Hello, my name is Gillen. I live on a catamaran called "Chaotic Harmony" and we are sailing around the world for now. I come from Darwin in the Northern Territory of Australia.
We first met the family of Dario, Sabine, Salina, Andre and Noi from "Top to Top" (http://expedition.toptotop.org/) at Langkawi in Malaysia in November 2010 but since then they have a new baby girl called Alegra. They were visiting schools to tell the dangers of plastic in the water and how it affects the turtles and sea life and collecting the beach rubbish. The kids like to come to my boat to watch DVD's and play games.
We met up with "Top to Top" again at Rodriguez Island in the Indian Ocean and again a few days later at Mauritius where we currently are berthed in a marina together at Port Louis.
Dario asked our family if we wanted to climb a mountain with him and his family on Mauritius and Celesta from "Sogno D'azul" and on Thursday the 22nd September 2011 I climbed my first mountain all the way to the sumit. The mountain is called Mount Le Pouce which means "The Thumb". My family stayed on our boat and did some jobs that needed to be done like the dishes.
Most of the mountain is just walking until we got near the summit where we had to start climbing. The paths are very wide until about half way when they got narrower and became one person only so we had to walk in line.
On the way back down we took out garbage bags and collected as much rubbish as we could. Plastic water bottles, chip packets, paper and tissues were the main bits of rubbish. We got about 5 bags of rubbish from the one trail down.
When we got to a clearing at about the third the way up we went down a different path which took us on a winding trail of thick, dense jungle and eventually led to a place that looks like the Australian bush with eucalyptus and acacia trees.
We walked about 4 kilometers down and through the foothills until we reached the edge of the city and then we got a taxi cab back to the boats at the marina. Selina and Andre fell asleep as we were all very tired from walking and picking up other peoples rubbish.
It was a great day and even the taxi driver that took us to the start of the trail climbed with us all the way. We ate lunch at the summit and even saw about 8 monkeys but they did not get my apple core. I shared my chocolate with Selina and Andre and the taxi driver.
When I got home my feet were white from being wet from the wet grass and I have two big blisters but it was still good fun but tiring so today I am resting.
I think the Top to Top expedition is great and people should not litter our world especially places like Mauritius. The picture is Mt Le Pouce
This is Gillen signing off. Over and Out.
09/19/2011, Mauritius Island
Well we arrived one hour after dark and could not get approval to enter Port Louis so we are spending the first night in the "roads" anchored with the big boys. All is well and sleep beckons
09/08/2011, Rodriguez Island
Hi, We made it to Rodriguez Island after an action packed sail of no wind and 3 days of up to Force 8. All in all a very moderate sail as sailing goes but we are safe and enjoying the delights that Rodriguez offers. It is a very friendly place which is a change after the folk at West Island of the Cocos Keeling Islands and it is cheap so our dollar will go a long way here.
Our intentions are to stay for a week or so and recuperate and clean ship and buy chocolate and perhaps even a beer for the Old Man. We will write a decent blog as soon as we get a few photos together but for now we are just going to relax.
Hope you are all well as we are and enjoying life.
09/01/2011, Indian Ocean
"Heavy Weather and onto Rodriguez Island" or "Isn't it getting cold????"
Last episode..........The tuna were dispatched to fishy heaven quickly and fresh sashimi was the order of the day with tuna steaks for breakfast.
We have only been averaging 185nm days since leaving Cocos and this is largely due to the sea state as we tend to bounce around like an old bucket with grunts and groans coming from all parts of ship. We try to limit Chaotic Harmony to around 10 to 12 knots by day by reefing and by heavy reefing at night to about 6 or 7 knots so the trip is not so stressfull on the boat or on us.
A gale set in yesterday beginning in a near gale by 0800 and going through the motions for the next 6 hours until by 1800 it was blowing about Force 8, 38 knots and we were in our first Indian Ocean gale with attendant 3m seas and 5m swell making things a bit chaotic aboard. All pretence of harmony was sadly lacking. By mid morning today the wing had moderated back to a near gale and the weathers we have been receiving suggest we will have this for a day or two more before it backs more ENE and blows us into Rodriguez. We should be there mid next week and if we can find an internet connection upload a few photos.
