One boat was on its way to meet the freighter in Singapore when its engine
“blew up – the overhead cam snapped in two places”. They are stuck.
They have paid their money and the shipping company says that unless they can
swap their berth and sell the place they will lose the money. What a
nightmare! A huge sum gone and still in SE Asia. With an engine to
be re-built. What to do next? They are spreading the word by every
possible means trying to find a crew preparing to sail across who can be tempted
to change their minds and climb aboard ship.
In the meantime those of us preparing to paddle our own canoes are working
up a fine head of steam (sorry). It is always the same when a group is
gathered together contemplating a more than usually challenging passage.
We play on each others’ nerves until we are all in a fine old lather.
Strong winds and swell are the chief worries and the blogs of those who have
gone before are dissected assiduously. Some tell of discomfort and
breakages; members of the crew who have “had enough,” will be flying long
passages in future. Others offer welcome assurance, convinced that those
who have suffered did so because they failed to heed proper advice. You
pays your money and takes your choice.
While in Phuket last time we shook hands and wished bon voyage to
a skipper who had released his wife for a trip home and recruited three friends
still at work. They were about to dash straight to Mauritius in three
weeks. They turned up here last night – little wind, minimal progress,
forecast calms and no chance of reaching port before their time ran out.
This in a fairly light, fairly fast boat with a strong crew. The skipper says he
thinks he’d better think it out again.
Other friends in a fine heavy-displacement steel cruising boat are planning
to leave for Sri Lanka tomorrow. They seem quite relaxed but they are not
under any time pressure.
Meanwhile brokers are about and “For Sale” notices are pinned to bow
pulpits. The friends who almost persuaded us to cross by the northern route (a
swing through the northern Indian Ocean and down to South Africa) this January
set a “very realistic” price and have achieved a sale giving great satisfaction
all round - vendors and purchasers as pleased as Punch. There has been a “car
boot sale” of much food and equipment not now wanted on voyage. We have
bought their comprehensive medical kit, stowed in a large hold-all. I have
been told of some of the stuff contained therein. Terrifying. I am
much too frightened to delve deeply. Other owners on our pontoon are
keeping their asking price well up. They remain very happy in Rebak and rather
hope not to achieve a sale for another year.
The shippers and the “northern route” people are leaving now. The “southern
route” (Singapore or Sumatra, Sunda strait, Cocos Keeling, Mauritius etc.)
contingent will set off any time between April and August depending on what they
want to see on the way south and how long they want to spend seeing it.
Some will do more work in Phuket, some want to shop in Singapore, others plan to
go as far east as Bali before turning west for the Sunda strait and Cocos
Keeling. As far as we know NO-ONE is prepared to risk the Gulf of Aden and
the Red Sea.
We think we should not leave Cocos too early. The SE trades are often
brisk in July and August with big cross swells coming up from the south.
There is no point in getting to South Africa before summer is well under way in
November. Anyway, that’s what we think today. I must get on the web
to see whether I can find some more worrying blogs!