Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Rodrigues Island, a great stop

Tranquil, unstressed, friendly, welcoming...  and easy to get lost!  Rodrigues Island was a lovely, surprising stop-over on the journey from Chagos to Mauritius.
View from Ketoro in Rodrigues harbour: fishermen poling, as the tide drops
Tiny, rugged, volcanic Rodrigues Island lies about 600km east of Mauritius. Steep green sides reach down to tiny beaches; these and a few small uninhabited islands are completely protected by a broad reef around the island: the scenery is beautiful, rustic, peaceful.

With this island geography, the Creole islanders (of mixed African and French descent) have a difficult task feeding their population of 36000, but wherever they can the locals manage small market gardens,

 tend their cattle and goats, and catch fish.
Fishing Rodrigues style: low-tide walking and poling
Pirogues are poled out of harbour at low tide; masts and sails will be raised further out
Pirogues on their way to fishing grounds
Low tide on the reef: anchor not working very hard here!

Drying octopus to preserve it
The island has a small but successful honey industry. Many islanders cannot travel easily, either due to being physically disabled or due to the location of their small home in the most rugged parts of the island. To assist these people with getting an income, in early 1990 a project on teaching bee-keeping and  honey collection was begun, and Rodriguan organic honey has since become renowned.
Local specialties: organic honey and achars flavoured with ginger or crystallized lemon
Rodrigues is an autonomous outer island of Mauritius; it used to be the tenth District of Mauritius, but gained autonomous status in 2002 and is governed by the Rodrigues Regional Assembly.  However, Rodrigues essentially relies on Mauritius for all its supplies and the weekly supply ship Mauritius Pride carries passengers and an amazing range of cargo to sustain life on the island.
Mauritius Pride seen from Ketoro: the ship fills the single wharf to which we were previously tied
Since the harbour is small, all yachts (about 6 of us) had to leave to allow the ship in, and then we were able to return into the basin to anchor.
Early morning departure of the Mauritius Pride, accompanied by two local tugs
This is a population that prides itself on having little stress; and indeed, several walks around the capital, Port Mathurin, (only seven streets wide and easy to walk!) at various times of the day and days of the week confirmed this – shutters are closed on an ad-hoc basis by the small shops, and weekends and late afternoons offer few shopping hours. Strategy: venture out mid-morning on weekdays to make the most of the colourful town and people and enjoy the tiny interesting stores, market and craft shops.
Colourful , quaint Port Mathurin, Rodrigues

Mobile fuel station
Local Rodriguans are really friendly and welcoming. This starts with the officials on first arrival and clearing in and continues through all contacts until you leave, with people going out of their way to assist visitors.

We fully appreciated this helpful hospitality - on several occasions we found ourselves exploring the island, getting lost, and an approach to the nearest local person resulted in their giving up a few hours of their day to see us on our way.

Possibly it was Irene’s pitiful French and the listener’s exasperation, or simply to ensure we did not stay, but most likely it was motivated by a wish that the tourist not come to harm and do find their way home whilst still experiencing and seeing the best of the island. Certainly we believe this to be the case in our fun explorations on at least three occasions; the pictures highlight the beautiful terrain and the kind “tour guides” …
Rolf is made to walk to the cross on the hill…
View of Port Mathurin from the top of the hill
How to go down the quick way, and not retrace our steps? Local knowledge is everything …
We get lost on our return and are shown the local way down
 by a kind man who was tending his bean patch
We were guided down the steep paths through the back gardens of the villagers, and in one case we went into a man’s home by the back door, through his kitchen and bedroom, and made our exit via the lounge front door! This was the only way down the steep hill. The homeowner was most obliging, it was all rather festive, our guide had a good laugh with us then left us, to return to his small farm way at the top of the hill.
Farewell, and thanks for the help!
Another day, we set of on a walk to see Trou D’Argent, a famous tiny hidden treasure beach.
Very lovely… but we are not yet aware that the bus driver
had dropped us off at the wrong place and we are lost
Claude, on his way to collect his goat herd,
takes us in hand to ensure we find Trou D’Argent
Beautiful Trou D’Argent, an old pirate treasure hide-out?
Claude only let us continue on our own after about an hour,
when we could (surely?) not again get lost – and returned to herd his goats
Another day, another story: Caverne Patate is a cave beneath a coral plain. Arriving here by motorbike after the staff had gone (but not after closing time!) we met a young man collecting leaves for his (apparently fussy) goats. Fortunately there is unofficial cave access away from the formal enclosure, and with a private guide… well, who needs opening hours?
Scramble through here to enter Caverne Patate
The pride of Rodriguans in their autonomous status and their welcoming community is evident in their urging us to stay longer rather than move on to Mauritius… which they assure us will not be as much fun!
Saying farewell to this concrete wall and aeroplane tyre tie-up
was the only easy thing about leaving Rodrigues

