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Salaam Aleikum

April 2, 2015

Salaam aleikum is the usual greeting used in the Maldives. It’s a common greeting used in many Muslim countries and the Maldives is definitely Muslim, no liquor (except in the resorts) and no pork which I love and truly miss!

But ‘Wow’ is what sums up the Maldives. It’s not the tourist brochures with images of infinity pools perched out over the azure ocean or dining on a private balcony that makes one feel you are in an aquarium but rather we get to see the villages that those who toll for months at a time in the resorts return to when they get a little time off to be with their families.

We see pin-neat villages with schools, clinics, parks, sparkling fresh paint, new harbours and the most amazing extensive cellular coverage that rivals anywhere we have been (8gb of data for $38). The people are curious, friendly, helpful and inquisitive. It’s also a young population. It’s difficult to find someone over the age of 60 and of those my favourite are the old women who stand a few feet away from us and stare at us for what seems an age. What breaks their concentration is when you say ‘salaam aleikum’. They are bowled over. And then of course they are delighted and the traditional muslim treatment towards visitors cuts in and they will do anything to help out.

So far we get greater hospitality from the local villages than we ever get from resorts we have tried to anchor next to. We were given the advice that we should give notice of our arrival. So we usually pin point an island to sail to but the realize there’s a resort. We look up the phone number and/or email and send a note or phone asking if it’s OK to drop the anchor close by and come in for a lunch or dinner. Examples of the responses we’ve received are “anchoring will cost $120/night” or “tonight’s buffet dinner will cost $150/person” or “it’s forbidden for yachts to anchor in the lagoon”. I think now we have the picture. Resorts are off-limits. They are very exclusive and located in magical settings. They have everything from the jet skis to the parachute sailing, diving to water skiing and dessert trays that are making us cry out in anguish (at least that’s what the pictures show us on the web). I think they even have ice for their drinks.”I’m coming right over!” But, no, we are decidedly not welcome so we hunker down below sipping on our warm sodas and ginger beer and search in the dwindling stores for something enticing to eat.

Our forays to local villages aren’t that often. However, once we arrive we always find something to entertain us. The other day found us sitting around the tea shop with the winner of a national election in Milandhoo. We were entranced by the following statement from the local president of town council who answered the question “why are there no women on city council?” with the words ” they don’t care” to the recently re-elected MP who avoided the question ‘why is your previous prime minister in jail?”. For a recent update on the politics of the Maldives click here and for an interesting movie on the ex-president take a look at this movie which won accolades at the Sundance and T0r0nto film festivals

For all the wonderful aspects of the Maldives sailing is not one of them. Two days out of the Maldives coming in from Sri Lanka the wind died and since then we have not seen a wind over 8 knots except when stronger short-lived gusts are accompanied with lightning, thunder and torrential rain. It has been very frustrating and slow going. Under power we don’t make good progress but sometimes we are forced to. When there is some wind we limp along counteracting contrary currents and slowly seeking out a good route that will see us to another anchorage. Daily averages run about 20-30 miles.

Now as I write we are making our way from Faadho to Kashidhoo. The sea is lumpy, there is not enough wind for the sails to hold shape and the engine thumps its rhythm to push us forward against the current. Forward progress is about 2.9 knots. We’re not going to make Kashidoo by nightfall and the thought of being out overnight is not pleasant as there are black clouds surrounding us and the rain squalls drench us every hour or so. We keep going hoping conditions will improve. Turning back is no option as we don’t know the area well enough to choose a safe and comfortable anchorage.

We managed to make an anchorage by nightfall. We were precariously perched on the edge of a reef that marked the entrance into North Male Atoll. We had an uneventful nights anchorage and the next day reached Male, the capital of the Maldives.

Male, the capital. Male clings to a reef and there is hardly one square metre of recognizable land left. Every square metre has a building on it and have never seen a city that is such a hive of activity. Considering it is the main gateway for all goods entering and leaving the Maldives it’s understandable why there so much commercial activity. But what surprises us are some of the stores. Male’s overloaded with hardware stores and one can buy the most modern kitchen/bathroom fixtures to be found anywhere. I guess it’s because of all the very high-end resorts. In terms of food the choices are limited. We can’t find the bacon (ha, ha it’s a Muslim country) nor can we find the duty-free alcohol (for the same reason). However, those items can be found in the resorts but it doesn’t matter what wholesale place we poke are noses in the answer is no luck.

