LINKS FOR THE YEAR 2002
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Log for the week of Sept 1, 2002 11s 98 38e Near Cocos/Keeling Island Indian Ocean by PS
Once again our world is reduced to a blue circle 6 miles in diameter. As I suspected, the second half of this passage has made up for the previous lack of wind. On top of that, there is a 2 to 3 meter cross swell from the south due to a very deep low 1,000 miles away. This is by far the most uncomfortable passage we have made. Stewart is taking it pretty hard. Under such trying conditions our routine is cut to basics, standing watch, sleeping. At worst, eating juice for breakfast, popcorn for lunch and canned pears for dinner. There just isn't any will or energy for anything more. We talk once again of hopping on a plane at Cocos.
We thought pirates would be a problem, but it's the local fisherman. At three am, on my watch, a fishing boat deliberately cut across our bow. No, he wasn't fishing. Not at 15 knots. Because we were running down-wind, we didn't have many options. Rounding up would have made the situation worse. Falling off would make us jibe. In a rash decision, I started the engine in hopes of getting better control of the situation. It made things worse. We got caught in a big cross sea and started to broach. Picture Iwalani, sideways on a hill, with her mast pointing down the slope. Damn those bigs seas, I thought. Amy thought for sure we were going to roll over. If the seas were higher, we might have. I pulled hard on the 12 foot tiller and pointed her down the face of the wave. The fishing boat was finally in the clear. Damn those fishing boats.
By the time you read this, we should be anchored behind Direction Island, the boat so still you could set an egg on the counter and it would still be there in the morning. We will also be faced with deciding Stewarts future. Pleasure and pain. PS
Log for the week of September 8, 2002 Cocos Keeling Island Indian Ocean by APW
All three of us have decided that the Indian Ocean is nothing short of psychotic. Its unruly behavior is completely independent of the wind strength. I agree with everything Jimmy Cornell says about it in this book. It's fast-but not fast enough. It breaks autopilots-mainly because of the Southerly swell at odds with the easterly swell-add in the northeasterly swell and you can get a headache just watching the ocean. Thankfully, Phil's repair job on the Autohelm held up, the foot of our jib didn't fair so well.
Our final few days at sea were spent almost completely in the cockpit. It was just too hard to try and get sleep anywhere down below. The guy off watch got the leeward side and the sleeping bag. On my "off watch" I ended up in my North Atlantic spot-the cockpit well. Its coffin-like shape was great for the mood I was in. Stewart and I lay stacked on top of each other like smelly cadavers. Still, Phil exaggerated a bit in last week's log with the canned pear for supper bit. I made an effort to get in my galley trapeze and swing about, putting together one decent meal a day. Along with "Team Talk Sat News", it got to be the big thing to look forward to.
We had three "run-ins" with local fishermen out on the high seas hundreds of miles from the nearest land - Jakarta. They all happened between nine p.m. and three in the morning. On my watch, I would see the fishing boat's lights off in the distance and would steer a course leaving about forty-five degrees between us and them. Then, for no logical reason, the fishing boat similarly altered course, eventually going on a suicide mission in front of out bow. I thought the first time it happened that they had net strung out and were trying to delineate where it lay, so I altered course dramatically beating to windward around the whole area they had traversed.
"Are you insane?" I yelled to them, my words dying in the strong wind. The eight foot high seas glimmering like silver sided whales in the light of the full moon. I began to be afraid that maybe these people were fishing for something other than fish. I kept the instrument displays hidden under cockpit cushions. I didn't want their eerie green glow to act like a neon billboard advertising "Yankee dollars here." When the fishing boat was fifteen feet away they covered me with their spotlights. I shone ours on our sail and flashed it twice-if it had been a horn- that would have meant I was altering course to port. Here it didn't really mean anything other than showing them that Iwalani didn't look like a fancy rich guy's boat. After this episode we did something I never thought we would do-sail at night without running lights. It helped a little, but the full moon still gave us away, at least after the first episode, they never got as close.