Most of the other boats have arrived or are arriving at Rodriguez Island but then again we stayed an extra 2 weeks and will follow the main fleet in just a couple of days after they arrive. Cat sailing in heavy weather is different and leaves a lot to be desired at times until we get used to it. The motion is not incredibly exciting as it is on a mono. It is very jerky and at times worrisome that the hulls can withstand the seas pounding but I guess they do, they have and they will continue to do so. We seem to dance a merry jig from wave top to wave top knocking spray with stunned flying fish all over the place which means that the flying fish are now a morning chore to clean up after.
Yesterday I got 35 off the deck and 2 had even managed to fly into an open hatch and straight down onto my bunk.... Pesky little scaley beasties and not nice bed partners as they smell and leave scales behind when they leave....
Just in case of emergencies we have packed a good kit to take into the liferaft if we need to. Unfortunately the chocky stash was found and this did not make it into the kit with the EPIRB,flares, VHF, food, fishing line etc. Although come to think of it what do you do with a 100kg tuna in a liferaft anyway?
We are all glad we worked on the hatches in Thailand as they were all leaking and her we are with 5m seas, blue water on deck every wave and no leaks. To rectify the problem we raised the hatches 3/4 of an inch so the water flows around them and not through/under them. This way we do not have to rely on a sikaflex solution to the dreaded drips and interiour downpours.
We are now at about 17 degrees South latitude and we are all noticing the cooler weather. I wear clothes now instead of just a pair of shorts and actually don foul weather gear for the night watches to keep warm. I hope we can buy some good warm clothing in South Africa or thereabouts as we have diddly squat aboard.
We run a daily competition of the days run. Of course I am not allowed to enter it but do give small hints to those that ask. So far Gill is leading followed by Keels and Jo. He was bang on today at 195NM. Not too sure about tomorrow as the gale is back in force and I think we will have 35plus all night long.
08/28/2011, Indian Ocean
For those of you that wonder what getting ready and life at sea on a small yacht is like. This is the second of two stories of some of the preparations and then the log extracts/tales of life at sea for the first three days of a major passage.
The sail Day 1..
Up early as sleep does not come easily when the excitement of a 12 day sail is offered. Keely joins me for breakfast, then Jo and Gillen. To relax Gill and Keely watch a movie and Jo and I discuss the trip. A last safety briefing and MOB (Man Over-Board) exercise is completed and we are ready to weigh anchor. It is blowing 20 knots in the anchorage but the weather
looks set to moderate to 15 to 20 so a decision is made and we start the engines. While the engines warm we stow for sea and clean ship so everyone knows where everything is and close all hatches and then complete last minute systems checks and engine checks. Sounds great in theory and the stowage lasts at least the first few hours.
Weighing anchor in 20 knots on a lee shore is not much fun with many other boats to also be aware off and avoid but we manage with Gill on the helm and eventually cat the anchor down and clear decks for sea. The sea anchors and drogues are then prepared for deployment, life lines rigged and we motor through the Direction Island fleet tooting our horn in goodbye, waving and promising to meet again when three large dolphins join us in our departure and jump and play with us as we reach deeper water and heave to to raise sail.
All reefs and islands are cleared and we set course on a Great Circle route for Rodrigeuz Island 2000nm away and set watches. The wind is ESE at 20 knots so we begin to make miles straight away. Watches are set and everyone retires to the cabin to begin sea sickness trials.
The day dawns at 0600 as we have retarded watches as we make the move west. The night had lots of small surprises after our Indian Ocean net HF sked with the other boats on 8182Mhz. The wind would go SE to 25 knots with squalls so we made a lot of good miles but by and large the wind has been up the exhaust at ESE at 10 to 12 knots so we are not moving along as well as could be expected. The days run will be measured and checked and reported at next sked at 0400UTC. At a guess it will be about 175nm. A bit less than the 200 I expected. The wind up the stern means that we have had to reef and shake reefs out all night long. We had two large ships pass astern during the night. The AIS is GREAT !!!!!!!!!!
The bilges and pumps are checked every morning but especially first day out to see if anything has sprung a leak. The stbd hull has taken water but this is due to heavy following seas running up the rudder post. Sounds strange but it spurts out anyway. It does not happen to port and this rudder hangs slightly lower. Maybe a clue in there somewhere.
I tore a tendon in my right elbow at Cocos and it is still not right so the constant reefing and banging it make it feel even worse and I am a tad grumpy this morning. Checked all the decks for flying fish this morning for the pan but none fresh enough so we have put the lure out the back and hope to entice a nice Wahoo or Dorado to join us for a few meals. Fresh bread made and hot bread, butter and golden syrup for lunch. Mmmmmmmmm. We also mix up a packet cake mix for night watch munchies but I think it will not last that long.
