Well, we were ready to go today but it hasn't stopped raining heavily since last night and the wind appears to be blowing horizontally! We would rather sail to Reunion in more pleasant weather and with better visibility. So we are doing a few more jobs - sewing machine repairs whilst we still have power and Bill thinks he may be able to get the gas bottle filled. Filling the gas bottle is a bit of drama everywhere we go. Each country has different fittings and many refuse to fill ours. We do not want to exchange our extra tough galvanised gas bottle for their crummy recycled ones!
An Invitation :
Another article appeared in the paper yesterday on Linda with a preview photo on the front page!! It mainly talked about the work done with the children. Lewis says lots of little towns around Mauritius want to have art classes for their children now!
If its still raining tomorrow we might go and see another Bollywood movie. The last one we saw was hilarious especially as it was filmed in Surfers Paradise Australia! The costumes and storyline were over the top - great entertainment!
Hopefully you have plowed through the 100s of photos taken whilst we're here. Lewis friend Michele the stone carver visited us the other day with his wife Lore, sister Janet and gorgeous son Nigel. Lore and Janet are from Rodrigues and knew all the people in the photos we took whilst we were there! Their photo is in the Mauritius album too.
The photo above was taken of Lewis proudly wearing the 'Australia' t shirt and Josiane on Valiam the last time we saw them. Good friends we will miss dearly..................
To view the work of Australian Artist
Linda Frylink Anderson
"Images from Around the World"Featuring drawings from Ecole de Sculpture
Official Opening : 5.30pm Thursday 11th September
Venue : Ecole de Sculpture Avenue de Bricoleur Bambous
Exhibition Times : Thursday 11th, Friday 12th, Saturday 13th September
9am - 6pm
Linda is currently on a voyage around the world with her husband Bill on their yacht Valiam which they built themselves. Linda is an Artist and teacher from Queensland, Australia. She has exhibited mostly in Australia and taught children and adults for more than 20 years in schools and universities.
Linda has studied Art, Photography and Education in Canberra and Brisbane, Australia. As well as degrees in Education , she holds a Diploma in Pianoforte and has practised Middle Eastern Dance for 10 years. Her personal interest in Drawing, Music, Drama, Photography and Writing has enabled her to work with children and adults on her travels in a relaxed and enjoyable way. Linda's style of drawing has been described as being uninhibited and free. She is currently working on a book to be published at the end of her voyage around the world.
Linda would like to thank Lewis Dick (Sculptor of Mauritius), his wife Josiane and his students from d'Ecole de Sculpture for their support and friendship.
For more details on Linda's work in Mauritius see website :
www.valiam.com.au (see photo Gallery : Lewis Dick and Le Morne Workshops)
mob ph Linda : +230 7390391
Childrens Art Workshop and Exhibition Le Morne
On Friday Bill and Linda set up the Children's exhibition at Le Morne Cultural Centre in a beautiful and World Historic area of Mauritius. Many children in this area are underpriviged in many ways and lack funds and motivation to do something with their lives. Drawings done by the children at Linda's previous workshop were displayed along with photos and DVD of the children engaged in drawing and music. The workshop on Saturday included Drawing, Sculpture and Music. I was well attended and amny groups of children participated. Bill was Linda's teacher aide as she took 2 groups of young children for a drawing class. It is a simple concept to 'Draw from Life' but many children are never given the opportunity to do so. The children were encouraged to observe closely the shape and form of several big sculptures in front of them to draw. After drawing Lewis senior students who are excellent musicians played and sang traditional Mauritian music for all to dance to - even the parents when they arrived!
07/09/2008, Bambous, Mauritius
A students' work - L'ecole de Sculpture:
Sculpture by Gena
Always aware of his own humble beginnings Lewis is passionate about helping the poor and underprivileged children of Mauritius. His garden and small gallery is full of sculptures made by his students. One sculpture drew my attention each time I went into the garden. It is of a mother with a child on her back. The mothers face is a picture of anger and grief. The 14 year old girl - Gena who carved this sculpture is an illegitimate child. Her mother was shunned by the local Mauritian community as having a child out of wedlock is a big stigma. Her mother pretended the child was someone else's carrying her on her back and went about saying she was the babysitter. Lewis said that this girl got rid of her negative emotions by creating this sculpture. She is now a successful nurse in a local hospital. On our last visit Lewis insisted on giving me this sculpture. The sculpture is now part of Linda's exhibition "Images from around the world" We will eventually place her in the garden at home in Australia.
Tsunami hits Mauritius
Yes it's true! We were woken the other night with loud knocking on our hull. we could hear the security men talking on their radios. After Bill hurriedly pulled on some clothes and emerged the message we received was that a 'big wave' was coming at 1am and that we should tie the boat securely. The skippers and crew of all the visiting yachts all emerged and began tying extra rope and tightening the ones we had. We only have 2 suitable fenders as well as 2 we use for seats so we didn't feel adequately protected. We all stayed up until 2am. Linda tidied the boat and checked our insurance documents. As it was nothing happened in the marina. We found out that a 12 ft wave did in fact wash ashore on the coast in palces but no damage was done.
We suffered from lack of sleep but at least all was well.
More Art - Mauritius
Wednesday 3rd September
This past week or so has been quite busy. Even now Linda has a deadline of getting some photos printed for an exhibition before Friday. As it is a holiday tomorrow (Ganesh Hindu festival) today will be busy getting things ready. Bill is off buying some board to cut up for the students to draw on their laps on Saturday. Bill has been and continues to be a porter, supporter and a huge help to Linda!
Yesterday was spent at Lewis' house, garden and studio in Bambous. As some of his students worked on their wooden scultptures (2 of them are going to Switzerland soon to exhibit) Linda drew several of the sculptures that are in the garden. (see photos under Linda's sketches) Louis' large piece for his client in London has come a long way in the past week. Linda drew Louis working on that too. It's been a wonderful exchange of art and music and continues to be such a pleasure. The exhibition and workshop planned for this weekend at La Morne is mainly for the underprivileged children aged 7-17years. We are becoming adept at catching buses and carting art gear around the district.
Visitors on Valiam - Port Louis
Photo above : Linda with Ramana, Jayashree and Suganthy who nearly drowned in a boating accident in Mauritius
As Bill was riding his bicycle around town the other day he met a German man named Heinz on a folding bicycle. It seems we do meet some amazing people on this voyage. Heinz has been cycling his way around the world for 46 years! He left Germany as a young man and manages to cycle through every country (almost) on a shoestring budget. He occasionally gives talks, sells photos etc to fund his journey which has become his career. Sometimes he camps and sometimes he stays in cheap hotels. For example when he got off the plane here in Mauritius he rode his bicycle into some cane fields to sleep. He said it was private and comfortable! He is now staying in a 600rupee(A$24) a night hotel in town and eats cheap local food. He also does well being invited to people's homes (and yachts) enjoying their hospitality. When he visited us on Valiam he had some amazing tales to tell of his adventures in obscure parts of the world.
Here at Caudan, Valiam has been photographed constantly usually with smiling people standing in front of her. A bridal party came past one day so Bill had to jump up and down poking faces in the background! The photographer turned his subject the other way! On a balmy evening we were relaxing in our cockpit when a group of Indian people took photos of each other in front of Valiam. We ended up in a friendly conversation with them and had further photos taken with them. They were from near Chennai in India and were here on a conference. Business cards were exchanged with invitations to visit them in India. Unfortunately the wind is blowing the wrong way to go there!
A few days later we bumped into the same group again at a café. They asked if we had heard the news about a boating accident here in Mauritius. Of course we hadn't as we don't hear any news - it's all in French anyway. Apparently one of the ladies Saganthy almost died. The 3 of them went out on a little tourist boat which filled up with water. None of them could swim and the boat had no life jackets. There were 11 people on the boat and the maximum is supposed to be 7. The Indian visitors were in the water hanging on to the upside down boat screaming and waving. Suganthy was trapped underneath. Luckily an Australian man Carl was on a fishing boat with his son and saw that there seemed to be a problem. He persuaded his boat man to go to the people in the water. When told about the woman Suganthy under the boat he dragged her out and resuscitated her. She spent several days in hospital in intensive care. This amazing story was told to us as we shared lunch. The man in the group Ramana insisted on paying for lunch so we invited them to visit us the following day.
Ramana, Jayashree and Suganthy visited us for sunset drinks and nibbles after they had visited the Minister of Tourism and had a media conference. Suganthy's rescuer Carl and family were also there. They were given a sumptious lunch and apologies on behalf of the Mauritian people for such an unfortunate incident. Over drinks we talked about their experiences and life in India. With lots of laughter, photos and exchange of aussie flag, koalas and a beautiful silver bangle for Linda this lovely group of people left with an open invitation for us to visit. It was the first time they had seen inside a yacht and like most people here are amazed that we sailed her here from Australia.
Here is their story published in the Readers digest:
Saturday, September 06, 2008
How they surfaced from the jaws of death
This was a drama in real life... remember Reader's Digest? V.S. Ramana, a friend, who heads the PR and corporate communication function at L&T-ECC, has sent me an email describing how he and the PR team from Chennai (or was it India) recently escaped with their lives during a visit to Mauritius. I am reproducing here what he has written and except for editing for size, I have let it remain as it is. This came as a shocker when I read it. Here goes:
Nearly 50 PR professionals from India, from various leading public and private sector organisations of India, top media as well as from the advertising sector, arrived by Air Mauritius MK 745 on the 24th August. The event was to mark the celebrations of '50 Years of Public Relations Society of India (PRSI)' - the apex PR body that decided to extend its Golden Jubilee celebrations in the 'Out of the World' Island called Mauritius.
The event had a true auspicious beginning with a kick off by Hon'ble President of Mauritius, and event participation by Minister for Industry, Director Board of Investments, High Commissioner of Mauritius in India, Director, Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority,the acting Director, Govt Info Service, the CEO Air Mauritius - to name few of the stars; and many noted international PR experts. The three-day sessions of the 2nd International PR Festival ended with active participation of the delegates and speakers. It was time then time for members to enjoy the island's unique experience for the rest of the days before their scheduled departure on at day break on 31 August.
Fatema F Kaderbhay of Heldive Ltd [not Hell Dive!] came to offer an exciting 'underwater walk' - "it is so safe even for 7-year-old kids and those who do not even know swimming!" she said. It was also an unbeatable offer, said to be very special for us. A confident lot of 16 agreed to participate. At the defined moment, only 11 people set out for the venture - that could have turned into a 'disastrous adventure'.
A cab took the team, and Raj, the driver, spoke Hindi and actively engaged all the people on the finer aspects of the island. We soon reached Pereybere at the Grand Bay. The lagoon was quiet, serene and emerald blue.... truly inviting!! As we got to capture few shots on our video and still cameras, a ferry came ashore to take us to a 'platform' in the sea where we were supposed to get into the suits and begin the adventure.
Eleven of us boarded the ferry, and with the fat boat-man, Ricardo Jean Mitchel, we were a complete dozen! We did not know the prescribed maximum, but later gathered that it ought to have been just 8 - including the skipper. The surprise was that Fatema did not come along but said that she'd be available for anything if need be.
The boatman had initial trouble, with the motor not starting off in the first go. "Not a good omen?" sounded off one of the members.... and as if to ward off that 'negative effect', I shouted a prayer for all to say - "Jai Bajrang Bali!". And we certainly needed the blessings of the Lord in the next 15 minutes... "We are now about 3 to 4 metres deep," said the boatman, not very communicative or even excited, just like many other men we had come across the boats in La Plantation where we all stayed.
Soon as we went about two-third the distance, the danger ahead was visible to all of us. "There is water coming in," alerted Meena. Water started entering from the rear end of the boat, just above the place of the motor. The motor perhaps did not have the adequate power to push us all and it seemed to gasp with the 'over weight?' Meena held that she had pointed out to Ricardo of water coming in some ten minutes before, to which he is said to have retorted, "No problem!" Right now it was indeed A BIG PROBLEM! The boat man shut the engine off - asked us to stay calm and not panic, and whistled and waved to draw attention of near-by boats.
"Guys, do not panic, please stay calm," I yelled and Bharat too was trying to make others stay as calm as possible. Any panic and undue movements would surely topple the boat, even before the water filled up. We did hold ourselves together but not for too long. Water gushed in from the rear of the boat, faster than we had anticipated. The boat turtled to its left and threw us all into the lagoon. We all hit the water. Jayashree, Srinivas, Dr Anil and his wife Anita were swimmers of some sort and the rest who did not know swimming were truly in great dismay and distress.
As I held my breath to prevent seawater entering my mouth and nose, I kicked my hands and limbs to stay afloat above water. The capsized boat was right above me and I held on to it. The boat's belly was very slippery and my hand was giving away but finally I managed to hold on to the rim of the boat, he right hand holding from the outer side, and the left hand from the inner. I started stretching my legs and kept flapping to stay afloat and took stock of the situation.
Jayashree emerged from the boat's front-end, having been right under the boat and weaved her way soon out. Bharat and Dr Anil emerged on my left. I saw Srinivas who pulled Bhargavi up even as she was being towed away by the waves. Subha and Rajagopalan too were visible but were on the other side of the boat. Meena took help from Srinivas and stayed afloat. The boatman too emerged and showed signs of utter dismay. Apart from his aiding Srinivas to help Bhargavi climb up and lie on to the top of the boat he did nothing to rescue or lend a helping hand.
We all missed Suganthy! "Suganthy...where is she?" I yelled and we all started drawing the attention of the missing member - we had to act fast! 'Something is holding my leg underneath" Dr Anil said. Karl, an Australian came to our rescue - he was God sent. Off to fishing with his nine-year son, he threw a life jacket. Bhargavi and Rajagopal were quickly taken into the Coast Guard boat that came very close to our sunken ferry and threatened to tilt it further, making us lose grip. Suganthy was still not visible!
Karl rescued Subha. "Take on the man in his dark glasses - he does not know swimming!" yelled Jayashree, referring to me. Karl swam towards me, and guided me till the ladder. As I got on, I insisted: "Please find Suganthi!" In seconds, Karl went under the boat and fetched Suganthy, who was floating flat on her belly. The others too held her and soon got her aboard Karl's boat. "She is breathing" assured Karl. Suganthy was laid flat on the surface while her head hung below the body-level. She frothed from her mouth and nose. A good sign, I sort reassured myself first [I could have been right or wrong]. "Call for the emergency and ambulance".... yelled someone.
Karl's boat soon headed to the shore... which by then had many anxious onlookers. A bedspread was soon laid... as Karl helped by others put Suganthy on to the floor. She was still breathing loud from her mouth. Karl gave her some quick first aid - one of the first aid emergency acts that he had learnt from a course completed just 10 days before.
She was rolled on to her left, with her left leg stretched and the right folded up. Suganthy threw up vomiting some of the undigested food. She was constantly assured by us that she was fine and that the rest of us too were. We held her hand firmly, giving her all the sensation, the heat, and sought to get her senses alive and ticking. "Open your eyes Suganthy", and she would respond, "open wide", she'd do that... "now roll your eyes"... and she quickly reacted to it.
In minutes she was under good care of the emergency ambulance and the medical team that came in. Dr Foundun and the team rushed her to the SSRN Hospital - North - in Pamplemouss. There was water in her lungs and the required medical interventions were given even while on the move. "She will have to be in the ICU tonight and she should be fine,"...assured the doctor. With timely help and best of medical intervention, Suganthy was out of the hospital the third day. But she was advised to undertake travel only after three days for ample precaution. Jayashree stayed back and with approval from my office, I stayed back as well for support.
While Karl and his family were invited to a thanksgiving meet by all the PR men, there is one 'take home' message at the end of the event. Life alone is the only valuable thing we all hold when it comes to a challenging situation. Be it in any place on this planet earth! Would be so true even in Mauritius, the 'Out of this World' country! There is no value really to the belongings or money we lose - video and digital cameras or any such thing that we often state as 'valuables'.
The following day, the Minister Tourism met with us and Karl's family and assured action would be taken on people who messed with lives and flouted safety norms. It was a good gesture on his part.
The Famous Wood Sculptor - Lewis Dick
Sunday 31st August 2008
The day Lewis came into our lives was special in that we can see the soul and spirit of Mauritian people through his eyes. Our friendship with Lewis and his wife Josiane began with the introduction by Bill's brother Peter and partner Jennifer Bartholemew, a Melbourne artist. Lewis was invited to Australia 3 years ago to work on a piece with Jennifer for the Commonwealth Games. Lewis' English has improved in leaps and bounds since his visit to Australia and it has been a pleasure to be able to communicate with a Mauritian on a deeper level. Lewis has also traveled to Europe also to work with a renowned Swiss sculptor and his son is presently a sculptor in London. We have visited Lewis' home twice now and enjoyed Creole cooking as well as singing and dancing in his courtyard.
Lewis and Josiane live in Bambous, a quiet village 40 minutes by bus from Port Louis. On our first visit several of his students welcomed us with a song at his front gate. Lewis works with underprivileged children as their mentor giving them confidence and an opportunity to work through their emotions using wood carving as therapy. The students we have met are a credit to Lewis - quietly confident now each showing a talent not only for sculpture but music. Lewis freely mixes music with art as both are interrelated and assists in creating a happy atmosphere with everyone having fun.
The 'legend' of Lewis' success is attributed to a wooden doll he made for his daughter when she was small. Twenty five years ago Lewis was so poor that he couldn't buy his little girl a doll for Christmas. He sat under a tree very depressed and looking up into the branches he could se a branch shaped a bit like a baby. He decided to cut the branch down and make his daughter a doll for Christmas. She loved that doll and wouldn't share it with other children. One day there was a squabble between his daughter and some other children. A man happened to be walking by and when he saw the doll he asked the children where they got it. When told that her Daddy made it he insisted on being taken to him. He offered Lewis 3000 rupees for the doll. This was like winning the lottery in those days as Lewis was only earning 18 rupees a day as a labourer (about 75c) With this money he was able to buy a block of land and begin building his house where he still lives today. His daughters were upset about losing the doll so he made another one. This one they didn't like so much as it was carved like a sitting doll and they couldn't cuddle it as with the first one. The 2nd doll sat on a table in their living room. As fate would have it another man saw this doll and offered Lewis 4000 rupees for it. Now Lewis could finish his house and began his career as a wood sculptor. Now he creates large pieces for large organizations as well as private customers both here in Mauritius and overseas.
The students'work - L'ecole de Sculpture
Always aware of his own humble beginnings he is passionate about helping the poor and underprivileged children of Mauritius. His garden and small gallery is full of sculptures made by his students. One sculpture drew my attention each time I went into the garden. It is of a mother with a child on her back. The mothers face is a picture of anger and grief. The 14 year old girl who carved this sculpture is an illegitimate child. Her mother was shunned by the local Mauritian community as having a child out of wedlock is a big stigma. Her mother pretended the child was someone elses carrying her on her back and went about saying she was the babysitter. Lewis said that this girl got rid of her negative emotions by creating this sculpture. She is now a successful nurse in a local hospital. On our last visit Lewis insisted on giving me this sculpture. We had a hire car that day so we were able to transport it back to the boat! The sculpture now sits under the chart table and we will eventually place her in the garden at home! I plan to do some drawings of her.
La Morne Art Workshop
Art Workshop - La Morne
Sunday 31st August 2008
Linda was honoured to be asked by Lewis to take his class yesterday to do some drawing. 25 children aged 7 to 15 were busy chipping away at wood carvings left in the local church courtyard. As I set up easels, paper etc Lewis introduced me and translated as I communicated to the class. We used a PNG carving, Bill and myself as models. Most of them had never worked with charcoal before bit seemed to enjoy the texture of it. Bill and I also showed photos of our trip on Valiam and photos of her construction. These children were so well behaved and respectful - the easiest class I have ever had! Yet these children are so poor and don't have the things Australian children have. During the class Lewis' older students who were the musicians we met previously played music on a guitar and hand drum to create a relaxed atmosphere. After we finished drawing we danced to the music. Some of these children have a natural grace and rhythm especially 2 older girls. I had my bellydance belts with jingle and sequins with me so I tied them on. We had lots of fun at this 'workshop'.
After the class Lewis took us to the local community centre for a meeting. After talking to 2 of the paid employees there it was decided to have a workshop and exhibition there next weekend of the children's drawing. There will be wood carving and music and dance as well. Linda will be busy mounting the childrens work and creating a dvd of the original workshop!
It seems our stay in Mauritius will be a little longer than we originally planned due to our involvement with Lewis' projects. Lewis has also asked Linda to hold an exhibition of her work in Port Louis. This will be a combination of drawings and photos completed on this trip. Its all a bit scary but fun and exciting at the same time.
Exploring Port Louis
La Marina here in Caudan isn't like any other marina we've experienced. We feel like we are camping in a public park or we are on display to the locals and tourists who walk past in a constant stream. Now we know how animals feel being gawked at in a zoo! Most are friendly but some talk about us as if we're not there! It's funny hearing Mooloolaba pronounced in many different ways!! Most don't realize we yachties are living on our boats here. It is very convenient being able to step off and walk anywhere in town. We buy takeaway or eat at some of the cheaper restaurants around here. Sometimes we have soup and toast on board.
Linda bought herself 3 new Indian outfits at an Indian ladies dress shop. They are comfortable and feel slightly glamourous - the matching scarf/veil however doesn't seem to flow elegantly over the shoulder as it does with the Indian ladies!
The Market is a terrible place for tourists to buy souveniers. The male stallholders are very persistent and follow you around. This has completely put me off shopping there. The smaller Chinese and Indian shops in the back streets are cheaper and more fun.
Until next time!
Hindus in Mauritius
'Hindus in Mauritius'
Monday 25th August
Position: 20 09.62S 57 29.82E
The waterfront where we are tied up is in the middle of a tourist area so consequently a constant stream of tourists mostly local and from Reunion come strolling past. Groups of Indian people sit laughing and eating takeaway on the brick wall metres from us! We can people watch unobserved from inside the boat or from the cockpit we exchange many 'bonjours'. The restaurants and food court are very conveniently located but more expensive than Rodrigues. We intend to explore Port Louis further by foot to see the market and Chinatown. In the meantime we have hired a little car for few days - a Hyundi - smaller than any we've seen in Australia! Bill drove us all around the island which is left hand drive like Oz - a remnant of British rule.
Our impression of the natural landscape is that it is similar to New Caledonia. The countryside is dotted with dark volcanic rocks and many sugar cane fields. However it is a lot more populated (1.3million) of which 52% are Indian Hindus. As it was Sunday yesterday we saw many families out enjoying themselves dressed in beautiful coloured saris. We saw many groups in small mini buses equipped with chairs, tables etc for picnics along the southern beaches. The first day we toured the north of the island stopping for a while at the famous Cap Malhereux (Cape of Misfortune) where we could view the same islands we sailed passed from the shore. As we were sitting in the beachfront churchyard having a picnic a beautiful young girl came past selling little hand made dodo birds. (Dodo birds are now extinct and were wiped out by early settlers not because they tasted good but because they were easy to catch hence the name Dodo -Duodo meaning 'stupid' in Portuguese.) We bought some of these little dodos for the children at home. Chatting to this lovely girl we were astonished to hear her say that Indian boys prefer girls with light skin and that she thought she was unattractive because she has dark skin. We both said we thought she was beautiful and that her name 'Priti' matched her looks. She was not convinced and said Linda's skin was much prettier. We have noticed on our travels that skin whitening products are advertised everywhere and movie stars/advertisements are a full of light skinned people. Linda thinks the ladies here look exquisite whether young or old in their bright saris and dark skin.
One of the most interesting places we visited was the Graand Bassin which is a crater lake which the Hindus call 'Ganga Talao' The deity Shiva and others are worshipped here and the festival in February is the largest outside India. In 1972 water from the Ganges river was poured ceremonially into the lake. When we were there it was cool and misty with many Hindus colourfully and beautifully dressed bearing flowers, fruit and incense to offer their deities. The bright pink, orange, yellow and all colours of the rainbow were reflected in the saris and looked exquisite in the back drop of the lake. The people were collecting water, pouring it ceremoniously and dipping their feet and praying at the feet of the colourful statues of their gods. As tourists with white skin, pale hair and uninteresting clothes we stood out but were tolerated with smiles as we observed and took photos from the outer edge.
Touring Mauritius by car
25/08/2008, Port Louis
'Touring Mauritius by car'
One of the first places we visited on Linda's 'must do' list was a huge local market reputably the best in Mauritius at Quatre Bornes. Two hours later we managed to find our way out after buying a few cheap items of clothing including a lovely pink silk/cotton shirt for Bill for $5. (see photos!) Linda couldn't decide which beautiful Indian sari outfit to buy so will have to do this another time without a bored captain in tow.
On our tour around the island we drove past Bay du Cap where Matthew Flinders was detained for 5 years by the French for being 'British'. Not far from there we observed the cliff near La Morne where escaped slaves jumped to their death in 1833 thinking they were going to get caught when in actual fact British soldiers were on their way to tell them they were free. This island is steeped in history which makes it fascinating when looking around. We found little towns, bays and corners with ancient brick walls and piers as in near Souillac the southern most corner of Mauritius. Linda's navigation made things interesting because we would find all sorts of interesting places when we got lost. Driving oneself around is more fun than hiring a guide as we can come and go to places at a whim.
