Mersoleil

Mersoleil

Fri Jun 22 2:06 2018 NZST
Run: 28.3nm (51.2km)
04 37.523S 55 27.747E
Weather: Warm, humid, like summer everywhere on a warm day

A day aboard the Jai Alai, a Spanish deep-freezing tuna purse seiner.......

It's difficult to decide which to tell you, that we never give one another gifts anymore, there being nowhere to stow additional items on our boat, or that today was a verrry exciting day! Both, I guess, as they go together anyway and both are true.

Our younger son, Chris, is a fisheries scientist working on fishing boats in Alaska as a contract observer for the United States government. We don't really understand what he does. But we do see fishing boats of all kinds and sizes as we sail the high seas. The waters of the Republic of Seychelles are popular fishing grounds for the really big operations and half a dozen to ten huge purse seiners are at dock in Victoria Harbour or waiting at anchor for a berth at any one time. I thought it would be fun to see if we could arrange to visit one of these ships in celebration of Robbie's birthday. He'd understand better what Chris is doing out there, we'd have a much greater appreciation for what we're looking at when we pass these ships at sea, and there would be nothing to store but pictures and memories. The perfect gift!

Samantha Marie and Vincent, at the Port of Victoria, generously helped me arrange Robbie's birthday surprise and at 10:30 this morning Vincent escorted us aboard the two year old Spanish deep-freezing tuna vessel, Jai Alai. The Jai Alai is about 270 feet (89m) long and is equipped with state of the art flash freezing systems that immediately freeze the catch at -60C. (Yes, really. Celsius!) https://echebastar.com/en/deep-freezing-system/

Ander Bustinza, an English-speaking student at a Spanish marine college, now engaged in a summer internship on Jai Alai, joined Patron, Jose Ramon Cardoso, to give us a fascinating and detailed tour of the ship, describing life on board and introducing us to all the other officers. Coincidentally, both Ander and Robbie will celebrate their birthdays on June 27th, one turning twenty and the other I won't say who turning seventy three.

The entire crew of about forty hails from the picturesque seaside town of Bermeo, Spain, spending four months at sea in Seychelles then four months at home. Framed photos of Bermeo decorate the ship. It really does look lovely and we've placed Bermeo on our Mediterranean sailing agenda for 2019.

Chef, Manuel Fernandez, and his busy galley crew were delighted to to show off their outstanding kitchen filled with tempting aromas of today's meals and at the end of the tour we were invited to stay for luncheon in the officers' dining room. This provided ample opportunity to practice our Spanish during a lively conversation over white beans, sauteed pork chops, fried potatoes, roasted red peppers and fresh bread, accompanied by a salty peppery lime pickle that they like well enough to have it delivered to Seychelles from Madagascar. I discovered that I've ruined my Spanish studying Portuguese for the last year but we got by.

Not satisfied with sharing only their time and knowledge with us, Chef Fernandez presented Robbie with two enormous fish for his birthday, a yellowfin tuna and a wahoo, both rock hard at -60C and tied up after viewing in one of the white bags used to package the best of the catch. We are as thrilled as if we'd caught them ourselves! The fish were too heavy for us to carry more than a few steps, so while His Robbiness walked back to Seychelles Yacht Club to fetch our dinghy, I commandeered a fork lift whose operator conveyed our lovely fish to the edge of the wharf. Together, back at Mersoleil, Robbie and I heaved the bag up on deck, and it lies now in our own galley, taking up the entire length of the countertop, wrapped in many layers of plastic and fabric, looking a lot like a dead body, which I suppose it is. It will thaw gradually overnight, I'll butcher it in the morning, give some to everyone we know, and enjoy the rest ourselves over the next several weeks.

What an exciting day! Thank you, Port of Victoria. Thank you, Hartswater Ltd. Thank you, officers and crew of Jai Alai! What a day! Pictures, memories... and two enormous fish! Happy Birthday, Ander! Happy Birthday, Robbie!

Jai Alai SIstership pulling out
Jai Alai at dock, on the right
Patron, Robbie, Ander in the bridge
Definitely not on watch! Just visiting, in the bridge.
The Bridge. All the fishing is controlled right here.
Engine Control Room was terribly impressive!
And we thought WE had a lot of rigging!
Lots of fishing eqp on deck.
JaiAlai has one BIG engine.
And three 'little' engines like this one
The Panga hauls nets at sea and works at dock like a tug, then it's winched up onto the stern.
The Galley serves forty to fifty people each day.
Fish for dinner tonight
The Crew Dining Room
Robbie practices his Spanish at luncheon.
Our share of the catch, a yellow fin tuna and a wahoo.
Locals working 20 minute shifts, in the freezer, unloading 450 tons of fish.
We dined with the officers. Lunch was great!
Photos from home decorate the ship interiors. (Recognize the Game of Thrones?)
Bermeo, Spain, home port of Jai Alai, now on our bucket list.
Chef Fernandez checks the Spanish White Bean Stew.
Officers Quarters are spacious and comfortable.
Robbie says, "Yeah, make me an officer. I could live here!"
Jai Alai has a no-nonsense watermaker

Thanks for sharing! It's a long way from Bermeo to the Seychelles. I've never had freshly caught tuna like this.
Fri May 18 2:00 2018 NZST
Run: 28.6nm (51.8km)
04 17.488S 55 41.969E
Weather: See below. Holy Cow!

With the arrival of every issue of Flying Magazine, to which he subscribed when he started flying small planes, Robbie turned directly to "I Learned About Flying from This" and read with interest the stories of survivors: survivors of equipment failures; survivors of their own mistakes; survivors of freak accidents; survivors of extreme conditions. Here's our version.

WE LEARNED ABOUT SAILING FROM THIS.

Pulling into the anchorage at Anse Lazio, Praslin Island, Seychelles, we congratulated ourselves on selecting good shelter from the SE trades that are beginning to develop, bringing constant breezes from the southeast at 10-15 knots along with welcome relief from the oppressive tropical heat that's typical until early May. Scattered showers of short duration were coming and going around noon under mostly overcast skies. The sky was very dark downwind, to the west, and we were grateful not to be over there!

I dropped the anchor in about 10 meters of water, let out 55 meters of chain and tied on our 3-strand rope snubber which lengthens the chain by another 5 meters and takes strain off the windlass, the anchor winch. We prefer to use even longer anchor rodes, 7:1 rather than 5:1, but there were already 5 other boats anchored nearby with more arrivals anticipated before the end of the day. Nearly all the other sailing yachts in the Seychelles are rental catamarans and catamaran sailors are notorious for anchoring very close to shore on short chains (sorry, friends, but it's true.) They motor directly in to shore in very shallow water, right in front of Mersoleil, let out insufficient chain, and once we're surrounded by cats on short rodes our swing room is severely limited. So I settled for 5:1 scope.

Less than an hour after we settled in, it became obvious that the black sky was getting darker and, despite the winds still from the SE, the storm appeared to be moving east toward our location, not away. Not an hour after that, we were shocked by a sudden 15F degree drop in temperature accompanied by a powerful blast of 20kt winds from the west that spun us 180 degrees putting Mersoleil and all the other yachts close to the classic, dreaded, lee shore. The storm was already fully formed, and brought with it wind waves that rose rapidly to 2 meters, then 3, and higher. Winds rose to 35kts and remained there. This was a big storm, not a tropical squall, reporting a diameter on our radar of 20nm, and we were right in the middle of it! I sincerely wished we HAD set out more chain, and also that the snubber was longer because as the bow rose 3 or 4 meters with each rising wave then slammed back down into the following trough, our snubber was taking enormous shock loads.

