Chagos in July

It is 3 PM and we are sitting out a squall here in Chagos. It is blowing 25 knots with rain. It is unusual to get these in the afternoon, they usually come late at night when you are asleep so you (in our case, ME) have to get up and close all the hatches.You return to bed whereupon the rain stops and it starts to get a little warm down below. Then you get up again to open the hatches and return to bed. Then it starts to rain again. And so on and so on.

The irony of the “Chagos Experience” is that you don’t come here because it is an uninhabited piece of paradise in a far flung corner of the world. You come here, it seems, for the people. The people are other yachties that have sailed thousands of miles from around the globe to get to this uninhabited piece of paradise in a far flung corner of the world and share the experience.

We were late and arrived near the end of the season so there were only about two dozen boats anchored here total, half on one side of the 2.5 mile wide lagoon and half anchored on the other. The two main anchorages are known as Fouquet and Boddam, after the islands of the same names.

Now, at the beginning of July there are about 18 boats as more and more leave to either head west to the Seychelles and Africa, or sail northeast back up to S. E. Asia. Every evening on shore at 4:30, on both sides of the lagoon, volleyball begins. This is the social part of everyone’s day.

People bring drinks and snacks and after a few vigorous games we sit down to enjoy the sunset and each other’s company in beautiful, peaceful surroundings. Ariel, although small in size, packed a lot of power in her serves. She became known as the “Bronx Basher” and was a terror on the volleyball court.

There are also frequent parties with music supplied by a generator, bonfires and dancing until late, late at night. None of this is compulsory but all are always invited. So you can be a hermit or a social boozehound as much as you like. We tend to go back to the boat early (despite probably being the youngest couple here!).

I should mention most parties are costume parties. People are very inventive with coming up with themes, such as “childhood fantasies,” or “famous people,” for the parties. Ariel and I really didn’t get into the dressing up part so we always went in normal attire with me claiming to be “Zorro’s brother.” Everyone would say, “Zorro’s brother? I didn’t know he had one.” I would tell them, “Well he did and he looked just like me.” That was my way out of it, anyway. The last party was another yachtie’s 60th birthday party so we played and danced to some of our latin music that we have on CDs and then went home. The next day everyone complained and said, “Hey, great music. Next time you go back to your boat at 7 PM can you leave the music here?!” So we will try and stay longer at the next party.

A lot of people here brew their own beer or make their own rice wine. Both are somewhat acquired tastes. The beer, which comes in kits from Australia, isn’t so bad. Even the rice wine homebrew is OK when that’s all you’ve got. After all, you are in paradise which more than compensates for these little hardships.

Captain Fatty Goodlander on Wild Card, left Chagos before we arrived but was fondly remembered for brewing his rice wine and putting it in wine bottles. He even made labels proudly proclaiming, “Chagos Chablis. The Taste of Choice for Cruisers Who’ve Reached Boddam.” (!!!)

One afternoon we invited everyone in the anchorage to come to our boat for Sri Lankan tea and Ariel’s world-famous chocolate chip, macadamia nut cookies. All at once we had 18 hungry people in our cockpit. The entire anchorage showed up and ate everything.

We gave them all the obligatory boat tour and got some useful suggestions on rigging and other matters. All these people have far more experience than we have with several circumnavigators present.  A good time was had by all, although by the end of it Ariel was a little tired working down below in the cookie factory and I was a little tired bringing up hundreds of cups of tea.

A list of boats here now at the end of July:

Tehani-li        Papagena
Aries               Tramontana
Aku Anka       McDuck
Tigger             Quarterdeck
Mariposa        Lady Guinevere
Celtic Caper   Daisy Duck
Shamal           Shady Lady
Kalmos           Ingrid
Senta               Deja Vu
Zhivago          Topaz