We also visited Grand Bai where it is possible for us to anchor Valiam. We drove to the yacht club and were given the 3rd degree before being admitted to this 'private club'. Lucky Linda had her Royal Belau Yacht Club membership card! All the members were out sailing and only the bar staff were there. We were hoping to get some information on the safest place to get through the reef but they knew nothing about where the entrance to the reef was. We had heard it is very shallow and many yachts touch bottom and its only possible to come in at high tide. There were no cruising yachts anchored there but the facilities are excellent - cheap meals and clean showers. We haven't decided whether we will move there yet. It would be better for Bill to dive in clean water to clean the propeller! Grand Bai is a tourist haven a bit like Noosa (QLD-Oz)or Boracay (Philippines) with restaurants and souvenier shops lining the foreshore . The bay is very pretty and much quieter than here in Port Louis.
On the way back to Port Louis we stopped in Curepipe where a huge old crater Trou aux Cerfs is the highest point. We walked up the road to see the views across the city and beyond. On the sides of the crater are different species of pine trees with a small lake at the very bottom. Trou aux Cerfs means 'hole of the stags'. Deer from Java were imported by the Dutch and used to roam around there. There are still reserves of deer now and we often see deer on the menu in restaurants.
Taiwanese Fishing boats
25/08/2008, Port Louis
'Taiwanese fishing boats'
Last night after dinner back at Caudan, we were watching a band play in the courtyard. Next to us we met 2 Philippino fishermen who were very smartly dressed. At first we thought they were tourists! We had a lovely chat with these 2 young men who are in their 30s. We told them how much we enjoyed the Philippines on our voyage through there. They are on a 3 year contract on a Taiwanese fishing boat fishing the Indian Ocean. We saw several of these white Chinese looking fishing boats rafted up to each other in the harbour when we came in. One of the men is married with 4 children and doesn't see his family at all during the 3 years. We had heard stories of Indonesian fishermen who see their families for 1 week every 3 years and sleep in a blanket on the floor of the boat. These 2 fellows seemed to be a lot more comfortable and said they had a cabin with air conditioning and lights. (Better than us!) One of them showed us a yellow plastic ring he obtained from a dolphin that had been caught and unfortunately died. It had Australia and some numbers printed on it. He said most of the dolphins they inadvertently catch are thrown back in the sea and survive. We invited them to come and say hello next time they are walking around as they are here for 2 months.
Today we are making use of the hire car to visit a 'Jumbo' supermarket to stock up the boat. It is convenient as the car park is a few steps from where Valiam is tied up - the easiest place ever to load up! It is generally convenient here except for the shower arrangement. We have to ask for the key at the security office full of uniformed men every time we want to use the amenities. This means Linda has to be properly dressed every time she wants to go there! It's a nuisance to ask for a key when there are only 4 visiting yachts (and 2 have their own showers on board) each time. Once Linda was given the wrong key and had to walk back for the correct one and on the same evening was caught undressed in the shower room when a security man poked his head in! Linda made a formal complaint about this incident! But it is very cheap to stay here compared to most marinas (about half the cost) so we will balance out the conveniences with the inconveniences and continue to enjoy our stay here.
The internet café is a 20 minute walk away, doesn't do wireless and we're not sure it does Skype. Thank you to everyone who has sent sat messages (we get those straight away) and sent newsy emails. It's good to hear all the news and gossip from Oz.
La Marina Port Louis
22nd August 2008
Port Louis is a 'middle sized' city of 180,000 people and we look forward to exploring more aspects of this fascinating place. Yesterday we had to tie up to a concrete wharf outside an old grey building with a small 'Customs' sign displayed outside. We decided Bill would complete the formalities whilst Linda minded Valiam. It seemed to take several hours. We got reprimanded for forgetting to hoist the yellow quarantine flag! (strange as Rodrigues where we've just come from is part of Mauritius! ) He then reappeared again to fetch a pen. Don't government officials here have enough pens? Anyway after Immigration, Customs and Coastguard formalities were completed we untied Valiam and motored around the corner to a tiny marina. Linda had phoned for assistance before our arrival but there was no-one there to help with our ropes. There was only one old tyre hanging over the concrete quay so we tied 2 more fenders on Valiam's starboard side. It was a difficult manoeuvre and unfortunately we heard a nasty crunching sound against Valiam's topside. Sure enough she now has some scrapes and scratches which we will have to touch up with turquoise paint. After checking into the marina at the security desk (it's part of Caudan Waterfront development - a government department) it was suggested we move Valiam further forward to access power and water. There was a small space between 2 yachts which looked impossible to get into. However with the help of French couple Jacques and Catherine on one of the yachts 'Serenade' which was directly in front (as well as a handsome young man from another yacht) to hold the ropes we managed to squeeze in without any further damage. Bill says it's always good to ask another yachtie who is going to be next to us for help as they don't want us to run into them!
There are a couple of touts here offering sevices for laundry and taxi rides. Raj the taxi driver was mentioned in another yachties log I had read ('Sohcahtoa') so we may engage his services at some stage. This little marina had enough space for when Jim arrived on Alii Kai Too a few hours later. Bill and another couple of guys assisted him. It would have been impossible as a singlehander to tie up here.
We are right in the middle of the city next to a pleasant developed area modeled on Capetown with the ships harbour alongside. It reminds me a little of Hobart or Southbank in Brisbane. We just have to step over the chain railing and we can promenade with all the Indian people who enjoy this recreational area. We have pasted pictures over our windows for privacy! It is very convenient as we have a mall, restaurants, museum etc here. We went under the busy road on a walkway to the city and had a brief glimpse of the conglomeration of buildings, cobbled streets, hawkers, hooting cars and mainly Indian inhabitants of Port Louis. We were hoping to find a cheap place to eat other than Macdonalds but the few snack bars we saw had nowhere really to sit except in a dark corner at a bench with a plastic stool. We ended up back at the waterfront at a tourist place. More investigation will be necessary to find non touristy eateries. The food court is convenient and only a few metres away. It's the best place for 'people watching' as the restaurants all seemed to be empty. Last night we enjoyed Indian food watching the Olympics on a giant screen. It was Gymanstics with hoops and skipping ropes. A group of Indian children played in the foreground .
More than 50% of Mauritius is made up of Hindu and some Moslem Indians. They are the descendents of 200,000 indentured labourers who worked in the cane fields in the 1800s. Before the abolition of slavery, slaves from Madagascar and the East Indies were imported. Mauritius has had a colourful past since a Dutch Admiral van Warwyck stopped on the southeast coast of Mauritius in 1598 en route to the spice and silk markets of the east. He named the island after Prince Maurice (Maurits) of Nassau. The French came in and named it Ile de France in 1715. The late 1700s could be termed the 'golden age of piracy. Pirates and corsairs under French protection used the island as a base for mercilessly plundering British vessels which traveled along the shipping route to the East Indies. In the early 1810s after several battles between the French and English, the English conquered the Mauritius as well as neighbouring Reunion. Not long after Reunion was returned to France but retained Mauritius, Rodrigues and the Seychelles. The island was again given its old Dutch name of Mauritius. The British ruled until 1968 when Mauritius became independent.
It's interesting that most people speak French or Creole here even though it was ruled by the British for so long. English is still the 'official' language and everyone learns it at school. So in actual fact most of the Mauritius people can speak both French and
English. This is great for us but we will have to brush up on our French when we go to Reunion.
There are two French yachts here. Serenade sailed from New Caledonia without stopping and arrived here in Mauritius 51 days later. Jacques and Catherine said the Australian regulations were too difficult so they kept going. Indonesia is also difficult in a different way. What a long trip! The other French boat is a huge catarmaran and they planning to sail east rather than west to Perth and around Cape Horn. These French yachties sure like their adventurous voyages!
Whilst here in Port Louis we will enjoy the convenience of stepping ashore, use of the hot showers and explore the city and local markets. We wont have to drag the laptop wrapped in plastic in the dinghy here! There is an internet place not far from the boat but someone told us wireless can be picked up from the Foodcourt.
Au revoir. Don't w... too hard!
PS forgot to write in position - will next time!
Photos - some extra in Rodrigues 'au revoir'
and new album 'Mauritius' contains some of trip and arrival
Madame Angon's hole - Mauritius
21/08/2008, 20 08.798'S:57 28.573'E, Port Louis
Port Louis Mauritius Position: 20 08.798S 57 28.573E
We woke this morning to a different view - ships anchored, smoke belching from a power station and interesting jagged peaked mountains forming the backdrop to the city of Port Louis. Not quite making the harbour before nightfall we enjoyed a good night's sleep just south of the green marker before the harbour entrance. We shall ask permission via radio to Port control to enter the harbour once the captain has had his second cup of coffee.
The sail to the island of Mauritius yesterday was delightful. The seas were small and Valiam glided gently through the waves with full sail up. We were treated to a display of whales spurting and frolicking in the distance. As the wind was blowing from them to us we could even smell their whaley fishy breath! The small rocky islands at the north of Mauritius looked spectacular in the afternoon sun.
As we sailed towards the gap between Coin de Mire('gunner's coin) and Ile Plate ('flat island') Linda looked up some interesting information in the guide book: "The fault running down the west side of the island Coin de Mire, le Trou de Madame Angon ('the hole of Madame Angon'), was used for target practice by the British navy during the 19th century." And sure enough as we sailed closer to the island we could see the large hole, a distinctive feature in the rock face. We had few laughs imagining who Madame Angon could have been. Doubtless a popular Port Louis lady to the seamen in those days.
We are looking forward to exploring Port Louis and its surrounds. It's a beautiful day.
Rodrigues to Mauritius (day 2)
20/08/2008, 20 09.5'S:58 43.6'E, Indian Ocean
Its 5.45am local time and our position is : 20.09.5S 58 43.6E. The wind has been inconsiderate all night by changing direction due to a few rain squalls. Bill has had to go on the foredeck already in the middle of the night to switch the jib pole over the other side. We have gybed a few times which is a nuisance. Hopefully the predicted SE 15 knot wind will kick in. We caught a weird fish last night. It was long and black like an eel with a nasty big sharp mouth and big sharp teeth. Bill threw it back in. The first time we catch a fish in 8 months and has to be a weird inedible thing! Looking forward to a full nights sleep. We only see the moon occasionally due to the overcast conditions. No stars either... Mauritius coast guard called us up on the radio when we were 150 miles out. They must have a powerful receiver. They wanted to know our position, yacht and crew details. Good to know they are expecting us!
Rodrigues to Mauritius
19/08/2008, 20 05.8'S:61 15.8'E, Indian Ocean
Rodrigues to Mauritius Indian Ocean Position: 20 05.8S 61 15.8E 19 August 2008 7am local time
This passage is so different to the last one! We are sailing steadily downwind with 18 knots of wind being steered by Mona Lisa the autopilot. (Windvane doesn't work well with the wind straight behind) Captain Bill has rigged the boat with the jib furled out to port and the main with one reef to starboard. This seems to lessen the rolling and give us an average speed of 7.5 knots. We enjoyed watching dolphins play in Valiam's waves before sunset and the full moon made things easier to see during the night. A few rain squalls cause the wind to change direction a few times which means we sail slightly off course at times.
We left Port Mathurin, Rodrigues yesterday just before midday. It took several hours to visit immigration, customs and coastguard. We also had to wait for the coast guard to check us before leaving. Initially they wanted the 2 yachts (with 3 people) to tie up to the wharf but we asked if they could visit us in their inflatable instead. Much easier for us - so only 2 people in a little rubber boat came and did the final clearance. We will always remember Rodrigues with fondness for the friends we made there. It was sad to leave.
The day before on Sunday afternoon we went dancing again to the Le Cocotiers 'nite club'. During our previous visit we met a lovely young woman called Danny who showed us how to 'Sega' dance. It's a bit like a mix between African and eastern European polka steps. Danny and Linda exchanged phone numbers and arranged to meet again on the Sunday. We got to know Danny better that afternoon and learned she is 44 with 2 teenage daughters. (She looks much younger) Her family life is unusual as she is married to a 'Rasta man like Bob Marley' (Rastafarian) and they each have separate houses. She said her husband "doesn't dance, doesn't eat meat or drink alcohol has long knotty hair, is a musician- artist and meditates a lot" Danny is quite independent and works as a nurse in gynaecology and with babies at the local hospital. She confirmed that most women in Rodrigues own property and pass it on to their children. She has already built a separate house 'upstairs' for her daughters. Da nny's English is excellent as she said she had to study in English and often has to communicate with doctors in English. We felt we were just starting to get to know each other and felt sad that this friendship couldn't continue except by email. We really enjoyed dancing and it was good to see Bill get right into it and have fun too.
Just before we left yesterday Birgit was at the jetty with a weather report and taking photos of us. James phoned to say 'he would remember us for a long time'. The day before he presented us with a new French inner tube for my bicycle and beautiful hand crocheted table runner made by Madame Fifi. These generous people touched our hearts. James has asked Bill to find the right type of inner tube for his 1968 bicycle in Reunion or South Africa. This will be an errand Bill will enjoy as he likes poking around in bicycle shops. It is quite cool and Linda is wearing 3 layers of clothing and even knitted slippers in the cabin! All is going well out here and we hope to reach Port Louis, Mauritius tomorrow afternoon. (However the winds are predicted to lighten so it may take long
Last days in Rodrigues
Last days in Rodrigues
Saturday 16th August 2008
It seems 2-3 weeks is a good amount of time for us to stay in a place to get a feel for it as well as recuperate from a passage. It was our third visit to the market this morning (it's only open on Saturdays) and we confidently knew our way around - where the best tomatoes were, the baguettes and today Linda ventured into the 'poulet' hut. There is no refrigeration and in here were fresh chickens whole with feet or dismembered as well as big brown eggs. The other two huts were labeled 'boef' and 'porc'. The animals are slaughtered here too and last night we were woken by pigs squealing. (We are anchored directly opposite the market)
Yesterday was a special day in Rodrigues because it was the 'Feast of Mary' as well as the first Rodriguan priest was inaugurated. The hill where the statue of Mary is (see one of previous blogs) was covered in people for most of the morning. We were ensconced comfortably at Chez Ram enjoying lunch after a bicycle ride and could hear the music and singing. Later as the people walked down the hill in their finery we rode out to Bay L'herbe to visit James. He was pleased to see us but unfortunately Madame Fifi was out. We made arrangements to meet one more time before we left. James has been welcoming yachties for many years and we are very happy to have met him.
When we rode back into town there were many 'happy' people about as it was a holiday and some seemed to have been enjoying the local rum. Several 'bonjours' later we found ourselves at Le Cocotier the local 'nightclub/disco'. A friendly lady Danny encouraged us to go in and made sure we had a good time dancing the afternoon away. Linda danced the 'sega' twice and got quite puffed! Bill even shuffled around the floor in twirls with Linda trying to copy the locals! As we left we promised to bring 'our American friend Jim' on Sunday. These dances are fun as people of all ages go from grannies to kids. The band plays traditional Rodriguan music which Bill says is like 'pirate' music.
Today Birgit our German friend who has been living in Rodrigues for 11 years came for lunch on board Valiam as well as Jim. It was quite a long lunch with several lively discussions but we didn't solve the problems of the world even though it was dark when our guests left. Tomorrow we will check the weather and see if it is suitable to leave Monday for Port Luis, Mauritius. We will also need to clear customs and immigration on Monday even though Rodrigues is part of Mauritius. The moon is full so hopefully it will be a nice sail.
We leave Rodrigues with many happy memories. It is a special island with friendly people and a beautiful landscape that we have explored by foot, bicycle, motorbike and bus. We hope Rodrigues remains unspoilt for many years to come. It would be lovely to come back and visit one day.
Au revoir Rodrigues and merci beaucoup!
Tres beau visage a la Rodrigues
Photo: enjoying the warm hospitality at Chez Jeanette's
13 August 2008
The nicest part about cruising is being able to stay in places for long periods of time to really get to see things at a leisurely pace and get to know the locals. Whilst waiting for our transport to Mourouk Ebony Hotel we met Dirk (Birgit, our German friend's partner) on board their motor vessel Sea Line tied up at the jetty. Birgit and Dirk have lived here in Rodrigues for 11 years after looking for a less stressful life from cold Germany. We can see why 'foreigners' would like to live here - it is so full of natural beauty, the locals are friendly and even though it is small and untouristy it has everything one could need. It is difficult for foreigners to live here permanently unless permission is granted for a suitable business which brings in money or if married to a Rodriguan. As we explore this delightful island we imagine living here ourselves. There isn't anywhere to keep a yacht safely during the cyclone safely unless perhaps lifted out of the water.
Valiam looked forlorn as we left her for the other side of the island for 2 days. Its amazing how attached we are to her now we have shared so much adventure and she's kept us safe. As we wound our way up and down the mountains we again enjoyed the windswept natural beauty towards the coast. Mourouk Ebony Hotel consists of several semidetached cottages along the hillside. Our room had a wonderful view across the old natural harbour Port Sud Est (South East) where sailing ships (including pirates) in the past used to come in. Perhaps the treasure that is missing is buried nearby! We enjoyed the view, the hot showers and pleasant walks along the coast. Bill had a go at windsurfing after a 20 year absence. He didn't do too badly. (see photo)
We are so used to everyone speaking French around us we don't even notice it any more except when someone starts a conversation and we have difficulty understanding and responding!! We always end up saying "Parlez vous Anglais?" Most younger people can speak English as they learn it at school. It's interesting that the official language for Mauritius is English yet everything is in French! (even the recorded voice on our mobile phones) We buy local sim cards for our mobile phones wherever we are as this is always the cheapest way to phone home. (once you work out the instructions!!)
Half and hour before we were due to check out of the hotel and Bill was still out windsurfing, Birgit and Jim showed up on the beach. Birgit had arranged a local driver to take Jim on a tour of the island. They invited us to join them at Chez Jeanette's for lunch. Again we enjoyed a leisurely 3 hour lunch at Chez Jeanette's and because this was our second visit we were greeted like old friends (French kisses on both cheeks and lots of joking). The food again was fantastic and all cooked on an open fire on a traditional stove in an outdoor kitchen. We took more photos of Jeanette and her delightful staff in the garden wearing Rodriguan straw hats. (see photos) Each eating establishment in Rodrigues have their own recipe for rum punch. Jeanette's is made with lemon juice and white rum - delicious!! We are inspired to make some of our own!!
As Birgit had planned to take Jim to the Tortoise park where we've already been Muslin the driver took us to the bus stop in the town of Mont Lubin to get back to Port Mathurin. It's cold up there! I was glad to have my friend Robyn's handwoven shawl to keep warm. We waited for a bus with 100's of school children. They thoughtfully kept the seat vacant at the front for us elderly tourists!! The bus ride down the mountain involved a lot of screeching of brakes around hairpin bends but didn't take long too to get back. We were pleased to be back on board Valiam again and missed her even after just one night. We especially missed our soft comfy bed. (the beds in the hotel were hard)
There is nothing nicer than being at anchor in a peaceful place gazing out to sea at any time of the day but especially nice when the sun dips down. Valiam's interior is familiar and comforting with all our souveniers, photos and object d'art we have collected wince we left Australia. The wind has picked up as we can hear it howling and whistling through the rigging. It's a good 20 knots - ideal for sailing to Port Louis. (pronounced almost like 'wiss' with the 'L' being swallowed.... The 's' is not pronounced in Rodrigues.....) There are still no other yachts here. We wonder how many will be crossing to South Africa next month.
Today is internet day. We will take 2 computers to the library as the website takes a long time to download!
Enjoy the photos! (click on the little camera then Rodrigues, Mauritius)
When the Ship came in - Rodrigues
When the ship came in - Port Mathurin
9 August 2008
"Crackle crackle .....Port Mathurin.......cinq heure....." went the radio at 4.45am this morning. Sure enough out in the darkness a ship's lights could be seen rounding the small island just off Port Mathurin. Jim had to move his yacht Alii Kai Too yesterday close to the reef and to us to make room for the ship. The ship "Mauritius Pride" causes great excitement in this town. The little fishing boats full of fisherman were hovering around talking excitedly. The two tug boats were moving to the harbour entrance all spic and span after a month of polishing by 4 full time men. People were on the shore waving, cheering and clapping. The usually empty quiet wharf is a hive of activity today. It is very early Sunday morning. A small group of passengers waved to us and took photos. We could see several containers, cars and a new fire engine on board the ship. Further up form the wharf we could hear cows mooing and pigs squealing along the shore being moved off trucks ready to be slaughtered. The Mauritius Pride's captain maneuvered her into the tiny harbour passing the two of us yachts within metres. Perhaps the two yacht captains should partake in petite dejeuner with the ship's captain?!!
For a whole 24 hours the wharf was a hive of activity. Many people are gainfully employed from this town 'when the ship comes'. Many don't have much employment the rest of the month. Actually the Mauritius Pride had been in 'dry dock' for 8 weeks this time so the employment and produce arriving was most welcome. Containers, vehicles etc were unloaded then more containers , crates of fresh vegetables and cages of animals (cows, pigs, goats, chickens) were loaded. We witnessed the pigs waiting to be loaded in on the grassy land nearby fighting, biting and snorting. One of the workers kicked and picked one up by the tail that had strayed. They wont enjoy their ride in the ship's dark hold.... At 7am on Monday morning the ship moved from the wharf with the two tug boats hovering on standby. Again it passed us by within metres with a couple of loud 'toots'.
Later we met one of the tug employees - (there are about 8 employed full time on the 2 tugs.) who was keen for us to move back tied up to them. Perhaps they get a bit bored polishing, reading the paper etc every day waiting another month for 'the ship to come'.
Still the only 2 yachts at Rodrigues
7th August 2008
This photo was taken on the way back from one of our motorbike rides. The statue of Mary is on the side of a hill to the south of Port Mathurin and it looks like she is looking after us!! Valiam and Alii Kai Too are still the only 2 yachts here in this small protected harbour. Most Rodriguans are Catholic and in some way this photo reminds us of the town of Maasin in the Philippines where a large statue of Mary looked over the town.
We expect we will get ready to leave for Port Luis some time next week. It will take a couple of days to get there. We hope to spend some time at La Reunion after Mauritius as we have heard the landscape is spectacular. There we will wait for the right weather to head for South Africa.
In the meantime we will make the most of Rodrigues. Today we may cycle down to the next bay where we saw a little pizza place (Bay L'Anglais) and Linda wants to look at some local embroidery there.
Tortoises and caves - Rodrigues
6 August 2008
Tortoises and caves
Taking the motorbike out again today we found ourselves near Petite Butt (small derriere - we made lots of jokes about this... as there are mostly grande butts around here!). Linda was keen to see the Tortoise sanctuary so we did the tourist thing and went on a tour once we got there. We had to put on hard hats to explore the caves first. Our tour guide spoke mostly in French but for the '2 Australians' he translated in English. Everyone else was from La Reunion of Mauritius. They don't get many Aussies in these parts! The caves were magical but the Tortoise sanctuary was of even more interest to Linda.
In 1691 there were 280,000 giant tortoises roaming the island of Rodrigues. Within 40 years there were none. They were easy to transport as fresh meat by male sailors. It's difficult to believe these beautiful slow trusting creatures were treated like this. The same thing happened to the Solitaire (very similar to the Dodo) a large bird that couldn't fly. In an attempt to have tortoises on Rodrigues again tortoises from the Seychelles and Madagascar have been introduced. At present 160 giant tortoises are roaming the small valley near the caves on the south coast. They are of different ages and sizes with numbers painted on their backs. The first babies born in the wild are being carefully looked after in the 'tortoise nursery'. One can adopt one and give it a name. A painting in the little Museum near the sanctuary depicts what Rodrigues would have looked like 300 years ago with dark shelled tortoises dotted in the landscape amongst the volcanic rocks and small round bushes. The Rodriguans are also replanting bushes native to the island and trying to eradicate introduced species such as lantana. (Also a pest in Oz)
After having a lovely time with the tortoises we took the coast road towards Merouk. The scenery was stunning (see photos). Little houses dotted on the edge of cliffs with fabulous views with cows and goats munching grass nearby. Houses aren't expensive here. A house like Chez Jeanette's is worth about $40,000. We could live like kings here! What a shame it's so far from Oz!!!
We saw lots of octopuses 'ourite' (octopi?) drying on sticks as well as many little wooden fishing boats anchored in the bay. People here live as they have done for 100 years. Hopefully tourism wont impact on this amazing island. We did however succumb to the luxury of a tourist establishment and have booked a night in the Marouk Ebony Hotel for one day next week. It has cottages with HOT SHOWERS perched on a cliff overlooking the turquoise waters of a bay called Port de Sud with its fringing reef.
