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Where are we now?  Check out this link to see Kailani's Position

A second position reporting is here : Kailani Position with notes on passage from YIT

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8 Nov 2017 1100 local
34 11.5 S 018 26.0 E
False Bay Yacht Club, Simons Town, South Africa

We have had typical seasonal winds of 50kts for the last few days - yee haw!  This has made putting Kailani "to bed" quite challenging.  Since making landfall in South Africa, we have focused on taking advantage of weather windows to get all the way down this famed treacherous coast and around the Cape Agulhas in time to make our flight back to the US ... Hence we have had only a couple weeks of "land" time, most of it recovering from and prepping for passages.  Just a few days each in Richards Bay and Port Elizabeth, and then the last 8 days here in Simon's Town.  After our truly harrowing arrival (Jen literally kissed the dock upon tying up here at the dock, first time she's done that in all our sailing around the world...) we have had some time to rest and recover.   Most of our time has been taken up with organizing vendors to take care of our extended repair and overhaul list, and cleaning and stowing topsides and down below, but we have managed to catch up with local friends and meet some intriguing locals. 

In the fun category, Jen has gotten out kayaking within the bay some mornings, taking her cue from the local paddle boarders and kayakers that indeed, there are none of the reputed great white sharks lurking around the bay.  We spent a delightful Halloween afternoon and evening by crashing the local suburb of Scarborough for trick-or-treating and a meal.  Halloween is not really something they do here in South Africa, but in certain suburbs the grown-ups have embraced this trick-or-treating tradition, although nothing like what we see in the US.  Really, would you see an old VW bus van driving down the streets, driver and companion in the front seats all decked out in costumes, back slider door open and 10-15 kids randomly stuffed in, bare feet dragging along as they cruise from one house to the next, happily and chaotically jumping from the barely stopped vehicle, rushing up to gather their sweets, and running alongside the slightly moving van to hop back in and catch a ride to the next stop? Sophia, appropriate for our lifestyle, dressed as a pirate, although she declared she was a "nice" one, not really able to master the "fierce" look if ever she cracked a smile.  She remarked on the miracles of receiving as "candy" freshly cut watermelon and "open" candy (i.e. without any wrappers).  Yeah for throwbacks to the 1960s and no nanny-state behavior!!

The weather has ranged from sunny and warm to windy and cold, with southerly winds bringing the Antarctic chill to us and reminding us just how south we are in the world.  Some cruising friends  arrived a few days ago, and we have been delighted to spend some down time with them catching up over beers and meals, while our kids romp around the grassy play areas of the yacht club.  The wildlife here is wonderful to see:  a goose family with 6 goslings make their way in and around the yacht club grounds, there is a local blue heron that is impervious to us standing only 2 feet away marveling at his fishing prowess, and there are seals to be found sun-bathing on the dock fingers. 

We are finally done with our boat prep and are ready to take a break from a very dynamic sailing season, and will start our journey to the US this afternoon.  This time we are flying from Cape Town to Dubai, then on to San Francisco, which means we will have circumnavigated the globe via air and sea travel in less than 6 months.  Wow.  No wonder we are a bit tired!


400 nm Passage: Port Elizabeth to Simon's Town
 
Day 1 Fri Oct 27 23:12 2017 NZDT 391 nm to Simon's Town, SA. We are off the dock today in about 3 hours at 1500 local, with a good wx window to ride the back side of a H pressure system moving to the south of us. Planning for slightly less than 2 days to get there, and this is truly our final passage for 2017! Weather 8 S, 1032 mb, 100%cc

Day 2 Sat Oct 28 23:12 2017 NZDT 233 nm to Simon's Town, SA. Sailing DDW with sgl reefed main only, 253T at 12kts. Cleared Port Elizabeth port yesterday afternoon at 1550. Have had lovely conditions - nice to sail in a high pressure system for a change! We did have to motor last night for a little over 8 hours, but were able to start sailing down wind in the wee hours, letting Kailani stretch her legs for the final leg along this coast. Coming up to a series of off shore oil platforms and shipping traffic, so may have to modify our gybe plan accordingly. The sunshine is glorious, the wind is generally keeping civilized at 20-25kts, and all well on board. Weather 15-20 ENE, 2-3m swell E, 1026 mb, 0%cc

Day 3 Sun Oct 29 23:03 2017 NZDT 89 nm to Simon's Town, SA. Motorsailing 8.4kts at 292T, dbl reefed main. Well perhaps it was a bit naive (or optimistic?) that we could make this final 400 nm passage without any drama ... At 1315 yesterday afternoon, we gybed our main and snapped the main halyard. The halyard and block got wrapped up toward the top of the mast, with the sail only one third of the way down, making dropping the sail all the way down impossible. So it was up the mast 2 separate times to cut it loose and re-reave the spare main halyard. All of this while in 25-30kts of wind, 3-4m seas, pitching and rolling as we motored during this repair to keep the sail from flogging all over the deck. We had to issue a "PAN PAN" on the radio since we were approaching an offshore oil platform, in the the middle of the shipping lanes, and had limited maneuverability. Three hours after it snapped we could only hoist the main sail with a second reef as we were unable to get the halyard fragments unwrapped from the top of the mast, around the running backs, the top of the sail and the spreader. We got back under sail on course moving away from the oil platform and shipping traffic, as evening approached and the red sky to the west greeted us. At this point Harley pondered out loud, "does 'red sky at night' actually mean the opposite in the southern hemisphere?" ... We re-grouped, had some hot beverages and showers, nursed various mild contusions, and resumed our night watches. Just when all was calm and going well, we were in for another adrenaline rush when, at 0115 this morning, we hit a whale. Seriously, we can't make this stuff up! Rushing topsides, we inspected everything and cautiously concluded that Kailani did not suffer any damage (no word from the whale...). The wind went very light early this morning, so after daylight, breakfast and coffee, and after much cautious contemplation, we decided it was best to motor for a few hours to get around Cape Aghulas before nightfall, when the wind should fill in enough that we can make way DDW with only a dbl reefed main. We are reluctant at this point to rig a poled out headsail, suspicious a bit of what may come our way. We hope to make it in tonight by midnight local. Weather 10-12 E, 1m swell E, 1017 mb, 20%cc

DAY 4 Mon Oct 30 12:36 2017 NZDT Anchored in the lee of the naval base in Simons Town, South Africa. It is 0130 local and we'll post a more detailed entry tomorrow after we are tied up at the dock but suffice it to say that this was the most harrowing anchoring experience we have had in over 60,000 miles of sailing: forty five knots of wind in a crowded anchorage at night with a castled chain. But we are here and the skipper is on anchor watch. Sleep well all and remember that God looks out for fools, drunks and sailors. Weather 35-40 SE, 1014 mb

DAY 5 Tue Oct 31 23:45 2017 NZDT On the dock, False Bay Yacht Club, Simon's Town, South Africa. So, we made it. Concluding over 7500 nm of hard sailing in the last four-and-a-half months, we tied up Kailani yesterday morning at 1015 local to the slip where we will keep her while we travel back to the US for a few months. There was a saying going about in the NZ cruising community back when we were with the fleet there going up and back to the S Pacific - "don't leave when Kailani leaves" - this because we seemed to attract bad weather routinely upon departing for passage. We think after this last 7500nm of crossing the Indian Ocean, we may have to ammend it to "don't arrive when Kailani arrives". Our arrival here in False Bay was without a doubt, the most difficult in all our years of blue water sailing.

A short recap of our last day at sea on this final, short, 400nm passage. We started motoring in order to make it around Cape Aguhlas in the daylight hours, enjoying relatively calm and mild conditions for 7 hours until the wind filled in from behind and we opted for a sail plan of the dbl reefed main alone, no poled out jib, as the wind was meant to build. Once we started sailing we realized that the clutch to lock our wheel, and thereby engage our autopilot, was no longer working. Either there is a hydraulic leak or an electrical fault, neither of which was ascertainable as a diagnosis when Harley inspected the steering cables. Not a big deal, as we accepted that we would need to hand steer the final 60nm or so into port.

Sailing into False Bay (so named because it does not really provide shelter from the prevailing SEly winds that blow here at the "Cape of Storms"), the wind kept us sailing along with a boat speed of 10kts. With a night time arrival we were going to have to anchor outside of the marina in the lee of the large naval base. Because of the military base, the anchorage is limited in size and its boundaries are marked by small buoys lit with white flashing lights. A night time arrival in a busy town with lights all around on land as a background to maritime markings in the foreground in the water is challenging anywhere. We knew there would be a whole host of local yachts crowding this anchorage, and of course, they would be unlit since it is a known anchorage. Finding a big enough spot for Kailani, with enough scope for the 45 foot depth, was going to be a challenge any way we approached it. The wind started to build, and now we were in 40-45kts.

We figured out our spot to drop on the edge of the anchoring field and dropped the anchor. So began problem #1. Because the previous day we had spent 2 hours pounding violently directly into 3-4m seas while effecting the main halyard repair, the anchor chain had castled, making it jammed and unable to run free. This delayed the spot where the hook did get down and set, so during our set we almost came down on top of two boats. Engaging full throttle against the 45kts and now set anchor, we maneuvered Kailani up wind to up-anchor and try again. So began problem #2. Putting out the anchor the second time, with the chain coming out at record speed now as we were blown down, Harley just got the chain stopper thrown down when there were only 3 chain links left - and the line attaching our anchor chain to Kailani had busted. So here we were, a chain stopper holding only 3 chain links against all our chain out and Kailani's 27 tons in 45kts of wind. Yikes.

Next we had to motor up enough to hand pull in at least 10 feet of chain, re-reave it through our windlass, and not drive over the chain in the process and foul our prop. This would have been difficult enough but with the howling of the wind communicating by voice or hand signals was impossible. Jen could not even hear when the shouting was coming from the dodger, catching only portions of communication when her ears were directly down wind of any words coming from only 6 feet upwind... The sound of the wind was then augmented by a tearing and flapping. One of our flexible solar panels violently ripped off of the bimini, held only by its wiring as it flailed around. Miraculously, we nabbed it and stuck it into the cockpit, dangling by its electrical connections and completely trashed, but at least no longer a flying object which could cause injury. Motoring up, we got enough slack to get some chain in the windlass, but by the time Jen could hear the "stop" call from the bow, we had almost driven up over the chain. A huge hard turn to the left, and we just cleared it. Finally, Kailani was anchored. We tied down the main sail with some line, and got down below for a long night of anchor watch.

It blew hard until 0500 when it abated to only 25kts, so the captain called off anchor watches (of course keeping the anchor alarm on) and everyone snatched a few hours of sleep. We woke at sunrise thinking it had all been a dream - it was calm and beautiful, with less than 5kts of wind and full sunshine. It was forecast to blow through early afternoon, so we happily accepted the light winds, pulled up the anchor and moved Kailani to the marina. Phew. Needless to say, we spent yesterday trying to recover ....