One sailor, on a cat very close to us, thought he could better manage the storm by motoring into the wind and waves, thereby keeping his yacht from turning broadside to the danger and possibly broaching. Captains on the other cats did not try this technique and it was clear that the better choice was to hang without auxiliary power on the anchor rode. The driving yacht was all over the place, quite out of control, and sideways to the wind more than any other vessel in the bay. We worried that he might crash into Mersoleil, tried to hail him on the VHF, in fact we called to "any vessel at Anse Lazio," and received not a single reply. We were obviously the only vessel with a radio on.

In skies as dark as dusk, every yacht in the anchorage turned on its navigation lights.

All the vessels that had anchored close to the reef were now within striking distance of the rocks and because they were in such shallow water, where the huge waves were breaking, they bounced violently, both side to side and forward to aft. One by one the captains of these vessels realized they had to run from the lee shore out into the storm or to find themselves on the reef. At least two vessels dragged their anchors, sliding perilously close to rocky reefs before they made the decision to abandon the anchorage. A third dragged past an unused mooring buoy, fouling his anchor chain on the buoy's mooring chain and several people on that boat huddled at the bow for half an hour in outrageously dangerous conditions debating how to untangle from the mooring. We watched with binoculars - the storm was powerful, even though it had not reached it's height yet - and saw not a single person on any other boat wearing a life vest or tether, but many running around on deck unsure what to do. We could feel their panic. Remember, most of these people are not experienced sailors. They're nice German couples and South African families who've flown here for a one week sailing holiday on a crewed sailing cat. Most of the captains are locals, and we don't know how much sailing experience they have, but we do know from our own observations that they do not all anchor as cautiously and conservatively as we do.

Mersoleil remained solidly anchored, maintaining her position despite the incredible forces on her chain, snubber and hull. Doggie was tied behind the boat, about 15 meters away on a towing bridle that we had assembled before we left Seattle in 2011. See the photos below. I thought for certain that Doggie would break free and that we might have to drag him off the beach with a water-filled outboard when all the shouting was over, or lose him altogether, but remarkably he held his own out there, rising high on each wave and plummeting down to the bottom of each trough, getting jerked by his towing line first left, then right, then spinning 360 and snapping to a halt again with his bow toward Mersoleil's stern. I saw his entire underside more than once flying above the crest of a wave and was amazed he didn't capsize. We donned our life vests and tethered ourselves to padeyes installed in the cockpit, something we do as a rule on passage, but very rarely at anchor.

We had been seeing another monohull throughout the week, a smaller yacht, full of guys speaking French, laughing together late into the evening and having a grand time. Their boat was much too close to both beach and granite boulders and it was bucking wildly with, apparently, no one on board. They must have gone to the restaurant on shore for lunch. At one point, looking toward land through his binoculars, Robbie said, "There's something going on at the beach. I think there's a person in the water!" And then a few minutes later, "There are about six people now standing around on the beach." We didn't understand what was going on there, but we had our own fish to fry and returned our attention to Mersoleil.

The storm continued to intensify, showing, according to radar, no inclination to move or dissipate, and we decided to run the engine in case it was suddenly needed. Waves started coming over the bow, big green torrents rushing down the deck and shooting up over the dodger, our windscreen. We were both drenched, first by the torrential rains, now by saltwater, too. About this time, I put away my phone and camera. The pictures I took of the storm were all taken early in the event. As conditions worsened, it was necessary to give our complete attention to what was going on around us and to consider our options should action become necessary.

Someone was on the small monohull now, the French guys' boat, just one person though, not the entire gang. Dark curly hair and dark skin told us it was probably the local captain. He had started the engine and was trying to motor forward into the waves - without even raising his anchor! The boat lurched forward, then moved slowly until it was fairly close, dangerously so we thought, to Mersoleil at which point we saw him run to the bow (sans pfd and tether), struggle with the anchor, and run back to the helm to regain control of the vessel. After two or three of these excursions, we understood that he was alone on the boat, had no electric windlass with which to raise his anchor, and that he hoped to drag vessel and anchor far enough from shore to buy time to go forward alone and lift the anchor by hand. To our surprise and delight the tactic worked for him and we gave cheers and a big thumbs-up as he motored past and out of the bay. He was a great hero, we thought, but a hero who had swum to his boat from shore in extremely hazardous conditions. He was, we realized, the person in the water earlier. He had gone alone to climb aboard a tossing boat and save it from smashing to pieces on the rocks. Foolish to risk his life as he did, but greatly heroic in saving the sailboat. We're trying to find him now so we can buy him a beer!

Mersoleil was the only yacht left in the anchorage. We discussed again whether to run or to hold tight - it's a tough call under such conditions. Our anchor alarms indicated that Mersoleil hadn't budged an inch and the storm was still enormous and all around. There wasn't anywhere to run and surely this couldn't continue much longer, could it?

After two or three hours of intensifying winds, waves and downpouring rains something changed dramatically. One particularly high wave, it had to be 5 meters, rushed toward the bow. I was on watch tethered in the cockpit and saw it coming, thinking ,"oh, man, this is a big one," as it swamped Mersoleil's bow with several feet of green water that flew down the deck, up over the dodger, into the cockpit and over the top of the bimini above the helm. With all the bucking and tossing I was concerned about the chain and snubber and whether they were in position over the bow roller or lying in a mess on the deck, something we saw once before while beating in high seas. Holding tightly to the dodger grab rail, I stepped up on a seat in the cockpit in order to get a better look at the bow and I saw a rope, it could only be the snubber, draped loosely across the top of the primary bow roller in a completely unnatural position. Maybe the bow had dipped into the water and picked it up. In that case, now the fiberglass of the bow, instead of the steel backed snubber fitting, was going to sustain the huge forces of a twenty-three ton yacht being hurled in the air by high waves. That wasn't a good thing.

Robbie and I agreed that one of us must go forward to inspect the cause of this condition, and perhaps, the damage. Both willing to go, we decided it should be me because I have a smaller surface area, less weight, and I would be slightly less likely to be washed into the sea. Pound for pound I'm probably about as strong has he is, but as a smaller target, we thought I might have a better chance of staying on deck.

We have an excellent system of safety jacklines - specially purchased, cut and installed ropes that run from bow to stern along the centerline of the yacht. We clip multiple tethers onto these lines, allowing us to move the length of the boat, never for a single moment untethered; click one on, move forward, clip on the next before unclipping to first, move forward again to the next change point. It's a little cumbersome, but ensures that nobody falls of the boat when we have to go forward in exciting situations. But, you know, we have never NEEDed the safety jacklines at anchor before! They were carefully stowed in their mesh bag out of the UV and ready for our next sail or passage. So instead I clipped two tethers to the front of my pdf, securing the other end of one to the dodger grab rail, then inched forward to the point where I could clip the second onto the middle shroud, returning to retrieve tether number one so I could advance it to a padeye on the cabintop, retrieving number two and crawling forward to the next secure holding point. When I finally reached the bow a few minutes and several warm salty baths later, it was obvious that the snubber had parted. Its frayed end was dangling in the water like a bushy pony tail and all the weight of Mersoleil was now on the chain and the windlass. Not only that, but the chain had hopped completely out of the guides on the bow roller - this was a first! - and was straining over the port side of the bow eating up the protective Starboard pad that we had installed there to protect the bow from the anchor shank and taking big bites out of the fiberglass as well.

I returned tether-over-tether to the cockpit and explained to Robbie. "We're still hooked," I told him, "but now all the strain is on the chain." The yanking on the chain, now hanging over the side, was ferocious. It didn't look like the storm was going to end any time soon and our track on the anchor alarm began to extend into new territory further from the anchor where there had been no track before. When we lost the snubber the chain effectively became about ten feet longer as slack in the chain stretched out. But it was also possible that the weight and jerking of the boat was beginning to drag the anchor through the seabed. We couldn't tell which was the case, so we decided to abandon the anchorage immediately.

