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Landfall on Chagos Archipelago – Indian Ocean – 1990

Here I have recounted our landfall on the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean. This comes directly from my log book that I kept on KANDARIK, our Freya 39. The events here will be a small part of a book I am writing to give to my children and grand children. I hope you will enjoy this family adventure as we all did together.

chagos-lagoonAs we were screaming downwind, poled out genoa and reefed mainsail, on our approach to Chagos coming from Christmas Island off Australia, we had very hazy weather. While we could take morning, noon and afternoon sun fixes for navigation, the sea was very rough with a beam on swell and all fixes and positions taken with the sextant were sort of questionable.  Normally as we approached a landfall Andy would take an evening star sight, but it would always be cloudy and overcast and we never did get a chance to do that and establish a good position. Remember, back in 1990 we were sailing with no GPS, no chart plotters, and relied on celestial navigation and DR for all our long passages.

As we were approaching Chagos after many days at sea having departed Cocos Keeling Island off the coast of Australia, we were all ready to get into a lagoon and NOT MOVE.  We all wanted suction cups on our elbows and hands, as the swell was right out of the South and we rolled  with a beam sea considerably even though we were clipping along downwind heading in a westerly direction.!

chagos-houseAndy told us all, me and our two children Samantha and Jamie, that if we did not spot Chagos in about two hours, we probably had passed it to port!!!  And, he told us solemnly there would be no turning back in this wind and sea condition and we would have to continue on to the Comoros further downwind several hundred miles!  This did not sit well with the crew!!!  We all had our eyes peeled peering through that dense haze, willing Chagos to appear in front of us.

Then, there it was, about two miles off, right on the bow, and we were all so HAPPY to see it right where it should be!!!  Andy was a great navigator!

We entered the lagoon and had a wild beat up to the anchorage as it was blowing quite briskly!  Once we anchored the friends on the boats that were there came up to us and asked what was wrong with the engine!!!  None of them had actually sailed once they entered the lagoon.

We loved Chagos, stayed for a week between the two islands with the sand spits, and later sailed to the end where the little old abandoned village had been.  Did you see our drawing on the building we called the “Yacht Club”?  It was on the far wall to the left as you entered the building!

chagos-churchAt that anchorage, we set the anchor next to the bottom of a large coral head, then slowly powered all around the head and then Andy dove down and put the chain across the anchor.  As long as the wind remained from a constant direction, it was the coral head used as our mooring!

There were of course all the abandoned houses, the roofless church, and a huge water catchment tank where we could pull out a plug and shower under the water spill and fill up jerry cans with fresh rain water.  We had salads galore made from the hearts of palm and quite a bit of fresh caught fish.

chagos-flag-poleOne of the boats with an older, probably my age that I am now, but we thought he was very very old, anchored stern to the concrete dock, or what was left of it, you know, where the tattered British Flag hung from the top of a Flag pole and there was a sign at the base of the Flag Pole so typical of the Brits “Welcome to the British Indian Ocean Territory”  I love it!  Was that there when you were there?  Unfortunately he had a visiting rat come aboard and it wrecked havoc with everything on his boat.  We heard his pleas for help on the VHF and luckily we had rat traps aboard as we had one visit us in Bali in Benoa, awful awful experience!!!  So we gave him a rat traps and that did the trick!! Never sail without rat traps!

And so I remember, “Ah youth”, as Joseph Conrad would say!

Pam