Day 110 – Amsterdam Island

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Sat 2 Apr 2022 08:32
Noon Position: 37 22.4 S 077 40.0 E
Course: N Speed: 6 knots
Wind: W F4 Sea: slight
Swell: SW 2m
Weather: overcast, mild
Day’s Run: 135nm

This morning we rounded Amsterdam Island and have now turned north to start our lap of the Indian Ocean – another major milestone achieved. Crew spirits are high.
Yesterday we continued running with the wind on the starboard quarter until 1820 when, with the wind backing into the SSW, we dropped the pole and and came onto a broad reach. During the afternoon I also had to lower the mainsail down to the third reef for an hour to repair a broken plastic cheek in the batten car pocket. Fortunately I had one spare in my spares kit in the forepeak.
At 0050 this morning, we gybed and once more poled the jib out to run before the wind which had veered back into the west. We continued for the rest of the night making a comfortable five to six knots towards Amsterdam Island. At 0600, just on sunrise, I had a good look around and sure enough there it was, fine off our port bow, a grey cone, its 867 meter peak lost in the clouds, its sides sloping gently into the water and dropping off with cliffs all round. As we got closer the greys resolved themselves in the morning sun into hues of green shrubs and grasses and grey-black basalt. Some small cones dotted the sides of the dormant volcano, presumably what were once small lava vents.
We sailed around its eastern side and predictably got caught up in the island's wind shadow. It took us a good hour to sail the couple of miles clear of the Island’s eastern side in the light and variable winds, constantly shifting sails to the constantly shifting wind. As we approached the NE end of the island and started to clear the wind shadow, I saw a vessel at anchor where the shore came down to the water’s edge without ending in a precipitous cliff. Initially I assumed it would be a supply vessel for the science station at that point on the island, but according to my AIS it was a fishing vessel named Austral. As we proceeded around the NE point the base became clear, mostly a collection of containerised type buildings scattered about the headland. I tested the VHF radio as we passed the base hoping that the base might monitor channel 16, or the fishing vessel might maintain a radio watch while at anchor. Initially I got no response but eventually a French accent called Sylph up. It was Amsterdam Island and I was pleased that we had good two way comms. The radio appeared to be working fine and it was nice to have a brief chat with someone.
I was disappointed in the bird life, there was in fact very little for quite a large island. Some shearwaters paid us a visit, and what I think were a couple of skuas. As we closed the island I heard a howling sound which reminded me of wolves. Initially I thought it was the wind chiming in the cliffs but as we got closer the sounds became more distinct and I believe it was more likely to be seals, though I never got close enough to the shoreline to make any out.
We have now left Amsterdam Island astern. The plan is to continue north until we get into the SE trade winds. We will then bear away to the NNW to make for a way point about midway between the Seychelles and the Chagos Archipelago, then from there head for our next rounding point, Minicoy Island, 250 miles west of India’s southern most point, and just under 3,000 miles away from our current position.
All is well.