January 2017 - Thailand & Andamans - Page 4

21 January 2017 Nai Harn Bay to Port Blair, Andaman Islands (Day 1)
The weather forecast hadn’t changed, so we were good to go.  I used qtVlm to calculate the best route, which predicted that it would take us two days and 15 hours to get to Port Blair.  If we left at midday, we’d get there at 03:00 on the 24th, so there was no rush to leave. 

Sunset heading for Andamans

We spent the morning pottering about, tidying up and Glenys cooked a pork stew, which will feed us for the first two evenings.  As always when waiting to depart, we’re very restless, not really nervous, just hate the waiting.  After a sandwich at noon, we cracked up and pulled up the anchor.

The first part of the afternoon, was lovely with the wind abaft the beam at 15-20 knots, but the wind slowly backed, so we ended up with the apparent wind at 60-70 degrees.  Fortunately, the wind strength dropped to 10-15 knots, so it was pleasant even though we were harder on the wind.

Overnight the wind gradually veered by 60 degrees, putting the wind at 40 degrees off our starboard quarter and causing the genoa to lose the wind behind the main.  So, at our 04:00 watch change, I was doing the pole dance on the front deck, rigging up our spinnaker pole so that we could pole the genoa out to windward on the starboard side.  With this configuration, the genoa stays filled all the time and we rolled along happily at 6 knots.

22 January 2017 Nai Harn Bay to Port Blair, Andaman Islands (Day 2)
We had nice sunny conditions for most of the day, although the wind was very frustrating in the late morning – varying in strength between 8-15 knots and veering about 40 degrees.  This meant that we had to keep gybing the genoa because the sails kept slating.  

A long cloud lane was building up to the north of us, which seemed to be causing the fickle conditions, so I changed course 40 degrees and sailed underneath it.  This seemed to put us in a more constant wind stream and we were back to 5.5 – 6 knots, without the sails banging.

The seas are steadily getting bigger and the endless rolling is starting to get very wearing, but we're getting into the routine of our three hour night watches – 7-10; 10-1; 1-4; 4-7.  

When I got up this morning, we had breakfast and then Glenys went to bed for a few hours. Meanwhile, I downloaded some new GRIB files and recalculated our route using qtVlm.  The route wasn’t much different, but it showed that we would get to our destination at 08:00 on the 24th.  After lunch, I went to bed for a few hours.  These “day naps” allow us to catch up on sleep and breaks the monotony of sitting in the cockpit staring at the sea and sky.

So far, the sunsets and sunrises have been rubbish and last night was really dark because we had total cloud cover and only a quarter moon.  

23 January 2017 Nai Harn Bay to Port Blair, Andaman Islands (Day 3)
At 07:00, we had less than 140 miles to go, so there was no rush and we had a relaxing day without having to push the boat too hard.   It was pleasant weather with 80% cloud cover and a 15 knot wind from the ENE putting us on a nice reach.  

To the east of Port Blair, there’s a sea mount called Invisible Bank that rises from 2,000 metres depth to less than 100 metres and in some places there are breaking rocks.  We wanted to give this a wide berth and the route calculated by qtVlm put us to the south of the danger, so I decided to follow the calculated route.  It meant that we’d have to turn 30 degrees further upwind at sunset, but I reckoned that it would be 60-70 degrees on the starboard tack, so would be okay.

Port Blair, Andamans

Unfortunately, I hadn’t noticed that the wind was slowly backing, so when we passed south of Invisible Bank and changed onto our new course directly for Port Blair, I found that that we were hard on the wind.  The actual wind direction was 20 degrees less than the GRIB files were forecasting, so my expected pleasant 60-70 degree close reach was a full-on 45 degree beat.  I was really cross with myself because we’d spent all day heading too far west. 

The first half of the night was a bit bouncy, with 15-20 knot winds and 2 metres seas, but after three o’clock, the wind started to drop and veered a little bit, so the motion much more pleasant.

24 January 2017 Nai Harn Bay to Port Blair, Andaman Islands (Day 4)
At dawn, we were five miles from the Port Blair entrance, so I contacted Port Control on VHF 16 and they gave us permission to enter.  By 07:00, we were anchored at 11°41.08N 092°42.58E in 12 metres depth.  We made good time, sailing 417 miles in 65 hours, which is an average of 6.4 knots - helped by a ½ - 1 knot current all the way.  I’m also pleased that we only used the engine for one hour, which is a welcome change.

