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The Indian Ocean
Crossing from Thailand to the Maldives, February 10th - 21st 2008 (by Dagmar)
What a great crossing for us: good fair winds, not to much swell, easy enough for myself to get enough rest after having Dengue Fever in Thailand and being hospitalized for a week.
Getting closer to the North of Sumatra, the shipping traffic started. For several days we were sailing close to the shipping lane, big freighters and container ships were passing us on both sides. Sometimes we had to change our course, because they were coming to close in the night and we were not sure, if they had seen us, our little sailing boat. Some of the container ships were incredibly fast. From spotting them on the horizon to the time they passed us, they sometimes took just 10-15 minutes...scary...we had to be on full alert for our watches on deck, especially in the night.
Every day, two times we communicated thru VHF and SSB radio with our friends from "de Pelikaan", who were 2 days ahead of us, and our friends from "Ohana Kai" and "Moorea" with whom we were sailing in closer distance. So we knew what's new, how intense the shipping traffic was ahead of us, how much wind we had to expect...
Almost every day dolphins visited us and swam close to the boat for a long time. It's always an amazing experience...so graceful they swim in the water....
Two days away from the Maldives, the wind stopped. The ocean was flat like a mirror.
We stopped LUNA and had a nice refreshing swim.
We were very excited to visit the Maldives, to have great surf sessions at the Male Atoll. I am very excited to try my new surf board, we bought in Thailand. If you remember, Bart broke my old one, on one of the crazy waves at the Ekas surf spot in Lombok/Indonesia.
The Maldives, February 21st - March22nd 2008 (by Dagmar)
The sun came up and there you could see it in the distance: Male, the capital of the Maldives. The Maldives, made up of some 19 major atolls, 1190 islands, just 192 inhabited. Many of these are very small and generally no more than 2.5 m above sea level. So rising of the sea level due to global warming is one of the mayor concerns of the Maldivians. If present predictions are correct and a rise of 1m occurs by the year 2100, most of the Maldives could be uninhabited. I thought, when we approached the island of Male, that high palm trees will be the first thing we would see from the distance. But Male is one of the dense inhabited places in the world. So this little shallow sand and coral island is crowded with buildings several stories high to accommodate as much people as possible. So, what we saw on the horizon looked like "Little Manhattan in the Indian Ocean".
Already in Thailand we made arrangements with a Maldivian agent, Ahamed Naushad, Management Executive for Nooranma Travel Co. for all formalities necessary to enter the archipelago and to stay for more or less a month. He's a very friendly guy, was always there for us and offering help in every way we needed it. After clearing in and receiving a cruising permit valid to cruise the North and South Male Atoll for four weeks, we went to the lagoon anchorage close to the airport, and by dinghy to the nearby ferry terminal to catch a dhonis, a ferry to Male, just a 15 minutes trip. Male is a bustling, noisy city; lots of traffic, motor cycles everywhere. The national flag rises up high between the government buildings.
Most of the population of the Maldives are Sunni Muslim. More than 30 mosques are covering the tiny island capital. Muslims pray to God (Allah) five times a day. The most important worship is at noon on Friday. A lot of businesses are closed on that day and Saturday. Sunday is a regular working day for everybody. Most women are dressed according to their religion, long sleeves, long dresses and a head scarf.
Streets are very narrow. You have to have a close eye on the traffic. Cars and motor cycles were passing by very close. We went to the local fruit- and vegetable market to stock up with bananas, water melon and lime, as well as potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage... Bread we had to by at a supermarket.
The local fish market was very interesting. Colorful fish, big size tuna, sword fish and marlin.
Have a look at the tuna fish at the bottom picture to the right.
That was the biggest yellow fin tuna I have ever seen. The fisherman, to the left, was very proud of his early morning catch.
In the ferry terminal we had to wait for our next "dhonis" to bring us back to the lagoon anchorage close to the airport.
On Friday, February 22nd we left the lagoon anchorage for a surf spot north of the island of Himmafushi, just a 2-hour trip with LUNA, to meet with our boat friends from "de Pelikaan", "Moorea" and "Ohana Kai" for some great surf sessions.
Surf photos by Dagmar, Vincent (de Pelikaan) and Lisa (Ohana Kai)
We surfed the spot called "Honkies", a left handed break. It was real family fun for all of us.
