Tin Tin's Sailing Calendar

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Indian Ocean - Day 11. 19/10/17

The strong winds have blown themselves off to somewhere else, leaving us rolling along a bit too slowly at 5 knots in a 15-20 knots wind. With the wind almost astern we have the big Genoa poled out to port and the staysail to starboard. The mainsail stays out of the way rolled up in the boom, as otherwise it would slat back and forth in the swell. It now looks as though we will arrive in Rodriguez at about midnight on the 20th of October, and will need to anchor outside the reef until daylight(and the harbour master) allow us entry.

In the calmer conditions today, and in the light of the slight uncertainty in the steering we got out the emergency beautifully chamfered and varnished by Stuart, and attached it with the cronky bit of metal supplied with the boat through a hole in the aft deck. It seemed to work fine, although the coupling has too much play in it and we will have to dream up a remedy for that.

The sky is blue, the seas are too, and whilst Justin is busy stitching up the man overboard retrieval system that was ripped off the rail, Mark is at the helm and I am devouring Dickens. Having never, ever read Dickens I had downloaded his entire works free of charge onto the Kindle. Running out of books to read I drew a deep breath and started on A Tale of Two Cities. This gripped me entirely and I read it in 24 hours, on watch and off. What a story! Dickens style is a bit too flowery but his characters are gripping and he doesn't spare the terrifying vision of The Terror in Paris. Enthused by this I went straight on to The Old Curiosity Shop, also done in a day, with some extraordinary characters and twists and turns, but too much verbose sentimentality for me.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Indian Ocean Day 7; 15/10/17

We got the boat sorted out to handle the imminent gale, rolling away the mainsail and just leaving the Genoa. Shortly afterwards rain squalls started to arrive with 40 knots of wind, and as night fell it got rougher. I was cooking again and I served wahoo steaks in a Korma curry sauce (packet) with rice. When I came on watch again at 9pm it was a wild night with clear skies full of stars and I got quite chilly despite wearing my fleece, waterproof and woolly hat. Justin relieved me at midnight just as it was clouding over and started to rain again.

When I came on watch again at 6 am the promised swell had arrived and long lines of crests were coming up astern, much taller than we have seen before, at about 5meters high they come part way up the mast. Across them the come the waves whipped up by the gale intersecting at a shallow angle and piling up on top to break noisily from time to time. The wind is pretty steady 35-45 with times when it gets to 50 knots, blowing spray off the wave crests and leaving long thin parallel lines of foam on the water. Occasionally one of the crests breaks over the boat and while Mark was on watch the plastic crate full of fishing gear was smashed on the aft deck and the man overboard recovery sling was torn off the rail, and the cockpit got a good wash through! Mark managed to retrieve most of the stuff from the aft deck, but one of my Crocs is now adrift in the Indian Ocean.

There's a dread fascination with the ocean as it marches relentlessly towards us from astern, higher crests shouldering above the skyline with breaking crests, like a crowd eager to see what's ahead. Trying to get a good photo of this impressive sight seems impossible as the camera can't convey the scale of the waves effectively. I tried sketching them instead.

Fear of what this mighty ocean can do, and at what point it becomes really dangerous, is a very real underlying anxiety. As the boat rises to each wave astern it adds to my confidence, but nonetheless we don't know what is yet to come. There's nowhere else to go so we must manage it as best we can. This is only a gale, so I'm glad not to be experiencing a cyclone.

Our speed is between 8-9 knots most of the time, but we have had some exhilarating rides down big waves at 12-15 knots with a record of 18.5! George, the autopilot, handles the boat very well, but we all spend time hand steering too for the experience. However in that process we have noticed that there is some slippage in the hydraulic system, so that's another job on the list when next in port.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Indian Ocean Day 6 - 14/10/17

The days roll by, and here I am again, tumbling out of my bunk at 03:00 to relieve Mark on watch, watching the moon rise astern lighting the sea brightly beneath the dark clouds. I feel rather exhausted and sleepy so I boil the kettle and make a strong coffee which I drink while munching a handful of trail-mix.

My phone alarm is set to remind me to write the log every hour, noting latitude, longitude, heading, course or the ground (COG), speed, speed over the ground (SOG), distance travelled, wind speed and direction, current speed and direction, barometric pressure, cloud coverage, general weather condition, water used, time of switching generator on/off and water-maker on/off plus a new column recording the comforting green or alarming red lights monitoring current leakage to the hull.

Then I reach up and pull down the Food diary and note the menus served for lunch and supper. Next the equipment log comes down and I review the outstanding technical problems, add any new ones to the list, and then fill in any detailed observations and solution on the page reserved for each item. My medical log notes any ailments and any drugs dispensed.

