FROM THE LOG #77

Cruising from Male to Gan
Buddy Boating in the Maldives

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Crossing the line
(Click on any photo or map for a blow up)
On the 2nd of April we left Male and started to make our way south, with the aim to get to Gan, on the southernmost atoll of Addu in two weeks, before our visas would expire. We were in company with the Finnish yacht ELAINE, an Arcona 43, with Kalle and Helinä onboard.
The skyline of Male as we are passing by heading south
We had spent a useful week in Male, where provisioning is quite good, and also had our water and fuel tanks topped up very conveniently from barges. You just call them on the phone and they arrive to your boat and hand over the hoses - much easier than going alongside a dirty dock, as we had done in Galle, not to mention jerry-jugging by hand, which is the method in many places. A couple of times we went to have dinner at the airport hotel, where we even could order some wine with our food, which is forbidden to Maldivians by law.
A fresco of the Hulule airport hotel
The trip through the atolls required, again, some careful planning as there are very few secure anchorages. The depths rise from between 30 and 50 metres to zero in no time and there is normally no protection from 180 degrees of the compass, because you are anchoring somewhere on the rim of a donut shaped atoll. We made the trip in 11 days, staying only one night in each anchorage. Twice we sailed over night because the distances were over 50 nm and it was necessary to arrive with good visibility. For those following in our wake I have described all our anchorages in the Past Places-section.
Eyeball-navigation: view from the spreaders.
A reef to port.
The Green Flash Anchored behind a reef
During the years we have now and then teamed up with other yachts for a while, usually a couple of weeks. It is called buddy boating and is great fun, but also adds to safety and security. It feels good to know that there is another yacht close if something goes wrong. We got an example of this when Elaine's anchor got stuck under a coral head at our second anchorage. We took Scorpio alongside of her while Kalle dived to free the anchor. Fortunately it was a calm day and everything went easy and well, but should Elaine had started drifting once the anchor was free (we were quite close to a reef) Scorpio would have been able to motor both yachts to safe waters.
Scorpio (in the lower part of the photo) is assisting Elaine, whose anchor had been caught on a foul sea bed (= wrapped around a coral head).
 
Kalle going down the chain A rough anchorage on a lee shore
Elaine is rocking her tackle

We stopped at the following atolls: South Male (Part of Kaafu), Vaavu, Laamu, Gaafu, Gnaviani and finally Addu. These are the administrative names of the atolls and easier to remember than most of the geographical names. Most of the time we were forced to motor in calm seas but, typically, one night a thunder squall blew up winds from the wrong direction putting us on a lee shore. Consequently we spent that night in the cockpit anchor-watching and then quickly left the anchorage at first light.

After a night of little sleep we were ready to splurge for convenience, so I called the resort on Hadahaa island to find out if it would be possible to pick up one of their moorings and visit the restaurant. After a lot of negotiating, benefitting from my past lawyer skills, we came to an agreement, according to which we were granted right to use two moorings, provided we spent a minimum of USD 100 per person at the resort.

Sight seeing at Hadahaa resort We rented a mooring at this resort - USD 200! No typical cruiser

We were very nicely treated by the very friendly staff and enjoyed our stay, getting a good night's sleep after a good meal, with the yachts tied to secure moorings. However, the aftermath became less pleasant. As I am going to tell more in detail elsewhere on this web site, they charged our credit cards with an extra USD 100 per person (800 dollars for 4 persons!). I had to act the lawyer again, but it took several weeks and a lot of frustration before all was corrected.

One of the friendliest places we visited was the village of Kolamaafushi in Gaafu Alifu (North Gaafu atoll). The anchorage is better protected from all around the compass than is usual, even though there can be an uncomfortable swell from the entrance gap at high tide.

Island time at Kolamaafushi Just married! Selling non-alcoholic beer
Ahmed with his youngest Two of Ahmed's sons The oldest son had domesticated a sea bird
Taking the dinghies to the town basin at Kolamaafushi (where you actually could take the yacht for complete protection if necessary), we happened to meet Ahmed - sailor, fisherman and originally tailor. He offered to give us a tour of the island, which we gratefully accepted. When we parted, Ahmed gave us his phone number, in case we ever needed advice, and he also put us in contact with a friend of his at the island of Foamullah, which would prove very useful.
Foamullah harbour: Scorpio and Elaine can be seen behind the dive boat, tied alongside the outer quay at the break-water
This photo illustrates how much space locals boats occupy.
In this case a dive-safari boat - far off the quay with lines almost to the other side of the basin.
There are other boats in the harbour on the right hand side (not visible here) doing the same.
We had to proceed very carefully on a slalom-like track to avoid getting our prop fouled - which would be impossible in the dark.
On the way from Gaafu atoll to Foamullah we crossed the Equator for the third time, at longitude 73°08.79'E. We didn't think any particular ceremonies were required as we were already well known to King Neptune, regarding ourselves as senior Shellbacks. We did allow ourselves a cold beer each, that's all. However, we hadn't been tied to the quay at Foamullah for many minutes when we heard of a tsunami-warning. Maybe we should have given the God of the Sea some tribute after all. As all navigators know well, Neptune is fickle. He played an important role in ancient rituals just as he does in today's initiations into the Orders of the Deep. At his slightest whim, Neptune, it was believed, might throw a storm into the path of a ship - or maybe a tsunami. We decided it wasn't prudent to stay in the harbour and spent the following night at sea instead, read more about this story in Tsunami Warning - Then What.
Waves across the breakwater at Foamullah Many guys stopped to say hello Ali (left) and Hafez in front of their restaurant
The oldest mosque in the Maldives? Traditional house with bath room Exploring Boduhuttaa, a small island
In the morning after the tsunami warning had been cancelled we returned to the harbour at Foamullah, where we had an appointment with Ali and Hafez, owners of the restaurant Lake Side. Hafeez spent the whole day showing us around all over the island. He has been living in Sweden for the past 17 years and speaks fluent Swedish. We called him Hasse, a common Swedish name.
The fish market at Foamullah
Cleaning fish

Our visas would soon be expiring and we had to carry on after only one day at Foamullah. Our final stop in the Maldives was at Gan in Addu atoll, where we anchored in the vicinity of one of the recently burned police stations. Ther was no sign of unrest or demonstrations anymore, just the evidence of past riots, including the broken window at Mullah's supermarlket Two Plus One (Mullah is an active member of the NDP). Apparently all wasn't over though; on our second day we witnessed a fishing boat on fire close to our anchorage. Somebody had decided to get relief for his frustrations? Read more about how the recent unrest in the Maldives had affected us: Political unrest and Routing Decissions.

Police station at Gan
Boat on fire. Fire brigade arrives
Fire is out, but boat destroyed

Our next destination after the Maldives would be Chagos, an uninhabited place in the middle of nowhere. Therefore Gan was the last place to get provisions for the following six weeks ahead. This is also where we arranged our outbound clearance from the Maldives. We had, again, problems with our fridge/freezer units, but fortunately found a technichian called Hassaan, who made som springs for the brushes of the DC motor driving the compressor. We can only cross our fingers and hope they will last for 6 weeks. Living without refridgeration in the tropics is certainly not our cup of tea, but ordering proper spares would have taken several weeks.

The window at Mullah's shop had been hit by a rock
Our agent Schuhaiz (left) and the mechanic Hassaan

We cleared out of the Maldives on the 16th of April. Around noon the next day we pulled up the anchor and started on the 300 nm trip to Chagos.

Where on earth is Chagos? Come back soon and find out in our next report.

Team Ladies A perfect Petanque island
We had several petanque games at small islands on the way

Life's a beach, and then you play.

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