Tag Archives: cocos keeling

Cocos to Rodrigues, Completed

Day 11 – Windy/bumpy all day. 195 miles noon to noon. Frustrating not to hit 200, though we probably would if I chose a slightly different 24 hour period. Our speed always seems to be over 9 knots, but of course with the waves we’re never sailing in a straight line.

We lost our hydrogenerator today. That is, the blades once again broke off the propeller. The $400 propeller…

It was a pretty day…sunny…but we stayed inside due to the occasional spray dowsing the cockpit/deck. For the night we have triple reefed the main, and reefed the jib a little as well. Tomorrow they say it is going to blow even harder. Hopefully it will be more from the east (behind us), not from the south (hitting us broadside). If the latter it will be a wild and crazy ride! 350 miles to go.

Day 12 – The wind stayed mostly south, and it’s been a wild and crazy ride. Almost impossible to sleep last night, until you were so worn out you just didn’t care what was happening around you; then you might pass out for an hour. It’s not easy for me to describe, and probably hard for you to imagine. For starters there is the whoosh of water rushing by your ear at 10+ knots, while your berth is moving around like a carnival ride. That’s the relatively pleasant part. The water is very lumpy, of course, and some of those lumps get between the catamaran’s hulls and slam into the bridge deck — the structure that connects the hulls, that comprises the floor of the pilothouse, and the underside of my berth. Some lumps hit with a dull thud. Others hit like a wrecking ball, with a deafening crash and an impact that wracks the entire boat. It feels like the boat, and the crew, are being shaken apart.

Then there is the weird wail emanating from the wind generator. It has an internal brake that kicks in at about 35 knots, so the blades don’t spin themselves into oblivion. The brake has the vibrato electronic hum of a Jedi warrior’s light saber in combat, but with an intensity more like the air horn of a large truck closing fast and wanting to pass. Go ahead — picture each of those, and then add them together. Lying in bed, this wail tells you that the wind is still howling outside at 35+ knots.

Then there are the waves that break against the side of the hull, since we are sailing crosswise to the wind/waves. This brings another kind of crash, and it lifts the boat up sideways as though it might flip it over, and sheets of salt spray fly at the pilothouse windows. All the hatches are closed except for one on the sheltered/downwind side. One wave sent such solid water over the top of the pilothouse that it splashed in that open hatch.

This all occurs in the dark, of course. You can’t see the waves coming. The hardest thing on one’s stomach is the anticipation — when you hear one about to hit, and feel the boat begin to lift, you brace yourself for what may or may not come next. The ones under the bridge deck come with no warning — just a sudden impact from below. It would be foolhardy to try to stand without at least one hand firmly on a handhold.

One wave lifted our man-overboard horseshoe buoy out of its bracket on the lifelines. It caught on a line on deck, so it didn’t go overboard, and it’s strobe light began to flash. A bonus feature of the carnival ride: visual chaos. It was almost funny going out to retrieve it — trying to do it quickly before a wave drenched me, yet being blinded by the flash of the strobe.

Add to the general pandemonium the items flying about the cabin. Books flying off of shelves where they had been securely (apparently not) wedged in place. My plastic glass of water flying off the table to the floor. Locker doors unlatching and banging open and shut. Our hard plastic granola container crashing to the floor and spilling its contents. Silverware rattling. Dishes (and a Thermos, a coffee maker, and miscellaneous other items) banging about in the sink, where they had been put to keep them from flying elsewhere. Plus the surprisingly loud sucking/gurgling sound made by the sink drain as waves rush by its exit. The bilge pump alarm suddenly trumping all other noises for twenty seconds, while some of the seawater that finds its way into our engine rooms gets returned to the sea.

Underlying it all is the constant gnawing fear of whether the boat and rig can withstand the unending pounding. Can the crew…?