We don’t stay in Male but rather a 30 minute ferry ride away in Hulamale. There is an anchorage in Hulamale albeit a jumpy one what with ferry traffic, speed boats, dive boats, float planes and fishing boats. There is a village in Hulamale, built by the chinese and I swear modeled on the old Soviet model of mass housing. It’s block after block of 5 storey numbered cell blocks with very little public space and virtually no green space. Modern, full of guesthouses owned by the chinese, coffee shops every 50 metres but a pathetic choice of eateries the best being the Airport Beach Hotel restaurant offering a set meal for 25 dollars. Not a bargain but we treat ourselves to our first meal out in three weeks.

We make quick work of Male exiting in 6 days, provisioned up, full of water, tired of our umpteenth meal at the Seagull Cafe (quite good by Maldive standards), an extended cruising permit, canvas work sewn, a new dinghy pump (actually one given to us by Sam onboard S.V. Ramprasad) and 1,500 dollars poorer. That’s about $150 dollars per day but then for the next two weeks we have nowhere to spend money as we head south to Gan.

We are definitely glad to leave Male. It’s not the most attractive place and after sitting on deck one lazy afternoon I counted 30 seaplanes landing or taking off between 1630 and 1730. They fly over the top of the anchorage as do the jets flying in from around the world. One wonders when a jet will miss the runway and try to anchor beside us. It’s not only the planes. On the weekend the charter dive boats come in to pick up and drop off their guests. They have the oddest way of anchoring – all rope rodes and two anchors. One anchor is set forward of the bow and the other trails off to the side floating on the surface and I assume ready for wind to come from another direction. This makes it extremely difficult to think about moving in the dark by either dinghy or yacht and if the wind did change it would create pandemonium for those of us anchored on a single chain. Needless to say we were relieved when they had their new guests onboard and left on the Sunday. We got out of there before another weekend passed.

We have another 12 days before we have to be in Gan so that we stay within the time limits of our cruising permit. Our problem again, no wind. The sea is as smooth as a mirror and the sun is directly overhead as it moves north for the season. Daytime temperature inside the boat rises close to 40C and with no wind it makes it easy for the yeast to raise the dough – and perhaps even bake the bread!

The anchorages continue to be spectacular in terms of water clarity, sea life (including sharks) and sunrise/sunsets. This is definitely a place to come to if you enjoy surfing, diving and snorkelling but not a great place for the water sports like windsurfing and kiteboarding. I am not sure where the resorts get their pictures from where guests are shown wildly maneuvering their windsurfers through the 20-25 knot gusts out over the azure ocean. I don’t think we have yet seen a wind over 10 knots and we’ve been here now for more than a month!

Today we got our first positive response from a resort. The Hotel Mehdhufushi Island Resort is actually allowing us to come in for a buffet lunch and, we hope, a chance to lie around the pool. Not once has a resort been reasonably welcoming (meaning drinks and/or food at a reasonable price) which we are very surprised at. Here we are asked to pay $U.S.10/person just to land on the island and we are paying $U.S.35/person for a buffet lunch. Seeing as we haven’t spent a dollar in the last week we figure we can splurge and run away from the heat onboard and lie under a palm tree till the sunset. We are shaking with anticipation!

Here is a picture gallery of the Maldives to date. First off Google Earth screen shots of some of our anchorages – there are plenty of these you can look at and Google Earth. Due to comprehensive internet coverage in the Maldives, Google Earth has become a key navigational tool to enable us to find nooks and crannies to anchor in that with electronic charts would be impossible to do as coverage is terrible.  We get terribly upset if one of the satellite pics has clouds just where we want to go! These two screen grabs show you just how amazing it would be to be anchored in the atoll and the myriad places to go for snorkelling/diving.

image

image

We always have our eyes pealed for pretty boats.  What a better example of this one found waiting to be put to work

Quintessential photo of a Maldivian boat at anchor

Quintessential photo of a Maldivian boat at anchor

And one under construction.  This one was about 15metres and was an impressive site considering the available tools and materials available.

