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Mandy on a jaunt in Peros Banhos
Mandy on a jaunt in Peros Banhos

20 May 2007, Salomon Atoll, Chagos Archipelago, Indian Ocean

Dear Friends and Family,

We've been in Chagos for just a month now so we thought we'd send a report.  Salomon Atoll (and Peros Banhos Atoll before it) continues to be beautiful, a series of small islands in a ring, surrounding a central lagoon with clear water, pristine coral, abundant bird-life, colorful exotic fish, coconut palms swaying in the gentle trades, and nobody around except a few cruising boats.  It's the kind of place you dream about, but have to sail half way around the world to find.  As we are a cruisers-only community we get to run around in minimal clothing, spend the day snorkeling or under coconut palms in the breezy shade, catch fish and fry them up on the grill for dinner, work on little boat-projects, etc.  All the classic yachtie stuff of the tropics that folks probably think we do all the time but which is actually all too rare.  For Mother's Day we held a huge pot-luck brunch ashore with pancakes, crepes, Amanda's cinnamon rolls, fresh juice, good coffee, and even some tart oranges from local fruit trees.

Doug & Jon bring in Jobfish & Dogtooth Tuna
Doug & Jon bring in Jobfish & Dogtooth Tuna

There's a school of bonito just behind Ocelot that have rounded up a school of small fish into a tight ball.  Now the bonito are feeding on them, darting through the ball of fish while Black Naped Terns and Lesser Noddy's squawk overhead and try to dive in for a bite of their own.  This is a common occurrence that we see several times a day.

The fishing here is pretty awesome. An hour or 2 spent trolling a line behind the dinghy, especially outside the atoll along the drop-off to the deep ocean, will produce enough fish to feed several boats.

Longfin Spadefish hung out under Ocelot
Longfin Spadefish hung out under Ocelot

We arrived in Peros Banhos Atoll on April 20 and spent almost 3 weeks there, starting in the north and checking out different anchorages down the west side of the atoll, finally spending a week at the southern end, anchored at 527.6'S 7147.9'E near the old copra settlement.

When we sailed the 25 miles from Peros Banhos atoll to Salomon atoll, we found we were chasing a huge school of tuna.  The ocean for about 100m ahead of us was seething with fish, jumping and slashing through the water while a big flock of Terns, Noddy's and Boobies swooped overhead.  The amazing part was that this school stayed around and just ahead of us for almost 2 hours!  It was fascinating to watch, if a little frustrating for the fishermen, as the school didn't go behind us, where the lures were.  Still, we caught 2 nice bonito and a huge Yellow-Fin Tuna that we shared with other cruising boats when we arrived.

The sandbank between Takamaka & Fouquet
The sandbank between Takamaka and Fouquet

We're currently anchored at 520'S 7215.9'E, pointing ESE between 2 islands with Ocelot hanging into the gentle trades.  If you look there with Google Earth, you'll see that we're anchored on a big sandy patch with long Ile Fouquet to our right and rounder Ile Takamaka to our left.  Both islands are surrounded by extensive coral reefs and have sandy spits that extend into the channel between them.  The sand spit off Takamaka has a flock of nesting terns on it, their nests (and chicks!) sitting right on the sand.  We have all been very careful not to disturb the birds.  Cruisers have cleared the palm frond and leaf debris in small areas under the palms for informal afternoon gatherings.  There's even a sandy volleyball court and an old well that's been cleaned up so we can rinse off after swimming.

Lovely Black-naped Terns abound in Chagos
Lovely Black-naped Terns abound in Chagos

We'll probably be pushing off for the 1,000 mile jump to The Seychelles in a month or so.  We like sailing with a moon and by then we'll have a good one.  The weather patterns now seem to have stabilized and several boats have already left.  Some are sailing west to the Seychelles and/or Madagascar, while others go north and then east to Thailand and Malaysia.  Since the northern Indian Ocean winds conveniently curve around to come from the SW at this time of year, both Africa and SE Asia are now downwind from Chagos.

Fair winds and calm seas -- Jon, Sue and Amanda Hacking

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