Meanwhile life in Port Mathurin has its charms. We look forward to the Saturday market with its fresh produce and lively colour of people from the whole island. The ship that visits bi monthly the 'Mauritius Pride will be here in a couple of days. More excitement! We are wondering if we have to move our yachts to make room as it is such a tiny harbour. Alii Kai Too and Valiam are still the only yachts here. We received an email from Bea and Di from Cocos saying they have been alone for several weeks with no yachts coming in. It may be a quiet year in the Indian Ocean this year with not many yachts traveling through. Some do however choose to go north via Chagos, Seychelles and Madagascar before heading to South Africa (as Natalie and Rob on Wilhelm are - they say there is only 3 yachts at Chagos presently)
Sometime next week we will start preparing for the short hop to Port Luis, Mauritius - about a 2 day sail from here. Port Luis will be busy and noisy in comparison to here with the city's population at 180,000 whilst the whole of Rodrigues is only 36,000. Rodrigues is certainly unique and we feel privileged to be here. It is wonderful to be able to enjoy such places 'off the beaten track' by being able to visit in our own yacht.
Exploring Rodrigues by Motorbike
07/08/2008, Mauritius Indian Ocean
5 August 2008
Exploring Rodrigues by Motorbike
Rodrigues is a beautiful unspoilt island which we were able to appreciate even more by touring around on a motorbike. We hired a trail bike suitable for carrying both of us. It was quite funny as half an hour into our journey enjoying the scenery the bike spluttered and stopped. Bill couldn't get it going again. Parked beside the road opposite Bay L'herbe we attracted a lot of attention by passers by, all eager to give advice. Eventually Linda phoned the motorbike place and managed to communicate with the help of French speaking spectators what the problem was. Twice the mechanic came out after diagnosing a faulty spark plug. After an hour we got going again.
The roads are winding - sometimes following the coastline, sometimes following the contours of the mountains. The landscape near the coast is windswept and in some ways reminded us of Tasmania. The houses are of course very different built from concrete and often painted bright colours such as pink or orange with decorative columns. Cows and goats are tethered amongst tussock grass and bushes. Occasionally we would see a pig roaming the grass as well. Dark volcanic rocks are scattered throughout the island amongst the grass.
As we climbed higher into the hills the air became quite cold and the vegetation more lush and tropical. Although we did see pockets of eucalypts!! (Introduced) We had heard about a guest house called 'Chez Jeanette' which has great views and offered lunch. We saw a tiny sign beside the road and went up a bumpy dirt road to a beautiful farm house covered in bougainvillea and surrounded by a beautiful garden. A vivacious lady with long braids and a straw hat greeted us. We asked about lunch and she said 'Just I minute' and rushed off. We could see a verandah covered in vines with a couple of long tables and reclining bamboo chairs. One of the tables was already set for 6. Jeanette came back and said 'ok' and ushered us to the reclining chairs. Thinking we were invading a family lunch we at first weren't sure but soon the other guests arrived and were greeted with much laughter and kisses by Jeanette. Soon we were talking with twin young men from La Reunion and two gorgeous Rodriguan sisters with a couple of small infants. Grandma Mary was also amongst the group. We had the loveliest couple of hours conversing mostly in broken English and a little French with these lovely people. The babies Dimitri (4months) and Lowanna (18 months) were cute and Linda got to cuddle Dimitri for a while until he wanted his mum. Chris-Henri who looked about 8 was keen to show off his English and even sang us a song. When we were all asked to sit at the table we felt we were dining at a family lunch in a gorgeous French yet tropical setting. (See photos in photo gallery) The lunch was superb - Rodriguan cuisine of spicy octopus, fish, red beans, maize, pawpaw salad and rice accompanied by French wine. After about 3 hours we finally left after a tiny espresso coffee winding our way down the mountain road.
We'll never forget our lunch at Chez Jeanette's and may try to visit again before we leave Rodrigues.
Local scenery Port Mathurin
04/08/2008, Rodrigues Mauritius
4 August 2008
Yesterday we collected our bicycles from the port security office where they are carefully guarded 24 hours a day by very nice local police officers. Eddie (right in photo) is also in the coastguard. We found our way to the 'Sega' dancing which was near the fire station. Many motor bikes were parked outside and we could hear catchy music coming from within a concrete and corrugated iron building. After paying the small entrance fee we found ourselves in a large dark room with people of all ages dancing , drinking and enjoying themselves. Its nice to see families, grannies and children dancing in this 'night club' which is open on Sunday afternoons until 8pm. The music was provided by a live band including an accordian, drums etc. A lovely lady named Maurette introduced herself and asked the band to play 'Sega' for us. Everyone got into it. Its a mix of African and bellydance type moves so Linda was in her element! The locals though she was very experienced!! Next Sunday we will go again and hopefully Bill will take an action shot.
After dancing the afternoon away we found Linda's bike had another flat tyre! After walking back to the port with the bikes Bill found the glue in the puncture kit wasn't very good. This morning Bill purchased new glue in the motorbike/bicycle shop and repaired it once again. Today we plan to go on another ride on the other side of town (probably to a restaurant for lunch).
Au revoir !
Cycling around Port Mathurin
04/08/2008, Rodrigues Mauritius
3 August 2008
How lucky we are to be in this welcoming little town! Rodrigues is sometimes mentioned in sailing journeys in the past. It feels good to be in a place in which sailing boats in the past have visited after also crossing the Indian ocean. Rodrigues has an interesting history where pirates used to stay and there are rumours that treasure is still hidden in the hills here.
The locals are a mixture of races but all speak Creole and /or French. The younger people speak English but the older ones forget it after learning it in school due to lack of practice. In the restaurant Du Quai last night one would need a wide range of skin colours for a paint palette to paint the clientele. We were 2 of 3 white skinned people. The rest were various blends of Indian, African and European coloured skins. There are a small number of Chinese about who seem to own several stores that sell absolutely everything crammed on dusty shelves.
We are so glad we brought our bicycles. It is very pleasant riding around here. Rodrigues is only about 10 miles long so we should be able to get to most places. Yesterday we went for a ride with James, a 69 year old local who welcomes yachties and keeps books of all the yachts who visit. James invited us to his home where we met his wife Madame Fifi. We enjoyed tea and cake made from manioc. We had never eaten manioc before and Madame Fifi pounds it to make a flour. (It's a root vegetable) After looking at the previous yacht entries in the books (since 1990) we decided to ride to the next bay. Unfortunately Linda's tyre was flat. Linda went back to chat with Madame Fifi in 'French' whilst Bill and James rode around . They went to the prison which never has inmates but has 2 staff members on duty!! We are glad there is no crime here in Rodrigues!! Madame Fifi gave us some of her preserves made from olives, chillie and limes to take back with us. We really enjoy eating green chillies ground with limes in a preserve with our meals here.
We have almost forgotten our passage here. I remember reading a log written by some New Zealanders who described their 25-35 knot (with 45knot gusts) passage as 'routine'. Perhaps we were just used to the tropics! NZ and WA sailors think nothing of a brisk 40 knot breeze! Apparently the weather in September is less windy. Sounds like a good time to get around the bottom of Madagascar to South Africa. We are very glad we have come this way rather than the Red Sea which would have been 30 knot head winds. At least our winds were with us! The cooler weather agrees with the captain and we are both glad to be out of the tropics now. (Linda can wear outfits not worn since September in Oz!) The captain has repaired the dodger using his 'sailors palm'. As it seems to shower rain periodically throughout the day it means we can keep the hatch open without everything getting wet.
The local radio station is an interesting mix. At first we were listening to French Creole music but now it is India's latest hits! A local dance form called 'Sega' is supposed to involve hip shaking and has its roots in Africa. Linda would like to see this and perhaps participate! We have heard cds of Sega music and it sounds like a mix of Reggae/African/Spanish etc. Purchasing of Sega music is on Linda's shopping list.
Village life - Rodrigues, Mauritius
02/08/2008, Celebrating Jim's safe arrival
2nd August 2008
We visited the market this morning and bought coconut and pawpaw tarts as well as local preserves of olives and chillies. The library allows us to bring our own laptop for free internet which is nice. Bill is putting our bicycles together for a cycling tour with local James later today. The weather is cool but pleasant - its nice to wear long pants and a t shirt for a change.
PHOTOS: Rather than lots of words there are lots of photos for you to view in the photo gallery. Just click on the camera icon.
For previous entries click on contents (right). Entires are also recorded via the map accross the Indian ocean
By the way the highest gust recorded on our wind instrument during our Indian ocean crossing was 59knots!!! Go Valiam!
1 August 2008
Early this morning we were woken by the radio 'Port Mathurin this is Alii Kai Too'. "Jim's here." Says Linda rushing outside and sure enough we could see a mast bobbing in the distance. After a brief conversation on the radio to Jim we decided to untie ourselves from the tug boat and anchor in the harbour. As Jim came in we threw him a fresh baguette wishing him 'Bonjour'. Later we went to lunch at Paille en Queu debriefing both our Indian ocean crossings over several beers. The staff dropped subtle hints re the closing time by closing the curtains!
This morning Bill phoned Coursemaster in Australia and spoke with a very helpful fellow named Paul. Consequently the autopilot appears to be fixed. Hopefully Mona Lisa will be under control on the next leg.
James the local yachtie 'tour guide' greeted us on his 1968 bicycle bearing citrus fruit and pawpaw as a gift. He wants to take us on either a walk or bicycle ride around the next bay tomorrow. We put our picture and yacht details in his book and will pass it on to Jim.
It is time to get ready for dinner at Du Quai. They even serve local beef there. We thought Jim would enjoy that.
Tres jolies Rodrigues!
31 July 2008
It is so lovely here. Port Mathurin is really a charming little town. Being tied up here next to the jetty and the only yacht here at the moment we are the town's curiosity. We have been visited by a couple of residents who traditionally welcome yachts. Birgit a German lady who has been living here for 11 years with her partner Dirk own a fishing boat and are very involved in the community and promoting Rodrigues. Birgit gave us some handy hints on what interested us eg car hire, art galleries etc. She took pictures of us for her website. This morning we welcomed James Waterstone on board. He is a Rodriguan of Irish descent (hence the name) and said his wife Fifi is Italian. James wants us to go to his place to meet his family. He introduces himself to all yachts who enter here and we are invited to write and put photos in his book. The book is very interesting as it documents all the yachts that have come here. We are the 7th Yacht this year and last year 12 yachts visited Rodrigues. Most seem to originate from Europe. There are few Aussies, Kiwis and Americans but mostly British and European boats have visited Rodrigues. The wonderful thing about cruising is that we go to these lovely out of the way places that we normally wouldn't come to by plane.
Yesterday we ate at two restaurants - Paille en Queu and Du Quai which were both just lovely. The atmosphere is casual, friendly and distinctly Rodriguan with artificial flowers, faded maps, painted murals and both had a bar in the corner surrounded by wood and mirrors - a bit 60s retro look. We enjoyed the local dishes of octopus and fish in spicy sauces accompanied by South African or French wine. At Paille en Queu we observed one of the staff greet her boyfriend and sat with him for a while whilst he enjoyed a cigar. (see photo at bar with Bill) Du Quai restaurant is only a few metres from the boat so is very convenient. The friendly handsome waiter originally from the main island of Mauritius is of Indian descent. He insisted we try the local rum mixture which had peach and spices mixed with it. Quite nice. We met 2 attractive young women university students from North Wales who are doing their marine biology masters degree. What a great way to travel the world to do research snorkeling in exotic tropical places! Very smart! They have told us where the best snorkeling is.
Today we will investigate hiring a car to have a look around. Birgit said we can go to the Jenna store and arrange one for 1000Rp a day ($40). It is 10.15 and we are still lingering over our 2nd cup of coffee. One mustn't rush these things! Jim (Alli Kai Too) should arrive tomorrow so we may have to give him the tie up space next to the tug boat so all the officials can board his yacht.
Bientot - au revoir!
30 July 2008
Fresh baguettes and milky coffee every morning is the way we start the day here. Bill found the boulangerie (sorry sp no French dictionary) and came back with 2 crisp baguettes for less than 6 rupees each. (Less than 25c). Its cool here and the captain loves it. He is energetically putting the sails away and is very cheerful. It's around 25degrees during the day and 18 degrees at night. It was absolutely heaven to sleep in clean sheets in our normal bed with a light doona. We still feel a bit 'ocean lagged' and I'm sure it will be a few days before we feel normal.
Yesterday we found a little local restaurant with an outdoor tropical feel - thatched verandah, gaily painted woodwork and again a very handsome waiter. The men seem to have a gentle nature here and we don't feel threatened at all. Wandering past a dark hole in the wall full of noisy men (local pub) a man came staggering out zigzagging in front of us down a small lane with a cheery 'Bonzour!'
Bill found another dark hole in a wall with a sign 'Coiffeur' and went in to have a haircut. Across the road upstairs was a much nicer place - coiffeur for ladies. The petite attractive shy hairdresser greeted me with 'Bonjour Madame' but was worried about her total lack of English. Linda managed to communicate that she would like her hair washed and dried and was told it would be 150 Rupees ($6). It was so nice to lean back and have someone wash the nasty salty hair! It was relaxing not having to speak due to the language barrier and it was nice listening to the French Creole prattle around me. Nearly falling asleep whilst the hair was expertly blow dried it was pampering at its best. Linda emerged looking a lot more glamourous to find a distinguished gentleman sitting on a seat outside. Bill's barber had carefully trimmed everything - hair, eyebrows, beard and moustache. (See photo)
Port Mathurin is a small village with everything we need within walking distance to the boat. Alas we can only have a bucket and flannel wash on the boat. But Valiam is stationary and level which is lovely and we are all enjoying a good rest. Valiam is even dearer to our hearts since she got us safely through the Indian Ocean. We were dry and comfortable inside at all times. We are going to investigate hiring a car for a day to look around and perhaps stay a night in a hotel on the beach somewhere. Bill wants to climb the local mountain - a baby by Kinabalu standards but should be a nice walk for him. Linda will browse amongst the little shops full of curios and perhaps do some sketching.
The people here are the friendliest we've met and so far we haven't been charged a cent.
To appreciate the conditions we sailed under to get here the following emails were received 2 days ago:
From fellow yachties on the way to Chagos, Indian Ocean:
We are very sorry to hear about problems with your gear, and the loss of your bimini. Especially hope the autopilot does not give up the ghost in those difficult conditions. Last night Rob hailed a large bulk carrier on its way from So Africa to China, he was astounded to hear a small sailboat way out here and spoke about how bad the weather had been as he came south of and outside of Madagascar three days ago - so even the big guys have found it rough going where you are sailing. Wed. 30. Rob & Nat. sv Wilhelm
Linda and Bill,
Glad to hear you are almost there. It is painful to watch some of these conditions in the S Indian Ocean. We'll wait to hear from you on your next legs.
PLEASE NOTE: AS OF JANUARY 1, 2008, OUR NEW EMAIL ADDRESS IS : firstname.lastname@example.org
Commanders Weather Corp.
29 July 2008
Position : tied up nest to tug boat, Port Mathurin
(when 1st anchored : 19 40.72S 63 25.17E)
We first sighted Rodrigues at 5pm yesterday as a dark shaped hill on the horizon. As we got closer and nearer it became darker and we could see all the lights sprinkled over the island. Accompanied by the bright stars it was like fairyland compared to the last 2 weeks. Although we arrived at Rodrigues last night it was too dark to enter the harbour so we had to spend the night 'hove-to'. As it was blowing 30 knots all night Valiam thought she was sailing at 2.5 knots and we ended up 16 miles out to sea. In the early hours of this morning (it was still dark) we prepared to sail back against the wind. Surprisingly Valiam kicked up her heels and sped off bumping through the waves heeling to starboard at 8 knots. "We'll get there too early at this rate!" says the captain. We watched the sky very slowly become lighter and we were just in time to try and differentiate the waves crashing on the reef and the markers for the channel.
Rodrigues looks a little barren and windswept with little buildings scattered about. We noticed a yacht tied up in the jetty and recoginsed Dieter on LenyLy. He was just leaving as we arrived! He had stayed 5 days here and was off to Port Luis, Mauritius. We think he took longer than us to get here from Cocos as he left a good 2 weeks before us. Poor Jim on Alli Kai Too. We received an email from him yesterday and he is still 500 miles away and doesn't expect to arrive until Friday. We took just over 12 days to sail 2000nm in mostly 35-45 knot winds (force7)
We were told by a couple of fellows in an inflatable to tie up next to the tug boat where Dieter just left. We are the only yacht in the harbour so we are attracting a lot of attention. It seemed that within minutes a parade of handsome black men came on board to do all our paperwork. What a feast for sore eyes! As we had just opened a bottle of champagne Linda stayed in the galley observing making jokes trying to speak French etc so she could sip it unnoticed(?). Each gentleman or group of gentlemen represented different departments - Health Officer, Coast guard, customs and immigration, prohibited good declaration.... With Linda's pitiful attempts at French (I figure Aussie French is a bit like Creole) the gentlemen responded in Creole or French in such a rapid manner she must have fooled them! "Petite peu" she cried. "My French is bad!!"
The men in the tug boat next door were having their breakfast of fresh baguettes. Linda couldn't help eyeing them off. When asked about where to get them one fellow said "I will get them for you for your breakfast" and raced off. I had no rupees so gave him a little stuffed koala in exchange. What a wonderful way to be greeted in this lovely place. As we pulled in we also heard reggae/African style music. We thought a school or church choir was practicing but we were later told by one of the handsome gentlemen that it was the radio 'a welcome song'.
Its been a rough trip but so far so good here and we expect to have a really nice time. The immigration man gave us a hand drawn mud map of the town. We are going to find an ATM, hairdressers and restaurant in that order probably. I can hear the men on the tug boat next door speaking Creole. It has a lovely lilting quality with many French words that we can understand occasionally. We will probably anchor later if the every day noises here at the wharf become too intrusive. At the moment we dont mind. Its a welcome change - colour movement and different sounds to what we've been used to the last couple of weeks.
Day 13 - Cocos to Mauritius. 97 miles to go
28/07/2008, 19 32.9'S:65 08.1'E, Indian Ocean
Day 13 Indian Ocean 28 July 2008 Position: 7.30am Cocos time :
The wind stayed at around 30-38knots yesterday morning dropping a bit to 25-35knots in the afternoon yesterday. It's amazing how slow 25knots feels when we are used to 40 knots! The airfoil on Fred cracked and broke where it is bolted on so Bill immediately replaced it with a smaller one we had spare. He cut the broken one down to a ? size and later put this one on as the small one wasn't steering us as well down the waves.
Bill cooked Spanish omelette again with the last eggs and Linda made a big pot of Minestrone with fresh cabbage, capsicum and tinned beans and tomatoes, stock, garlic and spices. With vintage cheese and crackers this was delicious.
Last night we saw the stars for the first time in quite a while. We are feeling happy but very tired. We are not sure if we'll make Rodrigues before dark today as the wind died down a bit this morning and we were only doing 5 knots for a while. We would have to maintain a speed of 7 knots to get there before 8pm Cocos time (and when it gets dark) When it gets light and the captain has rested we will put more sail up and try and go faster. We've had just the staysail (small sail attached to an inner forestay) up for most of the passage and not used the mainsail except leaving Cocos on the first day.
Next entry will be from Port Mathurin, Rodrigues Island Mauritius!
Day 12 - Cocos to Mauritius. Nearly there
27/07/2008, 18 59.6'S:67 22.6'E, Indian Ocean
Day 12 Indian Ocean 27 July 2008 Position: (8.30am Cocos time) 19 00.00S 67 38.9E
What an endurance test this passage is turning out to be! A graduation certificate would be in order! The winds and sea didn't let up (again) with wind speeds 35-40 knots and gusts a bit higher. To have persistent strong winds in this range for the entire voyage is unusual for tradewinds. (usually 15-25 knots).We were getting used to waves banging and splashing over the cabin. It seems to have moderated a little this morning and it's a lot quieter but I may speak too soon. It could be a trick or a short lull before the next bang and lurch.
The self steering systems decided to cause us problems. Yesterday Bill went out on the stern to replace the rope on Fred the wind vane. When it was time to switch off Mona Lisa she wouldn't and the tiller remained locked, seems the solenoid which locks and unlocks the hydraulics is not working. What a nuisance @%$^*(*&%%$#! So were stuck with Mona Lisa only strangely now she decided she didn't want to stick to our course any more. Every time a wave came she couldn't get us back on course and when she is off course she makes a horrible electronic cheeeeeping sound. We tried to put up with this nonsense for several hours until Bill couldn't stand it any longer. He again donned wet weather gear and harness taking tools with him and unbolted the tiller from Mona Lisa. Now this doesn't mean divorce just temporary separation. Once Fred was working again we enjoined the peace and quiet and Bill was able to sleep... UNTIL a wave came and something snapped and we went completely of f course. #@^%$*&(%#! It was dark and nearly midnight and cold and wet. We both put on the wet weather gear and harnesses this time with new rope for Fred. For some reason the previous new rope had got tangled around something and chafed through. We started the engine as we were now going back to Cocos and swung her around with the sea heaving and spitting at us. Linda held on to the tiller (this was not easy) whilst Bill went back to the stern to replace the rope. All went well and we've been sailing beautifully ever since. We don't know what is wrong with the autopilot but will be phoning Coursemaster as soon as we can for advice.
Yesterday was just one of those days.. Cooking is such hard work and you don't know when a wave will hit and you find yourself with hot spaghetti all over you , the floor and everywhere. Linda was very cranky and upset. So the remaining spaghetti bowl and all went overboard!! We are both very tired and we have our limits..
We hope to make Rodrigues before dark on Monday. (Hey that's tomorrow!!) We are not sure we'll make it. There's a reef just outside the entrance to Port Mathurin which makes it foolhardy to attempt entering in the dark. We hope we don't have to sail up and down waiting for daylight..
We contacted a couple on a Norwegian yacht ahead of us. L'attitude gave us their details saying they had left for Rodrigues before we got to Cocos. We heard back from Mike and Charmain (Vire Nord) which was great as they gave us information re anchorages etc for Rodrigues, Mauritius and La Reunion. They are presently in La Reunion but they will be in South Africa by the time we get there. The yachty grapevine is excellent.
We heard from Jim (Alli Kai Too) and he's still northeast of us and says he expects to get to Rodrigues Thurs or Friday. Nat and Rob (Wilhelm ) have had a lot less wind than us on their way to Chagos. Claude and Ollie (L'attitude) are enjoying the food and social life in Phuket, Thailand. Claude who is French sent us some French greetings to practice! Its great keeping in touch with everyone. We haven't heard from our French friends on Peerliane for a while but they are visiting France and have left their boat in Kota Kinabalu Malaysia.
We are tired aching and need of a shower. I haven't washed my hair for 2 weeks and my scalp itches. We have enough water but it is just too difficult in these conditions. Any domestic task takes ages moving slowly around the boat hanging on with one hand and preparing for lurches balancing our bodies. It will be wonderful to be finally anchored and stop moving for a while.
The Indian ocean is a mighty one that's for sure. 243nm to go but we will be a lot closer by the time you read this.
Day 11 - Cocos to Mauritius. "Are we there yet?"
26/07/2008, 18 36.2'S:70 20.8'E, Indian Ocean
Day 11 Indian Ocean 26 July 2008 Position: (7.30am Cocos time) 18 36.2E 70 20.8E
Its cold. The captain says "Its not cold. Its just not hot." We are wearing long sleeved jumpers for the first time in 12 months and they have a distinctive musty smell! The wind is still blowing in the 30-40knot range and we are quite used to it . (well almost until I left my half cup of tea on the grippy mat behind me and it ended up down the back of my legs and on the floor..grrrrrrr.)
Nothing exciting to report apart from the persistent strong winds and waves splashing into the cockpit. Another repair for the captain today : The rope on Fred the wind vane broke. We have been using Mona Lisa (autopilot) all night. Bill had to get used to the moose 'braying' in his cave again.
Just in case you think we are eating tinned baked beans here is our menu from yesterday: Our menu for Friday 25th July Breakfast: Fresh perculated coffee / latte with uht milk Spanish omlette (cooked by Bill) with salami, onion, red capsicum, chillie,garlic and cheese fresh orange wedges
Lunch 3 types of cheese with Carrs water crackers, Italian pesto, fresh tomato, cucumber and olives small cup of red wine
Afternoon tea Cup of tea fruitcake
Dinner Chicken pieces in Italian scallopini white sauce & button mushrooms white rice water or juice
Snacks : almonds, cashews, fruit cake cups of herb and black leaf tea
So we are doing well in the galley despite the strong winds. Our stomachs never suffer as you can see.
It would be nice to have fresh fish but its foolhardy trying to fish in these conditions. 397 nm to go! (2 more nights......)
Our arms and stomach muscles are getting a workout from haning on and balancing!
All well on board
Day 10 - Cocos to Mauritius.
25/07/2008, 17 59.3'S:73 10.8'E, Windy windy Indian Ocean
Day 10 Windy windy Indian Ocean 25 July 2008 Position 7am Cocos time : 17 59.3S 73 10.8E
The last 24 hours have been incredible. We still can't believe our eyes when we see the wind instrument continually showing figures in the 40s. Valiam has had her cabin and side decks continually washed by waves. The waterfalls running down the windows look very trendy just like in modern buildings. The staysail is doing an amazing job keeping us fairly steady. It's only when a large wave hits us along the port side that Valiam veers off course with much shuddering and flapping. However Fred the windvane corrects her every time. The photo above was taken yesterday when there was 2 minutes of sunshine when we ventured 'outdoors' mainly so Bill could adjust the rigging. I tried to take a movie and photos of the impressive conditions but of course the waves never look as big in photos. It's still grey out there.
