SAILING FROM THE MALDIVES TO OMAN
We head off north of west 302 degrees in a direct line to Oman. All goes well until 8p.m. the second evening when we have been sailing and need to turn the motor on again. It doesn’t respond. What an anxious time when we are fluffing around in the Indian Ocean with no power and no wind to speak of. We often have to fiddle with the throttle in the saloon and in the cockpit so they are correctly aligned, but it has always started. We have had this looked into many times and there has never been another solution.
Phil happened to call us soon afterwards and talked Ross through some incredible manoeuvres. Ross is amazing how he can concentrate and just keep working at something. He is in the very hot engine room and can’t see the parts involved because of fridge parts, but he can feel them. He has to peel back the protective tape of 2 wires and link them with a small screwdriver to get contact - all by feel. By this stage I am thinking a tow by a large container ship seems like a good idea!
Phil is still very patiently and assuredly conveying instructions over the radio. Some one and a half hours later Ross says he is ready to try it. What a marvellous sound when I turned the key on and the engine started first time. I so admire my skipper, as this was quite a challenge for him. And we are so grateful to Phil for being able to tell us so clearly and explicitly how to manage it all. We are especially grateful as it is Phil and Robbie’s 30th wedding anniversary and they have had their dinner interrupted.
We are nearly 8n. miles behind them now. We will try to make up some ground during the night. We have been sailing with another yacht from the Maldives and we are not sure how far behind it we are, but probably about 2 hours by the time we get under way.
Our night watches are out of routine now but we are so pleased to be under way again that is the least of our problems. We can always sleep during the day to catch up. We are not turning the engine off until we reach Oman, but the winds are favourable and with low revs we motor sail with both sails up all night and catch up some ground with Free Spirit.
This whole episode reminds us of when crossing the Great Australian Bight the alternator belt stretched and we had no power for the 8 days crossing. That couldn’t be fixed without mechanical help.
I think I have a touch of homesickness today. This is because when Scott said he was bringing Augusta home for Easter we assumed we could be there. However, we hadn’t realized at the time Easter is so early this year, and we can’t be there. Easter has been such a family time for us all. However, we are pleased to know they are safely there and will have a great time with Heather and Steve and their families. It will be wonderful for Augusta to have the time with her cousins. We are planning to meet Scott and Augusta in Dubai on their way home, so are really looking forward to that.
What a lovely time of the evening to be sitting in the cockpit at dusk having dinner, with both sails up, averaging 7 kts with a steady wind of 15-17 kts (we won’t turn the motor off until we are tied up at Salalah, Oman).
We are having dinner early so we can watch a movie together before beginning our night watches. Last night we watched "Miss Potter" which is delightful. It is when we turn on tonight’s DVD we realize the inverter isn’t working (the one we had replaced in Phuket). During the night Ross realizes the water-making machine isn’t working, and we are working our back up auto-pilot system. This is all very frustrating, and gives Ross more challenges for tomorrow. All these functions have to be organized before we leave Salalah.
So we listen to some music instead. It is a lovely clear, calm night with a nearly full moon shining down on the yacht and across the ocean. This is almost a meditative atmosphere.
The only excitement during the night, which we didn’t need, is during my watch at about 3am. We hadn’t seen another ship out here for over 24 hours. I notice a large container ship 12n. miles ahead on the radar coming in our direction and directly by our rhumb line on our port side. It is moving very quickly and is very large because it isn’t long before I see its lights on the horizon. To be safe I change our course 13 degrees to starboard (bearing in mind the sails are still up), so it is difficult to change to port (i.e. downwind). I think this will give a clear indication of our intentions. And still it seems to be coming directly towards us. When it is frighteningly close I call Ross. We forget about the sails and veer off sharply to port. Simultaneously the other vessel turns sharply to its port also. How bizarre to have two boats out here with all this space, on a collision course. Even out here we can’t be slack with our watches, as easy and relaxing as it may seem.
This morning, our 5th day out, Ross tries to fix the inverter with help from Phil over the radio. The invertor system is set up so it cannot produce 240v from the generator without the invertor working. So when the invertor fails it has to be by-passed. This is a very difficult task, seeing the way Ross has to contort his body to do this. Fortunately, Ross had asked what to do if this system broke down again. Then talking with Phil it is apparent that the water-maker system has to be included in this by-pass. This is another tricky job in this same small space. They also ascertain that the unit is broken and will have to be replaced (the 4th one so we think it is best to request a different make).
At 1300 hours we cross the halfway point. This is our longest crossing so far. I guess we have known how long it will take, and so can prepare psychologically for this time, e.g. reading, (Ross is reading Samuel Pepys and I The Oyster Catchers - both are book group books), writing, drawing, tasks on the boat and cooking. It is interesting to tune into the "sked" at 5.30 p.m. and hear the other yachts positions and any experiences they have had. Peter sailing single handedly in a small 24 ft. yacht (how brave is that!) cannot carry enough fuel to reach Salalah so Phi has offered to rendezvous with him tomorrow and give him 60l. The yacht Tania had a worrying time yesterday with a fishing boat staying beside them for a while. Nothing came of it so they were probably just inquisitive. These other yachts had to wait 3 days before they had a suitable forecast to leave the Maldives. Also we heard the third yacht we were sailing with is not far behind us now.
We also do our exercises each day, and have a sleep to prepare for our night watches. Waking up for these watches reminds me of when the family were babies and woke for their night feeds. Sometimes it is difficult to wake up.
I still enjoy lying in our bed near the bow of the boat, and listening to the water lapping on the hull. Of course, in stronger conditions it is great to feel Impulsive surging through the water.
This morning (Friday) we make a telephone connection at 6a.m. our time with Mark in Sydney to do a sea trial calibration exercise on the auto-pilot. We had to both been up before this to organize the sails and be ready. (This is our usual changeover time for the next watch so I am particularly sleepy.)
The trial involved doing 360 degree turns and other manoeuvres in the middle of the Indian Ocean, which does seem an unusual thing to be doing. Unfortunately, this doesn’t throw any light on the auto-helm failure. Our next communication for this is not until next Tuesday a.m. because of the Easter break.
We sail for 3 days and nights with the same sail setting which is just wonderful. This sailing culminates with 20kts apparent wind yesterday afternoon with lots of spray over the deck. This is very welcome as the weather forecast is for very light winds today. The wind then drops off gradually through the night down to 6kts, as is forecast. This will be ideal if it holds as it gives us a cool breeze coming over the bow. We are having a leather cleaning session of the saloon furniture this morning so every breeze is appreciated.
The following day the wind averages between 14 and 19 kts on the nose, and the seas are choppy as, motoring, the yacht heads into them. This causes a slight build up of elevation of the boat over a series of waves, until it finally slaps down hard on the next wave. This is quite deceptive if you are up in the bow as it can sound and feel quite violent.
Later, during the evening, the sea settles to be calm and smooth. The silence of the ocean is very tranquil, and makes for a very relaxing time as there is not enough wind to sail and so takes out the element of concern for having the sails set optimally.
The weather continues in this vein. During the early hours of the following morning we cross the shipping path of some large container ships. We are only 47n. miles from Oman.
This has been a great crossing. We didn’t experience as many of the n.east monsoon winds as expected (which are favourable for this crossing) but we are fortunate the conditions were so benign.
Now we look forward to being securely moored in Salalah, and are very excited to be seeing Scott and Augusta in Dubai in 3 days time.