Mar

1

Navigational Hazard

We were advised to travel in groups from Sri Lanka, and then the official grouping was to commence from Salalah,  Oman to Djibouti.

There were three groups of six yachts leaving Mumbai, India.  The first group left a day and half before us, with the second group following the next day, then our group.  This was to ensure that the smaller vessels arrived in Salalah Port, Oman, at around the time the larger vessels arrived. 

Oil Rig

Sailing with another five rally boats we left Mumbai, and decided we would sail in formation.  It was a 3 x 2 formation with the slower yachts in the first row and the faster yachts in the second row.  The middle front boat was the leader, they advised the speed over ground as well as the course to take.  They also made the decisions for quick action if and when required.  The communication boat was in the second row.   They were the communication boat for our group and twice a day the group position was sent via email to several military liaisons, being UKMTO (UK Maritime Trade Operations), who were located in Dubai.  UKMTO is the primary contact for merchant vessels and liaise with the military.  The second point of contact was MARLO (Maritime Liaison Office).  MARLO is an US group situated in Bahrain who communicates with the US Navy.  The communication boat also sent our positions to rally HQ.  Our communications boat was vigilant in contacting and keeping communications open with MARLO and UKMTO via satellite phone twice a day to ensure there were no Pirate Action groups near our group of 6 yachts.  Anything that looked out of the ordinary via line of sight or on our radars, a call was put through immediately to UKMTO, whilst all the yachts would prepare for possible attack.  UKMTO would stay on the phone until the target was confirmed non threatening. 

Sailing under a full moon

The first night out we were ducking and diving oil rigs, unlit buoys/markers and fishing boats.  The fishing boats are a major hazard as they carry no navigation lights and you cannot determine which direction they are going or how close they are or indeed if they are pirates.

Oil Rig and Fishing Boats

The second day, we managed to do a little sailing, with a beam reach averaging around 7-7.5 kts.   We have altered our course after a piracy incident was bought to our attention, not confirmed but too close to our course to ignore it, (it was later confirmed by the Spanish military as a merchant vessel pirated).  We have predominantly been motoring sailing;  a) to keep moving at our nominated speed and b) so the slower yachts can keep the momentum going for the faster yachts.

Motor Sailing in formation

Its evening and a large vessel with lights, now has none, the radar and AIS have shown this to be a registered commercial tanker.  We are very concerned.  All our nav lights are instantly turned off with communications via the SSB to ensure talking amongst ourselves hasn’t been scanned.  We close our formation and alter our course with the maximum of speed for our yachts.  We are unsure whether this ship is charading as a pirate vessel or whether is a legitimate vessel just as afraid of us, as we are of it.  It is only 2 NM away traveling at 20kts and no navigation lights at all.  Our comms boat has called UKMTO giving all the details, UKMTO have contacted the vessel and have notified us that this is a safe target.  We breathe a huge sigh of relief.  All navigation lights are turned back on, and formation back to normal.

Flying overhead

Saturday 19th February

Today we have had two large planes fly overhead of us.   It gives us little comfort to know that we are being watched over.  We identified one as being from Pakistan.  You see them before you hear them and it’s quite startling to know how close they come.

We have been notified by UKMTO that one of the rally’s boats SV Quest has been pirated.  One of our worst nightmares. 

 We are now on extremely high alert.  A yacht has not been pirated in these waters for over a year.  The yacht Quest was several hundred miles away from us.  They had been traveling alone since leaving Mumbai, with four crew on board and they were not on the recommended rally route.

 Sunday 20th February

Another fabulous moonlit night with no incidents. We are still motor sailing.

Monday 21st February

 We are getting closer to Port Salalah, Oman now, with the spectacular display of phosphorescence glistening on the hulls of the yachts and a bonus with dolphins playing alongside.  What a spectacular sight at night to see. 

Phosphorescent Slick

We are still motor sailing and the sun is out.  The evenings tend to get very cool so we are wearing our thermals to keep warm.

At 2300 hours we have caught up with one of the other groups sooner than anticipated, one of the yachts has got caught in fishing nets as they were leaving their anchorage.  The rest of their group were standing-by until morning and then they were going to assist them and cut them free.

Our group have stopped to give assistance, we have launched our dinghy and three divers, Gavin, Brian and Paul are helping to free Natibou so that we can all be on our way. 

Armed with underwater torches and dive gear, the three of them managed to cut him free, but it was by no means easy and required all three of them, so had we sailed on by, Hans would have had no chance by himself in the morning. It took around 3 hours to cut them free and then navigate their way back out through the nets to where we were standing by. We were all exhausted, yet another night without sleep except this time it’s for very different reasons.

Three hours later we have now been informed that Natibou are now free and are negotiating their way through the rest of the nets inshore.  Gavin, Brian and Paul are on their way back in the dinghy.

Our group was not comfortable sailing on by and not helping.  This is not a place you wish to wait and hang around in, especially when the owner of the fishing net turns up in the morning.  We are all keeping well away from the shore to avoid the fishing nets.  Just to give you an idea, these fishing nets can range up to a mile in length.  The do not have any lights to advise they are there.  Using binoculars at night can sometimes assist with seeing maybe a float in the water.

