The Isokratia Voyage update
The stay in Male in the Maldives became another small adventure for Isokratia.
Isokratia after sailing from Phuket through a stop in Galle Sri Lanka stayed in Male at the Maldives islands for 15 days has today 2nd March 2007 sail away to cross the Indian Ocean into the Arabian Sea, into the Red Sea through the Suez canal to Cyprus and then
The small Adventure in Male:
First I must say that the people in Maldives were fantastic. Excellent manners, civilised approach, Smiling and welcoming. Not stealing by overcharging. Not what they call in Sri Lanka â€œwhite priceâ€?; inflated prices for white people!! Good professional engineers. Very good attitude. Always willing to help. Calm, relax. And good looking people too. We were all impressed by the Maldives people.
We spend a few thousand pounds but none at over inflated prices. Most thinks, in fact all items purchased were at 50 to 70% cheaper than Europe like out diving sets.
A big thank you to the Maldivians, they have earned it.
Having to anchor in the open as there are no marinas we had to anchor between Male and the next island in the shallow waters( 20 to 40 meters). The currents were as strong as 5 to 6 knots at time. Match with strong winds of around 20 knots. This resulted in two heavy stainless steel anchors getting bend. The Maldive engineers repaired both within 2 hours,
It was an adventure and two consecutive days attempts to anchor and tie up inside the small Male commercial harbour. This was so because we only had one engine and the winds were strong. Every approach when we tried to reverse to go stern out to moor we had the catamaran turn in circles. Eventually we had to hire a tag boat to hold us in place until we tied the mooring lines.
The real adventure now!
We had to move out of that position as the space was required for the barges and dhonis coming in and out to load and unload!. The agent send us their pilot to drive the boat to a safe anchorage area next to the airport island. Only some 15 minutes away from were we were. Pitch dark night . No moonlight.
I remember reading in one of the marine route books that one should not easily hand over the helm steering to a pilot. But the pilot was supposed to be experienced and had knowledge of the local waters and dangers. He knew were to go. It was a very dark night. I thought my little experience is no match. So I handed over the helm to Mr Ali.
We sail for about 15 minutes and came insight of the red and green light indicating the channel entrance into this safe anchoring area.
The cat with propellers both turning on the same direction was hard to drive I must admit. Luckily I reduced the throttle and speed to about 2 knots an hour. The cockpits large illuminate lights were on which was a big mistake as it kills our night vision. When I realised I run inside the saloon and switch them off. By the time I went back to the Helm station to stand next to the pilot Mr Ali, it happened. A big sound whuaoauaopua and a sudden turn of the boat with a sudden stop.
The unthinkable has happened! Everyone went silent! Some people about 100 yards away on the on concrete wall having a small fire barbequing fish stood up, applauded and yelled at us.
Yes we hit a reef rock on the port side and got stuck and suspended over it! We deserved the applause we received. It was an achievement. Our left keel was sitting on a rock!
Action to get out. We tried reverse. Reverse forward combinations. The genoa sail up to help swing off eh rock. No chance nothing seems to moves us. I called Sami the agentâ€™s employee assigned to our boat. He called back saying that the Tag boat will cost us $5000.00 !. On his own initiative he said no and went on to send us a rather large and strong Dhoni ( local boat).
We meanwhile send Jui our boat boy diving underneath to examine what was happening and give us a first assessment of any serious damage. He could not see any as it was dark but also the boat was sitting on the rock in an area of about 3 meters long.
Now the agonising part. Have we made a hole underneath? Are we taking water in? are we going to sink? Most people were panicking. I was not because I know how Isokratia was built. Yes I was worried in case the rock cut through the fibreglass but at that speed and at that thick fibreglass I was, lets say more concerned than worried. I know that the keels bottom is solid 15mm fibreglass. We are heavy and as such not fast but we are strong. I also had a quick look at my keel water tank monitor. ( we use the inside of the keel as our water tanks. I saw no water being added. I also open the tap and tasted the water. The water was not salty!
