|MALDIVES TO SEYCHELLES - APRIL 2007
JAN & TESSA’S LOG
At 7.30 am 30th March Tessa, Jan and Annie arrive at Male airport after an uneventful flight. Where is Abdulla? Eventually he arrives and we speed off on the dhoni to find Boo Too. We are greeted by Tessa’s daughter Wendy with cool, scented towels. We also meet Jo the chef, Scott the Skipper and Darren, the engineer. Also on board are Henk (Pendennis Boat Yard) and his family who are just leaving. Unfortunately, after a huge hug from Henk, my sunglasses are missing one lens!
The crew need to catch up on various house, or, should I say boat keeping duties so we go to a local reef to snorkel. Martha, Donna and Peter (Henk and Marga’s children) are straight into the water followed by Les Girls. All goes well until it is time to get out!! After the two dhoni boys have failed to pull me out Henk saunters over and with a tug, I’m floundering on the deck. “That’s why they gave up whaling” says Henk!!!!!! Jo has provided a fantastic picnic, a taste of what’s in store for the future!!
After getting back and showering, everyone is pooped so we have an amazing Chinese takeaway, washed down with a very good Rosé. If anyone reads this, they might detect an emphasis on the food!!
We all wake up around 10.45am. Reality kicks in and we meet the cleaning kit for the boat!! All has to be Ship Shape and Bristol Fashion for Ollie’s arrival later that day. Ollie arrives in great spirits having slept throughout the flight, in spite of sitting next to a very attractive P.R. girl from Qatar airlines!!!
We swim over to a boat called Juno and Ollie invites Tom the owner and his crew for drinks. Beef, butternut squash and leeks, followed by lemon delicious for pud. The moon and sun are both in the sky at the same time tonight.
We forget that it’s April Fools’ Day! Wake up to find the other member of the Amateur Crew, Ed, has arrived. Off to Male. Buy books and goggles (must pay Ollie back). The colours of the fishing boats and the fish and melon market are wonderful; Ollie’s photos really do them justice. Large bunches of bananas, strange twists of leaves filled with a mixture of honey and coconut. Bundles of green oval leaves, trays of small salted fish, curry leaves. Wherever you go in the world, the market stall owners always have that same resigned, melancholic air!! The smells of the market, some spicy others fishy, some indescribable.
Trying to cross the road is interesting, rather like playing “chicken”. On such a small island, where do they go in their cars?
Ollie loves curry. We all share a plate of Nasi Goring and then tuck in to our own selections. Tessa is very good and only has a salad!! Very good juices to wash it all down.
Rush back to catch the ferry. Photos of the locals on the walls recall the Tsunami and their return to normality. One captures that moment when a mother and her two children are sitting, quietly on a hammock, just enjoying the evening sun.
Depart from Male at 4pm. No more alcohol while on passage!!! Huge moon and very calm...
Sail overnight. A sailfish comes alongside, Scot alters course as we get nearer, and it raises its huge fin to scare us off! Masses of flying fish skim along the surface of the sea looking just like birds. Arrive at Dhiffushi Kandu, Thaa Atoll drop anchor at 8.30am. We now have our safety briefing and then give the boat a good clean. The morning swim was made more interesting in the company of little iridescent pin pricks of light that stung! Ollie takes the Amateur Crew off to Dhiffushi Kandu island. Small shack with basin and loo, filled with sand. Maybe it’s a refuge for fishermen? The greens of the palm fronds vary as the light changes. If you tried to paint them you would need a vast palette of colours. We snorkel just off the reef. Again, the colours of the fish and the light through the water, words cannot describe. At last! Tessa has made the scones and we all devour them with the clotted cream that has come over in her bag from Cornwall!! After the crew have had a dive we sit down to rack of lamb, roast potatoes & courgettes, followed by bananas flamed with rum.
Depart Dhiffushi Kandu at 8am for Gan, our final destination in the Maldives chain. Just miss seeing the Spinning Dolphins in the pass between the island and the reef. One whale sighted some way off. Spinnaker goes up and Boo Too takes off! Everyone has a go on the helm. Ed and Tessa are naturals! Boo Too gets up to 10.5 knots.