Our weather forecast predicted winds like this (but lower figures) for the weekend. However the last 24 hours we have had persistent wind speeds around 40 knots. The highest figure recorded yesterday for one of the gusts was 57 knots!
Valiam has proven to be amazing in these conditions. As I type this looking out the window at the heaving hissing grey sea I can only think it is beautiful. This passage across the Indian Ocean is our longest in miles, windiest and shortest (we hope) in time. When the Indian Ocean was created why weren't there more islands?!!
More boat repairs : (remember the definition of Cruising boat repairs in exotic locations). At 2.30 am I was woken by Bill crouched on the floor next to me. He said one of the water bladders is broken and we need to pump the water out of the bilge. After wiring up the electric bilge pump directly to the battery Linda held the hose out into the cockpit and out the water gushed. This felt just like holding a firehose. I always liked doing that when the firemen came to visit my kindergarten! However the stream of water was no comparison to the waves that splashed down the decks of Valiam. The second repair that needs to be done is sewing back together the canvas awning. It has ripped all along the seam next to the dodger frame. Bill tied the end with a piece of string but it flapped all night just above his sleeping 'cave'. We will remove the whole thing today. We don't need to worry about sunburn at the moment.
After being woken after our short naps we often still have vivid memories of our dreams. The latest one I had was riding on the back of a motorcycle holding on to Bill over rough roads going through lovely green countryside a bit like Tasmania. I guess the holding on part is what we are doing out here as Valiam charges over the waves and we would like to see green grass and trees again.
Apparently it takes a while for sailblogs to post this on the website so by the time you read this it's probably a day old.
All is well and we are very happy with our ship.
At 7am 563 nautical miles to go. We should be anchored in Port Mathurin Rodrigues Island, Mauritius on Monday. (the champagne is waiting nice and cold in the fridge)
Day 9 - Cocos to Mauritius.
24/07/2008, 17 11.4'S:76 03.0'E, Indian Ocean
Day 9 Indian Ocean 24 July 2008 Position:
It would be good if sound effects could be attached to this log but I will do my best to describe the conditions at the moment. The wind is howling as if it is blowing through a massive tunnel. The sea is going swoooshskwaish and sometimes SLAP or BANG against the hull. Then the sounds of a powerful fire hose of water over the portside of the cabin and occasionally into the cockpit makes me wonder if I'll get wet next time I look for ships. There are vibrating noises of the rigging and the saucepans rattle in the galley. (I stuff towels in things when it gets too annoying.) The ropes on the windvane are creaking and the canvas awning is flapping. Its 7am Cocos time and it's still dark.
Most of yesterday and last night the conditions weren't too bad. (25 knots SE) The waves weren't as big or confused and we both managed to get some genuine sleep. However a couple of hours ago it seems the fun and games have begun already with the predicted strong winds. Now we are now at around 33 knots with 40 knot gusts. Bill has furled the jib to half its size but will put the staysail up when it gets light.
We received a sail mail email from Jim (Alli Kai Too) yesterday. (We left Cocos on the same day). He is a fair way north east of us and expects to be a couple of days behind us getting to Rodrigues. Its good to keep in touch with each other out here on this wild powerful Indian Ocean. Trade winds huh? I've asked Hughie to tone it down a bit but he isn't taking any notice. Maybe I should sacrifice something to him in the sea. After motoring most of the time in the tropics wishing for a nice windy sail we now have it I guess. Valiam designed by Gary Lidgard and originally named Rough Rider was designed to sail from New Zealand to Australia to cope with rough seas. She's doing well. The best thing is we are dry and comfy inside and only have to go out in the cockpit and occasionally the deck to adjust the rigging. Most of the time we are inside keeping an eye on the instruments. The wind vane Fred has needed very little adjustment and when we use Mona Lisa (autopilot) the controls are just inside the hatch.
At 6am we had 734 nautical miles to go
Day 8 - Cocos to Mauritius.
23/07/2008, 16 32.8'S:78 48.7'E, Indian Ocean
Day 8 Indian Ocean 23 July 2008 Position: 16 32.8S 78 48.7E (7am Cocos time but its still dark..)
This passage is very demanding physically and emotionally due to the persistent strong winds and uncomfortable motion of the boat due to big seas and a swell from the south. We received our weather forecast for the rest of the leg to Rodrigues and we were dismayed to see that even stronger winds are forecast. Over the next few days the winds will increase to 30-40 knots with possible gusts to 50 knots. The seas will build to 20feet and become more rough and choppy. We are sitting on 30 knots now. All we have is the jib partly furled and we are still doing over 7 knots. The last 48 hours we have averaged 180 miles a day. We will probably slow down a bit as the seas increase and we put the small staysail up. Sleeping is reduced to short naps due to the motion of the boat. To move around the cabin one hand must be used to hold on at all times as well as balancing with the rest of the body. Making hot drinks and preparing/serving hot food often requires both of us to accompli sh this without it ending up on the floor. Linda has 'monkey hands' ie calluses on the palms from constantly balancing and hanging on! (very attractive - will need to go to beauty salon in South Africa to rectify this as well as the state of the hair...)
We put the fishing line out briefly yesterday when the wind was at 20 knots but now it would be extremely difficult to pull in a fish let alone deal with the gutting etc. Our weather people said 'Blustery conditions ahead'. At least the wind is going in the right direction to move us along. It would be horrible to be going into it.
We had a brief respite where we could sit in the cockpit 2 days ago but now we are cabin bound once again. We have the washboards in the hatchway and the hatch closed due to waves coming over the top of the boat. We wear harnesses any time we enter the cockpit and thankfully Bill hasn't had to go on the foredeck very often. Our self steering systems are working well. Fred the wind vane worked all last night. This is good because Mona Lisa the autopilot needs power. As there has been no sun since day 1 the solar panels haven't done much and we have to run the engine every day to keep the batteries charged.
The good thing is we passed the half way mark yesterday and hope to be at Rodrigues on Monday. I wonder if we will be able to a walk without looking ridiculous! We are 1/5 the way around the world and by the time we get to Durban we will be 1/3 the way the way.
All well on board.
Day 7 - Cocos to Mauritius.
22/07/2008, 15 58.3'S:81 41.9'E, Indian Ocean
Day 7 Indian Ocean 22 July 2008 Position: 8am Cocos time 15 58.3S 81 41.9E
The days are blurring into one another now. I write this log each morning and put a tick on the calendar so we know what days it is. There is nothing exciting to report. The sea has been mostly grey and the skies still overcast with intermittent showers of rain. The swell is more pronounced from the south causing Valiam to roll more. Consequently it was uncomfortable sleeping in the fore cabin again so Linda dragged her pillow into the main saloon. The captain still likes his 'cave'.
We had the last of the lamb chops last night and we can honestly say we are tired of them. (That's the only meat available at Cocos apart from mince when we left) There is one packet of mince left then we'll be FISHING! Hopefully that will provide some excitement to the logs and our life here on the Indian Ocean.
We have averaged 7.6 knots the last 10 hours so we are going well. Rodrigues here we come! We're half way there. Maybe I will bake chocolate muffins to celebrate. We are thinking of our granddaughter Caylan today on her 6th birthday having a marvelous time. Wish we were there. Never mind..We have missed and will continue to miss important family events and milestones whilst we continue our journey to endeavour to fulfill our dream of sailing around the world.
Day 6 - Cocos to Mauritius. Happy Birthday 6th Caylan!
21/07/2008, 15 22.9'S:84 32.1'E, Indian Ocean
Day 6 Indian Ocean 21 July 2008 Position: 9am Cocos time : 15 22.9'S 84 32.1'E
The sea is gentle this morning and a sea bird is circling us once again. So far from any where it must have to sit on the ocean for a rest if it doesn't choose us. We should be able to sit in the cockpit to enjoy a cuppa - the first time since Day 1. We've been sleeping a lot better and I was able to sleep in the main cabin without being bounced and thrown off. Bill likes his 'cave' - the quarter berth. I can't sleep in there - it feels claustaphobic and like being in a cupboard. It has a lot of junk in there (our 'spare room') I cant imagine what it would be like to have crew on board you didn't know very well. Especially when the weather is unsuitable to go outside as it has been these last 6 days. I guess you could always play scrabble..
Yesterday we slowed down a lot - average 5 knots. This was because the jib wasn't poled out, kept flapping and the winds changed every time there was a rain squall. Although the sea wasn't as big as in previous days the conditions were still not suitable to sit outside. By 4.30pm the wind had made ups its mind and seemed to be blowing a steady 20 knots from the East. Once again Bill poled out the jib to port with the stay sail to starboard. What a nice night with no exciting events to report!
Yesterday we made pizza for lunch. We couldn't face lamb chops again so had soup for dinner. When the last lot of chops is gone we'll try our hand at fishing. It's no good fishing if we have to eat the meat that is in the fridge. Besides we will need room in there to store the big fish we will catch!!!!
All well on board.
PS HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO OUR BEAUTIFUL GRAND DAUGHTER CAYLAN WHO IS 6 YEARS OLD ON 22ND JULY. We miss you sweetheart. Have a great day with Mum, Dad, Joe, Nanna, Pop and all your friends! We are so proud of you and can't wait to see you in a few months after we get to Africa! All our love Nanny and Pa SV Valiam
Day 5 - Cocos to Mauritius
20/07/2008, 14 34.8'S:87 11.2'E, Indian Ocean
Day 5 Indian Ocean 20 July 2008 Position 6am Cocos time: 14 34.8S 87 11.2E
Another grey squally day with winds moderating slightly to 25 knots with 30+knot gusts. We haven't been able to sit out in the cockpit as it is uncomfortable and a bit dangerous unless the harness is on. We haven't got cabin fever yet! We'll lose our tans at this rate! However every half an hour we put our heads out in the cool wet breeze to check for ships. None so far.
The windvane is working well but we still need to run the engine every day for a couple of hours to charge the batteries. There's been not much sun so the solar panels aren't doing much. We're thinking of installing a wind generator in South Africa.
We sailed with the same rig all day - jib partly furled on pole to port and staysail on the starboard side. Murphy decided our day was too boring so at 2am we had a bit of excitement. BANG! FLAP FLAP FLAP. "Bill - get up! Quick!" (Linda was on watch) Peering through the dark clouds and rain the captain said. "One of the jib sheets is broken. I'll have to furl the jib" Making sure he was awake Linda got his harness and torch. After that Linda watched anxiously as the captain crawled on to the foredeck in the rain and wind to remove the broken jib sheet. The pole was swinging around so he tied that down too. We sailed the rest of the night with just the staysail at 4.5 - 5.5 knots. This morning the captain unfurled the jib on the starboard side. We are trying to maintain an average of 6 knots+ but sometimes we go below this when the wind dips down to 20 knots. Its funny how 20 knots seems like not much wind to us now!
Linda is on light duties now in the galley after burning her 2 fingers on her right hand making coffee this morning. We've got some good burn cream and it's not too bad. The blisters will be a nuisance.
Apart from resting/sleeping, eating, reading and trying to watch movies (the pirated Philippino ones stall and refuse to keep playing just when we get to the good bit and can't see the ending - very frustrating.
It's now 9am Cocos time (3.5 hrs behind Brisbane) and the wind has died down a bit. Valiam is rolling so the captain is contemplating putting the main back up (if the wind doesn't increase again). It's a pretty yucky wet grey old day. At least it's not cold.
Keep those sms messages/emails rolling in. We would love to hear from you!
All well on board
Day 4- Cocos to Mauritius
19/07/2008, 14 02.29'S:89 24.75'E, Indian Ocean
Day 4 Indian Ocean 19 July 2008 Position: (7.45 am Cocos time) 14 02.29S 89 24.75E
The sea is a steely grey this morning and a lonely white bird is circling behind us before it heads off to wherever it goes. 30 knots blew consistently with gusts up to 44 knots (Force 7) yesterday. However the seas seem less confused perhaps due to some current going with us. We have experienced these sorts of winds before on ocean passages but not consistently for such long time. Southeast trades are normally less in the Indian Ocean - around 20 knots . We are pleased with the rig - the small poled out furled jib and staysail spread out like wings at the front of the boat pulling her along at a steady 6 to 6.5 knots. We are now using Fred the wind vane which is steering us nicely and is saving us power.
We are managing the rolling movement of the boat inside most of the time. However, occasionally an extra big wave will push us sideways which can send things flying in the cabin. The worst thing was when the glass lid of our big pan flew across the galley hitting the wooden pole and smashed to smithereens throughout the galley and the cabin floor. We had to pick up many long shards of glass in this heaving sea. Not fun. Another item that emptied itself in the bilge was anew bottle of toilet cleaner. Bill mopped up this foaming solution from the bilge under the chart table. I suggested we pour this down the toilet. Bad mistake... When Bill flushed it the electric pump stopped working. More expletives.... As the ocean heaved around us Bill pulled apart the toilet. Of course a rain squall came by at that moment and it was blowing 44 knots. I had to close the hatchway completely and have all 3 washboards in so we wouldn't get wet. Crawling around on the toilet floor, trying to do repairs isn't fun at the best of times. Poor Bill. After pulling apart the pump he discovered a small piece of glass... "Never put anything in the toilet unless you know what it is." will be a rule strictly adhered to from now on. After reassembling the toilet and cleaning up we enjoyed chilli con carne for dinner.
Now for the next exciting event.. At 8.45pm when Linda was on watch and the captain was enjoying a well earned rest and was just drifting off to lala land, there was repeated banging noise like a rope hitting something. Linda looked at the instruments and it was saying we were only doing 3 knots. Thinking we had accidentally turned into the wind she went out to investigate. The sails were behaving normally but we weren't moving much. After waking the captain the noise became louder and sounded like something banging and vibrating against the starboard hull. The captain donned his harness, grabbed the torch and went to investigate. Even though the moon was shining there were many dark clouds about and it was difficult to see. Conclusion - something had attached itself to Valiam's keel and was slowing us down. Bill turned the boat to the wind and we drifted for a while. Thinking we would have to 'hove to' until morning when it was light enough to see and perhaps Bill would have to swim in this sea to find o ut what it was. Not a pleasant thought. Bill switched on the depth sounder and it said '1 metre'. This did indeed confirm that there was something under the keel. Linda was imagining something with nasty bits of wood and nails and rope and checked there was no water coming in the bilge. After a nerve wracking 15 minutes whatever it was detached itself! Phew! Bill saw a dark shape float off in the distance and the depth sounder went back to normal. He thinks it was a fishing net with a float which could have been banging against the hull. Whatever it was sure slowed the boat down and now we were back doing our usual 6.5 knots. We expected to become tangled in a fishing net in the Philippines or Indonesia. Not out here in the middle of the Indian ocean more than 300 miles from anywhere! We had a discussion about the merits of different shaped keels. Valiam's is quite good and just has a round bulb at the front with the pointy bit at the back. The captain didn't want to turn t oo much incase it wrapped itself around the keel and we can't start the engine or it would foul the prop..
We had a small port to calm our nerves before getting back to our night routine. 9 days until we get to the friendly island of Rodrigues, fresh baguettes and a calm anchorage!
All well on board
Day 3 - Cocos to Mauritius
18/07/2008, 13 22.42'S:91 57.87'E, Indian Ocean
Day 3 Cocos to Mauritius Indian Ocean Position; 7.45am Cocos time: 13 22.42S 91 57.87E 18 July 2008
The wind continued to increase yesterday to an average of 35 knots with gusts up to 44 knots. The waves were big and we would watch fascinated as they would build up and peak up behind us with the crests sometimes breaking. The colour of the waves at the very top were a transparent bottle green where I could see the sky shining through. The captain explained that Valiam is the type of boat that just floats over these waves like a surfboard. After reading several logs of this crossing about water in the cockpit and sometimes in the boat we are very happy that we are safe and dry inside.
We took down the mainsail and Bill poled out the furling jib with half of it unfurled. He put up the staysail(small jib) on the other side to balance the boat. This is working very well in combination with Mona Lisa the autopilot. As the winds and seas increased further last night we furled the jib so that there is just a small triangle. We are sailing at an average of 6.5-7 knots with this rig and it is more comfortable. Occasionally a wave splashes over the boat with a hiss and very occasionally we skew sideways down a wave.
Sleeping is still difficult. Although we prepared the quarter berth for sleeping it is hot and stuffy in there as well as noisy with Mona Lisa moaning. (It sounds like a moose braying) I tried to sleep in the main cabin again but felt sick with all the bouncing around. This left the bunks in the main cabin. They are ok but a bit narrow. I am sure we will develop muscles on this trip constantly bracing and hanging on to things to balance. At present I am balancing the computer on my lap with my feet jammed up against the opposite bunk.
After the meat and fridge episode we cooked the lamb chops in a tin of curry sauce. Bill added a tin of peas and it was quite delicious. It's too hard to chop up onions etc at the moment. Cups of tea are easier to make than coffee so we are enjoying those at the moment occasionally with big sister fruit cake. I have watched a number of movies on the small DVD player to pass the time including 'Spy Game', 'Kalifornia' and 'Vanilla Sky'. They are all quite good. In the Philippines we purchased up to 32 movies on one cd of the same actor e.g. Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie, and Julia Roberts. We also have Nicholas Cage and a heap of James Bond movies we haven't seen yet. Occasionally the subtitles are annoying as the English words are often completely different to what they are saying. (Translators don't always know what they are saying and just make it up). Chinese Subtitles are better as they just look like patterns at the bottom of the screen.
Anyway that's our life on board Valiam at the moment - a bit uncomfortable and tiring but we'll get used to it. There will be more of this weather and wont ease until Monday. The weather people said 'Rough conditions possible for much of the voyage to Rodrigues Island'. Looks like they are right.
All well on board
PS My standards in the galley are slipping. I heated up my tinned spaghetti in last nights dirty curry saucepan. The sink has cups etc in it and it's a rigmarole in these conditions to wash large items. I guess I am saving water
Day 1 and 2 Cocos to Mauritius
17/07/2008, 12 42.79'S:94 27.64'E, Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean Cocos to Mauritius 16 July 2008
It was sad to see Cocos retreat into the distance knowing we wouldn't see land again for a couple of weeks. Jim on Alli Kai Too left at the same time so we kept each other company for a few hours talking on the radio a few times. At 6.30pm he was around 8 miles behind us. The weather forecast was for strong winds 20-30 knots but for most of the day it was quite a bit less than that.
We enjoyed our precooked dinner of Irish stew at sunset which was obscured by a large dark cloud.
Since 6.30pm its been 25 - 30 knots. Bill poled the jib out and by 11pm he half furled it to try and slow the boat down. She's been averaging 8 knots with 2 reefs in the main. This is the Indian Ocean. I guess we're in for a bit of a rough ride. Bill jokingly said 'Well the original name for Valiam on her plans was Rough Rider or Ruffy!!'
Indian Ocean 17 July 2008 Position (8.30am Cocos time) :
I wasn't quite prepared for a theme park ride last night but that's what it felt like everytime I tried to lie down - gripping on to the bookshelves or the mast so I didn't end up on the floor. Bill did lose all the bedclothes at one stage and landed on his back on the floor. We now will 'sleep' in the main cabin or the quarter berth. The quarter berth has junk in it and is noisy due to Mona Lisa the autopilot moaning away. She did a terrific job steering her lat night but she does use a bit of power. Bill ran the engine for a few hours to charge the batteries.
Anyway its bumpy and rolly as I type this leaning against the chart table. I can see sea mountains outside the window with white caps.
We both haven't had any sleep really as its just been too uncomfortable but as we get our sea legs and get ourselves into a good resting position we will sleep even if only for short periods. I was pretty cranky earlier this morning because the meat had defrosted and leaked blood all through the fridge. I had already cleaned it all out yesterday and rebagged everything in those sealed plastic bags but they didn't work. Saying some naughty words and trying to balance in the galley pulling everything out again I also bumped into the hot coffee on the stove. @#$%^&*()(&^%! No harm done just a big mess to clean up in a heaving rolling sea.... The meat is all now in Tupperware containers and we have to cook what didn't fit. The sea sick medication sturgeron is working quite well and should assist me in feeling fine during this trip.
We've lost contact with Jim but he is probably a long way behind us now. We have been going 8-9 knots. Bill is going to put the 3rd reef in the main but that involves harnessing and going to the mast.
Thanks everyone for you SMS messages on the sat phone. Sometimes the endings aren't there because of the 160 character cut off.
The winds will remain strong for some days so hopefully we wont suffer too many bruises getting around the boat but will achieve strong muscles instead.
All well on board
Linda and the Captain
Au revoir Cocos
15/07/2008, 12 05.45'S:96 52.93'E, Indian Ocean
Tuesday 14th July "Au revoir Cocos" Position :12 05.45S 96 52.93E
It was 'cocktail hour' on Valiam yesterday as the sun went down. The ladies sipped cosmopolitans and the men martinis in martini glasses we purchased in Singapore. We still have lots of gin we bought in the Philippines for $1 a litre. We drank a little of it with class against one of the most beautiful backdrops in the world. We will miss the most aquamarine turquoise water we've ever seen, the coconuts trees, white sand, hermit crabs and most of all the company of our yachtie friends. Bea and Diane of Sortilege who have been coming to Cocos for 8 years have given us invaluable advice particularly for our coming voyage to Rodrigues. We know where the best bakery and pub is as well as fresh spices. Rob and Natalie (Wilhelm) will be in South Africa by November so we hope to see them again . Jim (Allii Kai Too) is leaving tomorrow as well for Rodrigues. We'll definitely see him again.
Bill is taking our passports to the police station this morning to get stamped. It will be a wet dinghy ride to Home Island as the wind picked up last night. We will receive weather information today but unless there is anything adverse out there we will be leaving tomorrow. Our shopping expedition yesterday was mostly successful except for eggs, onions, bread and butter. The ship has just come in so I guess the shop will be stocked up again in a few days. It surprises me with so many chooks running around that the only eggs available to buy are flown in from Perth! Diane kindly gave us 4 eggs as a parting gift and Rob and Nat are going to see if there's any for us on West Island today.
Today we will try and rest, tidy the boat in readiness for the trip and check the weather forecast.
It has certainly been a special time here at Cocos one we will always remember. I wonder if the sharks will miss us?
Monday 14th July 2008
Cocos Keeling Islands
It is exactly one month ago since we departed Singapore with its busyness, heat and calm waters of the Java Sea. After 3 weeks here at Cocos, so much part of the Indian Ocean and its strong south east winds we feel ready to move on. We have been reading up on Rodrigues, Mauritius and La Reunion and they all sound fantastic and we can't wait to try the cuisine and experience the different cultures. Rodrigues sounds small and friendly (only 36000 people) and should be a good rest point after 2 weeks at sea. It's only a couple of days sail to Mauritius. Mauritius is much more populated (1.5 mil) and heavily geared towards tourism. This will be fun for a while but the captain fears it may be expensive if Linda is let loose in the shops! La Reunion may be another nice rest point to enjoy French culture and the one week's free accommodation at the marina.
To alleviate Linda's slight anxiety about crossing the Indian Ocean (more than 2000 nm and our biggest passage to date) we will be using a weather routing service called Commanders Weather. We will receive detailed weather forecasts pertinent to our position and boat speed. Although it seems the trip should be fairly straight forward with mostly southeast trade winds it will be good to test this service for the more difficult passage from Mauritius (or La Reunion) to South Africa.
It's all very exciting! We spent a fabulous afternoon with Rob and Natalie yesterday on their beautiful yacht 'Wilhelm'. They are also sailing to South Africa but will be going via Chagos, Seychelles, Madagascar and Tanzania. We shared much information about the coming voyage (and past voyages) and it wouldn't surprise us if we see them in Durban and other ports on the way to Cape Town. Some yachts also call in to Namibia on the way to St Helena and Brazil. Wilhelm and Valiam may also do this. This would certainly be a fantastic place to stop and have a look around. Rob started building Wilhelm in 1979. It is a beautiful boat and took him (with the help of Natalie in the latter years) 22 years to complete. It is made of steel and as you can imagine he spent many years of weekends welding. What a labour of love! They have been living on their boat for the last 7 years and have enjoyed cruising the Pacific. They spent quite a bit of time in Australia especially Tasmania and Lord Howe Island. Rob and Natalie (like us) like to explore 'path less traveled' rather than the 'milk run' of circumnavigating the world. The route we are taking now is a traditional sailing route around South Africa and places like Rodrigues and Mauritius are steeped in history. It will be completely different to the quiet island paradise of Cocos.
Yesterday we snorkeled 'The Rip' 2 more times with Natalie and Rob. It's such a gorgeous experience floating past all the fish. We managed to hang on to a piece of coral to have a really good look at the different fish peeking out of their coral caves. The sharks were asleep this time under a coral ledge.
We will miss our 'pets' here - the black tipped sharks, hermit crabs and the remaining chooks. Perhaps a bird will visit us when we are out at sea. The one we had visit on our last trip we have now identified as the 'Red legged Booby'.
