in and a naval patrol boarded us to do inspection. Once clear the sergeant asked for whisky… oh well. We entered the harbor basin that was boomed off except a 10m gap at the breakwater that was guarded by armed sentries. We moored at the “New pier” (N of Gibbett Island), a decently fendered cargo pier but not really suitable for yachts. Everywhere was a military presence and small guys patrolled around with big assault rifles slung on their shoulders or carried in various fashion. The LTTE threat was taken seriously.

Fishermen outside Galle

Then our agent, Mr. Upali Gooneratne, boarded with all the officials in tow, there was Port Health, Custom, Immigration and Security. They all needed whisky too, must be the dusty paper shuffling making them thirsty. Bunkering was to start at 1300hrs by truck. Lastly I was also visited by the Harbor Master and we chatted about Port of Galle and future plans of re-developing a yacht marina (I found out there had been a yacht marina that had been swept away by the 2004 tsunami.) Harbor Master also commented on some yachts that in his opinion were smuggling people to Europe, Asian crew was duly registered on the crew list but when the yacht arrives Europe it would be met by snake heads and the Illegal Immigrants would be taken away to their unknown destinies. First time I ever heard about such activities.

Galle harbor, wavebreaker entrance on extreme left with armed guards

After all red tape was cleared, I went with Mr. Upali for some shopping for ships provisions. At the same time we drove a short loop in Galle city and the Dutch Fort. The city has a population of only abt 100.000 and has not much to offer. Surprisingly I saw quite a few foreigners on the streets. The drive in the Dutch Fort was nice, there was a Dutch reform Church and all buildings were left after the colonial period and looked very quaint but unfortunately they were in a more or less dilapidated state. Once our shopping was done we headed back to the ship to wait for the bunker truck that was now late.

Galle Dutch Fort

At 1330hrs there was no truck forthcoming and we started calling around and we got replies that the “truck will be there soon”, “truck is at the gate”, “Truck is there” – all was essentially figments of imagination and as we called higher up the ranks it was revealed that the truck was late, very late. Time was now our enemy as the sunset would leave us rolling our thumbs until next morning as port regulations did not allow movements after darkness. Fuel truck finally arrived 1630hrs and it was past 1700hrs before bunkering got started. The sun was setting fast.

Dutch Fort old lighthouse

Mr. Upali had arranged clearance in advance and Navy guys were standby to do their inspection and we stated our departure to 1800hrs for the Port Authorities, Harbor Master gave us permission to leave as long as we could see. I said I have x-ray vision. Vivek started up the engines to warm up, pumping was going on and finally we got the hose disconnected at abt 1810hrs, amount was verified, papers signed and people were showed the gangway. At 1810 I ordered all ropes cast off and we were clear off the pier at 1815hrs. Port Control was already telling us on VHF that we can’t exit the port while I was passing the breakwater barrier along with the last rays of the sun. We eventually managed to do our visit in one day, phew, but it was a close call. All was thanks to the Custom Officer accompanying the fuel truck that decided to stop for a 2h lunch and get drunk. While bunkering went on I could see him staggering around the pier, there was for sure no whisky forthcoming to him if he would have asked (he did not).

Evening when sailing along the Sri Lankan coast was littered with fishing boats, they looked more like narrow dinghies and had a smaller pontoon rigged on the side for stability, we had to get 10’ offshore when we cleared all fishermen. Once out on the Gulf of Mannar we got a good NE’ly force 4-5 and a swell as well.





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Captain's blog - visit Port Blair

Once alongside I met our agent Salim Jadwett and his nephew Ashraf that was the “action man”. Well, we started tackling the publicans and first were the Custom officials, lists were filed and stamped then whisky was given for lubrication of the process. After Customs we had the Immigration, same thing there, after them it was the Coast Guards turn. Once all was clear it was already 2pm. 

Port Officials & me

After this we started contacting our contractors, the centre engine and wing engines needed attention as well as the AE exhaust and our A/C plant and Bow thruster. The Cummins workers were refused entry as they came without ID’s to the port so they had to travel back to their homes to get ID’s, when they tried again gate security refused them due to that they did not have Company ID’s. Needless to say they did not work the 1st day. At least we managed to get started on other jobs. In the evening I went out with Vivek, Sunil, Richard and Jyothi and had dinner at the Lighthouse. Nice food but a restaurant with no ambience, seemed recently painted, except at the wall below A/C unit, that looked rotten.

