Day 138, Year 5: Passage to Maldives, Day Three

Day 138, Year 5: Passage to Maldives, Day Three
Date: Saturday, March 13, 2010
Weather: Bright and Sunny; Winds 15 Knots, Backing from S to E
Latitude: 07 degrees 39.546 minutes N
Longitude: 073 degrees 35.499 minutes E
Miles Traveled to Date: 227

We wished for wind and we got it, but since early this morning we have done everything possible to slow ourselves down so we won’t get to Uligan in the middle of the night. Coral atolls are not places you want to try and anchor without good light, so we are sailing with a double-reefed main and headsail. Yesterday the winds were clocking, moving in the direction of clock hands, but today they have been backing (moving counter-clockwise). In the beginning of the day we were on a beam reach with 20 knots of wind, but for most of the day the winds have been moving further and further behind us and have settled in at about 15 knots. We had a bit of a rowdy morning with a period of 24 knots of wind and seas that were rolling us back and forth. But as the winds settled and we slowed down, the ride has been a bit smoother.

I mentioned in yesterday’s log that the Maldives sit on the Laccodive-Chagos Ridge. In the ocean, a ridge is formed when two tectonic plates overlap. Imagine holding a sheet of paper in each hand and then overlapping them slightly. If those two pieces of paper were plates on the bottom of the ocean, where they overlap is where balsalt magma pours out of the earth’s crust making rock. In this case, the magma built the Deccan Plateau and then huge volcanic mountains rose up from the plateau. The mountain tops were literally blown away by volcanic eruptions and cup-shaped craters were formed. When these mountains descended back into the sea as the ocean floor settled, corals built on the crater rims. This went on for a very long time until little coral islands rose above sea level. Each atoll looks like a string of pearls, the pearls being the islands, but under the water between the little islands are more coral formations or reefs. So traveling in and out of an atoll must be done in a pass that is clear of coral and it should be done with the sun at your back so you can see any coral bommies just under the water ahead of you. This is a bit of simplistic explanation and maybe not totally scientifically correct, but I hope it helps to understand a little of how atolls are formed and why we must enter an atoll during the daylight hours. The English word ‘atoll’ is actually derived form the Maldivian word ‘atolu’, so I’ll call the Maldives the mother of atolls.

Day 137, Year 5: Passage to Maldives, Day Two

Day 137, Year 5: Passage to Maldives, Day Two
Date: Friday, March 12, 2010
Weather: Overcast; Variable Winds Clocking NW to E
Latitude: 08 degrees 40.440 N
Longitude: 074 degrees 48.078 minutes E
Miles Traveled to Date: 131.75

A-salam alekum. This is ‘hello’ in the Divehi (Dhivehi) language of the Maldives. When we reach Uligan on Sunday (that is the hope at this point) we will kani (eat), nidani (sleep), hingani (walk), and fatani (swim). Until we get there, however, we would like to duvani (sail). But we have lost our wind and are now slowly motoring to the SW.

Today has been a mixed bag. The good thing was that we did get to sail through the night and into the morning, but then the winds started clocking going from N to NE to E with a little SW during a mid-day squall that produced mostly thunder, a dibble-dop of rain, and three ugly water spouts. It was time for my late morning off-watch nap when the squall came through and I slept through the whole thing. Mark had to come below to close the hatches and he reefed the main and rolled up the headsail, but I heard nothing. The winds did not get above 18 knots as the storm passed, so he really wouldn’t have had to reef, but better safe than sorry. The scary thing was the water spouts, but they dissipated before they got close. So all was well. It is evening now and the sun is going down in a still totally overcast sky. We had to start motoring just after the mid-day storm passed as the winds have been very light since then. And what little wind there is comes from behind us. This means rock ‘n roll, and the seas keep building so that we are getting even more rock ‘n roll. Nothing dangerous, just not as comfortable as it could be. But you get what you get and adapt.

