From Greg O’ Brien – Some Club History and a tip of the hat to Lee Huddleston

Hi Gary,

Thank you for your prompt response.  The race invite is attached, along with a letter about some road work.  My dad Les O’Brien and my family liked a musical called “The Fantasticks”.  In it there’s a teenager who says “I’m 16, and every day something happens to me.”  My dad said that POYC was like that at the time, quickly growing and changing.  The club had a good time, at POYC and away from it.  Dracula served Bloody Marys at a club Halloween party, a burning boat was set adrift in a Viking ceremony when the new commodore was elected, with the former commodore aboard (or what looked like him, wrapped in a cloth), and Lee Huddleston received fishing waders as a gag gift because his bottom so often got wet sailing his Y Flyer.  Bill Davis oversaw the Viking ceremony, his son played French horn from the dark woods when he called to Odin, and Jim Phillips was the outgoing commodore.

Best wishes to you and the club for a happy New Year!  Please give my regards to Lee Huddleston.

Kind regards,


Travelogue #9, Dec 20-30 “Eyes on the Prize: Rounding the Capes” by Larry Caillouet

“Eyes on the Prize: Rounding the Capes”

In baseball one of the most daring and exciting plays is the squeeze bunt. The runner takes off from third base with the pitch. The batter bunts the ball away from home plate to give the runner time to slide into home before the ball can be fielded and thrown to the catcher. It has to work just right to succeed. If the batter misses the ball or bunts it too hard, the runner will be tagged out at the plate.

My squeeze bunt is sailing to Cape Town with only a narrow window of opportunity to reach Cape Town in time to fly home for Christmas. If everything goes well, it takes 3 days to sail from from Port Elizabeth or 4 days from East London. If we are delayed by bad weather, fueling, clearing Customs and Immigration, or other unforeseen problems or if I have a problem getting an affordable flight out of Cape Town, I might get tagged out at home.

Paraphrasing Bing Crosby,’s wartime hit:
🎵Will I be home for Christmas?
Can you count on me?🎵

We will soon find out.

Tuesday, Dec 20
I was surprised last night when I saw the lights of South Africa and we were still 25 miles from shore. Now I know why. The land rises quickly from the shore and the towns and settlements are built at the crest, not down at the shoreline. When I saw the land for the first time by daylight I immediately thought how pretty it is, verdantly green with patches of dark green trees making patterns on the brighter green fields.

One of my favorite movies features Kurt Russell as Cap’n Ron, a charming but dodgy rent-a-captain. When the owner’s wife expressed concern about safe passage in the rickety old boat they had inherited, Cap’n Ron assured her, “If anything is going to happen, it’s going to happen out there!” He was right. It did.

We started today heading south with the wind blowing north. Not ideal, but we could motor against the 12 knot breeze and still make good progress. By early morning the wind increased to 25 knots and the seas got steeper with short period. I hand steered to try to hit the waves in a way to minimize the splash of pounding directly into them, but the big waves still sprayed water all over the boat and slowed our speed. By afternoon the wind was in the mid to upper 30’s and our progress became agonizingly slow, mostly 3 to 3.5 knots, sometimes only 2 knots. A rough division of miles to the entrance of the next harbor by 3 was not encouraging. When we finally turned toward the harbor and got favorable current behind us we could do 5 or 5.5 knots.

In the midst of all this I noticed two white seabirds flying in long graceful circles over the water and occasionally diving to catch a fish. They seemed to not be bothered by the rough weather. I guess they don’t have any paid leave in their line of work. It’s “Give us this day our daily fish.”

We ducked into East London just after rain ended and just before dark. The commodore of the East London Yacht Club had arranged for a fuel truck to come out to refuel us. The operator and his wife took our lines and helped us get secured on a long high dock wall. We will clear in tomorrow morning and I think the weather will allow us to go on to Cape Town without any more stops.

Wednesday, Dec 21
We thought we had taken care of our Customs and Immigration process and had cast off all but the last dock line when we got a call that C&I wanted to do do some paperwork at our boat. So we secured the boat to the dock again, did the paperwork, and cast off about an hour later than we had expected.

