CHAGOS : HEAVEN ON EARTH
There were a few incidents of the Somali pirates hijacking yachts near Seychelles and many folks were spooked. We. however feel that they are after the big white luxury yachts owned by millionaires who can pay a huge ransom, and won't even look at us in our 20 year old catamaran, with two old codgers who obviously are doing this cruising on the cheap.
As it happens, we were right .we had no problems at all and had a wonderful sail from Seychelles to Chagos. Two days becalmed, but the rest of the time good following winds and fairly calm seas.
We had one very bad squall which caught us with too much sail up and winds too strong for us to furl in. This caused the genoa stay to part company at the mast head, but thank heavens the halyard held and we did not lose the rig. Once the wind eased a bit we were able to roll in the sail and managed to secure it to the pulpits and sailed the rest of the way to Chagos with a staysail and storm jib. This sail plan worked surprisingly well. A few more squall hit us, but nothing major and which were only to be expected. All in all it was a very pleasant trip which lasted 15 days. This seems to be the average length of time taken from Seychelles to Chagos.
As we arrived at the north end of the atoll, we were greeted by a squadron of rainbow runners (very pretty fish) who swam in perfect formation ahead of the boat. They accompanied us for a few hours, keeping pace with us and not moving out of line. Amazing.
From the time we arrived at our first anchorage at Peros Banhos, Time and dates ceased to exist. This is a pristine paradise. There is no noise, no pollution, NOTHING .. except exquisite tropical, coral islands with snow white beaches and shallow reefs with brightly coloured fish. The bird life is also fantastic. Heaven!
We anchored off Ille du Coin, a small island which was inhabited until ome 25 years ago. when the islands were evacuated by the British Government at the request of the USA who had leased the old airforce base at Diego Garcia from Britain. One of the conditions of the lease was that the islands had to be uninhabited. The people were repatriated to Mauritius and Reunion. Not a happy story.
When the people left, some of their animals had to be left behind. There were about 17 donkeys on the island of Coin, but now there just one left. He is well fed and healthy, but lonely. Poor boy. He seems to be feral as he will not allow anyone to approach him, but walks quietly behind one as if looking for company.
We went ashore to burn our rubbish and dump the plastic garbage in the bins supplied by BIOT.( British Indian Ocean Territory ) officials who still administer and control the archipelago.
Then we took a walk through the t forest and came to an old house. What a sight! It could have come straight out of a scary horror movie. This ghostly, derelict, double storey house in the middle of a coconut palm forest, looking for all the world like the epitome of haunted houses. Moss and creepers all over it, and next to the back door (no longer hanging of coursed) was the well. We removed the cover and drew buckets of clean fresh water and filled our large containers. This is a first for us, drawing our own well water.
The mosquitoes had a field day!! They had obviously not had a feed for weeks and here were two unsuspecting humans, scantily clad as is normal for the tropics, just waiting to be fed upon. We went back to the yacht looking for all the world as if we had some dreadful disease.
The snorkelling is wonderful, coral of all shapes, colours and sizes and the most beautiful fish in abundance.
We took the dinghy out and went fishing. In 20 minutes we had had 4 huge bites, but only managed to land one fish, as this was our first time fishing from the dinghy. We are not experts at this sport, and have so much to learn. Anyway, it was a very good fish and made two wonderful meals.
The wind came up and the anchorage was very bumpy so we moved on to Ille Fouquet at the southern end of the atoll. Here we have managed to repair and raise our roller furling genoa. It is so easy to say, but took much thought, planning and VERY hard work to do. Alec feels he could almost attempt the world record at pole sitting as he spends so much time up the mast. Cherry does the winching and adjusting down on deck. We feel a great sense of achievement, having done it ourselves.
This evening we went ashore with friends from the yacht Affirmation and had sundowners on the beach. The water was a limpid, pale aquamarine, with no waves. The sky with fluffy little clouds stained pink by the setting sun and perfect peace. It is truly a little piece of heaven.
After about six weeks at Peros Bahos we moved on to Salomon Atoll which is north east of Peros. Here we met a lot of other cruising people and had a wonderful social time
The fishing is fantastic and almost every other day we had a beach braai with fresh fish. These were all pot luck meals, each yacht supplying something and we ended upo having feasts fit for a king.
We also tasted heart of palm salad for the first time and it is absolutely delicious. Crisp and crunchy (something we miss as there are no shops where we can buy fruit and vegetables, so all our food comes out of tins) Cherry experimented with the inner core of sprouting coconuts and made very tasty frikkadells. One could live very healthily on fish and coconuts.
One lady gave yoga classes on the beach, (Cherry declined the invitation ) another taught us how to make sushi, another offered massages, and Cherry did some sewing and mending for various yachts.
On American independence day, because there were so many USA citizens we decicded to have a fireworks display with out of date flares. This almost ended in disaster as one flare went off course and SO nearly hit one of the yachts! I have never seen people jump into dinghies and race across the water in the dark at such a speed, but luckily the flare landed about two meters behind Moonwalker and not on her deck.
Sadly, all good things have to end some time, and it was time to say goodby to all our friends and move on to Gan in the Maldives.