We left Cocos Keeling at 4pm, on Saturday 25th September, rather than waitfor the official start at 10am Monday. The reason for the early departure was due to the adverse weather forecast which was threatening 35knots ofwind and electrical storms. We might have left during the morning but we hadto go to Home Island to collect the fresh produce. The ferry collected us at 10am and was to bring us back at 3pm but we managed to get a lift back earlier, in a tender to one of the other rally catamarans.
Although the internet café was closed Saturday morning, we managed to get a WiFi connection outside the supermarket. In fact, quite a few of the WARC participants were sitting outside the supermarket to get on-line.
We set sail at 4pm, just after two other WARC boats had departed the anchorage. The winds were good and we sailed until 6am with just the genoa. Having little wind it became necessary for us to switch on the engines for just under four hours before raising the mainsail with 1 reef and unfurling the genoa. We have to use at least one reef in the mainsail now that it has been damaged. By 7pm we also put a reef in the genoa. By 2am we had 2 reefs in the genoa and by 6am next morning two reefs also in the main. It is better to have two reefs in the main rather than just one as there is a tear in the canvas which is no longer vulnerable once a second reef is utilized.
By the early hours of Tuesday morning the wind was blowing force 7 and that increased to force 8. It was no longer a good idea to leave a cup of coffee on the table top all day long. A wave breaking over the port quarter knocked a flask off the work surface next to the wet bar. Wet was definitely the description as the waves flooded the cockpit but the water drained away quickly. A couple of the marine safety items attached to the guardrail on the port side have become damaged by the smashing of the waves over the boat. These can be fixed and/or replaced at the next port of call.
The port light in the bow cabin is leaking despite having taped it to try to stop the leak. Fortunately that cabin is not occupied at present so we have lifted the mattress and lined the top of the bed adjacent to the window, with plastic and towels. This too can be sorted once we reach port. It feels a bit like sailing in northern Europe with the constant clouds, water over the side and full wet weather gear.
In truth, the sun has shone briefly around 7am on Tuesday morning and Wednesday morning and for at least half an hour on Wednesday afternoon when the Indian Ocean did look blue. Generally, the only indication that the ocean is blue is when we see a glimpse of pale blue at the bottom of the wave as it breaks near the top of the swell. The swell is big, certainly up to 8 metres and with the confused condition of the sea, as the current sweeps up from the Southern Ocean, the passage can only be described as uncomfortable.
Two nights, when we had gale-force winds with the huge, confused sea, we hadtwo people on watch although this meant less time for resting.The squalls, which had been coming almost continuously, eventually let up by Wednesday, although we still had rain. The streets of clouds kept coming from the south and south east, the wind increasing as a black cloudapproached, reducing a little until the next cloud arrived. We tried to keep the apparent wind to around 25knots by altering the angle of the boat to thewind. Too close and the motion became very uncomfortable, with a lot more water over the port side. Too far off and the genoa started to collapse.
Five other boats left the anchorage on Sunday morning. The official start was cancelled, leaving each skipper to decide what was better for his boat and his crew and to leave at a time best suited. We felt less guilty knowing that we hadn't let the side down too much when we decided that for us an early departure was the right thing.
Saturday, having sailed over half the passage, the seas became less confused and the winds reduced, so that they tended to peak at 35knots rather than the maximum registered level of 44.6knots. We even saw a few stars and the moon, the cloud coverage not being total.
Sunday continued in a similar vein to Saturday but the sun shone most of the day and there was some blue sky, most pleasingly from south east, from whence the wind was blowing.. We take one reef out of the genoa but sailing around 125ºoff the wind, the sail is more likely to collapse if we take out any more.
We listen to the SSB net each morning at 9am but can only hear a few boats, the rest being so far away. We relay our position to the net controller of the day. During the 9pm net we touch base with one of the other boats with whom we still have radio contact.
We are expecting the wind to reduce a bit from Monday.