Monday 23 May 2016

Cocos Keeling

We arrived in Cocos Keeling  on Tuesday May 17.  It is a tricky anchorage with lots of reefs to avoid.  We dropped anchor about 4:30 pm which meant we had the light behind us which was wonderful. We could see the reefs as we battled the 22 knot winds on our nose to get to the anchorage.  Upon arrival we contacted the Australian Federal Police and we were told to stay aboard and they would be by in the morning.  Carol and I went for a swim and I checked the anchor to insure it was embedded nicely in the sand bottom.  I later had a wonderful but cold shower in the downpour we had after dark.  The next day after our check in we headed for Home Island and got totally soaked from the waves as we dodged the reefs on the half hour dingy ride.  Home Island is mainly Malay and there are about 400 people who live on the island.  They have several stores, a post office, wood working shop, and a restaurant that is rarely open.  After checking the island out and purchasing a few groceries we headed back to the boat getting soaked again.  We spent the remainder of the day working on the bilge pumps which we got installed.  The following morning we again headed for Home Island this time with rain gear on so as not to get soaked again.  We took the ferry from Home Island to West Island.  It was a 30 minute ferry ride.  Upon arrival we took a bus to the main town which is near the airport.  West Island has mainly Australians and there at 120 people there.  It has the visitors center and all the government offices.  There is a fairly large hotel there as well.  We had lunch ashore enjoying the breaking surf on the reef.  After seeing what there was to see we waited for the bus to return us to the ferry to head home.  The next morning the crew member Tim on No Regrets and I made 2 trips to Home Island to get diesel and I paid the mooring fee at the shire's office which turned out to be quite an ordeal as I didn't have he correct form and the lady who normally deals with the process was away.  That afternoon I spent on Direction Island.  There is a lot of history here.  The Island was used as a monitoring station for the communication cable that was laid from Australia to Africa by the British completed in 1901.  During World War I the Germans came and wanted to destroy the cable.  Fortunately they had a dummy cable which the Germans blew up.  It was a very gentlemanly process.  The Germans wanted to blow up the tower.  The people ashore requested they not topple it onto the tennis court and the German's agreed to grant their wish.  Unfortunately the German cruiser SMS Emden ran aground on the reef off North Keeling following a sea battle with the Australian warship HMAS Sydney. Survivors were picked up but some perished trying to evade rescuers.
Saturday everyone but myself headed back to Home island as fresh vegetables were available as a ship has arrived the night before.  I stayed and lounged on Direction Island.  You can see why.( if possible include the picture I sent of Direction island, get the kids to help you insert picture).  The next morning we started our trip to Rodriguez.

First day of Our 2000 Mile Crossing

We got away at 8 am on Sunday May 22 and followed our ingoing track past all the reefs with the morning sun at our backs.  Once underway we had 12 to 17 knot winds from the east.  No Regrets wanted to head straight west to miss a zone of no wind they could see on the GRIB files.  We were unable to sail directly east so settled on the rheum line to Rodriguez.  We had a great day of sailing covering 143 nautical miles in the first 24 hours.  This morning we were able to put up our spinnaker and sail directly west.  The wind has decreased to 10 to 12 knots and we currently have a very comfortable ride compared to the rolly ride we had yesterday.  The waves have decreased significantly and the spinnaker smooths out the ride as well as it pulls us along.  It seems very strange finding shade on the south side of trees etc.  Being from the northern hemisphere I am used to seeking shade on the north side of trees and buildings, etc.

Friday 20 May 2016

Dolphins Dolphins and more Dolphins

As many of you know I absolutely love dolphins. Well I was not disappointed on my trip from Panang to Cocos Keeling. On the first day of the trip the Dolphins came to play on our bow. It was wonderful to watch them almost effortlessly zip past the bow of the boat. They are such playful creatures. To my delight the Dolphins returned later in the trip to once again dazzle me with there underwater display. We also had a hitchhiker along for the ride for a short while
The bird was pruning it's feathers the whole time it was on the boat. 
To my delight the Dolphins returned a third time on our passage. We were moving a lot quicker at that point and they seem to love playing on your bow even more when you are moving fast. Sorry no pictures of the Dolphins. I've tried before to get pictures and they normally don't turn out all that well. I just went to the bow and enjoyed every minute. 