Today we will be provisioning for the journey ahead using the internet for the last time. We will be able to update the website at sea as we did from Singapore using our sat phone system and I may send a small photo or 2 but there will just be us and the sea and sky for a couple of weeks! We love reading the comments on our web page and promise to write back when we get to Rodrigues.
SV Valiam and crew
The Wind is back
13/07/2008, Direction Island COCOS
Friday 11th July 2008
'The Wind is back' drawing of Sortilege, Diane and Bea
After a few days of perfect weather with light breezes the wind came back last night gusting at 30 knots. That familiar howl in the rigging is back! It is now a steady 20 knots - perfect for sailing! Fellow yachties Steve and Ally on Freo Doctor left yesterday morning for Christmas Island. They didn't have much wind to start with and Steve contacted us by radio telling us they wished they'd stayed another day or so! They will be sailing to windward now. It was sad for us to see them go. Even after such a short acquaintance there is closeness we often experience with other yachties in these remote places. Ally and Steve have to be back in Western Australia in November to work - that dreaded 'w' word. They plan to move to SE QLD in a year or two so we hope to see them again. There have been a number of single-handed men here - not always by choice. We have heard several tales of wives leaving half way around the world when things got a bit rough. Jim on Allii Kai Too from California, USA sailed here alone from Brisbane after his wife decided to go home. He says he doesn't cook and lives on tinned food. He thought there would be a hamburger shop here on Direction Island! He had the option of sending his boat home on a ship but decided he wanted to complete his dream of sailing around the world. He will be going to Mauritius around the same time as us.
We briefly met another English yachtsman who was here a couple of days on his ketch with his crew - a Frenchman Guy he met in Darwin. Geoffrey had an amazing tale to tell about when he began his voyage on a different boat 'Luck Dragon'. From the UK he sailed to Iceland, Greenland and the notoriously difficult passage through the North West passage of the Arctic Circle north of Canada. He said the 'ice opened up' for him. Sadly he lost his boat in Alaska during a storm. He abandoned ship due to broken rigging and his 2 Alaskan crew jumping ship when a large fishing boat came past. To this day he still wonders if he made the right decision. Luck Dragon was found on a beach unsalvageable. His story is on a website: www.luckdragonontour.com
He purchased a new boat 'Eshamy' in Mexico and sailed across the Pacific to here. He is now on his way to Mauritius and South Africa. We will probably see him again too. He also says he can't cook and lives on tinned food. Linda keeps telling Captain Bill how lucky he is to have such talented crew. (Chef, morale booster, communications, general hand and keeping watch, entertainment facilitator,cleaner,provisioner, information gatherer etc etc...will think of some more....)
Captain Bill has tried his hand at fishing. He has tried with his spear gun and a fishing line. Although there are plenty of fish here he has been unsuccessful. The fish stay out of range when he has the spear gun (clever fish) and don't eat the bait when it's on a hook (clever fish). The other consideration is the sharks. They just eat the bait, hook and all cutting the line cleanly with their teeth. They must have a lot of hooks in their bellies! Steve gave Bill a 'shark line' which consisted of a metal trace and a big hook. Bill half heartedly tried this system but we decided that the black tipped sharks that we have been feeding and watching with pleasure weren't going to be dinner. The thought of cutting up one of these beautiful creatures didn't appeal. Anyway we have plenty of fresh food at the moment so we aren't desperate. Trolling when we are at sea for weeks will be better.
The latest on the chooks: We think the police may also be fond of the chickens as Bill found a coke can full of bullet holes. Ally asked one of them how the eradication was going and he sheepishly said they caught a couple of roosters. We can still hear plenty of roosters crowing at all hours from the boat. The little hens have a hard time fending them off. The little brown hen when we saw her last was still limping and now only has 3 chicks. (She used to have 7).
The other excitement here in our little anchorage was when the police towed the abandoned hulk Kitmoor away after it had been here for 10 years. It is now anchored far from here where it is hoped it will eventually sink. If anyone is interested Bill saw a Perkins diesel engine on board which is probably salvageable. This is the same yacht a man went to jail for stealing items from but it's now ok for the public to salvage whatever they want. (It was in the local newspaper apparently.)
There are now 4 yachts here: us, Sortilege (long term visitors Diane and Bea catamaran-Oz), Wilhelm (Rob and Natalie from Maine USA), Allii Kai Too (Jim - California USA) We wonder if another yacht will appear around the corner of the headland.
Another perfect day in Paradise
Another Perfect Day in Paradise
08/07/2008, Cocos Islands
Another perfect day in Paradise
Direction Island, Cocos
8th July 2008
Yesterday was perfect - a gentle breeze, beautiful temperature and we engaged ourselves in our favourite pastimes - fishing (trying to), snorkeling, drinking a cold glass of bubbly, drawing and painting. Yes you read correctly Linda finally got her art gear out. (See results in Photos Gallery under Linda's sketches - lots of coconut palms and water).
Two more yachts have entered our haven - all men. An American single hander and 2 Englishmen. We hope to meet them today as a barbeque has been planned on the beach. Dieter on 'Lena Ly' our German friend left half an hour ago into the morning sun. The sea is unusually calm so he will have an easy start. We said 'See you in Mauritius!'. We enjoyed our brief time with him and sincerely hope we see him again. He's going the same way as us so there is a good chance. (His yacht is named after his two little granddaughters Lena and Lily.)
Snorkeling the Rip again yesterday we again saw an amazing number of different fish. A couple of black sharks with several fins were swimming beneath us - not like the sleeping sharks of last time! They were a different species too and I held my breath as I floated over them. The current was very fast so the 'show' was over very quickly. We were glad there is a rope with buoys to hang on to near the end as the current was very strong. Snorkeling a few metres from the beach was relaxing and we saw lots of beautiful fish with time to look and take photos. (Again see Photo gallery!) After a refreshing shower using the water tank tap at the yachtie shelter shed we used 'the most exotic phone box in the world' to phone home.
The moon is now a sliver in the sky at night so we will be going soon to take advantage of its light at night. Hopefully we can time our visit to Home and West islands when some fresh food has come in by plane! We were lucky last time to buy the last 2 zucchini and capsicum! Rob of Wilhelm gave us some pumpkin yesterday he found growing on Christmas Island when he was there. We enjoyed that with curried sausages last night and there's still some more left. Pumpkin scones? Perhaps I will make some to take to the bbq as a QLD delicacy!
Sunday 6th July 2008
Direction Island, Cocos
"More yachts arrived.'
Early this morning a 4th yacht arrived in the last couple of days. The anchorage is starting to get crowded! After Wilhelm arrived, Jim a solo sailor from USA arrived after sailing non stop from Darwin. He was exhausted so we haven't met him yet. This morning a ketch arrived with an English couple we think. Linda has been dobbed in as social co-coordinator for beach parties so she will have some more introducing to do!!! Yesterday afternoon we had a very pleasant couple of hours chatting with most of the yachties in the Nudey Beach picnic area. The ferry arrived late yesterday to pick up all the campers and day trippers so it looks like the island may be more peaceful again today. It was great to chat to the others about where they've been and where they are going. Dieter is off to Mauritius on Monday. He had some interesting tales to tell especially his visit to Peru. No yachts visit there but he promised to visit a friend so he was welcomed and had to give speeches at the local town hall etc. Dieter isn't confident with his English and as Rob (from Wilhelm) speaks German he translated for him. It was wonderful sitting there in such a beautiful setting listening to tales from yachties from around the globe. We didn't want to be anywhere else in that moment. I observed 3 skippers including Bill from 3 different countries talking about sailing rigs drawing pictures in the sand and thought how brave and clever they all were. It feels great to be here on this little speck in the Indian Ocean now a traditional stop over for sailing boats crossing the Indian Ocean.
The wind has been relentless blowing at 25- 30 knots again after only 1-2 days respite. It's noisy at night with the wind in the rigging and rigging making sounds. We've put the wooden dinghy over the front hatch of our bed so we get some air without the rain at night in our cabin. It rains every night.
Last Friday when we took the inflatable over to Home Island to get fuel we had time to wander around. Bill went to have a closer look at local wooden sailing boats - "jukungs" whilst Linda wandered off looking for the original Clunies Ross house built in the 1800s. There was a long crumbling brick wall surrounded by huge gnarled old trees. I felt I had stepped into an enchanted forest! A lone grave stone with a cross stood in the middle. Written on 4 sides of the bottom of the cross were the names and dates of several Clunie Ross people who had died. Most of them died in their 50s. There was also a child who had died aged 8. Interestingly one of the couples died in the same year even though they weren't very old by our standards. (50s) One wonders whether it was illness, an accident or just the usual age people died in those days. Further along an old wooden door was swinging open in the brick wall. Thinking an old house would be behind the brick wall I felt very excited. Alas it was just a big empty grassy area in a big square shape bordered by the brick wall. Stepping outside the other side of the wall the original Clunies Ross house could be seen. It was nothing special - just a narrow 2 storey fibro building with wooden stairs. It looked like it had been added/renovated and may not look much like the original house(?) I looked for the overgrown lemon trees (with free lemons!) one of the yachties told me about but couldn't find them. The grass and trees are very green and lush. Apparently soil was brought in, in those days to create this very healthy garden. The trees look like introduced species and are very old, similar to ones seen in old English estates.
The local wildlife continues to amuse us. The black tipped sharks love to eat anything carnivorous we throw overboard. They are like dogs when it comes to bones. One will swim off with it in its mouth with the others following. Steve caught a shark the other day and marinated it in chillie and lemon. Delicious! He said the secret of making sure a shark tastes good is to catch a small one and cut off its tail as soon as it's caught. Steve has many stories to tell about fishing and hunting. He used to shoot camels, roos etc as a professional shooter in Western Australia. He's also shot other animals deemed to be a nuisance such as horses and cats. Many of the animals end up as mince meant for the dogs but he's told of stories where someone has taken the wrong mince out of the fridge to make burgers!! Indonesians and Chinese reputably eat cats and apparently they don't taste too bad. Bill has tried to catch the chickens but they are too fast for him especially the roosters. There are several types of crabs on the island. The small red hermit crabs are everywhere and sometimes we see big purple ones. They look so funny crawling along with an old shell dragging along over half their body.
Captain Bill is making noises about going in a week or so. He says it will be good to go when we have the moon shining at night. We would like to stop at Rodrigues (you don't say the 's") before Mauritius. Its part of Mauritius and 300 nm closer than Mauritius. The people are reputably very friendly, the food cheap and wonderful and the locals like to 'adopt' a yachtie to take home for dinner etc. It will be our longest trip so far - over 2000 nautical miles and will take 2 weeks. Hopefully all our self steering systems will continue to work properly. If it's still blowing 25-30 knots we won't need the mainsail!! We will let you know our departure date.... Don't forget to click on the little camera to see our photo gallery under the Cocos album.
03/07/2008, Direction island , Cocos
3rd July 2008
Direction Island , Cocos
'The Rip' is a famous place where people snorkel here. We walked up to the end of the beach and over a small coral headland to experience this amazing reef. I was worried about drifting too fast and injuring myself but it was easy. We went at low tide which meant there was less water rushing through. Whenever I go beneath the water it feels magical like fairyland. There were so many different types of fish swimming slowly beneath us, hiding in huge groups amongst the coral or just 'hanging out' in the one spot. To stop drifting by I grabbed a coral ledge looking at all the coloured fish poking their heads out. As I drifted further I saw 3 black sharks about 1.5 metres long lying still on the bottom of the sea bed. As I floated over them I felt it was not a good idea to kick or thrash to attract their attention. We've been told they are harmless. I swam back towards the beach and continued to snorkel around other smaller coral reefs. The fish were beautiful and I felt I saw just as much as when I've been diving. It started to rain and I did think of my book and sarong left in the hammock tied between 2 coconut trees but I was having such a good time I didn't care. The rain feels nice when swimming. I took lots of photos with my underwater camera.
On our way back to Valiam we popped in to say 'au revoir' to Claude and Ollie on L'attitude who were just about to leave for Thailand. Everyone here waved and wished them well as they left feeling very excited. (They have been here for 7 months). This little farewell was a big contrast to when we left the marina in Singapore. No yachties there waving us off! Last night we met Dieter who arrived yesterday. He joined our little party on the beach apologizing for his lack of English. He did well and we always find ways to communicate especially after a couple of drinks. Dieter left his wife in Germany as she didn't want to come with him. Dieter is already going on Monday aiming for Mauritius. Another yacht arrived last night - SV Wilhelm - a German/American couple we believe but we haven't met them yet. There are people camping here on 'our' island as it is school holidays so it feels less isolated.
We can only buy fuel for 1 hour (8.30-9.30am) on Fridays so we'll be doing that as well as check the internet etc on Home Island. We'll also see if any more fresh veges have arrived. We managed to get some broccoli last time.
Latest on the chickens : After the most recent shooting the mother hen with 7 babies was wounded in the wing. She's still able to get around with her family. There still seem to be plenty of roosters. Today when we were using the phone in the yacht shelter a young boy picked up some small bullet shells and asked his mum what they were. I told them the Federal police had been here attempting to shoot chickens. The mother hurriedly changed the subject. Most children collect shells on the beach. This lucky fellow found shiny brass bullet cartridges.....
PS We met Rob and Natalie of SV Wilhelm briefly - Americans who reminded us it was July 4th Independence day. I suggested a little celebration on the beach this afternoon (Linda likes to party....)
01/07/2008, Cocos Indian ocean
Wednesday 2nd July
8.10am local time (3.5 hours behind east coast Oz)
It's so exciting - another yacht has arrived! All we know is that it is a white monohull. Im sure we'll meet them very soon! The wind has died down to 10 knots - can't believe it!!! Now we have too much chain out and it was rattling a bit across the bottom last night. Our trip to West Island by ferry from Home island was fun on Monday. It left the jetty at Home island at 10.45 and only cost $2 to go to West island. We knew that most places shut at 1pm including the one café and one restaurant next to the motel so we had a quick look around before settling at Dory's café on the beachfront for lunch. It's very quiet here with no-one about really. There is only 90 people on West island and they were all at work except for the school teachers. West island feels a bit like a really laid back coastal town in Oz a bit like north Durras (NSW) in the 70s when Bill and I first met. The lunch was nice - local fish and we bought a bottle of wine from the 'supermarket' to have with it. To keep it cold Bill went to the ice machine at the club (which wasn't open but the ice machine was with an honesty box). After lunch we went to the only supermarket which had a bit more than on Home island in the way of different cheese, salami, bread, beer and wine. Linda was able to buy some Wolfblass bubbly for $12 which made her very happy! We were served by a Malay girl in Muslim attire that said 'Seeyas' when we left. The Aussies have really taught the locals how to speak English properly.
After a wet bouncy ride in the inflatable we arrived back with all our goodies. After another windy night we decided to do our washing ashore. This was a big task as we hadn't done any since Singapore! We used the water tank on the island and Bill put extra string between the coconut palms. Our washing looked rather colourful flapping in the breeze. I'm sure in another year or so it will look more faded! We enjoyed home made hamburgers for lunch and cold beer. Ally was on the beach with her sailing dinghy and invited us for a sail. As Linda had already prepared the hammock with her book she suggested Bill go. They looked very pretty sailing across the bay. Linda didn't even have to move from her hammock to take photos. (see photo gallery)
As we waited for the washing to dry it was getting late in the afternoon. We thought wine on the beach with the other yachties might be nice so we took the dinghy over and Claude and Ollie thought it was a wonderful idea. So back at the beach watching the sun go down we enjoyed swapping yarns with the other yachties. We are finding the yachties much more sociable in tiny places like this. L'attitude is leaving for Thailand on Thursday so a final farewell is planned on the beach this afternoon. Freo Doctor is off to Christmas Island in a week so that leaves us, Sortilege and the new yacht that has just come in. Bill has spotted a stripey flag on the back so they must be 'foreign'. Oh goody new people to talk to!
We are going across to Home island today to do the internet and buy a few things like engine oil and perhaps a machete to open the coconuts. Oh and the police coming over again this morning to shoot the chickens......I hope the hens can run fast and they just get the roosters. I cant bear the thought of more orphan chicks being eaten by rats. We were watching them yesterday cheeping and following mummy around pecking at the split coconuts. (Bea and Diane from Sortilege open the coconuts for them)
Once we've had a good rest in a week or two we'll start thinking about going to Rodrigues and Mauritius.
Thanks everyone who have added comments and sent us messages. Its great to hear from you out here.
A message for all my girlfriends (including Vashti and Yolanda): You can see I have continued my tradition of drinking champagne in real glass flutes with friends wherever I go! Linda xxxx
Bill and Linda
Still windy at Cocos
29/06/2008, Indian Ocean
Monday 30th June 2008
8.30am local time
We've just been listening to our neighbours talk on the radio about a yachtie who has got himself in the news. Apparently he was here at Cocos for a while and was not very popular. He had set his epirb off near here when he wasn't really in dire straits and when he was here spent some time in jail for thieving from another yacht. Now he is off the West Australian coast wanting to be rescued as he is taking on board water etc. Several planes and helicopters have been out to him (he's 80 miles off shore) but he wont leave his boat. (I think he wants to be towed?) Apparently a policeman was interviewed more or less branding yachties with the same brush - saying we sail the world and set the epirbs off etc costing tax payers money. It's a shame people like that give yachties a bad name.
We had an enjoyable day and evening yesterday even if it was still blowing 25-30knots. (It's calmed down now to about 20 knots and we have a wet dinghy ride to Home Island ahead of us!) After a restless night we lazed about reading books then decided to go ashore for a picnic lunch. Bill has inflated the big dinghy and put on the bigger outboard. Its much better than the little wooden dinghy in these conditions. The beach on the island is more sheltered than on the boat so we had a lovely couple of hours picnicking, swimming, walking and lazing on the beach. On the way back we decided to drop in to see Freo Doctor. Ollie and Claude were also there. The 6 of us had a jolly time having a few drinks and eating the lobsters Steve caught with the delicious hand made mayonnaise Claude whisked for hours. (she is originally from France) It was dark and blowy by the time we went back to Valiam and there was no moon. In the pitch black bobbing about in the waves we managed to find our way home. After a cool shower on deck we slept a lot better than the previous nights.
The latest on the feral chickens : There are still a couple of families left. There are 2 hens with baby chicks but still too many roosters. Sadly the orphaned chicks are no longer. Apparently the rats on the island eat them. This does not surprise me as a huge rat ran across in front of me when we were walking along the tracks. I even shrieked! On this same walk around the island we discovered bits of huts and buildings scattered throughout the 'jungle' and the far surf beach. There used to be a settlement here and a telegraph station during the war. As well as bits of red brick walls on the coral beach there were more rubber thongs of every size, design and colour washed up. If you had gone barefoot you could find a mismatching pair to walk back!
We are making a sojourn to Home Island today, leaving the dinghy there and catching the ferry to West Island. West Island is where the Aussies live and there are a couple of tourist shops and a café. (It shuts at 1pm) The supermarket is supposed to have a bit more than at Home Island so hopefully we may be able to buy some fresh vegetables, cheese and salami, wine etc. I have added a few photos to the photo gallery (just click on the little camera then on the album marked Cocos.)
28/06/2008, 12 05.45'S:96 52.93'E, Indian Ocean
Saturday 28th June 2008 Direction Island Cocos Islands 1.00pm local time (3.5 hours behind Brisbane)
It's blowing around 30 knots as I write this as it has done most of the night. The day we arrived it was a nice 15 knot breeze but the first night it blew up to 37 knots and our sleep deprived bodies continued to be sleep deprived. Bill has checked the anchor a couple of times by snorkeling down to have a look and it hasn't moved. We are quite confident with our anchor but there are big shallow bommies (coral heads) just behind us.. Our anchor is a 60lb Manson Supreme. It is a spade like shape. Bill had read some tests on anchors and this one came up one of the best for holding power. But still its hard to sleep when the wind is howling and the rigging is rattling and the waves are swishing against the hull. Valiam hasn't bounced much as the water is relatively flat but now there are small wind waves. Going for dinghy rides to the beach is a bit wet and bouncy. At the beach it is a lot calmer.
I enjoy lying in the hammock watching the chooks peck at the coconuts. Two nights ago we enjoyed a barbeque with the 3 other yachts - all Aussie couples mainly from Darwin and Western Australia. Next to us L'attitude is anchored (Ollie and Claude) and on the other side of us close to the beach is Solitege a catamaran (Bee and Diane) and in front of us is Freo Doctor (Ally and Steve). L'attitude were originally going to sail to Chagos but have changed their mind and are going to Thailand soon. They have been here since December. Freo Doctor arrived a week ago from Fremantle and may go to Chagos in a while. They have until November before they have to go back to work. Sortilege have been here 8 times as mentioned in a previous blog and have also been here since December. They went to Mauritius a few years ago so we will have a chat to them about that. The captain says he wants to up anchor and move away from the bommies so we have more room to let chain out if we need to. We will probably do that soon so we can watch the anchor during the day to make sure its well stuck in. We wonder if these 30 knot winds are normal for here. Bill says if we went to Mauritius in this it wouldn't take long with just the jib up!! If this wind keeps up we'll either just get used to it or we may be tempted to head off to Rodirigues or Mauritius for a more protected anchorage.
We went over to Home island the other day in the little dinghy when the wind wasn't so fierce to do some shopping and go to the internet facilities. We saw a couple of turtles along the way. We tied up at the jetty and couldn't help thinking it was very much like Samarai island PNG but much more well maintained and modern. This is because it's funded and administered by the Australian Government. We found the supermarket. It had a lot of tinned and frozen stuff but no meat. There were a few oranges, apples, potatoes, tomatoes and onions. (No green veges) We asked the Malay lady at the checkout about the availability of meat but she said there wasn't any. When pressed further she said 'When the ship comes'. We continued to wander around the neat corrugated iron buildings and found another small shop. Inside there was a big freezer with frozen chicken and sausages. Later we wondered why the lady in the first shop didn't tell us there was meat here. Our yachtie friends explaine d that one must ask specific questions to get the right answers e.g. 'Is there meat in an another shop?'. Because I asked 'Do YOU have any meat?' she of course said 'No'. No extra information is given unless specific questions are asked. We'll remember that next time. The internet place was air-conditioned with modern Dell computers available for $12.50 an hour. As it was 45 mins until they closed at 12.00 we had to work fast! We hope you all enjoyed the last blog and photos on the website. A very modern Post Office was next door to the internet place so I asked for a phone card to use on the phone on Direction Island. The young man assured me the $20 phone card would work . Wrong! There was nowhere to put the phone card in the phone here. I was cross about this and Bill said the post office fellow had probably never been here so didn't know. It seemed odd to me that a local would never have gone to a neighbouring island 1 mile away! We respected the dress code on Home Isla nd and covered our shoulders and thighs. All the women were dressed in traditional Muslim gear and a couple of the men were wearing sarongs. The funny thing was talking to the younger Malay ladies and hearing an Australian accent! We've been in Malaysia for a while so it just seemed incongruous to be amongst Malay people but with all the obvious Australian conveniences - Aussie$, familiar express post packets at the PO, Telstra on the phones, government houses and roads tidy and well maintained. Everything is written in English as well as Malay. We walked over to house number 36 for the frozen filleted fish recommended by the other yachties. We remembered not to go to the front door and started heading down the side dirt driveway. A man dressed in a checked pleated sarong called out "Ally?" I turned around. "Oh Hello! No I'm not Ally I'm Linda and this is Bill" (the only similarity between Ally and me is perhaps the colour of our hair - I guess we middle-aged Aussie women mu st look the same!!) We shook hands and he introduced himself as PJ. He took us down the side to the back of his house chatting in a relaxed fashion about his grandkids being sick and the 'wedding' only being 3 weeks away. His place had a huge covered area out the back where one part was an outdoor kitchen. It reminded me of some of the old plantation houses in PNG where the kitchen was always separate outside. We bought a kilo of frozen fish for $10 and headed back to our dinghy for another wet ride back to Valiam.
We tuned into the local radio station but our tolerance levels were tested. After hearing late 60s pop and country music for a while we changed back to our cds even though we've heard them a few times!! We have a private channel on the vhf radio to talk to the other yachties here. We've just told them we're shifting anchor and Ollie said the grib files indicate the winds are easing to 15 knots by Monday. Bea said this weather is a bit more blowy than they've had for a while so hopefully in a few days we'll have a more restful sleep.
We plan to do some recreational snorkeling around here. There's lots of coral about and there's a famous place at the end of the island called 'The Rip' where you just float by and see all the fish. We will take some underwater photos to put on the website.
The public phone here on Direction Island is in the yachtie shelter and we did manage to make a couple of calls using the credit card. This phone is in the most exotic location we've ever been able to talk to family. The roosters were crowing in the background as they pecked at coconut husks and the hermit crabs scurried about. As I talked on the phone I could see the wind whipping the water up around the bay with Valiam and her neighbours bobbing about. It's really beautiful just a bit windy at the moment that's all.
