Langkawi to Kochi

Get a coffee and make yourself comfy, this is the tale of ten days and two hours at sea….

Departure Day – Thursday 16 January

Departure was delayed as the autopilot head decided to go on strike and it took the skipper twenty minutes or so to reconnect a loose wire in the starboard cockpit locker. Not the first time, nor probably the last. The tide was dropping fast by the time it was done and we did wonder if Temptress would have enough water under keel to leave our overnight anchorage in Telaga Harbour. There was just, ten centimetres is plenty enough to float in!

Fixing the Autopilot Control

For the first hour we motored whilst the batteries charged and we sorted out sails. Having rigged the spinnaker pole on the starboard side ready to pole out the genoa it was several hours before the combined effects of Langkawi and its Thai neighbour Tarutoa allowed the North East Monsoon to blow true. Still there was plenty of breeze and Temptress ate up the miles at much the same speed under partially reefed sails as she had under engine. Midmorning we caught our first small tuna, tomorrow nights supper.

At midday we flogged the clocks to bring us to the correct time zone of UTC+7. Malaysia and Singapore use UTC+8, an hour ahead of the time zone for the region (western Indonesia and Thailand correctly use UTC+7). Confusingly Temptress will shortly cross in to UTC+6 as we head west, so we’ll need to move another hour back. Aside from a few exceptions, time zones span 15 degrees of longitude with UTC centred on the Greenwich Meridian meaning the eastern boundary for UTC+6 is located at 097 30.00E which we will cross during our first night at sea. Usually our practice has been to flog the clock at midday after crossing into the new time zone but with two changes effectively back to back, we might delay a day or so. More confuddling for the crew is that Kochi is on Indian Standard Time (UTC+5:30) so at some point we will need to make a thirty minute adjustment too, probably as we enter Cochin Harbour for ease of timekeeping.

Farewell Malaysia

During the afternoon a second small tuna decided it liked our splashing bird and squids combo so another fresh fish supper was added to the fridge for later this week. Fishing has officially been suspended for the next few days. The wind died as the sun came overhead and so it was back under engine again. Meanwhile, we’ve read or snoozed. I started the first of my jumper sleeves, Kevin satisfied himself that the water maker is behaving as expected; we’ve generally slipped into right back into passage making mode even though it’s been a few months since our last big trip. Just a few fishing boats and one big ship on the horizon since we left. Supper was already cooked, the mince and veg mixture just needed reheating with some pasta to be cooked in it. Then sundowners and at 7pm watches started, three on three off until seven tomorrow morning.

Day 2 – Friday

Dawn broke, Temptress was still motoring, the breeze was light and fitful during the night, never enough to sail. The forecast had been accurate. A couple of fishing boats were spotted during the night and the AIS showed a couple of large ships turning west out of the Malacca Straits across the top of Sumatra twenty miles or more below us. Bandah Aceh itself is 65 nm south west of our dawn position. The sea is finally blue again after months of cloudy green stuff. The water maker appreciated the cooler, cleaner water running at 24l per hour and a TDS of 440.

Temptress’ route is through the Great Channel between Sumatra and Great Nicobar. The course is due west and we will pass well to the north of the northernmost island of Indonesia, P Rondo. It’s some 300nm from Langkawi, so two days sailing. From there to the southern tip of Sri Lanka is another 840 miles then we turn north west towards the west coast of India. Cochin or Kochi is located around 380nm from the bottom of Sri Lanka.

The strongest winds are to be expected as we cross from Sri Lanka to India. The monsoon is funnelled down between the two land masses, the forecast frequently shows over twenty knots there and it will be forward of the beam for 225nm (a day and a half’s sailing) until it bends around the Indian subcontinent. The last day or two along the Indian coast will most likely be under engine.

