Thursday, 29 April 2010

Chaitra Navratri celebration in Mumbai


Goddess Durga

As I was walking along the street with Richard on the way back to the yacht we met a procession of people coming towards us and making a very loud racket by beating on drums. People were dancing and then I saw the strangest thing, men with 3m metal rods punched through their chins and then I saw they had huge fish hooks through their back skin and they were pulling small delivery trucks along the road. At time they would stop and people woud come and kow-tow their feet for good luck I assume. I also saw one old grandma putting a young baby for one of the men to step over. Also for god luck I suppose. At the end of the procession I could see a horse cart with a Sai Baba statue being pulled by a devotee. All the time the drumming went on and on.


Later on I would learn from my guys that this was the celebration of the 9th day after the Hindu New Year and also the 1st full moon of the year. It is called Chaitra Navratri or Chitra Purnima. I have taken the liberty of reproducing an explanation below of said festival written by Sri Swami Sivananda. Nowhere could I find any explanation of the kavadi (piercings) that was being done.

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Chitra Purnima

THE TWELVE months of the Hindu year, based on the lunar calendar, are named after that star during whose ascendency the full moon of that month occurs. The full moon day of Chaitra month, that is, the Purnima during the ascendency of the Chitra star is particularly sacred to the Chitra Guptas, the recording angels of the Hindu pantheon. A special worship is offered to these celestial representatives of the god of death, and an offering of spiced rice is prepared and later distributed as prasad or holy sacrament. A fire worship is done at the close of the ritualistic worship. By the performance of this religious observance annually, these angels of the other world are greatly pleased and judge man’s actions with more sympathy.
The psychological effect of this worship, done on the very first full moon day of every year (Chaitra is the first of the twelve months), is to vividly remind us of the higher power that maintains a constant watch over every act of ours on this earth-plane. This memory serves as an invisible check on one’s conduct. The conception of the Chitra Guptas as located within each shoulder is a powerful inducement to keep oneself engaged in constantly doing good actions only.

The term Chitra Gupta means “hidden picture”. A true picture of all our good and evil actions is preserved in the ethereal records. The Hindu personifies it for the sake of worship. The real significance of the worship of the Chitra Guptas is beautifully brought out in the following story connected with it.

Brihaspati is the Guru or preceptor of Indra, the king of the gods. Indra disobeyed Brihaspati on one occasion and the Guru relinquished his task of instructing Indra in what he should and should not do. During the period of the Guru’s absence, Indra did many evil deeds. When the compassionate Guru resumed his duty again, Indra wanted to know what he should do to expiate the wrongs he had done in his Guru’s absence. Brihaspati asked Indra to undertake a pilgrimage.

While Indra was on pilgrimage, he suddenly felt the load of sins taken off his shoulders at a certain place (near Madurai in South India), and he discovered a Shiva Lingam there. He attributed the miracle to this Lingam and wanted to build a temple for it. He had this constructed immediately. Now he wished to perform the worship of the Lingam; the Lord Himself caused golden lotuses to appear in a nearby pond. Indra was greatly pleased and blessed. The day on which he thus worshipped the Lord was Chitra Purnima.

When you perform worship on the Chitra Purnima day, remember this story. If you have intense faith, if you feel with a contrite heart that you have committed sins on account of ignorance, if you pray with faith and devotion to the Lord to forgive your sins, if you resolve never to commit them in the future, and if you resolve to be obedient to your Guru and never to flout his counsel, then your sins will be forgiven. There is no doubt about this. This is the significance of the above story of Indra. Meditate on this story on Chitra Purnima day.
The Hindu scriptures prescribe elaborate worship of the Chitra Guptas on this day. The Deity is invoked in an image or a kalasa (vessel filled with water) and then worshipped with all the rituals and formalities of the worship offered to God’s image. Meditate on Chitra Gupta, reciting the following verse:


Chitra guptam mahaa praajnam lekhaneepatra dhaarinam;

Chitra-ratnaambara-dhaararn madhyastham sarvadehinaam.

Then offer ritualistic worship with incense, camphor, flowers, etc. Feed some Brahmins, the poor and the needy. Give bountifully in charity and receive the Lord’s blessings.

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The whole thing resembled very much the Thaipusam celebration and the Tessagan Kin Ge in Thailand (which I saw earlier and posted a blog abt). As far as I know Thaipusam is banned in India because of the blood and gore involved in the piercings and I suppose also the risk of disease. It is still being celebrated in Singapore and Malaysia though.

I'm not very well versed in hinduism, so I apologize for any mistakes I have made in this posting and gladly take corrections from those who know better.
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Thursday, 22 April 2010

Voyage Langkawi - Colombo - Mumbai

1st April we arrived Langkawi and made fast to RLYC. By then I had already got sailing orders for Goa. I was picking up some stuff for the yacht, new fenders and fresh medicines. Lest we forget to get some bunkers onboard as well as fresh provisions. Saini was called back from vacation and on 9th we cast off RLYC and moved alongside the bunker barge. After bunkering I bid our agent, Nick Coombes, goodbye and headed west.