We go over the Equator at 4.06am. Neptune is given a can of lager and a glug of rum to appease him. We arrive at the west side of the Adoo Atoll around 10.10am Tessa and Wendy have made crowns and plans!! Ed, King Neptune with his trident and Tessa, Queen Neptune, lead us around the deck to the strains of “What Shall We Do with the Drunken Sailor”. At this point, the local coastguard arrives!!!! We continue the ceremony by drinking a concoction of Worcester sauce, marmite and Tabasco, blindfolded. Then a small piece of hair is taken from each of us and given as an offering. Scott gets off VERY lightly with a small area being shaved from his leg. Our faces are painted with red, green and black paint. Next, we try and say King Neptune 3 times with a whole banana stuffed in our mouths. We then have to jump into the sea off the bow, singing as we swim back to the stern.
We all take turns to wash up and clean the saloon, today it’s Ed’s turn and as the only male member of the amateur crew he is making a very good job of it!! We are off to visit the local, no star resort. Adventurous journey in. Trying to avoid a stick which everyone thought indicated a ‘rock’ we hit a large chunk of concrete a short distance away, then another. The next day we realise that the ‘stick’, was a marker for the whole reef!!!!!! We then make for the slip way and after traversing a wall and some rusty hoops, we reach the bar and watch England v Sri Lanka. Spend the rest of the evening on the boat playing Articulate. Darren struggles with the clues but all this adds to the hilarity.
After a leisurely start we leave for a two day sail dead on 4pm. Once again a dry boat!
Very lumpy sea, thank heavens for Stugeron. Poor Darren, who spends rather a lot of time in the cramped engine room throughout the trip, has to take double doses to keep going. Everyone is a bit ‘piano’ and sleepy. Annie spends most of her time in the cockpit. Leek and potato soup, hot and welcome and easy to drink in this rolling sea. Darren and Ed have a terrible squall on their watch. Les Girls play Who’s in the Bag below decks and stay dry and comfy. Scott catches a Tuna, guess what we are having for dinner?
Land in sight hurrah! Slight change of plan. As the wind is NW and blowing a force 6 it is too dangerous to enter the atoll with a depth of only 2m below the keel in the middle of the narrow channel through the entrance, we leave the Salomon Atoll and head for Peros Banhos Atoll. We have ARRIVED in the Chagos Archipelago. Toasted sandwiches for lunch. Down anchor at 2.15pm off Ile Diamont. We are going to have a glass of wine to celebrate. Hang on! before anything else, clean the boat!! Wine is now rather warm. Make banana bread with Jo and Wendy. Good old Van Morrison playing on the iPod. It has come to our attention that Ed has come armed with a goody bag of anti-depressants, anti-biotic and any other product beginning with ‘a’.
For Annie’s benefit Ollie reminds us that if any shells or coral are found on board there is a £500 fine. If you can’t pay it’s off to jail. Visited by our local British Navy, offer them tea and biscuits which disappear very quickly. More games of Articulate in the evening
Easter Sunday. Painted boiled eggs for breakfast. Tessa has brought out some little eggs and Easter Bunnies. Off to the island to snorkel, Tessa and I stay behind and explore. Tessa gets dragged a bit in the current, not a good start. While we have been away (getting eaten by flying bugs) Wendy and Jo have been preparing a barbeque. When we return to the island we find candles have been set in the sand, fires glow on the beach and cool wine awaits us. They have thought of everything: except the weather. A squall hits us and in true British spirit we carry on regardless. Highlight of the evening must be Darren finding a hermit crab that had set up home in no.1 Coconut Villas. It was last seen legging it into the darkness with a large piece of chicken tucked under its shell. What a fantastic evening, thank you and good night.
Anchor up and off to the Salomon Atoll in more settled weather. Arrive about 1pm having gone very slowly through the shallow, narrow pass. Off in the dinghy to explore and discover 4 baby yellow rays hiding in the sand very close to shore. At Ile Boddam we meet the local colour, Ollie calls them sea gypsies. The men, especially a chap called Keith is a real character, very weathered face, smoking a pipe and drinking rum. He left America in 1979 and has not stopped roaming the seas since then. Ollie has invited a very nice American couple over for dinner. They are called Jack and Barbara and are sailing alone on a 70ft boat - pretty impressive. A fantastic supper of fillet steak followed by bananas, flamed with rum. The after dinner entertainment is fishing off the aft deck. Darren has the amazing capacity to be enthusiastic about everything, especially fishing.
