Cochin Synagogue and Sarah Cohen

Hi All,

  I visited Sarah Cohen yesterday and the Cochin Synagogue today.  Randal stayed on the boat and supervised some men who were washing the pounds of salt from DoraMac. 



Cochin Synagogue Jew Town


The Synagogue is located at one end of Jew Town Road.


First we went Friday morning and then, today, I planned to go after lunch at 1 pm.

Randal returned to the boat but I walked around the shops of Jew Town and endured “come into my shop…just look…looking costs nothing…” And it did cost nothing because, as charming and smiling and willing to make a deal they all were, I didn’t buy anything. Telling them that I lived on a boat sort of threw them off their game a bit. I knew the Synagogue sold booklets and such and wanted to save my money for those things and also for a return visit to the Idiom Book Store on my way back to the boat yard.


Postcard were sold at the Cochin Synagogue but photos were prohibited.

VB Anand, Richard Todd, and anonymous get credit for the photos. I was going to show each card separately but there are copyright notices on the Anand and Todd cards so I have reservations about posting them at all. When I visited the Synagogue looked like the card on the left with the pink curtain across the ark and no Torahs visible. There were about 50 or so school children there when I was there and they were told all about the Synagogue in Malayalam, the local language. There was no English translation for the rest of us. A few small groups were there with their own guides but I didn’t feel right listening in so I didn’t. This is what the India Map Service Tour Guide has to say… ” It was built in 1568 and is the oldest synagogue in India. The synagogue was partially destroyed during the Portuguese raids in 1662 and was rebuilt by the Dutch. The clock-tower was later added to the structure in the mid-18th century and the floors were paved with the exquisite hand-painted blue willow tiles from China. The Great Scrolls of the Old Testament, the copper plates depicting the grants of privilege made by the Kochi rulers, Hebrew inscriptions on stone slabs and other ancient artifacts are some of the evidence of the Jewish history stored here. The township around the Synagogue is known for spice trade and curio shops dealing in antiques as well as rare glass and beads. “


Kerala and her Jews, a small booklet sold at the Cochin Synagogue

Jews may have been in Kerala since the time of King Solomon.


Replica copper plates of the grant giving tax privileges, many rights and the area now Jew Town to Joseph Rabban and his descendants by His Majesty the King Sri Parkaran Iravi Vanmar in either the 11th century or 379 according to the Cochin Jews.


The clock tower was built in 1760 by Ezekiel Rahabi who had also donated the blue and white Canton tiles.


So tiring to visit those shops.

I grew up in New Bedford where you went into a shop, looked around, were left mostly alone, picked what you wanted, paid and walked out without a whole lot of interaction between seller and buyer. In the South, clerks chat and if you don’t chat back you’re thought to be a bit rude. One of the attractions of working in the library, money wasn’t part of the transaction: at least it wasn’t when I worked there and the library wasn’t so broke. You were expected to chat with the patrons and I mostly enjoyed that because they were friendly and had really interesting stories to tell. I truly don’t enjoy wheeling and dealing or bargaining. Give me a fair price and let me pay it. I have no clue what something is worth where labor is cheap. I only know what I would pay at home which I am told means nothing but what else can I compare it to. While cruising I buy lots of inexpensive tops, so there I have an idea, but not other things. And when shops are so empty, I feel awful not buying when the sales guys are so charming and sad. But they are all charming and all sad and there are shops all along and they all sell the same things. And for the most part you can buy the same things everywhere in the world.


Jew Town shops.


Jew Town as tourist destination.

Several cruise ships are visiting Cochin. Tour groups are brought to our neighborhood to visit the Chinese fishing nets and to visit Jew Town. Here the tour guide is holding up a post card of the Synagogue as he is about to lead the group into Sarah Cohen’s hand embroidery shop and home.


89 year old Sarah Cohen and me in one of my Sri Lanka blouse lady tops and my old Red Sox hat.


Sarah does hand embroidery


I bought a hand towel with this image of Indian women. Even the back looked lovely. is her web site


Brothers Thaha and Abdul, long-time family friends, comes daily to check on Sarah and help her with her shop.

Sarah had lots of visitors


“All the Cochin Jews moved to Israel…why not you?”

This German born Israeli woman wanted to know why Sarah hadn’t emigrated to Israel. I was so offended by her incredulity that Sarah would want to stay in India, that I butted in and said, “because she likes it here in Cochin.” That actually was the answer and the woman from Israel and I had an interesting discussion about why I feel about America as she does about Israel.


These women came with best wishes from Sarah’s Cohen cousins in (I forget where) and Sarah’s response was that she had no cousins there. The ladies kept insisting and Sarah kept insisting. While they were discussing, Thaha offered to show me the rest of Sarah’s house parts of which are 300 years old.