At dawn the tension eases somewhat. The waves don’t look as awful as they are imagined in the dark. The wind eases back to 30 knots, instead of 35. It’s a sunny day, and that lifts ones spirits even on a day when the priorities are to get some food down and get some sleep. Ideally we would bear off and run with the waves, and it would be much easier, probably even fun. But that is not an option, as we would miss Rodrigues. We have to hold our crosswise course. The wind is ever so slightly aft, which I am very thankful for. Just a little more forward and the crashing and banging would increase dramatically. It is tempting to bear off just a little. But what if the wind goes even higher (in strength or direction)? We would have to make up that lost distance to windward, and it could be more difficult then than what we are experiencing now. So our course is just a couple degrees to windward of our destination, those few degrees providing a very slim margin of error/safety. 250 miles to go. If we can keep our speed up (without breaking anything important) we can have just one more night of this, and arrive in daylight tomorrow.

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Later in the day the wind gusted up to 40 knots. And while we were talking about lowering the mainsail altogether (it was already triple reefed), a wave picked up the back of the boat and sent us surfing at 22 knots! That is a record for No Regrets, and it is a record that I have no desire to break! Needless to say, we dropped the mainsail, and we have been sailing with just a reefed jib since. At nightfall it seems to be calming down (again), though the prediction is for continued high winds through the night.

Noon to noon run was 206 nautical miles. We even got an email from Jimmy Cornell congratulating us on an impressive run!

Day 13 – By noon we were entering Port Mathurin harbor on Rodrigues. Twelve days and a few hours to cover 2,000 miles. We just managed to clear in before everyone shuts down at 4pm. And we had a beer and dinner with Chris from Tom Tom, who safely made it in yesterday. I’m very much looking forward to some real sleep!

Our passage was fast. But it has been the most unpleasant passage I have ever made. Glad to have it behind me. We lost one spinnaker; broke the sock used to raise and lower another; lost the blades off our hydrogenerator; had our wind generator shake loose from its brackets (but it is already back together and functioning); the throttle control for one engine is not working, the temperature sensor failed but came back on the other. And we lost three fishing lures while catching no fish. Par for this course, perhaps…?

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Photos of waves never capture their majesty, their vastness, their power, or even their height. But these should give you an idea…

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Looking astern at the mountain of water approaching can be particularly daunting.

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Rodrigues in sight

 

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Port Mathurin, Rodrigues

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cocos (Keeling) Islands

This place is unlike any place we have been. For starters, what place has parentheses in the official form of its name?! Cocos is two atolls, 15 miles apart. The northern one is small, no harbor, no people. The southern atoll is a ring of islands around a lagoon four miles across. Three islands are of importance — Direction Island, Home Island and West Island. Culturally, each is entirely different from the others.

Direction Island is where we are anchored — in fact, it is the only place where yachts are allowed to anchor. The anchorage is beautiful and well protected, and the island has the nicest beach of the atoll. But nobody lives on Direction Island. Twice a week a ferry comes here from Home Island, two miles away, and brings people who want to “go to the beach.” There are several little shelters…walking trails…a big cistern of rainwater…a few hammocks and beach chairs…a barbecue hearth…and a wifi internet router that we can access right from the boat… Except on ferry days, it is just us yachties. No fishing boats, nobody paddling out asking for handouts. Just sitting on the boat in the trade winds and gazing at the beach and palm trees is delightful.

Home Island is where the people of Malay descent live — about 500 people, very Muslim. There is a well stocked grocery store, though prices are high — a banana costs about $2. There is a restaurant that opens on certain nights if there is enough interest…a post office…a bank that opens for a few hours a week…a primary school…the Shire Office, where we pay $50 (Australian) to anchor here for a week…a marine services building with impressive tools and equipment…a crafts shop that they opened for us when we showed interest (but nothing compelling inside)…several other little shops…and a fuel depot that opens at 7:30am for one hour twice a week, and two hours on Fridays. No cars, but some golf carts and motorbikes and 4-wheelers. The pace is pleasantly slow.

Then there is West Island, with ferry service from Home Island half a dozen times a day ($2.50 each way; half hour ride). About 150 people live on West Island, most of them white, most of them government workers and their families, and ex-government-workers who liked it here and didn’t go back home to Australia. There is an airport with a few flights per week. (And apparently the USA would like to base a fleet of drones there.) There is a well stocked grocery store…some tourist shops (but not many tourists; as TC says, most Australians have never heard of Cocos)…a “hotel”…not much else. It all seems rather unreal…artificial…out of place. It’s all pretty high end, over-infrastructured. There is a bus that makes three stops, mostly because the ferry landing is several kilometers from the “town.”

