Friday, 22 February 2008

Indian Ocean Crossing to Maldives ... Feb 2008

Maldives 14 - 21 Feb 2008

***St Barbara all attached for our first night towing them***Welcome to Uligan, the lovely white sandy beach***The anchorage at Uligan, all calm for the moment***Fish for dinner, not much for the whole community***

We said our goodbyes to several departing yachts on 09 Feb from Galle. We had been delayed, firstly by a sheared plate that held our fridge compressor on and then by an engine leak. We were very lucky (and many thanks to Tonjuc off Yosun for his help) to find an Iranian engineer who had been flown in to overhaul a trawler in the harbour. He was an absolute gem and spent all afternoon working on our engine but would take nothing in return. The hospitality we have received by so many people in different places has just been outstanding.

So finally on 10 Feb 08 we left Sri Lanka for our passage across the Indian Ocean to the Maldives. Light winds were forecast so we motored in glassy seas. St Barbara, one of the boats we had done our Sri Lankan land travel with had broken down about 100 miles west of Galle. We were about 20miles south of them when we heard so detoured to help, Peter and crew member Sam had not been able to fix the problem of the engine overheating so we picked them up and we towed them in very calm seas to the Maldives. We did get a brief period where we both managed to sail and we stayed close by in case the wind dropped again and of course it did, so did a perfect manoeuvre at 2am in pitch black conditions and had them attached again in no time. Had we left them, well they were drifting backwards with the current and may well have ended up in India - at some stage!!!! We had never towed a yacht before, Peter had a long floating line ready and Mark set up a bridle on our stern and all went well and to plan. Except for needing to do a rather unexpected and speedy u-turn at one point to pick up a full jug of diesel (with lid securely on!!) which fell overboard while we were refuelling underway all went very well. We went a little slower and burned more fuel but conditions were so calm we hardly knew they were there.

The northern most atoll of the Maldives is called Uligamu/Uligan and they have a customs and immigration office there to process passing yachts. However if you check in here and not at Male first, you are not permitted to travel elsewhere in the Maldive group. They have since tightened their regulations even more and increased their fees, it seems they are definitely after the 5star resort market and not the self sufficient cruising community. We spent a week at anchor waiting for our friends on Gone with the Wind. The days passed but the snorkeling was disappointing after the Andamans and Surins, and although we were welcome ashore there are no restaurants or bars and liquor was not permitted ashore so not even happy hours on the beach.

Anchorage info: 07 04.80N 72 55.13E Dropped in 13.5m settled 19m, sand patches and coral bottom. Anchorage sheltered from east but not much else and deep
Cruising info:
Weather - changeable with some wind through. Boats ahead of us got rain and winds. Exposed to the east
Security - just not an issue at all, very small place, totally safe and secure
Phone/Internet - no phones, no wifi or internet although the customs did let us check weather on his computer briefly
Checking in and out - they come to you to check in, all in uniforms, very professional and extremely well mannered and pleasant. No charges and very easy
Money - no ATM's or money changers, need USD cash
What to do there - Snorkeling disappointing and we tried several spots at Uligan. There is nothing to do ashore
Provisions - Very limited fresh provisions - mouldy bread, a few tomatoes and little else, basic canned goods
Fuel and Water - diesel delivered in jugs to boat USD1.30 per litre, all easy as long as fuel boat has been in. We didn't need water.

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