02 March 2021
It struck me the other day that cruisers hailing from different parts of the world have some fundamentally different approaches to some aspects of cruising.
Take for example, anchoring. In Scotland, the majority of yachters on approaching their chosen spot for the night, or week depending on the forecast, will check their well thumbed and slightly damp copy of the Clyde Cruising Club, Sailing Directions and head for their ideal spot, usually, that giving the shortest dinghy ride to the pub. They'll then squeeze out through the zips in the cockpit enclosure, and shuffle along the deck in wellies, rubber or leather depending on your budget and several layers of fleece and Goretex. At an appropriate spot, or more likely, despite furious gesticulations from the foredeck, often ten metres past where you actually wanted the boat stopped, the self-launching-but-won't-without-a-kick anchor plunges into the impenetrable black depths that are Scottish waters. Three to five times depth, engine in reverse, finally happy you're anchor is solid having taken a transit of the pub door and dark pole on promenade, which later turns out to have been a tourist standing eating his fish supper, you head ashore for much needed warmth and sustenance.
Compare that to the blue waters of the Caribbean or indeed, here in the Maldives. Mostly it's much the same except one heads up the deck skipping from foot to foot going, "ooh, aahh" from feet being lightly barbecued on the burning deck, wearing once fashionable beachwear, or more likely a pair of drooping underpants half way through their metamorphis to polishing cloth. One then "lets go" into clear blue water to the sand below. Cruisers brought up in these kind of waters then voluntarily throw themselves overboard, swim thirty or forty metres and then circle slowly above the anchor and, presumably, give the anchor a stern look which perhaps improves its holding power and content themselves that it's actually on the bottom.
What prompted this train of thought was watching the local Maldivian fishing boats and thinking "they wouldn't be doing that in Scotland".
Hope you enjoy the video.
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.
19 February 2021 | Uligan
Three islands down, one thousand, one hundred and eighty seven to go. Of these, just a hundred and eighty five are inhabited, and that seems to mean inhabited by local Maldivians. There’s apparently one hundred and fifty four resorts on other islands, the original thinking being to keep the locals away from the influence of “western” visitors..... or, perhaps as they had islands to spare, they flog them to the likes of Fairmont, Radisson, and, ironically as they’re all built on sand, Hard Rock Hotels. In these you can easily blow from £250 to over £1,000 a night. If that doesn’t suit your budget or blood pressure, there’s an abundance of quite lovely looking independent guest houses where you can get B&B from just twenty quid.
Right now, the operating theory for yotties says that with prior approval, we can stop at islands where there’s an airport and/or guest house. We haven’t tested this yet and, given the visitors to these islands will have got there after milling around the Duty Free and Starbucks in the likes of Schipol, Heathrow or Milan airports and then been sat wearing their ineffective little masks in an aluminium tube with two hundred or so people of mixed origin for seven or eight hours, we’re not entirely sure we want to mix with that lot.
Some say not to worry as the visitors are all Covid tested at least 72 hours before they left home, because, as we all know, in that 72 hours, you have complete immunity. Yeah, right. Another example of clear and logical thinking from our governments.
The end result is that we might just waft around, visiting only the uninhabited islands fiercely fighting the urge to anchor off a resort island and partake of its spas and bars and, weirdly given they’re built over the sand and coral lagoons of the crystal clear, Indian Ocean, a thousand miles from most places, their infinity pools. Explain that!
One feature of the resorts is that they operate in their own time capsule. We’ve read in our cruising bible, the Lonely Planet, that the resorts shift their clocks one hour forward so their guests don’t wake up too early to annoy the staff and so they can linger longer over their expensive evening, sundowner cocktails.
Me, I’m thinking we’ll shift our clock to 2023.
13 February 2021
Remember my "sinking feeling"? (https://youtu.be/Ib0FKtrq_lk )
Well, where part of that story started was back in Kuah. The scuttlebut was that there's mostly hee-haw wind in the Maldives and that we should expect to be racking up the engine hours and consequently sucking up diesel. Heaven forbid! So, we'd been out wandering Kuah looking for reasonably priced jerrycans so that when we got out here to the remote Maldivian islands, if we needed a top up, we could give a passing islander a bunch of empty Jerries to fetch us diesel.
It didn't take long to find a store, one of the dozens of mini B&Q cum Home Depots. "How much are your jerrycans?" says I to the storekeeper. "Hundred fifty Ringgit" says he. "You're 'avin a laugh" says I" and we walked on, only of course to find much the same answer elsewhere around town. It seemed like proprietary Jerries were at "western" prices. About to bite the bullet and fork out, we spotted the pastry chef in the nearby street restaurant "throwing" a roti. "Yum" we thought (having spent too long in the company of certain New Zealanders) and headed over for a roti and dahl and a wee cup o' tea. As we waited I looked around the restaurant and, outside, up the back, where the galley slaves worked doing the washing up, was a pile of, would you Adam and Eve it, Jerrycans.
