Sunday, May 24, 2009

More Male...

Sunday 24th May 2009

I can't believe that I am writing yet another blog from Male and this time in gale force winds in a completely unprotected has been a long week!!

We moved last week for a couple of nights into a small lagoon on the industrial site island, Thilafushi, where Hassan is building his safari boat because the weather was so rough and we were fed up with being up and down all night to watch the anchors and swinging wildly around in winds gusting up to 30knots. The area was not big enough to anchor so had many men swimming around the boat putting out 4 lines to the front and 2 lines plus anchor off the back all tied around steel poles hammered into the sand....all very concerned for Muneera's safety! So we sat very tight for 2 nights as the winds howled around us and stomped to and fro the mainland ferry through lots of mud and mess. With the generator finally fixed, we were then given permission to enter a working harbour on Friday as there were no other supply boats around at lunchtime after prayers and the mechanics worked until dark reinstalling the generator. At this point we did not want to move anywhere due to the danger of navigating these waters at night and the foul weather so managed to sweet talk the harbour authorities into allowing us to stay alongside until sun up. Thinking all was fine and that we would get to bed for an early start the next day, somehow word got out to the coast guard and customs and at 1am in the morning they eventually evicted us out with a small pilot boat to bring us back to our original anchorage at Hulamale Island which is the only place where foreign registered boats apparently are allowed to anchor in Male. This country is still so bound up with its previous rulers governance and paranoia with foreigners - we felt like we were back in Africa except that a backhander was not likely to work and with a crowd of people dockside, including poor Hussan who was dragged down to try and sort it out, it was somewhat of a circus and great entertainment for all those milling around. Ishmail our trusty mechanic came again to Muneera yesterday to check all was OK and also to service the engine and was meant to come back today to finish this job off. Well overnight the weather took a turn for the worst and we have been fighting 40 knot plus gale force winds ever since. It was a very long night and today the wind and rain has not abated and has been all pretty stressful with alot of boats around trying to manoeuvre and get more anchors out. All the ferry services have been cancelled and we feel somewhat islolated and trapped knowing that it would be dangerous to have to weigh anchor at this point. This being said, there are alot of others in the same boat and everyone is watching out for everyone else so feel certain there would be help at hand if needed – we hailed some guys over this morning to help us lay a third anchor out front using their dinghy. So it would seem our run of ‘paradise weather’ has ended for the time being and would be very grumpy if we had paid the thousands that the clients on these safari boats will have paid to sit here with no diving or surfing! We can do nothing but sit it out and hope there is some respite soon.

In between all of this waiting for the generator and bad weather, last week we stumbled upon the National Art Gallery and into an amazing exhibition of local artist Eagan Badeeu. We spent a great couple of hours admiring his amazing art and chose a painting to remind us of our time in the Maldives which will be sent home for us. Eagan is a wonderful guy and it was great to be able to spend time with him the following day when he visited us dockside We will have been in Male for 2 weeks by tomorrow and certainly feel we know the place well! We will now need to contact the BIOT (British Indian Ocean Territories) authority to change the dates for our Chagos permit as are now 2 weeks behind plans and don't want to lose any of our month long permit down there...........the joys of travelling!!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Monday 18 May 2009

Male – Male Atoll

So we are still in Male!
Two days ago the generator decided to pack up having flooded with sea water due to incorrect installation back in Dubai. After numerous phone calls to Dubai and the prospect of paying for a mechanic to fly in from Dubai we found a very knowledgeable guy here who knew exactly what had gone wrong and left us seriously wondering yet again at the level of incompetency of mechanics in Dubai! We borrowed the ‘Black Pearls’ men and dhonni dive boat to take the generator out and then motored it over to the main island where it was then taken by pickup to the workshop and is now being fixed and serviced hopefully for the last time. Unfortunately the ‘Black Pearl’ is leaving on safari this afternoon so will have to find another dhonni from elsewhere and some men to return and reinstall and hopefully have sorted ready to leave tomorrow. This has held us up a good few days which we haven’t really been able to afford as our visa expires on the 26th May. The boys and Rob did not do their dive course here in Male as the logistics of leaving the boat were not ideal. The weather has been very stormy since our arrival and we are at anchor in a very unprotected area with very choppy seas and a lot of big safari boats, anchors and movement. We have now organised for them to do their course in Gan in the south if we manage to get an extension on our visa.

