Good Morning Diego Garcia—Excerpt Chapter 10


Trincomalee, Sri Lanka 1975

She grabbed my hand and practically pulled me down the gangplank.

By the time we left the dock and walked along the main road to town, I could feel negative energy building and billowing around us. I stopped twice; once I suggested we go back to the boat.

Why?” Mia asked.

So you can change clothes; show respect for the local culture.”

It’s not my culture,” Mia retorted. “And I’m not local.” She kept walking.

I trailed behind with a growing feeling of dread.

Come on,” she said. “I want to show you something.”

By the time she neared the entrance to the souk, word had spread about an indecently dressed woman walking the main street in the direction of the souk. An angry, vocal mob awaited her arrival.

I stopped again. Mia shrugged her shoulders and motioned me to hurry up. She was in a defiant mood and seemed clueless to the mounting danger.

Mia,” I begged. “Please go back to the boat.”

Why should I?” she yelled back.

They’re angry at you.”

Why?” She tossed her long, dark hair aside and kept strutting toward the entrance.

Because of the way you’re dressed.”

I don’t care,” she announced, walking on laughing.

As hostility swelled, the crowd grew larger. More villagers joined to show their support.

I stopped every few feet, hoping to reverse this scene.

When Mia reached the main entrance, the crowd surrounded her and began heckling her. They blocked her from entering the souk.
Whap! I heard the loud thud of a rock hit a wall. And another Whap! “Oh my God,” I gasped. They’re attacking her.

Whap! Zap! Thud! I heard Mia scream. The villagers were hurling sticks and stones at her.

Run,” I yelled, “back to the boat.”

Whap! Whap, whap, whap! Mia screamed again. I saw her turn and push people aside.

Run!” I shouted.

She took off running in the direction of the harbor, with the crowd chasing close behind. They continued to pelt her with whatever they could pick up and throw.

I slowed to a stop, took a deep breath, and covered my thumping heart with outstretched hands. I listened to my heart beat, and hoped Mia was outrunning the angry crowd.

The Tamil man from the cafe (where Charles and I had breakfast) was standing outside his restaurant as I passed by. He smiled and greeted me in English. “Your friend behaved badly,” he said. “Indecent expo­sure is against the law in Sri Lanka.”

I know,” I said. “I’m sorry.” I shook my head, not believing what I had just witnessed. How could anyone travel the world (as she had) and not be aware of local customs in different countries. A total lack of respect. Chutzpah, as they say in Israel.


Good Morning Diego Garcia—Excerpt Chapter 9

Trincomalee, Sri Lanka 1975

The sun lowered and began its descent. Time to stop for the day and go
to dinner. Alon insisted on staying with the boat, and urged Dylan to
go with us and enjoy an evening out. Dylan agreed, if we could stop on
the way and check on the navigational charts at the ship’s agents office.
The clerk was on the phone when we stopped by. Dylan suggested he
wait and meet us at the Chinese restaurant.

He joined us a few minutes later and announced, “still no charts.”
“Unbelievable,” Mia said, “We’ve been waiting for weeks.”
“What are the charts for exactly?” I asked.
“Nautical charts of the Indian Ocean, from Trincomalee to the
Seychelles,” Dylan answered. “Maps showing water depth, buoys,
obstructions; information which ensures safe passage.”
“They sound essential,” I said.
Mia nodded in agreement and rolled her eyes.
“I’ll give them another week,” Dylan said.

A smiling waiter took our drink order.
Dylan and Charles ordered beer. Mia ordered tea.
“Wine for me, please!” I said.
Since Mia and Dylan had eaten here many times, we suggested they
order their favorite dishes.
They did and more too; wanting of course to have plenty to take back
to the boat for Alon.
“Can you sail without charts?” I asked Dylan.
“Best not to,” he answered, “but if necessary, I can navigate by the stars.”
“Celestial navigation,” Charles said. “I’m impressed.”
Dylan looked excited at the thought, and smiled.
“Your eyes sparkle like Sinbad the Sailor at the idea,” I said.
Dylan laughed.
“You’ve read about him?” I asked.
“Of course. He was a gutsy dude.”
“And story teller,” I added.
“Famous for his adventures and navigational skills,” Charles said.
“He saved a ship and found a map to the hidden treasures of Alexander
the Great. And he had all those fantastic adventures without charts,”
Dylan said.
We laughed, clinked our glasses of drinks and toasted, “L’chaim!
Without charts!”
The food was amazing. We left fully indulged, and I wondered if our
cuisine would be as tasty in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Somehow,
I doubted it.

