S/V Nereida sails around the world

Mon/Tues 15/16th Oct07 Two items lost....& found!!

Mon 15th Oct

Walked around Port Mathurin - good to see it busy with shops & lots of street market stalls open, bustling with people - after sunset, the town 'dies'!! There's no-one around....!

Having visited several places, I discovered my reading specs were missing - major disaster!! Of course, I re-visited everywhere - and eventually they turned up - found on the ground outside the Tourist Office (lovely, helpful, good-English-speaking girl in there!)

Investigated hiring a scooter to tour the island - none available, so finally decided to take the local bus (19rupees) out to Point Cotton, on the far NE of the island to see the countryside en route, passing over Mt Lubin on the way, and see what was out there - excellent decision! Beautiful tamarisk wood backing onto a lovely white sand beach with the occasional black granite (basalt?) rock sticking up and waves breaking on the reef nearby. I had a lovely swim (my first for a very long time!) & relaxed on a lounger under palm-trees in the nicely-designed resort hotel pool area until the 5 o'clock bus (last one) left. At least that was the plan, until I discovered my camera was missing.... the bus driver was so understanding & helpful - "Go to the hotel - I'll wait".... Yes!! I'd dropped it while changing to return... "Il n'y a pas des voleurs ici!" (we don't have thieves here) he told me proudly when I returned triumphantly, waving the camera.... I enjoyed the scenic ride as the sun was setting, with lots of locals playing football after the day's work, everyone relaxing outside their houses & lots of 'Caribbean' music played onboard the bus as we wound our way over the mountains back to Pt Mathurin...

Tues 16th Oct

Had to move berth on jetty away from tug - they'd mended their engine & needed to test it... so it was a matter of walking the boats back to a nearby floating metal dock off the concrete jetty - big enough but very close to shallows astern... fine so long as no movement astern! But VERY early tomorrow (Wed) will have to move away from jetty completely whilst the weekly supply ship manoevres around & ties up to the jetty. Once it's safely in, we can come back to berth again - until it leaves on Thursday, early morning, but then we'll leave for Mauritius anyway - hopefully following the ship out, so no problem knowing which way to go out through reef!!!

Today was partly also spent sewing a reinforcing connection (stitching was coming undone) between a maintrack car and the sail, organising some laundry to be done (there's no laundry here so you have to find a local who's willing to do it for you!) but eventually getting out by local bus over the mountainous interior around Mt Lubin to see the southern coastal region of Rodrigues. Interesting to see how people live here and southern reef lagoon area had lots of lovely wooden double-ended fishing boats - with option to raise a simple sail to help them go downwind. Very dry land just now - they need the rain of the wet season. Later walked over to Baie des Huitres (Oyster Bay) which is a short distance to SW of Port Mathurin - a lovely bay with fishing boats but not a lot else - so walked back again.

Interestingly, because this used to be a British colony, they drive on the left-hand side of the road and all official & road signs are in English - but they mainly speak Creole or French - so it's been enjoyable practice for me chatting to them!

Sun 14Oct07 - Rodrigues Day!

Sun 14th Oct '07 ... Rodrigues Day!!

Arrived safely in Rodrigues yesterday around 3pm after an excellent night & day of sailing in 25knots, gusting 30knots, although having had a slight worry getting through outer reef with being unable to see the transit. Seeing swell crashing onto reef close by at one point and then an old wreck nearby shortly after was, to say the least, a bit disconcerting - and no-one answering on VHF16 to give advice was also not helpful. Fortunately, I was in the correct general area and with the sun out and
'eyeballing' it using the sea colour, I was able to get back into deep water and come through eventually to the marked entrance channel - from then on it was simple and I even had the CG meet me finally as I got close to the jetty they wanted me to tie up to in order to clear formalities. A big concrete jetty with only a few rusty bollards did not look inviting to tie up to but two tugs were alongside, with 'Bowtie Lady' rafted to one of them - so I opted to raft up to 'Bowtie Lady' with the bonus
of quick clearance, very friendly officials being promptly on the scene, and the ability to step onto land for the duration of my stay here. (The tug inshore has engine problems and won't be moving for some time to come.)

It then turned out that this was a holiday weekend because Sunday is Rodrigues Day - celebrating 5 years of the Rodrigues Assembly. So by soon after midday, I was seated in the Stadium, ready for the music, dancing, poems, speeches (of course!) and general enjoyment of the scene... I think all of Rodrigues must have been there! Certainly, all uniformed personnel seemed to be. Great fun was had by everyone - watching or taking part! I'm writing this as the football match is about to start .....
bye for now - must go & watch it!!

Fri12thOct07 - Nearly there!

12thOct07

Today was very pleasant & sunny again & was mainly spent passage-planning and checking info on forthcoming landfalls. Have had to motor-sail occasionally, to ensure landfall timing, but now under sail alone - much more peaceful!

Hoping for daylight landfall at Rodriguez tomorrow afternoon (Sat). If wind stays overnight as it is now (20-25knots), we'll be fine. Need light for reef approach & entry into harbour anchorage at Port Mathurin. No decent electronic charting, so it's back to paper ....and eyeballing it!

Seas have increased this evening - getting 'bashed' occasionally with bigger waves. But stars overhead, so hope this good weather continues for at least another day!

24 hour noon-to-noon run: 156 n.ml.

