the Maldives - at last
09 March 2018
A low pressure system was developing between Sri Lanka and India bringing light wind on our bow which would have made sailing conditions slow and tedious. We were eager to start exploring the Maldives and still had plenty of fuel to get us safely into port so the decision was easy. We fired up the engine and motored the last 200 miles. The timing of our arrival worked out perfectly. We approached the entrance to the Ihavanndhippollhu Atoll at daybreak and the morning sun made it easy to locate a nice sandy spot between coral reefs to drop anchor. Within an hour of settling in our agent Assad came out to meet us bringing along representatives from all relevant government departments (one even wearing full military gear). Thanks to Assad the entire check-in process was streamlined and painless (he even brought along Sim cards).
By 10:00 we were able to replace our 'Q flag' (quarantine flag) with the Maldivian courtesy flag. WhileTom signed and stamped his way through a mountain of documents a pod of 50 dolphins approached. They put on a show for us swimming at the surface, weaving around each other, jumping exuberantly until all of our paperwork was complete. This was without a doubt, the best check-in process ever. Assad says the dolphins are comfortable swimming wit people nearby so our next priority is to pull out our snorkelling gear. We're keeping an eye out for the next time they venture our way.
(A few new photos added to our gallery)
The Only Certainty is Change
05 March 2018
Sailing effortlessly for days in light wind, sunny skies and no traffic was making us lazy. We've read more books in a week and a half than we have in months. We relished having such an expanse of 'down-time' knowing that sooner or later things would change. And they did - as soon as we approached the tip of Sri Lanka.
A steady stream of commercial traffic kept us alert and provided some scenery. At one point I thought I spotted land in the distance but realized that it was just a few cargo ships layered in front of each other barely visible in through the haze.
Our AIS display showed us amidst 14 ships, the screen showed all kinds of interesting information about them. Pacific Achievement hugged the coast on her way to China, crossing paths with Venus at 21 knots. Venus, headed for India, seemed aptly named. She was like a floating planet - every bit of her 1200 foot length was laden down with cargo stacked in containers 3 levels high. Marco Polo strayed from the pack, heading North West off our port side. Two tankers glided by with secret destinations. Their information merely stating ARMED GUARDS ONBOARD. We may not know where they were headed to, but we're quite certain they came through the Red Sea.
We were approached by a couple of fishing boats, their crew waved and shouted, leaning over the gunnels asking for cigarettes and booze.
Later that night we got stuck beneath a highly active thundercloud that just wouldn't budge. I hovered under the bimini through a torrential downpour that filled our water bucket in about 20 minutes flat. It persisted for hours, washing the salt from our decks. The lightening was so intense and so close that I stashed our electronics in the oven to protect them from being zapped, in case we had the bad luck of being struck. The storm eventually passed, so that by the time Tom came up for his shift all that remained were soggy decks. He spent the 4 hours reading his book under clear skies, without a single AIS target in sight - lucky guy!
Voyage to the Maldives
03 March 2018
Day 8: Sunday, March 4th, 2018: We departed Rebak Marina at first light last Sunday. Several hours out, I hooked a large fish & after an hour we managed to land a huge Wahoo, at least 4�'. It has provided fabulous eating; we still have one frozen portion left! Haven�'t put the line out since. The winds & seas steadily increased as we headed offshore on Sunday & into Monday w swell coming on the stern. Winds were often 20-22 knots, gusting up to 25 knts. We were double reefed w reduced headsail & still making 7+ knots; great speed but uncomfortable. Our Weather Router, Bruce has been spot on in providing weather updates that have kept us out of squalls & lightning banks while guiding us to what winds there are in the Bay of Bengal. We have managed to sail most of the way but now as we approach Sri Lanka, winds are less than 9 knots & we have been motor sailing for the past 2 days. The 3 of us have slipped into a comfortable routine & yet each day is unique w it�'s own character. Daytime is shared but at 8 pm Kim takes first watch till midnight, Tom is on second watch till 4 am & I take the dawn watch till 8 am. Around 3 pm we start planning our evening meal which we enjoy while still light, usually by 6 pm. On some calm afternoons, we also enjoy a light cocktail hour w snacks. Dusk is magical as the setting sun paints vibrant & changing colors & patterns as it dips into the western horizon. The cooling evening zephyrs are a welcoming close to day�'s end.
