The Maldives archipelago is in the northern Indian Ocean just off the southwest coast of India. It consists of 26 ringed shaped atolls with 1,190 coral islands and stretches in a long chain north to south. It is the lowest nation in the world. Average height is 1.5 metres above sea level!
Our first 10 hours was motoring in calm seas, then once away from the lee side of the land mass, we had wind, substituting the drone of the Beta for the working sails. Sailing is always the more pleasant mode but also for the reason of fuel consumption concerns. So we sail as soon as possible. Fuel top-up is apparently available at our next stop, but after that, it's a long way to the next possible available diesel.
We passed through one of the world's busiest shipping routes keeping an eagle eye outside and on the AIS display. (AIS, an electronic instrument that displays the details of other ship traffic within about 40 nautical miles and overlaps onto the electronic charts. It shows ships' names and details including speed, direction, point of closest contact and time, etc.)
We do faithful checks every 15 minutes or more frequently in busy areas. It is interesting to see details on the AIS of different itinerant vessels on voyages to far off places on the globe and picturing the lonely life aboard as they disappear over the horizon.
Freighter crossing our path at sunset
We had a great beam reach sail most of the way, with winds and seas of various strengths requiring 1 or 2 reefs and seeing 7 sustained knots at times. One 24-hour period, we did 158 nautical miles, a record for modest Sea Turtle. Our typical passage average is 110 NM per day, but the following current booted us along nicely, thank you very much.
Twinkling stars covering the canopy above with their brilliance was a fine sight after not seeing such brightness for a long time. The sliver of a moon passing us almost directly overhead ushered us towards the horizon as the night progressed. Night transformed to day as the morning sun eked over the horizon as a bright orange-red fireball.
Once we were surprised to see a fishboat, not much larger than Sea Turtle, bobbing and rolling through the waves and swells 125 NM away from closest land! The crew all boisterously hollered out a greeting to Sea Turtle with lots of smiles and waves.
Finally late in the afternoon on February 3rd, the winds started to die and at 19:30 we reluctantly had to start the motor. The nice thing about no wind is the seas calm down for a smoother ride, making it easier for us to shower on deck.
Then after 3 days, it was Land Ho! We spotted 3 low lying atolls off in the distance. Passing between 2 of the islands and around to the lee side of Ha Uligan, we set anchor in 18 m (60 ft) deep of water with 9 m (30 ft) clarity at 15:00 (14:00 local time) on February 4th at N07°04.951' E072°55.126'. We shared the reef-side anchorage with 2 other sailboats making the same passages as us.
Approach to Ha Uligan
* Ha means Island