On closer inspection they turned out to be empty 10 litre washing up liquid bottles, but hey, they would do the job perfectly. And only ONE Ringgit each! As long as you bought a roti and a cup of tea. So, you might have spotted it on the video, over three trips, we carried back about 30 or 40 of these bottles to the boat. I was expecting to use a lot of diesel.
A few nights later of course, Jiminy Cricket was onboard and kicked off the whole watertight transom thing and, again as you may have spotted, my new Jerrycans found their way into my new watertight transom spaces to provide additional flotation in event of a catastrophe.
Yesterday, despite having hardly used any diesel getting here I thought I'd just top up while it was available. "Where's the new Jerrycans?"
"I've no idea" says Anne. Then it dawns on me. They're languishing in the quiet and dark of the thoroughly sealed off watertight transoms while I sit outside wondering how I'm going to get diesel from the shore without unbolting my masterpiece.
Wild Ride to the Maldives
10 February 2021
Balmy breezes - they said.
Beam reach - they said.
Fast, furious and very dark. Not been up this late for a long, long time.
Enjoy and tell all your friends to watch. I need the numbers!
How Things Have Changed
09 February 2021 | Uligan, Maldives
You're maybe as tired of reading that last lockdown year we walked over one thousand miles as we were walking them. Two point eight million steps apparently, an average of 12,000 a day. Wow! On the other hand, we sailed all of a miserable five hundred miles, mostly going back and furrit' to Kuah or Penang.
In the eight days (and ten hours) it's taken to get sixty eight miles out from Uligan at the north end of the Maldives, (at the time of writing) we've walked all of, well, seventy, maybe eighty steps a day. Exhausting! On the other hand, we've sailed over 1,600 miles. 'Aard miles, especially when you've been veg'ing in a marina for a year. And justice has been served. Having poked fun at the weather on the west coast of Scotland, it darn well serves me right. It pretty much didn't stop raining since we left. We'd a day and a half of sun but after that, grey, wet and squally. It was awf'y familiar. The Sound of Mull without scenery. Reefs in. reefs out. Sails furled, sails unfurled. And therein lies one of sailing's mysteries. How come, an hour after yer missus says, "shouldn't we reef?" that you finally succumb, muttering about "it's only twenty apparent" and ETA's and other sad excuses, you finally stick in a reef, and often two, and....... you go the same speed...... and have to ignore the smug, "I told you so" look, and off you go into the murk and wet, under reduced sail, in more control and less stress. And proved wrong. Again. That's stressful!
At the time of starting this composition, (these masterpieces take a few days. They're not just cobbled together you know), we were reaching, in both senses, for the shipping lanes at the bottom of Sri Lanka in the no doubt misguided hope the ships would keep the fishing fleet at bay and chop up any nets laid in our path. A specialty of Asian fishermen. And, of course, we arrived in darkness.....and twenty knots of breeze. And rain. Nonetheless, all the reaching gave us good speed. Noisy but fast.
The really bad news readers is that having achieved the bronzed, honed look of weathered, fit yotties from stottin' about in the mid-day sun for months, by the time we get the to the Maldives the tanned and honed look will once again have been defeated by days in the drizzly murk, gravity and lasagnes. We'll be as peely wally as every other just landed Covid tourist but at least we'll blend in.
On the whole, it wasn't that breezy overall, mostly "Yachtsman's Gale" type mid twenties. It was the squalls up to mid thirties, accompanying two to three metre seas and surfing well into the 'teens that kept us off our beauty sleep, and, as YouTubers will know, I really need it. That and one of us at the helm with a cheezy grin going "wha heeeeyyyy" and the other, not looking so happy going, "don't you think we should reef..... now?"
But we're here! The Maldives. The vacation capital for honeymooners, and nowadays, the rich and famous, preferably with a private jet. Earlier today, nine days, five hours and one thousand, six hundred and forty six miles after leaving Rebak we dropped anchor in a patch of sand between the coral, off the settlement on the island of Uligan, the northernmost island of the Maldives. Completely knackered.
Before leaving we had the local Doc stick pointy Q-Tips up our noses and make several valiant attempts at making me puke all over his cheap Walmart blue plastic Dr Who space suit by sticking a two foot long probe down my throat. All this pointless nonsense allowed us to leave three days later with a wee Covid Clear / Negative certificate to show the Maldivian authorities.
The fact we'd been in several shops, three or four Grab taxis and Billions the supermarket at least twice over these three days seems not to matter. As an aside, this "Tourists must have a negative test three days before arriving" is typical of a special Covid symptom to me. It's one unique to government officials and policy makers. It's virulent and globally spread and was one of the earliest symptoms, yet one strangely ignored by those in authority. Irrespective of geography, these poor government workers were the first Covid victims, their long term symptoms being a complete loss of logic and common sense. In comparison, the Maldivian authorities have developed a sensible, practical and logical entry and control system. Maybe our Boris should pay a visit and see what he can learn. Phwaaaw.
And so, earlier, we welcomed alongside the Maldivian authorities, perhaps better described as the Welcome Committee, they were so pleased to see us.
First up, the mandatory temperature check. While we didn't want to be awkward with our new hosts, Anne insisted this check was reciprocal before allowing anyone onboard, after all, we were the ones with the Certificate!
