Barry and Margaret Wilmshurst
Wed 5 Sep 2012 12:28
In summary, it was a good passage. We arrived at 1020 Indonesian time on Tuesday - four days less five minutes from Krakatoa. Perhaps we were fortunate in that the Indian Ocean treated us kindly. One day of 25 - 30 knots on a close reach, one day of 25 knots on the beam and two days of 10 - 15 knots mostly on the quarter. There was no excessive swell. Apart from the confused seas at the western end of the Sunda Strait not at all bad as a reintroduction to ocean sailing.
This anchorage in the lee of Direction Island is very attractive but Cocos is not how I imagined it; I should have been better at interpreting the charts. It is widespread and low-lying. The winds are brisk and the light is very bright, like the rest of Western Australia. There is no swell but little protection from the wind which whips up a significant popple and every dinghy ride is wet. It is a sporty environment rather than a restful one. A major relief is that the enervating sticky heat of SE Asia, causing constant running sweat, is a thing of the past. When contemplating work on deck there seems to be all the difference in the world between 32°C in the shade and 29°C.
The lagoon is over six miles across and there is little to see over towards the main settlement. There were ten boats in the anchorage when we arrived but there are fewer now; there is a regular turn-over. Of course everybody here is an experienced long-distance cruiser. As in our previous experience the Australian police who cover here for Immigration, Customs and Quarantine were helpful, friendly and the cause of no irritation at all. No pistols packed at their hips this time. They checked the boat for illegals, asked a couple of questions about food on board but took nothing away. The form here is to leave the VHF open on the police channel 20 and use it for calling up in all circumstances before moving to a working channel. Perforce, one keeps abreast of much of what is happening around the atoll both in official and leisure circles, although with everyone being called “mate” all the time it is sometimes difficult to know which is which.
There is plenty to look at. John from Quantum Leap is kite-boarding, very expertly, over towards Home Island, where the Malaysian community lives. In the distance, three miles out to sea, the Coastguard cutter has just set fire to, and sunk under plumes of smoke, two Sri Lankan fishing boats that arrived recently full of illegal immigrants. Two more boats were escorted in a few day ago. No doubt their fate will be the same. Apparently the frustrated would-be immigrants are put on a plane to Christmas Island where they are held until their applications have been considered and appeals process exhausted, which can take a couple of years. Not many succeed. We have just watched a young French couple in a light modern boat with a big rig retrieving two anchors and putting to sea without the benefit of engine or windlass of any kind. It was exhausting just watching the struggle on the foredeck and a little un-nerving as they gathered way just under our stern, surged towards the beach, gybed and dashed past our bow on their way out to the first beacon. We gave them a big hoot on our horn, the usual way to express “farewell and good sailing”. It was also an excellent excuse to give our horn a good blow - we haven’t exercised it recently.
A little unusually local time here is 6½ hours ahead of UTC. Not knowing quite when to go across to Quantum Leap for an aperitif last night I remembered from my youth that if you needed to know the time you asked a policeman. So that is what I did, on the VHF.