Grumbles In The Night
14 March 2021
As we are more or less banned from the inhabited Maldivian islands, whether populated by locals or the worlds' wealthy blowing anywhere from a thousand to four thousand bucks a night for a glorified beach hut on stilts, banned, at least without having someone poke a pointy Covid testing stick up your nose, we've finally found heaven in the shape of a sheltered sandy bottomed lagoon.
There isn't much cruising information around about the Maldives. No Cruising Directions; not even an Idiot's Guide. If it weren't for the content left online by a few stalwart blog writers who've passed through over the last few years, we'd be fumbling around blind. Even with their recommendations, it always pays to remember that one cruiser's idea of heaven may not be yours. "Lovely beach. Anchor in 22m", omits a cautionary reminder that it might be the last time you see your anchor as your chain ties itself in knots around an unseen coral head or "bommie" as they're known. They are amazing natural features where new coral grows on old over countless human generations. They teem with a hundred species of reef fish, bountiful and resplendent in all the colours of the spectrum, iridescent lipped clams, jet black sea urchins and bright purple and orange anemones all calling the bommie "home". The bommies offer food, shelter and breeding grounds for all. They are a critical part of the tropical seas food chain.
We hate the bloody things.
They're the curse of cruising in tropical waters. These isolated jagged lumps of coral could have been deliberately designed to catch your chain and, or reach up from the depths to put an embarrassingly large gouge in both your hull and bank balance. In fact, unless your a resident of these bommies, cruising around the reefs is definitely not for those of a nervous disposition. Or uninsured.
Nonetheless we've been sailing around, wiggling through the reefs, spending the last few weeks in a nautical version of Snakes & Ladders, zooming downwind and down current to recommended spots which turn out to be tenable only in a few knots from the wrong direction, then clawing our way back upwind and up-tide struggling to make more than three miserable knots. Finally, we threw in the towel. Or, more accurately, ignoring our suggestion of hiding out from a thirty knot and blinding rain squall in a largely unmarked lagoon five miles across, our buddies in SV Georgia soldiered on and found a sandy lagoon with more or less 360 degree protection, 180 of them from a one metre high, sand spit. Some kind chaps with a dredger had cut a channel through the fringing reef (I said "fringing"), opening up a protected, shallow, almost bommie free sandy pool. After a bouncy, sleepless night in the washing machine that passed for our concept of shelter, we sailed through another thirty knot squall and joined Georgia in their calm, blue, sandy lagoon......... where we managed to lassoo one of the few bommies. Twice we tried to unwrap, motoring around in circles dragging the chain around in a valiant but ultimately vain effort to untie the grannie knot. In the end, as the forecast said we were going to be tied up for a few days, literally, we gave up, paid out a bit more chain and the bommie is now our private mooring. It seems to work and the chain joins me in grumbling all night.