It looked like a perfect sailing day as we left East London—blue skies, puffy white clouds, good wind, and nearly flat seas. Nevertheless, a weather report warned us of changes us as the day went by, so we were eager to put some miles behind us.

We sailed out far enough to get in the Agulhas Current and when we got 3 knots of current we turned south toward Port Elizabeth. The wind had backed and was now at the stern instead of at the bow as it was yesterday. We were using only the mainsail and had to reef it more and more as the wind built. This is where a sail that furls into the mast proves to be very useful. Wind picks up— roll the sail in another 10% or so.

As night fell the wind had increased to 35-38 knots and we had reduced the mainsail to less than half of its full size. We were making over 9 knots with only a scrap of a sail. I saw the boat hit 10 knots a few times. Frankly, this was scarier sailing than the previous day plowing into big waves. If you want to have a similar experience, try this: Go out on the interstate on a moonless night. Set the cruise control on 75 mph. Then turn the headlights off! Leave them off for at least 5 seconds. Then turn the lights back on and proceed as you normally would so that your heart rate can return to normal.

The chart plotter showed the locations and courses of several boats around us, some going our direction and some the opposite way. The AIS showed that none were near us or likely to come close until a cargo ship named Double Delight appeared on the screen. It was coming directly toward us at 11 knots. Add our 9 knots to it and we were closing on each other at 20 knots. AIS showed it coming as close as .16 mile. That’s 845 feet and way too close for comfort. I called the officer on watch on the VHF radio and requested that he alter course since we had limited maneuverability. He agreed and altered course 12 degrees to starboard. We passed port to port one mile apart.

Thursday, Dec 22
We arrived at Port Elizabeth about an hour after sunrise. That was good timing because it’s much better and safer to enter a new harbor in the daytime. The commodore of the Nelson Mandela Bay Yacht Club was waiting for us on the dock. He took our lines and after boarding the boat gave us a good orientation to the harbor, the city, and interesting activities in the area. Two African animal parks are nearby.

We docked against a long concrete dock wall that was built for the fishing boats. It was a busy and interesting environment. Joe walked down the dock with me explaining the equipment on various types of the big commercial fishing boats. Many of the workers nodded or said hello to us as we passed by. Some stopped at our boat to see what we were and say hello. Fancy blue water cruising sailboats are a rarity on this dock. One seaman from Egypt was especially friendly; we enjoyed talking with him as he was overseeing the unloading of fish from the 100-foot fishing boat on the dock behind us and the loading of ice for the next fishing excursion.

After the strenuous passage to East London and Port Elizabeth, the main activity we were interested in was sleeping. We all woke in time to walk to a nearby restaurant, the Black Impala, for dinner.

Friday, Dec 23
We all had lunch at a restaurant overlooking the harbor. No one expressed much interest in a mini-safari, so I Ubered into town for a Thai massage while the others went to a nearby grocery store. The day turned rainy with the approaching storm so we just ate on the boat. A delightfully low key day.

Saturday, Dec 24.
Christmas Eve

Twas the night before Christmas
And all through the boat
Not a sailor was sleeping
We were too much awoke

The crew checked their lists
Preparing with care
In hopes that fair weather
Soon would be there

Past Lizzie, past Seal Point, past Plettenberg Bay,
Past Mossel, past Beaufort, past Agulhas Cape
To the end of the land
To the Cape Town landfall
 Now sail away, sail away, sail away all!

Sunday, Dec 25.
Christmas Day!

We had a wonderful Christmas Eve dinner at Hussar’s Grille and woke early on Christmas Day to prepare the boat before our 8 am departure. Everything checked out until we turned on the instruments and discovered that the wind speed and wind direction instrument was not working. It hadn’t given us any problem previously and was working when we docked at Port Elizabeth 3 days ago. Boats! It’s always sompting! Even though we knew that we could motor all the way to Cape Town, wind data is important for speed, comfort, and safety. There was a spare anemometer on board so we tested it and then hoisted Joe up the mast to install it. This is familiar territory for Joe; he has been up to the top of Liberty’s 76-foot mast at least a half dozen times on this voyage. Success! It worked, and at noon we set sail.

