Friday, December 9, 2016

The Trials and Tribulations of the Indian Ocean

A little too close for comfort! And on a collision course!
After our challenging exit from the Gili Gede harbor through the pearl farms and to the Start Line at Desert Point, we logged our starting information and began Leg 10 of the World ARC by ourselves. The passage we have most dreaded was the Indian Ocean. And there we were going it alone!

The fast moving current that flows southerly through the Lombok Channel gave us a good start. At times we were close to 14 knots over ground. That concerned me as it is much greater than our stated hull speed. Dennis was sleeping most of the day with his intestinal infection and medications. and I didn't want to wake him. 

There was a lot of freighter traffic in the Lombok Channel.
The run out through the channel was fun until we reached the point where the outward flow met the open ocean. Then all hell broke loose! Suddenly the swells coming at us were 10-12’ high and we were still going quickly into them. The wind was gusting in the high 20’s and the boat was loving it, but I was not!  The swells were gigantic and hitting us on the beam. It was time for me to get the Captain up on deck!

Lovely sunsets all the way.
We reefed the genoa and settled the course, but it was still an uncomfortable heel to starboard. Then to add to the drama of the day, a huge freighter was also steaming out of the channel and directly across my line of sail. I kept turning to port to ease off his path, but it was still too close for comfort. The cargo ship never altered it course even though it was driving me further off mine and into a closer haul than I cared for. Once he passed us, it was back on course with the hope of a good sail. Sailing – something we haven’t done much of since the winds were so light on the way to Lombok.

We were two days behind the fleet and hoped to catch them just as they would be leaving Christmas Island after a 48-hour rest there. In less than an hour, the wind died! Here we go again: motor sailing. Think about driving across the USA at the speed of 6-8 miles an hour! UGH! There goes the fuel we just put in!

As we were arriving at Christmas Island, many boats
were already on their way to Cocos Keeling.
It is 620 nm to Christmas Island and another 525 nm to Cocos Keeling, both Australian islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Motoring the whole way would drain our fuel and drive us crazy. We hoped we would be able to sail all the way – NOT!

We did use the current to our advantage. I had listened to the fleet on the VHF as they left Lombok and they were all complaining about a strong current against them – even to the point of holding them to under 3 knots of forward momentum. A couple of sailors we met in Australia shared an App with us to show us the currents. This was a godsend as we went well south of the rhumb line to find a fast east to west current and rode it all the way across to Christmas Island! At times we were covering 9-10 knots over ground. Adding 2-3 knots per hour helped us put the miles behind us as we averaged 188 nm per day for the first two days. We usually hope to get 140-150 nm per day.

While at sea, I was emailing via the satellite phone at an ungodly rate per minute trying to order the parts we needed for the generator. The suppliers in Australia failed to follow up with me. We hadn’t been able to back flush the water maker membranes without the generator. It will probably mean replacing them in South Africa. Delta, Alpha, Mike, November and $$$.

The little blue dot shows our position on Google Earth.
The three of us did a good job of conserving water: Dennis and Don were not shaving, we only did dishes once a day, we did drink as much as we needed, we didn’t wash clothes or take showers (you didn’t want to be close to us!), but we did sponge bathe. And washing hair-NOT. I have a tee shirt that says: Boat Hair, Don’t Care! But I really wanted to shampoo it.

The World ARC tried to help us secure parts and get them to Cocos Keeling. We appreciate the effort they have put into it. Unfortunately, the dealers and service centers have not been as helpful. There wasn’t much we could do at sea without Internet access. This may mean no repair until Mauritius which is a month away! That is a long time to be on one tank of water.

Our immediate goal was to catch up to the fleet with or without a stop in Christmas Island.

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