I reported our anchorage position to Port Control and then the waiting to clear in started.  In anticipation, I laid out all my multiple copies of paperwork on the saloon table and connected our printer in case more documents were required.  I also disconnected our satellite phone and stowed it away in a plastic box with a snap-on lid.  The Indians are very sensitive about satellite phones because a couple of years ago they had a terrorist attack (involving a sailing yacht) which was coordinated by satellite phones. 

I gave Port Control another call at 0930 - apparently the Coast Guard will be coming.  A couple of hours later, I called again and they said that Immigration would be coming first.  Just before lunch, we heard that Immigration were arranging a boat to come out to us, but the first to arrive (a couple of hours later) were the Coast Guard, accompanied by a guy from the Harbour Master (I think).  They brought their 40 foot launch alongside and five guys in big shiny boots stepped aboard.  The officer in charge was very courteous and spoke excellent English.  

The Coast Guard asking questions

We all started in the cockpit with the officer asking various questions and filling in a form.  I popped down below to get copies of some documents for him and that seemed to be the signal for everyone to pile down into the saloon.  It then degenerated into chaos with two guys opening cupboards and photographing things, with Glenys trying to control them. 

The other three then started to fire questions off at me “What was our MMSI number?”; “What’s under the floor boards?” and “What’s a Solar Booster?”  The last one threw me until I realised that the guy had found our solar panel charging unit in one of the lockers. 

They were interested in our navigation and communications equipment.  They’re very sensitive about sonar and echo sounders, but I managed to fob them off by saying we have a depth gauge.  The satellite phone caused a little bit of stress, but they accepted that I’d disconnected it and stowed it away.  I promised not to use it.

One of the guys quizzed me about our fuel tanks and how much fuel we had.  I told him that we had 440 litres capacity and 400 litres of fuel.  He couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that we’d only used 40 litres of diesel coming all the way from Thailand.  The officer explained that we were a sailing vessel, which didn’t use the engine much.  He didn’t seem very convinced, but let it pass.

After a fun hour, they’d acquired enough information and copies of paperwork, so they had us pose for a group photo and left.  We printed out some more copies of paperwork and waited for Customs and Immigration.

By this time, it was three o’clock in the afternoon and we didn’t have much hope of getting anyone else out to the boat.  However, I’m not one to give up, so I informed Port Control that we were finished with the Coast Guard and were now waiting for Immigration and Customs.  Port Control said that they would contact them and find out when they were coming out.  

Our Sat Phone all sealed up

I’d heard nothing back after fifteen minutes, so I called them back and was told that customs would be coming out today.  Twenty minutes later, Port Control called me and told me that Customs were waiting on the dock - you could have knocked me over with a feather...  I zipped over in the dinghy and found two Immigration Officers on the dock.  Mildly confused, I took them back to Alba and we started to fill in their various forms.  

Half way through the process, one of the Immigration officers received a phone call saying that Customs were waiting for me on the dock, so I left Glenys filling in the forms and headed back to pick them up.  We then had four guys on board.  We finished with Immigration and Glenys took them over to another boat, while I handled the customs guys. 

I was very nervous, having read about major hassles with one of the customs officers, but they were really nice and there was no hint of bribes.  (Immigration told me that there was a corrupt Customs officer, who caused problems a couple of years ago, but he is no longer here).

The Customs officers went through my inventory and my little ruse of writing down 12 bxs of wine rather than 40 litres seemed to work so, with a little additional distraction, they were soon stamping our inventory.   I was very surprised that they didn’t want to search down below, but they seemed to be content to sit in the cockpit and just ask questions.

We had a little hiccup with the satellite phone, but they liked that I’d already disconnected it and put it in a separate box.  They used a piece of printer paper and sellotape to seal the satellite box and the job was done.  All cleared in within one day and no fees - it’s a miracle.

After dropping Customs and Immigration back on the dock, we collapsed with a cold beer and, needing to catch up on sleep, we retired early.

25 January 2017 Port Blair, Andaman Islands
We had a lovely night’s sleep.  Port Blair is in the top ten of natural harbours in which we have anchored.  Apart from one entrance channel, it’s totally land locked and is deep in most places - the Indian Navy has a big naval base here with a couple of warships at dock.