Actually we set rpm. The wind was very light and directly on our nose. In other words, useless. So we motored.

Monday, Dec 26
Still motoring against a light headwind, we rounded the long anticipated Cape Agulhas and gave it a wide berth, about 6 miles. (I would have cut it closer for better photos, but that decision was above my pay grade.) Seas continued to be benign, long 2-3 foot swells off the port bow. Current gave us a half knot boost. Wind was 12 knots smack on the nose so we continued motoring.

Tuesday, Dec 27
If I was a little disappointed that rounding the Cape was so anticlimactically easy, it partly made up for it going up the west Coast. The wind was still unfavorable so we motored on. Waves were bigger and stronger and on our nose so we lost about 2 knots of speed while still motoring 2000 RPM. Every time we calculated a likely time of arrival in Cape Town, it turned out to be wrong. The weather changes a lot around the capes of South Africa, so the forecasts are rather tentative.

Wednesday, Dec 28
We crossed the mouth of False Bay—actually it is a real bay, so only its name is false—and rounded the Cape Of Good Hope. This is the cape that is usually mentioned when the great capes of the world are discussed. Cape Agulhas is more prominent and is the literal southern tip of Africa, but it seems to be the Rodney Dangerfield of the capes—it don’t get no respect among anyone but sailors.

After we rounded this cape and headed north, the seas smoothed out and our speed increased. We made landfall at Cape Town an hour after sunrise and it was spectacular. Table Mountain towers over the city and totally dominates the horizon and skyline. Tall buildings look Lilliputian in front of it.

The harbor itself is beautiful. The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront Marina is surrounded by a complex of high rise luxury residences, 5-star hotels, upscale shopping and restaurants, and elegant office buildings. Rows of expensive private yachts complete the picture. Adding a playful note to our arrival, seals frolicked in the marina’s waters and big fat sea lions lying on a dock barked continually at nothing in particular.

After we docked and secured the boat, several people from the other Oysters stopped to welcome us. Some brought gifts. I think they were aware of the problems we had been dealing with. Even if they didn’t know the particulars, they could see that we were still in Reunion when they were already docked in Cape Town.

After a short rest, I was ready to see Cape Town since I had only 36 hours before my flight home. Dana, a crew member from another Oyster had stopped by Liberty to say hello to Carmel. She was ready to go to Table Mountain and so was I, so we teamed up and called a taxi. Traffic going there was thick. In fact, when we arrived our taxi was blocked from entering because the park was full. We paid our driver and got out and walked up to the ticket area. Yes, it was full but we could wait in a line for 2-3 hours and take the cable car up to the top. Or we could hike up one of the several trails that go to the top. That would take about 2.5 hours. Or we could pay double for a Fast Pass ticket and ride the cable car up in about 10-15 minutes. We chose what was behind Door Three.

The top of Table Mountain is as amazing as its sheer face is impressive. A huge variety of plants grow there in its unique ecosystem including shrubs, trees, ground covers, and flowers. Some of them grow only there; in fact, one of the six kingdoms of flora grows only on the top of Table Mountain. In addition to lizards, snakes, and birds, there is an animal living there that is about the size of a Guinea pig but is most closely related to the elephant. I didn’t see it.

After we came down we got in a taxi to go back to the marina. I had talked about hoping to see the penguins at Boulder Beach so Dana asked the driver how long it would take and what it would cost to go there. The driver said it would be 1600 Rand or $100 to take us there, wait for us, and then take us to the marina. I was a bit surprised at the price, but this would be my only opportunity to see the little tuxedoed waddlers and I knew it was about 40 miles round trip, so I agreed.

The penguins are a big attraction. Hundreds of people were there gawking and taking photos, just like me. The penguins didn’t seem to mind. They went on about their business—swimming, fishing, sunning, nesting, and waddling. We saw a few juvenile penguins but none freshly hatched. These were the stars of the Netflix series “Penguin Town” and, in the words of Buck Owens and Ringo Starr, “all they have to do is act naturally.”

