A passage of discovery to Uligan, Maldives 07 05.03N 72 55.12E

Brian Palmer
Tue 1 Feb 2011 02:24
It is now Tuesday 1st February and we have been in Uligan for 4 days and have to offically check out today, 72 hours after our check in on Saturday 29th January.    We finally arrived in the Maldives on Friday 27th after a long hard passage.     Those who chose to go to Kulhudufushi, the convoy suggested entry, did not fair well.   They were given 72 hours and expected to leave the Maldives or pay $650+ for a cruising permit in order to be able to sail 35 miles to Uligan from where the planned departure would be.        There is little to cruise between the two ports as this area is not well surveyed and the two cruising pilot books contain little information  on the area.    It was fortunate we listened to the findings of another yacht and then checked the information out ourselves to confirm the information was correct.     For those following in our wake, beware, not all information on Noonsite is correct, it is as good as the information it receives from the cruising community.     It is only here at Uligan where the officials have managed to negotiate special procedures so today we check out, pay the anchorage fee of $4.50 and a few further dollars to be able to stay another week in order to complete the necessary boat repairs.
On passage we discovered many things about ourselves - the most obvious being we have very short memories.    The dousing with gallons of salt water from the passing ship's wake was something we had eexperienced before but on this occasion the consequences were far worse.    It was amazing that with all the ships we encountered, sometimes as many as 15 a day it was only this one ship passing at least 1 mile away that caused such a wake, others had been closer.     Our AIS transceiver has proved its worth as ships now avoid us and take action to clear us.    We are able to track them as far away as 50 odd miles which is amazing and they tend to change course around 10 miles from us
The water sadly gushed through our forward hatch soaking through the mattresses and into the lockers below.   Even now we are still trying to dry out contents and mattresses but much will have to wait until we are somewhere with good supplies of fresh water and who knows we could get wet again!
We had also forgotten, not having done a long passage for a while, just how boring, tiring and hard work it all is.   The seas were extremely rough and at times we battled with the elements to change sails and provide meals.     Always before a passage I prepare a number of meals and these were our saviour.      Sadly on passage neither of us is able to read as we would become seasick, hence the boredom.  Songster discovered she loved the conditions sailing at speeds we had never seen before, she looked after us well.
It is amazing how after a few days rest one forgets the bad bits and you start to plan the next leg of your passage.
Here in Uligan we are without internet facilities and have only just learned of the serious situation in Egypt and the increased piracy activity in the Indian Ocean, much of it along the route we intended to take.    We had always thought the passage along the Yemeni coast and into the Red Sea to be the most dangerous but with the pirates now operating from hijacked merchants vessels they are spreading their wings further north east.    
There are something like 20 odd yachts here in the anchorage with more to arrive over the coming days.    We all have one thing in common, we have to get to the Mediterannean.   The majority are Europeans returning home like ourselves after many years at sea.   Each afternoon we meet as a group to pool information on how to best tackle the next leg.     In the meantime we continue with boat jobs and prepare for the next passage.
The reception by officials here in Uligan has been possibly the very best we have received anywhere in the world.    They could not be more helpful and realise our plight, the need for longer than 72 hours to rest from the previous passage, deal with repairs and prepare for the next.    The TTT convoy was due to leave here around 10th February but this has been delayed a day or two  whilst people repair their yachts in Sri Lanka and sail here, currently there are something like 8 TTT yachts here.       In a couple of days time we plan to take a trip to a few islands on a local boat.    The water here is crystal clear and appears to be full of fish, we are amazed at their antics as they scurry past Songster many leaping out of the water.   Yesterday whilst dinghying to a nearby beach for a pot luck supper organised by the officials we came across a small manta ray.    It is a beautiful spot here, we can buy supplies and have refuelled so hopefully over the coming days we will be able to enjoy ourselves before embarking on the next leg.  
Uligan is almost the most northern island in the Maldives and like all the other islands heree is only a few metres above sea level. causing them concern with global warming.     People here appear prosperous.    Although remote they live in homes that reminded me of Cornwall back in the 1940/50s with rendered walls and windows with green paintwork.    Their gardens, along with the village, are extremely neat, tidy and clean.     The women are the best dressed of any islanders we have visited.   Being Muslim they cover up wearing the most beautiful scarves and well made outfits, so different to the gaudy patterned shapeless outfits worn by the Malaysian women.     The guys on the other hand are like all others in their regular uniform of Manchester United, Chelsea etc T shirts.    It is amazing, wherever we are in the world British Footballs teams have many, many foreign supporters.
The officials here are treating us as very special people even though we do not match the typical Maldivian tourist who usually is an extremely rich and rude Russian.    The locals primarily make their living from tourism at the many high standard resorts dotted around the islands.
If the sea and winds are a little calmer today I plan to snorkel on the reef that surrounds this island.
Our current plan is to sail north east towards Cochin, India and then up the Indian coast to take advantage of the sea breezes before heading west.     The Indian visas that I eventually collected back in November may well come in useful should be need to stop to refuel somewhere.
We will keep you posted on this blog as much as possible.