22nd February

We now have an extra yacht in our group.  Jacque off Jackobel has terrible toothache and wants to get to Salalah, Oman as soon as possible.  The rally have arranged a dental appointment for Jacque as soon as we arrive.

Fuel is getting low, were able to collect fuel from the group we just left, who managed to get fuel for our group, but not all our yachts collected what was needed, however we will rally around our six yachts and share out the diesel amongst us if needed, so we are motoring faster now to enable the diesel to run at optimum and economically to achieve the speed from the lowest fuel consumption. 

It is great to see small dolphins playing on the bow, it lightens the load a little to see such beauty in the sea, but still knowing what danger lurks amongst it. 

We have sailed past another rally today, the Vasco de Gamma.  Its comforting to know we are not alone.

Vasco de Gamma Rally

Its 2200 hours, we have had the most devastating news ever.  UKMTO called our comms boat to advise that all four passengers on SV Quest had been killed.  This was relayed via the SSB to us all.  Not a word was said.  Many tears have been shed with this news.   I just want to get off the boat and go home, but we can’t, we have another days sailing ahead.  This is like being in your worst nightmare and more!!  You can never judge a situation like this until you have been involved.  Your heart drops to the pit of your stomach, everything feels like its closing in on you, it seems your heartbeat is racing out of control and a nauseous feeling just sits waiting.  But we have another 5 yachts we have to get safely into port then we can decide what to do.  Our thoughts and prayers are with their family and friends at this time.

If there’s any consolation at all we only have 200 miles to go. 

A skiff which pirates use, these guys were going out fishing thank goodness!!

Thursday 24th February

We are only 15 miles away.  Safety is near.  We are all still very much on high alert.  It is so easy to become complacent out here, but truth is, it’s not worth your life now……we still have to be vigilant especially just before sunrise and just after sunset, these are the danger hours for the Somalian pirates to attack.

 After eight long days and 5 extremely longer hours we have made it safely into Salalah port and moored alongside another catamaran from the rally who came via the Maldives.  Just to keep us on our toes the morse cable snapped on the starboard engine, just as we were entering into the harbour.  We had to have three dinghies to maneuver us into place.  Oh well another job to do, but we’re alive and safe, we are just waiting for a few more yachts to arrive in. 

Entering Salalah Port

A huge sigh of relief and tears just streaming down my face.  We’re safe……..

Now a time of reflection and to celebrate the lives of the people who had their lives taken so tragically, it seemed so unnecessary. 

If you are thinking about traversing these waters DONT!!!!!  Y0ur life and crews lives are not worth it.  The Somalian pirates need to be  held accountable for their actions, and unfortunately with such a unstable country and no known government leadership the pirating of all the Indian Ocean will carry on.

Jul

11

Hi All

A few pics of Mumbai India for you to enjoy.  The people are wonderful, polite and very sincere. The cuisine, mouth watering, and a very colourful place to visit.  The history is mind blowing.  They are very hard workers.  Poverty stricken areas and rich areas are each others neighbours.  They are happy within.  The want to survive is greater the want of material wealth here.  This place is definately worth visiting and exploring…

Eggs anyone?

Eggs anyone?

The Gateway to India and the Taj Mahal Hotel

Housing

A peek into where Slumdog Millionaire was filmed

Housing again

Busy Street

Carved in Stone

Jeans anyone?

Town and around

Markets

Washing the baby

Top Heavy

Drying the washing

Red Kumara for sale

Living in the Slums

More Housing

High Rise

High Rise

The Toll Bridge

Jammed Packed

Oil Rig plus a navigation Hazard

We’d like to thank the people who we met in Mumbai and made it possible to reprovision the boat plus arrange a dentist for Gavin, and restock us with fuel.  They know who they are.   Mumbai was an emergency stop for us, to enable us to travel with our group up the coast of India to travel safely in numbers.   We did not have visas to go ashore as we had been misinformed regarding the NZ passport allowances.  As a NZ’er you can gain entry visas only on arrival into India via International Airports NOT by seaport.   This made things very challenging for us not to say the least.  Although is there is no difference in the stamps that go in our passports from ones that are entered into via an airport, the Indian authorities are not at all interested in making allowances.    Little did we know how treacherous the next part of our journey to Salalah Oman would be.

Apr

27

Dear Friends, Family and Followers

Apologies for not updating our blog.  As one of our rally boats were pirated and murdered by Solmalian Pirates, just off the coast of Oman, of which the Solmalian pirates then captured another yacht with a family of 3 children and 4 adults (they are still being held captive with an unknown outcome at this stage), I will not be updating our blog until our yacht has safely arrived to it’s destination.   The process has been a very long one, of which the girls are in one country and dad is with the boat in another country, until such time we can meet up with him.  Sorry for being so vague but pirates can also peruse the internet and they may have our details from the first pirated vessel they took ruthlessly and murdered.  We are safe and that is all that matters.  So please be patient and until it is the right time we will then start updating our blog again.