Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Chagos Archipelago May 2015

Chagos Archipelego May 2015
This aerial shot was taken by a drone with a camera from the folks on Merkava.  Great shots and we thank Mark and Rosie for them.  That is YOLO on the very far right in the shot below.  You can see the coral we had to deal with for anchoring and navigating.  Very little sand around to drop the hook into.  That island is Ile Bodham.

Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning....  The old ditty made this sunrise as we were sailing to Chagos a warning.  We sailed far enough to avoid whatever bad weather this may have foretold for this area but it was a beautiful end to my watch and the start of another day on the 9-day passage to Chagos.
 The red-footed boobies were a pest on our passage.  They wanted a place to land to spend the night and repeatedly tried to land on the top of our mast as we were sailing.  When the boat rocked over a wave, the top would move and the attempted landing was aborted, but the flapping wings and the body knocked the antennae on the top as well as the wind instrument.  Our wind instrument was damaged and the wind arrow could no longer sweep across to tell us which way the wind was blowing for the sail trim.  We tried shooing them away by flapping lines at them as they came in to land, but they seemed persistent.  If they stayed on the davit arches on the back, like the one below, he could shit and hit nothing but the sea below, as our dinghies were on the foredeck.  His fellow boobies kept us on the lookout at sundown to keep them from landing on the mast.
 While passing a large shallow bank north of Chagos, I threw in a line at sunrise,  Not 15 minutes later, we'd hooked this 4' wahoo.  As soon as we dragged it up and over the lifelines at the transom, it began thrashing and spewing blood everywhere--what a mess!  Jason grumbled as he had to clean up the mess, but it was good eating for weeks to come.
 On our arrival in Chagos, we headed across the lagoon to anchor in the sand of this pass.  We'd had to fight wind and waves on the nose for hours to get into the calm of this lagoon and didn't want to have to wend our way around coral bommies to reach Ile Bodham, where most of the yachties were anchored or moored.  Instead, we found two yachts here by the pass and it was a fairly straight shot, mostly free of coral to reach this anchorage.  For days before we got here, they said there was a group of up to ten manta rays that came daily to swoop and feed here on the plankton.
 A previous catamaran casualty, Black Rose, was wrecked in 2012 and the stripped hull is all that remains.  It is stranded ashore Ile Fouquet and is a reminder of what can happen in an instant if we aren't vigilant.
 Our view of the pass from our anchorage between Ile Takamaka and Ile Fouquet.  The sand here was great holding but the swirling waters were a very strange phenomenon that had us all wondering what was causing them so many times during the day.  We finally decided it was high swells on the outside making their way over the reef on the other side of the islands and coming through the narrow pass.
 An Emperor fish that was given to us by another yacht who caught it from their boat anchored near us.  Very much like a large red snapper in taste.
 We moved across the lagoon to Ile Bodham, where people used to live.  Most of the yachts were over here on the western side of the lagoon and with the forecasted change in winds, this was the best place to be.  That is our dinghy in the shallows just off the beach in front of the "yacht club".
 That's Jason sitting in the gathering area of the "yacht club" ashore on our first foray onto the island.
 Rene, from Austria is burning trash in the barrel provided.  Boxes and crates of bottles and cans are in the background; the BIOT (British Indian Ocean Territory) guys were supposed to remove them, but they claim it is no longer their job, so asked that we not bring rubbish ashore.  The wheelbarrow lined with flip flops was just sitting there with no real purpose.
 The yacht club building on the shore of Ile Bodham.  We gathered here daily at 4:30 for sundowners and to share nibblies and snacks.
 Sundowners at the yacht club.  The old iron wheel made a great table.
 Some of the yachties got creative and created this hotline 'phone' to contact the BIOT guy in the UK who was responsible for issuing permits and updates.  He sometimes took forever to respond to emails and since we don't usually have phones at sea, we were left with unanswered requests quite often.  The phone is an old suction cup holder that they'd used to hold onto the side of the hull while they cleaned it.  You've seen men carrying panes of glass using them, too.  We heard the following month that there is now a new contact.  Hope she is more efficient and timely in responses.
The inhabitants were kicked off the islands and these buildings fell into disrepair.  This one has tree roots from the strangler figs that make it look like those temples at Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
Mark from Merkava took Jason and I exploring across the island.  Someone had tied buoy/floats to trees along the way to mark the path.
I like the way these trees send down roots like columns from above.

