To My Dear Friends,
Four years ago today New World, the Lyle Hess 32.5 design was in the Indian Ocean. Just wanted to share with you what was an oddessy. For those who wish more info www.houstonchronicle.com/sail will give the entire logs.
Arrival at Cocos Island
"Land ho," I called out to Mindi as we surfed briefly off a 12-foot breaking wave. We knew that we were about to see Cocos Island off our port bow . The coconut trees could be seen at a distance of 8 miles, and within 20 minutes, the land beneath them, with the waves crashing against the shoreline .
For several minutes prior to arrival, we had a challenge with our navigation . It was due to my error in entering the waypoint on the GPS navigation as 12°35´ south and my suddenly realizing 30 miles away that we were going to have to beat south through huge seas to get to Cocos. I was devastated with the disappointment of what that meant as I turned to head into 8- to 12-foot seas.
Within 10 minutes, a larger sea hit the port side and sent most of the wave crashing over us. Mindi screamed as water began filling the cockpit , and I was without my safety harness on. I put it on in record time, and we began mopping up the water as fast as possible while the boat wallowed like a drunken man trying to walk.
But our navigational error was twofold. Mindi had accidentally misinterpreted our new chart and was reading our position as 11°05´ north. As she reread it, we realized that we were actually at 12°07´ south and heading straight for the side of Cocos. We both felt the heading had been right all along, and it didn't make sense that on the large-scale chart we were right on target, so the serious question was answered after 15 minutes. Also, our fatigue played a part in the mistakes.
Our new course was 280° instead of 210°. What a difference in boat motion and relieved nerves! The lesson was quickly driven home: double-check each other's notations, and especially the entries in the GPS We called quarantine on Channel 20 as we had been told to do at Christmas Island. They responded that we would see them at 1:30.
We arrived at 12:45 and anchored at the quarantine buoys . Here, the officials use VHF Channel 20 instead of Channel 16, as in other places. This is due to the tall coconut trees and the problem with their interference with the frequency on Channel 16 but not on Channel 20.
The first time the anchor went down in 21 feet of water, it dragged . The wind was blowing 25 knots , and it didn't take long to realize that we were dragging. On the second attempt, it held, and we turned off the engine to wait for the quarantine and Customs officials, who come out to the yachts here.
Our surroundings are spectacularly beautiful, for this is exactly what one expects from a tropical island. The name of this particular spot is Direction Island, and although it is only a mile long, it is a huge protection from the waves pounding its opposite shore .
One of the planet's prettiest places
I saw what I thought was an emergency flare. "Lee! Wake up! I think I just saw a flare!"
"What color was it?" responded my drowsy but fast-thinking skipper. The time was 04:55, and we were approaching Cocos. I described the light to my sleepy albeit astute captain . The moving light was a bright green ball that trailed an orange hue. Lee thought that I had probably seen a meteor, since flares are red.
"Man, I'm not too sure about that," which seems to be my standard Doubting Thomas response of late. Lee must be sick to death of my constant need for verification of this and that. Yet, double-checking such things as chart fixes seems more than prudent. And now, well, I just wasn't willing to stake my life (or anyone else's life who might be in a life raft ) on the idea that said light was a falling star. So, I spent the next hour as the sun came up scanning the horizon for any structure that might be the firing source of a flare. I decided to report the mystery light to Cocos officials, since we were only a few miles from this port .
I must admit that in my tiredness I pretty nearly forgot to mention this light, since our check-in officers arrived at New World several hours later. I gave them all the details I had, like our latitude and longitude position at 04:55. The thing that perplexed me the most was that the trail of this light was like an upside down "J." Flares, after all, are shot up into the air, and then they fall. Don't meteors fall straight down? I described how the light was at the 10 o'clock position from New World's bow if the boat was pointed at noon. One of the officers said that in the past they had received reports similar to mine, and it must have been a meteor.