Good Morning Diego Garcia—Excerpt Chapter 8

Trincomalee, Sri Lanka

July 1975

We wandered around town and found a small cafe.
“Isn’t this one our taxi driver also recommended?” I asked Charles.
“Yes.” Charles nodded.
We went inside and ordered toasted cheese and meat sandwiches. No
coffee, but tea was served and it was delicious.
“Ceylon tea,” the waiter said proudly. “Best in the world.”
“Your English is good,” I said.
“Thank you! I worked on cargo ships for many years. I sailed all over
the world.”
“Are you a Sri Lankan?”
“Yes. I returned home to look after my family.” he said, looking around
to make sure no one else was in the cafe. “We’re Tamils.”
“We read about the Tamil Tigers in the newspaper,” Charles said.
“We’re calling for an independent state, where we are respected,” the
waiter said.
“I understand,” I replied. “Are the Tamils a minority in Sri Lanka?”
“Yes, and we’ve formed a group to fight for our rights. There is no other
alternative. We will fight to the end.”
Charles and I sat silently, taking it all in.
“I’ll bring you more tea,” the waiter said.
“Is it the group the police think took the dingy from the boat?” I whispered
to Charles.
Charles nodded.

The waiter returned with more tea. Charles ordered another sandwich.
I told the waiter our nice taxi driver, from Colombo, had recommended
his cafe.
“My cousin,” he said, and in a hushed voice warned us not to talk publicly
about the politics of Sri Lanka. “It’s not safe.”
“In America,” I said, “minorities also have to fight for their rights.”
He nodded.
“Your cousin is a nice man,” I said.
He smiled. “He also sailed the seas for many years. But the Indian
Ocean is different because of the mawsim.”
“Mawsim?” I asked.
“Monsoon in English. Arabic in origin, mawsim means fixed season.
In the North the winds blow from the northeast from November to
March, and then switch and blow from the southwest. The fixed seasons
are called the Northeast and Southwest Monsoons.”
“Is this what causes cyclones?” Charles asked.
“No,” the waiter said. “Cyclones are tropical storms. They form over
tropical oceans with high winds of hurricane force.”
“Oh dear,” I said. “They sound dangerous.”
“If you cross the Indian Ocean in mawsim season, you are guaranteed
a few cyclones.”
Charles asked a few more questions about the Trincomalee area and
asked for the bill.

Going out the front door, I almost tripped over a grossly disfigured
man sitting on the sidewalk, leaning against the wall, outside the cafe.
He held a tin cup, hoping for coins. I asked Charles to give him some
Our waiter appeared in the doorway and told us to drop the coins in
the cup.
“He’s a leper. An outcast,” the waiter said. “Sits here most days. I feel
sorry for him.”
My mind reeled, remembering images I’d seen of leper colonies in
films. Leprosy was common in Bible times, and was used as an example
of sin’s destructive power. ‘Unclean, unclean,’ a leper was expected
to call out. To think, this terrifying disease has been around since
ancient times. The thought made me shudder. Why was this man here
and not in a leper colony? Why wasn’t he receiving help?
“Isn’t leprosy an infectious disease?” I asked Charles.
“Yes, but not so contagious. Children are more likely to get it than adults.”
“From contact with body fluids?”
“Yes. From someone with untreated leprosy.” Charles answered. “That’s
why our waiter told us to drop the coins in his cup.”
“What a horrible disease,” I said. “Remember the man we saw in India
with the giant elephant legs? Elephantiasis?”
Charles nodded.
“Everyone else was so skinny; people and cows. And the poor man
could barely move with his heavy legs.”

We stopped in the crowded souk. Colorful displays of green beans,
carrots, peas, and yams got our attention, and the prominent exhibit
of fresh fish impressed me. The market was alive with noise and the
sweet smell of spices and local fruits. One stand was cooking freshly
made stuffed patties. We bought several, and some fresh fruit to take
back to the boat.
Processed milk products were relatively new to Sri Lanka and local
cheese was hard to come by. We found a cheese made from powdered
milk; bought a small piece and sampled it. Not the tastiest, but hey
when in Sri Lanka.
We discussed whether to buy a chicken or seafood, and decided to
wait until we talked with Mia about what foods were needed on board.
“I suspect Mia is a bit territorial in her kitchen,” I told Charles.
“No doubt,” he replied.
The locals were friendly and helpful. A few spoke some English, but
we mainly communicated by pointing. “International sign language
is amazing,” I remarked, as we headed back to the boat.



Good Morning Diego Garcia—Excerpt Chapter 7


Trincomalee, Sri Lanka
July 1, 1975

Nearing the port city of Trincomalee, our driver pointed out shops
and restaurants which might be of interest.

