d 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490
1st Report for 2007:
Thailand, Malaysia, Maldives and Chagos
(Feb 1st - May 22nd)
We had been at home and away from Taniwani for six weeks around Christmas and New Year.
Taniwani had been waiting in Phuket's Yacht Heaven Marina. which prooved to be a very safe and good place to leave a boat.
had ordered Taniwani to be cleaned on the outside once a week and so we found
our boat in shining clean condition.
The marina is huge and well run and still expanding. Though a car is needed as there is nothing in its immediate vicinity. But by car it doesn't matter, as it is a mere 15 minutes down to the big super markets near Phuket town.
rented a car as we had to drive around many places to reclaim the bond we had to
pay, when leaving the country and leaving the boat behind.
Nobody really understands what this bond is good for, but at least one crew has to go through the procedure and the huge amount of red tape is one of the few down sides of visiting Thailand.
For provisioning however Thailand is a great place and so we spent some good time stocking up Taniwani for the next months. Just loading whine and whiskey we delayed for Langkawi, which is one of the cheapest places for this sort of stuff.
Two of these days and all is done, including clearing out of Thailand. But this doesn't mean you have to leave at once, as cruising for a week or ten days in Thai waters after that seems to be tolerated and many boats do it.
As we had learned late last year, it is a good idea to head west towards Sri Lanka and the Maldives as early as possible in the year. Later, usually by mid February the favorable winds die and the stretch gets a slow and hot one.
there was no way to catch up completely, but we had returned from Germany a week
earlier than originally planned and had moved our haul out dates at Rebak
in Langkawi forward by two weeks. Still it would not be before the 13th of
Taniwani would get hauled out, and so we had a week to cruise the picturesque
Phang Nga Bay.
Most people have seen this spectacular scenery in Thailand brochures or in James Bond movies like the "The man with the golden Gun" - It is indeed stunning.
surprise to us however was the shallow depth of the water, it is rarely more
than 3 meters in large parts of the bay, and many areas are not accessible to
On February 3rd we left Yacht Heaven in the afternoon and motored slowly to Ko Phanak. Slowly because the prop was badly fouled during our stay in Yacht Heaven.
So once at the anchorage Harald went over the side and had hard work getting the barnacles off. Seeing nothing in the murky water didn't help much either.
Ko Phanak is known for its cave, through which one can swim or go by dinghy, and which leads into a lagoon totally enclosed by the steep walls.
We had been advised to go near low tide, as during flood, the last part of the cave becomes an underwater tunnel. Given that, we took the dinghy to the entrance early in the next morning, at exact low tide and found the cave completely dried out.
We waited an hour and when the water was slowly rising we dragged and pushed "Dolly" our dinghy slowly deeper and deeper. Hundreds of bats cover the higher ceiling in the middle and when we eventually made it through all of the cave, we emerged into a dry lagoon with little monkeys searching for food in the mud.
Next we moved the three miles to Ko Hong, another well known place with a round lagoon that only has a few narrow entrances between steep pillars of rock.
At Ko Phanak we were so early that we were alone, but here we found many day tour boats that populated the area. So we waited till around 4 pm and then we had the Hong for us.
It is quite typical that before ten in the morning and after four in the afternoon, one has the islands all for oneself.
Next day we moved just another two miles, to an island as close to the famous James Bond Rock, as we could possibly get with our draft. It was actually a very nice anchorage, very close to a steep wall.
here it was easy to take the dinghy less than a mile across to the infamous
James Bond Island.
James Bond Island is actually one tall rock that is connected by a small beach to a second and lower island. And just off that little beach there is rock pillar around which the boat chase in the Bond movie was shot.
it is flooded with tourists every day. Hundreds of long-tail boats of all sizes
land there every day and the beach is framed by a row of souvenir shops.
off course, we too took a photo shooting tour around the rock. Then we sailed
close by with Taniwani and thus reached our northernmost point for a
while: 08o16'6 N / 098o29'3 E.
was time to head south towards Malaysia now and so we crossed the very shallow
bay to stop for the night at a lovely place called Ko Ku Du Yai. Another
beautiful anchorage between two islands with steep walls and at the southern end
of one island another fantastic lagoon accessible by dinghy.
Finally a real sailing day in very light winds. It is some 50 miles to Ko Lanta Yai, a longish island that is almost a peninsular.
Phuket it has wonderful sand beaches along its western side and like Phuket it
is bustling with tourism. It just seems that the place is more aimed at the
lower budget back backers and we find some nice bars and restaurants on the beach.
is then another two similarly long sailing days to Langkawi, broken up in a quiet
anchorage at Ko Phetra. Then we leave Thailand and enter Malaysia near Langkawi.
Our plan for Langkawi is to check out the famous "Hole in the Wall", a
long inlet at the Northeast side of the island, that can be navigated quite far
in by bigger boats like Taniwani.
we decide to anchor shortly after the entrance between beautiful walls and then
take "Dolly" and explore the several mile long stretch that winds
through Langkawi's Northeast. The canal even forks and so there are several arms
Right after the first intersection seems to be the main anchorage and some yachts there have been permanently moored - a perfectly safe place and even the Tsunami went unnoticed in here.
is a nice floating restaurant there and in the evening, after all day tourism
had ceased, we were some of the few guests there for dinner.
We did two dinghy tours through the hole, as there are many side arms to explore and light in the morning is all different from the evening before.
one of the arms the narrow canal approaches a steep wall only to show a small
natural tunnel leading through. As it curves, one cannot see from one end to the
other and it gets quite dark in the middle.