I'm glad to be at Cocos. It's got to be one of the prettiest areas on our planet. It reminds both Lee and me of Bora-Bora, except without the buildings and tourists. Treasure Key in the Abacos, Bahamas, is reported as being one of the top 10 beaches of the world. I'm not sure who exactly has rated it as such, but given it as true, this place must be Number 1.
The shore has a pure white, sandy beach that outlines the little strip of palm-tree-lined land. There are a couple of water tanks in a rustic setting that looks like a scene from the old TV show "Petticoat Junction ." There are a couple of structures, like a picnic area or gazebo, that remind me of scenes from another old TV show, "Gilligan's Island ." This little communal area is decorated between the palms with fishing balls, nets and various nautical tidbits from visiting yachts .
We met Tim and Angie from S/V Camille. Tim is a carpenter and offered to help Lee repair our boom with reinforcement and fiberglass . Jayne and Mike arrived today on Obsession . Mike is currently working on his engine to try to save his fuel injectors from saltwater damage. There's one other boat that is moored securely, without anyone on board. There is no other boat here, and we feel like when we leave, we'll need to turn out the lights, as the saying goes. We were told that about 75 other sailboats stopped here this year, but they left for either Africa or toward Sri Lanka via stops in Indonesia.
I've often said: Hey, this cruising thing isn't always much of a dream; but I cannot say that right now. This anchorage off of Direction Island is postcard perfect, and it puts a whole new meaning to "I feel like I've died and gone to heaven."
The last couple of days have been a blur. We have had so much going on that it seems impossible we have even taken the time to eat. My priority was to get the boom fixed. It isn't fixed yet, and the primary reason is getting epoxy resin for fiberglass . Epoxy sticks to wood extremely well, whereas polyester resin doesn't. Here, either is hard to come by, but there are sources I am checking out.
Obsession has her engine running. While Mike was in the quarantine anchorage , he and I discussed his engine problem by VHF . It was clear that he had taken seawater through the exhaust system and that the water was inside his engine. I suggested that he remove the muffler hose and see if water came out when he tried to turn over the engine. It did.
It was a long ordeal for him, since he had just arrived and was tired. However, I encouraged him to stay with it. If he were to get his engine started, it had to be ASAP, which he agreed. Eventually, he got a puff of smoke and then had to wait while his wind generator recharged the batteries. Once he had enough to try again, it started.
Meanwhile, I was outside New World, removing all the hardware from the boom. There certainly is a lot of it. I had left the boom in the boom gallows for the last two days. I eventually tried putting the third reef in to slow the rolling, and it helped without worsening the severely cracked wood.
From the starboard side, with the sail removed, the series of cracks runs about the width of my armspan. In the center is the worst crack of all, but, interestingly enough, the port side has only a couple of cracks. However, the entire boom woobles sickeningly when any pressure is applied sideways.
The plan for now is to attempt a repair with a roll of fiberglass tape and epoxy resin. I have removed the sail track and all but one cleat that is stubbornly trying to stay on the boom. We got lots of mail about the various ways to repair the boom, and I really appreciate the suggestions.
Our first day ashore, we also did the laundry, which bears some description. There are only three boats here with crew, a total of six people. On shore, there is a metal shed with a tin roof, which has two huge tanks adjacent to it. When it rains, the runoff from the roof goes into the cisterns. The tap on the bottom is used for all but drinking water. So, laundry, including clotheslines, is available.
Under and all around the shed are mementoes of every description and color left by visiting yachts . Pieces of wood, bottles, buoys and even a pair of ice skates are hanging from the ceiling. One can spend hours just reading the names of the various boats that have visited here. We will get lots of pictures and video.
We have not seen water and surroundings this beautiful since Bora Bora. Four things make this an excellent anchorage : good holding ground , closeness to beach, white sand and hundreds of coconut trees without other humans crowding it.