We have really enjoyed Male and visited the museum, Friday Mosque and old areas plus found a great coffee shop with excellent coffee and pizza! Hassan has been fantastic and we were very spoilt to have his sister do all our linen and clothes washing for us and enjoyed a delicious meal at his home with all the family. Chon, the skipper of the ‘Black Pearl’ has also been a great help to ensure the safety of Muneera when we have gone to shore and he and his crew have been great next door neighbours with the boys loving using the back of their boat for ‘bomby’ competitions! We had another unexpected visitor today bearing birthday gifts from my sister Jo and nieces in Denmark (Western Australia) – Andrew has been here for the past 10 days with his son on a ‘boys’ surf safari and has had a great time by all accounts. They had us a little jealous watching the cooks preparing their dinner at a nice long dining room table in full air-conditioning plus cold beer in the fridge........ahhhhh! Alcohol is a no go in the Maldives with no ability to bring it into the country and no hotels licensed to sell or serve. However all resort islands have special licenses which allow them to purchase alcohol for their non-muslim clients and this then leaves the rest of the population scrounging around if they want a drink.
Hopefully there will be no more posts from Male!! - the generator is now not being delivered tomorrow morning Wednesday 20th and then we run for Gan hopefully with a few days visa extension.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Manadhoo, Kudafari, Male

Friday 8 May 2009-05-08

Manadhoo – Noono Atoll
It is Friday morning and so lots of kids on the water in various floating bit s of wood, old boards, a canoe and blow up lilos milling around the boat and being intrigued with the familiar muslim name, ‘Muneera’. Funnily enough, when we were about to leave Dubai, the 2nd owner of the boat who originally rebuilt her after being abandoned on the creek, brought some photos down and we found we had the spelling wrong. The original Kuwaiti Sheik who owned her had named her after his wife and there in the photo is the original spelling with Kuwait registration ‘Muneerah’!! He hoped that perhaps the slight change in spelling would bring the boat good luck as she had not had a very happy sailing history with the previous owners and name spelling!

Manadhoo Island on the Noono or South Miladhunmadulu Atoll has been a great place to hang out for the past few days. Again lots of really friendly locals and was great to be invited into homes where we were treated with fresh coconut milk and papayas. There has not been as much rain this year and so growing of fruits and vegetables not as productive. We were lucky that the supply boat arrived yesterday so again a chance to stock up though have been eating most nights at Lateef’s ‘Bikini’ cafe. The food is very simple here – either rice or noodles fried up with a mix of chopped vege bits, sometimes a bit of chicken added with a heavy dose of chilly on all and always served with eggs. Sam and Tom have taken to ordering steamed rice and eggs with soya sauce for every meal as cannot cope with the chilly which appears in all dishes. Fish of course is everywhere but we of course haven’t caught any so far.....except for the famous blue marlin catch! We have bought from the locals and enjoyed on the BBQ off the back of the boat and in the restaurants it is covered in chilly.

We were meant to leave for Kudafari yesterday but got out of the harbour to find a bad water leak in the engine. So back in we came and had mechanics come on board to help fix it up – poor Rob is so grumpy with the original mechanics in Dubai who really did not have the engine sorted as they should have......what to do though when we are in the middle of the Maldives!! With spending another day here we took the opportunity to do more washing – we are not changing clothes too often to avoid the big hand wash and conserving of fresh water. We wash first in salt water and then just rinse off with the fresh – lots of rinsing and wringing and then looking like a Chinese laundry. We have now just pulled up alongside the harbour wall to fill up with water which will cost only $1/100 litres and it is potable which is great – we have been drinking it for the last few days and no illness yet. Various nieces and nephews of Lateef’s have finally got the courage up to come on the boat today and they are all intrigued and fascinated with the ‘house on boat’, with the leggo and the various other games on board. James is being his usual social self and teaching them all to play UNO which I think they may have got the hang of. Checkers seems to be found anywhere in the world and so they have found common ground there and Tom has just been beaten in chess!

Will sign off here – we will be in Male in a few days time but plan to be there after the elections are over tomorrow. The electioneering and music blasting from the loud speakers has really been something else and we find ourselves now singing along to the tunes! This is a very exciting time now for the Maldives - after 30 years of a very corrupt dictator there was a new leader elected last year and now all islands and atolls around the country will have the own democratically elected members as well. There are a lot of excited and hopeful people around and all looking forward to the reforms and freeing up of their country.

