LINKS FOR THE YEAR 2002
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Log for the week of Aug 4,2002 Gove NT Aus by PS and Inmarsat-C
Monday 5am.I'm off watch but can't sleep.We are making landfall after 3 days crossing the Gulf of Carpenteria.I go on deck to find Amy reading a book and a quarter of a mile off course.Lethargy has set in.She is depressed and just wants to go home.I explain that if she doesn't change course, we will be going home in 20 min.That's how long it will be till we hit the island ahead of us.After the rouge wave hit us two days ago, I was ready to hop on a plane too.
We anchored in Gove harbor at 10am and headed for the yacht club.After loading 3 washing machines and taking long,hot showers we went back to the boat to organize our work lists.Fix the head,re-secure the electrical wires going up the rigging,securing the floorboards in case we roll over,tighten the standing rigging,rig throat down-haul,change engine and transmission oil,sew patches on the jib,stow the drogue so we can get it easily and buy provisions- were just some of the things that kept us busy during our week-long stay.In between,we met an interesting crew headed east (against the trades!) and a senior citizen that had done a single-handed circumnavigation.We also made icecream and watched DVDs,in anticipation of a long passage without these simple pleasures.
Gove is a small mining town of 4,000 people.It's very safe and there isn't a single tourist to be seen.Only six yachts cleared out for Cocos/Keeling this year.We knew we had made the right choice(not going to Darwin)when we over heard a radio conversation stating that the only hazard to navigation in that harbor were all the yachts!
We will leave Gove on Monday,to face an ocean passage of 2,300 mile to Cocos.We aren't looking forward to it,except that it will get us 2,300 miles closer to home.PS
Log for the week of August 11, 2002 Darwin Australia by APW
We hadn't figured on stopping here, but as they say, life happens when you are busy making other plans. We got most of our projects done before we left Gove. Our nervousness over the Indian Ocean forced us to double check safety gear, run emergency drills and make Iwalani an all round safer boat. One of the "four letter word projects- or trim project, had been to finish our companionway ladder. Phil built the ladder in South Carolina from southern yellow pine, and we had finished it with twelve coats of varnish. I bought four hundred feet of sisal rope to make little non-skid pads for the steps. The rope ended up stowed at the very bottom of the lazarrete; its sole function was to cushion the plastic gallon containers of engine oil. The ladder has remained for two years beautifully varnished and is as slippery as it looks.
I purposely neglected to mention, in my last log, the near death experience Stewart. He almost fell victim to my graceful and corpulent body, when I fell the seven feet down the companionway ladder, having slipped on one of the top steps during a storm in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Luckily for him, being the klutz that I am, I must reserve two hands for the ship. Most people only need one. As a consequence, I was hanging like a gymnast, just inches above his head, having clung for dear life to the companionway slide. Phil managed to deflect my bottom half away as it swung like a piece of meat. The only casualty being my thigh, which sported a beautiful bruise for a few days. This was not the first time I performed such a graceful maneuver, so finally the lazarrete got cleared out and the sisal wound around each step. This was a completely mindless project that soaked up an entire afternoon.
I also got around to sewing the new clip ends to our harness tethers. We bought these two years ago. Now, with a clip on each end of the tether, we can unclip ourselves at our harness as well as the jack-line. Having to pull yourself up the tether to unclip, while you are being dragged underwater at 6 knots (if the boat rolls over) is not a pleasant thought. Another fear I got making the passage to Jamaica.
We enjoyed our stay in Gove, though I can't really recommend it for a place to provision for the Indian Ocean crossing. We went one night to town to see the Arafura Days talent show- arriving in time to see the winning final act- a bunch of blokes in nun costumes singing and dancing. We met a nice fellow named Owen and his two daughters after he heard our American accents. His daughters were anxious to visit America and Disneyland. I can't help but feel how disappointed Australians will be once they get to Disneyland. The entire continent of Australia is like one giant theme park. Strange animals bouncing, hopping, soaring, floating and swimming around. There are "Outback Adventures" and "Reef Adventures" advertised on every street corner. We have had to look hard for trash- finding it in only a few places tucked away on some islands. The usual fluorescent light bulb tubes- which for some mysterious reason, along with "flip flop" sandals, will be all that remains of human civilization, once we manage to make ourselves extinct. Both, New Zealand and Australia are surgery suite clean. They even give out "Tidy Town" awards. For every Australian, there appears to be at least one tourist. So, it is not unusual to hear German, Japanese, and Swedish, spoken at once, on any street corner. Gove was the only town we visited which had no tourists. It did have three pubs though, a good library, one bank, the ever present Qantas office, and a so-so Woolworth's supermarket.