So here we are, on Halloween, and about to get Sophia out as a pirate around town. Who knows what fun awaits us as we enjoy the many splendors of LAND and all of its safety!
Weather 25 NW, 1015 mb, 0% cc

500 nm Passage: Richards Bay to Port Elizabeth

Day 1 Fri Oct 20
22:27 2017 NZDT 492 nm to Port Elizabeth. Our stay here in Richards Bay has been great - made some wonderful new friends, got a lot of boat repairs completed, and rested up from our last passage. Yesteraday a nice SWly "buster" went through, providing a good weather window for us to get south to our next and final port for this year - Port Elizabeth. We have about 36-48 hours to make it before the next SWly gale comes up, and once in the Agulhas current we should make some good speed toward our destination. We anticipate throwing off the dock lines in less than hour after finishing an early lunch. Weather 5-10 S, 1022 mb, 90%cc

Day 2 Sat Oct 21 23:00 2017 NZDT 298 nm to Port Elizabeth. Motorsailing, sgl reefed main, 220T at 8.7kts. Except for a brief few hours yesterday afternoon, we have been motoring since departing Richards Bay at 1300 local yesterday. We lost the helpful 3-5kt Agulhas current north of Durban as it went closer to shore and we stuck to our rhumbline, but we picked it back up about 25nm south of Durban. We have been slowed a bit by having to run directly into the 1-2m S swell. Otherwise, glorious sunshine and calm conditions. We are anticipating the wind strengthening from the NE enough to sail later this afternoon. Weather 10 ENE, 1-2m S swell, 1027 mb, 10%cc

Day 3 Sun Oct 22 23:03 2017 NZDT 70 nm to Port Elizabeth. Motorsailing, sgl reefed main, 243T at 7.8kts. The wind filled in a bit yesterday afternoon, 20 kts from the NNE, allowing us to sail for 16 hours. As predicted, the wind has now died and veered to the S, and the barometer has started dropping as a SWly is due in tomorrow. We are pedal to the metal motoring to make it to PE now, and having forsaken the aid from the Augulhas current, are instead heading more in shore for a direct rhumbline to PE. Anticipating arrival early this evening. Weather 8-10 SSW, 1-2m S swell, 1019 mb, 0%cc

Day 4 Mon Oct 23 22:18 2017 NZDT Tied up to the concrete work dock, Port Elizabeth. We arrived last night by 2000 local and were tied up with the help of some local friends by 2130 onto the local haul out dock. Lots of concrete and surge to contend with. Our afternoon was mostly motoring, but we spent it in the cockpit watching for hours as countless humpback whales breached, dove and slapped their pectoral fins all around. It was so wonderful to see the ocean so full of life with seabirds diving all around too. We are now awaiting the arrival of the first of two 35-40 kt SWly blows that will be interesting in our current tie up arrangement. After that we have a window next Saturday to sail southwest for our next SA port, False Bay. Weather 6 SW, 1010 mb, 0%cc



We transited this major storm on our way from Mauritius to S Africa - this is the same storm that took out the port of Durban ... same storm let us sail Kailani at a top speed of 23.5 kts!

Day 1 Thu Oct 5 2:15 2017 NZDT 1580 to South Africa. Well, the time has come. The 4th and final leg of our Indian Ocean crossing. This is the passage we have been building up to since deciding to leave Malaysia and cross the southern Indian Ocean again. We have had some trepidation thinking of this 4th leg as last time we did it in 2005 it was a serious pucker factor. But this time we are armed with lots more weather data and knowledge (thank you David and Patricia for years of education!), and we have dutifully prepped Kailani as we watched weather to try and pick the optimum weather window. The meals are stacked in the freezer, the foul weather gear and fleeces are out for the first time in 2 years, blankets are on the seaberths, and Kailani and crew are ready. We will cast off our dock lines at about 1730 local, in about 30 minutes. At present our plan is to make landfall at Richards Bay, but if the weather is right we may make for Durban. Weather 10 kts SE, 1021 mb, 30% cc

Day 2 Thu Oct 5 21:12 2017 NZDT 1415nm to South Africa. Sailing dbl reefed main plus staysail, 220T at 10.8kts. A long gnarly night of winds 30-35kts, 50-60 deg off our port bow. Confused seas as we hand steered and changed sail plans to deal with squalls with wind gusts to 40kts and lots of rain and darkness. This required all 3 of us - Sophia down below turning on and off our autopilot as we danced in the cockpit managing sail plan. We still have no AP remote in the cockpit, so to turn on and off the AP we have to have one person on the helm to lock the wheel, and one person down below at the chart table, which is a good 20 foot distance. Sophia did a great job in big seas and motion to man the chart table job. By morning we could crack off a bit as we had cleared La Reunion island so we are now headed toward a waypoint 100nm south of the Madagascar coast. Still sporty but winds should back and lighten over the next 24 hrs. Weather 30-35 kts ESE, 1023 mb, 3-4m confused seas, 0% cc

Day 3 Fri Oct 6 23:06 2017 NZDT 1230nm to South Africa. Sailing sgl reefed main plus jib, 210T at 7.8kts. Last night we decided to run off before the wind and sacrifice DMG for a more comfortable ride to get some rest. What a relief to stop rolling off those big waves and instead surf the following seas every once in a while. It was a relatively mild night, and we could enjoy the light of the full moon, highlighted by only a few clouds here and there. A couple of squalls with wind to 38kts kept us honest, so although the wind started to decrease and overall conditions got milder, we maintained a shortened sail plan. Once the day dawned and clouds cleared we shook out the 2nd reef in the main, embracing the settled 15-20kt range as forecast. Just after lunch, we have thrown out our jib too.

We picked this weather window because although there would be a lot of wind at first as we rode the edge of a passing high pressure system to the south, the winds and seas forecast for our run from Madagascar to S Africa are supposed to be reasonable. This was anticipated presumably because the high pressure system was pretty strong and sucked a lot of energy with it. Most importantly this wx window was chosen for no major low pressure system developing on our S Africa coastal arrival. So here's hoping that the forecast is close to predicted! Meanwhile, today we will catch up on rest. A testament to the exhaustion out here is last night Harl hallucinated a submarine surfacing next to our boat, and then an albatross diving to our stern. Thankfully he has enough sea miles to recognize neither of these were a "factor", so he did not wake the off-watch!

Thanks to all who have sent well-wishes and notes of encouragement - it really helps to know you are "with" us out here in the big blue. Weather 15 kts at 100T, 1024 mb, 1-2m ESE seas, 20% cc

Day 4 Sat Oct 7
21:12 2017 NZDT 1067nm to South Africa. Sailing sgl reefed main plus jib, 195T at 8.0kts. Been clear sailing as we keep turning Kailani more S and SE to keep her sails full as the wind has backed to the E over the last 24 hours. We will flip over to starboard tack once we can make a clear run along the south end of Madagascar. We need to clear the southern tip of Madagascar by 100-150nm as the weather there is often unsettled, and combined with its extended continental shelf can make for some "freak waves". Also, this is where the S Equatorial current splits, half going southward to join the Agulhas, the other half flowing northward along the Mozambique Channel - we don't want to get caught up in the northward bound one. All of this abundance of caution is due to the frequency of strong low pressure systems that happen every 3-4 days between Madagascar and the S African coast - we need to allow enough sea room to deal with all the variables that may come our way. All well on board. Weather 20kts ENE, 1024 mb, 1-2m E seas, 10% cc

Day 5 Sun Oct 8
21:18 2017 NZDT 915nm to South Africa. Sailing sgl reefed main plus staysail, 250T at 10.8kts. Once the sun was up this morning we gybed over to starboard and are now happy to be making all of our miles directly on the rhumbline. Wind should die down within 24 hours, at which point we will likely motor for a day before it fills back in. At this point the weather forecasts have conflicting data and we are unclear as to whether we will be encountering a huge L pressure system as we approach Africa. For now, enjoying the new ride and catching up on rest. Weather 25kts NE, 1021 mb, 2-3m E seas, 10% cc

Day 6 Mon Oct 9
22:45 2017 NZDT 666nm to South Africa. Motorsailing sgl reefed main plus jib, 270T at 6.5kts. Yesterday and last night we enjoyed sailing at a pretty good clip with the apparent wind about 120 deg off to starboard, with winds all night between 25-30kts, gusting to 35kts. Thankfully, that makes 2 nights in a row with no squalls. Just after lunch we had to start motoring as the wind has fully backed to the N and diminished to 8-10kts, with the forecast for less wind over the next 24 hrs as the "calm before the storm" settles in. We have decided on landfall at Richards Bay, 50nm shorter than Durban, as we think we can make it across the Agulhas current by early Friday, in time before the big L with its 35kt SWlys fills in along the coast. But it all about maximizing our DMG to Richards Bay between now and then, so motoring to windward we go.

On the chart just offshore of the SA coast the chart notes "ABNORMAL WAVES of up to 20m in height, preceded by a deep trough, may be encountered to the seaward edge of the Continental Shelf" ... these waves are caused when the L pressure SWly winds go up against the up to 6kt S-Swly Agulhas Current. This is why we have to be so careful about timing our crossing of the current and make it safely to the 100 fathom line along the coast before the heart of the SWly hits. Right now it is forecast to hit early Friday morning. We are aiming to arrive in the wee hours of Friday morning too. Oh yeah, did we mention that Friday is the 13th? Good thing we aren't superstitious aboard Kailani! Weather 10kts N, 1013 mb, 1-2m confused seas, 50% cc

Day 7 Tue Oct 10
21:18 2017 NZDT 508nm to South Africa. Sailing sgl reefed main plus jib, 260T at 7.6kts. After motoring for 21 hours the wind started to fill in allowing us to throw out the jib and start sailing again late this morning. We spent the morning doing a deck inspection, the proverbial pre "battening down of the hatches". Latest weather shows that we are going to be hit by two separate low pressure systems separated by less than 12 hours. The first is forming up in the Mozambique Channel right now, and is building in strength and moving SE, when we expect to intersect it roughly 20-24hours from now. When it hits, the wind will shift almost 180deg and blow 30-35 kts with higher gusts out of the S/SW. Our strategy is to intercept the center of the low thereby sailing out the back side with the wind on or slightly aft of our beam. The winds should then decrease after 12 hours and eventually disappear, only to have the 2nd low hit along the coast of Africa, with 35-40kts prior to our arrival. At this point we are likely to have to heave to E of the Agulhas current and wait for 24 hours for that front to pass and then we may head for Durban instead of Richards Bay since there is a 3rd low predicted for Sunday night arrival, and we will be potentially "stuck" at Richards Bay for a week with that one. Any way you shake it, it's going to be a rough ride. But we are prepping as much as possible, watching the weather like hawks, and getting rest at all opportunities. All well on board. Weather 14kts N, 1011 mb, 1-2m confused seas, 90% cc

Day 8 Wed Oct 11
21:09 2017 NZDT 351nm to South Africa. Sailing sgl reefed main plus staysail, 220T at 7.6kts. We had a long night sailing through 7 hours of lightning and rain, with scary lightning strikes all around us, the closest less than a mile from us. We had fortunately gotten our 2nd reef in the main in advance of the oncoming low, and while putting in the reef we noted that there were a few birds trying to take refuge on Kailani - this has happened to us before, and has been an indication of a really bad storm ahead. So far on this run to S Africa our forecast model data (we get the GFS and European gribs) have not agreed with each other, nor with reality. Reality has been consistently harder than forecast, not just because it always feels worse when the wind howls and skies open up at night! The L ended up forming and strengthening upwind of us, ahead of predicted as we were due to pass through the center before it really consolidated. Therefore, we ended up intersecting the L on its leading edge, making for 30-35 kt winds all night, with some higher gusts during the embedded squalls. Even with all the fancy computer generated wx models and ability to get more wx data than ever before, turns out the birds were the best forecasters!

The L is predicted to move SE through our course line over the next 6 hours, and based on the decreasing winds we are currently experiencing, this is happening quicker than predicted. Now we just hope that the winds on the back side are as predicted, less those on the leading edge. We should have about an hour as the L passes with relative calm winds (albeit still the residual confused seas) during which we can get rigged for a port tack, or potentially to heave-to and get some rest before we have to deal with the next L, forecast for tomorrow afternoon. The heave-to call is dependent upon the wx and our overall endurance levels after another 8 hours or so of battling the elements. We are hanging in there. All well on board. Weather 20 kts NW, 1003 mb, 3-4m confused seas, 100% cc

Day 9 Thu Oct 12
21:30 2017 NZDT 192 nm to South Africa. Sailing dbl reefed main plus staysail, 323T at 5.6kts. Just after sending in our update yesterday we "sailed into the hole" of the L, meaning the wind went to less than 5kts, the sun was out all around, and it felt refreshing to be outside. We decided we would press on and sail once the L passed, and while walking the decks to rig for a port tack, we found 2 little swallows taking refuge on the deck. Again? Harley tried to coax them to move to under the dodger or even down below, knowing that riding on Kailani's decks in 35 kts, no matter where the little guys tucked themselves, would not be rest at all. The wind started to fill in after only about an hour, and within 20 minutes we had 35 kts out of the SSW. We sailed through the night, with winds between 30-35kts, slowly decreasing after about 9 hours to the 20 kt range. Kailani flew along, and we made a new family passage speed record by doing a "double surf" - catching a second wave while surfing the first - 23kts! Wow! The night progressed well as we were blessed by no squalls, and we both got great sleep on our off-watches. So here we are now, just under 200nm ENE of Richards Bay. The wind is dying, and the forecast says the next L will not be as bad for us, as it will pass much further south. Regardless, since we are now N of Richards Bay, we will heave-to for about 18 hours, or until we can sail directly for the coast and safely cross the Agulhas current for landfall at Richards Bay. There we will wait for the next available wx window to go further. While on deck readying Kailani to heave-to, we will be looking out for birds taking refuge for further forecasting advice...