Then I try to write my blog before answering any emails, (keeping in touch with family and friends is such a great thing to be able to do at sea), contacting people for help with technical issues, or arranging to meet in the next port.

Looking ahead I set the laptop off to download the latest weather forecast, and then look at the red (windy), green (less windy) or blue (calm) coloured wind fields and the lines of dots suggesting recommended weather routes from the four weather forecast types received. Usually the forecasts differ quite significantly and the four suggested routes head off in different directions, so I ignore them and keep our course direct to our destination.

However for the last two days all forecasts agree that the high pressure to the south will push a big arc of strong wind northwards and the weather routes all concur to head slightly north of our course to make the best of the wind angles. So if you look at the website and the "Where in the World is Tin Tin?" link, the map should now show us heading due west. The significant wave height is forecast to rise to 5 metres, which means that once every three hours there is a statistical likelihood of encountering a wave almost twice that height - something that is quite a threat to us if not handled carefully.

Now at, lunch time, the wind has freshened but not from the East as predicted, but from the South, so there is a low pressure out there astern of us squeezing the isobars which may add some extra excitement!

Well, having bored you to tears with the fundamentals of my day, I must now get out my paper journal, add some entries and sketch a little dead squid which somehow flew aboard with all the tiny flying fish last night. Then it's my turn to cook supper, and with a freezer full of fish I should probably use that again!

Friday, 13 October 2017

Indian Ocean - Day 4 12/10/17

After three days we passed the three single handed sailors who had set out 7 hours before us. They are sailing within a mile of each other and taking it in turns to keep watch for 4 hours while the others sleep. When the wind dropped that day we were finding that they were doing the same speed as us at about 5 knots.

However the wind picked up strongly again and we had 44 knots and a top speed of 11.7knots recorded despite being reefed down hard. The waves combine a big swell from the Roaring Forties, thousands of miles south, and the growing SE swell which this Trade Wind is driving. It's impressive when two combine to provide a clear green crest with light shining through it.

We caught our biggest fish of the voyage, a 1.33 meters long wahoo which weighed 13-14kg on my rusty old fishing scales. Stuart's long hooked gaff was used for the first time to secure the monster and lift it aboard. The fish was amazingly greasy as though covered with thick lanolin, making it hard to secure whilst filleting on a rolling aft deck. Our freezer is now stuffed with very fine white fish, and it's been on the menu at most meals.

For example, I produced supper last night with wahoo in a hot Malaysian Asin sauce (sachet from Cocos Island) with aubergine and tomatoes served with rice, followed by a pineapple (sadly a bit past it). Then for lunch I used the leftover rice mixed with wahoo chunks and parsley bound together with a couple of eggs to make a kind of tortilla, which I served with a salad of thinly sliced red/green cabbage and apple mixed with nuts and raisins in an olive oil and lime juice dressing. All our meals are served at the cockpit table, which folds away as the floor when not in use. We use a blue non slip material to try to keep things in place while the boat bucks and rolls. Occasionally we remember to remark on how extraordinary it is to be sitting at a laid table, while the wind roars and the ocean surges and breaks around us!

I have been reading solidly through two books; first "Sapiens", recommended by Justin, which explores what it is that makes Homo sapiens so dominant a life form, and then its sequel, "Homo Deus" which takes an interesting look at how changing beliefs and technological advances could affect human society in the future. The conclusion is that human decision making and self-determination could be overtaken by intelligent machines, which know us better than we know ourselves or our environment. This is already evident for anyone who has started to trust e.g. the Waze app to guide one through traffic more quickly, or Amazon to suggest books to read, based on past reading choices. On board Tin Tin I haven't quite got to that stage with the PredictWind weather routing programme, as it produces four options based on four weather forecasts, and the suggested routes tend to vary widely, and from day to day.

Our batteries are causing concern again. Since Darwin the length of time between charges (dictated by the voltage dropping to 12v) has steadily declined from 7 hours to 3 hours. During the day the solar panel does a great job and we can go from dawn to dusk without running the generator, but at night we need to recharge very much more frequently.. I think a Watt&Sea hydro generator sounds the ideal tool for these long ocean trips as it generates power continuously under way. Most boats that I've spoken to have said it meets all their needs whilst sailing at above 6 knots. The wind generator contributes well as long as the wind is gale force!

However that doesn't answer the question of why the batteries are declining. I think it is because they are not "long life, deep discharge leisure batteries", and this is because I have not been able to find any of that type that fit into the battery box under the floorboards. They are all a bit too tall, so maybe we have to raise the floor........ I hope that I can find something suitable in South Africa.