Mupardee looks after our dinghy

After breakfast, we headed for the dock between Chatham Island and the mainland, where we were met by Mupardee.   There’s no really safe place to leave a dinghy because there’s quite a surge around the concrete dock.  Our man, Mupardee, has cornered a niche market and looks after yachties’ dinghies while they go ashore.  He always seems to be there and is very helpful.  

He takes your dinghy off to a mooring line away from the nasty, sharp concrete dock and then brings it back to you when you’re ready to go back to the boat.  For this service he charges a small fee.  This is a negotiation, which started at 300 rupiah (£3) for a full day and 150 rupiah for ½ day. I negotiated him down to 200 rupiah, but later found out that I’d been weak and other people were paying 100 rupiah.  I’ve now beaten him down to 150 rupiah for tomorrow and no doubt could beat him down to 100 Rupiah, but I think that he does such a valuable job that I might just pay him 200 rupiah.  I think I’m getting soft in my old age.

We caught a tuk-tuk to find the Harbour Master.  The driver spoke hardly any English and had no idea where we wanted to go, but after much pointing at Google Maps on my phone, we were dropped in the general area at some port authority.  Fifteen minutes later, after many confused conversations, we discovered that we were in the wrong place and walked back to the Port Management Board.

At every entrance into any government building, there are guards with serious looking weapons and it took some explaining to get us into the compound.  The guard spoke hardly any English and didn’t understand “Harbour Master”.  I said I needed to pay “Port Fees” (which I didn’t), but the concept of me wanting to pay something seemed to override any fears of me being a terrorist and he let us in.

Once in the building, we asked for the Harbour Master and were pointed upstairs.  I went into the Harbour Master’s Assistant’s office and they asked if I wanted to clear in or out - phew!  - found the right place.  We were shown into a palatial office, the size of a half a tennis court, where the Harbour Master sat behind a huge, 10 foot long desk.

Jarawas Tribe

He was extremely pleasant, spoke excellent English and we started to go through our planned itinerary asking questions about where we were allowed to go.  There are many restricted areas in the Andaman Islands either for nature conservation or to protect the Indigenous Andamanese people, who live in reserves.  I gleaned this information:

The Andamanese people are the original aboriginal inhabitants of the Andaman Islands.

The Andamanese are pygmies, who lead a hunter-gatherer lifestyle and have lived mostly in isolation for thousands of years.  They arrived at the Andaman Islands around the latest Ice Age about 26,000 years ago.

By the end of the eighteenth century, when they first came into sustained contact with outsiders, there were an estimated 7,000 Andamanese divided into five major groups, with distinct cultures, separate domains, and mutually unintelligible languages.   In the next century, they were largely wiped out by diseases, violence, and loss of territory.  Today, there remain only approximately 400–450 Andamanese. One group has long been extinct, and only two of the remaining groups still maintain a steadfast independence, refusing most attempts at contact by outsiders.

The most isolated are the Sentinelese who still live in their original homeland on North Sentinel Island, which lies only 20 miles to the west of the main Andaman Islands.  They are largely undisturbed and have fiercely resisted all attempts at contact, to the point of firing six foot long arrows at anyone who approaches their island.  In the summer of 1974, the Indian government organized an expedition to the Andaman Islands and produced a film about the native peoples of these islands - they weren’t welcomed.   https://youtu.be/kib-Zl3dQdk

The Andamanese people on the main island are called Jarawas and are being threatened by a trunk road that has been constructed through the middle of their reserve.   This has allowed access to tourism.  It is forbidden to have any contact with the Andamanese, but there have been many interactions, so some of the Andamanese are now wearing western clothes and their culture is rapidly being eroded. 

The Harbour Master told us not to go to Twin Islands because of conservation issues and not to go through the Andaman Straits, which is a winding causeway that cuts the main island in half.  We were hoping to sail up the west coast and then navigate the Andaman Straits to the east coast and then explore the islands on the east coast.  However, the Andaman Straits passes between two indigenous reserves and there is a chance that we might have contact - this would cause major bureaucratic complications. 

Indians love paperwork

Other boats have raved about the wonderful experience of negotiating the Straits, but it will only be a short “river” passage and we’ve already had long excursions into the Darien and Orinoco deltas, so we’re going to be good cruisers and avoid the place.  In my humble opinion, the Andamanese people need to be given the chance to decide on their future and need to be left alone.