Next we went around the east side of Langkawi, to the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club, right next to Kuah, the main town.
Our plan was to quickly complete our provisioning there and we were also expecting visitors the next day.
The provisioning turned out a real challenge, as when we returned with a car load of stuff, the taxi wasn't allowed down to the marina, where a big celebration was going on, and the prime minister was to arrive any time.
It was the end of the annual racing weeks. We had to drag our many plastic bags through walls of suits with champagne glasses in hand - two different worlds.
years ago, we got e-mail from Hong-Kong. It was from Tony, a Professor at the
University there and he was interested in buying a similar boat. It turned out
he was looking at a sister ship, (also a Najad 490), that was built around the
same time as Taniwani, just maybe two months ahead in schedule, and Harald had
taken many pictures of her during construction.
The boat was then in Holland and had barely any miles on it. Over mail we exchanged experiences and Tony and family were really excited about all the pictures. They bought the boat and hoped to have her shipped to Hong Kong. Due to a series of problems, this never happened and the boat finally remained back at the yard in Sweden, where Tony had some refits and additions done. They were only able to sail their new boat one summer in Sweden, but now were looking forward to relocate to Ireland and then bring their lovely boat there, roughly the same way that Taniwani had sailed some five or six years ago. After a long time of exchanging mails, we had agreed to meet either in Phuket or Langkawi and so we now were finally able to meet this nice family.
Now they had booked a week in a resort on the west side of Langkawi and by taxi came to the marina to meet us. We then had a nice day tour to the picturesque islands in the south and anchored next to the fresh water lake, where our guests enjoyed swimming.
was a lot to talk about and we enjoyed the pleasant company. We will hopefully see
Tony and family together with their lovely yacht sometime in Europe.
Later in the day we sailed back up in front of their resort, as close as we could get in the shallow water and then landed the whole family with the dinghy. In the evening Beate and Harald were invited to their nice place for a wonderful dinner, looking out at anchored Taniwani.
it was time to say good-bye and head out into the dark towards Taniwani's anchor
Next morning it is time to head into Rebak Marina and prepare Taniwani for hauling out the following day. This essentially means taking the foresails off again, (We had all sails off while the boat was in Yacht Heaven), and then also undo the two forestays so that the rig clears the cross bar of the travel-lift.
The travel-lift operation turned out to be the smoothest and most professional we had encountered, maybe next to Tyrell Bay Haul Out in the Caribbean.
A diver is in the water checking the proper setting of the belts, then when they lift the boat they can give you the exact weight - 21.5 tons in our case and not a surprise.
solid floor and excellent cradles make up the rest.
was a very nice room and it was great to go there for a shower after some hard
work on the boat. Unfortunately we couldn't have the room on our last day on the
dry, as for the first time in a long time, they had managed to fully book their
sanding, painting and polishing work we had given to Hamid, the local
contractor, but there was still work for ourselves, installing a forward looking
sounder, replacing anodes and preparing the prop and Taniwani also got new
ventilators. A big question was now, which anti-fouling paint to use: The last
one we had put on in New Zealand, was called Ameron ABC 3, and was by far the
best we ever had.
boat looked still perfect when it came out of the water. On the other hand it
appeared too risky to go on to South Africa especially as we had seen other anti
fouling paint failing quite suddenly in less than a year of use.
we had a choice of International Micron 66 and Jotun Seaforce 90. Like the
excellent Ameron, the Jotun paint was about a third of the price of the
International, and since we were not overly impressed with the International
paint that we had already tried, we gave the Jotun a try. As it turned out only
four months later, this was a big mistake.
But then we didn't know and life was good at Rebak were Yachties are considered a special breed, somewhere between resort guests and employees.
We are welcome to eat at the fine restaurant, but it is equally ok, to place an order for some simpler food, a few hours ahead and have it at the employee canteen.
settled for an excellent breakfast in the resort and a simple dinner at the
canteen on most days.
then we met Phillippe Jeantot, a sailing icon, who had won two single hand round
the world races and still keeps the scuba dive record of some 530 meters.
In the mean time he had also crash landed with a paraglide and spent over half a year in the hospital.
friend had sailed his boat back to Langkawi and laid it up here.
Phillippe is such a nice and modest person, that one cannot but help him as good as one can, and so Harald and Joćo went to help measuring the mainsail, which Joćo with his connections got ordered from Quantum Sails in South Africa, to be ready in just two weeks. Harald looked after the electronics, which had died to 90%, even though they had their covers on. Many push buttons and all LCD Displays of the Raymarine instruments were dead and not repairable. Luckily he also had a Simrad-Robertson autopilot, that still worked and looked like new, even though it had been exposed in the same way.
We got the minimum going and prepared two laptop computers with all the necessary navigation stuff. So in the end it started looking better for Phillippe.
Towards the end of the week we made a dash over to Telaga Harbor to top up fuel and to clear out of Malaysia. Then stocked up with fresh produce and were ready to leave as planned on Saturday the 24th.
Cleared out and fridges full we had to leave, even though Mahi-Mahi was delayed again with Ligia having the flew and Joćo not done with various little projects. And so Taniwani left Rebak alone....
Ultimately our goal was to get to Chagos as soon as possible, as we were a bit late for the finest and calmest time there. On the other hand being late also meant that there would be little wind on the way, and in order to catch any, one would have to head further north and pass through the Nicobars to Sri Lanka and then on to the Maldives.
The Nicobars belong to India and are off limits to any foreign boats. It is possible however to visit the Andaman Islands even further north, if one acquired a cruising permit well in advance.