Sarah’s wedding photo, she is now a widow.

Sarah’s husband was a lawyer. They had no children she told the Israeli woman, but her sister had six.


Sarah and friends playing cards.


Sarah in traditional sari as Cochin Jews added Indian customs to their daily lives.

Sarah was born in Cochin: her parents came from Baghdad.


Sarah’s room, simple but very cool and that’s most important in tropical India.


Abdul, Sarah, Thaha

Both brothers help take care of Sarah. I met Abdul during my second visit to Sarah. 

I left Sarah’s house and felt as if I were saying good-bye to relatives. I was quite taken by her and Abdul. I’m going to try to make time to return before we leave Cochin. I don’t know if Sarah will remember me, her memory is fading a bit, but that’s ok. I’ll remember her and Abdul. I found the two following articles on the Internet. They tell not only about Sarah but illustrate Jewish life in Cochin where Jewish and Indian customs became mixed.

Kerala Jews come to relive past, as present fades

Posted on: 02 Dec 2010

Kochi: From thousands, the number of Jews in Kerala has dwindled to a mere 10 and they too live only in Kochi. The exodus of the community started over 60 years ago, though many visit this city to discover their roots and relive the past.

Sarah Cohen, 89, the oldest Jewish woman here who became a widow a decade back, talks wistfully about the fast dwindling numbers of the community – just five Jew families reside here now.

‘Our community members started leaving here right from the time Israel was formed in 1948. All my sisters and brothers left long back. I don’t have children but decided that I won’t leave this place because I have been born and brought up here,’ Cohen told IANS.

‘Of course, most of those who left do come back and visit us frequently to relive their past, because for them it is a discovery of their roots,’ she said.

But things are pretty difficult for the community.

‘Today, the situation is such that the weekly Sabbath (prayers in the synagogue) takes place only if Jews from outside are visiting,’ Cohen said.

‘According to rule, 10 (Assara) men have to be present in the synagogue. But only six women and four men are left in the Jew Town in Kochi,’ said Cohen, who lives in a 300-year-old home built by her ancestors.

The Jews are classified into two categories which have been there since their arrival here – ‘white Jews’, who are descendants of traders, and ‘black Jews’, who the fairer complexioned say are the descendants of slaves.

The ancestors of ‘white Jews’ came from Europe and Baghdad, it is said. And even today, white Jews do not allow their daughters to marry into the darker families.

Joy, a 47-year-old caretaker of the Paradeshi Synagogue for the past two decades, said the ‘black Jews’ live away from Jew Town and till recently they were not welcomed by the ‘white Jews’ into their Paradeshi Synagogue.

‘To have the Sabbath, the ‘black Jews’ now at times come over to this synagogue to make up the number of 10 men. They are also a mere eight in total,’ he said.

Recently, the happiness of many Jews knew no bounds when they got a new rabbi (religious teacher of Judaism).

‘Those who know Jewish traditions know how orthodox we are when it comes to prayers. We are lucky because some Jews living in America were kind enough to send us a new rabbi who now lives permanently in Kochi,’ Cohen said.

‘But with 10 Jewish men living permanently here not being always available, our Sabbath takes place only if we have visiting Jews. Last week on two days we had our Sabbath because 20 Jews came on a visit tracing their roots,’ she added.

According to Jewish customs, they don’t eat meat and fish from other homes.

The availability of ‘Kosher meat’, according to Jewish guidelines, is now impossible because there is none who knows how to slaughter animals that chew cud and have cloven hooves.

‘We are so orthodox that even our new rabbi does not eat from my home, so you can gauge how orthodox we are,’ said Cohen.

With the Jewish population dwindling, all eyes are on what would happen to the Paradeshi Synagogue – the oldest synagogue in the Commonwealth nations – that was built in 1568 by the Malabar Yehudan people or Cochin Jewish community in the Kingdom of Cochin.

‘Barring every Friday and Saturday, it is open for visitors who come in large numbers to see the building. On Fridays and Saturdays, it is out of bounds for all and only Jews are allowed inside to conduct their prayers if they have the required numbers,’ Joy said.

Asked what would happen to the synagogue a few years from now, Cohen’s answer was quick: ‘Your guess is as good as mine!’

In India, a Jewish Outpost Slowly WithersAfter Many Emigrated to Israel, Once-Thriving Community on Southern Coast ‘Is Dying Out’

By Emily Wax

Washington Post Foreign Service

Monday, August 27, 2007

KOCHI, India — Down a narrow, stone-paved road in a quarter known here as "Jew Town," a woman with salt-and-pepper hair was sewing glittery beads onto the rim of a Jewish prayer cap. It was just after 3 p.m., and Sarah Cohen, wearing a housedress and flip-flops, sat in the sunny doorway of her shop, waiting for the visitors from around the world to come in for a visit.

