Travelogue #7, Nov 24- December 3rd – Desperate for Durbin by Larry Caillouet

Thursday, Nov 24
Today is Thanksgiving Day in the USA, but just another workday in La Reunion. Diana is in Indianapolis getting ready to enjoy her sister Donna’s annual Thanksgiving Dinner extravaganza. I would be happy to feast on the turkey and ham and delicious casseroles and home made breads, but what I could really use is a big slug of pie. Any pie that Donna makes. I don’t know how the French people on this island can know so much about bread and little fru-fru pastries, and know so little about pie. Why don’t they send someone to 2047 N. Bosart Avenue and learn how to make pies?

Carmel prepared a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner for us on the boat. I am thankful for a good boat-cooked meal.

Friday, Nov 25
Carmel and Joe repaired the tear in the Genoa and we did a few small jobs on the boat. Alex and I went to the Peugeot dealer and rented a car again. We will need it to pick up the furler repair guy from Mauritius at the airport on Monday, and it will be nice to be unbound from the boat and marina. Our first excursion was to go out for dinner. Still no pie on the menu so we went to the grocery store and I found slices of flan in the bakery section. Flan is not exactly pie but it was cut in pie shapes, so I took a chance and bought a slice for each of us. It was good, but I’m still on the lookout for pie.

Saturday, Nov 26
Today was a big day. First it was Liberty laundry day. We didn’t have enough tokens for the dryer at the marina’s laundry so we turned the boat into a big floating backyard clothes line. Sheets, shirts, socks, and skivvies were hung on every line on the boat. This is part of the glamor of sailing around the world.

Today was France vs Denmark in the World Cup. Not too big a deal in the USA but here in France the street was closed in front of Le Boucanier restaurant where we went for supper and a giant screen was set up to televise the game. Tables were set up in the street and by the time the game started the tables were full. The crowd roared every time France threatened to score because actual scoring doesn’t happen much in soccer, or “football” as they call it here. France won 2 to 1, and the crowd was happy.

Most important, today was the 51st wedding anniversary for Diana and me. I wrote a song for the occasion. Get the tune of Glen Campbell’s song, “By the time I get to Phoenix” in your mind https://youtu.be/mUg5p3BncuQ , hum it a time or two, then set these words to the same tune:

By the time I get to Durban
It’ll be December
The Oyster fleet won’t be there anymore
They’ll be sailing down the coast
To get to Cape Town
A dream I’ve had so many times before

By the time I get to Cape Town
They’ll be flying
Home to be with fam’lies they adore
I’ll miss my flight and I’ll be stuck in Cape Town
Regretting wasted days
That went before

By the time I make Kentucky
She’ll be waiting
She’ll run quickly and meet me at the door
She’ll smile just to know I’m really with her
And not just a promise on the phone
She just had to know
That I love her so 💕

Sunday, Nov 27
More bad news: We received a message assuring us that The Part that DHL promised would arrive last Tuesday, then promised for Thursday, then promised for Saturday, will arrive next Tuesday. Yeah, sure. Because they promised. We have drilled this well so deep waiting for this part that we don’t have much choice but to drill a little deeper.

Monday, Nov 28
If I could add a soundtrack to this travelogue, you would be hearing the swamp pop melody of Freddy Fender’s 1975 hit “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” playing softly in the background. I’ve read every news item the internet has. Ask me anything—go on, really, anything. I’ve done my Cyber Monday shopping. I found some good deals. I’m so bored that I polished the rust off the stainless steel on the boat. I even used a stiff toothbrush to get the hard-to-reach parts. The boat is gleaming— all dressed up and nowhere to go. Freddie, your music is immortal.

Tuesday, Nov 29
Another day and a new sound track—Dionne Warwick’s hit “Promises, Promises” is the tune of the day. https://youtu.be/DpKAnp5Klzw Jerome, the ace rigger, flew here from Mauritius to install The Part. DHL, the worldwide delivery company that promised1, promised2, promised3, promised4 delivery today, now says that they don’t know where The Part is. I don’t think they knew where it was when they promised us before, and now they admit their incompetence.