Sri Lanka, another possible stop despite the Tamil terror, was described to us as not worth the hassle.
Next are the Maldives, and they allow for some cruising, but one would have to go to Male and get an expensive cruising permit. Still, delaying Chagos and cruising the Maldives for a good month would have been an attractive alternative.
to finally make it to Chagos, the sailors Nirvana, we decided for Maldives light.
We needed a fuelling stop anyway, as we wanted to arrive in Chagos with full
tanks, plus an extra load of jerry cans.
Luckily, one can always go to the southernmost of the Maldives atolls, one that is called Addoo, and check into the harbor of Gan. No cruising permit or agent is needed for that and so it costs nothing.
All essential things including fuel can be obtained there and so Addoo became our destination.
trip started with a little more wind than we hoped for and we made reasonable
progress out of the Malacca Street aiming slightly south of the southernmost
Nicobar Island, where we passed well clear after a little more than two days. The
wind also improved and on the third day we made our best 24 hour run on this
trip, with 192 miles. Now we went straight west, parallel and just north of the
busy shipping lane between Malacca Street and Sri Lanka. Wind angle and forecast
suggested, we better stay on this latitude for some time, and five days out we had
managed half the distance to Addoo. But now the wind was very light from the
Northeast and going straight for Addoo, with the wind from dead behind didn't
work well. It was also time to leave this latitude and cross the shipping
highway and so we headed SSW with spinnaker and some engine help.
Day 7 is slow and hot and it takes a lot of engine help to make 140 miles, the worst etmal on this trip. But then, on day 8, things were slowly getting better, some more wind and a 17.5 kg yellow fin tuna on our line. The finest fish we could have caught and of a size just manageable. The days were quite hot and we preferred our night watches. The sea right after sunset looked simply fantastic and so most our pictures are now of a more dark nature.
Day 9 has some extra excitement when we notice, that we had silently pumped some 400 liters of fresh water over board! The reason is quickly found in a bad shower head on our aft deck shower. We use it a lot in the heat and so the hose is under pressure all the time as we don't usually clamber down the bathing platform to shut it off. This had emptied our larger, so called water maker tank and what was worse, is the fact, that it is quite difficult to purge the air out of the pump system.
This was off course in the middle of the night and was followed by yet another spectacle: A full eclipse of the moon. In the old days of astronomical navigation we would have been well aware of all pending celestial phenomena, but this time it caught us by surprise: When Beate said: "Shouldn't we still have full moon? It is getting a serious dent already!" It was quickly verified on the computer and then we were able to watch the earth shade moving over the moon for almost two hours..
wind on day 10 and since we had to motor slowly, recovering the 400 liters of
water wasn't such a big deal. Luckily we can sail again after sunset. We are
almost exactly to the minute 10 days out of Langkawi, when we cross the equator
at longitude 075o51'3 E. This was Taniwani's third crossing of
the equator and we were now quite close to Addoo, which is the only Maldives atoll
south of the equator.
Clearing in is quite easy, as all the officials get collected from their various offices and are then brought out by boat.
Everything was polite, swift and easy. Clearing out though is a different story, as now you are required to visit the various offices in the proper order and some of them are some 5 kilometers away at the new harbor.
it is a fine place to stop and we enjoyed the week we spent there.
The little harbor basin is actually between the two islands of Gan and Feydhoo and is closed off to the outside by the causeway that connects the two. The access through the reef is wide but has a nasty rock almost in the middle. A marker buoy may or may not be there.
With four yachts already in the basin we found it a bit tight and anchored outside which in this calm weather was no problem.
When a boat left the next day we moved in.
The island of Gan is a bit strange, as it was a British army base not long ago, which is now reutilized as a resort. The "Equator Village".
is very clean and well maintained, but an army base is not exactly what you
would expect a resort to look like - so it is really special.
Around the resort are a few small tourist shops, little private enterprises, that try hard to live from the few visitors. All very friendly and polite. At one place there is a man, who organizes the scooter rental. These or not really rental scooters, but privately owned and he will call around to see who of his friends can spare a scooter for a day.
Mahi Mahi arrived two days later we organized three scooters and went to explore
the atoll as far as roads go.
We didn't get very far when our scooter went flat on the rear tire.
Not sure what to do about it, Joćo drove the 5 km back to ask the owner. In the meantime a passing by scooter had called the "breakdown service" on his cell-phone and it didn't take long and a custom made tricycle with a handicapped man showed up.
how much it would cost to fix, he said about 6 Euro including a new tube - well go
He pulled toolbox and a spare tube from drawers in his tricycle and obviously a paraplegic, he skillfully moved himself and his tools over to our scooter and started working away. He would have been done in 5 minutes, hadn't the owner of our bike now called the exact same service on the cell phone. So another five minutes later our bike was fixed and Joćo was back and we all continued our tour.
What we saw was clean and neat little islands and an equally proper main 'town'. Friendly people, though a bit hesitant communicating with the strangers and somehow all was very quiet and not bustling with life, like so many other tropical places we had seen.
We inspected the brand new harbor that was built for commercial shipping 4 miles north of Gan. A fancy and expensive pier and a modern building housing the various harbor authorities and a warehouse.
learned later from one of the officials, that it was an expensive project
involving companies close to the government and that it was poorly planned and in
a bad place, as the ocean swell was coming in towards the pier, so that 80% of the
time the captains would refuse docking there.
at Gan at the two old piers there isn't much swell and just enhancing those
would have been cheaper and more efficient. With the international airport down
at Gan, customs and immigration remained there, while the other part of the officials
moved up to the new port. Now, when a
boat comes in, they need to collect officers from all the scattered offices and
then bring them out to the new arrival,
like in our case.