There being virtually no way to lift the anchor chain back into its proper path through the groove and over the bow roller, the only solution was to release the entire 100 meters of chain and the anchor and depart without them. This we did. It was our great good fortune to have pulled out from the anchor locker the bitter end of Mersoleil's anchor chain just two or three days earlier and to have removed the twists that build up in the chain over time. Chain links stack up next to one another in a tightly twisted chain, creating a mass too large to feed through the hawsepipe. In order to avoid this problem, which would render us completely unable to ditch the chain in an emergency, we check the last fifty feet or so of chain every so often to make sure it's untwisted and will run freely in a crisis. This was a crisis and mercifully our chain had no twists in its full length. I untied the small red rope inside the anchor locker that holds the bitter end of the chain to a U-bolt, wrenched loose the nut on top of the windlass and the last 40 meters of heavy chain shot off the bow into the sea in a matter of seconds - until it reached the very end! We had installed a swivel on the bitter end of our chain in the stupid hope that it would allow those twists to rectify themselves, working their way off the end of the chain down in the chain locker. The swivel never accomplished that, but it did catch on something on deck and stop the last two inches of the chain from flying off into the water. With Robbie's help from the helm, ... too noisy to yell to him, so tether over tether I crept back toward the cockpit to ask him to give the windass a nudge up... "What!? RAISE the anchor?"... "Yes, just DO it! I'll explain later!" His tap on the windlass button at the helm was just enough to release the swivel from the fitting against which it was jammed and suddenly the rattle of chains was completely gone along with all our primary ground tackle.

Departing the bay was easy, if uncomfortably bumpy, and we motored to the very spot about three miles away that we had departed on Friday morning. There, of course, we had to deploy the secondary anchor which has been ready and waiting for nearly ten years, but never been used. Well, actually, that's not true. We unintentionally used it once, more like a fender, in New Caledonia to spring off a wharf in a 30kt blow, and ever since then our Delta anchor sits on the bow bent and deformed, testament to the fact that it flicked along half a dozen pilings before we could back off that wharf. The Delta had never been on the bottom before, but it was there and ready and down it went at a calmer safer location with 15 meters of chain and 50 of rope rode and eventually we slept well Friday night.

During the night the winds returned to their benign southeasterly direction, and we rose Saturday morning to return to Anse Lazio to retrieve our Rocna and chain. Before departing the quiet anchorage, we checked on Doggie to see how waterlogged he was and found him completely dry inside! We were flabbergasted! It's a great testament to Walker Bay that their Genesis 310 RIB can sustain seas like that without shipping water. Look at him in the pictures!

A point in our favor, to our credit I might say, is that because we follow a very strict anchoring and record keeping protocol we knew the precise location of the primary anchor. Robbie found the end of the anchor chain on his very first dive, he tied a round white fender to one end of a long line and connected the other end to the (wretched) swivel at the bitter end of the chain. He returned to Mersoleil, we raised the temporary anchor, and I motored over to the float which he picked up with a boat hook exactly as if it were just any moorng pendant. It was a fairly simple matter then to wrap the rope around the windlass and haul it up carefully until there was chain on deck again. I snubbed off the chain to relieve the strain while we discarded the swivel, fed the last few meters of chain and its little security line back down the hawsepipe into the chain locker, re-tied the security line to its U-bolt, and begin to raise the anchor in the usual way.

We stopped raising chain with about 60 meters still in the water, knowing the Rocna was stuck well-enough to sustain a 35kt blow, and here we remain a day later telling you all about it! We need a new snubber, which I can prepare in the next few days, but other than that, some relatively minor fiberglass repairs and a few boat bites, all is very well indeed on sailing yacht Mersoleil.

We feel like we spent 24 hours anchoring!!!! And WE LEARNED ABOUT SAILING FROM THAT!!!

Things we did well:
1. Carried the Dog, our faithful dinghy, on a bridle, not on a single rope. Doggie's bridle was never intended to take a punishing like this, but it survived and protected both dinghy and motor. If we were towing him on a simple painter, he'd surely have been lost. The bridle was an excellent investment in planning and labour. It far exceeded our expectations. See photos.
2. We actively, assertively, firmly set the anchor in the seabed. Robbie hates to hear me say this, but we have never dragged anchor, not yet anyway. Inspection of the anchor on the bottom today confirms that it did not move during the storm. Our slightly enlarged track was apparently due entirely to the release of the slack chain that had been restrained by the snubber until the snubber parted.
3. We had accurate records of our anchor location. Our anchoring procedure has protected us in many situations in which others have fared poorly. We back down on our anchor at 2600 rpm for two minutes every single time we anchor and we record carefully the location of the anchor after it is set, not where it was dropped. Baie Chevalier is huge and has a featureless sand bottom. Robbie would have never found our equipment at all, let alone in five minutes, without accurate coordinates.
4 We maintained a constant anchor watch. We'd wanted to go ashore for lunch, but it is our habit to remain on board for as long as necessary to ensure the safety of the yacht. When we saw the storm growing closer, not farther away, we abandoned the idea of going to Bonbon Plume. In fact, there was no lunch on Friday. No dinner either if I recall.
5. When it became necessary, we made the right decision to dump the ground tackle and depart the bay and exceuted our escape in just a few minutes. Once the windlass assumed all the strain remaining at anchor was out of the question.
6. We know our knots and when we needed a rolling hitch, we produced one instantly without going to a book or a knot app.

Further....
Things we could have done better:
1. For the first time in months we failed to check the weather. There's no excuse for our not knowing that storm was moving from west to east. We could have been elsewhere! In some locations, the Indian Ocean being one of them, we have found it difficult to obtain synoptic weather charts and forecasts and we have allowed ourselves to become dependent on windy.com and PredictWind for local weather. They are excellent tools, but they are not meteorological forecasts.
2. We probably should have replaced our snubber before now. This snubber has been in use about 3 years and was beginning look a little weary. That said, there's a good chance a new snubber of the same rating would have chafed through, too, in those conditions. It broke at the rolling hitch, not at the thimble, not mid-line.
3. We did not have experience using the secondary anchor. It would have been a little easier if we had ever practiced with the Delta.
4. I allowed myself to be influenced by what other people do. If not surrounded by the less experienced sailors, I'd have let out more chain in the first place. Knowing the anchorage would become more crowded, I limited the scope of our chain as a matter of convenience. And if I had understood that the storm was headed toward us, not away, I would have lengthened the snubber, too. A longer 3-strand nylon rope will stretch more and may not have failed at all. Actually, if we'd known the direction the storm was traveling (and shame on us for not using MARPA radar tools to find out) we would have been elsewhere altogether.

Now (actually Monday 21st) we're helping the owners of a South African catamaran recover their anchor and chain. Their friends' yacht, just purchased a few months ago in Langkawi and on its voyage home to South Africa, lies stranded on the nearby reef nearly high and dry. Tides are minimal here and we're more than a week away from the next full moon that might bring hopes of lifting her off the rocks.

Yep, we learned about sailing from this.

Waves and spume early in the storm
Doggie takes a flying leap tossed by the next wave
Both chains back in place, only casualty the snubber at left
Waves still only about 2 meters
From one anchorage to another we tow Doggie on this simple bridle
Doggie's 12m tow line is tied to this thimble on a pendant with a bowline
At the other end of the pendant an asymmetrical snaphook clicks onto Doggie's bow
Returned to the scene next morning, anchored nearby, located the ditched anchor, tied a float to the end of the chain
Not everyone fared so well. This newly purchased monohull is still stranded on the reef at La Digue three days later

Ever the able captain!!! Impressive .... anse Lazio is such a spectacular place, but for sure you don’t want to end up on those boulders! Nice job, captain !!!

