Christmas Island is indeed a fascinating island and very much off the beaten track. Volcanic with high cliffs reaching down into the sea. The interior varies from lush green almost rainforest to dry river beds, Banion trees and Australian scrub. Economically, the island relies on two industries, the phosphate mine and the now famous asylum-seekers detention center. Tourism seems to be a take it or leave it proposition and certainly no efforts were made for the yachts that came into 'port'. Of the original 5 moorings NONE were operational leaving a very difficult anchoring situation for all who come - deep water and coral-perfect to lose your anchor on. The people are a combination of Malay, Chinese and Australian with a strong muslim presence evident by the many mosques and call to prayers.
I toured the island with the family Stellamans who during the day gave a presentation to the local school children on their round the world voyage.
Varied and colorful sites: grottos fed by underwater caves and passages; blowholes, fascinating, at the edge of the cliffs with their high pressure spouts of white cold water and steam; waterfalls and much more.
Unique birds, some only found here, frigates, red footed boobies(Galapagos has the blue footed ones) and cockatiel-looking birds called Bosuns. Actually what makes this island famous from the naturalist point of view is the spectacular annual migration of "tens of millions" of brilliant red crabs. Every year in November they trek from the middle of the island to the shores to mate and release their eggs in the sea. In fact, imposing red signs at almost every major intersection advertise which roads are closed due to this mighty march. And then there is the 'robber' crabs...unique in shape and their penchant for carting away anything that one may leave around.
Finally a visit to the local park ranger who every afternoon at precisely 4:30 is met by a whole host of frigate birds expecting their daily handout of fish. Frigates are scavengers and in fact, as I would sit on the boat, I would often hear a rather desperate, raspy sound from above. A quick look will usually reveal 5 or more frigates chasing a terrified booby that has just caught a fish. And predictably, through this intimidation the booby usually drops his catch and....the frigates eat.
It was an all too quick visit to an island that really deserves days admiring its uniqueness. Here I offer a few quick unedited snapshots of Christmas Island.
MT ADOLPHUS TO CHRISTMAS ISLAND(video)
24 August 2011 | Indian Ocean
William Mynors British East Indies Company Captain on the naming of Christmas Island in 1643: "I lay becalmed two days wch heartily did greeve me in regard of ye many sicke men I had aboard being noe less than 20...and because it was Christmas Daye I called it by ye name of Christmas Island."
CHRISTMAS HAS ARRIVED
22 August 2011 | In Flying Fish Cove on Christmas Island
Shearwater and me, were safely secured to a mooring (that we fixed) at 830 this AM. I have finished the video 'Mt Adolphus to Christmas Island' and will try to post it tomorrow-not sure of internet capabilities. Hit some bad squally weather last night so quite sleepy...will keep this short and let the video speak for itself.
ONE DAY TO CHRISTMAS
21 August 2011 | About 70 miles to Christmas Island
ETA Christmas Island = mid morning tomorrow, the 22 of August AU time and date. As I proceed now on this final day, Cairns to Christmas, I am in fact trying to slow down as I dont want to arrive in the dark and then have to wait in what could be strong seas. Better to keep going, slowly and try to time it. I actually am crisscrossing the rhumb line and on one 'criss' its extremely uncomfortable as Im exactly at cross purposes with the waves. But tonight I will do the 'cross' and it should be better. Im also dragging a warp to slow her down and gives me practice deploying such. An anchoring nightmare may await. They apparently have only two moorings and one just broke loose with its latest boat attached. It is a deep anchorage with a coral bottom just waiting to eat ones anchor...ie it gets caught under a coral ledge and well...one has to leave the anchor...so am a bit apprehensive. Why a place as rich as Australia cant put down more than two moorings is beyond me. And they are not free to us, either. Well, will check in tomorrow from what I hope will be a fine situation.
'PLACE YOUR BETS'
18 August 2011 | Paralleling the Indonesian Coast-5 days to Christmas
As massive ocean swells roll in from the south, I consult a chart and see that the Australian continent is now fully behind leaving nothing between myself and that famous, inhospitable, lonely place-the Southern Ocean. My breath is almost taken away as these masses of water roll toward me. I struggle to describe them . imagine a large sloping hillside of grass as far as your eye can see, a hill you couldn't possibly look over. Then imagine that whole entity start to slowly move toward you blotting out everything as it approaches except its looming slope. It gently lifts you higher and higher until from its peak you can see the other side... and endless expanse. That's what Im experiencing here. Awe-inspiring and telling me I am now solidly in the Indian Ocean.
Since leaving Cairns, we have traveled 2000 miles. I have given Christmas Island Customs the required 96 hours notice and estimate 4-5 days before anchor down in Flying Fish Cove.
Not so enchanting - the abominable floating fishing nets are back. These navigational hazards are put out by the Indonesian fisherman. They simply float free, I know, I just passed one not 200 feet off my starboard side. If encountered by a small boat such as mine, it can stop one dead in one's tracks causing damage to props and keels and rudders. The tiny buoys that accompany them are invisible to radar and cannot be seen at night - we play a rather unpleasant game of Indonesian roulette out here.
"Place your bets, Ladies and Gentlemen."
800 MILES TO CHRISTMAS-REINFORCEMENTS
16 August 2011 | Paralleling the Indonesian Coast
As the doldrums of last week recede behind me, I am in the clutches of good strong trade winds. For a few days now, I have been enjoying 10-15 knots of wind pushing me, conservatively rigged with only a jib, at about 5-7kts. However, the latest GRIB files which are a graphic representation of wind and waves, forecast that in the next few days, the waves will reach a rather high 12 feet. If the winds remain as they are, it will be fine. But if the winds increase, we could get into a surfing situation similar to the one off Swain Reef that broke into the bimini top.
So I have been busy with a couple of projects. The first is to devise a way to bring down the jib , to reef the jib, should the winds become strong, without turning Shearwater into the wind. The problem with turning to face the wind is it stops the boat completely, heads it into the wind and the usual accompanying crashing waves. The sails go mad...flapping wildly doing damage to themselves and anything in their path ie ME! So, before dark tonight, in anticipation of the waves ahead, I will be testing that system for real.
The second project has been to 'reinforce' the side bimini windows. If I was to get a direct hit from a wave from the side, the windows could let go drenching major electronic components and engine controls all in the cockpit. So with series of lines, I have crisscrossed the windows on the inside thereby giving support should they get a mighty push from the outside.
So, always lots to do to keep us rolling-after all, Christmas is approaching.
Mango is a smart, funny, sensitive and totally unique wheaton/sheepdog. . He is my partner on this patently undoglike voyage but remains cheerful about the whole affair. [...]
David, the "Me" part of MangoandMe is awed by
Shearwater as it will always be a better boat than he a sailor-the way it should be. First stop, South America.
Shearwater is a 47 foot, very sleek and light catamaran.
She is part of a fleet of 11 that were built - its a sister ship of Shearwater that holds the unofficial speed record.
Of the this fleet, only one has flipped...so we are on the side of good odds!