14:00 Temptress has been under sail with the genoa poled out since after breakfast. The noon to noon run was an excellent 163nm, albeit over a 25 hour period. Our peaceful existence is broken by shouts from an Indonesian fishing boat. There were two boats, three men a piece, we had a pigeon English conversation in the way that only Indonesian’s conduct it. ‘Sir, Sir, fish fish?’ Proffering a large tuna the man standing on their foredeck shouted loudly. When it was turned down as ‘we have’. ‘Whisky, whisky?’ Sorry none to spare. ‘Water, water?’ Yes have you a bottle? ‘Beer, beer?’ No sorry. Their spokesman changed tack ‘where you going? Aceh, Aceh?’ ‘India, India’ was our response. ‘Oh long way.’ He swept his arms out encompassing his mates ‘Aceh, Aceh’. Meanwhile the other boat was circling taking photos. Then the requests were gone through one last time adding an extra one of ‘ciggie, ciggie’. Photo call complete both boats headed off south towards Sumatra.

Tuna number one was dusted in flour and fried for supper. Served with rice salad and coleslaw. Very tasty.

Fishermen from Bandah Aceh

Day 3 – Saturday

The wind played much the same game, dying again during late Friday afternoon then resuming normal service once the sun was up this morning. Overnight Sumatra had a spectacular thunderstorm but nothing even close to us. As we motored westward the current was all over the place. Patches of turbulent water would sweep Temptress off course southwards then half an hour later we would be swept north again. Weird. Even odder was the debris that occasionally passed. It began this morning with a whole palm tree floating on the surface, that we somehow didn’t run over. Then more palm leaves and what appeared to be lumps of mud. We were looking at it debating if it had once been one of those floating islands we’d seen off Borneo, breakaway chunks of river bank held together by palm and reputedly with a cargo of rats, when the skipper spotted a monkey body drifting. Sad.

There was plenty of commercial shipping. The majority was enroute into or out of the Malacca Straits and passed several miles to the south of us, mostly out of sight but the AIS reports added interest to the hours. Destinations like Port Klang, Singapore, Kuwait and Suez.

Once the wind returned the rest of Saturday was great sailing. We finally passed through the Great Channel south of the Nicobars and out into the Indian Ocean. The sea settled down, there was a bit of cloud which kept the daytime temperature a little cooler. Temptress managed another 163nm noon to noon, a slightly faster speed over the 24 hour period.

By afternoon tea time there were under eight hundred miles to go the next waypoint off the southern tip of Sri Lanka. The instruments calculating time to go (TTG) as 145 hours! The Indian Navy in the form of a patrol aircraft showed up on the VHF hailing one of the ships that passed us earlier. Despite repeated calls from the lady crew in the plane they didn’t seem to get a response. We didn’t see or hear an aircraft at all.

Day 4 – Sunday

A very quiet day. We sailed all night which was a first and our noon to noon run was a little lower at 134nm. A few ships could be seen on the AIS but the only sign that there is anything else in the locality has been an occasional VHF transmission. At noon we flogged the clocks to bring ships time to UTC+6. We have probably six or seven days before reaching our destination.

Our bodies don’t yet seem to have adjusted to the watch pattern, we have spent large parts of the daylight hours taking it in turns to snooze. The remnants of Susie’s tonsillitis and subsequent cough are very slow to shift too, making it uncomfortable trying to do things like cooking below. At least the breeze has continued to be cooler with a thickening cloud cover keeping the temperatures down. It was chilly enough in the night to warrant a fleecy layer for a while.

Eventually in the afternoon Temptress escaped the clutches of the contrary currents which had been reducing forward progress by a knot sometime more. 636 nm to go to our Sri Lankan waypoint, just over four days at 6.5 knots. The wind has a little more east in it so we are running with both sails on the port side. The second reef is still in, it was there when we put the sails up and will probably remain until Cochin. Slightly slower but the movement is more comfortable. Overnight the genoa had a few furls too making it easier if some weather does come through. Now we are away from the land the sea is settling down to a small swell from the north east that occasionally rolls us about a bit but generally the sea is quite flat.

