Do you feel lucky? Punk!
24 February 2021
Plan A was to head over to the east side of the northern section of the Maldivian atolls and, to be fair, we gave it a shot. Up at the crack of seven, we upped and off'd. It was only twenty five miles......... up wind and against a two knot current. We're quicker than most, but against that cocktail of nature pushing back; not a chance.
We sailed as long as we could, tacking back and furrit while our buddy boat Georgia, who upped and off'd at least an hour after us, zoomed past under deep reefed 75hp Yanmar making a bee line dead upwind and current for the windward atoll, leaving us in their smoke. "Let's try motor sailing with the leeward engine. Roy says it works for him". Nope. Two engines and motor sail. Nope. Breaking my heart all this pointless motoring into a nice steady breeze, all to get to an atoll that looks pretty much like the other hundred or so we have to choose from, and so we turned off the diesel, hoisted the sails and powered off in pursuit of Plan B. Or, more accurately, Plan Anne in the Luxury Spa (while you're scrubbing weed off the hull).
Anne made contact with the nearby Fairmont....... weird having your choice of global hotel brands amongst a five hundred mile long chain of pretty much deserted atolls.... and asked if we could anchor in their back yard; their posh, private lagoon. "Let me check" said the helpful chap, and not much later, a bit to our surprise, the all clear was given and we were welcomed to their anchorage. It might have been different if we'd been in a Lagoon! "Just leave room for the seaplane".
Looking at the satellite pictures I was a bit concerned about the entrance through the reef. Always a scary part of the day. "Two and a half metres through the channel and five inside" said the message, so, reassured, and well insured, we eased sheets and headed south.
On arrival, the now familiar sight of a "sub-division", hove into view. These resorts with their rows of villas perched over the blue of the reef, invariably bear some kind of eco moniker, despite the fact they're built on stilts pile driven into pristine reef and sewage disposal is a question best left unasked, they are much loved by honeymooners and divers apparently. For me, the warm, calm blue of the inner lagoon was the main attraction. Anne had her eyes on some pampering in the spa. We dropped sails off the channel through the reef and eased downwind for a recce. Hhhmmmm. Not looking that attractive. Even with just smallish waves from the ten knots of breeze it was impossible to judge whether the promised two and a half metres was actually there. And low tide had just gone past. The blue streak of the channel and the lagoon beyond was tempting though. The hurdle of brown reef we'd have to cross first, less so. There were biggish launches anchored inside that probably drew about a metre but, "were we feeling lucky?" We eased down some more, engines idling in reverse, Anne sat at the front swinging the lead to try and get a reading but to no avail. Closer....... closer..... "Do you feel lucky, punk" went through my mind. We then fell into the grip of the current pulling us across the narrow entrance and just before we lost the battle to wind and current, discretion won the battle. Engines full revs and we backed out as fast as we could. It just wasn't worth the risk or indeed the kind of global press coverage you get for parking your boat on a pristine Maldivian reef. Pink champagne on ice, fresh lobster and expensive spa treatments were almost certainly readily available just the other side of the channel. Help to get hauled off a remote atoll and have your engines put back into the gaping holes, less so.
I wasn't feeling lucky, and so with a "thanks for the invite" we left the Fairmont behind to hang off the end of a nearby, spa free island for the night.
Saved me a fortune.