The division between the Malays on one island and the Aussies on the other, plus the yachties separate is…well…interesting. I don’t mean this in a negative way. It was an interesting history that even got this atoll inhabited in the first place, and then its strategic geographic importance gives it additional unusual history. You might want to read about it on Wikipedia. The Malay people originally were brought here in the 1800’s as a harem (and slaves) for a white sea captain who wanted to create his own little world apart. The recent incorporation into Australia was agreed to by a close-to-unanimous vote.

We are 600 miles from the southern tip of Sumatra, and 1100 miles from Western Australia.

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To get to Home Island we have to take the dinghy two miles through waters studded with coral. We managed to find our way through it all until we grounded 50 yards from the jetty! Later in the day I noticed that there was a lot of water in the dinghy. But it might have been the combination of rain showers plus the spray we shipped on the two mile ride back. So I just pumped it out and forgot about it, until I was in bed and almost asleep. I got up to check, and found four inches of water aboard! After pumping it again I lifted the dinghy on our davits for the night.

I feared in the morning I would look under the bow and see a big crack or a hole, and we’d have to figure out a way to epoxy it before we could go anywhere. But I saw no damage under the bow. So we dumped several buckets of water into the boat to see if it would leak out. Sure enough, it appeared that the drain plug in the back was dripping. The plug has always felt rather loose, so we wrapped tape around it, like you might do on a plumbing joint. But it made no difference. Closer inspection revealed that it wasn’t the plug, but the fitting it plugs into that was leaking. It was tricky to take that fitting apart, but we did it and we drew upon out vast collection of O rings to put it back together with no leak. Fixed — in time to still dinghy into Home Island and catch the ferry to West Island for our exploration there. Apparently it was pure coincidence that the leak developed on the same day when we grounded the dinghy.

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Another little coincidence: I took advantage of the rainwater ashore, and I shaved for the first time in 6 weeks. Later I put on my dive mask so I could scrape the barnacles off the bottom of the boat. With my beard gone, I expected to have an improved watertight seal of my mask against my face. Instead I found that water was rapidly coming in, and I couldn’t get a good seal at all! How weird that shaving would have that backwards effect. But later I took a closer look at my mask, and discovered that the purge valve had come loose. It was a five minute fix.

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Today is fuel day. Since we motored so much before we picked up the trade winds, we want to get some diesel. The cost is nearly $8 (US) per gallon here, but I’d rather not be worrying about running out on our upcoming passage. It isn’t easy to get, though, since the depot is only open from 7:30am to 9:30am today (it’s Friday, when they stay open the extra hour), and we will have to make two dinghy trips to get the 20 gallons we want. Plus we will have to buy petrol/gasoline to fuel the long dinghy rides.

Then we will attempt to check out, so we are free to leave over the weekend, when the police won’t be working. The police boat is nearby checking a yacht in (five more boats have arrived since Maggie got here!). The police say they will stop by after to clear us. And today is laundry day. I’m going to take my bedding ashore to wash in the rainwater, as it is a good drying day today. (Now that the squalls have gone away, it is beautiful beautiful beautiful here.)

Tomorrow is shopping-for-produce day. We are told that a freighter arrives today with produce, so tomorrow morning is the time to stock up. We want a two week supply for our run to Rodrigues.

After shopping we might leave. No hurry though…maybe we will stay another day. Our mooring fee and our internet fee are both for a week, so staying another day is “free.” We will study the wind predictions, but I don’t think a day will make much difference, one way or the other. We’ll see what Maggie wants to do…

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I feel so GOOD here! The air temperature is warm, but the constant wind feels cool. The anchorage is protected, the holding solid — makes for sound sleep. Shaving makes me feel lighter, as does cutting my hair, which I did just before leaving Padang. Our needs for food and fuel, and for dealing with the authorities, are getting met. It is quiet — we are far from the generators and the mosque in town. The things that have been going wrong are getting fixed quickly. We splurged and bought a case of expensive beer. The good internet has allowed me to get my “fix” of online Scrabble with Hallie. Swimming is wonderful, the water clean and clear (and the sharks are pretty small and don’t bother you). The air is clear and clean. I now have clean sheets and pillow cases. I washed my hair. My body feels good; my soul feels good; no worries; no hurry.