After a fifteen minute chat, the Harbour Master summoned another guy (called Das); ripped a strip off him saying that he didn’t have time to handle the detail of changing a yacht itinerary; handed him our papers; and then, nice as pie, asked us to take a seat on one of his couches and read the newspapers while our documentation was being sorted out.

Fifteen minutes later, Das returned and we were escorted down to the ground floor.  Das was not happy because we’d bypassed him and gone straight to the big boss.  He politely asked that in future we go and see him first.   Das is the Signal Superintendent in charge of Vessel Related Charges.  All cruisers should ask for him first.  (He’s on the ground floor - from the main entrance turn immediately right through a door and proceed past some small booths to his office in the corner.)

We apologised profusely and told him that the reception desk had directed us upstairs and the assistant had taken us directly to the Harbour Master (God).  Das seemed to be placated by our apology and had one of his minions take photocopies of our other documents and we were finished. 

One cannot but marvel at the bureaucracy of the Indian Government.  Paperwork is king.  While we were in the Harbour Master’s office there was a constant stream of civil servants bringing him documents to sign.  Every transaction seemed to have at least four documents.  While we were with Das, we looked in awe at a pile of paperwork piled in the cubicle of one of his staff.

We're in India

Having completed our clearing in process, we walked into town, which is a riot of people, colour, traffic, smells and noise.  There are hundreds of Tuk-tuks and motorbikes crowding the streets, with people weaving their way through the traffic.  Every other vehicle seems to be tooting a horn and there’s an all pervading smell of curry.  It’s glorious.

Yesterday, the Immigration officers told us that the best telecom provider is BSNL, which is a government controlled telecom company.  Unfortunately, SIM cards can only be bought at the main BSNL office, so we caught a tuk tuk up there.  Expecting a paperwork nightmare, it was actually very simple - I supplied a copy of my passport & visa plus a passport photo, paid 230 rupiah (£2.30) and we were handed a sim card with 1 GB data. 

After a short walk back to the Aberdeen Clock Tower in town, we had a curry at the Gangan restaurant, which was okay - our first real Indian Curry.  We spent the next couple of hours exploring the town, then caught a tuk tuk to the National Park Authority in Haddo    

There are a lot of Salt Water Crocodiles in the Andaman Islands, which have been known to occasionally grab tourists and drag the bodies off to their lairs.  We’re obviously keen to avoid this, so the plan was to ask the National Park Authority where the safe and dangerous areas were.  They told us to go to an office on Chatham Island, but after we’d walked fifteen minutes to get there, they were either closed or we’d been sent on a wild goose chase - very frustrating.  

We were mildly dehydrated and tired by the time we got back to Alba, but invited Mike & Jennifer from “Mahili” over for a beer or two.  

26 January 2017    Port Blair, Andaman Islands
It was India’s Republic Day, so we were up early to get into town to see the celebrations.  We jumped in the dinghy at 06:45, but the outboard broke down when we were half way towards the jetty  - it’s 0.8 miles from our anchorage to the jetty.  I immediately suspected that the carburettor had blocked up again and could see water in our in line filter. 

Busy in Port Blair

We started to row back to Alba, but “Mahili” spotted us and came to our rescue.  They took us back to the boat and waited for fifteen minutes, while I removed the carburettor, cleaned and replaced it.  Unfortunately, it still wouldn’t start, so we cadged a lift ashore with “Mahili”.  Being a public holiday, there weren’t many tuk-tuks about, so we ended up squeezing all four of us into one tuk-tuk, which was tight.

It was very busy in town, with the main road blocked off by police and thousands of people milling about.  It was a noisy, colourful scene with horns tooting, vendors shouting and ladies dressed in brightly coloured saris.  We walked to the sports stadium where policemen guarded the gates, frisked everyone and searched bags.  I even had to take a photograph with my camera to prove that it was real.  They appear to be on a very high alert for terrorist activity.

We found a concrete seat, which was partially in the shade and waited patiently with the hundreds of locals. Eventually, there was a parade with five units of soldiers, who looked very smart, marching in their dress uniforms.  We then had an hour of interminable speeches and a helicopter flew past with the Indian flag suspended below - it was mind numbingly boring.  The local people sat around us were very shy and I couldn’t get anyone to interact with me - very different to Indonesia where we would be surrounded by chatting kids.