M/v Harsha Vardhana, the Islanders mainland contact

Ashraf, me and Salim Jadwet, our agents

8th Dec was as unsuccessful with Cummins people, Vivek was calling them every 30mins but they still had problems with their ID’s, finally they came late in the afternoon. Centre engine was opened up and it was discovered the turbo charger was totally gone with heat plate melted and vane wings broken. There was no spare turbo on the Island so the hunt for a new turbo started and a service kit was ordered.

Haddo wharf where we were alongside, all ISPS ready

I did the last official visit and went with Ashraf to the Harbour Masters office to present documents. He was not in but instead I met the Chief Port Administrator, Mr. Anantha Chandra Bose . He was sitting behind a “U” shape table in the middle of a huge wood paneled office well cooled down to an arctic temperature by A/C. We had a nice cup of tea and chat about Port Blair, its history, tribes, 2004 Tsunami and current affairs (Mumbai 26/11).

Ashraf Jadwet and CPA Anantha Bose

After the final red tape sorted I visited the anthropological museum that displayed the various artifacts and characteristics of the inhabitants of Andaman’s & Nicobar Islands (A&N), earlier and later settlers. In general it is stated that Andaman’s was originally inhabited (and still is) by people of Negrito pygmy descent and the Nicobarese with Mongoloid descent. Today 6 tribes (Shompen, Onge, Nicobarese, Sentinelese, Jarawa and Greater Andamanese) still exist.

A police Royal Enfield

Many has been very largely introduced into the main stream “civilization”, only one tribe, the Sentinelese, still remains reclusive and hostile to the outer world and refuses any contact. After the 1st settlers a multitude of people was introduced to the Islands when it became a penal colony for the British Raj, these are generally referred as the 2nd settlers or nowadays just “local born”. They became the 1st casteless group of people in India as intermarriage was done between convicts that were incarcerated on the Island.

Gandhi statue in Port Blair

Port Blair "Kali-Peeli" taxi

Spice trader in Port Blair

9th onwards went bickering and pushing the Cummins people as in 4 days the effective work effort was about 12hrs in total. We strongly suspected that they had earlier worked at the Wavemaster shipyard in Langkawi. The BT was repaired, in the end it proved to be a bit dusty contactors that had failed due to moisture and corrosion. Also FCU motors were renewed where they had given up earlier. The A/C plant was re-filled with gas and we could sleep cool again. The AE exhaust silencer had a large hole in it due to corrosion (after 2yrs use) and it was taken out and welded.

Farewell party for Rusiel

Then it turned out that the contractors repairing the silencer had been sitting on it 1 day after completion of repairs and again we had to keep calling them to bring it onboard. The centre engine was still pending and turbo was not forth coming. Vivek looked into how to run the engine without a turbo and finally they came up with a solution that would take us on the road again. It was not until 13th though when the engine was boxed up and assembled and then it was interrupted by a broken torque wrench.

The cellular jail Port Blair

Cellular jail Port Blair

On the 9th I had dinner with Vivek and Saini at the New Lighthouse, nice view and airy atmosphere that was unfortunately disturbed by a very smelly toilet down stairs and mediocre but pricey food. I would not recommend it to anybody.

On the 12th we had a farewell party for Rusiel, she had completed one year onboard and went home as her Indian single entry visa had been used up. It was a great dinner at Hotel Driftwood.





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Friday, 12 December 2008

Tips for yacht visiting Singapore

Here are some services I found good and reliable when I have been visiting Singapore:

SHIPCHANDLERS:

Wei Hsing Food (S) Pte Ltd (best at big orders in advance), not the cheapest on the market but supplies good stuff:

Mr. Allan Chiang or Willie

Tel: +65 62705818

Fax: +65 62705679

Email: whfspr@singnet.com.sg

AGENTS:

I have used both APS services and ISYS and found ISYS giving a better service.

International Superyacht services, Ms. Angie Ng

Tel: +65 96739460

Email: angie@superyachtservices.com

Angie got the backing of the whole Chinese community and loads of contacts to suppliers, drydocks etc. She also helped me out in tricky visa issues for Malaysia and Thailand.

