Settling Into Chagos

1 May 2017   Ile Fouquet, Chagos 
The weather remained unsettled today and we had a shower go through while we were having breakfast.  (Notice that when at sea, I talk about “huge squall systems” and “torrential rain”, whereas when we’re snug in an anchorage, it’s just a “shower” with “a few gusts” …)

We had a quiet morning pottering about.  I ran the water-maker, but after an hour, the damn generator stalled again.  I’m going to have to take a look at it tomorrow.  Over the past three months, we’ve been constantly on the move, so quite a few jobs been building up on my To Do List.  We’ll be in this small atoll for at least three weeks, so it’s time to knuckle down and get on with some boat maintenance.

Sundowners

In the afternoon, we went snorkelling on a wreck at 05°20.37S 072°15.74E. It looks like a ferro-cement yacht lying in 10 metres of water against a circular reef.  There are some really big snappers lurking round the wreck as well as a few small sharks - I saw a large Whitetip Reef Shark.  

The reef is in better condition than in the Maldives, but there is lots of dead and broken coral lying about.  There’s some stunning red brain coral and plenty of stag-horn coral that is 50% bleached, but alive.

There was a gathering of the yachts on the beach in the evening - there are five of us here now with at least another four or five on their way that we know about.

2 May 2017   Ile Fouquet, Chagos 
We went over to the wreck and I managed to catch a nice Snapper for dinner.  After dropping the fish at the boat, we went snorkelling on the reef directly north of the pass between Ile Fouquet and Ile Takamara.  Again the water clarity was not the best, but half of the coral is in good condition and we were buzzed by a Blacktip Reef Shark.  Glenys also saw a Spotted Eagle Ray trying to remove a Remora by swimming up to the surface.

Back at the boat, I gutted the fish on the small fish cleaning table on our stern arch and we soon had 5 or 6 Blacktip Reef Shark swimming around our stern, snapping up the entrails and carcasses.   

After lunch, I tackled the generator, first giving it a good inspection to check for loose electrical connections.  I found that one of the hose clamps holding the heat exchanger in place was broken - I only replaced it a couple of months ago.  Instead of putting on another stainless steel hose clamp, I used a nylon cable tie - it might be better because it’s a little more flexible.

Dolphins in the Anchorage

I tried to start the generator, but it wouldn’t fire up.  However, I could get it running by pressing the over-ride switch which bypasses the various sensors and more importantly the fuel relay.  I changed the fuel relay and it started okay - it ran for 1½ hours without any problems, so I hope that’s one job off the list.   

The water-maker has been getting air in the second water filter, so I suspected poor water flow from the seawater inlet.  Opened the filter by the seacock and sure enough the filter was clogged with sea weed.  The water maker ran fine after that.

A little later, I went out to see “Ngalawa” and, on the way, a pod of dolphins joined me, it was magic, planning along in the dinghy with dolphins leaping six feet out of the water only ten feet away from me.  There was nobody board “Ngalawa”, so I returned to Alba and was amazed to have the dolphins accompanying me again - they must have enjoyed the first ride.

3 May 2017   Ile Fouquet, Chagos 
It was a beautiful day, with blue skies and fluffy white clouds drifting past in the light eight knot breeze.  In the morning, we did a few jobs - Glenys kneaded some bread and set to rise, while I had a look at our portable VHF radio, which stopped working a few days ago.  It’s a Standard Horizon “submersible” radio, which we have been taking out on long trips in the dinghy, so that we can ask for help if our outboard fails.  

After checking the battery, I opened up the radio and found that water has seeped into the case and there was an obvious patch of corrosion and salt crystals.  I used contact cleaner and carefully scraped away the salt, but the corrosion has attacked two of the tiny surface mounted components and the radio is useless.  I’m really annoyed because we only bought the radio 10 months ago and it has never been submerged, although it has become wet while lying in the bottom of the dinghy.

As usual, we went snorkelling at about 10:30, while the sun is still in the sky and the tide is still low.  We’ve observed that the water gets cloudier when the tide starts to come into the lagoon, which is happening late morning at the moment.

Typical Chagos Beach

After lunch, I went with “Hokulea” and “Ngalawa” over to Ile Boddam, which is in the south-west corner of the atoll.  There used to be a settlement here and it’s a favourite place for cruisers to settle for a few weeks.  The area is littered with shallow coral reefs and the seabed is mostly coral, so it’s impossible to anchor.  Over the years, cruisers have installed moorings made from lengths of chain wrapped around coral bommies.

We found seven moorings in various states of disrepair.  Eric and I free-dived down to inspect the chains and thought that only two of the seven were in a fit state to pick up without extra work.   The moorings have been added to over the years and there is a confusing tangle of chain and rope on most of them, so it’s difficult to see what is truly strong.  

Most of the ropes are looking old and would need to be replaced or backed up; many of the lengths of chain are worn and need to be inspected link by link.  On two of the moorings, the surface buoys were on dodgy, worn chains, but there were better condition chains submerged, onto which we tied plastic bottles. The other thing that is very apparent is that you need excellent sunlight to be able to navigate through the numerous shallow reefs - to get in and out.

On the way back to the anchorage, we stopped off at a couple of small islands and, after a bit of hunting, managed to find some Coconut Crabs.  These bizarre creatures are land crabs with huge claws capable of ripping open coconuts.  They start life as small hermit crabs on the beach and as they grow larger they abandon their protective shells and prowl around the undergrowth, hiding in burrows during the day and coming out at night to eat coconuts.

We’ve eaten Coconut Crabs in French Polynesia and the Cook Islands and they are very similar to lobster, but with a wonderful sweet coconut taste.  Unfortunately, they are protected animals in the BIOT Marine Park. 

In the evening, all the boats were invited to “Hokulea” for a pot-luck dinner.  Everyone is running short of alcohol, but there was enough for us all to have a merry time.