Tuesday 12th May

Kudafari – Noono Atoll
Well after thinking we could post a blog the other day we instead headed for the very magnificent and untouched island of Kudafari where there was definitely no internet let alone shops or restaurants or any other such thing. But what we did find was paradise!! Through the wonderful Hassan in Male, we met Amir and his family and had the most amazing couple of days joining into local life. The boys played football (soccer) with the local kids, we fished and snorkelled off the beach with Amir and his family, were given octopus from some older kids who had speared them out of the reef and had a fantastic seafood BBQ Maldivian style’ in Amir’s lush garden surrounded by coconut palms. We were there for election day and there was a 3 day holiday to mark the occasion – no loud rallying and music in Kudafari. Amir brought his wife and girls out to the boat one evening and we enjoyed being able to return the hospitality though the girls were not too taken with the pasta bolognaise I dished up! We spent the evening having lessons on how to fish in the Maldives and had great success with the netting of a beautiful large red snapper. Even though alcohol is very much a no go zone in this country being strictly Muslim, Amir was very happy to enjoy a whisky with Rob, had great English and am sure his wife understood more than she let on but was very shy to talk. We finally left Kudafari and the northern atolls and headed south having so enjoyed such a magical part of the Maldives.

Male^- Male Atoll
Our overnight sail to Male started off very rough and lumpy as we passed through the very deep Kaishadoo Kandu (channel) and then was filled with wonderful wind as we headed for Male. Unfortunately as the morning broke we had to beat straight into the wind to make it into Male, the engine overheated (an airblock in the sea water hose from all the bouncing and heeling overnight.....the brilliant live aboard mechanic rob fixed as usual!), then Rob rescued the dinghy which snapped off the one davit arm (Mathew Brown note!!) as we foolishly had left the engine on her instead of securing off the back......and then we arrived!!

We are at anchor off another island near to the airport island amongst all the safari boats, yachts, gin palaces etc....we suddenly look very small in comparison! Hassan was there to welcome us in and had us anchor alongside his friend’s fantastic dive safari boat, the ‘Black Pearl’ and has been a great pleasure to finally meet him. He is a friend of the Browns in South Africa and is married to Lara who is Finnish with Younis (4yrs) who are now both back in Finland. We had a great evening with much talk of hopes for the ‘New Maldives’ and life here and his amazing plans with his new eco safari boat that he is currently building. Today we left ‘Muneera’ being looked out for by the ‘Black Pearl’ and came onto the island for the night, to take a look around and enjoy the chaos that Male is. This tiny island (circumference 5 km) is wall to wall, tall, spindly buildings built on tiny plots with everyone living up and down on top of each other. The roads are teeming with scooter style motorcycles and cars competing for space, lots of hooting and amongst this the poor pedestrians who are trying to avoid the traffic and the puddles from the regular rain showers that have started falling today. It all feels very safe and bustly and the ‘plastic fantastic’ of china has well and truly found its’ way here making it feel a lot like Karama or Satwa in Dubai. Here the shops work around the 5 daily prayer times so they open and close regularly throughout the day and the boys were most excited to find a book shop that sold a few Astrix!! Unfortunately after a great meal in a local restaurant with Hassan we returned to our hotel room to find a call from the ‘Black Pearl’s captain saying that a big storm was coming and they were worried about the boat. So now poor Rob has had to go and catch the local ferry back out to the boat and will spend the night keeping Muneera safe whilst the boys and I enjoy the airconditioning and a hot shower with cooked breakfast tomorrow.....faithful skipper! The weather looks to be set in for the next few days so will have to sit tight and still hoping to organise the dive course for James and Tom before we head further south.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

more Indian Ocean and Uligan....

Still sitting in Dhidhoo after the anchor winch cane unstuck whilst weighing anchor off a coral reef off the island of Utheem. All now fixed courtesy of local mechanics and then spent the afternoon in the lap of luxury at a 5 star resort spoiling ourselves with a sumptuous even tougher than before!! The photos below did not make it onto the blogsite the other night so are now putting on the remainder - be impressed by the sad marlin with the sore broken snout!!