Change of plan

Brian Palmer
Sun 13 Feb 2011 16:27

Uligan Maldives


We have now been anchored here just over two weeks which have possibly been the worst two weeks in our lives.      As more and more news and information was received about increased pirate activity in the Indian Ocean we were beginning to wonder if we really should attempt a crossing and return to Turkey this year.


Each afternoon or morning everyone met in the anchorage to share information and talk tactics, each day it got more dire and we began to wonder what we should do.   We had telephone conferences with UKMTO who advised us not to go and Marlo sent us daily lists of pirate attacks.   Our options were to either return to Thailand and have more boat work done, return to Langkawi, sail to Cochin and spend a year there.   We had already got Indian Visas should such a situation arise.    We could just ignore it all and sail with the planned TTT convoy and stress ourselves stupid and in addition wear both Songster and ourselves into the ground.    The TTT was now talking of heading up the Indian coast to Pakistan and then across to UAE before heading down the coast to Aden and into the Red Sea.    Friends had already turned back because of the huge number of fishing boats and unlit merchant vessels at night on this route.    This planned passage would be around 3000 miles – almost an Atlantic crossing – and much of it motoring due to light winds.   One day last week I got hint of people in Cochin shipping their yachts to the Med and we wasted no time in contacting the company and signing up.    So with much relief Songster will be put aboard a vessel that will come to Male here in the Maldives sometime between 15th and 25th March to lift her on to its deck and take her to Marmaris, Turkey where we will join her.


We are not alone in doing this around half a dozen others are doing the same thing and several are joining us from Cochin.


The plan had been to leave the anchorage today to head south towards Male where we have to be by 24th February in order to renew the cruising permit and visas which we are now awaiting.     The normal stay in the Maldives is just 72 hours without charge, checking in and out of the same port.     To stay longer and move about with your yacht you need a cruising permit which is costing $620 for 30 days and starts on your day of arrival.    Unfortunately due to circumstances we have been here already over 2 weeks so the renewal will come slightly quicker than we had hoped for.    The distance from here to Male is around 50 miles further than Langkawi was from Phuket so we will do it in day hops.   The biggest problem is that none of us expected to be in this situation so are not prepared with charts and pilot books so everyone is pooling information etc.     The officials here in Uligan have been fantastic allowing us to stay longer, they were extremely sympathetic to our plight.


Uligan is a beautiful spot and we have managed to have some relaxation time over the past couple of days, although Brian is still being called upon for advice on repairing generators, gear boxes etc. etc.    The sea is crystal clear and filled with fish.     Each morning around 6.30 we watch the manta rays glide gracefully near the yacht fishing for breakfast, this morning they were accompanied by a school of dolphins.      Dolphins here are slightly smaller than others and appear to be very energetic, we have seen some fantastic displays of gymnastics by some.     Brian has tried his hand at fishing but unlike the locals he is not successful, however the fish do like the bait, smoked bacon.    However, they do have a dreadful problem with rubbish that they generate, they just do not know what to do with it all.     We wanted to walk to the other side of the island yesterday, the island is very narrow, but were told not to go by the locals because of all the rubbish, however we came across a track through the palm trees but were put of exploring because of the huge amount of rubbish piled high along the path.


We will never see water and fish like this again unless we take an independent trip to the Red Sea at some time in the future.    Currently all we want to do is take one day as it comes, get Songster shipped and then decide where we go during the shipping period.


So with a bit of luck we shall depart Uligan Tuesday morning for Kulhudufushi where we will stay a night and hopefully get some internet connection to do further research.


Friends and family have been simply wonderful checking out flights, offering accommodation and most of all they are extremely relieved we are not going to sail across the Indian Ocean and up the Red Sea.


We are absolutely delighted that we will never do another ocean crossing and hopefully no more overnight passages!!     Of course once back in Turkey we may change our minds ………………..    We are not even disappointed at not completing a circumnavigation aboard Songster.    We have had a wonderful 9 years and it is sad that it has come to an end in this way.


We will keep you updated on our travels through the Maldives and back to Turkey.