The skipper has been on galley slave duties, lunch was “soupy noodles”, an easy favourite of ours starring dried shrimp, dried fungus, tofu and noodles with a little onion, fish sauce and garlic for flavour. Supper tonight is a tuna risotto using fish number two, also cooked by the skipper.

Day 5 – Monday

A slowish night of banging sails meant constantly adjusting the course to keep the pressure on. Tired beyond anything, the first mate was rewarded a lie in of an hour until 8am. Astern grey clouds gather, the rising sun shining through rain several miles behind us. It never reached us mores the pity as the decks are filthy; it’s been several months since the last rain in Langkawi. For a while the wind picked up and we bowled along at over eight knots. It didn’t last for more than an hour though. The current remains a mystery, according to all the books we should have current with us but again there seems a persistent one knot or so against us, at best none at all, but so far nothing helping us westward. Likewise the monsoon winds are fickle.

After breakfast, feeling a bit more human I made yogurt though the dregs of the last batch smelt a little suspect so it might be cheese; we will have to wait til tonight to find out. On a more positive note I have discovered that soaking mung beans for 24 hours before sprouting them gives much better results. We have a large jar of thick sprouts in the fridge for adding to salads or a stir fry.

A pod of dolphins appeared for a few minutes. We never tire of watching them dive and weave in front of the bow. Most of these were quite small with a distinctive pale grey oval band from behind their dorsal fin to the top of their heads. Porpoises rather than dolphins perhaps? Our trip to the bow also uncovered a crispy 15cm long flying fish desiccating on the starboard side deck, a victim of the night and on the port side a medium sized squid in a similar state. Flying fish are a common find in the morning but we’ve not had a squid before. Intriguing as little or no water has crossed the decks in these flattish seas.

At 10am fed up of the slapping sails and generally being bounced around by the swell the engine went on again. 538 nm to Sri Lanka. Tomorrow we should reach the halfway point in terms of distance covered since leaving Malaysia. Indian customs only work weekday office hours so there is little point arriving next weekend, a late Sunday afternoon or early Monday arrival would suit us well. Noon to Noon run 147nm in 25 hours

Lunch was just about to be dished up when the engine died. We tried again several times, it would run for a bit then cut out. Fuel starvation? We ate lunch then Kevin started checking. The primary Racor had quite a bit of crud in it.

Our course was finally converging on the shipping lanes with several tankers just a couple of miles away. And to make things a bit more interesting the wind was picking up again. At least we could sail so we unfurled a little jib to keep us steady and moving. Kevin on his belly at the bottom of the companionway called for tools like a surgeon as he dismantled the Racor. Screwdriver, flathead. Pair of pliers. He changed the Racor filter and bled everything through. Then he noticed a small cooling water pipe had split. Time to fix that too. Three hours after the original problem the engine restarted and ran smoothly after a bit of further coaxing. Phew!

The second chicken pie and the last of our supply of Sailors meat pies, was heated in the oven for supper. We had eaten one a piece of the beef pies back in Telaga but decided they really were too big so have been sharing the chicken ones. They are delicious, we should have bought more but the ice box has sausages, chicken and more from the same supplier so we won’t go hungry this trip.

Day 6 – Tuesday

The night was uneventful apart from a few wind shifts and some distant lightning. The morning brought our first rain if it could be called that. Just enough to force hatches to be closed and damp the decks. The skies remain overcast and grey. The adverse current faded away during the night so is no longer impeding progress west. By 10am Temptress had reached the halfway point or at least had cover half the planned miles (765nm being half of 1530nm) over the ground.

We have a sort of a plan for the latter part of the voyage when after rounding Sri Lanka’s southern tip there is a 230nm leg north west across the channel between the island and India. The weather forecasts we were following back in Malaysia always showed 20 or 25 knots blowing directly down the channel so the wind will mostly likely be forward of the beam. It could be a rough and wet passage. Therefore the plan is to head up the west coast of Sri Lanka sufficiently to allow us to bear away on a more comfortable heading. A little further perhaps but more pleasant.