On the water again

I'm sure you all know the song "On the Road Again". You can add your own tune to "On the Water Again". 
It was wonderful to be underway leaving Padang on Wednesday headed for Pagai Selitan island. We started off motoring but soon found an onshore breeze and we were able to sail for a short while. We departed just before noon & hoped to overnight and anchor the next day before dark. I did the 11:30 to 3:30 shift and was able to sail for part of it which was wonderful. The next morning we finally got hold of No Regrets and they had checked the forecast winds and it appeared there would be winds from the northeast to blow us to Cocos Keeling. We checked the GRIB files and saw the same thing so agreed to change our plans & skip the anchorage and head directly to Cocos Keeling. We agreed to meet at the south end of  Pagai Selitan island which we did & I jokingly asked No Regrets where the official BPO start line was for this leg of the BPO. We had been motoring to meet No Regrets as the wind angle was on the nose. Once past the island we were able to sail more west which was the direction to reach the predicted northeast winds. The wind soon died and we were motoring again. On we went in search of the winds only to find that on the next forecast the northeast winds disappeared from the GRIB files. We had wind on & off for the next few days including a 30 knot squall which lasted 30 to 40 minutes. It came up suddenly and we were unable to reduce the main sail which resulted in Maggie healing over significantly. At 8 degrees 20 minutes south we finally got the start of the trade winds at about 3 AM on Monday morning. From then on the trade winds picked up to 24 knots at times. Averaging around 15 to 20 knots. We were sailing at 6 to 8.5 knots with a few squalls bringing the wind up to 25 knots. We arrived in Cocos Keeling on Tuesday with the anchor down at 4:20 pm. 

Sunday 15 May 2016

Indonesian Check Out Process

 Up bright and early.  We chat with sailing vessel Gaia and they have agreed we will pick up Helen at 8 and take her to shore. Jim will row to Maggie.  Rob will bring the dingy  back to Maggie and Jim will row Gaia's dingy to shore with Rob aboard,  Luc will have a taxi waiting at 8:30 and Gaia will have arranged for their own taxi to be there at the same time.  We are off to immigration and arrive before 9.  The place is packed but we go to a room at the front and Rob and Carol deal with their Indonesian visa renewal. We wait awhile and then are asked to head outside the office to wait with all the others.  Around 10:30 we are called in again and told that the person with the stamp is on a large ship and won't be there till possibly 3:00.  Luc is upset... you made us wait an hour and a half to tell us we can't be dealt with until 3.  He asks to speak to someone in charge and off we go.  He explains through an interpreter that he has a meeting with the governor at 3 and the governor will not be happy if Luc misses the meeting and tells him it was immigration that caused the missed appointment. Luc suggests that we meet the person with the stamp in the harbour which is where we are anchored.  A phone call is made.  Another phone call.  The interpreter explains that Luc's plan will not work as the stamped passport needs to be scanned by the computer in the office.  Please come back at 1:30 and we will attempt to get your immigration departure papers approved.  The captains of Gaia and Maggie will now go to customs and try to deal with quarantine and possibly start the process with the harbour master before 1:30.  I join the ladies and we head off to the market in search of vegetables and fruits.  Finally our bags are full and we have almost everything on the list.  We will get some lunch and then visit Saudara, our final store to get cheese and possibly meat.  I will wait in the taxi.  They were going in for a few minutes - a quick stop and 20 minutes have gone by.  At 1:20 I figure it is time to go roust them out or we will be late for immigration. Back to immigration.  The captains have been delayed so the wait continues.  The captains arrive. We are cleared through immigration by 2:30 and they are off to get more papers stamped at customs, quarantine and finally the harbour master.  Later in the day we discover that customs are told it is pouring rain on the boat and they will need to be rowed out in the dingy.  Luc and Jim on Gaia persuades them to accept pictures of the boat and of the motor. Helen on Gaia takes the required pictures and sends them off for Gaia.  Rob fortunately has all the photos he needs to satisfy them.  They are off to the harbour master for the final clearance to depart.  After 6 the captains call requesting I come and get them at the dingy dock.  We are clear to go.  We will put the bilge pumps in the bilge in the morning and be on our way.  And the Indonesian government wonders why cruisers avoid Indonesia when possible.  Maybe if they read my blog and others of horror stories trying to leave the country they might understand.  8 AM to after 6 PM to get the necessary papers and that was with Luc pushing them.  We could easily have spent 2 or more days trying to check out.

