Friday, 12 June 2015

Chagos Retrospective - A Cruiser's Paradise

It is difficult to explain just how sensational Chagos is.  Many people have asked how we occupy our time in a such a deserted place, when in fact the time flew by.  We were up at dawn most days, and always busy.  There were fresh fish, an endless supply of coconuts, stunning sunsets, jungle tracks, beach picnics and of course the nearby islands and history to explore.  With fifty shades of blue surrounding us, including an international cruising community of a dozen boats, the time was never enough.

Living the life of "Robinson Crusoe" in a tropical island paradise is not for everyone, though we loved it. In fact if it wasn't for the BIOT regulations and watching for a weather window we could have stayed much longer.

Exploring Ile Boddam

Ile Bodam was an established copra plantation, with all the infrastructure needed for both the copra industry and the community it supported.

Following the "de-population" of Chagos (see here), the many buildings have been left to slowly deteriorate.  There is a church, school, hospital, copra factory, houses, piggery, cemetery and other buildings dotted through the jungle, even a network of railway lines.

We walked to the westward side of the island, following a track marked or blazed with old fishing buoys hanging in the trees.  The cemetery was beautiful, with graves of those who lived, worked and passed away on the island.  You can't help but feel the memories and the loneliness emanating from these buildings.

Social Life

Cruisers Community Art Installation - Very Tongue In Cheek
For visiting cruisers, life at Chagos includes drinks on the beach just before sunset each evening.  Sometimes a pot luck dinner was organised, or a fish barbeque when a Wahoo was caught without a shark biting off the best parts first.

We had movie nights on board, Ley gave bread making lessons and Neil spent time maintaining Crystal Blues and assisting other boats with technology issues.

Some cruisers worked on community art installations that certainly put a smile on the faces of the visiting crews.

Toward the end of our stay most cruisers spent time looking for a weather window over a morning cup of coffee on one of the boats.  Grib files, satellite images and weather forecasts were all compared and even though there were many boats bound for different destinations (Madagascar, Seychelles, Mauritius and Rodrigues), careful planning was necessary.  The Southern Indian Ocean has a well deserved reputation of wicked cross swells, big seas and big winds.

Meeting The Locals

The island is populated by a large variety of sea going birds and many types of crabs.  The most populous and by far the most impressive, are the coconut crabs, Birgus Latro, a land dwelling crab that is mainly nocturnal.

We would often see them late in the afternoon in the front of their holes, casually scanning for food opportunities.  While coconuts do form a part of their diet they will eat almost anything.  They can grow up to a meter in length from claw to claw and come in shades of red, brown/black and purple.

King of the jungle in Chagos, their only real predator is mankind, who has managed to eradicate them in many parts of the world. 

Never Ending Boat Jobs

We received our new replacement AIS system, an XB-800 from Vesper Marine, delivered to us in Male (Maldives) in April.  We needed time to pull the boat apart to run new cables for this unit, so decided to do this in Chagos.  Bathroom ceilings came down, then cables were run down through the davits, the machinery spaces and the bathroom ceiling to the nav station. It did take quite a few days, but we are very happy to be able to see and be seen via the marvelous AIS system once again.

Back in Langkawi we had a Davis "Porcupine" Lightning Dissipator extended, so that it could be installed on the mast truck.  Then, while in Sri Lanka, a raven landed on our Windex instrument and sent it crashing to the deck.  A replacement was sourced in Male, so Neil had two jobs to complete at the top of the mast. One fine morning Ley winched Neil up the mast, details were noted and both pieces of equipment checked.  Modifications were completed on deck, and then another final visit to the top of the mast to complete the installation.

Covering so many miles over just three months has been a good test for the boat, and maintenance has been intensive, but in general we are pleased with the way the systems are functioning. We certainly feel safe and confident to proceed with the coming ocean crossings.









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