L O G B O O K - by John Philp


TUE 28 SEPT - Strong SE wind at 25 knots. The Tau is on day three of an estimated ten day sail south west to Rodrigues Island from Coco’s. Both the mainsail and the Genoa (the sail at the pointy end of the boat) are reefed.

WED 29 SEPT - Wonderful sailing conditions. Still reefed down. The wind is now 25-30 knots steady from the South East. We seem to be on the edge of a Force 8 gale. Some of the waves are immense. When the bigger ones catch us at the right angle Tau surfs down them, all sixty tons of her. When you’re steering it’s quite a thrill. You sense a wall of dark blue water behind you, moments later the stern rises in the air as the wave passes underneath. Then all of a sudden you’re going downhill and whooosshh! White water all around and the steering wheel feels solid in your hands from the extra pressure on the rudder.

Each day myriads of flying fish end up on our decks and have to be returned to the ocean. We saw a Killer Whale surface for a moment not 20 yards off the port side. We also see dolphins most days. Yesterday I watched one execute a superb 15 or 18 foot jump right across our bows. It was as if it was going for a high jump record - all muscles straining and tail flapping madly in mid air!

It’s such a novel thrill to be able to call home on the Iridium satellite phone from out at sea. Here’s me (kaicolo) calling my editor at the Fiji Times today, 900 miles from the nearest land, trying to maintain my balance with the yacht heeled over at 30 degrees in a stiff breeze :
(Ladies voice answers) “You have reached FNPF. For member enquiries dial 1. For housing dial 2...”
Opps wrong number.
Trying again. Here we go :
(Mans voice answers) “Hello, Fiji Times”
“Hi, may I speak with Bernadette Hussein please”
“Just a minute... Uhhh she’s on another call. Would you like her to call back?”
“Uh, no actually. Tell her I’m calling from the middle of the Indian Ocean on the secret spy communicating device. I really think she should take this call”
“Uuhhhhhhh... ok Just a minute.... “
(A moment later) “Hello Bernadette here”
Hey this thing really does work out here!

THUR 30 SEPT - We are in a very lonely part of the ocean here, away from the commercial routes. Tau has not passed a single ship in 1000 miles. Our friend Ron, the solo Australian sailor is ahead of us somewhere though and we may pass him tomorrow.Life aboard rolls on as usual, three watches a day for the crew - a six hour day watch with a partner plus a couple of two hour night watches on your own; meals; sleeping; reading; fishing; radio schedules; writing the log, charging the generator; planning and updating the route.

FRI 1 OCT - Last night the large swells disappeared. With the sea relatively flat and a moderate breeze over our left shoulder it was enough to move us along at a fast clip. Day dawned bright with a wonderful cerulean sky and we were still showing 11 and 12 knots on our instruments, Tau was slicing through the Indian Ocean with a mission, though with a diminishing breeze. It turned out to be our first easy day on this passage with very little water over the decks and brilliant sunshine. We ate an early dinner on deck entertained by one of the most brilliant sunsets I can remember. A row of clouds banked up ahead of us and above them a brilliant colour show unfolded for the next twenty minutes. Behind us was a completely clear sky, it was very easy to imagine Africa ahead of us - people on the continent may well have been looking at the same sunset. I remarked what a typical African sky it was and someone agreed. Being that none of us had ever been to Africa this was a lavish claim, but having seen the movie “Out of Africa” I felt eminently qualified to make this assertion. I do remember the wonderful feeling we shared that having left the last of the familiar Australian island possessions behind an exotic adventure was about to unfold.

SAT 2 OCT - At 1am we make some calls to Fiji. It is 7.30am at home and everyone is watching the Fiji-Namibia game! Each person we call gives us the continuing score and on the last call we catch the final tally.

Daybreak brings another African sky , sunshine and the routine South East Tradewind at 10 knots. In the afternoon a large versicoloured Mahimahi latches onto the homemade lure and we get it aboard safely.

SUN 3 OCT - Some nights are moonless, dark and cloudy. To save the ships batteries we leave the radar off and the night watch must stand on the foredeck, eyes peeled for other ships. The yacht seems to glide along on a sea of ink, the only light being from the stars, occasionally obscured by passing clouds.

MON 4 OCT - This morning I woke up to find a thick slice of freshly baked bread hanging from the ceiling above me - just inches above my nose. Not a dream, just the lads playing the fool, trying to wake me up with the smell of the bread (which was exquisite). The morning before that Captain got Sefo to make bacon and eggs and trimmings (special sunday breakfast). Then sat on deck above my cabin with the smell wafting in through the hatch singing “Oh Johnny boy, the eggs runneth clear and the bacon smelleth sweet” or something like that. Ha ha very funny - where’s my eggs?

In the afternoon I was hoisted up the fore mast with my camera and took a bunch of photo’s. I can’t wait to see the developed film - it was a brilliant day, azure sea curving away over the horizon, whitecaps whipping the sea as if controlled by an invisible hand.

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