We went as far north as the road would go and then back on different paths. It was good fun in very nice weather and interesting too.
Almost back, we stopped for a late lunch at the nice "restaurant in the bend".
was good and like most things here not expensive.
The next day we had to get serious about provisioning and the best place is a little supermarket on Feydhoo, run by an Indian family. Often they can organize an extra load of fresh stuff, given a few days advance warning.
have found an extra market niche with the yachts that pass through and have
specialized on catering for their needs, including delivery to the harbor.
bigger challenge was getting our propane bottles filled. There is no service to
fill bottles on the island and all one can do is, to buy a local bottle, decant it into
yours, and bring it back for the deposit. Even that isn't simple: The special fitting that opens the
bottle is combined with regulator and it is necessary to get a local a regulator
and destroy it to craft the proper fitting from it.
It turned out the same regulator that Joćo bought in Madagascar a long time ago. We 'redesigned' it and then filled all our five little bottles from one big one, that we returned afterwards. We carry the fitting to do the same thing in Madagascar.
on the list was fuel, which for us meant ordering some 750 liters of diesel and some 160
liters of petrol for the dinghy.
For this we organized two tank lorries to come to the public pier in Gan. The pier is rough even in moderate weather and the only place suitable for yachts is right at the head where the surge is minimal and the possibilities for fending off a bit better.
We had already obtained some jerry cans in Thailand and now got some more for the additional dinghy fuel.
We spent our last day
fully occupied with clearing out and fuelling and left Addoo right
Most of us world cruisers dreamed for many years of dropping the anchor in Chagos some day; a magical place for cruisers, pretty much in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Most normal people have never heard about it, maybe except for Diego Garcia. Ah, yes! Isnt that an American army base?
in the middle of the ocean, it isnt very far from the Maldives and from Addoo
in the south of the Maldives it is exactly as far away or as close as Male, the
Maldives capital in the middle of the lengthy chain. But there a many
atolls between Addoo and Mahe and just empty ocean between Addoo and Chagos.
is a collection of more or less (often less) round coral atolls. These atolls
vary greatly in size and many of them are sunken. The biggest atoll is the such a
sunken one, and is called the Great Chagos Bank, with its 100 miles diameter it
would be the biggest atoll in the world, but only a handful of small islets make
it above the surface.
Only four of these atolls have an island and reef chain that provides shelter from the rough open ocean, with a quiet lagoon inside. Of those the largest is Peros Banhos, about 18 miles across. Unfortunately it features a more open section in the south east, that allows the trade wind swell to enter, an render it uncomfortable during the SE trades season.
down in size the next is the infamous Diego Garcia with about 12 miles length,
well protected but off limits to normal people.
Then, just five miles long is Salomon, (not to be confused with the
Solomon Islands in the Pacific). Iit is very well protected and is sort of the
capital of the Indian Ocean cruising
fraternity. Finally, also about five miles long, but slim and full of coral
heads is the Egmont atoll.
The whole archipelago is about 200 miles long and over 100 miles wide. This entire area is British and officially referred to as BIOT (British Indian Ocean Territories).
Unlike in the Pacific where the many islands and atolls were populated by the Polynesian and Melanesian settlers, Chagos was uninhabited when Vasco da Gama first sighted it. Much later some of these islands were populated to produce copra, first with slave workers from Africa and later with cheap labor from Asia. The mix of all these and some Europeans created the so called Ilois, French for islanders. When Mauritius and the Seychelles became independent, the British who had ruled all these places for a long time, kept Chagos in their possession.
Soon after, between 1967 and 1971, the entire population of then just under 2000 people, was expelled from the islands and sent to Mauritius by the British Government, to make way for a joint US-UK military base on Diego Garcia. The future of Chagos remains uncertain and in the mean time the British Supreme Court had ruled the eviction of the population illegal and in theory the islanders could return to all their former islands except for Diego Garcia.
Most people think it unlikely that much will change until the military base isn't needed any more and expect that Britain will then pass Chagos on to Mauritius.
In the mean time, with the islands only accessible by private boats and no commercial business, they have become a formidable nature preserve and a great place for the long-distance sailors. Some 15 years ago, parts of the area were declared strict nature preserves and one is not allowed to approach any of these islands closer than 200m.
off course it is illegal, and one can get into serious trouble, getting closer
than 12 miles to Diego Garcia without prior permission, which may be granted in
case of an emergency.
this year yachts like us would simply sail to one of the atolls other than Diego
Garcia, enjoy and wait for the patrol boat to come some day and register you, collecting
$100 for a 3 months permit. This has now changed and no ship can go to
the islands, before requesting and receiving a permit from the BIOT office in
London. This is not difficult and can easily be done via e-mail and pay-pal. The
price however has been increased to £100 per month. We found both, the
office in London and the staff on the patrol boat straight forward and friendly.
Our trip from Addoo to Chagos would turn out slow. With little wind when leaving Addoo and no wind predicted in two days we left in a hurry with the hope to catch some last wind during the night. It was only 300 miles to go, but motoring there would eat almost 200 liters of our diesel reserves and we really wanted to get to Chagos with full supplies. For Taniwani this was 740 liters of diesel in the three tanks and another 260 liters of diesel in jerry cans on deck making the total 1000 liters. Then another set of jerry cans was just for the dinghy.