Furthermore, there are a multitude of agents in SIngapore but only 2 catering to yachts, the rest are for commercial vessels and the fees are accordingly.

CARPET CLEANING:

Big Red Environmental Pte Ltd

Mr. Alven Low

Tel: +65 92209220

Tel: +65 62419443

Fax: +65 62429042

Email: alven@brenv.com

Superb service, carpets are assessed first by their professionals and the action taken accordingly.

COFFEE MACHINES:

Spinelli Coffee Company- they overhauled our Jura Impresa machine.

Mr. Ross Bright

Tel: +65 97894780

Tel: +65 63394849

Fax: +65 63397539

Email: ross.bright@spinellicoffee.com.sg

www.spinellicoffee.com

HULL SURVEYORS

POLYNDT Pte Ltd

Approved by RINA to carry out non-destructive hull surveys (ultrasound). The oldest Company of its kind in Singapore.

Mr. Chong Kah Fook

Tel: +65 67754011

Email: polyndt@singnet.com.sg

www.polyndt.com

ENTERTAINMENT VENUES:

Apart from the touristic night safaris etc that can be found in all guide books I mention a few bars & restaurants that I find worth visiting.

Esmirada: on Orchard Rd near Orchard Towers, serves a wide Mediterranean cuisine. Good food & nice ambience.

Muddy Murphy's: Irish Bar just around the corner of Esmirada, get your Kilkenny's here.

Orchard Towers: The "must see" for Singapore first timers ;)

The Golden Mile Mall: The place to get decent Thai food.

The Peoples Park: The place to get cheap and absolutely delicious pepper crab.

Clarke Key: Loads of high end bars & restaurants, take your pick. For the big boys there are Hooter's ;)

Riverside Key: Excellent wine bar at the beginning of it, sorry I forgot the name of it.

ELECTRONICS:

Funan Mall : Laptops & computers

Sim Lim square: Digital cameras and gadgets

Sim Lim Tower: Electronic & electrical components, it is like a MEGA radio shack.

MARINAS:

Raffles:

At the W end of S'pore Island, very far to the center. Deep draught.

Map of Singapore marinas


RSYC:

Good location but those who knows best says that there is a lot swell from passing ferries disturbing the boats.

Keppel:

The most expensive and best marina in Singapore so far. Located inside Cruise Bay, very near main roads and close to center of city.

1deg15' marina:

New marina currently promoted with cheap rates, entry in marina can be done only at slack water due to very strong cross currents, I suppose with a smaller yacht one could hazard an entry but it is really narrow. Once you are in the basin you need to crash stop and berth stern to on your port side. Bow lines are attached to buoys that are a nuisance when you are backing in. I got one of them stuck in my stabilizer fin and had to go fwd to release it. To go to city you need to pass the Cuaseway bridge off the Sentosa Island which can be pretty congested during rush hours. The bars and restaurants at the marina don't accept cash, all billing is done to ships account. This creates a problem if crew wants to enjoy a drink or two...

My research on marinas for the Singapore rally in September:

Distances by road from marinas to center of city:

Keppel: 7 km, very quick access to hwy

RSYC: 14 km, very quick access to hwy

1°15’: 10 km, first 4km on trunk roads and through causeway bridge (bottleneck).

Pricing:

Keppel: SGD 625/ day

RSYC: SGD 490/ day

1°15’: SGD 420/ day

Raffles: SGD 552/ day

www.marinakeppelbay.com/

www.one15marina.com/

www.rsyc.org.sg/







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Port Blair - Market Day

This morning it was time to do some provisioning for the boat and I set out with Richard to the Port Blair Market.

Holy Cow

Like any market in Asia it takes some getting used to (and an insensitive nose) if you are from Europe or the US where everything is vacuum packed or frozen and laid out in wide aisles with tiles and air conditioning and so on...

The market here was separated in meat, fish and vegetable sections. First we went to get some chicken, they were held alive in coops and after choosing the chicken we wanted we watched them having their necks cut-off. After that they were thrown inside a cement box with a lid. I assume they got to run out their energy inside there. We did not linger and went for vegetables and a more pleasant odour.

Buy fish?

