Ship transport available for yachts from Asia to the Med

Skedaddle Again swinging into place
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With prudent cruising sailors sensibly not prepared to turn their cruising dream turned into a cruising nightmare by transiting the pirate waters of the Indian Ocean, there is a need for shipping yachts from Asia to the Mediterranean. Cruising sailors Pete and Kathy on SV Wave Runner wish to share the following information with long range cruisers who may be interested in a group rate:

'We have negotiated a discounted rate of $800/foot with Sevenstar, sailing early March from Phuket, Thailand, to Marmaris, Turkey. This is the same company that shipped so many yachts from the Maldives early this year, and from Phuket later in the year.

We have had good reports from people who shipped. To take advantage of the discount, please contact Pete Jamieson, SV Wave Runner waverunnerp@gmail.com who will put you in touch with the agent and note you are part of the group.'

Below is an account from Sue Frankin and Mike Loxton on SV Skedaddle Again, who shipped their yacht from the Maldives to Turkey last year when it became obvious to the yachts in the Maldives and India that not only property, but their very lives would be at stake if they ventured across the North Indian Ocean:
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Much to our surprise we find ourselves cruising in Turkey and Greece. Our plan for 2011 was to cruise from Langkawi in Malaysia to the Maldives, via North Sumatra and Sri Lanka. After spending 2-3 months in the Maldives we were to move into the new marina at Kochi, SW India for the wet season before undertaking the Red Sea in January 2012.

We did in fact cruise in the Maldives for 2.5 months which was wonderful, but during that time it became apparent that the pirate and political situation in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean was out of control.  We were alerted to the escalation of pirate attacks by a survey carried out by a fellow yachtie, who had been tracking pirate attacks in the Indian Ocean since February 2009 (link to data on S/V Bebe’s blog http://svbebe.blogspot.com/2011/02/state-of-limbo.html).

It became apparent that the pirates had moved East and South from Somalia, across the Indian Ocean almost to the Indian coast and that the number of attacks, both unsuccessful and successful had dramatically increased. It was about this time that the S/V Quest was hijacked 240 nautical miles off Oman en route from India to Salalah, Oman and the four Americans taken hostage by the Somali pirates.

The S/V Quest was shadowed by an American warship after the attack with some of the Somali’s onboard to negotiate when things went horribly wrong. Shooting started on the Quest and the four hostages well as some pirates were killed. A week or so after this a Danish yacht, S/V Ing was pirated in the same area and four adults and three children taken hostage – they are still in Somalia (Editor's Note: After almost a year in captivity the seven Danish sailors were released after payment of a ransom). At this stage there were dozens of anxious yachties in the India/Maldives area wondering what an earth to do.

Apart from the pirates, the revolutions in countries from Egypt to Yemen, where there were reports of rioting and shooting in the port at Aden, meant that any passage through the Arabian and Red Seas would probably be an anxious sprint rather than an adventurous cruise.

Skedaddle 2 and 3
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It was about this time we heard rumours that a number of the yachts stranded in the area were trying to put together a deal to freight their boats to the Mediterranean. On contacting them we discovered that they were negotiating with Sevenstar Yacht Transport to make available a ship to take the boats from either Kochi in India, or Male in the Maldives to Turkey. At this stage they had about ten yachts interested. We contacted Mike Heffer, an agent for Sevenstar (m.heffer@ysl.wainwrightgroup.com) for a quote, which was US$650 per foot to ship to Marmaris in Turkey.

Call us unadventurous but the chance of putting Skedaddle Again on a freighter was too good an opportunity to pass up.  The alternatives were - risk the pirates in 2012, return to SE Asia as some yachts had already done, or sail south via the Chagos Islands to South Africa - Yuk!!  Our friends who were to have joined us in India, sailing over from East Africa, turned back and are now going the 8,500nm to the Med via South Africa and the Atlantic. 

Once Sevenstar had all the yachts signed up there was quite a delay as they did not find it easy to charter a suitable ship to take us to Turkey. Plans to use one of their own dedicated yacht transport ships fell through. Eventually a brand new heavy lift ship out of Korea, the BBC Everest, arrived in Male, the capital of the Maldives and anchored in the lagoon.

We were informed by the loadmaster that loading would take approximately one hour per vessel and be completed in two days. Well he was dreaming! Even though the Male Atoll Lagoon looked tranquil there was an underlying swell that caused the ship to roll. This resulted in the yachts swinging alarmingly, as they were being lifted, in arcs of as much as 5m each way, making it incredibly dangerous, both to the yachts and the loading crews, as they were placed on the deck of the ship. This also meant that the loadmaster was unable to pack the yachts close together, which was going to result in some of the yachts booked for transport to miss out.

After two days only a few yachts had been loaded, all of which was causing a fair bit of stress amongst the group, especially as the weather window to sail to the marina in Kochi, India was closing rapidly. Luckily the company went to considerable lengths and expense to secure a berth on a private dock to load the remaining yachts. Here they repacked the initial yachts so that we would all fit on the ship. Even so it was a tight squeeze with one small catamaran perched on top of a shipping container.

Skedaddle 4 and 5
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So Skedaddle Again, in company with 17 other yachts, zoomed through the rest of the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea at 16 Knots on the BBC Everest, swaddled in razor wire and carrying four Russian sharpshooters with AK47's for protection.   The BBC Everest arrived in Marmaris, after a two week uneventful passage. We were off loaded from the ship during a huge deluge with accompanying thunder and forked lightening (we had assumed we had left weather like that in SE Asia), and berthed in Netsels Marina (a bit of a shock after SE Asia at 60 Euros per day).

The 20 or more round the world Blue Water Rally boats, who we ran into in Galle, Sri Lanka, decided to hug the Indian coast up to Mumbai and then sail/motor up into the Arabian Gulf in order to reach Salalah in Oman adding an extra 600 miles to the trip in order to avoid pirates (S/V Quest was part of the rally but had decided to go it alone for some reason).

On having gone all that extra distance the rally boats then decided not to go on to the Red Sea but instead ship their boats to Turkey. They apparently chose a company called Dockwise Yacht Transport (dyt.usa@dockwise-yt.com). Unfortunately for them Dockwise had trouble securing a suitable ship and sadly they had to wait about two months anchored in Salalah harbour for a ship to be located that was willing to transport them through the Red Sea.

We were very disappointed to miss out on India and of course the Red Sea adventure but now we are here in the Med we have decided that we might go south through the Suez Canal and winter in the Red Sea. There would be plenty of time to visit Jordan up the Gulf of Aquaba, as well as the Egyptian and Sudanese coasts.