Mirissa and Beyond

20 February 2017    Galle to Mirissa, Sri Lanka
I woke at two o’clock knowing that I’d been bitten by mosquitos.  I climbed out of bed and spent fifteen minutes putting up mosquito screens; plugging in our insecticide heaters and wandering about the boat swatting mosquitos with our zapper - 12 confirmed kills.  Glenys slept soundly throughout this mayhem despite me turning on all of our bedroom lights.

We had a quiet morning until our agent turned up at 09:30 and gave us a very impressive clearance document allowing us to go to just 20 miles to Mirissa.  We called Port Control and received permission to leave.  On our way out of the port entrance, I noticed a guy at a military-looking tower, waving a red flag.  He looked very agitated and seemed to want us to return to the harbour.  I called up Port Control, who then tried to call the Navy.

Mirissa Harbour

I hovered outside the port entrance; thinking about the fierce Sri Lankan Civil War, which only ended 8 years ago.  Suddenly a big, powerful Navy gunship roared out of the harbour straight towards us (gulp!)  The Navy boat carried on past us, so I called Port Control who asked if I could still see a red flag.  “Errr, No.”  They simply responded “OK, you can go”.  I guess that I wasn’t supposed to leave while a Navy boat was exiting the port.

We had a very boring three hour passage to Mirissa , motoring in calm seas against a 5 knot wind.  As we turned the corner into the small harbour, we could see the floating docks belonging to Sail Lanka Charters.  The manager, Alex, had told me that we had to go port side-to, onto the first finger pontoon as we entered the port.  

It was chaos - Alex wasn’t there.  There was a finger pontoon, but it was half submerged with two guys frantically trying to jam a big float underneath it.  Nobody seemed to be in charge as we hovered around.  Fortunately, Anthony from “Wild Fox” (also moored in the harbour) was talking to the dock guys and then shouting instructions & advice to us.  

Eventually, it was agreed that I didn’t want to go onto the sinking pontoon, so the Sail Lanka guys moved one of their two catamarans out of the way and we squeezed ourselves onto a tiny, 6 metre long finger pontoon.  Fortunately, they gave us a rope connected to a huge mooring that we tied onto our port aft cleat, which will keep the pressure off the pontoon.  

Good Security

Once I felt that Alba was safe, I chatted to the friendly guys working on the Sail Lanka boats and looked around.  Everyone seems very welcoming and there are two Coast Guard boats about ten metres behind us, so I don’t think that security will be a big problem.  The harbour itself is a riot of colour with hundreds of local boats including whale-watching boats and a vast variety of fishing boats.  I think I’m going to like this place.

A tuk-tuk driver called Suranga introduced himself to us and told us that our friends Tom & Susie on “Adina” had recently contacted him to say that we were arriving.  We asked him to take us to the local town of Weligama, where we bought a few things at a supermarket, which was (relatively) very good after the thin pickings in the Andamans.  Suranga also took us to buy some local “Lion” beer which we had to buy at a “Wine Shop” - behind iron bars similar to the Andamans, but a little bit posher.

We collapsed back on the boat and had a quiet night.

21 February 2017    Mirissa, Sri Lanka
We had an administration day.  Glenys had to spend all morning rearranging our two week land trip around Sri Lanka because we’ve arrived here a week early.  While we were in Thailand, she booked most of the accommodation, but has had to cancel it all and start again.  We’re planning to leave here on Friday 24th and be away until the 10th March.   Meanwhile, I caught up on editing photographs and publishing my blog.  

If we’d stayed in the Andamans for our full visa allowance of 28 days, then we would have been starting our passage today, so I downloaded the GRIB file for the next 14 days and ran a routing in qtVlm.  It looks like we would have had a horrible passage, motoring for 5½ days and we would have less than 10 knots behind us for the other two days.  I’m rather pleased with myself for my snap decision to leave a week early. 

Colourful Fishing Boats

In the afternoon, I went for a walk around the harbour to try to capture the colourful mayhem in photographs.  The fishing boats are packed 10-deep around the main quayside, with fishermen sat in the shade repairing their nets.  Wherever there’s some floor space, fish are laid out on sackcloth to dry in the sun.  It’s an interesting place.

22 February 2017    Mirissa, Sri Lanka
The company who owns this small marina also manufacture fibreglass boats and they have the facilities to do most kinds of boat repairs - they even have a sail loft.  I removed the fitting for our bimini and they are going to remove the broken bolt for me.  Also, the exhaust on our engine has developed a small hole in the stainless steel end cap.  I tried to bodge it with some epoxy, but it’s still leaking, so I removed it and I’m going to get it welded up.

I’d finished my little jobs by 10:00, so we went for a walk into Mirissa.  It was very pleasant walking down the narrow roads - apart from the danger of being hit by speeding tuk-tuks as they scream around the corners.  Mirissa is spread out along a main road and doesn’t have centre - mostly it’s small hotels, tourist shops and restaurants.  

We walked back along the main Mirissa beach, which has lovely white sand with breaking waves.  The beach is lined with bars, restaurants and touts selling whale-watching trips – it’s also packed with hundreds of white tourists, baking in the sun.  

As it was near lunchtime, we walked back through the fishing port, and at the end of the breakwater, up a small road towards the Weligambay Villas hotel.  We walked through the hotel complex and up a steep road that became a dirt track and then descended to the right down to a beautiful little cove called Secret Beach.

Lunch at Secret Beach

There’s a small beach, which is protected from the swell by a line of rocks, and a restaurant set under the trees with rough wooden tables set out in the sand.  There were about twenty people there and it was a very chilled out place.   For lunch, we had Devilled Squid and Garlic Prawns, which was very tasty.

In the afternoon, I removed and cleaned out the exhaust elbow on our engine.  It had a lot of build-up of carbon and hard salt deposits, so it took an hour of chipping way with a screwdriver to get it looking presentable again.

23 February 2017    Mirissa, Sri Lanka
We packed our rucksacks ready for our two week land trip and then chilled out for the rest of the morning.  In the afternoon, the repaired bimini bracket and the exhaust end cap were delivered back to us, so I leapt into action and soon had both of them fitted.  I ran the engine for an hour and all seems to be fine.   We’re now looking forward to going on holiday.