Warning about Salomon Atoll, Chagos
Published: 2008-10-28 08:50:46
Countries: BIOT (Chagos)
According to a mail we just received, yet another yacht has been lost in Salomon Atoll, Chagos. Since we know the area quite well we would like to issue the following warning to fellow cruisers:
Salomon Atoll, Chagos
Anchorage off Takamaka and Fouquet Islands
This is the preferred anchorage during the SE-Trades giving good shelter from the SSE to the NE.
Even if the SE'lies have been blowing steadily for days on end, it is possible for a sudden violent squall from the NW to occur turning a once peaceful anchorage into a lee shore. With windspeeds of 25-40 knots, these squalls coming through the pass will quickly build up a considerable swell and cause nasty breaking waves on the shallow sandbank between Takamaka and Fouquet, a potentially disastrous situation for any yacht anchored on the bank. The squalls are often very localized and many occur without warning whatsoever, no fall in barometric pressure, no predictions in the weather forecasts, no tell-tale signs in the sky.
This doesn't happen on a regular basis and not very frequently, but it does happen every once in a while - and often at night when you cannot really go anywhere for lack of visibility in an atoll strewn with reefs.
Here an account of our personal experience:
June 29, 2002 - perfect weather, steady SE'lies of 15 knots, blue skies, puffy clouds, we are anchored on the sandbank
June 30, 2002 - just after midnight the wind abruptly switches to NW gusting 35 knots. Although the boat is bucking wildly our anchor holds, but just in case we have both engines (catamaran) running in stand-by. We are lucky.
Not so lucky was the Canadian yacht Lasqueti. Although they were anchored off the bank in the calmer deeper water they ended up on the reef and the big ferro-cement boat sank within minutes. They had possibly misjudged the distance to the reef or their anchor dragged - nobody knows.
Although the shallow sandbank is tempting, we since choose to anchor off Fouquet or Takamaka in deeper waters around 20-25 metres, well off the reef, where the swell does not build up as much, always pulling hard on the anchor with both engines to make sure it is truly set.
We have witnessed a few close calls since then and have just been told of yet another boat lost in that very situation only a few weeks ago.
WHEN ANCHORING OFF TAKAMAKA/FOUQUET ALWAYS KEEP IN MIND THAT SUDDEN VIOLENT SQUALLS FROM THE NW CAN OCCUR ANYTIME!
This applies to the season of the SE-trades. During the time of the NW-monsoon, for obvious reasons, the recommended anchorage in Salomon Atoll is off Boddam Island.
Fair winds and happy sailing
Heinz and Patricia