Sunset from Ketoro:
walking on the reef at low tide to find fish and octopus

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Passage Journal – Chagos to Rodrigues

This is the first time we are posting a “diary-style” account of a passage. It was a pretty regular passage really, nothing extreme, and with a good spread of the usual passage experiences. No, wait: it was exceptional in that there were NO MECHANICAL BREAKDOWNS! We tell the tale to put down what we see and feel and hear on a sea voyage, so friends on land can share and get a taste of it.

With only two on the boat, we become pretty tired: there is always one person on watch. Our watches go (from 7am) 6 hours on – 6 hours off - 4 on – 4 off – 4 on, etc. so we both have dawn and dusk and midnight turns. We try to be disciplined with sleeping during our off-watch periods, but there always appear to be enough chores of cooking, washing, fixing things, downloading weather gribs, helping the on-watch with sail changes, and other adventures to fritter away the time.
Imagine being confined to a small space which is endlessly bouncing about, but thankfully moving forward most of the time. This lively little space commands you according to the watch schedule and yours days are a tedium of endlessly being catapulted into (and around) the cockpit for watch duty, then tossed into the galley then the cockpit… galley... and at some precious times you miraculously find yourself briefly in the cabin. The cabin is like a cocoon: very insulated from the weather and the noise and the more violent movement, and you have little notion of what is happening outside – and you don’t even need to care too much because the other person is on watch! Sometimes you just want to stay…
There is not a lot of shared time on a passage with only two crew. You tend to wave to each other in passing; a quick smile and thanks (or grumble and groan) as watch duties are changed. 

Here we go…

Day 1- 16 May 2013
Farewell to friends and Chagos
A magnificent day, sunny, the gribs (weather charts) showed there would be perfect winds for us, with a low pressure area moving away. At 10am the winds were 15knots, WSW; we set off from calm, beautiful Chagos, knowing that we could sail and make distance towards the east and south, and with swells of only 2m it was easy.

Rodrigues is approximately WSW from Chagos (about 215 deg.) and catamarans can find it difficult to hold that course when the prevailing SE trade winds move to SSE, so we must get as much east as possible whenever we get the opportunity.
Track of our passage
Day 2

We appeared to be within that low pressure area, which had rather inconveniently stopped moving, so experienced confused winds from all directions, many small squalls … and consequently the day was very busy with endless sail changes up/down, in/out, repeat… and motors on alternately with sails. This was an unsatisfactory day, and uncomfortable: swells were increasing in size as we moved further south, and the tops of the swells carried confused waves reflecting the varying winds. The crew was issued a ration of rum to maintain morale.

With worse weather predicted we decided in the afternoon to take the “opportunity” on this rolly sea to top up the fuel tank from spare jerry cans. A two-man operation on the foredeck involving a delicate dance of balance-and-siphon, balance-and-hold, balance-and-pour, clean up the spillage and mess.... During this absorbing process, the wind comes up and changes direction, the boat does an accidental gybe and the rain buckets down. Rolf: “oops!”  So further fun had to wait, the fuel cans were tied down and sails sorted. The wind increased for a while and rain continued for hours.