“Only a short distance to the port,” he said. “What is the name of the yacht you will sail on?”

“Zozo,” Charles told him. “I’m sure if you drop us at the entrance to the port we can find our way.”

“No problem,” he said. “I’ll take you there. I have family who work in the port.”

“Oh thank you! Our suitcases are heavy,” I said, remembering all the books I had packed to read during the ocean crossing

Entering the port, our driver asked for directions to the yacht and
drove us a few hundred feet to a concrete quay. The Zozo was docked
alongside a Greek oil tanker. There were dozens of big tankers in the bay. The yacht looked small by comparison.

We unloaded suitcases, paid our driver, and thanked him for his
excellent service.

“I hope you enjoy your stay in Sri Lanka,” he said, nodding goodbye.

Charles called to Dylan and we climbed the gangplank to the boat.

Dylan answered, “Come on up!” He squatted on deck neatly arranging
ropes. “You made it.”

“A few days later than planned. We couldn’t get out of India.”

“Because of ‘The Emergency’?” Dylan asked.

“Yes. Every flight was full or delayed,” Charles answered.

Dylan showed us to our stateroom below and said Mia and Alon had
gone into the village for supplies and should return soon.

“Alon?” I asked. “Mia’s brother sailed with you?”

“Yes, he’s a great help.” Dylan answered.

He showed us the bathroom and sauna, and explained the sauna and
other luxuries all stop working once under sail and on the open sea.

We unpacked our suitcases. Charles went above to help Dylan sort
the ropes. I stayed in our room and put things away in drawers. I was impressed with the abundance of drawers and the nice size closet. I hung our windbreakers and clothes, put swim suits and underwear in a drawer, and placed my new, non-slip deck shoes on the closet floor. Not one for wearing hats, I put those in a top drawer along with sun protection lotion, a deck of cards, and high powered binoculars. I jotted thoughts in my journal.

Zozo? Where do I know this name from?

When I heard Mia and Alon return, I joined them on deck. I was surprised to see Mia dressed in hot pants and a scanty top. Why does she dress like this when visiting foreign countries with conservative dress codes? I wondered, remembering her almost nude attire when I first met her in Cyprus. Her risqué manner of dress; more undressed than dressed, reminded me of the voluptuous L’il Abner female comic strip characters who ran around half-naked. Men didn’t seem to mind. And, it didn’t seem to bother Dylan either.

“Hi Mia,” I greeted her.

She smiled and said, “Welcome aboard!”

Alon greeted me with a bright smile. A young, handsome man, he
looked like a suntan lotion advertisement. Tan and fit, with perfect
white teeth.

“Alon, nice to see you again,” I said.

Mia made fresh coffee. We joined her in the galley below.

India rope trick?


I’ve been busy writing my next book about crossing the Indian Ocean in 1975 during an extreme monsoon season. For several days now, I’ve gone back in time to Bombay, India where I played tourist before flying onto Sri Lanka and boarding a yacht I would help crew from Trincomalle, Sri Lanka to the Seychelles. Fortunately, notes from my travel journal about this exciting adventure have stirred vivid images.

As a writer, I delve into making descriptions in my story come alive for readers. Yesterday as I wrote about the highlights of Bombay, I remembered my shock at seeing not one but two snake charmers sitting on street corners of Bombay in June 1975. Even though this practice had been banned since 1972, it was for me mind boggling and very strange that people wanted to see sedated cobras and vipers dance in a basket to the vibrations of their master playing flute music. When I had researched the practice before visiting India, it had seemed cruel to keep snakes captive, de-fanged, sedated, and starved in order to entertain tourists.

I didn’t join the crowd around the snake charmers in Bombay; so didn’t see the scene up close. The hotel clerk had warned us of pickpockets who pushed and preyed on curious tourists who were busy watching this inhuman practice.

Happy to report that the snake charming business is prohibited by Indian Wildlife laws; both the python and cobra are now listed under endangered species of wildlife,  thus discouraging this practice.

I was however hoping to see a magician perform an Indian rope trick. Unfortunately,  I didn’t see any baskets filled with levitating ropes ascending skyward. Have you ever seen the Indian rope trick?

La Cuisine Seychelloise


I was introduced to La Cuisine Seychelloise in August 1975, after a private yacht I helped crew docked in the port of Victoria, Mahe, Seychelles on the day after the Assumption Day festivities had ended.

