myWanderlust regular Liz Cleere sails from the Maldives to Malaysia, relishing the voyage, but also thrilled to arrive at her destination
Seeing land for the first time after an ocean passage brings a rush of relief, joy and humility. All thoughts of the journey evaporate and suddenly nothing becomes more important than reaching your target. And that's how we felt as the silhouette of Pulau Weh – Indonesia's northernmost tip – appeared through a primeval sunrise, revealing volcanic hills covered in thick forest and wisps of mist.
When we'd set sail from the Maldives towards Malaysia 12 days earlier, the only thing on our minds had been the passage ahead: 2,500km of ocean and adventure lay between our anchorage in Malé and the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club. Having patched and repaired the wounds our boat Esper had suffered during a storm, we set off into the blue.
The highest point in the Maldives is 2.5m above sea level, and by the end of the first day the last palm tree had disappeared below the horizon. We were now alone at sea, with no land in sight. A south-westerly blew from behind, and a steady current pushed us along, perfect conditions for sailing. And fishing: I fed out my trolling line, keen to catch supper with one of our new lures.
In the Red Sea the fish had been plentiful: tuna, barracuda, Spanish mackerel and mahi-mahi provided our daily protein intake. During the 13 days we spent at sea this time, we had to survive on canned tuna and pulses because the only fish I caught was one small trevally.
At first I blamed my failure on the over-fishing highlighted by Simon Reeve in his TV documentary, Indian Ocean. But when we sailed through a frenzy of leaping tuna the size of dogs and I still hadn't caught anything – the final indignity was when one jumped over my line – I dusted off the fishing manual.
Leaping fish were not the only memorable encounters we had with wildlife. After the initial horror of watching a masked booby dive onto my hook, we hauled the bird aboard where it spewed mouthfuls of seawater, had a two-hour rest, and then resumed its solitary wanderings.
We also freed two green turtles trapped in a tangle of net, and were elated as we watched them swim away.
The lowest point of the crossing was when the rudder of our autopilot fell off, which meant steering by hand in two-hour shifts for the remaining eight days. But my greatest thrill was being alone at night on the sea, with a warm breeze brushing my face, Scorpius stretching across the sky and phosphorescent spangles streaming off the dolphins that danced around the yacht.
On day 12, Pulau Weh reared up on the horizon. A day later we were in fabulous Langkawi, a duty-free island of plenty. We stocked up in modern supermarkets bursting with groceries; trawled fruit and veg markets stuffed with exotic leaves, durian and mangtosteen; perused fish markets selling prawns as big as your fist. We joined tourists and locals in laid-back beach bars and roadside cafes.
It was good to be on land. It was great to finally be at our destination.
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