Cool Hats

They then had a long parade with various groups marching around the arena - army, navy, coastguard, schools, etc, etc.  After twenty minutes, there seemed to be no end to it, so we ran away.  It was much more interesting watching the locals haggling at the shops back in town.  After a really tasty curry for lunch in a Hotel Green Park restaurant,  we caught a tuk-tuk back to the boat.

I immediately tackled the outboard.  My first job was to empty all of the petrol out of the fuel tank because I suspect that it has phase separated.  I now have 10 litres of bad fuel, which I’ll have to dispose of somehow.  I then put new fuel in to the tank and pumped the new fuel through the pipe work all the way to the carburettor.  I then stripped down the carburettor, cleaned and reassembled it.  Thankfully, the outboard runs okay.  No doubt we’ll be very nervous about breaking down for the next couple of weeks.

In the evening we went over to “Mahili” for a beer or two.  It’s funny how sometimes you just seem to “gel” with some people.  We’ve only met Mike and Jennifer 48 hours ago, but we feel like we’ve known them for ages.  They’ve been cruising for ten years and have the same mentality as us - much different to the people who chose to stagnate around the Malay Peninsula.

27 January 2017    Port Blair to Chidiyatapu, Andaman Islands
We were up early because we’re in the same time zone as Delhi, which means that the sun rises at 05:30.  At seven o’clock, I called Port Control to request permission to leave the port.  They came back five minutes later and told us that the Coast Guard have refused permission because they have no proof that our satellite phone had been sealed by customs.

Holy Cows wander everywhere

We waited an hour and I tried again.  Apparently the Coast Guard still have to speak to Customs - standby...  I tried half an hour later - standby…  At 09:30, Port Control called and asked me to take our Customs clearance to the radio tower.  I took all our paperwork and also the satellite phone in its sealed container.

The Port Control tower is inside the Chatham Sawmill complex and I found my way up the rickety stairs to the VHF room.  They looked at my documentation and the sealed sat phone and sent a fax to the Coast Guard saying that they’ve seen the Customs clearance and if they’d heard nothing back in one hour, Port Control would grant departure clearance.

One my way out of the complex, I noticed a sign for the Forestry Commission and, after asking around, I ended up in the Wildlife Office.  I found someone who could speak a bit of English and I was eventually taken into an office of a superintendent.  My main purpose was to see if they had any information about the location of saltwater crocodiles.  It was like a Monty Python sketch.

“Do you have information showing the locations of crocodiles?”
“You want to find Crocodiles?”
“No, I want to know where there are no Crocodiles”
(Much head wiggling).
“I want to know where it’s safe to swim”.
“Crocodiles are not in tourist places”
“Yes, but….”

After 30 minutes, it was clear that they had no idea about the locations of crocodiles.  The only advice I obtained was that crocodiles will “probably” be near mangroves and that crocodiles will “probably not” be on ocean facing beaches.

I think yellow areas are National Parks

During the protracted conversation, they mentioned a few places where we have to get a special permit from them e.g. Cinque Islands.  These places are in National Parks and there is a hefty fee of 500 rupiah per person per day and 1000 rupiah per boat per day (for us that would be £20/day). 

I asked if they had a map of the boundaries of the National Parks.  No chance.  So how do I know where I can or can’t go?  They referred to the Restricted Area Permit, which is issued by the Immigration office.  This states places that we can go and specific places that we can’t go - such as Twin Islands and any of the Andamanese Reservations.  So the basic rule is that I have to abide by the Restricted Area Permit.

However, this is not as clear cut as it seems, because the Restricted Area Permit specifically allows us to go to the Cinque islands (during the daytime), but there’s no mention that a special (expensive) permit is required.  The Harbour Master told me that we could go there.  There’s further confusion because other cruisers have reported that the fees are only applicable if you go ashore.  We’re going to go to the Cinque islands as a daytrip and not go ashore and we’ll see what happens.

I was back on board Alba by 10:30 and at 11:00 on the dot, I called Port Control.  After a delay of a few minutes, they got back to us and gave permission to leave.  Thirty seconds later, I was pulling up the anchor.

