Thursday Island to Christmas Island.
Thursday Island, Australia
Christmas Island, Australia
Depart Monday 24.07.23
Arrived: Friday 11.08.23
Up early as there’s plenty to do before I set off. First job, lower the tender into the water and put the eight jerrycans in and try to leave a bit of room for myself! Breakfast, a cup of tea and a wash and scrub before going ashore. Tender tied up to the wharf, I left the jerrycans in the tender and I wandered off to the Australian Border Force to check out. All necessary paperwork collected it was back to the tender to then get these jerrycans filled with diesel in town. As I was placing the cans on the dock two elderly people picked some of them up and one offered to drive me to the petrol station. That was very kind of them but I declined as I had just ordered a taxi. However, they then carried them up to the taxi and wished me a safe journey. What lovely people. Diesel obtained, 185 litres in containers that ought to only take 168 litres. Maybe it’s the way I fill them! Back to the wharf it was then four trips down to the tender from where the taxi dropped me off, and by the last trip my arms were at least six inches longer than when I started! Again, another elderly gent offered to pass them down to me. Well, he passed me the last one as I had already got seven in the tender. Back to the boat (another soaking) and the fuel stored in the cockpit. Next, raise the tender and remove the outboard engine and place on the guardrail bracket. I had set up a block and tackle lifting system to lower the outboard and I was hoping that it would reverse the process and lift the engine. It did, once I had unsorted the wrapped lines. Task complete, then raise the main sail while I was still on the mooring buoy. Much easier when stationary and the main was set with the second reef already in. Start the engines, fill out the log book and then see how easy it was to untie the bridle from the mooring buoy. I thought with the wind and current flowing against the boat it would be difficult but it was surprisingly easy. Mooring line dropped and the boat reversed away from it, all was good to set course for Singapore. Two last jobs to do. One, tie down the anchor securely, which I did whilst still in the bay. The second I forgot to do until I was in open water, take in the fenders that I had put out several nights earlier! Anyway, I’m now underway with about 2500nm to go. I’m sitting at the helm with a woolly hat on and a jacket. It’s the first time they’ve been on since I arrived in Trinidad in January, other than when it’s been raining. It’s cold and yet I’m only about 630nm from the equator!
The first 24 hours are nearly over and this has been an interesting’ start! The winds, which should be the South East trades were blowing predominantly from the South West, close hauled sailing. The waves were hitting the beam and movement around the boat was limited. One moment you were on the starboard side of the galley, the next, propelled across to the port side. Sleeping was taken in between the buffeting so was constantly being interrupted. I did have a 28m sailing yacht so 10nm behind me, s/y Easy but the next time I looked at the AIS screen it wasn’t there. Still rather chilly this morning but the sun is beginning to shine. Suppers for the next four nights have been cooked and will be placed in Mr D’s thermal cooker to continue cooking for the next few hours. It’s a sausage casserole, lamb, rosemary and garlic, potatoes, carrots an onion and pak Choi 🥬. Plenty of spices and stock. Smells great and I think it will be.
What a night that was last night. The AIS indicated that there were at least 50 ‘targets’ immediately ahead of me. These targets were in fact AIS buoys which could not be seen from the helm….. until it was too late to take avoidable action. The first line I didn’t see and went straight over them. The string appeared to be at least an inch in diameter, covered by a plastic container and was white and green in colour. Fortunately the engine wasn’t on and my keel doesn’t have a bulb on it so I wasn’t caught up on it. Not sure if it caused any issues with the rudder! The next string was three miles ahead and to avoid it I would need to head north by four miles and then come back to my track. I decided that as I went over the first one without a problem I would do the same with the second. Again, no apparent problems. Then came the fishing fleet. Some were not an issue but one was very offensive (and indeed racist) when I called the boat. I just wanted to know if I could keep my course or needed to change direction because of the ‘targets’ showing up ahead of me. In the end I just continued with my course and decided that if he couldn’t be civil then that was his problem. Third set of fishing boats, and these were working in tandem with a net strung between them. This time the skipper called me and asked / told me to take avoiding action. They were fishing north / south and my passage was east / west. I had to go north and run parallel to them for four miles, which meant a different sail set up, running rather than my beam reach. At this moment it started raining! Anyway, having gone beyond the closest of the two boats I decided that it was time to go back on course. The wind had shifted and was now a broad reach, not quite as fast but okay. During the course of the day the wind decided to decrease in speed and consequently so has my boat speed. I was doing an average of 120nm per day but I think today’s total will be under 100nm. Little wind has meant that the wind generator isn’t working as well as expected and I have to run the engine to charge up the batteries. At least when I do this I get a bit more boat speed and can also run the water maker.