The yoghurt was decanted from vacuum flask to pot at a watch change during the night. It has set solid and tastes good too. Breakfast was the usual Harris mélange of rolled oats, crispy cereals, raisins, sunflower and pumpkin kernels, milk, yoghurt and the last of the blueberries. Tasty, crunchy, chewy and hopefully fairly healthy. After breakfast it finally rained heavily enough to was the decks down, the run off was brown.

Putting Kevin’s t-shirt to soak after yesterdays filthy engineering, the first mate smelt diesel in the aft head. Sure sign of a leak as the heads sits athwart the same bilge the Racor is mounted over. Amidst the galley preparations for lunch the cabin sole at the bottom of the companionway had to come up and the oily mix of bilge water and diesel mopped out. The Racor was resealed and then the rest of the saloon turned upside down to access the engine under the central sofa and bleed the fuel system of air. Noon to noon run 151nm.

More rain threatens behind us, the wind going almost south of east as the systems approach. Temptress has to alter course northwards each time. We are now some twenty miles north of the rhumb line between the Great Channel and southern Sri Lanka. In the afternoon it poured down for twenty or thirty minutes then continued to drizzle for another hour. The day turned very gloomy but the wind was just enough for o give an extra half a knot or so without making life uncomfortable.

One pot suppers are great. Having created a huge mound of washing up making hummus and little flat breads for lunch, the evenings meal was a mastery of economy. Fry an onion add garlic, diced carrot and green pepper, chopped up Chinese sausage (the yummy red wine variety). Then tip in a tin of tomatoes, a can of water and a handful of puy lentils. Add some herbs like oregano and sage, salt, pepper and a half teaspoon of sugar then simmer til the lentils are soft. Add two small handfuls of pasta and some extra water if needed. Serve when the pasta is cooked and the sauce is thick.

Day 7 – Wednesday

What a night! The signs were there in the early evening watch’s events – a rise in the wind requiring some jib to be furled meant waking the skipper less than 30 mins after he had gone off watch. No sooner than he had returned to his bunk when said wind veered almost south of east. Ten minutes later it died and the rain began, eventually it stopped after an hour or so and things gradually resumed their normal course. I was glad to be relieved of the watch at 10pm. The next watch was fairly peaceful if very dark with no moon and a lot of cloud plus the entertainment of overtaking a tug and tow on a moonless night.

Soon after the watch change at 1am this morning a long very black cloud visible despite the near pitch black appeared off to starboard. The wind veered again, rose then died back. Uncomfortable with what the ominous cloud might offer I woke the skipper. We furled the remaining jib, started the engine and waited. It wasn’t long in coming; three or four hours of torrential rain laced with thunder and lightning and roughish seas with the wind from the east. At some point I checked the forecast, downloaded before leaving. It showed a band of dark green (heavy rain) stretching from Northern Sumatra to Sri Lanka, glad I hadn’t known about it in advance.

I dozed on the saloon sofa, at least it was warm and dry there. Kevin sat in the cockpit trying to find a dryish corner. Eventually sometime after 5am the rain stopped and my watch was done. When I finally woke after 9, normal weather service had resumed, rather cloudy with warmth from the sun and the cockpit had already dried. Just 240nm to the waypoint, we should reach it tomorrow evening.

The AIS is like a peephole. We see just the half a dozen ships within range as they pass which you could mistake for not much shipping. However the view is a constant changing one, what the AIS picks up is a snapshot of a lengthy caravan of shipping that stretches from Singapore to Suez and back, moving at around twice Temptress’ speed.

Noon to noon run 156nm, 610nm to Cochin, at 6.5knots that is four days or so sailing.