We had established a radio schedule with three other boats leaving Darwin after us. One of them asked me if I got any fish from the fishing boats. Now, to be honest I really wasn't in the right mood to be bartering for fish at three in the morning on the high seas. I was told that what we were witnessing was the Indonesian practice of cleansing the boat of evil spirits. If they can get right in front of a downwind maneuvering vessel, the evil spirits will jump fro the fishing boat onto the downwind boat, as I guess, evil spirits prefer sailing downwind. I wonder why the fishing boats then would follow us. I still think there was definitely more going on. It was not a very relaxing situation.
When we arrived in Cocos, some singlehanders reported similar episodes. Other boats never even saw one fishing boat, but they were the ones who just brush their teeth and retire for the night leaving the boat sailing on its own. I am learning that lots of people do that. I cannot imagine the situation the Big Cheese would create for us as a test for our faith were we just to go to bed at night.
For any of you following our wake, we have been in radio contact with "Northern Light". They are making their way down the western coast of Australia towards Perth. Every day I have heard from Deborah how beautiful it is. They have also had seen lots of whales including an albino Moby Dick, AND they've had crocodiles swim around their boat. The luck stiffs. So, I would recommend not leaving from Darwin, but motoring the same distance to Dampier and catching the trades down there. It will give a better slant to the wind as we were really heading dead down wind from Darwin. The trades appeared more from the east than the southeast. Plus you'd get to see some neat stuff, while still heading west AND wouldn't pick up Indonesian evil spirits in the process.
(Note: We have since found out that these were not fishermen and these men were up to no good. The Australian Navy and customs are taking action against the scoundrels. I know this is going to upset our families, but Iwalani can now boast that she has outrun and outmaneuvered three pirate boats.)
Cocos (Keeling) are comprised of four main islands surrounding a central lagoon. It's an atoll so the island s are flat and covered with palm trees. It is still part of Australia and is the most western most outpost, the real outback. Yachts are required to anchor off Direction Island to the north. Crescent shaped, it curves around the boats at anchor like a protective arm. There is a great swimming beach, where the native Muslim population come to have swimming lessons, fully clothed. On shore, an open-sided hut with weathered plaques made by visiting yachts commemorates each visit. The tin roof serves as a water catchment for laundry water. A phone is nailed to a post under the palms. It takes Australian phone cards so cheap calls can be made to the States. An intrepid Australian yachtsman carved several walking paths on the island. The coconut palms grow so thick in places that they have created palm forests. Ethereal green arched branches curve church-like overhead. Patches of filtered light sift through the fronds like Venetian blinds. Below, the spongy litter is damp and earthy. In the distance the ocean makes its usual racket on the windward beach destroying the forest solitude.
I have come to the point where I really don't like all that wave noise. At sea, the waves can be really loud, a froth tipped, blue wet mitten, clawing, missing Iwalani and roaring in frustration, over and over again. You cannot just spin a dial and turn the volume down. I wonder if anyone has actually measured the decibel level of the sea? I am sure it is the reason why my single most used word now is "What?" I am just plain going deaf. I also think that most people who take to this sea, live in little houses next to other little houses, where all you can hear are cars and more cars, sirens, horns, TV's, dogs' barking and people yelling. Obviously this cacophony is infinitely more pleasant. Where we come from, it is so quiet that you can hear an ant fart.
Home Island, to the south of direction, is a wet one-and-a-half mile dinghy ride away. 600 or so Muslim people, of Malay descent, live in tidy Australian type bungalows. There is a small store, post office, very good museum, government-sponsored free internet cafe and a "bank". The latter is really a room with a jury-rigged glass-walled "teller barrier" on the upstairs of an old copra shed. There appears to be no crime on the islands, as we walked right into the "bank" on a day it was supposedly closed. There is a mosque and the broadcasted call to prayer brings everyone out, zooming down the patio bricked roads on their four wheelers. All western women visitors must wear clothing that covers shoulders and knees, but because you are completely soaked by the time you arrive by dinghy, most people wear bathing suits, then throw on clothes over the wet suit before the approach to the dock is made. The natives are tolerant of westerners. Not really friendly, but not hostile either. The here is, in my opinion, superior to the "western" store. Because shell collecting is so abysmal, we have taken to collecting small packets of mysterious food, with foreign scrawl covering the wrappers. Then we get home, some dark, cold winter night, we will open these mysterious cans, packets and bottles and teat ourselves to the exotic flavors.