Still, there was work to do to be ready to install The Part when it finally comes. Jerome took the lead on the project to remove the broken foil, which was a complex operation. First we shackled both spinnaker halyards to the foredeck to stabilize the mast. Then we eased the tension on the forestay by detensioning the hydraulic backstay. The foil was fitted around the forestay and the forestay was anchored inside the Reckman furler which was bolted to the deck and hull, so to remove the broken section of the foil we had to disassemble the furling mechanism and free the bottom end of the forestay. Once that was achieved, Jerome used Alex’s angle grinder to carefully cut away the mangled edges of the foil that was still gripping the forestay. He was extra careful to not knick the forestay itself because any weakening of the forestay would compromise the integrity of the rig. We unbolted this section of foil from the section above it and finally we could slide this broken section of the foil off the forestay.

Another 2-3 hours would have seen the new foil installed, the Genoa re-installed, and Liberty liberated from its dock lines. But with the foil in the Twilight Zone we had done all we could, so Alex drove Jerome back to the airport.

Wednesday, Nov 30
Today was a snoozer of a day. Read some, dozed some. We did manage to re-assemble the forestay. By this we proved to ourselves that we know how to do it and have the parts and tools we need—except for The Part.

Thursday, Dec 1
New sound track: Merle Haggard’s 1973 country hit “If We Make It Through December.” https://youtu.be/dFDa5IGTQAo We still have no information about The Part. We have brainstormed several options, all of which have serious deficiencies or drawbacks. With each passing wasted day our Christmas deadline looms larger before us.

If I make it through December,
Everything’s gonna be all right I know.
I’ve got 20 days to Cape Town
And 2250 miles to go.
If I make it through December,
Got plans to be with family at Christmas time
And then home back in Kentucky
If I make it through December, I’ll be fine.

Boat broke down again while sailing
And parts are hard to get so far from home.
DHL says they have sent it,
But they don’t know their a**hole from a bone
I don’t mean to hate December
It’s meant to be a happy time of year.
But my family won’t understand
Why it’s Christmas time and I can’t be with them.

If I make it home by Christmas,
Everything’s gonna be all right, I know
It’s cold now in Kentucky
But I don’t care if it’s covered up with snow.
If I make it home by Christmas
That’s all that’s on my mind
To be with my friends and fam’ly
If I make it home by Christmas, I’ll be fine

Friday, Dec 2
After a minor job of cleaning small mussels and barnacles out of a refrigeration drain line, we drove down the west coast to St. Pierre. There we turned onto the crooked highway that crosses the middle of the island between the three dormant volcano cirques to the north and the active volcano to the south. Near the middle of the island at about one mile altitude we stopped at the City of Volcanology Museum. This is a high quality museum dedicated to volcanic activity in general but specifically to the volcanic history of La Reunion. It included a 4D movie about volcanoes in which our seats shook, we felt hot air on our face, and we even got a small spray of water in our face.

Saturday, Dec 3
Alex received a message that the airline had escalated this problem to upper management. The Part had been placed on a numbered pallet and was scheduled to be put on the plane in Paris for the Friday night flight to La Reunion. It should arrive here sometime on Saturday. We will get it sometime Monday. We will install it Monday/Tuesday and test it. We will clear out with Customs and Immigration on Tuesday, turn in the rental car, and set sail for Durban.

Sent from my iPhone

POYC Christmas Party – December 3rd at 6PM.

The party is at 6pm on Dec 3 at Christ Episcopal Church in BG, address 1215 State St. 

The club will provide beer, wine red and white, and ice. Also, a party deli tray of cheese/meats, assorted goodies. 

No cost, but we ask members to bring a favorite appetizer, salad, or dessert to share. 

Come, have fun…you may win a door prize! 