On the skeds "RYTHYM" with Ike and Becky have been reporting whales but as yet all we have seen are birds and flying fish. It was our first night at sea for a month so only Jo and I held down a watch. Keely slept below and Gill slept in the saloon cabin so it was a good time to catch up on reading "Two Years Before the Mast" by Ricard Henry Dana Jr and to catnap and meditate the night away. I stay on deck till 8pm when Jo relieves me and stays till 10pm when I return on watch till 1am, Jo takes over till 3am and I take it for the rest of the morning. It is a glorious sunrise as the sun rises through the squalls but the winds back further ENE and as we wish to go the exact opposite we keep jybing so our course is now modified more southerly so we can take advantage of the breeze and hopefully meet a SE breeze further south. Actually we are now heading for Antarctica so the wind should freshen and back soon. Several ships pass us this morning and most heading for the Sunda Strait. They can have it as we are so not into Asian waters and the fishing fleets anymore. Give us the deep blue any day.
It is time for the 0400Z sked and all are OK with the fleet strung out from 300NM from Rodriguez to 1900NM. A German yacht at Cocos tells us that Rodriguez is full so where will we find a park? Have I forgotten to mention the navigation? It is an hourly task with the GPS to record positions, radio chats, weather and significant events in the log. For example : 1915Z AIS target "PALMA BULE" heading NW 12.4knots bearing SE 12NM, should pass astern 4NM within the hour. 1958Z. Lights sighted astern approx 4nm and "PALMA BULE" identified.
We will use the sextant this trip to regain old skills and as a teaching aid for Gill. We will start when he feels better and this is normally on the 3rd day at sea. Our positions are plotted every 3 hours on the routing chart and we take turns in guessing the days run. Keely wins today with a very poor performance of 165nm. The wind died on us but comes back into the SE at 10 knots around 8pm. I hope it lasts.
The day passes slowly as we regain our sealegs and get over being tired and tomorrow we can begin to relax but I have a surprise Man Over Board exercise for them.........As the sun sets I complete the outboard engine service and check the engines to run tomorrow morning for water and power.
Day 3. The wind is here at last and during the night we were able to run down our Great Circle route to Rodriguez island. We had been going in a more southerly direction to find the wind or at least find some with a SE component and it appears to have worked. We are sailing along at 8 to 10 knots in a 15 knots SE'ly. What's a Great Circle ? Simply put it is the shortest distance between two points on the globe. It is a straight line on a spherical projection map while a rhumb line is a straight line on a non-spherical projection map and is what most people follow to go short distances. On a voyage of this size we sail over 10 % less by using a great circle.
We did not generate much power yesterday as it was not too windy and also a bit cloudy. On average with the kids we are using 150Ah a day and it takes wind and sunshine to generate that. We are still 173Ah down in the house batteries at midnight. I make a note to shut down the computer and run the engines in the morning. We can also make some water at the same time. After this is done I go below and check the bilges before handing over the watch to Jo at 0400 local time.
Sun rise to a beautiful day in the Indian Ocean. Wind ESE 12-15 knots, seas a bit lumpy but flying fish everywhere and only a few small cumulus clouds in the sky. We put out another lure hoping for a Dorado for lunch but I guess they are not that hungry this morning. As soon as the sun rises we begin generating power. If the wind would veer SE we will make a lot more but I doubt it today so it will be a motor and the kids can play games as well. Ran the engines and water maker for 2 hours and pumped out all bilges again. The sun and trades are giving us 20amps an hour at present into the batteries so I hope it keeps up and we may reach some modicum of normality once again and the Playstation can do its job of motion sickness distraction.
Gill and Jo are feeling a lot better today and Gill is actually seen away from his temporary bunk in the saloon and in the cockpit while Keely again wins the miles run competition with 165nm guess. Tomorrow we should top out over 200nm with the fresher SE wind. We did not have a MOB exercise as no-one felt like it. The kids watched tele while I ran the engines and Jo feels a bit seedy again as the seas become lumpier. Maybe tomorrow......
Well, life here is quite busy and I still have lots of books to read and we will top 220nm in this next 24 hours. We are skipping from wave to wave and I had better go put another reef in to keep it all controllable.......We finally caught two yellowfin tuna this afternoon and sushimi was on the menu...........YUM
Be good and enjoy life.