Our new friend Owen, crane operator at Alcan, even offered to take us on our own private tour of the mining factory. Its smoke belching Lego shaped structure sits on a point of land leased from aboriginal Australians. Somehow it manages to take ochre colored dirt and turn it into aluminum for cans, leaving small hills of bright red dirt as a waste product. Reluctantly, we told him we had cleared out already and had to keep moving along.
After waking the following morning with a hangover, from drinking just one Australian beer, (I had forgotten they pack twice the amount of alcohol and lacking the new Aussie drug to prevent hangovers- what an invention) we timed our departure to coincide with an ebbing tide through the "Hole in the Wall". A narrow pass through very long Raragala Island, which if not timed perfectly can mean a long roundabout deflection to get by the cigar shaped island. Our arrival eastward had to coincide with high water at Gove- with full sail up and the engine ticking away, we slipped easily through. Only after we were anchored safely on the other side, did Phil read the description in Warwick Clay's "Downwind Around Australia and Africa". 'If not passed at slack water the current may reach twelve knots with overfalls of three meters. It is too dangerous for yachts'. If you screw up you really are on your own as there is not a soul around who can help. But, a well-timed arrival is rewarded with a fun ride and some pretty bizarre looking rock strata.
Most of the Northern Territory is undeveloped. Huge tracts of land are set aside for aboriginal people. White guys must have permits just to land on shore. Crocodiles and jellyfish don't have to. Despite hanging chunks of meat off Iwalani and slapping a cushion tied to a line for half-hour each night on the surface of the water, then shining a light over the waters surface hoping to see just one set of beady eyes- I never did. I guess the crocs have figured out that I am no match for them.
August 7 we were reefed down in anticipation of 30-knot winds. By ten am the wind warning was cancelled so we shook out the reef and turned on the engine- while Phil made me "sticky buns" for my birthday. Now I must toot my husbands horn very loudly, because these really were exceptional sticky buns. In fact, these were the very best sticky buns ever made in the whole history of anyone making sticky buns. One of the very best things about Phil, unlike other "renaissance people", people who can do a whole lot of things, but none of them very well, (myself included) is that Phil can do a whole lot of things much better than the supposed experts in a particular field. When he does a repair, it no longer becomes a repair, but a metamorphosis into something better made than the original. The "repair" on the toilet has resulted in a piece of equipment I no longer have to arm wrestle. I actually had gotten to the point at sea where you couldn't pay me to "use the head". Becoming a bulwark trapeze artist was infinitely preferable, even in ten-foot seas, to working up a sweat with a stubborn pump handle and getting splattered in, well, you get the picture. Now with two strokes, done with two fingers sporting long polished nails, the whole bowl is whooshed clean. I don't know what he did, or how he did it, but it's a miracle. Similarly, the sticky buns were so light and fluffy, with just the right amount of chopped pecans and sticky sauce, that any baker would have been instantly envious. I ate the whole batch of them. Later that night, after a supper consisting of a fistful of Tums, while motoring along in glassy seas and getting kind of bored watching the phosphorescent trail we left in the water, I joined the small select club of people that gets to watch movies at sea. I firing up the computer and set out the digital speakers to watch one of the DVD's Phil gave me for a present. We continued Iwalani's tradition of birthday DVD's at sea. He also got me a "real" didgeridoo made in Gove, in addition to my very own machete. Good for whacking any crocs or pirates that might get in my way. It was a pretty nice birthday and I only got a little homesick thinking of my family, sailing in Penobscot bay, eating mussels and chocolate cake, celebrating the big day without me.
The further west we went, the lighter the winds became. Our hospice care patient has gone steadily downhill. I had stopped his blood pressure medicine, but have continued with the Clindamycin. Motoring along wasn't different than being tied to a marina and gave me an opportunity to pull out many of the medical tomes we carry on board. I began reading and convinced myself, that perhaps Stewart was having a resurgence of his thyroid disease. I could make a case for either hypo or hyperthyroidism. I could help him, if that were the case. Darwin, largest city in the Northern Territory was just three days away. It wasn't hard for Phil to agree to a diversion. Having already cleared for Cocos/Keeling, we just had to convince customs that we had a medical emergency with one of our crew.
On Saturday we motored in to Darwin having gone around Cape Don and through the Van Diemen Gulf (a reportedly turbulent area with strong tides and rough waters) with glassy calm water. I got on the radio to reach customs and report our re-entry into Australia, only to find out after several tries that no one works on weekends. Forget about sneaking in on a weekday- airplanes, boats and surveillance crews are hard at work. But on a weekend, the doors seem wide open. I explained my situation to the fellow that came back to me from the lurking bunch of cruising boats, with nothing better to do than sit around and listen to channel 16, and one of them said he couldn't see any reason why I couldn't go to shore. He even offered to bail us out of jail if he was wrong. I waited until it was a little cooler to go to shore and make a phone call to find a vet hospital.
