the journey

Andaman Islands

We're Back In the Game

January 20, 2010

Story location: Port Blair, Andaman Islands of India

(Taken from our BLOG)

"We're back in the game,"
says Gar after catching a Spanish mackerel while sailing between islands under a blue-sky day. Andaman Islands, India

What game you might be asking? The game of life, of living the dream. Relaxed, bliss...We are feeling what many of you think we feel all of the time. These last couple of days have been just that, the idyllic sailing dream of a life. The air smells like salt, the sky is a rare color of impossibly clear blue with cotton ball clouds floating by, fish are jumping beside the boat and no one is here. We are anchored in front of a deserted island with a stunning beach.

The sand glows white, startling white and shells are strewn at the high tide line. The water lapping at her shores is the aqua blue of an island fantasy. Heat rolls off the beach carried by the wind, screaming the tropics. There is always fresh fish to eat and we are slowing down. We revel in this easy lazy life while we have it, snorkeling and spear fishing, reading novels, snacking on the last of the pineapple and the first of fresh sprouts. We are alone, naked at first and last light, sun kissed and glowing.

We awaken here again to savor our cups of hot goodness and slowly start our day. Searching for clear water we spot a large school of bumphead parrotfish feasting upon the corals in the shallows. Large schools of snapper swim lazily past. I spot my favorite long beaked filefish, an orange an aqua cutie that usually travels in pairs and makes me smile. A snapper becomes dinner and we return to the boat with the wind carrying the stifling heat from our home and wind generator slowly trickling juice into our batteries. I am content for now to swim, read and watch this world, savoring it today.

I may shatter your dream and tell you honestly that we were out here in the Andaman Islands for over a week and this is the first time we have felt this way. You see, we came from Thailand on a rough and uncomfortable passage, tired and antsy. Knowing we had a to do list that was longer than it was shorter: dreading the varnish we had to do and the leaky portholes that we crossed our fingers we could repair, along with the engine maintenance, fixing the water tank venting system again, fixing the autopilot wiring again, doing loads of hand wash and hauling the water to do it. All days are not lazy or dreamy on Dreamkeeper. Unfortunately we've had a lot of rolly sleepless nights even at anchor out here and everything always takes three or four times longer than expected and nothing is ever fixed forever.

But it's all part of the game. It's now days later and we've left the islands behind. We've caught a total of four fish in the Andamans; these are our first since April last year. Gar speared a snapper and a grouper, then we caught the two and a half foot Spanish mackerel, and on our way back to Port Blair we landed a 4 plus foot 45-50 lb wahoo. Our freezer is full and our fishing luck has changed.

I wanted to share a few unique things that occur during the days of our lives. Where else does the Coast Guard call just to say hello, to see if we needed anything and ask if we remembered him? Not only that but we were given emergency numbers and email addresses for the Indian Coast Guard with directions to call them anywhere in Indian waters all the way until we reach the Maldives for any emergency or help we may need. You may think it's a bit creepy that we have to report our position and intended movement twice a day or that the Indian Navy has done three fly-byes in ten days but once we got used to it we decided they were taking care of us and watching their backs.

It's not so simple trying to anchor in Port Blair though. The first time when we entered the harbor we were dropping our sail when Port control called and repeated we could not anchor in the position we were in. We patiently tried to explain we were "dropping the sail". Something got lost in translation but in the end after explaining we were taking down the sail in as many ways as possible the controller understood and told us to proceed to the anchorage. On our return from the islands, while we're trying to drop the hook Port Control called asking us if we have anchored. We are sure they can see us out their window with me on deck dropping the anchor. What can we do but smile? Maybe it's the head wiggle, the smile in their eyes and the accent. I don't know but it makes me smile. The people here are so endearing we don't feel like big brother is watching us when we call for our final time to give our anchoring position and itinerary plan to remain in Port Blair until check out.

Now that we're back and my idyllic sailing dream has been transformed again into the logistics of life. We are again playing the game. Whether it is peaceful and beautiful or busy and challenging. We’ve added more to our list and it's almost checked off. Yesterday we took the day to site see in Port Blair. We visited the anthropological museum, the infamous cellular jail (where the Bristish held all of the prominent Indian men who threatened their rule), a rubber plantation, a scientist research station and the countryside. Long shadows spread across the fields as women in red saris took their cows home. My belly is still full of butter paneer, chicken masala, vegi briani, chapattis, and chai tea. My spirit is happy having communicated with women and children with whom the only common language we shared were smiles. And I feel so grateful to our new friend, Ravi, 'the agent who isn't an agent', for taking such good care of us.

This morning dawned blue and we began checking off our final to-do list at 6 am. Another two loads of hand wash are hanging on the lines drying, Gar is running around town checking out with the port officials, a quiche is baked, bread is rising, 60 eggs are washed and stowed, fresh cinnamon sticks are drying in the sun, garbanzo beans are soaking and fish soup is being prepped. I am making my list for the rest of the freshies we will buy before departure and hopeful Gar is almost done with the run around. We will scoot around town again stopping again and again at the best and (cheapest) places Ravi knows for bruja mix, yogurt, fresh paneer cheese, the fruit market, the vegi market, the samosa stand, and the bakery for anything else we might desire.

Another first; I usually love when this happens but not so much today. It is the first time I have ever shopped and purchased potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, limes, spinach, green beans, onions, garlic, ginger, carrots, eggplants, cucumbers and curry leaves, cilantro and mint (or anything for that matter) from under the sticky feet of cockroaches and the darting eyes of mice in broad daylight. It took all my will actually buy the freshest of the fresh these little pests have been roaming over. Don't worry (mom) I washed each any every one of my 50 limes, 25 potatoes, 8 cucumber, and 30 tomatoes with bleach. I just hope the little sneaky roaches didn't hitchhike back on to DreamKeeper somehow. Don't think I can wash the 12 heads of garlic or the 22 red onions if they're going to keep a month or longer.

Departure tomorrow is scheduled for 0800 hours. We'll be at the dock with passports in hand to meet immigration for our departure stamps and Ravi for our delivery of freshly roasted tandoori chicken at 0600. We'll give hugs, receive our last head wiggles and be on our way across the Indian Ocean. Maldives here we come. We're back in the game.