Thursday, April 30, 2009

Maldives - Uligan and Dhidhoo

25/4/2009 11:05am

A blog from James Day 8

We are currently in the middle of the ocean still, after 8 days non-stop sailing (or motoring) with no sight of land anywhere. Life has come almost to a standstill, with nothing active going on, except our exercises. There is nothing out here; no land, very few other boats and little animal activity. The only really exiting things happening on board ‘Muneera’ (by Dubai standards) are to do with wildlife. There have been lovely spinner dolphins ‘spinning’ underwater and swimming with us in front of the bowsprit and, most memorable of them all, when we were trawling along and caught a baby blue marlin! It took Dad half an hour to reel it in and close up it glowed because it was nervous. Magical. We let it go though because it would be cruel to kill such a creature. Apart from those and a few tankers and flying fish there is nothing out here. It feels very strange being out in the middle of the ocean but I feel very relaxed and calm. Everyone, actually, is very calm, apart from Sam being afraid that the blue marlin would come up from the depths and kill him whenethere we have a wash in the ocean.
Dreaming of coconut palms and coral and looking forward to seeing land soon.

29 April 2009

Kate now.....
I can’t believe that we have crossed the Indian Ocean, some 1200 nautical miles and are now in the tropics amidst spectacular coral attols with a myriad of sea life swimming below the boat. The crossing was relatively quick in 10 days and unfortunately can only confess to having sailed for half the time. As had been predicted by the experienced Indian Ocean cruisers Matthew, Sue and John, there was indeed no wind out there and our very able weather man Spencer after getting our hopes up on 12knots of wind one day put us in our place by predicting none for the rest of the journey! We were very thankful for our very large diesel tanks and have been not too shocked at the refill price of diesel here in the Maldives at $US 1.00/litre – mind you this is still 3 times as much as Oman and double Dubai.....gone are our days of cheap fuel!

But life at sea was good to us. We settled into a routine early on and this certainly helped to pass the days relatively quickly and painlessly. The first 3 days saw the boys all feeling pretty rotten and doing a lot of sleeping after which they suddenly found their sea legs and flew for the rest of the journey. The mornings were filled with drawing, writing, reading or leggo plus the gameboy and laptop which were a treat for them in moments of total boredom! We cooked a big lunch each day, both took a day rest and then spent the late afternoons doing schoolwork followed by exercises -star jumps, situps, push ups and a general running off of excess energy! The most looked forward to time of the day was a deck salt water douse followed by a fresh water hose down and drying in the cool evening air after very hot and sticky days of wallowing on the ocean. After the first few days we in fact discarded most clothes to help cool down and sat becalmed one day as we all swam in the ocean and had a much needed hair wash.....very bizarre feeling when you know there is 3000 meters of ocean below you. Rob and I worked a 3 hour about watch shift through the night – I went to bed with the boys with Rob on 8- 11, then me 11- 2, Rob 2- 5 and then me again until 8am. We used an egg timer to give ourselves 10min naps through the night (an invaluable tip from Ron and Chris) and with the radar to help sight plus the fact there were so few ships out there, the nights were relatively calm and easy. There were a couple of exciting wildlife treats along the way as noted by James in his blog , only once did we have to alter course in the middle of the night to avoid a rather large container ship and had a very bizarre loss of GPS, autopilot and all nav equipment one night whilst Rob was on watch.....Bermuda triangle stuff?! Two days ago our Iridium phone decided not to talk with the laptop so don’t know when that will be up and running again and unfortunately we still don’t have the HF radio speaking to laptops either so will have to rely on land based internet connections for the next while.....the joys of telecommunications!

So we have had our first day in the Maldives and are all very impressed and thrilled to be here. The boys were all out snorkelling at 6.30 this morning on a coral reef in front of the boat and we cannot believe the size and diversity of fish that are swimming beneath ‘Muneera’. Uligan is a great island at the top of the Maldives – pop. 470 with small village that has customs and immigration. We have found a great contact in Male courtesy of the Browns in Cape Town - Hassan has been a great help in organising an agent here in Uligan and going through the painful process of an ‘inter atoll cruising permit ‘(nothing like banking on the tourist at $US 550/month!). The government are very sticky about cruising yachts – it seems that most yachts just pass through Uligan going east or west to Asia or the Red Sea and so do not pay the big fee and would in fact seemingly prefer all visitors to come and stay in their very expensive resorts instead! Trying to be precise about which of the hundreds of islands we want to visit over the next month has been an interesting process and hopefully all paperwork will be sorted by tomorrow and we will be on our way to explore further. In saying that we are in no hurry to leave the north - the people here are so friendly and helpful, we have been invited to visit the local school tomorrow and today we were taken by local ‘donhi’ boat across to another island to try and do some re provisioning – the Maldives imports most things so the only fresh fruit and vege available in these remote parts at present are cabbage, bananas, carrots and a few very expensive apples!

All very happy and very excited to finally have a new culture too explore in the magical tropics

30 April 2009

Well we weren’t too successful on the internet connection front in Uligan (impressive that it may have even worked!) and now further south at Didhidoo which impressively has wireless internet connection here as we sit at anchor in the harbour. The government seems to provide a lot for their people and everyone seems to be employed with all government jobs only allowed to work 8hrs per day. This morning before leaving Uligan we visited the local school which was really impressive. They have only 120 students covering kindergarten up to O levels (all British curriculum in the Maldives) with 19 teaching staff 7 of whom are employed as expatriates from India and Sri Lanka. All school subjects are taught as compulsory in English so the level of English language here is really impressive considering how little contact they have with the world outside their small islands. There are 2 school sessions through the day with the morning session starting at 6.45 for the senior school students......makes those early Dubai starts seem very easy! The boys were great in a yr10 english class answering lots of questions with such confidence and of course as always the students intrigued with Sam and his hair....the girls especially wooed! I must say we are blissfully happy hanging out in way out Maldivian island villages. This island of Didhidoo is the capital for the area with 3.5 thousand people on a smaller island than Uligan so they are starting land reclamation next year as there is no more land anywhere to build - sadly no coconut tree jungle left like on Uligan. But still only a couple of cars, no bitumen roads, lots of bikes and walking with lush coconut, papaya and bread fruit trees everywhere. The country is in pre election mode frenzy (local elections on the 9th May) so lots of posters up all over the islands, lots of loud speakers with lots of electioneering in between call to prayer through the day and just lots of chilled out friendly people living a decidedly relaxing island life. It is so nice to be back into the travelling mode with time spent foraging for food and washing clothes at the local well for a couple of hours under the shade of a tree - when we think about the life in Dubai that we have just left........!! The boys were very excited when we found a Betty Crockett chocolate packet cake on the shelf of local shop this afternoon and all extremely excited that the weekly boat from Male came in today and so found fresh cucumbers, beans, mangoes, oranges, apples and okra - a much more successful shop than the other day on the other island. So we will now test the internet connection paid through our newly acquired Maldives sim card and hope to get this through.

The Sailing Weights

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