Since we planned to stay more than two months and still have a solid diesel supply when leaving for the Seychelles, the calculation was easy: We need 6 liters per day for the generator to charge batteries and allow us to use all the luxury on board, including washing machine, water maker, dive compressor and so on. That part would amount to maybe 400 liters and than another 100 liters for the main engine, so that we could leave Chagos with still 500 liters in the tanks.
In Chagos your boat is your home and your dinghy your car. For all the fun activities like fishing, snorkeling and exploring the islands, the dinghy is essential. The fuel we took along would allow us to drive the dinghy at full throttle for half an hour each day - on average this seemed ok.
And so we sailed south in very light winds, getting used to not doing more than three knots for a long time. But we had time. Most sailors know that light winds from behind are the worst, as the boat sails away from the wind and what's left is almost no wind, whereas with the wind on the beam or forward, the wind gets strengthened as the boat picks up speed, thus accelerating the boat again and so on. Well, even this magic has its limits, but it is definitely much faster. We were not so fortunate most of the time but tried to make the best of it using the spinnaker extensively.
Averaging just over 100 miles a day we eventually made it to Chagos and anchored near Moresby Island on March 16th.
What a beautiful sight! White beaches, lots of birds, palm trees and crystal clear water.
looked for a larger sand patch, anchored and then quickly went ashore to see
We found plenty of wildlife:
Boobies nesting everywhere and very low, on eye level with us and not afraid of humans.
Many different crabs on the beach, Murray eels in the shoal water, catching crabs almost as big as themselves.
off course coconuts as many as you like.
Would we really like to stay in such a place for over two months, was one of the questions we asked ourselves long before we made it to Chagos.
In the past we had found that one of the great things of touring the world the way we do, is to meet all these different people, see their lifestyle and be repeatedly impressed by the friendliness we received all around this planet.
with no people in Chagos, and just the same little tropical islands every day -
would we get bored?
Add to this that there aren't so many anchorages or places to go to, especially from April on, when anchoring would be restricted to just five anchorages in all of Chagos.
So should we have spent more time in the Maldives?
We weren't sure about all these
questions when we came to Chagos and we kept wondering about it for at most a
week, then the Chagos virus got us and we could have stayed forever.
In fact we were so busy, that we didn't have time to care about things like this write-up. Hiking around islands, snorkeling on the reefs, diving on coral heads or on the drop-offs outside, moving to a new anchorage, having sundowners on the beach, meeting other yachties and sharing pot-luck dinners on various beaches.
And yes, there is always some maintenance work to be done on our boats.
When we arrived in Chagos, we came in through the northern pass of Peros Banhos and just turned left to anchor near Moresby Island. Mahi Mahi and Taniwani were alone, but in the far we saw two or three more yachts along the island chain.
We remained alone, during the next week when we slowly worked our way south to Isle de Coin, stopping at several places before.
Only there did we meet six other
boats and over time we grew friends with many of them.
By mid April we were around 40 boats in Chagos, some 10 in Peros Banhos and around 30 in Salomon.
That, despite the fact that the time until about mid May is ideal
for exploring Peros Banhos, as this lovely atoll gets less comfortable later
when the SE trades set in.
yachts in Chagos seem to fall into two categories, those on some sort of world
journey that come through once and the regular Chagos visitors. The regulars use
a feature of the Indian Ocean, which with its monsoon seasons allows
easy downwind sailing east to west or west to east, given the right timing. And
so it is quite convenient to move back and force between Thailand / Malaysia and
So half the time one stays in a paradise where one cannot spent any money, other than paying the BIOT fee, and the other half in countries where yachts can provision at very low cost.
Every once in a while one may add in a visit to the African side.
Given these boats had seen Peros Banhos many times, it is
understandable that they simply stay put on a self made mooring at Boddam in the
Salomon atoll, the downtown of Chagos.
But some of these "residents" still enjoy cruising in Chagos and one of those is "Papagena" with Heinz and Patricia, a very nice couple who we first met in Langkawi last year and from whom we got loads of good advice on Chagos.
Now we met them again at Isle de Coin and soon had a guided tour across the
island and to all its interesting places including the ruins of the settlement
and the old cemetery.
One of our goals had been to celebrate Harald's birthday in Chagos and we really managed to arrive over week early. So, when it was time to celebrate we had done our first tour south along the western chain of little islands in Peros Banhos and were then at the southernmost anchorage at Ile Fouquet.
This was a good place to celebrate with nice diving near the southern pass that leads into the atoll, just east of Isle Fouquet.
lots of fish and wonderful corals can be observed there.
Isle Foquet is also the southern turning point when cruising in Peros Banhos, as the eastern half is a strict nature reserve and anchoring there or going ashore is strictly forbidden. Luckily the majority of the islands is along the western half and so the exclusion isn't a big problem, maybe except for the fact that the only protection one may have in Peros Banhos from southeasterly winds would be behind one of the eastern islands like Isle Coquillage.
For us this was no problem, as at that time the weather was perfect for hanging out along the western chain of islands.
that the visiting yachts might severely damage coral with their anchors, the
BIOT administration was at that time reviewing anchoring restrictions. As
we found out later, this resulted in identifying specific areas where yachts
would be allowed to anchor (three in Peros Banhos and 2 in Salomon). At the time
we were cruising Peros Banhos, this was still an open issue and we anchored at
various places, but always in sand.
We think that at least in Peros Banhos it is easy to avoid coral if you are willing to anchor deep. Deep means between 20 m and 35m. There is lots of sand at that depth and for our fish-finder it is easy to distinguish from harder or irregular coral.
In atolls we always anchor like this, as we want to be able to swing full circle at any time, so that we can rest and sleep relaxed.
