Passage from Broome Australia to Cocos Keeling

Well we've finally left Australia !  I think we've given it our best shot.  We arrived in Sydney on 28 October 2014 and left Mermaid reef (160M WNW of Broome) on 29th August 2015 – 10 months covering a total of 5700 nm from Sydney down to Tasmania and then back up the east coast, across the top to Broome and out to Mermaid reef in the Rowley shoals – it's a big country!  Apart from a few sea snakes, 2 land snakes and a lot of crocs, we've not seen much in the way of real nasties – got bitten quite often by sand flies and mozzies though.  So we're now on the first leg of our passage across the Indian ocean – to Cocos Keeling – about 1300 miles from Mermaid reef.  We'll be making a daily position report (weather permitting!) on mailasail as usual at: But as a bonus here's the first one!

Day 1

After 2 days of playing about in gin clear water, we left Mermaid reef at 08.30 on 29 th August (local WA time).  Not much wind forecast for the next few days but we have to leave sometime!  We set off with 7 knots of wind from the SW.  Seas flat with a swell but with a long period so we didn't feel it much. Fortunately most of the day the wind has been forward of the beam so our speed hasn't been too bad – around 5 to 6 knots on port tack.  However in the night it dropped right off so we were down to 1 -3 knots for a few hours – so that'll bring our daily average down!

We're back in that beautiful deep royal blue inky sea – haven't seen it like this for a long time (maybe it's Indian ink – ha).  It's a full moon so the night is bright – good thing too as we discovered our tricolour isn't working, though we have plenty alternatives.  Had dolphins bow-riding in the moonlight – very ‘Disneyesque'.  The trading between Oz and China seems to be booming – picked up on AIS about 6 cargo ships going south a few hours ago and now abut 5 cargo ships going north to China .  The seas have picked up a bit this morning with more of a swell but still relatively comfortable.

24 hours miles: 131

Position at 08.30 – 30 August (GMT+8):  S16:32:094 E117:32:155

Day 2

Despite the grib files showing light winds, we had 12- 15 knots most of the day.  At one point it got up to around 20 so we put a reef in the genoa and kept it in all day – made good progress at around 8 knots for the best part of the day.  The seas got a bit sloppy but generally not too uncomfortable.  During the night the wind did drop to around 5 knots but we still kept up a reasonable speed of around 4 – 5  knots. The long roll has now shortened considerably and there are wind waves so seas are a bit more lively.  Shook out the reef early this morning.  Still close reaching on port tack – not much fiddling about to do with the sails!  Lots of reading!

No cetaceans but one lonely long tailed tropic bird and a clutch of brown boobies having an ocean wave conference!  Shipping trade still going strong with China !

24 hours miles: 187

Position at 08.30 – 31 August (GMT+8):  S15:58:439 E114:26:423

Day 3

Wind pretty steady all day so maintained a close reach on port tack doing around 7 – 8 knots.  The swell gradually built up to around 3 – 4 m with a long period of around 11 sec. This is coming all the way from big winds in the southern ocean. Although large and looking like massive hillsides coming towards you, it's actually very gentle due to the long period, so not uncomfortable.  On top of that we get the wind waves, which at present are not much more than a meter. These are the ones that cause you to wobble around, particularly if the wind drops and the sails loose their drive and damping effect. All in all not too uncomfortable though and pleasant good value for money sailing.  As per usual the wind dropped a bit in the night but we were still able to maintain a reasonable speed of around 4 – 5 knots. Wind is gradually going behind so we expect our speed to drop off as it does.  Bit of cloud around, looking like typical trade wind lanes with stronger and lighter bands of wind under them – some actually look like rain clouds.  We haven't seen any rain since crossing the Gulf of Carpentaria about two months ago - the boat is so dirty and salt-encrusted we could do with a quick shower to clean it off – oops I'd better be careful what I wish for!

Daily check OK – lots of flying fish about but none on deck this morning.  No cetaceans – a couple of brown boobies and lots of flying fish who seem to shoot out of the water like shot from a canon.  Even the shipping trade with China seems to have almost stopped!  Just us and this great big blue ocean (plus the zillions of creatures just under the surface).

We're certainly getting through some books – thank goodness for our little electronic friends!

24 hours miles: 178 miles

Position at 08.30 –1 September (GMT+8):  S15:26:885 E111:35:213

Day 4

As predicted by the gribs, the wind gradually went more behind us during the day taking us onto that horrible no man's position between a broach reach and a run. As the apparent wind dropped, the little motion in the seas became more agitee and we started to roll and bang a bit – not that comfortable.  We prepared the pole so that when the wind went further aft we'd be ready – we did use to be in the scouts!  However when the wind did go further aft and we poled out the genoa the combination of low apparent wind, rolling on the waves and wandering around of the autohelm meant that the sails were still flapping around.  It was neither nowt nor summat!  So we took the genoa back again but frustratingly every time a large wave rolled in (quite frequently) the sails would flap around and the whole boat shook with the force.  It wasn't until around 9.30pm that we managed to get the genoa poled out and reasonably steady.  During the night the wind dropped so our speed has been down to around 5 knots.  This morning we have a 1 knot adverse current and still not much wind so our speed is down to around 4 knots at times. Looks like this will add a day to the leg to Cocos!

Spotted the odd booby (well maybe they weren't odd I don't know) but no cetaceans.  We're currently going through what must be a ‘flying fish academy' as hundreds of the titchy critters keep shooting out of the water.  Shipping trade with China has stopped!  Daily check revealed 2 flying fish. More books read!

