Lat: 12 05.513′ S
Lon: 96 53.001′ E

After a couple of days offshore, things started to improve, at least for me. Lauren has a bit of an iron stomach so she was doing fine, but it took me a couple of days to liven up. The wind eased a bit, the motion of the boat seemed to get a little better, and I started feeling like I had my sea legs. I’ve also found that getting up at 3am to start watch requires an extra meal to keep feeling well. Seasickness and hunger feel pretty much the same offshore, and with my metabolism, a steady stream of calories is important.

The night before last was actually a pretty big milestone for us. We crossed halfway around the world as measured by longitude. We’re actually on the opposite side of the planet (about 100 deg E) from where we started (about 80 deg W). Even with the six month stop in New Zealand, it’s hard to believe that it’s taken us 18 months to get this far, and we’re trying to do the remaining half in 7 months or so. I guess we’re going to get used to being on the move. Like crossing the equator last year, this milestone happened in the middle of the night, so there wasn’t much of a celebration, but maybe we can remedy that tonight.

We were still getting waves of at least 10 feet, but yesterday things felt calm enough to put out a line. After being inspired by Colin “The Big Tuna” Murphy (as well as picking up a few cleaning tips by watching) during his visit from Fiji to Cairns, we decided we liked fishing. We’d lost enough tackle along the way, however, that we had to restock in Christmas Island. The guy in the shop there was great and set us up with everything we needed for several handline rigs. Yesterday afternoon I rigged a pink and purple octopus and we started trolling it while I read the Bible of fishing for cruisers, “The Cruiser’s Handbook of Fishing” by Scott & Wendy Bannerot. This came highly recommended to us and we managed to find a copy in Tonga, but haven’t made much use of it so far. I’ve now made it through the first couple of chapters, and it is pretty impressive in terms of how complete and well-tailored it is to the cruiser. I pulled the line in at sunset and felt some extra drag. It turned out to be what looked like a juvenile wahoo, long, but skinny enough to be a trumpet fish, so we tossed it back.

DSC_0482 Not exactly dinner

This morning I had two lines in the water by 8 am. I don’t really eat much fish, but I was really hoping to catch something for Lauren to enjoy and possibly to share at the Direction Island BBQs that Cocos is well known for among the sailing community. Around 9 am we were only about 4 miles from the pass and the port line was taut. I woke Lauren up and about 5 minutes later I gaffed and dispatched a 2.5 foot wahoo. It’s our first wahoo and our first edible fish in general sans Colin. We’ve had so much electrical power from the two wind generators running during the blow that we had on the way here that we’ve been running the freezer at least 12 hours a day just to drain some power even though we don’t really have anything to put in it. Now we do. Lauren finished filleting the wahoo just after we came in through the pass and even with our rookie cleaning abilities, she estimates that we have 7-8 servings.

DSC_0485 We learned later that it’s actually a barracuda, but it’s good eating

Cocos (Keeling) Island is actually two “islands”, North Cocos and South Cocos. North doesn’t really have an anchorage and is uninhabited. South Cocos is an atoll, but with much, much larger passes than any of the atolls in the Tuamotus. The small islets ringing the lagoon are called islands instead of motus, but other than that, it’s your typical atoll. We’re anchored in the yacht anchorage in the NE portion of the lagoon behind Direction Island. Waiting here in the anchorage were S/V Bahati (US yacht) and S/V Josephine II (Australian), both of which we’d met briefly at Christmas. Bahati gave us some help over the radio to find our way into the inner lagoon and we dropped anchor in crystal clear water. Cocos is reputed to be one of the more beautiful spots in the world and although we still haven’t found an ugly atoll or tropical island, it is definitely picturesque, with white sandy beaches, plenty of coconut palms, white crashing waves, and many shades of blue and turquoise scattered throughout the lagoon.

DSC_0489 It’s been a long time since we’ve made landfall at an atoll.  This will probably be our last one as well.

We hadn’t even turned off the engine when our greeting committee arrived — 6 black-tip reef sharks. I don’t know whether it was the fish blood dripping down the cockpit drain (I’d dumped 3 buckets of seawater over the grate and scrubbed it offshore) or just us being the new arrival, but they’ve stuck around. I guess there won’t be any falling in the water here, although Bahati says they’re shy and get scared off when you jump in. There were a couple of flying fish on deck and tossing those and a bucket of sea water that had been used to rinse the wahoo filets caused a bit of a stir. Suddenly there were 8-10 sharks and they became a bit frenzied, swimming in tight circles and swinging their heads back and forth until one of them inhaled the flying fish and the fishy water dissipated.

DSC_0511 Half a dozen members of the welcoming committee

We were expecting to have customs visit the boat, but the Australian Federal Police, who handle customs, immigration, and quarantine here asked us to dinghy over to Home Island to meet them at their office. That wasn’t what I wanted to hear. The outboard hasn’t been too reliable because the carb really needed a cleaning, we don’t have a lot of gasoline, and what we do have is a little suspect. Cedric actually pulled a fair amount of water out of the outboard fuel tank (which may explain the dirty carb) while we were in Perth. Home Island, the main settlement for the descendants of the Malay workers originally brought here to work the copra plantation is about a 2 mile dinghy ride and West Island, the main Australian settlement is a long ferry ride from Home Island. The outboard had been doing well at high RPMs, which made me think the pilot jet was clogged but the main jet was fine. It seems to have started out that way, but we didn’t make it far before the engine wouldn’t do anything but idle and then it didn’t even want to idle. We started paddling toward a nearby, upwind buoy, but paddling even 30 feet into the blustery tradewinds was hard work and pretty slow going. Anticipating potential problems, I had stocked the dinghy with what we might need (anchor, tools to remove and disassemble the carb, radio, PLB, etc.), but luckily Stephen on Josephine saw us struggling and came out in their dinghy to tow us back.

DSC_0515 Stephen giving us a tow in paradise

An hour or two later, the incredibly dirty carb was cleaned, the fuel and been checked and separated from the small amount of remaining water and sediment, and we’d both had a bite to eat. This time the only adventure on the way to Home Island was the chop whipped up by the tradewinds. We were motoring into it (for 2 miles) and we were both soaked from the waist down and on the windward side of our upper body as well by time we tied up to the wharf. Our timing was perfect. We split up immediately and managed to check in, check out (we’re planning to leave on Saturday), pay shire fees (they want $10/day just to anchor here), fill water jugs, pick up some fresh fruit and veggies and leave about 30 minutes later with all of the stores and offices we’d visited having just closed. Everybody was incredibly friendly, and even though we don’t expect to make a second visit, it’s clearly another place that would be nice to stay a while if we weren’t up against the start of the cyclone season.

We didn’t know for sure who else would be heading toward South Africa with us this year, but in addition to the World ARC, which we’re mostly trying to avoid, we identified several other boats, including one that is taking the same route that we’re planning, over the north tip of Madagascar. That boat is a single-hander that’s only 500 miles or so away from Madagascar, but we’re expecting to be able to contact him and the others on a twice-daily HF radio sked that we learned about today from Bahati. We were happy to hear that there’s someone ahead of us that we can pick up some tips from and that there will be some familiar voices out there during our long passage.

That’s all for now. We’re anchored in a beautiful lagoon, have fresh wahoo to BBQ, have cold Bintang in the freezer, just enjoyed a nice shower, get to sleep all night, and are getting ready to enjoy the sunset. Ahhh.