Thursday, Dec 29
I had planned to pack and then ride the Hop On, Hop Off double decker city sightseeing bus before my flight home, but packing turned out to be a much bigger job than I had imagined. I had four months of light and heavy clothing, foul weather gear, medicines for a variety of possible maladies, cameras and electronics, and souvenirs. This called for my finest, most patient, most innovative packing. Solid things had to fit inside hollow things like shoes and water bottles. I managed to get 51 pounds into my rolling duffel and filled every cubic inch of it. With 26 pounds in my smaller duffel, 24 pounds in my back pack, jacket tied around my waist, neck pillow riding on my neck, Australian croc hat on my head and passport in my pocket I was prepared. And exhausted. Fatigue overcame my desire to do any more sightseeing. I called a taxi and went to the airport to get some rest.

Friday, Dec 30: Epilogue
27 hours later I arrived home—10 days after the flight I had originally scheduled, and 2 days after my rescheduled flight. Seeing the Australian Outback, sailing along the Great Barrier Reef, seeing the Komodo dragons, visiting Bali and some remote and far away islands, crossing the Indian Ocean, rounding the Cape, and visiting South Africa were truly a hoot—but I’m glad to be home again.

Travelogue #8, Dec 10-19 “Into Africa” by Larry Caillouett

Saturday, Dec 10

With a tip of my cap to Willie Nelson’s signature “On the Road Again.”

🎵 On the sea again – 

Just can’t wait to get on the sea again. 

The life I love is sailing oceans with my friends 

And I can’t wait to get back out at sea again.

On the sea again 

Goin’ places that I’ve never been

Seein’ things that I may never see again 

And I can’t wait to get out on the sea again. 🎵

Today was the Big Day. We finally set sail for Africa. Well, Mauritius and La Reunion are counted as African countries in terms of proximity and tectonic plates, but people who speak French and drive Peugeots and bring fresh baguettes home every day—that’s not what usually comes to mind when you say “going to Africa.” We are finally on our way to continental Africa.

La Reunion is so tall that it casts a long wind shadow. “Setting rpm” is a more accurate description than setting sail, but I’ll take it. Either way. When we finally escaped Reunion’s last efforts to hold us longer, we got back to what ocean sailing should be—boat heeled to leeward 10-15 degrees, sails filled out in graceful curves, bow slicing through waves like a hot knife through butter, sounds of water lapping at the hull, and the rhythmic gentle gallup of the boat toward the horizon.

On my 9 pm watch the moon came up big and round and orange straight behind the boat, its gleam across the water like a tail on a kite. Clouds soon choked it, but the tenacious moon fought back and broke through again and again. This was no quitter moon. Eventually it conquered the clouds and became a bright beacon in the sky casting shadows over the boat.

A seabird made several attempts to hitch a ride at the stern of the boat. I thought it had given up until I caught a glimpse of him perched on a midships stanchion. This is not where birds usually try to land because there isn’t much to hold onto. This bird may be familiar with the Allies’ D-day strategy of landing where the Germans knew was a terribly difficult and therefore unlikely beachhead. I admired his grit and decided to let him ride. If he had to spend the night perched on an ocean wave, he could have become a shark appetizer.

Sunday, Dec 11

What a busy morning! I came on watch at 6 am. Alex had examined the forestay and found that it was too loose. It had a bit of sag in it despite the mast showing some rake. So Alex and Joe went to the bow to tighten the forestay while I stayed at the helm. We secured both spinnaker halyards to a shackle on the anchor roller and released pressure on the hydraulic backstay. Joe tightened the adjustment at the furler motor with an oil filter wrench, not the correct tool for this job but it worked pretty well. We returned the spinnaker halyards to their usual place and retensioned the backstay.

