Up until now, it seemed as though we were sailing away from Victoria our home port, but now it feels as though we are heading towards it as we resume our westward-about journey.
The seas on this passage were not what we had been expecting, or hoped for. The first 2 days were great sailing and we made good time. But most of the remainder of the voyage gave us a real mixed bag of confused seas leaving us feeling like we were in a washing machine. Not a comfortable feeling at all, being tossed from side to side continuously.
Now out at sea in these conditions we had to resume the habit of "One hand for yourself and one for the ship" to avoid being tossed about. Even when there was a lull in the wind, the waves were still agitated. We were constantly making sail adjustments and did more motoring than we wanted.
We had short-period swells of up to 3 metres, although they didn't give us as much trouble as the choppy 1-metre wind waves. In spite of very little sunshine and skies plied with clouds and several storm cells, we were teased with a couple of rainbows.
Small dolphins cavorted at Sea Turtle's bow at least 4 different times that we spotted them - always a thrill to see them once again. It has been a while.
Another clue that we are once again in pelagic waters is the presence of flying fish. Chanty discovered a couple that had slipped through our slightly open pullman hatch during the night (open for a bit of a breeze). She was ecstatic and each time played with them as she jumped in the air and tossed them all around leaving scales for us to clean up (yes, we then closed the pullman hatch).
She also senses when 1 or more are on the deck and makes frantic pleas for an exit out to apprehend them. However we don't allow her out of the cockpit on passage unless the seas are relatively calm and she is escorted on leash by Jordan who says "Let's take a walk around the block, Chanty."
It's mine and I'm keeping it!
We would likely have had a sea collision 2 different times if we hadn't been keeping a close watch, which we always do. In such a large ocean with so little traffic, it sure makes you wonder - 2 tiny dots in this great big space heading directly to each other!
Using our newly installed AIS system that tracks and identifies close traffic, we radioed closing ships to ensure they saw us. In the first case, we contacted the freighter and after a pleasant conversation, he changed his course. In the second case, the tanker did not answer our radio calls in spite of calling his ship name, so we changed our course. It's always a bit more difficult for a sailing vessel to change course than a motoring vessel.
Passing after course change
Finally around 18:00 hours January 24th, the seas began to calm as we rounded the bottom of the large island of Sri Lanka and about 15 nautical miles offshore. The south point of the Island is one of, if not the busiest spots for large ships on their various destinations globally. We kept a vigilant watch out and attention to the AIS to keep a safe distance and out of the way of the big boys.
Sea Turtle (red) in a forest of freighters
We were especially on edge as the downpours at time reduced visibility to less than a nautical mile. You can imagine if we couldn't track traffic and a huge freighter came barelling head on at 18 knots out of a heavy veil of mist, it wouldn't leave much time to avoid it. Thank God we have AIS because we discovered just before leaving on this passage that our radar had given up the ghost.
It was the early morning of January 25th that we made our close approach to Galle Harbour. We contacted Harbour Control and a required Agent on VHF radio at 08:00 and then stood by at anchor (N06°02.018' E080°13.560') by the breakwater that protects the inner harbour. We were not allowed to enter until Harbour Control authorities came out a couple hours later to inspect then escort us in.
Directed in, we tied up to the sea wall to resume a parade of officials with a myriad of forms that lasted a few hours. This included our Agent, Customs, Immigration, Health, Security, and the Harbour Master. Even the head lady from Customs who wanted to see what the inside of a yacht was like.
Finally about 14:00 and $400 later (including the extravagant Agent fee), we were finally officially checked into Sri Lanka in the town of Galle and were free to leave the boat.
We moved Sea Turtle so that she was Med-moored (tied up stern to) at the sea wall (N06°01.945' E080°13.989') tucked between 2 other sail boats. The one beside us we had befriended before in Thailand. There were now 4 sailboats in Galle and more expected soon.
Hoisting courtesy flag on arrival