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Chagos and Beyond

June 4, 2015
Approaching Chagos - 2 miles out. Notice how difficult it is to see the land

Approaching Chagos – 2 miles out. Notice how difficult it is to see the land

How long has it been? No internet, no phone calls, no weather reports and no shopping for X weeks. And did we really miss anything? Not really.

Connie did an awesome job on provisioning enabling creative simple menus supplemented by local catches of a variety of local fare. I can’t say that I didn’t dream of strawberry shortcake smothered in whipped cream but without that we are fit and healthy and look considerably lighter! Svelt I would say but then I am biased or myopic.

Chagos - a dune soon to become covered in mangrove then palms

Chagos – a dune soon to become covered in mangrove then palms

We started our southern Indian Ocean affair by visiting Chagos, a protectorate of Britain, administered by BIOT (British Indian Ocean Territories).

BIOT (British Indian Ocean Territories Organization) is looking for our paperwork

BIOT (British Indian Ocean Territories Organization) is looking for our paperwork

There is no-one who currently lives in Chagos unless you include Diego Garcia which is an American military base, key to their strategy of penning in China’s expansionist desires. Chagos was inhabited up until the mid 70s but the population was forcibly removed by the British. For an interesting documentary watch John Pillger’s video called Stealing A Nation.

This photo is taken from a go pro mounted ion a drone. Photo by Mark

This photo is taken from a go pro mounted on a drone. We are the boat  far off to the right. What looks like patches of brown rock are actually ‘bombies’ underwater coral heads and there are hundreds to navigate around within the atoll                          Photo by Mark

Now, only parts of Chagos are open to visitors. The only way of reaching the atolls is by sea and no commercial vessel is provided a permit. The longest length of stay allowed is 28 days and one must have both yacht and health insurance neither of which we normally carry. However, we wanted to visit so now we are insured for a year.I doubt though our insurance company will ever pay out a claim!

We shared the Chagos anchorage with up to as many as 12 other sailing yachts from Germany, Austria, France, Australia, Britain, America, Seychelles and Canada. We supped on the beach through numerous BBQs, drank copious amounts of various liquids during sundowners, foraged in the jungle, swam with numerous sharks, fished for dinner, hunkered down during vicious squalls, madly collected water during intense rainfalls, kayaked over coral reefs and chased rainbows across the lagoons. I think the only thing that was missing was a local population to connect with and share stories and life experiences.

Silver Girl blessed with a pot of gold

Silver Girl blessed with a pot of gold

However, there is always drama once more than 2 boats are in an anchorage together. That’s why we opened the Couples Therapy Centre (see photo). There wasn’t much business for the centre. The biggest drama involved a change of crew, one person jumped ship and left Chagos on a different boat, a French catamaran I was druelling over that is able to average over 200 miles per day at sea. The boat was an Outremmer 49 and I am sure the new crew had the voyage of a lifetime. Apart from that drama, crew on all boats remained the same as they were when they arrived. I think that the therapy centre can put that down as one of their successes. It’s not easy living in a small space for a long period of time with one other person!

Signage a group of us posted at the main collection site onshore

Signage a group of us posted at the main collection site onshore

 

The Chagos Yacht Club

The Chagos Yacht Club

 

Coconut crabs abound on the islands as there is no resident population.  Coconut crabs can grow to 1 metre in length and live as long as 60 years

Coconut crabs abound on the islands as there is no resident population. Coconut crabs can grow to 1 metre in length and live as long as 60 years

 

After 20 days everyone was itching to leave but the SE trades were not cooperating. Planning ahead and making an early departure was not working. Long periods of calm hot weather persisted and day after day the required winds did not arrive. Finally the grib files showed a change and people started to prepare. A last potluck on the beach for the yachts headed to Rodrigues. Those headed to Madagascar and the Seychelles waited.

May 22nd our day came. The previous night had brought rain and easterly wind. Looked promising for a good start.

Note the blue line indicates the direct route between Chagos and the Seychelled.  In order to keep the wind we headed south and then looped back north and into Victoria

Note the blue line indicates the direct route between Chagos and the Seychelled. In order to keep the wind we headed south and then looped back north and into Victoria

Offshore sailing provides plenty of time for reading. It’s not like we can just get off and go for a stroll. Supine is the best description for offshore sailing especially when there’s not much wind and the temperatures are in the mid 30s. So, supine and reading take up many of our hours and here’s a list of the books read:

Path Between rhe Seas by David McCullough – a story of the building of the Panama Canal
by Gavin Young – a story of a Vietnamese family the writer befriended in the 1960s in Hue
Lonely Planet’s guidebook for the Seychelles, Mauritius and Reunion – have to know something about the place we’re visiting
The Last Train to Zona Verde by Paul Thoreaux – a recent account of a travel odyssey through South Africa, Namibia and Angola
Amy, My Daughter by Mitch Winehouse – a father’s account of a daughter’s struggle with fame, fortune, drugs and alcohol and her eventual death
Return of a King by William Dalrymple an historical narrative about the English in Afghanistan in the early to mid 1800s
After Dark by Haruki Murakami – I love the way he twists reality
Dark Age Ahead by Jane Jacobs – a must read for those intrigued by urban design
The Devil’s Teeth by Susan Casey – A true story of obsession and survival among white sharks set on the Farallone Islands

Apart from being supine, things that keep us busy are; changing sails with changing conditions, navigation (although with electronic charts and chart plotters the time here is severely reduced from our time with a sextant), making a flag for the next country we enter, repairing or trying to repair broken down refrigeration, avoiding crashing into other boats and all the other mundane day-to-day duties of cooking, cleaning and personal hygiene. All this in a space no bigger than your suburban bathroom!