An easier night compared to the previous night. Just a few fishing boats to contend with, but I managed to get ahead of them before they set out their nets / lines. Still targets seen on the AIS, but these are single ones rather than the string that I encountered last night. A couple of cargo ships, I contacted one and he kindly passed me on my starboard side. My suggestion as it didn’t disrupt his course if he had passed port to port, which is the general practice. Wind is still quiet low, 9 - 11kts, and with two reefs in the main I’m not making as much speed as I would if I shook out the reefs. However, caution is better than bravado, and that’s the way I have been sailing since leaving Bora Bora.
Problems, problems, problems!!! Over the last month or so I noticed that the screen on my Vesper Cortex, my AIS / VHF radio device, was losing some of its pixels. About a week ago it got worse and a couple of nights ago the screen started flickering. Last night the image on the screen went altogether, nothing was visible unless I switched it off and then back on again. However, it didn’t last for very long. So now I have a big problem. In about 300nm I will be entering an area of heavy shipping traffic. Without the AIS I won’t be able to identify what ships are likely to be on a collision course with me and contact them ahead of visual contact. This has left me with a quandary as to what to do about it. I’ve tested the radio part and that still functions. I’m not sure if my B & G chart plotter, which is linked to the Vesper Cortex will show AIS targets and I won’t know until I start to see ships visually and check them out on the plotter. If I can see them on the screen then the problem will be solved. If I can’t then I will have to have another plan. I have already altered my course and am now heading to Bali. I doubt if I can get in here as the marina is too small, but at least it will take me more south and away from some of the shipping area. I could then go in between Bali and Sumatra and up towards Singapore. Another 1000nm and heavy with traffic. I could continue past Bali towards Christmas Island and then head north to Sri Lanka. A further 2500nm and I’m not sure if they have a marina there. The last option is to go to Darwin. They do have marinas there but my thoughts were to get the work done over winter. Darwin is still in the cyclone area and isn’t safe to leave the boat. And if I did go to Darwin it could be weeks before I got the parts, including the anchor windlass motor, and then finding a suitable electrician to fix everything! I need to check out the plotter first and see if there’s a way to go with that.
I do have AIS on both the B & G chart plotter at the navigation table and the Raymarine display head at the helm. The issue is, with the B & G plotter in order to see the ships I lose all the chart image by scaling up. Not too much of a problem if I use both chart plotters, which I might have to do. However, with both B & G and Raymarine the target radius of safety before the alarm goes off is down to 4nm. Not a great distance to react to any collision warning given. Still, it’s better than nothing. Next problem, trying to find a marina where I’m able to leave the boat for six months. Nirup Island has a space but at £1200 per month it’s much more than I wanted to pay. At the end of the day I might not have any option. One ship seen during the night. The alarm didn’t go off as it was passing by 6nm away. Checked to see if the water generator was working. This time by reading the multimeter at the generator end, which is what the trouble shooting guide says. Maybe I’m using the multimeter incorrectly as there is no voltage being measured!
My brother is still working on finding me a marina. He’s looking at Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia. Not having much success at the moment. I’m inclined to go up to Sri Lanka now if there’s anything that way, but I’m not sure if there is. Hopefully Frank will come up trumps with something otherwise I’ll just have to go to Nirup Island. That’s if they still have availability! Wind has dropped slightly and backed, so now sailing goose winged. Speed during the night was down to 23nm in six hours, not what I want, but am currently averaging over 100nm per day, which is what I am working with. The Xantrex battery monitor is playing tricks again. Its dials are spinning like a fruit machine, not that I’m going to win anything! It then settled down to what it should display but that’s another job that will need to be done wherever I get moored. A trip to the barber shop today to get my hair cut. Sitting on the starboard aft quarter, so that the wind would blow the hair off the boat, I gave myself a ‘number 3’ trim! I’ll leave the beard until I get to port. Wind has dropped again and I think it’s going to be low for the next few days. This will add at least an extra day to the passage, depending where I eventually get to. I need to conserve fuel just in case I do go the extra distance (1500nm) to Sri Lanka!