We go to an amazing snorkelling site called the Shute. Well named due to the fact that the current whooshes you over deep pools filled with amazing coral and fish. Wendy spots a Reef Shark. After lunch off to another site and have a long swim back. Tessa is mastering windsurfing and Annie gives a demonstration on how it’s done without getting your hair wet.
Last day in the Chagos Archipelago. Go back to the Shute. Strong current makes for an exciting last snorkel. We see Sea Snakes, a Turtle and 4 Rays that look like penguins dressed as nuns gently floating along the bottom. Some of the best coral seen so far. On the little beach small Terns have laid their eggs in the sand and debris. They are carefully camouflaged to blend in with the sand. We up anchor at 2pm to set sail for the Seychelles, Scott suggests that we start a Sweepstake, to guess how long it will take to get to the Seychelles, much deliberation and contemplation. The winner will get a bottle of wine from each of the others… hmmmm.
Scott’s birthday. Wendy paints him a wonderful card and she and Jo give him a hat and a pair of shoes with bottle openers in the soles. Perfect for lazy days fishing with a cold beer. Heavy squalls during the night. Pleasant rolling ocean swell.
Tessa’s birthday. Wendy paints another fantastic card and has made her mother a bracelet. After cleaning the stainless steel and decks Ollie stops the boat for a swim in the middle of the Indian Ocean – not many people have done this. The water is so warm and calm; how to spend your birthday with a difference. Annie catches a beautiful Dorado with fantastic green and yellow skin that changed colour when it came out of the water to a turquoise blue. Ed had a huge fight to land a tuna. Two more are caught which are rather small, these are released. Tessa lands one of them.
Conversation revolves around the arrival date and any skulduggery that takes place when Ollie, Scott and Darren are at the helm or in the engine room.
The tension is rising. Apart from the odd flying fish landing on the deck all is going well. Jo produces some great food for the passage. A few squalls add to the excitement of the day.
Getting closer! Squalls, cushions taken below, cushions back in the cockpit ad infinitum! Darren looses the biggest fish. This would have taken ages to land and Les Girls would have been in contention, re-the bet!!
Ollie wins the wine! Funny that!!
Arrived at 10.10am after an extensive deck wash. In fact our last deck wash as we now migrate from amateur crew status to GUESTS!!! Before we can go ashore we have to be cleared by customs. Boo Too is moored next to the fishing boats, the fish processing factory, and the local sewerage works and these hardly contribute to the sweet smell expected on a tropical island!! A procession of customs, police etc come to the boat to stamp our passports. Scott has just the right technique to deal with them. We make the acquaintance of Christoff, the local Mr Fixit at a fixed price. After moving to the marina it is off to Victoria for a light lunch. The smoked fish is to be recommended. The Amateur Crew take Ollie and the professional crew to La Scala, a very chic local restaurant. If it had not been for Ed’s credit card, we would all have had to sing for our suppers. Very good fish. Ollie regales us with tales from his disco days. (Anything said on board, stays on board)! Too hot, we all try to sleep on deck.
We are alongside at the Eden Island Marina. Well, it’s a building site at the moment. More like an obstacle course and to get out we literally have to ‘walk the plank’. Antoine becomes the ‘tame taxi driver’. It’s very cloudy and sticky. After a very good breakfast it’s off again to the metropolis of Victoria. We cannot change our tickets but manage to confirm our seats. Visit market again for more photos, avoid spending money. Relief!! Depart for the ferry dock to re-fuel and leave for Anse Royale. Grey clouds follow us all the way. Huge flocks of birds descend on the fish below; they look rather like feathered rafts. Darren fails to catch a fish. There is too much swell at Anse Royale to make a comfortable anchorage so we move on to Pte Capucins and drop the hook at 6pm. Rocks and tall trees tower above us; the evening lightning seems even more dramatic with this backdrop. As we sailed along, the hills and beach fronts are littered with small houses and churches covered with red corraged tin roofs.