Even though we had no sun today, we decided to slice some tomatoes and try drying them. Another boat in the Bolgatty anchorage, Koukouri, with Claude and Carmen aboard were drying tomatoes on a board in their cockpit, so we decided to try it. You evidently just thinly slice the tomatoes. Put them in the sun for three days, bringing them in at night, and then bag them. You could also put them in olive oil, but Claude just bags them and then reconstitutes them in water when he wants to use them in cooking. Claude has been doing this for years and says it works perfectly, so we are giving it a try. I bought about nine kilos of tomatoes before leaving India. I bought the least ripe that I could find and wrapped them individually in newspaper. But at some point they will all start to ripen at once and I’ll just sun dry them if we find this process works for us. And now I have two pots of sweet basil growing and a pot of Thai basil and arugula. These ingredients should make great pizza while we are in Chagos.

Day 136, Year 5: Passage to Maldives, Day One

Day 136, Year 5: Passage to Maldives, Day One
Date: Thursday, March 12, 2010
Weather: Sunny with Hazy Blue Sky; Winds 8-10 SW
Latitude: 09 degrees 45.586 N
Longitude: 075 degrees 47.329 minutes E
Miles Traveled to Date: 35

Ah, the magic of a little wind. We left the Bolgatty anchorage at 7:45 this morning and by 10 am the sails were raised and we were sailing. We didn’t expect any wind, but the last thing I said to Lynne was that I wanted her to work her magic to make this passage as good as the one from Thailand to India. She did and we are sailing a close reach toward the southwest with 8-10 knots of wind from the southwest. Since the wind is coming from the direction we want to go, we sailed a little west today and just tacked to put a bit more southing in. After six weeks of sitting in a city anchorage with very little wind, this feels WONDERFUL. So now it’s all about our next destination, the Maldives.

The Lakshadweep Islands (formerly known as the Laccadives) sit just to the west of Cochin and head southward. The Maldives look like an extension of the Lakshadweeps and actually they are as both are part of the submerged Laccadive-Chagos Ridge. As the name would indicate, the Chagos Archipelago is also part of this chain. We will travel about 270 miles from Cochin to the northern most atoll in the Maldives. After spending a few days in absolute tropical paradise, we will then sail 500 miles to the southern most atoll in the Maldives, the Addu Atoll. And then from there about 300 miles to the Chagos Archipelago. The Maldives area includes of 26 atolls with islands to numerous to count. Ihavandhippolhu and North Thilahunmathee Atolls are the northern most and our destination is the island of Uligan (Uligamu) in the Ihavanhippolhu Atoll. The atoll names are all impossible to pronounce, so the government divided the 26 atolls into 21 administrative districts and named the districts by the letters of the Thaana alphabet. So from now on I’ll refer to the northern most atoll as Haa Aliff-much easier than Ihavandhippolhu. I read some statistics about the Maldives in the Lonely Planet today. The Maldives are 99.9 per cent water and that water is pristine and is dotted with some of the world’s most beautiful white sand beaches. The statistic I liked the best, however, was that the number of shark attacks since 1976 has been zero. The Maldivians joke about having the world’s friendliest sharks. I like that.

The bad news about today is that the brand new $1,500 auto pilot drive arm that Ed and Lynne had shipped to India is not working. Not having a freezer is an inconvenience, but not having an auto pilot to cross the Indian Ocean would be devastating. So Ed spent his morning upside down installing the old drive arm. By 1:30 this afternoon, he had it working. We can only hope that it holds.

A final note about India: I totally forgot to mention in last night’s log that we had dinner at the Bolgatty Palace and Island Resort. Ed and Lynne went with us. The Bolgatty Palace sits next to the island resort and looks like it might be used only for large gatherings. It is the oldest Dutch palace outside of Holland. We enjoyed our dinner, but found the food to be not quite as good and four times as expensive as our little vegetarian restaurant that we have been visiting regularly in downtown Ernakulam. But it was lovely to sit in the air-conditioned splendor and enjoy our last evening in Cochin with Ed and Lynne. Unfortunately, the air-conditioning didn’t keep the mosquitoes out. And going to the Bolgatty for dinner gave Ed a chance to get one more gerry can of water. The Bolgatty graciously received our mail for us and provided us with unlimited water for washing and showers. So thank you to the nice folks at the Bolgatty who help make life for cruisers in Cochin just a little easier.