After veggies we went to buy fruit and then we took a round at the fish market. I saw a huge red snapper, barracuda among all fish (BIG fish) on display. Then it was time to get some daal, the choice was huge but according to Vivek in Mumbai it can be double up. I saw also shops selling spices of all sorts, they do not call India the Land of Spices for nothing.

Spice trader

When we went back to the vegetable stall to pick up and pay for our stuff we passed a tarpaulin laid out on the ground in the sun with fish on it to dry I saw something peculiar. I was standing near the vegetable stall and I watched a big cow amble around the narrow lane and eventually she walked on the tarp with fish and stopped right there, next thing I saw was that the cow started urinating. It was flowing out of the cow by the liter. The fish was showered with piss everywhere. Once finished the cow strolled on. After a few minutes the fish Owner appeared and he just piled up the fish, wiped the piss off the tarp and re-arranged his fish to dry. I believe that eventually he would sell the fish to some unsuspecting customers, I wonder if they would notice a strange taste in their curry. While we went off I signaled to the guy, made two horns out of my fingers and then showed urinating and he asked "did u piss here?". Errrrr...I kept on walking.

Richard in dhal shop

Oh well, once we got all our stuff packed in Johnson's car we went for a fellow that was squeezing fresh sugar cane juice for 10Rs a glass. Vivek claimed that he tasted fermentation but I did not. I told him that if it would be fermented it would be much more expensive. Richard went via the paan shop and we headed for the ship again.

As a footnote I can't but help notice that cows in India enjoy total freedom. Similar circumstances, I believe, do not exist anywhere else in the world, the cows roam around the streets like stray dogs and eat what they like and sleep where they like. Talk about animal rights, ha-ha.



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Thursday, 11 December 2008

Port Blair - Bakir Eid holiday

So we arrived Port Blair some time ago. I will tell you all about it soon enough. Anyways, 9th Dec was Bakir Eid muslim holiday and in India it is customary to slaughter a goat and make buryani.

Our agent is Mr. Salim Jadwett from the illustrious Jadwett family and he invited me, Vivek and Saini for dinner, we actually went on 2 buryani meals, 1st lunch and then dinner.

The lunch was like a big family function above one of the Jadwett gasoline stations. Dozens of chairs had been put out in rows. We were early and sat waiting for people to arrive and I watched the staff carrying up huge pots of buryani. Bit by bit people started to trickle in and eventually I was introduced to Mohamad Jadwett, the chairman of the Port Blair Chamber of Commerce, his father, brothers, countless cousins etc. Finally, people was invited to feed, we queued up and had our plates ladled with fragrant buryani made with mutton from Calcutta and topped with spicy cucumber onion salad. The lunch was so delicious that me and Saini went for 2nd helpings. Once finished our meal we thanked our hosts and we found our driver to take us back to the ship via the paan shop.

Smiling paan wala

In the evening at 1900hrs we were all dressed up again for going out and we were met at the gate by our driver Johnson. From there we set course towards Phoenix Bay were the Jadwett estates were located. We dined at Ashraf Jadwett's house and while waiting for the table being setup we had small talk with Ashraf about how the tsunami affected the Andamans in 2004.

Ashraf's father gave very interesting insights about the time when he arrived to the Andamans 45 years ago. That time people usually came via Rangoon that was still under Indian rule. Back then people used to do deer hunting for their leisure. The Andaman tribes today, only one, the Jarawa's, remains isolated on the Sentinel Island. The cellular jail was still very much active, the 2nd WW Japanese invasion, the "mute" marriages (the man could not ask the name of the girl that was paraded in front of him as he would know the religion immediately).

Eventually we we're called to help ourselves food again and we we're served buryani and mutton kebabs with vegetables and cucumber salad. For dessert we got vanilla ice cream and sweet flour balls. Very delicious dinner and at abt 10pm we broke up, thanked our hosts for the lovely dinner and their hospitality and headed back to ship, via the paan shop, of course...





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Monday, 8 December 2008

Captain's Blog - Nov end

Well, November brought big changes to our lives again. We had settled in comfortably in Phuket and then we suddenly had a guests arrival looming above our heads on 22nd Nov, which eventually was canceled due to the guests changed plans.