Just bobbing along at slightly over 3kts. Still on course towards Bali. The autopilot is coping with the lack of speed, probably because there are few, if any, waves to contend with, and therefore not kicking it off course. The three audio books that I downloaded have all been listened to. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson and A Pilgrims Progress by John Bunyan. I’m wondering whether John Bunyan was a man of the cloth as he was well versed (excuse the pun) in the Old and New Testaments. I will listen to all three again (and again) as these are the only sounds other than my music and the lapping of the waves that I have, and the creaking of the floor in the galley! A treat with my breakfast this morning. There are / were two tins of fruit salad in the store (Thanks Cedric) so I decided to add some to my yogurt and muesli. It’s a bit different than my usual breakfast but a nice little addition. There’s enough for at least another four days and I’ll keep the remaining tin until I’m close to my destination, wherever that might be!
A couple of ships seen passing in the night, too far off to set the alarms going. An executive decision has been made, I’m now going to go directly to Sri Lanka. Having weighed up all the options, and really there were none in terms of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, Sri Lanka is the only viable alternative. My yacht insurance doesn’t cover me for the S, M and I area, although I have sent an email to Pantaenius for cover, but it is a strict requirement. Also the 10 days to get to Singapore crosses one of the busiest shipping routes worldwide. Being solo I cannot afford to risk going along this route with sleep deprivation. It’s at the risk of not finding somewhere in Sri Lanka to leave the boat over winter but I cannot see any alternative. I’ve asked my brother to help arrange an agent for clearing me in, and there’s plenty of time to get this done. An extra 1000nm but the route that I’m taking is at the best time of the year, August, the transition between the SW monsoon and NE monsoon season. Have just seen a small fishing boat, about 100nm off Timor Leste (East Timor / Timor Island)
Up and down last night like the proverbial jack in the box. As I had seen a couple of fishing boats during the day, and as the AIS is limited as to what it will actually show me, I decided to set the alarm every hour to check what was around me. After five hours of not seeing anything I decided that sleeping was a better idea. I did see one ship though, a cruise liner presumably waiting to enter the straits up to Singapore. By the time I did get up it was gone. Wind during the night was virtually nonexistent, down to under 4kts. I’m surprised that the autopilot still functioned. In the six hour period from midnight to 06:00 I covered a measly 16nm. Will I ever get to Sri Lanka at this rate. Back of a ‘fag packet’ calculations on fuel usage I have probably used about 44litres from 370 at the start from Thursday Island. I generally run the engine for three hours each day to charge up the batteries. I could afford to run the engines for the next 48 hours and still have fuel left by the time I get to Sri Lanka. However I will be passing through the ITCZ, the Intertropical Convergence Zone, or better known as the doldrums. The area just south and north of the equator where the change between trade winds emerge and there is little to no wind (generally). I need to conserve fuel for this part of the passage but the good thing about this ITCZ is that it is at its narrowest point where I pass through. There is also a place on Sumatra called Padang where I could get fuel. However I need to find out if they take card rather than cash, which I don’t have! An inspection of the yacht found that one of the cords holding the sailbag cover had come undone. Looking to see what was causing it, it was simply a case that the bowline had come undone. A bit of time to decide how best to proceed with the repair and within 15 minutes all was right again. If only all tasks were this quick and straightforward! Engine off at midday as wind has picked up, slightly, and we’re doing about 3kts!
Thankfully the wind has picked up, but only slightly. At least now I am sailing at 4kts per hour, as opposed to 2.5kts yesterday. Still not great but better than nothing. Still averaging over 100nm per day, so on schedule to arrive in Sri Lanka in about 26 - 28 days from now. Very little seen in the last 24 hours, in fact nothing! Last night I cooked up a tuna curry with vegetables rather than rice. The yellow fin tuna that Cedric caught en route to Papeete was sitting in the bottom of the freezer so it was time to use it. There is still another pack so whether I have tuna curry over eight days or have a change next time I cook, we’ll see. Still have mince, chicken pieces, tiger prawns and sea bass fillets to work my way through although the fresh vegetables are disappearing quickly. In the fridge I still have 1/2 a cabbage (12 meals) and a couple of courgettes (4 meals)There’s an onion left (4 meals) and then it’s down to the frozen veggies. I’ve got plenty of these for at least a dozen meals so hopefully that works out for me by the time I get to Sri Lanka!