While we were all up and the wind was light, it was a good time to set the spinnaker pole to windward so we could pole out the genoa for downwind sailing. We can do this now that our spinnaker pole fitting was repaired in Mauritius and our genoa foil was repaired in La Reunion. Alex and Joe adjusted the pole height while I controlled the foreguy and afterguy. All these lines get complex so we had to reroute them several times to get them right. We opened the genoa to port, prevented the main far forward to starboard, and set the staysail between them. All of this was before 8:30.

By noon the wind had become so feeble that it didn’t matter how we set our sails. Reluctantly we started the engine and began motor sailing across a relatively flat sea.

Monday, Dec 12

My day started early on the midnight to 3 am watch. We were sailing again without the engine and making 7 to 8 knots. We had been watching a cargo ship named Lucy Ocean getting closer and closer to us. It crossed ahead of us about 2 miles away and then we were alone on the ocean again. Three more cargo ships passed close by later in the day so we must be in the shipping lane.

This is trade winds sailing. The boat is balanced and sailing downwind with little heeling. We glance over at the chart plotter now and then to make sure no freighter will be bearing down on us. It’s Culhane time on Liberty.

On my night watch I went to the aft deck to look up at the black night sky. The stars were spectacular! I think the Greeks were on the wacky weed when they imagined elaborate constellations in the stars, but it’s easy to see why the stars held such fascination for them.

Tuesday, Dec 13

After a small rainstorm passed through, the wind moved forward on port beam. Our sails were set completely wrong for that, so I furled the genoa and opened it on starboard for a broad reach and moved the boom aft. With wind in the low 20’s the boat hit its stride around 8 knots.

Alex had set a waypoint at about 100 miles off the tip of Madagascar. We decided to cut the corner and save some mileage. This might bring us into stronger winds also. It definitely brought us into the shipping lanes. At one time we could see four 1000-foot freighters or tankers heading northeast toward us while we were sailing southwest. It felt like being on a one way street going the wrong way.

Wednesday, Dec 14

The wind moved aft so we went back to sailing wing-and-wing. Waves and swells were 3-9 feet and were hitting the boat on its port quarter, so when a wave hit the boat it would roll to starboard and then yaw back to port. Winds were in the mid to upper 20’s so we were making good speed around 8 knots, but the rolling made tasks difficult. Nothing would stay where we put it, so hold on to your plate if you don’t want to eat off the floor. Anywhere else but here my walking motion would be a sure sign of intoxication.

We passed the tip of Madagascar at Cape St. Marie as I came on my afternoon watch. We were sailing our deepest angles of 170-180 degrees and making 8-9 knots on 20-25 knots of wind assisted by 2 knots of current partially aligned with our course. Seas had flattened somewhat so this was textbook ocean sailing. At dinner time we reached the halfway point between La Reunion and Durban.

Thursday, Dec 15

The Southern Cross greeted me when I came up for my midnight watch and the moon peeked out from a cloud to say hello. It’s good to have friends in high places.

During my watch the wind backed 10 degrees making it impossible to maintain our course to Durban without jibing, something we aren’t going to attempt at night. That would require one or two crew on deck to remove the port running backstay, remove the starboard preventer on the boom, center the traveler, change course to move the boom over to port side, set a port preventer, set the starboard running backstay, and lower the traveler. Not on a bouncing sea at night.

And that doesn’t even include taking the spinnaker pole down, resetting it to the other side, and rerunning all the lines. That’s an ordeal of its own. So now the course that the wind set for us is toward Port Elizabeth. I would rather go there than Durban anyway, but weather considerations in the next 24-36 hours will make that determination.

We have a following sea. When a big swell or wave comes up behind us, it lifts Liberty’s stern and shoves us forward. We gain one to one and a half knots with the push, and when the wave passes under us our speed falls back.

Friday, Dec 16

The weather changed our plans. It is forecast that a storm coming up the coast of South Africa will cause the seas offshore from Durban to be very rough when we were to arrive there. We would have to either slow down or heave to in order to allow the storm to pass. We decided to change our course to East London 250 miles down the coast from Durban. We will use our time to make progress instead of stalling to get into Durban. If the weather is good when we approach East London, we will sail past it to Port Elizabeth, 150 miles further south. Sailing in cantankerous weather requires juggling multiple options.

