It’s a pretty good sign when your agent arrives to the boat with ice cream to share that clearing into the country will go off without a hitch.
How do you get in and out of a country when you’re cruising? It can seem intimidating to the uninitiated. It’s not, really, and the process becomes relatively routine- except that every country is different in some way…whether you have to hunt offices down on shore, or they come to you, or if any advance notice is needed, or an agent required, or whatever the variation may be. (I’ve written about the general process on the blog before).… Read More
Why leave on a passage when there’s very little wind in the forecast? Having a breeze matters, when you have 700 miles to go. But the seasons are changing. It’s light, because that’s the shift in the seasonal pattern as the NE monsoon draws to a close. Waiting for wind isn’t necessarily going to bring us any wind. In fact, ideally, we’d be at least a month further into our Indian Ocean passagemaking at this point. But we wouldn’t leave Malaysia before we were ready. And we didn’t want to shortchange Sri Lanka. And both those were worth the tradeoff of adverse conditions now, since ‘adverse’ in this case doesn’t mean dangerous conditions- it just means no wind (or, upwind work going south in the coming weeks).… Read More
Experiencing some of Sri Lanka’s ancient cities was one of our goals during a month-long stay. Two of the outstanding examples are within day-trip distance of Trincomalee: the 9th century city of Polonnuwara, and the 1500+ year old fortress of Sigiriya. If you’re a product of the 80s (*cough*), you know these ancient sites- trust me! If your memory needs a jog, watch the Duran Duran video for “Save a Prayer.”
Climbing to our view of Sigiriya
So while we waited to embark on more extended touring, we organized a jaunt to the sites with two other boats, looking for good company…and, looking to mitigate one of the few really unpleasant things about Sri Lanka: how surprisingly expensive many things are, and the huge markup for foreign visitors.… Read More
Traveling Sri Lanka’s interior meant some long days on the road (or railway tracks). Between that, and the likelihood of many “educational” stops, we thought the best way to end our adventures on a high note with potentially templed-out kids was to splurge on a safari. This isn’t a big country- the land area is similar to West Virginia- but it has the greatest biodiversity density in Asia, including the truly exotic, the beautiful and endangered, and a high proportion of endemic species. We especially hoped for a glimpse of the endangered Sri Lankan leopard. So we took a slightly circuitous path back to Trinco via Wilpattu National Park
This strategy succeeded beyond our expectations: in hindsight, the safari stands out as a family favorite.… Read More
It’s very rare for us leave Totem to travel inland in countries we visit. This is mostly a function of money: we can’t afford the higher costs of living off the boat with restaurant meals and accommodations. It’s costly to buy the peace of mind of putting Totem in a marina instead of leaving her anchored out. It’s also about security. What if something happened when we were far away? Nobody looks after her like we do. So the decision to spend eight days traveling around the interior of Sri Lanka was a big deal. But our anchorage in Trinco was very well protected in this season, and the Utopia crew kept an eye on her for us.… Read More
Sri Lanka has captured our hearts and minds: one month has flown by. There has been fascinating history, culture, food, and more for us to learn about and experience. But it was so much more than that: more than any country, it’s been about the people that we meet.
You can’t walk down the street without meeting someone. Every jaunt to the market, a temple, or even just to stretch out legs includes a conversation with someone new. I’ve never been asked “where are you from?” more often – from people who generally want to know the answer to the question, and aren’t just asking it because that’s one of their five English language sentences.… Read More
We approached Trincomalee with excitement and trepidation. This port is run by the Navy; it’s new to cruising boats after decades of civil war: officials don’t understand our needs, any more than cruisers understand theirs.
The first boats to arrive didn’t have the freedom they’re accustomed to at most cruising ports of call (such as not being allowed to anchor overnight and wait for clearance, but required to proceed to a specific location). There were concerns about the lack of transparency around fees, and ensuring that there is parity with the fees levied in Galle. Boats received services from the port (such as piloting, or dockage) which they didn’t realize they’d later be charged for.… Read More
Trincomalee so far has been a feast of sights, sounds, smells, experiences. It has been both friendly and jarring, and I wake up wondering what each day will bring. But that’s getting ahead of things a little. First, we had to get here!
For years, cruising boats pointing to Sri Lanka all called in to Galle on the southwest side of Sri Lanka. Trincomalee – the fifth largest natural harbor in the world – was in LTTE (Tamil Tiger) territory on the northeast coast, and not considered a safe destination during the civil war that dragged on from 1986 to 2009.… Read More
Not long before leaving Malaysia, we purchased an Iridium GO!. This was somewhat unexpected because Totem has long been a radio centric boat. Since we started cruising in 2008 we’ve relied solely on our HF radio for long distance communications: it has met our needs, we value the community of an informal radio net at sea, and we are grateful the safety net of land-based hams such as the awesome Pacific Seafarers Net.
But this past year, paying close attention to the progress of boats along our intended route in the Indian Ocean, we were dismayed to hear how much trouble they were having connecting to land-based stations for the purpose of receiving updated weather data over PACTOR modems- to the point that we know radio-centric boats that relied upon sailing in company with those carrying satellite based systems on board so that they could to receive updated weather forecasts.… Read More
We’re just over one week in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka. It is an explosion of new experiences: it’s so different, full of new sights and sounds and tastes and smells, which are taking time to process! But we are so happy to be here, relaxing into a familiar rhythm and learning about a new place…like walking past the gauntlet of marine police, above,to what must be the best-guarded dinghy dock we’ve EVER tied up to.
They named her Lucy. Dutch Beach, Tricomalee, Sri Lanka
One of the things you can’t miss in Trinco is the number of stray dogs. They’re not a problem, they’re just omnipresent.… Read More