While we were a bit disappointed that we have had to delay landfall and could not indeed lay Durban as planned, we just received news that Durban is no longer an option for landfall. The storm we just sailed through hit Durban hard 2 days ago, completely wiping out the marina there, and destroying over 100 boats. Whatever we just experienced on the open ocean was probably nothing compared to being in that harbor with boats ripped from docks, docks ripped from land. Once again, we feel lucky and looked out for by the man upstairs. Weather 10 kts SW, 1015 mb, 1m seas, 0% cc

Day 10 Fri Oct 13
21:30 2017 NZDT 181 nm to South Africa. Hove-to, staysail only, 334T at 1.8kts. We have been hove-to now for almost 22 hours, and hope to set sail early this afternoon once the winds stay steadily below 20kts and the seas moderate accordingly. We hove-to early yesterday afternoon, once again taking in the nice weather of sunshine and light winds to work the deck. We have been fortunate on this passage to make all of these major sail changes in the daylight hours. As there were no noted birds seeking refuge this time, we hoped for the best! Indeed, it was a good night, with winds generally below 30kts, spiking into the mid 30s for only a short while in the wee hours. The L pressure system passed further south than originally forecast giving us the reprieve from big winds. With Kailani parallel to the seas we are rolling a bit uncomfortably, but as we both commented this morning, still not as bad as the Fiji Navadra Isl roll - our benchmark for bad rolly anchorages. Amazing, considering we are in the open ocean. Weather 20-25 kts SW, 1024 mb, 3m confused seas, 10% cc

Day 11 Sat Oct 14
21:36 2017 NZDT 35 nm to South Africa. Motorsailing sgl reefed main, 240T at 9.4kts. Land Ho! We have a visual on the great African continent off to starboard, and are presently sliding along in the Agulhas current. We sailed out of our heave-to position earlier than planned yesterday, as the winds never seemed to want to abate. So with a staysail only we sailed hard into the SW 20-24kts of wind and 2-3m seas, pinching as much as possible to keep to our rhumbline to Africa. Once the wind came steadily under 20kts we added our dbl reefed main to add some speed, and arrived near the Agulhas current with the wind backing to the east - perfect! We just started motoring to make time while we wait the 2 hours or so for the wind to back to the NE, when it should fill in to 20 kts from behind us. Having completed lunch, we will now go up top to get out dock lines and inflate fenders, readying for arrival to Richards Bay this afternoon. Spirits are high aboard the Kailani! Weather 6 kts SSE, 1023 mb, 1m seas, 100% cc

Day 12 Sun Oct 15
7:06 2017 NZDT On the International Yacht Dock, Richards Bay. Arrived! We played the cards we were dealt and we didn't lose our shirt, survived a blow that destroyed a port, and feel lucky and blessed to have completed this passage safely... Anyone watching our landfall would surely think we were very anxious to arrive. Landfall was mildly tricky, as our engine decided to give us some problems, but not in our usual "it won't start" Kailani way though. She started and ran in forward just fine, but when it came time to try to slow down upon arrival in the marina, with 20kts from behind, reverse made the engine rev down and go to neutral, and BAM! Kailani ran straight into the concrete dock. Head on. T-Boned. A full bar to the right, and a dock with tug captains to the left, we provided quite the entertainment. Minimal physical damage to Kailani, and the ever resourceful Harl got reverse to engage properly so we could slowly back away from the scene ... of course it may take quite a while before his girls stop calling him Capt. Ron. Weather 5-10 NE, 1015 mb


12 October 2017 1500 local
28 14 S  035 39 E
Hove to
188 nm to Richards Bay, South Africa

Asymptotic to Africa.  One of the classic head spinning ideas in math is that if you cover half the distance to a point repeatedly, you never arrive. Welcome to the final Indian Ocean crossing passage of Kailani.

This nearly 1,600 nm passage from Mauritius around the bottom of Madagascar to landfall along the northern limits of the east coast of South Africa is notorious for its hazards and difficulty.  The track initially  takes you south west and within two days the trade winds that have been your constant, reliable and usually predictable companion for more than 5,000 miles give way to the variables.  Those same trade winds meanwhile pile up against the east coast of Madagascar and are deflected and accelerated southward, so sailors of small boats give the bottom end of the lemur island a wide berth, at least 100 miles. After you make the turn to the west you soon discover that you are smack dab in the middle of the shipping lanes since all shipping between Atlantic and Indian Ocean/southeast Asian ports follows the same track.  At one point we counted 27 ships on the AIS screen.

But what really distinguishes this passage from others that most cruising sailboats choose to make is the weather. With the Cape of Good Hope at the bottom of Africa squeezing the eastward stream of lows and highs and then popping them out into the Indian Ocean, there is a constant procession of strong weather systems. To top it off, every three to four days the lows race up the east coast of South Africa which is home to the south setting Agulhas current, a 5-6 knot river that when met with  contrary gale or storm  force winds throws up standing waves of up to 20 meters. Ships have literally disappeared in these conditions.

The traditional route for years for small boat circumnavigators was to avoid this passage and go up the Red Sea, through the Suez Canal and have the entire Mediterranean to cruise.  Somali pirates and tenuous mid east politics have made the Cape of Good Hope the lesser of two evils. Some cruising sailors elect to go north around the top of Madagascar and come down the 1,000 miles of the Mozambique Channel where there are numerous refuges from weather thereby coming at the Cape with less risk, but if you want to spend time in the Mascarenes and avoid the long detour, you are stuck with the passage we are on.

So we set out 8 days ago after weeks of studying weather patterns and picking a window that looked great: some tough stuff out the gate but benign conditions for the approach to South Africa. We got the tough stuff in the beginning, and in the middle, and now in the end.  Two days ago we made the hard choice to sail south to intercept the center of a strong 1002 mb low so we could run north on the back side rather than get stuck with 30 knots on the nose on the direct route over the top.  Good choice in that we never got the headwinds, but other than motoring through the calm center of the low, we were on our ear with minimal sail in 30-35 knots most of the time and in the process set a family record on Kailani with a speed of 23.5 knots on the surf. This particular low was unusually violent along the South African coast, virtually wiping out the small craft marina inside the well protected Port of Durban 2 days ago, setting more than 100 yachts and ski boats careening through the harbor, some still attached to the docks that had torn free. And Durban had been our destination when we set out.

So here we sit, parked. Kailani is hove-to under backed staysail with her main lashed and all things topside as secure as we can make them short of sharing our bunks with the kayak. At this moment the wind is calm, the seas are down and it's actually quite pleasant. We will all shower, cook up a decent dinner, take on seasick meds as required, lash ourselves in our sea berths and by midnight listen to the howling of the wind and brace ourselves against the roll as the closely spaced seas build back to 3-4 meters.  Come midday tomorrow when the wind backs and lessens we'll resume sailing with the idea that the mathematicians can be proved wrong. We expect to make landfall in Richards Bay by midday on Saturday.


1 October 2017 0645 local
20 00 S 057 34 E
Anchored
Grand Baie, Mauritius

We have an expression that cruising sailors make plans written in the sand at low tide, and our recent decisions embody that approach. Our original plan back in April was to give Mauritius a pass and sail directly to La Reunion from Chagos. That plan changed when we remembered how much we enjoyed Mauritius the last time around and the winds backed a bit to make landfall here practical. Now we have changed plans again and have decided to miss La Reunion altogether and head directly to South Africa this coming week. We have moved out of the city center and are now anchored up in Gran Baie on the north west tip of the island waiting on a weather window to sail the last 1,500 nm leg of our Indian Ocean crossing. So Kailani is once again on the hook, the kayak and dink are in the water, and we are trekking through town toting our bags of groceries as we provision for our 8-10 day trip to South Africa. Sophia is back in school, which she is attacking with enthusiasm each morning so that she can get done early and play with her new friends from a kid boat here in the anchorage.

The island nation of Mauritius was originally settled by Portuguese and then Dutch traders who had found their way into the Indian Ocean back in the 17th century. The island is on the trade route from the Atlantic to the Far East and once discovered, Mauritius and its natural harbor at Port Louis became a regular stop for the trade ships. The Dutch abandoned the island to the French in the 18th century and France managed to hang on to it until the British ran them off during the Napoleonic wars. The British grew the sugar industry by bringing in laborers from India and Africa and though the island is now independent, its long colonial history manifests itself in the diversity of its population and languages. French and Creole are the primary languages but English is widely spoken, as is Hindi. It is a mixed bag of religions as well, with Hindu deities, Islamic mosques and protestant and catholic churches all within blocks of one another.

Much of our time here has been spent retracing our visit of 12 years ago showing Sophia some of the sights that we enjoyed back then. Needless to say nothing stays the same with some things getting better, others falling into disrepair, and everywhere more crowded. Tourism has exploded with almost 1.5 million visitors a year and the number of 5 star beach front resorts has expanded to meet demand. Traffic on the roads is heavy and at times you are hard pressed to tell the difference between rush hour here or back in the States. Our first clue that this was a different Mauritius than we had experienced before came on arrival in Port Louis which was jammed with listing, rusting Chinese fishing boats rafted up throughout the harbor. Like Fiji and Indonesia, Mauritius has apparently succumbed to the easy money of licensing out their fishing rights to China (reportedly for 1 rupee or $0.003USD per kilo), and like Fiji and Indonesia the next development will be no more fish as this fleet of more than 100 boats strips the surrounding ocean bare.

We initially tied up at the Caudan Waterfront Marina, a concrete basin at the end of the upscale Caudan Waterfront development with shops, restaurants and a fancy hotel. The buildings were all here back in '05 but they were virtually empty as the development was just opening. A short walk through the shopping plaza and through a tunnel under the coastal motorway and you are back in the heart of the city teeming with the sights, sounds and smells of the old Port Louis. We walked through much of the city admiring the architectural juxtaposition of modern somewhat bizarre office buildings with old colonial offices and palaces. We hiked up to the old citadel overlooking the city and for a few rupees were admitted after closing time. Started by the French and completed by the British the fort was a typical government boondoggle never used for much other than to house a small garrison during the slave uprising. Now it is a venue for weddings, but the view from the ramparts is excellent. We were fortunate to be there at the end of the day, and as we walked the ramparts taking in the views, a cascading serenade began from below as each muezzin began the call to prayer from the individual mosques scattered in the expanse of Port Louis neighborhoods below.

We hired a car for three days and retraced some of the route we had travelled before. First stop was the Blue Penny Museum, so named because it houses the first postage stamp ever circulated in the world, a red (go figure) one pence stamp that was misprinted and is now worth over $5 million. The museum has an excellent history of the island on display in paintings, maps and lithographs, but every hour on the hour in time for the lighting of the stamp (it is lit 8 times a day for 10 minutes each time to prevent UV damage) tour buses disgorge their throngs of German, French, Chinese and Japanese tourists who clump upstairs bypassing the history exhibits and elbow their way into the small room to get a glimpse of the stamp. We managed to station Sophia directly in front of the display while it was dark and then Dad, amid much grumbling from the tourists, used his best hockey elbows to protect her spot when the light came on.

