Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Gan, Addu Atoll

Monday 8th June
Gan, Addu Atoll

The journey south to Gan was very relaxing after the chaos of Male and with no wind and 2 knots of current against us, we crossed the equator at 4am in the morning. It was night shift change over time so, I tumbled out of bed half asleep, Rob was well ready to go back to sleep and as we both gazed, impressed at the GPS reading of 00 0 00 across a very flat and soupy sea, we then promptly forgot to take the obligatory photo or feast on the obligatory champagne! The last time we physically crossed the equator was in 1995 in our trusty Landrover in Kenya and I remember us being just as remiss that time with photos as this.

Arriving in Gan was very surreal - a little like a mix of being on Rottnest Island off Perth and in some 1940’s movie set of a war time military base. Gan was a British military base from 1944-1976 and had 600 servicemen permanently based here and up to 3000 during war time. After 30 years of dominating life in this atoll, the British then left and the military base was turned into the ‘Equator Village Resort’ with guests now all housed in the original offices accommodation. It is the Maldives only low end budget accommodation resort and has a great, quirky feel though pretty average service with very ordinary food. Gan is one of a series of 4 islands all joined by causeways (legacy of the British) so is quite novel being able to move from one island to the next. It has been great to catch up with Bryan on ‘Aroha’ who left Dubai a couple of weeks before us and share this beautiful and protected anchorage with turtles cruising around and pipe fish swimming nearby. Rob, James and Tom also, finally got to do their Open Water Diver qualification through the dive centre at the resort and were really lucky to have a great local instructor. They did no pool dives but instead used the local ‘house reef’ for all learning and then yesterday had the most amazing time outside the atoll with 2 boat dives where they saw manta rays, spotted eagle rays, turtles and leaf fish amongst a myriad of other spectacular tropical fish and coral. It has been such a fantastic experience for them to do the course here and now of course they are desperate to do the next level up so they can go deeper! With the course taking 5 days there was little time to do much else and Sam and I just hung on the beach, snorkelled on the house reef and generally chilled out.

So today is our last day in Gan and we have done lots of washing care of some kind guests at the resort, stocked up on food to last us the next possible 8 weeks, sorted out customs clearance and tomorrow after filling up with fuel and water will be on our way south. The weather has continued to be windless and calm which suited us whilst here but now praying that the wind gods will grace us with more of their presence in the next few days! We have been 6 weeks in the Maldives and other than the dramas in Male with the dreaded generator, have loved our time here. We have been incredibly lucky to have met a lot of great local people and have been so impressed by the warmth and generosity that has been extended to us. We really feel that we have experienced the Maldives beyond the usual resort experience that most visitors have and have so enjoyed the many interesting conversations we have had about life and the future of the Maldives.

So this will be our last blog for a number of weeks until we reach somewhere with internet access approx end of July. After thinking that we were definitely going to head to the Seychelles after the Chagos, the situation has deteriorated again and we are fairly certain now that we will not be risking ourselves with the pirates. This being the case, we will most likely head south west from the Chagos to Rodrigues and then on to Mauritius and Reunion before rounding the southern end of Madagascar, across to Mozambique and then on to South Africa. This has thrown plans somewhat and thankfully have Helen, from ‘Aroha’, delivering to us in the Chagos next month, electronic charts and paper charts to cover these areas. We have started reading up lots in the Lonely Planet guides and are all getting excited about what these islands will have to offer especially with all the hiking and volcano walks on Reunion.

We will still be able to receive emails whilst at sea and in the Chagos via our sailmail address:
Please though remember, as before, keep the messages short as we will be accessing via the sat phone or over the HF radio which does not allow long messages to be transmitted and certainly none with attachments.

Chagos archipelago here we come!!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

and more Male....!!

Monday 1st June
Finally we leave Male!!

After the excitement of reinstalling the generator and surviving the gales....the generator broke down AGAIN!! What a debacle – as it turns out, our not so trusty mechanic had decided not to check the head originally as he had no access to replacement gaskets here in Male so just left it alone. Of course this then all seized and we found ourselves with generator out once again, onto ‘Black Pearls’ donni (they arrived back from Safari just in time), over to the mainland and an order back to Dubai to be couriered in. So again we waited a couple of days and then just as the parts arrived, the mechanic looked further too now discover that the piston was also broken and of course none available here!! So another week gone, US$800 spent on getting a 2 week visa extension (to do with the boat and cruising permits), many more US$ on parts and couriering and we were back to having a broken generator and still in Male with only 9 days left on our new visa.

SO, with no time left to wait (considering the boys needed 5-6 days for a dive course in Gan 3 days sail away) and taking the bull by the horns..........Rob headed into Male on Saturday morning, organised the broken generator and it’s bits to be packed up, purchased a small petrol generator to cover us through our time in the Chagos and then had all delivered back to Muneera by donni. With this done we finally set sail out of Male, 3 weeks after we had arrived with a generator in a more broken state than when we arrived! The whole fiasco rocked us somewhat as we felt so completely unable to control the ridiculous situation we found ourselves in but we are back at sea and already feeling well relaxed and free!! Poor Hassan has been such a great help through all this, opening his home for us to use and navigating the many technical challenges of doing business in Male......trying and expensive to say the least!! Chon on ‘Black Pearl’ kept our spirits up when we needed to escape ‘Muneera’ and the boys were very impressed with the large screen TV to watch movies and more importantly, as far as I was concerned, getting the washing done in a washing machine. Through all this the boys were amazing – never once complaining of being bored or fed up...unlike us! They were happy just swimming around the boats, reading, writing diaries, doing their schoolwork and hanging out when the weather was so vicious and walking the frenetic streets of Male with always the promise of visiting their favourite Sea House Cafe which had the best pizzas and coffee in town! They continue to impress us with their ability to adapt to life on Muneeera and are all so happy and enthusiastic about our journey which is a blessing

And now.......we are enroute for Gan, which is just south of the equator. We had a great wind to blow us out of Male but now are back to no wind so stopped the boat this afternoon and had a wonderful swim with 2000m of water below us. The dolphins have been back today swimming with us, the swell is long and rolling, we have had a magical and spectacular sunset and life is good.....again!!