By late morning we received clearance from the port authorities, and my husband and I were allowed to step ashore on the tropical paradise archipelago of the Seychelles. We had spent thirty days of mostly hellish weather in monsoon season crossing the Indian Ocean (from Sri Lanka to Diego Garcia) and another week of battering storms from Diego Garcia to the Seychelles. Physically and emotionally drained, we asked the English Captain to give us permission to disembark in Port Victoria. Knowing he needed crew to sail on up through the Suez Canal, he was reluctant to let us go. But knowing we were unhappy about the weird things happening on board between him and his crazy Israeli girlfriend (that’s another story!), he finally agreed to give us our passports and allow us to leave the yacht with our belongings. Prior to this adventure, I knew nothing about Maritime law and a captain’s supreme authority to do just about anything he wants, including not allowing passengers to leave the ship.

Grateful to touch solid ground again, I took a few deep breaths and shed happy tears. No more rubber sea legs, sea sickness, and no more being chained to the railing when working on deck. We had somehow managed to survive storm after storm, giant wave after walls of giant waves, and were now free to walk about on earth again. In paradise no less. Our first stop was the bank to exchange money. Next stop, lunch at a restaurant in the harbor! Real food? What a treat! Our eyes of course were bigger than our stomachs and we ordered more than we could possibly eat. We asked an Australian couple, dining at a table near by, for lodging recommendations. They immediately referred us to a private B & B owned by Eveline Man-Cham. “Her cooking is the finest,” the woman told me. “The country’s traditional cuisine. Creole cooking! You’ll want to eat there all the time.”

After lunch, and receiving numerous tourist tips from the waiters and other diners, we hired a taxi to take us to Mrs. Man-Cham’s place. We checked in and were given a snack of fried breadfruit cakes with afternoon tea. I oohed and aah-ed, and asked for the recipe. Mind you I didn’t have a clue what breadfruit was but Mrs. Man-Cham was happy to show me the breadfruit trees and explain the variety of ways the Seychelloise used it in cooking and baking. She invited us to join them for dinner before we left to explore the nearby beaches.

“I’ve prepared ladob patat for dessert,” she said as we were leaving. I obviously looked confused. She smiled and added, “sweet potato pudding.”

“Sounds delicious,” I replied. “We’ll join you.”

I spent hours walking along the beautiful white sandy beaches letting the topaz water tickle my toes. No one in sight. Heaven on earth! My husband enjoyed snorkeling and we sat on the beach and watched a glorious sunset.

Later that evening we enjoyed an exquisite dinner. Mouth watering delicious, from the Soupe de Tectec ((clam cooked in tomatoes, garlic and ginger), to the Gros Bourgeois de L’Ile Mahe (baked snapper with sauce), to the Cochon de lait rÙti (roasted pig), served with the Salade De Millionnaire (palmheart), followed by a Beignet de Giraumon (Pumpkin Donut), and last but not least the Ladob Patat.

We tried a few local restaurants during our three week holiday in the Sychelles, but always returned to Mrs. Man-Cham’s for the finest Creole Cuisine Seychelloise (a mix of Chinese, Indian, and French flavors).

On the morning of our departure, Mrs. Man-Cham presented me with a copy of her cookbook, 4th Edition 1973. I’ve treasured it all these years and often use her recipes.

Her son, Sir James R. Mancham became the Founding President of the Republic of Seychelles when the country became an independent sovereign State on the 29th of June 1976. Sometime later, I heard on the news that when he went to England, to attend the Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, he was deposed in a bloodless coup. A bloodless coup? Now that could only happen in paradise.


Paradise on Earth


The closest I got to the wilds of Africa was in August, 1975 when a yacht I helped crew from Sri Lanka sailed into the port city of Victoria on Mahé —the largest island of the tropical paradise archipelago of the Seychelles.

After eight treacherous days of heavy weather and a turbulent crossing, from Diego Garcia (the top secret British-American military base in the Indian Ocean), we sighted the Port Victoria beacon. “Yea!” the crew cheered. We tried numerous times to reach the port authorities by radio, but no one answered. According to our calendar it was a holiday—Ascension Day. Having lost our anchor and not wanting to get beached on a corral reef, as we had in Diego Garcia, we let down our sails and drifted for the night. Luckily, it was a calm night.

The next morning, we tried again and again to make radio contact. No luck. Surely they had received word from the British Rep in Diego Garcia that we had no charts to guide us into port and no anchor to sit it out. We waited a few more hours, then tried again. In full view of this idyllic island, bobbing in a gorgeous bay caressed by the turquoise waters of Mahé, I didn’t even entertain the idea of ascending into heaven. I longed to simply step foot on this paradise on earth.