A free ferry ride to the west takes you to the "western" settlement on West Island, The Aussies have an airport with a monstrous landing strip, which also serves as the golf course (a siren warns white ball chasers of approaching airplanes.) While we were there a C43 transport ship from Diego Garcia made an emergency fuel landing. The speed at which the English military crew headed for the loo, made it seem like it was an emergency landing for other reasons. To the west of the airstrip is a small cluster of buildings comprising high school, tennis courts, cricket field, store and pub - the bare necessities for an Australian settlement. Fresh veggies and food are flown in by plane from Perth. One farmer grows lettuce and tomatoes. Tropical fruits are not available. The stores take credit cards, but fuel must be jerry jugged and paid for in cash. The two banks do not give cash advances on credit cards. There are no "hole in the wall" money machines. So it is best to arrive with Australian cash in hand. Are you reading this Kathryn??
These islands were originally settled in 1856 by two Englishmen who created a copra plantation. The Malay people were brought in to turn coconuts to copra. It is too bad that canola oil is so in vogue because these palms are going to waste. I have never seen so many coconuts. Keeling was the captain who first sighted the islands in the 1600's. Why he is only giving parenthetical credit is beyond me. North Keeling atoll is ten kilometers to the north. It is uninhabited and, on paper, looks like an interesting place to visit. We have no charts for it and c-map has no data for it. So it will remain unexplored by us.
The swimming is good; clear water, no man-eating sharks, at least during the day. Snorkeling so-so. We went through "the rip". The incoming ocean creates a six-knot stream that takes you whizzing by some of the biggest fish we have seen to date. They are protected, so trigger-happy cruisers can't hurt them. Coral is in trouble and shells are extinct. We found a small convention of twelve or so hermit crabs discussing their housing crisis. The larger hermit crabs are wandering around in well-worn weathered shells from 30 years ago. Natural selection is going to have to allow them to figure out a way to use discarded flip-flops for housing, as the future of shells is grim. Avid shell collecting yachties have taken to murdering the crabs for the shells. This makes me depressed.
Thanks to all the people who have sent us email. We are trying to answer each letter personally. The overwhelming gist has been that we sound even more depressed than usual. No doubt about it, you'll get no argument from me. So if I may pound the keys for awhile, maybe I can get all of this bile out of my system now and feel a little better afterwards. Anyone adverse to our constant stream of 'whining' better stop reading NOW.
Stewart gave up on eating or doing anything else for that matter once we left Darwin. He was pretty much catatonic. I was keeping him alive with subcutaneous fluids and force feeding small meals every four hours. Something I said I would never do. Twice, I convinced myself to put him to sleep, only to have the seas kick up, the winds howl and the needle impossible to direct into a vein. I became so violently seasick I couldn't do it, and the second time I got migraine number 29 which made me blind for three hours. Stew's life was spared. Phil and I bawling like babies at the thought of murdering him.
I wrestled with myself during most of the passage: what is suffering? When I was in practice, I used to get silently pissed off at the pet owners that would keep poor bedraggled bones of fur going. They were idiots not to recognize that the kindest thing would be to put their pets to sleep. How selfish could they get? I took an oath to prevent animal suffering. Now, I am having a hard time with this suffering thing. What is suffering? Does death really end suffering? Are three miserable individuals in a washing machine, who love each other, and support each other, worse off than two really miserable people and one dead cat? At the other extreme are the people who would get in a "housecleaning" mood around holiday time. Fluffy would end up going to the bet's for the big injection because Aunt Mahitabell was coming to visit and Fluffy's barfing on the carpet suddenly wasn't tolerated anymore. It was my job to help with the housekeeping by putting these pets to sleep, which I would not do, unless they really were terminally ill. I ended up with a lot of cast-off pets as a result.