08/10/2011, Cocos Keeling Islands
Preparing for Sea
For those of you that wonder what getting ready and life at sea on a small yacht is like. This will be the first of two stories of some of the preparations for the 2000NM trip to Rodriguez Island and then the log extracts of life at sea.
Preparation begins a few days before departure and usually goes something like this.................
The first thing besides trying to locate beer supplies is to go up the mast to check all fittings and repair the salt encrusted anemometer. How on earth it gets covered in layers of salt up there amaze me each time. Engine servicing and checks then occupy me as I do not like making repairs at sea and try and find any possible source of trouble and fix it if possible. One thing this time that worries me is the high saline line from the watermaker is leaking and I do not have a replacement fitting so it will have to wait till Africa. We have stocked up on water jerry cans as an alternative if it goes bung on the way.
I bribe Gill to help me clean the propellors of barnacles and slime from the hulls. As we have just been antifouled it is a quick job wiping the slime off the hulls but the sharks make it a bit more fun as there are always several around the boat trying to catch the "poo police fish".
All standing rigging (bits that hold the mast up) are checked and cleaned. I have dyneema rope to replace any failed stays but do not relish the idea of going up the mast at sea. All the halyards and sheets are checked as well for chafe and weak points and we have enough rope aboard to replace all lines. Next is to check and clean the bilges and bilge pumps and their electrical fittings for voltage. It is amazing what ends up in there and if you lose something on the boat you will eventually find it in the bilge or stuck in a pump. This includes Jo's and Keely's hair. It appears that females on average tend to clog one pump a week. The hair is quite blonde so Gill is not the culprit and I shaved my head as I lost my comb.(much to Jo's disgust but a good enough excuse anyway)
The electrical system comes next and first item on the agenda is to defrost the fridge as it ices up and this means more power is consumed trying to reach a temperature that becomes increasingly more difficult to achieve. We need to do this on average every two weeks but it is also a way of restocking the fridge and finding the chocolate you dropped last week. All electrical based systems such as navigation, lighting, anchor, communications etc are checked and rechecked. Ian services the sextant to remove error in case it is needed and to teach Gill the art of navigation. Nav programs are loaded and checked and passage plans produced and discussed according to all their own various factors. (Another story in the offing here if you are interested.) We produced a 250 page passage plan before leaving Australia and it has become a great reference now we have no internet.
All other yachts in the anchorage are consulted and information exchanged. This includes charts, electronic documents and any knowledge at all. A data stick soon speeds its way around the fleet so everyone has the same data and communications are discussed and frequencies and times for skeds are agreed upon. Radios are checked and programmed and aerials and tuners serviced and cleaned.
Stores and fuel are a necessary evil and need to be assessed and replenished. We have plenty of stores aboard to last till Africa but have taken the opportunity to stock up again on chocolate, soda, 40L of petrol and another 20L of diesel to replace that used in making water while at anchor.
Checking the weather and assessing system movement is a daily job but becomes increasingly important as you begin preparing for sea. We are not true multihull sailors yet so I do not like to leave a nice anchorage in 40knots of wind so passage weather.com, grib files and weather reports from Africa are read and discussed by those preparing to leave, judgements are made and then checked out Aust Customs basically on the state of the weather. For example it is blowing 30knots here at Cocos and a boat that left a few days ago was knocked down last night but we have "checked out" as we believe the weather will moderate by Friday when we need to leave for Africa.
Jo always like to talk about making food for passages as everyone else does and she has used the pressure cooker to make a few days worth but we find we can still cook quite well at sea and no-one is interested in more than a coffee or hot milo anyway when huey piles it on us.
Clearing customs and Immigration at Cocos is easy and we do a final check of the mail which has again been offloaded for passengers. No mail now for two weeks but we cannot wait any longer as we all feel the need to be underway for Rodrigeuz Island. My medication finally arrives (the three week script filled)and we buy some more chocolates and head back on the 2nm dinghy ride to Chaotic Harmony in 30 knots of wind. Not pleasant but stimulating for the adrenal gland.
We made a decision not to sail till Friday or possibly even Saturday with the trades being compressed and squashed in our area so we will now begin more preparations or go fishing or read a book while the wind howls. Maybe I'll even shave my head again..............................(Actually Jo is right. I do look like an escaped convict)
All is well here and we hope you are all well.