We spent almost three hours at the sugar museum which is housed in an old sugar factory replete with crushers, steam boilers, rum distilling towers, dryers etc. Again the history of Mauritius is portrayed in detail but with emphasis on the role of sugar in the country's development. There are only seven sugar plants operating today on the island where processing efficiencies have reduced the number of plants from over 250 in the early 1900s but output has been quadrupled. Much of the island's arable land is given over to cane production and the port has a busy sugar terminal which is the final step in what makes up the nation's largest contributor to the local economy. It is hard to fathom how inexpensive sugar is in the store when you see what it takes to make it. The tour ends with an opportunity to sample various grades of sugar and, of course, taste the local rum. Nothing like a couple of shots of extra special dark to send you merrily on your way driving on the left and negotiating the ubiquitous roundabouts surrounded by drivers who must have found their licenses on the beach.

We spent a couple of hours walking through the botanical gardens, in fact the oldest botanical garden in the southern hemisphere. Unfortunately the gardens, while still quite impressive, are getting a bit frayed around the edges, probably from neglect as the modern tourist eschews a stroll through the plants for the opportunity to zip line into the surf or some such activity. Sophia was given control of the small camera during our visit and not a duck was left un-photographed.

A visit to the Bois Cheri tea factory was on the agenda and there we met the plant manager who had shown us around back in '05. Unfortunately the factory was closed to visitors but the museum was open (by now we had the history of Mauritius down pat) and the restaurant atop the hill surrounded by acres and acres of tea bushes served up an excellent lunch. We decided to explore some of the back roads on the return to Port Louis and upon cresting a hill discovered a lakeside Hindu temple flanked by two five story high Hindu deities at the end of an extremely wide pathway that stretched straight as an arrow to the next ridge of hills. Apparently during certain holidays on the Hindu calendar the pilgrims walk barefoot on this pathway to the temple and the huge statues with their outstretched hands beckon them from afar.

We spent the better part of the next morning at a nature park where the highlight was wandering among the giant tortoises and hand feeding them. Their lumbering gait and deliberate movement of their heads toward the proffered greenery made everything appear in slow motion. At one point Sophia had two of the giants approaching her from opposite directions, but both got a mouth full and seemed pleased, to the extent that a tortoise has an expression on its wrinkled countenance.

In an effort to see how the other half lives we booked in lunch at one of the 5 star beach resorts. The food was good but the people watching was extraordinary. Here were dozens of people paying thousands of dollars a day to sit on the beach and stare at their cell phones or computers. Even when they decided to augment their experience with a little activity, they seemed unable to let go of their tethers. We spied one young woman riding horseback on the beach – well, “sort of” riding. She was clad in a riding helmet over her hijab, riding “chaps” attached to her open toed sandals, gripping both hands steadily on her cell phone, swiping through screens, as a groom led the horse along the beach, and she remained oblivious not only to the ride and the views, but to how silly she appeared. The ultimate irony is that this resort and several just like it are spread along a beach that is at the foot of Le Morne Brabant Mountain, an El Capitan-like monolithic mountain of rock that was the end of the line for many slaves trying to escape their bonds. Unfortunately once they managed to climb the slope of the mountain, there was no place left to go and thousands chose to hurl themselves off the cliff to the “Valley of Bones” and freedom through death, rather than return to a life of misery. This hallowed ground is marked with a quiet memorial park a stone's throw from the oblivious resort dwellers. After lunch we spent the end of our afternoon exploring this International Slave Route Monument, with its multitude of statues and artwork donated by various countries to memorialize the end of slavery and the suffering of those who had been part of the Indian Ocean slave route.

Our fondest memory from our earlier visit was of the central market. Located smack in the middle of downtown the market is comprised of a huge indoor space crowded with fruit and vegetable vendors with their colorful mounds of oranges, tomatoes, eggplant, lettuce, pomegranates, coconuts, papaya, apples, spices and pretty much everything else you can think of. It just oozes with local energy, and a Saturday morning spent here can be sensory overload in a good way: energetic hawkers at each corner, fresh produce being hauled in and put on display, fruit being hacked open and placed on display as locals haggle over quality and price for their fresh fruit and veg. This is still one of the most awesome markets we have experienced world wide. Upstairs and in the alleys surrounding the central market are the crafts vendors. With the explosion in tourism many of the crafts that were sourced locally or from nearby Madagascar, Africa or Sri Lanka are now made in China, but still labeled as if they were made locally. It takes a dedicated shopper to weed out the fakes and then bargain for the real thing. Jen, of course, is great at this and we now have aboard authentic Indian cashmere pashminas and actual fossils from Madagascar as well as some cinnamon bowls from the local manufacturers.

Unfortunately the dramatic influx of tourists has made the market experience, at least in the crafts area, less rewarding. Whereas before the vendors were open and smiling as they haggled with you now there is a patina of indifference layered on by their exposure to the crowds of crass kitsch buyers. But if you can get past this and show some genuine interest in the people it is remarkable what follows. With our unique lifestyle as a sailing family we managed to have many long conversations (sometimes to the point that the vendors ignored other customers) and we befriended three different families in the market. All were third or fourth generation market people and they were generous to a fault. We invited them over to the boat for tea and with that, Katy bar the door. We were beset with small gifts and one family even dropped off dinner which they had spent the afternoon cooking up for family. We have been invited back to their homes and one family even brought along a reporter from L'Express with a photographer so that our story could be shared with other Mauritians. Meeting and truly interacting with locals - this is the part of our lifestyle that we cherish.

With our decision to skip La Reunion we decided to move up here to Grand Baie to get a little relief from the noise and smells of the port which runs 24/7. But before we departed, we had to say good bye to our new friends at the market and to Jason, the piano player at the hotel that abuts the concrete dock where we were moored. We frequented the hotel bar in the evenings to enjoy the atmosphere after our long days of site-seeing. What a treat for us to sit, chat about our day, and listen to soothing piano. Sophia spent hours just watching Jason play and we would chat with him during his breaks. A former radar tech in the Mauritian Coast Guard, 12 years ago Jason was walking past the piano bar where he now plays. He said to himself “one day I will do that”... with that he proceeded to teach himself to play, and what a pianist he has become! His story is an inspiration to all aspiring musicians, and listening to him play for three nights was a delightful treat for us.

It looks like the weather will be right for a Tuesday departure, or at least as right as one can hope for on this, the most difficult of passages we have taken on as a family. And so we sit, ready to leave this idyllic little island that is such a wonderful melting pot of cultures. As the evening sun goes down, the calls to prayer echo across the bay from atop the multiple mosque minarets ... soon after they stop, the evening service at the catholic church is heralded by pinging bells. Such is the ebb and flow in a country that is so small, and yet so big in its history and cultural depth.


25 September 2017 1800 local 20 09.6 S 057 29.8 E
La Caudan Waterfront Marina
Port Louis, Mauritius

We have been in the land of urban life and internet for a week now. While on passage from Chagos we received some messages from friends noting that some of our blog posts to on the www.YIT.co.nz website were a bit truncated. After investigating (once we had internet for the first time since June and could log onto YIT) we discovered that in fact our posts had been cut off whenever a "double dash" appeared in the text. Anyhow, after a couple of requests, we have decided to repost the full text of our YIT posts from the last two legs of our Indian Ocean passage - from Cocos Keeling to Chagos, and the most recent, from Chagos to Mauritius.  Here they are:



DAY 1 Fri Aug 11 16:51 2017 NZST 1436 nm to Chagos. With all requisite repairs done to Kailani, we were ready to leave Cocos ... we further delayed departure for a few more days however due to a gorgeous change in weather and the arrival of a kid boat. Sophia was delighted to play with Paul and Antoine from Toomai for a few days. We up anchored yesterday at 1630 local, and have been rolling along between DDW and now off the wind but significantly south of our rhumbline, as the winds have gone lighter than expected. For now, enjoying the relative calm, which is easing us all into our sea legs. To read more of adventures on Cocos Keeling, go to our website LaughterJourney.com Heading 240T Speed 5.1 kts Weather 2-3m S swell, 10-12kt E

DAY 2 Sat Aug 12
19:18 2017 NZST 1379 nm to Chagos. Yesterday afternoon a commercial airplane dropped down and buzzed our mast - then flew off, banked left and up ... weird! We suppose it might have been the air freight plane departing Cocos Keeling and returning to Perth, and since we have known some air freight pilots we know they might have done it just for the fun of it! Anyway, that was the most exciting thing in the last 24 hours, as we continue to sail SW to make it to the top of the High pressure system south of us that will give us favorable wind so we can turn NW toward Chagos ... all well on board Heading 224T Speed 5.4 kts Weather 2-3m S swell, 10-12kt ESE

DAY 3 Sun Aug 13 19:51 2017 NZST 1254 nm to Chagos. This morning at 0900 we modified the sails to turn and go DDW - at first a great 9.5 kt ride directly on the rhumbline .... alas, that only lasted for about 30 mins. Many many squalls for the last 12 hours sucking most of the wind out and making us chase it so we did not have to laboriously change our sail plan ... The seas are up and now and the winds are down so the ride is rough and wobbly. But the rain has stopped now and we anticipate wind filling in by evening to make the ride smoother. Heading 290T Speed 6.5 kts Weather 2-3m S swell, 13kt ESE

DAY 4 Mon Aug 14 18:15 2017 NZST 1080 nm to Chagos. Still poled out wing and wing on port tack, making our DDW run much more on the rhumbline. Last night was a long rough one constant rain and squalls, with winds gusting to 35kts ... we had decided NOT to shorten sail before sun down as we wanted to make some speed. Well, we did, surfing the waves and generally running down wind at high speeds. Hit 15.5kts on one surf! It was a constant helm management situation to keep from rounding up or back-winding the main when we rolled off of these giant S Ocean swells every 10 secs or so. We had had constant rain, squalls and cloud cover for almost 24 hours, but this morning it dawned blue as we are getting more northerly, riding the top of that high... all in all, it is a much smoother ride today, still the wallowing DDW motion, but manageable and consistent winds. Fingers crossed, now it looks like we should be able to maintain this sail plan and heading with weather consistently in the 15-20 kt range. Heading 308T Speed 10.1 kts Weather 3-4m S swell, 18-20kt SE

DAY 5 Tue Aug 15
18:30 2017 NZST 872 nm to Chagos. We are riding the top edge of the southern ocean high below us, and have a low that has developed to the north of us, feeding the winds (otherwise known as a "squash zone"). The weather is a constant grey with rain and wind squalls providing variable wind direction and wind speeds from 10 to 35 kts. The seas have increased in size and frequency, making it one surf to the next. Hit 16.4 kts last night, but in truth, it is a bit on the scary edge.... at 0530 this morning our autopilot stopped working. The main got backwinded, we had a heck of time turning Kailani back to DDW, but did, then quickly furled the jib, hove to with the staysail, and started to work the problem. With some coordinated US shoreside support through sat phone texts (thank you Ann and Bill!!) the manufacturer was able to relay some suggestions for a fix (love that Will Hamm @ WH Autopilots answers his cell phone from 6am to 12 midnight 365 days a year!!). Turns out it was our new remote for the system, sending wonky signals to the AP unit ... when we disconnected it, the problem was fixed. Now she is back to running with the autopilot working. Only challenge now without a remote in the cockpit is that we can steer only from down below, and to turn on or off the AP, one person has to be at the helm, and one person has to be down below, 20 feet and 7 companionway stairs away. With Jen's knee replacement too fresh, she is in a knee brace for added stability, but it is a bit of dance in these sea states. The sun came up, there was a tiny hint of rainbow off to the south, and the whole thing took less than 2 hours. Jen got back to the rack to finish her off-watch, and we thanked the spirits once more for looking out for we sailors on the high seas. All well on board. Heading 300T Speed 10.8 kts Weather 4-5m S swell, 20-25kt SE, squally, rain

