Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Such a tragic week ..... Feb 2011

Fethiye Turkey 2008, Maurice and Heather on the right
and Robin and Marion off Simba in the background 
end February 2011

I normally only do postings on what we do and where we go as this is our travel blog, but this posting is more personal and more political due to many events outside our control. 

It has been a week full of tragedy for cruisers and New Zealanders, with the kidnappings and subsequent senseless murders in the Indian Ocean of the owners and crew of the American flagged yacht Quest, so many deaths and the carnage in Christchurch following the devastating earthquake and then we received the very sad news that one of our tiny cruising community of New Zealand long term sailors had tragically passed away.

Our friends Maurice and Heather Paton off the New Zealand yacht Baracca had just crossed the Atlantic Ocean from the Med in December 2010. This weekend they were at anchor at the Caribbean Island of Bequia, living their dream - sailing their own yacht to exotic places, when Maurice passed away suddenly.  We had spent several anchorages with them over the last 3 years, and had waved them off from Mallorca in October as they continued westward. Our thoughts are with Heather and their family.
Luckily for us this ship was the only one we saw
up close in the Indian Ocean in 2008
 and they just passed us by

Then we heard last night that another yacht has been taken captive by Somali pirates, the Danish yacht Ing with 4 adults and 3 teenagers onboard, enroute from the Maldives to the Red Sea.  We can only pray that they do not meet the same fate as the sailors onboard Quest

The two owners and two crew on Quest were sailing what is known as the "milk run", the tradewind route around the world.  The area they were in had previously been relatively safe, with the "pirate infested waters" much closer to the East African Coast and in the Gulf of Aden.

However there were recent reports of "pirate motherships" operating between the Maldives and Oman, right on the milk run.  So the cruising community have been advised not to go there.  This directive is sensible in principal, but if you are already in Sri Lanka, India or the Maldives and want to continue west it is a huge problem. To avoid the area completely means that you have to go around the bottom of South Africa, that is a huge detour - remember we only go about 6 miles an hour we are not Boeing 747's!  Then if you want to get to Europe you have to cross the Southern Atlantic to Brazil, move up the Americas then cross the North Atlantic and end up in Ireland or Portugal, you simply can not sail up the West African coast against the winds and currents.

Quest Never Forget

There are some yachts now in Sri Lanka, India and the Maldives who have decided to ship their yachts at huge expense through these waters, up the Red Sea and into the Med.  It is a big price to pay, but if you lose your life trying to pass through the Indian Ocean instead, well that money is of no use to you anyway.  One such yacht is BeBe, they are currently in Cochin and will sail down to the Maldives to rendezvous with the transport ship.  They had met the sailors on Quest earlier this month and are trying to gain support to have action taken to rid the area of the piracy attacks.  To read more from BeBe to find out about their Never Forget Quest  campaign click here or on their designed Burgee for Quest above.

However, there are still many yachts enroute that just will not have the budget for shipping and will have to make the decision of whether to take the risk and continue to the Red Sea, head south to South Africa or turn back to Thailand.  We sincerley hope we do not hear on the news of any more private yachts seajacked this season, and that someone, somewhere has the power to obtain safe release all the seamen, civilians, yachts and ships held, and rid the world of these worthless pirates, which in turn will return the Indian Ocean to its former status of being a safe ocean to cruise.
Brian, Sarah and Taylor in Langkawi,
 Malaysia 2007

And then the devasting earthquake - our thoughts have been constantly with our fellow kiwis this week, as I write I hear the confirmed death toll is now over 150.  The majority of the population in Christchurch still have no water, power or sewage services, and the streets are still laden with rubble .  We have very good friends who we cruised from Australia through to Thailand with who now live in Lyttleton, their suburb was the epicentre of the quake, their neighbourhood is in ruins, thankfully their house has just been passed as habitable and they were not injured.  Our thoughts are with Brian, Sarah and their son Taylor (ex Trimaran Anon), we know them well - they are survivors. 

But Christchurch will never recover from this, so many lives lost, so many lives changed, it will be so hard for them to move forward.  My brother-in-law Robert has lost his business there - it is just a pile of rubble, thankfully no life was lost but the reconstruction will take many months.  There will be a long slow struggle ahead.  

Christchurch we are thinking of you.   

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