Travelogue #6, Nov 14-23 by Larry Caillouet

“Cruising: the sport and lifestyle of repairing your boat in exotic locations”

Monday, Nov 14

“De part, Boss, de part!” For anyone who wasn’t watching television in the 80’s, this is a reference to Tattoo announcing to Mr. Roark that the plane was arriving (“De plane, Bioss”) bringing new guests to Fantasy Island. De part for the spinnaker pole fitting had arrived at the boat so we quickly slipped our lines and departed from the Caudon Marina.

Sailing down the west side of Mauritius gave us our last view of its volcanic ridges and peaks. Its lights and lume were the only light in the dark sky.

I came on watch at 6 pm. The wind was in the low 20’s and we were making good time in spite of the rolly sea. At this rate we should be in La Reunion no later than noon. But the wind became a prankster. It oscillated left and right and made it hard to steer a steady course. Then it began dropping, so I let out more sail. It dropped some more and I unfurled all the sail. Even with all the sail out our speed fell below 5 knots. Our rule of thumb is to motorsail to keep our speed above 5 knots. Our other rule of thumb is to wait 5 minutes before making a change. The 5 minutes had expired and I was reluctantly getting ready to start the engine when the wind suddenly picked up again. I breathed a sigh of relief.

The prankster wind continued to increase and the sea was rough so the sailing became rather uncomfortable. I put a reef in the sails. The wind increased some more and I put a second reef in the sails. The wind topped 30 knots and I put a third reef in the sails. Suddenly the Genoa gave a loud bang, not the typical sound of a Genoa slatting but something louder and different than I had never heard before. This brought Alex and Joe up to the cockpit. We turned on the deck lights and saw the Genoa fully open—the headstay foil had split and we lost the ability to furl the Genoa. All hands on deck! I fell off 40 or 50 degrees and we opened the staysail to steady the boat, block some wind off the Genoa, and keep forward motion. Carmel came up to handle the Genoa sheet while the other three of us clipped in and went out on the foredeck to wrestle the Genoa down. When we got it down, we lashed it to the lifelines and retreated to the cockpit. This was a terrible beginning to what we expect will be the most difficult part of our voyage.

I went below to try to get some sleep but that didn’t work very well with the boat thrashing about. I tried several awkward positions until I found one that worked.

Tuesday, Nov 15

My next watch was at 0300. Wind and sea conditions hadn’t changed much but the moon and stars were out. I liked being tossed around with light a lot better than being tossed around in the dark. The Southern Cross was looking down from its familiar position and even though I knew it was just stars, it seemed like company for a lonely watch. I could see elephants marching across the horizon so even though I was in the cockpit I clipped my tether onto a strong point nearby.

When I came back on watch at noon we were in sight of La Reunion. It was easy to see that this was a much taller, more mountainous, and greener island than Mauritius. The mountain side was spotted with patches of towns and other developments. A raised highway had been built over the water at obviously great expense to carry traffic around the steep sea coast. We were in the lee of the island as far as waves were concerned, so the sea was smooth and the wind was still 20 knots behind us. With only the staysail and mainsail we were doing 8 1/2 to 9 knots, which is close to the highest hull speed for the boat. We went from the ridiculous to the sublime in just a few hours. And to add icing to this odd cake, a pod of a dozen or more black dolphins came out to frolic around the boat as we neared the harbor.

We docked with the other Oysters against a long concrete wall in the commercial part of the marina. We have shore power and water so it is comfortable here but not pretty and not convenient. It is a working boatyard so the sounds of drills, hammers, and grinders fill the daytime air around us. We watch working boats come and go on the water side of us and work trucks on the dock side of us. The marina

is on the outskirts of town so there are no restaurants or shops or public transportation nearby. We are not in paradise, but we can see it from here.