The Raymarine AIS alarm works! It went off at about 02:30 this morning. Well, that’s when I heard it. Not sure how long it was sounding before I heard it, but at least I know that it’s functional. Not very mind you. The safety radius that I can put around this boat is only 2nm, not a lot when you consider that cargo ships may well be travelling in excess of 10kts, so it doesn’t give me much of a safety margin, all things considered. However, it works. The ship in question was a fishing boat moving at a speed of 0.2kts! There was another vessel, quite some distance from me which was not a problem. Very little has occurred today apart from seeing what appeared to be a very large inflated black fender. I think it was probably a weather buoy / tsunami warning buoy as it looked to be anchored to the seabed, it wasn’t drifting as one would expect if it was a normal fender. No cooking as I still have meals for the next two days. Water maker run for under an hour to top up the tank. Have changed course and am now heading towards my penultimate waypoint. Jimmy Cornell suggests that I do not head directly to Sri Lanka but make as much westerly direction south of longitude S05 degrees. So this is where I’m headed to, just under 2300nm. Then I turn north directly to Sri Lanka, about another 500nm. Wind is good at the moment but I’m trying to save fuel just in case I need it later when I get to the ITCZ by the equator.
My thoughts and efforts in trying to conserve fuel by only running the engine 2 x 1hrs during the night was not a success. I generally run them when I complete the ships log, at 18:00, 00:00 and 06:00. Last night I left it until 21:00, thinking that in real time it was only 19:00 and the sun had just gone down, the solar panel would have been working until then. But by midnight both battery monitors were showing low voltage. In the end I reverted back to my original model and ran the engine again at 00:00 and 06:00. Tonight I shall try again but this time, run the engine for 3 x 40mins. Whether there will be sufficient amperage put into the batteries by running for a reduced time I will see. I have to try something! Anyway, good speed during the night, 45nm covered in six hours, at an average of 7.5kts per hour. I’d be more than happy with this if it were to continue. Nothing showing up on AIS. There were a couple of cargo ships to my port side but these were way in the distance. Yogurt is currently being made, boysenberry flavour, whatever that is! I still have plenty of fruit salad to add to it, along with some muesli when it has set. I’m going to run out of wraps in 17 days and biscuits in 19 days. Not sure if I can make any biscuits but I’ll certainly be making some bread. I’ve saved some chilli flakes but I will also add some smoked paprika as both of these add to the flavour.
Am now in the Indian Ocean proper. Another good days sail for the last 24 hours. Haven’t yet worked out the daily average but I’m sure it has increased. Nothing seen during the night except the sea illuminated by the ships way off in the distance to be seen. A few channel lights on my starboard side showing the gaps in between the Indonesian islands. One of them being Bali which I initially thought would be a stopping point. Alas, not to be. This morning I had the pleasure of cooking again. I am having the tuna again, eight days on the trot. Not as good as being freshly caught and cooked but I’ve jazzed it up with a few additional spices and chillies. As I was cooking one of the alarms went off. It was the AIS, telling me that a ship was within 2nm of my position. It certainly was but thankfully it altered course and went astern of me. By late afternoon, for whatever reason, the seas became very choppy and confused. The wind hadn’t increased or altered direction much so I can only assume that there is some countercurrent or a minor earthquake / tremor. This area is rife with volcanic activity. Not that the boat speed has decreased significantly but it is getting bounced around a lot more than usual.
Quite a bit of boat activity during the night, a few fishing boats, not moving, but a number of cargo ships travelling at 8 - 12kts, going in a north / south direction and I’m travelling in an east / west direction. Thankfully the Vesper AIS is still warning me of the traffic even if I cannot see on the screen. In the afternoon the wind has died down and backed. It is now coming with a ‘northerly’ element whereas, since starting the Pacific crossing way back in March, there has always been a ‘southerly’ element. Hence the name, South East trades. There is also a lot of current pushing the boat in a southerly direction. My heading to the next waypoint is on a bearing of 278 degrees. In order to keep on this course I am heading the boat on a bearing of 302 degrees, just to cancel out the leeway that the current is creating. The wind has been all over the place this evening and has dropped off so that the autopilot is struggling to hold its course. As a result I have been up most of the night just making sure that I’m still heading in the right direction! Had a midnight snack to make up for the inconvenience!
