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
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 again.
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 under water.
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 stuff.
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 want.
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
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