Cocos Keeling to Chagos
It was Gareths' birthday on the twentieth of June and in order to let the entire lagoon know Noel hoisted the relevant flags to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY GARETH. Unfortunately we ran out flags so we had to settle for HAPPY BDAY GRY.
Noel and Martin, after working hard all morning headed off towards the outer reef for a dive later that day. Jack and Gareth accompanied them to provide support and to do a bit of snorkelling at the same time. It was a very pleasant day for it with plenty of different fish. Unfortunately towards the end of the dive two large grey reef sharks started circling the four of us, so we decided to call it a day and head back to the boat.
It was later that day when we decided to leave our mark on Cocos Keeling by drawing up a Lista Light pennant. Gareth and Amiria were the main brains behind the operation, doing half each, but everyone else was only to happy to give plenty of helpful advice on the project. Later that day the master piece was finished and we all trooped ashore to help display it. After a few acrobatics we had it securely fastened to the roof of the shack, and we all proudly posed under it.
After a beautiful birthday dinner of pumpkin soup and Yorkshire puddings a la Martin, Amiria surprised Gareth by bringing out the birthday cake that she had been secretly baking throughout the day. After a resounding chorus of happy birthday he blew out the candles and cut his cake.
Early the next morning we raised the anchor and motored out through the passage and started on our fifteen hundred mile course for Chagos. Once we cleared the atoll we hoisted a single reefed mizzen and the spinnaker to give us a speed of between five and six knots. The spinnaker has done us proud so far and saved us many a litre of diesel in the process, so due to his tough nature and hardiness, even surviving being dropped in the drink on two occasions, we officially recognized him as a proven member of the Lista Light crew and christened him Brutus. As the evening drew in we hauled Brutus down and replaced him with a single reefed main and the big jib leaving the mizzen up as well. The next morning despite the large sea we had a double Dorado hit on the lines much to the delight of Amiria and Noel who were on watch at the time.
The forecastle hatch had one half of it sanded and varnished before we got to Cocos Keeling and now that we were back at sea Gareth and Noel decided to continue the task.
The sea was still quite big with the auto-pilot working hard to keep us on course. The pump itself does get quite hot from its vigorous work, but all in all it is has proven to be an extremely useful and brilliant member of the crew, freeing up an extra pair of hands and generally making life so much easier.
Later that evening we had a pair of boobies land on the rail showing absolutely no interest in us what so ever they promptly went to sleep. They did stay there for most of the night until about three the next morning when one of them fell off the rail and landed on the deck. After much squawking and running around we picked him a dropped him over the side to leave us in peace. About an hour later the other one fell off the rail as well but not to be so easily deterred he took off and landed again on the mizzen boom where he spent all of the next day as well.
With our stowaway fast asleep we travelled on with a single reefed mizzen and the number one jib.
As evening drew upon us we exchanged the number one jib for the medium jib and with a far more relaxed motion we sailed into the night. We still had quite a bumpy sea and it was making the auto-pilot work very hard so we gave it a break by hand steering through most of the night. The next day saw us catching a small Dorado on the hand line, with the credit for the catch going to Amiria.
The fresh fruit supplies are still doing well and when ever one of the papayas shows a sign of turning we either make a smoothie or a fruit salad, the latter of which is a favourite of Noels.
So far the weather has been quite kind to us with the odd cloudy day. Unfortunately on day seven it started raining late afternoon and quickly turned into a downpour. Martin, Jack and Noel quickly took advantage of this and went up on deck for an open air shower. It rained on and off for most of the night and by the next morning with the buckets full and with the need for the rain gone everyone was heartily sick of it.
The rain finally relented about mid morning and it took with it what little wind we had. So the motor came on to be complimented by a poled out staysail and the number one jib. With the Perkins rumbling on it was beginning to turn into a very slow and lazy afternoon when the calm was shattered by a shout from Garth as he hauled in a good sized Albacore tuna.
The next day turned into a beautiful sunny day which gave us the opportunity to dry our wet weather gear and anything else that got damp. After being cooped up inside for over a day we all spent most of the day on deck soaking up the sunshine and doing maintenance work and small projects. One such project was a bamboo tankard that Gareth was working on.
With the wind relatively stable and no call for hands on deck, Jack took this as an opportunity to spend a few hours performing updates for the Lista Light website.
After a very steady nights progress, that included plenty of stargazing but not many miles covered, we launched Brutus at first light giving us an acceptable four to five knots. With Brutus giving us an extremely comfortable ride there was a hive of activity with everyone doing maintenance work or small projects that they have taken upon themselves to do.
The time had also come for the Perkins to have its filter change with Martin, assisted by Noel, tackling the task. From day one the Perkins and the Lister have both benefited dramatically from Martin's care and expertise and it must be said that we all greatly appreciate the fact that he is using his professional marine engineering skills to help us out. Martin also devotes a large chunk of his time when we are on land either overhauling and checking the Perkins and Lister or chasing down oil and parts that are necessary for the running of the boat.
We headed into the evening with a single reefed mizzen and the number one jib but by eight o'clock we had dropped them both and were steadily motoring into the night. At about seven o'clock the next morning we launched Brutus again and prepared ourselves for another strenuous day of down wind sailing. Around mid morning disaster struck when our newest coffee plunger had a fall and cracked himself down one side. Fortunately for everyone Martin got on the case and by the next day it was working beautifully again.
It is now day twelve and we have the mizzen and the staysail goose winged to give us a good speed of six knots through the water. Unfortunately we appear to be pushing about a knot to a knot and a half of current so what should be six knots is only a very disappointing four and a half. The wind direction did change slightly for us enabling us to fly the number one jib and take the pole off the staysail as well. We all cheered up when Noel caught an extremely large albacore tuna on the hand line. Gareth also hooked a similar size tuna on the rod, but after fifteen minutes of hard fighting he unfortunately lost it right at the boat. Needless to say he was slightly disappointed.
With a hundred and forty miles to go to Chagos we knew that we would not get there at our current speed. So we decided to press the Perkins into active service and try and get there for midday tomorrow. By nine o'clock the next morning we had our first sight of Chagos.
It was about midday by the time we reached the pass and dropped the sails. All the books that we have warned about the charts being unreliable so Martin went up the ratlines to eye us in and Amiria and Gareth kept lookout on the bow while Jack kept an eye on our progress on C-Map.
Even with C-Map out we made our way across the Atoll with relative ease and dropped the anchor off Ile Fouquet. Noel and Amiria were the first to swim over to the island closely followed by Jack, Gareth, and Martin in the dinghy. We all meet up where two islands were separated by a strip of water that had a very fast current gushing into the Atoll.
After a bit of deliberation we decided to walk along the shore a bit more then swim out into the pass and let the current take us, then swim for shore when we got to the end. We all swam out into the pass at more or less the same time but we were very quickly separated. There was an abundance of fish life there which included a large moray eel.
After doing the pass we decided that it was defiantly time to head back to the boat and the cold beer that was waiting in the fridge. Gareth and Martin took the dinghy back to the boat and Noel, Amiria and Jack decided to swim it. Once we were all back aboard the boat with a cold beer clasped in our hands we took a moment to enjoy the sunset and remember just how lucky we all are.
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