Asen and Rajaram on night before departure

First 3 days we're absolutely marvelous. The sea was most of the time mirror calm with only a small swell coming from south. We even sighted some whales with 4km of water beneath us. The usual flying fish accompanied us all the way and of course seagulls. As we we're going the shortest way and not via Andamans, as last year, we always had company by passing merchant ships on the AIS or visually. They we're headed either for Middle East or beyond Singapore.



Smooth sailing

When approaching the Sri Lankan south east coast we got a local low pressure system giving us overcast weather with accompanied rain showers and moderate seas, we were getting 20deg lists whilst rolling. Last day at sea before arriving Colombo was ok, Kalizma was pitching a bit and the swell was coming in from SW.

Local low pressure system pouring down rain

Approaching Sri Lanka and bad weather

Same as above on my radar

15th April early morning we approached Colombo and the day dawned to a yellow cloud of pollution over the capital of Sri Lanka. 

Colombo port entrance

16th went provisioning and bunkering up in Colombo. We also got new sailing orders: Mumbai.

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.

Sunrise over Cape Comorin

By 18th we were passing Richards homestead near Cape Comorin and the weather was still favoring us. Boys were washing up decks and superstructures. We also saw some whales leisurely swimming southwards.

19th to 21st we were sailing up the west coast of India and it mainly was good weather until evening 20th when we passed Vengurla. The weather turned a bit sour and we were pounding up against waves, wind and current. The nature was not making it easy for us to reach our destination. As the seas were relatively calm the fishermen were out en masse so we had to keep a keen lookout to avoid any critical situations. 



Sunrise over west coast


21st afternoon I picked up pilot at 1440hrs and headed into Mumbai port. The pilot informed that the port was operating at security level 2 as the IPL finals were taking place in Mumbai this coming weekend. Apparently the powers to be weren't going to take any chances of a repeat Taj incident (2008). A week back there had been bomb blasts in Bangalore during the cricket match where 12 people was injured. 


Mumbai skyline


Finally I dropped anchor in front of Gateway of India that was really jampacked with yachts. It would be high time Mumbai to develop a marina. So, thus our 13 days journey had come to an end.


Taj Hotel and Gateway of India


I was met by our agent Rami and Alam who came with the bureaucrat posse to clear us in the country. . .
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Sunday, 18 April 2010

Sri Jinaratana Bhikku Abhyasa Vidyalaya temple

As Sri Lanka is 80% Buddhist as were our driver he took me to visit a temple, Sri Jinaratana Bhikku Abhyasa Vidyalaya. The temple had surprisingly many Chinese style deities there, I assume donated by various benefactors. 

This Chinese general had his spear missing

Another Chinese deity

I also saw the Hindu Goddess Parvati as well (I think). 

Parvati

The main temple was beautiful and at the time there was a 3 man combo playing drums and flute for some reason I had never encountered before in any other Buddhist temples I've visited in other countries. 


While walking around the compound I also came across a baby elephant that seemed to be somekind of mascot (maybe orphaned) for the monks there. I was told there was 15 monks currently resident at the temple.

The pet elephant

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Markets of Colombo

We went in the morning to Colombo fish market which was actually quite close to the main port. As soon as I stepped out of the car I could smell the pungent fish aroma coming strong into my nostrils. Richard mumbled "Oh my God, this is worse than Crawford market". maybe so but fish had to be bought.

The fish vendor

In we went and walked around to see what was on display. Most of the fish for sale was tuna, tuna and more tuna. There was also other deep sea fish that I would not know what species they were but some of them were really big. Then there was the usual shrimp, lobster, squid and crab assortments and some reef fish as well. We settled on some fish, shrimp and squid. The shrimp was so fresh that the seller bit one off in front of us to prove it. The smell might have been a bit on the strong side but the goods were definitely fresh.

The man and his fish

After buying what we came for we got some chicken and eggs from shops adjacent to the fish stalls. Then we went in search for some more vegetables, spices and pork. The vegetables were a bit scarce as the country was still recovering from New Years celebrations but what was available was fresh and nice. Pork we could not find, the only butchers we came across were all muslim and they don't understandably sell it. Richard was in his own element as many vendors were Tamils and he could haggle in his mother tongue. 

Richard at the banana shop


The herb vendor

As usual when entering the port we had to grease hands as the rule says nobody is allowed to bring inside anything, one should use a shipchandler (and pay triple prices). Oh well, 400 rupees (4 USD) did the trick and we had our groceries onboard... 

Port entrance - STOP, please open the what???

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Colombo stopover

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.

Parliament house

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.

Colonial architecture

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


Tuk-tuk galore

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Saturday, 3 April 2010

Captain's blog March 2010

So, once again we were back in Phuket and we had stuff to do as usual. Carpenters were called and works started on our foremast to embed the new radar cable into it. We also had some wood rot that needed taking care of.

Lightning storm in Malacca Strait

Our familiar s/s man, Mr. Chatchai was also called to finish the awning work on the bridge deck as well as a few other minor jobs.

New awning frame being fabricated

And so went the month of March, in the end we were only 6 crew onboard as Saini and Kalpana went for their annual vacation. Vivek left for pursuing his tanker career and Sunil returned from frigid UK where he had been working towards his Y4 ticket.

