September 30, 2012
Saying Good Bye


September 15, 2012
Reflections on Our 27 Year Circumnavigation


September 01, 2012
Sea of Cortez Sailing


August 15, 2012
Back to the Sea of Cortez


August 01, 2012
After Circumnavigation: What to Take, What to Leave Behind


July 15, 2012
Mexican Booby Trap


July 01, 2012
Tackling the Tehuantepec


June 14, 2012
Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico


June 01, 2012
Sailing northern Costa Rica and Nicargua


May 15, 2012
Costa Rican Cruising


May 01, 2012
New Found Friends in Golfito, Costa Rica


April 15, 2012
It’s a Jungle Out There


April 01, 2012
Hunting and Gathering in Panama


March 15, 2012
Money.... Money.... Money


March 01, 2012
Feel Free Transits the Panama Canal


February 15, 2012
Transiting the Panama Canal


February 01, 2012
Feel Free is Back in the Pacific


January 15, 2012
Charter Skipper for a Week


January 01, 2012
Confessions of a Charter Cat Chef


December 15, 2011
Away to the Andamans Part 2


December 01, 2011
AWAY to the ANDAMANs


November 15, 2011
Sailing in a Freshwater Paradise


November 01, 2011
To Barf or not to Barf, that is the question


October 14, 2011
Remarkable Cruisers


October 03, 2011
The Sea of Cortez, Another World


September 15, 2011
Panama Canal Here We Come


September 01, 2011
Sailing for Humanity


August 15, 2011
A Hard Lesson on the Hard and Reflections on Boat Work


August 01, 2011
Here Come the Lion Fish


July 15, 2011
The Joy of Books


July 01, 2011
The Sailors of San Blas


June 15, 2011
The Good Life in Kuna Yala


June 01, 2011
The Dirt Dweller in Paradise


May 15, 2011
People of the San Blas, Then and Now


May 01, 2011
Cruising in Kuna Yala


April 15, 2011
Near Disaster in the San Blas


April 01, 2011
At Last in the San Blas


March 15, 2011
Chilling Out in Cholon


March 01, 2011
Ah, Cartagena!


February 15, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 2


February 01, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 1


January 14, 2011
Aruban Interlude


December 30, 2010
Hunkering Down for a Hurricane


December 15, 2010
A Day in the Life - Our Passage to Aruba


December 01, 2010
Stuck in Curacao


November 15, 2010
Stormy Night Sailing


November 01, 2010
Sailing In The Sticks


October 15, 2010
Safety, Security and Circumnavigating with some tips on how to stay safe


October 04, 2010
Feel Free Transits The Suez Canal


September 15, 2010
Red Sea Sailing


September 01, 2010
FEEL FREEs Voyage Into the Red Sea


August 15, 2010
And just a little further, to Curacao


August 01, 2010
Bonaire Diving


July 15, 2010
Then To Bonaire


July 01, 2010
Cruising Remote Venezuelan Isles


June 15, 2010
Cruising St. Vincent


June 01, 2010
Right Place, Right Time


May 15, 2010
The Spice Isle


May 01, 2010
To the Grenadines


April 15, 2010
We Be In Barbados Mon


April 01, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part II


March 15, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part 1


March 01, 2010
Provisioning for the Atlantic Crossing


February 15, 2010
Atlantic Crossing Preparations


February 01, 2010
Cruising the Canary Islands


January 15, 2010
Out Of Africa


January 01, 2010
Come With Me To The High Atlas Mountains.............


