Langkawi Malaysia to Uligan Maldives
Wed 5 Feb 2020 09:39
We finally left Telaga Harbour, Langkawi at 8.18am on Friday, 24th January, 2020 after a longer than planned stop due to having had to order a new Autohelm drive unit from Hong Kong and Syd fitting it!!! Started with a nice North East breeze and flat seas and speeds up to 7 knots then wind died so Spinnaker went up but eventually not enough for that so motor on. Wind came up during the night and with numerous sail changes we sailed on and managed a very good 157 miles for our first 24 hours. The pattern for the next couple of days was much the same as we crossed the rubbish strewn North Malacca Straits and headed toward the North tip of Sumatra and Islands of the Banda Aceh province (epicentre of the tragic 2004 Tsunami). There was a strange and disturbing phenomena during this part of the journey as we regularly passed through lines of breaking surf which looked from a distance as though you were about to run onto a reef - once past the breaking waves the sea was like a washing machine then went calm again until the next one. It must have been a strange current tidal effect but though we have seen this before we have never seen it on such a regular basis.
Day 3 and we passed between Sumatra and the Nicobar Islands and encountered our first squalls which brought a little rain but once through the wind started to pick up. Sea was still lumpy and confused but we we were able to start sailing properly on a fast broad reach with speeds up to 8 knots.
Once away from the land effect the Indian Ocean became more as expected with winds 15-25 knots and a big Ocean swell. The angle of wind meant we could sail a reach or broad reach and made for very fast sailing with few sail changes and little rest mainly because of the volume of shipping so it was 24/7 watch as huge tankers and container ships passed us in both directions, our AIS proved indispensable during this 5 days and whilst these big vessels can easily sea us we did not feel at all complacent that they would be prepared to alter course and on a couple of occasions Syd had to use the radio to ensure that we would orchestrate our manouvres and avoid collision. We definitely did not feel alone in this Ocean it was by far the busiest we have been in, aside from these huge vessels we had small fishing boats with no lights on who seemed intent on trying to collide with us - for the size of their boats they seemed an awfully long way away from land. Sea life - dolphins turned up most mornings and evenings, huge schools of them doing acrobatics for us. Our deck was littered with dead squid and flying fish who had been thrown up by the waves and not managed to escape and the boat started having a rather unpleasant fishy smell!
Day 8 and all change as we went into the wind shadow of Sri Lanka, the wind died and we had our first rest from the pounding of the Ocean plus our first shower of the trip. Syd gave the new water maker he had installed its first proper trial and it was successful, so our water tank was being topped up.
Once through the wind shadow the wind picked up again as we headed into the acceleration zone caused by the winds funnelling down between Sri Lanka and India and we were back to full on sailing, reach and broad reach and great speeds again. As we got to within 2 days of The Maldives Syd calculated we would be arriving in the middle of the night (it always happens!), this was not good as we had a reef entrance to negotiate then a very tricky reef entrance into the preferred anchoring positions off Uligan Harbour. So a decision was made to slow the boat down to ensure we would arrive in the daylight. We had a mainsail with 2 reefs in it held out by a preventer and no genoa - this made for a nasty rolling effect in seas that had built up in the recent wind but it slowed us down and for the last 50 miles we were back to motoring again.
We arrived at the reef entrance into Haa Alif Atoll. Uligan is the Northernmost island of the 14 inhabitted islands of Haa alif Atoll with a population of just 400 people and is a Port of Entry for yachts. We were told we did not need to contact Port Control as they would easily see us so we anchored behind the reef on a perfect bit of white sand and within minutes were diving into the crystal clear warm waters to check the boats swinging room - all very good.
Syd got a call from Customs who said they would be along soon to do the formalities along with the 2 Italian flagged yachts who were also here.
Mid afternoon and a boat load of big smiling officials plus our agent called at the boat with 2 big tubs of mocha and cashew nut ice cream (wow we have never had that treatment before!), they told us they would return after doing the formalities on board another boat. They arrived about an hour later and filled the cockpit with reams of paperwork and a flurry of stamping went on (I was extremely glad to have purchased a boat stamp in Malaysia as this was put into overdrive!) I had emailed most of the necessary paperwork in advance and our agent Assad did a wonderfully efficient job of getting signing and stamping done and we were officially signed in for 8 days.
Rules have been that if you stay over this time you have to buy a cruising permit and rent a tracking device - you are only allowed to visit certain islands, allowed inhabited islands and uninhabited islands and the resort islands that will allow you in so you are very limited as to where you can go. The Maldives is strictly Muslem, prayer is 7 times a day and alcohol is forbidden other than on the resort islands. Also dress must be conservative, no skimpy bikinis or shorts.
We opted not to go ashore first evening as we were pretty exhausted so another swim and several cold beers later plus food and a bottle of red wine and a toast to having completed the first leg of our journey all 1,628 nautical miles of it and now 8 days in paradise.