Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Krstin arrives

Incredibly the plan came together, I made it to the airport with time to spare for Kristin's delayed flight from Oslo. Kristin eventually emerged frustrated that the selection of the best of European alcohol she'd brought with her from Scandinavia had to be abandoned on the plane as she'd been given false information at the duty free. Maldives have strict laws prohibiting the import of alcohol, pork products and dogs. She was somewhat consoled when she realised the Kika alcohol situation wasn't as desperate as she'd imagined - with rum that's lasted since Panama and gin from Samoa.

Unfortunately my efficiency hadn't managed to overcome Maldivian or perhaps just Male' bureaucracy and we were still waiting for our cruising permit. Amead promised it the next day, but was himself defeated by the various government departments required to scrutinise such requests. The expensive permit finally arrived on Tuesday afternoon and disappointingly stated we were allowed to visit only resort islands within Male' Atoll. Not exactly the freedom I'd hoped for, but an indication of the control the government likes to extend to free-roaming yachts. Still there was plenty to do to fill our time while waiting, with Male' to explore, stores to take onboard and Kiribati's homemade pizza to enjoy. David had "volunteered" to stay in a hostel for the first couple of days after Kristin's arrival and we quickly decided we enjoyed having the boat to ourselves, so we negotiated to subsidise David's stay in Male' while we explored the islands.

We eventually set off full of the finest fruit and veg Male' could provide and having to commandeer areas of the boat never before used for fresh storage. I was unusually apprehensive - I hadn't managed to find much information on cruising the Maldives and the little I had found indicated deep anchorages off resorts requiring yet more permission to anchor off their island. That and the charts aren't terribly reliable. Our chart of Male' Atoll stated:

"The depiction of reefs and dangers within the atolls is based on satellite imagery and aerial photography. Depths within the atolls are taken almost entirely from lead-line surveys of 1835, therefore many uncharted dangers may exist. Mariners should navigate with extreme caution."

Still it was a relief to set sail again, although my carefully crafted coral dodging course to our first night's anchorage had to be immediately abandoned as the wind was blowing from our destination. When I meekly suggested we could motor instead of sail, Kristin wasn't happy - "isn't Kika a sailing boat, can't we tack". Not used to such enthusiasm from my crew, I happily agreed to beat into the wind while keeping a sharp look-out of coral in our path.

Our first night's anchorage was off the local industrial island of Thulusdhoo - not exactly an island taken from the tourist brochures of the Maldives, but a gentle acclimatisation to island cruising after busy Male'. With little information and unreliable charting we struggled to find the break in the reef surrounding the island until from a distance we spotted another yacht. There must be an entrance around there I confidently predicted, my surety rapidly crumbling as we closed in on the listing boat firmly aground on the coral. Fortunately not too much further north I spotted a couple of poles and was lucky enough to be able to follow a local ferry in through the reef and find a secure anchorage just before dark.

Thulusdhoo: N04deg 22.6' E073deg 38.9'

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