Political Unrest and Routing Decisions
- Planning your route is not just about weather anymore - part 1.

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A year ago we had to make a decision that practically changed the rest of our lives. We were on our way from Thailand across the Arabian Sea heading for the Mediterranean, only 3,000 nm away. The plan was to buy a house in Italy or Spain and eventually move ashore. Instead we made a U-turn in the Maldives and returned to Thailand. The distance to our ultimate location suddenly increased by 15,000 nm and at least two years. The reason, of course, was the worsening Somali piracy development.

Regarding routing alternatives across the Indian Ocean, see next story.
Click on the map for a larger copy.

Now, a year later, just as we are preparing to leave Thailand again to sail the longer route, around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa via the Maldives, we get the news of political unrest in the Maldives. The country's first democratically elected president had been forced to resign, there were riots in Male and protesters were burning down police stations in Gan, the country's second largest city.

A democracy not even four years old is crushed. Apparently the old regime (supporters of dictator Gayoom) teamed up with the minority of hard-line Islamists and with corrupt businessmen, (resort owners) who knew that greater transparency would threaten their interests, to force the democratically elected president out.

We have stumbled upon political unrest many times before during our cruising history. The night before we arrived i Ecuador the president decided to leave the country on a non scheduled night flight. In Tonga we barely got out of the Capital Nukualofa before the protesters burned down several houses and in Fiji, just before our arrival, General Baninirama decided to take charge of that country with the help of the army. But we never experienced any problems personally.

Recently, the last two years, there have been a lot of political unrest here in Thailand, although most of the activity has taken place in Bangkok and further north. We were never really worried about these actions either.

The Maldives (400,000 inhabitants) are very dependent on tourism with almost a million visitors a year to the so called resort islands. They would be very stupid to scare the tourists away, which very quickly would be the result of a period of major unrest.

However, there are some special features to the present unrest in the Maldives, that cause us to monitor the situation more closely. If this was a case of "normal" political unrest there would probably be little to worry about for a foreign cruiser. What makes us more alert this time, particularly with all the recent unrest in the muslim world, is the question if this is an indication of the rise of hard-line, radical islamist power in this strategically located 100% muslim country.

We can see you, but you wont see us.

Traditionally cruising has been quite straight forward. Plans used to be made based on weather patterns alone. This has clearly changed during the last few years. What makes it even more complicated is the fact that even the weather patterns are changing or are at least less reliable than before. But it is probably still easier, with careful planning, to stay out of the way of a natural cyclone than a pirate attack or a political revolution.

February 15, 2012. At anchor in Phuket, Thailand.

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