Monday, 24 April 2017

14 April Lhossa

00 49.31N 073 12.41E 20m sand
Looking for a more scenic anchorage we moved a couple of miles south to be near an uninhabited island with white sand beach. There were already five other rally boats anchored in the shallow part and as we have the capability to anchor deeper we took the option of having more swinging room further out. I snorkelled on the reef and found the coral to be dead.
The rally is now just a collection of boats travelling together as Sail Maldives Yacht rally has fizzled to an end. With no Mother Ship travelling with the group as generator problems meant it never went further than Male and the rally leader, Hanyff, thumbing a lift on a single handers' boat there are no more events organised. There should have been an Ocean Festival in Gan at the conclusion but we hear nothing of dates or plans.
We stayed just one night here because we rolled all night. With the opportunity of flatter places to stay we moved on.

11 April Kolaamafushi

00 55.89N 073 11.21E 19m sand
Entering the north west channel in to Kolamafushi after sunset was easy. We had a full moon, accurate Google Earth cache and the pass is wide. The shallowest point being a very comfortable 15m. We anchored alongside Luna Blu and Alba, had dinner and went to bed. Next morning there were spinner and bottlenose dolphins playing around us.
town centre
For the last few days David has been complaining of a 'gluey' ear with slight pain. We think it is a return of the outer ear infection which he has suffered on and off since last November and we hoped there was a clinic on the island where we might ask to see a nurse or a doctor. Walking past a cafe by the harbour we were greeted by a smartly dressed man; crisp white shirt, tie, tailored trousers and leather shoes seem incongruous in a village with sand roads. Zia, as we found he was called, was the administrator at the health clinic and speaks perfect English. Hearing of David's problem with his ear he said we should definitely come to the clinic later. First his colleague, one of the two ambulance drivers on the island, showed us where to buy fresh produce (limited supplies) and a top up for the phone. When we came out of the shop Zia and another smartly dressed colleague, the financial officer from the clinic, had come with their motorbikes to take us to the clinic.
Ahmed, David and Zia

Zia took us straight in to see the doctor. Doctor M from Egypt who came for a short stay four years ago, married a local lady and is now a permanent resident was absolutely charming. He inspected the bad ear, diagnosed infected ear wax and took us into the treatment room where he and the nurse removed the wax. There is some closer to the ear drum which was too delicate to attempt and gave a prescription of ear drops to treat this. And we both had our blood pressure taken – David spot on, me borderline low, possibly not drunk enough water in the heat.
The last part of our visit was a tour of the wards and facilities of the clinic. It is all very impressive, very clean and government funded. We asked for the bill and were told it was their pleasure to be able to help us. The kindness and generosity we were shown by the people of Kolaamafushi, not just the people at the clinic, was amazing.

10 April Hithadoo, Hadhdhunmathee atoll

01 47.53N 073 22.11E 11 m sand
Sailing yet again! We departed Veymandhoo in the south id Kolhumadulu atoll crossed the deep water channel and sailed in through the wide S shaped pass on the west side of Hadhdhunmathee atoll. Mid way across the channel we hooked two dorado. These are the first dorado since we were in Australia four years ago.
two fish, one happy cat
With the booty on board we located the first of the two channels which would lead us in to the lagoon. Going in on the afternoon high water the minimum depth was 3.8m on the outer pass, a natural, albeit narrow, break in the outer reef marked by poles on either side. The second channel wasn't as clearly marked and we had to watch a fishing boat coming out to define which path we should take. Coming in there is a port hand marker on the outside, a small island to starboard and a starboard hand marker on the inside of the channel. This is a man made cut in the reef is wider but slightly shallower. Safely through we turned to starboard and picked a spot in the large lagoon in 11m sand.
We stayed overnight and made a dawn exit for a long run across the One and Half Degree Channel to North Huvadhoo atoll. Following our incoming track we arrived at the first channel and came to an abrupt halt as we grounded on the reef. We were able to back off leaving a cloud of new sand from where keel hit dead coral. It was low water and we were perhaps one or two metres to the right of our original line and found the patch of rock.
Alba was following us out and had a chuckle at our misfortune. However, we had the last laugh. They took the same line we had and they hit the same rock! On second attempts both boats kept closer to the small island side of the channel and exited without incident. A third boat, also an Amel Supermaramu, also hit the same rock. The lesson learned for leaving Hithadoo lagoon is keep east on the inner channel and try to wait for mid to high water.

To add insult to the day the wind blew on our nose and the current was against us all the way. We arrived at Kolaamafushi at 8pm. It had taken 14 hours to cover 60 miles.

Friday, 21 April 2017

8 April Veymandhoo

02 11.29N 073 05.30E 7.5m sand / multiple bommies
musical welcome
Today was a gentle sail from the north to the south of the atoll. On the way we caught a skipjack tuna which became sashimi and lighlty seared steaks for dinner.
In Veymandhoo we joined up with the rest of the rally boats which had been travelling through the eastern side of the atolls. The channel in to the lagoon is narrow and shallow. One catamaran, Hokule'a is 10m wide and had to turn away to find another anchor spot on the next atoll. A Lagoon catamaran fitted without problem. Inside we laid our anchor between bommies but got caught and David had to dive to lift the chain clear.

can I tell you a joke?
that's awful

and I'm leaving

There was a rally welcoming ceremony with coconuts for all and a performance of drumming and singing followed by a walk around the village to meet the residents.