The guys were a bit surprised at this request. Unfortunately, the only thermometer we could find in Langkawi was, well, let's say, bending over in all their work clothes and masks on a wobbly tender was neither a particularly welcoming nor aesthetically pleasing proposition. Selling the alternative idea of them simply turning their own thermometer gun on themselves was easy.
Onboard, all smiles and welcome, however, in this Covid sensitive climate, everyone's a bit sensitive. Suspicious even. I mean, look what our forebears in their square riggers brought to the world's island communities. Not to mention tourists in 747's. And I've a bit of a cough. It's only an asthma induced tickly cough and one I get every Christmas and after most flights, however, and despite the certificate, any symptom in front of the Covid police, is a bit of a liability.
How things have turned upside down. Remember the days when it was polite to cover the sound of a fart with a cough!
Stuart & Anne
SV Time Bandit
YouTube: SV Time Bandit
For those interested, here's the numbers.
Distance sailed - 1651nm
Max speed - 16.3kn
Avg speed - 7.6kn
Max wind - 40.4kn
Motoring - 2.5 hours (the flat calms between 40k squalls off Sri Lanka)
05 February 2021
All well here. Just passed halfway at 970 miles.
A day from the bottom of Sri Lanka
Email not working....
03 February 2021
Oh Rebak Marina for me
I don't like the wild ragin' sea
The big foamin' breakers
Wad gie ye the shakers
Oh Rebak Marina for me.
Ye can go for a stroll on it's banks
Tae loosen yer muscle bound shanks
There's no shark or whale tae mak ye turn pale
Or shiver and shake at the knees
.....and on goes this ditty from Dan McPhail, the good ship Vital Spark's world weary engineer. (*)
It's really about the Crinan Canal, the much loved shortcut of Clyde yachtsmen heading for the west coast each summer. The canal, originally built to save the small freight ships serving the western islands, "Puffers" as they're known to us locals, from having to risk body and soul rounding the notorious Mull of Kintyre (**) nowadays it provides a fast, tidal-gate free, short cut to the sheltered cruising waters and pubs of Crinan, Oban, Tobermory and further afield.
Pubs are popular venues during a summer cruise on the west coast. Not just because of their ambience, fresh seafood and lively local music but mostly it's where you go to stand, steaming in front of a coal fire. And I mean steaming, as in drying out after pounding to windward in driving rain and twenty knots, not after a few too many pints of the foaming ale, perchance a nippy sweetie. (***)
"Och. We had a grand thrash up here" you'll hear the yotties lying to each other over their beers, rubbing salt off their eyebrows into their chips. Meanwhile, like my poor mother for many summers, their drookit and long suffering spouses are stood at the end of the pier trying to hitch a lift back home to a bed that doesn't move or rock and all is warm and dry.
Well, the Indian Ocean is shaping up something similar. It's all a bit black out there just now. And it's only eleven in the morning.
On comes the latest squall and the wind jumps from 10 - 12 knots to 25-30 and we take off looking for a daily record and clean pants. We hit 16.3 knots first night. Today, just fifteen, but that burst of speed stripped the blades off our Watt&Sea hydro generator. That's a big problem with the thing, at the start of your day or trip, you have to guesstimate how fast you're going to go, or risk losing props. Earlier in the day as things got a little sporty, I'd already stopped the boat and dangled off the back step, giving my bum a good wash at the same time and changed the Max 9 knots prop to Max 12 prop. The forecast is pretty much 10-12 knots the whole way so we weren't expecting to set records. If you have a too fast prop on it means as you toddle along at average speed, the power output isn't where it could be, or enough to keep up with consumption. We've now got on the variable pitch prop, set to Max 22 knots! Surely thats enough. That will hit our power generation again but at least, we hope, the prop will last the distance and I can avoid the salt water bidet twice a day.
Having said all that, it was our intention to be prudent and follow my "this is a marathon, not a sprint, mantra. In the end, I got fed up trawling along under-powered and while Anne was snoozing, sneaked out the two reefs and picked up a good two or three knots. That was more like it. Then; of course, no sooner are they out than the moonlit horizon darkens and the hackles on my neck raise.
"Aaaannnne". I think we need to reef". "But we're already ree......." and she tails off, now realising what these noises were a while ago.
More bumping and grinding and the reefs are back in, just in time to bear off and fly off dead downwind in thirty to thirty five knots and driving rain. At least I'm sure it was raining. It's sometimes hard to tell with the "lounge", patio doors closed against all that nasty weather. And so the night, and indeed the day has passed like sandpaper. Wet & Dry.
I've a feeling the Indian Ocean could be a wet, windy and squally passage. And I can tell you, while we're only three days out, this ocean desperately needs a shortcut.
Stuart & Anne
SV Time Bandit
YouTube: SV Time Bandit
(*) Search Crinan Canal Boat Song / Para Handy on YouTube. Ye cannae whack it!
(**) Search Mull of Kintyre / Paul McCartney. Ye absolutely can whack that.
(***) Billy Connolly