Posted by: catamarantwooceans | April 14, 2013

Sailing in the Maldives–part 2

7.4.13 – Sunday – In the morning we visited Abdul Razzak’s workshop to check the progress of the work on the pump. He showed me its shaft, which has worn out. He didn’t have a new one in stock so he machined one himself.

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While waiting for him to finish the job we went to the port operations office to ask about filling up water. "How many tons do you need?" asked one of the ladies working there. All I needed was about 150 liters, our full capacity is 500 liters…

We had to re-position the boat nearer to the water source; not a simple thing considering that we only had the starboard engine and that  a 12 knots wind was pushing us to the dock. A five inch pipe was brought and luckily they had a nozzle that was just the right size for the refilling port.

Once the tank was full we sat and waited for Abdul Razzak to come. At 1155 the man and his helper arrived. After some confusion regarding a missing bolt, the pump was in place, coolant filled, no leaks detected. The whole thing cost the equivalent of 90$ U.S which in my mind is very reasonable. A.R seemed to be happy too.

We had 14 miles to go to our next destination. The chart showed two islands, Kanditeem and Goidhoo, connected on the east by a  shoal, making a beautifully protected bay all fringed with a promising reef. The reality was completely different. The shoal was not there and the southern shores of both islands, where we wanted to anchor with the northwestern wind, were blocked by reefs from which the bottom dropped quickly to depths of around 30 meters.

We tried five different locations until we succeeded to find a place that would satisfy our anchoring requirements and not cause damage to the reef. A tiring day!

8.4.13 – Monday – An early wakeup for me in order to leave early and cover the 32 miles to Dholhiyadhoo, a crescent shaped island, where a new resort is being constructed. On the way we passed at least two other islands where similar projects take place. Is a Resort Bubble inflating itself in the Maldives?

With the wind from behind at 8 – 12 knots I suddenly remembered the spinnakers in the forward starboard locker. We took one out and flew it but the wind decreased to 7 knots; we took it down and resorted to single engine operation.

We rounded the eastern tip of the island and found good shelter, calm water and sandy bottom with excellent holding near some unfinished villas on concrete piles right on the reef.

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We went ashore to use the Wi Fi in the office ( we called ahead and got the manager’s permission); Gili received an e mail from Spice Jet saying that opposite to the version of the Male agent the flight is cancelled. We tried to buy a ticket on Turkish Airlines but slow internet and my mistake with the three digit code of the credit card stopped the purchase. We’ll try again tomorrow.

9.4.13 – The girls at the office, Joanna and Jane, both from the Philippines, were really helpful. They let us use their office for as long as we needed. We succeeded in accomplishing all we set out to do, ticket and all, thanked the girls and went back to the boat.

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The day was incredibly hot, not a breath of wind to give some relief, not to mention the use of our sails. We continued south east towards Manadhoo, a town of 1500 people, which we were not allowed to visit. We found a flat rocky area 5 meters deep and dropped our anchor.

A fishing boat came near and we hailed them, thinking about buying fish. "We don’t have them now, but we will come later; 2$ per kilo" said the one who was probably the skipper.

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It didn’t take long for them to come back with four nice, fresh, already cleaned snappers.

10.4.13 – Wednesday – Our destination for the day was Faadhippolhu atoll which is also called Lhaviyani. We started out in the calm morning, passing several fishing boats; one that caught the eye was an adaptation of an old small Hobiecat that carried two people.

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The first point we aimed at was Fushifaru Thila; thila being a coral formation that rises from the bottom to 5 – 15 meters below sea level. The one in Fushifaru " is superb for snorkeling…with lovely soft corals… mantas, eagle rays, sharks, groupers, sweetlips and turtles" thus enthused the Lonely Planet guide. Combining the information from all  the sources that were available to us, I pin-pointed the place on the chart and motored along the east side of the atoll towards it.

On the way I called the Kuredu resort to get information about diving with their club. They charge a 25$ entrance fee per person and two dives were priced at 170$. I called another resort, Kanuhura, where a similar deal would have set me back by about the same.

When we got to the Thila we simply couldn’t find it! I expected to see dive and tourist boats but there were none. We continued inside the lagoon and found a sandy spot near a reef, snorkeled a bit and had lunch. A local fishing boat came by and dropped men who fished while snorkeling. They came quite close to our boat.

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For some reason I chose to go to Kanuhura; the resort was surrounded by reefs and shallow water and we could not find the way in. We saw a local boat enter and tried to follow its route. At a certain spot the depth meter showed 1.1 meters and I gave up, turning back and going to Kuredu, where the approach was in deep water and the anchorage at a comfortable 4.7 meters.

As we were relaxing in the cockpit, the noise of an airplane was heard; a sea plane landed not far from us, taxied expertly to a ramp to disembark the passengers and then took up a mooring in the bay, waiting for departure next day.

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It seems I still have a soft spot for aeronautical things!

11.4.13 – Thursday – I did one dive with the Kuredu dive club in a site called "Kuredu Express"; this is right in the pass into the atoll and typical to passes there is current and large fish.

