Saying goodbye to friends is hard enough. Saying goodbye to friends we’ll probably never see again had me choked. It caught me by surprise but as I hugged Gladwin, my Indian brother, I was lost for words and my eyes welled up. The pontoon at Kochi marina was a hotch-potch of our close friends, our Indian ‘family’ and the marina staff. They all waved us off as Esper slipped her lines and it was at that moment it struck me exactly how much I would miss India. Surely a passage to the Maldives was just the tonic we needed. If only!
Nazer and his entire family came down, an unexpected rarity. I’ve only ever seen his wife, Zukina, in the kitchen, and it was even more of a shock to see his daughters Tazani and Nizani join their brothers Nisam and Nizar.
They brought us sarongs, dhotis and snacks. Gladwin accompanied Maureen (Bryan was too hung over from our night out to get out of bed), and she presented us with cupcakes and the ingredients to make flapjacks (I have never seen Golden Syrup for sale in India but Maureen knows a man). Each of the marina staff trooped down in turn, including Alex the manager, so by the time we left we had 15 or so people waving us off. There were so many more people we never had a chance to say goodbye to (so if you’re reading this Ravindran, Capt Jolly et al, we didn’t forget you).
An added treat was Skyping my parents as we left Cochin port. With great connection on the Galaxy I was able to give them a birds-eye view of our departure, from dolphins to fishermen to day-tripper boats and, finally, the famous Chinese fishing nets themselves. It was a fitting end to a wonderful three years here.
The 270 mile journey to the Maldives wasn’t so much fun. There was the usual fun and games passing over the 20 and 30 metre contour lines as we wheedled our way through Indian fishing fleets with no regard for official Colreg lighting configurations! A couple of detours were required to avoid nets marked with flashing disco lights, but we expected this. With no wind we had to motorsail the whole way across. This wasn’t so bad until we blew the engine blower, the thing that keeps the engine compartment cool. Unaware of this mishap the engine compartment overheated so much it set off the heat-sensitive fire-extinguisher, covering the contents of the engine compartment in a dirty goo. From that moment on we had to motor with all the covers off the compartment, making the second-half of our journey an ear-splitting, sweaty decibel hell.
We had (have) other issues too, with the starter battery not charging, a positive cable connected to a negative (that’s my current theory, excuse the pun), a starter circuit that doesn’t work, meaning I have to start the engine using the old screw-driver across solenoid trick. At least our newly installed tiller pilot took control of the steering for most of the journey so I tried to put these matters to the back of my mind as, on the morning of the fourth day, the northern Maldivian islands presented themselves in the rising sun.
Finding our anchorage on the south west of Uligamu, desperate to drop hook and take a snooze, the uncharged engine battery struggled, whilst the rusty, unused-for-three-years chain played havoc with the windlass. It took half an hour to drop 60m of chain! Still, the sight of huge manta rays and the soft golden shores of Uligamu were enough to put our minds at rest.
Within the space of a couple of hours, Mr Assad, our agent from Seline, clambered on board with customs, immigration, health, harbour master, the army and a couple of other unidentifieds. In one fell swoop our entire entry paperwork was done in the space of 20 minutes! To think in Turkey it would take at least two hours whilst in India it could take two days!
Bowled over by the efficiency we chatted to the immigration man who bemoaned the problem of piracy. “We used to have yachts coming through all the time”, he explained, looking out at the empty anchorage, “but now the piracy situation has killed off the yachting tourism”. We encouraged him, telling him the piracy situation is improving and that, sometime soon, people will find the confidence to leave Asia and pop in on the Maldives once more. With this level of efficiency and stunning anchorage views to boot, who wouldn’t want to come here?
They all left, with Mr Assad kindly leaving behind his Galaxy with internet connection (you can thank him for this immediate blog post) and an invite to his wedding in a couple of days time!
We may have left behind great friends in India but I can see the Maldives isn’t going to be a bad place to crack on with those boat maintenance jobs!
Massive thanks to Mr Assad for the loan of his Galaxy, for bringing us a sim card and an internet 3G card; and apologies for the bad images. I’m editing photos on the ship’s computer 😮