Lovely descriptive article Bev. Very similar experience we went through and much needed advice.
Fri May 4 0:40 2018 NZST
Run: 291.4nm (527.4km)
4 38.360S 055 28.437E

This is so typical of our visit to Rajasthan. I didn't even intend to write about this visit to a Thar Desert village homestay, but going to my February photos at random it was the first thing I saw and I couldn't resist!

February 23-24, 2018
Salawas Village, Kumharon-ki-Dhani, nr. Gosala, Jodhpur District, Rajasthan, India
(Block the line above and put it in Google Earth to see exact location.)

We stopped at Chhotaram Prajapat's Homestay for just one night on February 23rd, wishing as soon as we'd arrived that we could stay much longer. Robbie and I were welcomed with a colorful blessing daubed on our foreheads, guided to the tradition round desert hut that was our home for the night, introduced so rapidly to at least a dozen family members that we cannot remember anyone's names, and informed that we'd all dine together in the courtyard at around eight.

Chhotaram 's family belongs to the weavers caste, having created stunning hand woven dhurrie rugs for many centuries. but they realize that the market for handcrafted rugs like theirs is dwindling and new sources of income are essential to supporting their extended family. They've organized and operate a cooperative for the rug makers in Salawas village and maintain and sell from an inventory that includes their own hand-loomed rugs as well as those of their friends and neighbors.

In addition to the rug cooperative, the family has opened their home to tourists, building seven traditional round huts about twelve feet in diameter, each a bedroom with its own bath and a western toilet. The homestay business now provides sufficiently for the family's needs and everyone plays his or her role as a welcoming host. Guests range from touring travelers like us to the British writer who came for solitude and spent three months finishing his latest novel. Everyone cuddles the baby, this winter a twelve month old little girl, helps the little boys with their homework, carries limestone blocks for the new hand-paved driveway under construction, and moves the strap-woven beds under roof as the evening grows late and people feel sleepy. Before dinner younger brother, Om, treated us to a jeep tour of the village where we visited the local potter, who expertly spins his low concrete wheel with a wooden stick and crouches before it while throwing pots, met an older gentleman who engages in and demonstrated ancient unmentionable local rituals, and spotted wildlife in the bush as Om drove through the dust at speeds only a 17-year-old would think were fun until I told him bluntly to cut it out.

Yes, we bought a rug, how could we not? Someday perhaps we'll have a home in which to put it!

Chhotaram's dad
His beautiful mom
Dinnertime
Everybody helps at dinnertime
Guest quarters
Our room
Our room too
Henna for the ladies, including me at the right
Making chapathi - fresh at every meal
Traditional Rajasthani kitchen
Help with homework
Spit polish - the same the world over
Rugs direct from the artisans
All hand thrown
Potter, his wheel, his studio
Throwing off the hump
Fri May 4 0:36 2018 NZST
No position sent.
Weather: Beastly hot. We rise at 5AM, sleep through the afternoon and get up again for a few hours when the fruit bats go to work!


I've thought long and hard about this posting, about what to say about our experiences in India. As you know, I'm not wont to post photos with such captions as 'here we are standing in front of the blah-de-blah.' Really, who cares about a bad picture of us, tiny in the distance, that doubles as a lousy image of the blah-de-blah, obscured by tourists? You'll never catch me doing that. I want YOU to experience India, to feel amazed when you realize sculptural arts you thought long extinct continue to be produced in 2018, to laugh in surprise with us at the cold shock we felt as an elephant hosed us with a 10-liter trunkful of pond water. I want you to sit down to dinner tonight, leaving all the flatware in the drawer, and eat with the fingers of only your right hand, and imagine eating this way every day for two months like I did. I want you to be moved right now to price that ticket to Jaipur and to ask Soni, www.indiaworldwidetravel.com, to plan a tour for YOU something like the one he arranged for us in February and March of 2018. It will change you. And you will be glad.

Blow-by-blow travelogues being as deadly dull as I believe them to be, I've chosen a few perceptions, experiences, observations and impressive moments to share with you. They are uniquely India, at least they are for me. We sailed away from the coast of Kerala on March 24th and, yes, we have arrived in the Seychelles, which surprised me by being in Africa, (what did I think?) Six weeks later India still monopolizes my thoughts.

In classic cruising fashion, this little missive to you was momentarily interrupted by a minor crisis when Robbie returned from a long hot morning at the boatyard. Tropical heat completely exhausts him and as I climbed sympathetically up to offer a cheery greeting in the cockpit, he stepped out of Doggie, threw a leg over the side rail, then turned around to see Doggie drifting away off leash. He looked at me with a weary "I can't do this" expression, asked, "do you mind?" and I stripped off my sarong, dove off the stern, swam out to our departing dinghy and hauled it back to Mersoleil, practicing for the first time in eons the lifesaving sidestroke I learned in Red Cross Water Safety Instructor classes, then rinsed off at the stern shower. I hope the two men installing floating docks nearby enjoyed the show. Honestly, there is never a dull moment around here. (Charlene, I guess it was my turn this time; Heather, you get it next time!)

These little India vignettes will be posted separately, each with its own supporting photographs. Here's the first one....

Robbie ran across a moving story on the Internet told by a young Asian man who remembered well a lesson he learned from his grandfather. This little story has completely changed how we negotiate and purchase in local markets.

The young man recalled, when he was a child, shopping in the wet markets with his grandfather, who, in the boy's opinion, always paid too much for his cabbage, or bananas, or tools, or boots. Other people, he knew, bargained for lower prices and routinely paid considerably less than originally asked. "Grandfather," the boy asked, "why do you pay two hundred rupees for the watermelon? You know it is only worth one hundred fifty."

The reply was simple. "This is dignified charity, son."

Dignified charity. How many times have I enjoyed an outrageously expensive meal, paying far more than the meal was actually worth and then left an additional fifteen or twenty percent gratuity - thinking nothing of it!? Yet, I go to the local wet market and haggle with the woman who rose before dawn to harvest her produce, has carried 20kg of it to the market balanced on a tray on her head in hopes of making enough money to buy her child a school book. And congratulated myself for paying only one hundred forty rupees instead of the two hundred she wanted.

There is so much - of great value - that one does not learn in first world cultures. This is what we came here for.

Thu Apr 5 5:16 2018 NZST
Speed: 3.7knts
Run: 1510.2nm (2733.5km)
03 01.339S 059 22.634E
Weather: SE 7kts, scattered tropical showers mostly at night,

There's much to report today, not the least of which is that Mersoleil is on passage and has been for nearly two weeks. The most unusual passage we've ever experienced, this one, with virtually no wind for days on end.

We're sailing from India, having reluctantly departed when our visas expired at midnight on 24 March, to the Seychelles, a distance we would normally cover in ten easy days. This season, characterized, Bruce Buckley tells us, by worldwide weather anomalies that have left the central Indian Ocean bereft of breezes, making the run from Kochi to Victoria is going to take about twice as long! Early on we resorted to running the engine when winds dipped below 7-8kts, our usual procedure. But realizing we'd covered a mere third of the distance and expended more than half our fuel, a come-to-Jesus meeting held in the cockpit resulted in the determination that rigorous fuel conservation tactics were required to avoid the two most dreaded outcomes of running out of fuel on this particular passage in low winds: drifting helplessly ashore in Somalia, volunteer participants in the local sailor for ransom program; and running aground on the reefy outer banks of the Seychelles.