Cohen lives right near the Pardesi Synagogue, which was built in 1568 when Jewish spice traders set up businesses in this small outpost of the Jewish world on the South Indian Malabar coast. The synagogue

sparkles with colorful Indian chandeliers and green and red glass candleholders that swing from the ceiling beams. The floor is intricately patterned with blue and white tiles imported from a Jewish community in China in the 15th century.

As visitors wandered by on their way to the synagogue, one of the oldest in the world, they looked curiously at the little Jewish woman speaking in Malayalam, the language of the southern state of Kerala.

Cohen explained that she is a part of a dying tradition here that will probably no longer exist in 10 years, because most of the Jews who used to live here emigrated to Israel during its creation in 1948. Now, there are believed to be only 13 elderly Indian-born Jews — from seven families — still living in Kochi, a sun-dappled city thick with coconut palms.

"We couldn’t bring ourselves to leave. We are Indians, too. Why should we leave the only place we have known as home?" Cohen said with a gentle wobble of her head, an Indian gesture sometimes used for emphasis. "Besides, I like this place. And I like the people."

Jews flourished in India for centuries — from biblical times, some scholars say. The country also gave safe haven to Jews during World War II.

Small but active Jewish communities remain in Mumbai, including the so-called Baghdadi Jews who come from Iraq, Iran, Syria and Afghanistan and are thought to have arrived about 250 years ago. In northeastern India, an estimated 9,000 Indians started practicing Judaism in the 1970s, saying they were a lost tribe and descendants of the tribe of Manasseh. Israel has recognized them as ethnically Jewish.

But in Kochi, there is concern that Jew Town soon will be little more than a quirky tourist destination.

On a recent afternoon, Cohen’s friend Abdul Anas, 33, stopped by to check on her. He often looks in on her, since he was good friends with her husband, Jacob Cohen, a lawyer who died eight years ago.

Sarah Cohen and Anas spoke easily to each other in Malayalam. They laughed when Anas said that he was a Muslim but didn’t mind working in Jew Town. They don’t discuss Israel or politics, they said. "Who cares?" Sarah asked. "That’s over there, and we are here," Anas shrugged.

"To me, it’s a part of Indian history. Her husband always gave me fair work. I call her auntie. And she’s alone now so I take her to the hospital when she is sick," said Anas, who sells postcards of the synagogue from his pushcart. "I feel bad for her. And actually I feel really sad that the community is dying out."

Israeli tourists to India, along with Jews from the United States, sometimes drop off boxes of matzoh ball soup mix and kosher cookies. "They tell me I remind them of their bubby," Cohen said, using the Yiddish word for grandmother.

Cohen displayed her frilly white bread covers, used on the Jewish Sabbath during a blessing over the bread. The covers were stamped with her name: "Sarah Cohen: Kochi, India."

"We are kosher, but also Indian," she said, adding that she uses chapati, an Indian flatbread, rather than the braided challah bread of European Jews.

The Jewish community here eats no beef, out of respect for the Hindu prohibition on eating cow meat. But they do keep kosher, eating chicken cooked with cloves, chickpeas and cardamom and fish curry steeped in coconut milk along with pineapple and mango for dessert, Cohen said. "Why not? Fruit is kosher."

She shuffled into her small living quarters next to her shop for some ginger tea and cookies.

Outside, some tourists were lining up to visit the synagogue. In Kerala, there are still three synagogues, but the one here is the only one still open and is a protected heritage site.

A series of large oil paintings in an entry room of the synagogue tell the history of the Jews in Kochi. The first painting depicts King Solomon’s merchant ship greeting Indian leaders and trading peacocks, ivory, spices and teak wood.

The inscriptions under the paintings say that the Book of Esther in the Old Testament contains the first written mention of Jews in India. The Jews blended many of their customs with their host country’s. For instance, a dialect called Judeo-Malayalam, a mix of Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam and Hebrew, was spoken. In Kochi, shoes are taken off before entering the main prayer room, as in Hindu tradition, and flowers are used as a part of prayer.

K.J. Joy, the Hindu caretaker of the synagogue for 25 years, said it’s only a matter of a short time before the Jews of Kochi disappear, and with them the unique mix of Indian and Jewish culture. "This will become a monument, not a working synagogue," he said. "For that, we feel really horrible."

He showed a visitor a small pamphlet written by members of the community in the 1980s, which tells the history of Jew Town. The booklet praises India for giving shelter and respect to the Jews throughout history.