We sighed a relief and I contracted more work to be done in the interior. Carpentry at Owner's ensuite and corridor as well as piping works in Engine room. Then we got the news that the Indian Empress is not coming to India due to the Somalian piracy threat. So, for our Owner to have a yacht in India during the high season we would be sent there.

Alright, contractors were hurried, stores were taken onboard and preparations made. Saini had done his courses in India and was due to arrive a day before departure.

Taj Hotel under attack

Unfortunately world events would affect us too, the terrorist attack in Mumbai prevented Saini from collecting his passport form the English high commission as it was next to the Taj Hotel. Eventually he missed his flight and as all Bangkok airports were barricaded, he was also unable to secure another flight to Phuket as all was fully booked. Nevermind that he did not manage to get hold of Singapore Airlines that was his ticket issuer - their office had been blown to smithereens by the terrorists in Mumbai. We realize now how fragile our world actually is.

Anyway, to talk about November we made a few tours outside Phuket with the crew as well as we exorcised ghosts that were drinking our Ginger Ale onboard.

One Sunday we again packed ourselves in the pickup truck and motored way towards Khao Lak, a stretch of coast on the west side filled with resorts that was worst hit during the tsunami in 2004. After an hours leisurely drive we arrive to Khao Lak and find a narrow trunk road leading to the beach. All offload and start enjoying beach life. Swimming, ball throwing etc. After having exhausted all our energies we had a nice lunch at the restaurant found at the beach front. Khao Lak beach is rather boring as it is lined with resort after resort next to each other and is not too much catering for the occasional visitor.

During the week Jyothi discovered that we had 2 cases of Ginger Ale in our store mysteriously disappeared without opening the can. Even the pressure was still left when the can was opened. As my Darling, Jiras, stepfather is a local shaman I explained her the situation and invited him to come onboard to exorcise the ghost. He arrived one early morning at 6am and I walked him around the ship and showed our waterhold from where the Ale had disappeared and Jiras Father was getting the vibes. Finally we all gathered at the forward deck and Jiras father explained it is a very young ghost that is not mean spirited but very young. He will exorcise it and take it with him to his house. So, he takes out some yellow paper which is scribbled with Chinese characters (the initial work has been done while he was possessed by his Chinese spirit), burns the stuff and dips it out in a Thai tin drinking vessel. Finally the vessel is thrown overboard and the ghost goes with the vessel. When this accomplished Jyothi and Richard who has followed the ceremony asks for their fortune. Both got their charts drawn up and was quite surprised.

Well, the next weekend we did not do anything except suffer from flu and we also go the news that we're going back to India asap.

Last weekend we motored towards Trang and after 3hrs we arrived there in time for dinner. We drove to the beach and had a most delicious sea food dinner under pine trees. We overnighted at a local resort and woke up the next day to drizzling rain. Never minding the rain we went to Jira's parents house to get another reading for Jyothi and to taste a local delicacy made by Jiras mom - "Khanom Jin", it is soft noodles with a fairly runny fish curry made in coconut and chillies. On top of it is piled a different assortment of raw vegetables, yummy. After this we drove back to Yacht haven again and next days were spent saying goodbye to all people we knew.

Departure for Mumbai was on 2nd Dec at 1500hrs in strong NE wind at Yacht Haven Marina, it looked to become a voyage with fair stern winds...



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Tips for yachts visiting Phuket



Below are contractors and tips I find useful for any yacht visiting Phuket:



PROVISIONING:

Supercheap - a non airconditioned superstore with practically anything you can imagine to need. I did all provisioning from there and ended up with a weekly expense for 10 crew at around 6-7000THB. Go early in the morning (~0715hrs) and you will get fresh vegetables and fish before they run out.

They also have a huge department for medicines, so any yacht looking into replenishing their medical chest, that is the place to go to. They accept credit cards.

Location: Drive along the main road towards Phuket town, pass the Patong junction, over the hill towards Phuket town, keep an eye on the right side and u-turn after u seen the sign "Super cheap", there's a gas station just before.

Central: the department store here is excellent for finding western products (ham, salami, cheese etc.)

Location: Turn towards Patong and drive to the next crossing, you will see Tesco Lotus, continue past it and U turn once you see "Central".

Master Butcher Shop, providing 1st class meat products with associated pricing, a must when you are getting stuff for the Guests.