Non the less the others were pushing and asking questions. AS the second skipper and more experienced Mark Needler went diving as well this time with an underwater torch. His findings were the same. No damage can be seen. Except that he damage the soles of his feet because he stepped on the corals. Painful experience as the coral heads are always poisonous!! Lesson learned he claims!
Meanwhile 40 minutes passed and there was no sight of the promised Dhoni. I call Mr Sami who said that one eventually is not coming but he is sending me two other dhonis. When? I asked. Coming, coming he replied! I am impressed with the Maldivians high civilised standards but their clocks run on the easy slow time mode!
I remembered our forward strong spot light and itâ€™s remote control. I switched it on and saw about 6 or 7 spectators watching us and shouting. I asked what are they saying? Captain Ali the pilot said they want to come and push the boat back, I laughed but Ali got serious saying that they know they can do it. I pointed that we are a 25 tone vessel loaded with 1500 litres (1.5 tones) of fuel and a further 1500 litres of water. I said no chance in hell these guys can move the boat one millimetre. I must point here that the Maldivians are short and thin people. Average height is 5 ft . Ali insisted.
The pilot Ali, Mark my son George, my wife and Jui all agreed â€œlets all try you never knowâ€?. If we reverse at the same time we can free the boat. We only need a little bit!â€?. In my frustration I thought I have nothing to loose, the Dhoni is not here yet lets have a laugh in our misery. SO I consented to the rescue by the tough guys.
The sight was impressive as if I was watching the magnificent seven with Yul Brenner. Six or seven Maldivians stripped to their underpants T shirts rolled up to their shoulders march towards the boat. I shouted later at my wife for not capturing this moment on video. She is the official boat camera man replacing Avgoritis.
The engines were running all the time. The magnificent bunch arrived and positioned themselves at the port site bow and I got the instructions from captain Ali to reverse both engines. Push, Push captain Ali shouted. Nothing! I put engines to neutral, out of gear and I went to Ali saying. â€œThey are cheating. They are not pushing enough!â€?. With all his embarrassment the poor guy let a soft smile come out of his face. â€œThen commented. How can you joke about this?â€? I told him not to worry and not to be embarrassed. It was probably more my mistake as captain of the boat to allow him to drive a boat he is not used to and doers not know how itâ€™s affected by strong winds and currents. And I was right of course. He thanked me and kept apologising.
One Dhoni comes in sight and we felt a sense of relief. The Dhoni came passed by and went in to ferry the passengers it carried. Another and Another and no one will stop to tag us out. It took another four or five calls to Mr Sami before a large Dhoni and a baby Dhoni came along. They turned facing the other direction and handed us their rope which Jui was quick to tie on Isokratia. To do this they had to positioned themselves in the center of the busy channel with boats dhonis and small ferries going in and out. They did not feel so good about this.
The signal was given they put down the throttle on their engine which roared hard. My engines both in reverse roaring even harder. . No movement. The Dhoni skipper put his engines out of gear. He was scared not be hit by one of the passing boats. I donâ€™t remember who someone perhaps captain Ali shouted to the Dhoni to pull hard. Push his engines full power. Indeed he did so, I match with my engines full reverse and my love started moving backwards. Yes! Yes! Yes! Everybody shouted. Ali was screaming to the Dhoni skipper to carry on. Another minute and we slighted off the reef rock. We were free floating. Isokratia was on float again.
The guys quickly undone the Dhoni rope and called the others to pull in. I had to be careful now to reverse and turn from facing south to face north without getting the dhonis rope tangled on my propeller. Not easy with the wind pushing my bows the opposite direction and the current pushing me on the end wall of the channel entrance.
As Isokratia turned facing north our stern was not more than ten meters away from the wall and moving backwards from the effect of the reverse engines and the current. They all shouted in warning.â€? watch were you going.â€?, Chris go forward you are going to crash !!. And they were right of course. Well my engines were already in full thrust forward but it takes a 3 seconds delay for throttle to take effect when you fast move the engine controls from reverse to full forward.