One of the things this trip had taught me is how fragile life is. All lives. Humans, mahi-mahi, hermit crabs, kangaroos, brush-tailed possums; I can no longer put a value to life, to anyone's life. However, if I had to choose between saving a giant clam or saving George Bush, there is no question who, or perhaps I should say, what, would get saved.
This has led me to the other part of my depression. I am mad, very mad at America. Now, it is un-American to be mad at America. Perhaps it is because I am not living in the house that I can see needs paint and the roof repair. Every American needs to step outside the door of our country and look back for a critical appraisal while standing on the front porch of a foreign country. What we are doing is wrong. I do not blame Sadam for amassing weapons of destruction. If I had America breathing down my neck I would too. Do you know why Desert Storm started? Kuwait was going over Iraq's border and drilling Iraquian oil and selling it at a discounted price. People is Iraq were "suffering" economically. Iraq came to America and asked for help with the border dispute. Our ambassador said, "You've got to do what you've got to do to protect your interests." (A claim she now denies.) So Iraq invaded Kuwait. And we made lots of money selling weapons to everyone in the process. What we did to Afghanistan is equally as bad. Yes, maybe Ossama needed to have the crap bombed out of him and his mountain hideouts. But did you know that most of the "bombs" we dropped are weighted with uranium? Uranium is very heavy so make great "bunker blaster" bombs. The uranium used in weapons manufacture is also contaminated with plutonium and other highly radioactive isotopes. We have left Afghanistan a lot worse than we found, Hurry for America! Let's do it to Ira q! But wasn't it great what we did for humanitarian aid? We dropped food and medical supplies to these poor people. Yes, but what they don't tell you in Time magazine, is that the plastic containers containing these humanitarian aid packages look exactly like "dud" bombs that failed to explode, bright yellow canisters about the size of a Pepsi can. Kabam!
"Oooops! I guess that wasn't something to eat."
So here we are sailing the Indian Ocean getting reports daily of pirates and ship hijackings via the Inmarsat, mostly in Indonesia and Somalia. In every case the reported item stolen was "ship's stores". Not money, not computers. People are looking for things to eat, not Game Boys and CD players. I am not sure what our pirates were after.
Readers are wondering what our route will be from here. We have decided that in the interests of self preservation, it is probably wise to keep me away from Chagos. Diego Garcia is a key base of operations for America's "campaign" in the Gulf. There is no doubt that my anger would make me do something very bad indeed. Besides, I think it is wrong for the yachties to be leading a Robinson Crusoe lifestyle eating from the Chagoian gardens, while the people of Chagos have been "removed" to suit the American political agenda.
So we will head South to Mauritius. Sadly, unable to visit Madagascar because of the political climate. Here were are in "paradise", palm fronds swaying, all of us foreigners sharing an anchorage trying to get along and not offend one another. Life must be idyllic! When we arrived we took a look around and said, "Holy cow! All these boats could pass Phil's sledge hammer test. These are heavily constructed ocean-going vessels, schooners and beards and boats made by their owners. At three in the afternoon or so, everyone gets together under the cabana to play instruments, talk or whatever. We have found the lost fleet from the sixties! But Iwalani's crew? Still out of place. These folks have no interest in weather information.
"Why bother?" They ask like innocent children. "You can't do anything about it and if you only go five knots you certainly can't out sail anything!"
We further damaged our reputation when we expressed our delight at the possibility of French territory ahead.
"Why do you like the French so much?" they asked clearly puzzled.
"Ah, we loved New Caledonia," we replied.
"Yes! Where else can you see the most spectacular underwater scenery in the morning, then have the very best French pastries for lunch and watch a DVD before going to bed?"
"DVD? What is DVD?" one Joshua Slocum wannabe asked.
So we told him.
"But," he said alarmed, "Movies? On you computer? On your boat? You might as well stay at home!!"
I took a very deep breath.