Location: 16/14-16 Moo 3 Chaofa Nai Road, Vichit, Muang Phuket 83000

Tel: +66 76 282 039, +66 76 264 043, Fax: +66 76 263 935

Mobile: +66 81 737 6931, +66 89 648 1256

http://phuketindex.com/phuket-travel/service/butcher-shop.htm

In Tesco Lotus there is an excellent wine shop with great selection. Wine shops can also be sighted on the way to Ao Chalong or towards Ao Surin.

Phuket map

METAL WORKS:

P-S.T.L. Mr. Chatchai or "Peak"

Location: 64/47 Moo 7 Rassada Distrcit, Muang, Phuket 83000

Mobile: 08 9592 5071

I have used this guy for several steel works, plain steel and stainless. He did e.g. a swimming ladder to my tender boat and renewed plenty of piping in the engine room. Very amiable chap and honestly says whether he can take on the job or not. English speakers probably needs an interpreter as K. Chatchai is not too proficient in english. Very competitive pricing of services compared to the guys in Boat Lagoon.

AGENTS:

Asia Pacific Superyacht Services - the evolvement of SEAL to APS, run by Gordon Fernandes. Expensive.
http://www.seal-superyachts-asia.com/ for contacting any of the APS agencies.

South East Asia Liveaboards Superyachts (SEAL) is the oldest agency in Phuket
http://www.seal-superyachts.com for contacts.

International Super Yacht Services (ISYS) represented by Gareth Twist in Phuket as "Yachtsolutions".
www.yachtsolutions.net

Din (known as Dodgy Din), sometimes employed to do ship clearances. Works very cheap but can end up being more expensive when doing "dodgy" deeds.
+66840531418

MARINAS:

Yacht Haven Marina, run by Nick Wyatt and Zara Tremlett, a lovely couple that goes the extra mile to secure a berth for you. Big marina in N part of Phuket, very quiet and safe with all the trimmings that goes with a marina. Downside is that if you have depp draught then you need to wait for high tide to get in and out from the marina.

http://www.yacht-haven-phuket.com/ for contacts.

Ao Por Grand Marina

Opened this year near Ao Por pier and not tried and tested for the NE monsoon. Built on a spot that is exposed to the monsoon and also has very strong currents. Could be a bad place to moor during extreme situation (wind combined with spring tides and perhaps rain squalls). No restrictions for coming and going depthwise. More expensive than Yacht Haven but I'm sure prices can be negotiated.

http://www.aopograndmarina.com/

Berama Bay:

Being built on the Island opposite Ao Por Grand Marina. Not opened yet but marina will be very sheltered and have no restrictions tidewise. Whole project gone bankrupt and waiting to see if it ever will be developed.

Boat Lagoon and Royal Phuket Marina

Two marinas at the end of a dredged ditch going through a mangrove forest. Very swanky places, good for low draught smaller yachts.

http://www.royalphuketmarina.com

Electronics and electrics:

Electrical Marine Co Ltd, run by Damian Barrett. Very good service and gets things fixed. Price accordingly.

http://www.electrical-marine.com/ for contacts.


Maretron, run by Arto Holappa, a rambling Finn that is more interested in the sale than after sales satisfaction.

http://www.navasia.net for contacts.


SHIPCHANDLERS:

OH service & Marine Hardware run by Sarit Dechakul a.k.a. "Oh"

Location: Ban Kho Aen village adjacent to Yacht Haven marina.

Small shop that provides all small things needed to maintain a yacht, same prices as in Boat Lagoon.

Opposite Boat Lagoon entrance is a big Surapol Shipchandler, has all stuff one can imagine, but as this is the area for yachts and supplies, pricing is accordingly.

In Phuket Town there are also Shipchandlers, a bit hard to find but the one who seeks shall find. Sorry, for the vague directions.

PERSONNEL:

Agencies mentioned above, some of them provide crew in case needed. Otherwise sometimes dayworkers can be inquired from marina offices or they might approach the yacht for any work available.

I could write volumes more about what to find in Phuket, I would recommend many of the guides available, e.g. http://www.andamanseapilot.com and Phuket Gazette as well as Phuket Calendar, they are full of advice and contacts.






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