The celebrated French yachstman, Bernard Moitessier, spent six weeks on Diego Garcia in the 1950s and tells the story of his dramatic arrival and enforced sojourn on Chagos in his book ‘Un Vagabond des mers du sud’, and translated into English as ‘Sailing to the Reefs’.
The book begins in the Indian Ocean on 4 Sept 1952, 85 days after the author’s departure from Singapore, alone on board his yacht, the Marie-Thérèse.
Off Diego Garcia huge waves drag him onto the coral, but he is able to reach the beach, where he abandons his badly damaged boat and goes to get help.
The yacht is shattered, but Moitessier nevertheless described his time on Diego Garcia as “one of the most treasured periods of my life, and this in spite of the fact that the loss of my boat was still so recent. … The Diego Garcia atoll is run by families from Mauritius and the Seychelles, and you need to have lived among these people to understand what the words ‘family’ and ‘hospitality’ mean to them, and to realize how impossible it would be to try to translate them into a European language.”
Two months after the wreck, Moitessier left Diego aboard the British corvette Loch Glendhu. His next stop would be St Brandon where he spends several months managing the fishing and guano business in order to save enough money to build a new yacht.