Passage making: Malaysia to Sri Lanka, part two


Coastal Cruising has dominated the last couple of years in Southeast Asia. Our passage making skills are rusty. Before we left, I wondered: what habits would we have to relearn? What would come back like muscle memory? Read about the first half of the passage here – this picks up with the back half.

Day 5

With less than 500 miles to Trincomalee, our halfway mileage mark, we celebrate at breakfast with a cherry coffee cake.

Utopia on the horizon at dawn one morning

We left with Utopia, a Beneteau 50 with an Aussie family aboard. Incredibly, we’ve remained within visual range of our friends for the duration of the passage to date. That’s pretty unusual, especially under somewhat varied conditions. We’ve had wind from just a couple of knots to the low twenties, and apparent wind angles from 60 to 180 degrees. Then again, our main prior reference is with the two boats we shared many passages with in the South Pacific: a Baba 30, IO, and a Nordhavn 64, Oso Blanco. It would be hard to find more differently paced vessels than that triumvirate to “bungee boat” together.

I’ve stashed liter-sized bottles to use in collecting water samples for a citizen science project on ocean plastics we’re contributing too. Siobhan spies one ready for a sample, and decides we should use it for a message in a bottle.


There’s an evening radio net for Indian Ocean boats on the SSB, but it has very little traffic. We planned to add a morning net to touch base with Utopia but decide it’s unnecessary since we’re remained in VHF range. The proximity adds fun for the kids: Siobhan and Ava play battleship over the radio one morning. Meanwhile, the wind has come behind and lightened up again: perfect conditions for our asymmetric. We fly it for ten glorious hours and put away the miles.

In the evening, Jamie realizes we’ve reached a major milestone- much bigger than the passage halfway mark: at this longitude, we have now sailed halfway around the world from the easternmost point we reached in Pacific Mexico. Halfway around the world! It feels pretty good.

you sank my battleship! Siobhan and Ava play over the VHF

Day 6

The end is in sight! The forecast keeps adjusting, and lighter winds we originally expected haven’t materialized. It looks like we should arrive in Trincomalee on our eighth day. Since we don’t want to arrive in the dark, now it’s just a question of whether conditions will make it easy for us to line up with a daytime arrival or if we’ll have to consider either slowing down.

This was the point at which we weren’t supposed to have much wind at all, but it’s a stunning 12-15 on the beam all day. It fades at night, but still helps us keep pace for day 8 arrival.

It’s Valentine’s Day! We eat an all-red dinner of roasted pepper risotto and tomato salad, with red foil wrapped chocolate hearts for dessert.


At night, the first Sri Lankan fishing boats appear as we near 200 nm from Sri Lanka. We haven’t seen a single fishing boat since the Indonesian crew off the north end of Sumatra, or a single commercial vessel since leaving that funnel into the Malacca Strait. Jamie’s on watch and picks the boat up on radar initially, then sees their lights ahead. As we get closer, the lights are turned out- why? He alters course to avoid the boat.

Day 7

Winds have been light night, without enough for us to do anything but bang and slat in the 1.5m seas. It’s hard on us and hard on gear, so on goes the engine from the wee hours through early light.

we read a LOT of books on this passage

There’s a new game on board today: it’s called find the squeak! Where is the squeak? We’d sure like to know before it causes a problem, whether that’s breakage or mental sanity. The first reef line has stretched and is one of the early culprits. Jamie finds the alternator belt loose (again) after motoring. But the one we have the most trouble pinning down turns out to be the autopilot. That’s a pretty important piece of gear for us: Jamie tries to lube it, but it’s difficult, so it will get more TLC after landfall.

Meanwhile, silliness in the crew is a known symptom of etended time at sea. Jamie has discovered that Trincomalee and Tipperary can be swapped out and a whole new set of verses drafted for “It’s a long way to Tipperary Trincomalee.” Niall backs it up on the ukulele (note to self: must get a proper tuner for the uke…ouch).


