Sailing to Sri Lanka
Awakened by the soul-filling sound of chanting soaring down the hillside and across the water to our anchorage in Galle, Sri Lanka, I lie motionless, afraid of disturbing such peace. High above us is a Buddhist shrine, one of many in this land filled with spiritual practice and gentle people.
One thousand one hundred miles from Phuket, one can expect to motor out of Thailand’s shadow, experience a mixture of NNW, N, NNE variations ensuring one doesn’t grow bored on the nine-day journey, and then motoring again once in Sri Lanka’s shadow. Considering this to be our fitness program, we hoisted and doused the spinnaker many times each day in a delicate waltz with Mother Nature. Ensuring a balance between work and play, we took advantage of a no-wind moment to jump in the water followed by singing “Happy Birthday” and eating cake in my son’s honor. Ahh… absolutely delightful! Two hundred seventy miles out are the Katchall Islands. Leaving Little Nicobar Island to port, we sailed on pressed by our rendezvous with six other boats and their crew. A few days away from Sri Lanka, we experienced squall-like conditions often identifying four different rain storms at varying angles to our stern. This appears to be a localized phenomenon as the other crew noted similar experiences some even managing to collect water during the heavy downpours. Approaching Sri Lanka, we steered thirty degrees off course allowing a water spout to pass on its south, south westerly route.
Sri Lankan fisherman offer warm welcomes as they power toward us in colorful craft with gleeful shouts and blown kisses. Having caught nothing in eight days, we negotiated a trade across the watery divide securing a fresh fish dinner. So close, but yet still so far, sailing continued for the entire day as Galle is about 100 nm from Sri Lanka’s eastern-most point. Our next contact was with the navy who met us outside the port entrance, and then the local authorities organized through our agent Newan Buddika (pictured standing in the center). All seven came aboard with huge smiles, well wishes, and black-soled shoes; a small price to pay for such warmth. Newan acts as a wonderful ambassador orienting one to the ATM that works with foreign cards, key words and customs, and the local markets and prices one should expect to pay. The Galle “marina” provides easy access to local guide Ekka who can not only help us find anything, but also organizes tours personalized to help learn about Sri Lanka both from independent locals (and the large tourist-experienced businesses if one prefers). Unfortunately, the marina is designed for large fishing and pilot boats rather than private yachts and the ocean’s surge can be damaging. Anchoring in the outer bay is really comfortable depending, of course, on wind conditions.
Why travel to Galle? Learn to cook Thai food from a local in her kitchen, provision from the fresh fruit markets and nearby grocery stores, learn about the various colors of precious stones and the process of turning rough rock into gems, satisfy your pallet with delicious food, experience a land engaged in daily worship, expand your knowledge visiting tea and spice farms, and share in the full moon festivals. All are inexpensive and within reach of a tuk tuk.