24 hours miles: 162 miles

Position at 08.30 –1 September (GMT+8):  S14:56:023 E109:01:746

Day 5

Very slow day with 1 – 1.5 knots of current against and not a lot of wind – very frustrating!  Matt remembered that we could download a file which shows the future direction and strength of ocean currents so we did that and sure enough there was the culprit – a large eddy spinning off the west flowing equatorial.  However by changing course slightly to the south we could find the shortest route out of the worst of the eddy and we would pick up a positive current earlier than keeping our present course.  Still meant a day of adverse.  The wind picked up a bit in the night to around 15 knots along with the waves so it's a bit more rocking and rolling.  But we are back up around 8 knots so that's a great improvement!  We are out of the worst of the current now. - still have slight adverse cross current but expect it to turn in our favour later today, and stay that way to Cocos.

No cetaceans but we did see a nasty frigate bird attacking a small shearwater – it was relentless in it's attack – just would not let the shearwater fly off the water.  Didn't look like it would be a good outcome for the poor thing. 

1 flying fish on deck and 1 in the cockpit!

24 hours miles: 139

Position at 08.30 –1 September (GMT+8):  S14:49:74 E106:37:878

Day 6

Steady breeze of around 15 knots all day so made good progress.  The wind gradually backed round more to the east – at 11am we were able to gybe onto starboard where we stayed for the rest of the day.  Much more comfortable seas on this gybe.  We gradually left the adverse current behind and have been picking up a positive current now and then but nothing to write home about (but I am anyway!)

Not a lot of boats on this leg – most will go to Cocos via Indonesia or Christmas Island but we're doing a twice a day SSB radio call with another British boat – Gallinago who we met in Darwin – they have just left Cocos to go to Rodrigues – it is nice to know there is someone else out there!  Apparently there are 17 boats on the World Arc (they do round the world in 18 months so slightly quicker than us!) who will shortly be coming this way – we're trying to avoid being in the same place at the same time (as they take up a lot of space) but unfortunately our paths will cross in Mauritius.

I'm taking the magic ‘motion potion' pills so we're eating quite well – full 3 meals a day plus snacks – we may end up having to diet when we get there! 

No cetaceans – just the odd bird again (probably not the same one as yesterday) but the flying fish are getting bolder – one found lying on the floor of the starboard heads – must've come in through a small window (approx. 50cm x 15cm) about 2m from sea level - quite a feat!  We now have a lovely pattern of fish scales decorating the wall! 

24 hours miles: 177

Position at 08.30 – 4 September (GMT+8):  S13:54:49 E103:48:84

Day 7

Wind steady again all day – 15kt from the east. Stayed on starboard gybe all day. The large rolling swell seems to have disappeared replaced by shorter confused waves.  Still reasonably comfortable though.  We were hoping for a positive current but it came and went and never really came to anything.  This morning we have around a quarter of a knot with us so that's a start!  There was a lot of cloud about during the day but we still never got that well-needed rain! 

We've now got 2 more boats joining us for the SSB net – Iona who are on their way from Darwin to Cocos but about 200 miles behind us and Yindee Plus who are already at Cocos.  We've brought the time of the SSB forward an hour in the mornings to try and improve propagation (relative to sunrise) – we're now almost at GMT + 6.5 hrs.  The sun is setting 10 minutes later each night – last night it set at 19.05 and rose at around 07.30 this morning.  We now have just a half moon which doesn't rise until about 1am so we see the stars twinkling away quite clearly.  

The days actually seem to go along quite nicely - we generally run the generator for around an hour and half first thing – whilst that's on every other day I bake bread - I have to keep turning the bread maker round otherwise we have ‘bread on the side'.  The generator charges the batteries to about 90% then the solar panels top them off during the day. While the generator is on, we also make water, heat the water, and do some microwave baking and charge computers, kindles etc. SSB radio net twice a day.  Then a daily check around the boat.  Shower day today so that'll take up a bit of time rocking and rolling around in the shower (maybe a bit of singing too)!  We do a lot of reading - I actually managed to get some of the August blog written yesterday – just need to sort out some photos now out of the million we took! And so the day goes by and before we know it, it's time for dinner!

We were surprised to see a shark maudying about near the surface – didn't recognise the type – black dorsal fin and tail – around 2m in length.   4 tropic birds and a clutch of other sea birds – possibly shearwaters. Around 250nm to go, so should be making a night landing in Cocos Sunday evening.

24 hours miles: 180

Position at 08.30 –1 September (GMT+8):  S13:05:934 E101:06:055

Day 8

Another steady eddy day with the wind not changing too much – it did increase for a while up to around 20 knots – in fact that's what it is right now.  The sea is a bit more lively this morning – definitely rocking and rolling.  Rained a bit in the night – whoopee.  But that did cause a bit of fiddling around with the sails as the clouds passed overhead and shifted the wind around.

We have just gybed on to port and have around 75 miles to go so we're hoping to get there this evening – preferably before dark (about 8pm).  Fingers crossed.

Not much in the way of creatures or ships all day but around 20 flying fish (some really tiny) on deck this morning – our catch increases daily – shame they're a bit too fiddly to eat! In the Caribbean they fry them in batter (head, skin, bones and all) but they never really appealed to me as a gastronomic delight!  Seen too many dead ones in a state of rigor mortis!

24 hours miles: 185

Position at 08.30 – 6 September (GMT+8):  S12:00:60 E098:10:41

Arrived Direction Island , Cocos Keeling at 18.00 WA time (now 16.30 local time - GMT +6.5) after a fast day – winds up to 25knots.  Now at anchor in flat, clear water next to an island covered in coconut palms – not seen that for a while!

Total trip: 1412 nm;  Total time: 8 days, 10 hours;  Avg speed: 6.99 knots





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