This however is not typical and so you can find several sunken yachts in Chagos, not to speak about coral damage or the many others that just escaped, as many prefer to anchor as close to the shore as possible, where sandy spots are much fewer. And worse, there one often finds hard ground that from the surface looks like sand but isn't holding.
The main anchorage off Isle de Coin for example is
like that and when a thunderstorm pushed the wind towards 40 kts, luckily
off-shore, one third of the anchored boats dragged.
we learned later, Salomon is different and the 'anchorage' off Boddam is
essentially all coral and the official anchoring area is considered
'sacrificial'. As expected in an all coral area, the holding is poor and so many long timers rig
their own moorings.
But back to Peros Banhos, which in retrospect was our favorite: A bit wilder and lots of wildlife and fish.
Fishing in Peros Banhos was a matter of 5 minutes to
get your days food or more. Towing a lure behind the boat or the dinghy, means a
bite every minute. The most likely fish to catch is the so called "Job
Fish". We had never seen it before and couldn't find it in our books when
we first caught one. It does look very much like one would draw the most
ordinary fish, but its meat is excellent.
But that is not all, you get snapper, skipjack, trevalli and maybe a grouper. One day we just left our anchorage at Ile Pierre going a few miles to Moresby. To check the charts with respect to coral heads and depths, we went towards a charted shoal monitoring our new forward looking sonar. As we were closing in on the shoal, we had a bite on our most simple hand line and brought in a sailfish with 2.78 m length. That off course is a lot of meat and good news with all our friends who quickly joined us in the next anchorage.
Enjoying paradise every day, may well get interrupted by reality. For us reality came in with a serious failure of our genset. As already pointed out, luxury needs energy and most of the energy on board is made from diesel.
In Chagos we changed our schedules and ran our diesel generator once a day for about 3.5 hours to recharge our batteries. Given all the sun during the day and a noticeable input from the two solar panels, we decided to run the generator when there is no solar energy produced - after sunset.
Well, we also have a wind generator, but it is hardly noticed. When it really does produce a good amount of power, it is time to look after the anchor as at that point it would be blowing 40 knots and more. We should probably rename it 'storm-generator'.
if our wind generator goes unnoticed, the diesel generator certainly does not.
It has been a constant source of trouble since we have the boat and it decided
to act up in a big way in Chagos.
We had started the generator just before sunset and than drove the dinghy to the shore, to have sun-downers with our new friends. When we returned to the boat two hours later, the generator was still running, but not producing any power.
It's probably the capacitors we thought, we'll fix it tomorrow and fired up the main engine to complete the charging. Luckily we can do that and even charge half an hour shorter than with the genset, as it has a big 2.5 kW alternator.
But it is much noisier, less fuel efficient and on the long run not so good for the big engine, consuming just 5 HP from an 100 HP engine. But off course in an emergency, for a few weeks all this is tolerable. For our stay in Chagos we had some concerns as we would burn more of the scarce fuel and getting the genset going again was thus quite important.
It soon turned out that this time it wasn't the capacitors, but a problem with the main windings and taking the whole generator apart we soon found out what had happened:
main bearing had disintegrated and its metal pieces had cut into the windings
pushed by the rotating parts. It was broken in many places and required
reconstructing the winding plan and then eliminating shorts and correctly reconnecting
through wires, out of the way of moving parts. It was three days of
work, crouched over the heavy stator block that needed to be turned once and so
never got any answers to our e-mails from the manufacturer, ( Fischer Panda ).
Only after some weeks of trying, we sent a really angry
mail, copying any address we would know at the company and the result was a mail
back that went to lengths about preventive maintenance and saying that the
raw water pump impeller should be replaced every hundred hours even if it looked
good. But in the end they offered a 20% rebate on a new unit.
We are quite sure we will dump ours over the side when we reach South Africa and put a new one in. Just not clear if from another manufacturer or the same.
there is not much choice for this amount of power in such small a housing. For
the only other brand that would easily fit, we asked for a quote from the South African
importer and he declined selling it, saying the unit makes nothing but trouble -
Harald had mended all the broken wires and after three days of hard work it was
running again just fine, so that we could revert to the busy life at Chagos. And busy
it was, as by then we had met a bunch of other boats with many nice folks, and
that meant more sundowners and parties ashore. There were for example a number
of French boats, most of them very basic boats, with skinny and fit crews
following in Mortesiers wake; many of them with kids. The later was important
for Mahi Mahi and Marco soon found a real nice friend in same age Leo of the
One of the more unusual parties was the birthday celebration of one year old Natalie, the baby of an Australian-Indonesian couple on a nice and tidy small boat called "Kyena-II".
Then all the boats in Peros Banhos gathered near Moresby Island for a big party.
The pretty little girl seemed a little bit puzzled by al the attention, but sure
enjoyed it as much as everybody else.
That was at our second visit to Moresby and the time we spent there was probably the very best in Chagos. The weather was benign, the water brilliantly clear and so many fun things to do.
south of Moresby is a little sand heap, at least at high
tide that is all it is, which is named Ile St. Brandon.
The very old charts suggest it was once bigger and had palm trees. There is really not much going on on this islet, but the reefs around it and towards Moresby are some of the most beautiful ones, and close to St. Brandon there is a tiny pass through which one can take the dingy out of the atoll, even at low tide.
Snorkeling there along the drop of is spectacular and getting your dinner by trawling a line is a matter of minutes.
Eventually it was time to leave this nice anchorage and head south again.
And again we did
this slowly, enjoying many of our favorite spots including the best and safest
anchorage in Peros Banhos, a big sand bank off the middle of Ile Pierre, an
island we really enjoyed hiking around along its spectacular beaches.
