Posted by: catamarantwooceans | April 9, 2013

Sailing in the Maldives

3.4.13 – Wednesday – This was a day of hard work. We started cleaning the boat properly, Gili putting a lot of effort there. I dismantled the non operating water pump and found out that it’s electrical supply had low voltage. When I connected the pump leads to the house batteries it worked just fine. I had the idea of connecting the pump to the supply for the saltwater pump that sits in the same location; phoned my friend Moshe, who is an electrical engineer and he gave his blessing to the idea. I’ll do it later when the starboard tank’s quantity is low.

Gili received a message from Spice Jet, with whom she was supposed to fly to Mumbai, that the flight was cancelled. As much as we tried, we could not contact them on the phone. We’ll have to look for their local office.

In the afternoon we went ashore to get the all important Inter Atoll Travelling Permit. Gili, after a stern briefing from Hammad, dressed properly putting on "a big shirt" that is considered chaste.

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Hammad, who joined us to go to customs, came up with the information that yachties can no longer go ashore on inhabited islands except the four that are considered as Ports – Uligam, Kulhudhuffushi, Male and Gan. In other places you can anchor but stay on board. A reason mentioned by the custom officer and Hammad was that yachties might debauch the locals with alcohol and sexy appearance.

I had to present an itinerary, same as in Andaman islands and quickly understood that I should simply list as many atolls as possible so as to be "legal" sailing around the Maldives.

I had to fill a form requesting the permit but did not have the yacht stamp with me. "Do you want me to go to the yacht for it?" The customs officer took out an ink pad "just put your thumb print on the form, it is enough"; and so, on April 3rd, AD 2013, in the 21st century I used my thumb as a proof of my existence and my position as Master of yacht "TWO OCEANS".

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Some people debate the necessity of using an agent; if you want to cruise the Maldives you have no other choice. Only for stays up to 48 hours an agent is not needed.

After the formalities came to an end we went looking for some vegetables. Hammad took us to a farm, where they had no tomatoes but did have giant cucumbers and hot chilies.

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He also arranged the supply of 120 liters of well water, brought over by a local boat, at a price of 5 $ U.S  per 20 liters; not inexpensive!

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4.4.13 – Thursday – We started the morning with cleaning the decks from all the grime that accumulated during two months in Cochin. At 0930 we had enough and sailed southeast towards Hideaway resort island, 16 miles away. We were sailing wing and wing with the port engine at 1500 RPM to charge the house batteries. After a while I closed the throttle and the engine shut itself down immediately. Opening the engine room to investigate I could feel that it overheated; the sensor that was supposed to alert us to the situation was hanging loose on its wire and a small puddle formed in the bilge.

I let the engine cool down and approached Hideaway island using a single engine. The chart I have of it lacks detail and shows the west coast as one big reef; I downloaded the satellite image from Google Earth, which showed a clear pass. Coming from the northwest we could  see it only at close range and that was a bit stressful. Once we were in I was surprised by the strength of the current. We tried anchoring but we saw that we were blocking the pass and coming too close to moorings and the marina. Yes! they have a marina with floating docks.

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We tried to get the price on the phone but again were passed from one clerk to another and got no answer. We wanted to take a mooring but decided it was not secure enough and left, losing the boat hook in the process. Just as we found a place to anchor, a valley between two reefs, 13 meters on sand – the marina manager called with the price for one night – 80 U.S $. We were happy with our location and declined his invitation to go into the marina.

Once the engine has cooled down sufficiently I went into the engine room. I discovered that there was a leak from the sweet water pump’s shaft and that it was not set firmly in place. I called the Yanmar Israeli agent and ordered a new one to be brought by the crew joining in Male.

In the evening we took the dinghy ashore, thinking of sightseeing, internet, a beer and perhaps dinner. The place was super elegant; after using the Wi Fi in reception, we made our way to the beach bar, where they had a BBQ that evening. The cheapest dish was Salmon steak at 42$ U.S and the most expensive – the Seafood platter for 120$! We chose to go back to "Two Oceans".

5.4.13 – Friday – The plan was to go to Kulhudhufushi, the capital of South Thiladhunamathee Atoll, where we wanted to do some shopping for food and maybe find a travel agent to help Gili find a flight home. I made a call to our agent and was reminded that Friday is the Muslim holiday and nobody was working. so, instead of going to town, we sailed to an island we mistakenly thought was uninhabitable – Naivaadhoo which was crowned as " a delightful spot" on www.noonsite.com. Actually it was a group of two islands and an islet between them. We anchored near the entrance to a shallow lagoon marked by two lighted poles at a depth of 4 meters; good holding on sand with some coral clumps clearly visible.

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                               The Naivaadhoo islet

we were visited by two men on a traditional sailing boat, who went out of their way just to take a look at "Two Oceans"; with their Lateen sail and no motor they go all around the atoll just as it was done centuries ago.

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Snorkeling revealed that there were a lot of edible fish around the place and during our "Happy Hour" the first Maldives trip fish was caught. With Gili on board I can always count on getting great dishes and this fish was immediately used to make one of them.

6.4.13 – Saturday – We motorsailed to K- Fhushi and getting close I started looking for the port. The charts, C – Maps and Navionics were not a great help (again). I saw a big breakwater on the southern tip of the island but there was nothing nautical behind it, less than a mile to its north I could see a smaller seawall with some vessels, perhaps ferries, inside. I tried calling the port on VHF but there was no reply so I entered and anchored left of the entrance, where I thought we will be less of a hindrance to boat movement.

As we were preparing the dinghy to go ashore, somebody called on channel 16 using our boat’s name. He was, perhaps, the port’s pilot and he explained that we anchored in the local port, which is forbidden. "You should come to the international port, behind the big breakwater". That we did; we entered the empty, smallish port and tied to the quay, putting three fenders at the point the big, black port fender was threatening to our delicate topsides.

After a bit of bureaucracy we walked into the town, which is populated by 8500 people. First thing we did was enter one of the local restaurants and sample Maldivian food.

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The food was mostly spicy and delicious. There was a market with very little in it but we did get tomatoes, onions and breadfruit. It was just past 1300 and the heat was overpowering. The local ladies walk around covered from head to toe in black; Gili thinks they don’t notice the heat anymore.

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                          Kulhudhufushi main street

We entered a Café to ask about internet. "We have Wi Fi but the electricity is down right now, maybe in two or three hours" If you’re reading this  on Saturday or Sunday it means the electricity came on.

Gili called the Male Spice Jet agent who declared that the message she got was some mistake and that her flight is on! That’s a relief!           
Later, around 5 pm, we strolled the main street and were surprised that most businesses were shutting down; this in not Thailand! Further up that street, we came upon a "Yanmar Engines" sign. I went inside and spoke to the owner, Abdul Razzak, who agreed to come to the boat and look at the faulty engine sweet water pump. He dismantled it and took it to his shop. "I hope to fix it tomorrow morning" he said. We share the same sentiment there…

Visiting the town emphasized the damage to tourism this new rule of not allowing yachties and probably other tourists on inhabited islands. We lose the experience of contact with the people and they lose our business. I do hope somebody in the Maldives government will reconsider! 

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Responses

  1. Great to see that you are back on the water. I look forward to reading more of your adventures.

  2. Incredible adventure you are with. Good luck with everything! And stay healthy. Best regards from Elsie in cold Sweden
    (Svens sister )


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