Settling in to this long leg, with eight more days to go, I really need to do something other than read, cook, write my blog and play Sudoku (tending to become obsessive against the clock). I must try to learn the Ukelele that the girls gave me......I saw Matthieu strumming his at Cocos and his fingers seemed as big as mine, so it must be possible!

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Indian Ocean Day 2 - 10th October 2017

We had dolphins guiding us out of Cocos in the sunset, which was lovely. We had a gentle start with winds lighter than expected, but they picked up to mid thirties, so we reefed the mainsail and genoa making a lovely 8+ knots. Now the wind had died again and we are slopping around the swell without the pleasing rush of water. The sails are slatting and our speed is down to 4-5 knots. Not at all what was forecast a few days ago. It also makes my confidently predicted passage time of 12 -13 days begin to look much too positive. The weather forecast keeps shifting, and now shows less wind for the next ten days and even a big windless hole down near Mauritius.

The freezer had been getting steadily warmer, so yesterday I finally got down to investigate, pulling off pieces to find no cooling water flow. Eventually found that barnacles were blocking the inlet sea cock, and poked them out, but that still didn't get water through to the pump. More pipes off until I found one blocked by barnacles and cleared that. I still had to suck sea water through all the tubes to get it to the pump, which is better than siphoning petrol but still a bit nauseating! Anyway, despite imperfect cooling water flow the freezer is back down to frozen again today.

Now we just have to find and remove the slight electrical current leak, which comes and goes in a mysterious way. My heart sinks every time that red light comes on, and lifts when it shows green.

Last night was wonderful moonlight. The AIS showed cargo traffic on a reciprocal course just north of us heading for S. Korea. The three single handed yachts clustered about 5 miles south of us, and this morning we spoke briefly on the VHF with Wolfgang and Klaus, while Jackie was presumably off watch and asleep.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Cocos islands

Saturday 7th October dawned and we went ashore to the short distance to the palm trees and white sand of Direction Island. A ferry was reputed to go from the big landing stage to Home Island and thence to West Island on Saturdays only. Eventually I tracked down another yacht that knew the timetable and determined that there was one at 10:00, but that it was not possible to get back from Home island that day. So Mark sped off in the dinghy the 1.5 miles to Home island, a hard ride against the gale blowing. Justin and I caught the ferry, which is a shiny new fast cat, airconditioned and showing "Spiderman" on its big screen.

However instead of speeding straight on to West island, where I was anxious to get my clearance for Mauritius, the ferry stopped at Home island and we had a two and a half hours to kill until it finally proceeded at 13:00. Home island is predominantly a Malay settlement, where families were cruising around in shiny electric golf buggies in the heat. We found a couple of small shops and then a supermarket, but nothing in the way of fresh fruit and veg. Wandering around we found the Museum (closed), the Shire offices (with tempting golf buggy with keys in), and sheds full of plywood sailing skiffs, all to the same design and painted identically in white with a yellow band and immaculately varnished inside below a heavy layer of dust. I counted 47 of these in two sheds! A young man working out in a gym explained that these traditional sailing craft come out for regattas at festivals such as Ide, or for weddings.

T West Island the ferry was met by by a cheerful bearded gentleman driving a bus, which for $0.50 took us the six miles to town. The single track Tarmac road bordered by wide well cut grass lawns, meanders scenically between thick forest walls. The settlement of neat bungalows, administrative buildings was very dead, but there was a stir of activity at the airport where the Virgin flight had finally landed a day late. However the only cafe was shut, so any thought of lunch had to be ignored.

We found the police station by the long grass air strip, which curiously is also a golf course. It was quite something to stroll out to the red flag on the first hole to watch the Virgin flight thunder past a few yards away without any fences or other hindrance.

A radio set into the wall of the police station invited me to call up the officer, and. Shortly afterwards he arrived to handle the paperwork. We got let off the harbour dues because he didn't have a method of issuing a receipt, which seemed fair given that no one had come out to Tin Tin to do the formalities and we had spent the whole day trying to get this done.

The community cultural centre had sofas and wifi and a shop full of colourful goodies for tourists who needed beach ware or souvenirs. A small museum section commemorated the Australian naval victory over the German warship Emden in 1914, which had been forced to beach on North Keeling.

Whilst Mark and Justin tackled the supermarket before it closed at 3pm, I spent a futile hour trying to find a postbox to post a letter to the Australian Tax office to reclaim tax on diesel that we bought in Darwin. In the process of walking up one long seafront road I spotted thick black smoke from wreckage out in the surf about a mile away. The town was deserted headed back to the police station concerned that some tragedy gas taken place with the outgoing Virgin flight. Once I found someone it turned out that this was the wreck of a derelict vessel which had drifted out of the wide Indian Ocean and smashed on the reef, catching fire in the process!

