Baksheesh is a way of life here and everyone is constantly asking us for money, whether it's buying groceries at the supermarket or catching a bus 'everyone' wants a tip. However they also try to sneak in extra costs when they think you don't realise and this is what happened with out canal transit fees. Jimmy had already worked out with the measurer how much the cost would be but when Felix came back with the bill an exta $50 had been added on out of nowhere. After a lot of arguing and many comments about how they didn't like Americans the agents finally agreed to the correct price and we made our transit the following day.
Our pilot was a really nice guy and we actually enjoyed the first half of the canal with a relaxing atmosphere. Arriving at the Ismalia marina however, he did ask for extra money of which we expected and so we gave him $10 and he left with a lot more ease than other pilots!
Jimmy's birthday was on the 20th so we took a trip into Cairo to see the Pyramids and the Egyptian Museum. We spent two nights in a great hotel called 'City View' overlooking the museum and enjoyed wandering the busy streets of Cairo and generally taking a break from the boat. We had a really nice taxi driver from Ismalia 'Mohammed Imbaby' come and pick us up on our last day and take us to the Pyramids and then back to the marina. Now we're waiting for the weather to calm down so we can make our transit through the second part of the canal and then on to Fetiye in Turkey some 375 miles away.
We arrived in the Maldives on the 23rd of January after a pretty rough but fast eleven day sail from the Similan islands in Thailand. What a relief to see the palm lined islands appear on the horizon as the beautiful clear calm waters of North Thiadhunmathee Atoll rose up beneath us. The Maldives have been a republic since 1968 with a population of around 222,000 people predominantly Sunni Muslims. There are 19 Major Atolls and over 1200 coral islands. Our stop was off one of the far Northern islands called Uligan, an extremely pretty and quiet island with a small population living in houses made out of old chunks of coral.
With the help of our agent ‘Imad Abdhulla’ we were able to restock on fuel and water and even replenish our fresh food stores once the supply boat had arrived on its weekly schedule. Imad arranged a local boat to take us and 18 other cruisers to visit some of the other islands in the atoll as we were restricted to keeping our own boats anchored only off Uligan (unless we were prepared to pay around $2000 US for a cruising permit!). The coral reef is abundant with fish and new life is thriving after being destroyed by the ash from Indonesian forest fires eight years ago. Huge manta rays would swim around the anchorage daily so we spent most of our days snorkeling with some of the prettiest reef just a few fin strokes away from Blue Moon’s stern.
Life on land is basic but extremely peaceful with each island having a chief who oversees medical care and teaching facilities. Many of the men from the islands work in the capital of Male further south in the island chain so we would often only see women, young children and elderly men walking around. Fishing seems to be the main industry in the smaller islands although with the increasing amount of hotels being built throughout the Atolls tourism is fast becoming the higher earner.
After just eight days enjoying these beautiful islands it was time for us to leave for our next leg across the Arabian Sea to Oman. Uligan was a great place to just relax and spend time with other cruisers all heading the same way. The local people are friendly, welcoming and extremely accommodating so a great destination to add to the itinerary!
Agent ‘Imad Abdhulla’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Total clearance fees: US $34
Cost of Diesel per Liter: US $1.20
Cost of Petrol per Liter: US $1.30
The time has come for us to say our final fairwell to Asia as we prepare to leave for the Maldives in the next couple of days. We've enjoyed the beautiful New Year Fetivities here in Patong Bay in Phuket, Thailand with hundreds of fireworks and Thousands of Thai lanterns being released from the beach. My cousin David has joined us for a few days to celebrate the New year and we've enjoyed relaxing and making the most of our last few days here.
Blue Moon is once again stocked up with enough food to feed a family of five for a year...we never learn but who knows what we'll crave while hundreds of miles from the nearest market! Our water line is once again rediculously low but most importantly we feel prepared for surviving self sufficiantly for the next five months if neccessary!
Our first leg is roughly 1500 nautical miles to the island of 'Uligan' in the Northern Maldives which should take around 14 days. We'll spend a week or so there and then sail the 1000 miles to Salalah in Southern Oman. We'll be sending updates to our Cruising log via the radio so to follow us just click on the link on the right hand side of this page.