Night plan: reefed mainsail, full headsail – this sail can be managed by one person.

Day 3

3am, Irene’s watch: winds changed direction and speed erratically, then a strong SE picked up which soon and suddenly became a SW, about 30knots. Very hard rain started. Headsail was changed and changed again during the watch; waves were over 4m; it was a miserably awful night – Rolf’s contribution when he came on watch was “What have you done to the weather?!”

The day had started.

This was the day: NOISE. Slam bang whoosh crash waves crashing over the bows, waves crashing over the sides, big splashes crashing over the cockpit, waves at the base of the sugar scoop piling back onto the steps. WET. Sodden inside and out; sodden towels, clothes, people, towels, clothes, sunglasses, seat. SALT. Everywhere and everything crunching with salt-grime to the touch. ACTION. Pitch forward into the hole, pitch back, rock roll sideways, wiggle, sweep, swoosh as a wave catches the quarter.

Rolf then discovered a broken D-shackle on the boom that was supposed to hold the mainsail-sheet; he climbed on the cockpit roof to replace it as the boom swung back and forth over him whilst Ketoro continued to bounce along the waves. You could tell we were on the same page as I endured visions of him sliding off the roof into the wild ocean and he declined to wear a harness and was annoyed because his clean start-the-day clothes ended up wet and covered with salt grime.
The rest of the day: winds 20knots, gusting 30: all reasonable for the place and the season, but we did wish that they had not offered up quite so much fresh water (mostly because we could not collect this as our rain-catching canvas was not up in these conditions) and had left smoother seas.

Swells grew to about 5m from the SE, on which were superimposed waves from the east and north, as generated by the squalls. Waves built on waves: you thought you were at the top of a swell but found to your dismay there was another phase, and coming from a different angle, so it was straight up the base wave, sideways up the next…. Did Ketoro have enough momentum to carry her over? Did we need seasick pills? Yes… and no respectively, happily!

