Monday, January 12, 2009

1550 miles to the Maldives

Today we said farewell to wonderful Thailand, home of amazingly friendly people where a small grin elicits dazzling smiles in response, tasty food and the perfect location for migratory guests. It was a great energy boost having Ian and Kristin visit and taking a holiday from the trip. The 3+ weeks they were with me seemed to fly-by; one moment it felt like I had months to relax in Thailand, then suddenly the scramble was on to prepare the boat and find crew for the next part of the trip. It would have been perfect if Kristin or Ian could have been persuaded to join me for all or part of the trip to the Mediterranean, but they're both too conscientious to quit their jobs at a moment's notice and join my nomadic lifestyle. Still, I've been lucky and found crew. Welcome onboard "our David from Leeds". Assuming we're still speaking once we've navigated the waters of the Indian Ocean, we'll be continuing up the Red Sea and braving the infamous pirate alley.

This morning started with the urgent sound of shrouds banging against masts echoing around the anchorage indicating that the forecast drop in wind wasn't forthcoming. Cautiously we left the anchorage with a couple of reefs in the main. As ever the sound was more intimidating than the reality and once clear of land we shook out the reefs and set a course to the southern Nicobar Islands, making steady progress in a falling wind. Our passage to the Maldives is divided into a three parts, firstly SW 277 miles to Nicobar islands. Sadly we're not allowed to stop there - the Indian administered islands are off-limits to sailors. One reason given is that the indigenous people resist all outside influences. Allegedly in one small island, North Sentinel, "the 150 inhabitants fiercely resist all contact with the outside world. As soon as a government boat - with administrators and/or anthropologists - tries to land, they are met with arrows and stones. So far, nobody has dared to venture ashore". After dodging the flying spears of the Nicobar islands we steer WSW 800 miles to Sri Lanka and finally NW 470 miles to Uligamu in the northern Maldives, our first planned stop.

So far we've had varied conditions giving a gentle introduction for David. Downwind sailing, followed by a brief calm, followed by a wind reversal, followed by a heave-to as we tried to unsuccessfully untangle the fishing line which had wrapped itself around the propeller while we circled while chasing the wind. Finally settling into a pleasant fine reach and altering course briefly for the Singaporean container ship "Vasco da Gama". There's been much to take-in with a crash course in identifying ships at night from their light patterns, the vagaries of the wind-steering and sail trim. Still it hasn't all been hard work, with a dolphin visit and plenty of flying fish skimming across the waters.

This evening we're mourning the loss of pink squidy - he had a brief but busy life luring a couple of barracudas onto our hook over Christmas and although loosing some tentacles in the process, he was looking promising for the trip ahead.

Tonight we ate my version of Thai Chicken Tom Yam in the almost complete darkness that quickly overtakes the tropical sunset and before the moon manages to make an appearance. Impossible to see what we were eating, though fortunately on passage the taste counts more than the presentation.

Position @ 23:00 (GMT +5): N7deg31.6' E97deg50.2'
Distance to southern Nicobar islands: 245

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