Maldives, S/V PEACE AND ALOHA, Update, February 10, 2005
Aloha Family and Friends,
After departing the Butang Islands, Thailand on January 24 we were very thankful to arrive at the beautiful lagoon at Uligamu (pronounced Uligan), Maldives on February 4, 2005 after a passage of 1585 miles in 12 days 9 hours. This was our slowest passage ever, but definitely one of the most comfortable. We conserved fuel so we did not purchase any in Uligan at 67US cents/liter. We enjoyed the beautiful blue of flat calm seas displaying brilliant phosphorescence at night with many stars in the clear night sky, including the Big Dipper to the north and the Southern Cross to our south, reminding us of our return to the Northern Hemisphere. We delighted in the pods of whales and happy, playful dolphins, unlike their poor relations in SE Asia where they have no fish to eat. We enjoyed every bite of sashimi from our first fish, an ahi, since leaving Darwin. While sailing five miles off the southern coast of Sri Lanka, we encountered large tsunami debris (logs bigger than our boat) and fishermen! We answered a Pan Pan from cruisers who did not understand that the fishermen were not attacking them, but simply asking for smokes, booze, t-shirts etc. The day before another yacht had given many items to the fishermen, so they concluded that we all should give them gifts! Our most difficult sailing was at 77 Degrees, where we were alerted about MANY HUGE logs and unfortunately we needed to negotiate this debris field at night, knowing that it is impossible to see this debris even in daylight. We had been sailing 8-9 knots all day happy to make up some time with good wind, but if we had hit a log at that speed, we might not be sending you this update. We were finally down to bare poles at night, but still sailing at 4-5 knots with the current and wind. We hit three logs but thankfully, there was no damage, except scrapes to the bottom paint, which we verified in Uligan. We are always concerned about our delicate equipment underneath: echo pilot/forward looking sonar, speed sensors, the propeller and rudder, which could easily be damaged. We are thankful!
We anchored on the southwest side of Uligan off a white sandy beach with an international fleet of 30 yachts in 80 feet of crystal clear water. In spite of ten boats entering on the same day, the courteous officials checked us all in to the country by 7:30pm. They did not ask about fruits, veggies, or meat, and did not inspect our boat. We were given a list of rules for Uligan: must display anchor light, no locals on board, no purchases from locals from boats, no alcohol allowed on the island, no visits to the island between 10pm and 6am and a cruising permit is needed to visit other islands. We were advised about a $4US anchoring fee for 14 days payable on departure. We were given the necessary paperwork for check out with instructions and a map to guide us to the different offices scattered around town. We were informed that February 10 was a holiday and Muslims do not work on Friday and Saturday, so we would need to clear out on Wednesday, if any of us were leaving before Monday, February 14.
We have been constantly busy since we arrived. We had many boat projects, plus we acquired another each day as we repaired one! Thankfully, they are all minor projects, but still take hours and hours to complete. I cleaned and washed on board, while the guys did projects in the engine room. Every afternoon we went for an hour snorkel, when Eric speared parrot fish, grouper, snapper, lobster, and squid (calamari) for our dinners every night. One evening we went ashore for a traditional BBQ dinner with 20 other cruisers in Ahmed's courtyard. We enjoyed the fish, caught and prepared by the young men, with curries, rice, chapati, fruit, and sweet tea, prepared by the women. Unfortunately, the coral is mostly dead, either as a result of 1997 El Nino or to overuse as building material for their houses. We were told that they no longer were allowed to use coral; however, another cruiser saw them building with coral on another island. We saw many new and large fish but no sharks and no birds, which we find unusual. This is our last atoll, so we enjoyed every minute in the beautiful clear warm water with so many beautiful fish.
