Posted by: catamarantwooceans | May 20, 2013

Sailing to Chagos Archipelago

28.4.13 – Sunday – Our papers arrived just after 1400; we motored out of the pass and set our course to Chagos. This is a territory of the United Kingdom in which the best known name is Diego Garcia, an atoll leased to the U.S and serving as a base for its operations in the Middle East and other places in the east. Other than the military there are no inhabitants on the islands. The movement over there is strictly regulated by BIOT (British Indian Ocean Territories) administration. The list of rules, requirements, procedures and penalties is as long as one’s arm. Yachts are allowed into two atolls only; Salomon and Peros Banhos. In the past, yachties, lured by the beauty and solitude of the place, used to stay until their rice quantity ran low…Now the maximum stay is four weeks at 50 pounds per week. We invested in two weeks, planning to stay one but wanting the flexibility.

The forecast was for winds of less than 10 knots from the west sector, so it was clear we could not expect to reach Chagos on Tuesday and would have to spend a third night at sea. No big deal. Our initial course was 192 degrees and it quickly became apparent that we had a strong easterly current, making it necessary to point almost 50 degrees to the right. This affected our relative angle to the wind; we were sailing as close to the wind as we could but still drifted left of the desired track.

As night fell the wind freshened, reaching 25 knots true and raising a short ugly sea. We had to reef the main to third and the jib to second reef as the boat was slamming into the waves making those dreaded crashing noises.

29.4.13 – Monday – I was on watch as morning came and with it respite from the strong wind. I opened the sails up to full jib and 1st reef main. The wind veered and let us sail straight to our waypoint. We caught our first fish, a skipjack tuna and had a visitor – a red footed booby, which landed on the bimini and agreed to have his picture taken.

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As the sun set, we had a repetition of last evening; rain, wind, reefing the sails but after our tuna dinner it calmed down. During the night it remained peaceful; we didn’t care about our low speed and everybody slept well.

30.4.13 – Tuesday – I woke up at 0550 and went into the cockpit, where Muki was at the end of his watch. "Let’s go fishing!" Ten minutes later we had another skipjack tuna, two big meals for the three of us. As if by request, the wind piped up and "Two Oceans" rushed forward, showing speed that will bring us to Salomon atoll in Chagos before sunrise. Back to first reef for speed control.

As the day wore on condition worsened; a bank of clouds brought strong winds and we were back in third reefed main. On our course to Salomon atoll we had to pass Speaker’s Bank, a shoal rising from the abyss to a depth of 11 meters. The shorter way was on its west but with the wind and current we had there was no chance it could be done without a tack; I also worried about the effect on the seas the sharply rising bottom could have. I inserted new waypoints into the GPS plotter that will take us on the east side.

A dinner of curried vegetables concluded the day. Happily the wind and sea abated and I slept well until my watch at midnight.

1.5.13 – Wednesday – The following might be named "Suddenly maintenance #136" I woke up to find we were motorsailing with 8 knots of wind on our nose. We were using the starboard engine which SUDDENLY sounded its alarm and the light for high water temperature came on. We shut the engine down, started the port one and began investigating the cause of the malfunction. All avenues according to the shop manual were explored, we even dismantled and checked the thermostat. Before we reached a solution I SUDDENLY noticed that the port engine was not charging the batteries; Oh Oh! A quick look into the engine room showed that the belts driving the alternator were broken and off the pulley. We shut down that engine too and continued on sails, 60 degrees to starboard off our intended track.

Diverting to the port engine, (Ishay was helping me with Muki sailing the boat) we found out that the part connecting the alternator to the engine was broken! All that held it in place were the belts and the tensioning bolt. Belts replaced, engine started, we returned to the starboard engine, discovering that the problem was the raw water filter which was blocked by some rubbish, its filter element corroded and worthless.

Muki asked whether I had a spare one on board or any material that we could make one from; I remembered the anti mosquito nets that I never used and brought it out. In short order the filter was in place and the engine worked perfectly.

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                          Muki and Ishay with mosquito net

End of S.M #136. You may ask why 136? I have a feeling that I had at least 135 suddenlies before!

At 1345 we entered the pass into Salomon atoll.

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and motored slowly navigating by eye and the (quite accurate)Navionics chart on my Samsung Galaxy 3 to Boddam island anchorage, where nine other yachts were moored or at anchor. Finding no mooring we dropped our anchor in what seemed to be a good position. Two young men in a dinghy came by and directed our attention to a vacant mooring in the distance; we were quick to take it and luckily so because it didn’t take long for tropical rain to pour, strong enough to have a full shower on deck.

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                            Australian cat in Boddam

So, we’re in Chagos. First impressions – it is very much like the Maldives atolls. Tomorrow we’ll explore some more.

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