Nose down 5m – up 5m. Up-down-roll-roll slither. We mastered the walk: the knees-out-and-bent and wait-and-think-before-you-move, drunken-duck-waddle-hop, look for handhold. It mostly worked. Forget any one of the details - it failed: Rolf carrying a computer downstairs, missed his footing and the hand holding the computer punched into the hinge of a locker. What resulted was a mild and useful injury: a small meat-chunk was removed from his knuckle, enough to get off washing dishes for several days. The computer is undamaged.
Meals were served in deep bowls.
Showers did not happen (you try washing or drying your feet whilst doing the knees-out-and-bent and wait-and-think-before-you-move, drunken-duck-waddle-hop, look for handhold.)
Rolf did not shave, lest he slit his throat in the process.
We were pleased to be holding direction about SSW, but it was really uncomfortable and tempting to capitulate and turn more west, which would have made it more comfortable… but may have put Rodrigues out of reach, meaning a wave goodbye and heading straight for Mauritius!
Day 4
The flying fish did not like it either; it’s tough when you fly out of the top of your wave and land up hitting a hard white plastic surface - to which you stick. They all looked surprised… which they most likely were when their adventure was abruptly ended.
But not as surprised as Irene was on early watch 2am on day 4: black night, wet, noisy, rollicking and boisterous; sitting on helm, concentrating fiercely on the instrument panel when her bare foot came under attack from a sharp, spiny wet and lively ‘thing’ which eventually flopped itself into submission on the cockpit floor. Inspection shows that flying fish have spiky wings.
Several poor tiny flying fish had probably not yet even learned to fly, but were tossed onto the deck with the waves coming over the top, and there they remained to be found on the morning sweep-and-clean. Another morning a squid had joined the daily quota of dead fish on board, having suffered the same fate. Its final revenge being the black ink stain it had shot over the white deck, which we hope will, in due course, come off.
After dawn on day 4 Irene woke to find the weather had cleared and Rolf had opened up, cleaned house using fresh rainwater, and all was spruced!
At 9am Rolf went to sleep with the sun shining in a blue sky leaving full sail and one reef in the main. (Rolf, before you sleep, what plan for sudden storm? Was never really answered and discussed)… then the sky blackened, the winds turned to NNE (25knots, some 30 gusts), the boat flew, Irene put a reef in the headsail (oh no, I should get another reef in the main, but don’t want to wake Rolf): then it was over, winds dropped to 18knots - sigh of relief. Bleary-eyed Rolf appeared – What’s going on!? Where is the sun? Have you screwed up the weather again? Irene said, inter alia, All is now well dear… Go back to sleep.
But then it came: a big squall – only 35 knots, but consistent, and the pressure had to be taken off the mainsail immediately, as an interim measure. Centre the traveler to depower the main – and then it all went awry! The autopilot took a while to adjust to the new sail configuration, the big seas from aft quarter pushed the boat askew, a big gust caught the main and we jibed, the headsail backed… we swiveled and before I knew it we were heading back to Chagos! Sails flogging to add to the crash bang up down rain pelting down… ROLF!!! HELP ME!!!
We were now bouncing and crashing through short-period waves of 5 to 6m with tops breaking at different angles, and generally not really having fun. We pulled in the headsail to be able to address the main, then the wind came from directly behind us… Exasperated, we decided there was nothing for it but to drop the mainsail entirely. We then discovered that under bare poles and no engine we were still making 5knots and the autopilot was holding the course!
Of course, it is not true that there was nothing for it or no alternative: if we were real sailors we would have tacked and thundered on. But we are not real sailors. We are cruisers who believe in comfort…. So the engines went on at low revs and we retired to the saloon for coffee. Wet. Wet. Wet. Cold. But the coffee was hot and good. It was only 11am and feeling like the end of a long day!
We dripped in the moist humid saloon and stared bleakly and balefully out at the day, and as time passed it slowly dawned on us that the storm had passed and perhaps it was safe to venture out. Fortified by coffee and other essential substances we found we now had a downwind sail so the headsail was unfurled (the sea too rough for the code zero / screecher), and the sea remained big but became slightly more regular.
That night: stars! Remarkable clarity, the clouds were gone … well, for a while anyway.
Day 5
Morning rainbow, clouds dissipating, sea state improving, the sun out… 10 towels and assorted clothes were dried in the cockpit, some top hatches were opened for air. On the port side the big indigo blue waves with white tops rolled endlessly forward, crashing over the bow and deck, splashing up the sides and cockpit.