Day 8

All we can think about is how we’ve nearly there! Jamie sights land mid-morning. Fishing boats are everywhere now, but none have tried to approach. After hearing stories about boats trading DVDs for drinking coconuts in the middle of the Bay of Bengal, we’ve kind of wondered what we’d experience. They’re definitely more interested in catching fish than meeting with us, and it’s a little disappointing. We finally make landfall with seven days, four and a half hours of passage time.

Readers who appreciate the sweet sweet taste of arrival always click to the post on Sailfeed – thanks for kicking a little change in our cruising kitty!

14 Responses

  1. Hi,
    yet another wonderfully written article. You make your circumnavigation sound like a joyful, relaxing time, and it is very difficult to NOT start thinking about doing the same thing…
    Many thanks for your inspirational lines,

    1. Thanks Hubert- this passage qualified as a joyful relaxing time! They’re not all like that of course- but I’ll take it. And a big YES! re: doing the same thing!

  2. Awesome mini series- thanks! 🙂

    I guess making passage is one of those things where if it goes well there isn’t much to say and it can even be a bit boring, but you prefer the boring parts over the excitement.

    Looking forward to hearing about Sri Lanka!

    1. Hahaha- so true Yvette- people do love drama, and we have no drama to offer on this passage. But yeah, I’ll choose a boring passage over a dramatic one!

  3. What a great passage, I’d take that any day. Hoping that we also have passages as nice as yours. Loving the documentary on how you spend those hours without drama and hoping you find that squeak. Great idea playing battleship over the VHF!!

  4. I can’t believe you didn’t get any mid-ocean coconuts! Well, fingers crossed for the passage down to Mirissa/Galle. Sounds like you had a lovely passage anyway.

    1. I know, I was really looking forward to those coconuts! I think we’ll have better luck as we head from here to Maldives and sail coastwise around the S end of Sri Lanka. Lots of fishing boats there!

  5. Hi, from Laurie (aboard MarVida) and Lee (from Downwind Marine) in San Diego! Just found your blog recently, although we are avid readers of Latitude 42 North for many years. We moved aboard our Lapworth 36 5 years ago. Lee still works at Downwind in the capacity of Purchaser now. All is well in La Playa (the back bay in San Diego. Although we do miss that swimming pool you guys visited while having dinner at our place while you were still outfitting. Cannot believe how big the kids are! I remember your youngest “flying” with a trash bag cape while running from her older sister. And now she is commanding a battleship on the VHS! SO glad you are safe and sound and having the cruise of your dreams. Enjoy!

    1. Hi Laurie & Lee, LOVE hearing from you two! An unforgettable meeting in San Diego. I know, crazy how those kids have grown! Very cool that you’re on the Lapworth. Look forward to the day our paths cross again!

  6. hi behan- i just have to ask, do you guys EVER see a squall or foul weather? glad you are so blessed by poseidon. headed to fla this week to take a look at a hallberg-rassy rasmus, fingers crossed. everything looks great but the sails, but that’s no biggie 🙂 safe travels to you all.

    1. Hi Marc- trust me, we see squalls! I don’t always write about them… but you might be interested in this post from a few months back. This last passage, however, was truly under some kind of charm. Simply gorgeous! Our one “squall” topped out around 30 kts, quickly passed, nothing big, and the seas stayed mellow. Good luck with the HR, great boats- our prior boat was a pre-Frers HR 352. Let us know if Jamie can help you with new sails for her!

  7. What a nice story to read. We are currently in Phuket and will cross to Sri Lanka in the next couple of days.
    You write about a SSB radionet for the Indian Ocean. Could you give more details? We would like to join.
    Hanna and Nils
    SY Pélagie

    1. Hanna & Nils, the current net is 1235 UTC at 8297. It’s self-managed by whoever is on passage (which actually might not be anyone at all when you leave as the boats I’m aware of currently on the roll will make landfall in the next couple of days). We have too much RF interference in Trinco to actively participate, although we try to listen when we can!

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