Back on shore, my mind was already occupied by the next project – filling water. The resort sold me 220 liters for 4.4$. I rushed to "Two Oceans" to take her to the dock for the filling up and suddenly realized that I left my mask and fins at the club. Filling up finished, I retrieved the forgotten items and we started motoring south to Varihura, 14.7 miles away, an un inhabited small island on the south of the atoll.

Fifteen minutes into the trip my wetsuit crawled into my consciousness. "Oh shit! I left the suit at the club too!" 180 to the left, two engines full throttle ahead and in 30 minutes we were back on track, with the skipper having bad thought about old age and senility.

To make me feel good a fish took our trolling lure. Nice addition to our food supply. Is it a Bluefish? A South African book that I have calls it Kakap or Green Jobfish.

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All the work on the fish, cleaning, cutting into steaks as per Gili’s instructions, made the time fly and at 1545 we turned around the east side of Varuhura, going for the Noonsite recommended coordinates. On the way we passed a nice area of 5 – 6 meters over mostly coral bottom and reaching our waypoint the depth was 55 meters… Back to 05 18.000 N 73 29.328 E, Anchor down and into the water we went to get relief from the oppressive heat and enjoy the underwater scene.

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We were snorkeling happily, looking around when I saw a 3 foot black tip reef shark; A little later a strange bluish,fishlike figure loomed in the distance; Gili, finning just behind me, noticed it too and was very much alarmed. As I came closer I started laughing into my snorkel; it was a plywood dolphin! We continued towards the place where the shallow bottom fell steeply into the blue abyss. Just behind us another shark appeared. This one was not a reef shark; it was about 5 foot long and a beautiful sight to behold.

Beauty turned into the beast it is by nature as the shark turned around and made his way directly towards us. I’ve seen a lot of sharks while scuba diving and the prevalent belief is that divers are never harmed by them; snorkeling is different…We turned back to our boat, which was not so close, with me looking back to see the creature turn away, go to the deep and then come again straight at us. One more look at the weak terrestrial figures moving awkwardly on the surface and then he was gone. The beer tasted so good a few minutes later!

From the cockpit we watched the sea-life around us; a pod of dolphins, a turtle and some other life forms making a splashing sound and disappearing before we could identify them.

With the sun setting, the scene became magical. Those are the special, unique  moments you experience while cruising. Gili sat on the port bow seat as the golden orb descended to the horizon.

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12.4.13 – Friday – 32 miles to Faafaru Falhu, a relatively small atoll, 7.5 miles across, from which I had great expectations. Described as "Robison Crusoe" sort of place, with a long reef encircling the lagoon, I envisioned great snorkeling and splendid solitude.

From 3 miles out we saw a sailing yacht, a ketch, anchored inside. I called them on VHF but there was no reply, perhaps they did not have their radio on. I was wondering whether this was "Esper" which I saw in Bolgaty marina in Cochin. This was the first cruising boat we saw in the Maldives since coming here.

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The waypoint taken from the C-Map chart took us eventually straight to the eastern pass; we went in, motored to the point we selected beforehand, one on the west of the pass and dropped anchor in 10 meters on sand. We jumped in and swam to investigate some corals near the boat but those were disappointing; ruined, with some signs of rejuvenation and quite a few fish. No "JAWS" or plywood dolphins to make the pulse run.

13.4.13 – Saturday – We set out at 0745, hoping that the sun will be high enough to enable seeing the reefs as we navigate in the lagoon. Luckily it was, because there was a little confusion approaching the pass; we turned back, found the channel and then followed the circumference of the atoll on our way to Male Atoll. Our target was Thulusdhoo island, better known as Coca Cola island due to that beverage factory located there.

Looking for the pass into the lagoon we saw a few motor boats seemingly anchored in breaking waves but, of course, the pass itself was completely calm while on its sides surfers were doing their thing.

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We entered the lagoon, found the factory’s anchorage, marked by two sets of lighted poles and anchored at 4 22.617 N 73 38.83 E, 7 meters on sand with good holding. There is an area of shallow reef in the middle one should be careful about but otherwise a good shelter.

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                      On shore in Thulusdhoo

14.4.13 Sunday – A call from the security company monitoring the alarm at our home woke us up at 5:08 am. No break-in or anything like that but it made me wide awake and thinking about all the things I had to do in Male, I decided to go out early.

As we came into the channel leading to Male, the city appeared in the distance; a small island crammed with high rise buildings.

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Anchoring near Male is not feasible because of the depth of the water around it, not to mention the noise. we chose to go to Hulmale, an artificial island reclaimed from the sea, in which lagoon we could see a large number of boats of all kinds. I had a satellite picture of the place downloaded from Google Earth and was proceeding to the entrance of the lagoon that I saw in it. About a mile before it I saw boats coming of another entrance and gingerly started going in; it was SHALLOW! Stupidly I went on, at some point having only 10 centimeters under the keels. This is something I want to forget (but can’t).

We took the ferry into Male proper and met Hussein Fahmy, who works for Antrac, the agency we are using. There is still some paperwork to be done!

Tomorrow new crew will come on board and Gili will fly home.

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Responses

  1. Love reading your blog, thanks


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