Lovely15-20 knot E winds allowed full sails up, but a reef was required later as the wind strength increased and still later 2 reefs were put into both the main and headsail for the night, so as not to further goad the weather gods who were already marching some threatening skies towards us.
The conservative reefing was a good thing as consistent 35 knot winds came in, and the radar showed 3 storms heading for us, lining up 3 miles apart: but we had good sailing and the autopilot held its own with wind and wave from aft. The squalls brought torrential rains… but we had 10 newly dried towels available to sort out the wet, wet, wet.
Day 6
By morning the sea was slightly calmer but still big, and we had storms that brought less water than before.
The morning’s damaged-body count showed humans: zero, flying fish: 2.
One fish was found way forward in the cockpit (heroic effort but in the wrong direction?) and the other: on the floor in the SB heads. What! How…!?? In the SB heads there is a shower cubicle with portlight (side window) which we had not closed as the sea was pounding only port side. The flying fish took off from his wave, flew through the narrow portlight, evidently swerved left to exit the shower door, but then had his ambitions thwarted by slamming into the heads wall and crashing to the floor.
That day saw reasonable sailing with no major squalls… and the start of a regular pattern of big ship traffic. We had seen shipping for a few days on the AIS – it appears that this area sees traffic between South Africa and India or the east, the latter entering the Malacca Straits from the top of Sumatra. Our course at this stage was the same as (or reciprocal to) theirs, but essentially we were taking the same line.
Day 7
04:30 watch: Rolf (double-reefed mainsail, full headsail) saw a ships AIS information and the CPA given (closest point of approach) was uncomfortable; in addition he was unsure if they were able to see us or were receiving our AIS signal, plus we were aligned to pass SB to SB (sailing rules are to pass port to port, unless otherwise arranged). He called up the Maxan Gas Corolis (a gas carrier heading for the “Far East”) on VHF and confirmed a SB / SB pass. They both changed course to get a safer distance – this was more difficult for the yacht, as it brought us closer into the wind, and increased the boat speed and apparent wind speed.
And then the squall hit. To lessen the impact on the rigging Rolf would have chosen to bear away, but that put him on line to cross the bows of the ship and pass them to port: not the option as just agreed with them. He could not alter sail – and the yacht was flying and crashing forward, still accelerating under huge forces and not much control (of COURSE he should have woken Irene to assist with a sail change!). So – he put the engines on and engaged reverse to slow down and regain sanity. The port engine stalled under the initial load but then restarted and when both had kicked in it was extraordinary how effective the reversing propellers were to quickly calm the tense situation, the ship passed by, the squall ended and normal sailing resumed. Irene came up for watch – Quiet night?
The day brought slightly lessened winds but friends in a boat ahead of us told of winds from the south, so we had to keep making south / SE as long as we could. The waves were long, deep 3m swells from the south and short, sharp 1.5m waves superimposed from the SE, with a lot of wind-chop over all. At last the current was in our favour. We had started to doubt that the Equatorial Current ever flowed east to west! It was a wild ride: for some hours we averaged 7kn …. Slam bang crash splash… climbing the mountains under the pull of the sail, at the top to either go straight down again or swivel on meeting a sideways wave before descending.
The ‘Diamond Jasmine’ passed to port and in most civil and courteous fashion called on VHF to ask if all were well on board and wish us a good voyage. I think our sharp course changes to clear this juggernaut by at least 1.5miles must have looked odd to them!

Day 8

Sunrise day 8. SUNrise!
Rolly sea precludes getting the horizon straight… this is what we saw
Heaven. Winds were down to 15kn ESE (those from the S did not materialise for us); the sea was more calm and rollers from only one direction: we sailed on a broad reach under blue sunny skies; there was shipping but far away.
We ate lunch off plates. This is a significant statement and deserves its own paragraph.
We did the washing and hung all in the cockpit (still did not trust the weather). Celebrated dry clothes and towels.
 Rolf still did not shave… the sea wasn’t THAT smooth (and so, therefore, nor was he!)
Sunset day 8. What a day for sun!
Days 9 and 10
Under a high pressure system, the seas calmed remarkably, winds lightened and weather was enjoyable. The winds remained from east, meaning that all of our fight to make S and E, expecting the SE and SSE trades to be our main experience, was probably unnecessary as we now had a downwind sail to Rodrigues. This meant it was slower than if we had had it on the beam or quarter, but hey… it was slow and calm and lovely and an absolutely pleasurable way to clean the boat up and get some rest before we came into Rodrigues.
The job was done, now it was time to enjoy our new “home”.
The friendly little tug came out to show us where to tie up against an aeroplane tyre on the wharf...
Tied to the wharf, Rodrigues – stationary at last!
and we already had an idea of how wonderfully welcoming the people of this little island would be. 
Great anticipation and no looking back!
Rodrigues sunset, first day – an introduction to this peaceful island

Saturday, June 1, 2013

This is Chagos

Chagos is breathtaking.