On February 24th we decided to sail further North, to explore some other surf spots : "Chicken" and "Cola's" close to the island of Thulusdhoo. The island has a little fisher village and a protected harbor. Small fisher boats were anchored there, some ferry traffic from the nearby dock, some coral heads close to the reef. So it took us a while until we were all anchored safely in the bay. Kelly, Lisa and myself went to shore, to see if we could buy some fruit and veggies. Most male village inhabitants were sitting under a huge tree close to shore, watching us. Two guys from the group greeted us, Haider and Shahid, and showed us around the tiny island. Houses and walls were build with coral stones, imported from Sri Lanka and India. The whole village looked very tidy, clean, not many people to see on the streets, no dogs barking...everywhere very quiet. What a difference to Male. The Muslim women of the island were very shy, just greeting us with nodding theirs heads and then vanishing behind property walls.
Haider and Shahid are both shop owners. Haider owns a surf shop, Shahid a small supermarket. They belong to the local surf community of Thulusdhoo. They showed us pictures from the island after the Tsunami of 2004, water knee-high in the streets, boats on shore, houses destroyed....With the Aid of different countries they were able to rebuilt the whole village. A barge loaded with coral stones was at the dock, ready to unload for more construction work.
With bags full of bread, eggs, mountain apples and other fruits and veggies we returned to our yachts, promising Haider and Shahid to come back with our families in the late afternoon. But that was not going to happen. The custom authorities had already contacted our agent Ahamed and told him that we were not welcome in the harbor and informed him about a curfew for tourists, that stated, ... tourists are not allowed on the island after 6pm. Apparently, when we enter a harbor we have to contact our agent, who would get in contact with the local authorities, to inform them about our arrival and to get an official approval. They told us, that we had to leave the following morning.
We were very disappointed about the situation. The Maldives were not an easy cruising ground for yachties. There are hardly no bays or anchorages we were allowed in. The tiny islands are all exclusively for Resort Guests, no anchoring allowed for Yachts. And when you approach, you have to pay a fee of US$ 20.- per person per day, with permission to stay on the beach, but not to use any facility on shore....very welcoming indeed!!!! The authorities apparently didn't want us to mix with the local Muslim community.
When we decided to sail to the Maldives, we thought it would be a beautiful cruising ground for us, and we're maybe lucky to have some nice surf sessions. But it turned out just the opposite. We had lots of great surf sessions, lots of fun, but mostly stayed in the Jailbreak harbor (Himmafushi) anchorage and did some trips to the main island of Male for provisioning.
After a surf session on the next morning at "Chickens", we went to the Coca Cola (which gave the name for the surf spot "Cola"s") Company in the harbor of Thulusdhoo, to buy several cases of Coke and Bitter Lemon, then we left for "Honkies", the surf spot close to Himmafushi island.
Our friends from "de Pelikaan" left early for Male to pick up our friend Hizkia from Holland, who would spend a week with us cruising and surfing. Already the first day he joined the surfing fun for 3 hours, what ended in his biggest sunburn ever.
February 27th: Hizkia was right in time for Lisa's 40th birthday. "Lordy Lordy, Lisa's 40."
We dressed her in sarongs and a veil, colored her eyes with eyeliner. She had to answer several questions concerning the Muslim religion, to get rid of all of them. She did great and the party could begin.
Hizkia could surf every day. He picked just the right week for his visit on "de Pelikaan" and on "Luna". Because, as we know now, the weather would change in some days. But still for some more days we enjoyed water games, surfing and fun in the sun.....
...and on board.....
During the day we left the Himmafushi harbor to anchor in the pass close to the surf spot "Honkies", going by dinghy close to the break. Dolphins and turtles swam in the pass almost every day.
Before surfing we covered our faces in sunscreen and zinc. The intense sun took its toll; blisters on lips, irritated eyes, sunburns and...Bart's surf board didn't survive "Honkies", but Bruce could help out with one of his own.
Even kite surfing was possible one day in the anchorage, when the wind messed up the nice waves.
The weather changed suddenly. A big low pressure system was close to the Maldives, bringing squalls, with lots of rain and wind. There was always ample warning in the great cloud-masses of the disturbance. One day coming from the "Honkies Surf break" we even had to find shelter with LUNA and all the other boats behind the island of Himmafushi, before we could enter after some hours the narrow pass of the anchorage again. The black curtain was now directly overhead and we were struck by wind- and rain squall of great intensity. 40 knots of wind was not a rare occasion during that days. We had very rough weather for the days to come. So we had to postpone our departure.
Before leaving for Yemen we stocked up with supplies in Male, got the fuel- and water barge, and enjoyed a
great Thai dinner in town with all our boat-friends.
We left March 22nd for the third longest crossing we ever did, 1600sm towards the Red Sea....
....... to Al Mukalla/Yemen.
Last modified: September 02, 2008