In view of Gan’s military past, the title seems appropriate!
So why turn back?
Last Saturday, 16th May we went out through the pass at Addu Atoll and three hours into open water Pipistrelle’s autopilots started playing up. The B&G eventually stopped working altogether and the Simrad showed faults. With 290 miles to run to Chagos where there is nothing and no facilities until Mauritius we decided the only sensible course was to return to Gan. Fortunately we had not ventured very far. Unfortunately we were battling against the current, it was getting dark and we were hand steering. Nine miles took a long time to cover but we made it back safely.
One week on and our location hasn’t changed. Thanks to the help and support of Tinley Electronics in the UK and Steve of Category 1 in New Zealand, we have replaced the fluxgate compass, recalibrated the autopilot from scratch and undertaken extensive sea trials in the atoll. The B&G autopilot is working again and talks to Simrad. It has to be said that Steve and Bob took Pipistrelle out to test the autopilots after repairs had been made, and they appeared to be working. Had they not been, we would not have started out.
All was looking good for another attempt to escape today, Sunday. We had cleared out again (having had to go through the formalities of clearing in again last week), spent all our local currency, said our goodbyes and were ready to leave at dawn.
But the generator which to all intents and purposes had been fine, failed to start up last night. Instead of an evening relaxing, it was out with the toolboxes and back into the engine room. Today Bob has been in Skype contact with Steve in NZ and together they have been able to work through and resolve the problem – winding sensor cables had come apart, stopping the fuel pump working. They have now been put together again and the generator is running smoothly.
We have sufficient food on board we hope until we reach Rodrigues, but here are a couple of practical notes on provisioning on Addu and its small islands.
The choice of fresh food can be a little hit and miss and in sometimes short supply as most is brought in by supply boat or plane. Deliveries are scheduled weekly, but weather dictates arrival. If it is stormy, there is no delivery.
Take potatoes for example … none of the small supermarkets had one potato between them (and still don’t). Or so it appeared. When we asked, the manager of one surprisingly magicked from a dark cupboard 2 kg for us. Not what we would call ‘fresh’ but they do. Tomatoes, apples, oranges and suchlike need to be bought immediately you see them – otherwise the shelves are bare. We bought other fruit at an outlying ‘farm’.
Eggs fall into a similar category. Though chickens exist on the islands – cockerels strut their stuff and hens protect their chicks – throughout The Maldives, all eggs are imported either from India (white) or Sri Lanka (brown)!! Somehow the local population prefers to pay more for less fresh eggs than to start farming. Perhaps it’s the species? Consequently, like potatoes, eggs are scarce and not particularly fresh when bought. So despite going through the process of testing ours for ‘freshness’, coating the good ones in baby oil and turning them, we’ve had to throw many away. The remainder have to last until Rodrigues!
We plan to leave at sunrise tomorrow, Monday, with full tanks and additional fuel in containers strapped to the guardrail – a first for us. Between here and Rodrigues there is no possibility to refuel and winds could be light!