DAY 6 Wed Aug 16 17:54 2017 NZST 693 nm to Chagos. A long night of constant wind-sucking squalls made for a slow night of sailing, with us driving around in circles to keep the main and jib full. We spent a lot of time with a NE wind which made for especially rolly times since we were side on to the otherwise surf-providing swell. But the sun always comes up in the morning and things look better! We are now back more or less headed directly to Chagos, making good speed and riding with the waves. Yesterday afternoon Kailani hit her passage surf record of 18.7kts - woohoo! Although it is only noon local now for us, feels like first light of morning - fresh bread in the oven, and all well on board. Heading 294T Speed 9.7 kts Weather 3-4m S swell, 15-20kt SE, squalls ahead, cc 100%

DAY 7 Thu Aug 17
17:51 2017 NZST 512 nm to Chagos. Yesterday afternoon for a brief bit we saw a small blue hole in the otherwise grey and dismal sky - a fleeting glance of sunshine ... Not to last though, as we have had almost constant deluges of rain with wind shifting squalls for the last 18 hours. But the miles are ticking off ... Heading 294T Speed 10.3 kts Weather 3-4m S swell, 15-20kt SE, squalls, cc 100%

DAY 8 Fri Aug 18 17:33 2017 NZST 305 nm to Chagos. We are surfing our way down the waves with a steady 20kt SE wind that settled in around midnight last night. The previous 56 hours or so of squalls, wind shifts, wind speeds ranging from 4 kts to 35 kts, took its toll on our rig. Yesterday at dusk, the jib sheet parted at the spin pole, leaving our jib flying out forward ... we quickly furled the jib, then unfurled a little bit to starboard so Harl could reattach a new port side sheet, furled it up again; lowered the spin pole, attached the new sheet, unfurled the jib - then the furling line started to chafe. It snapped off its cover, we managed to get the sail all the way out and now are just praying we can furl the headsail without incident when needed with that partially chafed furling line. Sophia was down below at the chart table, as this was an "all hands on deck" situation, and she stood by to turn our AP unit on and off as needed so that Jen could steer Kailani through the seas and wind shifts and Harl could work the foredeck. All of this took about 1 1/2 hours, and of course while the wind was building to 35kts and another squall was coming from behind. But, we got it all settled and looked off to the west and could see the sky & clouds all turning red with a sunset... Down below as we regrouped (aka de-stressed), Sophia reminded us: "Red sky at night, sailor's delight..."... Heading 294T Speed 10.3 kts Weather 2-3m S swell, 18-22kt SE

DAY 9 Sat Aug 19 17:42 2017 NZST 120 nm to Chagos. This morning we furled our jib without event and are sailing with the single reefed main hard on the wind to Chagos. Wind is supposed to lighten, but if not we will have to further reduce sail to slow down to time our arrival for sun up. Heading 255T Speed 8.1 kts Weather 2-3m SE swell, 20-22kt SE

DAY 10 Sun Aug 20 23:12 2017 NZST At anchor Ile Fouquet, Salomon Islands, Chagos Archipelago. At last ... Yesterday when we wrote we talked about needing to slow down to make it here in the daylight hours ... well Mother Nature took care of that for us, as no sooner had we sent that update that it seemed we had arrived in a trough of no wind, lots of rain. Bound and determined not to use any of our precious diesel, we broke a new passage record for Kailani under sail - 1.2kts. We had carefully decreased the sail plan for the remaining 120 nm to slow the continued rocket ride, but instead started to wonder if we would make it by sundown the next day!! Well, wind filled in last night with some squalls, so we chased it around and had almost constant rain. The day dawned with some sun, and a light SE breeze, and we pulled into the lagoon pass by 1200 local. We were greeted by a huge 30kt squall bearing down from windward. But this time we had a working engine and confirmed waypoints! So we did not hesitate, once the sails were down, Kailani turned into the downpour with no visibility ahead, and we threw out the fishing line! Thirty seconds later we had a nice tuna on the hook. Anyway, all turned out well as we navigated to the anchorage. Two other boats are here, so within 20 mins of our hook down they were over here to chat. One leaves this afternoon on passage to Mauritius, but has not been able to pull gribs, so we downloaded wx for them. The other are some friends from Cocos who wanted to share their harrowing passage stories... Anyway, here we are, finally. We sailed just under 1,800 nm to go 1,500 on the rhumbline. The repair list is long, but we are all well on board and can't wait to see what this place looks like in the sunshine. Weather 12kts SE, 100%cc

NOTES FROM OUR TIME IN CHAGOS - Aug 2017 to Sep 2017
 
Mon Aug 28 16:18 2017 NZST
At anchor Ile Fouquet, Salomon Islands, Chagos Archipelago. Since arriving we have had mostly rainy, windy, cloudy weather, with the occasional side of sunshine. We have taken full advantage of any positive weather swings with dinghy and kayak rides to explore, exercise and access great snorkeling. It is wonderful to be in a place where the marine life is abundant again. Snorkeling visits to the reef we see rays, turtles, sharks, unique brain coral and even some fish we have never seen before - an Oriental Sweetlips graced our presence the other day -look it up! Spectacular outfit for a fish!! We take particular pleasure in kayaking the island shore at high tide, as there is no real beach then, and instead we kayak through the tops of leaning palm trees and find ourselves staring eye to eye with boobies and their young chicks, their nests only a couple feet from the surface of the water in this land of no predators. During one morning kayak we were graced by a pod of 80-100 feeding porpoise, making their way through the lagoon as we made our way through the pouring rain. Felt more like the Pacific Northwest than the tropics though considerably warmer.
A couple days ago we took our big dinghy down to Ile Boddam, to the old settlement of Chagosians who were evicted ... there is now a "yacht club" of sorts, each passing cruiser leaving its mark by readying a shelter and organizing the various plastic trash so prevalent on every windward shore. There was a wheelbarrow made from plastic jugs and flip flops ... mostly it was a bit spooky, not much left of the former islanders except some old structure walls and a memorial placed by some Chagossian descendants who were granted permission by the BIOT to come place a memorial for their loved ones that they had to leave behind at rest. We spent a quick morning there as the weather changed dramatically and a frontal system moved in 6 hours ahead of the weather forecast ... (generally true here, weather has not been as forecast... not even close!). We sheltered on the beach for one downpour, then in the yacht club shelter for the next, before we thought we had a clear enough window to make it back the 3.5 nm north to Kailani. Home never felt so good than that day arriving back safely to Kailani.

We have been the only boat here now for the last 6 days - glorious! We are extra careful with all things we do, as the nearest people are 100+ miles to the south, our "lee shore" in the SE winds is an open ocean cut, and when the wind shifts we have lee shores all around with the tiny sand spit just enough for us to have comfortable 360 degree swing room. We are humbled by the many many shipwrecks surrounding us (so far we have snorkeled 2 submerged ones, explored 2 beach bound ones). Today at low tide we are venturing to do a hike around the entire island of Ile Fouquet. At high tide most islands in this group have no real beach - just lush dense jungle, mostly coconut palms and mangroves. When we are near land, it sounds like Jurassic Park with all kinds of crazy and exotic bird (and other??) sounds emitting from the dense woods, with occasional movement in the lower fronds seemingly (hopefully?) linked to the wind moving across the island. Basically, hiking ashore here is the kind of place one needs a machete and an epi-pen to traverse. So off we go, machete & epi-pen packed, to explore for the day. Weather 12kts SE

Sun Sep 3 21:15 2017 NZST At anchor Ile Boddam, Salomon Islands, Chagos Archipelago.
The beauty of this place is certainly in its isolation. We have now been here two weeks, getting to know the "rhythm of the reef", so to speak. We have snorkeled the same spots so frequently that we felt we were getting to know the moods of the fish, which bommies had resident turtles or rays, etc. One day we noticed that the fish seemed "jumpy", and then a black tip reef shark appeared and was quite aggressive in his behavior. Looking off toward the deep we could see 4-5 more sharks lined up facing the reef ... a glance at our watches and we realized it was indeed "shark o'clock"- too late to be out on the reef! We had just seen our Oriental Sweetlips, and Harl spotted a juvenile Oriental Sweetlips doing its "hula", so we were excited to continue, but we decided the pool was closed for the day for us ...

Two days ago we had the most glorious weather when the sun came out full strength, the seas calmed down, and we supplemented our typical daily snorkel and kayak with a full afternoon of tropical beach "r&r" - eating coconuts, riding the incoming rip between Ile Fouquet and Ile Takamaka, relaxing in the shade of palm trees, and taking a ride on a very dynamic tree swing. The wind went light two nights ago, making our anchorage extremely rolly with exposure to an uncomfortable SW swell, so we have taken advantage of this light wind situation to move south to the Ile Boddam anchorage, where we are on a mooring. Anchoring is prohibited in this section of the lagoon as it is all coral bommies, so cruisers have developed moorings over time - a mixture of chain, line, shackles, mooring balls - all attached to pieces of coral. Compared to where we were at Ile Fouquet, there is relatively little current (and no roll). This makes for the perfect weather to further explore, but more importantly, finish our various sail repairs and boat prep prior to passage. Off we go to clean the bottom, a welcome relief from the heat and humidity ... We are looking at departing in 4 days (Thursday) for our passage to Mauritius. Weather 3kts SSW, sunny 92F, humidity 77%

1250nm Passage: Chagos Archipelago to Mauritius - Sep 2017

DAY 1 Sat Sep 9 15:45 2017 NZST 1250 nm to Mauritius. Trying to optimize our wx window, we have delayed a couple days from our planned departure of Thursday. However, the time has come, so today in 3 hours we will up anchor and exit the lagoon on the rising tide, bound for Mauritius. Yesterday we moved back up to Ile Fouquet, as once the wind filled in we were not feeling too comfortable on the mooring at Ile Boddam (... surrounded by reefs, not much room to remedy a broken mooring line) and consequently we did not sleep too well. So after one last kayak of the bathtub like low tide waters between Ile Poule and Ile du Sel, it was off the mooring and back to the lovely Ile Fouquet anchorage. On the way up the lagoon, we were greeted by a large pod of dolphins that played on our bow - we drove around in circles to extend their stay as Sophia declared this the "best thing that has ever happened!". An afternoon of beach play wrapped up our time here, and now we are in the final efforts to ready Kailani down below and topsides for our 1250 nm beam reach / close reach passage. Weather 12kts SSE, cc40%, 83F, humidity 75%

DAY 2 Sun Sep 10
19:06 2017 NZST 1070 nm to Mauritius. Close reaching through a slightly confused sea with a southerly 2m swell and SE wind waves which makes our motion a bit uncomfortable. We shortened sail last night furling the genoa and deploying the staysail which has cost us a couple of knots in boat speed but it no longer feels like we are holding on to a running horse that smells the barn. Even with a single reef in the main and the staysail we are making 47 nm every 6 hours which still works out well for an early morning arrival next Saturday. 1070 nm to Port Louis in Mauritius and all well on board. Heading 220 T Speed 8.2kts Weather 16 kts SE, seas 2.5m, 1010 mb, 65% cc

DAY 3 Mon Sep 11 18:06 2017 NZST 884 nm to Mauritius. A beam reach ... sailor's dream. Seas are less confused so the ride is pretty comfortable. Dare we say that? We are still maintaining a shortened sail plan (1st reef main + staysail) to keep things comfortable. All well on board. Heading 220T Speed 8.2kts Weather 18kts ESE, seas 2.5m, 1013mb, 15%cc

DAY 4 Tue Sep 12 18:18 2017 NZST 708 nm to Mauritius. Wind has veered and strengthened, making it more of close reach, with all of its "sporty" riding aspects in play ... . May put in a 2nd reef if the wind keeps up to prioritize comfort. Saw our first ship last night on AIS - 24 nm away. Otherwise, just us and the seabirds out here. All well on board. Heading 220T Speed 8.7kts Weather 20-24 kts SE, seas 2-3m, 1014 mb, 20% cc