When we eventually arrived back south at Ile du Coin again, we had the rare opportunity to meet the last donkey of Chagos.
du Coin has been the main island and settlement before the eviction of the local
people and while the order was to kill all the dogs, the donkeys were left
behind and over the years even replicated to some degree. Over time however
their population was decreasing and now only one is left.
Unlike most of the endemic wildlife there, they are extremely shy and that may be the reason why they haven't yet been worked into salami.
Still, with now just one left it is likely the end of that story. We met the last donkey only because the weather had been very dry and the natural little swaps where they could find water had dried out. However there is plenty of water in the wells of the old settlement and many friendly sailors bring it up and leave it in buckets or other holds for the poor donkey.
Wells on coral islands are yet another interesting phenomena: As we learned, one can make a well on almost any of these motus and get perfect fresh water.
The reason is that in these latitudes it usually rains sufficiently and the rain water penetrates the sand easily but then remains sitting just on top of the heavier salt water that soaks the sand from the sea inwards.
Usually you don't have to
dig deep to hit a nice layer of fresh water.
But on Chagos you don't have to dig, as on all the islands which had settlements you will find perfect wells.
is a note from the BIOT at some wells, telling the water may not be drinkable,
but many boats do it anyway and had no problems. Unlike us with a big
water-maker, the typical Chagos resident yacht depends entirely on the islands
water supply and you will find many people showering or doing the laundry next
to one of the wells.
While the donkeys may be disappearing, there is so such other wildlife to make good for.
Birds are plentiful and often they enjoy our boats at least as much as the islands.
Luckily some other island creatures, like coconut rats, that one can see climbing palm trees in the dark don't quite make it out to the boats.
there is a huge variety of crabs, most of them populating the beaches roaming in
and out of the water.
there are some more exotic variants that are completely different in
design: The small version is the hermit crab, with just four regular legs
and two legs with pincers. Normally one can just see the front part as they keep
their soft abdomen in empty snail shells that they change occasionally when
growing to big. One may also find some very big ones using a tiny coconut shell as a
The most exotic variant is the coconut crab: They look quite related to the hermit crabs, but do not use snail shells and have six legs plus two huge Pincers. During the day they usually hide in holes in the ground, and when walking across an island one can spot them in those holes below fallen palm trees.
They get much bigger than the other crabs, can weigh several kilos and grow to almost half a meter in diameter leg to leg!
had seen some of these already in the Pacific, but on some of the islands here
even the beach was sometimes crowded with them in the evening.
But that is all above the water and once you stick your head below in Chagos, you will be really overwhelmed by the beauty and the huge variety of under water life.
the warming of the water in the Indian Ocean had killed a lot of the coral in
places like the Maldives or almost totally eliminated them in the Seychelles, we
found hardly any dead coral in Chagos and the variety was bigger than in the
We would say, simply the best coral we ever had the privilege to see.
Add to this all the fish and turtle and fantastic underwater world will leave a lasting impression with anyone.
it is easy to stay busy hiking the islands, snorkeling on the reefs, doing some
fishing and then simply meet for a drink on a beach with some of the other nice
Before we came to Chagos, we had heard many times that sharks are a problem, but we cannot quite confirm that.
Yes we did see sharks, but not more than in other atolls that we had been to, and they are usually well fed and not interested in creatures like us.
Like everywhere we found them in the passes and on the drop off outside, and only very few inside.
fishing in the passes one has to be quick getting the fish on board, or one will
have to share, probably the larger part, with a shark.
day however, Ligia of Mahi Mahi had an encounter she says she will never forget.
It was close to the southern pass near Ile Fouquet in shallow water that Ligia
saw this huge hulk closing in on her and Marco. Ligia froze, but yelled to Marco
to watch out. When Marco saw the monster he swam so quickly to the dinghy
that when entering it in a hurry he went right over it and back into the water
on the other side. That seemed to irritate the big shark, which was later
identified as a tiger shark, and he disappeared into the deep. Tiger sharks are
known to look for turtle in the shallow murky water and attack without warning.
Smaller and well protected it is an all season affair. It is also then, that on May 5th, there is the biggest regular party in Chagos.
5th is a national Holliday in Mexico and some cruisers who had liked the
partying there, had brought this tradition along and now every year all boats in
Chagos gather at Boddam for that event.
We sailed from Peros Banhos to Salomon on May 2nd and when we saw the many masts we were a little bit shocked.
we spent two wonderful days, entirely alone anchored off Takamaka Island before
we were ready to join the crowds in Boddam. Eventually we had to see "Down
Town Chagos" and so we moved to the Boddam anchorage in the morning of the
the main anchorage along Boddam Island is also the worst one in Chagos with
respect to holding ground. It is all coral with intersperced heads and we
normally wouldn't anchor on such a ground, as one breaks numerous corals and the
holding is poor and your anchor or chain may get quite entangled. But it is like
with the thousand flies, everybody does it and so we do it too. Backing up on the
anchor as we usually do, we notice that we can drag it, but simply hope that we
will not get any really strong winds. We will only stay here two or three
5th is a busy day, after anchoring we are invited to the "French Camp"
for Houlio's Birthday. We had made friends with many of the French boats while
in Peros Banhos and so it is a big get together of just this years "Peros
and not the other Chagos residents who we will see in the evening for the big
May 5th celebration. Houlio is getting 31 and he will soon become father and so
many gifts hint in this direction. They will actually have to leave soon after
the party, to not risk getting the baby on the way to Reunion.
