L O G B O O K - by John Philp


TUE 14 SEPT - The wind is at 20 knots from the S.East all day and we purr along at 10 knots. We are running directly downwind though and the sea is very uncomfortable for us on this course. Rolling from side to side, very difficult to sleep well. It is sometimes easier just to get up and sit on deck rather than try to sleep.

WED 15 SEPT - same conditions again. Sunny, windy, and rough. We make good time though.

Michelle and I play our music on the boat’s CD player when we share the day watch. Then later when I’m on night watch on my own I’ll have a song lodge itself in my head and I won’t be able to get rid of it for the whole two hour watch.

THUR 16 SEPT - Day nine. Conditions remain the same.

We were warned by Australian Customs before we left that two yachts in the past few weeks had reported menacing approaches by Indonesians off Darwin looking to board yachts. In anticipation of this threat we had arranged in Townsville to take aboard a cache of expired projectile flares; they would do some damage should someone approach uninvited.

FRI 17 SEPT - wind drops a little. We were hoping to make it to Coco’s in daylight today but looks like we’ll have to enter the harbour in the dark around midnite.

SAT 18 SEPT - 12.30am upon nearing Coco’s we drop all sails and motor slowly towards the harbour entrance. We nose our way carefully in watching the radar and keeping a sharp eye out for the lighthouse. We edge slowly into shallow water. Suddenly the bottom goes from 1000 meters to 180 meters to 10 meters in the space of 30 seconds. We were expecting a big shelf from the charts and decide to anchor right there until daylight. Our trip from Darwin has taken us ten and a half days.

The days begins in perfect sunshine. Blue sky and a gentle cooling breeze. We discover a beautiful anchorage and six yachts already at anchor off a white sandy beach. We are however kept waiting by local customs and quarantine all day, unable to leave the ship or have people come aboard and visit us.

Soon after another yacht pulls in. The solo skipper Ron can’t wait for customs clearance before he starts exploring so he throws his dinghy over and motors over to see us. After a chat he promised to come back at sunset for a beer. He turns up later and we invite him for dinner.

Ron fills us in on the ‘pirate’ incidents off Darwin. The New Guinean couple on the yacht ‘Blithe Spirit’ were a little way out of Darwin when a boat tried to ram them a couple of times. The vessel made a couple of passes directly at them before going away. This was just a few weeks ago.

Ron was also hassled by an Indonesian motor vessel - the boat sat upwind from him one day while he was on the way to Coco’s. It then fell back at dusk and he forgot about it. The next morning he wakes up and sees them 400 hundred yards behind him and closing. His rifle was below in two pieces - unloaded. He raced below and loaded it. Soon after they turned around and went back once they saw him on deck. After that he kept the gun loaded in a handy position.

SUN 19 SEPT - Another beautiful day. Sitting on deck in the morning with a coffee in this exquisite bay isn’t the most difficult thing I’ve endured.

The island authorities finally turn up after lunch and clear us into Coco’s. Ron was busy puttering around the bay in his dinghy, ignoring the fact that he was under quarantine. I saw the customs boat on it’s way over and signaled him. Too late! Later when they went over to clear him the local Police officer hassled him about this and pointed out that he could arrest him for the violation. He didn’t let on that he’d had dinner on Tau with us the night before. He pretended he’d never met us before and was asking, “What’s that Fijian boat like inside?”

That night we went ashore and BBQ’ed with all the other yachts in the bay. We heard some amazing stories. One of the guys had met a 73 year old gentleman circumnavigating the globe solo. The old man had crossed the Pacific in 83 days non stop - from Mexico to Australia in a 26 footer!

It was interesting to note the number of sailors doing it solo. Of the eight yachts at this very anchorage three were single handed.

MON 20 SEPT - We take the dinghy up to Home Island where the Malayan settlement is. The Malay’s are descendent of the workers on the Clunie’s Ross family copra plantation. We visit the little museum and the old Clunie’s Ross mansion. We then take the ferry across to West Island, where the airport and essential facilities are located. This is very exciting for the crew, we get to buy chocolate and ice cream, like little school kids!

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