For our first anniversary, I took Joylani to Yosemite National Park. Ignoring the low tire treads we noticed on the way there, we consequently spent the entire morning of our first anniversary in a tow-truck (using all of AAA’s maximum allowance of 100 miles per tow) to Modesto. Needless to say, I was hoping the morning of our second anniversary would turn out better. I had inquired about sailing a couple of times during the week and knew to head for the Watersports Office (a shed covering windsurfing gear and kayaks) and look for a guy wearing sunglasses (Haleem). So after breakfast (which also beat the meager meal of left-over champagne and fig newtons we had a year earlier), we headed all 200 feet to the “office.” Sitting in chair-swing hanging from a tree next to the shed was sunglasses man, Haleem. Aside from the sunglasses he was sporting a Embudu polo, shorts, and bare feet. If it wasn’t for the Embudu shirt, I may have mistaken him for a tourist relaxing. He wasn’t doing anything, just slightly swinging and staring off into space. He looked like a kid just daydreaming there. Assuming he was awake, I asked, “Is this where we line up catamaran sailing?”
Not moving, he replied, “Yeah.”
“Uh, okay, well what options do you have?”
“Yea, like you have a one-hour sailing and a four hour sailing? What things can we do?”
He still hadn’t changed positions, except to twist his chair a bit more towards us, but replied, “What you want to do?”
“I don’t know, that’s why I’m asking. If we do the one hour what can we do?”
“I take you snorkeling, see some big shark. Big stingray.”
“If we go snorkeling, how long are we in the water?”
“Depends on the weather. Some days we can sail fast, some days slow.”
“How about the weather today.”
“Weather is good today.”
“And the four hour sailing?”
“We can do the same thing. Maybe go to some sandbank, maybe another island.”
“Yea, that sounds good.” Unmoved by my comment, I added, “We’d like to do that.”
“You want to do four hour sailing?”
“When you want to go? Now?”
“Yea, now’s good,” I replied, at which point he chuckled as if he realized he would finally have to move.
Joylani before the sailing….notice storm in background
We met at the catamaran five minutes later. While Joylani and I had grabbed some water, sunscreen, and waterproof camera, Haleem had beached the craft. We threw our water and sunscreen in one of the hulls and secured our snorkel gear to the netting. We hopped in before Haleem pushed off from beach and hopped in himself, frantically pulling all sorts of ropes and lines. We were immediately racing across the lagoon towards the reef. The catamaran went right over the reef and into the open sea, easily clearing the shallow coral below. I haven’t yet mentioned that it was the windiest morning yet, producing the first white caps we’d seen all week. Once we got out on the water and were on the other side of the island, we could see a storm obscuring any view of Male and the nearby islands. Apparently the reef was below the storm, because we headed straight into it. Within five minutes of leaving sunny Embudu, we were being tossed about in a storm. Sheets of cold rain pelted us as we rode the endless dunes of water. As the wind picked up, Haleem had us all sit one side to weigh it down- the other hull bounced up and down off the ocean’s surface with each wave and gust. Our side bounced quite a bit too, but it was nice as the splashes of ocean water felt incredibly warm (Maldivian waters are about 80 F year-round). Splashing is an understatement, as each walls of water that came at us could easily completely drench even a dry person. Haleem remained calm in the midst of all this. Almost too calm in light of the fact that it seemed the wind would blow us over, but it somehow reassured me. He also verbally reassured us that it would be good weather after the storm passed through. Once the winds calmed, we got going again, making our way to a large underwater plateau of coral.
Joylani 5 minutes later…
Hopping out into warm neck-high water, we were soon surrounded by huge stingrays. They were by far the largest ones I have ever seen. Even the cloudy storm water, we could see them circling around us, their long tails trailing behind them. One had a half-dozen fish swimming on its back. The larger lemon sharks eluded us, although Haleem claimed he spotted a few from the boat. After 30 minutes or so in the water, we hopped back aboard and set off for a sandbank. We had been to the same sandbank on our island-hopping excursion the day before, but I enjoy sailing (at least all the times I’ve been) and Joylani really enjoyed the sandbank the day before. The wind was strong and we sped south. Again, we all sat on the left hull. We pretty much sailed the entire way on the left hull, while the right one just skimmed and bounced off the surface of the water. It was kind of like watching those old rap music videos where they’re driving old Cadillacs on just the left wheels. But just as before, we got drenched. The hull crashed up and down as we traversed the waves coming from the west. Every couple of minutes, the front of the hull would momentarily dip below the surface, digging up and tossing buckets of seawater on us. The hour sailing south was spent mostly hanging on to the boat with one hand and continually wiping water from our eyes with the other. The sandbank was enjoyable but not very eventful. We walked around the small beach and took a couple pictures and spent the duration of our time snorkeling around the perimeter of the surrounding reef.
sandbar in the middle of the Indian Ocean!
The trip back to Embudu was much the same as the trip to the sandbank- rough and wet. I’ve written a bit about my daydreams leading up to this whole RTW trip; one of them was instigated whenever I browsed through Lonely Planet’s “The World Book” (which was always on our coffee table) and stumbled across the Kiribati page or the Solomon Islands page. The large spreads depicting men sailing or kids playing in the blue water. Not deep blue or dark blue water, but blue blue. The truest blue imaginable. And here we were, sailing across just that. Our anniversary sailing trip was the highlight of my week and I cannot think of better way to spend our anniversary than sailing across the endless ocean blue. Well, it beats a tow truck at least.
Is there anything better than this?
and how could I pass up posting this post-sailing pic of Joylani