Into the Indian

Date: July 16, 2016, 4 a.m. Position: 12 24.00 S, 130 46.00 E

We are headed out into the fabled Indian Ocean at last!! We are slicing along at 6.5 knots under full sail and flat seas. A friendly almost-full moon will keep us company on this passage. We are standing out into the Indian Ocean and sailing for Christmas Island, 1,500 NM away. In about 450 NM we’ll pass near Ashmore Reef, and may break passage there for a few days if the winds are light. We’ve heard there are sea snakes and dugongs at Ashmore, so hopefully it works out that we can check it out.

We had really wanted to sail the Kimberley coast, but decided against it due to Taz. Aside from feeling like crocodile bait every time we step down into the rubber dinghy, it’s just too difficult and exhausting to day-sail with a baby. Shore-side excursions are complicated when naps, diaper changes, etc come into play. Sometimes it takes us an entire day to spend just an hour or two on shore, once all the Taz prep work and logistics are taken care of. It’s much easier to make big offshore passages, and then spend a few relaxing weeks in one place once we get there, rather than going through the motions of navigating, anchoring, and launching the dinghy every day (all while Taz screams at us from down below because he’s missing out on the action). And so, as a sacrifice in the name of good parenting, we will sail by this incredible coast at our fingertips.

We left Darwin in our wake, and when the low land quickly slipped under the horizon all the that remained was the white condominium skyline of the city, rising out of the Timor Sea like a set of teeth. Also visible were the massive columns of smoke from the many bushfires. Charred grasses fell from the sky and onto Privateer when we sailed away from the coast.

Forecast is for light breezes for the next week, which is hopefully a welcome change from our past few heavy-air passages. If the wind goes too light it wreaks havoc on the sails and rigging as they slat around, and counter-intuitively a light wind passage can almost be more tiring than a heavy weather passage due to all the finicky tweaks and sail changes needed in light air. In heavy weather you can just hoist a scrap of sail and peg the monitor on course and just hold on. But fickle winds demand constant attention, if you want to go anywhere besides in circles.

For now, we’ve just put a reef in the main as the trades are freshening up after dark. During the day the heat of the land sucks in all the air, but at night the ocean pattern re-establishes itself. The trick about reefing is to always do it right away when you first start thinking about it. I don’t mind shaking it back out if I feel I’ve jumped the gun, but that is way better than the feeling you get when the winds build and you wish you’d done it an hour ago, with scary prospects ahead. We’re still making 7 knots now with our reef, and it always makes me feel better to have a reef in after dark. All we need to do is roll in the Yankee and we have our instant small sail plan.

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