The afternoon proved the fuel issues have not been solved. Engine on to charge the batteries and run the water maker but it only ran briefly before petering out. The skipper topped up the tank with four of the 20l cans on deck. Checked the system for airlocks but no joy. There is a blockage in the pipe from the tank to the Racor which would not budge. Solving a problem at sea is about being resourceful. The only replacement pipe small enough and long enough is already is use as the breather for the shaft seal. First task therefore is to replace that with a shorter length which will cause other issues but we can live with them.

To save power as it is so overcast and only Mr WibblyWobbly the wind generator is really doing anything towards keeping the batteries topped up we turn off the fridge/icebox. Temptress is surfing down waves, rocking and rolling at 6 or 7 knots. Not the ideal platform for a massive engineering task that would be a challenge in harbour. Kevin is striped to his undies but still sweating buckets in the sweltering heat. The galley surfaces have become a workbench for tools and grubby rags. Everywhere is damp with sweat or saltwater from the breather pipe. Floors and woodwork are going to need a wash down when we finally make it to Cochin.

By 16:30 the length of pipe needed has been extracted from its run alongside the engine, past the calorifier, under the bulkhead and up inside the woodwork around the mastpost. We put the saloon and master cabin back together, then empty the forward end of the storage bunk as underneath it lies the diesel tank. Everything is stacked wherever it can be safely wedged – chart folders, the bag of boat canvas work, boxes with the inverter and other stuff, the sewing machine and more.

Result. Delving in under the bunk Kevin discovers that the pipe is not the cause but the uplift is and the tank has a second blanked off uplift presumably factory fitted for a possible generator! Switching the pipe to that proved to be a near miracle solution to our woes. All that remained was to tidy up.

The day was not done yet though. During the first watch the skipper spotted that the starboard nav light was intermittent at about the same time as the wind got up. The first mate joined him on deck to help furl some sail then assist with the repair at the bow. Water had got into the junction box, remaking the connection and sealing the box with lots of tape solved the problem until a new box can be sourced.

Happy Birthday to my sister Pat!

Finally it really rained

Day 8 – Thursday

The sea has settled down to a gentle ocean swell, the monsoon winds are strong and all is well. We frequently are sailing at over eight knots even with the second reef and a very small amount of headsail. Temptress’ course is gradually converging with the shipping heading for the TSS South of Dondra Head. Inshore traffic included a tanker Ithacki who passed us a day or two ago, now at anchor in 56 metres some thirty miles from land ‘waiting for orders’ and a trio of tugs transporting a huge dredging platform and its ancillary equipment.

Our aim is to pass to the north of the TSS close to Sri Lanka then head up along the west coast of the island for a hundred miles or so into the Gulf of Mannar before turning west towards the tip of India. That way we hope to avoid the worst of the strong winds that funnel down between the landmasses and give ourselves a better angle to approach India. A beat to windward in 35knots is never pleasant so the shorter it is the better.

The noon to noon run was the best yet 179nm! And even better at 15:00 (09:00 UTC) we spotted land faintly off to starboard. Land Ho! The ocean passage is over, what’s left is coastal sailing to Cochin.

By supper time we had passed Dondra Lighthouse looking glorious in the setting sun. From here on everything we do will basically be northwards to Donaghadee. And, once we have made another 30 miles westward Temptress will cross longitude eighty degrees east, we started our circumnavigation in Southsea, UK back in 2013, at one degree west!

Dondra Head Light, Sri Lanka

Day 9 – Friday

Overnight Temptress motor sailed up the western coast of Sri Lanka, past Galle where ships, pilot boats and fishing boats were all on the move against the city lights. Then on towards Colombo. About ten miles south of the capital as the watches ended at 07:00 ships time, the skipper was heartily sick of the slamming into a choppy seas. Time to bear away towards India. It’s about 330nm to our destination, just over two days sailing. We stowed the pole, unfurled a scrap of jib and headed off on a reach across the grey gulf on a course of 317 deg.