At that moment the last thing I needed was the noise of raised voices when I needed a thousand per cent of my concentration and super fast responses to events. The engines revs went from zero to full 3000 and the roaring was deafening. Isokratia went from reverse to a stand still position and then she started climbing on the small waves.
The Maldivians if they have a fault is their driving. Easy going, no one stops to give way. Motor bikes come in at the corners forcing cars to stop. The same and worse in the sea. With thousands of dhonis, speed boats ferries, commercial and private it is hell. Many times someone has to stop and reverse at the entrance of the narrow channels because they, four or five of them will be pushing to go in and out at the same time. Still they do it calmly , no road rage or shall I say no sea rage!
Such traffic jam was what we generated with Isokratia and the large Dhoni who was still standing by watching to see if we will the wall this time. Two small ferries came to my starboard one as closed to about two meters. Another coming from opposite direction. George yelled â€œ watch out there is a boat too close on your starboard!â€? I took a quick glimpse and saw the ferry.
Who gives way now? What does the rule of the road for seamanship say. Do I stand up and give way. No chance in hell for me to stop now. I left my engines full throttle I ignore all inbound and outbound boats and forced them to give way, the one on my right had to reverse, the others some stop some reverse. The few months I spend in Bulgaria came handy on picking up bad driving habits. It worked ! We quickly moved out of the channel mouth and away from the other boats.
The wind was still strong and the current was getting even stronger. We had the second 60 kilo stainless steel anchor bend when anchor outside. Do we anchor outside again and worry when the chain or anchor may snap? Or do we brave it and go back into the small commercial harbour with at a confined corner in the middle of all the busy traffic. Night time, we also needed to get permission from the harbour master. We were glad we were out of the rock. We decided to anchor outside and see.
Next day we went inside nice and easy with two engines although the propellers were pitching the same way which meant the boat was pushed one direction. Not all was danger though.
Reflecting back now we are wondering whether indeed we were very lucky to get stranded on the reef rock. Because if it wasnâ€™t for the rock we will have crashed on the concrete wall only a few meters ahead of us!
The day after we obtained police permission and went sailing to a near by island with a superb mushroom shape reef. The turquoise colour with thousands of colourful fish. We enjoyed a few hours of swimming, snorkelling and sun bathing before we head back to our little harbour.
George and Mark went spear fishing with some of the engineers who worked on the propeller. They brought back some good parrot fish, a good size octopus and many variety of other delicious fish. George is already saying â€œ I can live here for a few monthsâ€?.
He forgets that is me that needs time off work and I have other plans for him to make him sweat!!
In Male we replaced the stolen propeller. In fact we replaced two propellers as the new one was not matching the old. During this replacements we discovered that two of the four bolts of the port propeller were also taken out. We assumed this was the attempt by the Navy men in Sri Lanka to steal the second propeller as well. We were lucky that the port propeller did not come of the shaft when we were motor sailing from Sri Lanka to the Maldives.
Friday the 2nd of March we were all set to sail away. We were waiting for the delayed parcel of spare parts of the generator which was supposed to arrive 48 hours ago. They assured us it was arriving this morning at 04.00. Sami call to say the flight came from Colombo but there was no parcel onboard. So I said Ok we are not waiting. We are going. I issued instructions and every body got busy preparing to move away. Ropes being pulled in. The engine off the dingy. Engines started. Navigation instruments on.
By 11.10 am we indeed sail away.
We are now motor sailing with the wind north by north east 14 knots. So we set up the main sail and run one of the engines and we are on our way at about 6.5 knots speed with a favourable current.
We now need wind. We do not carry enough fuel to motor sail al the way about 1800 miles to the next earliest stop which is at Aden in Yemen. As we have to negotiate the entrance into the red sea mouth which we are told will require motor sailing because of strong northerly winds and currents we need to reserve fuel. We must also be careful not to get too close to Socotra the island near Somalia famous for its active pirates. Another reason to have fuel on board when passing through the Socotra waters.
We estimate a 15 to 20 days top arrive in
02/03/2007 Male Maldives