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Date: 21 Oct 2013 10:59:00
Title: Cocos Keeling atoll

Lat 12:04.8S Long 95:51.E
Cocos Keeling is a classic atoll, in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Low
islets just a few meters high around a shallow lagoon. Just coming into the
shelter of this scrap of land brings relief from the ocean swell, the
swaying coconut palms, deserted golden beach and the most intense turquoise
blue making a perfect backdrop. Initially the islands were owned and
controlled by descendents of an early settler and the head of the family
was effectively 'king'. It then became a dot in the 'British Indian Ocean
Territories' and ultimately became a protectorate of Australia. Different
indentured workers had been brought over the years to work the coconut
plantations and now it is primarily Chinese Malay with an Australian
overtone. Passport control, immigration and customs was relaxed, an official
sitting on a shady bench on the beach, just a simple card to complete...the
same one as if you had been arriving by BA in Sydney and that's it. The
officers sometime have a little more work....mainly keeping track of illegal
immigrants...the 'boat people' that set of from somewhere in SE Asia hoping
to get to Australian territory. As we approached, there were a couple of
colourful wooden boats anchored in the bay.....apprehended a few weeks ago,
each carrying 75 people and trying to get to Australia.
Among the sailing community, a stop at Cocos en route to South Africa, is a
favourite, a welcome break after a week at sea and to prepare for the long
difficult passages ahead. Most of the other Oyster boats were there and we
enjoyed beach BBQs, swimming and generally relaxing and socialising with
other sailors. A wonderful atmosphere, so typical when travellers meet in
remote locations. Over the years, passing boats have carved their boat names
on pieces of drift wood and fixed them to trees, some going back 25 years,
so in turn a few of the guys carved our Oyster World Rally name, burnt the
letters with an iron rod found on the beach, heated in the camp fire, and
hung it for posterity.
We are now preparing to leave. We always get a little tense when about to
start a big passage. Destination is the island of Reunion in the Southern
Indian Ocean. 2500 miles and around 20 days at sea. We may stop at the small
island of Rodriguez if conditions allow, but this passage is like an
Atlantic crossing. The weather is changing with the possibility of heavy
weather.
The photographs show the blue waters of Cocos Keeling, The camp sight with
all the signs attached to the tree. (our Oyster world rally sign was not yet
attached at the time of the photograph being taken) A few of us having a
good time at the beach party and the colourful wooden boats of the boat
people. Andrew holing up the Cocos Keeling flag before we hoisted it up on
arrival to the atoll.

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