It's been an incredible experience to learn what Mersoleil can do with 2-4 measely knots of wind and we've had ample opportunity to test the spinnaker and all combinations of main, genoa and whisker pole. Amazingly enough, this wonderful yacht rewards us with 4kts over the ground in only 5 of breeze when given a chance! Since the winds haven't often given us even 4kts to work with, our progress is slow, but leisurely and comfortable. We haven't even closed the windows yet!

India is now in the rearview mirror with its astounding palaces, temples and havelis, delicious cuisines, bustling bazaars, beautiful ladies in colorful sarees, and its warm, kind, charming people. Alas. When I wrote recently that my favourite country is the next one I intend to visit, I had not yet been to India. I promise to back date and post a smattering of photos and descriptions from our three week tour of Rajasthan, but both Robbie and I have come away totally gob-smacked in his words. Countless times I heard uttered from my own lips, "I have never seen ANYthing like this before," "I am aMAZed!" and the overused all-purpose, "Wow." I've always thought Europe held the architectural gems of the world, save for the pyramids and the Taj Mahal, but I was completely mistaken. India has artistic, architectural and sculptural masterpieces at every turn and each time I thought, 'another fort, gee, maybe I'll skip this one,' then climbed out of the car to tour it anyway, I was humbled again for my condescension and thrilled to yet another magical display of artstry and craftsmanship unlike anything else in the world. Visiting India was the most brilliant travel decision we have ever made. (I understand people take decisions these days. Being an old-fashioned grammarian, I still make them.) I will tell you more about India in future postings, after we reach the Seychelles, assuming we do, when I can post images for you.

Onward to the Seychelles, gently, slowly. Send beer and soft drinks. It's very hot and we're a little bit weary of water. Is it true they're decided to rename the Indian Ocean Lake Placid?

Glad to read up on you guys and your continuing voyage... India sounds great! After spending last season back in Tonga, spending this season based between California and Budapest. Heading back to NZ at the end of the year for more South Pacific sailing. Good luck out there and I hope you don't run out of your favorite things! Dean
Sun Feb 18 23:03 2018 NZDT
Run: 1.3nm (2.4km)
09 59.115n 76 16.100e

Kochi International Marina, Bolgatty Island, Kerala, India

Our charming and competent driver, Jeni, is now a treasured friend. He dropped us back at Kochi Marina at four this afternoon after a delightful week of fun, exploration and laughter. Thank you, Jeni. And thank you to Mr. Bhagwan Das Soni of India World Wide Travel who conceived and organized our wonderful week in Kerala.

Ah, just remembered that you are on yit. Loved reading your comments and pictures!
Sun Feb 18 23:03 2018 NZDT
Run: 36.6nm (66.2km)
09 27.863n 76 21.669e

Lakes and Lagoons, Allepey, Keral, India

See all those long rectangular shapes stacked along the edge of the canals? Each one is a traditional Kerala houseboat converted for use as a luxury touring boat with one or two or more bedrooms, and it plys the miles of Allepey backwaters at a leisurely pace while the lucky occupants sip tea and watch and listen to the village life of southern India, the slap slap slap of laundry on a stone, the laughter of kids on bicycles, the casual conversation of two fisherment on a long canoe or four guys standing on the bridge. We were ferried to our private one-bedroom houseboat at noon by water taxi, introduced to the crew of three: Arun, the helmsman; Sattish, the chef; and Manu, helper and asistant helmsman, then served a wonderful luncheon of local river fish, Kerala rice, curry, sambal and hot salty lime pickles. I ate with my right hand as I have done at each meal since we arrived in India. I'm getting pretty good at transporting food to my mouth without mishap. It takes practice, especially for a lefty like me.

Robbie spent the afternoon alternating between his current read, War and Peace, and exploring the passing world with his camera while I napped again in hopes of conquering a cold which has been plaguing me all week. When I appeared for a glass of wine before dinner he announced that this is definitely the life for him! Peaceful, leisurely to the point of decadence, and completely captivating. We never left the boat, stopping only to tie up for lunch and again at dusk for the night. Our houseboat was truly luxurious and we felt pampered and fortunate, watching the sunrise from bed as the world slipped slowly past our leaded glass windows.

Alas, this was only a one night tour. They seem to offer only half-day and full-day tours. We could have stayed a week! I think when it comes to relaxing we may have achieved a higher level of performance than most of the tourist population.

Sun Feb 18 23:03 2018 NZDT
Run: 3.2nm (5.8km)
09 26.857n 76 24.321e

Pamba Hertigae Villa, Nedumudy, Kerala, India

It was entirely my fault that we were four hours late for the home cooked lunch Rajeev Thomas' mother had lovingly prepared for us at Pamba Heritage Villa. After waiting for my 4 new cholis, we didn't even hit the road till lunchtime in Thekkady and it was a long, but scenic, drive back down to sea level. The Allepey area, south of Kochi, is the rice growing center of southern India and is riddled with backwaters, lakes and man-made canals as you can see on this GE image. We had only one night in Rajeev's gorgeous guest room with cozy balcony overlooking the canal, and we gazed eagerly from the balcony at each traditional houseboat passing by.

Tomorrow night we'll be on one of those! Rajeev conveyed our deepest apologies to his mom, he and Robbie solved all the political problems of the world while I took a nap, and we were sorry to depart after such a short stay. I'm just not one of those "if-it's-Tuesday-this-must-be-Belgium" travelers. Give me several nights in a row at my lodgings, please.

Wow guys you’re really getting about! Great pieces Bev, we’re loving them. Enjoy. Love Peter & Helen
Sun Feb 18 23:03 2018 NZDT
Run: 52.9nm (95.7km)
09 37.224n 77 09.726e

Kumily, Thekkady, Keraly, India

Three days seemed too short for our visit to Ferndale Home Stay where hostess, Debby Fernandez, introduced us to the all conveniences of local life. Finally, my questions were answered about the proper use of all the faucets and the ubiquitous plastic bucket and pitcher in the typical India bathroom! The showerheads installed on the walls in tourist accommodations do not exist in a real Indian bathroom. There's just a tub spout a few feet above the floor - not associated with any bathtub - a drain in the corner and the plastic bucket/pitcher combination. One mixes hot and cold water in the large bucket, scoops it up in the plastic pitcher and pours it over the soapy parts to wet the skin or get a good rinse. Perfectly effective, conserves water, why doesn't everyone do it this way? There's also the hand shower near the toilet, a fixture to which we neither of us has warmed, that everyone seems to use to drench the entire room, but most especially the toilet seat, before leaving.

I've written about toilet tissue before. In India, if you're partial to the use of TP, bring your own.

One night while in Thekkady we attended a double-feature cultural show, first an hour of martial arts demonstrations, then an hour of ancient Kerala Kathakali Traditional Dance. And followed it with another delicious dinner at a local hotel where we continued to plead for "spicy spicy spicy, INdian spicy" curries and were served moderately spicy, but wonderful food. They simply can't believe that we know what we're talking about.

I've heard that the cuisine of Kerala is perhaps not as highly spiced as that up in Rajasthan. We shall see.

