Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Cruisin, Boozin' and Snoozin' 2008

Tug of war in the Andaman Islands
 It's 51 weeks since we untied Balvenie from her berth in Rebak Marina, Langkawi, Malaysia. Our goal for the season was Turkey and we have achieved it. We knew it was going to be a big year, with many miles to cover, some long passages to undertake, possible "pirate encounters", and the infamous Red Sea. What we totally underestimated was just how totally amazing it would be, we are both very well travelled but what we have seen and done this year has left us in awe.

After leaving Thailand we started in the Andaman Islands, governed by India and still following English traditions of the 1960's. You can not be in a rush here, the sooner you except this the more you will enjoy it. This is an island group incorporated with the Nicobar Islands. The Nicobar's are still off limits to any outsiders (including local Indians), the indigenous population roam the islands, defending them proudly and attacking any one that comes too close with bow and arrows. There are also islands within the Andaman group that are off limits, this is truly an outpost, sitting alone in the Bay of Bengal.

From here we were blown into the harbour at Galle in Sri Lanka. The unplanned stops are often the best and we had a great stay in Sri Lanka and managed to avoid the Tamal Tiger bomb blasts as we toured inland over Independence Weekend. This is a beautiful lush fertile country, but inland it is being torn apart by the fighting and on the coast they are still desperately trying to recover from the immense damage done in the 2005 Tsunami. They have a long road to recovery, unifying and rebuilding their country.
Colourful women of Eritrea
Onwards to the Maldives, hundreds of little atolls in the vast Indian Ocean, our time allowed just the one stop before moving on and completing the big ocean passages. Oman, well we had no idea what this part of the world would be like, maybe sand dunes and Bedouin nomads but neither were spotted, just rocks rocks and more rocks and many a camel! Oman is rich with oil wealth, new roads, latest design European cars and oh so dry. They may have oil, but they have no rainfall and the very rocky desert surely replicates a lunar landscape.

Next we moved along to Yemen and the southern Red Sea countries. This was a journey that took us back in time to the civilisations that were the founders of mankind. In Yemen, Eritrea and Sudan, time has stood still - they are truly amazing places and can not be compared to anything we have seen before. They take your breath away, and have left us with such deep lasting memories, they are a world apart and very special places. They are all so dreadfully poor, but they are survivors, they have been their since time began and life goes on regardless.

The men of Yemen
 Egypt was a huge challenge, the Egyptians being the most difficult race to deal with we have encountered. The history is phenomenal and we are pleased we have "been there - done that", would we return? NO! As someone recently said to me about Egypt "everything there is for dead people" and this is true. It is all about the tombs, the afterlife, and the treasures taken to the afterlife. Egypt may once have ruled much of civilisation and lead the way in many things but it seems it has never moved on.

And then we were in the Med, what an enormous relief and a huge sense of achievement. Greek Cyprus was a breath of fresh air after months in strict Muslim countries, it was great to feel normal again. It is a lovely island, lacking unfortunately in safe harbours so our time there was limited. Then we were just 180miles away from Turkey, we arrived 25 June and have enjoyed every day since cruising the magical southern coastline and a few of the Greek Dodecanese Islands.
Sudanese women
Has it been worth it? - absolutely! Obviously there is much publicity about the continued piracy attacks in the Southern Gulf of Aden, and most countries we visited had government warnings issued for travellers not to visit them. We never once felt threatened or unsafe, either at sea or on the land. Words really can't describe the truly amazing year we have had.

Countries visited - 13
Nautical miles travelled - 6743 of which 3263 were offshore
Nights at sea - 33
Nights tied up in Marinas or town quays - 90
Different Anchorages visited - 93 (several nights at some and also returns to some)
Nights spent off the boat touring - 13
Strongest winds - 38knots at anchor in Ras Banas, Egypt
Most miles covered in a day - 165m enroute to Oman from the Maldives
Fastest speed - 8.6knots, ironically on our last day cruising coming towards Marmaris!
Sleepless nights - 2 at sea Andamans to Sri Lanka with squalls, 1 in Greece and 3 in Turkey with thunderstorms late in the season and boats around us dragging
Rainy days - 1 (while on land travel to Asmara!). This should be rainy hours of which there are about 5 hours. A couple during squalls Andamans - Sri Lanka, 1 hour upon arrival in Maldives, and a couple of hours in recent weeks at night in Turkey
Cloudy days - 3 in Massawa while passing through the convergence zone, 1 in Turkey mid October
Sunny days - Every other day and long may it continue, currently 10.30am at 26c in Marmaris!!!!!
How much did it cost - When we were planning on going cruising it was so hard to find out how much people were spending, as I was told by one long term cruiser you will spend what you can afford which is very true. During these 51 weeks we spent an average of just under NZ$600 per week. This includes everything except for the cosmetic work we had done in Thailand (new galley bench, sail cover, fibreglass repairs to hull). I have also included all the food and alcohol provisions purchased in Langkawi before our departure from there Posted by Picasa

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