Sailing Yacht SEA BUNNY

The Andaman Islands

A remote and little visited place

The Andamans are are part of India, although only 450 nM from the Thai coast.  As with most of India bureaucracy reigns, but once over the hurdles the visit is very worthwhile. Several yachts visiting with us in 2010 had boat and other problems.


Towards the Andaman Islands

The Andaman Sea Pilot says 'These islands have everything you could desire from an adventurous yachting destination. Literally, hundreds of deserted islands to explore, each seemingly more spectacular than the last'. Five paragraphs later 'If you go to the Andamans you need to comply by the local rules and regulations, even if they seen onerous. If you break the rules expect to be fined and deported'. We bear all this in mind as we pore over the paper work and charts. Where we can go, and where we can’t, where the native tribes are not friendly. Out of the hundreds of islands, there are not many in the 'can go to' box .So all the paper work is prepared including an itinerary to discuss with the harbour master.

Having revictualed, done laundry, done deck check and secured everything we leave Nai Harn Bay. Ko Miang, Similians is where we wait for the wind to the island. It is very sloppy, wind over tide and Sea Bunny lies stern to the waves. It is here that we hear the very good news that Catharine has had a second baby boy at home with Steve and Archie. Young Maximillian Arthur weighted in at over 9lbs and all is well. This set of grandparents are relieved and very pleased and proud. Harry and Ellen (Zwerver),also waiting for the wind, come on board for bubbly.

Port Blair

Next day we are able to leave as the wind had picked up from the NE and we are able to sail on a beam reach 12-20kn, 400nm, all the way. The passage had gone quickly and we finally raise Port Blair on the radio and enter to anchor in the required position at 1900hrs on 17th and put clocks to zone -5.5. Dinner requirements are resolved when Dare (Dream Catcher) offers some fillets of fresh wahoo.  We launch the dinghy and collect them, what service.

Jetty Port Blair

Next day we take the RIB across the wide harbour, leave it with a boat boy and hire Ravi’s taxi to do the checking in formalities. Port Blair is a largish naval, commercial port and the main town in the Andamen Islands. It is aquaint, dirty, crowded and friendly Indian town that looks as if it has been ripped out of the colonial 1930s and dumped in the 21st century. There are some sights ashore but we will leave these to check out as it is bound to take over two days. After much patience on our part we were cleared in within twenty four hours and our itinerary retyped.  Unfortunately the coastguard noticed Zwerver's Dutch boat registration document was just out of date took.  It took them a week and lots of courteous hassle to resolve taking up half of time they were allowed as they had got an Andaman Islands permit which, unlike the Indian visa, has a validity of only two weeks.

In the month we were allowed it is possible to do a figure of eight; first south then into Port Blair to resupply then the north. When cruising the islands the yacht’s position had to be reported twice a day by SSB (single side band radio) to Port Blair. This could occupy a lot of time as the skip distance was not good in the south but better in the north. We resolved this by doubling up with other boats or sending an email and recording our daily endeavours in the ships log. It did not seem to present a problem on check out that we had not reported in every day.

The Cinque Islands

Beach S Cinque

First, south to the Cinque islands. North Cinque had clear waters and shoals of large hump head wrasse. On South Cinque we could go ashore through the swell and walk on the beautiful, beautiful beach. Further south we literally could not see where to anchor at Passage Island so went on to the Sisters. Here the scenery was indeed movie quality; but the coral was dead and the anchorage rolly in a NE 10-15kn so we went back to North Cinque. On the trip back a sea eagle took our fishing lure but, fortunately, quickly dropped it; wonder how it would have tasted!

Here we watched the navy going ashore to camp for their weekend off complete with bbq while we swam with more wrasse. 

Rutland Island

Rutland hillock

 It was time to go somewhere we could both swim and walk so we upped anchor and went to the south bay of Rutland Island which offered this. Next day, R followed S up a small mound, lost his footing on loose rocks and fell about 2m hitting his head on rocks and his side on a tree.  S managed to get R, with gashes to his head but no broken bones, to the dinghy and back on board Sea Bunny. After cleaning and picking some tiny fragments of bone out, the usual steri strip came into force secured with clear nail varnish before the wounds were covered. R's right back was a mass of bruises from shoulder to bum. He went for a long quiet lie down. After a light evening meal R in medical terms 'went off'; unable to move him because of cockpit table restrictions all S could do was to shout and shake him. This has the desired affect and within a few moments R had a pulse. On the VHF S managed to alert Warwick and Maryon (Nimbus II) off the next island five miles away. They were unable to raise any help from Port Blair and kept their radio on overnight, as a support for S. We decided to keep R awake for the next few hours playing his favourite board games, before sleeping.

Chiryatapu

School picnic - Chiryatapu

Next day, after checking R’s pulse and b/p were OK, S moved Sea Bunny to the east of Chiryatapu Bay from where there is road access to Port Blair. Here were friends Mike and Rosemary (Jemimah) and the most superb hard coral within swimming distance of the boat!  Poor R was left with the horn on crocodile watch, there being warning notices on the beach that did not deter locals from letting their kids swim. The others went off for leisurely snorkelling to the underwater vistas. Jemimah kindly left their radio on overnight every night which was terribly sweet. R was swimming after eight days but his back took weeks to revert to the normal shade. He was good, exercising daily even when extremely sore.

Port Blair - Cellular Jail

Cellular jail

As we had made tentative plans to meet up with Truest Passion in the northern islands it was soon time to restock in Port Blair.

The cellular jail is one of the few 'tourist attractions' in Port Blair. This grim place was where the British kept political activists from India in the late 1800’s; then used by the Japanese during WW11. The son et lumière was extremely biased against the British and it was then weird how many Indians checked that we were British then wanted their photos taken with us.