DAY 5 Wed Sep 13
18:15 2017 NZST 516 nm to Mauritius. Waiting for the wind to back a little which should happen sometime this afternoon. Last 12 hours has been a bucking bronco ride into the seas but thankfully squall free. Yesterday afternoon we crossed paths with a huge offshore oil rig being towed by a tug boat. It looked like a giant 5 turreted castle being pulled by a mouse! Hailing from the Netherlands, and bound for Singapore, a long way for it to travel at 4 kts ... What a strange sight on the open ocean ...Heading 233 T Speed 9.5kts Weather 20-22 kts SE, seas 2-3m, 1017 mb, 10% cc

DAY 6 Thu Sep 14 18:18 NZST 2017 NZST 309 nm to Mauritius. A long night of squall on squall wind shifts, we saw lots of rain and winds sustained at 38kts for a while. We have been pushed a little west of our rhumbline so will be pinching to windward as much as possible today to keep us clear from the shoals to the west of us. The weather is cooling, relatively, as we finally had temperatures just under 80F down below this morning, first time since leaving New Caledonia back in 2015! Great to be getting further south! Heading 226 T Speed 7.2kts Weather 15-17 kts SE, seas 2m, 1018 mb, 60% cc

DAY 7 Fri Sep 15 18:09 2017 NZST 118 nm to Mauritius. Well, last night at o-dark-thirty, with 190 nm to go to Mauritius, the wind died. About 24 hours sooner than anticipated in the gribs, but that's how it goes. We have been conservative with our diesel since last filling up in Singapore in June, and thankfully got an additional 100 liters during our stopover at Cocos Keeling (not a simple process, involving dinghying 3 nm into 25 kts, hitchhiking / walking to and from the fuel station, that was, incidentally, only open for 1 hour two days a week, and then dinghying back with two jerry cans ready to be dumped into our tanks). Anyway, we have been conservative, and with the promise of more diesel to be had in Mauritius, we turned on our engine and have been motorsailing for 9 hours. We have another 12-14 hours to go, at which time we will anchor off of Port Louis in Mauritius as the port captain does not allow ships to enter at night. For now it is like a spring day down below, hatches open, sun's out, fresh air is moving through the boat and there are calm seas. Who could ask for more?

At the moment we are motoring over a very impressive sea mount - the Soudan Bank - where the sea floor rises to a depth of only 100 feet from 9,000 feet, sure to be rich with fish. So to keep our smallest sailor (who is also quite the fisher-girl) happy, as well as to not disappoint our kiwi friends, we have thrown out a lure. Meanwhile, just before approaching the sea mount, we had to divert our course for a container ship. We came upon him on our rhumbline, and the AIS info said "Cargo Ship. Not Under Command" moving at 1.4kts, clearly just drifting northward ... Hmmm, what does that mean exactly? Pirates? Disabled engine? Out of fuel? We considered calling them up and offering to see if they needed assistance, or perhaps some provisions - after all, we have 1 cabbage leaf, 3 carrots, 2 onions, 6 garlic cloves and 4 eggs left, and could even spare about 5 liters of diesel ... hah!! Our considered opinion, however, is that the ship, out of France and bound for Reunion, has a specified ETA and needs to wait it out to time his arrival. So many times we have done the same thing!! But alas, we are not a 334m long hunk of metal in everyone's way!
Anyway, it is either fresh fish or spaghetti carbonara for our last dinner at sea (note, we did not even consider offering up our last 1/4 kilo of bacon to the cargo ship...). Heading 217 Speed 7.9kts motorsailing Weather 3 kts N, seas 0.5m, 1017 mb, 5% cc

DAY 8 Sat Sept 16 20:30 2017 NZST On the dock, Le Caudan Marina, Port Louis, Mauritius. The wind resumed last night, filling in from the west, which meant our plan to anchor off of Port Louis until sunrise was void. It is a very busy port and anchoring out would have put us on a lee shore. So we sailed Kailani with a single reefed main on starboard tack for the last 9 hours while watching the increasing traffic all around us and the "glow" of civilization on the horizon. We arrived into the port this morning to much "busy ness". Since we were here in 2005 things have changed quite a bit. It appears, like Fiji and other countries, the fishing rights to these waters have been bought by the Chinese, as there were almost 50 Chinese fishing boats tied cheek by jowl to each other, most of the time at least 10-15 to a single mooring. All the traffic made for a busy entrance made even more interesting by a 2 m swell from the open ocean providing a following sea... (and not the kind we sailors cavalierly wish for!) But helped onto the dock by some other cruisers, we were able to safely tie Kailani alongside the concrete dock here at Le Caudan Waterfront Marina. Within minutes of arrival we met someone who will take all of our laundry, a taxi driver offering his services, and photos of Jen and Sophia are certainly already posted on facebook by the many tourists who came by with so much enthusiasm wanting photos of foreign yachts (we even met some of those Chinese fishermen!!) ... Harl was able to procure lattes, pastries, and wonderful fresh sandwiches on his walk to the Customs office, all before we have even checked into the country! Feels good to be back in civilization. Weather 15 kts W, 1014 mb, 25% cc.


From Cocos Keeling we will sail approximately 2000 nm to the Chagos Archipelago ... supposed to be gorgeous, it is a protected marine reserve, and we get to stay for 30 days and play!!

30 August 2017  1230 local
05 19 S    072  15 E
At anchor
Salomon Islands, Chagos Archipelago, BIOT
Indian Ocean

The dictionary defines “alone” as being separated from all others; isolated. Had they included a picture it would show Kailani anchored in this atoll.

When you consider that virtually all of the time we are at sea on passage we are alone, it should not feel any different to be at anchor in the midst of nowhere, but it does.  The closest humanity is 120 nm to the south where 3,000 of America's finest maintain a SAC base at Diego Garcia, but they keep to themselves and expect us to do the same. Other than that, no land; and, since the day after we arrived, no people for a thousand miles or more.

All of this isolation colors the way we go about our daily lives. Since there is no other cruising boat to help out if we have a problem, we have to be extra vigilant. When the wind pipes up or changes direction we take stock of the change and confirm that the anchor is holding and that we are not swinging into the shallows, something we always do but here our tolerance for wind changes is much lower. When Jen goes for a solo kayak as part of her knee rehabilitation, she takes the portable VHF radio and stays out of the current while hugging the lee of the islands. When we decide to go explore the lagoon in our big dinghy with its 15 hp outboard we take not only the radio (although there is no one to call within range) but water, some food (Spam travels well), matches, a machete, a spare change of clothes and even the small 2.5 hp outboard as a backup.  And lest one think that we are being too cautious, the reminders of lapses in vigilance are all around. A 65 foot fiberglass catamaran lies in pieces on the beach in front of us, two steel hull motor sailers lie on their sides on the reefs under water inside the lagoon with huge gashes in their hulls where the coral has opened them up like cans of tuna and a wooden hulled fishing boat is half buried in the sand a mile north of us. No doubt the stories when told by their crew would all include a few “if only we had...”.

Getting here from Cocos (Keeling) constituted probably the most difficult passage that we have made as a family. To start with we had to sail 250 nm south of our westerly rhumb line at a little over 4 knots just to catch the wind thereby turning  a 1,500 nm 7 day passage into a nearly 1,800 nm 10 day journey. Then when we caught the wind it came in with a vengeance blowing 25-30 knots almost the whole way directly from behind.  While this is a fast point of sail (at one point we hit a wave just right and tracked at 19.5 knots over the ground on the surf) it requires constant vigilance to maintain a heading directly down wind. Too far upwind and we would back wind the poled out genoa, too far downwind and we would back wind the prevented out main sail.  The weather was mostly wet so other than the obligatory 360 degree horizon scan every 15 minutes, our watches were taken below folded into the chair at the chart table, eyes on the wind direction, hands on the autopilot and body braced against the corkscrewing Kailani as she sailed down the 15 foot wave faces.  On those occasions when a wave would kick us right or left and the autopilot couldn't cope the on watch crew would have to run topside, disengage the auto pilot and hand steer us back to down wind.  To say we were delighted to sight land is a gross understatement.

We arrived in typical Kailani fashion trolling a line and heading into a big squall as we crossed the reef. Naturally we hooked a bonito right in the middle of the reef and the squall (the second catch of the day although the first was an overly enthusiastic booby that mistook our lure for a flying fish). So with Jen driving a course through the lagoon in near zero visibility, Harl boated the fish, killed it with a couple of blows of the vang pump handle, bled it and hung it up to be cleaned later. We navigated two miles through the lagoon to join two other boats anchored in the lee of Ile Fouquet, dropped the hook and set about putting the boat to rights.  Breakage during the passage was modest; we chafed through one of the genoa sheets (exciting at the time), chafed through the genoa furling line, popped a batten out of a mast car and the hydraulic pump which tensions the boom vang gave up and leaked out its fluid.  All but the last are repairable here. The pump will have to wait until Reunion, however the next leg is on the wind so the vang is not critical.

The Salomon Islands here in Chagos are but a very small part of the archipelago, but one of only two places that cruising yachts are permitted to visit. The rest of the 25,000 square miles of ocean (other than Diego Garcia) is dotted with reefs and uninhabited islands that are part of the marine reserve and are carefully guarded against encroachment by humans, particularly fishing boats. The local population was relocated by the British when they seized control of the archipelago and the whole sordid mess is before the international courts as the displaced Chagossians and the independent country of Mauritius try to reclaim their island paradise.

Leaving the politics aside, this atoll consists of 10 islands making up an lagoon shaped like a foreshortened chicken drumstick with the narrow end to the southwest and the fat end to the northeast. There is only one entrance to the lagoon that is passable and that is on the northwest side of the atoll.  Since there are large gaps between the islands around the 3 mile by 5 mile lagoon, the currents between the islands are fierce with their ferocity proportional to the height of the swells breaking on the fringing reef a mile or so outside the islands.

We wish we could say that the weather has been great in the 10 days we have been here, but this close to the equator we are lucky to get through a day without squalls. As we write this we are 12 hours into riding out a passing system that has brought us frequent downpours and gusty winds. We have still managed to sandwich in some snorkeling, beach combing and exploring between the weather systems. Most of the reefs in the lagoon are made up of colorful hard coral populated by the usual reef fish (and the unusual including the Oriental Sweet Lips), some black and white tip reef sharks and even a barracuda or two.  It seems that each major reef has its own resident sea turtle and they don't seem all that perturbed by us snorkeling through their domain.

Last week, we took the big dinghy (with the aforementioned safety supplies) 3.5 miles south west across the lagoon to Ile Boddam, the location of a long abandoned Chagossian village. At one point before the British authorities put limits on how long yachts could stay the cruisers had set up a squatters camp (euphemistically referred to as a Yacht Club) among the ruins of the old buildings, now down to their coral block foundations.  But even this camp has the feeling of abandonment with the constant scratching of the hermit crabs the only sign of life. We almost got to test our survival supplies as we were overtaken by a major system that left us huddled first under a blanket and then in the meager shelter of the Yacht Club's one piece of tin roofing while the wind howled and the rain came down in buckets for the better part of an hour. The rain let up and the clouds lifted long enough for us to dash back to Kailani using our recorded out bound track on a GPS to guide us around all the bommies that had become invisible in the flat light.

We have been watching the weather forecast for a window to leave for Mauritius, one that will have the wind with a little more east in it so we can be a little less on the wind during the 1,200 mile passage. At this point it looks like maybe next week this time since between now and then the wind is forecast to go light to less than 10 knots, not enough to sail comfortably in the Southern Ocean swells that make their way up here. In the meantime we'll try to milk our solitude for all we can. After all, this may be the last time in our sailing adventures that we will have a tropical paradise all to ourselves.