Thurs 11thOct07 Lovely, calm, sunny day's sail

11thOct07

What a fabulous day today has been! Superb sailing in much less swell than up to now - I spent a little time on deck in the sun, soaking up the warmth, listening to the sounds of the approaching waves and 'Nereida' gliding through them. Very few clouds around.... lovely stars in a clear sky last night also. I still can't get used to seeing Orion & Taurus upside down, though!

Still not completely sure of making Rodriguez before nightfall on Saturday - wind has died down, often to below 15kn now. I poled out genoa around midday, with wind having backed to ESE, and it would only take us to drop below 6kn SOG for a time to mean having to heave-to & wait for first light Sunday. Will just have to make best speed I can & see what happens - wind may pick up a touch tomorrow, according to weather forecast, but may come too late.

Another relaxing day of reading & writing & some gazing around at the ocean while I sip my tea or coffee... talking of which - it's teatime now....

Noon-to-noon run: 158 n.ml. 341 n.ml. to go

Day11 Wed 10thOct07 Yet another good sail today

Wed 10thOct07 Yet another good sail today!

I was up well before dawn, watching bright Venus high in the East as the sky began to lighten - when "Crack!" - it sounded as though we'd been hit by a stone! 'Surely not!", I thought..... no, it was a big flying fish which had landed in the cockpit and was flapping about frantically! I took pity on it and threw it back into the water before returning to gaze at the sunrise.
The day has been another good one for sailing, with generally few clouds around and bright sun, although early on I let out the 2nd reef since the wind seemed to be dying - but it soon got back up & has been consistently around or over 25 knots. The seas have continued to be big & fairly rough & the occasional extra big one with a slightly breaking crest really catches us and slams into us. Fortunately, they're coming onto our port quarter - glad they're not on the beam!
I've been reading quite a bit and generally relaxing.... so not much more to report except that I'm pleased to be on this passage with its good winds and not heading for Chagos - 'Trudel' have been motoring for two days now in light winds, at around 6S (we're now at 18S) & had hoped to have arrived in Chagos from Cocos by now - but it looks as though we'll all arrive at our destinations this weekend, even though their distance to travel was much less.

Noon-to-noon distance (from noon GPS positions): 155 n.ml. Distance to Rodriguez: 499 n.ml. at noon

Cocos to Rodriguez Day10 Tues 9thOct07 ... Whipping!

9th October '07

Well, today has been a great day of sailing in lovely bright sunshine - yet again!! The wind has been up around SE 23kn (force 6) all day and, although the seas have increased accordingly (4-5m), they've not been too bad - just the usual lurch as we're hit by rather bigger waves than before..!! But not too often - just enough to keep me holding on tightly to be safe whenever I move around.. & strapping myself in when in the galley (my 'bumstrap' there has seen a lot of use recently!). We're generally
making over 7 knots - excellent speed! - with 2 reefs in the mains'l, full genoa, broad reaching. I should definitely make Rodriguez by Saturday, at this rate.

The SSB radio emailing side of things is getting rather time-consuming - difficult to get a connection with shore stations (that are now quite a distance away) that's good enough to send & receive weather info & emails without having to give up the attempt because transfer of bytes is way too slow - gets very frustrating at times. It's mainly radio propagation (sun spot cycle!) that's the problem now, although I've also been having a problem with the computer instructing the radio via the modem
- the modem connection has often failed & I'm now putting that down to low battery voltage - when I start up the engine to charge the batteries, voltage goes right up almost immediately - and I find the modem is soon behaving better & the radio is usually able to transmit OK. That doesn't mean I'm any further forward in getting a good connection though - transmitting is just an essential first step!

The good achievement of today is that I finally got around to doing the whipping I've been wanting to get done for ages - my "mains'l preventer project" uses two short lengths of rope which I'd measured out carefully & cut on the way to Bali from Darwin - so you could say I haven't exactly pushed myself to finish the job up to now!! All four newly-cut ends needed whipping to stop them from fraying when in use - so that's now done. I got so enthusiastic that I then looked around for other rope ends
to whip - and found several sheets, reef lines and the main halyard - all now done in an assortment of coloured whipping twine to match the rope - very pretty but also far more seamanlike!! A very satisfying afternoon's work!

I decided to reward myself with steak and onions for dinner while it was still light after our usual, sociable evening radio 'net' was over - at 7.20pm, "Nereida time". Because I'm not adjusting my ship's time until I get to Rodriguez, sunset is getting 'later and later' - tonight it was after 8 o'clock according to the time I've been keeping (Z+7). We're now at 74E which is actually five hours ahead of Greenwich ... so really my clock should have been reading about 6 o'clock, which is right for
sunset here in the tropics. When I reach Rodriguez, which is at 63E (4 hours ahead of Greenwich, or Z+4), I'll have to adjust my ship's time by 3 hours to keep local time!

Today's noon-to-noon actual run (from GPS noon positions): 156 n.ml. Distance to Rodriguez at noon: 654 n.ml.

Sun/Mon 7/8thOct07 Mixed sailing conditions - & yet another boat hanging off my stern!

Sun 7thOct07 - Thanksgiving in Canada - hope you all enjoyed it!