Someone before us painted signs for the highlights of the island.
A cross on the shore in memory of those left behind here.
Hermit crabs in a variety of shells climbing up a mangrove tree.  These guys can climb pretty well.
The washing facilities on the island.  There is a covered well in the center of the shot, with a concrete surround and a bucket on a line.  The big blue washtubs stay here for all to use.  The water is rain water that has seeped into the cistern.  We found several cisterns/wells around the island.  It was good for washing but we weren't drinking it.
This is looking the other way from the washing well above.
A coconut crab kept his home in the building near the washing well.
We all got a laugh out of Tony's haircut.  Look closely and you can see a strip that runs up the back of his head that was shaved to the skull by his wife, by mistake.  She was horrified, but Tony didn't care; he couldn't see it.
I was hoisted part way up the mast to take a few shots of our anchorage location.  Too bad it wasn't a calm, sunny day or you could see into the water.  Not as great a view as from the drone shots, but you can get the idea of our position.
Looking across the lagoon from up on the spreaders.
Looking back down at Jason sitting on the rumble seat, waiting for me to finish so he can let me back down in the bosun chair.  You can see our solar panels and out dinghy trailing YOLO.
You can see the dark reef just off our anchoring position.  If the wind shifted, that would be our danger spot.  Our anchor is lodged in coral bommies between here and there somewhere.
Same view, but with Devil Island in the shot.  We took the dinghy around the end of the island but the waves were rolling in with some speed and the sand was so soft on the beaches there that I sunk up to my calves and was nearly knocked over by the waves.  My Crocs were sucked off my feet as I tried to lift them to walk, so we didn't stay over there long.
Another view of some of the other yachts on moorings at Ile Bodham in Chagos.

The BIOT guys arriving by RIB to check our permits.
Jason and I went over to this corner of the island to go exploring by ourselves one day.  The water over the shallow sand is just gorgeous! I felt like we were dinghying into a calendar picture.
A dark blue/black coconut crab.  Not sure why some are dark, but most are brown and orange.
 The end of Ile Bodham with the pretty lagoon and the reef beyond.
Neil on Rutea caught a wahoo while trolling just outside the pass with his dinghy and brought it to shore to cook and share with the rest of us one night.  Delicious!  Cooked oved the open fire at the yacht club.
The gang's all here for the fish BBQ on Ile Bodham.
The table of side dishes.  We had to shoo the hermit and small coconut crabs off the table as they would climb up and onto the food dishes.
Washing up after the meal.  Sand scrubs the plates clean, but we need to watch out for the black tip reef sharks that prowl in the ankle deep waters here.
The right side of the yacht club area.  Someone put together the long bamboo pole for picking coconuts.  We love the coconut water, but our machete has rusted beyond repair and we don't have the tools to easily husk a coconut on the boat.  The husks stain and we try to only husk them on shore.
These are shots from Merkava's camera drone.  That is Merkava just right of center between the big coral bommie and the shore of Ile Bodham.
YOLO from the air in Chagos.
I love the way you can see through the water here!  Gorgeous and dangerous.  Most of the yachts are on moorings created by tying chain or large lines around a coral bommie and then tying to that with mooring lines.  The yacht that broke free from the mooring one night was grounded on a bommie like this one here.  It took the rest of the yachts an entire day to coax it off without damaging it further.  You can imagine why it was such a test to get it off again.
YOLO is the catamaran on the right.  That is the end of Ile Bodham and the dot of Devil's Island in the top center.  Beautiful place.
With the high tides of the full moon, these bommies actually dried above the water.  Navigating around this lagoon required good light to see where to miss the coral that comes to the surface.
Merkava on their mooring.  You can see the stone jetty that juts out from shore and the yacht club is just to the left of it.
I'm amazed any yacht could ever get close to this island when I see these shots.  YOLO is way off to the right here.
Another nice drone shot with YOLO in the distance.
The yacht club beach and jetty.  The white cross is at the end of the jetty and the washing well is just to the right of it.
Navigating a dinghy from here back to the boats at night was always a scary proposition.
 More drone shots.

Lower altitude views of Merkava as the drone is brought back down
Looking south at one of the yachts anchored in the deeper water.  You can see the reef beyond.  Our crab hunting ground is just to the top right of this shot.
Looking at yachts anchored in the deep water south of where we are anchored.  You can still see some of the coral mounds that reach up towards the surface and create navigational hazards.
Snorkeling was pretty good here, but much of the coral is actually dying.  The coral is turning bright pink, yellow, green, and blue, but the bright colors are a last gasp of a dying reef.  The water has been too warm for too long.
Mark and Rosie from Merkava, retrieving the camera drone.  Come to mama!  Thanks for the shots.

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