This supposed to be a fast passage, yet there was no wind for the first days. Once approaching Nicobar Islands, 3 days out, the wind finally came and due to some current we were flying at 9 knots in flat seas, wow!
We are sailing around the bottom of Sri Lanka. Up to now it has been very heavy traffic with cargo ships, at one point we saw eight in a space of three hours. They are pretty good, keeping out of our way. We are keeping 60 miles off the coast to avoid the cargos and the fishing boat. The gossip was that the fisherman are a pest, but so far we had one contacting us on the radio for a little chat and to welcome us to India. Another two fishing boats approached us , just to wave and welcome us, so can't always believe the gossip. Today we broke our record run, 171 miles in 24hours.
Dolphins have been keeping us company. They sometimes come at night and play around the boat or at sundown, doing pirouettes, jumping out of the water. Also saw whales about half a mile from the boat. The giveaway was the water spew from the blowholes. There were about 5 of them, scattered behind the boat.
Morale is a bit low, things keep braking on board, even little things are upsetting us: cupboard doors, etc.
Finally we caught a fish! After so long, we were not even checking the fishing line any longer. A big surprise when something bulky was attached to the fishing rod. The dorado has been there for a while because it was dead when we hauled it on board. But it was delicious. That lifted our moods for a very short time, until the alternator broke. Since the batteries are charged through the engine with the alternator, with flat batteries there is no way to run the fridge full of meat or even start the engine. The worst time possible for this to happen.
Two hours to arrive in Maldives, we are going to the most northern atoll, with a unpronounceable name , Thavandhippolhu. In this atoll there is a little island called Uligamu. For those yachties who can't afford the cruising permit of $450, this is the place to go. We are allowed to stay for three days, for $4 , but cannot cruise around the archipelago. Just as well because it looks like we will be fixing the boat in Maldives, before leaving to Oman. So, whoever defined cruising as fixing boats in exotic places is absolutely right!
Being a Muslim country, there are a number of rules and etiquette to follow: Do not give any presents to locals, alcohol being a big no. Dress appropriately when in the village. Locals are not allowed on board without Customs approval. And so on. The officials, however were very polite and even removed their shoes before coming aboard! Otherwise it has been an unsuccessful and frustrating day spent mostly with our heads stuck in the engine bay. Tried all sorts of different ideas but still haven't got electricity going through the boat. For now the little petrol generator is keeping us off the dark ages. In the evening we went ashore for a dinner organized by the local agent for all the yachties. It was a buffet with dozens of different dishes, grilled grouper and desserts, all for 10 bucks. The typical food is a very mild version of Indian culinary, almost every dish contains coconut. It was delicious. After dinner the locals played the drums and sang typical songs.
There is really not a lot around here, the village has 475 people. Right now is even less, lot of people left for Male, where more jobs are available in the Resorts. Last week the island got swamped with 40 yachts, they took all the provisioning, so we couldn't get any fresh produce. Imad is the local agent, very young lad, helpful and very business minded. We inquired about chances of getting an electric engineer on board. First we have to get permission from Customs to have any local aboard, then Imad has to be around as the engineer doesn't speak English. So we paid the agent a fee of $20, but with that, now we are allowed to stay another 15 days. The only engineer in the atoll finally was allowed on board and left after 3 hours with both alternators , no solutions yet. The whole experience of having locals on board was interesting. They were so shy to accept a drink of Coke and when Imad glanced at our pirate DVD's from Thailand and I offered one disk, he wouldn't take it. Makes you wonder about this rule, it is good for the visitors and doesn't spoil the locals.
Amazing considering that there is nothing whatsoever here, but the Maldiveans are all equipped with palm pads, Sony-Eriksson mobiles, Diesel and Billabong t-shirts and fashionable sun glasses. That is the men; the women wear black and head veils. The village has a cable TV with 101 channels, although all electricity comes from generators. Not sure where the money comes from, the village is simple with basic houses, but clean and we haven't seen any poverty as such.
The engineer came back with alternators and after spending couple of hours fiddling around, he left assuring us that it is all working now and we have 8 amps of charge. When Graham pointed out that it should be 60 amps , he just shrugged and left. After that we decided to forget about it for the afternoon and went for a snorkel...
This time we tried a Austrian engineer, instead of the Sri Lankan who couldn't speak English. Helmut is another yachties and for our luck he understands about boat electrics, at least we got some feedback of a few problems. While poor Graham spent another day inside the engine bay, I went ashore together with Geishe and Svenia to play volleyball with the local girls. They are very shy with visitors, since interaction with tourists seems to be entirely the job for the men. However they were very curious. Playing ball games broke the ice; soon they were chatting away and asking questions. That is until 6pm, when they curfew begins. We invited the girls for the beach party happening tomorrow, if they are allowed.
And the alternator saga continues... Helmut tried his best, spent 8 hours of his time without much results. We offered some money, knowing down well he wouldn't take it. This is an unspoken rule within yachties, to help out without involving money, just believing on "what goes around comes around". So Graham placed a nice bottle of Merlot into his bag, at least he could enjoy the sunset with some wine. The 15 boats wanted to thank the fantastic treatment we received from the locals. So a beach party was organized, via Imad. Everybody contributed with a dish, the locals bought 2 huge fishes, set up the fire, later they were responsible for the music. We were hoping that more people from the village would join the party. Especially the girls would be allowed for once to meet the group of yachties. But we were wrong. Very few of the girls were allowed out at night. The few ones were wearing bizarre name badges for the Island Office. That is how they were allowed out at night, on pretence of work. After dinner it was time to digest the food with dancing to drums... That requires a lot of stamina, the music is frantic and dancing on soft sand was hard work. Then it was time for the yachties to show some different music for the islanders. They loved the mellower beat to the drums and the chanting...