Tuesday 10 May 2016

Padang and beyond

Here is some of the beautiful architecture in Padang. This looks just like a taxi I spent a good part of the day in

The next voyage is about to begin

I have had a hiatus from sailing for a while and I'm in Padang, Sumatra in Indonesia. Lets start with the trials and tribulations to get here. As is normally the case Maggie had a list of parts that they wanted me to bring. Also No Regrets knowing I was coming had an equally long list. Step one is to get the parts ordered and delivered prior to your departure. Maggie as was normal purchased the parts & had them shipped. No Regrets seemed to think I had nothing to do & I had find, order and get the parts while moving my mother from Winnipeg to Calgary. I was also xeriscaping the back yard getting the garden deer and bird fences up. There was not a dull moment. Finally the trip began. Upon arriving in Vancouver from Penticton I discovered that the flight to Guangzhou is delayed 4 hours. I later discovered it was weather in Guangzhou that delayed the flight from leaving there to come to Vancouver. After the 13 hour flight to Guangzhou and being late China Southern offered me a complimentary room for the night. I took it arriving at the hotel about midnight. We were given a complimentary breakfast in the morning & had to be on the bus at 6:10 AM.  I had great fun going through security in Guangzhou.  I had to take all the parts out of my bag & scan them separately. This meant repackaging both packsacks. As they wanted to open box with bilge pump I just left the bulky box behind. I requested to be moved to the front of the plane on the start our decent into Kuala Lumpur (KL) so I can get off guicker. I knew I had an hour from when we got to the gate until my next flight took off.   We landed at KLIA1 terminal.  I first had to find my way to the train. I took the train to the KLIA terminal where I had to go through immigration and be fingerprinted. Then I needed to get Metro to KLIA2 terminal. You had to pay for that & I had no Malaysian money. She told me they would take a credit card. She told me the train would leave at 1:10. I told her my plane left at 1:25 & I would miss it. Was there a quicker way. Oh yes there was an express at 12:50. It cost 12 Malaysian Ringgits rather than 2. So there was hope yet. Off to KLIA2 5 minutes later. After asking several people the way along the route I get to the customs or immigration. I let people in line know I have a plane boarding in 20 minutes can I go ahead & they graciously allowed me to go ahead except the fellow at the front of the line who didn't understand English.   Then through security & heading for my gate. No problem with scanning my bag. Hmm. After my problems with the 2 electric motors in Guangzhou what a treat. Maybe I'll make the plane yet. The board says my flight is delayed 10 minutes. It seems miles through the airport and I've already gone through security scanning. Heading down now that's a good sign. Oh no. Another security scanning station to go through. And a line up. They just opened a new one. I head for it. Put my bags through. They want me to open both bags. Out come the 2 motors. Then the 2 steel rods. Then the dip stick. They scan the bag again. Ok you can go. I now had to fit everything back into the 2 pack sacks. Finally finish. Make sure I haven't left anything behind and then head off to my gate. Fortunately it is the 1st gate I come to. They are all lined up to board the plane. Whew. I made it. 
Just FYI  the 4 hour late flight in Guangzhou messed up lots of people's connections. One fellow from Lethbridge had a direct flight from Guangzhou to Kathmandu & is now on his way to KL & who knows where else to get there. He is on his way home to visit family.   I'm now safe & sound on Maggie. Wait for the next blog for my fun and games here in Padang.