Speaking of cantankerous, that’s our wind. It has backed so far behind us that we are sometimes sailing by the lee with the wind coming slightly from our starboard side while our sails are set for port winds. We have a strong preventer on the boom so we are not worried about an accidental gybe, but we don’t want to sail very deep by the lee. So our course is farther south than we would like, but we have no choice until we can do a controlled jibe in daylight.

Well, it didn’t take long for the wind to force our hand. Around 7:30 am a huge wind shift had us scrambling to jibe the boom and spinnaker pole. We are still sailing almost dead downwind, but on starboard now instead of our usual port tack. This is forcing us up above the East London rhumb line. Our course may change several more times before we make landfall somewhere on the coast of South Africa.

Saturday, Dec 17

Another pretty day in the Indian Ocean with blue skies and white clouds. The wind is telling us to go to Port Elizabeth by backing around from the east to the north. If we maintain a constant wind angle, this guides the boat farther to the south. But the low pressure front heading toward us will have the last word on that.

If you can’t think of any reason to go to sea in a small boat, let me offer you one: the sparkles of the night. Far from the light pollution of civilization you can see God’s handiwork in all its glory in the sky. The brighter stars demand your attention. The dimmer ones draw you into their depth. And when you finish marveling at the sparkles above you, look down to the wake churning off the boat and see the fire sparks of bioluminescence in the ocean as the phytoplanktons complain about being disturbed.

Sunday, Dec 18

The night was very dark with winds in the mid 20’s, seas building, but no rain. We generally had two crew up at all times. About an hour before my 9am watch I became aware of the boat pounding into the waves. Sometimes it sounded like the boat was landing on rocks. Joe and Alex were driving the boat hard.

My cabin is in the bow so it has more motion than the rest of the boat. Some people say that they can’t sleep with all that movement, but it’s rock-a-bye-baby to me. When the bow is climbing a wave, I can feel a gentle pressure sinking me into the foam mattress under me. When the wave is crested and the bow loses its support, I experience semi-weightlessness until I press into my mattress again and get ready for the next surge upward. I think a bird in a nest on a limber tree branch may enjoy the same ride. But without the landing on rocks.

We had marked two rhumb lines on the chart plotter, one to East London and one to Port Elizabeth, 140 miles farther south. We had hoped that the wind would let us go to Port Elizabeth but yesterday morning it pushed us toward the East London course. As I came on watch this morning it drove us over the East London rhumb line and the most southerly course we could sail was due west. We are expecting the wind to shift to the east and let us turn south. If not, when we reach the Agulhas current, it will take us south unless a northerly wind like the present one makes that passage untenable. As with many things in life, timing is critical.

Monday, Dec 19

It was a golden daybreak. The sky was softly colored with gold and the myriad facets of the sea surface reflected the gold back to the sky. This was a full half hour before the sun made its official entrance into the day. By that time the sky’s gold had faded into a soft blue, a sensible color that announced that the day was open for business.

This was the day I had booked my flight home from Cape Town. I cancelled it before leaving Reunion when I saw there was no chance of reaching Cape Town in time for my flight. I’ll have to find another flight when I get there.

🎵All I want for Christmas is

To be at home

To be at home

To be at home

All I want for Christmas is

To be at home

So I can wish you Merry Christmas!🎵

On my morning watch I finessed the light wind with small changes in heading until the wind was too light to finesse and too light to matter. We started the engine and set a course for Mbashe Point, 70 miles north of East London to take advantage of the strong Agulhas Current which is approximately 60 miles wide and runs south at about 4 knots.

Land ho! The light of the towns on the east coast of South Africa became visible at about 25 miles from the coast and became brighter and fuller as we continued toward Mbashe Point. When we were about 7 miles from the shore we turned south to follow the coastline to East London. Depending on the weather we may sail on past East London to Port Elizabeth.

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 , 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. 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.” 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

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.