We caught the last ferry back across the lagoon and then piled into the waiting dinghy with our shopping for the choppy ride between islands.

We found a beach party starting with all eight yachts brining food and drink to the two big tables under the shelter. The big brick barbecue was fired up and we had a most enjoyable evening meeting new friends and sharing food and conversation. There were three single handed sailors, Jackie, Wolfgang and Klaus, who planned to sail in company to Mauritius taking turns to keep a four hour watch. Then there was Matthieu and Anne-Laure from Saba 2, who we had met in Ashmore Reef, travelling with their three children aged 10, 7 and 5 and two friends Stefan and Isabel. They have a ski shop in Pralognan in the Vanoise, and are ski instructors. It was a Proustian treat to have a taste from their bottle of Genepi which evoked strong memories of spending long hours trying to fax documents from the ski shop in Meribel, while young Kate struggled with her ski lessons in a blizzard. Ski instructors staggered in to thaw out and the Genepi circulated regularly. We also met crew from
Tangled Up - Nicolas, Madeleine, James and Marcus- all new to sailing and helping the owner take the boat from Darwin to Durban.

The party was celebrating the 8th birthday of Morgan, the son of Warren and Trish on Mustang Sally and we were thrilled to all get a chunk of birthday cake! Later a fire was built on the beach and Matthieu brought out his Ukelele and sang wonderful French songs, and then worked through English popular songs so that we could all join in. Nicolas brought out his guitar and added to the band, and Justin showed his talents playing guitar and singing Leonard Cohen songs..... Our beers had long gone, so the big bottle of Bundaberg rum came ashore and was steadily emptied. I have to say that I find Bundaberg is horrible, with strong overtones of aldehydes and esters that are the stuff of headaches, so I didn't touch it.....

We got back to Tin Tin at midnight and I struggled with email and then at about two a.m. managed to call Anne to find out more about Ioan in hospital.

Sunday dawned with less wind and we settled into the beach shelter to use the wifi. Mark and Justin explored while I tried to book marinas in CapeTown, and discover about customs formalities in Rodrigues, Mauritius and Reunion. Then I realised that I could make Internet calls using WhatsApp, and was able to speak to Ion and Kyle at their birthday breakfast, and to have a video call with Alice and see little Felix, and then to speak with brother William . Most satisfactory.

Our final act before leaving was to create a Tin TIn sign for which Mark found a fishing float which we decorated as a globe with our route marked. We then bid farewell to all and at 5 pm followed Tangled Up out to sea and set sail into the sunset for our twelve day voyage for the 1995 miles to Rodrigues hoping to arrive on 29-21st October.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Some things I can fix, but others I am powerless to change

Having dropped anchor in the lagoon at Cocos & Keeling, we drew breath for a bit and then I stirred myself to tackle the anchor windlass. Dismantled and cleaned all the connections and checked fuses, which were fine. On reassembly it all worked!

Emboldened by this I returned to the centre-plate hydraulics, and started dismantling the mystery black box. But to get it off the wall I had to unscrew a wooden panel. The screws for this were of course hidden behind other things that had to be dismantled too. Eventually the mystery box was liberated and I could take it to pieces. I had assumed it made 12volts into 24volts to drive he 24volt motor, using a sophisticated state to turn DC into AC and back into DC again. But no....it was a couple of big solenoids which opened and closed switches. Puzzling! I put it all back together again and laboriously reassembled everything, drenched with perspiration in the tiny hot space of the engine compartment.

Not expecting success, we turned the power back on just as it was getting too dark to see, and Lo! It all worked again! But it's still a mystery that 24volt motor has been installed in a 12v system! Just runs slower I suppose.

Now I only have to solve the dangerous current leakage that is eating away at the hull.

A big gin & tonic to celebrate, will be followed by Australian meat pies for supper.

I have just finished reading "Sapiens" today which takes an interesting look at our species, and its development. The ideas resonate with lots that I have been thinking about relating to human control of genetics, and how this may shape our evolution, and with themes that have come out of "Beyond Reason" dealing with the way we think and "The Memory Code" about how we used to handle information before writing.

Then suddenly I feel too far away as Anne tells me that our dear stepfather, Ioan, is in hospital. Mark and I are anxious and feel helpless to respond. It has always been a risk to sail away for so long, but now that it has happened it feels very bad to be so far away........