December 15, 2009
Two Years Of Mediterranean Sailing


December 01, 2009
Moving On To Morocco


November 18, 2009
Leaving The Med


November 13, 2009
Reaching The Rock Of Gibraltar Milestone


October 15, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del Sol


October 01, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del High-rise


September 15, 2009
Sailing The Spanish Isles


September 01, 2009
At Sea Or On The Hook, These Recipes Travel Well


August 15, 2009
An Interlude At Menorca


August 01, 2009
A Pleasant Passage To Menorca


July 15, 2009
The Agony And Ecstasy Of The Tunisian Coast


July 01, 2009
Tripping Around Tunisia


June 15, 2009
Tales From North Africa


June 01, 2009
Dont Freak If Your Fridge Fails


May 15, 2009
Into Africa


May 01, 2009
Meandering Around Malta, Then Off To Tunisia


April 15, 2009
Low-Tech DIY Ideas For The New Economy


April 01, 2009
The Med Set A Few Cruiser Profiles


March 15, 2009
That Sinking Feeling


March 01, 2009
Thailand to Oman: Three Passages, Three Ports


February 15, 2009
Doing Hard Time in Malta


February 01, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 2


January 15, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 1


January 02, 2009
So Many Islands, So Little Time


December 15, 2008
Cruising With The Bear


December 01, 2008
Versatile Vinegar, The Boaters Friend


November 15, 2008
What I Did In This Summer -- Dock Masters In paradise


November 01, 2008
Over The Top Of Oz


October 16, 2008
The Tumultuous Tasman


October 01, 2008
Sweet Memories Of The Splendid Surins


September 15, 2008
And Then We Were In Malta


September 01, 2008
Feel Frees Siracusan Story


August 15, 2008
The Best of Times, The Worst of Times


August 01, 2008
All Tied Up In The Ionians


July 15, 2008
A Greek Odyssey Our Journey to Ithaca


July 01, 2008
Anatomy of a Near Catastrophe


June 15, 2008
Good-bye Turkey, Hello Greece


June 01, 2008
More Winter Cruising in Turkey


May 15, 2008
Winter Cruising in Turkey


April 15, 2008
Talking Turkey: Marmaris Marina Living


April 15, 2008
The Joy Of The Side Trip


April 01, 2008
Return to Marmaris, And The Budget


March 15, 2008
Passing Time And Dodging The Meltemi


March 01, 2008
Home Sweet Home


February 15, 2008
A Little Working, A Little Cruising


February 01, 2008
Working Our Way Around The World


January 15, 2008
Welcome Aboard Feel Free


January 01, 2008
Liz Tosonis and Tom Morkins Feel Free


January 01, 2008
About Tom Morkin and Liz Tosoni


January 01, 2008
About Feel Free


January 01, 2008
Voyage Itinerary


December 01, 2011
AWAY to the ANDAMANs

By Tom Morkin

I have to tell you about the Andaman Islands.

After spending one season on the west coasts of Thailand and Malaysia some time back, Liz and I found ourselves pondering the pros and cons of sailing there.

Pros: only 335 miles from the Surin Islands of Thailand and you are in India, that is, India without the three Ps: pollution, population and poverty. The northeast monsoon season, between December and April make it a beam reach there and back. Located so far offshore, the water visibility and coral reefs are excellent. With virtually no commercial fishing, fishing promised to be first rate. Tourism is still in its infancy so, it’s uncrowded.

 

Cons: horror stories about the hassles brought about by layers of Indian bureaucracy while cruising the Andamans: Port Control, Harbor Master, Navy, Coast Guard, Customs and Immigration. Visas are required in advance, are costly and good for 6 months in India, but visitors to the Andamans get only one month with no extensions allowed.

In the end, we thought: what’s a little bureaucratic hassle? After all, it’s character building, right? So we set off from Thailand in late January. The promised NE winds of 15-20 proved to be about half of that so it took 67 hours to cover the 335 miles, a very comfy 5 kn. passage under azure skies by day and starry, moonless nights.

60 miles east of Port Blair, our port of entry and the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, we hooked the first of 4 wahoos caught in the Andamans.

We first met ‘Big Brother’ in the form of Harbor Control on VHF radio at 0400 when we radioed our arrival and requested to enter the harbor. We were informed that harbor entry was denied at this time and that we could try again after 0600. The tone suggested that permission to enter Port Blair should be considered a privilege and not a right. Eventually we were cleared to the anchorage. After dropping the hook, we dutifully radioed our GPS position and were informed to call again should we seek permission to re-anchor. Are we in India or North Korea?