We now have about one month to reach Cape Town and the first week or more of that month will be spent here in La Reunion waiting for the part to repair the Genoa furler. We will need about 8-9 days to sail 1400 miles to Durban and 5 or 6 more to sail 850 miles to Cape Town. That leaves only a few days to spend waiting for a weather window, and these two legs will be the toughest of our entire passage. We don’t have a lot of margin, but there is nothing we can do to force the schedule. There is a sailor’s proverb that says the most dangerous thing to have on a boat is a schedule. We all know that, and we aren’t going to tempt fate.

Wednesday, Nov 16

We wrestled the genoa into its sail bag so the deck would be clear for the furler repair. That was our accomplishment for the day.

Thursday, Nov 17

Wheels! I rented a car today so we can travel around the island and see some sights and not be dependent on taxis. That’s what I call real “Liberty.”   An owner from another boat took me to the Peugeot dealer to rent a car there. Most of the rental places are on the other side of the island at the airport but this one was close. This little 4-door hatchback had a stick shift but I had no trouble with it. We were free now to move about the island!

For our first excursion we decided to drive down the coastal highway on the west side of La Reunion. We were all very impressed at what a wonderful expressway this small island had. We drove past St. Paul and St. Leu until we reached St. Louis where we turned onto a secondary road that led inland to Cirque De Cilaos, one of three calderas of long dormant volcanos on La Reunion. All three have towns and villages in them now, Cilaos being the main town in this one.

Cilaos was a cute touristy town, a cross between Gatlinburg and a Swiss Alpine town. And this is an Indian Ocean island off the coast of Africa!  But the real thrill was driving the twisting, turning mountain road. It was quite a feat of engineering to build a road that clung to the face of sheer cliffs and crossed incredibly deep ravines and sometimes drilled a tunnel through the mountain when there was no other way around it. (A big pink tour bus got stuck in one tunnel while we were in it. We turned off the engine and waited in the narrow rock tunnel until the bus was somehow freed.)  Someone estimated 250 turns including steep and tight switchbacks where you would meet yourself coming around them. Perhaps this is the origin of the name “Reunion”. ?

I can truly say that I have never seen ravines and valleys so deep and mountainsides so sheer and daunting.

Friday, Nov 18

Lario Andretti was back at the wheel for another mountain excursion. This time we drove east to the Cirque du Mafate. The drive to the base of the mountain was shorter, but the mountain road was just about as twisty as yesterday’s. I had gotten much better at downshifting going into hairpin switchbacks and then selecting the best gear for the speed we could manage on the short straightaways.

When we reached the end of the road ,we squeezed into a parking place and began the hike to the Cap Noir observation point. It was only a 10-15 minute hike but the ground was uneven and bordered by a sharp drop off on one side. We didn’t want to go sliding down the mountain a la Romancing the Stone. At the end of the trail was the lookout where hikers were taking photos of the chasm below us and the majestic mountain peaks beyond it.

In the far distance we could see a couple of small villages and a few isolated houses. “Isolated” describes the entire scene. There are no roads in or out of this caldera. We could see a footpath etched into the sheer mountainside across from us. We had been told that these villagers could go to town only by foot or helicopter. Why would anyone choose to live in such a remote and difficult location? With a little research we discovered that the original settlers were runaway slaves. Now it made sense.

Saturday, Nov 19

Joe and Larry’s Excellent Adventure began with a series of phone calls to the parapente companies in St. Leu. Parapente is what is called paragliding in the US.  We had seen these bright colored kites flying overhead when we drove through St. Leu on our way to the Cirque du Cilaos.  At the right time of day they fill the sky like dozens of giant broad-winged birds. The first five companies I called were already booked for the day, but I struck paydirt with Emanuelle at Amazone Parapente—she could take both of us at 12:15.  

Emmanuelle told us to be there by 12. We were there by 11 to make sure we were in the right place and to check out the activities. From the landing spot near the beach we watched the parapentes gliding in and landing softly among the other gliders already on the beach.  The smell of barbecue from the snack bar and the sounds of chatter and laughter from its patrons embellished the excitement of the day.