A little later: We have now moved a little further away from the bommies. Re-anchoring in 30knots was not without its drama however. Linda was on the foredeck in charge of the anchor winch. Of course it stopped half way through the manoever! (Tripped - not enough voltage to pull it up) A couple of goes later all is good. The captain is happy as there's more chain out and we're further from the bommies. We'll be right now for a few weeks!!! Will add more pictures to Photo Gallery on Monday at the internet place. Cheers from Cocos! Linda and Bill PS I feel better now. The seasick drugs are out of my system!!
Paradise at Cocos
25/06/2008, Direction Island
Thursday 26th June 2008
Cocos (Keeling) Islands
Position: 12 05.45S 96 52.91E
As we entered the lagoon (on Tuesday 24th) the water went from deep blue to bright turquoise. We anchored near a yellow buoy and waited for the immigration people to come. There were 3 other yachts anchored in the bay plus two abandoned yachts without masts. We drank a bottle of cold champagne and soaked in the surroundings. A couple of friendly sharks came to say hello - little ones playing with each other like puppies. To match the champagne we got stuck into our stocks of smoked salmon and camembert. After a couple of hours the Australian Federal police arrived. Two friendly young men came aboard and gave us a list of rules and regulations and ferry timetables etc. They stamped our passports and left within half an hour. The one who did the stamping and talking (the other one looked around the boat to make sure there were no refugees and contraband) looked younger than Liam. He said he has been here for 6 months and comes from Canberra. We of course talked about us living in Canberra and getting married there as a common topic. We are now back in Australia and can remain here in paradise indefinitely. Perhaps we will stay here until we get the pension!
Two of the other yachts have been here for 6 months. They are both from Darwin. The Catarmaran Sortilege is on it 8th visit. It seems they stay here for months at a time. They have even created their own bbq area at Nudey beach with a pathway lined with coral and shells, hammock, table, chairs, candles, bbq, homemade broom, pet hermit crabs etc. The view looks over the bay, the yachts and Home island beyond.
So far we have done nothing much. We've tidied the boat, made the bed, launched the wooden dinghy with the new little outboard. Linda had a driving lesson and had to know the difference between the pictures of the tortoise and hare on the throttle control knob. We've been ashore twice . We have inspected the shelter shed with all the yacht plaques in it, the toilet facilities, the main picnic area with the more comfortable hammock etc. This place is as different as it could possibly be to Singapore.
Yesterday we were woken from our afternoon nap by the sounds of gunshots. On our way to investigate we popped over to say hello to Sortilege. (the ones who have been here 8 times). Bea and Diane said apparently the chooks on this island are feral and not welcome so have to be eradicated. Bea said he caught a few roosters with snares but they were very tough and basically inedible. Anyway the Australian Federal police came to do some shooting practice. There are still plenty of chooks left so its lucky we are not being invaded by real baddies. There seems to be lots of motherless chicks cheeping and a dozen squabbling roosters. The remaining hens don't want anything to do with the orphans. This little chook community is quite upset and so is Linda. Bill refuses to let her adopt a chicken so has compromised and let her have hermit crabs instead. The hermit crabs have been busy climbing all over Valiam. Of the 3 only one is left on board. The others have jumped ship. Linda will take her remaining pet back ashore this morning so it doesn't starve. Bill tried to feed it a cockroach but it wasn't interested.
As you can see you can see we have begun to get into island life. This morning we will get to experience the shops. We have been warned there isn't much as the supply ship hasn't been for a while. The yachties have told us about house 36 that sells filleted fish by the kilo. We have to go down the side entrance as going to the front door is considered rude. Home island is where the local Malays live. They are Muslim so we have to wear more clothes than we are used to when we go over. (cover shoulders and thighs)
Linda has been feeling poorly - probably withdrawal symptoms from the foreign sea sick pill concoctions she has been taking for the last 10 days. This blog has been dictated to Linda by Bill as Linda's brain isn't working very well. Hope you enjoyed it. Don't forget to read the bit about the chooks to the kids! There is a public phone at the yachtie shelter shed so we will investigate a phone card so we can use it to phone our nearest and dearest!
If any of you feel like visiting us we'll be here for a while. You have to fly to Perth first to get here. Don't forget to look at the Photo Gallery on this website under both 'Cocos islands' and 'Singapore to Cocos'.
Bill and Linda
Send message via iridium.com please
Cocos (Keeling) Islands
25/06/2008, 12 05.56'S:96 52.83'E,
Wednesday 25th June 2008 Direction island
Cocos Keeling Islands looked like a smudge on the horizon at mid morning yesterday. We radioed Cocos Customs 11 miles out and did a quarantine interview over the radio with another person who contacted us before we even got to the anchorage. We were told to boil our Singapore eggs and put our fruit in the freezer! It is incredibly beautiful here. The water is the pure tuquoise colour one sees in postcards and matches Valiam's hull perfetcly. We've had a quick look at the beach here on Direction island. It looks a perfect relaxing place for yachtie bums like us!! Hammocks, picnic tables and chairs and barbeques with coconut husks ready to burn. If we were really hungry we could catch one of the feral chooks that are hanging around. (There do seem to be quite a few roosters) This is short and I do apologise for that but feel a bit 'jetlagged' or the equivalent after our 10 nights at sea. We will go to Home island soon to put some stunning photos on the website when we find the internet place. (and a more detailed blog) All well on board
One more day Until Cocos Islands
23/06/2008, 11 23.73'S:98 20.02'E, Indian Ocean
Monday 23rd June 2008 Indian Ocean
8pm: Position : 11 23.73S 98 21.03E 96 nm to go till Cocos. We are averaging 170nm per 24 hours but this last leg will probably be slower. We are motorsailing now and rolling side to side a bit in the swell. The wind hasn't lived up to its trade wind reputation today. This afternoon we had 2 rain squalls - one with half an hour of 20 knots the 2nd one with no wind. The 2nd one did introduce itself with two beautiful rainbows which looked stunning against the inky grey sea. So we've only averaged 5knots today. We watched a movie together 'True Romance' which is a crazy action movie believe it or not. I t was made before Brad Pitt was famous and he has about 3 lines in it as a druggie. It killed the time and we broke open one of our 2 chocolate bars. 10 days at sea so far. That s not too bad from Singapore to Cocos Keeling. We are not sure when we will arrive tomorrow - in the afternoon sometime most likely. A full nights sleep.....
Position at midday (I think we have the same time as Perth :) 11 06.5S 98 59.4E
We've slowed down a bit to around 5knots so looks like it will be afternoon champagne tomorrow rather than champagne breakfast when we arrive. Bill has poled the jib out so we look like a butterfly floating and darting over the waves. Our bird visited again briefly last night but flew away when Bill started the engine. Mona Lisa and the chart plotter chew up a bit of battery power so we run the engine a couple of hours each day. I just went out to record our position from the chart plotter and there was a huge group of white birds sitting in a group on the water. They had grey tipped wings and curved grey beaks. I should get the bird book out and identify them ....
We have 133 nm to go
I washed my hair for the first time since we left 10 days ago - feels so good! (Getting the knots out was another matter)
A perfect sail to Cocos Islands
22/06/2008, 9 42'S:100 43'E, Indian Ocean
Sunday 22nd June Indian Ocean
Its been a fairly comfortable and smooth trip since the first day. We have averaged around 7 knots sometimes 8knots and have been doing approximately 170 nm per 24 hours which the captain is quite happy with. The wind has been mostly around a 15 knot SE which has been perfect. We've used the autopilot Mona Lisa mostly when sailing and she has held us on course steadily. Our track from Sunda Strait looks like a straight bee line for Cocos. The days and nights are beginning to blur and we have been sleeping in 2-3 hour shifts throughout the day and night. We've had a visitor - a bird which is white with mottly grey/beige flecks and the size of a chook. He/she sat on the mast just before sunset last night and looked very pretty with the red and green masthead light reflected on it. This morning Bill heard a 'thump' and there he was sitting on our deck. He flew away when Bill's head appeared out of the hatch. I don't blame it! Never probably having seen human life before an unsh aven bleary eyed species staring at him would be scary! Anyway the same bird has been circling near us most of the day and definitely thinks Valiam is a good roost. At sunset this evening the bird came back circling Valiam and jokingly we made 'raaagh' noises and now he's flown off. Aren't we mean? Even if the wind did blow his droppings away and he didn't damage the aerials or lights he might have done..sorry bird..
At 5.30 our position was 9 42 S 100 43 E with 267nm to go to Cocos. We are predicting that our arrival will be on Tuesday.
All well on board.
Indian Ocean to Cocos
21/06/2008, 7 21.14'S:103 46.35'E, Its been a wild ride!
Indian Ocean Position at 9.50am Singapore time 7 21.14'S 103 46.35E: 21 June 2008
What a wild ride! The tranquil waters around Krakatoa were quickly left behind as Valiam aimed straight out to sea for Cocos Keeling Islands. She had full sail up of course as the weather prediction was for 10 knots SE. As usual the weather forecast is wrong. By 9 pm Valiam was sailing at 8.5knots. We do have 1 knot of current with us. The winds continued to get stronger and Valiam was then racing at over 10 knots! (The captain thought it was great!) The crew complained to the captain it was too fast! The captain put 2 reefs in the main and furled the jib a little. We were still going 9.5 knots. By midnight the South Easterly was blowing at 20knots +. To put a 3rd reef in involves the captain going up onto the foredeck. Tied on he crab crawled over the heaving decks being covered in spray several times to get the job done. In the meantime Valiam was having fun spearing through the waves and going for thrill rides sideways on the swell from the Southern ocean. Spray and the tips of waves occasionally swished down the side decks. We put a washboard in the main hatch just in case. Even after all the reefs were in place Valiam continued to race along at 9 knots all night.
Sleep? What's that? This morning I am aching all over from trying to stay in a lying position for a couple of hours. It feels like I've been to the gym for a workout. With the sea sick medication taken at regular intervals Linda can just function.
Of course now that it's the captains turn to try and sleep Valiam 'slows down' to 7.5 knots. "I like going 9 knots!" he says. The crew says "Go to bed!" Anyway here we are in the Indian ocean swaying sideways and forwards in a lumpy sea.. The wind is coming more from behind now. No espresso coffee this morning - just a coffee bag in a cup. Not up to any preparation a bowl of mueslie managed stay down. Mona Lisa(autopilot) has been steering us all night and continues to moan when she has to adjust our course. She has one annoying habit though. When the wind changes a bit and we go slightly off course she sends out this awful screechy beep beep beep until back on course. To stop the racket we push the 'standby' button very lightly and she shuts up.
I guess we will get used to the motion out here and will hopefully reach Cocos in a few days.
All well on board
20/06/2008, 6 11.83'S:105 28.64'E, Indonesia
Friday 20 June 2008 Passing Krakatoa Sunda Strait Indonesia Position at 5.30pm local time: 6 11.83'S 105 28.64E
The sea is oily and as we pass by the famous Krakatoa and baby Krakatoa our eyes are working hard to see any smoke through the glare and haze. Every so often we can see a puff of smoke coming from enak (baby) Krakatoa. Krakatoa itself had a large amount of hazy smoke around it. Several fishing boats are anchored beneath both. The captain said "I just heard rumbling and a sound like a gun shot!" He promptly cut the engine so we could both listen to enak Krakatoa speak to us. Sure enough we heard another rumbling sound (but no 'bang' this time). It's unbelievably hazy out here. It possibly is the combination of volcano smoke, heat haze and pollution. We are drifting and just enjoyed a cold glass of chardonnay with sweet and sour chicken and rice. The sun was a huge flurescent orange ball sliding into the sea. The sea looked like Monet's paintings - a series of pink, mauve, gold and silver brushstrokes. The photo was taken earlier and doesn't do this amazing landscape justice . Now off to Cocos Keeling 624 nautical miles away.. 7.15pm
Java Sea 6.45am local time Position : 5 34.07'S 106 04.75'E
It's amazing to be awake at this time as the sun is coming up and the full moon is still clearly visible high in the sky. Captain Bill says "You've got plenty of photos like that!" Somehow the camera doesn't do it justice. I just had to send a tiny photo of it to the website! Another different sensory experience greeted our nostrils in the pre dawn this morning - clove cigarettes (?) and burning rubbish (plastic). We must be close to Indonesian civilisation! Bill has been up most of the night navigating through the many oil rigs strewn throughout this sea. Unfortunately if the engine is running Mona Lisa (autopilot) gets confused and isn't able to keep the course marked out by the chart plotter. The captain says he installed the autopilot compass too close to the batteries and he will attend to this problem as soon as he can. Speaking of problems we have another one in the galley. The galley slave was inspired to do some baking (chocolate chip cookies) and the crew were already salivating at the thought of such a delicious treat BUT the oven wont stay alight after its lit. #@%*?"! (Only if the galley slave holds the stove knob in for the whole duration of the required baking time.) Fortunately the captain is a kind master and did not insist on the galley slave doing this.
We are currently on a direct course for Sunda Strait - the narrow passage between Java and Sumatra. We should get through today. Looking at the grib files for wind speed and direction for the next 48 hours it looks as if the wind is becoming lighter and more from the south. It may be a bit of a rolly ride out in the Indian Ocean. We'll see how Linda goes with the Sturgeron.
Currently there is a ship on the starboard side and if it wasn't much faster than Valiam we would be on a collision course. The seas are calm and the winds light. There does seem to be a large dark cloud ahead of us. We haven't heard any thunder or seen any lightning so hopefully it will just be rain. It may be a good opportunity to get the soap and shampoo out! (And hope that any ships in the vicinity don't have crew with powerful binoculars!)
19/06/2008, 4 58.02'S:106 44.35'E, Indonesia
19 June 2008 8.30 pm local time
Java Sea Indonesia
Another beautiful morning greeted me this morning with a golden full moon still high in the sky in the west whilst the sun sent orange and pink rays in the east. It was a long night with virtually no sleep. The narrow stretch of water between Belitung and Bangka islands was busy with ships and local boats going in both directions. We managed to keep a respectful distance. Today the wind has been blowing at a nice 10 knots and we've been cruising nicely on a direct course for Sunda Strait. Its been very quiet out here just blue sea and only one or two ships in the distance. Because its been smoother we have both managed to get a couple of hours sleep. Unfortunately it will be busy again tonight with many oil rigs and ships also aiming for Sunda Strait and Jakarta. Bill has put in a route using the chart plotter connected to Mona Lisa (autopilot) avoiding the oil rigs and shallows. So really the chart plotter is directing Valiam at the moment! The Indian ocean beckons - maybe tomorrow later in the day?
The Java Sea is littered with shipwrecks from the war. In tribute we had 'Soldier salad' for dinner. We adapted my mum's "huzaren sla" (soldier salad) recipe for shipboard ingredients: Tinned potatoes chopped Small tin of peas Small tin of beetroot chopped Small tin of spam chopped into small cubes same size as peas Handful of pickled onions sliced 3 dollops of mayonnaise (You can also add chopped gerkin, hardboiled eggs) combine all ingredients
The weather is already less humid and not as hot. So now we are in winter in the Southern hemisphere. Its still sarong weather of course.
Family History - Indonesia
19/06/2008, 2 57.81'S:107 18.418'E, Selat Gelasa 11.30pm local time 18 June 2008
Bills father writes: "You're moving into WW2 history areas now, Bangka Is was where the Japs killed a crowd of Aus Army Hospital nurses in 1942 after the fall of Singapore, Sunda Strait was where the Perth Uss Houston and the Dutch cruiser DE Ruyter were sunk trying to stop the Jap battlefleet support the Jap landings on Java. The site is marked on Google Earth. Just out of Sunda Strait is Krakatoea the huge Volcano which went off in the 1880's. Grandpa Swartz (Bill's Danish Great Grandfather) went past it when he was on a Barque (the Victoria) which went to India and returned back around Cape Horn. They sailed through a sea of floating pumice stone near the volcano which was still erupting. For years we had a piece of the pummice, which was used to ruboff stains on hands. "
Linda's father was born in Indonesia of Dutch parents and spent his first 20 years or so in Java. (including a Japanese concentration camp during the war.) She is under strict instructions to photograph Krakatoa on the way through.
There are several shipwrecks marked on the C map most likely from the war. Several ships are passing us on this passage as well as local boats. A 'banana boat' full of locals hollared and cheered at us as we went past. These small boats aren't very well lit at all. We can smell evidence of human habitation - sewerage, burning rubbish, diesel......
Selat Galasa near Belitung island
18/06/2008, 2 24.1'S:107 24.50'E, Indonesia
Near Belitung island Indonesia South China Sea 18th June
If you think we spend all day lolling about on deck getting tanned well you are completely wrong! Sailing has been hard work since we left Singapore. We are currently speeding along in bumpy water with a 15-18 knot SE wind. I am balancing the computer on my lap on the starboard side which is heeled right over. I even had to pack my Buddha away who usually sits happily among the pillows on the upper port side of the saloon. Bill has just put a second reef in and we're racing along at 7.5 knots. It will be a long night as we negotiate our way between these islands off the coast of Sumatra. All the hatches are closed as spray washes over the decks. There's lots of 'white horses' out there today. Sometimes one of these waves hits the under part at the front of Valiam with a 'bang'! The skies are blue and the clouds are white and fluffy. Tonight will be a full moon which will assist visibility.
The captain had to solve a few problems today. Since we are heeling right over on the starboard side which is the same side as the toilet and when one flushes the water level comes up too high.(and wont go down). This is not very nice after a number 2. This is because Valiam is lower in the water with all the water, fuel and food on board (not my junk!!!) The temporary way to solve this problem is to close off the sea cock to the toilet. This is situated at the front of the engine compartment and involves lifting away the stairs. Okay that was problem number one. There's more.. Whilst running the motor earlier today to charge the batteries the captain noticed steam and the engine appeared to be a bit warm. After turning off the engine to cool down we investigated further and discovered that the water pump impeller was worn out. This was replaced with much sweating and contortion because it's in a very awkward location. After this and with the engine running again we thought we would have our heated up left over chilli con carne for lunch. Just as we were about to eat Linda noticed water on the floor under the chart table. This had leaked out from under the engine which had quite a lot of water sloshing around underneath it. Whilst the lunch got cold we mopped and pumped the water out. Once all that was completed and the engine had cooled it was time to investigate the leaking problem. The captain found the water inlet hose that was a bit loose and that could have leaked air into the pump which caused its premature failure. After starting the engine again water was still coming in. Peering down behind the engine it appeared to be coming from the muffler pipe. Now to attend to this the captain had to get into the rear cubby hole behind the engine which really is only big enough for a child contortionist. After untying the liferaft, the big hatch and crawling in the captain observed that this pipe was also loose. Thank goodness we didn't have t o order a new one from Oz to be flown in to Cocos. Now the captain says to the crew 'Start the engine which she did. 'Stop the engine!" which she tried to do BUT IT WOULDN'T STOP. Visions of burnt out solenoids, voltage regulators etc made for a depressing few minutes. The captain dripping all over with sweat wearing only his undies crawled out and manually stopped the engine. After putting everything back together we started the engine again and ate lunch. No problem. Stopped the engine again. No problem.. So now we think the engine is ok and the electronic bits are ok too.
The other far more serious problem is the frother on our capuccino machine wont work any more. We have tried cleaning the pipe with thin wire etc to no avail. So now we have to have our espresso coffee with cold milk or heated in a saucepan. Now you must feel very sorry for us.
Linda is trying a few different seasick medications as the Australian familiar brand ran out. The Malaysian one is ok but makes me feel a bit odd at times - a bit vague etc but then that may be due to lack of sleep. I gave the chemical name to Liam to look up and he said its fine. Only 500mg can give hallucinations. I take 50mg so I should be ok. We also bought Stugeron which we had heard had a lot of favourable reports from other yachties. (Its not available in Oz) I'm reserving that for the Indian ocean.
If you like a bit of interesting reading you may enjoy the following: When leaving Singapore we were trying to dodge a ship which suddenly changed direction and gave one blast of its horn. I assumed it was to tell us to get out of the way. But apparently there are sound signals. We didn't know them so we asked Bills Dad to look them up for us:
re Shipping Rules I thought that I'd better have a look to see what the 1915 RAN seaman's manual (it belonged to Uncle Bob) said. Sure enough there it is-- "Sound Signals for Vessels in Sight of One Another" A short blast means a blast of about one second's duration. I'll quote the statement. "When vessels are in sight of one another, a steam vessel under way, in taking any course authorized or required by these rules, shall indicate the course by the following signals on her whistle or siren, viz:- One short blast to mean, 'I am directing my course to starboard' Two short blasts to mean, 'I am diercting my course to port' Three short blasts to mean, 'My engines are going full speed astern' I wonder what four short blasts mean?? I note that the first edition of the manual is 1908 this one is 1915, maybe the sound signals haven't changed, did you notice whether the ship changed course to starboard when she blew her whistle ?
Linda :The ship was actually turning to port. My first assumption may have been correct. He wanted us to get out of the way!!! (Assuming we had no idea)
Anyway as Murphy's law would have it no ships were observed for at least 5 hours this morning but when we glanced up from the engine compartment we saw a huge back of a ship passing our stern 50 metres away..
By the time you read this we will have navigated our way through the Selat Gelasa between Belitung island and Bangka island. There are unlit reefs and shipwrecks so we will be keeping a sharp lookout. The chartplotter really makes things easier.
Its time to stop typing. With all the hatches closed its rather warm in here. (Bill received an impromptu shower earlier on deck) Time for some air.
All well on board.
Local time 5.30pm Position: 2 24.2S 107 24.5E
On the way to Sunda Strait
17/06/2008, 1 14.57'S:106 17.50'E, South China Sea
South China Sea on the way to Sunda Strait 17th June 2008 9.50am local time Position : 1 14.57S 106 17.50E
The wind has been blowing consistently from the SE at an average of 15 knots. We have had to tack Valiam several times in the last 24 hours. The new autopilot Mona Lisa is doing a great job. There is a 'tack' button which slowly moves the boat around 90degrees whilst Bill changes the jib to the opposite side. The positive side to sailing and living on the boat is that we have to keep everything tidy and packed away otherwise everything would fall out especially when tacking. The seas were smoother last night so sleeping was a little easier. We observed several storm clouds behind us yesterday afternoon and some lightning. Memories of the last Sumatra storm in the South China Sea in April made us think of some preventative measures. We pointed the boat away from the nasty clouds, cooked dinner early, sent the emails and packed all the computers away. However it came to nothing so we steered Valiam back on course and watched a beautiful sunset. As soon as it was dark we could see the almost full moon shining brightly with golden reflections on the water. It was a beautiful night with not many ships. Bill went to bed early whilst Linda struggled to stay awake until 11pm. (It was the combination of seasick pills and no sleep during the day) Watching movies on the portable dvd player keeps us awake even in the cockpit. Bill then did the 'graveyard shift' - 11pm - 2am. Linda 2-5am and Bill 5 - 8,9ish am . We then have coffee and breakfast together before Bill has a nap.
Indonesia is all around us but we cant stop. We don't have a cruising permit for Indonesia because it is quite expensive ($250) and takes months to organize. We were originally going to go north up the Red Sea but due to the lateness of our departure from Palau and the length of time it took to sail through the Philippines and Malaysia it was too late to go. The southwest monsoon weather had already started when we arrived in Johor Bahru. As we have already spent 7 months motoring more than sailing in the tropics the captain was keen to do some real sailing. To safely go up the Red Sea we would have to wait until next February or at the earliest September October. This would mean motoring up the Malacca Straits and bumming around Langkawi and Thailand for months. Sailing the Indian Ocean began to seem more and more attractive. The hot humid tropical heat is difficult at times when on a boat particularly in marinas. Once we made up our mind we became quite excited about sai ling to Africa! The preparations for this journey in Singapore has been well worth it. We are really looking forward to Cocos Keeling islands - our next 'port'. We will have plenty of time to relax there before heading off for Mauritius. But for now we have to get past Sumatra and all the islands and get through the Sunda Strait - still some days away. Mona Lisa just went off course as we are sailing close to the wind so Fred the windvane is having a turn.
Back in the Southern Hemisphere
16/06/2008, 0 05.86'S:105 38.59'E, South China Sea
Back in the Southern hemisphere 16th June 2008 9.30am local time Position: 00.05.86S 105.38.59E
At 8.15am this morning we crossed the equator for the 2nd time since we left Australia last November. No silly celebrations this time - just spaghetti for breakfast. It looks a bit like winter out there as it is grey and overcast. It's still warm of course. The photo shows our chart plotter just after we crossed the equator. You will also notice our track has been a big 'dogs leg' and that the wind had died down and we were only doing 3 knots. Last night however we were going very well averaging 6knots with wind speeds around 15 knots. Bill even put a reef in the main. The down side was that our bed was extremely uncomfortable - sloping the wrong way (heeling to starboard) and very bouncy as Valiam skipped through the waves. Linda slept an hour or so in the main saloon.
Our new autopilot 'Mona Lisa' is still moaning every so often but apparently that's normal. Another yachtie friend of ours said he was on a yacht once whose autopilot sounded like a moose braying! Anyway she's doing a good job keeping us on course. The motor is currently running to boost the battery power as well as increase our speed from 3 to 5 knots.
