May 10, 2015

Weathering the Maldivian Weather

watching a squall come in over the reef

We’ve spent the past few days hunkering down between fast bursts of sailing south—when we have moved it’s been with a cautious eye on the weather and an equally careful search of the charts. When we get in we want to know exactly what to expect from an anchorage and have a fairly clear idea where we’ll be dropping the hook. Thanks goodness for google earth--and the Maldivian's unique use of 'stick' navigation (sticks often mark reef passes) if we had to rely on charts of this region we'd be far less adventurous.

a few seconds later the island (and our bows) disappeared in the rain
Our goal is to keep making our way south through the Maldives as the south west monsoon sets in: A goal that’s complicated by the fact that we really haven’t got a clear understanding of what to expect from the south west monsoon season—especially because as our climate changes, long-reliable seasons just aren’t that predictable anymore.

it's not all like this...
When we’re passage making, we tend to use the big picture weather providers: and download GRIBS and satellite pictures to get a sense of trends and forecasts. Once we get to a new country though—especially one that’s 99% sea, we tend to look more at local resources to get a handle on weather and current patterns. In the case of the Maldives we check in with local forecasts as well as with the local fishermen.

Since ancient times, the Maldivian people have organized their lives around two seasonal weather patterns. Every year has two monsoons, the north east monsoon or Iruvai and the south west monsoon called Hulhangu. Iruvai means hot and dry and Hulhangu means hot and wet. Historically Hulhangu starts on April 8 and is divided into 18 nakaiy, thirteen or fourteen day periods that help people determine the best times to fish, travel and plant crops. Technically the nakaiy should also help tell us when to sail south—but the feedback we’re getting from local fishermen is the nakaiy ain’t what they used to be, so we should use the historical info with a grain of salt.

the good news is you can still snorkel in the rain
Right now though the nakaiy seems to be right on track. The period from May 6-19 is called Kethi and traditionally consists of dark clouds, frequent rains and storms—making it a good time to burn leaves and sew crops but not such a good time to travel or fish for tuna.

The good news is that if Kethi does follow its typical patterns we should get a decent period of calm starting in a few days (that would be for the crop planting). Right now though, we’re tucked in behind a big wide reef with the tuna fleet anchored behind us. Wind is roaring through our rigging and we’re all catching up on long neglected chores, book reading and movie watching. And we're dreaming of days where we see sunsets. And the sun.

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