Saturday, August 01, 2009

July 28, 2009 - Peros Banhos, Chagos

The manager's house on Ile du Coin

After nearly three months anchored in the cozy confines of Salomon Atoll, it was time for us to move on. We had a thousand miles between us and the Seychelles, so we thought it would be a good idea for us to do a short hop to Peros Banhos, the only other atoll in Chagos that yachties are allowed to visit, just to get our sea legs back. On Tuesday morning we departed Salomon. Once we cleared the pass, we were met with short, confused seas. The only thing that kept my breakfast down was the knowledge that I only had to make it through three hours of the gyroscope before we would reach Peros . . . that, and the Stugeron that I'd popped with my morning coffee!

We had a quick run to Peros, and surfed our way through the southern pass on following seas. As we entered the lagoon, Sten landed a big dogfish tuna. Since I'd placed an order for a white fleshed fish for the green curry I was planning for dinner (three months in Chagos can make a body choosy about their fish), he tossed it back. Within minutes, he had another tuna on. Still not up to specs, Sten released it. When he hooked up again, it was exactly what I wanted, a big, beautiful jobfish.

Peros is several times the size of Salomon. It is more exposed, and more wild. We had hoped to anchor at Ile du Coin, so that we could explore the ruins of the old copra plantation. However, we found the anchorage to be untenable in the Southeasterlies. So we backtracked 3 miles towards the southern pass, and anchored behind Fouquet. It was rolly, with a swell wrapping around the reef, but manageable. We had some lunch and did a quick explore of Fouquet. We were surprised to find a well laid out little cruiser camp, but we shouldn't have been. In late July, we were the only yacht in Peros and the only one that had been here for weeks, but during February, March and April (before the Southeasterlies kick in) there are often a dozen yachts anchored in Peros.

Sten, cracking coconuts for our lunch

The swell rolling through the lagoon made sleeping difficult, so we decided to make the most of one full day in the atoll and push off for the Seychelles the following morning. However, our 15hp dinghy engine had other plans. It refused to start. So Sten swapped it out for our backup 8hp engine. We loaded up the dinghy with plenty of water and headed back up to Ile du Coin. The whole way, snow white fairy terns circled low over us to investigate the source of the only mechanical noise to have disturbed their quiet world in weeks.

Hunting for fruit trees

We spent the day exploring the island. We wandered through the ruins of the old plantation (finding plenty of donkey droppings but seeing no other sign of the island's only remaining resident), checked out the old Manager's house (finding it crumbling and too derelict to enter), hunted for fruit trees (finding bilimbis, breadfruit, and sour oranges), and explored the cemetery full of crumbling graves (finding a headstone dating from 1893). We picnicked on young coconuts, tinned sardines and a package of oreos. Eventually, we headed back down to our anchorage behind Fouquet. The 8hp behaved itself all day, but we were still relieved to be back at the boat. As the only people in this uninhabited atoll, there would have been nobody to call for help if it had died on us.

Gorgeous old wall on Ile du Coin

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