"Our home is on an island, which is very far from town. We grow our own food and can our own vegetables. Chop our own trees, to heat our house. Our house does not move. If something breaks, we fix it. If we want something, we build it. We are just as self-sufficient as if we were at sea. To us, it is more interesting to sail around the world buying and eating mysterious things that have no name we can read. Enjoying all the good things that human's can invent and create, as well as seeing wildlife in its natural environment, before it gets destroyed by all the bad things humans create.
That shut him up.
I had resolved the last few days at sea, that when we finally reached Cocos, we would let Stew enjoy the calm of being at anchor, bring some flowers on board and then I would put him to sleep, cremate him in the local tip, which would allow us to take his ashes home. The chloramphenicol we got in Darwin did not good, the Trimethoprin sulfa brought new meaning to the term projectile vomiting. Stewart has an infection in his brain and I just have to realize that he cannot go on forever. Toxoplasmosis in the brain: he is getting eaten from the inside out like a piano with termites. He will never be completely rid of it. I had not told him that he was blind, probably not from Baytril, but because I had given him prednisolone, for his arthritis and I weakened his immune system. He was a thin as a plan, not eating al all and was the sickest, sorriest looking cat I have ever seen, and I have seen a lot of sick and sorry cats. I was too stupid to realize that my re-arrangement of litter box, bed and food in a small space, had thoroughly confused him. He had measured out that it was 17 cat-sized paces to the litter box from his bed and no matter where he was, he would piss after 17 paces. Food, likewise was nine paces to the right. Or, at least it used to be. My moving things around in order to help him, had made him utterly. The worst part is I know better, "Never move stuff around." I tell my blind pet owning clients. DUH!
I was bored enough to read "The Merck Veterinary Manual", a book I eschewed in the past, as being too simplistic. "Look at this," I said to Phil. "They say for toxo meningoencephalitis, cats need 50 mg/kg of Clindamycin. That's twice as much as the whopping high dose the folks at Colorado recommend." Stewart by this point had lymph nodes around his throat so big that it looked like he swallowed a baseball. Of course, all I could see was lymphoma. But I didn't have anything to lose. We were now out of the cat medicine box and into the human medicine box. At the most, Stew new weights 3 Kg. That means he would get 150 mg of Clindamycin. I lubed up the capsule and fired it down his throat like a missile. The next day I did it again. As soon as the anchor was down, the first thing I did was give him a bath and wash all his bedding. Iwalani smelled pretty awful. We took him out on deck to dry off.
"Look at that!" Phil cried. "He's looking around! I think he can see!"
Sure enough, as each day goes by he seems to see more. He's eating. Not just lapping at food like he had been for months, but gobbling. His lymph nodes are almost shrunken down to peanut size. He's acting more alert, walking, chirruping, using his litter box, looking up like jumping may not be too far in the future. No more headaches. How much permanent brain damage he has, has yet to be determined. In researching toxoplasmosis on the internet, the very same syndrome in humans with AIDS, much mention and speculation is made about preventing the explosive growth of the cysts. One of the "treatments" is cool temperature and high altitudes. For some reason, the organism sleeps dormant in these conditions. Tropics and tropical weather are not recommended for toxo. Stewart always wanted a mountain retreat . . .
So, we shall be leaving here in a few days. The very worst part of the trip still ahead. The Torres straight, Eastern Australian coast, North Atlantic and Columbian coast all just training grounds for the mighty Agullus current. None of us is looking forward to it. But we are not alone. We will be making the passage with other American boats all ducking away from the "politically hot climates" like dogs with tails tucked between our legs. Phil, still proud, of America, insists on flying our biggest flag. I am thankful I talked him into stowing it while on the high seas. I think things would have been even worse if the fishing boats that were out there knew we were American. Thankfully, our identifying name and hailing port, "Iwalani", Georgetown, ME, raises many questioning looks.
And Stewart? We cannot burn him in the tip. I cannot put him to sleep either, no matter how bad things get. We have rocks and a sewn bag for burial at sea, should the need arise. I have decided to put this in the Big Cheese's hands. I may not completely trust him to stand watch for us at night, but I feel much better having him in charge of my cat's life. Stewart is aware that we have two more long passages ahead of us. But, the difference now is that at the end of the next one there is the possibility of French cat food.