It's been a really mixed day today - one moment clear blue sky and lovely calm sailing, then suddenly there's a grey cloud nearby, wind (and seas) are up - do I reef or not...??? If I do, doubtless it's all over very soon & I have to let it out again... but good exercise, I suppose!! And if I didn't reef, I'd probably be wishing I had....! Very difficult to keep the boat going at a good speed in these mixed conditions.

Not a lot else to report, been rather lazy, in fact, pottering around, clearing/cleaning, reading, almost getting on with the whipping I've been promising myself to do(!).. but I have finally managed to source some local weather info - so that's good.

Another busy radio 'Net' in the evening with more boats joining in - all good fun & very sociable! 5 of us singlehanders, 3 couples and one with a family of four - and 1 or 2 other boats about to start off on passage from Cocos & so also joining in.

24hr run to midday: 167 n.ml. by log (148 from GPS posns)

Mon 8thOct07

Had a shock last night when I popped my head up into the cockpit to find not only was it raining.... but there was a boat close astern of me, not too far off my starboard quarter - felt like a re-run of two nights ago...!! I couldn't figure out what it was doing - saw several lights (close enough that they were reflected in the water!) but no navigation lights - so didn't know for sure which way it was going. Felt it was stationary and was quite relieved when the wind got up well enough for me
to put on good speed and sail away from it - its lights receded slowly into the distance - yet another fishing boat?.... from where??.... Indonesia or India or Sri Lanka?... or from the Mascarene Islands I'm headed towards?... Could have been from any one of those or even further way, although it looked relatively small - definitely not a cargo ship. I was pleased when its lights disappeared over the horizon!

It was another very 'bumpy' night with the seas consistently around at least 4m and regularly crashing into us - so another rather disturbed night's sleep. I find that having two reefs in the main works quite well - enough canvas to make reasonable speed most of the time in the good winds but not too much that we were over-canvassed when the wind picked up around the frequent rainclouds.

We seemed to clear the rainclouds by mid-morning and I enjoyed a bit of warm sunshine - I'd had to put on a fleece earlier!! Now we're back into rather cloudy conditions, but no dark squall clouds around just now.

I had to do quite a bit of cleaning and washing - with the banging & crashing, several items had jumped off the gimballed stove top & spilled so the galley area is, once again, for the moment, nice and clean & I've some washing hanging up to dry in the saloon!!

24hr run to midday: 161 n.ml. by log (152 from GPS posns) 810 n.ml. to go to Rodriguez.

(Can't understand why we seem to have current against us when it should be with us - begin to wonder if log needs re-calibrating - despite having done that in San Diego earlier this year.)

Sat 6thOct07 Less rough by morning! More boats join evening 'Net'

Sat 6thOct07
Well, I had a rough night's sleep - constantly woken by the boat heeling right over on being hit by big waves. After the first few hours, the frequent heavy rain stopped although the seas kept rushing over the decks - no flying fish to find this morning (except for one small one trapped in a deck drain) - they'd all got washed overboard again soon after landing!! I kept just two reefs in the mains'l - the conditions weren't quite bad enough to warrant putting in a 3rd reef (max. apparent wind seemed to be ~28kn - top end of a force 6) and I wanted to keep our speed up in the big seas, but the genoa was furled in an equivalent amount. We bounced around in the swell but kept going fine on a beam/close reach in S/SSW winds.

I kept feeling grateful that I'd noticed the wind seeming to increase when I did. In fact, initially it had veered, rather than actually increase, although that made the effect on the sails the same as it increasing - I was lucky not to have left getting the spinnaker down any longer than I did! As it was, I had to get the pole down & then nearly went parasailing as I tried to get the sock down over the 'chute with the wind by then veering even more AND increasing - took some determination (and shouting!!) not to let it beat me - that would have led to disaster! As they say, "All's well that ends well"! But I was pleased to have a ready-made dinner waiting.... the stir-fry tasted even more delicious second time around, in the circumstances!!

Gradually, over the morning, the skies lightened and the sun eventually got out. I let out the genoa - the wind is still up in the low 20's but from abaft the beam now (ESE/SE) and we're still making good boatspeed - around 7 knots. The swell is gradually lessening also but is still quite big and knocking us from time to time. Come nightfall, the sky was clear overhead & full of bright stars - all constellations 'upside down' to me, of course!!

Tonight's SSB radio 'Net' on 8173kHz was really busy - around 8 boats took part, including two who could only hear what was being said (I gave what weather info I had to one who cannot get it any other way). Two more had just left Cocos Keeling today, one had just arrived there but hopes to leave in a couple of days' time, and the rest of us were already on passage, with one just arrived in Rodriguez. There were probably other boats in the anchorage listening in, as well! During the Net, we exchange positions, weather info & general chit-chat!! I expect to meet up with those boats I don't know personally as yet - either in Mauritius or in South Africa - everyone is headed that way for November/December, and most will be crossing the S.Atlantic from Cape Town some time later.

Noon 24hr run better than I'd expected with the overnight fast run... 157 n.ml. by log (152 n.ml. by GPS posn). Nearly halfway to Rodriguez.

Fri 5thOct07 'Chute flying!

Fri 5thOct07 'Chute flying!

Pleasant - but slow - Tradewinds sailing! With wind down to barely a force 3 (around 8kn from ESE), I finally got the 'chute up to help us along - initially had to abandon the attempt with E wind too far astern (didn't fancy a spinnaker wrap around inner forestay, and anyway it kept collapsing) but by midday, wind had veered just enough to have another go. After untangling the odd line, it was hoisted successfully at second attempt by 1.30pm... always takes me such a long time to prepare it & then hoist it, with so many pitfalls to avoid!!

