Here we are at midday, drifting along slowly in light, cool winds on the calm Arufura Sea with no other living thing in sight (not even a bird or two!) and I have just got off the phone from our daughter who is in the middle of getting ready for work in busy, noisy Noida, a satellite city to that hectic Indian city Delhi.
The Sat phone we bought before we left has proved to be a smart purchase as we can text family and friends to let them know we are safe and sound and they can send us free emails (although only up to 160 characters) if they want to get in touch. The occasional phone call while expensive, is great if we want to hear the voices of our nearest and dearest.
We are on our fifth day of our passage from Thursday Island, Australia to Debut Island ((Tual) in Indonesia and are contemplating on how quickly the days have flown. It’s been an absolutely wonderful and glorious sail with fair winds lovely weather, visits from dolphins and contact with other boats travelling with us via radio.
It’s hard to believe that we will be in Indonesia tomorrow morning.
Every morning we have a leisurely breakfast around 7.30 am although Jonathan’s day starts a lot earlier when I make him a cup of tea around 1.45 am. He sleeps from 7.30 pm and I keep watch and then sleep from 2am to roughly 7 – 7.30 am. Some people do shorter shifts but we like a decent block of sleep and feel remarkably fresh after four nights of this routine.
The days pass delightfully, watching the ever changing wave patterns, enjoying the rhythm of the water alternately splashing, slopping, crashing and whispering on the boat hull.
The occasional bird, a tern or other sea bird is sighted. Dolphins visit the boat but haven’t been as playful as the Australian ones.
In the evenings and at night, flying fish skitter long distances over the water. Each night some misjudge their flight and land on the deck. It’s just like being in The Life of Pi! I play the music from the movie through my earphones, sitting alone in the dark, enjoying the feeling of melancholy.
At 9 am we have a radio schedule on our Single Sideband (HF) radio with other boats on the rally. Another expensive purchase but so worthwhile. Some boats don’t have HF radios so if any of these boats are nearby we call them up on VHF radio before the schedule and get their position and any information they would like passed on.
We not only can see where they are and the name of the boat, we can also find out their exact position, how fast they are travelling and which direction (compass bearing) they are travelling. Oh and other stuff like how long the boats are, their call signs, where they are registered and probably what kind of toothpaste they use!
On the radio schedule there is bad news from some. A single hander’s engine has broken down; two boats have got tangled up in fishing nets, one is concerned there is damage to their propellor; one boat has a broken boom; two have had power issues; someone else can’t get their AIS to work.
Offers of help pour in, other boats pass on information or agree to run messages for people.
One boat already at Debut Island gives chart coordinates to enter the anchorage safely – all this gives such a great feeling of camaraderie.
After the radio schedule which lasts three quarters of an hour now as more and more boats join in, information is fed back to nearby boats without HF. Then it’s time for another cup of tea.
Showering is a long process as much of the time the boat is on a bit of a lean, so you have to brace yourself against the walls or doors and keep one hand free to hang on with when the waves are a bit big and bouncy or just to steady yourself when the seventh wave hits which is usually when you have just wet your hair and worked up a great lather!
As you also need one hand to hold the shower, another to turn on the tap and yet another to open bottles of shampoo and conditioner, you have to be very organised and in no particular hurry when showering!
After that you feel quite exhausted. Must be time for another cup of tea. But no, chores first – making the bed, washing up, a bit of sweeping if waves allow. Then writing up the Ship’s log, updating the blog and practising Indonesian phrases “Salam” – hello, “Selamat Jalan” – goodbye, Di mana kamar kecil – where is the small room (toilet – be prepared is my motto).
And suddenly it’s lunchtime! Ooh, that reminds me, it really is lunchtime – I’m off to make a sandwich and decide what to do this afternoon!