INDIAN OCEAN OASIS
Crossing the Indian Ocean was a nerve wracking experience. The
nearly two weeks spent crossing it wouldn't have been that big of
a deal were it not for all the Tsunami related debris floating in
our path. The winds were favorable and seas manageable, but the
debris was terrible. When we finally made it through the last of
the debris field southwest of Sri Lanka, we were ready for a
break, and what better place to take one than in the Maldives.
We pulled into the Maldives in the early afternoon and put our
anchor down in sixty feet of water. We chose to stop at the
northernmost island of the Maldives called Uligamu, and it was a
great choice. Clear water and calm seas accompanied us wherever
we went in this patch of Indian Ocean paradise.
We spent our first night at anchor getting caught up on sleep.
Sailing through a debris field is the recipe for sleepless nights,
and it would take a couple of nights before we felt rested once
Our first Uligamu sunset was spectacular; orange skies reflected
on silver water. It was one of those sunsets where the horizon
disappears as the skies meld seamlessly into the sea.
The Maldives are low lying island just a few feet above sea level,
and you can't see them until you are only a few miles away. It's
easy to understand why tsunamis and melting icecaps are a worry to
the people living there. A twenty foot tsunami would wash right
over the islands destroying everything in it's path, and global
warming with rising sea levels could easily put these islands
When the sun rose the next day, customs and immigration came out
to Exit Only and checked us in. There's nothing grandiose about
officialdom in Uligamu. They have one small runabout that carries
the officials over the reef and out to the anchorage where
anchored yachts await their arrival.
Uligamu is suited to yachts, but not to ships. A shoal bottom and
shallow reef extends out from land for at least half a kilometer.
The pier is several hundred feet long by necessity; the water is
simply too shallow close to shore for big delivery vessels to
bring in supplies. There are larger islands to the south that can
accommodate ships, and it's up to shuttle craft to bring in
supplies from other islands. The cell phone comes into its own in
the Maldives; cell phones form an electronic bridge over turquoise
waters. When you need supplies, you call in your order to the big
islands, and later in the day the supply skiff shows up with your
Uligamu is a one stop oasis that contains almost everything
cruisers needs to restock their panty on the voyage across the
Indian Ocean. Fresh fruit and vegetables may be a bit pricey, but
they are available, and believe it or not, they have unlimited
stores of diet coke to quench the cruiser's thirst. Diet coke is
ubiquitous. It's like air, it's everywhere.
Turquoise water is also in
unlimited supply. In some areas, the water is so clear that you
can see the bottom at sixty feet. Fish are in abundance and if
you like fresh squid, you simply put your squid lure into the
water, and before you know it, you can have all the squid you
Fuel and water are readily available as well. The fuel was
expensive, but good quality. I can't say the same for the water.
Rain water and well water were both available. We paid for rain
water, only to later discover that it was full of green algae that
didn't make it's appearance until several weeks later in Oman. By
the time we were in Oman the interior of our water jugs were
stained green by Uligamu algae. We treated our water tanks with
bleach and used the remaining jerry can water for showers.
We could have spent months
exploring the Maldives, but had to move on because we needed to
start our journey up the Red Sea before the weather turned hot.
After a week in Uligamu, we reluctantly raised our anchor and
sailed north into the Arabian Sea. In less that a week we would
be in Oman.
Life is good.
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