Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Christmas Island: The Land of Crabs

It was a long and wet dinghy ride to the dock.
Here we are on this little dog-shaped island in the eastern Indian Ocean. There is nothing else around it! And it is the friendliest place on earth. Being the last boat to arrive here, we missed out on all of the group activities of transporting fuel and water from shore to the yachts. Apparently, the fleet endured these tasks in a heavy rainfall. Tours were cancelled due to inclement weather.

Just when it looked like we were on our own to cart jerry cans up and down the hill from the marina to the gas station and back, the friendly locals stepped up.

It is a very long and steep walk up the hill and down the other side to the fuel station and it would require many trips. There really wasn’t a taxi service here even though the harbormaster supposedly runs one. We were told that often the locals will give you a ride if you stick your thumb out. Everyone was very friendly.

It poured rain the whole time we were there!
Dennis and Don went to the fuel station with four empty jerry cans and came back in a very big truck with a total of 10 filled jerry cans to transport from the dock to the dinghy. This isn’t a typical dock; it is very big, long and multi-leveled so it is a long haul from the truck to the dinghy. They made several more runs for fuel and topped off both tanks as there will not be any more fuel until Mauritius which is nearly 3000 nm from here.

Since we don’t know when we will get the parts for the generator starter motor, they also carried a number of jerry cans of water to the boat and filled our tank. By the time they were finished going back and forth with water and fuel, they were exhausted. It took one full day! And, of course, it rained all day.

This was our ride for the week. Three in the cab, but
we stayed relatively dry and it made the hill easy to climb.
Again, there is limited water available to us in Cocos Keeling so we may have to make this last to Mauritius! That will be a month without a really good shower! Hopefully it will be cooler as we go south and I won’t be as “glistening” as I have been up here in the tropics. My hair is constantly wet from the unlady-like word: sweat!

This was our YB Tracker path from Lombok
It has been raining here on Christmas Island since the morning after we arrived. I am talking pouring as in monsoon-type rain. There is no break in the cloud cover and it pours 24 hours a day. Everything is wet or damp and it is warm and, obviously, humid so we sweat with raingear on too. Apparently, this is very unusual weather, but unfortunately it has kept us from exploring the island – other than the Visitor Center for internet and the pub for camaraderie with the rest of the fleet.

The owner of the truck from the fuel station has given it to us to use as often as we like. It sure helps me as walking up that hill is killing my hip with bursitis. It is about 2 km from the dock to the Visitors' Center. While it is improving, sitting for days on the boat during a passage and then strenuous walking are not a good mix. I am actually taking Turmeric tablets and it is helping more than the Advil to reduce the inflammation. And easier on my stomach and liver!

Everyone spent a lot of time here in the Visitors' Center
using the Internet. It was the gathering place.
Part of the fleet left for Cocos Keeling the day we arrived at Christmas Island. They ran into some bad weather with 30-40 knots of wind and swells of 5-7 meters (multiply that by 3 and you are just a little short  when converting to feet).

Several of them have had damage to sails, electronics, etc. One boat was hit with a huge wave and flooded their saloon and did electrical damage.

As a result, there are still seven of us here in the harbor debating as to when to leave. It seems the forecast changes every few hours and besides our own models, we get updates from the World ARC, the harbormaster and Australian warship that is cruising around the area.

For the first time on this journey, I am a little anxious about the passage. I have only been seasick twice in the past 3000 nm since we left Sydney. But the conditions have been relatively benign compared to these forecasts. And one of our ARC boats came upon a half sunken sailboat with the masts still above the water! We know the area to avoid, but no one knows anything about the boat or its occupants. Scary! It is time to get the “big girl” toughness in my head and prepare for the passage.

Here are some facts about Christmas Island:

The famous red crab!
Christmas Island is a nature-lover’s dream with the magical migration of tens of millions (per the tourist info) of Red Crab from their rainforest burrows to the sea, actually closing roads and having special rules on the golf course to protect them if they are in the line of play. The rangers have built crab grids and bridges to help them in their annual migration. They ceremonially march into the sea to lay their eggs and the sea turns red with the numbers of Red Crabs in it.

The annual red crab march to the sea. Roads close for them!
There is also the giant Robber Crap, which is the same as the Pacific Island Coconut Crab, but here they are protected and have no predators so they grow as large as football (I am assuming a soccer ball) and live 50-70 years. They warn you to keep shiny objects away from them as the Robber Crab tends to take off with them, even pots and pans and silverware!
Robber crab

There are over 200 species of coral in the local waters; around 80,000 seabirds nest on the island annually, with over 100 vagrant and migrating bird species. There are more than 600 species of fish and over 180 species of land, shore and water crabs found here. As many as 213 native plant species grow here, with 17 of those being endemic. The island also claims 23 breeding or resident bird species, with 7 endemic, including one of the largest Sula birds in the world, the Abbott’s Booby. Maybe that is what rode along on our aft deck a few days ago. And it is the site of some of the best scuba diving in the world.

Not bad for an island with the population of about 1,500. Australia took claim to Christmas Island in 1958 having been annexed by Britain in 1888. After phosphate deposits were found, the population grew from the imported workers of Chinese, Malays and Sikhs, who laid the foundation for today’s culturally diverse community. This colorful mixture of cultures creates the opportunity for many traditions, celebrations and festivals, as well as ethnic foods. It is a lovey community with beautiful and friendly people who don’t think they are isolated from the world.

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