Posted by: powellpjc | November 14, 2012

The Last of the Big Indian.

I can add a few pics of Salomon Island atoll, Chagos although one atoll looks the any other. No people atoll, no stores atoll, not much atoll.

Say hello to the tripod, Pete. La Rosa in the background.

Your basic desert island. And my kayak.

And so the palm begins…

And after a productive life, goes to palm tree heaven.

Did some cleaning of the underside of the boat. It’s amazing how barnacles can attach themselves to a moving boat but they sure do. A light scraping to get rid of them and not too much precious bottom paint was no big deal. Kept my eyeballs peeled for the grey sharks that cruise by regularly and the school of fish that was living in the shade of the hull seemed to like the food stirred up with the scraping.
I’d bought a speargun in Tahiti but never tried it. Now was my chance. I first sprinkled old (too old) cooked pasta over the side in small handfuls and when the feeding swarm attacked I shot from the rail of the boat. Many times, unsuccessfully. So I tried the underwater approach. It’s unbelievable how close you can get a speargun tip to a good sized fish and miss cleanly every time. Whoever coined the phrase, ‘like shooting fish in a barrel’ has never done it.

Lots of fish, but the barrel is way too big. You try it.

A couple of hermit crabs gettin’ it on. Love is where you find it.

The washing facilities—large, clean buckets, fresh water well and hanging lines—were quite a nice surprise and I did a full load of laundry. In the old days (5 years ago?) when there were no permit issues quite a few cruisers would park in this lagoon and spend months. The original inhabitants were kicked out about 1965 when the yanks took over Diego Garcia to the south and the village was completely overgrown but the cruisers fashioned a small soccer field, badminton court, horseshoe pit and I imagine other fun and games. Pot lucks, no doubt. Not many visitors anymore due to the cost and difficulty in obtaining the permit from the UK. I was visited by a British marine research vessel doing a head count on fish, I guess. They got a radio call when on my boat from the Rainbow Warrior which was cruising just south of here noting two illegal fishing boats so my visit with the biologist was very short. The Sri Lankans are finning sharks in this area and it’s not going over too well.

The calms of Sumatra slowed me down a lot but made for very pleasant cocktail hour.

After a nice rest of 5 days it was back into the chuck. But now I was on the edge of the southeast tradewinds and travel was smoother and faster.

Your weatherman would call this an ‘isolated shower’.

70-125 mile days the norm and pretty decent, settled weather. Had some friends keeping an eye on the cyclone situation for me and my weather eye over my shoulder. It is early for cyclones but there are always exceptions.
I had to punish a pair of boobies one night, severely. I was sleeping on deck in the warm tropical airs and one boobie managed to defecate right on my head, including a perfect earhole shot. That just won’t do but I have to give him credit for accuracy.

The boobie coming in on short final, loaded with white bombs. For me.

Evidence of his bombing. I had to have a shower after dealing with him.

I arrived close to northern Madagascar on a Saturday morning with 95 miles to go. Would I slow down and take it easy and arrive on a Sunday (the immigration and other offices would be closed on the weekend in any case) or go for it? I knew there was an ugly-looking low pressure system behind me and gaining so I decided to go for it. Put up all available sail, turned the engine on to fill the water tank with the watermaker and we flew. 7 to 8.5 knots all the way and I raised the capes of Madagascar at noon and made it into harbour at 6 p.m., with sunset at 6:40. I still had a mile to go to the anchorage so it was dusk as I poked around looking for a likely spot to drop the hook. All navigational aids marked on my charts no longer existed, buoys rusted away and lights burned out. There were two lights working but they weren’t on my chart so I had no idea what they meant. Talk about a babe in the woods. I found a decent looking spot (in the dark anything can look decent). Woke up to the sound of a tug chugging down on me—a military tug with some official telling me I was in a ‘zone militaire’ and that I had to move. Fine, already. I upped anchor and moved to where he’d told me. I just about freaked out when I saw all the shipwrecks in this big harbour. At least 7 visible at low water and my scouting around the night before brought me too close, way too close. This harbour cannot be entered in poor light. So now I know.
Two other boats here, one a converted tug on a world cruise and a parked sailboat with caretaker on board.
A French general purpose/warship is also in harbour, shuttling junk to La Reunion and on general lookout for pirates. He is loaded for bear too, with two 20 mm cannons and six .50 cal machine guns. What I’d give for just one of those.

The French warship with flags flying on a Sunday. I thought it might be visitors day but no chance. It was Nov. 11, Remembrance day. No visit for Pete.

Complete with ratlines, the scourge of wharves the world over. Your rat, that is.

My first impressions of Antsiranana (try saying that quickly 3 times) are poverty. Dirt poor and negligent governance. Roads a mess, buildings a mess and political uncertainty causing grief to general populace, there being fewer and fewer ships calling with goods. The gas stations are frequently out of fuel, gas or diesel. Almost no English spoken, only French and Malagasy.
Folk seem friendly enough. Went to the general market today (rented a scooter of course) and it would not pass muster sanitary-wise in any modern country. Didn’t stop me from buying a mess of tomatoes and other salad fixings. Ohhhh, the fresh is what I miss on a 53 day passage.

Adios, Chagos, the most isolated place on this earth that I’ve been to.

Next installment: I’ll tell you about last night’s ‘Night of Terror’.



  1. chortling my way around the world with Peter Powell. Cool. Am glad of this post – was worried you were in Somalia.

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