6 April Kudafushi, Kolaumadulu atoll

02 31.24N 072 58.82E 20m sand
Another great day's sailing in westerly winds including sailing in through the wide north pass. We then turned to come back north and anchor in the more protected lee of the reef on the east side of the pass. It was possible to anchor closer to the reef and shallower but we felt the bommies were too close together to enable us to swing 360° should a squall come in the night. We have 100m of chain which enables us to go for deeper and (as we perceive it) less likely to snag the chain.
afternoon nap time
It was a breezy day for snorkelling, no diving, and not much worth getting wet for. Crews of the same four boats, Alba, Atea, Ngalawa and us went to a desert island beach for sundowners.

5 April Hulhudhlee

02 48.79N 072 50.47E 12m sand
As we have moved south and as the season progresses the wind had settled from the north west. Wee'll now be looking for anchorages with westerly protection and can sail between them. Today was a great sail south to Hulhudhlee, We went snorkelling but not diving

3 April Jinnathugua, North Nilhande atoll

03 11.91N 072 59.57E 24m sand
After our morning dive in Dhiragu we sailed out of the south pass of the atoll looking for whale sharks on the way. This is reported to be a prime site to see them but not today. We carried on to North Nilhande atoll in company with Ngalawa, Atea, Alba and Spailpin. The night was calm and in the morning David and I were in the water to give Jackster's hull a scrub. We get a lot of green fronds along the water line and David wanted to check the propeller. It rained all afternoon and games were cancelled.
drank all the beers and now I sleep

2 April Dhiragu diving

The diving in Dhiragu was good. On our first day we, us and three other dinghies, followed a local dive boat two miles out to Kudurah Thila, a submerged reef. The boat handlers invited us to tie our dinghies to their diving dhoni and the dive guide said we could tag along behind his guests. The topography of the thila is interesting with caves, over hangs and swim throughs. There was a light current sweeping across it, but so nice not to have to tow the dinghy and to know it would be up top when we surfaced.
Early afternoon we were sitting in the cockpit and saw a number of boats put snorkellers in the water a short way across the lagoon. Friends came back to say it was a manta cleaning station and the mantas were there now. Quick as possible we grabbed our kit and scooted over to the site. I was in first with direction to take the anchor and position it safely with David to follow on when he was kitted up. The depth was 13m and for five minutes it was just me and one manta sweeping over my head. Soon David glided down to join me on the sand, just relaxing and enjoying the show. After half an hour everyone, snorkellers and mantas, had left and we ascended.
Later in the afternoon we did third dive of the day. As a group we'd hired the guide from the morning's dive to show us his favourite site, Seventh Heaven. Again four dinghies bashed out through a lively sea to anchor on top of the thila. It is in the middle of the sea, no visible reference on the surface until you are directly over the shallower top. David went first and secured the anchor. The rest of us followed down the anchor line in a bodice ripper current. The dive guide had no kit so stayed as surface cover. It was a beautiful site but the strong current and lack of local knowledge hampered our navigation around the bommie and we surfaced after 45 minutess.
Next morning we did a drift dive along the south wall of the pass towing our dinghy. This was close to the anchorage on an incoming tide in calm conditions. We saw sharks, turtles and lobster and finished our dive on top of the reef in 5m close to where we had crossed with Jackster.

31 March Dhiragu, S Ari atoll

and the band played on
03 32.09N 072 55.48E 11m sand
To enter the lagoon we crossed over the reef to the south of the village at the narrowest point where we had 5m of crystal clear water. Inside the lagoon we had simply to choose a spot away from bommies and away from the sound of the island generator.
beach welcome
There was a well organised welcoming ceremony for the rally boats; coconut drinks, the drumming band and a demonstration of island handicrafts. Dhiragu is different to many of the other islands we have visited because it has a well developed infrastructure for tourism run by the local people and a few expats. There are guests houses and dive operators, restaurants and souvenir shops.

everyone made an effort for us

pounding rice

ironing without electricity

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

30 March Dash back to Male

We'd left Rasdhoo at 1 o'clock and motored all the way back to Hulhumale, 32nm, arriving an hour after sunset. Because we'd been here before and knew the anchorage we felt confident to enter and anchor. Luckily for us it was Wednesday night and most of the live aboards were out on trips, Friday and Saturday being change over days leaving a large gap where we had anchored before.
Next morning, Thursday, we were in Male centre before the shops opened at 10am. There are almost as many dive supply shops as in Chalong, Phuket. Not as many and not with the variety and range of Phuket, but enough to be allow us to try on different manufacturers. Our final choice was Mares for functionality, quality and value. We popped into a filter shop and bought half a dozen diesel fuel filters which we'd missed on the last visit, picked up some more fresh food items and were on the 1 o'clock ferry back to Hulhumale. With no reason to hang around Hulhumale for a second night we lifted the anchor and moved 8 miles south to a completely indifferent, but convenient, night stop in the next atoll south of Male.