This year the separation between the camps isn't so strict and everybody is invited to the main party in the "English Camp" in the evening.
The "French Camp" is just a nice shady place under some high palm tress, the under wood was cleared out some simple seating set up. Very basic, but very nice with a lovely view out to the beach.
"English Camp" makes some use of the ruins that are left from the old
settlement and on that evening with all the decoration and music it makes for a
food in the evening is mexicanized Chagos pot-luck, very creative and very good
and too much as always. We contributed a chilly con carne, made from sailfish.
It seemed that the Chagos insiders, who knew about this event had topped up
their boats with Tequilla as there seemed an almost unlimited supply. Two
parties on one day is a bit hard and so we left relatively early and thus were
able to have a guided Boddam tour, again conducted by "Papagena", the
next day. Some of the younger folks that went through the two parties until the
morning had somewhat hard awakening.
Compared with the other islands on Chagos, Boddam is quite a bit more civilized, as the small population of cruisers keeps a network of little paths clear and so one can have long and relaxed walks, rather than fighting ones way through the bushes.
major locations are the old cemetery, the old weather station, the swamps, the beach on the outside, and aside of the two camps, also the
On an island populated by so many cruisers we didn't expect to see so many coconut crabs, but it seems folks indeed refrain from poaching these protected animals. A nice surprise.
on the other hand one can have as many as one likes and it is fun to watch how
skillfully Heinz chops then open with two swings of his machete and then hands
out the drinks.
Another good thing about Boddam and probably one of the bigger reasons why long timers prefer to stay there, is the possibility to take the dinghy to the outside of the lagoon when the water is more than 70 cm above low tide.
It is then a relatively short ride and the fishing outside is magnitudes better with almost a guarantee to catch enough to feed a few boats.
in Peros Banhos, fishing inside is as efficient, we didn't catch anything inside
Spoiled as we were, we didn't think the snorkeling around the Boddam anchorage was worthwhile: Almost no fish and quite some dead coral. That is quite the opposite just across the lagoon at Takamaka and Fouquet, to where we soon returned.
our first visit there we were now joined by an increasing number of boats. Now,
after May 5th, it was SE wind season and the normal procedure for Boddam
residents is to move to their summer anchorage, three miles across.
Nonetheless we had some really good time there with old and new friends, with excellent snorkeling and food and sun-downers on the beach almost every day. Between Fouquet and Takamaka there is a false pass in that it does lead through between the islands but ends in a dead-end behind the outer reef. The ocean swell that washes over the reef creates a permanent current into the lagoon and one has to wait for low tide to slow down. But then the snorkeling in midst of all sorts of fish is really great.
low-tide thing is to hike out on the drying reef behind Fouquet to a larger tide
pool in which one can snorkel and see masses of fish.
Life was good and we could easily have stayed longer, but some day the time to leave came.
With Mahi Mahi expecting visitors in the Seychelles, we were among the earlier boats to leave in that direction.
Many had already left for Madagascar, where further south the wind gets stronger and stronger from mid May on.
had also left for Thailand and one boat left a week before us, also for the
late in May is considered a bit early for having stable trade winds all the way,
but in any respect that passage was sold to everybody as one of the nicest to do
and so we started expecting a fast and comfortable passage. Our friends in the
smaller boats, "La Barca" And "Kyena II" left a day earlier,
so that in case they needed any assistance we would come up from behind. As
always Mahi-Mahi and Taniwani left at the same time in the morning of May 22nd.
We sailed close by the southern pass of Peros into somewhat shallower water, to say good bye to some of our favorite places and were rewarded by two good size yellow fin tunas, striking on both our lines at the same time. This is about the best fish to get - what a nice farewell gift.
didn't miss or spinnaker for long, as we would have been to nervous setting it.
We either had too light winds or it would change within minutes with a squall
coming through. Our alternative to the spi is the poled out genua, full main and
maybe the slightly furled cutter to fill in the void. While not matching the
surface of a spinnaker it is a very robust setup and can take some blows. For us
very convenient as we have much fewer sail change exercises.
Mahi-Mahi doesn't have so good an alternative to the spinnaker on such courses
and so they struggled a bit deciding whether to risk the spinnaker or just go
with genoa and reefed main. - Reefed because the cat has no backstay and the
mainsheet and topping lift make up for this when under spinnaker. With the main
far out, there is no such extra support. And so Mahi Mahi was slowly falling
us the first half of the 1036 miles to Mahe was quite ok and we made our typical
170 runs for three days. But then less wind and more squalls. On our third day
out we passed Kyena in the morning and La Barca in the evening - all were in
good spirit and we usually talk on the radio twice a day amongst the four boats.
With Kyena only via VHF, for the day we were in range, but La Barca had
longer lasting contact and could relay. Alternatively Kyena would call Mahi Mahi on the
We all made it eventually. With 7 days, we took a day longer than what we would normally expect; Mahi Mahi had a nice spinnaker run on the last day and caught up again to arrive just two hours after us. La Barca and Kyena came in the next day.
Mahi Mahi this was a very special event: Here near Mahe, they crossed their old
track and thus practically completed their circumnavigation.
They started their long journey in Cape Town in 2002, sailed East Africa, then the Seychelles and Madagascar and returned briefly back to Cape Town, just to sail then on on to Brasil, the Caribbean and the Pacific, where we first them.
Taniwani will now explore the Seychelles and we look forward to the visit of our son and daughter in law during July. Approximately by the middle of August we plan to sail on to Madagascar.
To read on about those adventures click here: Seychelles, Madagascar & Mozambique
><(((°> ><(((°> ><(((°>