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Motoring out from Sumatra

 

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Motoring out from Sumatra

 

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Listening to audiobooks, staying in the shade, motoring out from Sumatra

 

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Hard to see, but there is a skinny waterspout to the left of the break in the rain

 

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Still leaving Sumatra…

 

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Our anchorage in Cocos

 

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Nice to be welcomed!

 

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Some of these, such as “shopping center,” are overstated…

 

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Kids’ mural in the Shire Office. Not sure how much an umbrella will help in adapting to climate change, but interesting…
Ferry
Ferry

 

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Switching to West Island now…downtown

 

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West Island events/news

 

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West Island

 

Bus stop, by the hotel
Bus stop, by the hotel

 

TC doesn't like having his photo posted, so this might be he with Tim waiting for the bus.
TC doesn’t like having his photo posted, so this might be he with Tim waiting for the bus.

 

School
School

 

Walking along the airstrip I was surprise to see a radar speed feedback sign (over-infrastructure?), and further surprised that it told me I was walking at 5 KPH!
Walking along the airstrip I was surprise to see a radar speed feedback sign (over-infrastructure?), and further surprised that it told me I was walking at 5 KPH!

 

...and surprised again when it gave me a happy face, presumably because I was not exceeding the speed limit!
…and surprised again when it gave me a happy face, presumably because I was not exceeding the speed limit!

 

Recycling is big, but they don't allow us to take any waste ashore, so not for us.
Recycling is big, but they don’t allow us to take any waste ashore, so not for us.

 

Bob is back, aboard Maggie again this time.
Bob is back, aboard Maggie again this time.

 

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The police come to the boat for clearing in and out.
The police come to the boat for clearing in and out.

 

Back to Direction Island
Back to Direction Island

 

Direction Island
Direction Island

 

Yachties leave their 'signature' on Direction.
Yachties leave their ‘signature’ on Direction.

 

Drying my laundry
Drying my laundry

 

Black-tip shark alongside the boat
Black-tip shark alongside the boat

 

Strange looking customs patrol ship shared our anchorage, and the young crew came ashore at Direction to get an hour of Internet.
Strange looking customs patrol ship shared our anchorage, and the young crew came ashore at Direction to get an hour of Internet.

 

Maggie
Maggie

 

Looking Ahead

Vika asked about the route ahead, and I guess it is time for an update. In two weeks we will rendezvous with our new crew, TC, somewhere this side of Padang (middle of western coast of Sumatra). Then we will sail to Padang as our departure point from Indonesia. Luc will meet our fleet of two there. And there’s a chance we will connect with one or more other boats headed in the same direction, and grow our fleet.

In Padang our focus will be on first trying to rid the boat of an infestation of tiny red ants, and then on provisioning for crossing the Indian Ocean. Weather permitting, we plan to depart Padang on May 11. We will probably still anchor at a couple of the Indonesian islands on our way south, even though technically we aren’t supposed to after clearing out. We need to get south to get out of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ, aka the doldrums) to find wind. Padang is essentially right on the equator, which is why we have calms and squalls and shifting breezes in all directions. South lie the trade winds that will get us across an ocean.

South also is the Australian island of Cocos Keeling. We hope to stop there, because it sounds like an interesting place, and because it would break up the long passage. But it is a toss-up whether the wind will allow us to get there without beating to windward. If the wind is in our face, we will skip Cocos and head west, destination Rodrigues (part of the country of Mauritius). And subsequently on to Mauritius proper. There we will have another hiatus of two months, and I will fly home for a break.

Yes, Vika, the original plan was to go to India and cross the northern Indian Ocean to the Red Sea. When the BPOers decided that the Middle East was not a good place to be, and we would sail around Africa instead, that changed the schedule (hence this long period cruising SE Asia, as we wait for cyclone season to end) as well as shifting the route to the southern Indian Ocean. I’m happy with the change; I’m just champing at the bit to head back out to sea.