Other than that we did not do much in way of sightseeing, Richard had his birthday and we celebrated that with cake and all.

Happy Birthday Richard

I also realized one is never too old to learn of new tricks in cheating people. I was having dinner in Kansas Saloon in Krabi and was served "Heineken" and charged for it when it definitely tasted like Leo (el cheapo beer in Thailand). TIT (This is Thailand). The Restaurant Manager swore they only got Heineken on the premises, oh well...

Dawn in Langkawi

On the 14th we watched the opening of the F1 season at the Haven restaurant. Surprisingly Liuzzi brought a point home for the Force India team.

I was also busy renewing my passport and zipping up and down to Bangkok. I also had a lot of Immigration stuff to take care of with all the crewchanges. Paperwork, paperwork...

People on the move

Then 29th check out procedures and on the 30th we left for Langkawi. We went slowly on economic speed, visited Pulau Perak and 1st April made fast in RLYC marina. On our way to Langkawi we had a marvelous nature display of lightning storm that went on the whole night. Huge horizontal lightnings zapped over our heads continuously.

Zap

In Langkawi I'm getting back my serviced ice machine and doing some service to the A/C plant by our trusted  refrigeration man, Michael from IMEAC engineering.

Then at the time of writing this I got orders to sail for India so now I am waiting for Saini to come back so we could leave for our next mission.

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Hashing with LBHHH (run 433)

As we were again in Langkawi we were asked to join the hash once again to which we replied positively. Friday went working in expecting the fun in the evening and at 5pm we loaded ourselves in the car and left for the laager.

All fresh to run

Once there we paid our dues and waited for the remaining hashers to turn up and and for the run brief by the hares. Not too much ater 6pm the run was off and the pack went looking for the trail like a mob of wolves.

View from the top of the mountain

At first we went on level ground but soon enough we were climbing up a steep hill that was not have supposed to be there. Then we went crashing through rubber plantations looking for the trail and ended up coasting down the hillside in zig-zag fashion.

The run lasted a good 45 minutes and really wrung the juices out of us. I arrived somewhere in the middle and joined the other runners with a 100+ to replenish some water I'd lost.

Sharma and Dubey enjoying the Easter prize of found eggs on the trail


After awhile we realized Richard and Vanessa were lost and they called saying they were somewhere on the main road. I guess they took the wrong shortcut. Eventually Brendan went looking for them and brought them back by motor vehicle.

Rainbow at the circle

Then the end circle could get started and people were punished for various hashing offences committed or just imagined, who cared anyway?

The hash nosh-up was designated at the Cocomo's near the airport where we were treated to a very delicious buffet table.
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Thursday, 1 April 2010

Diving Pulau Perak

On our trip to Langkawi I decided to go via Pulau Perak and check out the waters there.

Pulau Perak itself is a small button like Island in the middle of Malacca Strait, some 65' WNW of Langkawi Island. It is quite elevated and could be seen well from 20' away. As we were approaching the Island the day seemed to start as overcast but as we came closer the cloud cover broke and we got a splendid sunshine. The winds were practically nil and we got only a very low Easterly swell. A perfect day for diving.


Pulau Perak

I stopped 1' off and stopped my engines and crew prepared the dinghy to be launched. After that we loaded our dive gear and off we went, me, Dubey and Rajaram. Even close up to shore we got depths of 80+ meters so the Island had sheer drop off's right down to the seabottom. We could also see that there was a large bird population inhabiting the Island.

Pulau Perak

Pulau Perak is very impressive close by with it's imposing cliff walls and scarce vegetation. On top of the Island is a small Malaysian military base. In the south is a small bay with depths around 20m and a small jetty. On the jetty we saw some guys fishing and we asked if it was OK to dive, no problems came the reply.

Pulau Perak

First dive we started in SE corner and went N on the E side. The corals were beautiful and a lot of fish was seen. Eventually we did 3 dives in total and explored the whole E side of the Island. The drop off's are magnificent (straight down 80-90m) with small crevices that one rounds and always come to new vistas.

Pulau Perak

I could see Snappers, Barracuda, Mackerel and the usual coral fish. The visibility was at least 25m, maybe more. Deeper down the water turned very cold, maybe just a few degrees but it felt freezing to us. I could also see that the Island was popular with fishermen as many rocks were covered with nets. A broken anchor line was splayed open like a palm tree and floating alone at 30m depth. The current was less the 0.5kts as I could see from the distance we drifted during the day.

Pulau Perak

We went back to Kalizma for lunch and watched a small reef shark circling the ship, perhaps in the hopes of food. We also saw plenty of dolphins and I think I also saw a Dorado.

Dolphins


All in all a very good site to visit although one can't land ashore and the area is very exposed to the elements when the weather turns sour. Seeing also that the base personnel did not have any boats I assume they must be helicopter lifted ashore.

Pulau Perak

The distance will also keep this Island safe from exploitation as not many tour operators will have people sitting in boats for such a trip and todays fuel prices.

Pulau Perak


I also found an interesting article of the Island.
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