Just after 11pm last night, I suddenly heard a motor close astern - rushed up on deck to see a relatively small fishing (presumably) boat with bright alternate white/orange lights along its side - but it was also showing navigation lights. I reckon it came close out of curiousity, to see what boat this was, because it soon went off on its way northbound - to my relief.... always a concern since you never know, in the middle of the ocean, if their intentions are good or bad...!! No A.I.S., of course,and probably not showing up on radar either. They must have seen my tricolour swinging about in the swell.

This morning has mainly been taken up with playing with the asymmetric 'chute, after getting up late, & playing with the WindPilot which doesn't seem to like the very light wind on a near run, so I'm back on autopilot - had hoped not to be, since it takes a fair amount of battery power. Generator start motor has packed up I'll have to run the main engine for charging now - pity!

Other big achievements of the day include collecting a paltry two flying fish off the decks, throwing overboard a complete, unretrievable, very smelly, white cabbage (so much for my hope-for cabbage salad for lunch!!), changing a watermaker filter, happily listening to the fridge working away from time to time with none of the start-up problems it had previously.... and generally enjoying an extremely pleasant, relaxing, sunny day. I do so love hearing the slight rustle of the spinnaker as we gently & quietly sail along in calm seas under a bright sun - magic!! (I try to ignore the fact that we're making a mere 4.5-4.9knots SOG just now! At least it's in the right direction...)

I'm writing this munching a lovely fresh carrot (at least they keep beautifully in the fridge), in between my usual lunchtime quesadillas (made with an excellent Australian wax-coated cheddar), looking forward to a fresh NZ apple & a mandarin (also good 'keepers' - out of the fridge). And soon it'll be teatime...! Last night made an excellent beef, red pepper & noodles stir fry (thanks for the beef, Mandy!!). Food becomes increasingly of interest on a long passage - especially when it's calm!!

Looking forward to a bit of reading once I've 'posted' this .... although, on second thoughts, I've still some outstanding whipping I've not yet got down to, in connection with my new mainsail preventer 'project'... maybe do a bit of both, since no great rush.

Hope you're all keeping well - do email me with your news from time to time!

Noon 24hr run down again to just 129 n.ml. by log (135 n.ml. by GPS posn) - expect it to be even less by tomorrow noon!!

1262 n.ml. to go to Port Mathurin, Rodriguez, at noon. ETA 14-16th Oct, depending on wind! (Had been hoping for 13th - but winds too light now)

LATER Hopefully, with wind slowly increasing from now on, should get back to previous good 24hr runs! Presume seas will pick up in line, but mustn't complain!!

Wind has already increased now from a couple of hours ago - must keep an eye out to take 'chute down in good time!!

LATER: ......... went up on deck(4pm)...wind had veered...so furled genoa..pole down...'chute down..(JUST managed with rising, veering wind...with a fight!) bagged... down below... wind up & veered more... grey clouds ahead & around.... reefed main.. & again.... unfurled some genoa.... waited & made tea .... bang!...(pressure had dropped 3mb since 1200) "Nereida" got an excellent freshwater wash!! Heavy rain & 20kn winds ahead - so 25+ apparent! Seas built up quickly, of course!! All a bit different from earlier today....!!

Still rough & grey & windy, but will send this now ...

Thurs4thOct07 Gentle sailing!

Thurs 4th Oct

Another lovely, relaxed day's sailing in sunny, calm conditions, goose-winged under full canvas. Only 18 flying fish on deck this morning!

Just been pottering about, getting some small jobs done... fridge is working fine without any more input from me, except for spraying bare metal I could see with anti-corrosion liquid - just as well, since I couldn't undo the spade connector I wanted to remake!

Having a problem with my Winlink connections - the Pactor modem I'm using seems to be misbehaving on certain frequencies/stations so only getting through rarely. Glad I've the alternative of Sailmail, which has greater choice of frequencies to use, so I'm managing to connect OK for now.

Not a lot to report - 5-day weather outlook is excellent, although wind may die a touch in a day or so, but then should come back up nicely again for following few days.

Time for a mug of tea, sitting out in the cockpit, gazing at the sea... and my navel... & reflecting on life.....

24hr run down a bit with some lighter wind: 152 n.ml. by log (137 from GPS posns)

Wed3rdOct07 - 52 flying fish ...& one bolt end!!!

Delighted to report all is well with my AIS - after re-setting signal threshold, cargo vessel "Furness Hartlepool", heading from Perth to Suez on passage to Hartlepool, UK, showed up at midnight, setting off alarm & showing that everything was working OK, both on the stand-alone Nasa Marine AIS display and also on the even more informative Nobeltec charting software on the laptop - excellent news!! So I can avoid use of radar....

Grey, overcast & showery just before dawn, with lighter wind from E, but by 8am, sky cleared & wind got up a touch from ESE - I'd organized genoa pole in readiness but held off lifting it... genoa was just abut OK without.... but finally, by 11am, had to raise it - so very much better with it than without -speed & stability much increased. Ended up having a fabulous, relaxing day with sun & far calmer seas after midday than up to now. We're safely over the N-S 'Ninety East Ridge' where the sea bed zooms up to around 1000m from 5000m - supposed to be reason for bad seas in the area - but not this time!! I'd been getting worried about possible bad weather on this passage - so it's been that much the nicer to have had such an unexpectedly lovely sail today ... plenty of distance to go yet for the weather & seas to turn nasty!!