"After some years the story of the Jews of Malabar may come to an end," reads the small book handed out to visitors for 10 rupees, or about 20 cents. "If this happens, history can record that their emigration was not motivated by intolerance or discrimination by India."

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© 2007 The Washington Post Company

Saturday January 29th

8:00am local time

Hi All,

  Cochin is one giant photo-op with something interesting to see every day. Saturday we walked to Vasco da Gama Square to see the fishing nets, walk along the coast a bit and just be out and about.  Our neighborhood is the main tourist/souvenir shopping area of Cochin.  Sunday we were invited to lunch at the home of John Crabtree and his wife Fumio. In the morning I went out for a walk while Randal relaxed on the boat.  I walked to Jew Town to the embroidery shop of 89 year old Sarah Cohen and had a lovely visit with her is her website.  I’ll write much more about her and about John and Fumio and their friends Nick and Louisa in following emails.  This morning, Monday, some fellows are coming to help Randal clean the boat and I am returning, yet again, to our favorite Airtel shop because our 3G SIM card still doesn’t work.  We are using our phone cards in the meantime but they get used up way too fast.  To go there I’ll get a tuk tuk and show him the address we have written on a paper and he’ll take me and offer to wait and then I’ll come back.  Hopefully the cell phone will be working.



Saturday, January 29, 2011


Sunrise and we’re up with it.


Another little brown dog!

She and her friend started to run away when I opened the door but when I called she came back. I fed her some crackers. Here she is asking if she can come on the boat. I would hate to leave her behind so don’t want to get too attached. And we don’t need fleas on the boat to go with the mosquitoes. But she is very sweet and has just had pups, you could tell. Hopefully she’ll come back again.


Our neighbor doing her laundry.

There obviously are several generations in the small house next door. This woman was doing some of the laundry early in the morning. It involved the basins at her feet and pounding the item on the stone and then kneading and wringing it. I took the photo from inside our boat because it really would seem quite rude to stand there where she could see me taking the photo as if she were doing something odd. I’m always torn about these kinds of photos. I’m certainly not making fun of her. I am actually quite impressed. And lots of cruisers hand wash their clothes since many have no washing machines.


Our front gate.

When we come back after an outing we look for the blue sailing trip sign or the orphanage sign across the road or we would walk right by as we did the first night returning from the restaurant. There is no latch or lock during the day. At night the watchman locks it after we come back and opens it about 8 am in the morning. Today when we walked out a herd of goats walked in and had to be chased out!


Our hip, Stones loving watchman.

We are off to lunch at the Sea Gull so leave our gate and turn right on Bazaar Road.


More goats.

The one on the right is a tiny baby but you don’t see them squashed on the side of the road so they must co-exist with the cars, trucks, tuk tuks, motorbikes, bicycles and pedestrians.


Lots of waterways, a man-made island and canals here in Cochin.

When you look at the Kochi-Ernakulam map you see pieces of land and islands and lots of waterways among it all. We are in the area of Cochin (Kochi) called Mattancherry. “Kochi, formerly called as Cochin, came into being in 1967, as a result of the merger of the then neighboring towns and villages of mainland Ernakulam, Old Cochin, including Mattancherry (location of our boat yard) , Fort Kochi, Palluruthy and Thomppumpady (location of our Airtel 3G phone fixit office) , Willingdon Island (where we went through the lengthy paperwork to check in) , the suburbs of Edappally and the exurbia of Kalamassery, Thrikkakara and Kakkanad to the northeast and Tripunithura to the southeast. “ from the India Map Service Tourist Guide


Here we are at the Seagull waiting for lunch.

Randal has his Kingfisher beer and I have my No. 1 McDowell’s club soda with fresh lime juice waiting in the glass.

I always carry a paperback with me. I had just started House of Sand and Fog but while we were walking later I bought a used copy of The God of Small Things, winner of the British Booker Prize in 1997, written by Indian author Arundhati Roy. The book is set in Kerala. Cochin is located in Kerala so it seems a really good time to read it. But I did find the other book interesting so will go back to it another time.


We walked to Vasco da Gama Square and saw the Chinese Fishing Nets


The nets are suspended until they are lowered into the water.


How it works.

The red arrow points to the tip of the poles where the nets are submerged. The red line indicates the rope with rocks that acts as a counterweight. The nets are pulled up and there are fish in them? We guess that’s how it works though we’re not sure how they get the fish out.


Decorative wood stamps for sale.