The Amazone van took us up the mountain to the launching spot 800 meters above the sea coast.  The pilots buckled us into our harnesses about 6 different ways, so it was certain that we wouldn’t be falling out. Bicycle style helmets were adjusted and strapped around our chins. Joe took off first with a bright yellow and red kite. I followed with an all black kite—the Black Swan I named it.  We each ran a few steps as the kites filled and immediately we were floating effortlessly above the scene below. Houses, roads, ravines, trees, seacoast, and ocean formed the stage for our ballet in the sky. We circled in giant pirouettes gaining altitude on the thermal updrafts while being very careful to watch the other dancers in the sky. There was plenty of room for all of us and we kept our respectful distance.

Toward the end of my hour in the air Emmanuelle asked if I was feeling good and would like to do something more exciting. “Sure!” I said and we zoomed into a giant corkscrew toward the beach. I couldn’t measure the g-force, but I could feel it.  We finished by circling just above the tree tops and landing softly on the beach.  An excellent adventure!

Sunday, Nov 20

The capitol of La Reunion is St. Denis (pronounced San Denni’) on the north shore of the island. We had explored much of the south, center, and west of La Reunion, so it was time to see the north. Going to St. Denis also gave us an excuse to drive over the amazing highway built over the water that we had seen as we arrived.

I was surprised at what we found in St. Denis. Rather than the mix of gleaming bank buildings and run-down shops and crowded urban living that we found in the capitol of Mauritius, St. Denis gave an impression of old money and rich history. We saw houses and government buildings from the 1800’s that had been well maintained or restored to their former glory. Landscaping used tropical plants like royal palms and bamboo, but the designs were formal like you would see at the fine homes and estates of Paris.

When Carmel suggested McDonald’s for lunch, I squawked “McDonald’s! You don’t sail thousands of miles to France and eat at McDonald’s!” Then they reminded me that McDonald’s has milk shakes. Case closed.

Monday, Nov 21

Akoya, the last remaining Oyster other than Liberty, departed for Durban today. We made some invisible progress on our Genoa foil repair when Felipe, the boat repair expert from Mauritius, arrived on a Leopard 53 power cat and docked in front of us. He examined the damaged foil and made arrangements to return on Thursday when we think we will have the new foil section. Keep your fingers crossed for a Friday departure. Besides the small flurry of activity with Akoya’s departure and Felipe’s arrival, it looked like a marina version of the Culhanes on the boat today. We just needed a harmonica and a hound dog.

Tuesday, Nov 22

Dodo Palme is the dive shop in this marina. (Apparently dodos lived on La Reunion as well as on Mauritius.) Joe and I walked down the dock to the shop to see about diving while we are waiting for The Part. “Oui,” they said but they don’t take credit cards or foreign currency, only Euros. No problem , we thought, we will go to an ATM machine. “Where is the nearest ATM?” we asked. They gave us the address of a “close” one—in town. Well, close is a relative term. We walked 3 1/2 miles round trip and now we have Euros.

Wednesday, Nov 23

Work in the morning, play in the afternoon. We motored out to sea to dump our holding tanks and came back to the fuel dock to fill up before The Part arrives. With the other 18 Oysters gone the dock was mostly empty, so we moved down closer to the marina office. The primary benefit of the move was greater proximity to the wifi router at the marina office. Wifi should be much more reliable now.

Play time consisted of scuba diving. We suited up with long wet suits, BCD vests, tanks, etc. and took our places on the dive boat. Joe and I and a French guy who was born in Sacramento formed a team of dive buddies with Lauren, one of the dive masters who spoke English fairly well. We saw two big sea turtles and lots of pretty fish. The dive was gentle, not very deep, and peaceful.