Flying fish overnight tally stands at a record 52 after this morning's collecting round on deck ... there were scales everywhere!! But no fish big enough to be worthwhile eating - even as ceviche!

Unfortunately, I also found a bolt end on deck, close to the furling gear. Looks as though it's from one of the greasing access points on the furling drum, so hopefully not a major worry - think it's sheared off with the regular collapsing of the sail over the last day or so (should have raised genoa on the pole when I first thought about it!). Something to add to the joblist.... Another thing, which I may do tomorrow if it stays reasonably calm, is to look at an electrical connection on the cable to the fridge fan - I've been hearing the fridge constantly trying to switch on.. and failing - I'd been putting it down to low battery voltage but puzzled since often battery OK. Anyway, I've found today that by twiddling a particular power lead connection when it's trying to start,... start up it does! Behaving like a bad connection so I'll re-make it & see if that solves the problem - should be a very simple, quick job.

With wind down to around 15kn, rather than regularly over 20kn, speed, and hence daily run, has been, & will be, down - just 159n.ml. by log today (142 from midday GPS posns) - but that's not so bad!

Tues 2ndOct07 Day 3 to Rodriguez

What a lovely day! Clear sky, swell down & sea much gentler (hardly any of the tumbling crests on steep waves of Monday to knock the boat about), wind lessened so we're not going quite as fast... but still making around 6-6.5kn, so that's fine. Shook out the first reef early this morning so full canvas now.

Feeling refreshed after a good sleep, despite jumping up & down a few times - had radar on 'watch' & it kept objecting loudly to clouds that got too close - no ships seen this night!!

Picked up 21(!) little flying fish off the decks & finished the last of my Bali mangoes for breakfast - yummee!

Had a look at my weather info - looks as though that 'near-gale' warning rec'd yesterday (SE ~40knots) relates to a system that should (I hope) have its strongest winds between 30&40deg S - well S of me, although it might well generate a fair swell heading my way by end of week - we'll see. Winds on my course over next few days look unchanged from present SE Trades at 15-25kn (they do tend to vary quite a bit in strength).

I'm hoping that maybe my system setup has been the cause of my A.I.S. problem - I went in to the setup to see what settings I had & found my threshold for the signal was way higher than it should have been - I've lowered it but won't know if it's working until I see a signal on-screen (or hear the alarm go off) - frustrating to have no way to test it at present with no boats within range - 'Bowtie Lady' is over 55mls away so no help there! Running radar all night really chews up power - had to run my generator this morning. I forgot about option to let it 'catnap', just waking up every so often to take a look around...

Later: Well, today has been altogether excellent & enjoyable, with good news in my emails to complete a nice day! Seas a little up this afternoon, but still OK & wind still from East - would be better if veered a touch to ESE again to put us on less of a run - but I'm not complaining too loudly! Forecast looks good for next 4-5days - if grib files are to be believed.

Have just started up radar on timed transmit - wakes up every 10 mins for 20 scans & then goes to 'sleep' again in between - less power consumption that way.

Would be nice if a ship came within 16miles to test if A.I.S. is working or not - would save radar use if AIS were seen to be OK.

24hr run today: 165n.ml by log (148ml by GPS midday posns)- quite a noticeable foul current at present. 1676 n.ml. to go.

Cocos Keeling to Rodriguez - Day2 1stOct07

Had an excellent start to the passage yesterday, leaving around 1030am after hoisting & stowing the dinghy & outboard. There are quite a few boats at anchor off Direction Island now and we had a very sociable final barbecue Sat. night. So the farewell, as Mark of 'Swanya' led 'Bowtie Lady' & 'Nereida' out through the reef, got VERY noisy - lots of hooting & tooting from a very nice group of people.
The wind was good, the sun was shining & the swell only picked up very gradually, so it was a lovely sail well into evening. The swell became a bit uncomfortable at times, but mainly not too bad and over Monday has actually felt better - big (~4m) but regular. The wind has been up & down a bit but mainly ESE/SE around 18-24kn so we've made good speed, broad reaching nicely.
The main problem I've had is that my A.I.S. unit suddenly decided not to function while leaving Cocos Keeling so I can no longer see ships around (up to 32 mls away) on the display - which badly affects my sleep pattern and will mean having to put on my radar, with its greater power consumption. Peter on 'Bowtie Lady' called me up twice in the night to let me know of two ships heading our way, although, being faster, he is gradually forging ahead of me so that won't work for much longer. I found myself very tired this morning after the disturbed night (& not enough sleep before leaving!), and when I tried to see if there was anything obviously wrong with the AIS wiring I ended up having to admit defeat - not easy for me to do!! Having triumphantly re-connected a tiny power lead which had come adrift behind the display unit, I found that made no difference... I tried bringing my laptop on line to use the excellent A.I.S. function in the Nobeltec program - but no signal was coming in. I tried going in to Hyperlink unsuccessfully, but confirmed the lack of signal with my multimeter on the coax cable from the VHF smart-splitter - both to the display unit as well as to the PC - although every now & then, it seemed I was getting some data flow (a variable mV reading) - but not most of the time - most puzzling. I still have to undo the coax connection from the 'smart splitter' to see if there's any dullness or corrosion there - so often on boats, that is the cause of the problem when electrics fail.
So I ended up well after midday needed a good rest...!! I then had a very belated breakfast in the fresh air, gazing out at the sea & sky - very pleasant, especially after overnight rain... In fact, at one point, under a raincloud, the wind died almost totally last night (I got quite wet!) & I even started the engine - but within twenty minutes or so the wind came back up to over 20kn again... so back out with the furled genoa & let out the main.... good sailing!
By sunset, cloud had gathered, but it's not too overcast & may go, as often happens, with nightfall.
At 1200 GMT, the boats presently on passage have a 'sched' on 8173 to exchange news & as other boats leave Cocos to make passage, they'll join in - should get quite sociable! So I'll sign off for now....