Surprisingly, we seem to be sailing further & further into nothingness! Except for occasional flying fishes & the rare dolphin, we are utterly alone. Since passing Sumatra, we have sighted no birds, none! In 3 days we have seen 1 ship passing far off our port, virtually no VHF traffic & not a single plane. Sadly we have seen garbage (flotsam) drift by, at times quite frequently. �"Exit Strategy�" is a wonderful & reliable vessel, she sails remarkably well in both light & moderate winds. Except for the initial leaking prop shaft, she has been largely trouble free. Tom & I are addressing a slight diesel leak from a filter, a minor issue w the water maker & still a small amount of shaft leakage, none of which is cause for concern. We have been sailing the entire way w the whisker pole extended first to port & presently to starboard. As winds have now dropped below 5 knots, we have furled the Genoa. The seas are accordingly, very kindly w little roll. The hum of the diesel has now replaced the sound of wind in our sails. As of 8:30 am on Day 8, we are 100 nm east of Sri Lanka, skies are clear w puffy clouds w a promise of another warm & beautiful day!
Kim has a celiac condition w the resultant allergies to most grains. Her good health is dependent on carefully scrutinizing her nutrition & planning her meals accordingly. She is also an organized & experienced cruiser who is able to pack 20 lbs. of potatoes into a 5 lb. bag! Kim brags about my cooking underway but in reality, she has our meals prepared, packaged & ready for heating before we leave the dock. And we eat like royalty; beef stew, lamb & veggies in red curry sauce, etc., etc. Happily, I never get motion sickness & being in the galley, even under rough conditions, doesn�'t bother me in the least. Also I enjoy doing some cooking underway & cleanup just helps pass the day. Many years ago, while being a busy body at my brother�'s home, I was ingloriously dubbed, �"Mrs Doubtfire�" which has now followed me to sea!
Tom & Kim are a wonderful cruising couple & I am so fortunate to be their friend & fellow traveler on this voyage in the Indian Ocean.
03 March 2018
We've reached the halfway mark and have had very benign weather so far. We've been able to sail wing-on-wing with so few adjustments over the past few days that it's a bit reminiscent of our Pacific crossing to the Marqueses. What a luxury it's been. Reading, tinkering away at this and that, even cooking (something I rarely feel up to doing on passage!). 'Mrs. Doubtfire' and I cooked up a big batch of spaghetti yesterday. Joel, seasoned sailor, handyman, and 'guy's guy' shows his feminine side on occasion, cooking, cleaning, and taking an enthusiastic interest in trying new recipes. Tom's been spoiled - waking up to a fresh pot of coffee each morning followed by french toast for the past few days and I've had nothing to do with it. Mrs Doubtfire's image could be improved with an apron but I'm not sure mine will fit!
Six Days and Counting
02 March 2018
It's our sixth day at sea and we haven't seen another vessel for days. Our only company has been the odd flying fish, until finally this morning we spotted a few dolphins on the hunt, terrorizing a huge fish into jumping a full meter out of the water. We haven't seen one single solitary bird since leaving Malaysia. It's a bit strange. Where are the birds? We've also lost sight of our little stowaway gecko. He's either doing a great job of hiding or decided to jump ship for greater adventure aboard an interesting piece of flotsam.
We've strayed from a rhumb line to the Maldives to take advantage of favorable winds and avoid thunder storms associated with a low pressure system to the south. The last couple of evenings we've sailed under moonlit skies - our night watches spiced up a bit by the occasional light show on the horizon from distant thunderstorms. We'll soon veer south, dipping around the bottom of Sri Lanka, then back up again towards the northern Maldives. We should arrive in a week or so, at which point we'll slow down a bit to play in the crystal clear waters within the atolls. It will take a couple of months to work our way south through the 500 mile archipelago chain before we venture further south to Chagos.
25 February 2018
Our friends bade us goodbye for a second time and help us cast off at first light this morning. Within 20 minutes our sails were flying and we slid through the waves at 6-7 knots. An eagle soared above us like a good omen, and we noticed that we have a cute little gecko on board which is surely a sign of good luck. To top it off, Joel and Tom hauled in a 4 foot long Wahoo this morning. Its a beauty and will feed us well for the next few days. Things couldn't be better!