April 3 - We're off the grid

This note is to let everyone know that we will not be posting for 6-8 weeks. We are transiting an area of the Indian Ocean that requires a somewhat higher level of security and feel it would be imprudent to state our position reports en route. We will post retro-actively when able to fill everyone in on our voyage highlights. No drama, no worries! Cheers!

April 1 - April Fool's; no joke

This morning was spent doing more provisioning. Two stores we found fairly well stocked or able to get most things are the 3S Supermart (tel 8006893535) and the Causeway (tel Mohamed at 9981967). Both stores will arrange free delivery. Frozen goods are relatively scarce except for chicken; better to stock up whenever and wherever you can along the way down the chain. Ex: we still haven't found cheese yet. One issue here is the lack of a good dinghy landing area. To the west is a small beach area that allows easy access to the Link Road for a walk into town. Otherwise, the Gan Retreat Resort is charging $2USD p/p/day to use their dangerous, slippery steps! Forget it! We rafted up quite near the Police and Coast Guard boats and used one of the Police boats to walk thru and climb up the sea wall; much easier on a high tide. Muthhi had arranged the fuel truck to come directly to this area, and we hosed diesel directly into our jerry jugs in the dinghy. No need to schlep them all over the place; convenient and quick. By late afternoon, the diesel transfer was complete and it was time to clean up. We decided to go out for dinner and found a buffet at the Equator Resort just down the road. There are, I was told, 3 different buffets; tonight's was $18USD p/p. The food was delicious and very enjoyable; a good choice for celebrating April Fool's Day!

Mar 31 - What a crazy 24 hours...

We met Mathhi yesterday; what a delightful guy. He's our agent here in Gan for check-out and whatever, and he's been really great. His contact details: email masood@mnsmaldives.com; tel 960 7906609. Stuart and I dropped our laundry off with one of his guys to take care of, and then we went to the machine shop. This is where Stuart will get his propane bottle filled, and he also needed some work on a small motor. I had bought that Jabsco Water Puppy in, and when we stripped it down, it was irreparably damaged...who knows why. At any rate, we then arranged a diesel run, and also stopped at the fuel station, which happened to have a 12 volt pump whose specs just about matched the Jabsco! What were the odds? When we returned to our boats, things went downhill in a hurry. We had decided to move the boat a bit, as our stern was awfully near the reef behind us in a SW wind. This was about 1630 hours. The anchorage basin is small and there's not a lot of good areas to drop the hook and have swinging room. As the anchor went down, the windlass malfunctioned, putting tons of chain down, with the chain wrapping itself around the gypsy, pulling out the hawse plate, and just surprising the hell out of us before the breaker tripped and the unit shut down. Shit. Untangling that mess took a while, and it was too late to affect repairs. Besides, the head was plugged up, no doubt with the heavy sea moss which was all over the place. It took me hours to get into the seacock area, which is T'ed for the head intake, and still couldn't get the stuff out. Did I mention it was late and I was really sweaty? Hmmm. I got a few hours sleep, waking up when our anchor drag alarm went off...all was well in that department as we had set the alarm for a too short swinging radius and the boat had turned, but I thought to myself..."what can I do that won't wake Sue up?" Of course...continue on that darn head.... At any rate, I pulled a ton of moss out of the intake valve and intake line, took a little out of the discharge valve, replaced the joker valve, and replumbed everything. Eureka...that did the trick. Thank goodness. Time to tackle the autopilot issues. The new Simrad hasn't yet gotten the proper data feed from our GPS. I thought I had wired it correctly, but no. So, that was next and it's now rewired and things are looking good on the screen. Nothing like a sea trial to test things out. We've been getting intermittent SW squalls, with winds up to 28 knots recorded, along with rain and cloudy skies. I had to start the engine to put some amps in, and the intake salt water alarm went off. At first, I couldn't identify the alarm; it had never gone off before! Great. What else can go wrong? Actually, this was an easy fix. The strainer was 100% blocked with that green moss crap; cleaning it took care of the problem, and the engine is fine. Earlier I had decanted our jerry jugs into the tanks as we'll go for diesel soon. This morning, we went shopping for provisions. Hours later, we returned to the boat in a downpour, but at least we made a major dent in the shopping list. One thing we've all agreed on; if you see something somewhere you want or need, buy it then and there; don't wait. For example, there's not a great selection of meats here, but these were readily available at other atolls we've visited. At any rate, we've managed to knock off quite a few things in the last 24 hours; I hope the next 24 are a bit kinder.

