Wot's That Then?
30 April 2021
âWot's that then?â
âDunno kid. Never seen one before in me lifeâ. âWeird looking though. I mean. No wings, only one of them has a beak worth mentioning, no feathers, no nuthinââ
That's the exchange my pre Cruiseheimer's* brain imagined as we inadvertently passed a couple of feet underneath the few scrambled twigs that are a Red Footed Booby's nest, mother and chick peering inquisitively down through the foliage at us.
You see, there's not much goes on here in Chagos land. At least for the duration of the Covid catastrophe. Last year we had Chagos Pass #13 which, oddly, was rescinded at least six months before dear Boris caught onto the fact that his pal Donald might be wrong when he said something like Covid was just âlike a bit of the fluâ and perhaps we should tighten things up a bit. Talk about slamming doors after the horse has bolted! âSure folks. Why don't you take your spare cash, desperately needed by the UK hospitality sector, take it abroad and blow it on a long weekend in Spain. Just don't bring back any Covid.â I mean-how dumb was that plan? About as organised as his hair.
Anyway, rant over, back to Chagos where thankfully we can't get any news or access Social Meedya, it's possible that last year, one or two cruisers made it here under the wire, but I doubt it. Most got locked down in the Maldives. So, as we seem to be the first boat this year, we're getting some strange looks from the local fauna. Other than the ubiquitous trash adorning the high tide mark, the place is untouched. Exactly as nature intended. A bit like our back garden.
The administrators at BIOT (British Indian Ocean Territory) rigidly enforce the rules and regulations for those visiting Salomon Island and Peros Banhos, the two Chagossian islands in the group you're allowed to experience. (Five separate documents; the sixteen page Visitors and Vessel Ordinance, The fifteen page BIOT Guidance, Fishing Permit, Drone licence, Covid declaration and finally, your mooring permit. No wonder it costs Â£100 a week.
The archipelago is like the Galapagos but without people. Or David Attenborough. We're anchored in the peanut shaped Salomon atoll, approximately two miles by four. There's Booby birds - like Gannets with sunburned feet, Fairy and Sooty terns, Frigate birds, dolphins, sharks and a sufficiently wide range of fish to keep all these guys well fed. It also has a billion coconut palms.
Most nights, usually about an hour after high water we get a tapping on the hull. Initially we'd leap on deck to see who was abroad at that strange hour, a million miles from anywhere then we realised it was just the flotilla of coconuts making its stately way past, gently bobbing in the moonlight. During the day we amuse ourselves endlessly either walking clockwise round the island or, perhaps, if we're daring, anti-clockwise. These last couple of days it's been a full moon and so, spring tides. At low water, you could walk for half a mile out to the reef edge, or, as we're tempted to do, make a quick dash to the next island but you need to be quick as within an hour, you'll be wishing you'd brought your wellies. After two hours, composing your epitaph.
Anyway, pleased to report it's all very pleasant here. All it needs is some night life.
*Cruiseheimers: like Alzheimer's but specifically affecting the part of the brain that manages stress, fatigue, cold, wet and seasickness. The condition erases all such memories allowing the sufferer to gaily head off into the briny once again, probably under dressed and over-canvassed. Symptoms include sufferers making statements such as, âlook darling, it's a grand day for a sailâ and, âwe'll easily be in before that front arrivesâ.