Day 157 – Australian Border Forc e

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Thu 19 May 2022 07:52
Noon Position: 10 44.1 S 095 05.0 E
Course: SW Speed: 2 knots
Wind: SE Force 2
Sea: slight Swell: ESE 1.5 m
Weather: sunny, hot
Day’s Run: 70 nm sailed, 33 nm made good

We try to retain our equanimity, our sangfroid, our centredness, our stoic
detachment, our Zen mindfulness; but these light winds are getting to be
just a tad frustrating. They freshened for a little while yesterday
afternoon from the SSE. The shift made starboard the favoured tack to make
Cocos-Keeling Islands, so I tacked and was pleased to see Sylph settle on a
heading of east at a speed of four knots. But it wasn’t for long. Gradually
she fell off to the NE, so at 2120 I tacked back onto port.
The increase in wind speed did not last for long either and by midnight was
down to force two again, with Sylph’s speed a commensurate two knots.
By sunrise we were barely making a knot, and the swell had picked up again,
not as bad as it was a few days ago, but still that little bit steeper and
more chaotic making it difficult for Sylph to keep a course at all close to
the wind. Consequently this forenoon we have mostly made good a course of
about SW. I am tempted to tack again and see if we can make ground to the
east but I know that in these conditions we will just end up
going in the opposite direction, namely NE, which will only frustrate me
more. While I would still like to round Cocos-Keeling Islands if
possible, heading anything north of about 080 degrees makes little sense. So
for now we all but drift in a SW’ly direction, hoping that the supposedly
reliable trade wind will eventually fill in.
Yesterday afternoon we did have an incident which at least broke the monotony
of drifting about in the overbearing heat of the middle of the Indian Ocean:
we were over flown by an Australian Border Force patrol aircraft. I was
pleased to have made contact with a messenger from Australia, a sign that we
were getting closer to home (though I still do not like the militarisation of our customs service).
The aircraft duly called me up and asked the usual stuff: identity, last
port of call, next port of call, ETA, persons on board, etc., but also the
radio operator said she was was required to read a ‘pratique’ out to me. The
pratique consisted in mostly standard stuff such as having to enter
Australia at an approved port of entry, and in these COVID times that I
might be required to self-isolate (a bit out of date I suspect), but it
finished with the warning that I might be required to leave for another port
immediately after resupplying, which I assume means a non-Australian port.
While the RO was pleasant enough and was clearly just reading from a
proforma, nonetheless I found the procedure anything but welcoming,
particularly as an Australian registered vessel and an Australian citizen.
To use a phrase that Scomo is fond of abusing, not at all the Australian
way. (I hear there is an election around the corner. While democracies
clearly have their problems arguably their greatest strength is that they
allow for the peaceful transfer of power, and one hopes therefore for a
relatively peaceful society.)
Back to sailing. The wind has picked up a little.
All is well.