Uligan, 07 Deg 05 North 72 Deg 55 East, is a small island village of about 300 located in the northernmost atoll in the Maldives Islands. The Maldives are an archipelago of 1200 white sand palm covered islands in 26 atolls in the Indian Ocean southwest of India. The total land area is about the size of Washington, D.C. with a total population of 325,000. The highest point in the entire country is 2.4 meters, so there was much concern about their vulnerability to the tsunami. It is completely amazing and mystifying that Uligan and the other islands in this northern group had absolutely NO damage! From a BBC report December 31, 2004: At least 42 islands in the Maldives were flattened. A total of 117 people died. Each island is a separate resort which allows the country to keep foreigners and the local Sunni Muslim population separate, except in the one square mile capital island of Male. Many of the resorts were closed but scheduled to reopen in February and March. On many of the devastated islands, the mosque alone remains. Only God or Allah knows why these islands and its peoples were spared. They are Sunni Muslim and speak Maldivian Dhivahi, a dialect of Sinhala, with the written script derived from Arabic. The Maldives were a sultanate, first under Dutch and then under British protection for many years. They became a republic in 1968, three years after independence. Tourism and fishing are being developed on the archipelago. Unfortunately, we were unable to locate handicrafts or purchase items particular to these islands as we have for all other islands.
Uligan is the cleanest and most tidy town we have ever seen with straight rows of homes made from the coral, many with walls around a center courtyard. The streets are sand, which appear to be swept regularly by the women. There are no cars or trucks, only two motorbikes. There are two phone booths on the island. They enjoy television and lights from a generator. We saw the Uligamu school from outside the walls and students in their very sharp school uniforms. We understand that many students travel to Male for their education, possibly dependent upon parents' income and only the younger ones are in school here. We did not see many people out and about since it is very hot. The women are beautifully dressed in brightly colored or floral designed outfits of a long tunic top over pants, covering them from head to toe including a scarf. The men simply wear t-shirts and shorts with a few older men in sarongs. We had very little contact with the locals, especially the women, who are generally not educated and do not speak English as most of the men do. The town Magistrate owns the local Antrac Agency, with the main office in Male, which provides needed services for yachts: diesel, laundry, island tours, garbage disposal, and barbecue dinners and a small store, Sailors Choice, where we purchased bread, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes. We did not make large purchases, since it was quite expensive and we will be in Oman in 10 days. Everything needs to be flown in or arrive by ship, since nothing grows on this island except papayas, coconuts, and bananas. We still do not know how the locals obtain their food. We have been told that it is a communistic society, so they all share the proceeds from the dinners, island tours, etc. We do not know how it is divided equally amongst the villagers and what they must purchase with their own funds from their jobs. Actually the only jobs we saw were the Customs, Immigration, Port Authority, and Health Officials, Courthouse, plus the service agencies and the two stores.
Yesterday, while ashore, we checked out, said our alohas to these very nice people and do hope to return one day, and picked up our bread at Sailor's Choice. We had one final snorkel before putting our dinghy away and enjoying a delicious dinner of calamari. We sadly departed Uligan this morning to sail 1250 miles (8-9 day passage) to Oman. There are at least 30+ boats in front of us, spread along the rhumb line between Uligan and Salalah. We left today with *Lady Meg,* *Hooloplop* and several others, leaving about ten boats in the anchorage. We would love to stay for several weeks; however, we need to press on with our schedule, since the Red Sea becomes more difficult with strong winds on the nose, the later we arrive. We also need to reprovision, refuel, and regroup into convoys for our passage to the Red Sea, through the 250 miles piracy problem area between Somalia and Yemen between 49-47 Degrees for a 700-800 mile passage to Assab, Eritrea.
We hope this finds you all well and happy. Please stay in touch. Take care. God Bless! Please keep us in your prayers as we sail through more dangerous waters en route to the Red Sea and north to Turkey in the Mediterranean.
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With Love, Peace and Aloha,
Ellen, David, Jason and Eric
February 10, 2005
S/V PEACE AND ALOHA
Day 1, Crossing the Arabian Sea
From Uligan, Maldives to Salalah, Oman
Day 3, 09 Deg 46 North 68 Deg 00 East