I am sure I have pissed a lot of people off, but you know what? I think Stew and I, anyway, are feeling a lot better.
Log for the week of Sept 15, 2002 13 48s 90 50e enroute to Mauritius via Inmarsat by PS
Wasn't sure I could get this posted. Conditions could be better. We have 20knt winds and 8 to 12 foot seas on the beam. The Indian Ocean is sure not the Pacific!
We left Cocos on Thursday after patching the jib and a few other odd jobs. There are about 8 boats headed to Mauritius, 2338.6 miles to the west. The first few days we motored and then the wind took over. I'd whine more about the conditions, but the Russian arrived in his 8 foot boat just as we were leaving Cocos. He has already been around Cape Horn and judging by his gray hair, he's old enough to know better. Go figure. Myself, I spend my time dreaming of sitting at home watching the Simpson's. Other than that we have reduced ourselved to eating meals out of cans as facing a sink load of dishes is a bit much for our stomachs. Speaking of which, I've got to head up on deck and get some air. About 20 more days on this passage. Ugg.
Log for the week of Sept 22, 2002 Indian Ocean via Inmarsat by APW.
We've both been a bit perturbed at the lack of honesty in previous circumnavigators accounts of the Indian Ocean. Their books and logs omit the important fact that you have to be two sandwiches short of a full picnic to be out here. We've had rain-in deluges. Our radar, mounted high on the mast, saved our lives twice. Huge supertankers bound for Indonesia, when contacted by VHF, have no idea we are out here too. Waves as big as Victorian storefronts hide our boat completely. Every fifteieth one will crash over the deck completely submerging us in water. We finally resorted to closing all hatches, portlights and living like wet dishtowels down below. Sometimes a "drunken ute driver" will lose control and slam into the side of the hull, stopping us momentarily in the water while Iwalani regains her senses, shakes off the water and continues on at the slow six knot pace. Any work on the decks, such as tending sails, involves slipping on flying fish, which pepper the decks. The autopilot broke-luckily while both of us were up and while it was still light out. We made the switch to the new spare with not much fuss. Phil made repairs and the old one is back in business.
We make an inch a day across the chart- just half way now to Mauritius. The humans on board are starting to stink and itch. We must conserve fresh water, because it is too rough for the de-salinator. Stewart, is grooming, eating and doing ok. Today, the sun is shining, the crazed ute divers are becoming fewer, I cooked and ate breakfast without wearing it in one form or another and already the grey wet hell we went through is starting to dry up and disappear, leaving only white salt everywhere-a giant pretzel ship. APW
Log for the week of Sept 29,2002 Via Inmarsat-C by PS
We are one day away from the island of Mauritius. This has been the worst passage of our circumnavigation. Now before you say "Here they go whineing again."hear me out. I'm going to make some comparisons with our 3,000 mile Pacific crossing to give it a value.
On the PO our hatches and portlights were open all the time. We coined the expression "If Iwalani's decks are wet, it must be raining. "On the IO all our hatches(including the companion drop slides)and portlights were closed for 2 weeks straight, due to waves washing over our decks. In the PO we spent all our night watches on deck. In the IO we stayed down below, watching the radar, trapped on some wild circus ride you might see on the "Outer Limits"TV show. On the PO the wind never got above a full sail breeze. On the IO we had a triple reefed main for over 2,000 miles. On the PO the waves (swell) never got above 1.5 meters. On the IO the wind waves were 2.5 meters and there was a cross swell of 4 meters. The cross swell would hit the Iwalani like a Mac truck. On the PO we gained weight. On the IO eating, due to hazardous motion in the galley or stomach instability, was a chore. So there you have it. Now I realize how the Pacific got it's name.
We still have more rough going ahead of us. Jimmy Cornell's "World Cruising Routes" claims that getting across the Agulhas Current to Richards Bay, has been the worst passage for many circumnavigators. Perhaps it's time we hired a delivery crew so Amy, Stew and I can fly to Richards Bay and meet Iwalani there. Stew, by the way, gained weight on this passage. PS