Outram Island - emergency

Twenty five miles later saw us at Outram a sheltered spot from which to visit the Button Islands.

TP morning after

We get a call from  TP to say that they were on their way with Stuart’s son Richard and his wife Irene on board and had caught fish for supper. A few moments later they called again to say that they had hit an obstruction and were taking water fast in the starboard hull. We were in the dinghy with the 3500 ltr/hr pump in a trice. We help beach TP on coral at dusk; not too crunchy. The water was up to the top of the cocker before the pump kicked in; fortunately cats do not sink like monohulls. The men worked for hours to effectively seal off the aft end of the hull to enable the rest to be pumped out. The response from yachties to Nanette’s pan pan was amazing.  Amoenitas, on their way back to Phuket picked up the pan-pan and relayed it to Crystal Blues in Port Blair.  where it was a national festival so most people were in the main square. Neil and Ley from Crystal Blues managed to talk their way into the coastguard coordination centre but, having established there was no danger to life, the coastguard would not do anything until daylight.  Vivace II were at the north of the group and got the police patrol vessel to mobilise at 0300. 

TP Under tow

It was on the scene at 0600.  The police put a large commercial pump on board and towed TP  to Laccam Harbour on Havelock Island where she could be beached and patched.

The Buttons

Before the 'TP incident' we had visited North Button and now ,as we could not be of further assistance, we relaxed and went to Middle Button for the day. These are amazing isolated islands. These have truly idyllic deserted beaches and some coral life; but unfortunately we were not permitted to land.  Apparently, however, in 2011 a tourist was taken be a crocodile at North Button.

Inglis and Henry Lawrence Islands

Then on to Inglis and Henry Lawrence for beach walks without seeing another boat.   Apparently only about thirty boats come to the Andamans a year and all at this time because of the weather

Laccan Harbour and Bay no 7, Havelock Island

Post office Havelock

Next we sail round to Laccam Harbour and anchor a few metres from the reef to see how the TP’s are. They are exhausted, TP has been fibreglassed and relaunched but the starboard engine is caput which will make manouevering difficult until they get way on. We take the morning off and all a go for a tour of the island and to find some accommodation for the rest of Richard and Irene’s holiday as TP will head back to Phuket for repairs. This later causes problems as no-one had realised that the restricted area permit issued to the yacht requires all crew to remain with the vessel and not to stay in an hotel or travel around the islands independently.

Slimming water

On departure from Laccam Sea Bunny tows TP clear of the reef to the harbour entrance, then making our separate ways to Havelock 7 Bay. White sand beach backed with tropical forest welcome us and elephants taking their afternoon stroll. Heading ashore we see Neil and Ley (Crystal Blues) having difficulty with their outboard so instead of braving the surf ourselves, we tow our friends back to their boat. Playing catch up is good and we learn where the best coral is so we are prepared for tomorrow. So for the next two days we wallow in underwater heaven, gorgonian fans, sea fans and sponges. The best was a red tulip shaped structure fragile as tissue paper waving in the surge. When we described this to Dave (Amoenitas) he was ecstatic, as it had taken him three years, with the help of the Natural History Museum in London to identify this as the strands of nudibranch eggs and we were the first to ask him what this was. It is truly exciting down there.

All too soon we tow TP out for the return check out at Port Blair.

Leaving the Andamans

At a final group curry Sylvia and Peter (Vivace II) arrange to come in convoy with us back to Phuket to assist TP if they have further problems. The trip from Port Blair started off OK with a beam reach in 15 knots. The wind dropped at evening on the second day so we started the engine. About 2030 on S's watch it stopped abruptly – symptoms of rope round the propeller, so we carried on sailing slowly in not quite the right direction – towards Sumatra rather than Phuket.  This part of the Andaman Sea has large areas of rough water and overfalls caused by the merging of tidal streams but by afternoon on the next day the sea had calmed down enough for R to go over the side, well roped on, with a dive knife and remove the offending piece of floating rope. By now the wind was very light so we motored and changed course to go back to the Similians for a few days. At about 1830, again  on S's watch, she observed that the forestay seemed to have lost tension and was wobbling a lot. On investigation we found that the clevis pin holding the toggle at the bottom had worked its way out of one side of the toggle, which had been bent to a right angle (it’s supposed to be a U shape). It only had about 10 mm to go before it came out of the bracket on the bow fixing – at which point the mast would probably have fallen down. We never found the split pin that’s supposed to hold it all together. Having supported the mast with a halyard and the removable inner forestay we were able to continue motor-sailing with a deep reefed main. It would have been really interesting if we hadn’t cleared the propeller and had been unable to sail or motor while crossing the shipping lanes leaving the north of the Malacca Strait. By coincidence this was exactly what had happened to Amoenital a few days earlier when they suffered total engine failure and wallowed for a while before being taken in tow by Jemimah.  Our course was changed back to Nai Harn Bay again. For the remainder of the way back, through some nasty stopping seas; Vivace II stood by us ready to give a tow. We had taken on extra fuel in Port Blair in case we had to tow TP, but now they were fifty miles ahead and the fuel came in handy for ourselves. We reached Nai Harn without further incident and Vivace sailed away

The quest to find a replacement toggle or something similar started the next day. . Sea Bunny weathers some heavy blows in the bay and we hope that the mast does not fall down but  eventually David, the rigger at Boat Lagoon came  up with a suitable toggle. Part in place, we sail round to refuel at Al Po then it is back via our favourite spots to Rebak to leave Sea Bunny for our UK trip to see our family and the new addition.

 

 

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Last Updated from Rebak, Langkawi on 5 November 2011

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