A sense of adventure
by Tim Thomas, David Pelly
Red Dragon (52m, Alloy Yachts/2007)
Choosing to head to a region that has hit the headlines in recent months as a centre of pirate attacks seems an unlikely start point for a successful voyage, but for Red Dragon a Dubois-designed sloop built for efficient performance cruising it was an easy decision to make.
Ive done the Indian Ocean so many times, there wasnt a huge amount of planning to do, says her captain, Ben Marshall. The reason I like the Indian Ocean is because there are very few people down here, although piracy is an issue.
For this reason, Red Dragon takes considerable care over planning the security aspects of its voyages, and will always travel through hotspots with armed specialists as well as running through precise security drills. However, the rewards are considerable for those who are prepared to brave the dangerous waters en route to prime cruising grounds.
After departing Palma de Mallorca on her latest voyage of discovery in November 2008, transmitting the Suez Canal and heading safely through the Gulf of Aden, Red Dragon made for a scheduled fuel stop in Sri Lanka only to be struck by lightning which fried the electronics, meaning the compass and sextant had to be brought out for the passage to Galle. The fun didnt stop there.
We had a military escort on entering Galle in Sri Lanka, as it was during the civil war, Marshall explains. Once we were inside the port they put nets around the yacht, and at night they set off depth charges every 20 minutes to deter Tamil divers.
Once refuelled, but still without some systems, Red Dragon was hand-steered to Thailand where cruising could begin in earnest, taking in the southern Thai islands, Langkawi, Myanmar and the unspoilt Mergui archipelago, before returning to Phuket to make ready for the passage to Mahe in the Seychelles.
The outer islands of the Seychelles, particularly the Amirantes archipelago, are very special, Marshall enthuses. And as well as an abundance of fish to be caught, there is superb provisioning throughout the islands.
Alastair Maiden from Seal Superyachts in particular is superb, and he can organise all your cruising requirements in the Seychelles.
Of course, a yachts design is a key element to consider for any extended cruise. Red Dragon was designed with increased fuel capacity, says Marshall, and moreover it was decided not to carry petrol on board as it can be a real hassle finding petrol in some places. The tenders have diesel inboards and outboards so we can fuel up from the main tanks.
Since her launch three years ago, Red Dragon has put a world-girdling 73,000 miles on her log an incredible average of 83 miles per day.