Christoff and his girlfriend Lisa come over for dinner, a very late night.
What a wonderful view to wake up to. Everyone has a swim or snorkel. Leave at 10am for Ollie’s Mystery Tour. We are heading for La Digue. Our regular travelling companion, Mr Squall, is with us most of the way. Eventually, we reach Petite Anse, La Digue but the swell is too much. Try around the corner at Praslin. Rather a bumpy night. Wendy tries to sleep in a hammock!
We up anchor (note the nautical terms creeping in) and make for Baie St Anne, rather choppy, and at 12.00 we anchor at a delightful spot called Baie La Raie, Ile Curieuse. We take the tender to explore but the water got too shallow to use the outboard as we approached the beach so Ed gallantly got out to tow us in, in true African Queen style! The trees grow right to the water’s edge. We could be in Cornwall or New Zealand. The trees might be different but the overall impression is the same. In true Wind in the Willows style Jo has packed a picnic for us all. The little beach is made of real sand and a joy to walk on. The rocks that surround the bay are reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands seen in paintings by Landseer. After a glass of Rosé we snorkel until we are ordered off the beach by the National Parks security guards; it’s a tortoise nursery! In the next bay we join the giant tortoises and try again to have our picnic. These lugubrious creatures wander around, very slowly munching the short grass. It’s hard to watch them without the One Foot in the Grave tune playing in your head!! The odd bits of avocado and tomato are snapped up. Well, not quite, they have rasp like jaws and tongue. Ed gives them Salami, not sure about that. After a photo shoot in which Ollie puts his hat on one of the tortoise heads we collect shoes and go for a walk in the hills. Fierce crabs come out of their holes to defend the steps, their claws raised, as we climb forever upwards. Our very own David Attenborough, aka Ollie, fearlessly enters the scrub to capture on film the local wildlife. We get lost and have to retrace our steps. We say good bye to the tortoises and head off to the boat.
All the day boats leave and an enormous charter yacht arrives with a string of jet skis, looking like a mother duck with her ducklings, following behind. As the evening draws in their purple lights come on. All they need is a mirror disco ball. Ollie suggests that while we are sipping our pre-dinner drinks it would be a good idea to read poetry. Wearing his head light, which does look rather funny, he starts us off with John Masefield’s Sea Fever. We all sit down to a fantastic supper of steak with roasted aubergines and butternut squash, complemented with a very good wine. Dinner is followed by a little late night fishing on the aft deck. The fishing is secondary to the competition between Darren and Scott. And off to bed.
After a very healthy breakfast, it’s torture time. Wendy, with much enthusiasm, suggests windsurfing. It would be a good idea to gloss over the next hour and say that lunch was heavenly and the rosé restorative. Ollie suggests that it is snorkel time and we head off towards the rocks at the end of the bay. Fear creeps in as we see the darkening clouds and are told by Ollie about the intensity of the impending storm. Note a glint in his eye!!!!! In fact, it proves to be one of the best sites to snorkel in and when the squall hits us the force of the rain on our backs is incredible. Annie has decided to windsurf; she was last seen disappearing towards Africa. Tonight we read Coleridge’s Tale of the Ancient Mariner. We have Chicken Curry for supper and more sport off the aft deck. Jack Johnson songs fill the night air. Tessa is ‘pootelled’ and very giggly, Wendy instigates some really dire games. Great fun. Off to bed – Oh! Annie made it back safely on the windsurfer – relief all round.
After French toast, bacon and maple syrup, Boo Too sets sail for Mahe. We are starting the journey back and my log is nearly done. Before lunch the boat stops for a quick snorkel, great waves, only a fraction of the number of fish seen elsewhere. Darren is really looking forward to getting back. His girlfriend Kelly and their daughter Eliza Jane will be there to meet the boat. Perfect sail back, just enough wind to finish on a high. We spend the evening at a strange Creole style restaurant which is great fun.
Well, it is time to sign off and finally say good night and good bye. Thank you all, the crew and fellow incompetent crew who made it such a very special trip. To Ollie, what can I say, simply ‘thank you’. May your God be with you and may your bed never break!