After many unanswered calls to the port authority, our captain decided we must make our way into the safety of the inner harbor before dark and find some way to tie onto something. Seeing no one in sight, we drifted in. Surely someone would meet us as we entered.. A man came running out along the dock, waving his arms and yelling, “Go, go back out to sea and wait until tomorrow.” Megaphone in hand, our captain explained our dire situation of not having an anchor on board. The man listened, then agreed we could tie onto a buoy near the dock and wait out the night.

So wait we did. And after many weeks at sea, that night I dreamed of eating fresh fruit and walking barefoot along the white sandy shore.

And  the following day …  I did just that.

Amazing Moments!


A friend recently returned from a safari in Africa where she saw and photographed magnificent animals in the wild. Her photos reminded me of my visit to Sri Lanka long ago.

The year was 1975. While living on the island of Cyprus in 1974, before the Greek coup and subsequent Turkish invasion, I met a Swedish millionaire who had yachts bobbing in ports around the world. He had just purchased a new yacht from Taiwan and needed crew to sail it from Taiwan back to the Mediterranean.

Following the upheaval of the war, the captain of the yacht contacted us (my then husband and me) and asked if we would work as crew on the leg from Sri-Lanka back to Cyprus. I remember thinking, oh wow, the adventure of a life time! Mind you I was not a sailor, had never steered a boat, and knew nothing about hoisting and lowering sails. But being curious and always open for learning, I thought why not? So off we flew to join the yacht’s crew.

Arriving in Sri Lanka by plane from Bombay (since renamed Mumbai), we landed near the capital city of Colombo in the western province late at night and discovered that trains and buses weren’t operating and wouldn’t be until the following morning. After negotiating with a taxi driver for the five-hour drive, we placed our suitcases in the trunk of his small car, hopped into the back seat and headed northeast on a two-lane road to the deep-sea port of Trincomalee. Our driver stopped at his house in the outskirts of Colombo to pick up a toolbox. ‘Just in case,’ he told us. He stopped again to fill the tank with gas and off we went through the jungle one magical, full-moon night.

“Wow, wow, did you see that?” I asked again, and again as I spotted one wild beast after another roaming and rummaging in the fields for food alongside the road. “Was that a leopard?” I asked watching a rather large spotted cat leap across tall grass and pounce on something.

“Our number one predator,” our driver explained (in beautiful English). He spoke about the beauty of his beloved country and boasted about the wondrous variety of wildlife living in Sri Lanka.

“I hope we see elephants,” I said. “I love elephants.”

“They’re everywhere, roaming free.” He smiled.

I listened intently to his stories, awe struck by his love of nature. Just before dawn he slowed the car, turned off the headlights, and switched off the car engine.

“This is where the elephants cross,” he said. We waited and watched, searching for movement in the thicket of trees lining the road.

“Look!” I whispered, pointing. “An elephant …”  I took a deep breath and watched as a large elephant emerged from the brush,  followed by a baby. Moments later, another large elephant pushed shrubs aside and moved forward, crossing the road with a calf close behind. More followed—old and young. I watched the herd as they ambled across the road. We waited  a few minutes for stragglers. None followed.

“No elephant crossing signs needed,” he said, starting the engine.  “They always cross here.”

Nearing the port of Trincomalee, we passed a man walking down the main road with a young elephant by his side. Our driver pulled his car off the road and got out. “One moment,” he said, asking us to wait. He spoke with the man and then motioned for us to join them.

“You can pet him. He likes people.” He waved us closer.

“Oh wow,” I said, giggling when the elephant swung his trunk and pointed it at me. The young elephant waggled his head and wiggled his body as if he wanted to play. I moved forward and he snuggled up to me. “Ah,” I said, patting his head. He opened his mouth wide. I giggled again and patted his smooth tongue with the palm of my hand. He seemed to smile. “Wow!” I said again and snuggled closer.

Our driver indicated it was time to go. I patted the young calf on the head and thanked him. I bowed to the man. I couldn’t believe my luck. I had snuggled with an elephant and patted his tongue. “Wow!” I said again.

We spent several weeks in port, preparing supplies for the trip and waiting on charts to sail to the Seychelles. I patted many elephants while there. Once I touched them, they seemed to know me and remembered our unique connection. I marveled each time at their extraordinary keen senses and their astounding awareness of the world around them.

We ended up setting sail, across the Indian Ocean, without charts because the ship’s agent couldn’t get them and the captain seemed anxious to get going.

But that’s another story …  with many more amazing moments. In Sri Lanka I learned that elephants don’t need crossing signs to cross the road. But road signs do help drivers know where to slow down for the extraordinary elephants.