Beautiful islands, pristine soft white-sand beaches, good visibility through a sparkling sea,
Underwater garden
… spectacular coral gardens, and  nightly black skies showing off the stars to their best, with zero ambient light to interfere.

The islands have much more vegetation than those of the Maldives, with a variety of trees, bushes and shrubs that makes them greener and much more lush-looking (coconut palm canopy, takamaka and banyan trees with their groves on the islands, also bimini, breadfruit and old citrus trees) – and also provide a haven for nesting sea-birds.
White booby birds nesting
Back to the beginning: our entry to Chagos (after a short 300 n.mile journey from Gan, Maldives), was heralded by flocks of sea-birds that left their nests and their hunting to accompany the yacht - the booby birds stupidly diving for our fishing lures, which were hastily pulled in!
Brown boobies also showed much interest in our billowing SA and Chagos flags: the latter proudly showing Union Jack and coconut palm on waves.
When the birds left us we saw dorsal fins approaching from all sides – the dolphins had come to play! These incredible, sleek, fast, lithe mammals shoot from bow to bow, weaving amongst one another and looking up at us as if to ensure an audience. What an exceptional privilege and what a welcome to Chagos!
Chagos is a British Indian Ocean Territory, and formalities are conducted when the big red BIOT boat appears in the atoll.
The dinghy arrived with a BIOT fisheries officer to check our permit, accompanied by several marines (one of the atolls - Diego Garcia - is on loan to the Americans as their Indian Ocean air and naval base, and they combine checks on yachties with various other chores and exercises). When we were here in 2010 for a month, we did not get to see the BIOT guys, and were glad of the visits this year.
So it was back to enjoying Chagos. Above the sea, this meant beach walks and picnics to enjoy the birds, crabs, coconuts and general environment.
The coconut crabs are incredible. Huge creatures (they can approach 1m), they climb up the trees, cut a coconut down, bore a hole in it and eat… surrounded by scores of small hermit crabs, waiting their turn.
It seems to be much easier for coconut crabs than us: even with our axe (the machete is so rusted it could not cut butter), getting a coconut to the drinking and eating stage was hard work…
And as for getting them off the tree: Rolf always looked for the low-hanging fruit.
But then, on our 35th anniversary he said he has always had success with the low-hanging fruit…. Hmmmm….!!

Often on the islands we were stopped in our tracks by remarkable sights underwater alongside us: a large turtle rested in the water under the shade of our beach picnic-tree, a big black shark cruised by in the shallows along the shoreline... and there were always about 5 to 8 black-tip reef sharks at the dinghy landing spot on one island, waiting to be fed scraps from yachties who had been fishing. There were about 50 of them if you actually had fish…
We revelled in nature below the sea: coral gardens with a huge variety of healthy, big coral structures, landscaped beautifully with the smaller corals and soft corals.
Spot the turtle on the giant table-top corals
Beautiful underwater landscaping
There were areas that were like an aquarium; healthy turtles appeared to fly past; fish that we were sure were bigger than the book said they could be. And we always had our plastic truncheons / prodders to discourage any overly curious shark… the black-tips in some areas were cautious of us and in others were too used to yachties and thus too curious!
Rolf with truncheon… to fend off the fellow below, if he got overly curious!
And then the special sightings – always too close for comfort, i.e. less than 5m from us – a huge stingray that passed three times, on the third pass stopping  to check us out; big feather-tail ray (longer than Rolf) with two sucker fish that swam nonchalantly under us; the large, bulky black shark that appeared not to know I was there and was approaching me head on;  only when it was a few metres away and I shook my clacker (to indicate to Rolf that he should DO something .... please!? Not sure what, though…) did it become aware of us and dived steeply under us.