Around 01:30 the wind decided that it had played enough games with me and held its own on a port tack so I was able to set the sails accordingly, moving the genoa to a goose wing setting. The autopilot was happy and there were no more alarms going off, at least none that I heard. The daily average has slightly increased and it’s edging closer to 120nm per day. If I were able to maintain this it would reduce my passage time by two days! Having said that I may take a break away and visit Christmas Island. It’s about 50nm from my track and there are mooring buoys to pick up rather than anchor. If my visa is still valid and they have fuel there I will have a break for a couple of days. However, the wind has generally been pretty good and it would be a shame to lose it!
The winds have been perfect recently and over the 24hr period up to midday today I have covered the furthest distance since taking ownership of this yacht. The distance, a remarkable 167nm, bearing in mind that I have the main sail on the 2nd reefing point and the genoa on the 1st reef. I have altered my course with the intention of making Christmas Island in a couple of days time. Hopefully the ABF will say that my visa is still valid. Once there I can get more fuel and provisions. I’m told the fuel is very expensive! More electrical issues. My radar has decided to shut down. Not that I use it because it drains the battery. Then on my Vesper AIS, which is also my VHF radio, this no longer works. Then on the Raymarine units at the helm it’s telling me that the AIS is off! How? I haven’t altered any settings. Maybe because the Vesper no longer functions, which I believe is part of the network system, these don’t work. Lastly, the radius rings of my Garmin chart plotter will only give 18nm and 36nm rings. Again, no idea why. Maybe when I get to Christmas Island and give the system a complete shutdown (the same as a Microsoft reboot) it’ll work again, fingers crossed.
A sleep interrupted night last night, but only by my design. I normally record the log every six hours, on the multiple of six, 06:00, 12:00, 18:00 and 00:00. And on the hours of 06:00, 18:00, and 00:00 I run the engine for an hour to charge up the batteries. With the crossing of time zones I am now three hours behind the time I left Thursday Island, so there is no sun starting to show its head at 06:00 (the equivalent of 03:00 local time). This means the batteries are not getting the charge to continue without the need for the engine until 18:00. So, I now start the engine at 21:00 and switch off at 22:00. Not a problem. Wake up at midnight to record the log. Try to go back to sleep and wake up at 03:00. Run the engine for another hour, switch off at 04:00. Back to sleep until 06:00 to record the log again, and then repeat at 09:00 until 10:00 (or 06:00 - 07:00 local time). Not healthy but can’t think of anything else better. When I get to Christmas Island I will calibrate the clock again and this should be okay until I get past the third time zone! On the penultimate day the wind decides to have a break! Wind speed between 6 and 8kts. I know I wanted to slow the pace down to arrive in daylight but this is taking the biscuit! What was originally going to be a 05:00 to 06:00 local arrival time is now being pushed back to 11:00 to noon arrival. Not too bad but I things could deteriorate, as they have been known to!
Friday 11.08.23 to Sunday 13.08.23
Arrived at Flying Fish Cove around 12:30 (local time). Had to wait while ABF had finished there duty at the airport before I was permitted to come ashore and get through the process of clearing in. Very pleasant experience with all parties, extremely helpful and my clearance had already been completed! A visit to the bank to draw out some money, no go. They don’t accept international cards and the island has no ATM’s! At least I was able to use their WiFi. This and the visitor centre (once you bought the data) had decent connectivity. Everyone else was subjected to 2g. I managed to make some calls back home, deal with a lot of paperwork for entry to Sri Lanka, although I didn’t get everything sent to the agent. A walk to the supermarket to buy some provisions, no vegetables, and prices were high. They accepted my credit card but couldn’t provide me with cash back. Back to the boat and that was the day finished.
On Saturday I was picked up at the jetty by the fuel station owner and he took me to the station to fill up my jerrycans. 91 litres cost $280Aus, very expensive. Still, I had to have it as I’m concerned that the doldrums need to be taken into account. A few more hours sitting outside the bank to use their Wi-Fi and then a shower by the beach and back to the boat.
Sunday I had arranged to meet someone who might be able to get me some co-ax cable and a connector for the vhf radio. She didn’t appear so I then went to the bank to use the Wi-Fi. It was switched off! So on to the visitor centre, purchase 9gb of data for $15Aus and then sit for another few hours, this time trying to download some more audio books. This was a waste of time as I probably did something wrong as the downloads had not been downloaded!!! Back to the boat, check oils and water in preparation for departure today at 15:00. Radio check with the Ocean Protection Service and the vhf radio is working loud and clear. Mainsail raised, engines started, mooring lines released and I was off, heading to Sri Lanka, a trip of 17 - 20 days, weather dependent.