Impressive construction of a local boat

Impressive construction of a local boat

We met Chris and Anne at our first anchorage in the Maldives, Uligamu.  They are onboard their Australian yacht called Silver Girl.  We have thoroughly enjoyed have a companion boat to make our way down to Gan. They are great fun and we’ve had lots of shared adventures and scares

Connie, Ann and Chris - tike to relax but no drinks

Connie, Ann and Chris – tike to relax but no drinks

Locals have been very welcoming.  Tours of villages, cups of coffee over political discussions.  The only negative is that Maldivians are not allowed on foreign vessesls without prior permission.  We found out the hard way but we still don’t understand????

Connie, Ann, Chris and Tony on tour thanks to friendly locals

Connie, Ann, Chris and Tony on tour thanks to friendly locals

Not only do the Maldivians have to leave home for work but the doctor in the picture below talking to Connie was from India on a 2 year posting

Market day in Khuludufusshi and discussing life and politics with the local doctor who is from India.

Market day in Khuludufusshi and discussing life and politics with the local doctor who is from India. Photo by Ann

Trying for height I took this from the rooftop of a downtown hotel.  I was more tempted by the pool on the rooftop than the view!

Male - there's very little land left and the water continue to rise

Male – there’s very little land left and the water continue to rise

To get to Male from Hulamale where Sage was anchored we had to take a 20 minute ferry ride.  Perhaps this is the solution for BC Ferries.  Check out the seats – economical and easily replaced

BC Ferries? No, actually the ferry from Hulamale to Male

BC Ferries? No, actually the ferry from Hulamale to Male

 

Male was in turmoil.  The court had ordered the imprisonment of the ex-president, protestors and signs were everywhere. See links in the above text for more of the story but here are a couple of posters.  Unfortunately, in one protest by migrant workers two Pakistanis were beaten to death and a number of others jailed.  What is going on?

Check out the provided links on the story behind this poster

Check out the provided links on the story behind this poster

And the next evening the government supporters were hard at work covering over the above poster

Ditto

Ditto

Male is a maelstrom of activity.  It’s the commercial centre of the Maldives and has almost everything

Impressive deck on this Maldivian fish boat

Impressive deck on this Maldivian fish boat

And best of all are the smiles.  I have to say very friendly people

Always a sucker for a nice smile

Always a sucker for a nice smile

But Male couldn’t hold us back from heading back out into the islands and further south. You can see why in the photo below.  A navigators nightmare but behold was is below the surface

More 'bommies'

More ‘bommies’

And who is headed out there?

Out for a snorkel

Out for a snorkel

6 Comments leave one →
  1. paxcinco permalink
    March 9, 2015 05:36

    Sent from my Samsung Galaxy Tab®4

    • March 9, 2015 08:25

      Apologies to readers. There is nothing to add at this time.

  2. Brian Gibb permalink
    March 9, 2015 23:28

    Hi TG I don’t know if I am the only one that this happened to but this blog was blank??

    Brian “Long Gate Farm”

    675 Blessington Road

    Corbyville, ON K0K 1V0

    Tel./Fax 613-967-1383

    Date: Sun, 8 Mar 2015 04:03:16 +0000 To: briangibb@hotmail.com

  3. April 3, 2015 22:10

    Tony:

    Gone to Gan. Despite glitches your blogs continue to amaze and inspire. With you all the way. Thanks so much.

    Best, Fred

  4. Louise permalink
    April 4, 2015 03:05

    Thanks for the links to Maldives political updates.

  5. April 10, 2015 14:30

    The political situation in the Maldives is a complete mess and has been for many years. Nasheed is popular among the progressive, forward-thinking Maldivians and his arrest and incarceration is a complete joke. Aside from that we wish you well on these fair islands. They were certainly a high-point in our cruising adventures.

    By the way, we picked and chose our resorts carefully. Some are quite accommodating, with Hideaway being the most incredible yacht-friendly of the lot. Quite often when you phone up a resort you are speaking to someone in their main office on Male island. The people at the actual resort are normally the bar and restaurant staff and don’t give a monkeys.

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