Thursday, February 4, 2021

Galle, Sri Lanka to Uligan, Maldives

Look! A sail!

We made it to the Maldives, a year behind schedule. As we were checking out of Sri Lanka, our agent gave us our port clearance document and said, 'You're going to the Maldives so it's very important that you have this because they're all Muslim there.' We're still scratching our heads over that one (for the record, just about every place you go wants a clearance document from your last port).


Handy AND stylish propane carry-all

After several weeks of final preparations and provisioning, we tossed off the (by now well-worn) dock lines and were pleased to find that the boat still moved and the props still spun. We moved to the anchorage at Jungle Beach and scraped off most of the jungle that had taken root on the boat bottom. Despite having sat in some pretty fecund water for almost a year, we thought the Coppercoat served us well. It wasn't perfect, but it wasn't as bad as we had envisioned. There were large areas where there was nothing but easily removed green slime. But there were some patches of hard growth (and consequently also the furry stuff that then grows on that), although most of the barnacles, oysters, and other stuff came off easily with a scraper. The displaced shrimp and crabs living in the ecosystem indicated their displeasure by munching on any morsels of exposed skin they could find. The barnacles also exacted some measure of revenge as we all exited the water with varying degrees of scraped knuckles and sliced fingers.

Perry's pre-scraped bottom on the worse-off port side.

The following morning, we left and motored for several hours before escaping the Sri Lankan wind shadow. The forecast predicted 15-knot winds and meter-high waves. Instead, we got 20+ knots of wind and waves that built to over two meters. It was also supposed to be a reaching to downwind run. However, at times we were sailing almost as close to the wind as we can. We had 2 reefs in to slow us down from over 9 knots of boat speed. It was a pretty bumpy and wet ride for our first time out in over ten months. We also faced a lot of shipping traffic as we crossed the busy lanes of all the ships rounding the bottom of Sri Lanka. By the time nighttime fell, there was still no end to the AIS alarms warning us about approaching traffic.

At one point, we were trying to negotiate our way around a 20+ miles-long fishing net that had at least four AIS transponders of its own (the fishing vessel didn't respond to our hail so we couldn't ask how deep the net was or how far beyond the last transponder it continued). We would get to what we thought was the last marker and another one would pop up (and we had to keep sailing closer and closer to the wind). While this was going on, we noticed a different beeping noise than the AIS alarms or the high wind alarms that had been going off up to this point. It turned out to be the bilge high-water alarm. The port bilge had an alarming amount of water (ok, probably only 10 gallons or so, but it was still sloshing around more than we had seen before). Fortunately the water was not as high as the freezer compressor in that area, but it was disappointing that the 'automatic' bilge pump decided it didn't want to be automatic anymore.

Fortunately, we caught it in time and were able to drain the water with the pump (it still worked manually). We added the task of pumping out the water every couple of hours to our to do list until the next day when Matt figured out that the water was coming in through the very hose that was connected to the bilge pump, as the waves would force water into the thru-hull fitting and hose, which would then flow back into the bilge. We closed the valve to the thru-hull and the problem stopped.  The usual solution to this problem is to have a tall loop of bilge hosing installed above the thru-hull that acts as a barrier to any waves that push water in. This thru hull is installed below the sink area and the countertop prevents a high enough loop from being installed (hence the installed valve). You learn something everyday...

The conditions were much the same the next day, except that the big ships had disappeared and nothing more broke. After a stressful day and a noisy, unrestful night, we were not feeling our best the next day. Two of us got sick (I don't want to name names but their names start with the same letter and it wasn't Conrad or me) and nobody felt like eating much. The one good thing was that we were making great speed, aided by a favorable current of up to 2+ knots at times.

Black skies, boo.  Blue water, yay!

Finally, on our last full day, things calmed down (which also meant slower going) and we saw lots of spinner dolphins. The next morning, as we approached the island of Uligan or Uligamu (there are multiple names for the many islands here), we were welcomed with a nice rain that washed away the salt covering Perry's decks.

We don't have to sail anymore AND presents?!

Our agent Assad brought the officials out (and gave us ice-cream and treats for the boys). Check in was a breeze... Of course, we did have that port clearance document. The officials checked our temperatures and requested that only Matt come out to the cockpit to complete the documentation. We can visit uninhabited islands and it might be possible to go to some inhabited islands with advance permission. We can also have produce and other supplies delivered in some spots. Fortunately, we stocked up in Sri Lanka and, fresh fruit and veggies aside, can easily wait until Male, where we are allowed ashore.

What's better than this for a kid? Nothing! (say ZERO out of 5 dentists)

There were three other cruising boats in the Uligan anchorage, two of whom we had met during our time at Pangkor. It was nice to have some company after being isolated for so long. We had our first cruiser social sundowners in almost a year.

We have also been enjoying clean water and abundant fish. While we were snorkeling today, a manta ray (really a devil ray we think) swam by and we saw a turtle and two stingrays. Matt speared his first fish (a medium-sized grouper). One of the other boats even got to swim with a dolphin for a spell. Matt has been busy fixing what's broke, including MacGyvering a fix to our water maker boost pump (using thread and tape to keep the motor brushes in place while reassembling the pump). Once we have rested and enjoyed this area, we will start heading south.

By the way, one of our containers of preserved eggs must have had a bad egg that spoiled the whole batch. The first couple days of our voyage was scented by rotten eggs. We finally felt up to the task of throwing them away on our third full day. The other container is still there and seems okay for now but I don't think we'll preserve eggs this way again.


  1. Gosh and I complain because Mike left a mess in the kitchen. Your boys are so handsome and look so happy!.. I was wondering if you guys ever get sea sick!!!.


Add a comment: