Sunday, March 23, 2008

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

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