Darwin is a great place. I am glad we didn't go by it. Provisioning is better here than anywhere else we've been. The city is typically clean, lots of parks, tall trees and some older architecture. A high promenade encircles the city showing off the views of Darwin harbor. The anchorage leaves a little to be desired, as the tides generally rise and fall twenty feet. But, the people are very friendly and helpful.
On Sunday, Stewart and I were picked up by a very nice young vet named Melissa and whisked off to the hospital where she works with four other women. They had just bought a Doppler blood pressure instrument and unfortunately, Stew's BP is normal. I say unfortunately, because that would have been a manageable reason for his blindness. His thyroid is also normal. All of his organ function- normal. His white blood count is now up to 33,000(up there among the top ten high White blood counts I have seen in a cat) and I am waiting for a pathologist to look at his blood slide, as I saw a discrepancy between what was on the smear and what the machine was spitting back for a differential. Machine said lots of lymphocytes- I saw normal amounts of mature cells with some bizarre segmented cells, possibly bands, but with dark blue intracytoplasmic inclusions. We sent off a toxoplasmosis titer-, but, in all honesty, my experience has been, that a white blood count that high usually points to one thing- and in Stewart's case that means a brain tumor. Brain tumors have always existed mostly in soap operas and bad novels. Here I am living out the bad drama made by writers with limited imagination. He has periods of "Stew lucidity" but, they are becoming fewer and far between. He is like a newly completed house going through a time lapse series of construction photos in reverse. First the wiring and plumbing get removed, then slowly all the other parts and pieces until all that's remaining are a skeletal framework and some fur. I am totally selfish in that I do not want him to die on Australian soil. I do not want to remember Australia and have to choke back tears in the process. APW
Log for the week of August 18th South Timor Sea via InmarsatC/Rick Patton by PS
It's 0200 and I decided to take advantage of the calm weather to write the log.The wind is light,with full sail set (and the Westerbeke ticking over at 1,000rpm) we are making 4knots towards home.It's difficult to believe this is the same sea we were in a few days ago.
We spent the first part of the week provisioning and talking with the crew on MacAbee and Fiesty Lady. Jim,on Fiesty Lady,had sailed around the Cape of Good Hope and was a wealth of knowledge.He brought his charts to the local bar and regaled us with his trip.We soon realised that his light hearted attitude made up for any hardships he may have encountered.MacAbee's crew,like ourselves,had still to decide if we would go to South Africa via the Mozambique Channel.We exchanged information and set up a radio sched for the passage to Cocos/Keeling.
Thursday we left Darwin,after waiting for some medicine to arrive by taxi for Stew.We motored in calm seas for about 12 hours.Then the wind came up.The seas were lumpy and confused.Amy and I were both seasick.Harboritis.It's what happens when you stay in a quiet port too long.My mouth was so dry,even eating a cracker was difficult.I said to Amy,"Why are we out here?""We're going home."was her sobering reply.
By Saturday morning the winds went light and we were motorsailing towards Cocos/Keelng Island,2,000 miles away. Not until we reach 110e will we be halfway around the world by longitude.Home seems so far away.I keep myself sane by picturing us sailing up the Kennebec River and anchoring off our home.And yet I wonder if it's a panacea?Am I remembering only the good things?What about the mosquitos and black flies?Shoveling rain drenched snow and slipping on sleet covered walkways?Ahh.I can't wait to get home!PS
Log for the week of Aug 25, 2002 (Indian Ocean12 17s 114 35e)Via Inmarsat-C By APW
Not a breath of wind-except for the woofers on dvd sound system.Last night after seven days of motoring, we turned the engine off and drifted-the only sound in the entire universe was a small squeak of leather where the main sheet is attached to the boom.Declared a day off and had a cocktail party-everyone invited,no one showed up. Half-way to Cocos,1000 miles of sea and sky remaining in front of our bow.We are more than half way through diesel supply.Stewart's testresults back-he does have toxoplasmosis-in his brain and probably all through his body.The prognosis isn't good,but we are surviving.
We've been dodging Indonesian fishing vessels,and almost got hit by a piece of "space junk," a meteorite that landed three miles north of us.Food and dvds, watched ad nauseum, are our entertainment.The biggest thrill of the day is Phil's reading of the world news as it comes through the Inmarsat at 7 pm. George Bush better tread carefully-he doesn't have much support down under.Killing people is not a good way of stimulating the US economy.Have read half of our new books.Biographies all good,but Oprah lauded novels do little to cheer us up,even though the main charachters are bigger losers than we are.Everywhere two shades of blue,including us too.Fortunately,the blues alternate days and victims on board.APW