100 Days of Lockdown in the Maldives Part 1 of 3
I have fond memories of our time in the Maldives. We were shoved into lockdown with 13 other boats and although we never stepped foot on land nor interacted with any local Maldivians or cruised the beautiful islands, we shared a rich experience and made lifelong friends.
Whiskey Jack sailed into Uligan, Maldives March 12th 2020 and dropped anchor in the clearest blue water we had seen in a long time. We were joined by 13 other boats from all over the world, including our Kiwi and Catalonian friends with kids aboard. Three days later Maldives announced a strict lockdown and that gorgeous blue water atop a healthy vibrant reef became our jail cell, our entertainment and our food supply for the next 100 days.
The North of Maldives is dotted with beautiful sandy islands, some inhabited by simple fishing villages. The country is a republic based on the principles of Islam and designates Islam as the state religion and we would learn a lot about state run bureaucracy and how it influences its citizens in the following months.
The first few days were spent catching up with friends and meeting new ones as we listened daily to how Covid was unfolding across the world and although nervous about being stuck in the Maldives, we were all grateful to be anchored and given safe haven. A few days our agent Asadulla announced we were to lockdown on our boats. At first this seemed like a reasonable request, we finished up boat jobs and explored the reef under our boat, but as the days wore on it became more difficult and made less sense. First, we had all been at sea already for weeks sailing from Sri Lanka or Asia. Second, we had all been socialising in our anchorage ‘bubble’ for the past week and no one was sick. The authorities had posted a Coast Guard boat to supervise us and many of the cruisers were very fearful that one slip up would get us all kicked out of the country.
We didn’t want to break rules but we were all in short supply of fresh food and so there were a few times at sunset when the boats had swung around just right, I quietly swam James Bond style to our friends boat and picked up a dry bag of onions and garlic or yeast for bread. We also wanted to share the fish that we caught with other boats who didn’t fish, so those missions were all about stealth, not only from the Coastguard but from eagle eyed neighbours who may not approve of our shenanigans. (Thank you boarding school for teaching me about lines of sight from the House Masters study to the smoke shed and the pub!). Fortunately, after a week the authorities realized we were not a threat and life on the reef returned to our new normal.