The Chagos archipelago has a very similar geographical structure to that of the Maldives: atolls are ringed with reef and there are a few passages through the reef to enter an atoll; islands are also often reef-fringed. Sitting on your boat inside the atoll looking at beautiful, calm beaches and placid shorelines, the associated sound-track seems wrong: incessant pounding surf.
But the sea pounds constantly on the outer reefs of the atolls, and a walk (possible at low tide only) around the splendid islands exposes another harder island scene: with fine beach on the inside of the atoll, there is rough weathered rock on the ocean side.
Low-tide walk on the outer reef side of an island: weathered rock
Within the atoll, coral bommies (coral outcrops) shoot up from the depths making travel in anything but the best light definitely …. stupid, if at all avoidable! Sailing within the atolls is challenging but crystal-clear water in most areas allows bommies to be seen in good light, although predicting the depth is impossible as the clarity is so good.
Coral bommie as seen in good light – easily avoidable.
Not seen at all if the light is bad.
In Chagos you need courage - to deal with any and all issues (boats- and body-related) on your own, particularly in deciding on where to be in certain weather conditions and where to anchor safely.
With this in mind - when we left the Madives, the invoice from our agent included a cost for the item “Ancourage”: well, that was a strange (accidental? insightful?) slip - the view from our boat in Gan, the last anchorage of the Maldives shows the reef awfully close by, and there was no more space to move in the anchorage.
Intimidating reef close behind Ketoro in Gan, Maldives
In Chagos too, very few easy anchoring options exist – the pictures tell the tales of constant reminders to take care…
Boddam Island, Chagos: nearby reef so shallow that it dried at low tide
A yacht that evidently did not take enough care with anchoring:
dragged onto shore in a storm
Previously used commercially for the copra industry, Chagos is now mostly untouched and commercially unexploited. All that remains in this marine reserve of man’s intervention (besides the wrecked yacht) are fascinating, deteriorating reminders of that time (and an on-going court case with claims against BIOT by the previous Chagosian people).
Remains of stately old plantation home
Approach to old church area
Chagosian cemetry – so many children too
Chagos is remote, isolated, unreachable (except by private boat) and rugged.  It is far from civilisation’s comforts and safety: sharks, rays, mechanical failures, minor cuts and infections all can become major issues and threats. Happily, we have never had any experiences that threatened us; this time, our biggest problems were actually two minor ones:

The generator broke down and only Irene could fit behind it under the bunk to try to get a cover-plate off; with inappropriate tools, we could not do it, so we made do without the generator (a job for Mauritius).
Irene squeezes behind generator in a futile attempt to diagnose and fix
The freezer stopped working – aaargh!
Freezer- surround frames a pitiful sight (Rolf and the non-functioning freezer!)
All carefully planned and provisioned meats from Thailand and chicken from the Maldives defrosted; the outcome of this was 12 bottles of boiled chicken pieces in an attempt to save some (horrible, but true….) and two very well-fed Ketoro crew: never has so much pork (fillets/bacon/ham) been eaten by so few in such a short time! Later, a kind yachtie lent us their spare electronic controller for a freezer and we simply re-froze what was left uneaten / unboiled. We are still well and there is more on the shopping list for Mauritius: spare parts and more meat….

Apart from taking care of oneself, when surrounded by such beauty you take due care of the environment. There are strict rules for refuse treatment and one island on each of the two atolls has bins and an incinerator for plastic and paper. If not at those islands, you need to completely burn refuse on a beach at low tide.
Incredible surroundings for refuse disposal by burning
Chagos is seductive, unforgiving, and potentially threatening to the unwary. Deceptively gentle and beckoning, however it is a harsh environment and requires visitors to take care. It is not frivolous:  neither in its beauty nor its dangers. This place is truly beautiful but it commands respect.  
It is good for the soul to know that such places exist, and are being maintained with no commercialisation.  
This remarkable marine reserve cannot disappoint, neither above nor below the waterline.
Three years ago, Chagos was a stop for a month on our way from SA to the east, and we were concerned that, after all the most wonderful sights and experiences we have enjoyed in the intervening years, our memories and expectations of this place were rose-tinted.

They were not. We love it.