So, we set off north for Male. After a rainy start the winds did as they were told and the enormous blue, red and white sail filled with wind and pulled us smoothly and quietly north under a brilliant hot blue sky. At dusk we decided to stow this sail and use the headsail and main (with one reef) rather: we have learned that in this area the squalls come up incredibly quickly and require brisk seamanship to deal with rigging; the code zero is not easy to work with in a hurry and is also a more vulnerable sail. Clever little planning sailors…. Always in control?
The skipper went off watch and all was well in the darkened cockpit. For the shortest of periods. Ketoro’s crew (shark master) has developed a reputation for calling the wind: a squall arrived and hastened things up a bit; a short time later several squalls conjoined to cause a measure of chaos in the seas that, combined with the winds, contributed to a very uncomfortable rock and roll. Called on to help put in another reef, Rolf thereafter returned to bed to await his turn on watch. And the weather for Rolf’s subsequent watch? No storm, little wind, just a wobble, roll and dawdle generally forward!
However, this was good as the time was nigh to cross the line …. a lot earlier than anticipated! So after a serious go-slow to allow Irene to sleep, at about 0620 at 00:00.000N and 73:39.670E we crossed to the other side: it was cold after the storms (JACKETS for heavens’ sake!) so our early-morning celebration saw a unanimous vote to cancel swimming and indulge in a grand culinary breakfast feast. This saw our early-morning, dry-boat-for-passage bodies plied with vodka orange/ whisky, chocolate and an apple upside-down cake Irene rustled up while rocking and rolling on midnight watch! Self-portrait below… Of course, despite the fact that we believed King Neptune to have let the team down somewhat by giving us a disrupted sea state, he was given his share in the hopes of future comforts. Ha.
Somewhat giggly and showing no respect at all to the squalls and strong west winds that persisted in coming onto her watches, Irene wanted proof of her powers of squall-summonsing in her next watch period so here is a photo taken of her radar screen. For newbies to these interpretations (as we were until recently): the purple shows anything returning the radar signal, e.g. a ship or in this case a storm. Now it could have been drizzle….. but it was not, ok!? It raged around us… luckily we were fully reefed (main and headsails) for the experience! After she got through these Irene embraced her off-watch periods with more-than-usual enthusiasm.
And so the next night rolled forward. Well … best-laid plans etc! We had originally decided to rest over on an east-side anchorage at North Huvadoo atoll, knowing that they would provide good shelter in most weather…. except strong west winds, which had not been expected! After a slow drive in the atoll, east side, we did not want to risk being blown onto a lee shore and it was too late to get to the west side (you cannot travel the atolls in the dark: the bommies will get you!). So we exited the atoll again… to spend another night on the water. Ah, how hearts can sink!
This time we hove-to outside the atoll: crash-tack sails so the boat comes to a stop / drift allowing you to get more rest than while travelling. Or so the theory goes. Irene’s watch: Rolf’s crash-tack is good but strong gusting and squally winds combine with current to get us moving at a pace faster than Rolf’s sail the previous night!! Irene got off watch, handed her crash-tack over to Rolf…. who had no winds and the most peaceful night almost stationary on the water!
The following morning saw us hauling our tired bodies off to a lovely anchorage the other side of the atoll. We were initially challenged by the fact that the chart plotter, generally very accurate, left us to our own devices in finding an anchorage: you can see that the spot where we are anchored (little boat) is apparently in a drying area! Well, happily we were very safely on water….
We became rejuvenated by a swim, great snorkel and fish lunch (rainbow runner for 2) which we got from these fishermen in exchange for cigarettes and cokes (good barter stock to have on board); we congratulated them on their sailfish (although were happy to reminisce by ourselves on the one that got away from our accidental catch in the Seychelles) and declined their turtle eggs.
A good night’s sleep saw us ready for the next leg and pulling up anchor the following day. Well, that is… until 30 seconds after starting the process! A red light fault indicator on the S/B engine sent skipper into the S/B engine compartment. Unmake the bed, throw everything (bedding, mattresses, pillows) into the hull, lift the boards and climb into the hole (sorry, engine compartment)! Office-boy Rolf is learning to be a mechanic (as well as a sailor and fisherman) and identified the problem. The photo shows the remains of the v-belt for the water pump… but does not show the bolt that was sheared off in the process of fitting new belt, nor the jerry-rigged straps to hold the system together. We eventually got going again…. and at last found the winds and conditions originally promised us!
More tiring overnight sails were alleviated by two other magnificent overnight stops, at Mulaka and Felidhe atolls, giving us a taste of the beauty of the Maldives and its potential for cruising.
So here we now sit, in the in the other hemisphere, enjoying different scenery, different aquatic life, a sky that currently has both the southern cross and the big dipper in it so we can use these tools to find where we came from and where we are going. Turns out it is lovely this side, too.
And, from the Hulhumale Lagoon (airport harbour) at the SE tip of the North Male Atoll, we wait for formalities and repairs to be completed and watch tremendous activity around us… Safari boats with their support boats with crew and guests coming and going, ferries transporting people to and from Male (in the background) and planes using the airspace directly above us and runway close by. We are making plans for the next forays into exploring the Maldives archipelago … all just plain sailing!