When we got back to the boat, I detected a somewhat somber mood. Alex dropped the bad news on us: The shipment of The Part was bungled by Oyster. It will not arrive in La Reunion yesterday as we were first told, or tomorrow as we were told later, but on Saturday, 3 days from now. When will we get it in our hands? Maybe Monday. When will we finally leave for Durban? Maybe next Tuesday. We could have sailed halfway to Durban by now using the staysail, main and spinnaker. But we were told to expect The Part last Tuesday.

Travelogue by Larry Calliouet

“The Scenery Never Changes: Sailing to Mauritius”

Friday, Oct 21

We exited Cocos Keeling lagoon and set our sails for the long downwind passage. Our first waypoint is at a bearing of 256 degrees—over 2300 miles away. This is the second longest passage of the Oyster World Rally, next only to the Galapagos to Marquesas passage that Crosby, Stills & Nash sang about in “Southern Cross.” Our start was exciting only because we were at sea again. The weather forecasters lied about about the good winds we’re supposed to have. Sometimes they were pretty good but often they were so light we had to assist our sails with the engine just to keep up the pace and our self-respect.

Saturday, Oct 22

I nursed the boat through light winds on my night watch. When I came up for my morning watch, the engine was running and we were staying respectable. Alex suggested we fly the spinnaker so we set up snatch blocks and got out a tack line and a spinnaker sheet. We raised the spinnaker in its sock and then opened it up. 2000 square feet of red, white, and blue nylon filled the air in a fitting salute to Liberty. There is nothing prettier than a big full spinnaker.

As beautiful as the spinnaker was, it didn’t bring our boat speed up to an acceptable level. Trying to sail a heavy boat on 8 knots of wind is what my grandmother would call trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. It just can’t be done. So we continued motor-sailing but now we looked beautiful.

Using the resources of the B&G instruments onboard, I’ve learned something about ocean wind that I never knew. I have always thought of ocean wind as steady compared to the changeable and fickle lake winds. Not so. Although wind speeds did not vary much over the course of a few minutes, wind direction varied considerably. It constantly moved fore and aft against the boat, never staying at exactly the same point for more than a few seconds. At times it would shift 40 degrees in 15 minutes. So it is more accurate to think of ocean winds (plural) than ocean wind.

Sunday, Oct 23

My first watch was 3-6 am. The Southern Cross was peeking over the horizon to the south of us and continued to be lifted up in the black night sky. Behind us a bright orange sliver of the waning moon was rising as the earth rolled toward it. Soon the orange slice became a bright white smile in the sky. As the peachy dawn sky began to emerge from the night, littered this morning with furry black clouds, the stars began clocking out. The Southern Cross was the last to end its watch over us.

After my watch I got unencumbered from my PFD, tether, foulies, and headlamp and went to my cabin to get some rest. Soon the circus began. Two squalls hit the boat and turned the forward cabin into a bouncey house. I didn’t get much rest but it was fun!

The bouncing lasted all day. Winds were 20-30 knots, mostly around 24-26. The sea developed into swells and troughs of 6-12 feet. These ran parallel to our course so we rode up over most of them but some would hit the boat with a bang and a splatter. Walking through the boat became a challenge.

Mr. Wind played a sucker trick on me during my second watch. It decreased steadily from 25 to 15 knots over a period of 15 minutes. This convinced me that the easing was not a momentary fluke, so I fully opened the main and Genoa. Before I could sit back down the wind shot up to 26 knots, so I had to scramble to shorten sail again. All in a day’s work.

Monday, Oct 24

The wind is down around 20 kts this morning, but the seas are also down, so we shook a reef out of the Genoa. This improved boat speed without adding to heeling. Or maybe heeling just feels less in the daylight when you can see the world outside the boat.

The Indian Ocean is the Big Lonely. There is virtually nobody out here but us. With our eyes we can see a boat up to 5 miles away. A 5-mile radius creates a surface area of almost 80 square miles. With AIS we can see other sailboats up to 10 miles away. A 10 mile radius creates an ocean area of 314 square miles. Big cargo vessels and tankers have a more powerful AIS signal so we can see them 50 miles away, sometimes farther. A 50-mile radius creates an area of almost 8000 square miles. There are no boats within 50 miles of us so we are surrounded by 8000 square miles, or more, of nobody. By comparison, Warren County, Kentucky, where I live is only ___ square miles but has ___ people. Hence, the Big Lonely.

