Exploring Chagos

8 May 2017   Ile Fouquet, Chagos
It was a miserable day with squalls and heavy rain coming through, so we had a very quiet day on-board.   Glenys pottered about, reading and cataloguing some of the shells that she’s found in recent months.  I borrowed some disk drives from “Hokulea” and “Barbara Ann” and spent most of the day copying and cataloguing new movies and TV series.

We had one bit of excitement in the afternoon.  A group of Giant Mantas have been swimming around the anchorage - we can see where they are because they are very close to the surface and their wing tips poke out.  I grabbed my camera and jumped in the water, but even with Glenys pointing out where they were, I wasn’t able to get close enough to see them.  At least it was good exercise…

A Blacktip Reef Shark circles our boat

In the evening, we watched a superhero movie, while the rain hammered down.

9 May 2017   Ile Fouquet, Chagos
The weather was a slightly better today.  I downloaded a weather forecast and ran my routing analysis on qtVlm.  The local weather is governed by the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), which is bringing this squally weather to us.

However, for the passage to Rodrigues, I’m more interested in the broader wind speeds, which seem to be affected by large high pressure areas at around 40-50°S (We’re at 5°S and Rodrigues is at 20°S).

These huge systems slowly pass from west to east and the winds flow anti-clockwise around the high pressure areas.  So, as they pass to the south of Rodrigues, the winds change from South-east to East - in East winds we wouldn’t be sailing as hard on the wind, which would make our passage more pleasant. 

I ran my routing software with departure dates of today, 12th and 15th.  I then did some analysis of the passage statistics and created a spreadsheet with statistics for the three planned departure dates (I have nothing better to do).  It looks like the 15th would be a good day to leave, mostly because we would only be beating for 3 days instead of 5 days. 

However, we’re not keen on leaving Chagos too soon, because there is a faint chance of a late cyclone developing in May, which we obviously want to avoid.  Our permit for Chagos expires on the 26th May, so I’m hoping that another high pressure area will give us the same conditions in two weeks’ time.  

Broken wire on Shroud

While sailing down to Chagos, I noticed that the intermediate and lower front shrouds were still slightly loose (I last tightened them in the Andaman Islands).   I went up the mast to tighten the intermediate shrouds by ½ turn and also carried out a visual inspection of the standing rigging.  To my dismay, I found that we have a broken wire at the top on the starboard intermediate shroud.

The break is just inside the swaged fitting and I only noticed it because the wire has spread by a millimetre or two.  I had a discussion with Eric from “Hokulea” who used to run a boat yard and the consensus is that it’s only 1 wire out of 19 wires and shouldn’t be a major problem, although I need to get it replaced as soon as possible -probably in Reunion.  For my piece of mind, I’ve wrapped some tape around the shroud and fixed a hose clamp over the broken wire, just to hold it in place.

The good news is that the damaged shroud is on the starboard side of the mast.  When we sail down to Rodrigues, the wind will be on our port side for all the way, so the good, port shroud will take most of the load.  If we keep our running back stays tensioned to reduce any panting of the mast, then there should be very little load on the damaged fitting.

Glenys inspected the genoa and the staysail and found that she needs to reinforce some of the stitching, which has perished on the sacrificial strip - she plans to do it tomorrow if the weather remains dry.  

Tenderised Octopus

The strong sun has also damaged the stitching on the dinghy cover to the extent that one of the seams is coming apart - we only made the cover two years ago, so it’s a surprise that the stitching has failed so soon.  Glenys removed the cover and re-stitched all the seams as well as adding a few patches where the Sunbrella has worn.

In the evening, Mike and Proud invited us over to “Proud Cat” along with “Hokulea” and “LunaBlu”.  Proud is from Thailand and made us a couple of delicious Thai dishes for dinner.

10 May 2017   Ile Fouquet, Chagos
The weather was variable again.  Glenys finished off some sewing in the morning and I went fishing.  I caught an Oriental Sweetlips and a large octopus!  I’ve never processed or cooked octopus before, so I went over to see Eric on “Hokulea”, who showed me how to turn the octopus’ head/body inside out and remove the innards of the beast, which finally kills it.  It’s better to do this while still in the water because ink squirts everywhere.

Octopus can be very tough when cooked, so I was instructed to go ashore and beat the creature against a rock for 20 minutes to tenderise it.  There are no rocks ashore, so I used the hull of a wrecked catamaran.  The technique is to shove your fingers into the body sack and swing the octopus overhead and slam it into the rock (I gave up after ten minutes as it seemed to be rather a lot of work.)

The octopus by now was a limp mass of slimy tentacles, so the next stage was to boil up a big pan of water and dunk the octopus into the water for one minute and remove from the water.  The water is re-boiled and the process repeated another two times.  By this time, the flesh of the octopus has firmed up and is more easily processed.

I cut out the beak-like mouth; sliced off the webbing on the arms; removed the tough skin on the head/body; cut off the larger suckers and sliced the octopus into 1 to 2 inch pieces.  By the end of the process, I had a large bowl of octopus which I handed over to the chef.  Glenys prepared a curry flavoured stock and boiled half of the octopus for 15 minutes in the pressure cooker.  She then enhanced it into a Green Thai curry, which was delicious.  The octopus was very tender and delicious.

“Jackster” arrived today, so we invited Dave and Jacqui over for sun-downers.   Despite waiting a week in Gan for their clearance, they were unsuccessful and left without the correct papers.  Ten boats did their clearance through the rally, paid all their fees, but only three received the correct documentation, the other seven left without clearance papers - the Maldives Rally was a total shambles.

Chagos

11 May 2017   Ile Fouquet, Chagos
There was a very low tide this morning, so we went for a walk on Ile Fouquet.  It was lovely walking along the west side of the long thin island, mostly in the shade.  The long beach is gorgeous white sand, with overhanging coconut palms.  We walked past the occasional colony of nesting Boobies; there were Coconut Crabs and Hermit Crabs scurrying about; and Blacktip Reef Sharks cruising around in the shallows.  

With the spring tide, we even had time to walk back along the east shore, which is more rugged and exposed to the prevailing south-east swell.  There’s a wide, shallow reef protecting the coast, which is normally underwater and here we found lots more Booby colonies.  A couple of White Terns hovered overhead us for a couple of minutes, showing off their snowy white plumage and flying skills.  All in all, it took us 2½ hours to womble around the mile-long island. 

In the afternoon, I went for a snorkel, leaving Glenys to chill out on the boat.  I was amazed to find that the visibility of the water was down to five metres - three days ago it was over 20 metres.  It appears that there has been a plankton bloom and the water is now full of small particles.  

I found a Mysterious Goby that I’d spotted a few days ago.  I’d only had a fleeting glimpse last time because it dived into a burrow as I approached it.  So this time, I very slowly inched forward and I managed to take a reasonable picture of it.  The fish is a rather boring brown colour, but has a very long first dorsal fin and all of its fins flow around like a piece of seaweed.  I can’t find any reference to a fish of this description, so perhaps it’s a “Neville’s Goby”?