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Farquhar Atoll

Landscape:  Low, sandy atoll isolated from the rest of the Seychelles by several hundred miles. Coconut palms and a big inner lagoon.
Visited:  26 September to 6 October 2007

Be sure to check out our Seychelles Newsletters and our Madagascar Newsletters (both To Farquhar Atoll and Madagascar Arrival) for more of our stories and photos on Farquhar and our sailing adventures!

(Jon)  We didn't really expect to stop in Farquhar.  We had, after all, cleared out of the Seychelles for Madagascar.  But several days south of Mahé, and only 150nm from Madagascar, our "weather window" slammed shut - the winds piped up and veered more into the south, making for a wet and wild sail.  Since Farquhar was just sitting there on our course, we sought shelter inside its enclosing atoll.  Arriving at 10pm, under full moon, we first anchored on the outside of the atoll, near the northern entrance to the inner lagoon.  But the water flowing out of the lagoon can setup some uncomfortable rips, so the next morning we motored into the lagoon. With Amanda up the mast to eyeball our way through the sand bars and shoals we made our way over to the far (east) side, where we could anchor in the protected, flat water.

Wind chop inside the Farquhar lagoon
Wind chop inside the Farquhar lagoon

By international maritime law a vessel is allowed to seek refuge without penalty, although there can be restrictions.  In this case, the "Manager", Elvis, said we weren't allowed ashore.  I thought this was a bit silly, as the "resort" (which had been flattened by a cyclone just a year earlier) was supposedly built without government approval or even notice.  But we were too tired to argue, and we had several things to do on Ocelot (not the least of which was catching up on lost sleep).  Even Elvis realize the rule was a bit silly, so he assuaged his embarrassment by giving us lots of fresh fish and veggies - like a pile of over 60 tomatoes!  When he later needed our help to hem the tablecloths used in the resort, he "paid" us for our help by letting us go ashore.

Chatting on the back of the boat.
Chatting with Elvis on the back of Ocelot

Cruisers usually have to pay (in Victoria, ahead of time) a considerable fee to visit Farquhar, and the resort charges stiff prices.  But for all the fuss and bother, we were not impressed with Farquhar.  It was a nice enough refuge, but we saw little life in the lagoon.  The reefs were nothing to write home about, and while there were fish outside the atoll, we saw none in the lagoon.  Ashore was an old (unused?) copra plantation.  Lots of coconut palms and a smattering of other trees, several interesting birds, but nothing really special. To be fair, we didn't really get to give the place a chance as we were so restricted in our movements.

Fresh pumpkin delivered to the boat!
Fresh pumpkin delivered to the boat!

(Sue)  It was with mixed feelings that I watched the dim coast of Farquhar appear under full moon.  I was sort of resigned to a rough passage to Madagascar and we were only 150 nm away -- just over a day of sailing.  But given the wind direction we weren't going to make it in a day -- more like possibly 3 or 5 days.  So in the best of bad conditions we eased our way into a shallow spot outside the entrance to Farquhar Lagoon and dropped the hook.  In the morning -- wow!  A beautiful tropical island with bright blue water, green vegetation, and soaring sea birds.  It was lovely!  Once inside the lagoon Amanda and I sorted out the mess from a week of rough sailing.  We all took showers in the cockpit and settled in for some serious reading.  In the afternoon a power boat approached from the small resort we'd seen near the pass.  The camp manager, Elvis, introduced himself, told us, regretfully that we were not allowed to land, but were welcome to stay while we made any needed repairs and wait for the weather to improve. 

I think if the water had been Chagos-clear I might have slipped surreptitiously into the lagoon for a snorkel, but there was so much silt in the water that we couldn't even see the bottom in 8 meters.  We did get to walk ashore on the beach and a bit on the old road which was covered in downed palm trees from the cyclone that had hit earlier in the year.  What made it a memorable place for me was the visual beauty and the friendliness of Elvis and his wife, with their gifts of fresh grouper and snapper, island-grown pumpkins, and dozens of fresh ripe tomatoes.

We vacuum packed the extra grouper
We vacuum packed the extra grouper

(Amanda)  We hadn't planned to stop anywhere on the way to Madagascar.  That requires choosing where to stop, paying for permits, and then hoping the wind actually lets you get to where you want.  I don't think any of us thought we'd be able to lay Farquhar from the Seychelles.  Perhaps we would have had a nicer first half of the sail if we'd turned off a bit, but then we would have had nowhere to hide when the wind started howling.  Though, if we'd known the weather would be bad for ten days while we were stuck on the boat, we may have simply carried on.

Making minor repairs while at Farquhar
Making minor repairs while at Farquhar

Who knows what would have happened.  The weather turned bad, Farquhar was there, we hopped in.  The next day I was stir-crazy.  What do you do on a boat when you're stuck in one place and can't go ashore?  You get creative.  The 60 tomatoes given to us by Elvis and his wife turned into tomato bread, salsa, tomato soup, stir-fry... need a tomato recipe?  I got 'em all.  I cooked fish in more ways than I knew existed, and filled our fridge and freezer with vacuum-packed bags of what we didn't eat.  I tend to do this when there's nothing else to do - I decide our normal fare isn't good enough, and get fancy.  I don't hear anyone complaining...

Mom and I also got out the sewing machine and some fabric I'd gotten for my birthday and made up skirts for ourselves.  That filled two days.  Elvis saw the machine out one time he came by for a visit, and the next day called up asking if I could hem some of their (massive) tablecloths.  No worries!  We'll meet you on the beach.  And drop you off on the beach.  And - long story short, we got a nice walk on the beach out of it.

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