Tuesday, Oct 25

The wind was shifting more aft so we thought it would be good to set the pole for a day of downwind sailing with the Genoa poled out to port and the main prevented to starboard. Uh-oh! That sound was the Harken cast metal fitting on the mast end of the pole shattering. I was holding the outboard end of the pole; the inboard end fell and was caught between the starboard shroud and the running backstay. No one was hurt, just a scratch on the pole, but now we can’t use it and we still have 1650 miles of downwind sailing to Mauritius.

Strong winds all day. 191 nautical miles.

My 1800-2100 watch was busy. I kept one eye on the radar and the other on the wind graph. I saw a couple of squalls ahead of us on the radar, but they dissipated before we reached them. Winds shifted like crazy but kept us flying.

Wednesday, Oct 26

30 knots of wind was a gust yesterday but today it’s close to the norm. I mostly saw 26-30 knots, sometimes 32. We were carrying 3 reefs in the main and 2+ in the Genoa and sailing 8-9 knots. Liberty weaves and bobs with the punches of winds and waves like a champion prize fighter, a Sugar Ray Leonard of the sea.

60 home runs. The 4-minute mile. The 200-mile day. Baseball, track, and sailing have these nice round numbers that are the standards of excellence, targets for performance. We hit ours today at 11:29 pm., 30 minutes to spare. We had chased it all day and knew we were on pace or even a little ahead, but we knew the fickle wind could change any minute and leave us so frustratingly short of our mark. I had the last watch of the day, 2100-0000, so I knew I would be the goat if we failed to reach 200. I knew that the outcome was mostly out of my hands—it was wind speed, wind direction, and current that held the winning hand—so I mostly watched, hoped, and made minor adjustments. At midnight we had sailed 204.2 nautical miles since the previous midnight. Tomorrow we would try again.

Thursday, Oct 27

Due to crossing into a new time zone, which was one hour earlier than the previous zone, we had 25 hours between midnight and midnight. A bonus for another 200 mile day? No, it wasn’t meant to be. Still 196 miles at 7.9 knots is a very good day’s run.

I had 3 good sailors with me

Who set sail across the sea.

“Rub a dub dub . . .”

I said to the Club,

“This is true Liberty!”

Friday, Oct 28

On the midnight watch I channeled my inner Polynesian. I covered the chart plotter and 3 of the instruments at the companionway. Boat speed was all I left showing and I covered this with my hand. With all these lighted instruments covered I could see the night sky better. Stars became my reference points. My ears could hear the changes in wind speed. My body could feel the changes in heading. This was almost Polynesian sailing. It may not have been as efficient as micromanaging the sophisticated electronic instruments, but it was happy sailing.

The Green Flash is famous with the setting sun. There is a morning sun phenomenon that I will call the Green Splash. When the morning sun is still rising and a wave top rises to a thin crest, the sun lights up a neon emerald ribbon across that crest. What a a beautiful Green Splash!

The moon’s smile is getting bigger each night. Tonight a cloud covered a small part of it, giving it a snagged-toothed appearance.

Saturday, Oct 29

On my 0300 watch clouds covered the stars so my inner Polynesian took the night off. It was just me and Otto. By my 1200 watch the seas were becoming calmer and although the winds were only upper teens and lower 20’s, the boat was achieving remarkable speeds in the 8-9 knot range. We were taking a Magic Carpet Ride—the ocean current was aligning with our course over ground and giving us a free boost of 1-2 knots. Gotta love it!

By my 2100 watch the waxing quarter moon was hanging in the sky right in front of the boat, smiling down on us like a big Cheshire Cat. It lit a silvery path across the water just ahead of us. Nice job, Mr. Moon!

