October 17-November 5 2022
The passage from Krakatoa to Cocos Keeling was a quick fun beam reach in brisk winds and lively seas arriving on day 4 at 0235 . We set anchor between the reefs and woke the next morning to a spectacular oasis in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The waters a shimmering Kaleidoscope of blues surrounded by islands thick with coconut palm trees. After an efficient visit from friendly Australian ICB authorities we cleaned up and rejoined the rest of the fleet for a fantastic beach BBQ hosted by Oyster and our Australian hosts.
Cocos Keeling are a small group of islands 800 miles west of Perth, Australia and just southwest of Christmas Is. They are very remote: 1-2 planes/ week ,populated by @ 500 people. Historically they served as a central point for running all the Indian transoceanic cables but today serve a vacation spot for tourists looking for a very remote destination…. Mostly Australians.
Joshua Slocum in his famous book “Sailing Alone Around the World ” describes his time here on Spray as some of the most enjoyable of his 3 year circumnavigation. We all found these islands a delightful surprise… literally an oasis in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
We spend 3 days relaxing, swimming , snorkeling and exploring the neighboring islands before we set off on our Indian Ocean crossing to Mauritius. Reluctant to leave we weigh anchor late afternoon. We are the last boat to leave these beautiful islands. In an attempt to watch these islands fade in the setting sun we practice a few man overboard drills.
A typical day at sea:
On an ocean passage you settle into a rhythm that is largely dictated by the watch schedule. We pull 3 hour rotating watches on Infinity shared equally by Fabian, Daniella and myself. Elena does all the meals and does not pull watches. There are lots of opinions on the best watch system that I won’t bore you with. My only requirement is that our off time needs to be long enough to allow good sleep ,including REM sleep.
I firmly believe that’s most accidents at sea are the direct result or at least are made worse by exhausted crew making poor decisions.
On Infinity we predominantly (90%)hand steer during the day and use the autopilot predominantly(90%) at night.
Meals are taken individually around one’s sleep and watch schedule except for dinner which we eat together @ 1730.
We have 2 SSB net calls/day at 0900 and 1800 which last 30 -60 minutes. These are great fun as well as providing valuable information on all boat’s position, condition and sea state. These are usually led by one of the larger boats in the middle of the fleet. Personal stories, birthday celebrations, recipes , joke of the day , Limerick challenges and good fun is bandied about during these calls. One “joke of the day” that did not go over well. The entire fleet was becalmed for days in the mid Pacific when the net leader ,who I’ll leave nameless but hails from Ireland, announced that he had just been informed by Oyster that the fuel dock in Nuka Hiva would not have the promised diesel when we arrived in a week. Being becalmed the fleet uniformly was motoring and burning through diesel. We all were thinking we would arrive to the Marquesas on fumes. What to do? Some kept the RPMs up and others like Infinity throttled back trying to preserve fuel as we knew the next fuel stop was Papeete 1000 miles further west. The bad jokester failed to tell us that it was an April fools joke despite prodding. He was almost keel-hulled on arrival to the Marquesas.
Infinity averages 170-190 miles/day in 18-20 knots of breeze so days and hours run together on a 2000+ mile passage which can take 2 or more weeks . We often go through 3 or 4 time zone changes onn a long passage so to keep everyone on the same TZ the SSB net leader sets the arbitrary time zone changes for the fleet . We each deal with this slight time warp differently but I regularly check Apple clock, alarm and calendar to stay oriented.
The rest of the day everyone works on their own pet projects, sleeps ,reads etc.
I personally listen to books rather than read to avoid slight seasickness and to be able to continue listening on my night watches , keep a journal, work on this blog , listen to music etc. We have a TV onboard but it rarely gets used. I think one movie has been watched since departing Ipswich, England.
Infinity has a SAT phone that we use for weather updates, personal emails and weekly calls home to family etc.
On our long ocean passages we have a celebratory mid way dinner . On our Indian Ocean crossing Elena prepared duck breast with thyme and honey, mashed potatoes , asparagus , panna cotta for dessert and a bottle of Domaine Serene Pinot Noir. It is a tough life on Infinity. 😜
Thirteen days and 2300 miles later we arrive in Mauritius.
Mauritius is a independent Island state 2300 miles west of Cocos Keeling and 1400 miles east of South Africa. It is another beautiful volcanic island.
We raft up at crowded Marina Caudan in Pt Louis where we provision, rest, explore and fuel up.
Over half the fleet has had a problem with bad diesel resulting in“buggy fuel” and engine and generator problems. We run our fuel polisher regularly and got most of our fuel in Jakarta which was fresher fuel than the rest of the fleet got in Gili Gede. In this part of the world diesel often has dirt and water in it which will cause diesel bug, a fungal overgrowth that clogs the engine injectors. For this reason we had our tanks checked and while we have had no problems with our fuel there was dirt on our Racor filters and early evidence of overgrowth in the tank. We elected to pump out our tank and manually clean it. Call it insurance. It is not a good feeling to be motoring in to a harbor at night and suddenly have your engine stop.
Our marina is near a small town so I am able to join a local gym for a few days. After 3 weeks on the boat it feels really good to get back in the gym.
Reunion is a French island that is a dramatic volcanic island 120 miles west of Mauritius. We motor sail through the night and arrive early the next morning. Reunion is our staging location as we prepare for the last push of 1300 miles to South Africa. This is a potentially dangerous passage as we cross the Agulhas current along the east coast of Mozambique and South Africa. This is a strong 3-4 knot current 100 miles wide running north-south that can have very rough water when winds come out of the south which they regularly do with lows out of the southern ocean. We will wait for a more formal weather forecast from Chris Tibbs before deciding when to leave. Meanwhile we are free to explore yet another volcanic island.
I decide to skip snorkeling and diving as there are a lot of bull sharks around Reunion…. So many shark attacks in-fact that they have outlawed surfing on Reunion. The surf here is well formed moderate 4-6 foot waves but we are definitely moving south as the water is getting cold . Latitude 20 degrees.
According to Chris Tibbs weather currently is very unstable so we are staying in Reunion for another week.We will leave for Durban SA when the weather starts to stablize.
You can follow us on the YB Tracker as we work our way to Durban and then on to Cape Town. Wish us good luck…
Next post will be a pre Christmas post from Cape Town.