12 August 2017 1715 local
14 10 S  093 41 E
1,386 nm to Chagos
Course: 259 M  Speed: 6.1 kts
Wind ESE 14  Seas 2-3m

Like farmers, sailors never get perfect weather. In our case, we had to choose to either stay in Cocos through a calm and then leave in 25-30 kts and 5 meter seas after a week, or get out ahead  of the calm and head south to find the next high pressure system. We chose the latter and the last two days we have been wallowing along in 8-10kts of breeze and are 200 nm south of the rhumb line between Cocos and Chagos.  In the last hour the wind has freshened a bit and veered as well allowing us to turn a little more toward our destination and make a bit more speed, although still nothing like we usually do in the trades.  But be careful what you wish for, since 24 hours from now we should be running wing and wind dead down wind in 25-30kts on a direct line to Chagos and back in the washing machine motion that we experienced in the Indian Ocean when we crossed it 12 years ago.

The light winds have allowed all aboard to get their sea legs, and another night or so and we will be out of the exhaustion phase and settled into our watches.  This will be Sophia's longest passage ever, and so she is on an exercise program that requires her to walk 20 laps between the forward head and the companionway each morning. She has also done the daily deck walk with Dad checking the lashings on the dinghy and chafe points on all the running rigging. Her first time up she spent an extra ten minutes standing on the high side, tethered to the jackline mesmerized by the large Southern Ocean swell that rolled beneath Kailani every 10 seconds or so.  Years from now she may choose never to get on a boat again, but those ten minutes of wonder will be with her forever.

In Chagos we will anchor in the Salomon Islands


06 August 2017 2200 local
12 05 S  096 52 E
Anchored at Direction Island
Cocos (Keeling) Islands
Indian Ocean

As promised in the weather forecast, the wind died down two days ago and the past 48 hours have been delightful. School has been cut to a single subject each morning and we have taken advantage of the calm to snorkel the coral bommies that are just off the beach, comb for shells and unique pieces of sea glass and visit with the crews of other boats here in the anchorage.

Cocos is a unique anchorage in that boats that come here are almost all European or American cruising sailboats on their penultimate ocean crossing before completing a circumnavigation. Everyone has a story to tell and most of these stories are quite humbling. On Kailani, we like to think that we have been there and done that for after all, we are on our second circumnavigation. But our story is boring compared to some. For example a Swedish couple both in their late sixties left yesterday on the 2,200 mile run to Mauritius, and they have been out sailing since 1987. They were the 42nd boat to navigate the northwest passage from Greenland to Alaska and there are very few places that they have not been in the Pacific. But even their story pales in comparison to that of Lars, another Swede currently anchored behind us. At 76 years old, Lars is still out here single handing his 47 ft cutter through waters many of us only dream about. He has spent a season in Patagonia, cruised Antarctica, and doubled Cape Horn. Back in the early sixties, he built a Chinese junk in Hong Kong and sailed it to Australia. He had two chickens on the broad aft deck of the junk that he named Starboard and Port, and they laid eggs during the entire passage. When, just shy of his destination, the wind died, the chickens stopped laying, and as there is no room on a boat for useless crew, they went into the pot.

Two days ago, a French family dropped anchor next to us. They have two boys ages 17 and 11, and despite the language barrier they and Sophia have become fast friends. The family has been out here for the past 8 years cruising with minimal resources. They have no water maker but nary a rain shower goes uncollected. They have no refrigeration but are experts at canning protein ranging from extra fish they cannot eat while fresh , to chickens and pigs they have bought (or caught) and slaughtered themselves. Antoine, the oldest, spends his mornings studying to get into medical school when they return to France in a year, but this afternoon he built a snare and caught one of the island chickens. When we left him on the beach last night, he and his mom were constructing a chicken coop with woven palm fronds.

Anchored just off our port quarter is an Italian boat captained by Marzia, a typical Italian fire ball who speaks several languages, but like any Italian, she would be mute without her hands gesticulating wildly. Her crew is her good friend, Alesandro, but in Marzia's own Italian accented words, he cannot learn to sail despite ten years of her tutelage. (“I tell him to take the sheet and he says, “What, you want me to take a sheeet?“)  Marzia has managed to be in or near seven different hurricanes/cyclones/typhoons during her many years out here, but she and her hard chine steel boat have pulled through them all.

So these are our current neighbors. The correct water maker part arrived this morning and we plan to leave on the 1,600 mile run to Chagos on Thursday. But between now and then it is any one's guess who will sail in from the east to share their stories of the cruising life.

3 August 2017 0300 local
12 05 S  096 52 E
Anchored at Direction Island
Cocos (Keeling) Islands
Indian Ocean

Lest we be accused of complaining that our diamond shoes are too tight, those who would make such accusations should try spending three weeks in paradise but confined for most of that time in 200 square feet of living space while the wind howls in the rigging, the boat lurches from one side to the other in the chop and there is no such thing as an uninterrupted night's sleep with the hatches having to be opened and closed numerous times in response to the squalls that roll through the anchorage. But we have put our confinement time to good use effecting some repairs and maintenance and catching up on school.

We have managed a couple of days of recreation when a brief break in the weather allowed us to roam about the lagoon. We kayaked to Prison Island, a tiny islet with a few palm trees and a huge hermit crab population. At one point phalanxes of these slow but steady creatures marched towards the strangers on their island in search of food. A couple of orange peels tossed in their path arrested their progress and created a melee of competition with the littler ones holding their own against their bigger siblings. The six boats  here (two from Sweden, and one each from Australia, Italy, France and the great State of Idaho) have had a few get togethers aboard each other's boats and, on one night of calm, a bonfire and barbecue on the beach.

The latest forecast calls for the wind to abate for the next five days (or lat least drop below 20 knots) and we are making our plans to take advantage of the relative calm with kayaking, beach combing and snorkeling on the schedule. Sophia will also be studying the island biome for biology with the proviso that no living creatures can be brought back to the boat regardless of how interesting they might appear. Three boats are leaving on Saturday for points west after a last beach party tomorrow night and we are planning on setting off on Thursday for Chagos.  Last week one of the high pressure fittings on the water maker cracked and we hope to have a spare delivered in on Saturday's flight from Perth. Meanwhile we haul water 10 gallons at a time from one of the cisterns ashore.

Its now 0330 in the morning and having been awakened by a squall we decided to make cinnamon rolls from some brioche  dough Jen put together yesterday.  The squall has passed and the stars are out for the time being, so once these rolls come out of the oven its back to the bunk.New paragraph

14 July 2017
12 04 S   96 54 E
At anchor
Direction Island, Cocos (Keeling) Atoll

Well we finally completed our escape from SE Asia and are back where the trade wind blows 24/7 and the water is crystal clear. Cocos has changed a bit since we were here back in 2005. Then there were a half dozen cruisers at any one time resting up after their first IO leg and there wasn't much else other than a run down shelter on the beach. Now there are five new shelters, rain water cisterns, composting toilets, cut trails, brick bbq pits and a ferry that runs twice a week from the anchorage to Home Island where there is an internet hot spot. And there are rules, lots of rules about what you can and cannot do during your stay, most of which get ignored by the cruisers. Plus the locals get A$50 a week from us to use the anchorage. But it is still a pretty nice hangout particularly after SE Asia.

We arrived at dawn yesterday after a sporty 600nm sail in 68 hours from Java only to find that the engine would not run. So we dropped the hook under sail outside the anchorage in 30kts and tried to fix the problem which we shortly determined was not fixable in the short term. So on the high tide but in the poor light of early moriung we short tacked amongst the bommies, across the sand bar and around the other boats and re anchored. Short tacking 63 ft of Kailani under staysail in 20+ kts without running aground or damaging our new neighbors ranks high on the stress meter, but God looks out for drunks, fools and sailors, and we clearly had two of the categories nailed down that morning.

We all spent yesterday cleaning up Kailani with Sophia all the while keeping a wary eye on the three kid boats in the anchorage. They had gone to town to check out of Cocos but when they returned and discovered a new kid in the anchorage they invited Sophia to the beach with them. She was off the boat so fast that we barely got a good bye out of her and was returned to us well after dark, effusive in her review of the island, the swimming and, of course, her new friends. They all left this morning having made big plans to meet in South Africa at the end of the year.

Tomorrow we'll take the ferry to Home Island, which ironically is the home of 550 Muslim Malays brought here in the 19th century to tend the coconut plantations. A little bit of SE Asia in this tropical paradise.


Where are we going?  We will be sailing across the Indian Ocean and unlikely be able to post photos ... we will sail down along the Indonesian Archipelago, turning right south of Krakatoa and our first landfall will be a coral atoll called Cocos Keeling .... Cool looking, right?!

5 July 2017
06 05 S  105 27 E
Anchored Krakatoa, Indonesia
626 nm to Cocos Keeling Islands

In 1883 the island volcano of Krakatoa erupted in one of the most spectacular geologic events in recorded history, and tonight she lies a mere mile off Kailani’s bow as we are anchored at one of her nearby offspring that formed part of the original caldera.  A wisp of steam surrounds her summit and “baby” Krakatoa with her own small steam cloud is a half mile abeam of us.  Krakatoa gave a belch this past February causing the immediate influx of volcanologists but she has been quiet ever since. We trust that she will remain so for the next 48 hours as we catch a breather from our 600 mile sail through Indonesia.

It was not until the night before last that we finally were able to shut down the diesel and actually sail for a change, something that we have done little of since arriving in SE Asia in 2015.  So for the better part of thirty hours (saving close to 40 gallons of precious fuel) we came south through the Java Sea. Because our rhumb line took us well off the Sumatran coast for most of the way there were no small fishing boats to avoid making the night watch a little less stressful, that is until last night.

The Sunda Strait separates the islands of Sumatra and Java and at its narrowest is only 13 miles wide with an island and rocks in the middle. Most of the water in the Java Sea is pushed by the east wind out this narrow gap that translates to a wicked current. The approach from the north takes you through Indonesia’s principal oil fields with dozens of platforms, wells and offshore loading moorings, and you cannot count on every hazard being lit.  Combine this with the constant stream of ferry traffic moving east/west across the narrow strait and the ship traffic moving north/south between the Indian Ocean and the Java Sea and the pucker factor ratchets up.  Now imagine doing it in the waning hours of darkness after the moon has set and before the sun has begun to lighten the eastern sky. Despite our best efforts to time our arrival to after sunrise, Kailani does not like to go slowly under sail.  We were making better than 5.5 kts under a double reefed main and we simply arrived there too soon. It would be one thing if the local ships and boats adhered to the international rules to prevent collisions at sea (i.e. they displayed the correct lights) but as we pointed out in our last update most Indonesian small boats tend more toward stroboscopic red and blue lights with occasional white or yellow light to really confuse you. And then just when you think you figured out what direction the target is headed they turn their flood light on you to make sure you see them.  We eventually hooked up our million candle power spot light to flash them back and our guess is there are several fishermen out there today still seeing spots. The ferries are a whole other problem because while they carry the requisite red and green running lights, they are virtually impossible to make out because the ferries are lit from stem to stern with bright white floods. Moreover, because there are more ferries than there are places for them to tie up and shift passengers, they often just stop in the middle of the strait which means you have to pick a side to go around and all you can do is guess.

The entire transit of the Strait took less than an hour and once on the other side, it was as if we were the only boat on the ocean, definitely the first time that has happened in the last two years.

So we’ll rest up here for a full day and then plan to sail to the south western most extremity of Java where there is reportedly a good anchorage to jump off into the big blue for Cocos on Sunday.