Grey skies, chill breeze like the English Channel except we are comfy in shorts and t-shirts. It’s 160nm to just west of Cape Comorin, the southern tip of India, we will bear away the other twenty degrees as we cross the gulf. The big seas are going to be a test of how well things are stowed. Temptress is dashing along at nine knots but yet again a knot and a bit of current is against us, the waters flowing around the top of Sri Lanka and through the narrow, shallow channel at the head of the gulf. Waves break on the starboard bow and every fourth or fifth finds its way down the decks to crash on the sprayhood, rolling round and into the cockpit. The comfy cushions have to be stowed away and oilie bottoms donned. It’s not uncomfortable just a bit wetter than we have become accustomed to.

After awhile we can ease the main, less heel, less hard pressed Temptress romps along. The cushions reappear, after all they are design to drain quickly and we can easily wash the salt out in Cochin. Fantastic sailing, this might not be downwind but Temptress revels in it. As we leave the coast the winds increase, the cushions disappear again as they slip and slide too much. Dressed in our waterproof bottoms we love the sailing but down below it’s a different story, the number of leaks to be fixed grows until we have half a dozen towels or other cloths mopping up seawater in the saloon. Nothing major but all annoying.

All day and most of the night the wind continues F5-6 from more north than north east. Huge waves and romping seas. Great sailing but not so easy living. Lunch is crackers and hummus with a tomato, supper the other half of the previous day’s beef and cabbage curry with pasta spirals cooked in it as it reheats. The washing up piles in the sinks as a task too far for now. Getting the sat phone out to call Susie’s Mum and wish her a Happy 90th Birthday is abandoned, too wet for electronics on deck, sorry Mum. Hope you had a lovely day.

Day 10 – Saturday

4am: the wind has altered, the waves have suddenly gone down a notch though it’s still windy and we are still doing seven or eight knots. Temptress is in 30 odd metres again and the air smells of damp, musty rainforests. It’s dark, this is Chinese New Year there is no moon. We check the chart, after a headlong rush through the night Temptress is some twenty miles east of Cape Comorin, swept into the Gulf further than we wanted, and around twelve miles off the coast. India except we can’t see it! We bear away a little more west towards our waypoint with some thirty miles to go. From there we will head up north of northwest along the shore about a twenty four hour sail to Cochin.

In the pitch dark just before dawn I get a huge scare trying to avoid a long thin skiff presumably out fishing. One minute I’m watching their stationary lights the next I’m trying avoid them by coming up ten degrees to starboard as they start to move rapidily towards us. I leap back to grab the wheel and am about to take the helm off the autopilot to execute some sort of avoidance manoeuvre when they pass close under our bow shining their spotlight then along the starboard side. Basically they came over for a look at the sailing yacht, if I’d tacked we would have crashed. With a final salute from the blinding spotlight they were gone in a haze of outboard fumes, leaving me shaking.

Later as the sky began to get a pink glow half a dozen long thin skiffs with huge bright blue lateen sails that billowed out and over the three or four crew, went racing past in the direction of Sri Lanka. One guy standing precariously on the stern steering with a long oar like rudder. Very pretty and dare I say a little mad given the sea conditions which though less here under the coast were still enough to tumble the odd wave into the cockpit. Later still the Indian Coastguard call us up very formally by name and call sign. After polite good mornings the conversation switches to VHF14 and Kevin gets asked a series of questions including have we cargo onboard and further on having established there are just two crew, do we have armed guards? More polite good mornings then wishes for a safe voyage.

By ten am the seas were calmer, the washing up from the past twenty four hours was done and the skipper had finally solved a problem with the bilge pump – a blockage caused by a small wooden wedge that was jammed in the Y-piece connecting the electric and manual pumps to the outlet. It’s probably been like it for weeks as it had been slow to empty the sump. Now the stirring up during our bumpy ride over the past day had washed other debris down to it, blocking the outlet completely. The sun is out and slowly we dry out and warm up after a cold and rather damp night.

