3 February 2010

Bay of Bengal

The leg from Thailand via Sri Lanka to the Maldives (SW of India) is 1550 nm (nautical miles) long, ca. 3000 km, and our first experience with the Indian Ocean. In Thailand we've spent two days in the Nicobar islands, a very commercial happening with over 50 live-a-boards and other dive companies, hopping daily along the several dive sites (almost queuing). Not an attractive place although the water is clear, the coral is colourful and there is quite a lot of fish. To pick up a mooring in one of the against swell protected bays to spend the night is a (too) expensive experience, so time to leave!

Going west there is initially just a little wind, but with some extra sails it is possible to get a speed of 4 knots and we can stop the engine. In the nights there are several 'squalls', short fierce pouring's with a lot of wind, they last about 30 minutes and then all is getting back to 'normal'. On approach of Sri Lanka the wind is getting stronger and we have to make two reefs in the main and reduce the headsail. The hours last long and there are also a lot of container ships and tankers around. We are happy to use our new AIS system where we see on the computer screen which boats are near to us, what is their speed and when they'll pass us on what distance. If the big ships are too close to Alexandra, we have to adjust our course because the container ships never change their direction and we don't know if they have seen our small yacht on their radar. Also a call on the VHF radio is never answered, is our experience.

Past Sri Lanka we sail a few hours in the lee of the island, but then the wind starts blowing again through the strait between Sri Lanka and India. The sea gets rough and unsettled, we tack 70-80 degrees to the wind (20-24 knots) and it is a quite unpleasant trip. Happily we have in the night the light of the full moon and after 24 hours the wind is dying out and we can relax again. In a few hours we can shake out the reefs and in the late evening of January 31st we motor into the most northern lagoon of the Maldives and anchor in front of the (small) island of Uligan. In the morning we see that there are about 20 other yachts anchored around us.