Friday, March 28, 2008

Crossing the Indian Ocean

Friday March 28, 2008 3:00am
coordinates 09.20.492N,066.23.922E

We are 6 days into approximately a 2 week crossing give or take a week depending on this wind or lack there of. The first two days held very light winds out of many directions but not necessarily the direction we would like. It is amazing though when the sea is so flat and calm that you can get 3 knots of boat speed out of only 6 knots of wind. The currents in the Maldives are faster than this but we are not complaining. We'll take the calm sea and the forward progress with no motor any day of
the week. With a lot of tacking we are slowly making westward movement. Moorea, Luna and Pelikaan are floating nearby as well so we are in good company.

Day 3 brought even less wind so we had to break down and start the engine. Unfortunately that uses fuel but makes us "amp happy" as we say. So when the school work is done the boys get to play video games with all our extra electricity. We have only seen a couple of fishing boats but pods and pods of dolphins. Mostly Bottle nose or Spinner dolphins but you can tell that spring is in the air. The littlest of baby dolphins came leaping through the water at maybe 1-2 feet long. Adorable.
Day 4, 5 and 6 brought the slightest whisper of a wind back and though we didn't realize it was possible, we have been able to squeeze out 1.5 to 2 knots of speed out of 3 to 4 knots of wind. Thank goodness for what ever small currents are working in our favor. The boys have offered to hop in the water and kick for an extra push. We may have to take them up on that.
This is a whole new style of sailing for this crew, especially for that captain. Famous for constantly trimming the sails and refining our wind angle, speed has always been the name of our game. Normally with winds so light we would be rolling around and beating our sails to death. The sea is still literally glassy flat and smooth so we don't roll at all and are amazingly comfortable and lazy looking. Good thing too until the winds fill in because with just over 1000 miles left to go, we cannot
afford the chance to run the engine any more than necessary. We are content to float on by. At the current speed of 2 knots, it will only take 20 more days to get there. Bruce joked that it is half the distance of crossing the Pacific Ocean and may take us longer to get there. Hopefully not, there is a very strange smell on the wind tonight, we shall see what it brings.

Matthew let mom know early on that if we were off shore for the day it was her job to take over for the Easter Bunny. Those are big furry feet to fill. We celebrated with 6 colored eggs hidden, only to be found by the boys in about 60 seconds flat. The Easter Bunny is going to have to be more clever and make this more challenging next time. They are mildly in withdrawal without any jelly beans or chocolate bunnies but the Mentos, gum, and marshmallows that filled their goody bags seemed to do
them well.

We are all nicely settled into our crossing routines by now. With the calm seas, our shifts of odd sleep hours is working well. We take slightly different sleep schedules than do most cruisers. Bruce takes the first shift from 8pm to 1am while Lisa sleeps, Lisa's shift from 1am - 6am, and then they each fit is a 3 hour nap or so during the day. Bruce bides his time with reading, guitar and our radio nets with neighboring boats, until a new project on the boat arises. Lisa cooks and bakes, the
newest creations have been a delightful mango chutney and a rock hard coffee cake. School and games for the boys keeps the smaller crew members busy. The BBC does come in well on our Ham radio so it is fun to sit around it and keep connected to the worlds events. Each evening we all sit together to watch a movie and have dinner, then it all starts over again.
Such is life on a crossing.
until next time,
your crew on Ohana Kai

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Himmafushi, Maldive

March 22, 2008
coordinates 04.18.390N,073.33.788E
You know you are getting the lay of the land when you start to see familiar faces on the ferry ride home at the end of the day. We've met some great friendly faces here and as well as always are enjoying the company of our pals on Moorea, Luna and Pelikaan. They were right there in fact all donning their black t-shirts ready to celebrate the big 40 for Lisa. They all spent the day surfing and the night with a pot luck. Lisa caught two of the best waves of her life here. One to send out 39 and
one to ring in the new day. She certainly never thought she would be saying that anytime in her previous life. It was a great time had and best of all was the chance to share the waves with all the kids who are quickly finding their feet and styles on their boards. There is nothing more fun than to see all 5, Tristan, Matthew, River & Roxy of Pelikaan, and Soleil of Luna, following Bruce around like a small flotilla of ducklings or all 5 on Bart's paddle board at once. To watch the ocean floor
mirrored in the curve of a beautiful tube rolling by, dolphins or manta rays leaping out of the waters and even the spray of a whale is one of the treasures that we cherish the most out here.

Back in town together we all found our favorite markets for produce and shops for provisioning. There is something addicting about their tiny Maldivian Mango's. Ahamed turned us in the right direction when it came to filling our fridge's and freezers with meat. A local distributor that he uses for charters also fills orders for civilians based in Iraq at the moment, and little old us. Were we tickled pink to find Original Log Cabin Country Kitchen syrup!!! It is the simple things in life isn't
it. We also found one fantastic Thai restaurant to ease our pains of leaving Thailand behind. We held one great feast night there with all the boats to toast the next leg of our adventures.

The sails and canvas are stitched, our windless and Moorea's alternator, both which gave up the ghost but found new life and are ready to go. We are weighted down with banana stalks, water and fuel. We have trimmed the hedges and mowed the lawn. That is the affectionate way to say that we chipped all the barnacles off the keel and scrapped the mosses off the hull. We have planned and prepared for what is potentially a bit more dangerous stretch of our trail. With all the unrest in Somalia, the
waters surrounding it are not much better at times we hear with potential pirate attacks. For precautions we have arranged to travel as close in proximity with our buddy boats, strength in numbers. We have code names if needed, (ours is Okie Dokie, the others are Lil' Mo, Moonies, and Big Bird in case you were curious) and codes for giving our positions so as to not give our locations away to others. Most importantly we will be keeping our distance from the Somalia shores and making our first
landfall in Al Mukallah, Yemen. This is the beginning of the more troublesome alley between Aden and itself. There we will regroup after the approximately 1400 mile trek. From there we will travel very closely, i.e. within eyesight if possible, for the remainder of the 200 mile jaunt to Aden. We have heard great things about both ports of call and anxiously await a whole new world for us to explore. We will be sending our much more frequent blog and tracking positions as well so you can keep
track of us too. We have emergency phone numbers and radio call frequencies should something arise but most importantly is to remember that the chances are slim to none to have such difficulties. Most vessels that approach us are simply looking for a friendly hand out of cigarettes and snacks. We plan to have a stack of cookies and a smile ready to win them over at any given moment. So don't worry mom's and dad's. All's Well.
As all the locals in the Maldives have been telling us "Winter is coming early". Bad news for us as that meant strong winds out of the north west, or more correctly, the direction we need to go. It has been a pleasant stay in the Maldive Islands but it's time to go. We have found our weather window and we're off. With so many blessing for us to count, let's remember our greatest gift in Christ, Happy Easter.
Until next time,
Your Ohana Kai crew

Hulhumale, Maldive

February 25, 2008
coordinates 04.13.128N,073.32.075E

We quickly learned the one of the toughest aspects about visiting Male was going to be the anchoring. Very deep waters, swift currents and lots o' coral! Our first attempts to anchor right in front of Male consisted of settling down right in the middle of the ferry shipping lane on a 40 ft. patch of coral surround by 100+ depths with 2 knots current against us. It was here that we waited only momentarily for our soon to be new friend and agent Ahamed was to board us with all the officials and check
us into their fine country. Fast, efficient and very friendly. Ahamed would become one of the greatest links and contacts to have during our stay in these islands. As an agent of Noroonma Travel, he deals with the paperwork and issues concerning all things on many ships that enter Maldives from someone as tiny as us or as large as a cruise ship or war ship. No matter how much is on his plate, he has an amazing ability to be right there to fulfill all your needs and make you feel like you are
the most important priority on his list. We cannot give him enough thanks for all his help.

The up side to the Maldives thus far has been the wonderful sunny weather, with the occasional thunderstorm or intensely humid day. We have become very used to the hatch dance in our sleep. This is where one runs wildly around in the dark middle of the night shutting the hatches due to intense sudden rain storms. We have learned the tell tale high wind warning sounds whipping through the rigging before the deluge begins. It is great for keeping the water tanks topped off though. The crystal
clear waters offer delicious aqua blue swimming opportunities but one has to keep a close eye on the currents. It can easily reach 2.5 - 3 knots or greater at times which creates a great game for the kids. Jump off the bow of the boat and try to catch a rope at the stern before you are whisked away. Blink and they're gone. We had dinghies at the ready to go and retrieve them. It is amazingly strong and one or two kids have been witnessed struggling to make it back up the ladder or nearly lose
a pair of swim trunks to the grips of the water.
The crew on Pelikaan was even able to catch a nice size trevalli fish at anchor.

The Maldives do boast some world class diving sites. The fish are plentiful and colorful, and I wouldn't trust my pinky fingers near some of the parrot fish that are nearly as large as my kids but the coral is a bit lacking. We have found a couple of places to surf at breaks named Chickens, Sultans, Honkeys and Colas. Between school and projects we are trying to fill our lasts days with this exercise since we will not have the opportunity again for nearly 6 months. We are starting to suffer from
withdrawals already. The locals we have met have been the most gracious, helpful, friendly and kind. A 100% Sunni Muslim culture their enchanting echoes calling them to prayer faithfully 5 times a day can be heart from the minarets.