There are some disadvantages, however: It is about 3 miles directly into the waves to get to Home Island, where the parts are to be found for the boom repair. We went in the dinghy this morning and had the misfortune of hitting a rock with the propeller , which immediately sheared the pin. Fortunately, we were in convoy, and Tim from Camille helped us to effect a repair with the two broken parts and the tip of a ballpoint pen as a spacer between the two parts.
We were then late to catch the free ferry to West Island. We managed to go to the local school and asked the teachers there if they would be interested in us speaking to their students. They were, indeed, so next Monday, we are scheduled to give a talk. The Internet is just arriving here, and there are lots of bugs to work out, but we think there are more potential V-stows here. Incidentally, the teachers raved about the students' behavior and intelligence.
Everywhere we went, there are four-wheel motorcycles as the primary mode of transportation. Home Island, like West Island and Direction Island, is very clean. The Malays live on Home Island, and their streets are clean and the houses modern and neat, all with tin roofs, which are very securely bolted down every few inches.
Anyway, we did catch the 2:30 ferry for the 30-minute ride to West Island, but we only had 30 minutes before catching the last ferry of the day back to Home Island. Then it was a 30-minute ride in the dinghy through sloppy waves to our boat home.
The weather went down the tubes today, and it clouded over and began serious blowing. When it reached 30 knots , we let out 100 more feet of chain . It is whitecaps everywhere we look. So, Mindi sent out the mail to David , which answers many questions, especially about the boom . After all, what better time to catch up on the mail than when it is raining and the Windbugger is pouring out 14 amps?
No boom repair possible today. In fact, at 4:30, the wind increased to about 45 knots, and the dinghy would have flipped had we not tied the painter hard to the boat. As it was, I went outside and was stunned to see the dinghy bow vertical and the engine just going under water. We have previously rigged a hauling harness just for such events (especially after Rangiroa ). I jumped in the dinghy while the waves, now about 3 feet, tried their best to bounce me out of it while I unfastened the outboard and handed it to Mindi.
After we finished this, we were surprised to see the crew of our neighboring boat Camille snorkeling in the water. Tim dove on our anchor and pronounced it well dug in, but we went ahead and let out almost all the chain and added a second snubber , just in case the first one departed for the depths.
I love this Lyle Hess design. The ride in these conditions is much like a 60-foot yacht , just a gentle bounce every now and again. However, the howling of the wind in the rigging is a real reminder of what is brewing outside.
I managed to sleep about 19 out of the past 24 hours and didn't feel guilty, except that I need badly to get a bath and wash my greasy hair, but other than that we are really thankful to be behind Direction Island.
A note about this island. It is the "official" designation for yacht anchorage . It affords the most protection from all but rare west winds and is the prettiest island I think I've ever seen. Special permission is required to to go to West Island, and it is a lee shore . Recently, the ship that resupplies these islands (think of a horseshoe broken in pieces) was stranded for some time here, and supplies are hard to find.
To my brother, who will be reading this: Supplies flown in must first come via Perth and then are flown in once a week. By tomorrow, I must check on possible epoxy resin sources or get it express-mailed here. Boom repair is high on our list of urgent needs. We have mail coming, but so far, it has not arrived.
Tomorrow, I will track down a couple of irritating leaks around the ports and hatches . Hope weather improves soon. Gas regulator seems on the outs. Had 70 pounds of fuel and none getting to the stove. Checked with Obsession , and he has the conversion hoses to drain one tank into another. I was about to do that, but when I removed the regulator (I thought the gauge was defective) and opened the valve, there was obviously gas in the tank. I tapped the regulator and reattached it, and it is currently working. But a lot of saltwater has gotten to it over these past months, and it is only a question of time, I think, until it quits for good.
Really appreciate the e-mail from V-stows . What a morale booster on a rainy, nasty day! We have concern for Linda aboard Viking Princess , who is solo sailing here from Darwin. She should be in about now and isn't. She is a conservative sailor and takes longer on passages, but we all watch out for each other out here.
M. Lee Gunter
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