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Smoke and Roses - It Is Good To Be Back With The Fleet

Logged 525 Nautical Miles

75 Hours Sailing

September 23 – 30         

Christmas Island to Cocos Keeling Island


South Cocos Keeling is a remote group of 25 islands that form an atoll encircling a beautiful lagoon in the middle of the Indian Ocean. 2000 nautical miles West of Darwin, it is an Australian Indian Ocean Territory. Just two islands are inhabited and Port Refuge, the only anchorage, is on the uninhabited Direction Island. Every time I look out, I am awed with the beauty of this place. The stunning colors of clear water over the shallow reef, the pristine sand beaches lined with swaying palm trees and the tiny glistening white birds are all breathtaking.

After months of trying to confirm a crew person who was going to meet us in Mauritius, Dan finally got in touch with Scott, the morning we left Cocos Keeling. He was willing to come but we told him he didn’t need to as Sean was looking to stay on until South Africa.

There were lots of birds around Christmas Island as we were leaving as well as a pod of small porpoises that came alongside jumping, flipping and playing for a short time. On day two of the passage we caught a Mahi; we were thrilled to have a fish we like to eat. Having left Christmas Island 13 hours after the end of the fleet, we arrived in Cocos Keeling only a few hours behind them. We had good sailing weather for the 525 nautical mile passage and made it in three days and one hour. We sailed fast, averaging over 7 knots with no motoring. It feels great to be back with the fleet.

We stayed five days at Cocos Keeling and after a couple days I started to feel more relaxed. After clearances on the beach at Direction Island, we took the dinghy 1.5 nautical miles south to Home Island with the crew from “Mischief” it was a wet, bumpy ride with a large shallow reef in front of the island. Home Island has a population of 600 Cocos Malay people with a strong Muslim faith. We had lunch, walked around part of the island, paid our mooring fees and bought some groceries.

The next day most of the fleet went to West Island. With a population of 120 people (about the size of my immediate family) it is the administrative center for the islands. The first ferry took us from Direction Island to Home Island. At the Home Island museum, we learned about the local history, traditions, customs and culture. We also walked about the island to Sandy Point. A second ferry ride took us 4.5 nautical miles from Home island to West Island. After lunch, Wendy, Neen and I rode bicycles to the southern part of West island. Riding against the wind on the mostly unpaved Air Force Road was a challenge for me. The island was thick with palm trees and very beautiful. We rode to Scout Park and the Yacht Club; both had powdery soft sandy beaches with colorful shallow fringing reefs. Dan and Sean had a good time playing in a Scroungers Golf Tournament hitting across the International runway, with other ARC’ers and some local people. Sean said his team did the worst but had the most fun. That evening was pizza night on West Island at Saltmakers Bakery. They took more orders than they could handle and we waited two hours for an expensive pizza. The day ended with a ferry ride back to Direction Island.

The next morning Dan replaced some rivets on the boom and repaired a corroded wire to our navigation lights. That afternoon the three of us went to do “The Rip”. This drift snorkel was a highlight of Cocos Keeling. We had to wear water shoes to walk across the rugged coral shore on the east end of Direction Island. Here we entered the water to snorkel a shallow cut with current that flows continuously into the lagoon. It was a fast ride; we did it three times and saw a variety of beautiful fish and healthy, colorful coral.

The closest internet was on Home island so we headed across the lagoon and sat in an outdoor pavilion along with several other ARC’ers to purchase internet online with limited data. We had invited the “Mischief” crew for dinner so the afternoon was spent preparing lamb stew, ramen noodle salad, beer bread and brownies. It all turned out well, we enjoyed the good company, good food and drinks.

Sunday was a fun day. Before the skippers briefing, prize giving and BBQ at the shelter on Direction Island, we went for a walk. The Direction Island Heritage Trail gave entertaining insight into the unique and fascination history of this place. Two primary events were the cable station that dominated the island for 70 years and the First World War naval battle between the German Raider, Emden and the Australian Cruiser, Sydney. The interpretive panels went into detail about life on the island including the games they played to alleviate boredom to the foods that arrived on periodic supply ships. The trail through the palm trees was beautiful with spectacular views of the lagoon and ocean.

Smoke and Roses did not participate in Leg 10 of the Rally as we were stranded in Darwin sorting out engine issues. Therefore we were overwhelmed to be presented with a dish from Lombok just for catching up with the fleet at Christmas Island. Our engine failure was a low point for us as it was a struggle financially and because of the time it took. The support of the World Arc Organization as well as the positive words of encouragement and advice given to us from ARC members helped pull us through. They motivated us during a difficult time. I tried kangaroo at the BBQ, it tastes a lot like beef, it was very good and so was everything else. After a few hours of socializing we went for a walk, I found lots of pretty sea glass and started a new collection. Back on the boat, I cleaned the cockpit and helped Dan replace the starter on the starboard engine. It was a relaxing day considering tomorrow is the start of one of the most challenging legs, 2350 nautical miles across the Indian Ocean.

Agnes Long

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