Life is good when you live at a fish stall


Young teacher from China

The young man to the left of the photo with his sunglasses on his head is from Guangzhou, China. He and I were walking along taking photos of the same things so started to chat. He asked where I was from and I said USA. He said he was from China so I asked “from where?” He said Guangzhou. I told him we know Guangzhou, Zhuhai, Jingan and Baijiao and he was quite surprised. He teaches biology in a middle school. I told him about our friend Singkey who is a student in university in Guangzhou. When we got to this group of school kids he stopped to spend time with them.


Lots of kids


Very friendly, polite, kids who wanted their photo taken.

It’s always the boys who want their photo taken! And not one gave me the finger as I took the photo. That would happen now and again in the Philippines with the older boys. You wouldn’t notice until you actually really looked at the photo.


The walkway had several ice cream wagons.


Ice cream treat.

Randal eats his 10 rupee “Dixie cup” of ice cream (about ½ cup worth) with half of one of those wood spoons that come with it. It was cut lengthwise to make two spoons of one. But it worked and made the ice cream last longer.  And the spoons too.


Funny trash cans along the way.


Relic of Fort Emmanuel gunnary.

“The strategic fort was built in 1503 as a result of the alliance between the Maharajah of Cochin and the monarch of Portugal. It was reinforced in 1538 and later passed into the hands of Dutch and then the British. The fort was destroyed by the British and today relics of this magnificent structure can be seen along the beach.” India Map Service Guide


Lovely homes have been built along the walk where the fort must have been.


Conference of tuk tuk drivers..or how many men does it take to……

Our driver is the man just next to Randal. He was a very nice man who drove slowly and carefully. We needed to return to the Airtel shop to change our 3G service plan. We had the address written on a paper and they were discussing where it was and how to get there.


The Airtel (sounds like an airlines, not a phone service) office in Thoppumpady, a 100 rupee fare from the waterfront, but a 60 rupee fare from the boat yard. Both very reasonable.

Musings from Randal

Although India seems vast the land here in Cochin, or at least the street we are on, is precious. Very little is allotted for human traffic much less passage of automobiles, motorcycles, tuk tuks, trucks, and everything else you can imagine. This area or street is also used for parking. Sometimes it is difficult to figure out which vehicle is parked and which is moving. The secret of course is the moving vehicle is blowing its horn. Mingle all this with goats, dogs, and humans and you have an idea of what it is like. Tolerances are much closer here. Riding in a tuk tuk is an adventure unto itself. I’m sure if we continue we will eventually be involved in the negotiations between the tuk tuk driver and his victim. They come so close to pedestrians their tuk tuk luck cannot continue.

Everywhere you cast your eyes there is something of interest. Most buildings are on the verge of collapse. The roofing tile is simply defying gravity by staying aloft. I wonder how much it will hurt when one are more falls on one of our heads. There seems to be a great deal of grain distributors on Bazar Road near the dock where Dora Mac is berthed. These are small operations but the trucks that drop off the bags of grain are huge. I know a driver must grimace when he sees Bazar Road on his delivery sheet. It is so difficult that the trucks I have seen carry their own traffic organizer. He walks along in front of the truck motioning traffic to the right or left depending on the situation. He also guides the driver as there are only inches to spare on either side. I suspect more than once he has had to track down a parked car’s driver to encourage him to get on his way.

There never seems to be a sense of urgency. I suppose when the day ends the workers have the same amount in their pockets whether they get anything done or not. That’s the way it looks anyway. The waiters in the restaurant where we have eaten three times still doesn’t get it that I want a cold beer in my hand five minutes after arrival, and that Ruth wants a club soda with lemon. This is not a busy restaurant as we have never seen more than a dozen patrons at once. The waiter’s favorite past time is standing around chatting with other waiters.

I can’t make derogatory remarks about the food though. It is wonderful and cheap. Today I had a beer; the beers here are the same size as a wine bottle, 650 ML. I had a rice dish with chicken. Ruth had her club soda and vegetable tempura and the bill was less than $7.00 USD.

The tuk tuks are also cheap. One will buzz you halfway across the island for 60 Rupee, about $1.30 USD. I’d love to have one back home but of course being the sides are open, it would be for fair weather only. If Ruth has not posted any pictures yet I’m sure she will.

We are still exploring and I’m sure there will be a barber shop in our future and maybe a longer car for hire ride.

Walking the “hood”

7:55 pm local time

Hi All,

Randal and I left the boat about noon and walked down to the Seagull Hotel for lunch.  Then we walked to Vasco De Gama Square to see the Chinese fishing nets and to walk along the waterfront.  Lots of families and school groups there.  Then we went back to our favorite Airtel shop to get a more reasonable internet 3G plan.  Today has felt as if it were 1,000 degrees.  We still have no power cord so no AC so tonight it’s pretty warm in the boat.  We have to keep the doors and big front window closed because of mosquitoes.  Our other windows, port holes and hatches have screens.  Tomorrow we are having lunch with John and Fumiko and some of their friends so we will learn more about Cochin.  Maybe Monday we’ll go back to Jew Town to see the synagogue and try to start seeing more than just the Seagull Hotel and the Airtel office.


