Sunday, 7 May 2017

7 May Gan - the final port

We're in our final few hours of our visit to the Maldives. The fuel tank and spare jerry jugs are filled, the freezer and fridge are filled to bursting, sun covers down, jack lines fitted and the waypoints for Chagos entered in to the chart plotter.
We enjoyed the islands and the diving was good, not superb as it once was. However, for us, joining the Sail Maldives Yacht Rally detracted from our full enjoyment. We have to admit we are not rally people, but the poor planning, poor management and the experience of clearing out, the last memory you take away from a country.  The rally fizzled out after Male when the support ship suffered a generator malfunction and didn't go further than Male. From thereon the rally boats did their own thing and the experience improved. It was good to travel with friends, to share diving and snorkelling trips, sunset drinks on the beach and the camaraderie of fellow sailors.
Then we arrived in Gan sent our request to the rally organiser, Ahmed Adeel CEO of Luxury Resorts, ten days ahead of our planned departure date. Yachts that were not in the rally and had engaged Real Seahawks as their agent cleared in less than 48 hours. From our first email to ask to prpepare clearance papers to our depaeture day has been 17 days! Every question asking when? returned the answer tomorrow.
In our time in Gan, just over a week we went for dinner at the Equator hotel, sampled most of the menu at the Seahouse, shopped for food - finding a decent fresh vegetable is like a treasure hunt. The call goes out new supplies are arriving this afternoon and by evening the shelves have been picked clean by the swarming locusts. Potatoes have been trickiest, quickly followed by bananas. In tropical country where banana plants flourish.
Overall we are very glad we came to the Maldives, it is The Most Expensive country in terms of agency and government fees and taxes we have visited making Galapagos look cheap by comparison, but we sail to see, not to save.
Next stop Chagos where there are no local villages, no shops and no internet. If our schedule goes to plan we should arrive in Rodriguez, Mauritius in early to mid June. Bye for now.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

20 April Thinadhoo

00 32.03N 073 06.22E 6.5m sand
Staying on the west side of the atoll we moved 7nm south to the town of Thinadhoo. The anchorage is a sandy lagoon accessed through a 3.5m channel. The water is cloudy so you don't see the occasional bommie within the lagoon. We first noticed the floats and then on a clear day the dark patched beneath the floats. We were one of six boats in the lagoon and there was plenty of room for all of us.

ferry terminal

tuna boat
Thinadhoo has a large tuna fishing fleet and regular ferry service to the other islands. Filling up with diesel and water is simple. Diesel is delivered to the boats by tanker and potable water can be taken on at the ice plant. We phoned the fuel company and asked them to bring a tanker and the water man to be there at the same time. We lifted anchor, motored up to the wharf and David backed us up to the wall where we tied off to one of the tuna boats. It didn't take long to pump 240L of diesel (47p per litre) and 850L of water (£6 for 1000L).
Thinadhoo is a well supplied little town with two ATMs, half a dozen hardware shops, one of which had diversified to sell ice cream cones, a bakery, well stocked (by Maldives standards) food stores and a chandlery. It has cafes and restaurants with limited menus. You could have fried rice but only with tinned tuna. Odd when the tuna boats were landing their catch within sight of where we sat. There was no chicken or beef, just tinned tuna. Therefore it isn't surprising that the shop with ice creams sold between 500 and 800 a day! There was always a queue.
testing the ice cream
Last week the pump for our freshwater system failed; it couldn't build pressure and was running continually unless you switched off the power feed. David fitted the spare pump which we had bought in NZ five years ago only to find it leaked because the diaphragm was faulty. Fortunately for us the chandlery not only had a Jabsco water pump, but the less common 24V version.

When the other yachts left and motored 80nm to Gan in Addu atoll we stayed with German catamaran Relax waiting for a forecast westerly wind to be able sail the distance. We didn't have to wait long for our westerlies and enjoyed a comfortable overnight trip to Gan – our final port of call in Maldives before we continue on to Chagos.

18 April Meradhoo

00 36.21N 073 05.56E 24m sand / occasional coral
Today we learned you can have one thing, bit not two. We got the internet for weather downloads and David's ear is too sore for him to get in the water.
It doesn't look it from the sea side but the resort on Meradhoo is the 5 star Jumeirah – same company as the 7 star Al Jumeirah hotel in Dubai. We were less than a mile away and they didn't come over to ask us to leave as I believe may happens when you are too close to a resort.
Alba joined us for one night and did one (poor) dive with them on a bommie. David missed the dive because he is recovering from an ear infection. However, he didn't miss sundowners on Alba later.

16 April Fulangi

00 48.45N 073 11.53E 24m sand / occasional coral
This is a crescent of reef with a passes to the north and to the south and a small island in the north. With Alba we did two dives on nearby bommies – not much live coral bit plenty of fish to watch. This is an away from it all place with a faint internet connection.

15 April Kendheraa

00 43.21N 073 15.17e 21m sand / occasional coral
We anchored here in company with Alba, Ngalawa, Hokule'a and Luna Blu and we were all invited to Ngalawa for drinks in the evening. During the day we had done two nice dives on bommies with Alba. Nice because we could anchor our dinghies on top of the reef and swim around the bommie until we were ready to surface. The coral was in better condition than many other places we've been.

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.