Mar 30 - Gan, Addu Atoll / Our 5th Equator Crossing!

Pos: S00deg41.144min/ E073deg08.64min We went thru the channel at 1600 with good light, anchoring 2 miles away to stage for a night exit thru the narrow pass out of the atoll. Stuart had gone out and back in the pass, so we used his coordinates to safely make a 0115 exit without any problem. It was pitch black, and winds were NE 8-10 knots. After a few hours the wind died, so the motor went on and stayed on all the way across the Equatorial Channel. At 0418, at longitude 073deg13.056min, we crossed the equator for our fifth time! We had an appropriate celebration (for the hour), and toasted King Neptune in a proper fashion. We entered Addu atoll and went thru the Man (I've seen it spelled Maa also) channel at 7 knots; this is an all-weather channel and can be entered most any conditions. However, the state of the tide has to be reckoned with, as ebb and flood tides can reach 5 knots! (Thanks Ally for the info!) Entry should timed to be made on a flood tide or at slack water. Wouldn't want any of that 5 knots against me! Lowest depth we saw was 46'. We anchored in a small lagoon next to the causeway between Gan and Feydhoo, and shortly thereafter went to meet our agent.

Mar 28 - Fares - Maathodaa (Uhehuttaa)

Pos: N00deg12.431min/ E073deg11.556min The thunder and lightening began at 0300 and didn't let up, although the heavy rain didn't start until later. The wind shifted to the NW, and we were a bit concerned as we had anchored in a "V" shaped indent of sand between two reefs; if the wind shifted west, our stern would be on the reef. So...I kept an anchor watch when the winds picked up to 25, watching our depths go all over the place, from 46' down to 19.9 feet when we swung, which is when I got a bit concerned. Fortunately, no mid-dark drama occurred, and we raised anchor at 0715 and headed off south. Shortly after, the heavier winds and rain, all from the NW, began, and it wasn't much fun dodging reef and islands in near white-out conditions. It blew a steady 22-25 knots, but Sue saw one gust of 30 knots. I finally put a double reef in the main; probably should have done it waaay earlier. We approached our selected anchoring waypoint with a bit of trepidation; another narrow pass thru the reef into a sizable lagoon. We shouldn't have worried. Sailing directions are as follows: approaching the pass, the outside wpt is located at N00deg12.4min/ E073deg11.4min. The entrance is between two rocks, awash when we entered, but the western most rock also has a marker, which is kept to starboard. The second marker noted is also kept to starboard, and the channel shows as a bit different color; we were told minimal depth thru the channel is 3m (9')....we saw 13'. Follow the channel until past the third marker, which is kept to port, when a gradual turn to port is made to find protection behind the reef. All very clear in good light...Avoid the numerous bommies and dark patches; anchorage is in about 20' of sand. As we were anchoring, a bunch of guys came out to see if we needed any assistance, and we chatted with them for about 20 minutes. After Imagine anchored, they went over to say hi to them also and arrangements were made to go into town. We met Shifan, Hussain, Iman and Aslam and got a tour of the fishing vessel Fishman from stem to stern. This 107' vessel is characteristic of the type of fishing vessels found in the Maldives, and we really enjoyed learning about the intricacies of the boat. After, we walked the town, and Shifan (also known as Capo) gave us a wonderful history lesson about Fares-Maathodaa as well as a botanical tour, pointing out every edible plant and fruit on the island! We stopped at Hussain's family house, bought some mangoes from another local, and just all around had the most fantastic afternoon. Walking around town was like walking around Sigiriya; we were told that the history here goes back 800 years; there are ruins, an old grave yard and plenty of old, coral-walled buildings that seem to support that. Another sticky place.