The down side is that there is no real place for us here and it is getting more expensive for the next season of cruisers to come through. Each branch of their government would like a little slice of that pie and the ministry of tourism is the latest hungry person at the table. 8$ per person per day on top of anchoring fees and cruising permits we had purchased. The anchorages are very deep making it difficult to drop the hook just anywhere. On paper we are limited to anchoring in front of resorts
but there were issues there. Either the depths were too great, it was too expensive at $20 per person to set foot upon the shore and we would not be allowed to utilize any facilities, or they just didn't want us. Other locations we have tried, we either ended up on top of a national marine park, which we surely didn't want to injure and inside an island lagoon that though to our faces we were invited to come ashore and treated with great kindness, behind our backs we found out we were not wanted
near the more remote villages and their peoples and promptly asked to leave.

This left us with two main choices of the Hulhumale anchorage next to the airport. Very, very rolly and uncomfortable with any wind, sometimes sketchy as other boats come off their anchor at times in the high winds and severe fetch created by the wind and the heavy boat traffic. This also makes it very difficult and dangerous at times to land at the dinghy dock or tie your tender there unattended. The benefit here was the easy access to the now ever familiar half hour ferry ride to the main town
of Male. A bit hot and noisy if you are in the back row like us, but always a great adventure. They have taken jockeying into position into new levels. No matter how hard we tried we never made it to the front of the line. We'll have lots of time for practice though as we prepare to provision for the up coming crossing over the remainder of the Indian Ocean as we begin our journey up the Red Sea.

Our second and more frequented choice is a lagoon inside Himmafushi. The story isn't clear but at one time this island was a jail, may still be. All we could see was a ton of boat building. Best of all it was as close to the breaks as we were going to get for surfing. A 20 min. ride in the dinghy or as we wizened up, we would bring the big boats over for the day and have a great place to rest and refuel before heading back out for afternoon and evening sessions of surf. We have had some challenges
with many a wrapped anchor chain around a coral bommie. One fast and fierce thunderstorm left all four boats having to drive around in 40 knots wind and strong currents since being on anchor was too dangerous at the time and the weather too rough to make it back into the anchorage. We can't complain though. Life is good.

Until next time,
Your Ohana Kai crew

Male, Maldive Islands

Maldives Islands
February 19, 2008

1300 miles and two time zones later we reached the Maldives Islands. Great winds the first 7 days, light winds for 2 days and no wind for the rest. Shipping traffic finally died out the last few days but other interesting things always keep us entertained. About 125 miles south west of Sri Lanka little green biting bugs that resembled aphids, we figure were blown across the water to visit us. We rounded out the crossing with some high jumping dolphins and haircuts for the boys. The two smaller
boys that is, never fear, the big one still has his Samsonian head of hair.

Male and the Maldive Islands!!! Who knew!!!
As we approach the capital of Male we were astounded to see a skyline rising up out of the ocean that could rival any major metropolis in the US, complete with air traffic buzzing all around. Float planes to giant international birds. These were not the atolls we had grown accustomed too in the South Pacific, though the word "atoll" technically comes from the Maldive language of Dihevi, flat coral islands surrounding lagoons of water and reef. They certainly have the clean water clarity as we
could spy the bottom in 50 feet at times.

The country of Maldive is made up of 1,190 islands. 192 of which are inhabited, with a total population of 300,000, 100% Sunni Muslim. Since the tsunami in 2004 many of those inhabitants have decided to move to the capital island for safety due to the fact that no one here died. 75,000 now live in Male alone. 90 various resorts throughout the habitable islands from The Four Seasons to Club Med. Therefore, use what you've got. Their number one source of income is tourism. Aside from that they
have the largest tuna in greater numbers than we have ever witnessed in our entire lives. The fish market at the end of the day is a site to behold. Everything else they need is shipped in and we do mean EVERYTHING, IPODS to ice cream, cereal to cars, including drinking water, since even that is in scarce supply.

Amazingly they have found ways to utilize every square inch of this island and planned right down to shipping out their garbage and shipping in rocks and sand from Sri Lanka in order to reclaim and build new islands if needed. The airport itself being one of those. They have really found ways to make their world work well for them. Of course we were able to sniff out the coca-cola bottling plant and the sword fish packing plants. There are lots of boat building facilities and great repair places
for what ever ails your boat.

We have signed up for one month here so time to go explore.
Until next time,
Your Ohana Kai crew