Debby and her sister, Cheryl, were so complimentary of my Indian clothes, that I asked them to take me shopping for sarees. We three girls piled into Jeni's car and instructed him to deposit us at Debby's favourite saree shop, Mickey, as in the mouse, Tex. Shopping for sarees is not like buying a dress in size 10. One simply eyes a bolt of fabric on the shelves piled high with bright colors, the shop keeper pulls out the one he thinks you're pointing at from six feet away in front of the counter - or the one he wants you to buy - and it is unfurled luxuriously on the counter for inspection. Each saree is several meters long with the last meter or so being the portion intended to be cut off and sewn into a choli, the short sleeved short waisted blouse always worn with a saree. There is no fitting room required. You either like the fabric, the pattern, the price, or you don't. I selected four sarees and we rushed off to Debby and Cheryl's tailor to beg for overnight service.
I love my sarees, indeed all my Indian clothing, but it's going to take some doing to make me comfortable hanging my flabby white midriff out there for the world to appreciate. Nonethesless, when in Rome... so here are some pictures. My sarees are totally authentic, the real deal, donned in the traditional way with an underskirt and, thank God, two safety pins for security. Any time you see a woman wearing a saree who is NOT constantly fiddling with the pallu to keep it up on her shoulder, she is grateful for her safety pin. Those who fiddle are the rigid purists. Maybe I'll get there someday but not yet.

Typical India Bathroom... Finally My Questions Are Answered
It's Simple and It Makes Sense
Brownie, One of Cheryl's Nubian Goats
Sun Feb 18 23:03 2018 NZDT
No position sent.

Munnar, Kerala, India

Tata Beverage Corporation operates tea plantations in India in addition to its other business enterprises around the world. They make a dandy tuk tuk, too, and I might like riding in a tuk tuk better if I could ever get a lift in a Tata vehicle! The company provides a complete village to accommodate the tea workers and subsudizes rents, provisions, education and other necessities. In addition, Tata has implemented programs to educate and rehabilitate the differently-abled resident of the village, those whose bodies and minds reflect the results of a narrowly restricted gene pool.
Robbie and I toured the factory where they produce stunning handmade paper products (no trees sacrificed, all from recycled materials), vibrant natural dyes and sumptuous fabrics and garments. We bought a few items in the shop to support the efforts of the good people who labour there. No photos are permitted inside the factory, out of respect for the workers, but their website and these pictures tell the wonderful story.
http://www.srishtinatural.com/

The Tea Mfg Process Explained
Tea Seeds and Flowers
Plant it Just Like This
Starbucks Supports Athulya. Good for Starbucks!
Sun Feb 18 23:03 2018 NZDT
Run: 33.6nm (60.8km)
10 05.630n 77 03.058e

Tea Plantations, Munnar, Kerala, India

It takes an entire day to enjoy the tea plantations perched along the slopes of the Munnar Mountains and visit the Kanan Devan Hills Tea Museum.

Tea grows best on steep slopes of 35 to 70 degrees, allowing winter's occasional frosty air to move along down into the valleys at a good pace in early morning, sparing the tender plants damage that might result from a freeze. Of course, those slopes make hand picking a challenge for the ladies from the tea plantation village who walk amoung the bushes every ten days pinching or shearing off the top two leaf sets. Actually, the tea pickers walk amoung the bushes every day, returning to pick again when the new growth is ten days old. After visitng a tea factory and learning the entire arduous and heretofore unknown tea making process, Jeni drove us for hours through the beautiful hillside where we demanded photo stops by the dozen. Watching people picking tea is as addictive as watching Cleveland Demolition tear down a fifteen storey building. You just stand and stare, listening to the hypnotic music of the shears as they clip clip clip clip clip the young stems. Now I see why all those gaps exist amoung the bushes wherever tea is grown. They are pathways for tea workers, and for the odd passing elephant.

Young Lovers
Cutting Tea
Sun Feb 18 23:03 2018 NZDT
Run: 6.9nm (12.5km)
10 02.555n 76 57.800e
Weather: cooler at 980m above sea level, sunny days, a shower at night

Munnar, Kerala, India

Mersoleil securely tied to a dock in Kochi, we've decided to tour Kerala State for a few days. First stop, a three-day visit to Munnar, 125km from Kochi, with its mountainous tea plantations, lush forest and cooler temperatures. Warm and gracious hosts of Flower Valley Home Stay, Ancy and Joy, made us feel like long lost family amid their peaceful countryside gardens, bird song and home-cooked meals. Stunning scenery, a luxurious room with our own private veranda, flowers, birds, morning mists and Ancy's home cooking. Can it possibly get any better than this?

R n B Ready to Head Off for Kerala Adventure
Ancy and Bev
Ancy and Joy
Flower Valley Home Stay - Paradise
Flower Valley Home Stay
Mon Jan 29 22:40 2018 NZDT
No position sent.

Julian has just asked an excellent question.

Boat stamp, what is a boat stamp?

We found it hard to believe such a silly thing could be useful, but long before we left America I worked up this rubber stamp with a local stationer. Being able to smack a faint impression of this thing on clearance documents has established our incontrovertible legitimacy with the officials of many countries. They love rubber stamps, carbon paper and duplicates duplicates duplicates. If your ink pad is drying up, like ours is, and the impressions created by the stamp are very faint, so much the better! No one ever reads them anyway.

Ahhhh, bureaucracy.

Gotta have an official stamp, else the officials ... won't believe you have a boat.

Well we had a boat stamp for our first boat Runaway but no one seemed to want it and so we did not bother with Chameleon! Still got the pad though and it has been useful for other things! Good to read your reports. We are having a wonderful summer at long last but due to various health problems (David) our poor Chameleon is still at the dock. Have fun for us. Patricia

Ben and Robbie, Great to hear of your travels, you two are a beacon of civility in the untamed world! Love the stamp idea, plan to get one on my next trip home. Just finished my International Thespian debut in the annual "Hell hole of the Pacific!" I played the Constable, and made seveveral arrests for debauchery, Oh the sweet irony! Love, Michael
Mon Jan 29 20:46 2018 NZDT
Run: 1220.7nm (2209.5km)
Avg: 3.7knts
24hr: 88.1nm
09 58.272N 076 15.35E
Weather: hot with tropical haze every day

Mersoleil has arrived at Cochin, India
Spirit of Africa arriving in Cochin about ten days ahead of us, Miki Stanton had thoughtfully emailed general info on checking in to India, including ?call Port Authority on VHF when approaching the channel.? While Mersoleil was still 10nm away Port Authority called us, offered permission to anchor at Malabar Hotel and said they would send someone to us for temporary clearance. Should we call them upon arrival, I asked. Oh, no, we?ll be watching you. They will come. And indeed, five or six guys on a little flat boat that looked like a floating refrigerator with a big black fender (see photo) pulled up before we had even finished anchoring. Two of the men stepped aboard. After brief, pleasant formalities, they invited us to come to their offices by dinghy, tie up at their jetty ?around the corner,? which proved nearly impossible to find, and go to Immigration then Customs, all easy to find, big signs, to complete the clearance procedures.

Not easy to find at all, but everyone was kind and helpful, offering loads of erroneous information as we wandered about. Finally we found Immigration, completed our business with them including the aborted use of yet another new clever computer system that would not work (this one for taking biometrics), ?all it does is take much more time,? they said. It took an hour to locate the correct Customs office among the many choices in a single building, nobody knew where we were to go, someone finally walked us through a long rabbit warren of hallways, courtyards, even through a construction site, to the department of Import and Bond.

Import and Bond sent us back out to Mersoleil with tall skinny uniformed Mr. Kumar where he had Robbie complete many pages of forms with carbon papers, stamp all over them with the boat stamp, stuck the Iridium Go! in the liquor cabinet then sealed it shut with a signed and rubber stamped paper to be removed when we exit the country. He accompanied us back to the Import and Bond Dept. (I left crumbs this time so we could find it again) and defended us against three men on the street who disapproved of our parking Doggie1 at their jetty, ?where is your permission.? They were from the Marine Department (Port Authority) and delayed us another half hour while they made many phone calls and insisted that we had to put Doggie somewhere else. Where??? Do you have a registration for this speedboat? That generated a burst of indignation from me and I informed them this was NOT a SPEEDboat, it was a BABYboat! Finally, we wandered away and they found something else to do. Back at Import and Bond, the manager was not satisfied with the way Robbie had completed the forms and he made him sign a new set all over again. Where is your stamp? I didn?t bring it. It?s on the boat. We can?t finish this. Bring it tomorrow.

