15th April early morning we approached Colombo and the day dawned to a yellow cloud of pollution over the capital of Sri Lanka. Reminded me of the same view when I was sailing into Hong Kong years ago on a casino ship. Every morning we saw what we were going to breathe during the day.
A new day in Colombo
In Colombo we were first inspected by the Navy. They sent divers under the hull to check the bottom for IED's I assume. Once done we got the green light to proceed inside the harbor. Port sent me a harbor pilot and as custom dictates in this corner of the world he asked for a "souvenir" once we were safely alongside JCT (Jaya container terminal) north extension at 1030hrs. I gave him a bottle of Black Dog.
Kalizma alongside JCT
Once finished with engines and shut down the bridge I went to greet our agent from before, Mr. Upali Gooneratne. The paper shuffle was about to begin. Only the Officials were lazy to attend to us as the Sinhalese New Year had been last night so people were stlll in a holiday mood. Finally, I got the immigration, port health and Customs onboard after Upali had chased them up several times. The clearance was painless as I smoothed it over with Signature whisky for each department. We were cleared at abt 1400hrs.
Half day had gone waiting for doing the clearance so now we had to hurry to get some provisioning done. Upali arranged a car and driver so me and Richard got going to a local supermarket where we stocked up with essentials. We also got a bottle of famous Sri Lankan arrack. Colombo still has many colonial buildings left from the English era and the roads are wide and clean. The paranoia from 3 years strife with the LTTE is still showing with the many road stops, blocks and checks everywhere. Soldiers are openly wielding assault rifles (AK-47's).
Colonial architecture - the Cargill Building
Again bringing stuff inside the port proved to be tricky as the security guards at the gate said it was not allowed. I find it very annoying that when one has paid VAT and all, we are not allowed to bring it onboard (!?). I can understand that fees and taxes apply when bring something ashore but not vice versa. Not to talk about all the liquor the officials extract from all the ships and probably finally sell it somewhere (otherwise they would be walking perpetually drunk). Colombo port still has a long way to go to become visitor friendly.
The Grand Oriental Hotel where I stayed in 2007
Next day 16th Upali was working most of the day getting permission for our bunker truck to enter the port. I went to the open fish and vegetable market with Richard. Finally late afternoon we got the bunkering started and once finished we were all set. Same evening I got a call from India changing our sailing orders, new destination: Mumbai, the IPL finals. More work for Upali to change our port clearance.
Morning 17th Upali had got our port clearance done and at 1100hrs I cast off Colombo and set my course for Mumbai. The weather was overcast with sunny patches. In the night we got pretty strong thundershowers following us and we also got our share of torrential rain and lighting show. Gulf of Mannar can be bad at times but we got lucky as the winds missed us this time.
Cats of Colombo
The white house of Colombo - City Hall
A Mosque and Church next to each other