The Andaman Islands: Phuket, Thailand to Port Blair, Andaman Islands
Phuket – Andaman Sea – Port Blair – Andaman Strait – Diligent Strait – North Button Island – Havelock Island – North Cinque Island – Sister Island – Passage Island – Duncan Passage – Little Andaman Island – Manners Strait – Port Blair
Mango reading the classics
Mango supervising dinner preparation
Mango on guard
Mango in her house
Mango razorblade hands
Seven things we have learned
1. Wine is an essential ingredient for baking bread… apparently. The Indian customs officials left our excess wine bottles unsealed. They told us they know cruising sailors use wine to bake bread. It seems some sailors have been telling tall tales (or do use wine in their bread mix?). In any case, we did not dispute the contention.
2. When you are on water rations and it rains, you dance. It is impossible to resist. It is instinctive.
3. Do not swim nude in the take off zone of an unknown surf spot. While reconnoitering a potential wave with the skipper, the first mate stripped off and jumped out of the tender for a quick cool off. It did not look to be a place where a wave would break, however, 20 seconds into the first mate’s frolic, a massive wave loomed near. There was no time for the first mate to scramble into the tender before the skipper sped away from the impact zone, so she dived under the wave and was washing machined. Thinking it was a freak wave, the first mate surfaced ready to swim back to the tender. But another massive wave rolled in, and then another, and then another. The skipper counted ten waves, each ten foot +, break on the first mate. The first mate dived as deep as she could. Between the peaks, she tried to control her heart rate and breathe slowly and deeply. It was a long period swell so she had about 15 seconds to recover and psyche up to endure the next pounding. Finally the set ended and the skipper raced in and swooped up the fading first mate, 500 meters from where she jumped out of the tender. Terrified, exhausted and humbled the first mate spent the next ten minutes vomiting salt water.
4. If you want to hire a taxi while a local cricket game is being played on Little Andaman Island, then you will have to pay a premium to a reluctant and grumpy driver.
5. Beautiful, isolated locations are beautiful and isolated. Perhaps a tad too isolated… We spent eight days at a perfect anchorage (great comfort, shore access and fishing; sensational snorkelling and surfing) and did not see another soul: no cruising boats, no fishing boats, no locals on shore, no planes, no helicopters. Nothing. No-one. Not even a ship out to sea in the distance. Never before have we gone so long without seeing any sign of human life. Bizarre.
6. No means yes… but does it? The head wobble… what does it mean? No? Yes? No, but yes? Yes, you can, but I would prefer you do not? Yes, we have it, but I would prefer not to give it to you? We were confused.
7. It takes nine Port Blair Port Control officials one hour and 20 minutes to calculate the anchorage/port fee you must pay for your stay in the Andamans. The fee we were charged worked out at less than $1 a day, an amount presumably inadequate to cover the wage cost of the nine officials‘ time.
Havelock Beach No. 7
Indian family lazing about on our tender
Seven of the best bits
1. Phuket to Port Blair: our best passage so far. Ten knots on the beam. No seas. We flew for 435 nautical miles.
2. The Andaman Islands. We think it is the land of milk and honey. We loved the:
*Friendly chill people.
*Enchanting towns and villages.
*Deserted beaches with crystal clear water and sand the colour and texture of bleached flour.
*Comfortable and peaceful anchorages.
*Fantastic fishing: barracuda, red mouth grouper, snapper, coral trout, giant trevally.
*Splendid surfing, in the right conditions.
*Delicious vegetable samosas.
3. Niece number three. Welcome to the world Freya.
4. Satellite technology. How else could we report our position twice daily to Indian “big brother“, and wish Pa a happy 91st birthday, from the middle of nowhere?
5. Indian customs and immigration officials: professional, helpful and friendly. Keen for a chat and a laugh. Very pleasant men, beyond reproach.
6. Vijay: the man to call in Port Blair for all of your provisioning and sight seeing needs. (Contact – mobile: 9933261913). We liked Vijay alot. We thought him a very pleasant man.
7. Best item on board in April, in the opinion of:
*The skipper – Tohatsu M18E2 18 HP 2 stroke manual start . It takes us the places we need to go, real fast.
*The first mate – Mamaru 300 watt MR6103. It blends bananas and mangos beautifully, when it is not broken.
Ruined wave. Selfish shipwreck.
Four of the worst bits
1. Not filling all of our water containers before leaving Thailand. Just because the rainy season has begun in Thailand does not mean it has in the Andamans.
2. Unhelpful helpers
*Ravi in Port Blair. Ravi is raved about in guides and articles written by cruising sailors. It seems the notoriety has gone to his head and is affecting his service. We did not like Ravi. We thought him a very unpleasant man.
*Dave in Bulter Bay. Dave was keen and friendly but he over promised and under delivered. Sourcing a box of drinking water, doing 3kg of laundry and disposing of a bag of rubbish proved all too hard. There were dramas galore. It seems what Dave wanted was to hang out on Zinc with his buddies and fish… this was never going to happen on the skipper’s watch.
