West of Darwin - Day Three - 12 42.295S 124 03.862E
Mike and Liz Downing
Sun 8 Sep 2013 08:09
The weather pattern has changed - light winds overnight are now light winds all day and night! The forecast suggests they will stay light (10kts or less) for at least the next 3 days (haven't looked beyond that yet). For the last 24 hours we've been making 4 to 5 kts, sometimes dropping down to 3kts, but we have kept sailing, making a noon to noon run of 121.9 miles - virtually the same as yesterday. So it's slow progress, but the seas have gone down and the sun's out. In fact it was a great sunset last night and an equally great sunrise this morning. Not a cloud in the sky. Just as well as we have no moon, so it's pitch black at night, or at least it would be if not for a sky full of stars. Though not a star, Venus was doing a good job as substitute moon until it disappeared over the horizon. There's no light pollution out here! At least that was true until we passed the Montara oil/gas platform. There are two platforms all lit up like Christmas trees and 5 support ships also covered in lights. One was a huge (900ft) work ship that looked like a block of flats, again all lit up. We passed about 5 miles to the north and at 4kts had plenty of time to study them through the binoculars - it took forever to pass. From Darwin we've been sailing through the Timor Sea. It's really quite shallow - not much over 200ft deep, so subject to short seas when the wind gets up. However, during the night we left it behind and are now in the Indian Ocean and the water is starting to get deeper. Our depth sounder reads up to about 400ft deep and then just says 'Deep'.
No birds last night thank goodness, but the Custom's plane flew low overhead this morning, so they must have a bit more fuel than yesterday! Each time they identify themselves differently - today it was Customs 12, yesterday Customs 33. Whether that means they have lots of planes or it identifies the unit on board, who knows. They like to ask the questions and are a bit reluctant to answer any!
So where are we bound for? Virtually due west, wind permitting, for 2,030 miles from Darwin. There on the chart, all on it's own, in the southern Indian Ocean is a small atoll - Cocos Keeling. It is in fact still Australian, although we had to clear Customs/Immigration when we left Darwin and will have to check back in on arrival. We gather the local Policeman deals with it all. The atoll has a very small population and is supposed to be stunning - just like the Pacific Islands. And, what's more, there are no crocodiles! Hooray! We had hoped we might make the passage in 14 days, but with the light winds it will probably take quite a lot longer than that.