Sunday, Oct 30

The wind lessened and backed too far aft

for us to continue on a broad reach, so we gybed and headed northwest. Although this gave us a better sailing angle, it was not very effective for velocity made good, but it put us in a better position to gybe again and resume our westerly course. The frustrating part of it is that if we had had the use of the spinnaker pole, it would have given us our best option of poling out the Genoa and sailing directly downwind. We still have over 600 miles to go downwind.

Today is Sunday on the boat but it doesn’t feel like it. The sun came up and we kept sailing. The sun went down and we kept sailing. I miss the punctuation of special days and special events. Fortunately I have music of the Christ Church Choir on my iPod.

Monday, Oct 31

It was a slow news day on Liberty. Slow wind, slow boat, slow news. Speeds that were woeful a few days ago were welcome today. We got excited every time the boat hit 7 knots. The ocean gets a lot bigger at 6 knots than at 8.

On this the 11th day of the Cocos to Mauritius passage I saw the second boat so far, a heavily loaded container ship. This is life in the Big Lonely.

Tuesday, Nov 1

The winds continued to bedevil us—just a little too much to fly the spinnaker but not enough to give us the speed we wanted for a fast broad reach. Fortunately we have 25 hours today. We crossed into the Mauritius time zone and set our clocks back one hour.

On my night watch we passed 29 miles north of the little known island of Rodrigues (pronounced Rodreegs), a territory of Mauritius. I had hoped to stop there, because I’ve heard that it is beautiful, but we still have plenty of beautiful ahead of us.

The half moon’s crooked smile and the clear night sky revealed the 360 degree horizon all around us and highlighted the rise and fall of the bow against the patch of silver in front of us. This is what night sailing should be.

Wednesday, Nov 2

The weather which had been rather listless for a couple of days came to life after midnight. Squalls hit the boat during the midnight to 0300 watch and again during the 0300-0600 watch. By the time my watch began at 0600 the cockpit was still wet but the skies were clearing up. Good timing.

A flying fish flew into the cockpit and landed on a seat cushion. It fluttered its wings and managed to jump out of the cockpit onto the deck, but there it seemed to give up its struggle. I reached out to pick it up and when I touched it, it gave one more frantic flutter of its wings and found the ocean again. Lucky fish—he will have an adventure in the strange world above the water to tell his friends about!

Thursday, Nov 3

We are one day out of Mauritius and have finally reached the shipping lanes. When I came on watch at midnight there were 5 merchant vessels visible by AIS, equaling the entire number I’ve seen in the past 12 days. The lights of one were visible in the night 4 miles away.

The morning wind and sky looked perfect for the spinnaker so we called all hands on deck. With a spinnaker there are endless ways to get lines tangled up and once the spinnaker opens it’s like letting a tiger out of a cage—very hard to get it back down for a do-over. We made sure everything was correct and that all four of us were properly positioned for the grand opening. What a glorious sight to see a red, white, and blue sail the size of a 3-bedroom ranch house fill the sky over our heads! What a shame that there was not a boat in sight of us all day to see how beautiful we were.

Friday, Nov 4

Land ho! When I came on watch at 0300 the lights of Mauritius were strung across the horizon. It was the first land I had seen in two weeks and the lights were evidence of a far more developed place than Cocos Keeling or Gili Gede.

An island named Gunner’s Coin sat a couple of miles north of Mauritius and we sailed north of it. Gunner’s is uninhabitable so its black profile was unmistakable as it blocked the lights of Mauritius. Its sharp rising silhouette could easily be mistaken for Diamond Head or Gibraltar.

Mauritius has a beautiful waterfront, but a rather small harbor for non-commercial boats. 20 large Oyster sailboats plus a couple of catamarans filled the harbor so full that half of the Oysters had to raft alongside the other half of the fleet. Oh, well, we are all friends.