2 July 2017
02 08 S  106 15 E
Anchored Palau Panjang, Indonesia
928 nm to Cocos Keeling Islands

We are currently motor sailing our way slowly south through the western part of the Indonesian archipelago against the prevailing SSE winds toward the Sunda Strait where we will wait for a weather window for the last 600 nm to Cocos.  The anchorage we are in tonight is behind a small uninhabited island, very calm with great holding. We spent the last two nights forty miles to the north of here on the tip  of Bangka Island anchored off a fishing village and surrounded by fishing huts. The Indonesians are an imaginative and resourceful people when it comes to catching fish and the fish hut is a classic example of their ingenuity. Basically they construct a square bamboo platform twenty to forty feet on a side. The platform is suspended about 10 feet off the water either on stilts where the water shoals or on floats where it is deeper. In the center of the platform is a tent like hut where the fishermen sleep during the day. At night they fire up a portable generator, turn on floodlights all around the platform and lower a net beneath the water. Before dawn they raise the net, collect their catch and send it back to town. There are so many of these huts in these waters that after dark all the lights make it look like we are anchored in the middle small city.

Since we have been pretty quiet up to now, largely due to our seemingly unending preparations for this next 6,000 nm of sailing across the Indian Ocean, we wanted to fill you in on some of our doings during the last 6 weeks in SE Asia. As you might recall we arrived in Pangkor on 22 May where Kailani had been tied to the jetty for 13 months.  Knowing full well that she would be in no shape to accommodate her crew full time until she was scrubbed from stem to stern topsides and below, we took up residence in a hotel near the marina. During the first few days jet lag worked in our favor. After collapsing just after sundown we were all awake and back working by 0400, well before the unbearable heat of the day made it difficult to perform even the most mundane tasks. We managed to buy an old second hand 220v window air conditioner that we stuffed into the forward hatch thereby cooling the entire down below to the point where our productivity increased to more normal levels and we were able to move back aboard, an event hastened by our hotel room flooding out after a typical tropical morning deluge. When you consider that the water came from an interior wall on the first floor of a seven-story hotel you can get a sense of Malaysian construction practices.

The next three weeks was find, fix, buy, and stow time. The list of little things that were broken was seemingly endless but surprisingly most of the big systems had survived the 13 months of salt air, heat and humidity just fine.  Thanks to our friends Ben and Belle on Samira we had access to a car which allowed us to track down the parts and round up the provisions we needed.  Sophia has become quite the able crew and was of immeasurable help to both her parents in their labors. She also ventured out on her own with our local friend Ruz and her son to take in the night market during Ramadan and returned with an armload of fresh fruit, much of it very strange looking but tasty.

With Kailani stowed with 4 months of canned and hard goods, the freezer stuffed with meat, fruit and vegetables and most of the systems humming we departed for Singapore, a journey of almost 300 nm fraught with shipping traffic, lit and unlit, trash in the water (including a steer carcass, long horns vertical like a pair of periscopes) and, of course, no wind.  Maybe we did not elaborate on the perils of cruising these waters at night when we passed through them in 2015 , but suffice it to say there is a high pucker factor as long as the sun is down.  The water is strewn with trash, including large logs, submerged drums, upside down trees floating “roots-up”, in addition to the likes of the aforementioned steer carcass.  All of these things need to be avoided in order to not do irreparable damage to Kailani.

As if the trash and detritus were not enough, there are the innumerable local fishermen.  In this part of Asia there are countless types of vessels and methods by which to take fish.  Unfortunately for us, most of those include unlit FADs (“Fish Attraction Devices”, basically floating “stuff” buoyed together, and attracting fish below it), and all kinds of boats with varying degrees of lighting. The most popular type of running light is a portable battery operated flashing light, offered in colors of green, red, white, and blue.  As things had it, just before Kailani left the dock in Pangkor, her port side running light would not work.  Not wanting anything to delay our departure, we had to install one of these “portable” flashing reds on our bow.  Ever the proper captain, Harl taped it up so it was visible only from the appropriate 135 degrees, and off we went.  Well, we came upon some local fishermen that night, who upon seeing our red flashing light must have thought we were a small local boat like theirs.  To conserve energy the fishermen do not put their lights on until they think someone is close ….  So all of a sudden they put a bunch of white lights on when they were 1/3 of a boat length directly in our path.  There was nothing we could do, and Kailani passed them to starboard (we could have reached out and shook hands), all three fishermen’s mouths agape as they looked at our size.  Yikes.  We will be so happy to be done cruising in these waters at night!

Where Malaysia is inexpensive Singapore is the other end of the scale.  What we paid for a typical meal would feed us for a week in Pangkor, although in fairness we ate a lot better in Singapore.  We arrived in the tony One15 marina resort with every intention of relaxing by the pool and taking in the sights, but there was very little time for that over the ten days we were there. We did manage a movie, a long bike ride and zip line adventure on Sophia’s half birthday and spent the better part of a day at the famous Gardens by the Bay, but most of the rest of the time was spent rounding out the fresh and frozen provisions, fixing the last few items that required parts shipped in or bought locally and using the high speed internet to finish our admin jobs before going off the grid.

So last Wednesday we topped off the fuel, took in the lines, and motored out to the quarantine anchorage among the huge tankers and container ships where the local immigration officers approached us in their work boat, took our passports in a fish net, stamped them and just like that we were out of Singapore.

28 June 2017
Updates will be coming .... once we get off the dock here in Singapore and have more time to write.  For now here is a preview of the anchorages ahead for us ...

Cocos Keeling ... Indian Ocean, owned by Australia

And here is the "tourist map"  of Cocos Keeling - we will be anchoring on the west side of Direction Island


27 June 2017 0035 local
01 15 N  103 56 E
On the dock
One15 Marina, Singapore

It would be nice to be able to tell you all that has gone on since we arrived in SE Asia a little over a month ago but it is just after midnight, we are still in the last minute throes of readying Kailani for her Indian Ocean crossing and it is hard to put two consecutive thoughts together much less write them down.

We were scheduled to check out of Singapore at 0900 today, but we notified our agent that we cannot make that deadline so we have pushed it back 24 hours and even then we will be hard pressed to get everything done in time.  One might well ask why it has taken more than a month to get to this point. A partial answer is that a boat left in the heat and humidity of SE Asia for 13 months will have a number of failures due to disuse and corrosion.  Among the many repairs we have had to repair/replace three tired pumps, fabricate a ball for the socket on the autopilot rudder indicator, charge the fridge compressors, check and replace all the below the water line hose clamps, replace the running and spreader lights and the topper, repair our beer locker which simply fell out of its mountings under the counter in the galley taking 5 cases of beer and six mango juice boxes into the bilge. Which brings us to the other part of the answer: not since we left San Diego in 2004 on our first circumnavigation have we had to provision for such an extended period of time. And provisioning in this part of the world without a car and without a Costco is a long drawn out process.  But Kailani is now stuffed with enough food to go for 4 months without a grocery store, most of her systems are functioning, and the crew is ready to get out of this equatorial heat and back in the trade winds which are blowing 15-20 kts about 600 nm south of here. 

So off the grid we go.


25 May 2017
Pangkor Marina, Pangkor, Malaysia

Well, it's HOT, darn HOT!!  We have been in country just shy of 3 days.  We are working furiously to get Kailani in a liveable state, which requires us sweating away down below in 95F weather and 85% humidity.... We laugh as we forget how the running rigging goes, took the main sail out of the land storage locker, mistaking it for the jib, and generally straining our memories of how to put poor Kailani all back together.  We hauled out today for a 24 hour "pop-and-drop" to do a quick bottom clean and inspection.  Awaiting a few parts from the US to arrive in order to do some repairs and, touch wood, we should be able to move aboard once Kailani is back in the water with the air-con operational!! 

22 May 2017      1300 GMT
Somewhere over the Pacific Ocean
Course: Roughly south-southwest   Speed:  550 kts

We’re back.  We’d love to know how many regular readers of this column are out there given that we went dark over a year ago. But we know there is at least one of you, and so John, get ready for the next several chapters in “Surviving the Dream: the Wanderings of Kailani and Her Crew” or “what makes a seemingly rational family head back to sea?.

A quick recap: we left the boat April a year ago, built a small house in Idaho, plowed and shoveled a few tons of snow (last snowfall was 3”, on 17 May),  Jen got a bionic knee, Harl got  a mesh covered gut, and Sophia  added to her life experience: (getting put in as a centerman in the last minutes of the last hockey game of the season and cleanly winning all three face offs might be the  highlight of her year, certainly in the top five.)

So here we are trying to sleep on the thirteen-hour leg to Hong Kong and gradually making the change from living on land to living aboard. But we have done it all before. The pleasant memories of ice cream, a virtually limitless supply of fresh potable water and a refrigerator that allows you to see stuff without crouching down with a flashlight, these fade to the background and are replaced with the colorful reality of our day to day life, which as most of you should know by now includes very few instances where we are actually sitting under a palm, sipping rum and gazing at Kailani anchored in the bay in front of us. The next 6 months, however, should afford some opportunities to do so.

Our route as planned is a bit of a zig-zag across the Indian Ocean with each zig and each zag measuring  1,800 to 2,000 nautical miles. Landfalls will range from the protection of coral atolls to berths mere steps from fresh baguettes. But the reinforced trades combined with the Southern Ocean cross swell it should make it for some fast, raucous  sailing  before we make landfall in Africa late in the antipodal spring.

Right now we have to figure out how we are going to scale the usual mountain of tasks we need to complete in order to ready Kailani for sea. But rest assured come Tuesday (local time) her decks and down below will be bustling with activity , although much bustling  in 90+F with 90%+ humidity is unlikely.

Finally, at the risk of seeming vain, let us know that you follow us. In all honesty many of our friends and a lot of our family always greet us upon return from months at sea with, “What have you been up to?” Maybe they can’t work a computer. Email is sketchy but we will eventually get yours and respond (this year there will likely be weeks or months between internet connections ... imagine that...) Best email: Kailani63 at yahoo dot com. Sophia just reminded me that I should be able to access a hit counter for this page on our hosting server so you don’t need to email us.  But we really do like hearing from you.


1 May 2016

44 53 N 116 04 W
Landlocked
McCall, Idaho USA
 
I guess if we had left Thailand back in February when we last wrote an update we could actually be on the boat in Idaho, given some help from a trucking company. But Kailani is safely tucked into a berth on Pangkor Island in Malaysia where she will lie for the rest of the year while we hang out in the good ole US of A.

Last update Jen was recovering from arthroscopy on the knee and we were in Thailand. Since then we have sailed back to Langkawi in Malaysia, hung out for six weeks with Jen confined to the boat and Harl and Soph logging lots of miles on their bikes, sailed on down to Pangkor, prepped Kailani for being on her own, flew to San Francisco from Kuala Lumpur, drove to San Diego, drove to San Francisco and drove here to Idaho. Jen is still recovering slowly, Sophia has been on school break for a couple of weeks but in the meantime has cleaned out the Sausalito, San Diego and McCall public libraries.

Coming back to the USA is study in contrasts, and coming back during an election year like this one makes you wish that Hunter Thompson had decided stick around a while longer. Things are expensive here but you can drink water right from the tap (except, apparently, in Flint). The cost of a southbound trip across the Golden Gate Bridge is more than dinner for three with leftovers in Malaysia. The ocean is cold, but clean. Traffic in LA is horrible but nothing compared to the traffic in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. Here in McCall it is just above freezing at night and sweatshirt cold all day. In Pangkor it is so hot and humid you wish you were in Idaho. Which for the most part is why we are in Idaho.

For the next few months we will be travelling the West and building a small house in the mountains where we can store our stuff and start anchoring ourselves to something more permanent than 200 feet of 3/8 inch chain and a 55 kilo Rocna. Meanwhile we have left the vendors in Pangkor with a worklist so that Kailani is ready for the next 25,000 miles of adventure.
The short message here is that our updates will go dark until early next year when we plan to return to SE Asia and sail across the Indian Ocean to South Africa with intermediate stops at yet to be decided places. (We will, however, continue to post the odd photograph). Until then we will be trying to set up our exit strategy from ocean passage making but probably not from cruising and certainly not for a few more years and anchorages.

Stay in touch.