The dreaded check-in procedures (which took 4 days for one unfortunate cruiser) proved relatively painless. 2 dinghy trips ashore were required to bring 2 Customs officials and then 2 Immigration officials back to the boat. Unfortunately for the immaculately uniformed officers, they were fairly choppy dinghy rides resulting in “dinghy butts” for all participants.

 

After 30 hours, we were cleared in and entered the time and culture warp that is Port Blair. Rows of Ambassador automobiles made in the UK in the 50s but still made in India lined the ferry terminal along with motorized rickshaws.

Our auto rickshaw ride into town was a full on assault to the senses. Color and noise were the hallmark of Port Blair, a town of about 200,000. No sooner had we climbed in the 3 wheel wonder and the horn honked and barely ever stopped as the driver swerved around hoards of people, packs of dogs and herds of goats and Hindu holy cows.

Bovine heaven- we’ve arrived and I quickly learned the hard way that this was a place to watch your step. Within 30 sec. of leaving the rickshaw I landed in a large, fresh and very slippery holy cow pie. Despite my best efforts to clean the offending flip-flop, I was relegated to remain 5 paces downwind of my shipmate for some time to come.

Nowhere in our travels have we seen such fantastically colorful clothing. To see a gathering of sari clad women would guarantee seeing all the colors of the rainbow, but shockingly brighter. The married women were decorated with streaks of magenta dye on their hairlines, red dots and gold ornaments on their foreheads, pierced noses and ears. In many cases, the widespread use of betel nut produced dark red smiles as well as red patches on the roads and sidewalks. The ubiquitous and well stocked fruit and vegetable markets provide a veritable kaleidoscope of colors. Even the heaps of garbage on the street where the cattle and goats rummage offer splashes of color and over time became less and less offensive.

This myriad of colors was set with a backdrop of a multitude of green hues from the verdant hillsides immediately surrounding Port Blair under the brilliant cerulean blue and sun drenched skies. To be color blind here would be worse than being deaf at a Miles Davis concert.

After 3 days in Port Blair, we were ready for some island time. Havelock Island, 22 miles to windward, was our first stop. Although we had over 7 miles of sandy beach along the leeward side of Havelock Island to anchor in, we chose “Beach # 7” at the northern end. It boasts 2 eco-resorts and a string of very low cost food stalls which serve a variety of Indian dishes along with a concoction of betel nut, lime, chewing tobacco and leaf for those looking for a post-prandial buzz.

20 rupees or 50c will get you an elephant ride along the beach or through an incredibly beautiful virginal hardwood forest. And yes, some even swim with (or under) the long legged Andaman elephants!

For those wishing an even more sedentary pastime, one can watch the busloads of Indian tourists that flock to this renowned beach to swim in the surf in their most peculiar fashion- fully clad. Bare in mind that for women, that means a sari which is about 6 meters long by1.5 meters wide, plus the undergarments. That’s a lot of bathing suit.

Three days were easily taken up snorkeling with 1.5 meter long. hump headed mauri wrasses, checking out the resident dugong, scootering around the gorgeous island, practicing eating without cutlery (everything is finger food in the Andamans), and occasionally sampling varieties of betel nut.

It was here that we learned the wrong way to catch squid.

One afternoon, no fewer than 2 dozen squid surrounded FEEL FREE. We quickly dropped our newly acquired squid jig in their midst. Immediately we hooked one and it soon squirted black ink everywhere, so once its ink sac was empty we brought it aboard. Wow, that was easy. Let’s do it again. Sure enough we got a strike right away. Our second victim was much bigger than the first and fought for 5 minutes but never released any ink. Must be an inkless squid. So up it came. Big mistake! The second it hit the deck, the ink bomb exploded. Imagine dropping a liter of motor oil on the deck from the spreaders, and imagine the oil lands on your head en route and then you get the picture. The clean up took an hour. We’ve since learned the trick is to hang a bucket of water over the side and land the squid in the bucket where it should discharge its ink.

Next time I’ll fill you in on our adventures (and misadventures) in all the other cool places we visited in the Andaman Islands after Havelock