Midday 24hr run was around 166n.ml - not bad!

PS Just been informed near-gale f'cast for area just to S of path tomorrow - hopefully, we're on outer edge of it, so won't get the strongest of the winds - will keep you posted!!

About to leave Cocos Keeling & begin passage to Rodriguez

Saturday 29th Sept07
Checked out with Customs (Police here) in West Island, Cocos Keeling, on Thursday - involved a very wet, long dinghy ride to Home Island, a ferry trip between islands and a bus trip from ferry to the Settlement where the Police Stn is situated - took the entire day to get back to 'Nereida'. My next leg is nearly 2,000mls to Rodriguez, near Mauritius, & will take around a fortnight... forecast looks quite good - for first few days at least!

Yesterday (Friday) I walked around Direction Island (where the yacht anchorage is) - covered in coconut palms & surrounded by white sand beach on inside and coral reef on outside - with lots of flip-flops washed up from the Indian Ocean! I found a nice piece of driftwood which I used to make a name-board on Saturday for "Nereida" & hung up in the beach 'shack' where we meet & have our occasional barbecues. I painted it white, with the boat name, my name and the date in black - looks good & should hang there for several years as a memento... took me all day to make with chisels from the toolbag.

Later I snorkelled the 'Rip' - fast inflowing current through a gap in the outer reef took me into the lagoon over reef & sand - quite a few big and colourful fish - and my first ever octopus seen in these parts! After that, someone produced badminton racquets & I enjoyed a game on the sand under the palms - all in all, a great day of relaxation!!

Tonight was our farewell barbecue - 3 boats leaving tomorrow (Sunday) and several others leaving later this week, headed also towards S. Africa - we hope to meet up somewhere there later this year.

Safe arrival at Cocos Keeling - in strong winds!

Monday 24th Sept07
Arrived in Cocos Keeling - a real tropical paradise with white sand beaches, good snorkelling, reef sharks & dolphins, palm trees galore... but what a rough journey over the last day getting here. So much for calming down yesterday afternoon - the wind got up to around 25kn consistently! The Indian Ocean certainly has big seas! And I'm expecting the next leg to be even tougher - nearly 2,000mls to Rodriguez, near Mauritius, with even stronger winds and bigger seas... I'm keeping my fingers crossed it won't be too bad when I leave at the weekend!

Very nice of two cruisers here in the anchorage at Direction Island to come out to meet me in the windy conditions and guide me in around the reef in the far-from-calm lagoon! A vital port-hand marker buoy was missing off the end of a reef, there are lots of isolated coral heads & shallow patches & the sun was not shining, so their help was most appreciated!

'Barbie tomorrow' I was told..

Day3 to Cocos Keeling

Sunday 23rd Sept '07

Things have calmed down a touch today - not so much evidence of seas heaping up with the S or SW swell, just the SE wind-swell, although that's often up to 3m, but not so much this evening ...only hit very occasionally with a bigger one!

The weather seemed at first today to be repeating a pattern of the past few days - increasing heavy cloud, then a shower or two ... but it decided, by early afternoon, to cheer up & the grey clouds disappeared - just 'tradewind clouds' later ... and a fair sunset... lots of stars & a lovely bright moon tonight.

I intended making dinner yesterday around 8pm.... but on first going up to take in a reef, with our speed up in somewhat increased wind, I was amazed to find I was surrounded by bright lights... an Indonesian fishing fleet of about a dozen boats had come to visit...!! They were well-spaced out, a mile or more apart, but several were right on or near my path, so I had to spend quite a time in the cockpit until the very last one was safely well astern.... took nearly two hours, and dinner was very late!! NO AIS signals nor, in most cases, any radar signal either..! Also only bright white lights, no nav lights to help sort out from a distance what they were doing.. At least they seemed to be keeping well out of my way!

During the night, the usual small flying fish met their end on deck... also two larger ones - so I decided to try makng 'ceviche' from them - worked out fine, so made a very good lunch with my last, nicely-ripened avocado. I used a filleting knife to get two nice, de-boned fillets from each fish - even managed to cut off skin without too much problem... Tonight, had pasta&sauce I didn't have last night (changed menu to frankfurters &potatoes last night) with mango for dessert - trying to finish before Cocos, in case Aussies take mangoes away... gather they've a fruit-fly worry on Cocos... just two more mangoes left now.

I'm hoping for another nice day, like this afternoon, tomorrow, expecting to make Cocos around, or soon after, midday - perfect for a reef entry!!

