Thursday, May 14, 2020

Maldives Update - Steel Sapphire

Here is the Maldives Update from Steel Sapphire. The original post is at 
Here in Malaysia, Pangkor Island Marina owner, James Khoo, tried to get one of the islands to be used as a 'quarantine island'. The government was unable to come up with a resolution since nobody wanted to stick their neck out to allow foreigners into the country because so many of the cases have been 'imported'.
UPDATE: 02/05/20
Thanks so much to everyone for the outpouring of support and advice in response to this blog.
In the 2 days since we posted this, we’ve had a huge response, approximately 6,000 people have read it and we’ve received over 250 messages so far, mostly from friends, family and concerned cruisers around the world.

Two tangible and positive things have happened in these last 48 hours.
The first is that we’ve been given unrestricted daylight hours access to an uninhabited island about 5 miles from Uligan, in the NW corner of the atoll…which also happens to be the best spot for us to anchor now that the West winds have set in.
It’s a lovely island, and is already having a noticeable impact on the morale of the 10 boats who remain here. We’ve also been assured by our agent that the Maldives authorities do not intend to unceremoniously ask us to leave - the scary "prepare to leave” message they sent last week was more a “heads up" in case the situation continued to deteriorate.
The virus is continuing its spread, so it might yet happen, but the tone of the communication is definitely more positive.
The second development is that the Australian High Commission in Colombo, in conjunction with the US and Canadian embassies) is actively trying to organise a safe harbour option in Sri Lanka for those yachts in Maldives who want to take them up on it.
It’s still under negotiation, and I’m not sure if it would be anyone’s first choice (the most likely destination, Galle, is not a great place for yachts, and the backup, Trincomalee, while much more pleasant, is still a bit exposed in the SW monsoon. Plus, it’s in the cyclone belt), but it’s great that they’re working on it, and it would be good to have up our sleeve if the Maldives do end up asking us to leave before anywhere else has opened their borders.
So all in all, things are definitely feeling a fair bit more positive than just 48 hours ago.
Many of the ideas and suggestions that people have been making were written in the context of us having no choice if we were asked to leave here suddenly.
I don’t want to speak too soon, but if our current situation holds, and the Maldives continue to allow us to be here, then it buys us some time to try and make the best decision we can about where to go.
Malaysia or Thailand are still the best choice for us IF we think it’s going to take 12-18 months to sort out this whole Covid-19 schmozzle. Which it may, or may not. And if we can’t get in there, then finding a way to get back to Australia with or without the boat is the fallback.
In that scenario, positioning ourselves in Tanzania (currently open) or Seychelles or Reunion (potentially opening soon) would not be a great option, as I don’t see those destinations being a practical place for us to stay for that length of time.
On the other hand, it we thought that normal cruising could resume in the next few months, we would regret heading back east towards Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei or Australia, only to have to retrace our steps.
So our decision (if we have the luxury of making it ourselves) is really all about one question and one question alone: “Will normal cruising resume later this year, early next year, or some time later than that”.
And where we go next needs to be driven almost entirely by our answer to that key question.
Obviously we have insufficient data to answer it with any confidence right now. It will involve a guess and a gamble whenever we have to choose, but the later we can make that decision the better our data will be.
So our current strategy is all about maximising the length of time we can stay in the Maldives, to gather as much data as we can to inform that guess, while doing everything we can to open up the more desirable long term bolt holes if that’s the path we end up choosing.
In the meantime, thanks again for all the support - it’s been overwhelming and incredibly helpful.

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