The view is wonderful, low hills with buildings fringing the shore. Behind in the haze towering mountains rise up. There isn’t a cloud in the sky. We head inshore a bit more to watch the coastal scenery as it passes, the is flat calm, such a contrast to yesterday. The bulk of southern India now lies between Temptress and the monsoon winds. The jib is furled the third reef shaken out, time to motor northwards. Time too for a hot shower without the need to be sat down during it, followed by a bit of pampering like hair conditioner, nail trimming and lots of lotion for hand and feet.

Our progress up the coast is marked by calls from the Indian Coastguard as we pass each port. A patrol vessel even approached to take photos. The questions vary but the interrogation is always polite and efficient. The entire coast from Comorin to Trivendum appears to be built along; huge white painted churches dominate village with a scattering of temples and mosques. As darkness falls fishing boats appear. Dozens of small skiffs with huge lights who often head over to check us out with their searchlights. Large fast moving trawlers heading out to sea.

By 9pm we are off Kollam or Quillon, an ancient trading port, still motoring with a gentle breeze off the sea keeping things cool. Predictably as Temptress approaches the ever watchful coastguard calls up for a round of questions. Less than 80 miles to go.

Day 11 – Sunday

A quiet uneventful night motoring up the coast dodging fishing vessels, large purple bow lights anyone? By 08:30 ships time Temptress was just 5nm south of Kochi Port entrance. It had been a chilly night with a lot of smog hiding the mainland lights from on sight. We hoisted the main completely to shake out the reef and check it over for chafe before we stow it away. Time to flog the clocks once more to Indian Standard Time.

We dropped anchor off the Taj Malabar Hotel at 10:15. Rather than being hassled by the immigration boat as everyone had told us, it being Sunday and Republic Day the officials were nowhere in evidence. A couple of hours later they, immigration and customs, showed up brandishing forms. The customs form was filled in then and there, the rest were for later. The cheery officials left. After much head scratching we completed the several pages for immigration which included a request for our last ten ports of call (Langkawi, Phuket, Langkawi, Pangkor, Port Dixon, Belitung, Mamuju, Nunukan and Tawau) as well as the port of origin for our voyage, Portsmouth! And our sat phone number, iridium phones are strictly controlled, their use banned since the tragic events of a few years ago in Mumbai. At some point Customs will come and seal it up for the time we are here.

Having launched Sheila, Kevin rowed us the short distance to the Malabar’s landing steps ‘The Baggage Jetty’. We found the immigration office and had our passports stamped and handed in the forms. Then to the ATM to arm ourselves with rupees where a sign proclaimed its location to be the ‘Naval Air Service’. Thence to the Customs House on the corner opposite the Malabar’s main gate. Though claiming to be working despite it being both Sunday and a National Holiday but being by then almost 2pm the official on duty had gone to lunch. Tomorrow we will deal with customs and the port authority. We can’t get up the channel to the marina until high tide mid-afternoon anyway.

However lunch sounded good. The ladies in the security kiosk at the Customs House seemed to think we’d need a taxi to somewhere that we couldn’t fathom. Instead we crossed the road back to the hotel where despite our slightly scruffy dress we were warmly welcomed. Lunch was an amazing three course buffet Indian Sunday lunch with a mix of delicious local and Italian dishes (£25 a head) in the beautiful colonial surroundings looking out across the garden to Temptress at anchor. We were stuffed full and felt thoroughly spoiled by our waiters and waitress who had insisted we tried lots of things including some beautiful fresh prata, homemade strawberry ice cream and lots of new to us dishes, like chapati pizza and dhal idlee. They were most amused by our determination to eat local rather than Italian.

As we sat and enjoyed our post meal tea and coffee, listening to the excellent duo singing songs from the seventies, a magician appeared. Elderly with a dark velveteen waistcoat full of pockets a battered top hat and hardly speaking any English beyond ‘hocus pocus abracadabra’ he had us laughing with him at some deftly done tricks we both recalled from our childhood. What a treat – we will always remember today as a splendid welcome to India.

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