|Rutea on the left, at Fussaru Reef. Photo by Mark Aisbett|
Many of the countries we have visited have had a theme or purpose. My recollection of American Samoa, for example, was mostly about provisioning. The overriding theme in Indonesia was the rally in which we participated. The year-long stay in Thailand seemed to be mostly focused on boat repairs. Our cruise through the Maldives is all about being in the water. Not so much being in the boat in the water but swimming, snorkeling and diving in the water. For a good reason, too, as the water has some of the most spectacular visibility of any I’ve seen anywhere. Brilliantly colored fish call the reefs their home and don’t seem to mind sharing it with us. The water also provides a brief respite from the unrelenting heat – we’re just a few degrees north of the equator and it just never cools off here.
This 470-nautical mile long archipelago has over 1,100 islands (only a small fraction are inhabited) and probably many times that in reefs. As with many places we’ve visited, the coral has lost most of its color but, at the same time, there’s evidence of the coral regenerating. Many claim that the loss of coral is due to global climate change and that it could have a catastrophic environmental impact. The reefs rise abruptly from impossible depths to just below the water’s surface, changing the water’s color from a royal sapphire blue to a pastel blue to a gin-clear cover for the reef. At a place we snorkeled yesterday, our underwater visibility was in excess of 30 meters.
The enormous depths between atolls can create wicked currents and the patterns on the water’s surface often belie what’s going on underneath. These same depths can give us headaches when it comes to anchoring. I dislike anchoring in depths that are too deep for me to dive down to free a fouled anchor and fouling an anchor on coral is always a possibility.
One of the highlights of our cruise through these stunningly-beautiful islands, atolls and reefs are the group of friends we’re traveling along with. A lot of cruisers prefer to be by themselves but we’re really enjoying the company of our friends. The Maldives are a popular destination for tourists and there are lots of resorts that cater to mostly European and Asian travelers but still it’s sparsely populated and this can make it seem desolate amongst the atolls. I think I’d feel isolated and perhaps lonely if we weren’t with our friends. A common routine for our little fleet, once we anchor in yet another outrageous lagoon, is to go snorkeling, then go back to our respective boats and then gather on one of our boats for evening cocktails. The camaraderie that develops from these unique shared experiences is intense. Fortunately, we’re a very like-minded group.
|Rosie, Ruthie and Mark|
Rutea is doing exceptionally well. The maxim, ‘cruising on sailboats is nothing more than doing repairs in exotic ports’ has not been the case for us, at least not for the time being. We still try to keep up with the continual maintenance but she remains a well-found vessel in which we have a tremendous amount of confidence. This is the fun side of cruising – flat seas, clear water, good friends and all systems working well.