Crocodile Nets on Chidiyatapu Beach

It was a tough bash to get out of the harbour, directly into a 15 knot wind, but we were soon past Ross Island and heading south on a reach.  We’ve heard reports of good fishing along the coast, so I put out two fishing lines, but no joy.  We arrived at Chidiyatapu Beach and dropped anchor in 15 metres at 11°29.28N  092°42.40E.  (There’s a large breaking rock at 11°28.68N  092°42.21E, which you can go either side of.)

The anchorage is pleasant enough, with a beach that is supposed to be popular with the locals at weekends.  There’s a fringing reef along the coast that we’ll go to explore tomorrow (providing that Glenys doesn’t spot any Crocodiles).

28 January 2017    Chidiyatapu, Andaman Islands
The internet coverage on the mobile phone network is absolute rubbish.  We were unable to pick up any emails when in Port Blair, so I was pleasantly surprised this morning to find that we had a good enough connection to download my back log of 200 emails.  I’ve been subscribed to a Hallberg Rassy Yahoo Group and I receive about 20 emails a day about postings, which was interesting when I had a good connection, but it has blocked any other important emails, so I’ve unsubscribed from it.

The main reason that I want access to my email is that it’s the only way that we can download GRIB files now that we can’t use our satellite phone.  I was relieved to be able to obtain a GRIB file and the weather looks to be good for the next seven days with light 10 knot NNE winds.

After sorting out our admin, we made some sandwiches and went ashore.  The tide was in, so it was easy to chain our dinghy to a tree at the high water line.  Walking along the beach we came across a very sturdy net, which encloses a swimming area that is protected from crocodiles.  There’s a life guard on duty overlooking the area.  There’s a notice board saying “Swimming not recommended” and says that the most recent sighting was 3 months ago, so that’s stopped us going snorkelling.  

Crocodile Sightings

The area behind the beach has picnic tables and seating and looks very organised.  We walked north out of the beach area along a narrow road leading through very pretty forest with huge trees and then along the seashore.  After a mile, we came into a small village where we were surprised to find a “Biological Park”.  It was only 50 rupees (£0.50) per person, so we went in to have a look.  

We spent a pleasant hour wandering around the place, which is shaded and has various enclosures with local wildlife, including saltwater crocodiles, wild boar, monitor lizards and deer.  The enclosures are very large and natural, which is good for the animals, but makes it very difficult for us to see them.  We didn’t see any crocodiles, but there were some huge Water Monitor Lizards, the wild pigs were amusing and there’s a herd of beautiful “Bambi” type deer.  

There are informative display boards and we found some interesting information on the indigenous native people.  I hadn’t realised that there are six different tribes living in the region who have completely different languages.  The tribe who lives on South and Middle Andaman are called the Jarawas and are the only ones that we have any chance of seeing. 

After leaving the Biological Park, we walked a little further north through the village and came across a beach with two dive centres.  The first one was closed up, but the second one is called Lacadives and is run by a guy called Nigel, who speaks excellent English.  He charges 3000 rupees (£30) for a dive, so we’re going to do a two tank dive with him, in a few days when we come back north.

We walked back to the beach and joined a well-worn path at the south end of the beach, which steadily climbed up through forest to the lighthouse on the headland.  There are some impressive cliffs on the east coast.  It was a pleasant two mile hike (there and back).

Rutland South East, Andaman Islands

By the time that we returned to our dinghy, the tide was very low and we had to drag the damn thing 100 metres across the sand to the sea.  Fortunately, the sand was hard packed, so our dinghy wheels worked well.  Back on Alba, we risked a cooling swim around the boat and collapsed.

29 January 2017    Chidiyatapu to Rutland South East, Andaman Islands
After breakfast, we headed south, motor-sailing because the wind was very light and anchored in Rutland Island SE in 11 metres at 11°21.22N 092°39.55E.  There’s a beautiful white sand beach here, but the north-east swell hooks around the corner making it a bit rolly.

Nigel in the dive centre told us that there are no crocodiles on the south coast of Rutland - they prefer the western coast.  Another tip he gave us is that it’s best to swim at low tide -apparently crocodiles come out of the mangroves at high tide.  With this in mind, we went for a snorkel at the tip of the headland next to the anchorage, but we were constantly watching out for crocodiles and Glenys didn’t stray very far from the dinghy.