During the day when we are not sleeping we eat, read books, navigate and of course watch for ships. At night when on watch we stay near the cockpit watching for the ships. A couple of them have come quite close crossing our bow a few hundred metres away. It's still difficult at times to work out which way they are going until the port or starboard lights can be seen. The new portable DVD player is great for when on night watch. Watching movies during those hours makes the time go quicker and is much easier on the eyes than trying to read.
We still have lots of fresh food in the little fridge including 3 packets of fresh meat, smoked salmon, bacon, packet of prepared burgers, packet of prepared sates, lots of cheese(cheddar, brie, parmesan and yoghurt. We've been using longlife milk since we left Oz and are quite used to the flavour now. Fresh fruit and veges include rocket, cabbage, capsicum, cucumber, tomatoes, onions, garlic, basil, green pawpaw, green bananas,apples, mandarins. We also have 3 loaves of rye bread and 2 dozen eggs. The boat is also full of tins and packets to prepare food for at least 6 months! There is a bit of a shortfall of wine (too expensive in SE Asia) but there is still gin and rum from the Philippines. We did enjoy a glass of red California wine last night at sunset to go with the tomato, garlic and basil pasta. For those of you who are still at 'w..' (that 4 letter word) and dream of doing what we are doing it is not difficult. There are lots of ordinary people like us sailing arou nd the world. It is a sense of freedom to be totally self sufficient when out at sea but then again one must be devoted to one's boat keeping her safe and maintained at all times. All well on board
Singapore to Sunda Strait
15/06/2008, 1 17.73'N:104 44.27'E, South China Sea
14th June 2008 Singapore to Sunda Strait 9.45pm local time Position: 1 17.73N 104 44.27E
Valiam is heeling quite a bit to port as I write this. The seas are smooth and the sea sick pills are trying to do their job almost successfully. We left One15 Marina at around 10.30am this morning for the Sister Islands just outside the harbour to await the customs boat. Even though we had an extra day up our sleeve before our departure we were busy all day with preparations. It was one of those really 'stinking hot' days in Singapore where we had to recover once again in the air-conditioning of the local shopping mall. After our final purchases of fresh food and various other smaller items such as head torch batteries, stove lighter etc we were back at the Marina to pay our bill. Bill had to go back 3 times due to mistakes made by the office staff. Linda wasn't too happy with our clearance certificate stating our next port was 'Australia'. Usually a specific official port should be named. We said Cocos Keeling Islands but the dockmaster said he couldn't find 'any coco isl and 'in his papers. Hopefully they will let us in when we get there!
Our new Aussie friends Di and Bruce kindly invited us out to their Friday regular teacher's dinner at a place called 'Everest' in Little India. The food was delicious and inexpensive. An Indian lady next to me said that at 'Mustafa's' store one could buy curries in sealed plastic bags that just needed heating in hot water. Di took us to Mustafa's which was an experience in itself. This massive shop has evolved over many years being continually added to. It is a huge rabbit warren over several levels and sells EVERYTHING. One huge section was devoted to gold - gold chains, jewelry etc that went on for ages. I hadn't seen so much gold except in pictures of Tutankhamen's tomb! On the way to the supermarket section Linda was distracted by the gorgeous sequined tops and saris in beautiful colours and fabrics. But no retail therapy that evening! Bill chose 8 assorted vegetarian curries and waited in a queue with turbaned men and saried women. Di and Bruce took us to the 'French Sta ll' for desert - a French restaurant in Little India! It was now close to 11pm so we tried to hail a taxi. No luck - all taken. We walked to the MRT station and caught our last underground train to Vivo. It was easy to phone for a taxi from there. We enjoyed our last night in Singapore with all its sights and smells of India.
This morning we struggled out of bed at 7.30 to have our last long shower. As I went into the ladies amenities there were at least 3 cleaning ladies there but they weren't cleaning. One was doing her hair, one was chatting to her and the other one was relaxing in the leather chairs reading a magazine. Another young girl appeared to be filling up several little bottles of her own with the free shampoo dispenser in one of the shower cubicles. I felt I had walked into someone else's home!!
Yesterday Friday 13th was an exciting day for the Anderson family as Bill's brother Peter and his partner Jenny became the proud parents of a little boy. Bill was able to speak to Pete and we received photos of the baby by email just before we had to lose our internet connection. We had a quick Skype call to our granddaughter Caylan and made last minute calls to my sister Yolanda and my father.
As we saw Singapore fade away in the distance we felt glad to be back at sea. One 15 marina was a place with lots of rich people owning huge motor yachts with fulltime staff with boat names such as 'Fantasea' and 'Hye Seas' (there were 2 of those).
We have motored most of the day dodging and passing ships. Our new autopilot seems to work quite well. She moans a bit as she keeps us on course. As we were trying to think of a name for the latest addition to our boat I said 'What about Mona". Then Bill said 'Lisa' so she is tentatively called Mona Lisa. Heath has retired (the little tiller autopilot) and Fred the wind vane will come into his fore when we hit the Indian Ocean. Mona Lisa has one quirk however. Whenever Bill pushes the buttons to change course too quickly she starts doing a U-turn! Mmmmmmmmm. This trick requires the 'standby button' and hand steerage back on course!! It's good to be back out at sea and we are going nicely now. The wind is blowing 12-15 knots from the south. We are losing just over a knot due to the current being against us. It was the same coming here from Kota Kinabalu. It was funny being able to see 3 countries at once - Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. We've seen a couple of Indonesian f ishing boats. Let's hope they have lights on tonight so we can see them. There's a ? moon which is great for night vision. I just counted 9 ships out there surrounding us on the horizon.
Sailing on Saturday
11/06/2008, from Singapore
The next entries will be from out at sea passing Sumatra, Indonesia. There wont be any photos for a little while so hopefully we will look like this. Hopefully the next photos will be of swaying palms on a white pristine beach with the captain barbequing a freshly caught fish. (on one of Cocos Keeling islands)
Getting ready to leave Singapore
Bill with Mimi and Donald
11 June 2008
We are rather glad we have delayed our departure from Singapore after a tropical storm hit us last night. Local tropical storms around here are called 'sumatras' and last night our instruments recorded gusts of up to 46 knots. One 15 Marina, Sentosa island is not particularly protected and we often bounce around when ships go past. However last night Valiam strained, creaked and groaned against the pontoon with the wind screeching through the rigging. The captain said 'Im glad we're not out there tonight'. However the probability of more 'sumatras' between here and Sunda Strait is high. The good thing is they don't last long. It will be challenging if we experience one close to ships. They always come at night. Yesterday was extremely hot - more than usual for Singapore which could have been a contributing factor to last night's 'sumatra'.
It always seems so tiring and stressful just before we depart from a port particularly after a long time and just before a long trip. There are always so many jobs to do. We now have 3 trolley loads of shopping stowed away. It was all delivered to Valiam by the local supermarket 'Giant' which was great. Fresh food had to be brought back by Linda on the bus. Mimi (Yen Ney's cousin) was lucky enough to spend the day with Linda whilst all the last minute shopping and banking jobs were done. It felt strange to get Australian $ from the money changer in preparation for our visit to Cocos Keeling. We are so used to looking at Singapore$. After carrying the shopping back in the heat Linda and Mimi lay in the Jacuzzi at the pool for an hour. Captain Bill had almost completed lots of jobs on Valiam that had been nagging him for months.(and nearly got sun stroke in the process) Mimi's husband Donald came past after work as he had just finished a meeting at Sentosa. We enjoyed cool drinks amongst the chaos of Valiam's preparations. Today we will make one last visit to the chandlery for items such as spare ropes, shackles, spray on waterproofing for the dodger and we'll purchase another fire extinguisher from a marine safety shop. Linda also needs to winch Bill up the mast to check the light bulbs. The chandlery shop is near Little India so we might just fit in a last visit to an Indian restaurant.
We are quite exhausted and hopefully if the weather is suitable we'll be off on Saturday. We still need to tidy and stow things away after living in marinas for 6 weeks. We also need to get our clearance papers, pay the marina (ouch!) and contact customs as we are about to head off to meet them at Sister islands. (you can see them from here) We are not looking forward to dodging the ships just outside here as well as all the way past Sumatra, Indonesia. We don't have a cruising permit for Indonesia so we are not allowed to stop. This means we have to stay near the shipping lanes until we get through the Sunda Strait. (between Java and Sumatra) It will take about a week to get there. It's cooler today so it will make life on board Valiam more comfortable. Visions of beautiful white sand beaches, clear aquamarine water and swaying palms keep dancing before our eyes when we think of Cocos which keeps us motivated to get through these last jobs.
Champagne & last days in Singapore
It is Sunday and we are recovering from our little farewell party last night. Aussies Di and Bruce (Friend Jenny's cousin) came on board Valiam with the most important contribution- COLD champagne!!! Bi Yuen and friend Lim came down from Johor Bahru and seemed to enjoy the Aussie way of celebrating with finger food in the cockpit. They did well to keep up with our rapid Aussie English! As a 'Thank you' gift Linda had drawn a portrait of Valiam, photographed the drawing and put them in little frames for our guests. We bored our guests with video clips of our trip so far. It made us all realise how fortunate we've been experiencing places like PNG and the Philippines. Yes Valiam and her crew need to get moving again away from this urban environment to the ocean and hopefully pristine white beaches of Cocos Keeling islands. After a couple of bottles of Aussie Champagne and wine were finished the Aussies headed over to the One 15 Marina club bar at midnight. Its the glass 3 level bar we can see from our boat flashing pink, purple and blue lights. A live jazz (?) performance of a guitarist and female singer entertained the 4 of us. (There were 3 other people there - obviously a very 'in' place to go in Singpapore on a Saturday night!!) A couple of cosmopolitans and martini later we ceremoniously ushered our guests up the grand stairs (oops we only had rubber thongs on....) to the grand lobby. No-one at the reception but within moments a taxi arrived with returning guests which was most convenient for Di and Bruce. A lovely night.
Bill is getting through the last jobs and we finally got the ok for insurance for Valiam. I must congratulate our insurance broker in Australia for getting through all the bureaucracy in Perth and London at the last minute. On Friday afternoon just before the Queens Birthday weekend London requested a 'rigging report'! Bill promptly phoned Allyachtspars in Brisbane who emailed us one within half an hour. Thanks guys!! Our broker pushed it all through over the weekend so now we are officially insured for the Indian ocean, South Africa and southern Atlantic ocean for the next 12 months..
Immigration fun : A couple of weeks ago when Bill went to see Immigration he got into trouble by the boss because we didn't tell them at the Malaysian checkpoint that we were on a yacht. We were so pleased to get through but incorrectly we had a tourist visa in our passports. WRONG! Much tut tutting later new stamps and a new crew list later we were again officially crew reunited with our ship. BUT when on board later on inspection of the passport stamps and new crew list the dates were different! The passport said 11 June whilst the crew list said 6 June. Well on the 5th June Bill thought he had better do the right thing and go to immigration again. The man sat at his desk scratching his head for half an hour totally confused looking at the 2 different dates. When he found out the boss did it she laughed it off saying it was a mistake haha and gave Bill another month's extension. We didn't want another month we just wanted another day!!! Usually yachts only get 2 weeks at a time. If Singapore is like this in Immigration I wonder what is in store in the next countries we visit.. At least Cocos is Australia and we HAVE notified them of our eventual arrival!!!
As well as getting our departure and maintenance jobs done we enjoyed Di's recommendations of eating establishments in Little Arabia and Chinatown. The hand made noodle restaurant was fun. We watched the fellow throw the dough around and between his fingers to make perfect strands of noodles. They were delicious too!
We'll be doing a bit more shoppingbefore we go. We've already had one order delivered to the boat from the supermarket . We'll also take a careful look at the weather. We need to have good visiblity going through the shipping channels towards Indonesia. We can't stop so we will need to be alert at all times for about a week until we get through Sunda Strait. The captain cant wait to be sailing in the Indian ocean with the trade winds.
Lan Zhou La Mian Chinatown
Walking through Chinatown at night in Singapore is a visual and nasal sensory experience! Pretty lights, lanterns, smiling golden buddhas, garlic and spices....
***See how far we have come from Oz (nearly 6000 nm): click on Photo Gallery - tracking map.
GOOGLE EARTH :(attached to Sailblog/our website)
- Go to Current position (map)
- Click to see full map
- Click small Google Earth sign below map (click 'open this file')
- Type in town and country OR position (Lat:Long) in box 'Fly to.....'
- Click on magnifiying glass
- Click on little yellow squares
THAT'S US!!!! Our track is there
(as well as all our entries)
$pending in $ingapore
03/06/2008, $im Lim $quare & Little Arabia
Photo : Indian temple
We $pent the 2 la$t day$ tediou$ly cha$ing a
c-map (electronic chart) for our next leg which include$ Africa. We made numerou$ phone call$ to Au$tralia and difficult to undestand 'English'(?) speaking agent$ in $ingapore. A C-Map agent in $ydney emailed u$ 25 places to contact Only 2 could help. One had to get it from Oz (1 week's wait) and another dealer wanted an extra $200 for the privelige of selling it to u$. Anyway......... Linda wa$ wandering around a huge electronic$ building looking for a charger for the $at phone when $he got talking to a nice Indian lady. After discussing Hindu temples the subject of the necessary c-map aro$e. 'Ye$ I can get you one of tho$e!' (in beautiful English) and literally within the hour $he had one delivered to her shop whil$t I was there at a cheaper price than the other 2 'hard to get' one$.
What i$ the moral of thi$ $tory? In $ingapore it$ no good letting your finger$ do the walking. Face to face conver$ations achieve better re$ult$!!!
Other $pending$ today : a $pare Dell laptop computer, handheld vhf radio. I dont evven want to look at our bank balance! We also got a quote for in$urance for Valiam (more than our rate$ at Point Cartwright......)
After all that we discovered a wonderful part of Singapore tonight - Little Arabia. These little back streets contain really old terrace buildings with interesting shopfronts and facades. There were lots of lovely little Turkish/Egyptian restaurants to choose from. We chose one that had several customers sitting on Persian rugs on the footpath smoking from those long pipes connected by a hose to an ornate jug with intriguing ingredients. Rest assured we just had the food.
Singapore is a wonderful mixture of cultures. The Indian ladies all wear bright saris and the men have moustaches (just like Bill!!) Many of the young Chinese girls wear the latest fashion - short shorts or loose tops over lacy leggings. Most of the Malays wear traditional Muslim gear. In little Arabia today we saw a man in a long white gown and white crocheted cap. Westerners like us do stand out with our light coloured hair and more casual clothing.
Merlion - Sentosa Island SINGAPORE
01/06/2008, Singapura means 'lion'
The Merlion reminds us of the Merponies we saw in Caylan's 'My Little Pony' book!
Last week in Singapore we think....
1 June 2008
Photo: view from the head of the 'Merlion' statue
The other day I spent a 'tourist day' with Mimi. We checked out the museum and butterly place on Sentosa Island. When we got back to the marina we got changed for a swim but we were kicked out because of lightning,thunder and storm clouds surrounding Singapore!
That night Bill and I used the Sentosa coupon to experience the 'Merlion' and cable car ride accross the river. The Merlion is a huge statue overlooking Singapore. It has a lion head and a mermaid tail. There is a lift inside to see the view from the top. This was great fun. It was good for Bill to do some fun stuff after working on the autopilot for the last 2 weeks. Singapura means lion and there is some legend connection. The funny bit was there were lots of Indians on holidays - ladies in saris and the men dressed in long pants and nice shirts. Many of them had moustaches so we were comparing them with Bill's.
Our ETD is now 10 June (thats when our visa expires). First we have to get past Sumatra via the shipping lanes and aim for the Sunda Strait. This will take about a week. There's lots of lightning and thunder around each afternoon so hopefully our electrics will survive. (The stove is supposed to be a good place to put things like the hand held GPS, sat phone, chartplotter etc.)
We'll have to do a big provisioning trip to the supermarket soon. We plan to get a taxi back to the marina then get one of the boys to help transport it all to the boat via a golf buggy! Bill still has a list of jobs to do which is not enjoyable in the Singapore heat. It will be good to set sail again....
20th - 21st May
31 May 2008
I am still sitting under the fan whilst Bill is working on the boat. During this last week I have created a new website - hope you are enjoying it!! It still needs some fine tuning on my part as well as the website people in the USA. I couldn't get the tracking back to Oz so I created my own little map! If you do go to the website tracking map click on Google Earth . Put in the position or place you want to see where we've been. Our whole track is there! If you put in 'Kawana Waters Marina Buddina Australia' you can see our Goodbye party and getting ready to leave!
Whilst I have been in front of the computer not only doing the website but playing with SKYPE (so good to see family and friends LIVE for FREE!) Bill has been busy installing the autopilot. It is IN! And he says it works!!!! He is now doing some adjustments to the rigging.
Social activities in the past week have included hanging out with Mimi doing tourist stuff and catching up with Aussie Sunshine coast teachers Di and Bruce. Di is our friend and neighbour Jenny's cousin. We try to steer away from'teacher talk' which is difficult as Di also practises Reggio Emilia. They both work for an Australian International school here in Singapore. Last night they visited us on board Valiam for wine and nibbles in the cockpit. A very pleasant evening.
We will have to leave on the 10th June (unless we apply for an extension). We've still got lots of jobs to do so hopefully we'll get them done in a week. We will probably have a small 'bon voyage' gathering on board Valiam next weekend.
We've had thunder and lightning most afternoons with a few showers. (interesting when we've tried to do the wiring) I even got kicked out of the pool by the pool man when there was lightning about!!!
We are well and eating well - we go to the Food court in Vivo shopping mall most days as it's so cheap and delicious. Every so often we hanker after Western food and even succumbed to Burger King the other night!!!
25 May 2008
I am presently sitting with the new big fan blowing on me that I purchased for S$24. (We have shore power this time) Bill will make full use of it in the ensuing days as he wrestles with the wiring and electronic stuff. Already a couple of things he purchased have broken or don't work. In Singapore there is a famous electronic building called Sim Lim square where you can buy just about anything electronic. He's already been out there twice and estimates there will be many more times. We just spoke to another yachtie whose boat was hit by lightning and lost everything apart from the hand held GPS wrapped in foil in the oven. It was in the Bermuda triangle though.... Once we get past Sumatra and the tropical storms we'll be right.
We've just had an exhausting but interesting couple of days in Malaysia. Bi Yuen (Bill's sister in law Yen Ney's brother) invited us to Melaka so we said 'yes'. The Lonely planet guide describes the city as 'sultry' and by the historical account it has had lots of influences from the Netherlands, Portugal, Indonesia, China, Japan, India and the list goes on. It also happened to be a long weekend because it was Buddha's birthday on Monday. It was the day he went from being human to a god. The whole of Malaysia and Singapore was on holiday as was evident in the 2 hour traffic jam at the immigration checkpoint between Singapore and Malaysia. Bi Yuen kindly offered to pick us up in his car from Boon Lay station in Malaysia at 3pm on Saturday. Just as we drove into the checkpoint over 2 hours later and handed over our passports we were already looking forward to the delicious food we always have with Bi Yuen. BUT....The man in the box said "Where is your immigration card?" We explained that we weren't given one and that we had entered Singapore on a yacht. Puzzled face and consternation. Phone calls. "Sorry park over there - you will have to come to the office" We walked with Bi Yuen and his friend Lim to the office. After explaining to the uniformed officer how we entered Singapore he phoned the Seaman's section in Immigration in Singapore. He said he couldn't let us into Malaysia and we had to go back and get the correct paperwork. Bi Yuen and Lim went on to Johor Bahru whilst we were escorted by a female officer with a gun and walkie talkie out on to the road to the bus stop. We didn't feel very good...
5 hours later and 11 train/bus trips we had the right stamp and piece of paper. When we cleared into Singapore we are registered as a ship and her crew, not as a tourist (as in previous countries). We needed to get permission to leave our ship and be crossed off the crew list. The man in the seaman's section of immigration even wished us ' a nice leave'! Now I am going to bore you with the details of how we got the paper work done in several hours in efficient Singapore (rather than several days it would take in many other countries). Here is an account of our transport that afternoon (each carrying a small overnight backpack):
12.45 Sentosa cove. Missed bus to Vivo shopping mall. Sweltered in heat for 35 minutes
1.15pm Bus to Vivo Shopping mall. Walk at least 500m, escalators etc to MRT station
MRT (Underground train) to Outram Park interchange. Walk stairs escalators corridors etc
MRT to Boon Lay Station
3pm Arrive Boon Lay station. Walk around another shopping centre waiting for Bi Yuen
Drive with Bi Yuen and Lim through horrendous traffic jam to Immigration check point.
5-5.30p Detained and sent back. Escorted by armed officer to bus stop.
Bus back to Boon Lay station. Walk to find right place
MRT to Outram Park (45 mins standing up - train packed) Walk walk...
MRT to Vivo Shopping Mall. Walk walk escalators walk walk
Bus to Sentosa Cove. Walk stairs walk
6.45pm Arrive Dock masters office, One15 Marina (we phoned earlier). He typed up a special letter to leave our yacht. Walk 200m to Valiam to retrieve original crew list and ships stamp
7.15 Bus to Vivo shopping mall. Walk walk etc
MRT to Outram Park Interchange. (Standing)Walk walk....
MRT to Lavender station. (Standing) Walk walk to Seaman's section Immigration arriving 8.45pm. Received correct paperwork. Removed from Valiam's crew list. Walk to station
MRT to Bugis Station. Walk 1 km to bus interchange.
9.20 'Express' bus to Malaysia
Traffic jam. Arrive first check point.(Singapore) Get out of bus. Walk walk queue, stairs walk queue
Back on bus. After a while get back out of bus. Walk walk queue next check point (Malaysia) all ok walk walk queue for bus again
Back on bus
11pm Arrive Larkin station Johor Bahru. Walk around. Filthy place. Go to ATM to get ringits. STARVING! Queue in MacDonald's. Bi Yuen arrives. Drives us to Debbie's restaurant instead. Delicious food.......
After midnight - bed at Bi Yuen's house (with aircon)
NB: At each station we did not have to wait more than 5minutes for a train. An exhausting day!!!!
Before we left for Melaka we went out to breakfast to Bi Yuen's favourite place. It served mostly Chinese food with a man cooking Indian food on a table inside the restaurant. We had a huge breakfast of noodles with beef, pork dumplings and Indian roti.
The drive from Johor Bahru took about 2 hours on a nice smooth highway through palm oil plantations. There were no towns. It felt a bit like the highway up to Gympie! Bi Yuen stopped in the outskirts of Melaka to pick up his friend Jack. So Linda was in the car with 4 blokes driving around Melaka! When we got to the centre of town it reminded us of Europe. In fact one part is called 'Little Holland'. The buildings are very old and small like terrace houses with canals either side. There is also a large building called 'Haus Stadt' (town house) which is now a museum. There are also sections called 'Little India' and Chinatown. After parking Bi Yuen and his mates went their way and we were left to our own devices to explore the centre of town. We could see lots of rickshaws elaborately decorated with flowers, tinsel, lights etc. As Linda foolishly wore her gold heeled shoes rather than her sensible walking shoes it was decided to take a couple of rickshaws around town. I chose the prettiest one and felt like a queen. (See photo) We eventually ended up outside the Indian shops with their irresistible colourful saris and gorgeous Indian clothes. (Irresistible to Linda anyway) Bill went to pay the rickshaw drivers who of course demanded more money than what was agreed on. They wanted 20 ringits per hour when we were told it was 20 ringits for the tour! We of course refused to pay any more as half the time we were stopped having a cool drink while they had one and a smoke anyway! A couple of gorgeous Indian skirts later we decided upon Indian food for lunch. We found a place that was full of locals and no tourists. They were eating with their hands from a banana leaf. Several people came around and plopped different vegetarian curries and rice on our banana leaf. Then someone came with small pots of meat curries. We chose a couple and also asked for spoons and forks as we aren't very expert at eating rice and curry with our hands! The food was delicious and cost less than $10 for the both of us including iced tea.
Later on we met up with Bi Yuen, Lim and Jack and drove further into the old part of town. Her we saw lots of people dressed in white with banners etc. Bi Yuen quickly parked the car and we waited on the side of the road for the festivities to begin. Because it was Buddha's birthday a huge parade was about to pass us by. It was beautiful. Better than anything I've seen (even better than Woodford!) Floats with flowers and golden statues of Buddha lit by lots of lights and music passed us by. Each of these was followed by a generator on wheels! There were marching bands and Chinese dragons. We were given coloured cotton bracelets to wear. The Indian ladies and girls lining the streets looked beautiful in vibrant saris and jewelry.
After the festival we drove through a traffic jam and went for a drive along the coast. We saw the Malacca Strait. It looked flat and hazy with several ships in the distance. Captain Bill is happy that we are not going to do more motoring in the tropical heat! Bi Yuen then drove us to eat in an outdoor food area run by the Portuguese section of town. The food was cooked with lots of tomato chilli and garlic. The lady who served us did look very Portuguese. What a mix of cultures! There were mostly Malaysians in Melaka on holiday and very few Westerners. We always get asked where we are from. Most people know Sydney and Melbourne but not Brisbane. The locals are surprised to learn that Canberra is the capital of Australia as no-one has ever heard of it!