Photos of Cochin

On our first full day in Cochin we walked from our gate onto Bazaar Road and turned left.


I was impressed by the 1360 date.


Spices and the spice trade are a big part of India’s history.


Narrow streets and lots of traffic.


Goats everywhere. I think they are employed as street cleaners.


I like that there is a hospital for women and children.


Remember when everyone wore Shalimar


Most women we see dress in traditional Indian dress.


Lots of tiny shops selling drinks or snacks.


Of course I wouldn’t even spend $72 on a handbag.


Bovines really do wander around the roads.

Our tuk tuk driver took us to a street of fruit and vegetable stands. There were several wandering cows and a calf that I had to pat. It licked my hand, yuck.


We were told the round brown things were yams!


Not sure what the bumpy looking veggies are but I was told they had to be cooked.

A fruit and vegetable stand were side by side. I asked what the bumpy vegetable was and I was told to cook it. Everything here is cooked and everything here you just eat. That’s what the fruit man said to me first pointing to the vegetables and then to his fruit stall. We had bought strawberries, oranges, small cantaloupe and bananas from him and cabbage, tomatoes and cucumbers from the vegetable stall. All of the vegetables cost less than the box of strawberries which were more expensive than anything. 80 rupees for a small box of strawberries but they tasted great with ice cream that afternoon and with yogurt and wheat germ that night.

More from Cochin

Crabtree Boat Yard across from the Muslim Orphanage on Bazaar Road

10:17 local time

Hi All,

  Just back-tracking a bit in this email telling about our arrival into Cochin Harbor and the offical paper work process.

Arrival into Cochin

We left Galle about 3:50 pm January 24th to time our arrival in the daylight hours of Cochin. We really should have left later, but the harbor entrance is closed off at dusk for security reasons so we had no choice. Randal had estimated that it would take 60 hours at 6 knots. 60 divided by 24 = 2.5 days and get us there “not in the dark.” As it was we had to slow down a bit because we were arriving too early.

We also had to dodge hundreds of fishing boats all through the night and early morning.


DoraMac surrounded by fishing boats.

At night the boats show up as purple blots on the route map or as blots on the radar screen. The problem is absolutely trusting the radar to be showing every tiny boat or fishing stake. The fishing stakes had blinking lights and I would see them as we passed them (thankfully not going over them and their dropped line.) During my 9:30 pm to 12:30 pm watch I had to wake Randal a few times. During my 3:30 am to ….. I woke him about every 20 minutes. I just don’t have any confidence in my interpretation of the blots. And in the Philippines where we first encountered fishing boats, they would be anchored or too slow to move so we had to go around them or their nets. Our friend Bill from Estralita said to just maintain a course and the fishing boats would deal with us. Sometimes the fishermen would flash lights at us to warn us away from their nets. I actually prefer dealing with the giant big tankers because you know exactly where they are and where they are going and how close they will get. And they play by the same rules we play by. And unless you are passing by Hong Kong or Singapore, you aren’t surrounded by hundreds of them.


Local fishermen.

Can you imagine being out on the ocean is something so small!!!


The darkest hour is just before dawn.

The fishing boats came in size small, medium and large with the larger boats towing a smaller boat. And then occasionally there were those “awful diesel trawlers” pulling nets.


One of the big boys!

As we were entering the channel to Cochin harbor we had to pass this giant tanker. The tanker was on our left and the channel marker on our right indicating shallow water. As Randal just explained it to me, “The tanker was about to make a turn. It was aiming for our starboard side, then our bow, and then turned to pass us on our port.” He was correct and that’s why he’s captain and I’m not. Of course with my librarian training I would have gotten on the VHF radio and asked the tanker what he was planning and then, no problem. They really do discuss their maneuvers with other boats near them and we hear that chatter going on all the time over the VHF.


Chinese fishing nets further than my camera could get a clear photo.


“Huge cantilevered fishing nets are the landmark of the Malabar Coast. The nets were introduced between 1350 and 1450 A.D. by traders from the Court of Kublai Khan in China. The nets set up on teak wood and bamboo poles can be seen along the entire stretch of the coast and are mainly used during the high tide.” Indian Map Service Kochi-Ernakulam

From the Court of Kublai Khan! We saw smaller versions being used on the Yellow Ocean River that runs between Jingan and Baijiao past the Seahorse boat yard. So we weren’t so surprised by their design. They are a major tourist attraction here.


