Saturday, February 18, 2017

Covert passage

We left our new-found paradise, the Island of Uligan of the northern Maldives, on February 9th at 09:00. We soon saw dolphins once again as they pranced about the bow wave. Dolphins and sea turtles have been a pleasant and common sight in the area of the Maldives.

1 of about 30 off our bow

As expected from previous weather checks, we motor-sailed in a very light breeze for the first 10 hours after which the winds filled in for a pleasant beam reach for much of the trip. We ran mostly right along our rhumb line as we made our way to Socotra Island (Yemen).

Even though the threat of piracy has been virtually wiped out, there was still a measure of trepidation for this passage. We decided to run as invisible as possible. AIS was set to receive only, no navigation lights at night, and radio contact with 2 other passage boats were made with pre-set coded references (Popeye, Brutus, Olive Oly, and Jeepster!) on pre-prescribed frequencies and times.

We usually could make regular, twice daily, HF radio contacts with cruising comrades SV Jubilee and also SV Wai-O-Tira who were ahead of us. Progress reports were exchanged giving weather conditions, traffic sightings, and fishing endeavours and pleasantries etc. We were the smallest and slowest boat by a bit so it was nice to hear what we could expect the wind conditions to be ahead.

The lazy days were punctuated with the setting of an orange sun off our bow and the rising full moon off our stern.

Rising moon

During lonely night watches, the stellar brilliance elicits quiet contemplation. The enduring celestial display above was ancient seafarers' chart plotter and we were looking at the exact scene. The Big Dipper and North Star to starboard and the Southern Cross to port.

The solitude of the passage was made more palpable with the virtual absence of sea birds and we took it as the gauge that measures sea stock. It took us days of trailing a lure before we caught a small Mahi Mahi and just in time as our processed fish supply was about to become the canned type.

However we did see a lot of flying fish, pods of dolphins (the spinner type too) that frolicked in our bow waves, and even a pod of pilot whales that crossed our stern.

Chanty and Jordan relaxing in the back yard

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