It was now very late and Bi Yuen had to drive back to JB (Johor Bahru). It was a long drive and we really felt for him as we didn't arrive back until 1.30am. We slept wonderfully in an air-conditioned room! The next morning we picked up Debbie and went out for Breakfast. This was a more Western style café which served bread, eggs as well as Chinese food. We decided on just bread and eggs this time! After breakfast we went to Debbie's mum's (Madame Cha) place to meet the newest member of the family - Je's Chinese bride. Yen Ney's mum was also there as well as Debbie's mum's boyfriend Colin who lives in Perth a lot of the time. Je looked so happy and proud of his beautiful wife. She is dainty, gracious and beautiful. We looked at their suitcase of wedding photos with awe. Many couples here have studio photos taken long before the wedding in many different outfits, hairstyles and jewelry . The photos are perfect and reminiscent of Hollywood glamour photos. We enjoyed a beautifully prepared fruit platter brought in by the Indonesian maid. We spoke with Madam Cha and Colin about our prospective voyage using a small map of the world. Colin is based in Perth and has a son who is a concert pianist. We mentioned Bill's cousin Helen who is a violist there and I am sure they know each other! I think his sons surname is Yung. What a small world! Madam Cha runs a construction company and has run it since her husband died when Debbie was a child. Her house is in a nice neighbourhood not far from the Sultan's palace! They have a view of trees and a park which is unusual in the city.
Bi Yuen and Debbie drove us to the bus station to catch a bus to Singapore. (We invited them to visit us at Sentosa Island before we leave. We will invite Mimi and Donald as well as anyone else who wants to come. ) It only cost 5 ringits (less than $2 for both of us). We held our breath at the check points but got through without any problems. We didn't even need the special letter written by the dock master at the marina! We have to get ourselves back on Valiam's crew list before Monday however!
Bill is now working out step by step how to install the voltage regulator. We pick up the autopilot today which will make a huge hole in our savings. Hopefully it will be worth it.
14th May 2008
As I sit here in the midst of this amazing city the rain drips steadily down making Valiam feel like a cosy haven. The temperature is mild and the fan is not needed. Singapore is like a modern well maintained slick machine. Everything works, is efficient and is clean. After being accustomed to messy dilapidated unorganized Southeast Asian towns and cities, Singapore is a refreshing change. It is good to be in such a convenient man made environment with absolutely everything we need before we head for the unknown and huge Indian Ocean.
We are making the most of this great city as it will be several months before we will be in another place that offers all the conveniences and things we enjoy. Yesterday we were ecstatic to find a huge supermarket like home at the Harbourfront shopping centre. For the first time since we left Townsville we have been able to buy nice cheese, yoghurt, smoked salmon, olives, fresh lettuce, rocket etc. Before we leave we will be able to stock up on cheese, olives and other delicacies. We can store quite a bit in our little fridge. Wine is terribly expensive - a $6 bottle in Oz is $22 here. The marina has given us a list of suppliers and there is a wine company that delivers wine tax free 'direct to your vessel'. I wonder what the minimum order is? There are a few mega yachts here.
Yesterday we acquired blisters from walking around for 10 hours! The free shuttle bus from the marina to the closest shopping mall is very nice and of course air-conditioned. The bus dropped us off outside the biggest nicest shopping centre we've ever been to. The first shop was a huge bookshop so we spent several hours in there! The Harbourfront shopping centre looks 'organic' from the outside - all curves which is reflected in the layout inside. It feels good to wander around but it is so easy to get lost. The bookshop is our point of reference! We had lunch in the Food court downstairs. There are 2 sections - one is 'Halal' approved i.e. food is prepared under Muslim rules and no pork. Both sections have Chinese and western food. The Muslim side has Indian as well so that's what we had. We watched the man deftly create naan bread spinning it on his hand. The food was delicious and fresh and only cost about S$8 for 3-4 different dishes. It was interesting watching all the people and the food all looked so good we want to go every day to try something new each time. For some reason it felt much nicer than being in a Food court at home.
After shopping we took the MRT (underground) to Clarke Quay. We enjoy catching the MRT and feel like experts now and even have a card each for several trips to tap on the electric gate. We walked around and finally relaxed at Harry's bar on the waterfront in Boat Quay. A nice hour or 2 was spent watching the colourful scenery. There are authentic Chinese barges going up and down the river as well as a special 'garbage' boat that scooped up rubbish from the water. Along the pedestrian underpasses of the bridges there are big signs saying 'no bicycle riding $1000 fine'. We saw several people dismount and walk their bikes. However just after we took a photo of the sign an older Chinese gentleman came careering around the corner on his bicycle with a big grin on his face. Pity we didn't get him in the photo with the sign! It must be his adrenalin rush for the day! I of course reminded Bill that he shouldn't think of doing a similar thing......
Last night as we walked back to Valiam we could see the marina bar lit up in its alternating pink, purple and blue lights which look great against the high glass walls. We must go and experience it soon! Many yachties, crew and staff ride push bikes around here so we will get ours out soon. It should be fun exploring Sentosa by bicycle. Much of Sentosa Island is a construction site but the cable cars, mono rail and other attractions are still open. The huge stone lion on the hillside has lights in its face at night that makes it look a bit devilish!
As I write this Bill is ordering our new coursemaster autopilot. He says its going to be complicated installing it so I will have to be on hand to hand over the spanner, cold drink or whatever is needed to keep the captain sane as he tries to make the electronic gadgetry work. We have shore power for electric tools, charging up computers and phones and the wireless internet is efficient and fast. This all helps make our preparations easier for the big trip ahead.
12th May 2008
position: 1.14.708N 103.50.471E
(may not be on Google earth as it is very new)
12 May 2008
It took 6 hours to get here from Sebana Cove, Malaysia. There were plenty of
ships most of which were stationary. However every so often one of these
giants would up anchor and start heading towards us. We tended to go behind
any moving ships but a couple of times we gunned the engine and went in
front. Go Valiam! It was interesting watching the Singapore skyscrapers as
we got closer. We had to go to Sister islands at a specific position given
by Customs and Immigration. We noticed a number of ships waiting in this
area also. We were the only private sailing yacht and after calling Customs
on channel 74 an army grey motor launch pulled up next to us. We were idling
drifting around as is the usual procedure as they handed out forms to fill
in reaching accross the 2 boats. They do this to make sure there's no
stowaways. Bill had to sign a declaration to say he had none. Linda got
writers cramp handwriting 4 crew lists. The captain signed and stamped
everything with our ships stamp. We handed them with our passports in a
plastic folder over to the man in uniform when he asked 'How long are you
staying?' We had heard that 2 weeks is normally granted and then extensions
must be applied for. Bill said we needed 4 weeks to do some work on the
boat. The Customs man nodded and went below to deal with the paperwork.
Minutes later he reappeared and said "I have given you one month".
This is more than we probably need but its good that we dont have to reapply
after 2 weeks. We still have port clearance to do which the marina will do
for us for a small fee.
One15 Marina is very new and quite posh. However the amenities visiting
boaters have to use is shared with marina staff and is around the side down
a corridor - a bit like a servicemans entrance. The showers are wonderfully
clean and dont have the grime and hairballs that Sebana had. (Nor the pool
attendants hanging about smoking outside the loos having loud conversations
with each other) It's nice not to feel like we are in a Malaysian village
but a civilised Western complex. It's a bit like Darling harbour in Sydney.
The best thing is we have a SEA BREEZE!!!!!! There is a big construction
site next door with cranes etc but the noise blends in with the general city
noise which is ok.
The pool looks beautiful - one of those gorgeous wet edge ones you see in
upmarket resorts. We were told by the marina to be discreet and not to use
it if possible on weekends. The private members of this club must have
complained about the yachties! There's a cool bar here with space age seats
and pink down lights. Can't wait to try it one day! We had dinner in the
restaurant tonight which was excellent and worked out slightly cheaper than
a meal at Mooloolaba. There's also a big airconditioned gym which we may
make use of too. There's a shuttle that goes every half hour into town to a
huge shopping mall so that should be very convenient for stocking up. We are
going to see the autopilot man tomorrow to make our final decision.
It looks like a good place to ride bicycles. There are a number of paths
around the place. Bill is very happy that despite all of Singapore's rules
one doesn't have to wear a helmet. It looks like Sentosa island has changed.
I'm not sure if it has all those tourist attractions as the construction
site is a massive area of high rise apartments which are selling for
millions of dollars. There must be more money in those as well as the marina
as a private club.
That's it for now. We'll proabably meet up with some of the relatives again
as well as a couple of Sunshine coast teachers who are working here related
to a good friend of ours.
Time for bed. It's been a long day.
Sebana Cove Johor
hot and sticky
29/04/2008, Mainland Malaysia
10th May 2008
Sebana Cove Marina
We are moving to One15 Marina in Singapore on Monday 12th May (Vashti's birthday!) This will involve dogdging the ships again going around the other side of Singapore island. We have to contact customs and immigration who will meet us at Sister islands to check who is on board and stamp our passports. One15 Marina is on Sentosa island and close to Singapore city. This means we will have easier access to boat parts, supplies and information before we head for the sea again.
After much discussion we have decided to aim for Cocos Keeling in the souther Indian ocean. We will have to get past Sumatra, Indonesia via Sunda Strait Java first. Valiam and her crew will hopefully fly along in the SE tradewinds. The prospect of motoring and dodging typhoons in the tropics does not appeal and is not the safest thing to do.
We are getting quotes for an electric autopilot and associated bit and pieces in Singapore. We expect to be in Singapore for a couple of weeks whilst we get ready.
Tuesday 5th May 2008
Sebana Cove Marina
We've just returned once again from a couple of days away being wonderfully entertained in Johor Bahru and Singapore by Yen Ney's (Bill's sister in law) family. Chinese Malaysian hospitality cannot be beaten! We have sampled the best and most unusual Chinese food and been shown around two most interesting cities by locals which is always better than on doing it on one's own.
On the weekend we invited various members of the family to visit us at the marina. On Saturday we had 8 guests and on Sunday we had 7! Luckily we were able to make use of the restaurant and pool as Valiam is too hot during the day to entertain especially for the 2 grandmothers who visited. We've had several grandparents manage to climb on board Valiam now! Of course photos of the babies (En, Joe etc) were viewed with lots of aahs and oohs (great for communication). Bill showed the blokes how we use the chart plotter and general navigation. One of Yen Ney's brothers is married to a young woman from Taiwan. They have a little girl and his wife is not allowed to work in Malaysia.
There are all sorts of rules about working and owning land in Malaysia. The Malay people in Malaysia have special privileges in buying and owning land/houses, businesses etc. They receive discounts and lower interest rates when buying property. They have priority in schools for their children. This is why many young Malaysian Chinese go overseas to study. (for those who can afford it) Although most of the Chinese and Indian people have lived here for many generations they don't receive the same treatment as Malays. There is very little intermarriage between the Malays and the Chinese or Indians due to religious differences. 90% of Peninsula Malaysians are Muslim. A Muslim man can have 3 wives. There are more Chinese and Indians marrying each other because their religions have similarities and are less restrictive. The Chinese culture is very strong and links are maintained with China. Je - one of Yen Ney's brothers is about to marry a Chinese girl he met while she was on holidays in Singapore. They will have a traditional Chinese Wedding in China. They are coming back to live in Singapore with Mimi and Donald initially until they are more established. Je's wife is allowed to work in Singapore but not Malaysia.
On Sunday Bi Yuen (one of Yen Ney's brothers) suggested we come back to Johor Bahru with him. This was a great idea so we quickly packed a couple of overnight bags and drove in airconditioned comfort through the countryside to JB. (about 1.5 hours) I was surprised to see that the land from Sebana to JB was mostly oil palm plantations. There were only a couple of small towns along the way. I was expecting it to be messy and crowded with towns and cities. Johor Bahru is a big city with a mixture of traditional housing, small town houses and high rise apartments. We visited Yen Ney's father's house where she grew up where we were greeted with a cup of Chinese tea. In the living room there is a significant Chinese altar with beautiful statuettes, candles fruit and flowers. Most Chinese altars seem to be red and give a beautiful glow to the living area. After another round of family photos we went to a shopping centre to meet Bi Yuen's eldest brother who just happened to run a jewelry store. Linda was very excited by this and fell in love with a ring of Muslim design - real rose gold with 'American diamonds' and artificial stone (yes you guessed it) in dark pink. This is a beautiful souvenier of Malaysia and doesn't take up any room on the boat!
Bi Yuen's wife Debbie was working until 11pm so Bi Yuen drove us around JB to show us the sights. One unusual sight was a small industrial type area with motorbike repairs etc on one side of the road but behind it were 'lady- boys' dressed to the hilt in evening dresses, high heels and lots of make up touting for suitors. One spotted Bill in the front seat and almost jumped on the bonnet with excitement! Bi Yuen accelerated quickly out of there! (It seems that once again the transvestites are attracted to Bill!)
Part of the tour of JB included a huge shopping centre (to buy our 'grandson clothes') and Yen Ney's mother's home she shares with her husband and mother in law. Her home is a 2 story town house with a court yard. The mother in law was out playing Mah Jong. It was time for dinner so we went to an outdoor food court to eat traditional Malaysian/ Chinese food. Yne Ney's mum and Je (another brother) met us there. Every dish was delicious and each one had its ingredients explained to us. One of the dishes was quite unusual. I saw Bi Yuen showing Bill something in a glass tank. Bill said "You should see the big frogs over there. That's what we're having with chillie!" I had a look at these creatures huddled together and thought they looked a bit like toads and said so! I wasn't sure whether I could eat them but when the dish arrived everyone was so enthusiastic about this delicacy we had to try it! Surprisingly it was delicious, tender and a bit like chicken!
After dinner we were also shown Bi Yuen's new home that doesn't appear to be very lived in. It's a 2 storey townhouse with a courtyard and huge kitchen. (Debbie likes to cook) Bi Yuen served us traditional Chinese tea with the proper little pot and tiny cups. Around 11pm we went to Debbie's mum's house where Debbie and Bi Yuen usually live. It's complicated because even though they are legally married they haven't had the traditional ceremony yet so in the eyes of the older generation they are not quite married yet. Debbie's mum was away in Kuala Lumpa managing the family construction business. Debbie's dad passed away when she was a child and her mum now has an Australian boyfriend who lives in Malaysia. Debbie's family home is very comfortable and quite large for a town house. She has 3 dogs about the size of Australian cattle dogs which weren't particularly friendly. The house overlooks a nice park with trees and has some gorgeous carved Chinese rosewood furniture inlaid with mother of pearl. There is also a housemaid in residence who does all the cleaning, washing, general maintenance of the garden, dogs etc. She is an Indonesian lady from Yogjakarta and is paid 550 ringgits a month. Even at the late hour of 11.30 she gave us drinking water for our room, towels etc. We were thinking one of these ladies would be quite nice to have when we go back! Bi Yuen and Debbie work quite hard and long hours (both are in marketing) and only have one day off a week.
On the Monday morning Debbie (her day off after working until midnight) served us a Chinese breakfast of steamed rice dumplings with minced pork wrapped in a kind of leaf. Food is such an important part of Chinese/Malaysian culture - this dish is for the month of May. Debbie's real name is Chinese (something like Wi-ee) but when she went to Glasgow to study they called her Debbie and now she uses the name quite often with work and visitors like us. Bi Yuen was flying to Bangkok for business and had a driver picking him up at 9.30am. He offered to take us to Mimi's house on the way in Singapore. Hi plane left at 12.30 and one needs this much time to get through the traffic jam between JB and Singapore because of immigration. It is so strange to be in a different country once over the bridge. Literally once the passports are stamped the mobile phone changes to another network (more expensive one) and we have to find an ATM to get Singapore dollars.
Mimi was waiting for us and we went up to her comfortable 13th floor apartment to drop off our bags before we all caught the MRT into Singapore city. We went to a shopping mall totally dedicated to computers and components. We purchased an aerial for our lap top to increase reception for wireless when we are in port. Bill was looking for marine shops and we found another high rise shopping mall totally dedicated to just radio and electrical components. We didn't have time to find the chandleries on this trip. Singapore really has everything one could possibly buy!
Singapore is well organized and a 'fine' city (there are fines for any small misdemeanour although bicycle helmets aren't compulsory) and there appears to be no obvious poverty. When we were in the city tourist area the other day we had never seen so many restaurants! There were so many different styles and flavours. The one which was the weirdest was called 'Clinic'. It had gold spray painted wheelchairs for chairs, operating lights above tables that looked like hospital beds. They served drinks in 'drips' attached to a wheeled frame. I was surprised the waiters weren't wearing white coats. Very odd. (I didn't see if the food looked like hospital food)
After our tour around the electronics malls we caught a double decker bus back which was great. We sat up the top right at the front. I was like an excited school girl whilst the bored teenage Singaporeans were slumped in their seats listening to ipods or had mobile phones glued to their ears.
Mimi and her husband Donald speak excellent English so we were able to communicate on a deeper level which was great. Mimi is a dedicated community worker for her church and is always looking after the family. Her mother in law is with them every weekend at least and she expects to be looking after her for many years to come. Mimi is a generous lively and giving person. She also looked after us very well with a delicious chicken curry for dinner that night. Donald kindly advised us on our computer problems.
It is the traditional culture for the sons and their wives to look after their parents. When older women are widowed they live with their sons and not on their own. They require attention, respect and all their needs both emotional and physical are met mostly by their daughter in laws. This can sometimes cause friction in families. The older generation have a lot of say in what is acceptable in the lives of the next generation. Children out of wedlock, homosexuality etc are issues which the older generation find impossible to accept under the same roof. We have heard tales where the mothers in law can be very difficult and rude even refusing to speak to a daughter-in-law for some perceived characteristic or behaviour they don't condone. (such as independence for example!)
We feel privileged to be part of the lives of even if for a short time of these wonderful people. We hope that some will visit our family in Australia one day.
We are now back at the marina deliberating our next move. The cyclones (such as in Burma) and the southwesterlies will affect where we can go. We are investigating an autopilot but feel nervous about spending such a large amount and getting it installed and working correctly. Lightning could also kill it in one foul blow! We hope to get to Langkawi soon. It's a week or so's sail/motor up the Malacca straits dodging more ships.
That's it for now
Valiam and her crew
Saturday 3rd May
Sebana Cove Marina Resort
(close to Singapore)
Position: 1.24.74N 104.09.765E
We arrived here last Tuesday 29th April after anchoring for the night just inside the Santi river outside the Navy base after 8 days at sea. The Santi river winds around for 5 miles until Sebana Cove Marina can be seen at the end. It is very comfortable and quiet even if hot during the day with no breeze. It's a slightly more delapidated version of the last marina but cheap enough with free showers, pool etc. This is always welcome and we get to have a rest from sailing for a little while. It wont be long before the sea is calling again however!
Singapore is an hour away by ferry but we have to go through immigration each end, change our money and the cheap Malaysian phone card is no longer cheap! (on roam in a foreign country!) We just spent a couple of days enjoying air conditioned comfort in a hotel room, eating in restaurants and catching the MRT to China Town, Little India and Orchard road. Singapore is noisy and full of shops and shopping malls.
The highlight of the trip was meeting up with Bill's sister in law Yen Ney's relations who have been so welcoming and interested in our trip. We caught a taxi to Mimi and Donald's place in Singapore which is on the 13th floor of an apartment building. It is a comfortable airy 3 bedroom place with balcony and bomb shelter! Because it was Bill's birthday Mimi surprised him with a chocolate birthday cake. later on we went in 2 cars with various relatives to the East coast to enjoy food cooked by hawkers on picnic tables. Traditional dishes included fish head curry and sate.
We have also been entertaining on board Valiam. Yen Ney's brother Bi Yuen and his wife Debbie drove out from Johor Bahru (at least an hour by car) on the first night we arrived in Sebana and took us to a local seafood restaurant in Sungai Renget (closest town). It is interesting for us to learn about how the locals live. Yen Ney's family speak 3 Chinese languages! Today we had 8 visitors to the marina including Mimi, Donald, Yen Ney's mum and aunty. It was a very hot day (34 degrees and high humidity) so we cooled off in the resort pool before having fried rice and noodles for lunch in the restaurant. They all loved seeing Valiam and were amazed at how comfortable we are!
Tonight we met a couple of New Zealand yachties who have been thorugh Indonesia and up to Thailand. It's great to gain information about places we haven't been to yet. This couple ended up buying an airconditioner for thier boat whilst in marinas in the tropics. This would be nice we must admit when the sweat drips off our brow during the day!
29 April 2008
Sebana Cove Marina
Position : 1.24.748N 104.09.765E
Valiam happily dashed along in a good southerly breeze yesterday at an average of 6 knots. Captain Bill and first mate Linda were quite weary after 8 days at sea with no more than a continuous sleep for 3 hours. Valiam was heeling a bit bouncing into the waves which were quite small but enough to make sleeping a muscle tightening and balance exercise to lie flat. One of our friends commented on our perceived fitness levels being 'confined' to a boat. Interestingly every movement on board whilst sailing is a 'balance and hanging on' type exercise. Our arms and stomach muscles get a work out and negotiating the 4 steps in and out of the interior of the boat 100s of times a day is like doing a slow yoga type 'step' class. No it's not like going for a long walk or a jog but there is definitely exercise involved. Bill each time he hoists and lowers sails etc is getting some exercise. It's not like we lie about on the boat sipping champagne. (we do that at anchor or in a marina!)
The ships became more of a regular feature of the seascape as the day wore on. By 2pm we were in the area where several shipping lanes from the north and south began to converge to create one huge shipping highway. This is where it got exciting. Valiam was already doing 6.5 knots so with the engine going at a good speed we were doing 7.5 - 8 knots. Ships do about 15 knots. The big shipping highway going in and out of Singapore has a north bound lane and a south bound lane with each ship around 10 minutes apart. We had to cross this highway. We waited for a gap and charged in behind a north going ship and then saw a south going vessel coming our way. It is always a good idea to go behind a ship as they cant stop or change direction very easily if a little boat like us gets in the way. Anyway we got accross and it was quite fun really. A bit like dashing accross a busy road dodging cars on a skateboard (not that i've ever done that!) The trip into the main Singapore channel took all afternoon. We stayed right over in the starboard side well away from the ships. They looked very sedate and orderly staying in their lanes. Just on sunset we witnessed an amazing sight. There were literally 100s of ships anchored as far as the eye could see in the hazy orange sunset. The ships were quite interesting to look at - all different sizes, shapes and colours. As we hugged the Malaysian coast we had to avoid floating cylinders presumably attached to crab pots or fish traps. It would have been anuisance getting one of those tangled in the propellor. For those of you who are not familiar with the geography of the area and are surprised we are still in Malaysia after being at sea for 8 days I will explain. Singapore is a small island connected by a 1000m causeway to Peninsula Malaysia. Singapore has its on currency and own government etc. We decided to stay in a marina on the Malaysian side because it was much cheaper and easier to get to from the sea.
Last night by 8pm we only just got to the mouth of the Santi river. As there were ominous thunder clouds and lightning we decided to anchor just inside the river near the Malaysian naval base. From our anchorage we could see the lights of Singapore and the planes flying in and out of the airport. It was phenomenal. A plane landed and took off less than a minute apart. Such a busy place for a small island!
After our celebratory champagne we were just about to go to bed when an inflatable turned up with 7 uniformed officers form the Malaysian Navy. They politely asked us to move further away from the 'Navy' area. It was very dark but with the aid of torches they showed us where to anchor 50 m further down. (They originally said 500m but we weren't arguing at that stage) I gamely tried my bahasa and said 'Terimah kasih! Salamat tidur!'(Thank you. Good night!) and they were absolutely delighted saying 'Sama sama.....etc"(You're welcome...)
After a good sleep we phoned the marina to let them know we were on our way. The river has mangroves either side and winds around for about 5 miles until we got to the marina. We eventually tied up on an end berth (hopefully we'll get a bit of breeze) next to a New Zealand boat. The marina is very quiet and feels like it's at the back of Caboolture or somewhere (Queenslanders will know what I mean) There appear to be many long term residents here or at least the boats are because quite a number look a bit sad covered in mould and decaying tarps. The pontoon needs some maintenance but is adequate enough. The NZ skipper next to us says he's been here since they started building the marina! Anyway it's nice and quiet. We checked out the facilities and the showers are quiet good. We get free towels from the very bored pool man in his little pagola. The resort is built from bricks and red tiles in a Florida - Asian style, It's quite open with very high ceilings and nice and cool. The restaurant is pleasant and the food average. There is a shuttle that goes to the nearest town Sungai Ringet 15 minutes away 4 times a week. One can also get a taxi there a round trip costing 50R (about $13) The ferry to Singpaore leaves 2-3 times a day and takes about an hour. We will proabably go tomorrow for a few days.
Bill's sister in law Yen Ney in Melbourne has been in constant contact with her family to make sure we are welcomed and shown the sights. We are meeting with Yen Ney's brother Bi Yuen and his wife Debbie this evening at 8.30 for dinner. They are driving 1.5 hours to see us and are very keen to do so.
It's now 4pm so we have time for a nap before we need to be at our sociable best!