*Knife wound in foot – filleting a fish while sailing.
*Crook neck – flipped over the falls at Belgian frothers.
*Blood blister on big toe – too much snorkelling.
*Burns on finger and forearm – too much baking.
*Corked hip – landing on surf board after tumbling over the falls at Belgian frothers.
*Crook left shoulder – too much snorkelling.
*Scratches on face, arms and legs – attacked daily by Mango, the ferocious feline.
*Cuts and bruises on lower back and bum – bounced off wave onto surf board onto reef and back onto board.
4. Broken / half broken stuff
*Handheld GPS – works on battery but not boat power… sometimes.
*Small computer – mouse pad unresponsive… sometimes.
*Big computer – usb connection terminals unresponsive… sometimes.
*300 watt inverter – randomly blows fuses.
*350 watt inverter – overheats and cuts out… sometimes.
*Blender – does not blend… sometimes.
*Solar shower – broken seal.
Why are products made not to last? Oh yes, so we buy replacement products and parts. This promotes economic growth, the most important thing in the world. Smart.
The beloved suped up tender
Yachtie (mis)information: there is no fresh fruit and veg in the Andamans…
The ocean and sky on fire. Breathtaking.
*Packs of mangy dogs and cows roaming the streets of Port Blair
*Marine life galore: dolphins, sea snakes, turtles, jelly fish, squid, lobsters, flying fish bigger than the tuna sold in markets in Indonesia.
*Lightning storms. One.
Favourite break this month:
Skipper – Nude point
First mate – Belgian frothers
*Sink. Left. Shallow. Short rides.
*Suck point. Right. Shallow. Short rides.
*Belgian frothers. Left. Multiple sections. Fat. Soft. Fun.
*The flash. Left. Top to bottom barrels and walls. Long rides.
*Nude point. Right. Extremely shallow barrel sections. Very long rides.
Port Blair: city center
Port Blair: business dockside
Port Blair: the bird on Vijay’s car and our chai tea lady
*North Button Island. Snorkel: Three sites on the southern edge (Fabulous. Excellent visibility. Bump-head Maori wrasse, moray eels, lobsters, groupers, sweetlip, jackfish. We sat on the sand in 10m of water and were circled by schools of inquisitive large colourful fish. We were “cleaned” (i.e., bitten) by blue streaked cleaner wrasse.)
*North Cinque Island. Snorkel: East coast (Very good. Interesting landscape – rock shelves and isolated coral bomboras. A coral trout factory.)
*Passage Island. Scuba dive: West coast (Very good. We watched in awe as ten giant trevally darted around us swooping and pouncing on a school of fish, eating their fill for breakfast.)
*Little Andaman Island. Snorkel: Seven sites on south west coast (Spectacular. A highlight was hanging out with Carmel the 200 pound+ cod. She lives in a narrow 5 meter deep trench and followed us around when we went to visit her in the afternoons.)
The skipper read:
*A thousand splendid suns : Khaled Hosseini (4 stars) – Brief history of Afghanistan over last 36 years, including the mistreatment and degradation of women. Mohammed would not approve, I am pretty sure.
*The girl who kicked the hornet’s nest : Steig Larsson (3 stars) – A tall story that got too tall. Glad to have finished the last book in the trilogy.
*Into thin air : Jon Krakauer (4 stars) – A bunch of macho idiots being led up Everest by a bunch of even more macho idiots. Lots of them died.
*What the dog saw : Malcolm Gladwell (4.5 stars) – Non-fiction short stories drawn from MG’s newspaper columns.
*Out stealing horses : Per Petterson (3 stars)- A pretty well written book, but pretty boring aside from occasional moments of interest.
*Cod : Mark Kurlansky (2 stars) – The history of (over-)fishing Atlantic cod.
The first mate read:
*The scarlett letter : Nathaniel Hawthorne (3 stars) – Tragic. An unhappy time and place, it seems, that Puritan society in New England.
*Small island : Andrea Levy (3.5 stars) – Ordinary people living through WWII and its aftermath. Enjoyable. Funny.
*Into thin air : Jon Krakauer (2 stars) – Astonishing. A compelling read. But did the story need to be published?
*Surfacing : Margaret Atwood (2.5 stars) – Like paddling down a calm creek lined with mangroves, peaceful and meditative but occasionally you have to slap a sand fly or two.
*The biographer’s moustache : Kingsley Amis (2.5 stars) – Not bad aside from the pathetic ending.
*Genghis Khan and the making of the modern world : Jack Weatherford (3.5 stars) – Fascinating. What would the world be like today had the plague of the 1300s not ended the influence of the Mongols, leaving the racist, bigoted turkeys in Europe to progress civilization?
*American Psycho : Bret Easton Ellis (1 star) – Horrible. Thankfully a short read when you skim the sections describing massacres and mutilations, restaurant meals and designer clothes and accessories.