15 May 2017 Ile Fouquet, Chagos
It was another windy, overcast day, so I disappeared under the boat cleaning the hull. Eric from “Hokulea” suggested that it was easier to knock off the barnacles and then wait a few days before scraping off the white calcium pads - he thinks that they soften up and then scrape off easier. It still took me over an hour to scrub off the slime and knock off the barnacles. We have a large group of squid living under the boat, who were very interested in me.
We’d run out of beer, so in the afternoon I went fishing. I managed to catch four Grouper - two medium ones about a foot long; and two big ones about 2 feet long. I kept one of the big ones for us and traded the others for four beers; a third of a bottle of rum and cleared my Beer Tab. The rum should keep us going until we leave, but I will need more beer…
While out on the reef, I went snorkelling around the shallows and found that the water is clear near the surface, but below 3 metres the water has lots of plankton dropping the visibility down to 5-10 metres. As I was swimming around, I spotted a Blacktip Reef Shark circling my dinghy, probably hoping to steal one of the fish I caught.
I also had a fright when I was swimming underwater. As I came around a big rock, a huge shark was about 5 metres away, coming straight at me. It didn’t look like a normal Blacktip Reef Shark, so my first thought was that it was one of the aggressive species. Fortunately, it veered away to my left and, as it swam past me, I saw that it was only a large, harmless Nurse Shark . I think that it was more shocked by the encounter than I was.
16 May 2017 Ile Fouquet, Chagos
We still need to do some repairs on the genoa, but it was too windy today. We spent the morning on-board - I did some admin, catching up on editing photos and my blog, while Glenys pottered about making another batch of Ginger Beer and a load of washing.
In the afternoon, we went snorkelling to the north of Ile Jocobin, but the reef was uninteresting and the water was very murky below 5 metres. In the evening, most of the cruisers went ashore for a beach barbeque. The young guys from Barbara Ann have built a volleyball court and improved their coconut frond shelter - we’re calling it Camp America…
17 May 2017 Ile Fouquet, Chagos
Our permit for Chagos runs out in nine days’ time, so we’re trying to decide on the best date to leave on the 1,100 mile/8 day passage to Rodrigues. I went over to “Jackster” with George from “Ngalawa” where we had discussion about the various strategies to get down to Rodrigues in the most comfortable manner.
The general weather trend is that the wind varies in direction from ESE to SSE and will increase in strength from 10-15 knots at Chagos to at least 20-25 knots at Rodrigues. We were all in agreement that we should be heading for a waypoint 120 miles east of Rodrigues, so that in the last 24 hours, we will be heading downwind in the stronger winds.
My plan is to head south for 3 days, which will be a tough upwind beat in 15-20 knot winds. As the wind increases, we will bear away 10-15 degrees for the next three days and then have a down-wind run for the last 2 days when the wind is strongest and the waves are largest.
The Great Chagos Bank is a 100-mile wide atoll directly south of where we are anchored and we have to decide whether to sail around the west or the east side of the huge reef system. If we head east, then we will be faced with a 60 mile motor-sail directly into the prevailing south-east winds and waves and then we’ll have to sail directly south for 80 miles down past Diego Garcia - again hard on the wind. If we head west then the first 24 hours will be much more pleasant, but we’ll end up 120 miles further to the west than the eastern route, making the remainder of the passage harder on the wind by at least 10 degrees.
Looking at the 14-day weather forecast, if we’re taking the western route around the Great Chagos Bank, it doesn’t seem to make much different when we leave. But if we’re going to do the eastern route, we’ll need light winds at the start of the passage, so that we’re not pounding into big waves and high winds.
At the moment, we’re undecided when to leave and which direction to go, but the 20th or 21st looks to have winds less than 10 knots and from a ESE direction, so it might be a good opportunity to head east around Great Chagos Bank and therefore make the rest of the passage a little easier. I’m going to be monitoring the weather every day from now on.
In the afternoon, we went snorkelling and fishing over by Ile Mapou. Again the water was clear for the top 3 metres and then very murky in the deeper water - I caught a nice grouper. Back on the boat, I started to gut and fillet the fish, but the grouper was so slimy that it was difficult to hold. I put a glove on my left hand to hold the fish, but the fish still slipped in my hand and I managed to slash my left index finger with the knife.
It’s quite a deep cut near the fingertip and bled profusely (which made the sharks very excited as I dripped blood overboard). We cleaned the wound then doused it with Betadine, before putting on a couple of finger plasters very tight which seems to have closed the wound. It looks like I won’t be going in the water for a few days because I don’t want to get it infected.
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