At noon today, 24hr distance was a very ordinary 156 ml (unlike yesterday's 181 ml!) with 165ml to go to Cocos Keeling.

Day2 from Xmas to Cocos Keeling

Sat 22nd Sept

Southerly swell makes for a very lumpy sea with the fair-sized SE windswell... and a VERY bumpy ride at times....!! Nearly lost all this morning's coffee.. and a quesadilla at lunchtime... Coffee jumped off stove top & started emptying out all over the place (despite using THREE pan-holders to hold it in place). I rescued quite a bit & poured it into a mug with a closed top - put that somewhere 'safe' -IT also managed to 'jump up' with the bumpy seas & started spilling all over again - luckily into empty washing up bowl... so ended up finally holding what was left tightly in my hand & DRINKING it!! We're constantly lurching all over the place...!! Freshly-made quesadilla jumped down from cockpit into saloon... warm cheese everywhere...

My SOG was over 8knots last night with over 7kn boatspeed ... As a result, 'Nereida' made her best ever noon-to-noon run (despite slowing down this morning!) ... 181ml!!! Current was helpful, of course, but even by log it was 168ml. I should make Cocos on Monday morning & will stay for snorkelling & relaxation for about 4 days before moving on ... so expect to leave again on 29th/30th.

Wind died down a bit this morning, after increasing with overnight showers - first rain I can remember for ages - but now back up.... let out 2nd reef midday, now doing 7.3 SOG with NO current advantage in SE4-5 (~17kn). I don't too much mind current diminishing, so long as doesn't turn against me!

More tiny flying fish on deck this morning .... usually a sign of rough seas overnight. Rare to get them during day - because they can see better, I wonder??

Have seen a few birds but not many... boobies and shearwaters, no tropic birds today, so far.

24hr noon-to-noon distance: An amazing 181 mls!! 321ml to go to Cocos Keeling.

Day 2 - Change of plan - stopping off at Xmas Island .....!!

16th Sept 07
Well, unfortunately, what with the wind being further aft once I'd changed course onto my rhumbline course for Cocos Keeling... and dropping even more overnight... I just had to motor or else do ~2.5 knots, which, being so close to possible offshore fishing boats, I didn't want to do. I preferred to try to get well away from land. But soon after sunrise, I put up pole, switched off engine & got sailing again - so very nice to be peaceful & just under sail, even though slow... 4.1kn boatspeed, 3.7kn
SOG! I used the desalinator to 'make' water (didn't get any in Benoa) while motoring - filled the tank full to overflowing. Gradually, our speed increased a little over the morning, but not by much... After looking at the grib weather files I downloaded around midday, I decided a change of course was needed to make better speed - we have been sailing about 50mls S of Java & the land is clearly affecting the wind strength & direction, so we are now heading more SW. The benefit is twofold - the
better wind angle gave us an immediate speed increase and we'll get to stronger winds within a day, I hope!

There is absolutely no point in my motoring from now on, whatever the wind does.... "Trudel", a German yacht which left Bali on Friday & who are less than 50mls ahead of me, spoke to me on the SSB radio this morning & said they'd got a fishing line wrapped tightly around their prop - they'd tried diving on it but, with only snorkel & mask, couldn't stay down long enough at any one time & so couldn't cut it loose - hence motoring is not possible for them (which makes entering reef anchorages, as at
Cocos Keeling, difficult if not dangerous). I have dive gear so we've agreed to head for Xmas Island to anchor long enough to dive on the prop to free it - & then continue straight on to Cocos Keeling without going ashore - hopefully the Aussies at Xmas Island will be understanding ...!!! I've sent an email to Aussie Customs with details & explaining the plan - taking the opportunity also to 'check in' with them for both Xmas Island & Cocos K just in case the 'inform us 96hr ahead' rule applies
as it does for 'mainland' Australia. (Their 'pro forma' was still on my computer from my Vanuatu/Cairns passage). I should be able to catch "Trudel" up by the time we get close to Xmas Island - which was very close to our rhumbline course to Cocos anyway, so this doesn't entail a big diversion/delay.

I gather that Xmas Island was spotted on Xmas Day 1643 by the "Royal Mary" but not claimed until 1888 - for its guano deposits - which will run out soon so they've opened up a big casino which is getting lots of custom from Asian gambling fanatics... so they've a good income now from tourism ... far better than the mining!

As usual, at the start of a long, well-provisioned passage, I'm spoilt for choice in the fruit & veg department... I have some nice avocados, tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli, carrots, big mangos & lots of apples & tangerines.. and the bread I bought in Kuta is really nice too. I had papaya for breakfast, the choice being between that or pamplemousse - such a difficult life ...!

Midday distance (run by log) from start of journey was 111ml (not quite a 24hr run), with 475ml to go to anchorage at Flying Fish Cove, Xmas Island.

Bali - Christmas Island - Cocos Keeling

Wed 19Sept

Found a big flying fish in the cockpit as I went to let out reefs around 5am, with the wind having lessened (slightly calmer seas also). I'd found several really tiny flying fish on deck the previous day.