The snorkelling was very disappointing, with no coral.  Instead, the sea bed is mostly rock and the water visibility was poor.  There are plenty of fish including some huge Bumphead Parrotfish, but I couldn’t get close enough to get a decent photo. We gave up after twenty minutes and went to the beach.

The wave conditions were fairly calm, but there were still breaking waves on the shore, which meant that we had to jump into waist-deep water to control the dinghy.  With the dinghy safely pulled up the steep sand, we walked along the beach looking for seashells, but there was nothing of interest.  There are tracks of turtles going up to nests, but it looks like the local Monitor Lizards are good at raiding the nests - there were many nests dug up with egg shells scattered around. 

We soon gave up and retreated back to the boat.

30 January 2017    Rutland South East to South Cinque Island, Andaman Islands
It was a fairly rolly night, but not too bad - apart from something “clicking” in the cupboards next to my head.  Damn irritating because it was intermittent and I couldn’t find out what was causing the noise.  After a leisurely breakfast, we upped anchor and headed towards the Cinque Islands and had a pleasant 4-mile sail with a 10-15 knot North-east wind.

There was a swell coming from the north-east and it seemed likely that the anchorage at 11°18.74N 092°42.40E would be untenable, so we headed to the south side of the island around  11°18.25N 092°42.16E.  The seas were calm and it looked like a good spot off a beach, but we couldn’t find any sand patch to drop our anchor.  To me, it all looked like rock or coral, so after ten minutes of searching, we gave up and headed south.

Two Octopii

We finally dropped our anchor at South Cinque Island in 7 metres of water at 11°15.86N  092°41.64E.  It’s a gorgeous looking bay with a white sand beach, backed by forest and some cliffs on the headland.  Even better is that our anchor is completely buried in good holding sand.

We hopped in the dinghy and went snorkelling next to some rocks near the shore to the north of our anchorage.  The water was nice and clear, but there was no coral at all - just flat rock.  However, there were plenty of fish darting about and the day was saved by Glenys finding a couple of large octopii, which were hidden in a crevice.

The way that they camouflage themselves is incredible.  One was tucked right into the corner of the crevice with just a single eye visible, while the other was a little more visible, but had altered its colours to be the same as the surrounding rock.  Interestingly the octopus on the outside had a single tentacle stretching back and touching the other one - almost like a male giving reassurance to his mate.

After lunch, we went snorkelling again on the large rocks off the point to the north of the anchorage, but again there was no coral apart from a few scattered isolated clumps on the rock.  It didn’t matter too much, we spent a happy hour diving down and looking at the plentiful fish.  There were some huge 3 foot Bumphead Parrotfish and a very photogenic Blacktip Grouper .

In the late afternoon, back on the boat, Glenys noticed some dark shapes swimming around the boat.  I grabbed my camera and lowered myself into the water to find that there was a shoal of ten Rays, with a 4 foot wing span, swimming around.  Unfortunately, the light was poor and the Rays kept a watchful distance from me, so I couldn’t get a decent photo - I think that they were Devil Rays , which are similar to Manta Rays, but smaller.  As the sun went down, a small group of Spotted Deer arrived on the beach to forage.  I like this place even though it's rolly.

Nasty Jellyfish Sting

31 January 2017    Rutland South East, Andaman Islands
A couple of days ago, I noticed a weal and a dozen spots on my right shoulder, which I assume was a sting from a jellyfish obtained when we swam around the boat after our hike.  I didn't feel the sting at the time, but over the past few days it has become inflamed and there are blisters forming on the weal.  I washed it and applied some antibiotic cream.  Later in the day, I washed it again, broke a couple of the blisters in the process and then applied some Betadine antiseptic wash.

We were planning to go snorkelling this morning, but my jellyfish sting looked so bad that we abandoned the idea and headed off for an anchorage on the west coast of Rutland Island.  Unfortunately, by the time that we got there, the wind was 15 knots from the north-west bringing 2-3 foot waves into the anchorage.

There was nowhere else close by, so we carried on for 12 miles, past Jolly Boys Island and back to Chidiyatapu West .  We anchored further west than last time at 11°30.02N 092°41.67E in 9 metres of water.  We’re very close to the Lacadive Scuba Centre and we’re hoping that my jellyfish sting will be starting to heal tomorrow and we can go for a dive the following day.

There are more photos in our Photo Album section.