Trip Reports

Hell On Wheels (24-Jan-2002-22-00):
10:00 PM local time, Thursday, January 24 (1600 Jan 24 UTC) 06 02 S 080 13 E. Temp. 84, Humidity 82%, Cloud Cover 100%. At a dock in Galle Harbor, Sri Lanka (Ceylon).

Sri Lanka, as the reader may know, is the home of the Tamil Tigers, who are not a baseball team. They are descendants of former slaves located mainly in the northern part of the island who now are fighting to subdivide Sri Lanka, which one would think is small enough already, into two states. The harbor at Galle, where Maverick is now rafted up to a large steel yacht, has in the recent past been the target of attacks by the Tigers. What they have done is put a frogman in the water with explosives, who swims into the harbor underwater and blows boats to smithereens (remember that band?).

The government of Sri Lanka has taken the following defensive measures: (1) There are guard towers at the shipping entrance to the harbor and around the perimeter; (2) There are guards armed with machine guns and a checkpoint for IDs at the road into the harbor and more armed guards patrolling the area; (3) At night, fishing nets are strung across the harbor entrance and at other potential attack points; and (4) All through the night, the Sri Lankan Navy drops small depth charges into the water at random intervals but more or less about every ten to fifteen minutes, and at random places within the harbor, and sometimes these sound as if they are within feet of Maverick's hull. The latter is a bit disconcerting. Usually one to three are fired off at a time, and they are not huge explosions, but are more like very big cherry bombs. We knew about this before we got here, and we were also warned about the Windsors, who are yacht agents that take care of many of the labyrinthine and arbitrary formalities for a fee. They had been compared to the mafia and to thugs. We had no trouble with them whatsoever. Their fees were little higher than those of the last several countries we've visited but they were quite straightforward and timely, which was a positive change from Thailand and Indonesia. As far as the mafia comparison goes, the Captain, in one of his former careers, had occasion to meet with members of the mafia, primarily in nightclubs in the northeastern US, to discuss matters of mutual interest like whether drinks were free for the band. He will confirm that they shared two traits with the Windsors, and those are courtesy and efficiency. In dealings with either group there have not been any misunderstandings, and this may account for the Captain's lack of experience with whatever negative aspects there may in some cases be.

Ship's Motorcycle Enthusiast Terry Shrode and the Captain spent the day riding around southern Sri Lanka on rented 250 cc. dirt bikes. We finally got to see some of the tea plantations and rice paddies we've heard about, and some small villages. Not many large buildings have been built here since the Sri Lankans gained independence from the British in 1948. This, and the tendency of women to carry parasols against the heat of the sun, gives the country a 19th century look. (As everywhere we've been since the Marquesas has been hot, one would have thought that this charming custom would have been more widely observed.) The cultivation of rice and tea makes for a different look from the rural areas of many of the tropical places we've visited, although here it seems the countryside is referred to as jungle anyway. We didn't actually make it up to the highlands but what we did see was very beautiful. Since we were dealing with computer problems, we had little time for photography on this stop, and we apologize both to our readers and our friends in Sri Lanka for providing an even more inadequate pictorial record than usual of the lovely scenes of this island. The reader may by now be tired of the apparently uncritical eye of the Captain, who seems ready to give a thumbs up to wherever he may wander. But of course we have sought, as the reader would have done, to travel when possible to the most beautiful and interesting destinations along our route. Since the world is not an undiscovered place any longer, these are all too well known. You'll be notified when something sucks.

We'll probably leave for the Maldives tomorrow, the new computer finally having been brought into communication with the radio, for email, and with the GPS, for navigation. But to those certified few who have direct access to the boat's email, please hold off sending any messages until further notice. While our system was down a lot of mail arrived which, unlike land-based email, cannot be deleted without downloading, and this means our allotted airtime for the nonce must be used in recovering old posts before we can get new ones. ADDENDUM: One of our Phuket shots is or was a featured photo on Latitude 38's website, which provides a link to PS to friends of Okiva: They're not here yet. I know because I hear no reggae.

Back to the Progress Chart | Back to Trip Reports
Progress ChartTrip ReportsPhoto GalleryAbout MaverickThe CrewGlossary & Technical Weather Check