Mar 27 - Lazy daze

These last two days have been awesome. Three small islands are directly in front of us; the coconut palms are swaying in the breeze, and the nearby sandy beaches and different hued water colors never fail to disappoint. It's hot aboard; afternoons are about 89F-91F down below. Jumping into the water brings cool relief, but the currents can be quite rapid. We've dinghied into the beach and walked completely around the nearest island. On the eastern side, black and gray colored lava rock is abundant, and care must be taken walking barefoot. The small estuary on the windward side, inside the reef, seems to be a fish nursery; it's full of vegetation, quite shallow, and has little definition. A narrow river of fast flowing blue water cuts thru the southern side of the island, but sandbars prevent easy dinghy access. We've done a bit of swimming, but have been told by one of the dive boats that the white and black-tipped sharks, rays, turtles, and Napoleon wrasse, as well as other large fish are further south a bit and can be seen at a depth of about 20m outside the reef to windward. We've played hearts with Stuart & Sheila, have kept the tall stories to a minimum, and have also done a lot of boat work. Our salon table finally gave it up; the outer drop leaf pulled off its piano hinge; it hadn't been repaired correctly in Phuket and it was just a matter of time before I had to rebuild it...like yesterday. Finding our epoxy to repair the teak was the easy part; the formica top needs replacement and will have to wait for another time when the entire table can be re-covered. Our Jabsco watermaker boost pump is still gasping for breath but seems to be working, temporarily. A contingency plan is already in place in case it totally craps out. Our meals are getting pretty creative; we've eaten fresh octopus, given to us a couple of days ago at another island, and improvised our own recipe, reminiscent of eating at the Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs. The drinking coconuts we've been given are refreshing, and also make a good mixer. We plan another provisioning in Addu in the next few days. Our lassitude will be over soon; it's sure been a nice break. For anyone following in our wake, you'll love this place; just plan on staying for a while.

Mar 25 - Maarehaa

Pos: N00deg28.070min/ E073deg33.368min A brisk 15-18 ENE wind came up last night and made sleeping very uncomfortable. We had planned to stay one more day to go exploring, but it was so uncomfortable, with the boat pitching and rolling with the reef directly behind us, that we decided to depart. The anchor was raised at 0700 and we had a nice sail to the east side of the atoll, keeping Kodeymatheelaabadhoo Island (love that name...) to our starboard, and finally dropped the hook in 20' of sand, with protection from the N-E. A lot of the charter dive boats are anchored nearby and the scenery is grand. It's Happy Hour.
Pic: A pod of dolphins enjoyed playing in our bow wave.

Mar 24 - G.A. Kalamaafushi (Maagefuttaa)

Yesterday, four high school boys paddled out in strong winds in a 7' lapstrake dinghy to say hello and take pictures. Today, Stuart and I went by dinghy into town and had the good fortune to meet Modes and Ahmed at the dock. They acted as our guides and took us around this island of about 700 people. We went to the school to find our teenage friends, only to find out school was on holiday. We pretty much circumnavigated the island looking for that yellow lapstrake dinghy, finally found it, and eventually met the guys who had taken the time and trouble to paddle out to see us! Along the way we also met many of the townspeople, and enjoyed a coffee at one of the cafes. The hospitality of everyone was amazing, and we felt very welcomed here. Infini and Imagine are, we think, only the third and fourth yachts that have visited here this year; we are off the beaten track. It was wonderful to talk to the people, many of whom spoke very good English, and see their homes, share their food, and make new friends. We were invited out to go fishing but were doing other things at the time. The islanders build boats here and a 120' fiberglass fishing boat is under construction and almost ready for launch. After about two and a half hours, we returned with a few provisions, fruits and veggies; fuel is also available here. Another highly recommended stop for our fellow cruisers. Btw, it's also nice to be able to see your anchor in crystal clear water 20' down, as well as see the family of squid hanging about!
Pic: A great anchorage until the wind shifts...we leave sooner than we'd like.