The next morning we departed Mersoleil in time for RC to present himself at the Marine Department at 10AM. I dropped him off at the prohibited jetty and returned to Mersoleil and busied myself until time to go pick him up at 12:30 as agreed (for the lunch we missed yesterday). I left Doggie at the hotel in an effort to avoid another confrontation with the port police, walked at 12:15 to the prohibited pilot boat jetty and waited there until well past 4:00. No Robbie.

The curious details of this day would fill a small book. Suffice it to say that I think we are now officially admitted to India, we?ll plan plenty of time for the checking out procedure, Robbie will probably never go anywhere again without the boat stamp, and I received a gift from one of the Mooring Crew guys, a monkeys fist used on his heaving line. I?d explained to Francis that I used an American baseball to weight my heaving line, upon which disclosure he jabbed me with an elbow and told me, ?I make mine with a cricket ball.? (see photos)


I started writing this with the intent to record my first impressions of India. They are these?.

Ferries run all directions in the harbor, old long flat, slightly decrepit boats that look exactly like the ones in movies about India?.
No one hurries, it?s hot here, taking things easy is the norm. Not to imply that people are lazy, they just move at a languid pace out of practical necessity?.
Offices in the old public buildings have high ceilings furnished abundantly with long-bladed ceiling fans. Every so often a paper is lifted from some surface, wafts gently through the air and settles at some other location, transferred there by the whim of the fan and there it remains.
The filing system in one department where we spent quite a long while was a classic example of colonial bureaucracy. They don?t use letter size paper here, nor A4, but something I?ve never seen before and it must measure something more like 10? x 18?. Piles of these large sheets are tucked into loose folios and stacked in lopsided heaps all about the room, some three or four feet high, on chairs, tables, desk and the floor, one side higher than the other and looking as if they could slide down at any moment like a deck of fanned playing cards on the casino table?.
Everywhere are the marks of British imperialism. Gracious colonial architecture is prominent in all directions. High tea is served at the hotel every afternoon. Elderly couples who have never missed a meal in their lives stroll into the lobby bar, select their favoured nest from the many cozy seating arrangements for two or four or six placed about the space, then the matrons order gin and tonics and the men beers. The interiors of the hotel are clubby and elegant, very British, with warm deep wood finishes, pillows on every chair and sofa, arrangements of fresh flowers on all the tables?. (photos)
Government officials delight in completing their tasks as slowly as humanly possible while making the work appear arduous and far more important that it could possibly be. They actually discussed Robbie?s carbon papered documents for fifteen minutes, three Customs officials in a huddle speaking their local tongue, before asking him to complete a new set and then took additional time concluding that they?d better give him pages without carbon paper and make three copies of the finished documents with a copying machine presumably located somewhere in the building?.
Things move slowly here, decidedly so, and one cannot but enjoy the contrast between the life we came from and what we observed yesterday and today. The difference is so outrageously dramatic it?s quaint, charming, amusing. Woeful disappointment is bound to accrue to the northern European or the American who expects or demands the bustling efficiency he remembers from home?.
Charter tour boats and ferries ply the habour area all day long, many of them filled with exuberant young people shouting, squealing, cheering together in some unknown-to-us group activity and singing along to the same kind of music one hears from the boom boxes on sidewalks outside the shops of Little India. But, I remembered with delight, this is not Little India. This is BIG India!

Luxury at the Bar, Malabar Hotel
Ferries Busy Busy Busy in Cochin Hbr
Blaring Music, Exuberant Kids
Malabar Hotel Lobby Bar
Francis' Mooring Crew Delivers My Monkeys Fist!
No tethers, no PFDs... hard to believe they go out to open sea like this.
Note to self... try this
Francis' Heaving Line, the Real Thing
My monkeys fist... looks like it was made by a girl.

Another successful crossing. Bravo! Your arrival in India reminds me of my experiences of being there off a plane as a backpack traveler! It is a fascinating place, if as you said, you can suspend judgement about how things work. But, of course, that is true about all of one's world travels! As usual your observations are keen and delightfully reported. I have forwarded your update to friends who did a short Pacific sailboat cruise a few years ago and who happen to be in India for their first time--at this moment. I knew they would much enjoy what you have shared. They also went up to Buhtan and found it fascinating. And shared it also with a friend currently visiting us who cruised 3 years in the S Pacific, has been to India in earlier years still, and lived at Shilshole for several years on L dock.

So delighted to know you've arrived safely. Your blogs are always so entertaining. Got the all clear on The Captain's scans. South Africa here we come ⛵️
Tue Jan 16 0:12 2018 NZDT
Speed: 4.2knts
Run: 296.8nm (537.2km)
07 35.107n 093 57.983e
Weather: 7kts N, seas less than a meter, tropical haze