The most unusual event on this crossing was seeing, at very early dawn, a sail not far in front of us. This is an exciting event and one that happens rarely. Of course, whoever is on watch has to alert others. There ensues a mad attempt to get even closer for identification purposes and to say hello. In this case catching up was not a problem and soon enough we were close enough to realize it was an american boat called Zephyr, a 48 foot Liberty, sailing from the Maldives direct to the Seychelles. Greetings were short and soon enough they disappeared and on we moved.

A few days later we are roaring along under a full moon across the eastern Seychelles bank towards the island of Mahe and the capital Victoria. The last 12 hours of sailing saw us averaging 6.8kn yet no water on deck. Excitement built as we approached the lights of Victoria and dropped our anchor down at 0800hrs at the quarantine buoy to await clearance.

Seychelles - Victoria Harbour

Seychelles – Victoria Harbour

We were happy to be in and glad to have taken only 10 days. I can’t say we loved the trip. The seas were like a washing machine despite generally light winds. However, we had wind all the way and we only turned on the motor a couple of times to generate a little more electricity.

We are happy to be here.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Postscript: since we have arrived we have three close friends where tragedy has struck
1 – Silver Girl – our Australian sailing buds we met in the Maldives were dismasted 220nm NE of Rodrigues and lost mast, boom and sails as everything had to be cut away quickly due to heavy seas. They motored the remaing distance and now have a big job to get r

2 – Nausicaa – our Italian sailing friend was hit by lightning sailing north from the Philippines to the Aleutians. He lost self steering, HF radio, radar and GPS. He is now in Hong Kong affecting repairs

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Darrel and Loretta Smith permalink
    June 5, 2015 11:17

    We love getting your updates! It is great to read about your progress. We hope all continues well. L&D xx

  2. Anne Boldt permalink
    June 5, 2015 11:37

    Oh my, sorry to hear about your sailing buddies back luck!
    I am glad we are in contact again! That is a relief!
    How long are you the Seychelles?
    All good here .. looks like Lornee’s atrial flutter is gone!
    Yeah! We are out to the farm this weekend as Peter is in the Berring St and Jane is attending daughter Gillians grad in Kelowna.
    the Glen Rosa Restaurant is due to open soon.
    This may be one of the last times we will be called on to ‘farm sit’.

  3. June 5, 2015 12:02

    Tony, Connie:

    Great blog and pictures as usual. Fantastic. Than ks for the ongoing inspiration.
    Fred

  4. Judi permalink
    June 5, 2015 16:08

    I was just thinking of you the other day, wondering when we were going to receive another update !! So glad to hear that although your friends have had some bad luck, that they are ‘OK’. When are you coming to Australia?

  5. June 5, 2015 19:14

    Hi Connie & Tony Very happy to hear from you after so many days on the oceans !
    and so glad to know you are well ! All the very best from Janine § Gilbert in France.

  6. June 5, 2015 20:55

    oh my god ! we were about to send out an SOS ! That was way too long without one of your missives ! Glad you guys are Ok did you have to get any of that couples counselling? this leg however sounds better than your trip thru the Maldives . Keep it coming !We are well here but we seem to have a lot of mothers of friends dying and friends with sudden illness? Guess it is the time of life . Love ya both and stay well S and S

    >

  7. June 6, 2015 03:22

    Great to hear from you guys! Seychelles look marvelous, a step up from the Maldives no doubt. Looking forward to our upcoming skype…more planning around our meet up in Capetown! Sierd + Elzbie

  8. June 7, 2015 15:44

    Fantastic update, love it. We showed the Pilger film to a large group of yachties (well over 100 of them) whilst in Marmaris. It’s compelling whilst the whole escapade is an embarrassment to us Brits. Shameful.

  9. bill mcdowell permalink
    June 8, 2015 08:19

    Hi connie and tony, well done on your voyage across the indian ocean and arriving safely. Sorry to hear about your sailing friends of their mishaps. Take care on your nextleg to south africa may aleous be kind
    To you all, cheers to sage and allon board .bill

  10. Patrick permalink
    June 9, 2015 20:04

    Yes! Now you are in Seychelles! Amazing trip. Are you planing to go to Rodrigue after or trait one to mada? .Nice pictures about chagos. ….funny to!
    Thanks a lot. Kisses from patrick.

  11. Donald Innes permalink
    June 16, 2015 22:46

    Tony I loved the pictures and this entry to your blog was excellent and great fun reading. Thanks I really enjoy been able to live vicariously and explore along with you and Connie.
    It is long time ago when we were both living in West Bay Marina, you two were on your Vancouver 27 her name I no longer remember. That was a very beautiful vessel one tough boat. I was impressed even way back then with your Guys travels. When I first met you two at West Bay you two had just completed your sail around Vancouver Island with out your main engine. I thought then wow those Guys are real sailors. I though I want some of that skill and passion. I dreamed of taking my Haida off shore and as you know I never did. But thanks to you Two I have been able to enjoy a wee taste of the Magic. I laugh now how proud I was at mastering, working on lets say lol, at sailing from the my slip and back with no engine. I was trying to follow your guys lead. Then you two sailed away for three years off shore to Japan and many other ports. And now you have been away again how long has it been this time? I am going to say must be three years and counting at least? So Tony My Friend Thanks for letting me sneak on board with your blog. So Tony and Connie be well and take good care much Peace Don
    (we are going to miss you two in the NDP trenches in the up coming election I already have my name down to work it is going to be a horse race and we stand a good chance)
    (LOL I need to get in condition for all the “Tim Bits and home made pasta and pizza and far far to much bad coffee the other health food far removed from your galley i will think of you both while per-taking )

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