Tried to sail in to Flying Fish Cove on Christmas Island this afternoon... well before 'Trudel' arrived. (They saw me pass them last night at around 2am). Thought I'd better see if they could get in without motor - especially when I was told that anchoring was forbidden because of coral, and even more so when I saw the BIG (difficult) mooring buoys provided ... not meant for small yachts. I was able to moor up under motor to the only smaller buoy (on my 1st attempt - I was pleased!!) No way they could have done it under sail - either there was no wind, in lee of the nearby high tree-covered cliffs, or there were strong williwaws... So I spoke to Harbourmaster to explain their problem - he came back to me to say they had a volunteer rescue boat which was about to go on the water ... and could help them when they came in ... which they did a couple of hours later - they were given a tow and tied to a buoy near me.
We had to clear in with customs & quarantine ...forms galore!... and later they kindly had me over for dinner.... got to bed rather late....!

Thurs 20Sept

Fuel may be OK in starboard tank - will try cleaning sight glass at Cocos and bleeding again - I may not have got so much seawater in as I'd feared.... but won't use it for time being....

Well, 'Trudel' now has a freed prop & shaft.... Had a VERY late sleep-in this morning (10.30a.m.!) and then a walk/look around onshore with Joerg who booked a taxi to take us all to the resort hotel in the SE of the island for dinner tonight - very nice of them to treat me again. I lent Sylvalie my divegear to dive on the prop to free it & she did fine. Cut away a load of very fine netting with some thick twine + lead wts - none of the really thick monofilament I'd been expecting.

I suddenly remembered that I'd figured on 3 days to sail to Cocos from here, assuming that speed is same as coming here, so best to leave very early Friday morning & then should arrive morning (or later, if a bit slower) at Cocos, so leaving this afternoon from here was not a good idea. Meant a much more relaxed day.... Have got Clearance to Cocos.... more officialdom in Oz!!

Went for a snorkel from boat to shore, over reef - amazing variety of hard corals, with the most enormous fans I've ever seen, an enormous trunkfish and lots of beautiful surgeon fish, lovely yellow butterfly fish etc etc - good variety with, as usual, several kinds I've not seen before. I'm looking forward to 2-3 days of snorkelling/diving at Cocos Keeling in sheltered waters - quite a swell came in here this afternoon and a strong onshore wind + clouds - land heating effect, I presume.

Dinner over at resort went well - good food but only two others in the dining room!! Clearly business is down. Casino has been closed for two years but they're hoping that change of govt after elections in October will change policy so Casino will be able to re-open, obviously then giving more business!

On way back tonight saw several enormous coconut crabs - got out to photograph one...

Birdlife here is pretty good, as well as crablife! (Not seen any marching red crabs as yet - although if rainy season starts early, they'll start off - first downpour brings out the males, next the females... they have "Crab Crossing - open/closed" roadsigns!!) I'd forgotten that tropic birds are also Bosun Birds - they have a yellow version of the white-tailed tropic bird here which is specific to Xmas Island.

Day4 to Xmas Island - excellent 24hr run!

There I was checking around, when I spotted that the starb'd diesel filler cap looked a bit proud of the deck... it was loose!... & seawater has been sloshing around it with the big seas we've been shipping occasionally. You can imagine my thoughts/curses!!
Went to look in sight-glasses on filters - inside the one on starb'd tank, it looked very murky whereas the one on the port tank had nice clear fuel in it - but was one-third full of dark water - I turned the screw & drained that out, wondering where it had all come from. Then drained the starb'd glass... I let out quite a bit but looks as though it's a mix of fuel with some water - I wonder if seawater has formed an emulsion of sorts with the diesel, hence the murky look. Think I'll leave it for the night & let it settle & have another go at it in the morning.
My worry then was ... what if engine doesn't start tomorrow when I want it for anchoring - would be ironic if I go to Xmas Island to help out "Trudel' ... and then end up myself with a major engine problem!! So I switched over to port tank, with OK fuel (I hope!!) and ran the generator, theory being that if it ran OK for a couple of hours (charging batteries & running fridge at same time!), then I should be OK to run main engine on same fuel line tomorrow... I'm keeping my fingers crossed tightly, hoping I've caught it in time!!

Today has been great sailing - think I've made Nereida's best 24hr midday distance to date - 172n.ml. by log (167 by GPS), doing ~7.5kn & well over 8kn when surfing...! Decided at midday that I'd better reef down! ... wind was increasing... has been SE5/6 all day. Now have full genoa & 2 reefs in main - but still doing ~7.2 kn - so should get to Xmas Island early afternoon.

By this morning at 0900, I'd cut down my distance behind 'Trudel' from 43ml yesterday to just 19ml! (Quite likely to get there first, at this rate, despite leaving a day later!)

I was sitting in the aft cabin this morning reading, when BANG! - we got really hit by a wave ... and WHOOSH!... a load of water came in via locked-in-vent-position hatch - I was furious - how could I be so stupid..??? (Easy!!) I was lucky the computer didn't get wet! Took ages to mop it all up and saltwater damp things aren't going to dry so easily...

It's been suggested that the steering cable may be over-tensioned... I've been thinking the wheel seems a bit stiff (even checked several times to make sure lock was off) so maybe I'll try to ease off a little on the tension tomorrow when I'm stopped.

Mike & Bryan, of Nightwinds, my knowledgeable 'website guys', have worked their usual magic on the website and put in a link to the TV and radio interviews I had in Cairns on making landfall there in July, after completing my Pacific crossing - go see!