Meters in tuk tuks

The meters are just for decoration….you negotiate with the drivers but it is really very cheap so far.


Buying our phone and 3G computer cards.

Randal is behind curtain number one with our tuk tuk driver, another customer and the shop owner. Small passport photos are needed along with proof of your passport to get SIM cards. One phone card had a problem. The card for our 3G phone wasn’t right either but we didn’t know that until we tried to use it. So we spent a large part of the next day dealing with that. Still seems a problem because we paid 500 rupee for the 3G SIM card and minutes and it lasted one night. Randal thinks it’s a regular phone card because for 98 rupee you get unlimited time for a month. We’ll go back again today to sort it out.

In between the Chinese fishing nets and the tuk tuk meter we spent about 4 hours on shore checking in. We had dropped anchor at the quarantine anchorage at 8:45 am and were visited by “the spirits of what is yet to come,” within the hour. We were visited by 2 boats with two sets of officials one after the other. We filled out paperwork both times. Then we had to go to shore to fill out more papers. There was some confusion how we would get to shore but finally at 11:30 am a small boat came by to take us and he charged 2 cans of beer. We immediately went to the wrong building, from wrong office to wrong office. But we were led from place to place by kind folks trying to help us. I think we had asked for the wrong office because we actually had to go back to the first building and several offices there later in the process. Piles and piles and stacks and stacks and even burlap bags full of paper everywhere. In the U.S. when you have a computer issue you call an 800 number and get someone in India. That’s funny because nothing in the long check-in process was computerized. Carbon paper is used! But when we went searching for an Internet Café the following day I was told they weren’t profitable because everyone had the Internet at home.

But as bureaucratic as it all was, it was all very polite and the officials who came on the boat never asked for any alcohol, cigarettes or hats. Officialdom tends to frown on photo taking so I didn’t. Just imagine a visit to the Motor Vehicle Department combined with a visit to the doctor or dentist and you just about have it. The officials who came onto the boat asked us to affix our stamp to the papers we signed. We have a stamp. Jane from the boat yard in China had given us one. We didn’t think to take it with us ashore so when they asked for our stamp, Randal stuck his thumb into the ink and stamped it onto the paper. Randal just said to tell you that he was very tired but it is just a very Randal reaction to repeated requests for the same information on 12 different forms. Funny enough all of the other cruisers there had fancy all in one stamp and pads while the Indian officials had hundred year old stamp pads wrapped in newspaper to keep the ink off everything. Immigration was the last office we had to visit. Just down the street behind the black gate we were told. “Just down the street” doesn’t say to me that we would need a tuk tuk to get there, but we did. How crazy is that having the last office so far away you really don’t want to walk there. Randal believed the tuk tuk driver who said it was too far even as I was still saying it’s just down the street. Tuk tuk driver was right. He drove us to the ATM and then to the not so great Airtel stand.

This morning we were visited by 2 small brown dogs. One ran off when I opened our door but one came back when I called. She is a sweet little thing and would have come aboard with just a bit of encouragement. But when we leave I’d hate for her to feel left behind and also, we don’t need to add flea bites to our mosquito bites. But I fed her crackers and will give her treats when she comes to visit.

Another lady, older than the one in the photo, is out now pounding her laundry clean. Boy, am I spoiled with my washing machine. But it is a good lesson in hand laundry. It might even work better on the really dirty stuff.

So that’s it for now.


Our boatyard home

Mattancherry, on the Fort Cochin Peninsular, across from the quarantine anchorage

6:13 pm local time

Hi All,

  Just a quick email to tell you that "we are arrived in India!"  Which seems actually more amazing to me than anyplace we have been cruising.  India for heavens sake.  Cochin isn’t the India of "The Jewel in the Crown."  Monsoon Wedding and Slumdog Millionaire is more like it.   It’s the India of BRIC: Brazil Russia, India and China whose economies are supposed to be incredibly strong in the future.  We have some money in a BRIC mutual fund so I told Randal that when we spend money here we will be making money!  Of course when a whole bag of veggies , cucumber, cabbage and tomatoes costs 60 rupees and 44 rupees = $1 I’m not sure we’ll be building our portfolio based on the spending of cruisers like us.  I’m sure we’ll buy more than veggies because the cotton clothing is very tempting and the spices are wonderful. 

  We are staying in a small boat yard on Bazaar Road just a ten minute walk from "Jew Town."  More about that in following emails.The yard is owned by John Crabtree and his partner Fumio who helped us with the lines and to get settled.  John is Irish by birth and a doctor.   Funio is Japanese but both were living in the UK before coming here to develop their boat yard.  They have invited us to go for lunch with some of their friends on Sunday. 

