From There to Here … Into the Indian & on to Africa

From There to Here … Into the Indian & on to Africa

There's always a bit of regret when we leave a place we've enjoyed and been comfortable. There's always a bit of apprehension mixed with anticipation and exhilaration as we haul anchor and head out of a harbor and across a vast ocean. What's out there? How will the weather be? What will break this time? How long will it take us?

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Crossing the Indian Ocean - Cocos to Rodrigues

days 1-3 cocos to rodrigues map  

Day 1 Miles to go: 1994

With a mild 3-day forecast of 15-knot winds and fair weather, we reluctantly headed out of our gorgeous Cocos lagoon and back into the wilds of the Indian Ocean. We were all prepared with our custom, shortened whisker pole ready and rigged, but within an hour, the wind had switched more southerly and we were main, Yankee and staysail all full tooling along in the mid-6's, the southeast swell keeping the ride a bit rocky.

The low-lying Cocos were out of sight within 10 miles and we once again sang our usual  "On the Road Again" classic as we continued our western passage. Our hard fought northerly progress of a couple of weeks ago will be slowly relinquished as we head WSW (255M) on a route that will eventually lead us to the small island of Rodrigues, formerly French-owned and now a dependency of Mauritius.

The sun set about 6pm, making for a long night. The night watches, however, weren't very stressful. No traffic, the wind remained steady, and the night was mild and clear. A good first day at sea.

Day 2 Miles run last 24 hours:  139; Miles to go:  1838

A pair of boobies followed us for miles today, alternately fishing and eyeing Cups for a good landing spot. They didn't appear successful at either venture and near dusk, they disappeared. Sometime during David's first watch, a booby did manage to land on the solar panels and spent the night resting, preening and pooping. We have a strict No Hitchhikers -No Stowaway policy on Nine of Cups, but it wasn't posted and evidently this fellow thought it was perfectly fine and fair to hang out for awhile, rest and empty his bowels frequently.

We took some pix when he first landed, just in case he headed off without a farewell. He was still there, however, at my 6am watch. I moved closer and closer with the camera, snapping away as I went. When I was inches away, he gave me an odd look, but expressed neither fear nor interest in my presence. I noted two flying fish on deck and I guess if I was a good host, I should have offered them to our guest, but I didn't, thinking of the additional excrement I'd be cleaning up.

Boobies, in case you're unfamiliar with them, are about the size of a medium duck, with a long, thick, pointed beak and a wonderfully streamlined body that makes them expert divers. They dive from extreme heights and hit the water at breakneck speed like a bullet. They were named "bobos" (stupid) by Spanish sailors because they were so easy to catch and were regularly fooled by lures on fishing lines. Our fellow is brown-backed with a white belly and the reddest pair of webbed feet you've ever seen ... hence a red-footed booby. We have a great photo on the Galapagos page of our website, if you'd like to see them diving.

My entertainment for the day was watching David try to shoo our hitchhiker away. The booby would take off with significant, up-close prodding and then be back before David could return to the cockpit. He'd be on return approach, in fact, before David could turn around ..Ready to land and launch a new load of poop. David dug out his old slingshot and armed with popcorn kernels, fired round after round with no effect, despite the fact he had hit his target. After several fruitless attempts to discourage our unwanted rider, ( I counted no less than 15, but lost count as I nearly peed my pants watching), David finally grabbed a line and swatted him which evidently delivered the right message to his tiny booby brain. He left in a huff and wasn't seen again.

Deck count for the day: 2 flying fish - 1 booby

Day 3 Miles run last 24 hours: 141; Miles to go: 1697

Squalls ...squalls....squalls! Our beautiful weather changed abruptly to squall after squall after squall. The gentle, warm 15 knot breezes morphed into 35 knot gusts and torrential downpours that soaked and saturated everything on deck and anything that didn't make it below on time. They came on suddenly during the night and whoosh warning, the skies opened up and dumped buckets...the wind blew through like a night train making up time and the seas were as confused as we were. As suddenly and as ferociously as it all began, all would calm down, only to begin again in another 15-20 minutes.

Neither of the crew relaxed. No off-watch sleeping was possible, leaving an exhausted pair by morning. As I stumbled into the sea berth at 0300, I was asleep before my head hit the pillow. David gave me an extra hour's sleep and I woke rested, but lame and brain-fogged. David assured me the squalls had continued while I slept, but my weary body was oblivious to it all. He wasted no time hitting the sack when I awoke and, like me earlier, was asleep in seconds.

Deck count:  3 flying fish

Ferry to West Island and Back

Cocos Keeling Islands – Indian Ocean

view from west island


It's almost time to leave the Cocos and we still hadn't taken the ferry to the other side of the lagoon to visit West Island. It's the ex-pat Australian side of the atoll, the Admin Center, the larger supermarket AND the place we needed to visit to check out and get our clearance papers. We consulted the ferry schedule and there were no ferries from Direction Island until Thursday, so we dinghied over to Home Island, tied the dinghy securely to the long pier and planned to catch the ferry from there.

As it turned out the Federal Police were on Home Island for the day and we were able to check out there which was quite convenient. It was a quick, efficient, painless procedure to get our clearance papers for Rodrigues and our passports stamped. Plenty of time to still catch the 10:30 ferry to West Island. We met up with some German cruising friends and boarded the ferry for the 20 minute ride, bought our tickets for $2.50 each and enjoyed a very old Tom & Jerry cartoon en route.


friends on ferry


I'm not sure what we expected West Island to be … the big smoke of the Cocos, I guess. We caught a mini-bus at the end of the jetty for a 7km ride into “town”. The supermarket took up a small portion of the Cocos Shop pre-fab facility … the other shops were closed. It didn't offer much more than the Shamrok market at Home Island. I bought a couple of onions, a cabbage and some apples … that was about it. We did see, however, “Bun Spice” which caught our attention. After a long passage, perhaps this might  be considered an essential.


bun spice


Though Wednesday was the big shopping day, nothing seemed open. We found the small Info Center and learned there were two places open for lunch … from 11:30 to 1pm only. We chose the more casual (and less expensive) Tropika which was a basic burger and chips kind of place with a lovely covered porch out back facing the ocean. The views were great. The food was mediocre, but David's “cheeseburger in Paradise” was just what the doctor ordered.


tripicka resuartant view


Other than a few souvenir items at the Info Center, there was nothing to buy. We indulged in a Magnum ice cream as we checked out the Cocos airport. The golf club is right next to the airport and evidently in order to play through all nine holes, the golfers must play across the runway.


airport golf


After looking at a few more pretty views, we settled down to wait 1-1/2 hours for the return bus to the ferry dock. We'd seen pretty much all we could see that was open and available here. Most of  West Island seems to be dedicated to tourism … motels, guest houses, car and sports equipment rentals, tours. Quite the disappointment. We had expected a bit more. Home Island with its resident Malay population offers more “village charm”. But, heck, you couldn't visit the Cocos without at least making a trip to West Island to make sure you weren't missing anything.


bus stop


We watched the ferry arriving just as we got off the bus. We bought our tix and had an uneventful ride back to Home Island. The dinghy was just as we'd left it. We clambered down from the jetty and headed back to Cups. We had lots to do to get ready for our departure.


ferry return