Mersoleil is leaving Southeast Asia behind and is headed for India! On passages I have time to think, too much time to think, perhaps, and I've been thinking about all the remarkable places Robbie and I have been. What is the most wonderful place in the world, I asked myself, and I was surprised by the answer. The most wonderful place is the place we are about to visit!!! A place we haven't been to yet. Not everyone will agree, I suppose. But for me, the unknown is so full of possibilities, so very exciting, that nothing I've ever seen or done before can quite compare to an opportunity that is still completely hidden from me. Today, in my book, India is the most wonderful place in the world. The possibilities are endless. And I simply cannot wait to discover what is real, so I can add India to my colorful mental collection of experiences that I know, and remember, and love. Robbie and I were talking recently about what an amazing life we have. This experience of living in one unfamiliar culture after another for years on end never ceases to amaze and humble us. We cannot imagine living in any other way and, if our dotage were not catching up with us, we'd continue this vagabond life indefinitely as indeed some people have. We are truly having the time of our lives and are continuously amazed at how fortunate we are. Now, I must take a moment to boast about my brilliant husband, another subject to which I have recently given thorough consideration.
You know, Robbie and I have very different personalities. We probably see one another more objectivbely than either of us is able to see ourselves and, spending all day together every day, we have ample opportunity to observe the other's personality. Among his many admirable qualities, I marvel at Robbie's tenacity. His ability to stick to a task until he conquers it, or understands it, or repairs it, or completes it, far exceeds mine. Thank heaven somebody on this boat doesn't give up on frustrating puzzles! Here's an example.
Last month we replaced Mersoleil's battery banks with lithium batteries. Most sailors are reluctant to substitute their lead acid or absorbed gel mat batteries with lithium, still of the opinion that it's bleeding edge technology or simply too expensive. Lithium batteries are more expensive than AGMs, but the price is coming down and it seemed like the right choice for us when our eleven month old AGMs died in November (so carefully installed by Robbie, Kevin Butcher and Brian Butcher on Christmas Eve 2016), we decided it was time to switch. Lithium batteries are supposed to have a long life span and are quite happy to be deeply cycled hundreds of times (listen to me!), so in the long run their slightly higher cost generates substantial savings. They weigh a great deal less than conventional batteries. They offer more useable amps per cell than conventional batteries, they occupy much less space than a comparable set of conventional batteries. They are much less inclined to start fires than they were a few years ago. The day of the lithium battery has probably arrived. Well, it has on sailing yacht Mersoleil, anyway.
Alas, there are so many ways in which a new lithium battery installation can go south that it's frightening to ponder! This, I think, is probably the reason so many of our cruising colleagues continue to resist them. The charging regimen is completely different for lithium batteries than for the older types, and the shunts and monitors that are needed to gauge and report their performance, their condition, their state of charge are generally different from anything already familiar. Making the leap to lithium is a daunting prospect. But not for His Robbiness.
He must have developed his excellent research practices in his legal career. Robbie doesn't read the'junk' on new techology, the forum article, for instance, in which one guy asks, "I just bought a new 4JH4TE and its doohicky leaks. Does anybody have experience with leaking doohickies?" And three or four other guys respond, "I don't have a 4JH4TE. I have a 772MRRP. And mine doesn't have any dookickies, but here's what I would do...." Nope. Robbie doesn't read those articles.
He finds the most authoritative technical research on the subject and reads it over and over and over. Eventually what was gibberish on readings one thruogh five begins to make sense to him and eventually he actually understands it. I know this because he uses me as his straight man. He explains it to me until we both understand. (If you really want to learn something, teach it.) Then he finally runs across an expert he knows of and respects, Stan Honey, for example, and he reads everything Stan Hoeny has written about lithium battery systems. "You know," he said to me last week, "Stan Honey refers constantly to two other resources, a guy named Rod Collins and a company called Nordkyne Design, (Go to Sea, Stay at Sea, Live at Sea.) I've already read both of those sources and I thought they were really good. It's reassuring that Stan Honey (who invented the on-field video graphics we see on televised football games, the video lay lines on America's Cup Races and other sporting events) uses them as his gurus." Robbie reads and he studies, I hesitate to use the word obsessively, but... well, enough to eventually gather a glimmering comprehension of yet another thing they did not teach him in law school. By the time he's managed to teach a rudimentary version of this to me, he's really got it mastered.
For three weeksd after our new batteries were installed, he obsessed. He read constantly. He asked me to consider impossible questions to which I said, "Let's call the installer" and to which he replied in the resounding negative. No! He has to figure all this out for himself! (I, on the other hand, think that's what experts are FOR, and I am happy to call for consultation at the drop of a hat.) Robbie must have memorized the entire Balmar 614 auxiliary alternator manual by now. I've seen it next to his coffee cup in the morning, at his desk when he's sitting there, next to his pillow at night, even in the smallest room on the boat! Know what? He's actually got it now! He feels confident that he understands our complicated expensive new battery system, and he has drawn a schematic of a number of small changes he wants to make so the State of Charge will read the same on all three monitors and the amps consumerd since last full charge will all jive, and so a number of other picayune details will meet with his rigorous standards. And it's not just a superficial understanding. I can tell the difference. Robbie really understands this amazing new technology, can tell from a moment's conversation with another litium owner whether the other person uderstand his system or just owns one, and has begun again to sleep soundly at night. Even I, having been only the sounding board, have a fairly comprehensive understanding of our lithum batteries, how they're connected, and their basic care and feeding. And I sleep better, too, knowing that we're not in jeopardy of killing the whole costly system with a single ignorant mistake.
Robbie's tanacity is absolutely amazing to me. It's a quality I completely lack, I can barely fathom it, and I don't even aspire to develop it in myself. But it's indispensible on this boat. And here's another reason I think he's brilliant. He fixed the depth sounder last week after three days of anchoring in waters of unknown depth, a very unnerving experience. We have a tendancy to name things that we consider irreplaceable, things for which we are so deeply appreciative that they're like members of the family. We had never named our depth sounder, though, and after approaching land a few times without one, we understood that not to have named the depth sounder was a matter of grevous oversight. He needed a month or more to master litium battery technology, but Robbie solved this one in a matter of seconds. Meet Johnny Deppth.
We're only 2 days out of Phuket, Thailand, about to sail through the Nicobar Islands. The winds are light, we're not in a hurry, the batteries are happy and we're beside ourselves with excitement about going to India! Life is good.

Bev! Robbie! Steve here, ex S/V Desolina. So great to reconnect with your journey. On my computer desktop I have a wonderful photo of S/V Mersoliel, taken from the deck of S/V Desolina, at anchor at Kalefesia Tonga. One of the hi lights of my Pacific crossing. I fondly recall a dinner of Mahi-mahi and wild rice pilaf. Robbie - I cannot look at a bottle of Bombay Sapphire without thinking of the many, very happy hours aboard! I have subscribed here for updates of your trip! Bon Voyage! Go! Go! Go! Mersoliel!!

Love your posts! Pleased to hear you are both keeping on keeping on. India has always seemed a step to far for me. Just the thought of the shear weight of humanity I guess. Maybe when I am (a bit more) mature. FYI our lithiums are going still going strong after 7 years hard work. And we don't even have full discharge protection. Anyway enjoy the next part of the adventure. Bruce & Dinah, Margarita.

Oh my gosh...this last article made me LOL! Johnny Deppth; way too funny, so apropro! Kudos to Sir Robbie for his deligence and 'tenacity' for being a pioneer with the lithium batts; be sure to write a follow-up to the company about their wear (perhaps even get a promotion fee!). A genius vagabond and un mais elevado tecnico! India! Am with you virtually! Enjoy!

Sail on....sail on. What port are you sailing to?
Mon Jan 8 17:42 2018 NZDT
Run: 16.5nm (29.9km)
7 46.20N 98 17.76E
Weather: Hot and sunny

Where is Mersoleil?

We're in Thailand, about to depart for a ten-day passage to India. Very excited about India! And, yes, we'll tell you all about it here. (I've been on strike since June, when we were dumped off the ferry on the banks of the Mekong River, waiting to hear from you. Please write!)

2017 was a wonderful year for Robbie and me, and for Mersoleil, too! Highlights, large and small, include:
Picking fresh green peppercorns right off the vines in Cambodia
Spending time in beautiful Funchal with my sister, Gretchen, and her friend, Charley
Selecting gorgeous silk scarves in the shops of Hanoi
Robbies brilliant step-down transformer -- air conditioning on 230A shore power!...
Exploring Chiang Mai with our son, Chris Collins
Late night Farkle with Charley and rolling six sixes
Making water kefir and pampering my little colonies
Converting Mersoleil to lithium batteries
Living in bustling, colorful Penang for nearly a year and surviving the heat of SE Asia
Getting over the flu, two or three times apiece
Time with Jody Streepy, who came to Mersoleil from Japan while we were in Europe
Homemade garlic salt, the search is over forever
Finally learning to bloom our coffee... it's all about the bloom
Land travels with friends, Rowland and Miki
Angor Wat, wow

New Years Eve is a fantastic holiday everywhere we go. Last week we bobbed at anchor in Patong Bay with Kevin and Mimi, watching the fireworks on shore and the sky lanterns rising and drifting overhead carrying away everyone's troubles . Next New Years Eve? Cape Town.

And you? (Please excuse the funky punctuation. I don't have a text editor dumb enough to insert an apostrophe. Alas.)

Dear Bev and Rob Thank you for your email and the list of activities that you both were involved for the last several months after I received your email. It seems like you were not on the boat sailing the oceans! It feels like you are on the beautiful counties visiting all kinds of sights and sounds! What a "Wonderful Life"! Spending time with your son, sister and friends is awesome! Only a few people on this earth like you can live such an adventurous life! I guess it is your dream. When I went through your list of activities, I see you are having a ball, Bev? Am I right in saying it? I do not know. I guess you have your own challenges going through some dangerous areas of the world. This world is full of joys and full of challenges. I tell you that you are both are gifted in dealing with these challenges with courage and tenacity. I wish I were traveling with you to India! I can be your cook and a cleaning boy so you can take a rest that you desperately need. I will look forward to hearing from you when you reach India (Kerala). Fondly, Raj

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