   Yesterday, after 3 nights and another rough passage we dropped anchor about 8:45 am, were visited by officials, went to shore about 11:30 am, checked in, ATMed and got phone cards for our cell phones and the computer 3G phone and arrived back on the boat about 5pm.  Moved the boat at 6pm when the tide was best and had a late dinner, came back and finally showered and then went to sleep.

  Today we walked to Jew Town looking for an Internet Cafe of which there are few because everyone has a mobile or wifi, so I was told by the Idiom Book shop.  He offered his for us to use as did other merchants in Jew Town but we needed to get the cell working, which hadn’t,  so we went off to do that and it was another all day affair…but now it works and we met a lovely tuk tuk driver who took us around and showed us where to buy fruit and veggies and we will call him again.


On the dock where we live.


Standing on the bow and looking to our left.


Our neighbor and her baby .

Because of the way the land goes between the yard and her house, we can’t just walk there from our dock and visit. We would have to go out onto the street and turn left.


Across the way is the small quarantine anchorage where you drop anchor and wait for the officials to come and do an initial check and then give you permission to go ashore and go through the formal, slow, check-in formalities. The Malabar Hotel is just there too.  No greedy officials like in Sri Lanka.  Just lots and lots and lots of paperwork.


Small ferry terminal.

Further down past our neighbor’s house is a ferry terminal that takes you around the different parts of the area by small ferry. You can also go by tuk tuk over the busy roads and bridges. The big white cruise ships are actually across the channel.


Looking right from our starboard side.

A ten minute walk along the road in this direction is the Sea Gull Hotel and Family Restaurant. We ate there last night and lunch today. We returned for lunch to see if I’d left my RED SOX hat there! I saved it from the officials in Sri Lanka only to leave it in a tuk tuk is what I think. On our way back after dinner we passed the small gate to the boat yard and wondered back and forth along the road finally getting into a tuk tuk. My sciatic leg is at it again. When we finally saw our gate and got out I guess I left my hat in the tuk tuk. It doesn’t seem to be anywhere on the boat and the restaurant said they didn’t have it. Only consolation is that the last time I lost a Red Sox hat, in Sai Kung, Hebe Haven, Hong Kong 2007…they won the Series. Maybe better than buying charms is losing my hat. Now I have my old green made in Olongapo fake B hat.


We walk off the dock and down the path to the metal door and go out onto Bazaar Street.


You can see the metal fence gate and the building across the road with the windows.

Wish I had noticed it when we had left for dinner but it had been a very long several days with little sleep and then the long check in process. We did notice the area was quite charming and seemed very safe as we walked back in the dark.


Now I tell tuk tuk drivers to take us to the Orphanage on Bazaar Road and they know where that is.

We have some jump ropes and school notebooks and such on the boat. I’ll bring them to the orphanage before we leave.


Getting on an off the boat is actually very easy…especially compared to the blue plastic peril in Galle.


Concrete dock, wood pilings, board tied with ropes, fenders, Doramac’s hull.

The fenders separate us from the board and the board keeps us away from the pilings which is what the dock is attached to.


Sunset tonight.

You can see the light on in the boatyard. Our watchman is sitting there but you can’t see him. He is the cartoon stereotype of an Indian with a bright turban and sarong and skinny legs. He seems pretty elderly. When we returned to the yard after today’s adventures he was sitting listening to the Rolling Stones!



Noon Report

DATE: 1/26/11

TIME: GMT +5.5 12:00 NOON

POSITION: 08 12.777N 077 04.017E


COG: 307




TEMP: 31C 88F








Noon Report

Time gmt+5.5 12 noon Position 07 24 25 N 078 52 06 E

2 metre seas wind n ne 25 knots

Way too bouncy. This is no fun. Meals are ice cream and cake but that isn’t even fun in this ride. Randal says the further north west we go the smoother it will get. At about 5.2 k average speed that will take a while but still should only have 2 more nights.

Written by Ru so not very technical.

Departing Sri Lanka

We will be departing Sri Lanka sometime this afternoon, Monday the 24th. The weather between here and the tip of India is not ideal but apparently normal for this time of year. It is likely that once we are out of the protected harbor we will go more northerly than the direct route and stay close to the Sri Lankan coast gradually turning to the NW to avoid the biggest of the waves. The tip of India and protection from the NE wind is roughly 200 NM away so it will take a day and a half to reach. Once we pass that mark wind and seas will be greatly diminished.

We should reach Cochin sometime Thursday the 27th.